For the first time in decades, a progressive majority have been sworn into the Oakland City Council yesterday. The new councilmembers were elected with a mandate from voters to deliver bold solutions to the ongoing homelessness crisis, police overspending, economic insecurity, and dramatic inequities in the city. In the midst of a pandemic that has brought the City to its knees, the new majority is committed to working with stakeholders to pass ambitious policies that meet the needs of Oakland head-on and embrace tax reform to grow revenue for much-needed services and abandon senseless calls for austerity.
“We were elected by so many people who were yearning for bold and visionary leadership,” said Councilmember Carroll Fife, a newly elected member of the Oakland City Council. “Our mandate is to elevate and center the needs of the most vulnerable in Oakland in our work in City Hall. As elected leaders, we must ensure that the poor, unhoused, and working people do not suffer more as a result of the economic fallout of this pandemic. Instead, we must create systems that invite the largest and wealthiest corporations to invest in rebuilding our city.”
The new majority will center Oakland’s most vulnerable residents, protect the city’s social safety net, and prevent proposed cuts to vital city services during the budget process and reform the structures perpetuating inequality.
In the midst of a pandemic that has decimated Oakland’s working class, particularly in Black and Brown communities, more families are on the brink of homelessness, tenants struggle to pay rent, violence grows, and unemployment is soaring. Cutting vital community services is not the answer. The new progressive majority has committed to reverse the downward spiral with solutions that meet the moment’s tenor — including revisiting a progressive business tax proposal. The tax would provide relief to struggling small businesses and raise tens of millions of dollars in new revenue for the city to address homelessness, street and sidewalk repair, trash collection, fire prevention, and community safety.
“It’s time for all of us — the Council, the Mayor, and the City Administration — to work towards the progressive priorities the people of Oakland voted for,” said Councilmember Nikki Fortunato Bas. “Our priorities are: Housing is a human right, safety-focused on prevention and healing, prioritizing violent crime, and inviting corporations to pay their fair share and invest in our city’s economic recovery. Our residents, workers, and small businesses need us to work boldly together now more than ever, to create a safer, healthier, more inclusive and vibrant Oakland.”
“We saw unprecedented corporate spending in the last election, but Oakland residents rejected the sale of the city to the highest bidder, instead opting for grassroots candidates that reflect a bold vision that finally puts the people first,” said Councilmember Rebecca Kaplan.
“In the middle of this global pandemic, the Mayor is proposing cuts to vital services — including shutting down firehouses that provide the first-line medical care for those with no other options and further reducing other essential services by laying off part-time workers. This work is done by people, and with less people, the work that needs to be done cannot be done. I believe the new majority of progressive Councilmembers will work with us so that city workers do not bear the brunt of any budget cuts,” said Laura Takeshita, IFPTE Local 21 Oakland Vice President-Elect.
“A city budget is a reflection of our values, and for that reason, we will work with the City Council to take a hard look at the unchecked overspending in the police department and divert these needed funds to public health, safety, and community economic development programs,” said Cat Brooks of the Anti Police-Terror Project.
“In order for small businesses, essential workers, and ordinary people to emerge strong from this crisis we must choose to invest in the City’s future,” said Liana Molina, senior campaign director for the East Bay Alliance for a Sustainable Economy. “We, in partnership with the Oakland City Council, will work together to demand that the City’s wealthiest corporations pay their fair share.”