Pam Harris: 2018 Oakland City Council District Four Candidate Policies And Positions

Pamela Harris Oakland City Council District 4 Candidate InterviewPamela Harris Oakland City Council District 4 Candidate Interview
(Last Updated On: October 24, 2018)

2018 Oakland Mayoral And City Council Candidate Questionnaire by Zennie62Media

This 20-question questionnaire was designed to give Oaklanders a chance to evaluate, at once, the plans and philosophies of all of the participants in the Oakland Mayoral Race and the Oakland City Council Race for District 2, District 4, and District 6.

This is 2018 Oakland City Council District Four Candidate Pam Harris

1. Candidate’s Full Name and current occupation

Pam Harris
Nonprofit Financial Professional

2. Why are you running for office in Oakland?

I am running to be of service—and because I believe in Oakland as a progressive, multiracial, vibrant city where equity for all is not yet a reality, but is possible and must be fought for. Oakland is a beacon of progressive values, but we have a lot of work to do to make that a reality for everyone.

Earlier this year I came across the body of a man who died cold and unsheltered on our streets. I was shaken to my core and searched for a way to redouble my efforts at service and activism. Displacement and inequity currently threaten many communities. I want to work for the people of Oakland to ensure safety, dignity, and prosperity, not just for some, but for all – including low-income families, immigrants, people of color, youth, seniors, LGBTQ people, workers, and the homeless, to name a few. I would like my own children (ages 6 and 9) to be able to feel proud of their city as they grow, to know it as a welcoming place where all people can live and thrive. For these reasons, I have shaped a platform around the values of equity, dignity, and compassion, and would be honored to serve, not only my district, but all of Oakland. As the next District 4 Councilmember, I’ll use my decades of nonprofit fiscal management experience to tackle our financial problems and ensure that our city budget reflects our shared values.

3. Have you held an elected position before? If so, please describe.

I am an elected delegate to the California Democratic Party from the 18th Assembly District.

4. Have you ever served on a public board or commission? If so, please list assignments.

N/A

5. What endorsements have you received? If so, please list them.

Elected Officials
Hon. Dave Jones — California Insurance Commissioner
Hon. Ro Khanna — Congressman, 17th Congressional District
Hon. Nancy Skinner — Senator, California State Senate District 9
Hon. Rob Bonta — Assemblymember, California State Assembly District 18
Hon. Libby Schaaf — Mayor, City of Oakland (#1)
Hon. Annie Campbell Washington — Councilmember, City of Oakland, District 4
Hon. Dan Kalb — Councilmember, City of Oakland, District 1 (#2)
Hon. Jesse Arreguin — Mayor, City of Berkeley
Hon. John Bauters — Mayor, City of Emeryville
Hon. Amber Childress — Trustee, Alameda County Board of Education
Hon. Scott Donahue — Councilmember, City of Emeryville
Hon. Lori Droste — Councilmember, City of Berkeley
Hon. Linda Handey — Trustee, Peralta Community College
Hon. Kate Harrison — Councilmember, City of Berkeley
Hon. Andy Kelley — Commissioner, Alameda County Planning Commission
Hon. Dianne Martinez — Councilmember, City of Emeryville
Hon. Jim Oddie — Councilmember, City of Alameda
Hon. Rebecca Saltzman — President, BART Board of Directors
Hon. Robert Raburn — Trustee, BART Board of Directors & Boardmember, Dimond Improvement District
Hon. Kriss Worthington — Councilmember, City of Berkeley

Local Leaders
Buffy Wicks — Former Director, California for Hillary/AD 15 Candidate (#2)
Dr. Janet L. Holmgren — President Emerita, Mills College
Kathleen Archambeau — Author
Jonathan Bair — Former Chair, City of Oakland Bicycle and Pedestrian Advisory Committee
Kathleen Caldwell — Owner, A Great Good Place for Books
Glen Li — Owner, Blu Moon Lounge
Jeff Perlstein — Owner, SoleSpace
Isela and Richard Santana — Owners, Cafe Santana Roasting Company
Luan Stauss — Owner, Laurel Bookstore

