Category: Elections & Voting Rights

Mayor Schaaf May Have Violated the State Campaign Law

Peggy Moore (left) and Mayor Libby Schaaf

 

By Post Staff

Same election tactic resulted in $2,500 fine last week for her former staffer, Peggy Moore

Mayor Libby Schaaf may have recently committed the same state campaign law violation that resulted in a fine for her former staff member when she ran for a seat on the Oakland City Council.

Peggy Moore, who ran unsuccessfully against Councilmember-at-Large Rebecca Kaplan in 2016, was fined $2,500 last week by the Fair Political Practice Commission (FPPC), the state’s political watchdog agency, for failing to properly identify who sent two mass mailings to voters before the Nov. 8, 2016 election, according to a report published by the East Bay Times.

Moore’s two campaign emails were sent to about 200 potential voters in August 2016  inviting them “to participate in a short, confidential survey about local issues in Oakland.” However, the emails did not list who paid for the survey, in violation of a section of the Political Reform Act.

Mayor Schaaf’s campaign, utilizing the same firm and campaign consultant hired by Moore, this month conducted a similar poll to voters, without identifying who paid for it.
This campaign tactic is called a “push poll,” which according to Wikipedia “is an interactive marketing technique, most commonly employed during political campaigning, in which an individual or organization attempts to manipulate or alter prospective voters’ views/beliefs under the guise of conducting an opinion poll.”

The poll was conducted by EMC Research on behalf of both Moore’s and Schaaf’s political campaigns. According to last week’s FPPC report, “The seriousness of the violations is heightened by the number of mass mailings, which evidences a pattern of non-disclosure,” according to the FPPC ruling, quoted by the East Bay Times. “However, respondents do not have a prior history of other violations of the act.”

Councilmember Kaplan, who had filed the complaint against Moore’s campaign, said the survey sent out by Mayor Schaaf’s re-election campaign did not indicate who paid for it.  Both campaigns used the same campaign consultant, Ace Smith of SCN Strategies.

“They committed the same crime again,” Kaplan said. “The FPPC is saying this behavior is absolutely illegal, and it’s the exact same behavior they just did again.” By the Oakland Post’s deadline neither Moore, Mayor Schaaf nor their campaign consultants had responded to a request for comments.

Published June 29, 2018 courtesy of the Oakland Post

Councilmember Rebecca Kaplan Endorses Cat Brooks

Rebecca Kaplan (left) and Cat Brooks. Photo by Ken Epstein

 

By Ken Epstein

City Councilmember-at-Large Rebecca Kaplan, one of Oakland’s most popular progressive political leaders, ended months of speculation about whether she would jump into the mayoral race when she announced last Thursday that she is committing her energy to elect community activist, actor and radio journalist Cat Brooks as mayor of Oakland.

“With a lot of thought and prayer and contemplation” of the social justice issues facing Oakland, “I have come to the conclusion that the best way to strengthen our community’s voice (for our) vital goals is by endorsing and supporting Cat Brooks for mayor,” said Kaplan, speaking at an event held at the Joyce Gordon Gallery in downtown Oakland.

“We will continue to build and move forward together,” she said. “We have an opportunity to strengthen our solidarity, to strengthen our city and to make sure we have a city hall that is responsive to the community.”

Kaplan focused on some of the major social and moral challenges the city is facing that she says are being ignored by Mayor Libby Schaaf.

“We deserve leadership that believes in respect and that believes in justice and understands that we are judged by how we treat the least of these,” she said.

“Every additional person who is homeless should be a heartbreak to all of us and a call to action and a demand to do something about it,” said Kaplan.

She also spoke about what she considers Mayor Schaaf’s failure to punish police who participated in and covered up the Oakland Police Department’s sex abuse scandal.

“The level of police misconduct that has been tolerated is totally unacceptable,” she said, accusing the mayor of intervening to hide OPD officers’ “brutal sexual misconduct,” promoting those who covered it up and punishing those who spoke against it.

A rabbi, Kaplan said a prayer for Brooks’ campaign:

“I pray that you may be protected and strengthened in this incredible journey and that I may be blessed to have the opportunity to work together with you…May your voice be strong, may you be heard.”

