Thursday, November 18, 2004

Did Supremes embolden TSA?

Perhaps the Supreme Court emboldened the TSA to order Amtrak personnel, starting November 1, 2004, to randomly check IDs on board trains. I'm thinking back to this June 2004 story:
The Supreme Court on Monday upheld a state law that makes it a crime to
refuse to tell the police one's name when stopped for suspicious behavior.
Or is it possible that the Supremes now would have to throw out the TSA Amtrak directive as unconstitutional under the fourth amendment, because there's no supicious behavior test, just random checks?

This Amtrak mess should be a cause celibre for the Libertarian Party, but they're strangely silent on the issue.

Amtrak random ID checks: Outrage, and finally, press notice

The day after my father's passing, I was made further distraught by being randomly selected to produce I.D. "or else" on board Amtrak, on a short trip between Oakland and Santa Clara. I'm glad my father didn't live to see the United States impose the sort of Communist-state "your papers please" confrontation that typifies many bad old movies, and is precisely the sort of thing he enlisted in the Army, to fight in WWII and Korea, in order to prevent.

My anger was compounded by discovering that the TSA directive that implemented the random checks was secret, and the further the realization that the press had ignored the story, and continued to do so.

I took two steps. First, I posted to an Internet newsgroup, ba.transportation, where rail advocates supposedly congregate. There, Richard Silver, executive director of RailPAC, the Rail Passenger Association of California, said that my concerns meant I was being more anal than he was. In other words, what's my problem with a little more security?

The black-helicopter crowd at ba.transportation then began to rail against FasTrak, having to produce I.D. when checking in at the airport, or when buying Amtrak tickets in the station, for that matter. But a FasTrak transponder can be placed in a provided mylar bag to avoid detection outside of a toll plaza. And everyone understands why the airlines are checking all I.D. What I want to understand is why random checks on Amtrak make us safer, and exactly why catching bad guys on Amtrak is as important as it is on board airliners. Sorry, the TSA directive is secret. How about a little discussion, debate, discourse? At least the discussion at ba.transportation has continued for several days.

Next, I sent email to Dave Farber's Interesting People mailing list, where a discussion about secret TSA directives was already underway. Dave found my email interesting and posted it on November 16.

Lo and behold, on November 17, the Associated Press runs a story about the random ID checks on Amtrak.

I'm appalled at any passenger association which itself is not appalled by this new infringement on the fourth amendment (and the negative impact it will have on rail ridership), and to the traditional "fourth estate" for missing one of the biggest civil liberties stories of the year, until (apparently) a lone blogger beat them to it.

Sunday, November 07, 2004

Picking up the pieces

I'm not even talking at all about the presidential race. Roy Nakadegawa's defeat by Bob Franklin for the BART District 3 seat is a blow for quality public transportation in Berkeley. Franklin, now certainly beholden to the unions who financed much of his campaign, will be distracted carrying their water into upcoming bargaining talks. Meanwhile, the initiative to charge for all parking at Berkeley BART stations will be fully shelved. About the best thing I can say is that the whole experience made me sit up and look around for more resources regarding disclosure of local campaign financing. Here's one I learned about this weekend at Bloggercon III. Unfortunately, it only delves down into the U.S. Congressional races -- no more local than that. (You can query the data they do have by zip code, which is fascinating.)

Now, imagine an army of bloggers, posting all the financing data for all the races in local districts everywhere, much as I did in the BART District 3 race. Chris Nolan thinks it's an interesting idea. So does Staci Kramer of the Online Journalism Review. (Both of whom I talked to at Bloggercon.)

With few newspapers publishing any campaign contribution data, and practically no one bothering to interpret the data so you know (as I attempted to communicate) what the data means, this is fertile ground for bloggers to cultivate, maybe even as a source of income.

Friday, October 29, 2004

Why I support Roy Nakadegawa

Before I voted for Roy Nakadegawa via absentee ballot today, one of the most important things I did, as any voter should, is to compare him to his challengers.

Bob Franklin presents himself as the fresh-blood liberal candidate for the BART District 3 seat. Indeed, the Alameda County Green County's dually-endorsed both Franklin and incumbent Roy Nakadegawa. Berkeley Mayor Tom Bates endorsed Franklin. Franklin also touts his membership in the Transportation and Land Use Coalition, and the Bicycle-Friendly Berkeley Coalition (neither of which endorses candidates).

