So a few people have asked me my thoughts about the 2020 Election. The many propositions, the ballot measures, and local candidates running for office in the East Bay always generate a significant amount of interest, and understandably, confusion among people who are not familiar with the many issues and people.
I will try my best to summarize my views in a series of posts here on this blog.
Oakland District 3
Carroll Fife, in her opening statement during the Alameda County Democratic Party debate, presented herself as a person living in Oakland since 1999, who has a history of service. She is running on her experience as the organizer of Moms4Housing, who took over a vacant developer-owned home and subsequently got the City of Oakland to buy it (at market price) and then rent it back to the Moms. She said she was encouraged to run for council by friends and allies, against her own wishes to do so. She just moved to District 3 so she can run for office there. Housing for poor people seems to be her number one priority.
Lynette McElhaney, someone I’ve known since she first ran for City Council in 2012, presents herself as an experienced incumbent council member who knows how to get things done and tackle complex issues such as addressing issues related to police oversight, construction of new housing (including affordable housing), and violence. She has been a key contributor to getting the City’s budget passed year after year, has held the line on “No Coal in Oakland“, the ban on coal and pet coke shipment through Port of Oakland (in her district) and has helped improve (or at least try to improve) revenue coming to the City, which is chronically lacking in funds to deal with the many problems it faces. She has sponsored the Department of Violence Prevention – having herself lost a son and grandson to street violence – and also sponsored the formation of the Oakland Police Commission, a volunteer commission comprised of citizens with the task of providing oversight over OPD.
My Pick: Lynette Gibson McElhaney
While her efforts and actions are laudable, and Carroll seems like a nice person, and a good organizer, I don’t trust that she will be able to tackle the complex problems of Oakland working together with other council members and the mayor. A good council member makes deals. Politics is by its nature the art of compromise. If a person is running to take it to the banks or developers, as Ms. Fife seems to be doing (just read her website), I see a lot of antagonism, infighting on the council, and NOT getting things done, if she is elected. Here’s why:
- I don’t trust that Ms. Fife will be committed to the less glorious aspects of the job of City Council member, including taking complaints from residents about blight, getting the City to improve infrastructure, parks, and streets, and managing the complex relationships between business owners (including the Port), developers, residents (including disadvantaged / homeless residents), city staff and law enforcement. These less glorious aspects of the job are tiresome, and stressful, and can only be tackled in an effective manner by someone who is dedicated to the job of city council – ALL of it.
- Her ideas to defund the Police Department 50% and redistribute that money to other City workers and services is, in my opinion, not smart in a pandemic year where violence is up, and will lead to higher crime that we are already experiencing. (I will note that this initiative is supported by a few other council members, and Ms. McElhaney has promised to form a committee to study how to accomplish it.)
- The SEIU union, which represents city workers, apparently thinks Ms Fife is great, and is spending over $300,000 to help elect her and another council member, Rebecca Kaplan, who will then be indebted to those unions when it comes times for the City to renegotiate its unafforadable pension and healthcare packages, promised years ago to help recruit workers to Oakland from other, wealthier cities. For more information on the sorry state of Oakland City finances, read also: Make Oakland Better Now! post on city finances, or else, “Looming budget crisis like nothing Oakland has ever before experienced“
My father was a public school teacher, and union member. However, I do not support what the SEIU is doing, to try to “own” the Oakland City Council. 2 years ago, in 2018, they spent a lot of money and time to oust my own council member and friend, Abel Guillen, from his seat in District 2, who was narrowly defeated by Nikki Bas, whom the unions supported. Apparently Abel didn’t offer enough to the unions during budget negotiations while he was on the council. He was an excellent, dedicated, and effective city council member during his one term 2014-2018. There was no good reason to dump him, except that he didn’t cave to the SEIU demands. Now the SEIU is trying to do the same thing in District 3.
While Carroll may sound good, her inexperience, lack of a plan, and more importantly, her heavy financial backing from SEIU concerns me. Vote for Lynette!