Oakland City Attorney: No Recommendation
Incumbent Barbara Parker is facing a challenge from a staffer in the City Attorney’s office, Eli Ferran. Left and progressive endorsements are split, with many groups not weighing in at all & few releasing their rationales. Parker has been criticized for being unresponsive to police violence, but is pretty strong on tenant’s rights; Ferran has shown some interest in reigning in the cops but, per the Green Party voter guide, stopped short of making any strong commitments. Meanwhile the realtor lobby, notoriously anti-tenant and pro-police, has spent generously on Ferran’s campaign. We don’t feel well informed enough to make a definitive recommendation here.
Oakland City Council
Oakland City Council At-Large: Rebecca Kaplan
Kaplan’s facing a well-funded revenge challenge after her (failed) attempt to put a small tax on rideshare apps. Lyft teamed up with YIMBY & East Bay for Everyone leaders (much to the consternation of some of their rank-and-file members) to funnel $100,000 into an anti-Kaplan PAC, trying to unseat her from the right in favor of businessman Derreck.Johnson. Kaplan’s had some missteps (voting against, and then for, a substantial defunding of the police this summer) but she’s a reliable progressive force on the council, and we should not let anti-labor tech companies buy themselves a seat on our city council.
Oakland City Council District 1: Dan Kalb
Kalb’s a little closer to a swing vote on the city council, a dedicated environmentalist who’s also voted to sell public land to developers over the objections of affordable housing advocates.
He’s facing a slick challenge from the right in Steph Walton, wealthy real estate agent who’s using her ties to centrist Democrat Buffy Wicks to launch a political career. While she’s focused a lot of her campaign rhetoric on her identity as a mom and a business woman from a multiracial background, a closer look reveals she’s definitely challenging Kalb from the right–promising to smooth the path for real estate developers in the hope they’ll lower prices, rather than supporting social housing or stronger tenants rights.
We give Kalb the Ed Markey Award for candidate we’ll be damned to see unseated from the right.
Oakland City Council District 3: Carroll Fife
This one’s easy. The longtime incumbent, Lynette McElhaney, has been embroiled in scandal after scandal–most recently, it was revealed she’s being investigated for accepting donations of money from a city contractor laundered through his son, to pay for the legal fees she incurred from a previous investigation into allegations she took donations from a real estate developer who was trying to get a development approved by the council. She’s opposed tenant’s rights laws and sped the gentrification & displacement of her West Oakland district.
Her primary opponent, Carroll Fife, is the perfect opposition. Fife is the local director of tenants rights group par excellence Alliance of Californians for Community Empowerment (ACCE) & was a key organizer for the successful Moms 4 Housing action, in which homeless Black mothers and their kids occupied a West Oakland home kept vacant by corporate real estate speculators, until the owner agreed to hand the home over to a land trust. Fife’s platform is a left dream, and she’s secured the backing of a wide coalition of labor unions & left groups, managing to out-campaign and out-fundraise her opponent. Given the current composition of the council, if Kaplan and Kalb keep their seats and Fife wins, we could see real defunding of the police & other stalled left priorities.
Oakland City Council District 5: #1 Zoe Lopez-Meraz #2 Richard Santos Raya
Longtime incumbent Noel Gallo is one of the more conservative members of the city council, but not consistently so. He’s also fairly popular with D5 residents, being the kind of old-fashioned retail politician who goes to every public event and does volunteer trash pick-up on weekends, then votes against defunding police during the week. He’s attracted 2 challengers from the left, Richard Santos Raya and Zoe Lopez-Meraz. Lopez-Meraz supports defunding the police and the Black New Deal, a package of anti racist, social-democratic reforms also championed by Carroll Fife, as part of a radical platform focused on housing the unhoused, cutting the police budget, following through with opening a public bank, & more. She’s running a shoestring campaign with lots of street art. Raya also supports cutting the police budget and the Black New Deal, but some Oakland politics-watchers are a little suspicious of his well-funded campaign–his parents are close friends with the mayor, who’s been making heavy-handed plays to replace the council with her personal allies. His platform is certainly to the left of both Gallo and Schaaf, but we’ll see if he follows through.
