Oakland Mayor Jean Quan undoubtedly fears the recall effort launched against her, but from what this blogger has learned, it’s currently marred by not two, but three (yes, 3) competing efforts, backbiting, and the appearance of voter fraud.
How it all started was that long-time Oakland activist Gene Hazzard (who was instrumental in ‘drafting’ then-former Congressman Ron Dellums to run for and become Mayor of Oakland in 2006) was frothing-at-the-mouth angry with Mayor Quan’s initial effort to replace West Oakland Environmental Activist Margaret Gorgon, who served on the Board Of Commissioners Of The Port of Oakland after a passionate attempt to place her their by many West Oakland citizens. Quan floated the idea of replacing Gordon with, well, this is what I wrote on December 2nd:
With Mayor Quan’s removal of Gordon, and her placing Oakland liberals against each other by tossing the well-respected Ella Baker Center Executive Director Jakada Imani in to replace her, you could hear Oakland land-use activist Steve Lowe uncharacteristically cussing up a storm two miles away. A good portion of West Oakland was ready to take up arms against Quan – I’m kidding, but you get the idea. That was one major reason for Hazzard taking up the recall effort.
To that end, Hazzard formed a plan and submitted the petition, called a “Notice of Intention to Circulate Recall Petition” to the Oakland City Council on October 24th. Shortly after that date Gene held a meeting to get more sympathetic persons involved in the recall effort, some who had signed the Notice of Intention, like Oakland Activists Ken Pratt and Nancy Sidebotham, as well as Charlie Pine. Reportedly Pratt, Sidebotham and Pine, and later Oakland Businessman Greg Harland, disagreed with how Gene wanted to proceed, and that’s where the idea of ‘one nation of Quan haters’ stopped working under a grove and refused to get down with each other because of the funk of it, or more to the point, each other.
Hazzard wanted to follow through with his plan, but according to an observer who didn’t wish to be identified, Pratt and Sidebotham wanted to “just circulate the petition” and Harland had his own ideas, where he believed legal representation was needed – in other words, get a lawyer. After the meeting, but not known to Gene Hazzard, Pratt and Sidebotham set about forming their own recall effort – one that appears to be based almost entirely on Gene’s work in forming the “Notice of Intention to Circulate Recall Petition.”
That “work” was Gene’s time in gathering 71 signatures (he only needed 50 and of the total 56 were ‘good’) to essentially jump-start the recall process, and get an approval letter from the City Of Oakland allowing them to go out and gather the 19,800 signatures needed (the deadline is May 14th, 2012) to put the recall on the November 2012 ballot, and that was given to the City Of Oakland on October 24th, 2011.
Just a few weeks later, Hazzard was reportedly contacted by a friend who was one of the people who filled out his original petition. The person told Gene that they, and others who signed his first petition were called again to sign a petition all over again because it was claimed that “the signatures were not done correctly” and they needed to sign a new document to correct the error.
Expecting that something was wrong, the person who informed Gene of the problem wrote a letter to the Oakland City Clerk’s Office essentially stating that they were fooled into signing the new document, and were not told that Hazzard wasn’t involved in it. That is where the claim of voter fraud has been made by a number of people who don’t wish to be named as of this writing.
While that was going on, on December 7th 2011, Hazzard received official approval to go ahead with the recall by the City of Oakland. That same day, Greg Harland’s group gave its own recall petition to the City of Oakland, and with a whole new group of names like that of Max Alstadt, who this blogger interviewed just after he was released from jail in the wake of the Occupy Oakland police / protestor clash of November 2nd, 2011.
Meanwhile, the Oakland City Attorney’s Office was working on a legal opinion to determine if two recall petitions could be used for one recall effort. On December 19th, the City Attorney said “yes” and the view was based on the Morrow case as pointed to in the document, and where a new petition was allowed, but because the original one was in legal trouble. But the fine-point of the case shows that the original petition was lost – thus there had to be a second recall petition. By contrast, the petition for the recall of Mayor Quan isn’t lost at all. So, it’s best to call the City Attorney’s finding questionable.
Where Are We Here?
Where we are is in a complete state of chaos, and with two groups that are largely white working against Gene Hazzard, who’s black. It’s the saddest political situation this blogger has seen in Oakland in some time, and points to the overall political chaos that was produced by Rank Choice Voting.
The problem is that, because Rank Choice Voting caused the second choice, and not the first choice to win the Oakland Mayor’s Race, Jean Quan entered office with a built-in group of people who didn’t want her there, and she wasn’t their first choice or second choice, plus those who didn’t pick her first. In the old voting system, one could say “I didn’t vote for her, but she got the most votes period and without a caveat. It’s the existence of the RCV caveat that also gives rise to a set of opponents ready to pounce whenever something goes wrong. And that’s what happened, starting with little things like the premature use of the Mayor’s Parking Spot, to the police chief issue, and then the powerderkeg that was Occupy Oakland, and which lit the fuse for the recall effort to be ignited, an all of the chaos with it.
And it’s getting worse.
On December 23rd, the Oakland City Clerk’s Office took possession of a new document written by James Sutton of the Sutton Law Firm in San Francisco and working for Greg Harland and the committee he’s a part of (bad move in not getting an Oakland law firm but under the circumstances, Harland probably could not get one to help him), and demanding that the City of Oakland immediately invalidate Gene Hazzard’s petition and say that their effort is the official recall effort. Mr. Sutton asked for the Oakland City Attorney’s Office to call him “immediately” on January 3rd, 2012.
While Harland and Sutton work to push Gene Hazzard out with an argument that’s faulty (though some say Harland did try and get to an agreement with Gene one more time), and wait for the City of Oakland to give them the go-ahead with their own petition drive, Hazzard gets ready to launch another round of signature gathering on Saturday, January 7th at the Lake Merritt Farmers Market.
Now, I will explain why the “Harland and Sutton” argument is “faulty” – opposite the lawyer’s claim, it turns out that Hazzard did properly “notice” the recall petition in the local Oakland newspapers. Gene not only has The Montclarion, but Gene says he has proof that it was also noticed in the Oakland Tribune, thus invalidating a major claim made by Harland and Sutton.
Meanwhile if the City of Oakland gives Harland and Sutton approval to start its own recall petition without working with Gene Hazzard, the City may be (deliberately?) setting up a scenario where Mayor Quan could file a legal challenge against the entire recall effort listing all of the mistakes made by the City of Oakland in the document review process.
With all of this, one can say Mayor Quan should be smiling, but I would say otherwise. If the three groups stop the typical rounds of stupid, ego-driven, infighting, Quan will be their only focus, and that spells trouble for the Mayor.
The whole affair reminds me of the “behind-your-back” efforts that hampered forming a clear plan to keep the Oakland A’s in Oakland. As I blogged two years ago, there were as many as four groups that were formed, and none of them met or talked to each other. While I was on the Mayor’s Sports Task Force, then-Oakland Planning Commissioner Doug Boxer had his own group that was talking to Oakland Mayor Ron Dellums. The only saving grace was that the City of Oakland’s staff was involved in the work to save the A’s.
This is different. It’s a mosh pit of Oaklanders from different political and racial stripes, who can’t stand each other, but all agree on one thing: Mayor Quan has to go. What they can’t agree on is who gets to push her out first.
My personal feeling is I’d rather see Quan stay than go, and because I’m not sure there’s any more attractive candidate and Jean’s got in a spot that’s hard for anyone to handle. It just happened to be her turn at the wheel. She’s made a ton of mistakes, but we need stability in Oakland rather than the instability we seem bent on creating.
For more information visit http://removejeanquan.com Stay tuned.