Thanking Kaplan and assembled supporters, Brooks invited everyone to “support a vision of justice, a vision of transformation, a vision of mobilizing our people to the polls to take back our city.”

Rather than having to fight City Hall every day, “What if we spent all of our time building the kind of Oakland we want to live in?” she asked.

She said the city should be working to build housing so teachers and low-paid nonprofit employees can afford to live in Oakland.

“It can be done, and if the current administration had the will to do it, it would be done,” said Brooks.

Saying that this is not “a Cat Brooks campaign,” she emphasized that she would hold “people’s assemblies” or town hall meetings during the next two months for input of community people who are struggling to improve conditions and are knowledgeable about the issues.

“There’s amazing work that’s being done on a range of issues, and those will be the voices that determine the direction of this city,” said Brooks. “There are so many brilliant, beautiful ideas that are being ignored by City Hall.”

For more information, go to www.catbrooksforoakland.com/ and www.kaplanforoakland.com/

Published June 15, 2018, courtesy of the Oakland Post

Mayoral Candidate Cat Brooks Pledges to “Turn the Tables” on Business as Usual in Oakland

Cat Brooks

By Ken Epstein

“It’s time to turn the tables” on the developer- and financier-led displacement agenda that currently runs Oakland, says mayoral candidate Cat Brooks, radio host, actor and justice activist, who wants the city to move in the direction of utilizing its resources to solve homelessness, promote education, build housing that regular people can afford and spend public safety dollars to eliminate conditions that give rise to crime.

Brooks formally kicked off her campaign May 1 on Radio Station KPFA, speaking to Brian Edwards-Tiekert, who until that morning was her co-host on the “Up-Front” driver-time public affairs program on the station.

Taking at least a six-month leave of absence from KPFA, she is focusing on organizing the majority of Oaklanders “who can’t afford to purchase power in City Hall,” she said in the interview.

Win or lose, she hopes her campaign will build “a base of 10,000 … to push to save the soul of the City of Oakland,” Brooks said.

She said her campaign will promote the voices of the unhoused, immigrants and poor people, “who in the last four years have borne the brunt of a neoliberal mayor who has put development over people.”

Central to her program is dealing with “the housing crisis like the epidemic that it is,” mustering the city-wide commitment to turning around the alarming rise in homelessness and uncontrolled rent increases that are displacing tens of thousands of Oaklanders.

“We need to deal with the unhoused crisis in this city like a bomb dropped in the middle of our city – because it did, a gentrification bomb,” she said, calling for the city to build 4,000 affordable units.

“We have to take a stand on the side of our most vulnerable residents,” she continued.

Not a fan of solving crime by increasing policing, Brooks said, “We should actively be walking away from militarized policing and incarceration.”

She said that police funding drains almost 50 percent of the city’s budget, including $30 million a year in unauthorized overtime. A significant amount of that money can be redirected to solve the city’s social problems, she said.

People in Oakland rightfully want to be safe, but the current approach is not working well, she said, adding that there are many car break-ins and burglaries, and the police department’s homicide solve rate is only a little over 30 percent.

Rather than increasing the numbers of police, the city can increase public safety by hiring “community ambassadors,” “training (people) for community safety,” she said, recognizing that “police should not be the solution to every single issue.”

“At the same time, (we should be) reforming and holding accountable the Oakland Police Department, finally for the first time in that department’s history,” said Brooks.

For information on Cat Brooks’ campaign, go to www.catbrooksforoakland.com/

Published May 12, 2018, courtesy of the Oakland Post

Mayor’s Role in Taking Kaplan Off Air Quality Board “Is Politics at Its Worst,” Says Boardmember

Councilmember Rebecca Kaplan received appreciation and an award on her lat last day on Bay Area Air Quality Management (BAAQMD) board. Kaplan is shown with BAAQMD board Chair David Hudson, member of the San Ramon City Council.

By Ken Epstein

 Members of the Bay Area Air Quality Management District (BAAQMD) board paid tribute recently to Oakland City Councilmember-at-Large Rebecca Kaplan at her last meeting on the regional body. A few members criticized Mayor Libby Schaaf for indulging in “politics at its worst” to remove the councilmember from the BAAQMD board and encouraged Oakland residents to work for Kaplan for mayor.