Oakland City Council District 7: Aaron Clay #1, Treva Reid #2
This seat is open following the retirement of one of Oakland’s more conservative Democratic city council members, Larry Reid, and a whole swath of candidates have emerged to compete for it. Clay is the most prominent left challenger, Reid is well to the left of her father but would be a swing vote on the council, and a few candidates are running from the right, including Rev. Bob Jackson.
Clay promises to cut the police budget, shifting funds to prevention & support services, providing universal housing through new construction, eviction protection, and supportive housing. However, Jackson and Reid are outspending him considerably, and Jackson could plausibly win. That’s why we suggest ranking Reid second–she also supports tenant’s rights & eviction protections (especially emergency measures for Covid), emphasizes the nuts and bolts of addressing Oakland corruption & inefficiency, and transferring money out of the police budget into effective-but-underfunded violence prevention programs for the district. We don’t generally like political dynasties, but her politics seem to be genuinely different from her father’s, and it’s important to block the right flank of Oakland politics.
Oakland School Board
We’ve decided to follow the Oakland Education Association’s (OEA, the union for teachers) first-place rankings for a couple reasons–1) they chose great candidates this year, 2) Teachers have a stake in our public education system and follow school board politics closely, 3) The OEA has a deep commitment to bargaining fo the common good, and foregrounds whats best for their students. Second place rankings come from the Wellstone Democratic Club’s candidate interviews. These are ranked-choise races, so we’ve recommended rankings & noted the worst candidates as well.
Oakland Unified School District Director, District 1: Sam Davis #1, Stacy Thomas #2
Davis graduated from, taught at, and now sends his kids to Oakland schools (he now works for Cal, in a college-readiness program) His main issues are expanding college readiness, increased budget accountability & improving vocational & technical programs.
Thomas is a professional bookkeeper & also promises to tackle OUSD’s mysterious and messed-up budget. She’s a mentor in Oakland Yout Court, a restorative justice program.
We recommend you not rank Austin Dannhaus, the candidate running with anti-public education/Bloomberg privatization front group GO Public Schools.
Oakland Unified School District Director, District 3: VanCedric Williams #1, Cherisse Gash #2
Williams is a long-term high school teacher in SF, treasurer of their teacher’s union, and an long-term Oakland resident. Oakland Unified School District employees can’t serve on the school board, and the position doesn’t carry a full salary, making it very difficult to elect teachers to the board–the Oakland teachers have found a good work-around here, nominating someone who’s both an Oaklander and a teacher. His platform emphasizes recruiting & retaining diverse, talented teachers, choosing achievement & technology gaps and reducing bullying.
Gash is a parent and longtime activist focused on fighting youth incarceration, and a member of anti-privatization group Oakland Not For Sale. She is, of course, very opposed to school privatization.
We recommend you not rank Mark Hurty or Maiya Edgerly anywhere on your ballot, as they are backed by pro-privatization organizations.
Oakland Unified School District Director, District 5: Mike Hutchinson
Hutchinson is a long-time activist for public schools–his mom was an Oakland teacher, he grew up in the schools and has made it his mission to fight for them. He’s a DSA member & founded a policy-focused watchdog group, OPEN-Oakland Public Education Network. He has a deep knowledge of the policy, budget, history & legal constraints on the school district, which will certainly be an asset in trying to reform a corrupt, entrenched system. His campaign priorities are fighting structural racism, giving students & community a say in district decisions (think of all the school closures that’ve proceeded despite intense, nearly unanimous, public outrage), and improving core academic programs.
We don’t have a clear second choice in this race but advise you not to rank Leroy Gaines, who’s running with the support from the Bloomberg-backed anti-public ed group GO Public Schools.
