Blogging Bayport Alameda

June 28, 2010

Management has the right to refuse service to anyone

File this one under: you’ve got to be <expletive> kidding me.

I recently learned that a candidate running for City Council attempted to walk as part of the 4th of July parade this year.  He was not allowed to do so.

Why, you may be asking?

Because the City Attorney says so.

That’s right, this year there are limitations on free speech with regards to Alameda’s 4th of July parade.   I would be laughing my ass off at the irony of this if I weren’t so outraged by the notion that we are arbitrarily excluding certain groups because the City Attorney says it’s okay.

Here’s the rather twisted legal gymnastics used by the City Attorney to justify excluding particular groups, or in this case, one group…and really it’s one person, from the City’s 4th of July Parade.

This year, the Interim City Manager has decided to “donate” $10,000 in City funds to the Parade effort even though this has not been the practice in the past.   Because this year City money is being expended and the City can’t use funds to advocate for candidates for local office or for a local initiative, the parade committee can deny any one that they see fit to deny.

But in fact, what the City Attorney’s ruling does, is open the door for a lot more subjective abuse of the ability of the parade committee to deny an application for any group that they don’t want to see march in the parade.   Rather than narrowly writing an opinion which says:  city dollars can’t be used to endorse a candidate and so no political candidates can be in the parade.   Instead the City Attorney couches it this way:

The Parade Committee reserves the right to deny an entry which does not serve the theme or purpose of the parade, as long as alternative channels of communication are available…

Pretty chilling right?   I mean if running for City Council isn’t solidly in line with this year’s theme of “Partners in Community Service,” I don’t know what is.   People don’t run for City Council for the fame and glory of being on the City Council, heck, I bet you 9 out of 10 Alamedans couldn’t name all five City Council members, let alone pick them out of a line up, so yeah, being on the City Council is a big form of Community Service.   As is running for City Council.

The cases cited by the City Attorney are not that compelling to support her opinion.  She uses two cases, one of a parade in Parkland whose organizers have excluded ALL political groups from their parade and have for many years and one case from a plaza in New York City in the Lincoln Center for the Arts.   Neither of these cases are on point because Alameda has long included political groups like the Alameda Democratic Club, Alameda Peace Network, and Code Pink in the parade.   Likewise, she uses the Lincoln Center case as an example of how activities have to be narrowly tailored to the “forum’s function and purpose.”   This is not compelling as well for the same reason as stated above.   You can’t excluded political groups — or even select political groups — when you have embraced them in the past.

She sums it all up by saying:

The Parade Committee of the Mayor’s 4th of July Parade may restrict entries which advocate the election or reelection of a particular candidate or advocate for or against a local ballot measure, on the basis that such political advocacy is not consistent with the purpose of the traditional home-town, family celebration purpose of the Parade.

If “political advocacy” or not being “consistent with the purpose of the traditional home-town, family celebration” are the basis for denying any group entry to the parade depending on the whims of the Parade Committee, we have a much bigger problem on our hands.   What’s next?  Or rather, who’s next?   It’s a slippery slope the City is heading out on.

The notion that because City funds are being expended as well  and that it would be an “endorsement” of a candidate to allow him/her to walk in the parade is equally silly.   There is not a precedent for the City to donate actual cash to the parade committee, but there is precedence that both political groups and candidates for elected office having participated in the parade previously — as acknowledged in the opinion.  The caveat used is that because City funds weren’t expended, it didn’t count.   It’s sort of a ridiculous premise considering that every year thousands of dollars in City money goes toward funding police for security, waiving fees, public works for clean-up, and who knows what else to make the parade happen.  Maybe some people are donating their time, but I imagine that a ton of folks are getting paid, by the City, to ensure that the street closures happen and the debris is cleaned up after the horses in the parade do their business on the parade route.  Simply because it’s not given in the form of a check to the Parade Committee does not mean that the money is not “City funds.”

Additionally, practically all the incumbent City Council members are running for re-election or for another office and will be allowed to participate in the parade.   Simply because they don’t flash a sign that says “Vote for Me!” doesn’t give them any less of an unfair advantage given that in these local elections, it’s generally name recognition that is going to get the votes.

