News & Opinion » Election 2012

Who'll Replace Jane Brunner?

Oakland's District 1 race has attracted a spate of newcomers.

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Raya's list of endorsements is fairly varied: He's supported by the firefighters union, OakPAC (he's the group's second choice), and Oakland Rising Action, which mobilizes voters in East and West Oakland. And although De La Fuente endorses him, Raya said he disagrees with the councilman's support for curfews and gang injunctions. So why did he get his endorsement? "We have friends in common," said Raya. "He also believes I'm the most qualified candidate, and he believes he can work with me."

When it comes to community policing, no candidate has shown more commitment than Don Link. The name most North Oakland residents may be familiar with, Link helped create the first Neighborhood Crime Prevention Council in Oakland in 1994, and was chair of Oakland's Community Policing Advisory Board from 1999 to 2008. Not surprisingly, Link's main platform is public safety. Like Raya, he's a strong advocate of Operation Ceasefire. "This is, in my opinion, the best solution for the shooting and violent crime that shocks everybody," he said, noting that the program is essentially free (it's funded by a federal grant). But Link acknowledged that Operation Ceasefire alone isn't enough to stop crime: A key part of prevention is better education and job training, he said, and keeping kids in school using proven programs like truancy court, in which the parents of frequently truant kids are admonished by a judge and threatened with consequences.

Economic development also plays a role, he said. Like many of the candidates, Link, who's a contractor by trade, wants to make Oakland friendlier to small businesses by reducing permitting fees and improving the attitude of workers in permitting departments to be more welcoming.

Also similar to most of the candidates, Link believes in increasing the size of the police force. His methods of generating (or finding) the necessary revenue to do so include a complete revision of the budget, increasing the business tax on rental properties (currently 1.4 percent), and enforcing collection of late payments on fees and penalties (he believes the city is losing out on several million dollars).

Craig Brandt may be the most straightforward and down-to-earth candidate in the race — but he admits he might be a "lousy politician." Brandt, a lawyer and father of two, has put forth concrete and specific proposals, but he acknowledges that this makes him politically unsavvy (although he recently earned the endorsement of the Oakland Tribune). His ideas may also not be that viable.

To hire more police officers — his biggest priority — Brandt is advocating for a temporary parcel tax of $80 a year for four years — but voters rejected such a proposal just last November. His other goal is attracting new businesses to the city by increasing the business tax exemption by $100,000, waiving the $60 registration fee, and exempting new businesses from taxes for their first year of operation. Although Brandt takes typical progressive stands in most areas (he supports Operation Ceasefire and restorative justice, is against curfews, stop-and-frisk, and sit/lie), he's conservative in the sense that he thinks the city should "get out of the way" of local entrepreneurs — and cites Art Murmur as a successful example of that (although the city has recently taken it over).

Unlike most politicians (and aspiring ones), Brandt doesn't claim to have all the answers: He admits he doesn't know how to solve the pension situation, but said, "it can't be ignored." Ruminating further, he said he thinks the solution will probably mean raising taxes and cutting benefits for pensioners.

But Brandt is firm on his convictions about not accepting campaign donations from unions, police, or any company that has contracts with the city that the council votes on. At a candidate forum on September 20, he said he disagreed with the Safeway expansion project at Claremont and College avenues that has been the source of much dispute, and said he wouldn't accept a campaign contribution from the grocery chain, either. "I think it's a total conflict of interest," he said in a recent interview. "That angers me to a considerable degree."

Another candidate who's rejecting political contributions (all of them, in this case) is Green Party member Donald Macleay. Macleay, who ran an unsuccessful bid for mayor in 2010, is focusing his campaign on employment, housing, education, and crime. Though he doesn't offer much in the way of specifics, he emphasizes that it's most important to elect "the right people."

A former machinist who now owns a small computer networking business, he wants to completely overhaul the city's budget, look at the possibility of redistricting, and believes that the city is missing out on collecting certain taxes. He's the only candidate who isn't pushing the hiring of more police officers, but he does believe in adding more civilians to the police force, which he said would reduce costs and help repair the department's relationship with the community.

Like Kalb, Macleay is also concerned with recidivism, as well as prostitution in the San Pablo Avenue area. He believes police need to be held accountable — perhaps with the creation of a police commission. And he has hopes that the city could "creatively negotiate" how to pay its pension obligations.

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