Democratic Party Leaders
Daraka Larimore-Hall — Vice Chair, California Democratic Party
Hon. Susie Shannon — President/Commissioner, City of Los Angeles Health Commission & DNC Member
Hon. Rocky Fernandez — Regional Director, California Democratic Party
Hon. Kathy Neal — Corresponding Secretary, Alameda County Democratic Party
Ellie Casson — California Democratic Party Delegate, Assembly District 18
Brendalynn Goodall — Past President, Stonewall Democratic Club
Sean Dugar — California Democratic Party Delegate/Executive Board Member, Assembly District 18
Mike Katz-Lacabe — San Leandro School Board Trustee (retired)/California Democratic Party Delegate, Assembly District 18
Carter Lavin — California Democratic Party Delegate, Assembly District 18
Mike Lee — California Democratic Party Delegate, Assembly District 18
Nick Resnick — President, Stonewall Democratic Club
Mara Schechter — California Democratic Party Delegate, Assembly District 18

Organizations
Sierra Club
Transport Oakland
Bayard Rustin LGBT Coalition
Black Women Organized for Political Action
Oakland Police Officers Association
Evolve California
Block by Block Organizing Network (#3 Ranking)
East Bay League of Conservation Voters (#2 Ranking)
East Bay Young Democrats (#2 Ranking)
John George Democratic Club (#2 Ranking)
Oakland Chamber of Commerce (#3 Ranking)
Oakland Rising Action (#3 Ranking)
Planned Parenthood (#2 Ranking)

Oakland Management Related Questions

6. What are your top six Oakland Budget priorities, and why?

Our budget is a direct reflection of our values. As a financial services provider for non-profits and community-based organizations, I am intimately familiar with what it means to incorporate values into budgets.

My top six budget priorities are:

1) Reviewing how we spend our dollars, how they are utilized, and how they might be leveraged to better reflect our values;
2) Investing in youth services and social workers rather than police to respond to issues such as homelessness and youth unemployment;
3) Maintenance and preventative measures for our infrastructure, so we stop kicking the can down the road;
4) Exploring possibilities for new revenue streams;
5) Investing in the present to reduce future costs;
6) Working with district residents to ensure our budget is a reflection of our shared values.

7. There is a projected deficit for the City of Oakland through 2020. Residents want to close the budget gap via raising revenues. What would you do to raise more money for the City of Oakland?

Oakland is a place of innovation. This creates powerful opportunities for partnership. We must build and leverage relationships with the nonprofit, philanthropic, and for-profit communities within our city, region and state to fund solutions to many of the unique problems our city faces. I would make it a priority to research opportunities, build relationships, and apply for potential funding.

8. How do you propose to solve the problem of the City of Oakland’s under-funded pension liability?

Defined benefit plans, also known as pension plans, are ideal for workers. City employees work tirelessly, and our first responders in particular put their lives on the line for the common good. It seems only fitting that the public should invest in these workers by supporting defined benefit plans, aka pensions, as opposed to forcing workers to fund their own retirement through defined contribution retirement plans. At the same time, many municipalities, including our own, are struggling to meet their debt demands. New pension agreements need to be configured with a long view in mind, and agreements between employers and employees need to be kept. There should not be after-the-fact alteration of previously agreed upon retirement plans or pensions.

Our city must abide by its promises and do everything in its power to meet its obligations to retired workers. New sources of funding must be aggressively sought in order to continue to meet the city’s maintenance, service, and debt demands. People are the heart of this city, and the city must do all that it can to meet its debt obligations to retired workers who have done so much for our community.

Oakland Police-Related Questions

9. Does Oakland need to hire more police officers or reduce the number we have – please explain your answer.

Our officers are overworked, forced to perform massive amounts of overtime, and provided with inadequate resources and facilities. Burnout is an issue. I believe we should maintain our current number of officers, but we need to bring in civilians to cover administrative work, as well as social workers to interact with homeless and mentally ill people. I recently witnessed three vehicle units respond to a call regarding a homeless person sleeping in a business doorway. Is this the best use of the officers’ valuable time and our city resources? We should work together on strategies that save on staffing by de-professionalizing non-critical administrative roles on the force, shifting some of our responses away from criminalization, and increasing services and support. We also need to prioritize detective work and community engagement.

