Don’t Vote For…an Oakland Election 2022 Voter Guide

Posted on October 28, 2022


It’s a bleaker electoral landscape than usual this year and I can’t and won’t vouch for any of the frontrunners vying for office. Though the chasm between the two sides of power in Oakland may seem to have never been more stark—union, service and advocacy orgs on one side, capitalists, polluters and developers on the other, the choice isn’t as clear as anyone would want it to be. I’ll spend some time in this introduction explaining what I mean, and why though a win by Thao and other “progressives” is better, it isn’t ideal, either.

Public sector union support has a progressive popular appeal and more public sector union power, especially at the City of Oakland where workers were forced to strike by anti-worker Schaaf policies, is positive. The City’s unions don’t want Taylor or Reid for the Mayor’s seat because of their affinity for Schaaf, who treated only the police union with dignity during her time in office. The rest, even the Fire Departments IAFF 55, she treated as beggars at the table, denying fair contracts, raises and working conditions as policy for years up until the most current budget with actually disastrous impact on the City of Oakland we can see and feel each day.

But the large amount of funds mixed in from the local and State Building Trades and their constituent unions brings questionable associations with polluters and pressure for unchecked development. There’s scant evidence that a turn towards the Trades helps Oakland residents or its workers. The Trades are covetous of the data that shows the full extent of their non-Oakland working base, and have repeatedly refused to open their demographic books to the City. What data that does exist shows stark disparities from decades of exclusion. A survey in the report linked above by a City consultant on the handful of Trades-affiliated unions that offered their data found that only 5% of Bay Area Trades workers were Black.

More troubling, the local and state building trades have sided with polluting industries against truly progressive candidates in the past. Memorably, in the small town of Benicia, the State Building Trades, which gave $40k to Working Families […] for Thao, partnered with Valero to oppose an environmentalist council candidate. Valero and the Trades both feared she would increase oversight on the refinery located there. They had good reason to be concerned: Valero was found this year to have been quietly polluting Benicia and surrounding communities for years.

The State Building Trades has been a toxic presence stalking environmental legislation for years, often resorting to right wing attacks, like this ad in the LA Times from 2018.

The habit of working from their own intersection of interest for the benefit of harmful industries extends to the local trades unions and the union local members of the Alameda County Building and Construction Trades. ALCO Trades Secretary/Treasurer Andreas Cluver advocated against raising emissions standards for local refineries that would reduce health effects for the Bay Area’s poorest communities last year, though his pleas fell on deaf ears at the Bay Area Air Quality Management Department.

And no one can ignore the great amount of pressure put on Council to enter a suicide pact with the A’s and accept an agreement on the ballpark, no matter how bad for Oakland for the past two years. In ads and campaigns, the individual Trades-affiliated unions and the Trades have put the pressure on Oakland to “vote yes” on literally anything that comes before them. The Trades relentlessly remind a Council beholden to their funds and afraid of their wrath to toe the line—with the fate of former CM Desley Brooks never far out of the picture. The Trades unions will transfer support in a heartbeat, something CM Dan Kalb found out when nearly all the Trades unions he’d previously counted on supported his challenger in 2020, likely because of his skepticism of the Howard Terminal deal and some principled stands on development in general. After he won, they came back, but their influence is notable in his decisions, as when he reversed on his claim that he wanted more than one meeting to decide on the ballpark EIR.

With the progressive Council members having opened their campaign coffers to the Trades, Cluver and the ALCO Building Trades are expanding the scope of their oversight of Oakland’s politics and their interest in things ancillary to their development interests, like tenant protection. Cluver notably called in to deliberations on Measure V, a significant update to Oakland’s Just Cause eviction ordinance that would have extended renter protections to anyone living in apartment units, no matter when they were built. Cluver and the Trades worried it would stifle unchecked development in Oakland.

Due almost exclusively to that intervention, which seemed supported with efforts from the East Bay Rental Housing Association [EBRHA], newly constructed buildings aren’t covered by Just Cause for ten years on a rolling basis in the ballot measure going before voters on November 8.

Cluver is an appointed Port of Oakland Commissioner, thanks to this Stockholm Syndrome dynamic, and there’s quite a bit of evidence he doesn’t separate his two day jobs. And last year, conveniently enough, the Council confirmed the appointment of Victor Sugrue, a Sheet Metal Workers 104 government liaison, to the Planning Commission. While backing from the City’s labor unions is largely a benefit, both for the City and its workers, from the Trades and its aligned unions, it signals continued lack of accountability and agency from local representatives who take their money—and/or fear its effect. For all these reasons, the decision between sleazy interests represented by Taylor, de la Fuente and Reid on one side and “labor” on the other isn’t as cut and dry as it looks and residents and voters should be vigilant about these ties going forward.

That’s not the only thing to be worried about for the current CM “progressives.” Their much maligned “defund” efforts are more rhetorical smoke than policymaking. CM Sheng Thao supported increases to the police budget herself in 2021 and 2022 by successfully proposing and passing three academies Taylor failed to agendize for his own bragging rights. And though there was some pretense of shock on the dais at the backdoor inflation of the police union contract benefits package negotiated early and in secret for the OPD, the progressives on Council voted for it regardless. The additional bonuses and wage raising opportunities in the contract will increase the police budget year over year going forward.

And it’s by now unanimously understood that during Defund, the police received larger budgets—even ABC7, a news corporation whose ethics make high school bathroom gossip look restrained, had to admit it this month. In 2020 and 2021 when OPD was set to exceed their budgets with cataclysmic effects on Oakland’s finances, forcing the City Administrator to cut police spending, progressive CMs weaponized that cut against the Schaaf Administrator instead of lauding it. When the time came to hold the line on that spending cut, Council’s progressives returned it to its previous level, nestled in the budget amendments to accept the ARPA funding that provided the lifeline from cataclysmic police overspending every person in power in Oakland seems to have contributed to.

