Make Oakland Better Now! congratulates our elected or re-elected City Council members Dan Kalb (D1), Lynette Gibson McElhaney (D3), Noel Gallo (D5), Larry Reid (D7) and Rebecca Kaplan (At Large). Running for office is very hard, and we recognize that no one would do it who didn’t sincerely want the best for our City. In that spirit, we wish our newly elected and reelected officials the greatest success in making Oakland the city we all want it to be.
Now that the election is over, it’s time for even harder work to begin. The question we hear from all parts of Oakland is this: what do these election results mean? Most people seem to think we will see an increase in civility among council members, and that’s a good thing. But it will take far more than increased civility to make the changes Oakland needs. City leaders need to do something they haven’t done in many years: they must align their actions with their oft-stated beliefs in public safety, budgetary responsibility and government transparency.
As our welcome to the new and returning City Council members, we thought we would review what Kalb, McElhaney, Gallo and Kaplan said on these subjects in response to our questionnaire (CM Reid did not respond). In the details below, we show that on public safety, all of the newly elected city council members, and re-elected at large Council Member Kaplan, agree that the police force must be rebuilt to at least 803 officers; two of them support at least 900; and incoming Council Member Gallo supports building the police to either 1,000 or 1,100 officers. All strongly or somewhat agree with MOBN! that “increasing the size of the police department [must be Oakland’s] number one priority.”
Oakland’s current leadership has not made this increase its number one priority. At the pace of officer hiring and attrition reported by Chief Jordan, under the best of circumstances, the Oakland Police Department will not reach the 803 level supported by Kalb until 2024, will not reach 900 officers until 2029, and cannot reach the 1000 level called for by Gallo until 2035. With four successful candidates agreeing this must be Oakland’s number one priority, we eagerly look forward to their actions starting in January.
On the issues of a rainy day fund, a three-term limit for City Council members, strengthening Oakland’s Public Ethics Commission, and independent funding for the Commission and the City Auditor, there is general support for a rainy day fund, but less consensus for the other policies. The details are below:
Dan Kalb: From his questionnaire responses:
All persons have an interest in safe streets and neighborhoods. My public safety agenda highlights public investments that will provide the best return, such as hiring more crime investigators, bringing our police force back up to over 800 sworn officers, and securing funds for programs that promote education and job training and restore pathways for parolees to re-join our society. A good education and a pathway to a job are the best deterrents to crime.
and (while stating that he “somewhat agreed” with the MOBN! public safety proposal):
I support bringing OPD up to the 803 level and then conducting an independent study to determine at what level we should go to from there. I agree that we should not lay off any more sworn officers. I support the police academies that have been scheduled and I certainly would support additional academies to help us get back up to over 800 sworn officers. I agree that increasing the number of sworn officers in OPD is a top priority. I also support hiring additional crime investigators, and I urge MOBN to add that to their public safety plan.
Kalb also answered that he would support a rainy day fund, a three term limit for City Council members, strengthening Oakland’s Public Ethics Commission, and independent funding for the Commission and the City Auditor.
Lynette Gibson McElhaney: She stated that she strongly supported MOBN!’s public safety plan, that her first public safety priority was to restore the police department to Measure Y levels, and she described the crisis this way:
Public safety must be a major priority for our City leadership. Violence directly hinders business development. It also leaves entire neighborhoods traumatized and fear-filled, leading to additional negative social and economic impacts . . . . I have spoken with . . . residents during my run for City Council and the majority of them name public safety as their biggest concern. They point to the stress they feel every day because of their fear of this violence.
While opposing term limits, she strongly supported a rainy day fund charter amendment, supported adequate funding for the City Attorney, City Auditor and Public Ethics Commission, and stated she would “consider” a charter amendment to ensure that funding.
Noel Gallo: He gave very strong answers on restoring the size of the police department:
I intend to take a hard line on public safety policies; I will support and work to align the City’s budget to support public safety initiatives, including the immediate funding and implementation of police academies, until the Police Force reaches 1,000 officers.
Public Safety must be the number one priority in Oakland. Oakland needs more police officers patrolling the City. Expert data, including the US Department of Justice has found that . . . Oakland needs at least 1,100 police officers. There are many other ways to fight crime, but without an adequately staffed police department we will continue to be reacting to crime, not preventing crime.
He did not support independent funding sources for the City Attorney and Auditor or Public Ethics Commission, but did favor term limits and a rainy day fund.
Rebecca Kaplan: She stated that she “strongly agreed” with the MOBN! public safety plan to make increasing the police force to 900 the city’s number one priority:
I agree strongly – When Oakland got close to this number before (836) it did succeed in reducing crime. That’s why I voted against the 2010 layoffs, supported a no-layoffs clause in police contracts, fought to hire back more in 2011, and voted for three new police academies this year. This is a key difference between me and my challenger – and I’m proud to stand with you not only on this important goal, but on doing the work to grow our force and quickly enough to outpace attrition. This includes no layoffs, and regularly scheduled academies to maintain/increase force levels.
Responding to our question about a charter-based rainy day fund and protections for the public ethics commission, city auditor and city attorney, she expressed generalized support for all, but without committing to charter amendments. She also indicated she “somewhat supported” MOBN!’s term limits proposal, expressing some concern about “the “musical chairs” problem . . .where term limits legislation . . . might allow long-term local officials to move from one seat to a different seat without bringing new people into City Hall.”