‘Housing as a Human Right’ takes center stage in Oakland’s election
Youth against Apocalypse, said in this demonstration in Oakland last year that their organization’s issue – climate justice – is “in an intersectional relation to housing justice” because “the same corporate officials and systems of power” preventing transition to renewable energy are the same ones removing communities of color and poor communities from their homes. | Marilyn Bechtel/PW

OAKLAND, Calif. – This city’s supporters of housing as a human right, rethinking public safety, achieving racial justice, and upholding public education have a lot to be glad about as election results are finalized.

Longtime Oakland resident and community organizer Carroll Fife, regional director of the Alliance for Community Empowerment for San Francisco and Oakland, has won her race for City Council in District 3, defeating two-term incumbent Lynette Gibson McElhaney.

Fife was lead organizer in the epic Moms 4 Housing struggle that a year ago saw a group of unhoused Black working mothers take over a long-vacant West Oakland house owned by real estate speculators. The moms occupied the home for two months before being evicted by Alameda County sheriffs – and then winning the real estate firm’s agreement to sell the home to the Oakland Community Land Trust so Moms 4 Housing could turn it into a transitional home for unhoused mothers searching for jobs and permanent housing.

Fife’s platform features redirecting law enforcement resources toward preventing violence, massive investment in housing that people with low and very low incomes can afford, implementing far-reaching policy solutions to overcome racial social disparities, and overcoming environmental pollution that disproportionately affects West Oakland residents, who are largely people of color.

At-Large City Councilmember and Council President Rebecca Kaplan overcame a challenger, Derreck Johnson, whose campaign was heavily funded by ride-share giants Uber and Lyft.

Kaplan has also prioritized getting housing built that is affordable to people with low incomes and using public land for affordable housing. She urges making civilians rather than police responsible for responding to mental health crises and traffic enforcement, advocates for gun control, and calls for strong measures to combat various forms of environmental pollution.

Both Fife and Kaplan had broad support from labor and people’s movements, including endorsement by the Alameda Labor Council, while their opponents were backed by Oakland Mayor Libby Schaaf and others advocating for more moderate policies.

This year no current member of Oakland’s School Board who was up for re-election decided to run again. Though final results have yet to be announced, in three of the races for the four open seats, candidates opposing charter schools, school closures, and cuts in education funding are clearly winning.

Candidates Sam Davis in District 1, VanCedric Williams in District 3, and Michael Hutchinson in District 5 are all significantly ahead of opponents whose campaigns received generous donations from Go Public Schools and other PACs backing charter school expansion. All three apparent winners were backed by the Oakland Education Association and endorsed by the Alameda Labor Council.

In recent years the Oakland Unified School District has suffered a wave of school closings. At 16 of the 18 shuttered sites, the majority were students of color; charter schools emerged at 14 of those sites.  While learning remains virtual during the pandemic, pressure continues for further closings and co-locations with charter schools.

Meanwhile, next time around, OUSD School Board candidates will have to take a new constituency into account, now that Oakland’s ballot Measure QQ giving 16- and 17-year old Oaklanders the right to vote in future School Board elections has passed with nearly 68 percent of the vote.

As students marched and rallied with their teachers during the Oakland Education Association’s successful February 2019 strike, that idea began to take shape. In May of this year, the City Council voted unanimously to put the measure, written by Councilmember Kaplan, on the November ballot.

Another Oakland ballot initiative, Measure S1, establishing a new Office of the Inspector General to be employed directly by the city’s Police Commission to review and report on complaints of police misconduct, has passed with more than 81% of the vote. The measure, co-authored by Kaplan, will also allow the Police Commission, and the Community Police Review Agency which investigates police misconduct and recommends discipline, to hire attorneys independently of the city.

The Inspector General will also be responsible for auditing the Oakland Police Department’s compliance with a nearly two-decades-long federal court oversight stemming from the Riders police misconduct scandal in the early 21st century.

Measure S1 is seen as greatly strengthening the independence of Oakland’s Police Commission, established after voters passed the city’s Measure LL by a large majority in November 2016.


Marilyn Bechtel
Marilyn Bechtel

Marilyn Bechtel writes for People’s World from the San Francisco Bay Area. She joined the PW staff in 1986 and currently participates as a volunteer. Marilyn Bechtel escribe para People's World desde el Área de la Bahía de San Francisco. Se unió al personal de PW en 1986 y actualmente participa como voluntaria.