Make Oakland Better Now! Questions All City Council Candidates

Oakland has 25 candidates running for city council in this November’s election. Seventeen are competing for  open seats in District 1, 3 and 5, two are challenging the incumbent in District 7 and four are challenging the incumbent at large. (If you aren’t sure which district you live in or who your council member is you can find out here.)

One of MOBN!’s missions has always been to empower Oakland voters, and nothing is more powerful than knowledge. So with the help of many MOBN! members and blog readers, we’ve developed a candidate questionnaire designed to gauge city council candidates’ views on some of the critical issues facing our city. We’ve asked the candidates to respond by September 12, and will post the answers as quickly as we can. Once posted, the MOBN! board will ask for your thoughts as it considers endorsements.

The questions we are asking appear right after the jump.

Question #1: Why do you want to be a city council member? What are your most relevant qualifications? What would you attempt to accomplish in your first four years?

Question #2: Oakland consistently has one of the highest violent crime rates in California. Tell us what you will do, beginning on your first day in office and for the four years following, to change this.

Question #3: Please point to the portions of your record in office (for incumbents), or your pre-candidacy experiences, that demonstrate your qualifications to address public safety and your commitment to do so.

Question #4: As a council member, would you specifically support 1) expanding the use of gang injunctions; 2) imposing youth curfews and truancy reduction programs; and/or 3) adopting a long-term, sustained Operation Ceasefire model for reducing gun violence, as proposed by criminologist David Kennedy?

Question #5: Measure Y expires at the end of 2014. Has it worked? Will you vote to renew it? What changes, if any, would you like to see if it’s renewed?

Question #6: In large part, Oakland’s leadership has attempted to deal with the fiscal downturn by searching for one-time income sources, implementing a citywide hiring freeze, mandating across-the-board reductions, and imposing work furloughs. Do you support this approach? What, if any, budget reforms would you work to implement? Do you believe the city has fully examined all possible avenues for cost reduction? If the city is required to make more cuts, what would you cut? Do you have any recommendations for increasing city revenues?

Question #7: Please point to the portions of your record in office (for incumbents), or your pre-candidacy experiences, that demonstrate your qualifications to address budget reform and your commitment to do so.

Question #8: The city council recently approved issuing more than $200 million in bonds to cover unmet Police and Fire Retirement System (PFRS) pension obligations — a retirement pension plan that stopped admitting new members in 1976. The city also estimates unfunded liabilities for retiree health benefits are more than $500 million and that a significantly underfunded Public Employee Retirement System (PERS) retirement liability exists in an amount yet to be determined. How should the city ensure it can pay its pension and other employee benefits obligations? Realizing that it is unknown what actions the state will take on these issues, please indicate what measures you will support if the state does and does not act.

Question #9: Do you believe the City of Oakland is properly and adequately doing what it should with respect to protecting its citizens’ rights to obtain public records? What changes, if any, would you advocate in this regard?

Question #10: What is the city council’s responsibility for adopting policies in providing direction to the city’s response to the Negotiated Settlement Agreement? When and how should this be done?

Question #11: In the aftermath of the October 25, 2011 Occupy Oakland incident, the city council commissioned an independent group to produce a report on what happened. In the resulting report, the Frazier group stated [page 78]: “Review of Occupy Oakland event video, and departmental personnel interviews have revealed that the crowd control tactics used by OPD are outdated, dangerous, and ineffective.” They went on to recommend training and leadership changes in the department.  Do you think the city council should have a role in setting OPD policy? If so, what specific actions would you take to ensure that the department’s crowd control tactics are not “outdated, dangerous, and ineffective”?

Question #12: The City Ethics Commission and the elected city attorney and city auditor are watchdogs on governance in Oakland. Should the city council have discretion over their budgets? Would you support a charter amendment mandating a certain level of funding for any or all of these positions?

