Ranked Choice Voting; More on Civic Center Park …

by on May 12, 2011

To the Editor:

Great article, we need more articles like this to point out these racist institutions and their agendas. The same can be said about Faux News, oops, I mean Fox News even though Faux News is a much more appropriate name. Thank you and keep up the good work.

Darryl Fuller
Oakland, CA

To the Editor:

OK, so I want to start out by saying that I believe in Ranked Choice Voting. I believe it increases turnout. I believe it opens up elections to a wider field of candidates and a wider field of ideas. I believe the Chronicle and the Chamber of Commerce are making critiques based on faulty premises. However, as far as Oakland is concerned, I think that some of Ms. Garcia and Ms. Tervalon-Daumont’s assumptions about the benefits of RCV are incorrect.

Let’s consider the point about creating more opportunities for candidates of color to win. Before the 2010 RCV election, Oakland’s 11 elected officials could be demographically listed as follows: 6 caucasians, 5 people of color. 8 women, 3 men. 10 straight, 1 out lesbian. After the RCV election, Oakland’s 11 elected officials were: 7 caucasians, 4 people of color. 9 women, 2 men. 10 straight, 1 out lesbian. That’s a net loss of one person of color, a net gain of one woman, and the LGBT ratio is unchanged.

Also, consider that Ms. Tervalon-Daumont and I are about the same age, and in our lifetimes there has been only one Mayor who was not a person of color: Jerry Brown. Oakland seems to have a very healthy level of diversity in public office. We also have very strong diversity in our unelected municipal workforce. This doesn’t mean that we should stop being vigilant about diversity and empowerment. It just means that we need to take credit for one of the few things that our city government has actually done right. (as an aside, if we really want to examine a diversity problem in the 2012 election, consider that there were no viable Black or Latino candidates for Mayor in a city that’s 27% black and 25% latino!)

Next, let’s consider Jean Quan’s victory over Don Perata. Both Quan and Perata had held public office for decades. Neither can be considered an outsider candidate. They were both establishment candidates, they were just representing different factions of the establishment. Even Rebecca Kaplan cannot be considered a true outsider. Unlike Perata or Quan, she held a citywide elected post while she was running. While she had only served in elected office for about ten years as opposed to Perata and Quan’s totals of about 20 years in office, Kaplan is also 20 years younger than Perata and Quan – she would have had to be elected at age 18 to have served as long as her opponents. Consider that besides Perata, Quan and Kaplan, no candidate broke 10%. All the outsiders got their butts whipped. RCV didn’t change that element of the status quo.

Now, to the very important point about Jean Quan beating Don Perata while being outspent: Jean Quan has also won non-RCV elections while being outspent. She spoke about this repeatedly during her campaign. In a race for District 4, David Stein outspent Jean Quan 2-1. Quan has also mentioned being outspent in her race for school board. So what does that tell us? Well, in the article above, it explicitly states that Don Perata lost because of RCV. I disagree. Don Perata lost because Jean Quan has got game. It’s likely that had this been a runoff election, Jean Quan would have won. It seems odd to me that people who supported her race would dilute the credit that Quan deserves for winning by ascribing undue credit to RCV. I didn’t vote for Quan as any of my three choices, but I must acknowledge her electioneering talent.

I want to reiterate that I do support RCV, and I want to say that the Chronicle and the Chamber, in my opinion, are clearly not opposing RCV from a race based perspective. They’re just upset that their candidates of choice lost, and they’re looking for something to blame. That the Chron, the Chamber, and Oakland Rising are incorrect to pin too much credit for this election’s outcome on RCV. It was the candidates that won and lost the races, it wasn’t the voting method.

RCV made the election cheaper, included more voices in the debates, and increased participation. These are all good things, but RCV is not so powerful and significant as to have changed the game of insider politics in a single election cycle. If it could do that, it probably never would have been implemented in the first place.

Max Allstadt
Oakland, CA

To the Editor:

I couldn’t agree more with your piece on how to enliven the Civic Center. “Death and Life” by Jane Jacobs is likely the best book on urban planning of the last 50 years, and Jacobs nailed the problem of our Civic Center area – evenings and weekends, there are no activities (or people) to bring life to the street. We need to bring mixed uses to the Civic Center – what Jacobs called the “ballet of a good city sidewalk”: “under the seeming disorder of the city, wherever the city is working successfully, is a marvelous order for maintaining the safety of the streets and the freedom of the city. It is a complex order. Its essence is intricacy of sidewalk use, bringing with it a constant succession of eyes. This order is all composed of movement and change, and although it is life, not art, we may fancifully call it the art form of the city and liken it to the dance – an intricate ballet in which the individual dancers and ensembles all have distinctive parts which miraculously reinforce each other and compose an orderly whole. The ballet of the good city sidewalk never repeats itself from place to place, and in any once place is always replete with new improvisations.”

The wintertime ice skating rink, which was approved last year by the Rec/Park Commission, is a great improvement, as would be your suggestion for a high quality, destination food truck. This isn’t a progressive or moderate issue – it’s about working together to bring life to one of SF’s great spaces. I hope we can all work together to make it happen.

Mike Sullivan
San Francisco

To the Editor:

On trips back to the old sod in New York, I go out of the way to have lunch or a coffee and sit for awhile in the great reclaimed public space of Bryant Park. It’s true the homeless have a comfortable place to hang, but so does everyone else. There are free concerts, movies, even a lending library and that sense of shared space that reminds me of what real democracy looks like. Randy Shaw is right. Let’s put our San Francisco values to work and reinvent a Civic Center worthy of our beautiful town.

Ken Tray
San Francisco

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