 

“It’s ridiculous that you have to leave this board. I think it’s politics at its worst,” said Supervisor Shirlee Zane, a board member representing Sonoma County.

“The fact that someone bright and capable and articulate as you is being replaced after two years, well shame on the mayor,” she said.

Added Boardmember Supervisor Scott Haggerty, representing Alameda County, “For those of you who think Rebecca should be here, maybe you should help her run for mayor.”

Kaplan, who served for two years as one of Alameda County’s two representatives on the 24-member board, whose members come from cities and counties from Napa to Palo Alto.

According to a spokesman of the Alameda County Mayors’ Conference, which appoints a representative on the BAAQMD board, mayors have first preference in seeking appointments, but Mayor Schaaf had the right to nominate Kaplan for reappointment to the position.

Kaplan was “not precluded” from reapplying, according to the spokesman, but, “If a council member applies for a position, the councilmember (must) receive the approval of the mayor,” the Mayors’ Conference spokesman said.

Instead of nominating Kaplan and despite a deluge of community letters in support of her reappointment, Schaaf nominated the mayor of Berkeley. In March, the Mayor’s Conference voted to give the position to the mayor of Emeryville.

In her response to the letters in support of Kaplan, Schaaf said her hands were tied, and that she was precluded by the rules of the County Mayors’ Conference from reappointing Kaplan to the board.

As Oakland’s first representative on the board 25 years, Kaplan worked to bring funds to improve air quality in the city, which persistently has had some of the highest levels of air-borne toxic wastes—including cancer—and asthma-causing pollutants—in the Bay Area.

Kaplan has helped secure money for major projects to improve air quality for Oakland and other East Bay cities, including for the Broadway Shuttle, replacing a diesel locomotive engine to clean the air around the Port/Army base and setting up a fund to get old, high polluting diesel trucks off the road.

Members of the BAAQMD board praised Kaplan for what she has been able to accomplish in only two years.

“(Kaplan) represents the kind of person that is the reason I want to be on this board, someone who is a critical thinker, thinks about the big picture and has helped to shape a unique profile for the district,” said Boardmember Mayor Doug Kim of the City of Belmont.

Another board member referred to the time when Kaplan went to North Dakota to stand in solidarity with Dakota Access Pipeline protests (#NODAPL). “That’s walking the talk, you really did it. I thought after that: ‘you know what, Rebecca really means it,’” said Mayor Liz Kniss, City of Palo Alto.

“You’ve distinguished yourself as a thoughtful advocate for human health. You’ve done a very effective job articulating concerns in communities most affected by air pollution, which certainly includes your city (and) which your mayor should appreciate. I know we do,” said Vice Mayor Rod Sinks, City of Cupertino.

“We’ve gotten the message about cash for clunkers. We’ll make sure we carry that mantle,” said Supervisor David J. Canepa, San Mateo Count.

Speaking to the board, Jed Holtzman of 350.org Bay Area member said, Rebecca is the kind of textbook example of what the public would like to see on this board and any board in terms of consciousness and engagement.”

She paraphrased a minister she knows in her remarks: “If you woke up this morning, you still have work to do. I ain’t done.”

The video of the discussion at the April 4 BAAQMD board meeting can be viewed here

Published May 5, 2018, courtesy of the Oakland Post

Opinion: Rebecca Kaplan Should Run for Mayor of Oakland

Sandré R Swanson (with Rebecca Kaplan.

By Sandré R. Swanson

 I was born in the City of Oakland and I have proudly served Oakland as our Assemblymember for three terms.

I was honored to serve as Oakland’s Deputy Mayor, as chair of Oakland’s Civil Service Commission and chair of Oakland’s Reuse and Redevelopment Commission.

During my service to Oakland, City Councilmember-at-Large Rebecca Kaplan has been consistent in her hard work for the prosperity of all Oakland citizens and her vision of Oakland as one of California’s most desirable cities.

Rebecca Kaplan has challenged Oakland government to serve all of its citizens, and now it’s time for her to lead the city as Mayor.

I know that as mayor, she would support good paying job opportunities for working families. She will promote affordable housing, long term solutions for assisting homelessness, support schools with a safe and great learning environment for our children, promote small business growth and protect Oakland’s environment as a great city by the bay.

