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East Palo Alto Council candidate finances outstrip competitors

Regina Wallace-Jones gains support from tech leaders, developers

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One East Palo Alto City Council candidate has raised more than 10 times the amount of monetary campaign contributions as her other competitors, according to campaign-finance records.

The latest filings, which are required by the state, show that East Palo Alto's seven candidates have mostly run grassroots campaigns with contributions ranging between $2,000 and roughly $3,600. But candidate Regina Wallace-Jones, a tech executive who also lists herself as a real estate investor on her Statement of Economic Interest form, has raised $33,012 thus far, according to her latest filing that covers campaign finances through Oct. 20.

Wallace-Jones has obtained contributions from many tech executives and a few developers, including Facebook Chief Operating Officer Sheryl Sandberg ($600); Sand Hill Property Company ($400), the city's largest landowner of low-income rent-controlled properties; and Sand Hill's affiliate, Woodland Park Communities ($200). The contributions are notable because the community is undergoing housing displacement of longtime residents due to inflated regional housing prices and gentrification. Many residents claim tech employees who desire to live near the adjacent Facebook and nearby Google campuses have added significantly to the problem.

Many of Wallace-Jones' local donors are employees of companies where she previously worked and, presumably, where she has developed a circle of contacts and friends, including Google, eBay and Facebook, as well as donations from executives at many other technology firms, attorneys and other professionals. A few donations stand out: Facebook's Sandberg; Pat Coffey, vice president of operations for Woodland Park Communities; and Mike Kramer, a real estate executive with Sand Hill Property Company. Court Skinner, another council candidate, contributed $600; and a political action committee, San Mateo Building Trades Joint Council PAC, contributed $250.

Wallace-Jones has received a few donations from East Palo Alto entities and individuals, including from StreetCode Academy CEO Olatunde Sobomehin (Wallace-Jones is a founding board president and current board member) and former East Palo Alto Councilman A. Peter Evans and his wife, Keisha Evans.

Most of her contributors donated small amounts of $25, $50, $100 and $200. Among them is a towel folder at a YMCA in Woodinville, Washington, and a black belt from Katy, Texas. There are also real estate investors from Georgia and school district employees from the Southern California area where Wallace-Jones grew up.

The sum to Wallace-Jones' campaign is far less than that of candidates in neighboring cities. (Four out of five Palo Alto council candidates have raised more than $50,000 to date.) But Wallace-Jones' sizable coffers by East Palo Alto standards still give her an advantage in communications and visibility over her competitors. She spent $28,618 through Oct. 20 for lawn signs, campaign management, a candidates forum event, social media, mailers and other expenses.

In contrast, Court Skinner, the next highest-earning and highest-spending candidate, raised $4,323 through Oct. 27, which includes a $2,000 loan from his campaign, according to his campaign-disclosure statement. He spent $4,100 for handouts and flyers, yard and car signs and miscellaneous office, postage and related materials, according to his campaign statement. His donors include a Stanford University research chemist, a retiree, Menlo Park attorney Owen Byrd and an AT&T technician.

Candidate Patricia Lopez received $3,679 ($1,179 in small contributions and she lent her campaign $2,500) and expended $1,838 to date for flyers, campaign signs, office supplies and fundraising events.

Mayor and incumbent Ruben Abrica received $3,200 ($1,000 in monetary contributions and $400 in non-monetary contributions, in addition to loaning his campaign $1,800. He received $500 from UA Local 467 Plumbers, Steamfitters, and Refrigeration Fitters and $400 in advertising from La Bamba Magazine. He paid out $2,451, including for campaign literature and campaign paraphernalia, according to his campaign-disclosure statement.

Incumbent Donna Rutherford raised $2,682 through Oct. 28. She obtained four donations over $100, including $100 from Corinne Calfee, a Berkeley attorney who represents developer Woodland Park Communities before the city's Rent Stabilization Board; $250 from PG&E; $100 from Menlo Park attorney Owen Byrd; and $132 from Robert Fisk of Stanford. She received $450 in monetary contributions and $2,100 in loans and has expended $1,553.81. Rutherford did not itemize her expenses.

Of the remaining candidates, Randal Fields filed an Officeholder Campaign Statement, which is filed by candidates who don't have an official campaign committee and who will receive and spend less than $2,000 during the calendar year. Bernardo Huerta did not file any financial statements, East Palo Alto City Clerk Maria Buell said.

For complete 2018 election information, check out our voters' guide.

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Comments

31 people like this
Posted by Mark Dinan
a resident of East Palo Alto
on Nov 1, 2018 at 10:26 am

Mark Dinan is a registered user.

Regina Wallace-Jones has run a professional, well funded campaign with tons of local EPA support. Her campaign has organization and energy, and every weekend East Palo Alto residents are going door to door campaigning for her. I'm excited to have someone of her accomplishments running for City Council and "raising the bar" in EPA. Her fund raising tells a story of taking the race seriously, nothing more.


