I was mayor of El Cerrito. Can I be vice president?

Here's why I'm just as qualified as Sarah Palin for the nation's second-highest office.

Topics: 2008 Elections, Sarah Palin

Sarah Palin offers her experience as mayor of Wasilla, Alaska, population 6,000 (during her tenure) as proof of her suitability to be vice president or, ultimately, president of the United States. Well, as the former two-term mayor of El Cerrito, Calif., which is four times bigger than Wasilla, I am clearly even more qualified for the nation’s highest offices than Mrs. Palin. To quote Jimmy Carter, “Why not the best?” Here’s why I should be vice president:

I am alert — Let the red phone ring at 3 a.m. I have proved I can stay awake and not drop the gavel as the City Council meeting clock hits 1 a.m. And during daylight hours, I have proved I have the inspirational qualities required to say a few words at the annual Little League pancake breakfast and to wave and smile at the annual parade (although in liberal El Cerrito our annual parade is on Martin Luther King Day, not July Fourth). The leadership skills I honed while listening to our city’s self-appointed “watchdog” insult me and my colleagues and the city staff and my household pets for the thousandth time will work well when dealing with Congress and Russian President Medvedev and the United Nations.

I am a cheap date — In El Cerrito the mayor doesn’t get any staff or even a car allowance. I did get $400 a month and a $17 cellphone credit, and a free T-shirt every Earth Day. So I was surprised to learn that then-Mayor Palin insisted she be provided with a $24,000 SUV for her mayoral usage. Maybe she had to personally visit all of the meth labs in her town (Alaska state troopers designated it “the meth capital of Alaska,” with 42 identified labs, or one for every 214 residents), or she was driving out to the Bridge to Nowhere late at night, anticipating the day when she would make her opposition to it one of her major claims of being a reformer, even though she supported it then and eventually ended up taking the $233 million in federal money that had been earmarked for the project. Details, details. We mavericks can’t be bothered with pesky details.

I am not petty and vindictive — Mayor Palin also demanded fierce loyalty and sacked the police chief and tried to sack the library director for not being loyal enough. In El Cerrito, the only loyalty the mayor typically requires is that you don’t slash his or her tires while the City Council meeting is in progress. Getting Triple A to come out at 1 a.m. can require a long wait. And I confess — I did once vote against reappointing an economic development commissioner who had called me “swarthy” and one of our leading community volunteers “a vamp” in a very poorly written Op-Ed hit piece in the local rag. I was outvoted.

I understand other cultures — Politics is sort of like real estate. It’s all about location, location, location. And Alaska is so close to Russia that who wouldn’t be confident with Sarah Palin of Wasilla as commander in chief. But I can see Berkeley from my house (actually, I live in Berkeley now), so I’ve got just as much foreign policy experience.

I am honest — Actually, um, this might be a deal breaker. I’m sorry I wasted your time. But I’m honest, so I had to tell you. In fact, the “honesty” thing might have something to do with why I’m currently pursuing opportunities other than politics. I thought my eight years on El Cerrito’s City Council would lead to big things, but I just didn’t play it right. I never learned to enjoy lying and in fact tried (and hopefully succeeded) to avoid it all together. How naive of me.

Wait — did I tell you about the city fire engine I auctioned on eBay?


Mark Friedman is the former Mayor of El Cerrito, California. He works as the Chief Executive Officer of First 5 Alameda County a California agency that serves children from birth to age 5. He swears that he is really not bitter about Sarah Palin leapfrogging him in the political food chain and is glad that he is not so hairy as to be mistaken for a wolf.

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