Our PINO mayor

Thus far, Mayor Marilyn Ezzy Ashcraft has managed to avoid becoming the target of our local online insult comedians.

The “progressive” bloggers and commenters have spent their time discovering new (or dredging up old) sins committed by Trish Spencer and Tony Daysog and criticizing the color choices of first-time candidate Paul Beusterian.  As a result, they’ve overlooked the opportunity to fabricate barbs against the sitting mayor.

The Merry-Go-Round is here to help.

With only a wee bit of imagination and a selective use of the facts, it’s possible to characterize Ms. Ashcraft in a way that should arouse the antipathy of every right‑thinking (and left-leaning) Alamedan:

Just call her a PINO!*

*Progressive in Name Only.

Here’s our recommended three‑part attack plan:


As a student of Alameda political rhetoric, we’ve learned over the years that the labor wing of the local Democratic party often uses “working family” as a code word for those who belong to unions, especially public-employee unions.

For example, during his reign as IAFF Local 689 president, Jeff DelBono insisted that he was speaking on behalf of “working families,” not just his membership, whenever he pitched a pro-firefighters’ union cause to Council.

Similarly, after the 2012 election, Jim Oddie, then City of Alameda Democratic Club president, bragged that the union slate had triumphed over candidates who “ran on platforms of attacking working families” – though none actually did.

So when a politician fails or refuses to play by union rules, she’s really acting as an enemy of the working family.

By that standard, Ms. Ashcraft has made herself an emblem of enmity.

Consider this:

When Fire Chief Doug Long announced that he would retire in September 2017, Mr. DelBono decided right away who should succeed him:  his predecessor as IAFF Local 689 president, Domenick Weaver.

Unfortunately, City Manager Jill Keimach was the person responsible for actually making the appointment, and, to get his wish, Mr. DelBono had to put pressure on her to pick the right guy.  To that end, he enlisted Council members Oddie and Malia Vella, both of whom proved to be good soldiers.  (They had to be – they owed their Council seats to the union in the first place.)  Mr. Oddie wrote a fawning letter endorsing Capt. Weaver, and Ms. Vella arranged a meeting with the City Manager at which she extolled Mr. DelBono’s choice – and trashed the other candidates who had applied for the job.

And Ms. Ashcraft?

She refused to go along with the plan.

The then-Councilwoman rebuffed Mr. DelBono’s request to write an endorsement letter, and she wouldn’t budge even when her political consultant conveyed Mr. DelBono’s threat that a failure to get on board would harm her politically.  Instead, she haughtily insisted that the decision was Ms. Keimach’s to make.

By her refusal, Ms. Ashcraft showed she didn’t deserve the firefighters’ union’s endorsement when she ran for mayor in 2018 – and she didn’t get it.

But her track record in office has not been stellar, either.

As a Council member in 2017, Ms. Ashcraft voted, as the union wanted and the fire chief proposed, to staff the reconstituted fire prevention bureau with two sworn firefighters (rather than civilian personnel) supervised by a fire captain.  But later, in March 2019, she resisted the effort to get Council to create a new position for a supervisor to supervise the supervisor (which would – and did – create a promotion opportunity for the bureau’s current captain, who in this case happened to be Mr. DelBono).

The new division chief would occupy a “key management position,” Fire Chief Edmond Rodriguez told Council, and the City could cover the $355,000‑a‑year cost simply by raising user fees.  Progressive Council members Oddie, Vella, and John Knox White all saw no problem with making residents who use fire services fund the new position, but Ms. Ashcraft opposed the proposal, even going so far as to describe it as a “risky proposition.”

She lost that battle, but two years later, she again tried to stand in the way of a fire‑department initiative.

Consistent with the recommendation of the police-reform committees, Council decided in May 2021 to take the job of responding to emergency mental‑health calls away from the police department.  Ms. Ashcraft previously had urged her colleagues to consider adopting a plan modeled on the CAHOOTs program run by a non‑profit clinic in Eugene, Oregon, and she had even gone so far as to contact the program coordinator to get details.  But AFD had something else in mind.

Under its proposal, sworn firefighters, rather than behavioral-health specialists, would respond to crisis calls.  Licensed clinicians wouldn’t be necessary to perform this task, fire officials said; the firefighters could get all the training they needed – 100 hours apiece – from the County EMS agency.  A one‑year “pilot program” could be staffed by reassigning current personnel and would cost the City only $300,000.  (Of course, if the “pilot program” proved successful, six more firefighters would need to be added to the City payroll – and the union roster.)

True progressives like Council members Vella and Knox White readily grasped the value of an AFD‑directed program.  Even Ms. Spencer supported it.