26 people like this
Posted by University Square Resident
a resident of East Palo Alto
on Nov 1, 2018 at 10:46 am

Mr. Dinan is spot on with his comments; Regina Wallace-Jones has raised the bar during this election cycle when it comes to East Palo Alto politics. Smart, savvy, and well-connected in the tech world, Ms. Wallace-Jones represents a "changing of the guard" in East Palo Alto....so we say "thank you" to Ruben, Sharifa, Duane, Myrtle, Donna et al and wish you well as we welcome Regina and a new generation of East Palo Alto politics. It's about time!


13 people like this
Posted by Mike
a resident of East Palo Alto
on Nov 1, 2018 at 12:38 pm

I'm tired of Ruben, Donna and corrupted Larry (ex mayor)... decades around and what ? Not much done, not much....


12 people like this
Posted by Martin Lamarque
a resident of Menlo Park
on Nov 1, 2018 at 12:45 pm

I din’t Doubt that Regina is organized and has used her skills to run an effective campaign.
But everytime someone gets big donations from the entities listed in the article, there is a trade off that ultimately, and invariably, results in the elected official solely representing the interests of a minority— the already affluent.

Look at what has happened in the Peninsula cities where City Council members have cozied up to developers and real estate interests.
Menlo Park being a prime example.

Hopefully EPA voters will see the risk, and vote for someone who is not indebted to big miney.


26 people like this
Posted by Regina Wallace-Jones #forwardtogether
a resident of East Palo Alto
on Nov 1, 2018 at 1:19 pm

[Portion removed; libelous.]

460 filings do not request relationship to candidate. Instead, they request professional title of the donor.

The truth is that >97% of my donations came from fellow Stanford alums, old community and church friends, sorority sisters, work colleagues, labor unions and East Palo Alto residents. [Portion removed; libelous.]

<3% of donations came from the interests that Sue has identified.

Conversely, other candidates raised <4K that they reported but received $99 checks that they did not report. Several $99 checks against 4K or 3K is a much bigger percentage than a few hundred dollars against 33K.

The only people that I am cozy with are the people that will have voted to put me in office.

I invite us all to demand more from our reporting. In other cities, the leading candidates were reporting as "leading in fundraising". In East Palo Alto, it was reported as "outstripped". [Portion removed; unfounded.]

If a voter for one minute believes that my interest and that of the city's can be bought for a few hundred dollars, then my response is that I am not that cheap. East Palo Alto is not that cheap. We all need to do more to make East Palo Alto great...and this includes our news outfits.

#forwardtogether


13 people like this
Posted by Aquamarine
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Nov 1, 2018 at 4:23 pm

She's an appeaser who is likely untrustworthy because her need to be liked is much too strong, and her charm offensive is transparent.


3 people like this
Posted by University Square
a resident of East Palo Alto
on Nov 1, 2018 at 5:42 pm

Aquamarine—[portion removed] your deductive reasoning is flawed, with absolutely no corroborating evidence to back up your ridiculous commentary. Come on, you can do better!


9 people like this
Posted by Sue Dremann
Palo Alto Weekly staff writer
on Nov 1, 2018 at 6:10 pm

Sue Dremann is a registered user.

I stand by my reporting as providing necessary information for the community so they can make informed decisions. People have a right to know the way politics is funded in the city -- and to make decisions for themselves.

This candidate has the backing of persons connected with tech and development companies -- two known major influences of growth and gentrification in the city (specifically, Facebook, Sand Hill Property Company, Woodland Park Communities). It's up to voters to decide if they consider it relevant or not.

I invite everyone to look at the 460 forms, which can be found on the city's website at Web Link and to make their own informed choices.

The story does mention that Wallace-Jones has received many smaller donations from others who are not in the fields of technology or development. It also mentions that another candidate, Donna Rutherford, received a donation from an attorney associated with Woodland Park/Sand Hill.


3 people like this
Posted by Irritated
a resident of East Palo Alto
on Nov 1, 2018 at 6:38 pm

[Post removed.]


8 people like this
Posted by Aquamarine
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Nov 1, 2018 at 7:17 pm

University Square - - your sad comments are also transparent, but of course lacking in charm. You do your preferred candidate no favors by attacking me because she'll need to grow a thicker skin if she chooses public life, and PAO is a good training ground for her.

Sue Dremman - - thank you for this article. Not all voters have the time to check out campaign contributions to candidates, or to identify connections between candidates and contributions. Did any of the candidates file their forms late, or is it just that not all were posted to the city website by COB Friday? I noticed that over the weekend some of them were missing, including Wallace-Jones's.


15 people like this
Posted by Namaste
a resident of East Palo Alto
on Nov 1, 2018 at 8:24 pm

$600 checks that's indeed BIG money $$$$ from developers and tech if you want to put it that way... At least Regina Wallace's campaign is transparent and if she is well connected/liked and many people contributed including a starving student from Fresno for $1, good for her. If she self raised more money than other candidates for wanting to afford colored flyers and lawn signs why not. May be the other candidates should have been a little more active and organized earlier on. In summary, keep calm and carry on! Let's focus on the programs and future actions : )


7 people like this
Posted by Aquamarine
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Nov 1, 2018 at 8:51 pm

Namaste - - At least her campaign is transparent? That demonstrates a lack of knowledge about campaign funding reporting. ALL candidates must report donations, and the info is available to the public. That's how the reporter obtained the info for this story. You're also wrong by assuming candidates should've raise more money. More money doesn't translate to a better candidate or a better campaign. It can leave candidates more indebted to their contributors, however, and that is newsworthy. Remember that EPA is merely a stepping stone for Wallace-Jones, and there's a big down side to that.


