Oakland City Council Will Change; Oaklanders Get To Decide How – Dan Cohen

The Oakland City Council is going to change, here’s how you can get involved.

Since we live in a world where incumbents seem to win 110% of the time, it’s a huge deal when they don’t run.  And once in a while, there’s a chance for seismic change when more than one decide not to run for re-election simultaneously.

That’s exactly the situation on the Oakland City Council in 2012.

Two long-time Oakland City Council incumbents aren’t running, while another long-timer is still weighing a decision.   Putting three of the eight seats up for grabs presents a once-in-a-generation opportunity for change.  As one political insider told me “No matter what, two more Libby Schaaf generation candidates are coming out of this.”

So the older is giving way to the younger.  Experienced giving way to the up and coming.  What this holds for us – hard to say.  What this means for Oakland, hopefully a breath of fresh air and new energy to tackle our opportunities and challenges.  Whether your passion is policing or dog parks, bike lanes or potholes, occupy or taxes, jobs or housing…or all of the above – with this kind of turnover, change is coming.

What is exciting for anyone who loves Oakland, like I do, is that most of these folks appear to be serious folks with serious resumes ready to use their experience and wisdom to benefit the city.    But that doesn’t let us off the hook.

We all have a job to do.

Ranked choice voting, whether you like it or not, asks each of us to kick the tires on ALL of the candidates.  We’ve got five months, so please take some time to hit a house party or your local farmer’s market and meet some of these folks.  I’ve also attached links below to candidates’ sites to make starting the process that much easier.

(And for what it’s worth, some seats are also up for grabs on the Oakland Unified School District Board – but perhaps that’s a post for another day.)

Here’s what I, Dan Cohen, know.  If you know more, please say so in the comments section below this post.

Councilmember Jane Brunner (District 1) is leaving her seat to pursue the City Attorney’s office.  There she will face off with the capable City Attorney Barbara Parker.

The election to replace Jane Brunner will feature some familiar and not so familiar names. Here are the candidates I found so far.   Environmental advocate Dan Kalb is running.  So is California Forward’s Policy Director Richard Raya. Homeless Youth advocate Amy Lemley has also jumped in.  Finally, Bob Franklin, a BART commissioner has declared his intent to run in various news stories, but I couldn’t find an online presence. (UPDATE: There’s also Oakland Green Party head Don Macleay running for the District 1 seat.)


Longtime councilmember Nancy Nadel (District 3) is retiring to run her candy business (that’s her in the photo above doing just that).  Three younger candidates are now seeking her spot.  One who gave her a close race four years ago, Sean Sullivan, has stayed active and never really stopped running. Sean works with homeless and foster youth. Affordable housing and economic development advocate Lynette Gibson McElhaney has a Facebook page up if you’d like to learn more.  Self-described entrepreneur and local activist Alex Miller-Cole is running.  Finally, Dr. Nyeisha DeWitt is in. She serves as Program Director of a city-wide dropout prevention program.

What Councilmember Ignacio De La Fuente (District 5) will do remains unknown.  Thus far there is no easy-to-locate campaign website.  The uncertainty hasn’t stopped challengers from raising their hand and stepping forward.  Thus far, longtime Oakland Unified School District Board Member Noel Gallo is up and running and seems to be everywhere.  So too is 2008 De La Fuente challengerMario Juarez, a realtor and civic appointee.

The other two Oakland Council seats featuring Councilmembers Larry Reid (District 7) and Rebecca Kaplan (At-Large) look to be without serious opposition.

So, where does that leave us Oaklanders?

Seems like no matter your politics, now is the time to get engaged. And getting started early never hurt anyone.

Loving this town means more than wearing a cool t-shirt.  It’s about putting it in the best hands possible to improve it for the next generations.

Change is coming to Oakland.  What are you going to do about it?