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Council Candidates on Affiliations and Endorsements

Stay tuned this week as we share answers to your burning questions from City Council candidates. Click "Keep me posted" below for an alert when we publish items related to the November 2012 election.

Stay tuned this week as we share answers to your burning questions from Albany City Council candidates. Click "Keep me posted" below for an alert when we publish items about the election. Don't forget to mark your calendar for two forums in October to help you meet the candidates. See our full Abany 2012 Election Guide here. Have more questions? Comment on individual candidate profiles to ask for more information.

What is your affiliation to the Save the Bay/ CESP/CAS/Sierra Club consortium? If you are answerable to them in any way it is important for you to disclose this well before election day. Please disclose any affiliations and/or endorsements by any group (i.e., Sierra Club, Keep Albany Local, Occupy the Farm, Strollers & Rollers, etc.), whether it they are local or national branches, and state whether you are a member of such group or in agreement to their beliefs/agendas. What boards and committees have you served on? How many meetings of (the City Council / the Board of Education) have you attended?

ULAN MCKNIGHT (PATCH PROFILE)

I have not sought endorsements from any group. It would be nice if folks liked me and advocated for me, but you will not see any organizations listed on my website. I believe that each person has one vote. I do not accept corporate funding. I am not looking for corporate or group endorsements.

I will work with everyone and hope to represent all interests within Albany.

MICHAEL BARNES (PATCH PROFILE)

I have no relationship to the Sierra Club or the affiliated groups. I grew disillusioned by the interference of the local Sierra Club groups in Albany politics and ceased being a member years ago. But my skepticism about the Sierra Club goes all the way back to Wendell Berry’s 1977 book The Unsettling of America. 

I was briefly a member of Albany Stroller and Rollers, but resigned immediately when I found out the organization (or at least its leadership) had sued the city.

I served on the Albany school board from 2002-06. During that time we started the renewal of both Cougar Field and the Albany Pool. After I left the school board, I worked hard on the pool bond initiative. I am proud of both those projects.

I have not been a member of any city committees. The number of council and P&Z meetings that I have attended or watched via KALB is in the dozens, but not in the hundreds.

I have been endorsed by two organizations, the Contra Costa Times newspapers, and the local organization Albany Kids First. The core of this group is families in Albany Little League and other sports programs for kids.

NICK PILCH (PATCH PROFILE)

I am unaware of such a consortium. I am an elected member of the Bay Chapter Executive Committee of the Sierra Club. I was endorsed by the Sierra Club. I am a member of Save the Bay (through an annual membership fee). I am the co-founder of Albany Strollers & Rollers. Albany Strollers & Rollers does not endorse. My full endorsements are listed on my website. I am in general agreement with the beliefs of groups to which I belong. I share viewpoints with all the groups that have endorsed me, but my views may very well differ from those of the endorsing organization. I will pursue what's best for Albany.

I have served on the Traffic & Safety Commission and Parks and Recreation Commission (three years as chair). I am currently one of two School Board appointees.

I have attended many School Board meetings, perhaps 10 to 20. I have attended very many Traffic and Safety Commission meetings while not serving as a commissioner (roughly 30). I have attended countless City Council meetings.

TOD ABBOTT (PATCH PROFILE)

I do not have any affiliation with the groups listed, other than to participate in some of their public events. The only group that I currently have an endorsement from is Albany Kids First, a group that advocates for youth sports and music programs. I have done work as a volunteer for the Albany Police Activities League. I have also done work for Albany Strollers and Rollers, but I was compensated for that work. I do have strong ties to the Albany Chamber of Commerce, having been its President for several years. The Albany Chamber of Commerce has no connection with any state or national organizations (including the US Chamber of Commerce), its leadership is made up entirely of volunteers from the local business community. The Chamber does not have a specific political agenda other than to represent the interests of the local businesses that make up its membership. I participated in the city’s Economic Development Working Group that met for a year or so in 2010. 

I must have attended dozens of City Council and Planning and Zoning Commission meetings. At most of these meetings I have spoken as a citizen or President of the Chamber of Commerce.

