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 seventeen questions directly below this one.
Our final two questions deal with two sides of the same policy coin: providing quality services in tough economic times, and getting the message out to the world that Oakland is a great city. In our final post, we set out the candidates’ answers to both questions.
Question 18. What, if anything, can Oakland city government learn from other cities about how to maximize its ability to provide quality services to its citizens in difficult economic times?
Question 19. The majority of Oaklanders love their city, and believe it has unparalleled positive elements that are simply not recognized in the rest of the state and country, including history, diversity, and vibrant activity in its culture, arts, restaurants, etc. Does the mayor have a role in getting this message out there, and how should the city send this message?
Answer to 18: Oakland can learn a lot from other cities about how to provide services during tough budgetary times. As Mayor I will work closely with the League of California Cities and my peer mayors to adopt the best practices of other cities. Something that many successful cities do is budget over a much longer time-horizon than Oakland does (we redo the budget every few months currently). We need to identify budget shortfalls well ahead of the fiscal year, look for all revenue opportunities in advance and not simply within the context of fixing one year’s shortfall, and we must budget for the long-term. This means not delaying pension payments for a decade, not allowing our streets to fall into such disrepair that maintenance costs skyrocket, and taking the time needed to craft revenue measures in such a way that they can succeed at the ballot box. We can also adopt best practices from other cities in a range of areas, such as those who have effective blight reporting (e.g. Boston area, which even has an iPhone blight reporting application) and blight enforcement (e.g. Richmond, CA), stronger local hiring procedures (e.g. East Palo Alto), better use of strategic infrastructure investments to attract economic revitalization (e.g. Portland Oregon’s streetcar), innovative programs to improve the environmental and economic health of their Ports (Los Angeles and Long Beach), and strategies to provide smart growth and urban density in an attractive and livable manner (e.g. Toronto, Vancouver, Seattle).
Answer to 19: Yes, the Mayor both as Chief Executive Officer and as Chief Advocate for Oakland has a role to play in improving the public perception of Oakland. I love our City and am always pleased to have an opportunity to share the amazing things happening here, from cutting edge arts and fabulous new dining, to green technology and cultural revitalization. I will be a very active and engaged Mayor, promoting Oakland to businesses and tourism boards as a lively City that’s experiencing a Renaissance. I will be present, dedicated, and actively engaged in outreach and I will use opportunities to highlight our cultural assets and environmental leadership. I will personally tell the positive stories of our city, and make sure the public and the press are aware of them. And I will help improve Oakland’s image by improving Oakland – creating a City with public safety, a thriving economy, and beautiful and healthy neighborhoods for everyone to enjoy.
Answer to 18: I would like to have us open our view and not only look around our area, state and country, but also look around more internationally. Many parts of the world do a lot of civic improvement without spending so much money, because they never had it. Our core communities include a large number or Mexicans and Central Americans who have personally experienced different urban models that are closer to us than New York and more relevant to our way of life. All of our immigrant communities have stories to tell and can show leadership in brining in fresh ideas. Oakland has personal contact with such ideas, so instead of just picking which ones I think are good, I would like to engage our grass roots groups to propose and hold up other projects as examples of what we would like here.
Answer to 19: I have been asked by a lot of journalists what I think of Oakland image out in the world, in the press and in our own eyes. That question has made me conclude that I will not work on the image. I will work on the reality. We need to get the schools further up, the crime further down, the employment and business environment more healthy and we need to value and nurture our multi ethnic community. If we do that, then the image will take care of itself.
Answer to 18: I believe questions 18 and 19 share a common thread, and so offer my thoughts on them jointly:
Frankly, there are ample resources and object lessons to be learned in Oakland from our talented citizenry and many current employees without needing to cross another city’s boundary.
We have a dynamic new superintendent of schools leading a long overdue recovery of local public education. Oakland must embrace that renewal and not treat schools like another country.
We have a first rate police chief hired to reform the beleaguered Oakland Police Department. We should support his professional judgment. He certainly has won the attention and confidence of the citizens in his short time here.
Like education, transit, mental health, homelessness, and environmental quality all, are provided by non-city governments. But that does not mean the mayor shouldn’t be aggressive on the city’s behalf. Oakland is more in need of these services than any other city in the county. The mayor must be the preeminent political force to get what we need and frankly, what we deserve.
Oakland is a great city. Great cities require great schools, natural beauty, geography, cultural amenities and opportunities, warmth of diversity and a vibrant citizenry. We have it all.
We are lacking only the dynamic leadership from the mayor’s office. If you like the last four years, there are at least two council incumbents to vote for who will continue those failed policies.
I won’t. It’s less about what I say or promise, than my record of achievement and record of leadership. It’s your choice. We work for you. Who is most likely to personify Oakland’s past, and who its promise and return us to prominence?
I’d be proud to have your vote, and honored to be your mayor.
Answer to 19: See Question #18
Answer to 18: The other top ten green cities especially Seattle and Portland and nearby San Francisco are similar enough that our efforts nudge each other forward especially on environmental efforts. We are looking at the Harlem Kids Zone as a model to break the cycle of poverty and school failure. We are looking at Los Angeles’ court victory on Clean Air fees for their port and holding the trucking industry responsible for emissions. I have talked about the Baltimore Online Performance Measures elsewhere.
Answer to 19: Absolutely. As the first woman Mayor of Oakland and first Chinese American Mayor of a major American city I hope to embody and promote our cultural treasures and our great diversity. I plan to develop a marketing plan for the city in conjunction with the Oakland Convention services, corporate public relations officers, and the many talented media located in the city. This includes having an international strategy to investors in Asia.
