DA candidates make their case with a focus on opponent Terry Wiley
Ro Khanna, wife, have made stock trades worth more than $33 million
—FIRST LOOK: ALCO DA—Candidates for Alameda County District Attorney made it quite clear Wednesday night that Terry Wiley, a current prosecutor in the DA’s office, is the stand-in for retiring Alameda County DA Nancy O’Malley. Wiley accepted the proxy role and his opponents, Pamela Price and Jimmie Wilson, also a prosecutor, relished in hammering him over the issue at the first DA candidate forum of the June primary season.
—While Price and her high name-recognition make for a formidable candidate, many insiders believe Wiley is right up there because of his expected institutional support. How Price would react as the front runner and not the chaser throwing potshots was answered. She clearly feels more comfortable chasing and quickly postitioned herself in that stance on Wednesday. It was also clear that Wilson believes Wiley is a major hindrance to his campaign. Wilson routinely directed criticisms toward Wiley, his office mate at the DA’s office. Seth Steward, sporting a slight lilt in his voice reminiscent of Barack Obama, mostly stayed out of the fray and often agreed with differing portions of his opponent’s comments. Steward was highly focused on moving the DA’s office toward alternative courts and community outreach.
—EXPERIENCE—The question of experience is something that Wiley intends to wield. “I’m the strongest candidate in this race. I have more experience than my three opponents combined,” Wiley declared. It’s clear that Price sees her lack of management experience as a negative. She sought many times to negate the point though the lens of her previous civil rights experience and running private law offices. This is notable because in 2018, Price’s opponents routinely questioned how she could manage an office as large the DA’s office.
—TRASH-TALKING THE DA’S OFFICE—Wiley’s position as the defender of the status quo at the DA’s office was made clear after he cited the support of the DA’s union members. Price and Wiley jumped all over the assertion. In fact, it was Price’s best moment of the forum. “We have people who are working in that office that are invested in a broken system,” Price said. “The greatest challenge to my leadership and to the changes that I want to bring to Alameda County, as the only progressive prosecutor in this race, is the system itself. That they don’t want change. That they don’t want to acknowledge that we have to have change.” Wilson attempted to give an insider’s view of the problems at the DA’s office, noting that a brain drain has occurred there over the past years, highlighted by a drop in the number of prosecutors from 165 to 130.
Earlier, Wilson accused O’Malley of ignoring the health of prosecutors during the early going of the pandemic. “Nancy O’Malley told me she wasn’t going to do anything. That we needed to be six-feet apart and that’s all we’re going to do.” Wilson said he went out a bought protective equipment on his own. Steward, meanwhile, again mostly avoided direct attack. “From a voter’s perspective, there’s a fairly large middle lane for responsibility, thoughtful, smart changes,” Steward said. “Make no mistake, change is necessary. The system is broken and the DA’s office is part of that system.”
—CHARGING JUVENILES AS ADULTS—The decision to charge some juveniles as adults has been a frequent criticism of O’Malley tenure at the DA’s office. Price said she will not charge juveniles as adults. Noting that she was once in the system as a young person, Price added, ”I’m a going to work heartily, mightily to engage young people and make a difference in their lives.”
“We need to stop overcriminalizing youth,” Steward said, adding alternative courts and diversion gives kids an opportunity to turn their lives around. “I believe we need to catch them in the front end so we don’t end up catching them in the back end,” he said.
Wilson again targeted Wiley, saying while Wiley led Juvenile Hall, he had a history of prosecuting many young men as adults. “That is simply untrue and that can be confirmed by both the head of the probation office and the public defenders office,” Wiley responded. “I don’t know where he’s getting his information from.”
—CHARGING BAD COPS—“We’ll definitely prosecute officers that violate the law,” Steward said, in one of his best moments of the forum. “Absolutely, unequivocally, it will happen.” Steward said he will establish guidelines for disclosing to the defense the arresting officer’s history of misconduct as early in the prosecution as possible. Wiley, noting his work on the infamous 2003 Oakland Riders case, said, “There is no doubt where I stand on police conduct and it will not be tolerated in my administration.”
But Price jumped on the comment, saying she would “teach prosecutors how to convict bad cops.” “Wiley prosecuted the second trail and failed to get one conviction,” Price said, and added she is the only candidate who has held police accountable, and tied alleged wrongdoings in the DA’s office to Wiley. “In Alameda County we have a District Attorney’s office that has been complicit in police misconduct. That has absolutely failed to hold police officers across this county accountable, which is why we don’t have accountability, and why we have the kind of distrust we have in the criminal justice system.”
