Who is Elihu Harris? I made this post because other biographies presented, on the whole, a very biased and racist view of a man who’s responsible for the construction of what is Downtown Oakland as of today, May 8th, 2021. Who better to write a real biography of Elihu Mason Harris than one of his former staff members. I was Elihu’s economic advisor from 1995 to 1999.
Elihu Mason Harris is friend and former boss of this blogger, and a retired American politician and college administrator. A member of the Democratic Party, Elihu Harris served as the 46th Mayor of Oakland, California from 1991 to 1999; he previously served for 12 years (1978–1990) as a member of the California State Assembly. Mayor Harris was the Chancellor of Peralta Community College District from 2003 to 2010. Elihu Harris was Oakland’s second black mayor.
Harris received a Master of Public Policy from University of California, Berkeley in 1969 and law degree from UC Davis School of Law in 1975. From 1979 until 1991 he served as a named partner in the law firm of Harris, Alexander and Burris. He has also served as a California Uniform Law Commissioner since 1981. In 2000 Elihu was appointed by Governor Gray Davis to the California Unemployment Appeals Board where he served until 2003.
As Mayor of Oakland, Elihu presided over the development of City Center Oakland, and the government center at its center. He green-lit the Rotunda Oakland, and with developer David Alexander, created what is now called The Uptown Entertainment District. He worked to bring jobs to Oakland and in projects large and small, from buildings like the Ask.com structure to the second Cirque du Soleil event ever held in America, in 1996. He also spearheaded, with Oakland Councilmember Richard Spees, the creation of The Chabot Science Center.
Elihu Harris was responsible, as Mayor of Oakland, for the return of the Raiders to Oakland in 1995. He also pushed for and caused the reconstruction of Oakland-Alameda County Coliseum Arena, where the Golden State Warriors won a record five NBA titles. We talked about that, here.
In 1999, Elihu sought to gain the United States Congressional Seat currently held by Congresswoman Barbara Lee. Congressman Ron Dellums, the holder of the seat at the time, selected Barbara Lee over Mayor Harris in a behind-closed-doors meeting in Harris’ office in 1998. Harris then went on to try for the California 13th Assembly District Seat, but was upset by an unknown named Audie Bok, even though he out-spent her 20 to 1. Eventually, Harris was selected as Peralta Community College District Chancellor in 2003 and held that job until 2011.
Elihu is still active and a great friend and advisor to many.
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