Years ago, Professor Irving Younger taught us that one of the primary objectives of a closing argument should be to strengthen the convictions of those jurors who already are inclined to vote your way and to dispel the doubts of any jurors who may be leaning toward you but still haven’t made up their minds.
Today, the Merry-Go-Round will present, for consideration by those of our readers who (like us) haven’t voted yet, the closing arguments given by the three mayoral and five Council candidates at the forums conducted last month by the League of Women Voters. None of them studied under Professor Younger, but they knew (or should have known) that their final speeches functioned much as a summation does.
The text is unedited, and, we warn you, rhetoricians these politicians are not. But that isn’t the point. Rather, we think it’s instructive to see what each candidate chose to say, in the two minutes allotted for a closing argument, to fortify his or her support and to convert the undecided. Did the candidate emphasize his or her resume or personal qualities, and, if so, which ones? Did he or she focus on issues or challenges facing the City, and, if so, which ones? Or did he or she just blow smoke – or hot air?
You be the judge.
Herewith, the candidates in their own words. (We’ve eliminated the obligatory thank-yous to the League).
Marilyn Ezzy Ashcraft
One of the things I’ve learned from my work with the League of California Cities is that the decisions that impact all of you the most – the most closely, the most personally – happen at the local level. Whether it’s affecting your property value, your day-to-day lives, how you get in and out of your town, [these] happen at the local level, so it is so important who you choose to be your elected leaders.
I come to you ready, and willing, and able to serve. I have, in addition to my six years on Council, six years on the Planning Board before that. I serve on the League of California Cities statewide policy committee on housing, community, and economic development, which gives me a statewide as well as regional perspective, in addition to my local perspective on how to address complicated issues like more affordable housing and addressing homelessness. I also serve on the liaison committee with AC Transit, because public transit is so essential for our City, and I sit on the subcommittee with the Alameda Unified School District, and I’m ready to put all of my skills to work for this community.
I believe that you have to not just talk the talk but walk the walk. I try to use my bicycle to get around as much as possible and encourage other people that it’s possible, too. And what I find so encouraging when I’m out walking door-to-door is that, unlike sometimes at Council where people complain a lot about things, people love living in Alameda. Yes, they’re concerned about traffic and transit, but they get that we need more housing and they want to be a part of the solution, and I want to be your next mayor, and I would welcome your support.
I look back on my service to you as a Council member in the early days, and whether it was getting Nob Hill from a vacant, decrepit shopping center to a thriving bridge-side center; whether it was, instead of looking at the Linoaks motel, we’re looking at a main library; or whether it was trying to figure out what to do to revitalize downtown, or to actually execute and build the Alameda Theater complex and restore the historic theater – those were great things to be involved in, but now the stakes are higher.
And I offer that we need to have a stable City Hall, we need to have stable City management, because that’s the form of government we do have – regardless of the initial question, we do have a manager-Council form of government. I understand that form of government. I have the temperament to lead a Council and to focus us on the work that’s in front of us, to work efficiently at our Council meetings to come to a conclusion and make a decision, to move forward always in the best interests of this City, always with a civil tone, to make sure that we maintain the quality of life here so that we thrive, so that we have future development that’s reasonable, so that we can sustain this City in the face of climate change, which is real.
I ask for your support, I ask for your consideration, I ask for your vote on November 6.
So, many of you I know had questions that you submitted that weren’t answered. Email me, email@example.com; stop me at the store – many of you do it all the time anyway; follow up – I’m happy to answer your questions any time and try and serve you. This is something that I have done for the last four years – honestly I did it when I was on the School Board, I did it as a mom of four kids in this town trying to help each other, and that’s honestly one of the best things as Alamedans we try to help each other. So honestly continue to feel free to reach out to me any time.
It has been an honor and a privilege to serve you. I’d like to share: I am the first Hispanic mayor of Alameda. That’s good news. We are a diverse community. It’s nice to have people from different backgrounds. I grew up, my father learned English as a second language, I’m one of five kids, a lot of times the money was hard to come by – for a short time we were on food stamps. We currently rent. I raised four children here. That’s real life, and it’s something I’m very proud of.