As push has come to shove on public safety, the progressive CMs have mostly fled from vocal leadership, leaving it all to candidates like Alyssa Victory, Greg Hodge and John Reimann who sound like the only adults in the mix when they speak at mayoral forum tables. Those three have astutely noted that Oakland’s policing levels seem to have no effect on violent crime and that expenditures for police with that illusory goal can become an endless hole for Oakland’s vital services and violence prevention money to get lost in. And alas, though I would happily write a “Do Vote for” just for them, their lack of institutional backing in the race is having an obvious effect no amount of support I can give will change. Vote for them by all means and thanks to this year’s Ranked Choice Voting five slot election you can vote for every Mayoral candidate except the ones mentioned here without giving the “Do Not Vote fors” any advantage.

With all that said, the best thing I can hope to do in this guide is communicate which candidates would leave Oakland a worse shambles than it already is via careless spending, bad priorities and a turn away from oversight and protection of Oakland’s residents. They’d work against tenant protections behind the scenes and would support off the rails development at any cost, whether or not it brings funding for affordable housing. They’d continue Schaaf’s neo-liberal policies, outsourcing the City’s work and debilitating its departments as the pretext. It’s no surprise that all the candidates advocated against here are supported by the Mayor responsible for Oakland’s current troubles, Elizabeth Beckman Schaaf. That doesn’t mean the alternative is a LOT better as I just spent quite a lot of time pointing out.

Anyways, don’t vote for…


Treva Reid, Loren Taylor, Ignacio de la Fuente: Of the group, it’s Taylor who is most likely to win office, and Treva Reid’s votes are likely to help. But the amount of money going from developers, investors and polluters to Ignacio de la Fuente is troubling and worth including him in the group. Peter Liu and Seneca Scott are unlikely to win or contribute many votes to anyone. Certainly don’t vote for them, but if their actual campaign statements and every day actions aren’t enough to convince you, I don’t have enough time to tell you why.

Don’t Vote for…Loren Taylor

If it were just a question of what Taylor has accomplished in his term, the answer would be final enough. After four years, no significant legislation for the city has originated with his office. Two pieces of legislation that were perhaps meant to serve as signature legislative acts—TALL and the “Emerald New Deal” Cannabis Ballot Measure—died in Council. TALL was duplicative and lacked legislative action that the council could actually direct. Taylor meant to use it as Mayoral bonafides during a push to add more police academies last year, but Thao beat him to that. More importantly, despite having claimed that Thao abused her scheduling powers as Rules Chair to stopper it, Taylor has never seriously pursued his TALL legislation after its utility for grand-standing passed. Though the Emerald New Deal is a fantastic idea conceptually that emerged from local activist groups, it had legislative flaws exacerbated by the actual efforts of its messengers on Council. Taylor has pursued high profile and spectacle acts throughout his time on council, with seemingly no interest in whether they have any kind of effect—either intended to fulfill promises to constituents, or otherwise. Taylor’s term in Council is one of failures, performative politics, caping for landlords and advocacy for police spending that would only be writ large as Mayor.

Public Safety as Forever Campaign Tactic

Taylor’s Flip Flopping and Performance During Defund: Taylor’s actions during the “defund” period are a useful example. Taylor has consistently boasted of co-creating the Reimagining Public Safety Taskforce with CM Nikki Bas. But he did it as a way of blunting and diverting Bas’ attempt at passing aspirational legislation to reduce the OPD budget in the next budget cycle. Its worth noting that to do so, Taylor had to take on the pledge of reducing OPD’s budget by 50%, apparently in as much obeisance to the “woke mob” as his counterparts.

Despite his claim of wanting to create conditions to eventually “defund” the OPD in legislation, he is in the public record undermining the taskforce, and promoted those Taskforce members who opposed the underlying goal of the process he nevertheless takes credit for initiating. Taylor encouraged incipient divisiveness in the group in public for political gain and likely exacerbated it.

Performance and Failure on Academies: Taylor’s been a great advocate for increasing the police budget, but sadly, he had no opponents on that goal in Council—increasing Oakland’s police budget has been a unifying effort there, and it was Thao who almost single-handedly managed to increase the budget last year by adding two new academies to FY 21-23. Taylor has bragged that he tried to add academies first and failed due to Thao-led resistance on Council. And he claims Thao later flip flopped. Regardless of Thao’s intentions, Taylor’s actions would not have increased academies, however, or increased the OPD budget to fund any.

Rather, Taylor sought to shift an academy from the second fiscal year into the first, something that would have made almost no difference in either short or long-term. It was an action without substance, designed solely to position himself [and Reid, who joined him] against his counterparts. Thao really did add new academies, where Taylor only pretended to in what was arguably a political stunt. It’s worth noting that the Council scheduled the typical number of academies per year in the first place during the FY 21-23 budget process. And that the academies continue to graduate at the same level they did before, about 24 police per academy [and the 189th graduated yesterday with 22 police], despite Thao’s claims that she only voted for the new academies because of guarantees their recruiting and output had been improved.

Playing Along with the Defund Delusion: Taylor has played along with assumptions that the police had been “defunded” in 2021 even as the police staffing fell far below authorized numbers due to attrition. He maintained the ruse throughout his campaign, even though he is well aware that it was his own patron who planted cuts to vacant OPD positions that were largely meaningless.

It’s by now common knowledge that OPD’s budget simply increased year over year in ways planned and unplanned. Everything else has been rhetoric of the kind both Schaaf and Taylor have exploited for years. Despite attempting to lead on public safety, Taylor hasn’t actually done anything legislatively that his counterparts didn’t do more effectively [to the chagrin of many of their supporters]. But his constant tack towards discourse of public safety has been Taylor’s signature style, relying on misdirection and manipulations for the sole goal of political gamesmanship.

