By Steven Tavares.
Any parent or police officer will tell you nothing good ever happens after midnight. In Alameda, council meetings like last Tuesday’s, which bled into the early morning hours, went seriously haywire. In this case, when Councilmember Jim Oddie, who had moments earlier failed to deliver a third vote to eliminate no cause evictions from island landlord’s tool bag, called out a member of the Alameda Renters Coalition sitting in the audience who had just sent him a nasty email over his decision.
“COWARD,” said the email read by Oddie during the meeting. “You had better move all the way right because you just lost the tenant vote. Alameda Renters Coalition just became you adversary in 2018. I hope the [California Apartment Association] compensates you.” Oddie identified the sender as Eric Strimling, one the Alameda Renters Coalition’s more prominent members. Strimling could be seen in the above video sitting in the front row with his laptop.
“This is what is wrong with the entire process when you have people being politically blackmailed in the middle of the night,” Oddie continued as Councilmember Marilyn Ezzy Ashcraft attempted to adjourn the meeting. “We fought this battle at the ballot box and now we’re being asked in the middle of the night to overturn that and now we’re getting politically blackmailed.”
Oddie said Ashcraft and, to a certain extent, Councilmember Malia Vella’s proposal to ban no cause eviction at nearly 1 a.m. was “unethical.” The trio is typically viewed as the council’s progressive majority.
But the quarreling continued while Mayor Trish Spencer appeared to revel in her political opponent’s meltdown. “I’m going to call bullshit on bullshit,” Oddie said, in what appeared directed at Ashcraft’s attempted motion against no cause evictions..
But just when the council brawl was subsiding, the normally sedate Councilmember Frank Matarrese chimed in and questioned whether Oddie had violated the council’s rules by accessing his email during the meeting and potentially communicating with a member of the public.
It wasn’t entirely clear if he had, but City Attorney Janet Kern said council rules prohibit private communications between the members and the public while discussing a specific issue, as had occurred in this case.
Whether the Alameda renters have the political heft to get a councilmember elected other than Vella or even un-elected is unknown. But for Oddie, who also serves as Assemblymember Rob Bonta’s district director, the rent issue continues to be a drag on his progressive cred, both this week and for his support of Measure L1, the measure that opposed the tenant’s rent control initiative.