Oakland Unified School District Director, District 7: Ben Tapscott #1, Victor Valerio #2
“Coach” Ben Tapscott is a long-term figure in the education community–he was hired as the district’s first Black coach after students protested unequal hiring, and since his retirement he’s fought school closures and lead in school drinking fountains, to name just a few issues. The teachers recruited him to run, and with their backing, DSA, and a number of other endorsements, he’s running a strong race for a longtime activist but political newcomer. His main issues are improving graduation rates, fixing the ‘feeder’ system of neighborhood elementary->middle-> high schools, which as been disrupted by closures, and increasing teacher pay–Oakland teachers make much less than those in surrounding districts, often below a living wage, so bringing teacher pay up to par with the suburbs is key to attracting and retaining good teachers.
Valerio supports shifting the budget in towards an equity focus–more for underfunded & under-resourced schools, less for the central office. He supports fewer charters but declined to take a hardline stance against privatization. We advise you not to rank Clifford Thompson, who’s running with the support of GO Public Schools
Oakland Ballot Initiatives
Measure S1–Charter amendment to allow Police Commission to hire civilian inspector general: Yes
On paper, Oakland set up one of the strongest police oversight boards in the country in 2016. In practice, the commission has had multiple members resign in protest, claiming the city administrator and police have hampered their work. This initiative, introduced by Rebecca Kaplan and approved by the entire city council, would let the commission hire its own police inspector, rather let the city administrator choose for them. It should make the commission stronger and remove pro-police bias in investigations; vote yes.
Measure QQ–allow 16- and 17-year-olds to vote in Oakland school board elections: Yes
Pretty clear from the name, this measure would let Oakland 16- and 17 year olds vote, but only for school board rep. A similar initiative passed in Berkeley a few years ago with ~70% support, and this one has the backing of centrists (who see it as a nice way to instill civic pride) and leftists (who note the Oakland school system has ignored student protests, and that the majority of Oakland’s students are working class kids of color). Frankly there’s no good reason to oppose it.
Measure RR–Remove the cap code enforcement fines: Yes
A 1968 law caps the amount the city can charge for code violations at $1000, this initiative would remove that limit, and allow the city to set fines as it sees fit. The intent is to address illegal dumping–Oakland Rising supports the measure on the grounds that some businesses simply pay the $1000 fine over and over rather than paying the real cost of cleaning up their waste. We’d like to see a healthy skepticism around punitive fines and unequal enforcement once this is passed, but the city should have the tools to ensure businesses don’t use illegal pollution as a cost-saving measure forever.
Measure Y–$735 million bond for school upgrades: Yes
Oakland schools are in rough shape physically. We generally prefer to see spending through increased taxes on the wealthy rather than bond measures (which borrow against future tax revenues, paying out interests to whoever has the capital to buy the bonds), but still–the buildings need serious work (where are we in removing lead-tainted water fountains again?), and if there’s ever a good use for bonds, it’s getting a lot of money up front for big construction projects. Vote yes.
Alameda Superior Court Judge #2: Elena Condes
This judgeship is vacant following the retirement of the previous judge, so there’s a rare competitive race to fill the seat. Progressive groups have settled pretty much unanimously on Condes, a longtime solo practice attorney. Her opponent is Mark Fickes, a former prosecutor & SEC attorney who now does criminal defense for those charged by the SEC, and seems to have stretched things a bit to call himself a ‘civil rights lawyer’ on the ballot.
Condes meanwhile touts her experience as a trial lawyer with extensive,varied experience in court (most lawyers do not actually go to court much, if at all), endorsements from 20-something other judges, and perspective as a Latina lesbian who values inclusion. She notes that the vast majority of judges come from a prosecution or civil law background, and her experience with criminal defense would bring some balance & understanding of those facing incarceration. It was challenging to find much information on this race (judicial candidates strive to appear apolitical; Condes website mostly explains what the position is and gives her bio), but she seems qualified, concerned with equal justice, and very nice, so sure.