PETER MAASS (PATCH PROFILE)

Am I now, or have I ever been, a member of, or endorsed by, the Sierra Club? I grew up in a family that belonged to the Sierra Club and I’ve been a consistent member since 1995. In 2006, I worked with Citizens for the Albany Shoreline to help stop the Caruso development at GGF. I agreed with them that this proposal was inappropriate for that location. Right sized and well planned development in our existing commercial zones can benefit all of Albany. I believe that Albany and surrounding communities will be better served if we can keep the majority of the waterfront in the open space category. Urban communities need open space for a variety of activities from ball fields to dog walking, fishing, biking, bird watching etc. The City and Schools will need to replace revenues if GGF were to close, and I believe there is development that can coexist with park space. While the local chapter of the Sierra Club knows that my ideas on the Shoreline are not in total parity with previous SC proposals, they have endorsed me. I have also received endorsements by the Alameda County Democratic Party and the local Green Party, Loni Hancock, and numerous others. I’ve served on the Albany Planning and Zoning Commission for the past six years, and have attended/watched multiple City Council Meetings during that time.

PEGGY THOMSEN (PATCH PROFILE)

I was endorsed by the Alameda County Democratic Party and Albany Kids First and am a member of the Sierra Club. I decide my own position on issues. I have served on City Council for nearly 12 years and on school board for 16-and-a-half years. I am on the East Bay Sports Fields Authority JPA and the council subcommittee on Gill Tract. I served on both AUSD bond oversight committees and on the social and economic justice, waterfront, and charter review committees. I served on East Bay Division, League of CA Cities and Alameda County Waste Management Agency, Recycling Board, and Congestion Management agencies boards of directors plus others. I missed one council meeting in the past nearly four years.

SHERI SPELLWOMAN (PATCH PROFILE)

I am not affiliated with the Save the Bay/ CESP/CAS/SIerra Club consortium. The Sierra Club made two early endorsements in the campaign and refused to interview other candidates or consider a third endorsement. I am endorsed by the Green Party of Alameda County, and I am the only candidate who is a Green Party member. I support the 10 Key Values of the Green Party which are: Ecological Wisdom, Nonviolence, Social Justice, Grassroots Democracy, Decentralization, Community-Based Economics, Feminism, Respect for Diversity, Personal & Global Responsibility and Sustainability. I am also endorsed by the Albany Farm Alliance (AFA). I am a current member of AFA and former planning committee member. I support the AFA mission statement: The establishment of an agroecological education center and the preservation and promotion of sustainable urban farming on the Albany Gill Tract, in perpetuity. For more information visit my website. I have not served on any Albany boards or committees. I have attended many City Council meetings and a few Planning and Zoning Commission meetings over the past several years, as my work schedule and family commitments have allowed.

Click "Keep me posted" below for an alert when we publish items about the election. Don't forget to mark your calendar for two forums in October to help you meet the candidates. See our full Abany 2012 Election Guide here.

