Oakland Candidates for Office
Oakland Mayor: #1 Cat Brooks, #2 Pamela Price, #3 Saied Karamooz
Cat Brooks is a Black Lives Matter and anti-police violence activist. Pamela Price is a civil rights attorney fresh off nearly unseating Alameda County’s terrible DA. Saied Karamooz is a Green party activist and advocate for a public bank. Any of them would be an improvement over incumbent mayor Libby Schaaf, who’s been mired in scandal for covering up sex trafficking of a minor by the Oakland PD, and whose business-friendly platform has worsened gentrification. Oakland tends to not re-elect mayors, but all challengers entered the race pretty late and Schaaf is deep seated and well-funded.
Oakland City Auditor: Courtney Ruby
Courtney Ruby is the old Auditor running to oust the one who succeeded her. She’s pretty well regarded, and the incumbent is viewed to be ineffectual.
Oakland City Council
District 2: Nikki Fortunato Bas, #2 Kenzie Smith
Nikki Fortunato Bas is a long-time local labor activist, working through non-profits to support garment workers. She’s been a leader in successful campaigns to raise the city’s minimum wage, to require real estate developers to hire local residents, and to reduce air pollution around the port. Her platform includes strengthening anti-displacement measures for tenants, stronger rent control, strengthening police accountability, and environmental health measures. She’s won the support of a broad swath of labor and progressive community groups.
Kenzi Smith is a community activist who became famous overnight as the target of ‘BBQ Becky,’ when a white woman called the police to complain he was enjoying a cookout at Lake Merritt. That lead to his appointment to the Parks commission, and his decision to challenge incumbent Abel Guillen. Guillen is one of the more conservative city council members and faces ethics complaints for accepting donations from real estate developers behind a project pending city council approval, we suggest you leave him off your ballot altogether.
District 4: #1 Pam Harris, #2 Sheng Thao #3 Nayeli Maxson
Pamela Harris is an accomplished documentary filmmaker and an inspiring speaker. She’s called for a real living wage in the Bay–noting that in San Francisco, that would realistically be $40/hr–supports union jobs, and favors supporting Oakland’s diversity through both economic and cultural equity. She’s gained the endorsement of community organizations and leaders from the far left to the center, including that of the outgoing incumbent.
Sheng Thao is the labor candidate, having secured support from an assortment of progressive unions and non-profit groups. She promises to be exceptionally available to her constituents through frequent town halls and office hours, proposes using unspent homelessness prevention money to buy a shuttered SRO and open publicly-run transitional housing, and to migrate public services like illegal dumping clean-up and pothole-filling from a complain-and-wait to a proactive service model.
Nayeli Maxson is to both their right, having endorsed and been endorsed by Buffy Wicks. Still, it’s a crowded field and the remaining candidates are even more conservative, so we’d recommend rounding out your ballot with her.
District 6: #1 Desley Brooks, #2 Mya Whitaker #3 Marlo Rodriguez
Desley Brooks is not perfect. Many have likely heard about her misadventures with a Black Panther Party member-turned-housing developer, and other incidents. But at the end of the day, she represents her community, and has been a reliable progressive vote on the Oakland Council. The Schaff machine is out to get her though, and they’ve used every excuse they can find to paint her in a bad light. She’s been endorsed by Bobby Seale, founder of the Black Panther Party, ACCE Action, Oakland Rising Action, and many labor organizations.
Mya Whitaker is an accomplished recent college grad who grew up in the district and serves on the police accountability board. Her platform includes anti-displacement protections for longtime residents, trauma-informed mental health care for youth living in difficult conditions, promoting small businesses over large developments, and a preventative approach to crime reduction. As a first-time candidate, she doesn’t yet have a voting record we can parse to make a fully informed recommendation, but she seems likely to be politically successful over the long haul. If you have misgivings about Desley Brooks, Mya Whitaker would also be an excellent choice for #1.
Marlo Rodriguez is a union nurse and community activist. Her platform includes reducing police violence through training and accountability, expanding affordable housing through add-on units and development, and attracting a grocery store to the food-desert flatlands in the district. We have qualms with her approach to curbing police violence and crime through improved community/cop relations, but we expect her to be more progressive than the remaining 2 candidates, who are more closely aligned with our neoliberal mayor.
Oakland School Director
District 2: Aimee Eng
District 4: Clarissa Doutherd
The Oakland teachers’ union (OEA) has thrown all their energy behind Doutherd this year. She’s running on equitable funding for all schools, democratic & transparent control of school district finances, and developing full-service ‘community schools’ that support kids & their families’ needs outside of just education. As a non-profit director, she’s been very successful in expanding access to & funding for childcare for low-income families, and is generally seen as an opponent of Oakland’s pro-charter/pro-privatization school board.
District 6: Shanthi Gonzales
Strong progressive, proponent of public schools, and labor ally. Running unopposed.
