Blogging Bayport Alameda

April 23, 2012

Do you have an opinion

So remember a couple of years ago when some non-incumbent candidates running for political office were barred from participating in the Mayor’s 4th of July Parade if they didn’t censor their entries?

For those new to the site or have short memories, let me refresh it for you.   This was during a hot election year with a lot at stake.   The sitting Mayor at that time, Beverly Johnson, was terming out and so there was an open Mayor’s seat and since another City Councilmember was also termed out there was at least two — if one of the sitting City Councilmembers won the Mayors race — open City Council seats.  Suffice it to say, the stakes were pretty high in 2010.

The City Attorney, at that time, Teresa Highsmith, released an opinion that declared that since the City was providing funding to the 4th of July Parade that the Parade Committee could restrict the entries:

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.

Which essentially led to non-incumbent candidates having to censor their entries.  So of course the natural question was, who would request such an opinion be written because historically there had never been much in the way of denying people entry into the parade.  It’s kind of a free-for-all which is why it’s so fun.

The kicker about what made this whole issue so strange was that no one would take responsibility for actually asking for the opinion in the first place.   While former Mayor Beverly Johnson insisted to KPIX news (video here) that the parade committee asked for the opinion:

The Parade Committee asked for an opinion from the City Attorney and the City Attorney’s opinion was that it was certainly appropriate to not allow candidates campaigning in the parade.  And I agree with that because we want to keep it a community event, not a campaigning event.

The Parade Committee chairwoman told Dan Wood of A Progressive Alamedan that the Parade Committee has done no such thing:

Parade committee chair Barbara Price, in an e-mail to me, denied that the committee had the authority to make such a request and that somebody else directed the ruling.

And the City Attorney at that time also noted that:

The City Attorney does not issue opinions to the public, including a non-City department.

So it’s sort of been a big fat question mark for a long time of who requested that the opinion be issued in the first place which led to censorship in a 4th of July parade.   And guess what folks, I finally got my answer and it only took two years to get it.   Yay!

Here is a screen shot from my email box of  the response from our new City Attorney Janet Kern:

I’m sure that now Councilmember Beverly Johnson will have a perfectly reasonable explanation as to why she didn’t just fess up two years ago as to making the request for the opinion in the first place.   The mystery of who asked for the City Attorney opinion that led to Parade-gate has now been solved.


  1. Please review your cell phone bill … you will find the “city of alameda tax”. the largest tax on your bill, mine is almost double what the federal tax is. the city of alameda cell phone tax equals a 13th payment in a 12 month period for me. Where does the money go ?? not to enhance cell phone service or 911 assistance. kind of a slush fund I guess … Its been going on for nearly 10 years, thanks to jim flint city manager. I’ll bet we have already paid for a swim center and didnt even know it!!!

    Comment by Dr Poodlesmurf — April 23, 2012 @ 7:04 am

  2. Thanks, Lauren, for sharing the evidence for what so many people knew but simply couldn’t prove. Even after two years, this event still leaves a bad smell at City Hall. Knowing now that she requested it, it’s astonishing to watch her bald-face lie on the video you linked to. (Alas, I couldn’t get the link you have here to work.)

    It’s probably too late to do anything about Johnson (e.g. a recall, pressing criminal charges) but I hope this helps prevent her from getting anything here in Alameda named after her!

    My local politics blog has been inactive for a while, but I still stand by my “Shame on the Mayor and the Fourth of July Parade Committee” posting from 2010:

    Comment by therealdanwood — April 23, 2012 @ 7:47 am

  3. Bev j was mayor when the cell phone tax came to town

    Comment by Dr Poodlesmurf — April 23, 2012 @ 8:22 am

  4. #2 So if we make this a ‘freedom of speech’ issue then any political persuasion would have the right to participate in the Parade. We could possibly see groups like the American Nazi Party or the KKK.

    Comment by Frank — April 23, 2012 @ 8:39 am

  5. #2: Well, she already has her name on the parking garage. Hopefully that’ll be it.

    Comment by Kristen — April 23, 2012 @ 9:15 am

  6. 4. Dear dingbat, they’re the ones that made it a ‘no-freedom of speech’ issue.