Taylor Tried and Failed to Pressure the PAC to Return Bad Recommendations: Taylor, in fact, has often used his role in ways that look more like an attempt to create that anti-wokeness brand than actual legislative success—he’s especially targeted the Privacy Advisory Commission, a City commission charged with reviewing potential adoption of technologies. Last year, Taylor [and Reid and Gallo] put pressure on the PAC to vote for a flawed and expensive anti-dumping surveillance system with the DPW’s chosen vendor, Verkada. Verkada had just come off two extremely delegitimating scandals—principals of the company were sued for using their own software to spy on women in the office and they were responsible for a gigantic public data breach. During the pitch for the software, it was revealed that Verkada and DPW had run surveillance tests at two sites in East Oakland without the knowledge of the PAC or other city agencies. The PAC voted no on the program presented by the DPW—but then helped DPW craft another program with another vendor that accomplished the exact same goals with better oversight and protection for residents. The Department of Public Works enthusiastically supported the new vendor and the new program and Council passed the legislation a short time later. But while this process was going on, Taylor, Reid and CM Noel Gallo spoke out publicly against the PAC over the process for anti-dumping cams and other issues before the PAC [and even making some up].

Taylor [and Reid] again used the PAC to stand out as an anti-woke law and order champion, this time misrepresenting the realities of the City’s ALPR system and suggesting that a current struggle over use policy for the system was hampering the “enhancement” of the City’s blanket use of the system. At this month’s meeting that passed the ALPR use policy, Taylor boasted that he’d pulled the item out of committee where it had been languishing and cynically tried to take credit for agendizing the amended use policy which had passed. Though no use policy could change anything about OPD’s current use of ALPR, Taylor had billed the potential use policy as an “expansion” of ALPR to his own constituents.

But the objective truth of what Taylor and Reid did shows a startling pointless waste of time and resources that rushed a process for no apparent reason other than political point scoring. By the time Reid and Taylor took their action to agendize the ALPR use policy item directly to Council and sent out a press release bragging about it, a version of the use policy that the Council passed Tuesday had already been written and sent out days earlier. This email from the City Administrator’s office with the agenda document that included the PAC’s uses policy shows that Taylor and Reid had no effect on the process of producing a use policy at all. It had already started.

What Taylor and Reid’s action did do, was rush the PAC Commissioners to make sure the largely pointless move was completed by the end of their first meeting about it—that’s something that the OPD exploited. In their report to Council, they complained at only having 26 minutes to read two amendments made to the PAC use policy and thus, explained, they declined to participate in honing the PAC’s legislation. Again, Thao showed that she’s better at the symbolism and political theatrics by striking a “compromise” that increased OPD’s use police data retention to 6 months, far longer than anyone on PAC had thought necessary. The decision can’t “expand” OPD’s use of ALPR any time soon, and in fact, only helps them report better to PAC. The addition of Thao’s amendment, however, will add vital regular publicly accessible use reports that could begin to create the outlines of how effective, or dangerous, the technology is. But Taylor had nothing to do with that and apparently wasn’t seeking such an outcome.

On a final note, it’s worth considering what this strategy will look like if he is Mayor because it’s been Schaaf’s strategy as well, with few positive outcomes but plenty of negative ones. Schaaf nearly led Oakland to financial ruin in 2020 by allowing the Oakland police to spend and spend until they’d brought the City to the brink of financial collapse. Even for people who think that is a good thing, the boomerang effect meant that the Schaaf administration had to suddenly and without planning cut police services to avoid bankrupting the general fund, including services Schaaf herself claimed are vital to lowering violent crime, like Ceasefire. Taylor never took issue with the near-failure of Oakland’s budgeting in 2020 because doing so had no political value. Taylor will likely pressure greater pointless police spending for political points and interfere with Oakland’s good oversight policies in the name of the public safety clout he has chased for the past four years.

Taylors Opposition to Tenant Protections and Constant Stan for Landlords

Taylor has been antagonistic to tenant protections from the start of his time on Council, upholding unprovable claims that a significant number of Oakland’s landlords are struggling BIPOC residents time and again, and thus vulnerable to anything that would help tenants and prevent homelessness. He notably stood in the way of nearly every tenant protection that has come before Council during his time in one form or another, sometimes with rhetoric, but often with substantive legislative moves or procedural acts.

Taylor Tried to Block Loophole Closing Legislation in a Move That Could Have Led to Mass Eviction: One of Taylor’s first acts on Council was trying to give landlords more time to raise rents during a loophole closing parallel legislation to Measure Y passed the same year Taylor won office. CMs Dan Kalb and Noel Gallo proposed legislation that would close the loophole that decoupled certain duplex/triplexes from the rent adjustment portion of Y. But in committee, Taylor successfully amended the legislation so that it pegged the rent to the date of the passage of the ordinance, not the passage of the Measure, allowing six months of rent increases to be locked in.

The legislation’s author, Dan Kalb, came to the committee meeting and urged the members not to add Taylor’s amendments, warning that it would lead to increased evictions and homelessness as landlords scrambled to raise rents in the time between November and a likely March passage date. But the warnings fell on deaf ears and the committee altered the legislation and sent it to Council.

When the legislation came for a vote in February 2018, Taylor reversed his amendment on the dais. But that happened only about 15 minutes before it was revealed in the midst of deliberation that the matter would have to be continued due to a legal issue the City Attorney became aware of during the meeting. That legal issue, it was later revealed, was that Taylor was a landlord of a rental property who could ultimately benefit from the proposed legislation when he sought to amend it at the committee meeting. The procedural delay brought by Taylor’s actions alone could have opened the gates to a landlord race to raise rents and evict tenants before the legislation could be agendized, but CM Bas authored emergency legislation halting any potential rent increases on duplexes/triplexes. By the time the non-emergency legislation came back around, Taylor had apparently stood down on his amendment after what was in the end a bit of a humbling public exposure, and the legislation passed—with Taylor recused from the vote. Without Bas’ action, thousands of Oakland residents could have been evicted due both directly and indirectly to Taylor’s legislative acts.