10. Do you support the work of the current Oakland Police Chief, or is a change needed? Please explain.

I believe we must keep the Chief. Her staying in Oakland is a critical piece of ending Federal Oversight of OPD. Everytime we lose and gain a new Chief of Police, there is a clock that restarts. We have already invested nearly a decade and a half and millions of dollars on Federal oversight.

11. Unreported “use-of-force” incidents are a major Oakland Police problem. How do you propose to solve it?

Use of force incidents must be reported per state and federal laws. The leadership within OPD should be held accountable to ensure that body cameras are reviewed, and instances immediately reported. In addition, the new Citizens Police Review Commission should make it part of their scope of work to put residents at ease and encourage residents to report instances of use of force.

12. The Oakland Police Department is in its 13th year of federal oversight. What’s your plan to get OPD away from federal government watch?

I am honored and surprised to have earned the sole endorsement of the Oakland Police Officers Association. I was open and honest in our conversation about the immediate need to put into place all the reforms recommended by the Federal Monitor. Unfortunately, there is a clock that restarts every time we get a new Police Chief. We must do everything possible to retain the current Chief and meet the minimum standards set under the Riders case.

13. The Oakland Police Department disproportionately stops more people of color, than whites. What’s your plan to stop this problem?

As an African American woman, I am deeply aware of the realities of racial profiling, and its damaging effects. I am committed to safety and dignity for all of us, and to working tirelessly toward an Oakland where equitable public safety is a reality every day.

Oakland must move away from a stop-based model. It is the only way we will get away from the discriminatory practice of race-based stops. We should move to a call-based system where our officers are responding to crime as it is happening. This means we’d have to fully staff the OPD dispatch office and redirect officers to high crime areas. It also means freeing up officers to ensure we have walking partols in neighborhoods across District 4.

Homelessness, Affordable Housing, Quality of Life In Oakland

14. What’s your plan to stop or curb homelessness in Oakland?

I got involved in this race because I came across the body of a dead homeless man in Downtown Oakland. People are dying cold and unsheltered on our streets, and we have not invested in housing and infrastructure in the way that’s needed. We must address this crisis head-on. All options should be on the table. We should be working with the state to develop rental assistance similar to unemployment assistance for those facing rent increases, unemployment, or underemployment.
We also need to do more here to support anti-eviction resources for tenants – including robustly investing in and making widely available tenant rights services. Next, we need to stop criminalizing our homeless neighbors. Short-term, this means we need to set up more dedicated camp areas, open public buildings, and vacant school sites, as well as allowing for faith institutions to open their properties to those living in cars and RV’s, and working with our homeless neighbors and their allies to ensure everyone has access to safe housing where they are free from harassment by others. We need to rethink the way we interact with homeless individuals and provide the services they need. I believe our budget should be an expression of our values, and an affirmation of our common humanity. Although the Council has taken steps to provide funding for the homeless and underhoused in our city, we still need to look at how we are spending those dollars. Does it make sense for three officers to respond to a merchant call about a mentally ill homeless person sleeping in a doorway, or can we hire a mental illness/homeless case worker at a lower cost, freeing our officers to do the safety work that’s so desperately needed?
Long-term, we must ensure that we as a city are protecting and rehabbing SRO’s, using public lands for public benefit, and above all else focusing on building affordable housing across the city.
15. What’s your plan to cause more affordable housing to be built in Oakland?

Housing is absolutely a human right. That is something I say everywhere I go, and to every person I meet. The crisis we are in has been decades in the making, and we are seeing the results of a perfect storm. High unemployment rates for African Americans in our city, the rent being “too damn high,” NIMBYism, and a long-standing ill will by our elected officials toward our neighbors who are now forced to live under highway overpasses and in parking lots all exacerbate the crisis. We must do better.

