Two big issues tonight: one at the City Council and the second at the School Board. The City Council — in what appears to be the last meeting before their August recess — will be considering an ordinance to strengthen (slightly) protections for renters in Alameda. The big things will be formalizing the Rent Review Advisory Committee as part of one of the many other Commissions in the Municipal Code. The other big thing will the the requirement to participate in the RRAC process which starts with a notice that must accompany the notice for rent increase.
Arguably the bigger issue will be the possible appointment of a School Board member
tonight TOMORROW NIGHT (sorry folks! totally had my dates confused) to fill Niel Tam’s vacated seat. Unfortunately because the City Council meeting is in session this meeting will be held at Island High School rather than the chambers and if you want to know what’s happening you’ll have to go there in person. Arguably one reason why it’s a shame that the meeting didn’t get bumped to a time when people could watch on the TV if they couldn’t make it in person. I guess we’ll have to watch the twitter feed instead. It is, however, being held at Island High School and am not sure why. But it’s at 6:00 p.m. on Wednesday night.
As I mentioned before, there are only five candidates. Yesterday I was looking through some old posts about the last appointment process and it reminded me of the whole Jane Grimaldi and Philip Hu deadlock. It was only due to Jane Grimaldi stepping aside that the process was resolved. If there was anyone who would have been the clear favorite it would have been Jane Grimaldi this time around. The last time, she received first round votes from Solana Hennberry, Barbara Kahn, and Niel Tam. Given her stepping aside the first time around, it would have been reasonable to assume that Philip Hu would have also cast a vote for her. But that’s neither here nor there since she did not elect to put in an application this time around.
The top tier candidates, from a name recognition perspective, are: Gray Harris, Anne McKereghan (formely Anne DeBardeleben), and Mike McMahon. The other two seem nice enough but the final vote will be for one of the three. Quite possibly Mike McMahon is already out of the running because the last time he only received one vote from Niel Tam. Anne McKereghan (as Anne DeBardeleben) went pretty far in the second final round when the School Board opted to bring to the final vote only those candidates that received two or more votes after the “pick 2” round. Anne McKereghan was able to retain the vote of Solana Henneberry up until the final pick round. She also was able to pick up Gary Lym’s vote in the “pick 2” round as well, but that one I viewed as more of a voting against Jane Grimaldi than voting for Anne McKereghan.
The addition of Gray Harris to the mix makes the math really quite complicated because she (ostensibly) has the backing of the union. And when I say the backing of the union, I’m not just referring to the local teacher’s union. I’m talking about “the union” in the form of the Alameda Labor Council. Gray Harris’s current role with the statewide teacher’s union and her current leadership role in general in the larger Democratic organizations makes her a serious player. Solana Henneberry (given her obvious union connections) could be a vote for Gray Harris where she would — in other circumstances — be a vote for Anne McKereghan.
Similarly, Gary Lym, who has a close relationship with Trish Spencer (they essentially campaigned together) he’ll be fairly inclined to take her advice on this appointment. I’m pretty sure Trish Spencer will put the kibosh on any whiff of a desire to vote for Mike McMahon and his singular vote for Anne McKereghan probably would not carry over to this appointment given that she was never even one of his “pick 10” choices the first time around and he admitted to being fairly liberal with those picks. I’m guessing he could be persuaded to vote for Gray Harris (depending on whether Trish Spencer and Gray Harris have maintained a friendly relationship dating from back when they were tilting against the Kristen Vital windmill together) or he might vote for one of the two other candidates who are not Mike McMahon or Anne McKereghan.
Philip Hu also has union ties in no less than his day job. If this appointment is seen as critical, he may be getting calls as well to cast his vote for Gray Harris. That’s a tentative three votes that Gray Harris has in her pocket if the correct behind-the-scenes lobbying has happened, which we can only assume has happened.
Barbara Kahn was also supported by the local teachers union although does not typically toe any particular party line. However, based on her previous votes she never cast a vote for Anne McKereghan or Mike McMahon in any of the rounds so I think it’s obvious that her choice may be Gray Harris unless there is a serious beef between these two ladies that never made it into the rumor mill.
So right now, my math says that it may be Gray Harris who walks away with the seat tonight, but here’s why I’m uncomfortable with that outcome. While I believe that Gray Harris would be a perfectly competent School Board member, I’ve always been a fan — even when I’m hyper critical of the particular person playing that role — of someone on a Board representing the loyal opposition. My fear is if the pick is Gray Harris this board becomes entirely too union friendly and maybe that’s why she’ll get the appointment in the first place. There needs to be a voice that pushes back — even slightly — to provide the other perspective. Of course I always appreciate if that voice is one that can push back and actually attempt to persuade the other Board Members in a compelling way to see his/her side, and not just push back for the sake of pushing back, but that’s just me.
Also, because of the circumstances surrounding the vacancy, I think it’s also important to consider the values of the man who vacated the seat. Personally, it would honor the man to fill the vacancy with someone who he would have endorsed wholeheartedly instead of viewing this as an opportunity to tip the scales so far into one particular direction. After Niel Tam’s death a lot of people came out to say really nice things to honor his memory. A bigger and more significant way to honor his memory would be to fill his empty seat with someone who understood his values as School Board member and would be more closely aligned to how he would cast votes and what he believed were important causes to back on the School Board. Folks closer to school related issues and closer to the man himself would be able to better gauge who of the top three would fill that particular role, but my gut (which has been wrong before) tells me that it may not be the person who eventually wins the required number of votes tonight.