The Oakland City Council At-Large race may be one of the easiest endorsements we make this year. We think incumbent Rebecca Kaplan is one of the best councilmembers in the East Bay, and we strongly endorse her. We agree with her progressive ideals, and fully support her longtime commitment to and advocacy for smart growth, also known as transit-oriented development. We also respect the fact that she takes a thoughtful, pragmatic approach to decision-making and examines the facts behind controversial issues like curfews and gang injunctions in Oakland.
We also strongly urge voters not to cast their ballots for Councilman Ignacio De La Fuente. Although he has been a good public servant for many years, we find his repeated public criticisms of Kaplan and Mayor Jean Quan and his hypocritical stances on numerous issues to be quite troubling. For example, he's touting himself this fall as the "tough-on-crime" candidate while ignoring the fact that he was the prime backer of the police layoffs in 2010. We also disagree with his full-throated advocacy for a youth curfew in the city.
Our choices for candidates in Oakland's districts 3 and 5 contests are less clear-cut. In District 3 (West Oakland/Downtown), there are several good candidates in the race, and we think that most of them would become solid members of the city council. As a result, we're endorsing three candidates, in no particular order: Sean Sullivan, Alex Miller-Cole, and Lynette Gibson-McElhaney.
We respect the fact that Sullivan has taken an active role over the years to make District 3 a better place to live by serving on a number of local committees and organizations. Our only reservation about him are his ties to De La Fuente, but if Kaplan wins, then we think Sullivan would make a fine, independent addition to the council. Miller-Cole's advocacy for improving Oakland's economy and making the city more business-friendly also impresses us, and we respect the fact that he has received the endorsement of outgoing councilwoman Nancy Nadel. As for Gibson-McElhaney, we think the nonprofit executive is smart and impressive, and we appreciate that she's placed restoring the public's trust in government at the top of her agenda.
District 5 (Fruitvale/Glenview), in contrast to District 3, features three leading candidates who all have flaws. We're endorsing two of them, in no particular order: Mario Juarez and Shelly Garza. We agree with the progressive Juarez on a wide range of issues, but we're still bothered by his numerous legal troubles over the years. As for Garza, we respect her work with Fruitvale's fleet of mobile food trucks, and we're pleased that she also opposes a youth curfew, but we're concerned about her ties to De La Fuente and are worried that she would side with him on issues if he were to defeat Kaplan. Finally, we're urging voters not to cast their ballots for Noel Gallo, the third major candidate in the race. Not only is the moderate Gallo close to De La Fuente, but he also strongly supports curfews and gang injunctions. We also disagreed with many of the positions he took over the years on the Oakland school board — including his advocacy for the district to remain under state control.
In Berkeley, we support Measure S, the so-called sit/lie ordinance. As noted in last week's Express cover story, Measure S is a reasonable proposal for the city and is not the radical idea that opponents are making it out to be. Other liberal cities, like Santa Cruz and Santa Monica, have similar laws and they've not resulted in the "criminalization" of the homeless. And in Berkeley, we think Measure S will help small retailers deal with the longstanding problem of street people setting up camp in front of their businesses and refusing to leave.
We also endorse Measure B1 for Alameda County. Although we often oppose sales tax measures because they're regressive and disproportionately impact low-income residents, we're supporting this half-cent sales tax increase because of the essential services it will fund, including hundreds of millions of dollars for AC Transit. We also like that Measure B1 will help finance smart-growth projects in Oakland and Berkeley.
We're urging "no" votes, however, for Measure A1, a countywide parcel tax that would benefit the Oakland Zoo. The zoo already receives plenty of taxpayer funding, and we believe the organization needs to become more self-sufficient. We're also concerned that the loosely worded measure would allow the zoo to spend the tax funds on its controversial expansion plans, rather than on caring for its animals. And we're troubled by the fact that the zoo spent its own money on a glossy mailer sent to residents at a time when it's claiming to need more taxpayer funds.
On the statewide ballot, we strongly endorse Propositions 34 and 37. Prop 34 would do away with California's costly death penalty, thereby saving the state about $180 million a year. Prop 34 would replace the sentence of death with life without possibility of parole, and thus would also eliminate the risk of an innocent inmate being executed.
Prop 37, meanwhile, would require that food companies label products made with genetically modified organisms, or GMOs. We disagree with opponents who claim that the proposed law is too burdensome, and we think that consumers deserve to know what's in the food they buy and eat — particularly in light of scientific studies that are increasingly raising health and environmental concerns about GMOs. Also, we think that it's ridiculous that food manufacturers can still claim in 2012 that products made from GMOs are "natural."