This hand wringing over one candidate wanting to walk amongst a million other Alameda groups feels much like that “campaign finance reform” the Mayor was so eager to push sooner rather than later.    It’s the new City Government: tie the hands of your opponents for your own benefit!


  1. What are they afraid of?

    Comment by AlamedaNayTiff — June 28, 2010 @ 7:13 am

  2. The candidate? Their own shadow? It’s unclear.

    I propose that every float and group carry “Vote for Pedro” signs during the parade, see if they get in trouble from the parade committee.

    Comment by Lauren Do — June 28, 2010 @ 7:19 am

  3. only in Alameda, haha.

    Comment by E — June 28, 2010 @ 7:57 am

  4. sounds to me like the Parade committee is gonna have to tell anyone running for office that they can’t be in the Parade, office holder or not. I’m beginning to wonder about this City.

    Comment by John Piziali — June 28, 2010 @ 8:11 am

  5. I hope this ban includes the League of (democrat) Women Voters.

    Comment by jayare — June 28, 2010 @ 9:40 am

  6. And all those religion based entrants, after all, there are, most definitely, alternative channels of communication for their message and since this is a city financed parade, we must have religion separated from state functions.

    Comment by jayare — June 28, 2010 @ 9:44 am

  7. Jayare – the members of the League who are Republicans have proudly marched in the parade in years past. You may disagree with our positions, but we never endorse candidates of any party or even in non-partisan races. We have not elected to participate as an organization this year but we will all be out to watch and cheer our country on as we celebrate our nation’s independence.

    Comment by Kate Quick — June 28, 2010 @ 9:45 am

  8. I’m assuming that the Democratic Party will not be allowed in the parade this year? Don’t they have something to do with running candidates for office and supporting ballot propositions?

    If a candidate for Mayor who is currently on the council can appear in the parade as long as he doesn’t wear a “Vote for Me” button, couldn’t the council candidate also appear in the parade as long as he doesn’t wear a button? For example, couldn’t the candidate appear in the parade with the banner, “Rob Roberts, Alamedans for Change.” As long as he doesn’t say vote for Rob Roberts, the message would be no more political than the Democratic Party float or the councilmembers running for mayor.

    This is an Independence Day parade, shouldn’t it be about having freedom rather than restricting it? Did the founding fathers worry about the Declaration sounding too negative and political? There is some pretty harsh language in it.

    He = the King

    “He has obstructed the administration of justice, by refusing his assent to laws for establishing judiciary powers.

    He has made judges dependent on his will alone, for the tenure of their offices, and the amount and payment of their salaries.

    He has erected a multitude of new offices, and sent hither swarms of officers to harass our people, and eat out their substance.

    He has kept among us, in times of peace, standing armies without the consent of our legislature.

    He has affected to render the military independent of and superior to civil power.”

    Comment by AlamedaNayTiff — June 28, 2010 @ 10:16 am

  9. #8: “Sent hither swarms of officers to harass our people, and eat out their substance.” Sounds like the Republicans.

    Anyway, I think the clue to this lies in Section B on pg. 4:

    “B. Prohibition on Expenditure of Public Funds to Advocate for Candidate or Ballot Measure.

    Government Code Section 54964 prohibits the expenditure of any city funds to support or oppose the approval or rejection of a ballot measure, or the election or defeat of a candidate by the voters. The principle behind this prohibition is that the use of public funds or resources is unfair to those members of the public with opposing views.”

    So, simply put, this is state law and not something the city attorney dreamed up to be difficult.

    Current public officials ride in the parade as officials, but not as candidates. That’s a meaningful distinction.

    Comment by dlm — June 28, 2010 @ 11:24 am

  10. if the city doesn’t usually pitch in, why now? I assume the cost of police over time does not count as it is incidental?

    Comment by M.I. — June 28, 2010 @ 11:40 am

  11. #7: “the members of the League who are Republicans have proudly marched in the parade in years past”. And here they are!!

    Consistent with the parade’s theme tho, I would think.

