Blogging Bayport Alameda

October 28, 2014

There are worse things I can do

Filed under: Alameda, Election — Tags: — Lauren Do @ 6:08 am

The other day I was watching the Daily Show and Jon Stewart had, as his guest, the author of a book about when tabloids finally took over coverage of politics in journalism: Matt Bai.   At the end of the interview, Matt Bai wrapped up the interview with this quote:

I think we drum good people out of politics who are defined by the single worst thing they’ve ever done as opposed to the context of their public life.  And I think we make it much much easier for people who have no business holding office to enter the process because when you’re not talking about ideas and world views and agenda, when you’re talking about character and personality it makes it very easy for someone to float through the process without ever having to explain themselves or demonstrate what they know.

I thought a lot about this in context of Alameda elections in general, and not just this one, even though the character and personality seem to be one of the few reasons people have proffered to vote for Trish Spencer (she’s friendly, she talks to people, she listens).   It’s not as though Alameda lacks in talented, dedicated, and smart people.  I just think that most people don’t want to be, as stated by Matt Bai, “defined by the single worst thing they’ve ever done.”

Take for example: Stewart Chen.  I’ll start off by saying that I never voted for Stewart Chen two years ago, certainly don’t intend on voting for him this year either, probably will never vote for him ever.  But it’s not because of his fraud plea.  Lots of people want to take that one issue and point at it as some major moral failing therefore making him unfit to serve office.  For me, I look at the “context” of his public life, while he has volunteered on a lot of thankless commissions prior to being elected, it’s his lack of leadership, really lack of anything of the City Council that makes me not want to vote for him.

On the other hand there is someone like Trish Spencer, who people seem to genuinely think is a really nice and personable person.  Does that make her fit to be the next Mayor of Alameda?  Based on the “context” of her public life, absolutely not.  Her numerous “no” votes on issues, even petty issues, are just indicative of a larger problem with Trish Spencer.  She is all objections but no solutions.  She is all about pandering to whoever is in the room or whoever she needs to win over at that very moment, but without an actual agenda for moving anything forward.  She has not earned the respect of colleagues who have sat on the dais with her for six years.   At some point you have to be able to build consensus among your fellow decision makers and try to find a way to meet in the middle as opposed to sitting on the sidelines and throwing rocks.

And then we have the issue of the re-tread candidates like Tony Daysog and Frank Matarrese.   Is that only the people who have served on the City Council are the best and brightest we have that we need to have a repeat of certain City Council people?  No, it’s that folks are simply reluctant to be exposed to the kind of scrutiny that is expected once someone enters into the public stage.   From an NPR interview with Matt Bai:

Because all the attention, all the kudos, is in taking someone down, is in finding hypocrisy. There’s a deep distrust, I think, that goes back to Watergate with anything you’re being told by a politician. And we start from the notion that there’s a lie, and the question is what is the lie? And who can get to it first? And I think that’s had a very toxic effect because it comes at the expense of understanding people, having the context of their full-time in public service, having the benefit of knowing what their worldview is, how it was formed, being able to give people a sense of how their politicians think, what they believe and how deeply they believe it.

It’s whole “if it bleeds, it leads” mentality.  The same mentality that we got with Don Roberts’ old “Scoops!” and stories that are “Exclusives” or that have been broken.  After all media got way more “great reporting!” compliments about uncovering that Stewart Chen had a decades old fraud plea deal that actually reporting about his waffling and pandering on the City Council.


  1. “And then we have the issue of the re-tread candidates…” like Jerry Brown.

    Comment by Richard Bangert — October 28, 2014 @ 8:37 am

  2. So here we have the phalanx of phony words and straw people. After the straw-man candidates are firmly in place the voter is formed from what’s left of the straw. All the voters, all the voters, that is, (except THE ONE), are so shallow they can’t get passed the pats on the back and grins on the face of the hucksters masquerading as candidates (other candidates are re-treaded flat tired old has-beens).

    All this from a two bit media hack trying to sell books.

    Comment by jack — October 28, 2014 @ 10:52 am

  3. We all want to vote for someone of good character. We’re all looking for Jimmy Stewart and we always seem to end up with Claude Rains. But most really decent people, people who care about making the world a better place even if it means sacrificing themselves rarely enter politics, and if they do, they don’t stay long. They are quietly doing good in their corner of the world and avoiding the limelight. Only the people whose lives they touch personally will ever even know they existed.

    Politics attracts people who crave attention. They want to be celebrities. They want to take credit. They want the perks that come with the job, even if it’s just riding in the July Fourth parade in a Model-T. They almost always want to move up the ladder, and when they do, they leave their old jobs without a backward glance. That’s not to say people like this bring nothing to the table. The skills it takes to get elected are important skills to have when you are working toward getting consensus and moving forward on the issues. The problem is that the people who are really good at getting elected, focus much of their energies at getting re-elected and don’t spend much time actually getting things done.