11 people like this
Posted by Namaste
a resident of East Palo Alto
on Nov 1, 2018 at 9:26 pm

Transparent in a sense that at least she is reporting all donations even less than $100 when other candidates do/may not. Stepping stone or not, she will hopefully instill a new leadership at city hall and at the end of the day, whether for East Palo Alto or the region, don't we want the best for the city/county/country?


3 people like this
Posted by Sue Dremann
a resident of another community
on Nov 1, 2018 at 9:39 pm

Hi Aquamarine,

The date stamp on the 460 campaign filings state the date the clerk received the paperwork. You can see the stamp on the upper right corner of the first page of each candidate's statement. Most seemed to have been submitted after the Oct. 25 Fair Political Practices Commission deadline for candidates to file.

The clerk's office told me they were posting the documents online as they had time. That's why you didn't see them all at one time.




Like this comment
Posted by Aquamarine
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Nov 1, 2018 at 9:47 pm

Sue Dremman - - thank you for responding. Are you saying that Regina Wallace-Jones and some other candidates didn't submit their 460s on time?


Like this comment
Posted by University Square
a resident of East Palo Alto
on Nov 1, 2018 at 9:52 pm

[Post removed.]


3 people like this
Posted by Sue Dremann
a resident of another community
on Nov 1, 2018 at 10:15 pm

The deadline was Oct. 25. Presumably anything filed after that date was late. The clerk's office can verify for you when each one was received.


22 people like this
Posted by NO to Discrimination
a resident of East Palo Alto
on Nov 1, 2018 at 11:12 pm

What should sicken us all is the fact that everything our community does is seen as WRONG, while what “others” do is right. Candidates in surrounding cities like Palo Alto and Menlo Park are celebrated for raising money for their campaigns, and they are all raising about $30,000 to $50,000 each - in local small city council and school board elections. Yet, for some odd reason when WE - meaning Brown and Black people in EPA - do it, all of a sudden it’s a crime and outrageous. This same news publication celebrates another candidate in Palo Alto for “leading” the race in fundraising. SMH. Yet our candidates are expected to keep their lowly selves in check and lead a “grassroots” campaign. This is just another case of double standard and discrimination. East Palo Alto needs to have its stories shared by a voice that is neutral yet understanding of prejudice and culturally sensitive. This article, while written by someone who lives in EPA, shows all the traditional makings of a historical attack on the validity of our people. This is how they keep us down. They fuel a petty fire for their profit - their paper’s readership - and sit back and watch us fight it out. Don’t let these people highjack our unity or our story. If you do, they’ll just keep going after us until we have nothing left. It’s how they stole Mexico, Africa, and North America...and now they want East Palo Alto. Wise up before it’s too late.


2 people like this
Posted by One Love
a resident of East Palo Alto
on Nov 3, 2018 at 5:39 pm

One Love is a registered user.

I echo the statement of NO to Discrimination. Good luck to all of the candidates who has chosen to run and represent the people of East Palo Alto in city governance.

What really upsets me is how tech seems to be equated as the “villain” in this town. There are plenty of villains but we must know they come through many industries...it is a CHARACTER issue here people.

Who will be best for making decisions that affect our entire city/community? The art of governing requires a certain level of values and principles. That alone is how I will determine where my votes go. #VoteOrDie


4 people like this
Posted by Not Thrilled....
a resident of Adobe-Meadow
on Nov 3, 2018 at 9:48 pm

Not Thrilled.... is a registered user.

In the age of Donald Trump I find it extremely disturbing to see the attacks being made on veteran journalist Sue Dremann. It's extremely unlikely Sue was doing anything other than following her sense of what is news and what issues are in the public interest. To provide some context for these claims I am providing some links to some of Sue's many stories on the East of Bayshore communities, which I think deserve looking at here (I hope the software shows them all).

Nearly half of Belle Haven students boycott school
Web Link

East Palo Alto residents protest Palo Alto landlord's massive rent increase
Web Link

East Palo Alto community split on Taser proposal
Web Link

RV evictions in East Palo Alto spur protest
Web Link

East Palo Alto program builds a culture of life
Web Link


2 people like this
Posted by Hmmm
a resident of East Palo Alto
on Nov 5, 2018 at 3:28 pm

Hmmm is a registered user.

Thank you, Not Thrilled. It's alarming that Regina Wallace-Jones is attacking Dremann to the point that the portions of her removed comments were deemed libelous. It's also strange that Wallace-Jones seems to have a group of "mean girls" who rush in to defend her, like it's 6th grade. Other candidates don't do this, thankfully.


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