Brian Parsley October 15, 2012 at 01:10 AM
Wow the Maass and Pilch campaigns have released their hitmen early this election. Bill, Albany Kids First is a political action committee, just like the Sierra Club PAC. We have never denied the fact that we are a local political advocacy group that supports youth sports, art, and music. Albany Kids First sent a questionaire to all council candidates, in stark contrast to the Sierra Club PAC, who contacted no other candidates othe than Pilch and Maass. Albany Kids First is non partisan local group who's members come from little league, soccer, art, softball, music, and martial arts. Many are long term supporters of the Sierra Club. Learn more about Albany Kids First and the candidates we support on our website. www.albanykidsfirst.org/
Dept. of Misinformation October 15, 2012 at 01:16 AM
Headache.
Caryl O'Keefe October 15, 2012 at 02:33 AM
@Tatter - the Maass complaint did precede the SLAPP; both claimed violations of Albany's Campaign Finance Reform Act of 1996 (ACFRA). ACFRA btw no longer exists. It was repealed by Council (3 -2 vote, Thomsen and Javandel voting no) a few years ago, after Council's task force unanimously recommended retention with several changes.
Caryl O'Keefe October 15, 2012 at 03:21 AM
In reply to Peter Maass's question about how to be sure Sierra Club (SC) opposed the Lab proposal, I posted a few pdf's above. One is a letter from SC to the Director of LBNL, listing SC's goals and demands re the Lab proposal in Albany. Read the letter to get the full picture. Some assertions indicating opposition to the Lab proposal: the statement of Lab economic benefits was incomplete without regional environmental costs; the Lab should be built where there's a State-aproved City housing element (not Albany); LBNL should require sites with private developers to disclose all plans even tho LBNL thot such info proprietary; LBNL would have to agree to have SC and Citizens for East Shore Parks be third party beneficiaries of any development agreement with rights to sue, etc. Taken as a whole SC's letter cites terms that would not appeal to any federal entity. The other pdf is the current SC webpage http://sfbay.sierraclub.org/environment/albany.htm about the Albany Waterfront and its Lab proposal, with distortions and inflammatory language against the development. Definitely opposed.
Tatter Salad October 15, 2012 at 06:18 AM
Thanks Caryl; I'm sorry if I'm slow on the uptake; if the initial complaint originated from Maass, and was picked up by a third party, then indeed, Maass' actions were the proximate cause... Or is there 'smoke an mirrors' here to indemnify his actions?
Ulan McKnight October 16, 2012 at 05:41 AM
I agree with Todd on this. I have never had any reason to doubt the integrity of our Chamber. I do not believe they are affiliated with the US Shop of Horrors. Not sure why they don't change their name though. That is one reason I have not joined. Just saying...
Ulan McKnight October 16, 2012 at 05:47 AM
FWIW: I chose not to reply to your questionnaire because I did not see the relevance between the questions and Albany kids. Putting the word Kids in your title and claiming you speak for them doesn't mean you do. I am not sure how many 8 year-olds want to know the answer to this question: "Are you in favor of implementing the city of Albany and Regents of the University of CA development agreement as approved by Albany City Council or not?" http://www.albanykidsfirst.org/candidates_qa
Ulan McKnight October 16, 2012 at 05:51 AM
Carley: “I was an innocent defendant in a "SLAPP," civil political nuisance suit... Hey, I knew I liked you for a reason! The UC Regents did the same thing to me. Happy to buy you a coffee sometime so we can reminisce on the experience.
Ulan McKnight October 16, 2012 at 05:54 AM
Dover I am not "affiliated" with Keep Albany Local. I like them a lot, though. And I certainly approve of their focus seeing as how it is in my tag line. Be heard. Stay local.
Brian Parsley October 16, 2012 at 07:04 AM
Ulan I respect your wishes not to answer our questionaire, that is certainly your choice. We sent the questions out to ALL the candidates to give them the opportunity to answer them, which I hope you agree, is more than the Sierra Club gave you. AKF has never claimed to speak for all the children of Albany. AKF advocates for youth sports, art, and music, that's it. Certainly Albany Strollers and Rollers doesn't speak for everyone that walks or bikes and Keep Albany Local doesn't speak for everyone living in Albany. As to the substance of our questions, I believe they were directed toward adults who tend to voters, not their children.
Ulan McKnight October 16, 2012 at 07:35 AM
You are better than the Sierra Club. I agree. That is a pretty low bar ;) http://www.nytimes.com/2011/04/17/us/17immig.html I also did not say you spoke for all kids in Albany. I was questioning if ANY 8 year-old asked you to forward the question on UC development. Like the Sierra Club, your questioned led me to believe you already had candidates in mind that you wanted to endorse. Nothing I have seen has changed that view. And please be clear, I am not upset that you endorsed the candidates you wanted to. I applaud your pluck in forming a group just so you can do that. You are in good company and your actions are one of the reasons I am running for this position. I don't think politics should be conducted like this. Sheri and I are both working to change it. http://www.americancrossroads.org
