Wednesday, October 26, 2005

An Elegy for Rosa and a Dream

Last night, October 25, 2005, a 92-year-old lady died in Detroit. We never met, but she changed my life…and all our lives. She was 42, when she boarded that Montgomery bus in 1955. I was 16, a sophomore in a New York City high school, coming of age at the end of an age, oblivious, as was she, of the shape of the new age just dawning.

I’m speaking, of course, of Rosa Louisa McCauley Parks, who, of a December day in 1955, refused to give up her seat at the front of a bus to a man – a white man – and who for that “crime” was arrested, booked, and photographed, her “mug” shot numbered 7053.

Martin Luther King, Jr. was then but 24, fresh from Boston University, full of himself and Reinhold Niebuhr, and intent not so much on social justice as on balancing the budget at Dexter Avenue Baptist Church as a brand new pastor. Dr. King had been at Dexter but a year and, as Charles Marsh noted wryly, “understood that ministerial success depended on polish in the pulpit and people in the pews.” And, so, he preached…forty-six times that first year at Dexter, seven guest lectures at other churches, and another thirteen at colleges around the country.

Montgomery at the time was the same size as Vallejo – 120,000 – but, although forty percent of the population was African American, not one sat on any city board or commission. The average annual income for a black family in Montgomery was $908 and every aspect of life there was strictly segregated by the Jim Crow laws that ruled the South of the time…including where one could sit on a bus.

Two days after Rosa Parks, already a ten-year veteran of the NAACP, got herself arrested on that bus, plans were launched for a boycott of Montgomery’s buses by the city’s blacks. Ralph Abernathy set about organizing the city’s black clergy behind the effort and focused on recruiting the new young preacher at Dexter. Dr. King resisted, citing the need to tend to Dexter’s annual meeting and preparing the church budget. Abernathy prevailed, however, and, on December 5, 1955, Martin took the reins of the Montgomery Improvement Association and the Montgomery bus boycott. His and our lives would be changed forever.

And our lives – Martin’s and mine – would come together in August 1963, when, beneath a tree near today’s Vietnam Memorial, I listened to Martin’s Dream.

Recalling the youthful optimism of that dream, I shed a tear tonight for Rosa Parks, for Martin, and, yes, myself, as I remembered what Rosa said in 1988: "I am leaving this legacy to all of you ... to bring peace, justice, equality, love and a fulfillment of what our lives should be. Without vision, the people will perish, and without courage and inspiration, dreams will die - the dream of freedom and peace."

That’s a dream we can’t let die, I won’t let die. On my desk, in constant view, there’s a short poem by Langston Hughes. It reads:
I take my dreams and make of them
a bronze vase and a round fountain
with a beautiful statue in its center
and a song with a broken heart
and I ask you:
Do you understand my dreams?

Sometimes you say you do,
and sometimes you say you don’t.
Either way it doesn’t matter.
I continue to dream.

Won’t you, too, continue to dream…of that “fulfillment of what our lives should be"?

Thursday, October 13, 2005

Watch Vicki Run!

We’re nearing the home stretch and Vicki is running faster, stronger than ever. Here are a few events along the way at which you can catch up with her and share with her your thoughts on how our city should be run:

Sunday, October 16, from 2:30 to 5:00 p.m. – Join Jill Cress and her friends at 34 Sandy Beach Road for an afternoon soiree – a fundraiser for Vicki - hors d’oeuvres, beverages, d’jour, a view to die for, and a chance to exchange views with our next council member. Suggested donation $25. Please RSVP to Vicki at 554-0672.

Sunday, October 16, from 6:00 to 8:00 p.m. – Race Vicki from Jill’s to the candidates forum at the Vallejo Masonic Hall, 101 Temple Way, sponsored by the Sierra Club/Solano Group, Vallejo Heights Neighborhood Association, and Vallejoans for Community Planned Renewal. This forum, moderated by the League of Women Voters and taped for later broadcast on channel 27 or 28 by Vallejo Community Access Television (VCAT), will focus on issues related to the environment and land use. The event is free but please RSVP to Jeff Kingman at 642-2100.