Taylor Tried to End Oakland’s Eviction Moratorium by August 2020: Taylor moved to end Oakland’s eviction moratorium by the end of July 2020 as the then temporary emergency Covid measure was set to sunset. CMs Nikki Bas and Dan Kalb and City Attorney Barbara Parker brought the extension tied to the City’s local state of emergency order as the initial eviction moratorium measure passed in March was set to expire in May 2020. But Taylor challenged their legislation with an amendment on the dais and was ultimately successful in setting an end date with backing from the “equity caucus” conservative Council members. The best the CMs who supported Bas, Kalb and Parker’s legislation could do was suggest friendly amendments to extend the number of days in Taylor’s proposal or risk a tie which Schaaf would be called in to break. If Schaaf wasn’t available, the extension would have to be postponed, potentially having the temporary moratorium end with no extension at all.

Notably, Taylor and the “equity caucus” resisted a 120-day extension that would have the end date coming due while Council was in session in the Fall. Instead, even after significant deliberation and efforts to find a compromise, Taylor still insisted on a 60 day extension which would have had the moratorium end during Council recess. Threatened with a clean tie on the issue which could delay the vote while the Mayor was called in to break it, Kalb and Bas managed to extend Taylor’s end date to 90 days instead of 60, the next best option.

Had his move ultimately succeeded, Taylor would have sewn chaos and exacerbated the effects of the pandemic, right on the heels of the pandemic’s first “summer surge”. Taylor was outside the mainstream in his efforts for that time period of the pandemic—the universally agreed importance of shelter during a pandemic is visible in court decisions, local and national agency direction and even a CDC moratorium by August.

In mid-July, before the 90 days was up, Kalb, Bas and City Attorney Parker returned to Council with new legislation, tying the moratorium only to the City’s state of emergency as was their initial proposal. Taylor and the equity caucus demurred at that point and voted for the legislation, as by now, the public consensus on housing and the spread of Covid was overwhelming. The amendment by Kalb adding 30 days to Taylor’s initial motion and the ultimate passage of distinct but similar piece of legislation that linked the moratorium to the local state of emergency have obscured Taylor’s fingerprints on the entire issue except in reports from this publication. But the chain of events is clear in the public video record. The incident remains a sobering reminder not only of his poor judgment, but how confident he is in it.

Taylor Opposed CM Carroll Fife’s Proposed CPI freeze This Year: Fife’s legislation took pressure off thousands of Oakland renters facing an sudden calamitous increase of 6% cost of living rent increase in the coming months, Oakland’s largest single increase by some accounts. Taylor tried to block that and replace with an odd plan focused on making sure landlords, could “bank” the rising cost of living, to experience windfalls at a later date.

Taylor Supported a Move to Add a Landlord Loophole to Measure T: During final passage of the Progressive Business Tax ballot measure legislation, Taylor emailed a landlord constituent, letting them know his sympathies were on the side of landlords and that he supported lowering taxes for them—a support, he claimed, derived from being a landlord.

The publication of the email is likely why Taylor didn’t more vocally support Reid’s attempt to add a loophole in the Progressive Business Tax for landlords [see below] he was discussing, though in the end he did vote for her failed amendment to add it at the last minute. Even usually circumspect Kalb was forced to complain about the influence of landlords and the appearance of their talking points on the dais because of the unusual move. It’s worth noting that it was thanks to Taylor and the ‘equity caucus’ that the original Progressive Business Tax Ballot Measure didn’t make it on to 2020’s ballot, where it could have added tens of millions of additional revenue during the Covid downturn. And despite eventually voting for a Rent Registry, something Taylor says he supports, he used his seat on Council to undermine it with landlord issued arguments all the way up to the day of the vote.

Landlord Stanism Never-Ending: As I was completing this section, Taylor performed one of his countless procedural and discursive moves for the benefit of landlords at a Community and Economic Development Committee on 10/26. Taylor opposed amendments to legislation that would have set legal aid for “small” landlords proposed by the Rent Adjustment Board according to their income as a percentage of area median income and limiting it to Oakland-residing landlords, just like tenants. But Taylor argued only the income from Oakland-based properties should be counted as income, leaving income from properties or other enterprises unchecked. Taylor opposed the amendments and managed to keep the legislation in committee. The move neatly showed that Taylor has never stopped manipulating the idea that Oakland’s landlords are a besieged BIPOC demographic, while simultaneously legislating as if all the opposite is true.

Focus on Visible Projects, Not Brick and Mortar Needs:

Taylor did help some organizations take advantage of a City owned lot in the Eastmont Mall, turning it into Liberation Park—a role he has exaggerated and offers as one of his greatest accomplishment during his term. Though it has limited impact because its only open a few times a month and isn’t permanent, the very visible project is undeniably popular. In his boasts about it, Taylor claims to have converted a blighted lot into an oasis of activity, though the lot itself is on the corner of a busy street and sandwiched between the Eastmont Mall parking lot and an AC Transit Hub. Blight is subjective, but there are city-owned sites far more blighted in the district’s traditional community space, Arroyo Viejo Park, that were left to continue their decline under Taylor’s nose—Taylor’s signature boast “the both and” nowhere in evidence.

