The Oakland City Council held it’s first-ever virtual inauguration, which went very well, and managed to dramatically shorten the swearing-in time in the process, compared to past events of that kind. The other first-ever development was an email I happened to run over just a few minutes ago, and contained a press release like I’ve never seen before.
The email came from someone named Anna Bahr, and used a very generic, non-corporate, address. It may be because of that, that I never saw the email when it initially arrived and read in the subject area “Oakland Ushers in Progressive Majority with Promise To Take On Status Quo”. Maybe I would have seen it if the words “city council” were in the same subject area.
Whatever, as it turned out, Anna Bahr is National Deputy Press Secretary for Bernie Sanders, and in writing the release she’s putting in special time for new Oakland Councilmember Carroll Fife, and current councilmembers Rebecca Kaplan, and Nikki Fortunato Bas, and my eyes missed what turned out to be a press release that went like this:
Availability: Councilmembers Carroll Fife, Rebecca Kaplan, and Nikki Fortunato Bas will be available for press interviews over the phone or Zoom between 2pm – 4pm today (after Council meeting ends)
But that wasn’t the best part of the deal at all, by far. This part of it was:
OAKLAND, CA — For the first time in decades, a progressive majority will be sworn in to the Oakland City Council today. 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 work with stakeholders to pass ambitious policies that meet the needs of Oakland head-on, 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 that are 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 tenor of the moment — 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.”
This is the first time I can recall any group of Oakland Councilmembers laying out a press release right after election and stating their objectives as a kind of voting block. This is something I expect to see at the level of The California Assembly, less the Oakland City Council. I’m not trying to be cute, but my point is that The Pandemic has made the immediate problem solving of getting money to people who needed it the most priority number one. Getting money to people on the street and in homes and businesses must be job number one. The rest of this stuff should be put on the back-burner.
People throw around terms like progressive and liberal and neoliberal and socialist and green party with far too much frequency, and what I never hear is “We’re going to improve your income level”. In other words, there’s a lot of yelling and screaming, and very little if any real effort to make people better off monetarily.
This problem is not only with the Oakland City Council, it’s with the entire damn country. The good old USA. I am writing this from suburban Atlanta, Georgia, Fayette County, and here I swear I get “conservative” and “liberal” and “progressive” and “socialist” words tossed at me on television with the frequency of a gatling gun. More words like “defund police” but no words like, “get $5,000 grants to each homeless person”.
This complete effort to put words out to represent whatever tribe someone belongs to got us Donald Trump, and even as President-Elect Joe Biden won the damn election, we’re still scared Trump’s going to take over The White House, take hostages, and never leave!
And news flash: he’s not really Republican – just using slogans to fire up a group of people who forgot how to think because they’re too busy trying to work to just live. Meanwhile Trump fools em to enrich himself.
If this dynamic doesn’t stop, the people who need the most help and now are going to become the next Donald Trumps, and they too might wind up taking prisoners, but this time, it might be Oakland City Hall, not The White House. But with all of that, the objective will be the same as for Trump: to get what they need, except at a much more basic level.
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