Alameda County Ballot Initiatives
Measure V–Utility Users Tax: Yes
This renews an existing tax to even out utility prices between Oakland and unincorporated county areas. We look forward to a state takeover of PG&E and a complete refiguring of gas & electricity pricing one of these days, but in the meantime we shouldn’t screw over our neighbors. If it passes, nothing changes.
Measure W–Half Cent Sales Tax Increase to Fund Homelessness Services: Yes
This is a half cent sales tax to fund support for homeless people & prevent homelessness through things like emergency rent support. The money will fund a little of everything–healthcare (including mental health & addiction), shelter space, outreach efforts, assistance in finding long-term housing & etc. It’s probably still not enough, and lacks a robust housing guarantee. But the services it will cover are deeply necessary–the population of unsheltered Oaklanders doubled in the last 4 years, and that’s pre-Covid. Only about a fifth of unhoused Oaklanders are able to stay in a shelter at any given time, much worse even than other US cities with a housing crisis. This is easy, vote yes.
AC Transit Board
AC Transit Board At-Large: Chris Peeples
Chris Peeples is the incumbent and the current AC Transit Board president. He’s been a tireless advocate for ensuring our transit system is disability-friendly. As a wheelchair user who relies on the bus himself, Peeples s quick to notice and demand action when the system falls short. He served as the expert witness when the AC Transit workers union sued for racially equitable transit funding & won.
Jones is a retired bus driver who’s depth of transit knowledge impressed us in her last run in 2016, when she addressed the need for equitable, efficient transit with more depth and clarity than the scandal-ridden incumbent of another seat, Joel Young.
The third candidate, Victoria Fierce, got her start as a provocative staffer for a pro-gentrification front group, accusing her would-be colleague, Afrolatina immigrant Jovanka Beckles, of supporting segregation for standing up to real estate developers (we don’t get it either), and recently making up wild accusations DSA is nationally “teaming up with Qanon.” Jones and Peeples would both be excellent choices, but leave Fierce off your ballot.
AC Transit Board Ward 2: Jean Walsh
A less dramatic transit race, Walsh doesn’t support free transit but does have the support of AC Transit workers against anti-labor incumbent Greg Harper. Transit workers have been squeezed for years–with low pay leading to constant understaffing, inadequate healthcare, long hours and sometimes no bathroom breaks–and the current board let their contract expire without negotiating a new deal. Replacing the anti-labor members of the board with people who will keep our system functional is key in the coming era of Covid-driven budget shortfalls.
District 7: Lateefah Simon
Simon has worked for racial justice and transit equity, moving from a client to staffer in direct service non-profits for low-income young women, then working with recently incarcerated people to support their re-entry, another NGO opposing criminalization of Black youth, becoming director of the Lawyer’s Committee on Civil Rights, and becoming the youngest woman ever to win a MacArthur genius grant. She ran for BART board as a disabled person who relies on public transit herself, and was elected president by her peers on the board.
On top of an impressive resume, we know she’s the candidate of choice because the BART Police have gone all-in on trying to unseat her. We’ll take that as a sign her opposition to police violence is sincere and effective.
Peralta Community College District
Area 1: Jeff Heyman
Our community colleges have suffered from years of mismanagement, with the board fucking up their finances so badly that it dropped their bond rating, making it much more expensive to borrow the money needed to repair buildings and expand to serve our growing population. The Peralta Federation of Teachers, the faculty union, has taken it upon themselves to try and replace problematic incumbents with fresh, competent new management. Last cycle they had some success, and this cycle they’re backing Heyman, a former whistleblower. SEIU and the left-liberal Wellstone Democratic Club have joined in, and his platform includes not violating transparency laws, not bankrupting the colleges, restoring worker listservs that were shut down to prevent employees from talking to each other about how poorly the colleges were managed, and helping students get green jobs.