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Flawed Oak To Ninth Referendum Killed By City Attorney, But Lawsuit Challenge To Action Dropped

Flawed Oak To Ninth Referendum Killed By City Attorney, But Lawsuit Challenge To Action Dropped

In October of 2006, and pointing to a major flaw in a referendum to delay the controversial Oak to Ninth Development Project, Oakland City Attorney John Russo killed the petition drive. The reasons he gave at the time were:

Here are the facts:

The City of Oakland is required, upon request, to provide a date-stamped, certified,
hard-copy of any ordinance;

The Referendum Committee finally requested a certified, hard-copy of the ordinance
on September 8
–several weeks AFTER the signatures had been turned in;

The Referendum Committee claims they were told by the City Clerk’s office they could
download the ordinance from the website, but cannot tell us who specifically gave
them this direction;

The copy of the ordinance that the Referendum Committee used read “NOT
ACCURATE –TO BE UPDATED” on the Table of Contents;

Even though one of the primary concerns for the Committee was a potential loss of
park land, the petitioners did not provide the maps attached as exhibits to the
ordinance to the public.
The fact is the Referendum Committee leaders did not do their homework and neither the
public nor their volunteers were well-served by their failure. It’s clear that the Referendum
Committee’s heedless rush to get signatures resulted in part, if not totally, in the
embarrassing situation they find themselves in today.
It’s ironic and bordering on strange to be attacked by the League of Women Voters’ attorneys
for upholding state disclosure laws and the protections those laws provide the public.
Transparency is a value that must apply equally to all who participate in our democratic
process. Transparency can be tough. No one can or should put themselves above it—no
matter how passionately they believe in the righteousness of their cause.

This angered Oakland/Berkeley political activists and set off a lawsuit challenging Russo's action in court. But on November 9th, the opponents, the Oak to 9th Referendum Committee, dropped their lawsuit due to lack of money, and that even though the group held a kind of fund-raiser on September 15th. The leaders of this group..

Naomi Schiff, Oakland Heritage Alliance
Helen Hutchison, League of Women Voters of Oakland
James E Vann, Coalition of Advocates for Lake Merritt

Which obtained the following endorsements..

League of Women Voters
Sierra Club
Coalition of Advocates for Lake Merritt (CALM)
Piedmont Avenue Neighborhood Improvement League (PANIL)
The Green Party
East Bay Bicycle Coalition
Jack London District Association
Fifth Avenue Institute
Pamela Drake, past president MGO Democratic Club
Oakland Heritage Alliance

Lost a huge battle. While I personally favor the project as a great place for baseball, their concerns were certainly -- for the most part -- valid. They could have gotten more traction out of fighting for it as a home for the Oakland A's, and perhaps gained the City Attorney and others as alies.

And that's the point. The leaders of the opposition should have had an alternative plan. Someone at this point will think "The city can't afford baseball" but my counter is the project would have generated enough re-sale land revenue to pay for a ballpark project. It's just that this wasn't explored.

Oh well.
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