Rebecca Kaplan has been promoting and honoring Oakland’s beautiful diversity for years, supporting a growing middle class and giving needed attention to our senior citizens and the too often ignored, our poor.

Rebecca will work for real opportunity for our youth from school to work.

When I was growing up in Oakland, my parents and I enjoyed safe parks and Oakland neighborhoods that positively supported family life. Rebecca Kaplan will work for a police force that has the full confidence of the community.

She would work for the recruitment of officers from local residents with a strong commitment to community and the safety of all citizens.

I am encouraging a visionary, Councilwoman-at-Large Rebecca Kaplan, to join the race and give Oakland voters a creative, hard-working, progressive choice for mayor this November.

Sandré R Swanson served in the California Assembly from 2006 to 2012

Congress of Neighborhoods Seeks Community Power in East Oakland Flatlands

Esther Goolsby of Communities for a Better Environment (CBE) spoke last Saturday at the first community assembly of the Congress of East Oakland Neighborhoods. Photo by Ken Epstein

 

By Ken Epstein

Hundreds of local residents packed into an elementary school gymnasium last Saturday to attend the kickoff gathering of the East Oakland Congress of Neighborhoods taking the first steps to bring together the kind of flatland coalition that can force public officials to take the needs of their communities seriously.

The meeting, held at International Community Schools at 2825 International Blvd., was organized by some of the strongest community-based organizations in East Oakland: Alliance of Californians for Community Empowerment (ACCE), Just Cause: Causa Justa, Communities for a Better Environment (CBE), East Oakland Building Healthy Communities, EBAYC and Oakland Community Organizations (OCO).

The main purpose of Saturday’s meeting was to create a common vision for going forward.  To develop this vision, participants attended one of nine workshops: fair share of city services, including ending illegal dumping; homelessness, displacement and affordable housing; community peace and safety; holding elected officials accountable; creating a clean healthy environment; jobs, including jobs for youth and the formerly incarcerated; quality education; big development projects, such as the A´s stadium; and immigration.

Leading the meeting were representatives of East Oakland neighborhoods San Antonio, Fruitvale, Elmhurst and Sobrante Park.

In an interview with the Oakland Post, Vernetta Woods, a leader of Oakland Community Organizations (OCO) who lives in District 7, says she believes the event will build more unity and a more powerful voice for East Oakland residents.

For her, the main issue is education, the failure of the Oakland public schools.

“We’re coming. People power is here,” she said.  “We need thousands to come together on this thing, not just one race or one organization. If that happens, we can make changes.”

Teresa Salazar, a leader of Just Cause: Causa Justa who has lived in the San Antonio area for 23 years, explained the different organizations that are working together are creating a “stronger power.”

“Rent is increasing. Is that the New Oakland – a lot of people living under the bridge?”  She asked.

“At International (Boulevard) and 15th (Avenue), there is a lot of prostitution – Is that the New Oakland?

“No, Oakland needs a big change,” said Salazar. “Everybody needs to participate, to organize for change, for there to be a New Oakland.”

The Congress of Neighborhoods plans to release its “East Oakland Community Agenda” Tuesday, Nov. 7 at 5:30 p.m. outside City Hall.

For more information, email Nehanda Imara at nehanda@eastoaklandbhc.org or Alba Hernandez at alba@oaklandcommunity.org

Published October 8, 2017, courtesy of the Oakland Post

Close $9 Billion Commercial Property Tax Loophole to Fund Schools, Says Statewide Coalition

Left to Right: State Senators Nancy Skinner and Scott Weiner and Assemblyman Rob Bonta speak at “Make It Fair” Proposition 13 reform townhall meeting Saturday Sept. 9. Photo by Ken Epstein

By Ken Epstein

Hundreds of Bay Area residents attended a town meeting in Oakland recently to find out about the growing, statewide “Make It Fair” coalition that seeks to overturn a commercial property tax loophole that costs the public as much as $9 billion a year in lost revenue that could be used for schools, health clinics, parks and libraries.

The town hall meeting, held Saturday, Sept. 9 at the First Congregational Church of Oakland, was part of the coalition’s organizing efforts to build awareness, ahead of a ballot initiative in 2018 or 2020.