Question #13: MOBN!’s public safety plan calls for increasing Oakland’s police force from 640 to 900 sworn officers within four years. To reach this goal, MOBN! advocates that the city should: 1) not layoff any Oakland police officers under any circumstances; 2) schedule, fund, and conduct sufficient police academies each year to increase that number, not simply replace officers who retire or otherwise leave the force; and 3) make increasing the size of the police department its number one priority. Do you agree?

Strongly Agree            Somewhat Agree        Unsure            Somewhat Disagree   Strongly Disagree

Question #14: The Budget Advisory Committee has proposed that Oakland follow other cities’ models and create a rainy day fund that would require the city to set aside a certain amount of revenue in times of revenue growth. MOBN! has endorsed this proposal and has drafted a sample charter amendment. If elected, would you support MOBN!’s legislation to create a rainy day fund in Oakland?

Strongly Agree            Somewhat Agree        Unsure            Somewhat Disagree   Strongly Disagree

Question #15: At the end of this year, more than half of the city council’s members will have been in office for 16 or more years. MOBN! believes that the low level of turnover on the city council has stifled new approaches to problem solving and caused entrenched gridlock. MOBN! supports a three term limit for council members (a maximum of 12 years in office) to balance the need for experience and innovation in Oakland’s legislative branch. Would you vote to put a three term limit measure on Oakland’s ballot in 2013?

Strongly Agree            Somewhat Agree        Unsure            Somewhat Disagree   Strongly Disagree

Question #16: Is there anything else you would like us to know about your candidacy?

Make Oakland Better Now!

OakTalk Here is the blog of Make Oakland Better Now!, an Oakland community grassroots group of a grass-roots group of voters, volunteers, and policy advocates committed to improving the City of Oakland by focusing on public safety, public works, and responsible budgets. Founded in 2003, we’ve researched, lobbied, and successfully campaigned for a number of new, impactful policies, including the city’s Rainy Day Fund, Measure Z and Operation Ceasefire.

This Post Has 6 Comments

  1. Sue

    Since we as voters are going to be able to vote for 1, 2 or 3 candidates, it would be interesting in your endorsements if you endorsed your top 3 and the order you would vote for them. (District 1 has so many candidates)

  2. Scott Law

    Good list of questions given the MOBN priorities of public safety/crime and budget reform/spend reduction. Like the specificity of the questions. And also a good idea from Sue about top 3 and the order for use in RCV

  3. Kodi

    I concur with the above comments. The questions posed must demand more quantitative answers, however — otherwise we will get the same meaningless hot air that has held sway for as long as I can remember. For example, Q#5 — Has Measure Y worked? The question should be:” How will you design and implement standard quantitative bi-annual measures by which to determine the efficacy (or lack thereof) of programs such as Measure Y?” Q#7 — “What is your specific (quantitative) experience in managing budgets?” Q#11 — Frazier report. ( I have been unable to locate the full text of this report). The sound bites pulled out by the media and pulled out in this question concerning the Frazier report, however, are not helpful. What SPECIFIC training of OPD leadership is recommended that will directly lead to “updated, not dangerous, and wholly effective” means to control a mob bent on destruction of property and physical harm to individuals? Oakland is a target for such street thugs because thugs know they can get away with their outrageous and dangerous behavior due to the large “bleeding heart” component of the City government. So, let’s put the vaunted Frazier group on the streets next time to see how they handle it since they are principally a collection of retired police chiefs who have the luxury of pontificating from the sidelines now. Again, there is a need on all sides to develop and describe quantitative solutions,and not to rely on useless sound bites.

  4. Kodi

    Article: San Francisco Chronicle, Friday Aug. 31 “Some in Oakland fear police receivership”. According to this article, MOBN and other Oakland community groups plan to legally intervene in the NSA in order to fend off an OPD federal receivership –this is a very good idea! But why is there no clear means presented by MOBN (Bruce Nye) by which MOBN members and MOBN supporters can join in this lawsuit or at the very least, visibly support this activity?

  5. hedera

    Have you had any responses to the questions from any candidate yet?

  6. brucenye

    Hedera — no responses yet. Due date is close of business Wednesday, 9/13. From past experience, nobody ever turns in their responses early.

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