We need to grow the number of housing units in Oakland. I am a strong believer in upzoning. This means increased housing and infrastructure around BART, BRT, and AC Transit lines and in other areas that have traditionally not been high-density. In my district, that may look different than in Downtown Oakland. It means looking at three or four story buildings replacing questionable motels along MacArthur Blvd. It also means allowing homeowners to upgrade their properties into multi-family homes.

We also need to streamline the permitting process and create a standard for what it takes to do business in Oakland. Community Benefit and Project Labor Agreements in our city are currently a piecemeal process. I would like to work with community groups, labor unions, and other stakeholders to create a basic Community Benefit and Project Labor Agreement that must be met to build in the City of Oakland. With such an agreement in place, if a developer wants to expedite, use city land, or not include affordable units, additional conversations and benefits to the city would kick in.

But first and foremost, we must preserve deeply affordable housing by supercharging the efforts to grow community land trusts and housing cooperatives in Oakland and other mechanisms to ensure that currently affordable housing remains affordable into the future. We also need to recognize that housing takes many forms, from temporary to transitional to permanent, from SROs to RVs to single-family homes. We need to preserve and create more housing options across the spectrum. This includes taking a look at what land is owned by the city, county, and state and providing long-term leases to non-profit affordable housing developers.

16. What’s your plan to stop or curb illegal dumping in Oakland?

Given that we have massive waste problems in Oakland, from illegal dumping on our city streets to polluted water entering the Bay, my priority would be waste mitigation. We need to do more to mitigate waste production and make it easier for waste to be properly disposed of through better education, incentives, and enforcement of existing regulations. In addition, we have an opportunity to help reduce dirty water runoff into the Bay through green infrastructure by utilizing better drain grating water-retaining pavements, and swales that capture and filter water before it gets to the Bay.

Economic Development In Oakland

17. Share with us your economic development plan and policy for Oakland.

I have spent my life working in the non-profit and philanthropic sectors to help improve our communities. In Miami Beach, Florida, I worked with low-income artists using CDBG funds to spur economic development in a blighted area of the city. That highly successful program focused on artists as a community asset — as micro-business owners and culture creators — and helped to bring foot traffic, cash spending, and capital investment into an area of the city that desperately needed development. I believe this is something that can be replicated here to support our small businesses and artistic communities.

I currently work with non-profit organizations to help them budget and manage their assets and cash flow for sustainability and growth. I plan to bring this experience to my work as a city councilmember – to promote small business growth and enhance our quality of life in Oakland.

18. What industry should Oakland focus on developing, and why?

Oakland is a town filled with creative thinkers. We are the soul of the most innovative region in the world. I believe we can channel that innovation into a model green city where the best and brightest in the environmental, arts, and nonprofit sectors can pilot out-of-the-box projects — whether it’s training the next generation of union workers on green infrastructure, utilizing world-renowned think tanks that are already based here to explore watershed restoration as a way of preserving drinking water and fighting climate change, or empowering our artists with the tools to fight displacement and gentrification with co-ops on public lands. We are the center of the universe; now is the time to lead the way.

The Coliseum and The Sports Industry in Oakland.
(A special section because Oakland has a multi-billion-dollar facility called The Oakland-Alameda County Coliseum Complex.)

19. Where should the Oakland A’s new ballpark be: Coliseum or Howard Terminal?

There are pros and cons for both sites. At this point, I think it is up to the A’s and the current City Council to work this out.

20. What should the future of the Oakland Coliseum be, and do you have a plan to share with Oaklanders?

I would like to hear more from Oaklanders regarding what they would like to see at the Coliseum. So far, I’ve heard calls for bringing a professional soccer or WNBA team to the site, and calls for a mixed use facility that offers affordable housing, retail, entertainment, and jobs to our community. I’ve also heard calls for turning the Coliseum into an amusement park. While I don’t think the latter is an option, I do believe we should first confirm what the A’s are going to do, and then reach out for rigorous community input before making a decision.

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Zennie Abraham is the CEO of Zennie62Media

About the Author

Zennie Abraham
Zennie Abraham is the CEO of Zennie62Media