Answer to 18: I think that the most important thing that we can take away from other cities is the simple fact that efficiency is key to the effective provision of services to our residents. The simple fact of the matter is that our city is rife with inefficiency. We have duplicative positions, an untenable bureaucracy, and too much balkanization among our city departments.
Early in this campaign, a city employee relayed a story to me that I think is instructive. When a grant of federal money is allocated to our city for a specific purpose, say park maintenance, there is a certain amount paid to the city by our federal government. In an efficient system, that money, say $10 million, would go directly to the department that cleans and maintains our parks. They would then spend that money and the maximum benefit of the grant would go to all of us. That, unfortunately, is not our reality.
The reality is that the grant money stops at three, four, or five other interim departments, some of which were created for the sole purpose of acting as intermediaries. Every time that original $10 million stops at one of these departments, administrative fees, the cost of running the department, is taken out of the grant. The result of this practice is that by the time the original $10 million grant reaches the department it was intended for it is now $8 million or $7 million or maybe even less.
The way things are now, the residents of Oakland gain the benefit of only a fraction of most grants given us because so many unnecessary middle-man departments have taken their share before the funds arrive at their intended destination. As Mayor, I will eliminate any middle-man department under my control unless it can demonstrate that the benefit it confers to our residents warrants the cut it takes from our citizen’s funds. If such a department or program is under the control of the City Council, I will actively advocate that they take the same steps and, if they refuse, I will use the bully pulpit of the Mayor’s office to let you know they have done so. As Mayor, I will do all I can to eliminate waste in our city government and when I need your help, I will ask you for it. Together, we can ensure that our residents, and not some entrenched bureaucracy or special interest, benefit from every dollar our city spends. As your Mayor, I promise you t hat we will maximize our ability to provide quality services to our citizens
Answer to 19: The simple answer to the first part of your question is yes. The Mayor of Oakland not only has a role in promoting the hidden excellence of our city but, in my opinion, an effective Mayor has the predominant role in advocating all aspects of Oakland, not only to the residents of the Bay Area and our state but to all the peoples of the world. The second aspect of your question requires an answer that provides a bit more depth.
First, the fact is that in our modern media-saturated world, perception is often more important than reality. Currently, despite all of our inherent attributes, the sad truth is that Oakland is perceived as an unattractive, dangerous place by most outsiders. While much of this perception is misplaced, the fact remains that we now must address a serious public safety problem that has languished, unaddressed by our career politicians, for years and has seriously impacted our ability to promote the true greatness of Oakland. My common sense plan for increasing and better utilizing police presence in our city will have the dual benefit of increasing the safety of our residents while also changing the perception of Oakland as a place that is not attractive to visit.
Second, it is vital that we improve the economic viability of our city. My plan to increase the proportion of private sector employment in Oakland, which will institute business friendly development policies that will actively court private sector employers and will include a focus on retail businesses that are willing to give hiring preference to local workers, here in Oakland. This will not only increase the employment opportunities for Oaklanders, particularly the lowest income residents among us, and increase funding to the city through an enlarged tax base but will also provide an increased incentive for people outside of the city to visit Oakland.
Finally, once we have implemented my programs and have seen the positive results they will bear, the city must begin to actively promote all of our attributes, from our climate and natural beauty to our world-class entertainment and sports franchises, to our, now improved, retail opportunities to the rest of our state and beyond. I would not be opposed, given the availability of funds following the success of my business plan, to create some kind of public-private joint venture that utilized the power of the Mayor’s Office in combination with established advocacy groups such as the Chamber of Commerce and public relations firms to actively promote the achievements we have made and to actively change the perception of our city to reflect the reality that we, as Oakland residents already recognize. That our city is the jewel of the Bay Area.
Answer to 18: 1. Not to spend money it hasn’t got. 2. They also should have learned to think outside of the box and envision a better Oakland, with a citizenry that deserves a shopping mall, an amusement park, a roller skating rink, a bowling alley and a greener, more environmentally friendly city.
Answer to 19: Asked and answered #15
Answer to 18: We should look at cities that are self sufficient, and realize that the people of Oakland are Oakland’s customers and they are the most important people to our city. The people of Oakland will always be my number one concern. Not developers, not city administrators that don’t even live in this town, but want to decide what’s built and what is torn down, and who to extort money from this week!
Answer to 19: Yes! As mayor I will be your #1 cheerleader like I have been for the last 44 years. As Mayor Oakland will become a beacon of love and hope with an even playing field that I will level for all rite here rite now. A vote for Fields is a vote for yourself. Help us bring this historic change now, rather than having more of the same for another 4-8 years. Thank you sincerely for this opportunity.
Answer to 18: I’ve learned a lot by reading other cities budgets. I’ve learned for example that Santa Ana found a new process for resurfacing streets that is much more cost effective. I also learned a great deal from some long conversations with Vallejo’s Mayor Ozby Davis. He was very generous with me in spending time discussing his experience with bankruptcy. I also learned a lot by reading the Vallejo case court records.
Answer to 19: I think once we’ve corrected the cities problems the message will get out on its own but I will be its biggest promoter. We can make Oakland better than its ever been before. I look forward to a day when Oakland is a leader in future technologies and crime along with unemployment is a thing of the past. When that day comes I want to remember John Kennedy’s words “failure is an orphan while success has a thousand fathers”. I love this city and it would be a pleasure and honor to be a part of this change.