    The lives of voters are busy, sometimes chaotic. Those who do vote, do so with varying degrees of care, information, and intelligence. We’ve all been suckered by a pretty face or a catchy slogan from time to time, in spite of our best efforts to choose wisely. The cult of personality has always been a determining factor in who gets elected in America, perhaps now more so than ever. We bemoan that fact but we are as much a part of the problem as the candidates themselves. As long as we keep voting for someone because we “like his style” or because “her parents were immigrants, just like mine” or “his wife is amazing”, etc. we aren’t going to get a better result. It’s especially hard when you realize that the people who get re-elected tend to do so simply because they haven’t done anything horrible, not because they’ve been doing a great job. They are the devils we know, and we tend to stick with them.

    Comment by Denise Shelton — October 28, 2014 @ 11:40 am

  4. My hat is off to any city council or school board member who can sit through a public meeting without either uttering an obscenity or making squirrel noises. I couldn’t do it …

    Comment by Tom Schweich — October 28, 2014 @ 11:54 am

  5. 4. I agree! If you’ve never been to one, you’ve just go to go. It’s amazing how restrained they are. I once attended a meeting many years ago when a guy was promoting the idea, out of the blue mind you, of police on horseback in Alameda. The council members were respectful and attentive. Nary a snicker. I was deeply impressed and thoroughly convinced that I could never do the job myself.

    Comment by Denise Shelton — October 28, 2014 @ 12:47 pm

  6. My observations have been that the people who become commissioners or board members in Alameda have a great deal of value. They get limited attention and really don’t want any. They work behind the scenes to help support a safe, enjoyable and productive city.

    Comment by Bill — October 28, 2014 @ 1:04 pm

  7. Most of the folks that have been willing to campaign and serve in our town are honest, hard working people who believe in civic engagement. We should honor their willingness to serve, especially considering that we take potshots at them, their families, their dogs, where they live, how rich or poor they are, etc. all the time. They have to read reams of material and be prepared to make judgments which they know are going to displease at least some people as much as they will please others. We have had a couple of bad apples – self serving types, but for the most part, I am glad to have people up there doing the work to make our City go forward. When we vote, we should pay attention to how the candidates served in prior office terms, whether they have ideas and plans for the betterment of the community, and whether they work cooperatively with others.

    Comment by Kate Quick — October 28, 2014 @ 1:14 pm

  8. #4 – Could they be as bad as the Santa Cruz city council?

    Comment by Big Johnson — October 28, 2014 @ 2:07 pm

  9. Right now we have two city council candidates who have financial supporters who have stooped to a very low rung on the ethics ladder.

    If these candidates think they can ride into office and hold their heads high with backers like this, it will be clear that city hall has been bought and paid for.

    Did you receive a colorful two sided postcard 11″x6″ yesterday?
    Sent out by: Alameda County Business and Technology Consortium 2014 with an address of 5940 College Ave, Ste F

    The postcard says in all CAPS:
    WAS TERMED OUT (underlined)



    SAY YES (underlined) to

    This side has Oddie’s and Chen’s photos

    the flip side has their photos, too.

    LET’S GET IT STRAIGHT: Frank Mataresse is a legitimate candidate. He IS NOT termed out! He has every right to campaign and be elected to the city council in 2014.

    This postcard stinks of the dirtiest political tactic in this campaign.
    Let me repeat that:


    Comment by A Neighbor — October 28, 2014 @ 2:14 pm

  10. Kate very well put
    This goes for Termed out candidate as well ,
    Not something which seat well with our Current Mayor an Attorney as it is the case for Mr Frank Matarese , I had a couples of these nasty flyers and had to check where they were coming from : The Henry Levy Group , interestingly enough they are also representing and using:
    The Alameda Police Dept. “you cannot get employment with a criminal record”
    The Alameda Fire dept. “you cannot get employment with a criminal record”
    The Democratic Party.
    The Alameda labor Council .

    The Henry Levy group is interestingly enough a CPA Firm ????
    You blend a Mayor which is an Attorney , Jim Oddie which is also an Attorney {with mediocre result at best while at the helm of the Alameda Hospital ,”not my words the State and County own statement”
    then Mr Chen with very questionable business decision which lend Him in major legal trouble. He can serve as a convict at the City council .
    Then you mix a CPA firm with only one duty in life manipulating data , Then you truly believe we are in a democracy ? If so I am the Emperor of China.

    Elections are nothing else but money poured with special interest in Firm like the Levy Group , they are all bought out.
    Thanks to The Levy Group , Mr Matarrese scrored six more .

    To all the bars , liquor store which post Chen as City council , they would not be able to get a liquor licence with His Pedigree

    Comment by Karl — October 28, 2014 @ 2:47 pm

  11. post #9, A neighbor, You and I don’t agree on much of anything, but this one item. I’m looking at this mailer right now, and it is disgusting. It attacks Frank Matarrese, and then says to vote for Dr. Stewart Chen.
    as sure as the sun comes up Dr. Chen will completely disavow this mailer and say he had nothing to do with it.
    I would have to say B.S. its his party and this is the way they play politics, it also happens to be my party and I’am still disgusted with this type of cheap gutter politics.

    like people have already stated on this blog, if you get this type of garbage it simply means vote for the other candidate. One thing I know about Frank is that he just would not do something like this.

