At a mayoral forum hosted by the Oakland Metropolitan Chamber of Commerce on Tuesday night, several languages could be heard spoken among the crowd that filled Impact HUB Oakland before the candidates filed on stage to answer questions posed by representatives of the Hispanic, African-American, Chinatown, and Downtown Oakland Chambers.

The seven candidates considered frontrunners by the Chamber were invited to speak, though a few of the other eight were in the room. Here are some highlights from the evening’s discourse.

Candidates

Jean Quan managed to stand up to attacks on her record in office without sounding defensive. Rebecca Kaplan displayed her ability to talk with authority about a wide range of subjects, from Oakland’s sports teams to attracting retail businesses, delivering her answers with passion. Dan Siegel voiced the most dissenting opinions, disagreeing with the others about the value of sports franchises and the number of police needed to keep Oakland safe. Joe Tuman received hearty applause for his policy prescriptions. Bryan Parker was well-spoken and occasionally passionate. Courtney Ruby delivered her responses with polished gusto, speaking in sound bites that began to sound hollow by the end of the evening. Libby Schaaf arrived late because of a commitment at City Hall, but still had an opportunity to exhibit her knowledge of the workings of the City with an air of down-to-earth practicality.

Issues

In deference to the business focus of the evening, several candidates denounced the bureaucratic horrors of Oakland’s business permitting process. Numbers were thrown around about how many jobs Oakland needs to create (Parker: 20,000), how much retail business the city loses when Oakland residents shop in other cities (Kaplan: $2 billion; Tuman: $3.5 billion), and how much money the Port gives to or takes from the City (Siegel: the City has subsidized the Port to the tune of over $54 million; Quan: the Port has repaid $80 million owed to the City).

Siegel defied the Chamber audience, stating that he thought the minimum wage should be raised to $15, an issue none of the other candidates touched.

The mayoral hopefuls vied with each other to be the biggest Raiders and A’s fan. Siegel decried subsidies for ballpark development deals, saying, “No welfare for billionaires.” Tuman provided a second for this idea, saying, “It will always be a business for [the teams]. If we get in bed with them, it better be a business deal for us.”

Several candidates voiced support for Measure BB on the November ballot, which will provide sales tax revenue for transportation infrastructure for everything from expanding the airport to fixing potholes.

“Whether or not you’re voting for me, I ask you please, vote yes on BB,” Kaplan said.

Crime was a major focus of discussion. Noting that “for me, this is intensely personal,” Parker gave his most passionate response of the evening as he talked about his sister, who was murdered when he was 29. Ruby also talked about her personal connection to this issue, recounting that one of her son’s classmates had been shot in the neck.

Describing the hopelessness caused by underinvestment, Parker said, “We need to stand up and say all of our children matter and we love them.”

Ruby and Tuman want solve the problem by increasing the police force to 900 officers. Siegel said the force should stay at 700. Almost everyone supported community policing as a more effective way to prevent crime.

Quan said policing has improved, noting, “We have not had a police-involved shooting in 15 months and that should save us a lot of money on lawsuits.”

Several speakers brought the crime problem back to its social justice roots. “As long as roughly half our kids do not graduate from high school, we will not have a safe city,” said Schaaf, a sentiment that was later repeated by Quan. Tuman noted that “the underbelly of crime is poverty” and called on the business community to be part of the solution rather than throwing the whole problem to the nonprofits.

Despite all the negatives, the overall tone was one of optimism about Oakland’s future.

“We don’t have to tear down the city to run this race,” said Quan. “The city is rising.”

2 Responses

  1. r2d2II

    “Despite all the negatives, the overall tone was one of optimism about Oakland’s future.”

    We don’t want no negatives in Oakland, never. Especially no double negatives.

    Bad thoughts are very hard on optimism.

    That’s why this Mayoral Forum didn’t include all the other candidates about whom the Chamber can’t be optimistic on their chances for election. Plus they are more likely to say negative things about what is going on in Oakland and that change is needed.

    So let’s just keep our positive attitudes about the election, about the candidates and about the future of Oakland. Then all will be well.

    Reply
  2. Allure Nobell

    By the time the elections roll around, I will have moved to Richmond, but if I could I would vote for Joe Tuman. He is a sharp guy with enough distance from city government to make objective, informed decisions.

    Reply

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