“California has the world’s sixth largest economy, yet many of our schools and services lack the basic funding they need,” according to a Make It Fair coalition flyer.

“ Big corporations and the wealthy are making more money than ever. They can afford to pay their fair share,” the flyer said.

The loophole is written into Proposition 13, passed by voters in 1978, part of what referred to as Ronald Reagan’ “tax revolt,” which assesses property taxes, including those on commercial properties, at their 1975 value and restricts annual cost-of-living increases to a maximum of 2 percent.

Owners of businesses started since the passage of Prop. 13 pay a higher rate. As a result, some of the largest companies, like Chevron, Intel and IBM, pay low property taxes, but startups and newer businesses pay much more.

Speakers at the town hall included State Senators Nancy Skinner and Scott Weiner, Assemblyman Rob Bonta and Alameda County Supervisor Keith Carson.

“It going to take all of us working together to make a make a fix to Prop. 13. We’re going to go to the ballot,” said Senator Skinner, explaining that the there is not the political support in the Legislature to pass the reform.

“It’s a third rail issue,” she said. “It still has this aura of untouchability.”

Challenging the commercial tax loophole will require people to “deal with the 50-year campaign from the radical right to delegitimize government, (convincing many people that) all government programs are a problem, that putting any money into government is a waste of money,” said Senator Weiner.

Calling for “people over profits” and “people over corporations,” Assemblyman Bonta said the Democrats have a supermajority in the Legislature, making the present the perfect time for closing the Prop. 13 loophole.

But he emphasized that coalition will need large-scale grassroots support to pass the constitutional amendment.

“This is not an easy battle – the opposition will be fierce,” Bonta said. “Some will see this as an existential threat.”

Organizations endorsing the campaign include the California Federation of Teachers, California Teachers Association, League of Women Voters of California, California Alliance for Retired Americans, California Nurses Association, SEIU California, Filipino Community Center and the Asian Pacific Environmental Network (APEN).

Speakers the town hall explained that the campaign will have to overcome a deluge of false and misleading publicity, clarifying to voters that the initiative will:

Guarantee existing Prop. 13 protections for residential property and agricultural land;

Close the millionaire, billionaire, and big corporation tax loophole by requiring all commercial and industrial properties to be assessed at fair market value, putting California in line with how the majority of the country assesses property;

Restore over $9 billion a year for services. About half of the new revenues, $3.6 billion, will support schools and community colleges;

Make It Fair requires transparency and accountability for all revenue restored to California from closing the commercial property tax loophole.

For more information go to www.makeitfairca.com/about/

Published September 19, 2017, courtesy of the Oakland Post

Local Volunteers Head for Central Valley to Overturn Republican Control of Congress

 

Volunteer canvassers for Working America go door to door to talk to residents about fundamental issues that affect them and their families.

By Ken Epstein

Volunteers from Oakland, Berkeley and other Bay Area cities, many who consider themselves to be part of The Resistance, are flocking to the AFL-CIO´s Working America and other organizations, ready to put in the grueling door-to-door work necessary to mobilize and empower voters to overturn Republican control of congressional districts in November 2018.

In the Bay Area, Working America began door-to-door outreach efforts in May in Congressional District (CD) 10, a section of northern San Joaquin Valley that includes Modesto, Turlock, Patterson, Tracy and Manteca.

CD 10 is currently represented by Republican Congressman Jeff Denham. However, this is not a district that is solidly in the Republican camp. Hillary Clinton carried it in 2016, and Barack Obama won the district in both 2008 and 2012.
The district is 46.4 percent white, 3.7 percent Black, 7.7 percent Asian and 40.1 percent Latino.  The Modesto area has an 8 percent unemployment rate and a  mean annual wage of $45,230.

Besides Working America, organizations that are working to flip CD 10 are Swing Left, the Democratic Club of Greater Tracy, California Democratic Party, California Away Team, Organizing for California, Our Revolution and Indivisible Berkeley.

Working America, which is pairing volunteers and paid organizers, is conducting a “knock on every door” in-depth canvassing operation.

People who oppose Trump and conservative members of Congress “now need to ‘electoralize’ that energy,” said Matt Morrison, executive director of Working America, based in Wash., D.C.