It’s not an exaggeration to say that large swaths of the park rot away while Taylor focused on higher profile projects—like fitness jungle gyms no one asked for and no one uses in Arroyo Viejo—not long-standing needs. Thao’s checkmate move to bring an incredible one million dollar state grant to Arroyo Viejo was undoubtedly shrewd campaigning. But it nevertheless accomplished its goal by showing what Taylor could have and should have been doing the entire time he was in office with a staggering number rising into the tens of millions of unfunded necessary capital improvements for Arroyo Viejo languishing on the City’s official list. Taylor had no vision for the park, the most central location for D6 flatlands residents, and even re-located Juneteenth celebrations away from it, likely because of his predecessor’s signature events there.

Crumbling Tennis Court and an Inaccessible Decrepit Neighborhood Ballpark: A large tennis court and ballpark attached to the park that border the north and south side neighborhood streets have been left to literally fall apart, with benches and other infrastructure turning into sharp and jagged rusting hazards throughout most of the years of Taylor’s term [a particular lethal bench was removed in August]. Below is how the site looked in Summer 2022, nearly four years into Taylor’s term. Though a report from earlier this year cited $350,000 funding from Measure Q funds to rehab the courts, the money was either not allocated, never spent or insufficient to address the many problems there.

The courts issue isn’t only one of the loss of the space or the hazardous conditions in it, but of dangers to the surrounding neighbors. Huge antiquated support poles appear to be collapsing into the yards of adjoining houses and the only thing holding them up is the old chain link fence separating the areas. From a nascent problem at the beginning of Taylor’s term [visible in the photo directly below], it’s become significantly worse over the four years of his run, and now is just dumbfounding to view. The poles shift when touched, with nothing much keeping them from landing in the neighbor’s yard, or possibly house.

The Tennis Court Structures in a Photo From Google Maps Taken in 2019; and Below, Taken in October 2022

While Taylor was pushing funding for the A’s stadium, his own district’s Parks and Rec adult ballpark on the other side of Arroyo Viejo—McConnell Field—was literally falling apart. The bleachers are rotted and splintered and the chain link around the batting cage looks like lace hanging down from the structure. The park sign that advertised the field has been removed, and apparently the ballpark can’t be accessed except for a hole in the fence neighbors were forced to create to get in and play baseball—it’s de facto shuttered, a nearly block-long empty hole in the neighborhood.

A huge swath of the park remains unused and derelict. And its worth noting, one of the reasons Arroyo Viejo couldn’t be used for Town Nights outside of a small indoor rec center is because of the insufficient lighting in the park, some of which was not even functional according to the Measure Q report mentioned above. After dark, Arroyo Viejo is an 18 acre dead zone in the middle of an area embattled with violent crime. It’s hard to overstate: Taylor spent half his term in office trying to direct public funding to John Fisher in other districts, while community-use public infrastructure in a neighborhood experiencing some of Oakland’s worst vehicular and gun violence crumbles.

Head Start Sites That Would Now Be Shuttered if Not for Other CMs: Head start program sites in East Oakland, including in Arroyo Viejo Park would have been shuttered if not for the work of other Council members. Taylor stood by as the City’s funding for the City-run Head Start sites at Arroyo Viejo, Franklin and Tassafaronga were transferred to non-profits that won the federal funding over the City. As the Chair of the Life Enrichment Committee, Taylor was informed before other Council members that a rather large axe was coming for the City’s Head Start dollars. That money instead would go to private organizations that had won the grants over Oakland and that would be running their new programs at different sites. Oakland’s Head Start loss meant two equally bad outcomes: the sites would lose the activations brought by the Head Start program and Head Start instructors and workers from low-income backgrounds, often parents themselves, would lose good paying union-represented jobs.

The loss would especially be felt by the two East Oakland Head Start sites and the Franklin Park site in Chinatown. Arroyo Viejo Park would lose a vital anchor for community participation and activity. The non profit orgs would hire workers to do the same work at lower wages, benefits and stability while the current workers, often people from the same low income areas, would lose theirs. Taylor did nothing.

If not for the work of Sheng Thao, Rebecca Kaplan and Carroll Fife to return Oakland general fund dollars to the City program, the loss of Oakland’s federal funding would have meant the closure of the site in Taylor’s district and a hole in the activation of Arroyo Viejo. Due to the resulting community-led furor, Taylor was even forced to issue a press release to assure the public he supported Head Start because the reality of his office having done nothing to hold on to the city-embedded program, with impacts in his own district, was copious. The centers would be closed today if up to him.

$8 Million Economic Investment for East Oakland Flatlands Bottled Up in One For-Profit Business: One of Taylor’s other campaign website boasts, bringing $8 MM in entrepreneurial seed money to East Oakland in itself is one of the biggest reasons to be worried about a Taylor administration. Of course, bringing that much capital directly into East Oakland’s existing businesses would have been a godsend to this struggling area of town. But that’s not what happened.

Taylor directed the money to a private organization, ESO Ventures, that has no reporting requirements under the law. The state grant to ESO itself, a political favor Taylor sought from Nancy Skinner, has no benchmarks and no oversight. The City of Oakland is the pass-through entity for the grant, accepting and disbursing the amounts—as a fig leaf of oversight the Council directed that the amount be bifurcated into two separate payments, the second contingent on a “status report” to Council from ESO on how it was managing the first.

That report was meant to happen “around September” 2022, but with November on its way and only three more Council meetings this year, nothing has been mentioned by Taylor, the City Administrator or Council members. It’s also not clear if the money was, in fact, bifurcated in the first place—a public records request for the disbursement information received a preliminary response that no records of any disbursement exist at the City. The records liaison is currently clarifying and confirming that response at my request. But at the least half of the money Taylor is boasting about is—or should be at least—caught up in an administrative process, with no apparent urgency in unlocking it. And if its not, there will have been absolutely no oversight on how the money was spent.

