The Alameda County Democratic Central Committee represents the party in one of the most diverse and progressive areas in the entire country. Yet among its large ranks of elected officials, their surrogates, and elected committee members, there is only one African American woman on the committee — Oakland civil rights attorney Pamela Price.
Furthermore, there is no representation from black men on the central committee. “That, to me, is a crime,” Price told the City of Alameda Democratic Club last Wednesday.
The lack of diversity led Price and others to form a slate of 21 central committee candidates that covers four of the five assembly districts in Alameda County. Of the group in the 18th Assembly District that represents Oakland, Alameda, and San Leandro, 11 are on the Mar. 3 primary ballot, including Price, who is an incumbent.
Over the years, the power center of the Alameda County Democratic Central Committee has rested in areas south of Oakland despite the city being the largest in the county. A lackadaisical attitude from Oakland elected officials and the city’s activists has also contributed to the committee’s relative lack of diversity.
Oakland elected officials, other than Councilmember Rebecca Kaplan, and less so, Councilmember Dan Kalb, rarely attend the group’s monthly meetings. In turn, only three of the 10 current committee members from the 18th Assembly District are from Oakland. Six are from San Leandro, and one is from Alameda.
But the current make-up of the 18th District’s committee members is also not lacking diversity. Seven of its 10 members are women, and four members are Latino. Despite the central committee’s low-profile in recent years, its power is considerable, especially when it comes to getting progressive Democrats elected to city councils and boards in Alameda County.
In addition, the central committee often sets the tone for the passage of progressive legislation in many Alameda County cities. In recent years, this has occurred with the spread of sanctuary city resolutions, increasing the minimum wage to $15 an hour, and rent control ordinances.
Price, however, believes the committee’s lack of outreach to Oakland has made the central committee invisible to many. “I live in East Oakland, most people had no idea that this committee existed,” Price said. “That is why it is critical that we bring about a change. That we make our central committee much more reflective of the people who live in Alameda County.”
“There’s education issues in Oakland. We need to talk about OUSD,” she added in an interview. Criminal justice reform, which Price mounted a strong campaign in favor for during her 2018 run for Alameda County District Attorney, is rarely spoken about. “That issue is dead.”
“We have a homeless problem that is off the chart. What are we doing about it? Not a damn thing.”
Price has also been a controversial figure during her four-year term as an elected central committee member. She has often spoken out against the committee’s lack of transparency when it comes to supporting endorsed candidates for local office. Her activism has often rubbed the central committee’s establishment members the wrong way.
For example, during Wednesday night’s meeting in Alameda, long-time Alameda County Democratic Party Chair Robin Torello expressed dissatisfaction with Price’s remarks. Except for brief moment, Torrello turned her head to face a wall during the entire time Price addressed the local Democratic club.