Protest the banks... but for the right reason!

I was amused reading of the protest against Wells Fargo Bank and Bank of America (“,” March 9). There are many good reasons for protesting these behemoths of American usury. Think of all the people who lost their homes during the 2008 collapse while the banks got bailed out. Think of the exorbitant credit card interest rates and fees. Think of massive funding of parasitical hedge funds while small and medium sized businesses are starved for credit. The fact that there has been so little outrage over the massive bailout of the banks, through “Quantitative Easing” and other schemes of the Fed, is a bit puzzling.

But to protest the banks' investment in fossil fuels? That's actually a bit strange. As opposed to the parasitical stuff, this is one of the more productive things the banks are actually investing in! Like it or not, we all use products of fossil fuels. They have enormously improved human life over the past 120 years. Think of fertilizers, paint, fabrics, as well as cheap energy. Nothing to apologize for. And if the sea level goes up a bit, (primarily due to changes in astronomical events, by the way), we will be able to handle it.  If you want to protest the banks, it's not a bad idea. I would protest against the Fed carrying out another decade plus of bailouts, which is where we may be headed after the failure of Silicon Valley Bank.

Hunter Cobb, Member        Letter to Editor Published in Alameda Sun 3/12/2023

Think bigger on public bank plan

Written in response to an article about the Public Bank East Bay, with a heavy focus on financing "green" projects.

Re: “East Bay cities seek safe financial waters” (Page A1, Feb. 26).- Your article on the Public Bank East Bay demands a response. You reference the usefulness of the public Bank of North Dakota in financing productive activities under more favorable conditions than local businesses and local governments could get from big Wall Street banks. All true.

However, why think small?  When this country was founded, Alexander Hamilton and George Washington established a national bank to provide credit to productive businesses, with branch banks throughout the 13 states. It was nothing like the Fed, contrary to popular misconception. Rather, it was much more like the Bank of North Dakota on a national scale.  But to make any of this really work, we need to break the power of the big banks, which is a daunting, but not impossible, task. Snipping at their heels with a little community bank won’t amount to much, though it might make some local politicians feel good.
- Hunter Cobb, Member   Letter to Editor, published in East Bay Times on-line edition, Page A1, 2/26/2023 and in East Bay Times print edition, 3/2/2023

Ranked Choice Voting Created a Mess

Isn’t it curious how silent the advocates of ranked choice voting have become recently. Somehow the mess caused in Oakland has sent people scurrying into their hidey-holes. “It’s so simple.” “It will save money.” “It will improve democracy.” These were the siren cries we heard before the recent screw-up.


The Oakland school board race in which Nick Resnick was certified as the winner, is now in limbo, as the Registrar of Voters, Tim Dupuis, announced on Dec. 28 that due to an error in how the ranked choice voting was tabulated, candidate Michael Hutchinson should have been the winner. The Alameda County Board of Supervisors on Jan. 10 unanimously voted in favor of recommendations from President Carson for a recount of the Resnick/Hutchinson race, the very close Oakland mayoral race, and two very close races in San Leandro.  The San Leandro ballot shows why there was confusion among voters. Even a race where there were only one or two candidates running, had five possible ranking levels. What was the reason for that? I’m not convinced that the Board of Supervisors effort will correct for the voter confusion, but at least a spotlight is on the problem. A number of organizations have weighed in on the importance of getting this right, including the Oakland NAACP and the Election Integrity Team of Alameda County.


I think Governor Gavin Newsom was on the mark in 2019 when he vetoed a bill to promote more use of ranked choice voting state-wide. He commented that, “it has often led to voter confusion and that the promise that ranked choice voting leads to greater democracy is not necessarily fulfilled.”
— Hunter Cobb, Member         - Letter to Editor published in the Alameda Sun, 2/9/2023

All in one place Election Results

The California GOP data team added 2022 General Election Vote History from their voter file to the Election Results Dashboard, which is now complete with the certified vote totals from the Secretary of State.  Best viewed on a computer or tablet here:

Observations about Alameda CountyRegistered Republicans: 11% of Voters (100K of 931K people) - County Republicans who Voted 57% - County Democrats who Voted 57%

One 2024 Goal to consider: Get the Alameda County Non-Republican 10% who voted Republican in 2022 to re-register as Republican.

Notes about the dashboard:

  • This dashboard has multiple pages and features that allow you to view contests in greater detail including registration toplines, votes cast by party toplines, historical election information, and more.
  • Hover over the map to see more details within each county where an election contest took place.
  • Use the “County Filter” to filter the entire dashboard for Alameda County
  • Select the “View Details” button in the top right corner of the main page of the dashboard to view election data and ballots cast details in table form.

- Harry Briley, Member AD16 (Prompted by CA GOP Data Team e-mail)

Ranked Choice is Bad Choice

The Alameda Sun published numerous letters and an opinion piece (“Election Results Reveal Need for Ranked Choice Voting,” Dec. 8; promoting the virtues of “ranked-choice voting.” Hold your horses!

One line repeated is, “It’s simple.” Well, maybe in theory, but, in practice, a lot of voters have been very confused. And many who didn’t understand and voted for only one candidate, thereby handed over some of their voting power to those who did understand the system. Thus, the system is weighted to benefit those who can follow the maze of instructions.

Secondly, another line is that you get results “instantly.” But that “instant” can drag on for quite some time. Witness the recent Oakland mayoral election.

However, my main concern is something more serious. Voting has changed a lot over recent decades. In the 1990s the vast majority voted on election day in their precinct. It was a transparent process. Election workers had books with lists of registered voters in the precinct and you signed in and they checked your signature right there and gave you a ballot.

You voted in a booth and then dropped your ballot into a box. Accommodations were made for people with disabilities, etc., but this is how it worked for most people. The ballots were counted for that precinct at the polling station at the end of the day. Election observers could witness the entire process.

Today, it’s a whole different ball game. Despite warnings from both Republicans and Democrats about dangers of mail-in ballots, the rules have been increasingly loosened, and particularly under COVID, we went to widespread mail-in (and drop-box) ballots.

In the recent election, 92 percent were mail-in. And despite the hype, this has only marginally increased voter participation. However, it has made the entire process much more opaque.

I went several times to the Registrar of Voters office during the recent election period to observe. Many things were off limits to observers. At one point, I spoke with the Registrar, Tim Dupuis, but did not get clear answers to a number of questions. My impression is that his intention was to follow the rule book, but not really make the election process transparent to an honestly interested citizen.

I’m sure 99 percent of the election workers are perfectly upstanding in carrying out their duties, but essentially, we are asked to take it on faith that the elections are conducted fairly.

What if a bad actor comes along and wants to manipulate the results of an election? Can we swear that such a thing would never happen? I don’t think so.

The reason we have a system with election observers is to keep the system honest and to give people confidence that it is honest. The more complexities we put into the system and the more hidden we make the process from public scrutiny, the more we sacrifice public confidence.

To me, the convenience of ranked choice does not measure up. It adds more darkness to the process.

- Hunter Cobb, Member - Letter to editor published in Alameda Sun, 12/11/2022