But as I discovered last week, Franklin's money comes from the very organized labor that's been a major thorn in BART's side, by grabbing too much of a shrinking pie at a time when all who ride and support BART have been asked to sacrifice.

But my dissatisfaction with Franklin's campaign goes deeper. Franklin's been a part of a number of direct mailings originating from southern California. "Early Voter Guide" and "Parents Ballot Guide" are some typical names for these direct mail pieces. Read the fine print and you discover that each candidate listed has paid for the opportunity to be listed in these guides.

But then there's the case of the COPS Voter Guide. COPS, short for the California Organization of Police and Sheriffs, is a 28-year-old advocacy organization with a 909 area code, which places it in southern California. The fine print on the COPS Voter Guide reveals that candidates pay for their placement in the guide. So what does it mean, then, that the listings are presented as "OFFICIAL ENDORSEMENTS"? Are the COPS for sale? I don't trust a candidate who participates in such a deceptive political campaign. (It's also interesting, and a little curious, that the COPS Web site and the COPS Voter Guide do not provide Web links to each other.)

Even if all those hijinks were necessary to get a good candidate elected, Franklin is not that candidate. I had an exchange with Franklin over on the Berkeley BEST mailing list last week about about BART parking charges. Franklin said: "BART has been unable to charge for parking, except for reserve parking and 25 cents at the Lake Merritt station, for 32 years." By stating this, Franklin shows his ignorance, willful or not, of the successful daily BART parking charges at Colma and Daly City, now in place for more than a year, and yet parking lots there continue to fill up.

Franklin's command of the facts is as inadequate as is his willingness to carry out the wishes of the Berkeley City Council, which made it clear in June that it wanted parking charges for all spaces at the BART Ashby and North Berkeley stations.

The other candidate for this seat, Kathy Neal, sullied her reputation by making false accusations against Nakadegawa in her campaign literature. Her alignment with lots of developer dollars doesn't help either, and the only money she received from Berkeley was from her ex-husband and Oakland politico Elihu Harris.

Nakadegawa hasn't run a perfect campaign. He received the Sierra Club's endorsement, but this didn't make it into all his campaign statements. But his expertise and sterling reputation are such that the Oakland Tribune endorsed him this morning. His low-cost campaign also put him beyond the taint of money from developers and unions alike. Couple all that with his support of paid daily parking charges at BART, and he's still what Berkeley needs in a BART District 3 director.

Let's hope the blizzard of Franklin/Neal endorsements from outside of Berkeley, and the avalanche of direct mail pieces and signs from Franklin, and to some extent Neal, don't turn a good man out of office.

Saturday, October 23, 2004

BART District 3 race: Whose money?

This morning, let's look at whose money is fueling challengers Robert Franklin and Kathy Neal in the race to oust incumbent Roy Nakadegawa from the BART District 3 race. Nakadegawa, 81, says this is his last run for this office, and he's subsisting on previously-raised campaign funds, which certainly puts him beyond the possibly corrupting influence of an influx of new campaign dollars.

I gathered the following financial information yesterday morning at the Alameda County Registrar of Voters, where it is kept on file for public viewing. In the interest of brevity, I've omitted the donor's occuption or city of residents unless it was of particular interest.

Robert Franklin: $25,139 reported raised so far - none of it originating from a Berkeley address

Contributions of $1,000 and over:

The Service Employees International Union (SEIU) Local 790 has been Franklin's main financial engine, contributing $10,000 on October 21, 2004, as well as $5,000 earlier in the year. One of the main criticisms of BART management has been the lavish pay and benefits packages granted to SEIU to conclude a lengthy strike just prior to 9/11.
The BART Supervisory & Professional Union contributed $5,000 to Franklin.
Laura Kastanis, philanthropist, also donated $5,000. A Google search found no information about Kastanis.
Two apparent family members were donors: Sheldon Franklin ($5,000) and Elsie Franklin ($1,000).
Jeffrey Plaskett gave $2,004. No Google hits.

