The 65th Annual El Cerrito Democratic Club Annual Dinner was a resounding success!  Our keynote speaker was the inspirational Delaine Eastin, former Superintendent of Public Instruction. There were over 100 attendees, including six of the candidates running to succeed Tony Thurmond as our Assembly member for AD 15, all 5 El Cerrito City Council members, our County Supervisor John Gioia, and Maria Alegria, Chair of the Contra Costa County Central Committee.  There were several other elected officials – our own Stege Sanitary members Al Miller and Dwight Merrill, Dana Dean from the Solano County Board of Education, and luminaries from several boards and commissions.  

We also honored members who had been involved with the club for over 39 years:  Dwight and Gloria Merrill, Betty Brown, Grace MacNeil, and Art and Sue Walenta.  We’ll take this opportunity to thank Dwight and Gloria for the pyracantha center pieces, Art and Sue for the wine, juice, popcorn and pretzels, and Grace for her excellent work in the kitchen.  

Grace and Marty Seuss have kept the buffet organized and attractive for several years.  Not only are all the sides, salads and desserts provided by members organized an presented, the buffet itself kept tidy and attractive, but at the end of the evening the kitchen is clean and sparkling, and members can retrieve their serving dishes and utensils.

But I think we’d all agree that our keynote speaker, Delaine Eastin, provided many many highlights to our evening.  She claims to have a “spine of brass” which she amply demonstrated with her forthright support for transit oriented housing, against fracking, and healthcare for all.  Her unequivocal support for public schools, backed up by  a demand for a moratorium on charter schools, a detailed analysis of the harm caused by “sending our education money to for-profit corporations out of state” earned her cheers and a standing ovation.  

Her well-known statement that “budgets are statements of values” was illustrated as she dissected the spending patterns that built 4 times as many prisons as state colleges over the past 40 years, and identified how reforming Proposition 13 would provide the funds urgently needed to make California an education powerhouse.  She described the breadth of careers and job opportunities that California’s adult learners could aspire to if the educational resources were available, and described how our state could have centers of productivity in many areas that would provide the kind of economic stimulus and incentive that we now get from Silicon Valley.  

While some of us were concerned that her background as our State Superintendent of Public Instruction might be a limitation, when she quoted Neil Postman who said, “children are the living messages we send to a time we’ll never see,” many of us had tears in our eyes.  That image showed us all that her commitment is not just to education, not just to our students, but to us, our present and our future.

We will note here that the Club’s new dinner caterer, Larb, did an excellent job supplying chicken curry, coconut fried rice, and the exceptional vegetarian stir-fry with tofu. Their setup kept the food hot to the end of dinner hour.

There are many great photos, but for a good collection by Rita Xavier, please check out her Facebook page at


Attendees:  Peter, Hilary, Kip, Tom, Marlene
Absent:       Gabe, Greg, Mollie, Mister
A. Dinner:
Suggest to incoming VP-Memberships that it is advisable to keep a separate sign-in for elected officials (to speed their movement into the room and to keep the Membership tally clear).
Hilary suggested Dems see Rita’s Facebook page for great photos!
B. Delegate Submission:
Peter will have emailed Rocky the delegate info on the official form.
Consensus was reached that including delegate candidate statements on the ballot was a good idea.
C. November 28 programming:
See meeting preview.
D. Holiday Party:  Dessert potluck at Hilary’s on Friday, December 8, starting at 7 pm.  Hilary will provide the mulled wine. Peter will check to see if Mister, Mollie and Gabe can attend.
E. Next year’s officers:   Currently we have vacancies in Membership, Publications, and Records.
Peter will talk to other current officers to determine whether they are continuing.
G. Website/Newsletter/data topics: The Board discussed the way in which our Publications need management by someone with an  IT background and web experience.  We also discussed how the Membership role might be enhanced by a database application (e.g. SQL) to enable keeping member lists, dues paid, and the ability to link to mailing/e-distribution (MailChimp, etc) to be done more coherently.
2018 Budget:
Greg and others attending thought some budget amendments should be discussed at the next meeting, probably mostly 2018 calendar year costs or revenue.
– cost for an IT consultant to help with Pubs and Memberships
– cost for postcard stamps & first class stamps (to be purchased before January 26 when USPS rates go up) for endorsement meeting
– cost of Feb 2018 meeting at ECHS for the AD15 endorsement, and July or Aug meeting for other, downticket endorsements
– increased fee for those few (~ 35 people) who receive a hardcopy newsletter.  Tom Cesa suggests that the price should be an amount that is distinguishable from a regular membership.
2018 Meeting Plans:
Peter – January meeting:  elect officers; setup 2018 calendar of topics
Peter – February 27 meeting:  AD15 Endorsement.   At least 9 candidates at 10 minutes per?   Invite our current assemblymember Tony Thurmond to attend.
Peter/Mister – Save the Date announcement at this Sat. Nov 4 forum at CCC re Feb 27 2018 for AD 15 candidates/endorsement.
Peter- to contact WCCUSD about the cost of venue.
Peter- July or August:  Candidate meeting at ECHS for down ballot races:  city council, community college, District Attorney, Regional Parks, Assessor, etc.
–Recruit walkers for November ballot….

Assembly District 15 Candidate Race In Full Swing!

The California Democratic Party’s African-American Caucus – co-sponsored by ECDC – hosted a candidate forum on Saturday, November 4. Below is the list of questions asked:

1) Should the Air Quality Management District have the authority to cap emissions?
2) Do you support the repeal of the Costa-Hawkins Act?
3) Do you support race-based Affirmative Action?
4) Do you support spending $20k in per-pupil funding (for public schools) by the year 2020?
5) The farmworkers were required to pick grapes during the Napa wildfires. What would you do to ease the burden on farmworkers (moderator changed the italicized words to “increase the protections of farmworkers”)?
6) How will you increase housing for low-to-moderate income families in AD 15?
7) What are your top three criminal justice reforms?
8) What would you do to bring a full service hospital to West County?
9) What would you do to prevent sexual harassment in Sacramento?

(Lightning Round)

1) Should private companies be allowed to use prison labor?
2) Should CA ban fracking?
3) Do you support SB 562, the Healthy Californians Act (single payer health care bill)?

(Not lighting round)
1) Johannes Mehserle (BART police officer) killed Oscar Grant (African-American Oakland resident) in the Bay Area. What would you do to end extrajudicial killing by police officers?
2) How would you change the authorization process for charter schools?

Wondering about the candidates’ answers to these questions? Then come to the ECDC AD 15 candidate forum on February 27! Save the date!