    Comment by dlm — June 28, 2010 @ 11:51 am

  12. I thought the City was in financial straits? Didn’t the ICM laments that she could only sock away $100K for deferred maintenance Why is she spending City taxpayer funds on the parade, a mega X-mas tree and feel-good branding surveys?

    Comment by Carole — June 28, 2010 @ 11:53 am

  13. As long as the City does not discriminate as to which candidates or which ballot measure positions may appear in the parade, all it is doing is providing a forum much like a park or a meeting room in a library. Regardless, the City did not need to donate to the parade.

    How do they think those councilmembers ended up in the parade, through immaculate election?

    What are they afraid of and what is driving this?

    Comment by AlamedaNayTiff — June 28, 2010 @ 12:28 pm

  14. 9. That’s a very restrictive interpretation of Government Code Section 54964. Just because a government entity provided some of the funding for the parade, the mere presence of someone marching in parade is considered supporting that marcher’s political position…and a clear violation of the spirit if not the intent of the 1st Amendment.

    Comment by jayare — June 28, 2010 @ 12:30 pm


    Comment by AlamedaNayTiff — June 28, 2010 @ 12:46 pm

  16. Is the $10,000 donation the Interim City Manager’s attempt to control the elections? THAT would be a definite ethics violation, but influencing city elections id precisely the de fact effect of that contribution to the parade.

    I seem to recall LOTS of political candidates appearing as such in past parades. Is my memory correct in this?

    The parade committee needs to give the money back to the City and take back control of its parade from the Imperial City Manager, the City Attorney, and City Hall. City Hall has no business deciding who marches or who has or does not have first amendment rights….

    Comment by Jon Spangler — June 28, 2010 @ 12:46 pm

  17. #8 – Thomas Jefferson also complained about “He who has attempted to free our slaves”

    On the subject of the parade…since the City is spending $10,000 on the parade through the City’s streets with police and firemen being paid to take part, along with other city employees and Park and Rec., then freezing out other political candidates has a chilling effect on the First Amendment. Yipes! the City Attorney is doing just the opposite of what she intended.

    And yes, every year there have been candidates or office holders in the parade.

    Comment by Hot R — June 28, 2010 @ 1:33 pm

  18. Send an email to the city and ask them. The only issue I see is with the money essentially donated to the parade via free city services.

    Well, here’s another: whether someone can just plain “appear” in the parade vs. campaigning — meaning they can’t carry a sign saying “Vote for Me”. Neither can the incumbents.

    Again, this is due to state law, not some evil plot.

    Comment by dlm — June 28, 2010 @ 1:43 pm

  19. So based on city policy/ separation of church and state, etc etc. The following will not appear:

    Anyone (incumbent or not) running for office – put away your electric cart, Frank.

    Any church group

    Boy scouts (that whole discrimination against gays thing)

    Horses (not allowed to keep in alameda)

    Old cars (not compliant with CASA)

    Floats with more than 5 people on them (violates the density bonus)

    Any nonprofit that ever got money from Suncal (most of them)

    Sounds like it will just be Uncle Sam in his wheelchair.

    Comment by notadave — June 28, 2010 @ 1:44 pm

  20. Is the parade a “make or break” event for city council candidates? If so, then if Mr. Banto could find himself a clownsuit and a tricycle, I bet he could get in.

    A few balloons would be a nice touch, too.

    Comment by dlm — June 28, 2010 @ 2:11 pm

  21. LOL @ 19.

    Comment by Jack B. — June 28, 2010 @ 2:30 pm

  22. Paradegate!

    Comment by Kristen — June 28, 2010 @ 3:35 pm

  23. Maybe they just don’t want someone screwing up the patriotic message.

    Comment by AlamedaNayTiff — June 28, 2010 @ 3:36 pm

  24. This news reads like the Alameda version of “The Girl who Kicked the Hornets Nest” by Stieg Larsen. Curiouser and curiouser. I learned two interesting facts in checking the parade website:
    1) the website title is City of Alameda Parade website but in the history it refers to “the Mayor’s 4th of July Parade”; and,
    2) “The Parade Committee, as a 501c3 organization, donates to the high school and middle school bands that participate in the parade. This year the Parade Committee is looking to donate a total of $10,000 to school music programs.”