Ulan McKnight October 16, 2012 at 08:02 AM
As for Occupy The Farm, I hope everyone knows I am a huge fan of urban agriculture. It's easy to say you have been an organic gardener for decades. It's a lot harder to actually keep an organic farm in Albany. I think the Gill Tract's 20 remaining acres of open space may just be the most valuable single asset Albany has. I want Albany to allow for its development in a way that most benefits our residents and the greater East Bay. I believe that includes an agroecological learning center and organic farm that are both open to the community. I specifically reject the idea that the only use for the land should be research that benefits large agribusiness and commercial development equal in size to 10 Safeways. http://mcknightforalbany.org/10-safeways UC owns the land. If they are going to ask Albany to develop it in a way that changes our existing zoning, they will be required to create opportunities that benefit the community. Raking in millions on development and peeling off a few hundred thousand every year for Albany is just not going to cut it. We can do better. We can keep our ball fields. We can create an education center and urban farm that is accessible to the community. We can protect our valuable open space. AND... UC can develop some of the land for commercial use.
Dover October 16, 2012 at 06:12 PM
Ulan, you were an instigator and strong supporter of Occupy the Farm. You trespassed, you broke the law, you were named in the lawsuit, you held meetings at your home, you gave interviews to the press, you represented OTF here on Patch, you marched with them, you were seen on TV "comforting" the oppressed faux farmers, you smeared UCB from one end of Patch to the other, etc, etc, ad nauseam. And now you want us to believe that you are merely "a huge fan of urban agriculture?" Just how dumb do you think the citizens of Albany really are? I also find it VERY odd that you would take such time and devote so much energy to defending and supporting the Keep Albany Local referendum if you are not affiliated with their anti-social actions. One wonders what other useless, destructive causes have occupied your valuable time and what you would concentrate on if you were somehow, miraculously, elected to the Albany City Council. "Show me your friends and I will tell you who you are."
Ulan McKnight October 16, 2012 at 08:48 PM
O'Keefe and I share and experience of being legally harassed for excersizing our Constitutional rights. But maybe because I want to see Albany stay local I should have less rights to speak than you. I don't think Albany voters are dumb. I think they agree with me. I guess we will find out Nov 6. I hope you will vote for me and my ideals :)
Dover October 16, 2012 at 09:11 PM
Trespassing is now a Constitutional right? Wow! I had no idea! I must have missed that day of high school. :-} Also, I asked you once before to demonstrate where I suggested that you do not have a right to speak. I even told you that I would donate $500 to the Occupy the Farm "cause" if you could provide a direct quote of me saying any such thing. You were unable to do so. You didn't even return to admit defeat or apologize for the false accusation. You just disappeared. I'd like to reopen that challenge, but this time I will donate $500 to your campaign coffers if you can show me where I suggested that anyone here (not just you) has less of a right to speak than I do. Heck, I'll even donate $500 to Sheri's campaign coffers if you can provide proof of such. And, as before, I will happily pose with you and my $500 check for a photo which you can use in any manner you choose. Game on! Good luck.
Alan Riffer October 16, 2012 at 10:00 PM
Ulan at 10:51 pm Monday and 1:48 pm Tuesday - I don't see your situation as in any way comparable ro O'Keefe's. In her situation, a Superior Court Judge made a detrmination that there was a SLAPP suit, dismissed the suit with prejudice and entered an order requiring the plaintiffs to pay her legal fees and costs. Your unsupported assertion that you were in the same situation is without merit.
Ulan McKnight October 16, 2012 at 10:13 PM
This conversation started because I pointed out that both O'Keefe and I were subjected to SLAPP suits? http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Strategic_lawsuit_against_public_participation A strategic lawsuit against public participation (SLAPP) is a lawsuit that is intended to censor, intimidate, and >>silence<< critics by burdening them with the cost of a legal defense until they abandon their criticism or opposition. There is that word again, silence. By claiming I was tesspassing (which I wasn't) UC and their defenders (that would be you) are using a tortured definition of the law to limit protests. While UC owns the land, the land is not private property. As such, citizens have rights to protest by occupying the land for political reasons. This right has been upheld by courts.  You really are not allowed to make up laws to suit your politics. I believe UC is required by their founding charter to protect the farmland and allow community access. Our Constitution protects my right to speak in the manner I did. I broke no laws by asking UC to save the ball fields and to create an agroecological learning center and organic farm on the 20 acres of open space. If I had broken any laws, UC would have gone through with their suit and I and my codefendants could have been on the hook for some serious cash. Can you explain why they dropped the suit if I broke the law? I think, like you, they do not want to hear what Albany wants to tell them ;) Farmland is for farming.