“You can’t change hearts and minds by sending people 500 pieces of mail or with 30-second campaign ads,” he said. “You have to see them and talk to them face to face, going into 2018 and 2020.”

Working America’s paid staff are mostly working-class people, who are trained and work 40 hours a week as professional canvassers.

These professionals, especially in Modesto, work with volunteers, who are also trained.

“It’s been stunning, the number of people who are willing to invest themselves in this fight,” said Morrison.

Over 200 people already have gone through training, and nearly 150 have gone to canvas door to door, he said. Some have come back to the Central Valley, an over 80-mile trek from the East Bay, for a second or third shift.

The plan at this point is not to talk about upcoming elections and candidates but about the issues that people care about and help them connect with others in their community in networks to build “strength in numbers,” said Morrison.

“Our organizing model has to focus on working class communities around the country,” based on union ideals of “economic justice and dignity,” he said.

“Once you get people talking,” he said, “they don’t want to stop.” They are worried bout increased rates of poverty and are losing faith in government’s willingness to improve their communities.

“We think it is essential to have folks advocate for themselves,” he said.  “What we’re seeing are a lot of constituents who are pretty animated, willing to show where they stand.”

About 4,700 people already have joined Working America since the canvassing began.

“We project that later this year we will organize about 25,000 people in this district, based on the issues,” said Morrison.

Cindy Reed, a Working America District 10 field director, is based in Modesto where she is involved in discussions every day about what is important to people in the Central Valley.

“We focus on economic issues that are important for working families: jobs, corporate accountability, access to education and retirement,” said Reed.

“Politicians are not really addressing these issues,” she said. “The solution is to keep them accountable. The strategy is strength in numbers: a call of to action, writing a letter or signing a petition.”

“There are a lot of jobs in Modesto and the Central Valley, but they are not high paying jobs,” she continued. “(Workers) have to commute for construction – even engineers have to commute to Silicon Valley because they can’t afford to live there.”

“They don’t the have resources for their public schools, and they can’t afford to send their kids to college.”

One of the crew of recent volunteers was Carla, a member of the Wellstone Democratic Renewal Club in the East Bay.

“We knocked on 25 doors and had conversations at 13 of them.” she said, describing her experience in a Wellstone newsletter.

“Ten people joined Working America, and all 10 signed the action item petition against  (Congressman) Jeff Denham,” she said. “(We) were uplifted, and the people were warm and welcoming.”

For information and to sign up for Working America’s Central Valley Project training and canvassing, go to http://www.workingamerica.org/centralvalley/volunteer

Published September 8, 2017, courtesy of the Oakland Post

Youth at MLK Freedom Center Join Struggle to Empower Voters

Sophia Quintana of Berkeley and active member of the MLK Freedom Center registers voters at July 4 naturalization ceremony in Seattle, WA.

Sophia Quintana of Berkeley and active member of the MLK Freedom Center registers voters at July 4 naturalization ceremony in Seattle, WA.

By Ken Epstein

Young people who participated in an intensive six-week voter registration and community engagement project this summer recently attended a labor breakfast celebration in their honor, where they talked about their efforts to register new voters and reflected on what they learned and how it transformed them.

The “Civic Engagement Pilgrimage,” organized by the Martin Luther King Jr. Freedom Center, which is based at Merritt College in Oakland took a diverse group of 65 young people, mostly high school students from Oakland and Washington state, on a journey from Washington to Portland to Bakersfield and Fresno in California, where they registered voters and had in-depth discussions with elected officials, community and tribal leaders in urban and rural areas and Indian nations.

The breakfast was held Aug. 4 at the offices of the Alameda Labor Council in Oakland, attended by Congresswoman Barbara Lee, former Oakland Mayor Elihu Harris and Peralta Community Colleges Chancellor Dr. Jowel C. Laguerre, who are strong supporters of the work of the freedom center.

The young people said they heard the same words over and over from people in different communities: “Our voices don´t matter; nothing you do will change the system,” according to Laelah Jackson, a junior at Berkeley High.

“It is important to educate and be educated,” she said.  “What we´re doing is bigger than each of us. “It’s the ‘we’” that makes the difference.

“We learned that we live in very trying times night now,” said Angela Drake, a student at Castlemont High School. “We have to give hope to each other. No one is going to do it for us, but us.”