Thursday, October 20, from 7:00 to 9:00 p.m. – Vicki’s Glen Cove neighbors are especially invited to this forum at the Glen Cove School, Glen Cove Parkway at North Regatta. Another free chance to grill all the candidates.

Friday, October 21, from 1:30 to 3:30 p.m. – Vicki, a senior herself, will join other candidates at a forum at the Florence Douglas Senior Center, 333 Amador Street. Free and open to all.

Saturday, October 22, from 3:00 to 5:00 – A meet-up with Vicki and concerned Mare Island residents who are of one mind that Vallejo is not a dump! Discuss with her what we have to do to save our regional park on Parcel 12 and stop Weston’s plans to dump toxic Bay sediment literally in the backyard of Mare Island’s pioneers. Call Wendall Quiqley at 557-2526 for details.

Monday, October 24, 7:00 p.m. – Join Vicki at the Planning Commission to oppose plans to amend the Mare Island Specific Plan to allow use of Parcel 12 – our regional park – for ancillary dredging operations and re-opening of the dredge ponds bordering new residential areas and the San Pablo Wetlands.

Tuesday, October 25, 7:00 p.m. – Pack City Hall, 555 Santa Clara Street, as Vicki and many others seek to thwart a hurried vote on the Waterfront EIR. Demand revisions contained in alternatives and postponement of a Council vote until after the election. Make your vote count.

Thursday, October 27 – Possible NAACP candidates forum. Details TBA.

Friday, October 28, from 6:00 to 8:00 p.m. – With the finish line in sight, let’s party to ensure that it marks the end for all those good ole boys who’ve ruled this town for far too long. Moka Davis and John Walker provide the wine, cheese, and good vibrations for this fundraiser at JoMoka House, 637 Georgia Street, designed to put Vicki over the top. Suggested donation $25. Please RSVP to John and Moka at 554-0567.

Sunday, November 6, from 11:30 to 12:30 – Vicki takes a final breather to offer an insider’s take on running for office – the physical toll, the ethical challenges, and the spiritual opportunities. St. James Episcopal Church, 4620 California Street (at 8th Avenue), San Francisco. Call Vicki at 554-0672 for further details.

Tuesday, November 8. Election Day. Please vote! And look for details on Vicki’s victory party. That will not be one to miss.

I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith.
2 Timothy 4:7
Posted by Vicki at 09:37 PM | Comments (0)
October 09, 2005
Where I Stand

Recently someone who had read my literature asked “I know what you’re against. Now tell me what you’re for.” Fair enough, and deserving of a thoughtful answer. For all Vallejo voters deserve to know who and what they’re voting for and are right to demand that the candidates state clearly where they stand on the issues of importance to the city.

I have tried to do just that in countless one-on-one conversations, in letters-to-the-editor, in op-ed pieces, and through vehicles such as this. Sometimes, however, such attempts at clarity and specificity get lost in a cacophony of meaningless 30-second sound bites and buried beneath the mounds of trashy signs. And they certainly don’t get reported on the news pages of the Times-Herald.

So, what to do? Let me list, as clearly, as succinctly as possible, where I stand on the issues facing Vallejo today and tomorrow, for and against. If you want more detail or have a question, just send me an e-mail at All I ask is that you ask the other candidates where they stand on these issues. Mull over the answers – theirs and mine – and, then, vote.

The Good Ole Boy Network.

The bottom line in this campaign really is best summed up by that question I’ve posed: “Had Enough?”

I pledge to open the doors and windows at city hall to let in the fresh air and bright light of scrutiny that have too long been absent in the backrooms where sweetheart deals have been concocted for favored insiders. No more “auto malls,” no more bail-outs of private speculators, no more bargain basement sales of downtown properties, no more waiving of developers’ fees and sales taxes, no more lavishing of city funds – your money – on a do- nothing chamber of commerce.