But not Ms. Ashcraft.

Instead, the Mayor wanted the City to hire an outfit called the Felton Institute, which runs more than 50 mental‑health and social‑justice programs in five Bay Area counties.  She praised Felton’s “expertise,” “experience,” and “cultural competency,” and argued that “we are much better served by going with an experienced provider with actual experience in this field.”

The only Council member who agreed with Ms. Ashcraft was Tony Daysog – and everyone knows how progressive he is not.  The assignment went to the firefighters, and the fiscal year 2022‑23 budget appropriated $1,322,000 to pay the salaries and benefits of six new hires for AFD.

The conclusion is inevitable:  By defying Mr. DelBono in 2017, declining to create a new high-paying job in 2019, and discounting the efficacy of an AFD‑run program in 2021, Ms. Ashcraft not only disrespected the firefighters’ union and the fire department – she earned herself the epithet of enemy of the working family.


It’s bad enough that Ms. Ashcraft has refused to take direction from the firefighters’ union or support policies pushed by the fire department.  What’s worse is how accommodating she’s been to the cops.

Start with her response to the Mali Watkins incident.

After Mr. Watkins’s arrest, Ms. Ashcraft attended a protest march and later arranged a sitdown between young people and police officers.  But in her public comments she tried to tamper down, rather than ratchet up, emotions.  And she failed to add her voice – or lend her support – to the demands by our local progressives for immediate and drastic retributive action against the Alameda police.

Nationally, left‑leaning politicians were insisting that, to avenge the killing of George Floyd by Minneapolis cops, cities should “defund the police,” and their Alameda imitators sought to use the Watkins incident to justify similar punishment.  The centerpiece of their effort was a resolution proposed by Mr. Knox White and Mr. Oddie committing Council, among other things, to “identifying up to 42% of the City Police Department budget to reallocate towards programs that support public health, wellness and resilience.”

Ms. Ashcraft didn’t endorse the Knox White/Oddie “reallocation” plan (or any of the other edicts they proposed to issue to the police department).  Instead, she argued that “the BIPOC community,” not Mr. Knox White and his acolytes, should determine what kind of police reforms were appropriate.  She then engineered the creation of the “police reform and racial equity” steering committee and its five subject‑matter subcommittees.

As it turned out, those committees did not recommend cutting the police department budget (or reducing the number of sworn police officers).  And, in fact, the amended department budget for FY 2021‑22 approved by Council was more than $2 million higher than it had been in FY 2019‑20.

Had she been a true progressive, Ms. Ashcraft could have made Alameda a model for “transformative” change in response to the Watkins incident.  Instead, she resorted to an uninspired incrementalist approach.

In addition to resisting aggressive steps to overhaul APD, Ms. Ashcraft also has indulged the police department in its use of equipment that real progressives abhor.

One example is what the cops call an “emergency response vehicle” and their detractors call a “tank.”  Council members Knox White and Vella slipped a directive to sell this vehicle into a motion early in the police‑reform debate, but, though Council passed the motion unanimously, the cops never got rid of it.

When APD later asked Council to reconsider its decision and allow the cops to keep the ERV, Mr. Knox White and Ms. Vella were appalled at the effrontery.  But Ms. Ashcraft didn’t stand with them.  Instead, she swallowed the cops’ argument that the vehicle could help save lives, and she voted to grant their request.

Then there are the automated license plate readers.  As every real progressive knows, ALPRs are a surveillance tool that enables local cops to engage in racial profiling and to assist in immigrant round‑ups (even though they only take pictures of license plates and the data is not shared with ICE).

Consistent with this conviction, Mr. Knox White and Ms. Vella have opposed ALPRs of every shape and form ever since former Police Chief Paul Rolleri sought Council permission in February 2018 to buy ALPRs and install them at fixed locations around town.

But not Ms. Ashcraft.

True, she didn’t vote to authorize Chief Rolleri to proceed with his plan, but after Nishant Joshi took over as police chief and revived the ALPR idea, Ms. Ashcraft was willing to entertain it.  She had questions she wanted answered first, but when the police chief provided the information she sought, she voted to authorize issuance of an RFP and then to approve a contract with the vendor APD selected.

If there’s any doubt about just how un‑progressive Ms. Ashcraft’s conduct on this issue was, just consider who voted with her:  Trish Spencer and Tony Daysog.


No Alameda-style diatribe against a disfavored person would be complete, of course, without an ad hominem attack.

Try this one:

Have you ever walked or ridden your bike past City Hall on a Tuesday night and seen the Tesla parked in the parking lot?

Well, guess who owns it.

Marilyn Ezzy Ashcraft.

