Charter Must Not Serve Bottom Lines


A campaign slogan has made itself perceptible across Alameda: The mantra insists: “Let the people decide, not City Council.” I don’t know if this reflects abject ignorance, or if it’s a cynical hope on the part of the Alamedans in Charge to slip something by what they consider “ignorant” Island City voters. Allow me to set the record straight. This slogan negates every principle upon which our nation was founded and asks us to abandon the very structure of government upon which this great nation was founded. 

This nation’s Founding Fathers — new to the continent and with an almost impossible task before them — had to find a way of communicating, cooperating and legislating among themselves. They had bid farewell to King George III. They no longer wished to follow royal edicts on how to work, play, think and behave. In order to do this, they had to unify and keep their democratic model of governing a new nation moving forward in a treacherous time. How could this spirit of democracy be woven in to this soon-to-be new nation’s governing structure? 

Everybody’s voice was important, but not everybody had the time or means to travel the long distances required to participate directly in this process. A “direct democracy” where every single person in the colonies would vote on every single issue before the colonies was just not feasible. Yet the democratic force was strong among the young men who founded our country. They devised a terrific alternative, which lives on today, but only if we choose to use it.

This alternate form — representative democracy — means that we elect those who go to the big meetings and “re-present” our own ideas. Representative democracy is what we see all around us with delegates, representatives, senators and yes, City Councilmembers, too.

We all work hard to make ends meet, nurture our families and grow our beloved community. The vast majority don’t have the time or resources to stay engaged at the level required for “direct democracy.” So we elect those who will best represent our values and ideas to sit on City Council.

Alameda voters must ask themselves: why would the backers of Measure K — especially the outside investors and equity groups — tell us “Let the people decide, not City Council,” while also asking to permanently lock away a law in the City Charter. They know that if the “people” called for change, the cost would be so burdensome that it would rarely if ever be attempted. Why is Alamedans in Charge asking this of “the people” they claim to be helping? 

Something in Measure K benefits outside investors and equity groups and so we must preserve it, permanently. Something is so important to them to force them to even suggest we change our form of governance and place it permanently in the Charter. 

What is it? It’s the lack of rent control and lack of “just cause evictions” they are desperate to preserve. Equity groups target cities with no rent control because it’s easy to evict, refurbish, charge exorbitant rents and profiteer while the communities upon which they feed disintegrate. Equity groups and outside investors want our City Charter to serve their bottom lines. 

This is corporate overreach. It’s what is destroying democracy. it’s happening all over America, it’s happening in Alameda. And they think you don’t know or don’t care.

Our representative form of government, while flawed and aggravating, remains the best model out there and it is under attack. If Measure K wins, we abandon not only our traditional form of governance, but turn that over to corporations with no interest in the integrity and survival of our community. 

This is not our problem alone, it’s happening all over this nation. But is our problem to resolve here in Alameda. To preserve local democracy and the loving integrity of our community, we simply must vote No on K.

Gaby Dolphin is Co-President of the City of Alameda Democratic Club.