As a member of the DA’s officer-involved investigative team, Wilson said, “I believe that we need to be transparent in any accusation against a police officer.” The DAs office has never focused, for example, on police de-escalation tactics. “You need to talk to police officers. They want your help. They’re looking for reform. We have been asleep at the wheel. We have not tried to proactively help our officers do their jobs better.”
CITY & COUNTY NOTES
—COMMUNITY COLLEGE DROPOUT—It’s difficult to recall another elected board in Alameda County that has had more bad luck keeping its roster of officials than the Chabot-Las Positas Community College Board of Directors. The board is currently looking to fill an open seat in Area 3 after Trustee Genevieve Randolph resigned. Personal reasons required her to move outside of her district. Randolph won a four-year term in 2018 to represent South Hayward and Union City on the board.
—This is the fourth time in exactly three years that this board has been forced to make an appointment. Former trustee Carlo Vecchiarelli resigned because of declining health in January 2019. Five months later, trustee Dobie Gelles passed away. In April 2020, trustee Marshall Mitzman died of complications from Covid-19. The board is scheduled to interview applicants at their Feb. 1 meeting.
—DUBLIN APPROVES UNION LABOR DEAL—After several years of discussion, the Dublin City Council approved a Community Workforce Agreement with the Building and Construction Trades Council of Alameda County on Tuesday night.
“I do feel that we are a council that wants to make sure that the individuals that go to work everyday end up getting benefits and a good-paying job, and being able to get a retirement, and this is a step in the right direction,” Dublin Mayor Melissa Hernandez said. Eighty percent of public works in the city already involves union labor, she added.
The agreement, which includes public works projects valued at $1 million or more, was approved, 4-0, with Councilmember Sherry Hu choosing to abstain. Hu said several questions about the agreement remained unanswered for her.
Councilmember Shawn Kumagai supported the CWA and deemed it a statement of the city’s values. He rejected a repeated refrain from some residents and commenters who asserted the agreement will lead to cost over-runs and delays. “I think there’s false narrative about project delays stemming from unionized labor,” Kumagai said, adding the argument possesses no quantitative studies to back them up.
The workforce agreement includes a local hire goal of 20 percent of all hours worked on a project, a plan to create a pipeline of new workers in the building and construction trades, in addition, to labor peace.
—SELL HIGH, BUY RO—Rep. Ro Khanna was never poor. He never slummed on a friend’s couch or subsisting on a daily ration of Top Ramen, but after losing to Rep. Mike Honda in 2014, Khanna decided to dial up an old flame from years past and subsequently got married just in time for the 2016 primary season. To be clear, Khanna married into a rich family. His wedding was held at the historical Cleveland Symphony. WikiLeaks revealed Khanna repeatedly tried to get Hillary Clinton to attend his wedding, but she basically ghosted his offer.
—Meanwhile, Khanna’s connection to the superwealthy is bringing him some unwanted scrutiny after a bill by Georgia Sen. Jon Ossoff was introduced that would limit the trading of lawmakers’ stocks. The bill would require lawmakers put their stock portfolio in to a blind trust. Khanna is by far one of the most active stock traders in all of Congress. According to the website, Capitol Trades, which tracks lawmakers’ buying and selling of stocks, Khanna has made trades valued at more then $33 million.
—Lately, Khanna’s been more of a buyer than seller, with many of the trades involving Silicon Valley tech firms that reside within in his 17th Congressional District. Khanna’s wife made the trades, a spokesperson for Khanna told CNBC. However, Ossoff’s bill also covers the stock trading of a lawmakers’ spouse.
—UNINC. ALCO SMOKING BAN—Beginning in July, smoking in multi-unit residences will be prohibited in unincorporated Alameda County, KTVU reports. The Alameda County Board of Supervisors approved an ordinance long in the making that includes fines after three warnings from the county public health department. Unstated is how difficult it can be to prove a tenant is actually doing the smoking.
—HIGH HOPES—Oakland Police Chief LeRonne Armstrong is striking a positive note about reducing rising crime in Oakland, NBC Bay Area reports. A commitment to the city’s Ceasefire Strategy and a push for a higher percentage of arrests is hopefully bring hope to a city that suffered 134 homicides last year and scores of incidents involving guns.
—AD20 ENDORSEMENT MEETING—The Tri-Valley Democratic Club is holding a forum and endorsement meeting for candidates in the 20th Assembly District on Monday, Jan. 17, 7 p.m. Register for the virtual meeting HERE.
—SHERIFF OVERSIGHT—Alameda County Supervisor Keith Carson is holding a public meeting on the creation of a Community Sheriff’s Oversight Board on Thursday, Jan. 20, 10 a.m. to 12 p.m. Register for the virtual meeting HERE.