Ulan McKnight October 16, 2012 at 10:21 PM
Alan, UC withdrew their suit because they were looking at paying huge fees for bringing a SLAPP suit. Their lawyers advised them that they could not win and would end up not only paying our lawyer fees but potentially making it impossible to ask us to vacate the land should we return. One thing everyone should be aware of - especially the current researchers - is that the Occupy folks have chosen not to return in order to honor the current research. They have only harvested existing crops, just as they promised. And as promised, no research has been harmed in any way. Think about that please. If UC is not keeping them off the land, maybe they are actually trying to work with folks to preserve the land for the community. Maybe they actually believe that this farmland should benefit everyone. I know I do. Maybe the voters of Albany do as well. We shall see soon enough.
Dover October 16, 2012 at 10:40 PM
Ulan, I see you are not willing to take me up on my offer. Interesting. Can't say I am too surprised though. It's not much of a stretch to go from shooting a man in the back to shooting yourself in the foot. ;-}
Damon Lisch October 16, 2012 at 11:12 PM
Ulan, I appreciate that the occupiers have not harmed our research crop, as promised. I'm not sure I buy your definition of "free speech", since by your definition, you are equally free to "occupy" my laboratory, or the public library, or the post office, if you feel you have a better use for it than me, or the librarians, or the postal workers. When you first arrived, you told the researchers that we could just go somewhere else and that you intended on planting over our research field with your crops. Honestly, does anyone buy that this was simply an act of free speech? After we complained, we were told that some space would be saved for us, if we negotiated directly with the occupiers, and if we grew our plants according to your rules. When we refused to negotiate, I was told directly that it may not be possible to save any space for us, and another research was told that you hadn't brought up GMOs, but you would if we wouldn't negotiate. When we didn't, a series of posts (by you, among others) suggested that we are corporate tools bent on developing GMO crops. We're not, no matter how often you repeat the accusation. You obviously believe that our research field is somehow sacred because it is dirt near houses. I don't, and the fact that you do doesn't give you any special privileges.
Damon Lisch October 16, 2012 at 11:27 PM
Ulan, you and your fellow occupiers are not the public, you are an interest group with a specific (and I would say impractical) agenda, and you have no more right to occupy Gill because you love farming more than you love basic research than a group of religious fundamentalists have to occupy the library because they object to the presence of immoral books and want only religious texts provided. Your strong feelings don't give you the right to dictate how public land is used, and that is what you and OTF are trying to do. That being said, I am hoping that if you and Sheri lose the election badly and the referendum is defeated you will accept that you do not in fact represent the community. Than again, maybe you do. As you say, I guess we'll find out in November.
Ulan McKnight October 17, 2012 at 12:08 AM
And yes, if Sheri and I lose I will definitely take it as a rejection of my ideals. I think we will both win. If we do, I hope you will agree that it is an showing that Albany wants ecologically sustainable growth that benefits the community. I'll buy you a drink either way. Name your favorite spot.
Ulan McKnight October 17, 2012 at 12:23 AM
Dover, I did not mean you told me to be quiet. I meant I was engaged in a form of free speech that UC (and you and apparently Damon) do not want me engaged in. The form of protest is protected political action. Period. I am not real clear why you are against my form of expression. When I say you do not want me to speak I specifically mean you do not want me to exercise my Constitutionally protected right to protest. You never told me to be quiet. You just told me not to ask UC to obey the law. You ask me to be held to a higher standard than UC. I am still confused by your logic. Maybe it's just that you don't like what I am saying (ie: the political actions that are my form of speech). Damon, can you help me out here? Have I ever done anything beyond speaking that you do not like? Have I ever not shown you kindness and consideration? What am I doing wrong here that has you guys so upset? I would really like to know.
Alan Riffer October 17, 2012 at 12:50 AM
Ulan, I would have thought that you more than most would understand the distinction between what a defendant asserts and a judge rules.
Dover October 17, 2012 at 01:39 AM