(Anyone who guessed John Knox White hasn’t been paying attention.)

Or have you ever walked or ridden your bike down Grand Street and seen the row of capacious single‑family homes lining the street?

Well, guess who lives in one of them.

Marilyn Ezzy Ashcraft.

Or have you ever found yourself on the San Francisco ferry sitting next to the white‑shoe lawyer heading into his Financial District office where he represents owners, designers and contractors in major construction litigation?

Well, guess who’s married to him.

Marilyn Ezzy Ashcraft.

(If we truly wanted to follow the lead of the most venomous commenters, we’d look for a way to insult Ms. Ashcraft’s children, too – but you’ve got to draw the line somewhere.)

So there you go.  There’s no way of mistaking it:  our mayor is a PINO.

Now, we’re well aware that Ms. Ashcraft’s defenders could point to a variety of positions she’s taken as a Council member and Mayor that would endear her to the progressive crowd, most prominently her leading role in the campaign to repeal Measure A.  But in this column we’re following the playbook of the Alameda blogosphere, which mandates that if you’ve run out of negative things to say about someone, don’t bother mentioning anything positive.  With that rule in mind, we hope that the online demonizers who provide Alamedans with so many chuckles will find our suggestions useful when and if they get around to trashing Ms. Ashcraft.

If not, we’re sure they can just make something up.

About Robert Sullwold

Partner, Sullwold & Hughes Specializes in investment litigation
This entry was posted in City Hall, Firefighters and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

12 Responses to Our PINO mayor

  1. Just My $0.02 says:

    Thank you for highlighting exactly what many have been saying all along – Marilyn Ashcraft is a moderate. She is often the swing vote with Vella and JKW voting left and Trish and Tony voting right.

    So it absolutely boggles my mind why Trish is running for mayor and why the usual Old Alameda conservatives are wasting their energy supporting her mayoral run. Should Trish win and remove Ashcraft, it frees up a third seat to make it a 3-2 progressive council. A lot of progressives would not mind seeing Ashcraft go. As you said, PINO.

  2. really says:

    Changing the name of Jackson Park was a real wokefest move by Ashcraft, and then on top of that agreeing to “reparations.” Failing to lift the eviction moratorium, and medical emergency is another weak decision by a hesitant and uncertain politician trying to pander to interest groups rather than do what is best for Alameda taxpayers.

    Under her watch streets were “slowed” and driving through some intersections became like driving through a minefield. When Ashcraft was elected there were far fewer homeless on our streets, much less crime, fewer closed businesses, more police and fewer firemen.

    That’s a very poor record for any politician.

    • Reality says:

      It’s almost as if there was a global pandemic or something.

      • Good Swimmer says:

        Reality- you seem like a smart guy. Do you really think that’s a good response locally or nationally by any politician running for office? The cat is out of the bag.

        Masking, business closings, quarantines, school lockdowns, mandatory vaccinations and vaccine effectiveness, have been revealed to have had a negligible affect on the spread of Covid, and in most cases did more harm than good. Which means all the emergency powers local and state governments used to justify the flurry of rules imposed on Americans were unnecessary as was the damage to our economy. And the only other alternative “The science changed” (recently used by the CDC) sounds stupid and uninformed, as it was the government working with media outlets that suppressed alternative treatments, solid medical research, findings on ineffective masking, heart conditions caused by experimental vaccines, and the relative safety of anyone but the aged, obese, or those with multiple underlying medical problems.

        Perhaps consider changing your screen name to “fantasy” ??

    • Florence Erlenmeyer says:

      You think “slow streets” is a minefield? Have a look at the plans for Grand Street, to be presented at Tuesday’s city council meeting. Thrills, chills, spills, and excitement.

  3. Denise Lai says:

    APD: does chronically and substantively understaffed and substantively over paid = defunded? If so, APD has been defunded for over 10 years.
    Ashcraft: In the first pubic Zoom video with the ACPHD Medical Director 2Q 2020 / When he said the City of Alameda needs a testing station and other support to protect residents from the pandemic and he would provide resources to make that happen, Ashcraft demurred (much as a dilettante would) and said: “Oh no, other cities need your help more than ours.” He was flabbergasted. I was apoplectic. I will never forgive her for this, ever.

  4. permanentevigilante says:

    In her opening statement at the BikeWalkAlameda Mayor Candidate Forum Thursday night, Mayor Ashcraft announced that she would reverse her vote on the Grand Street bike lane project at the next council meeting. This less than 48 hours after the Tuesday City Council meeting where she voted against the bike lane project, which would remove 50 percent of the residential parking along Grand Street. So she can also be crowned #QueenofFlipFloppers as well.

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