The young people said that in the course of their discussions with people and the classes and trainings among themselves they learned critical thinking, experienced growing self confidence and a sense of “love and solidarity” with each other and the people.

The Martin Luther King Freedom Center, which was created by Oakland’s MLK Day March and Rally Committee, began its work in 2001.  Executive Director Dr. Roy Wilson has led the organization for the past 10 years.

Based on the lessons of summer´s listening sessions and discussions in communities, the center plans to launch intensive voter education and registration efforts this year, including work in congressional districts in California´s Central Valley.
For more information on the Freedom Center, go to www.mlkfreedomcenter.org

Published August 17, 2017, courtesy of the Post News Group

Noel Gallo Faces Viola Gonzales in Oakland District 5 Race

Noel Gallo and Viola Gonzales

Noel Gallo and Viola Gonzales

 

By Tulio Ospina

In the City Council race for Oakland District 5, incumbent Noel Gallo is facing off against Viola Gonzales, who previously served on the Oakland Board of Education as an appointee of then-Mayor Jerry Brown.

Gallo, who has been on the council since 2012, is a lifelong resident of the Fruitvale District and previously served on the Oakland Board of Education for 20 years. He also sits on the Life Enrichment, Public Works and Public Safety city council committees.

Gonzales was, until June 30, the chief executive officer of AnewAmerica, a non-profit that helps immigrants and refugees start small and micro-businesses.

According to Gonzales, she has the backing of Mayor Libby Schaaf, former Councilmember Ignacio de la Fuente and former Mayor Elihu Harris.

Councilmember Gallo has achieved broad popularity in the city for his strong role in supporting renter protection and a police commission—Measures JJ and LL respectively— which the City Council placed on the November ballot.

Gallo has also taken strong positions on recent city development decisions, arguing that Oakland’s city-owned land should not be sold to private developers and should, instead, be leased and remain public.

Referring to Oakland’s current housing crisis, Gallo told the Post, “Investors and developers are coming in from out of state and outside the country, and they’re here to make a dollar. They have no commitment to Oakland.”

“If there is to be development, it has to be considerate of the people who live here already. And we must keep public land for public good,” said Gallo.

In terms of the two landmark city measures that Gallo openly supported and is endorsing in November, he said, “The police commission is really important to deal with police discipline and Oakland needs a strong citizens’ body.”

“The housing situation is an emergency issue, too, because people are being displaced like crazy. Whole families are being displaced with children. We see grandmothers and children sleeping in their cars. Every democracy needs to take care of the people who live in it, and that’s what the renter protection measure does.”

According to Gallo, his number one platform priority is increasing public safety in his district.

For four years, he has organized and participated in weekly volunteer walks through the Fruitvale, picking up illegal dumping and cleaning neighborhoods.

An increase in public safety also means concentrating resources to meet the district’s infrastructure needs—building sidewalks, repaving streets and installing crosswalks.

Gallo is asking people to vote for the city infrastructure bond, which will be on the November ballot.

He also wants to increase police presence in his district to try to curb what he sees as an uptick in robberies and traffic violations.

Gonzales, meanwhile, is running against Gallo on a platform of bringing economic development and job creation to Fruitvale, based on her 15 years of experience as an executive of a non-profit.

“We need to create jobs in the community, and I think we can do more,” Gonzales said in an interview with the Post. “Oakland has the responsibility to create more jobs and help local businesses grow.”

Gonzales said she will not take a position on the renter protection and police commission measures, though she says she understands what is at stake and sees why the measures were put on the November ballot.

“I say let the voters decide. I feel like the obligation of the City Council is just to move quickly to do what the public asks and to stop dragging its feet, which is what it’s been doing,” she said.

“With the police commission, I think we’ve got to have accountability, but the commission itself isn’t enough to fix larger issues like racial profiling that permeate society. And with the renters’ issue, we have the Costa-Hawkins state law that limits what you can do.”

Gonzales said she has gained the public and financial support of Mayor Schaaf because she is able to make room for differences in opinion and bring public conversations into meetings. The mayor has contributed $700, the maximum allowed, to Gonzales’ campaign.

“She would not give endorsements unless she thought we could work together,” Gonzales said.