A key element of breaking up the ties that bind among the good ole boys will be breaking the link between the City Council and the Redevelopment Agency. Most of the dirty work with developers and speculators gets done when the council adjourns and reconvenes a few seconds later as the Redevelopment Agency. It will take revisiting the city charter to break this link. But there may be other reasons for opening the charter, for example, to get a handle on GVRD, the Greater Vallejo Recreation District, and to staunch the firefighters’ draining of our city budget.

Kurt Henke and the Firefighters’ Union

I pledge to vote with the growing consensus on the City Council to reopen negotiation of the contract with the firefighters’ union. The current salary scale and staffing requirements are simply unsustainable. Without such a renegotiation, the city faces bankruptcy.

This is not an anti-union position and I consider myself the strongest pro-union person running. In Vallejo I have stood with the UFCW and the SEIU…as I did – physically – with Solidarity in Poland. I know what solidarity means. Moreover, other city employee unions like CAMP and the IBEW have reached equitable agreements with the city without the threats and histrionics of the IAAF’s Kurt Henke.

For far too long Mr. Henke, who does not live in Vallejo, has used such threats and tens of thousands of dollars funneled through United for a Better Vallejo, the erstwhile fire/police PAC, to influence election outcomes in Vallejo. With a seat on the chamber of commerce board, the firefighters have also ensured that the chamber, through its PAC, VALPAC, would funnel additional thousands of dollars to the same candidates. And this year, in a feat of backroom legerdemain, the firefighters have folded themselves into the Napa-Solano Central Labor Council, thus assuring themselves a veto over an independent labor voice that might diverge from theirs.

This inter-locking directorate has not served the best interests of the working men and women and taxpayers of Vallejo, but rather the well-heeled firefighters who have drained the city treasury to maintain their six-figure salaries and who, in their majority, live out of town. It’s resulted in lowered expectations and diminished possibilities for our people. This has got to stop. As I’ve said elsewhere, enough already!

Downtown and Waterfront Development

Yes, I support the long-overdue development of our downtown. Dense in-fill housing in a commercially and culturally vibrant downtown core is exactly what we need

And, I support the development of our historic and scenic waterfront in ways that would preserve the broad swath of green along Mare Island Way, minimize traffic-generating housing on Parcel A, and mesh with the downtown development in ways that would draw tourists from the ferry landing into the cultural/commercial heart of Viejo Vallejo. That means preservation of our green spaces for our festivals and children and a widened vista at the foot of Georgia Street lined on either side by restaurants, cafes, and shops beneath dense blocks of apartments and condos. And, as a former bookseller, I would be the first to applaud the arrival of a quality bookstore in our city.

Under no circumstances should Georgia Street be closed in by a hotel and convention center (more on that in a moment) or Mare Island Way lined with more cookie-cutter, cheese box office buildings like that State Farm monstrosity. Offices can and should be located in commercial areas (e.g., along Sonoma Boulevard). They do not generate the after-dark pedestrian traffic we want downtown.

Housing downtown and on Parcel A should contain an adequate share of low and moderate income units. Elevations of buildings should reflect the historic/architectural character of Vallejo and not, as State Farm does, Emeryville. And, under no circumstances, should any future housing on Parcel A or anywhere else in Vallejo be allowed to lock itself behind fences and locked gates. Gated communities are antithetical to a healthy Vallejo.

None of this is rocket science nor anti-business. Sound waterfront development can be achieved reasonably quickly by Callahan-DeSilva and with a reasonable profit.

After three-decades of to and fro on the waterfront, it is time to move forward on its development. But, let’s do it together, with adequate citizen input and considered council consideration, and with goodwill on all sides. And, as we approach this realization of our long –dreamt dreams, let’s not blow it with a mad dash to the finish. In this regard, let me state, as forcefully as I can: We’ve waited thirty years. Won’t you wait three more weeks to vote in council members who represent your views on this definitional issue for Vallejo. Please, don’t let the city council pass the waterfront EIR before the November 8 election. Make this election count!

