Letters to the Editor
I’m writing in response to Irene Dieter’s recent commentary (“Will Real Progressives Please Stand Up Now?” Nov. 29).
I’ve been a longtime supporter of ranked-choice voting systems. I was part of a group from Alameda, including League of Women Voters members, who lobbied then County Supervisor Alice Lai Bitker’s office about getting the county to purchase voting machines that were capable of tabulating instant runofs. Oakland’s adoption of instant runoff voting is a direct result of that effort, despite objections from politicians, including Don Perata.
Ranked-choice systems can be confusing to people but are really quite simple. They have been used in Australia for years. In Australia they rank all the candidates not just top three choices. There is a system for multiple seat races, like for our City Council, called single transferable vote. Certainly these systems are more democratic than plurality races which famously delivered the Florida debacle of 2000, but people can be suspicious of what they do not understand. The Democratic Party seems resistant becausee its members appear most concerned with their own victories, rather than the democratic process.
Every election in Alameda the plurality system comes under scrutiny. The council race is the candidates effects the odds for the winners. However, the mayor’s race is more straightforward and instant runoff could be employed immediately.
In this year’s plurality election I have one bone to pick with the characterization of Marilyn Ezzy Ashcraft’s victory being “just 41.9 percent of the vote.”
That is a pretty substantial margin, especially in a race with more than two people. That 41.9 percent happens to be 2,766 more votes than Trish received in her 129-vote, 50 or more percent victory four years ago.
Many local residents, including myself, groused during the holiday season about four years ago when most all the wonderful, old trees on Park Street were removed under the cloak of darkness. The rationale was given they needed to be yanked to make room for new parking meters and bike racks.
At the time, these City Hall excuses didn’t sit well with me, especially with store owners and managers saying, “Why do this right before the tree lighting ceremony and our need to have holiday shoppers feel Park Street is a warm and homey place to shop? It looks barren now without any of the trees.”
But while photographing them on Dec. 1, I noticed the new replacement trees really have brought East Coast seasonal leaf color change to Alameda. They’re just beautiful now, having grown much taller and quicker than any of us naysayers could’ve predicted. They are loaded with rainbow-colored leaves: yellow, orange and red brilliant leaves that make our Park Street look like New Hampshire or Connecticut in October.
I for one will eat crow (or maybe some of those leaves) since I complained on this very Alameda Sun opinion page about the loss of the trees right before the December holiday season.
The trees having filled in and bloomed really give the old boulevard a Christmas-y look. Just look up and you’ll see what I mean. Or down, as all the great, colorful leaves are lining the sidewalks like snow.
As voters, we expect our voices to be heard, our views to be respected and our votes to truly count.
In the November election not one of the candidates running for school board, mayor or city council received 50 percent of the vote, meaning that most of the voters voted against the winner. None of these newly elected officials have a mandate from the voters to do anything yet they will make decisions that will affect all of us.
If the latest polling results are certified, the numbers are as follows: In the School Board Race: Mia Bonta received 35.68 percent, Gary Lym 26.24 percent, Anne McKerghan 19.31 percent and Kevin Jordan 18.33 percent. In the Council race: John Knox White received 25.88 percent, Tony Daysog 22.69 percent, Jim Oddie 19.27 percent, Robert Matz 18.17 percent and Stewart Chen 13.64 percent. In the Mayor’s race: Marilyn Ashcraft received 41.96 percent, Trish Spencer 37.45 percent and Frank Matarrse 20 percent.
The result is that we will have a City government and School Board stacked with people who were not the first choice of the majority of Alameda voters. Given that Ashcraft’s Council seat became vacant with her election to Mayor this is even more egregious as Jim Oddie picks up that seat with more than four out of five voters not casting their vote for him. This needs to change as there are important decisions that will be made that affect the future of Alameda.
The way to remedy this is to adopt Rank Choice Voting which is approved for use in Oakland, Berkeley and San Leandro. Ranked-choice voting (RCV) makes democracy more fair and functional. It is a simple change that can have a big impact. By all accounts, voters who adopt RCV overwhelmingly found it to be easy and cost-effective. With RCV, you simply rank the candidates in order of preference.
If someone gets a majority after the first count, it’s over. If not, the instant runoff kicks in. The candidate with the fewest votes is eliminated, and the ballots of those who selected that candidate as their first choice then go to their second choice.
Everyone else’s ballots stay with their first choice. The ballots are then re-tabulated. This continues until there is a majority winner. Given the results of this last election, wouldn’t it be great to know that the candidate who was the choice of the majority of Alamedans actually won?
The next election is only two years away and we need to ensure that the next time the true will of the voters is reflected in the candidates that take office.