Contributions below $1,000:

Hyan Joe Shin, $500
Charles Plummer (Alameda County Sheriff), $250
Martin Walsh, $300
Mary Walsh, $250; both Walshes give a Hillsborough, CA address
David Barnett, $250
Ronald Overstreet, CEO of Open Horizons, $250
Harbhajan Agroia, BART engineer, $100
Daniel Bain, landlord, $100
Diane Leon, $100


Franklin loaned his campaign $50,000 of his own money

As of Sept. 30, Franklin had $39,000 in cash in his campaign fund, and $54,000 in debts.

Kathy Neal: $17,168 reported raised so far - none of it from Berkeley with the exception of Elihu Harris, former mayor of Oakland, who gives a Berkeley address

Contributions of $1,000 and over:

Alan Dones, developer, $2,000
Mark Lindquist, developer, $1,000
Ron Cowan, real estate developer, $1,000
Frank Tucker, $1,000. CEO of Tucker Technology, Inc., an Oakland telecommunications firm

Contributions below $1,000:

Elihu Harris, chancellor, Peralta Community College District, $500
Gboyega Aladegbami, Akeo Consulting, $500
Franklin Arthur, real estate broker, $500
Sally Landis, $500
Patrick Maloney, $500
Katrina Powell, $500
Friends of Bill Riley, $500
Michael Baines, real estate developer, Baines & Robertson, Inc., $500
Alan Dones, developer/contractor, $500
National Women's Caucus PAC, $500
Thuy Thi Nguyen, attorney, Peralta C.C. Dist., $300
Anthony Batarse, president, Lloyd A. Wise, $250
Alton Jelks, administrator, Peralta C.C. Dist., $250
Rev. Harold Mayberry, $250
Collin Mbanugo, $250
Gwen Moore, executive, Gem Communications, $250
Samuel Wallace, consultant, Wallace-Williams, $250
Jack Wasserman, lawyer, Wendel, Rosen, Black & Dean LLP, $250
Paul Cobb, journalist, $250
Committee to Elect Johan Klehs, $250; Klehs is running for the 18th Assembly District seat, which stretches from San Leandro to Dublin
Ron Lumpkin, $250
Rich Sherratt, $250
Lonnie Dillard, $200
David Kramer, official, SEIU, $200
Sonja Willims, sales director, Time Warner, $200
Alona Clifton for Trustee-Area 7, $150; Clifton won a Peralta C.C. trustee seat in 2002
Becky Taylor, $150
Christian Dandrade, executive, CBX Technologies, $150
Karen Friedman, attorney, $150
Levine Fricke, $125
Richard Winnie, attorney, County of Alameda, $125
Tom Guarino, government relations manager, PG&E, $125
Cheryl Perry League, EEO officer, Port of Oakland, $125
Henry Mozell, $100
Richard Norris, lawyer, Archer Norris, $100
John Protopappas, Madison Park Financial Corp., $100
Carole Tolbert, consultant, Tolbert & Associates, $100
Connie Augustine, $100
Dennis Chaconas, $100; former superintendent of the Oakland Unified School District
Iona Gordon, $100
Mark Greenside, teacher, Peralta College, $100
Linda Handy, $100
Robert Harris, attorney, PG&E, $100
Brenda Hudson, $100
Paula Mitchell, $100
Anthony Pegram, BART engineer, $100


California Waste, San Jose, $5,000
Kathy Neal, $2,702 + $500 + $676 + $676 (total=$4,554)
Ronald Lumpkin, Oakland, $10,000

As of Sept. 30, Neal had $21,000 in cash in her campaign fund, and $18,000 in debts.

I haven't done all the addition, so I don't know if these figures add up appropriately to match the totals reported.

Friday, October 22, 2004

BART District 3 race: Follow the money

This morning I visited the Alameda County Registrar of Voters, to get a peek at who's contributing campaign funds to Robert Franklin and Kathy Neal, who are challenging incumbent Roy Nakadegawa for the board of directors' seat in BART District 3.

Franklin is clearly organized labor's candidate. He's received $20,000 from unions. Details to follow in a subsequent post.

Neal received hefty contributions from developers, consultants, and attorneys.

Nakadegawa has received no contributions. In a private email to me yesterday, he said his entire campaign is financed with what's left in his campaign chest from previous campaigns.

What's most interesting to me is that only $500 of the $42,000 contributed to Franklin and Neal's campaign so far comes from within Berkeley, and that's from Elihu Harris, who's more often associated with Oakland.

Full disclosure: I've just endorsed Nakadegawa in this race. I'll explain why in a future post.