Mare Island

I’ve been accused of “romanticizing” Mare Island. As a Naval Academy graduate and combat veteran, I plead guilty. Mare Island is the historic heart of this city and it deserves preservation as a national treasure and a tourist attraction that will put Vallejo on the map – not as a “gateway” to somewhere else but as a job-creating destination Vallejo.

To that end I fought to protect Mare Island from the LNG facility and power plant proposed by Bechtel, Shell, and our city officials. And I’m fighting now with the new residents of Mare Island to protect our regional park, our San Pablo wetlands, their children, and the students at Touro from Weston’s plan to re-open the dredge ponds on the island’s western edge – a hare-brained, small-minded scheme apparently concurred in by our city government, its eyes fixated on a quick and pitifully small buck. I know from my association with Oakland’s Breast Cancer Action, which focuses on the environmental causes of cancer, that the Bay sediment has been poisoned by the runoff from refineries and Central Valley pesticides. Do we want to truck that toxic muck through our regional park and residential neighborhoods? I don’t think so. Please send a message to the city council: Vallejo is not a dump for the rest of the Bay Area!

My vision for Mare Island is the development of our promised regional park on Parcel 12, that hill at the south end; a “Seaport Village” of shops and restaurants on Parcel 11, the Vallejo-facing waterfront strip zoned for waterfront-commercial (where Bechtel and Shell wanted to put their power plant); a living history museum comprising the drydocks, Civil War-era red brick buildings, and cranes; and, in those red brick buildings, our hotel and convention center. Having lived near Baltimore for many years, I know how respectfully, tastefully, successfully one can proceed with such development. Fells Point is a key tourist attraction on Baltimore’s waterfront. Mare Island can be the key tourist attraction on Vallejo’s waterfront. And tourism is a job-creating, pride-inducing industry worthy of this can-do Navy town.

And Mare Island should be home also to new industries in Vallejo – not the trash of LNG or dredge ponds, but clean, well-paying, future oriented high tech jobs. We’ve lost Genentech to Vacaville, Lucas Films to the Presidio, and any number of computer-oriented businesses to Silicon Valley. Vallejo has, as a Triad rep said at city council, “great DNA” – its people, buildable space on Mare Island and location, location, location. We don’t have to accept whatever comes down the pike. We need to seek what we want!

Environmentally Sound Development

Look at our hillsides. When I arrived here a decade ago, they were green. And we had, I thought, a master plan. Over the last decade, however, I’ve seen that master plan ignored, as we’ve filled every last hillside, every last green space with service-starved ticky-tacky developments, my own included. And now they’re plowing Bordoni Ranch, the last green space between Vallejo and Benicia. There will be houses chock-a-block, just feet apart. But what about schools, public safety, water, parks, markets, churches – all the things that make a city a city.

Isn’t it time to put a stop to runaway sprawl, to dust off the master plan, and consider the costs of new housing to the city and the costs to new residents deprived of basic services? Hiddenbrooke should get a fire house, Glen Cove should get a park, Northgate should get a market, and we should all get adequate schools and churches.

Wal-Mart and Other Big Boxes

Need I say more? You can browse “Vicki’s View” for these past several months and plumb all the reasons why I think Wal-Mart is bad for Vallejo and bad for America. Simply put, it is anti-labor, anti-competitive business, and an exporter of American jobs. For Vallejo, a “supercenter” on Redwood and Sonoma and eight within 13 miles would be the kiss of death for downtown and waterfront development and mean the loss of hundreds of good union jobs and existing businesses.

I understand the desire for senior citizens (of which I am one) for one-stop shopping. I understand also the desire of the unemployed and under-employed for any job. But, in the sense of solidarity I mentioned earlier, I ask you to consider the price for “low prices always” and our shared obligation for a new generation of workers trying to raise a family in the Bay Area.

Bottom line? Wal-Mart is a bottom feeder. And we don’t have to sink to their depths.