I love talking with people, serving people, and we’ve done some really good work – I’m going to say this Council honestly has stepped up. There’s things that go wrong, but we step up, we show up every other Tuesday, we show up in between, and we make sure the work gets done. And I encourage you to continue to participate. Dream big, because we have been delivering. I look around and I see, okay, we do have the Navy museum, it’s amazing that we still have that, it’s amazing, we have to continue to work together to do it. We started Second Fridays, we’ve gotten more public art happening, money that used to be sitting, not being spent, we stepped up, we’re spending it, you’re going to see new public art all around this town, and you know we’re a thriving community, so let’s continue.
I wrote down a bunch of stuff, I can talk about my experience, my resume, from City Council, Hospital Board, Social Service Board, Human Relations Board, the JPA, the Alameda County Transportation Commission, but let’s not do that.
Let’s focus on what we really care about. We can talk about the budget, sure. We can talk about the tenant and landlord issue that’s dividing our City – it makes me sad to hear that – Measure K, you’re for Measure K, you’re against Measure K, the new Alamedans, the old Alamedans, the union and non-union, but at the end of the day it doesn’t matter which group you belong to. You all care for Alameda. You don’t think that tenants don’t care about Alameda, or the landlords don’t. They both care. We’re in this together.
What I’d like to do is focus on two issues if I do get onto City Council. [At] one of the forums they asked, what are you going to do your first 100 days? I think public safety. I would really like to address that. An Asian-American business owner was killed the early part of this year. I saw the husband, and he was devastated – wife robbed and killed in front of his eyes. How can you ever recover from something like that? And the police telling us we’re understaffed – ten percent, ten percent understaffed. Why? We can’t find good recruits. Baloney. We need to get them accountable, find out what we can do to help find you good recruits, fully staff our police.
And, before I finish, affordable housing for seniors and people with disabilities. Those are pretty close to my heart. We talk about development and housing, yes, when need do all that, but don’t forget the seniors. I’m going to be one of them, too, soon.
As the League of Women Voters and affiliates of the League of Women Voters, all of you believe in good government. And that is the crux of the issue facing the City of Alameda this November, to make sure that we have a City Council that’s going to install a return of the City-Manager, professional type of government, because unfortunately what we’ve been experiencing recently indicates that we’re far short of that. We’re not exactly Tammany Hall, but we’re at a place where, in effect, the unions, the fire unions, can basically push out a City Manager. And that strikes at the core of our City as a democracy. And if we’re going to move forward on all the issues we’ve talked about this evening, the first thing we need to do is restore our City-Manager form of government.
My background, my personality, I’m like a moderate Democrat. And what that means is that in my effort to achieve the public good, in working with residents, or working with my colleagues on City Council, what that means [is] I’m always looking for consensus. And sometimes that involves generating trade-offs, but that’s just the way I am, that I want to achieve the public good but I want to make sure that everyone benefits by it and is involved, that landlords are working with tenants, that homeowners are working with renters, because I think that’s what makes Alameda special, is when we bring everyone together, recognizing that we’re all on an island together that’s at risk because of climate change, that you have a City Council that’s going to work with everyone and try to achieve consensus, even on those tough issues like dealing with the rent crisis.
So I hope to return to City Council in an effort to bring a strong City-Manager form of government.
If you go around town and you look at the yard signs, what you’re going to see is you’re going to see my sign, with just about every single mayoral candidate or every single Council candidate. And I think that says something about me, and I think that says something about you. I think that you know a good idea when you hear one. I think that you’re capable of making a decision, I love this race but it’s a non-partisan race. I think that you can think outside the box. I think that you can evaluate candidates on the merits and on their ideas.
If you look at my experience – and some say, well, you know, what kind of experience is that? He’s a Little League coach – big deal – that means that I’ve worked very closely with working families every single day on all types of issues, with their kids, getting them to and from, the disabilities that the kids have, the challenges that they have, challenges that the parents have, to put me in touch with a vast part of this island. Working for a law firm, it’s put me in contact with so many small businesses and I see the challenges that they face every single day and I’m here to help them. I participated in Sister City, and I saw the totality of the communities that we have here and the opportunities that we have to learn and grow. I play ukulele, and I’ve met our wonderful, creative and artistic maker communities out there.
