As an advocate for the separation of church and state as well as a religious leader who advocates our faith playing a significant role in the way we vote and conduct our lives as citizens of city, county, state, country and globe, I wonder often about the line between faithful advocacy and partisan politics, between religion having a voice and religion overstepping its bounds. I am fairly certain that I need to stay away from endorsing candidates while issues and ballot measures are topics to which I can speak. I also understand that the percentage of time I spend on matters that may be deemed political would be a concern if the church’s role in political matters where to ever be questioned or scrutinized by an entity like the IRS. With this balancing act in mind let me lift up three measures (two city, one state) that will be on the November ballot as particularly worthy of your support. Our partners in faith based community organizing, Oakland Community Organizations and PICO California are also urging the passage of these measures.
The first is Oakland Measure Z (Safety and Services Measure – City of Oakland Parcel Tax and Parking Tax Renewal) This measure keeps in place a parcel tax of $98 per year which helps fund 63 police officers, brings needed revenue to the fire department and funds a number of violence prevention programs. Most notably the Ceasefire program, of which the call-ins LABC hosts are a part, is funded through this measure. Ceasefire is bearing good fruit. It is imperative that we keep it in place.
The second is Oakland Measure N (College and Career Readiness for All – City of Oakland Parcel Tax) This measure funds programs in Oakland’s public high schools that are intended to raise the graduation rate and insure that all graduates are ready for either career training or college. Our efforts at Oakland Tech to improve African-American Male Achievement through our Aspire and Achieve program (led by Jesus Portillo and our Local Organizing Committee), which kicks off on October 2, would be greatly enhanced if programs supported by Measure N were in place. The measure is a parcel tax of $120 per year ($10 per month). The tax would be in place for 10 years. It is not a leap of logic to say that if Measure N were effective the concerns, addressed by Measure Z would likely be significantly reduced.
The third is California Proposition 47 (Safe Neighborhoods and Schools Act) This proposition would end felony sentencing for simple drug possession and petty theft crimes and thus stem the tide of over-incarceration described by Michelle Alexander in her book The New Jim Crow: Mass Incarceration and the Age of Colorblindness. It would direct financial savings to K-12 education, mental health treatment and victim services. California has filled its prisons to the detriment of many families and many communities. There is a time and place for incarceration but in many situations it simply exacerbates the problems it is in place to solve.
Let me end by reminding you that if you agree with my assessment your vote matters more than your agreement. If you disagree with me you can most effectively register that disagreement by voting.
Let me also note that County Measure BB would help provide transportation to school to the students of Alameda County. Nothing good happens when students who need to be in school have a hard time getting to school.