Kaplan Controversy May Undermine Crucial Transportation Measure

Rebecca Kaplan with former aide, now
campaign manager Jason Overman
PHOTO/Steven Tavares

OAKLAND | MAYOR | Oakland Councilmember Rebecca Kaplan may have circumvented campaign finance rules when she paid staffer for her 2010 mayoral run from a expenditure committee set up for a local transportation measure. However, the appearance of impropriety could greatly undermine a second effort to pass a crucial countywide transportation measure known as Measure BB. The Oakland Tribune reported the use and shuttering of Kaplan’s committee on Sunday.

The article also notes some Oakland City Council members were ratcheting up pressure on Kaplan by threatening new rules that would highlight allegations she was skirting election laws. Records show Kaplan paid Jason Overman, her council communications spokesman and current mayoral campaign manager, received payments from the Measure F committee formed four years ago. Other mayoral campaign staffers who were paid from the committee accounts were mentioned in the report and claimed to have never worked for the measure. While on the micro level in Oakland, the Kaplan controversy will likely test supporters who often believe she is above reproach. But Kaplan’s “say it ain’t so” moment could also undermine the fate of a second stab by the county to pass a long-term and gigantic $8 billion transportation sales tax this fall.

Measure BB’s predecessor lost by only
712 votes in November 2012.

Measure B1 failed by just 712 votes in 2012. There were many reasons for its demise. For one, Tea Party types in the Tri Valley were stoked, first during the primary by an independent congressional candidate with deep conservative roots, and then piggy-backed on by Eric Swalwell’s campaign to demonize the progressive Pete Stark. The scene led to just a single precinct in the entire Tri Valley to reach the two-thirds threshold. Fremont voters didn’t help either, but proponents later realized they didn’t run a very good campaign. It was severely underfunded and some local officials later complained their constituents didn’t have a firm grasp of exactly what local fruit the measure would produce for each city.

Earlier this year, representatives from the Metropolitan Transportation Commission told several city councils in Alameda County it had learned its lesson from two years ago. Voters would know exactly what they would be receiving for the sales tax hike and the campaign in the fall would benefit from greater funding. Promises now, but the Tribune article also touches upon the worry registered from Kaplan using a political committee tied to transportation and how it might undermine or even dissuade its passage in November.

The countywide transportation measure may be the most important issue on the ballot in Alameda County where the condition of roads and freeways is visibly treacherous to anyone. The region’s growth is already outpacing the current infrastructure even before normal wear and tear. Further evidence of its importance is born out of the fact, a second attempt came so soon after it barely lost in 2012. In this particular case, placing these type of measure on the ballot is no easy affair. Because the half-cent sales tax increase would bump some Alameda County cities over the two percent state limit for sales and use taxes, it needed a one-time waiver approved by the State Legislature. Assemblymember Bob Wieckowski successfully carried legislation in 2011, which ultimately wasn’t one-time since he had to return to Sacramento and ask for a second last year.

Several officials who worked on the campaign two years ago also told me the worry about Kaplan sullying the waters of funding for the Measure BB campaign is very real. Because the stakes are so high they are understandably apprehensive and tense about any outside issues possibly complicating their efforts. After all, they thought they had Measure B1 in the bag two years ago and somehow it failed.

One thought on “Kaplan Controversy May Undermine Crucial Transportation Measure

  1. One doesn't have to be a particularly acute observer to note that in both Oakland and Alameda County voters are extremely skeptical of the ethics and managerial and financial competence of their elected officials.

    Kaplan, to whom many supporters attribute a high degree of acuity, seems simply not to get it about the ethical and competence issues. Not that Kaplan is alone among our electeds to be out in the desert about this–in Oakland Jean Quan, Libby Schaaf and Courtney Ruby, not to mention Dan Siegel former Quan chum, don't seem to realize that much of the voting public hold them in very low estimation.

    Maybe if these elected, and would-be-elected folks, had something on the ball, they would campaign in a much different style than they do.

    Sorry to say but that just isn't the world we live in.


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s