Oakland Ballot Initiatives
Measure V: Yes
This changes several regulations to the Oakland cannabis industry. One would be letting cannabis businesses pay their taxes in 4 installments a year instead of one huge annual tax bill, which would help smaller business keep up with their tax burden. It would give them the tax break on their raw materials which other manufacturing businesses already get. And it would let the city council make future changes to cannabis business regulation, so we don’t have to have a ballot initiative about it every time they want to change these codes. Business-enabling legislation isn’t really our wheelhouse, but these all seem like sensible moves to treat cannabis businesses like regular businesses, so, sure. Literally no one bothered filing an argument against it.
Measure W: Yes!
This would create a new tax on properties left vacant or almost-vacant (used less than 50 days per year) to fund homelessness services and clean up illegal dumping. The tax is progressive, with 3 tiers of higher rates as properties get more expensive, and is expected to raise $10 million a year. Measure W was a latecomer to the ballot and has flown pretty low (apart from some skeezy real estate industry campaigns against it), but it’s an excellent idea from every angle. Gentrification often encourages property owners to leave perfectly good homes and storefronts vacant in the hopes of attracting a high-end buyer or tenant someday, while locking out or kicking out the people who’re already there. Our homelessness services are dramatically underfunded for the crisis we’re facing. Taxing vacant spaces to fund homelessness services raises desperately needed money while punishing landlords for letting homes sit empty. And Oakland’s inadequate trash pick-up lead to lots of illegal dumping, which is an environmental mess, frequently blocks sidewalks for pedestrians and people using wheelchairs, and is insulting to the residents of working class communities left covered in trash. This is a strong yes.
Measure X: Yes
Similar to Berkeley’s Measure P, this raises the transfer tax (the sales tax on real estate) in a progressive way: the rate goes up for more expensive properties, and there are breaks built in for low-income & first-time homebuyers. Unlike Berkeley’s tax, the lower tier (1%) would apply to all real estate sales. The current transfer tax is a flat rate of 1.5%, so this makes properties under $300K properties a tad cheaper, holds the rate steady for $300K to $2 million sales, and raises taxes on everything over $2 million: luxury housing and big commercial projects. The money, like our existing transfer tax, would go to the city’s general fund. We’re all for taxing the rich, so this is a welcome change. And because the tax is only paid when properties are sold, it should not affect people staying in their homes.
Measure Y: Yes!
This measure takes the protections against unfair eviction that most Oaklanders already enjoy, and expands them to cover people living in duplexes and triplexes. Tenants in single-family homes and bigger apartment buildings can only be evicted for ‘just cause’, that is, only for specific violations of their lease, like failing to pay rent or doing damage to the property. This closes the loophole that lets landlords who live in one apartment in a 2- or 3- unit building evict their tenants in the other units for no reason (it would still allow homeowner/landlords who have roommates to evict people from within a shared home without cause). Measure Y was buoyed by investigative journalists going undercover at real estate open houses & getting footage of agents telling would-be buyers how to buy a small apartment building & evict all the existing residents to increase the rent. Vote yes.
Measure Z: Yes!!!
This would set the minimum wage for hotel workers (at hotels with more than 50 rooms) to $15/hr, (or $20/hr if the job doesn’t offer benefits), give them a panic button when working alone in rooms with guests, and resources to report threats and receive paid time off for counseling if they sustain violence in the workplace, and place restrictions on workload. It also gives the city the resources to enforce labor laws across the city. Hotel workers–especially immigrant women of color–have fought hard to win these benefits: they’re frequently underpaid, overworked, and subject to on the job sexual violence. As a result of their organizing, not only would their own jobs be improved, but the new Department of Workplace and Employment Standards this initiative sets up would make it easier for all workers to demand their bosses be held to the letter of the law.
Measure AA: Yes
A similar measure to fund childcare and public early education just barely failed in the primary, it’s back now in the form of a $198/yr property tax (with exemptions for low-income property owners). It would also set aside funds to reduce disparities in post-high school education outcomes, that is, help kids prepare for, apply to, and figure out how to pay for college. The high cost and low availability of childcare and preschool are disastrous for working class families. Working class moms, especially, find that their ability to work is hampered by insufficient childcare, or that all their wages are eaten up by the costs of sending their kid somewhere safe and educational while they work. Racial disparities in earning power and childcare availability means this deepens racial inequality, and there is a notable trend towards criminalizing parents who can’t pay for childcare. Universal, free-to-use childcare is a key socialist feminist project, and this at least establishes public funding to fill the gap for lower-income families.
On the other hand, some progressive groups have criticized the measure for routing the money through a politically controlled board of appointees rather than sending it directly to public programs like Head Start, and worry the pretty steep price tag represents an inflated budget and might deter voters from other necessary tax measures in the future. In short, it’s clear the goals of the initiative are vital, but we’re gambling a bit that this measure will accomplish them well.