Kaplan for Oakland council
This year the Oakland City Council will get at least three new members and that is welcome news to residents. For too long the council has been dysfunctional, to the point that meetings have been canceled because protesters have halted proceedings. That shouldn't happen in local government and, when it does, it's clear that new leadership is needed. On the other hand, voters have an opportunity to retain one of the councilmembers who is effective and who has shaken things up since she took office four years ago.
We're endorsing two candidates for the November election: Sean Sullivan in District 3, and incumbent Rebecca Kaplan for the at-large seat.
Oakland's District 3 is a vibrant mix that includes West Oakland, downtown and Uptown, Telegraph and Mosswood, Adams Point, Eastlake, and Jack London Square. Of the six candidates running, Sean Sullivan has the experience and background to begin work immediately. He almost won against the incumbent four years ago and this time the seat is open. Sullivan is a gay man who understands neighbors' concerns about public safety, and attracting businesses to the district.
One of the big problems in Oakland right now is the police department. It faces a federal takeover in December if a federal judge decides that not enough progress has been made fixing numerous deficiencies, all stemming from the infamous Riders case back in 2000 in which some officers were accused of beating and framing suspects in West Oakland. The city paid out millions of dollars in lawsuits stemming from the cases and OPD was ordered to make substantial reforms. To date, according to a San Francisco Chronicle article this week, several of the reforms have not been completed. Sullivan told us that he hopes the department is not placed in federal receivership. If that happens, he said, the city might be ordered to hire 1,000 officers and that would immediately shut down libraries, parks and result in more furloughs of other city workers. Instead, he would like to see the department complete the reforms on its own.
Public safety is a dominant issue in Oakland, which just had its 100th homicide of the year this week. But Sullivan does not support gang injunctions or curfews for young people. He has said that he favors more community policing in the district, where officers walk the beats and get to know people in the neighborhood. And he does support hiring more officers, but at a rate that the city can afford. Right now there is an academy in session with 35 potential officers. "What we need to do, we need to continue to fund police academies," he told us. "We also need to get more police on the streets." He pointed out that the city purchased a fleet of bicycles for police, but that they are largely unused – he would like to change that.
Sullivan believes the culture of the police department needs to change, including greater training around diversity.
Next to public safety, the economy is an equally important issue as Oakland struggles with high unemployment, particularly in communities of color. A Target store that opened last year on the Oakland-Emeryville border employs local residents and brought in an unexpected $6 million in tax revenue, he noted. Plans for the former Oakland Army Base must include smart growth. He envisions some of the tech jobs in Emeryville migrating to West Oakland and wants to change the perception that Oakland is unfriendly to business and unsafe.
Sullivan would be a strong addition to the City Council. He would be the first out gay man in several years, in a city that has an increasing LGBT population. He is an advocate for more transparency in local government – something that the city desperately needs.
The city of Oakland is divided into seven council districts and then there is the eighth seat, at-large, which represents the entire city. Out lesbian Rebecca Kaplan won this seat in a landside four years ago and deserves a second term. Kaplan's path to re-election became complicated this summer when longtime District 5 Councilman Ignacio De La Fuente decided to run against her rather than seek re-election to his Fruitvale area seat. It's been speculated that De La Fuente entered the at-large race in an effort to bolster his chances at running for mayor in two years.
Kaplan is the city's most popular political leader and has managed to accomplish several initiatives since taking office. Perhaps most importantly, she voted against the police layoffs a couple years ago, although she was on the short end of that vote. She supports Operation Ceasefire (as does Sullivan), an innovative crime prevention program that works with offenders and offers them help. She supports creative and successful programs to help with ex-felon re-entry, which are necessary for the city where a majority of crimes are committed by ex-offenders, who are often released from prison with no resources to make positive changes in their lives.
Kaplan helped secure funding for the free Broadway shuttle bus service that provides residents and visitors alike with transportation to work, shopping, or dining in the city's well-known restaurants. The formation of business improvement districts has led to safety ambassadors for downtown and Uptown, a program Kaplan would like to see expanded.
Another issue Kaplan has addressed is blight and she has tried to make reporting easier for residents.
Regarding job development Kaplan supports the Army Base redevelopment, the Coliseum City project, and the $7.7 billion countywide transportation plan that would bring thousands of good-paying union jobs to Oakland.
Oakland finds itself at a turning point, as the economy slowly rebounds, the city must take advantage of programs and development that will add to its tax base, which in turn would enable the city to hire more police officers (it is woefully understaffed with only 631 sworn officers). But those officers need to be better trained and respectful of the city's residents. The city needs to strengthen its outreach to a growing LGBT community, and include out people on boards and commissions. Oakland has long been viewed as the step-sister of San Francisco; with its vibrant nightlife and foodie scene, Oakland is beginning to come into its own. But Oakland needs leadership: Sullivan and Kaplan are two capable people who can help lead the city into its future.
To view the complete list of B.A.R. endorsements, click here: www.ebar.com/down loads/2012_endorsements.pdf.