We need a strong advocate for our City, and I promise you that my duty of loyalty would be to you, not to the special interests, to all of the people here in Alameda. If you’re around this weekend, come to our classic car show, my Volvo will be there, as will the ukulele. [If] you want to ask any follow-up questions, that’s great. Go to my website, votematz.com.
My name is Jim Oddie, as I said, there’s my name on there [holding up nameplate]. I’ve been your Council member four years, and I’d be honored to have another four years to serve you.
And I ask you to judge me by my entire record, and the results I’ve delivered for Alameda. Winston Churchill said, Success is not final, failure is not fatal – it is the courage to continue that counts. So when you go to the ballot box you can vote for me, and one of these other fine gentlemen, but look at what I’ve done to make sure that we stay safe, what I’ve done to help alleviate the housing crisis and take care of our most vulnerable residents, look at what I’ve done to help mitigate traffic that comes with development, look at what I’ve done to make sure that Alameda is still a great place to live.
And one of the reasons I think it’s a great place to live is our diversity, and I think it’s important that we maintain that diversity. You may look at me and say, well, what does a white guy care about diversity? ‘Cuz it’s true, I’ll never know what it feels like to be a black youth who walks down the street and sees a policeman and wonders if he’s going to get shot or die. I’ll never know what it’s like to be a Latino motorist who’s driving and pulled over and wondered if his name has been called into ICE. I’ll never know the discrimination that my daughters, who are half-Asian, have experienced in their life.
But I recently got married. I got married in May, I got married in a marriage that a few years ago was not even legal, so I do know what’s like to walk down the street with the person you love and worry about getting your head bashed in. So that is something that’s important to me, it’s important that we value our diversity, we protect everyone’s rights. It’s not National Coming Out Day, so I came out a little bit early and it’s a great day to talk about it, and I would be honored to have your support, I would be honored to serve you, all of Alameda, for another four years on City Council.
John Knox White
For me, like I said, I’ve knocked on a lot of doors, I’ve read the paper, I’ve lived here for 17 years, traffic and transportation is the number one issue here. It’s not going to change. Housing costs are important, etc.
For me, when I think about transportation, it’s not just the traffic. I sit on a bus [when] I go to San Francisco every single day, I go across the Park Street bridge, I sometimes take the ‘O’ across the island to go through the tubes because I want to know what’s happening, and traffic is there, and it stinks. I experience it. I can confirm that everybody is not crazy.
But the other thing about transportation is that it’s the thing that connects us, it connects our neighborhoods or cuts us off, it unites us as Alamedans, and if we do not start to create safe and liveable streets – because when you’re out there and you’re talking to people, people do not feel safe crossing the street, they do not like living on a lot of our streets because of the way our streets have really been developed. We really need bold and ambitious plans to start addressing, bringing people to things they say they want.
I agree with Tony, I think this is an election that really is about where we’re going to go with Alameda. We’re going to have some hard decisions coming ahead. I do not think that the economy is going to be going gangbusters – the stock market the last two days may portend something – but we’re going to have hard decisions to go. We need to go big, we need ambitious people who can push big plans, bring people together, solve hard issues, and I think that I’ve had 13 years on the Planning Board and the Transportation Commission to show that I can do that, it’s why I’m endorsed by the Democrats, by labor, by business leaders, by Wilma Chan, Alice Lai-Bitker, Rob Bonta, and many, many others.
My website is johnknoxwhite.com, and I encourage you to go there, and, most important thing, because I have my email there, and I’m happy to chat with you there as well.
The complete videos of the forums are available on the LWV website or on YouTube (Mayor: https://www.youtube.com/watch?time_continue=2&v=RuoBJWmItyA; Council: https://www.youtube.com/watch?time_continue=5247&v=PzHHuxhndHc).