    And are not the in-kind services by the City and its many departments, also a contribution? If there were no parade, the resources used would otherwise be available to serve the community.

    In past years, marching units have even “unofficially” joined the parade. Alamedans have no fear in expressing their opinions about any group in the parade. Why kick over the hornets nest?

    Comment by Observer — June 28, 2010 @ 3:39 pm

  25. This isn’t based on State Law. This is based on an opinion of state law that uses odd cases from other cases to back up its assertions.

    Comment by John Knox White — June 28, 2010 @ 3:40 pm

  26. This shows why we need to look into outsourcing the City’s legal work like many other cities. I would be more likley to support mayoral and council candidates who are willing to look into that. There are may good legal firms that do public legal work, and that would help with the pension costs that the candidates have stated need to be addressed.

    Comment by DRM — June 28, 2010 @ 4:08 pm

  27. This is actually in the City Attorney’s memo.

    “political advocacy is not consistent with the purpose of the traditional home-town, family celebration purpose of the Parade.”

    Comment by AlamedaNayTiff — June 28, 2010 @ 4:15 pm

  28. This stifling of free speech is politically motivated. The public and the Queen should say “off with the heads of the City Attorney and Imperial City Manager.”

    Comment by Alamedans for Change — June 28, 2010 @ 5:04 pm

  29. Is it clear where the “arisen” question the City Attorney is responding to came from? And her response to the “arisen” question is neither yes nor no. It’s that the participation of a marching candidate “may” be forbidden.

    Did the question arise from the Parade Committee? We need more info…sunshine anybody?

    Comment by jayare — June 28, 2010 @ 5:55 pm

  30. #24, quoting from the parade website: “The Parade Committee, as a 501c3 organization, donates to the high school and middle school bands that participate in the parade. This year the Parade Committee is looking to donate a total of $10,000 to school music programs.”

    Could it be that the city is donating money to the school music programs, via this donation to the parade?

    Or is that just another devious tactic in this evil plot?

    Comment by dlm — June 28, 2010 @ 5:55 pm

  31. The City Council could thank the City Attorney for her opinion and decide otherwise. The buck stops with the elected officials, not the city manager or the city attorney.

    So, who is the candidate causing all the stir? Not that I would vote for him or her, but I would certainly support that person’s right to be in the parade along with the rest of the politicians.

    Comment by AlamedaNayTiff — June 28, 2010 @ 6:01 pm

  32. jayare: I’ve put in a public request to the City Clerk’s office to find out who initiated the question. My request went in this afternoon so I may not hear back until tomorrow.

    ANT: Two candidates have received parade numbers but have been told that they can’t have “Vote for Me!” signs. Which personally will be sort of weird and odd and still — in my opinion — trampling on their right to free speech. Those two candidates are Rob Bonta and Tony Daysog.

    Comment by Lauren Do — June 28, 2010 @ 6:17 pm

  33. huh? what happened to Mr.”Banto”?

    30. go ask David Howard, he is the resident expert on evil plots in this town. that is unless ICM is behind it.

    Comment by M.I. — June 28, 2010 @ 6:43 pm

  34. “Although the Parade Committee is aware of one previous entrant that include campaign signage advocated his candidacy, we are informed that there was no direct contribution of public money that year.”

    This isn’t English.

    Comment by AlamedaNayTiff — June 28, 2010 @ 6:46 pm

  35. There’s a saying that every politician is always running for office. Let’s corral all of the politicians, current and potential into a single group, herded by non-partisan Australian sheep dogs through the entire parade route. They can all wear sandwich boards with their name and political office held.

    This is an “opinion,” not a ruling. This is the 4th of July parade-celebration, not something out of Soviet-era government event (you pick any country with ..istan ending). Crikey sakes, let them all walk the walk.

    Comment by Basel — June 28, 2010 @ 6:54 pm

  36. 35.
    Correct, it’s an opinion. I wait with baited moonshine the response to Lauren’s query mentioned in #32.