Taylor helped found the for-profit company, according to his own report to Council, and it has shareholders who remain private. Considering what $8 MM could have done for a flatlands community that has few supermarket options and where current business owners struggle with blight and revenue generation, locking up the money into an unaccountable box owned by a handful of Taylor associates seems, charitably, unhelpful.

Even when simply adding symbolic and rhetoric support, like during the fight to keep Parker Elementary open or Mills College independent, when advocacy from Loren Taylor would have made a difference, Taylor publicly supported the opposite side that favored big business. It was Oakland residents and families that fought to keep Parker Elementary open, at the risk of their own safety, and it will now become an adult school that will replace the large hole left by the closure of the former adult school in the area, Shands. The fight for Mills continues, despite the opposition from the CM for the district, and it looks increasingly likely that much of the property will go to a land grab in true neo-liberal fashion with far-ranging implications for Taylor’s district.

A Continuation of the Schaaf Administration

Lastly, it’s by now approaching common wisdom in Oakland that the Schaaf administration has been disastrous, with gigantic increases in both violent crime and homelessness during her tenure, most of it in her second term, despite her attempts to make combating crime and getting rid of visible homelessness signature efforts of her time in office. The Chamber of Commerce, whose polls usually favor her administration, found that only 25% of respondents felt she’s done a “good” job and a plurality found she was doing a poor one. One of the biggest criticisms launched at Taylor is that he’s too closely aligned to Schaaf, and would likely simply be a redux of that failed administration. Taylor has dismissed the concern as “naivety of lazy analysis”, But it’s not at all laziness to join the two because its precisely what Schaaf spent the last four years herself doing.

Taylor got his start in politics by appealing to Schaaf as a patron, and immediately received her blessing, and a cavalcade of Schaaf-era donors and backing, despite being new to politics. For the favor of helping to depose her long-time enemy former D6 CM Desley Brooks, Taylor was afforded a ready-made political career with backing and support from the Mayor at all times—support also now visible in Taylor’s donor and IE support profile, which can be overlayed on to Schaaf’s, including the independent expenditure committee that always roots for her and her establishment allies, “Citizens for […]”.

Observers would be forgiven for believing Schaaf specifically brings Taylor to events to highlight their connection. Schaaf has throughout Taylor’s tenure invited him to appear at numerous public events and photo opportunities, when often it was just she and Taylor. Whenever Schaaf has been able, she has used her office to highlight Taylor, going as far as to hold one of her “state of the city” addresses at Liberation Park.

With the benefits of having a big political sibling, so too come the bummers, like being associated with the Mayor that alienated the City’s unions with nearly ten years of anti-worker attitude, policy and negotiating. Taylor wants voters to believe that the the City’s professional manager’s union [IFPTE], the service labor union [SEIU 1021] the Fire Department union [IAFF 55] and others backed his opponent because he’s too independent. But that’s a ridiculous assertion given his closeness to Schaaf, a truly anti-City labor Mayor. It would be naive enough to believe that Taylor would chart a new course away from Schaaf. But it’s mark-level innocence to believe he’d move away from the interests she represents—large developers and landlords, alleged slumlords and polluters—but it’s what Taylor hopes you will inscrutably do. Just don’t vote for him.

Don’t Vote for…Reid

Dishonesty with Real Consequences:

There’s no charitable way to say it, Reid has been dishonest with the public in important ways that matter. Reid was once a publicly vocal anti-abortion advocate, working with a local religious leader, Walter Hoye, whose goal was to dissuade women from getting abortions by accosting them at Oakland clinics. Hoye’s efforts led to actual legislation meant to ban that kind of activity from the sites—but he successfully fought that in court and undermined Oakland’s reproductive rights-supporting law.

Reid showed up in a video from several years ago defending Hoye and describing her previous abortions, and her work in tandem to “counsel” women on abortion.

With no intervening narrative bridge this year after the SCOTUS decision on reproductive rights, Reid revealed her previous experience with abortion during a Council meeting. But now, with the nation’s eyes tuned into the assault on abortion rights at the state and SCOTUS level, Reid was suddenly an impassioned abortion rights advocate. She now consistently claims she’s always been a reproductive rights advocate.

Most recently, Reid blamed a freeway vegetation fire on a non-existent homeless encampment without evidence and with apparently no existing encampments in the area. The OFD has confirmed that there were apparently no encampments in the area, officially calling it a vegetation fire with a suspicion of arson.

Reid subsequently claimed that all six of those wounded at the Kings Estate Educational Complex shooting were students to television media, during a time when it wasn’t clear if some or all students were minor children. All but one turned out to be non-student adults, and the injured student an adult.

All this would be troubling enough. But Reid, like Taylor, has little under her belt in the form of legislative accomplishments, although she did co-sponsor with CM Kalb his universal voting for OUSD families measure [see below]. The biggest legislation of her term was co-sponsored with Taylor, the Emerald New Deal, which failed to live up to its potential thanks to the ham-handed delivery of its proponents on council.

Landlord Interests Before Tenant Protections:

Like Taylor, Reid has been a staunch protector of landlord interests at Council, going as far as to try to amend the legislation for Measure T by adding an exemption for vaguely determined “residential small property owners” that would be determined by Council after the ballot measure passed.

The effort was impeded by the City Attorney who told Council they couldn’t legally define the concept of "small property owners" without a great amount of research and work. The language looks bad enough. But Reid presented the proposals on the dais, waiting until the last possible moment to propose amendments to the legislation that had spent two years cycling its way through Council and an external commission. The amendment crashed and burned, amid significant acrimony from sponsoring CMs, but the whole episode was illustrative.

