Make Oakland Better Now!’s Mayoral Candidate Questionnaire was answered by 8 of the ten candidates. All of the completed questionnaires are available for viewing at our web site, here. Since some Oaklanders may want to compare candidate responses to each of the questions, we will be publishing the responses sorted by question here at Oaktalk over the coming days. You’ll find these posts for the first sixteen questions directly below this one.
This is our second post on a subject all candidates – and practically everyone else – agrees is key: economic development.
Question No. 17: What, if anything, does Oakland have to learn from Emeryville, Berkeley or other cities about how to effectively use Enterprise Zones and redevelopment funding to attract and retain businesses? What, if anything, have other cities done that Oakland will start doing if you are mayor?
If you have followed my campaign at all you know that this is a major issue to me. The other candidates have barely mentioned the Enterprise Zone while I have gone to great lengths in the forums to carefully explain the value of it. This is the most powerful tool the city has to create jobs. Incredibly the city council has budgeted $0. dollars to the Enterprise Zone leaving the one employee to pay for herself by processing $10 dollar vouchers.
Oakland’s Enterprise Zone creates an opportunity to substantially improve our business attraction, as it offers significant State tax breaks to employers for hiring local workers and workers from other target groups, but we must dramatically improve our public outreach and promotion of this program as part of a substantial improvement to our public outreach efforts more generally. We must make this information more readily available, and promote it to business considering locating here. Other cities have done a better job of outreach and promotion (though we have the same tax credits), and thus, we can focus on improving those strategies. Berkeley and Emeryville have worked effectively to use the Oakland Enterprise Zone to attract business, and we must do no less. In addition, we can learn from other best practices, such as Portland, Oregon, which has a collaborative team of City officials and local business leaders who work together on targeted business attraction efforts.
We must focus our efforts, including those using redevelopment funding, on sectors that are viable and able to produce jobs and revenue. And we must combine these strategies with efforts to improve our infrastructure, fix roads and sidewalks and provide effective signage, good lighting, pedestrian safety improvements, and more to create an atmosphere conducive to business attraction and retention. In addition, we must strengthen our use of our own local businesses on City/Agency contracts and projects, so that local dollars recirculate in our community, are spent locally, and so spur further local economic opportunity. Strong local hire requirements have been successful throughout California and can be successful in Oakland.
On this I will keep quiet for the most part, but there is much for us to learn from others.
San Jose has made some strides in Restorative Justice.
Richmond moves forward with some good ideas in policing.
A local enterprise zone took in companies that could have been here.
Emeryville got much of what could have easily have been located in Oakland. In fact, it is no coincidence the former assistant city manager of Oakland led the economic rebirth of little Emeryville. What we know empirically is that doing more of what Oakland city government has done in the past will ensure the same results in the future.
Well beyond retail amenities and popular entertainment venues, Oakland has prime opportunities to capitalize on our four medical centers to build a medical district and research center second to none in Northern California. But without a skillful mayor leading the way, it will not happen.
Juxtapose Mayor Gavin Newsom’s tenure of achievement across the bay with Oakland’s last four years.
[CM Quan’s responses to Questions 16 and 17 were combined, and her response to Question 16 can be seen here.]
I believe that the underlying Enterprise Zone concept is a good one. Care must be had to ensure that the return Oakland receives, in terms of increased employment for our residents and eventual increases in our tax revenues, surpasses our initial expenditures in land allocation and tax breaks. That said, I believe that modified Enterprise Zones, which combine city-granted incentives with strong oversight to ensure our goals are met are most appropriate.
What we can learn from other cities is that these initiatives have been largely successful but are fraught with unexpected consequences. For instance, the City of Emeryville has certainly increased its tax base through redevelopment, but it has also suffered a concentrated area of traffic congestion as a result of the concentration of businesses within a relatively small geographic area.
In an area as geographically large and as economically diverse as Oakland, I believe that, while the initial focus will be on already established retail areas such as the Broadway corridor, the appropriate scope of such an initiative is city-wide. This not only allows us to rezone blighted and under-utilized land in a way that will benefit the residents of those areas and those businesses receiving the benefits of Enterprise Zoning, but also ensures benefits to the city overall by increasing local employment in impoverished areas, maximizing the productivity of our real estate, and facilitating the efficient transportation of people into and out of those areas. As these zones bear fruit, the increased tax base can be reinvested into infrastructure improvements such as rehabilitating blighted areas and increasing the viability of public and shared transit operations. Such an approach has already been proven in the dock areas of London, and I have every expectation that Oakland, with its greater natural beauty and far more pleasant climate can do even better.
I do not know about comparisons with Emeryville or other cities. I do know that these redevelopment funds can be used to develop small businesses, which are the engine that drives Oakland, to increase their bottom line. We can send them employees to train and require that they give $1,000.00 stipends or scholarships to non-profits who receive little or no federal funds, but provide services to the needy. Oakland is not Emeryville or Berkeley, and I thank God for it.
15 years ago Emeryville looked up to Oakland. A large amount of the projects in Emeryville wanted to transform in Oakland and now Oakland looks up to Emeryville. You need to get those old dogs out of here that has stifled the progress of Oakland. You need to get new blood, with fresh ideas and a solid vision for the future of the City of Oakland.