"I meant I was engaged in a form of free speech that UC (and you and apparently Damon) do not want me engaged in. " Speech Pronunciation: /spiːtʃ/ Definition of speech noun [mass noun] the expression of or the ability to express thoughts and feelings by articulate sounds: "he was born deaf and without the power of speech" a person’s style of speaking: "she wouldn’t accept his correction of her speech" a formal address or discourse delivered to an audience: "he gave a speech about the company" a sequence of lines written for one character in a play: "Antony’s speech over Caesar’s body" http://oxforddictionaries.com/definition/english/speech As expected, the definition of speech has nothing to do with trespassing, squatting, camping, littering, pruning, planting or holding someone else's work space hostage.
Damon Lisch October 17, 2012 at 03:19 AM
Ulan, you have never been anything but polite and considerate in your communications with me, and I really appreciate that. It is your actions, as well as some of your comments concerning my research that I have objected to. Honestly, Ulan, if I had taken over your business (perhaps giving you some kind of "property is theft" line), and explained that the web site development is intrinsically evil, even if you aren't) and attempted to dictate how your office space should be used, you might be angry with me, even if I was very polite. I've been very angry with OTF, but I don't think you are a bad person, and I hope I haven't insulted you. I do think you're wrong, and I hope you lose the election (no offense). Actions have consequences. I don't have any power here, since U.C. is obviously willing to compromise with you, and you are obviously willing to ignore my interests and want me gone, so all I can do is object to actions that I see as wrong and hope for the best. I hope you understand that.
Ulan McKnight October 17, 2012 at 05:19 AM
I asked if you could do your research elsewhere. You said you could. UC is the one who decides who gets to use Gill Tract and they are the ones who want to develop it and kick you off, not me. I saddens me that you continue to frame the debate as me against you. I suppose it is easier to make me a villain than the people who won't guarantee your laboratory can stay for more than a year. I want UC to request an agricultural easement for the land so it could stay farmland. That would help you keep your work going. I have heard of no reason you could not continue your work. I am sorry if I gave you the impression I wanted you to leave. I also wish they would let the community back on since it such a valuable resource. I still don't understand why 5 or 6 researchers should be the only ones with access. It used to be open to the community. Everyone benefitted. Maybe you can explain it.
Peggy McQuaid October 17, 2012 at 06:00 AM
I received an interesting phone call from the Sierra Club this evening. The nice woman was encouraging me to vote for the Sierra Club endorsed candidates in Albany, Nick Pilch and Pete Maass. When I asked her about the endorsement process, she assured me that all of the candidates received an invitation to attend an interview panel and through that process the endorsements were made. She did not know anything about an early endorsement program. Interestingly when I asked several of the candidates if they had received an invitation to the interview the answer was no, they were never contacted. As a PAC, the Sierra Club can use whatever process they feel appropriate to select candidates. However, I think that deliberate misinformation about the process given to Sierra Club members and potential voters during phone solicitations is deceitful and harmful to the democratic process.
Damon Lisch October 17, 2012 at 11:53 AM
Ulan, but I'm not trying to "frame the debate", I'm responding to your willingness to unilaterally occupy my research field. You're not a villain by any means. You are simply misguided. I don't think I ever told you that we could work somewhere else, and I'm not sure what you mean when you say it was open to the public, since as far as I know Gill has always been a research station. Certainly, I know we have been doing corn work there for the last twenty years. The gate used to be open during the day, before another group of activists decided that we were GMO corporate tools and chopped down some of our corn. Then we had to lock the gate. Then we were told by other activists that we must be hiding something, or we wouldn't be locking the gate. And so on. I think that our research benefits the community, and the world, and I am not at all convinced that urban farming is any better that our research, or a baseball field or a park. That being said, I do hope in the long run that the space can be used for maize research, agroecology, urban farming and education. There is room at Gill for all of that, that would be ideal, and as I understand it, that is what U.C. has now put on the table. Unfortunately, as I mentioned earlier, my experience with the occupiers has soured me towards their motives and tactics. I'm very sorry that you have chosen to align yourself with them.
David Sanger October 18, 2012 at 05:22 AM
Monty - you are 100% mistaken about the nature of chambers of commerce. The term "chamber of commerce" is a generic term and cannot be trademarked. It refers to any "local organization of businesses whose goal is to further the interests of businesses". The Albany CofC clearly states on its web page www.albanychamber.org that it has no connection at all with the US Chamber of Commerce, which as you have rightly pointed out has taken some most appalling right-wing positions http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Chamber_of_commerce

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