Progressives in the East Bay are not a monolith. Far from it. From Berkeley to Fremont, they disagree often and wildly. The scene in Alameda has been different over the past year, where its city council is staunchly progressive and mostly on the same page.

The Subtext graphicBut cracks in the relationship between two progressive Alameda councilmembers are beginning to show.

Last Tuesday night, Councilmember Malia Vella appeared to suggest her colleague Alameda Councilmember Jim Oddie’s proposal for a town hall on gun violence was undermining the work of a group of Alameda gun control activists who are women.

“A lot to unpack there,” Oddie said. “I think I was accused of ignoring the work that was done because it was done by women. I’m a little offended by that.”

Vella immediately responded with an energetic and elongated, “Noooo!” to rebut she was making such an inference.

The root of the low-level beef between the two elected officials may stem from Oddie’s decision last month to drop his request for the city to reimburse him for legal fees he incurred from the fire chief hiring scandal from two years ago.

Vella also has a pending request for the city to pay legal fees from the same incident. The fees run as as high as $90,000. Oddie’s decision could possibly undermine Vella’s argument for recouping the money.

The exchange between the councilmembers last week came on the heels of Vella’s comments in Alameda Magazine this month that may have rankled Oddie. In the article she slammed the Alameda County grand jury for determining that she, along with Oddie, violated the city charter. A prior investigation found only Oddie did so.

But Vella also suggested she was being unfairly targeted by the grand jury, in addition, to some in Alameda, because she is a woman of color.

“I’m always held to an unattainable standard to a small minority in Alameda and the media. They need to do a big look in the mirror and ask, ‘Why am I being blamed for something another white Protestant male did?” Vella said. “The letter Keimach sent to the city council did not name me. All I did is attend a meeting with Jim and the city manager.”

Despite the dust-up a full-blown break-up between the progressive councilmembers is highly unlikely. For one, they share the exact same set of political allies that include Assemblymember Rob Bonta, the Alameda Firefighers Union, and labor unions, in general.

But with Vella and Oddie up for re-election next year, and both tied to the same city hall scandal certain to be exploited by their challengers, she may have incentive to keep Oddie, who had more exposure to the scandal, at arms length.
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