Reid has often worked hand in hand with Taylor to promote inequitable ideas and political grandstanding. Like Taylor, Reid has been a staunch advocate for landlords against tenant protections ordinances. Reid has reliably supported Taylor in everything that he has done, and by no means exhaustive, this reporter has rarely seen a vote where they weren’t united. And like her partner in the acts, Taylor, Reid has been a fabulist and manipulator of public safety fears. Reid would continue on Council as Taylor’s steady accomplice if he wins, a great reason not to vote for Reid who will likely lose but give vital votes to Taylor, anyway in Ranked Choice Voting.

Don't Vote for...Ignacio de la Fuente

De la Fuente is an easy no. His claim to fame is being on Council during the City’s worst years—blight, crime, corruption and incompetence were at their nadir while de la Fuente was on Council. As a former President of the Council, he was a very influential member of the body as well. Oakland’s normative signature screw-ups, firing 80 police officers and bringing back the Raiders, can be placed at de la Fuente’s feet far more than other council person serving at the time, at least in terms of conception and backing.

Despite presenting himself as a public safety-only focused candidate, de la Fuente is the only candidate currently running for Oakland office who actually voted to "defund" OPD, in an extreme irony that borders on farce. De la Fuente’s rationale for defunding then, and now, actually makes sense. The police union is as out of control now as it was in IDLF’s time—his act was to remind the union who is boss while making necessary budget-balancing cuts, a spirit today’s council could stand to emulate. If that were the narrative macguffin de la Fuente was stressing today, I’d be inclined to praise him for it, despite loathing his other rhetoric and actions. But it isn’t. He’s dishonestly run away from that perception, pretending to be an expert on policing our way out of every systemic issue that exists today in Oakland—media have obliged, spending literally no time examining his bonafides. There's no doubt that the OPD itself claimed that his support for the staffing cut impeded crime-fighting, and very publicly stated police would no longer answer calls for service for burglaries and the like because of the cut.

But there's more and it is almost comical. Given the tough on crime, police-supporting image he and his enablers have sought to portray. In 2007, de la Fuente claimed that Oakland's police hated him and were out to get him. After his son was arrested for rape of at least four women, IDLF disturbingly diminished the severity of the accusations, and claimed they were the creation of the OPD and only to harm senior’s political career. That’s all in the memory hole now, as we are supposed to experience de la Fuente as a seasoned battalion commander of loyal cops who will bring peace and security to the streets of Oakland—and not someone looking over his shoulder for fear that the police are about to frame him over personal beef.

What’s more troubling about de la Fuente’s current run is how obviously the public safety portion of it is just a beard for other goals, at least the goals of his backers. Almost a million dollars has been raised in IDLF’s name by polluters, big developers and out of town investors who have limited goals—feeding at Oakland’s trough, increasing polluting industry and lowering Oakland’s defenses before unscrupulous development. The interests that want to put coal in Oakland, something local environmental advocates say would increase bad health outcomes in the West, seeded an independent expenditure committee for de la Fuente and have spent several hundred thousand dollars on it, along with allied real estate interests.

Californians for Safer Streets [...] tv ads and mailers unsurprisingly don't portray IDLF as a bought and paid for bringer of another particulate pollutant to the City, but as a self-made immigrant who knows how to clean up the streets of both figurative and literal trash. Likewise, mailers sent by the National Association of Realtors, an enemy of tenant's rights, don't mention housing or tenants at all, nor that IDLF opposed Just Cause eviction protections. Rather, the org is using the boilerplate of concern with blight, homelessness and crime to hide their intentions during a time when housing prices have exploded in Oakland. It's all a con by the same forces who've never cared about what happens to residents and just want get richer. Even CM Kalb referenced de la Fuente's bad "backroom deals" in his voter guide.

What you’d get with de la Fuente as Mayor is likely what you’d get with him as candidate, an administration that would look like an old tammany hall political cartoon, all the while covering its tracks by pounding on the public safety issue.

D4: Don't Vote for...Nenna Joiner

The choice between Nenna Joiner and Janani Ramachandran is pretty stark, but not as ideal as it could be. Joiner no doubt is everything she appears to be—a charming, prominent small business owner and local quasi-celebrity. But there’s little else to suggest Joiner can represent the district at City Hall besides some time spent on oversight boards. Joiner’s platform is bare of any specific action or program she’d implement as D4 representative. There are a lot of questions answered by who is filling Joiner’s campaign chest, though—mostly business interests, developers, landlords and polluters who supported Schaaf and her allies both now and in recent years. The entire Taplin family is in there, as well as Phil Tagami, Zach Wasserman, two Port Commissioners and Schaaf herself. Recently, the National Association of Realtors reported spending $44k on the Joiner campaign's behalf. The OPD's union, the Oakland Police Officer's Association, has been largely dormant in past years, but awoke to also spend $44k on Joiner campaign’s behalf in recent weeks, probably the most troubling sign.

All this is very troubling backing for a newcomer to politics who will need time to get up to speed. It’s quite possible Joiner could be a good leader given time in the seat. But she’ll face a lot of pressure to replicate some of the Schaaf era’s worst mistakes straight out the gate by Schaaf's oldest base of support.

That's not to say there aren't troubling aspects to Ramachandran's run. Ramachandran has the ALCO Building Trades official endorsement and Building Trades funding. And she also seems regrettably comfortable with local YIMBY organizations like East Bay for Everyone and East Bay YIMBY—two orgs linked to bad policy making and advocacy for Oakland. East Bay YIMBY, the local California YIMBY arm, backs Taylor for Mayor, along with many other regrettable public stances through the years.

With so much mainstream political endorsement—and so much of it developer oriented—it’s difficult to see Ramachandran taking on tough stands at Council about Oakland's future. But she will still almost certainly be better than Joiner on issues such as policing, tenants rights and affordable housing, especially given the cavalcade of funders Joiner attracted in just a couple of months of fund-raising. Like the rest of choices this year, it's not a comfortable one. But it’s clear Joiner would be the council person who could let advancements in tenants rights and police oversight fade or be reversed during her term—or at least that's what her financial backers are hoping—while Ramachandran will likely to fight to keep and expand them.