    Comment by Jack Richard — April 23, 2012 @ 9:27 am

  7. #5

    We can Name all the New Taxes and Bond Measures we have to Float After her and Staff to pay for the Financial mess were in.

    I believe it was Staff and Her Leadership That Recommended and Approved Huge Raises in Salary and pensions To Staff just a month after the Great Financial Collapse in our History.

    But I guess the Parade is a Bigger issue.

    Comment by John — April 23, 2012 @ 12:43 pm

  8. Frank: Exactly. That’s what we call freedom of speech. Warts and all. In fact, something like that *did* happen here in Alameda, and Ironically, Johnson supported their right to march.

    I’d rather have a hate group marching through town (with me boo-ing them the loudest) than our free speech stifled.

    Comment by therealdanwood — April 23, 2012 @ 5:08 pm

  9. 9
    Your clip absolutely supports #8.

    Comment by Jack Richard — April 23, 2012 @ 6:43 pm

  10. Former Alameda City Attorney Highsmith still screwing up, see article last month about tax measure summary FAIL by her:

    Comment by DRM — April 23, 2012 @ 8:48 pm

  11. A 12% increase of 10% would total 11.2%?

    Comment by Jack Richard — April 23, 2012 @ 9:57 pm

  12. After attending the grand parade once, about 10 years ago, I decided that it should be drastically cut in size. Scaled down to a parade of civic groups, school bands, animal rights groups, city departments and elected officials, 4-H, scouts, Coast Guard, etc. and NOT A ROLLING COMMERCIAL FOR EVERY BUSINESS ON THE ISLAND! Who wants to see floats for Ole’s, Trader Joe’s, Kohl’s, etc? I agree political campaigners should not be a part of it. A 3 hour long parade is pretty nuts and exhausting to stand through. I once joked that everyone that lives here should just get in line and march in it and at a point, stand off on the side and watch the rest go by as it circles the downtown.

    Comment by B.K. — April 24, 2012 @ 10:56 am

  13. 2, 4, 8, 9, 10: I support free speech for everyone, like (the real) Dan Wood. Including businesses, political candidates, the Alameda Green Party, Democrats, and anti-gay conservative Christians. Yes, even the Nazis, because we get to express ourselves in return and choose whether or not to agree with them.

    I completely agree with the sentiments expressed by then-mayoral-candidate Marie Gilmore–now Alameda’s mayor. Everyone–even the misinformed and unkind, bullies, fascists, racists, and bigots–should be able to express themselves freely under our constitution. And it is a sad day, indeed, when small-minded thinking leads to the shrinking of our freedom of speech, as happened two years ago right here in Alameda.

    Comment by Jon Spangler — April 24, 2012 @ 1:49 pm

  14. Yep, I have an opinion:
    What I’d like to see in the parade is stuff from the real world, like a beef yearling being branding, castrated and then butchered on a single flatbed truck. Show the people where their hamburgers and rocky mountain oysters come from. Also show the imported workers doing the butchering and grunge work. Maybe throw in a couple chickens getting their heads cut off and guts cut out then thrown on the BBQ, a few sheep being sheared, maybe a pig on a spit and at the end of the parade offer the animal rights group first dibs on the lunch. Now that would be a good addition, plus it’d make the parade a little longer since it seems to be getting too short lately.

    Comment by Jack Richard — April 24, 2012 @ 3:43 pm

  15. Damn Jack you made me hungry, when do we eat.

    Comment by John P. — April 24, 2012 @ 4:17 pm

  16. Sounds Organic Enough for me Jack. You Could Charge Double.

    Comment by John — April 24, 2012 @ 4:31 pm

  17. Jack you always dress them up so Well.

    Comment by John — April 24, 2012 @ 4:55 pm

  18. I don’t think you will get Churchlady to pose for your Rocky Mountain Oysters Before and After shots though.

    Comment by John — April 24, 2012 @ 5:02 pm

  19. Damn, John, them’s Himalayan oysters…

    Comment by Jack Richard — April 24, 2012 @ 5:41 pm

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