    Comment by John P. — October 28, 2014 @ 4:17 pm

  12. They aren’t the only party which plays like that, John, the R’s usually do it even dirtier. In any case, though, the local D org is really an embarrassment.

    Comment by dave — October 28, 2014 @ 4:25 pm

  13. What a coincidence! The Henry Levy Group is located at the same address as the source of this most offensive postcard promoting these guys Oddie and Chen.

    Comment by A Neighbor — October 28, 2014 @ 5:05 pm

  14. Luckily the R’s haven’t had the pleasure of embarrassing you.

    Comment by jack — October 28, 2014 @ 7:39 pm

  15. I’m not at all disappointed with Frank’s record. Love the library. Love the Alameda Theatre. Love the fact that he doesn’t stoop to smear tactics and out and out lies in a effort to get elected. You’ve got to wonder about the trustworthiness of people who do and about those funding their campaigns. What are they afraid of that causes them to spend so much money trying to discredit an honest, decent man?

    Comment by Denise Shelton — October 29, 2014 @ 11:31 am

  16. Actually another anti-Matarrese mailer just came. “Paid for by the Golden State Leadership Fund PAC” out of LA. The irony of this is that Chen stated that he did not disclose his previous conviction as he feared it would be used against him in the Election. I have yet to see a mailer that’s says “Don’t Elect a Felon”. Here he is asking Matarrese ‘to play by the rules’. This stuff all stinks and even if Chen is re-elected I think he has lost any credibility that he may have had left.

    Comment by frank m — October 29, 2014 @ 1:43 pm


    Why are these people so anxious to get Chen elected in Alameda?

    Comment by A Neighbor — October 29, 2014 @ 3:39 pm

  18. The real question: Why would Gilmore and her supporters spend $100,000 to get her elected Mayor of Alameda? The job pays nothing. There must be a lot at stake….

    Oddie? Kidding me right? There’s no there there. McMahon barely got on the Board last time around. Name one positive accomplishment he is responsible for- and don’t say high test scores- teachers do that. And don’t say good financial decisions, because we have a giant hole with deferred maintenance and have parcel taxes or school bonds every other year….

    Comment by Breathless — October 29, 2014 @ 10:13 pm

  19. For more information about who is funding campaigns in Alameda?

    Comment by A Neighbor — October 30, 2014 @ 8:01 am

  20. 15, 16: I am opposed to Frank Matarrese because of his policies and positions regarding development at Alameda Point. (I, too, am dismayed by the mailers opposing him, but I am not generally in favor of “retread” candidates coming back into office after being termed out either, even if it IS perfectly legal: I think it does not serve us well to have a reduced pool of leaders cycling–and recycling–themselves through local offices.)

    Alameda Point and Traffic–the Real Answer is Transit-Friendly Housing

    The only way to adequately support viable mass transit service at Alameda Point is by establishing enough residential units (probably around 3000) there so there will be enough customers available to support frequent service (headways) of 12 minutes or less throughout the day. If we only build 1400 housing units, the density and the population will simply not be there to support adequate transit service which will , add to the costs of subsidizing any transit service to AP and cost taxpayers money. We also need more housing–affordable and market-rate–at AP to keep Alameda’s jobs-housing ratio in balance and to provide enough housing within walking and bicycling distance of the new jobs that we hope will be created at AP.

    If we do not provide enough housing at AP for those who work in Alameda, all we will do is bring more traffic congestion on our heads throughout the island. Unfortunately, Frank Matarrese–who should know better–is recommending a “retread” and isolationist solution that simply will not work in the 21st century.

    Comment by Jon Spangler — October 30, 2014 @ 9:02 am

  21. Jon , You talk about recycling themselves into office ,
    please take a closer look at the Mayor , while at the planning board she said an 8000 square feet nursery was not a retail , then went further to said that Otis was a 4 lanes Ave , I don’t think she ever drive this way too bad , it is fun especially at rush hours ,
    she also said there would be no impact on putting 4500 houses at the base , only retreated when it got way too hot or should we say even physical as the lobbyist were shoving anyone opposing them .
    – I have a major issue when our Fire Dept. Our Police Dept. endorse someone who pleaded guilty for fraud and paid restitution then come around saying I did not know that pleading guilty would stay on my record.

    I was not Born American I had to prove I could be , no criminal record , no arrest and every cents paid on my taxes .
    -Alameda Do need an Asian at City hall Chen is the wrong one , like Oddie he recycled himself from another board the Alameda Hospital , a failure of epic proportion which we are all paying for .

    What we are seeing here is the self destruction of the Democratic party , that is a very sad fact .

    Comment by Joel Rambaud — October 30, 2014 @ 7:00 pm

  22. Several weeks ago I said the elections were rigged , here you have it .

    Comment by Joel Rambaud — October 30, 2014 @ 7:01 pm

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