D2: Don't Vote for...Harold Lowe

Harold Lowe’s candidacy seems to mostly be an attack on Bas. Lowe hasn’t presented any programs or actions he’d take as council representative. Almost all of his commentary is an attack on Bas along with very general concepts about how to improve the district and precious little to indicate he even knows whether they are possible, such as his claim that he’ll create 400 additional police officers from thin air. Even the always-conservative East Bay Times editorial recommendation for him couldn’t find much to say about Lowe in recommending him over Bas that wasn’t actually just an attack on Bas, because Lowe has literally done nothing else on the campaign trail but attack Bas. It’s an easy no, from any pov.

D6: a Moot But Open Question

There’s no easy answer for D6. Kevin Jenkins seems like a nice person and makes some good points on systemic issues on his website and during forums. His grounding at United Way as Director of Housing Justice initiatives will likely give him insights on housing and homelessness. But he’s not done enough at Peralta District to show what he'd do with those insights, and his comments are just general enough to worry his focus will be on city wide development over his own constituency, like his predecessor.

The Building Trades, which have endorsed Jenkins, have invested early and often in his campaign and basically are the biggest single driving financial force there, representing about 20% of his funds as of this writing. That’s a relative dynamic, since D6 hasn’t attracted the kinds of campaign fund investment it has in the past when the target was getting rid of Desley Brooks. Jenkins, by far the biggest earner in the race, only raised $54k in the last report before election. There's no independent spending, either.

Jenkins has big endorsments from the heart of the progressive local Democratic party. MANY establishment figures have endorsed him and OakPAC, the Oakland Chamber of Commerce's IE, recently donated $1800 to his campaign. All good news if you like business as usual.

Jenkins’ opponents Yakpasua Zazaboi and Kenny Session also seem like nice, well-intentioned and thoughtful people. Session, who lives in the Flatlands, especially feels like he would be a breath of fresh air on the Council dais and his attitude toward homelessness and housing is refreshing and righteous. But, of course, there's nothing to show whether he could pull any of his heroic ideas off. Zazaboi has a compelling life story and in his campaign rhetoric also hits some strong notes on the root causes of crime, systemic racism and gentrification. But there’s literally no platform on his website and in his comments at forums and last-minute funding from the whole Taplin family doesn't help matters.

The outsized contributions and rush of support for Jenkins suggest that D6 Council seat continues to be seen as a vote on Council, not as a representative for the district—business and trade interests have early scoped out a favorite, and the rest have fallen out of the lens. Jenkins is realistically likely to win, and nothing is likely to generate enough votes for his lo-fi challengers to change that, even if there appears to be a small last minute push for Zazaboi [with the arrival of a slim mailer]. But what’s most worrisome is how quickly Jenkins has been accepted by the status quo, even by the Chamber. It may be putting too fine a point on it, but Jenkins and Joiner—who would probably be running opposite to Jenkins platform if they were in the same contest—are the only candidates the Chamber spent money on this cycle. Nothing so far suggests that this long-suffering district will become anything more than a pawn piece and Council vote placeholder as it has for the past four years.


Almost all the Measures introduced by Council this election cycle are beneficial for Oakland. Particularly exciting Measures include:

Q, the article 34 exemption allowing the City authorize and pay for low income housing

V, the Just Cause tenant protection expansion

W, the "democracy dollars" measure

R, the measure to remove gender-specific language in the Charter.

Measure S, which would allow non-citizen voting in OUSD elections, remains interesting, but its likely to face court challenges. Measure T, the Progressive Business Tax, as I've written elsewhere, was greatly weakened by Council members as a requisite condition of stopping the mounting expenditure planned against it by the Chamber of Commerce. But its still worth passing. And until something earth-shattering that allows the City to use its General Fund for something other than a feeding tube to the OPD happens, the funds for Measure U, as saturated with self-interest from construction companies and affordable housing developers as they are, are critical.

The changes brought by Measure X are welcome—twelve years in office is enough for anyone. But due to the language excluding the current seats held before 2023, no council person will be affected by that legislation for 12 more years. Hard to get excited about that, but worth voting for.

There is only one measure that I won't recommend and that is Measure Y—and this is qualified more as a criticism of the fact that the Zoo couldn’t wait for another election to put its parcel tax ballot measure on Oakland’s ballot. Oakland has passed many parcel taxes over the years, and whether an issue of perception or actual economic impact, the public is exhausted with the habit. A poll conducted by Todco in mid-September shows that Measure U has significant hurdles—only 44% of respondents support it wholeheartedly. There's enough on the fence support to pass it with the required 2/3 bar. But the addition of another parcel tax on the ballot is likely to add to the popular sensation that Oakland is going after endless new parcel tax revenues rather than balancing its books will dampen enthusiasm for both. But that's just the thing. It’s the less vital Zoo parcel tax that has a lower bar for passage—parcel tax measures instituted by the public only need a simple majority, while Measure U needs two thirds plus one vote to pass.

The zoo has given itself wide discretion on how to use the funds in the measure—they can be used for literally any purpose the Zoo’s board can imagine, making oversight of the spending a dubious proposition. That being said, the damage that the Zoo parcel tax does may only be felt by the more important infrastructure measure and that barn door is already open. Voting no on the Zoo measure won't help. For all these reasons, people should just ignore the Zoo parcel tax and encourage everyone else to as well, while strenuously advocating Measure U in its stead. Measure U won’t raise the tax burden for property owners beyond its current and it will provide over $300 MM for not only the creation of affordable housing, but the preservation and renovation of current affordable units. This is less than a no, but a suggestion no time be spent advocating for Y.

Vote for and advocate for every other measure, they are all no-brainers.

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