I will continue to oppose Wal-Mart or any other non-union chain (e.g., Home Depot) that seeks to expand in Vallejo. I and others will be aided in that effort by the big box ordinance passed last month by the city council.

I promise, moreover, that I will not stop at seeking to keep Wal-Mart out. I will seek a desirable tenant business for the old K-Mart site at Redwood and Sonoma and seek to develop that site in accordance with the environmentally-sensitive White Slough Area Plan which envisages mixed residential/waterfront commercial development and rehabilitation of the White Slough Lagoon as a fully tidal, nature-sustaining estuary.

Crime and Public Safety

There is no more meaningful charge we can lay on a public official than to demand accountability for the public safety of all our citizens. I will not skimp on that score be it with regard to police or fire protection or emergency services. Indeed, I will seek to fund a fire house at Hiddenbrooke, not out of the city’s reserves but out of savings achieved from a renegotiation of the firefighters’ contract, and will seek to put more police on the street, including if possible, reinstitution of the downtown bicycle patrols.

The North and South Vallejo Police Sub-Stations should be maintained. And, let me assure you, I will never vote for silly proposals such as those last spring to turn out street lights in the middle of blocks or to levy 911 fees for emergency calls.

Nor should we skimp on ensuring adequate community-based development grants (CBDG) for effective violence-preventing, hope-inducing programs such as Fighting Back, the Omega clubs, and grassroots neighborhood programs such as Gail Williams’ Stop the Violence campaign.

Arts and Culture

Vallejo has a vibrant – and varied – arts and culture scene of which we can all be justifiably proud and which we and the city government should support. I have sought to do my part, purchasing the works of Vallejo’s artists, occasionally reading my own poetry at Listen & Be Heard, and serving on the board of V-CAT, our fledgling public access TV station which should be on the air this month.

The city government, however, has fallen flat on its face on any number of occasions in terms of its support of arts and culture. Witness its near-decision this spring to zero out funding for the Naval and Historical in favor of turning the entirety of the TOT or tourist occupancy tax over to the Visitors and Convention Bureau. The TOT should be shared evenly among our tourist-generating cultural institutions such as the museum.

Equally egregious toward the end of August was the decision to look the other way while Comcast and an overly eager Lincoln School principal committed cultural vandalism by painting over the beloved historic mural that has for years graced the school’s wall on Sonoma Boulevard. That mural should be restored to its original condition – something that can be done by Harold Beaulieu and his student artists working from Harold’s detailed photos of the original.


The city council is separated from and has no jurisdiction over the school board. I pledge, however, to develop good relations with our elected school board officials and teachers and administrators throughout the school system.

I will seek also to maximize areas of cooperation between the city, schools, GVRD, and our cultural institutions to reduce costs and enrich the learning environment.

And I urge you to take an interest, especially as parents, in the school board elections and in the daily running of our schools. Go to PTA meetings, talk with your children’s teachers, and, above, talk with your children.


One thing I have had difficulty understanding is why Vallejo, with essentially the same population as Fairfield and Vacaville, has half the parkland as those cities, most of it not nearly as well maintained. I have the impression that GVRD is broke and broken.

I am open to other suggestions, but wonder why GVRD cannot be absorbed into the city government. However it is done, GVRD has to be made more responsive to the needs and desires of Vallejoans. Perhaps something as simple as making the appointment of board members more competency-based and more transparent would suffice. I look forward to discussing possible solutions with citizens and, consistent with the Brown Act, with officials of GVRD.


This may have run on a bit too long, but I thought you deserved to know where I stand. You will probably disagree with some of my positions but at least you’ll know what they are and what you’re voting for. I hope, however, that you’ll agree with most of what you’ve just read and that you will appreciate this effort at candor and plain speak. And I hope that you will seek similarly clear statements from the other candidates and vote with your head and your heart for a better Vallejo. Together we can do it!

Finally, I sincerely solicit your comments and questions. I can be reached at 554-0672 and Thank you very much for listening to me. I promise to listen to you.