    Comment by jayare — June 28, 2010 @ 7:19 pm

  37. Re 17. Contrary to your assertion, Thomas Jefferson, despite being a slaveholder, tried to put in a statement in the declaration holding King George responsible for maintaining the institution of slavery in the colonies as one of his crimes. See Pauline Maier “American Scripture” or the reference here.

    Re 30: The parade committee has for many years donated to the school music programs if they participate in the parade.

    Re all of it– this is crazy and ironic, restricting speech on the day celebrating our freedom.

    Comment by Kevis Brownson — June 28, 2010 @ 9:42 pm

  38. re#37: So historically the Mayor’s Parade Committee (the non-profit organization) pays/makes a contribution to those local school bands which appear in the parade? Hmm, all these years and I didn’t know that. Seems like that’s a real benefit that should be publicized, no?

    Comment by Observer — June 30, 2010 @ 7:45 pm

  39. 37
    “…Thomas Jefferson, despite being a slaveholder…”

    Rings a little hollow, doesn’t it? Good thing George Bush II wasn’t around back then. Instead of blaming his slaveholding (actually “slaveowner…they were owned not held) on George II, the father of the Democratic party had to resort to blaming his being a slaveowner on George III.

    Comment by jayare — June 30, 2010 @ 9:52 pm

  40. Re 39, I am not saying that it isn’t hypocritical, just getting the facts straight. Jefferson did put a whole paragraph in about the wrong the king did in maintaining the institution of slavery and slave trading in the colonies, and it was deleted by the committee. The writer Hot R claimed the opposite, that Jefferson blamed the king for trying to free the slaves.

    Comment by Kevis Brownson — July 3, 2010 @ 12:19 am

  41. Dear Mayor:

    Of course your city attorney believes it’s perfectly appropriate to keep political candidates from displaying signs in the Fourth of July parade. She works for incumbents like YOU who want to keep their jobs and move up to a fatter government pension someday. Ironic, isn’t it, that on a day set aside to celebrate freedom, elected and appointed public officials (you and your slimy mouthpiece) are doing everything they can to silence opposing political speech? I noticed that you and the other members of the council were able to ride in the parade with your names and titles emblazoned on your vehicles. Opposing candidates weren’t allowed to do the same. Legal? Maybe, maybe not. Fair? Hell, no. The leadership of your community reminds me of where I grew up. That town had a city attorney who also couldn’t tell the difference between “legal” and “moral.” He drank himself to death. Good riddance to bad rubbish, I say! Remember, there is a bit of karma that attaches to the decisions those in power make. Abuse your power as you have in this instance and the Universe will sooner or later even the score. That you apparently have not grasped this concept despite a fair amount of life experience makes me feel very sorry for the citizens of Alameda.


    Lee White,


    Comment by Lee White — July 4, 2010 @ 7:08 pm

  42. Politicians were denied the ability to campaign to some degree on my tax dime and you’re upset by that; I am most assuredly not.
    Let me see if I got this right. Our tax dollars went to funding a 4th of July parade and somebody asked (Elected Official or Parade Committee facts are a little murky) if incumbent or candidates could use it as a forum for their campaign. The City Attorney then issued an opinion that said no or sort of said no, what they said was limit it no “vote for me” placards or something.
    Well here is my opinion, GIVE THE ATTORNEY A MEDAL those are my tax dollars directly funding the parade.

    The amazing thing is that somehow the issue was blown up into a free speech argument; I no more want the Nazi flag, NRA, or Catholic cross flying from my city hall than I do Joe the Plumber campaign floats in my parades. Before everybody starts in on the Stalinist sound of that, let me be clear; let them all campaign, spread their propaganda, or loony thoughts anywhere they like as long as my tax dollars are not going directly to pay for.

    I think the bubble has finally run out of oxygen, step outside take a breadth.


    Comment by AlamedaDude — July 6, 2010 @ 5:36 pm

  43. There is a good commentary about this on The Island.

    Comment by AlamedaNayTiff — July 9, 2010 @ 2:04 pm

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