People crowdfund just about everything these days: personal artistic pursuits, entrepreneurial ventures, and of course there’s the life-size statue of RoboCop in Detroit that got funded at $67,000. I’m even considering launching a Kickstarter bid for Lasik surgery because I have this mounting paranoia that the apocalypse will come and I won’t be able to find my glasses and I’ll die like Piggy in Lord of the Flies —tormented by loincloth-clad boys and crushed by a boulder. (That or I just won’t be able to see well enough to distinguish my fellow survivors from the mutant geese that will be running what’s left of Oakland.)
When and if those end times do come, we’ll now be able to look back and say that an enterprising Oakland politico made history by launching his run for mayor using a crowdfunding website. Port of Oakland Commissioner Bryan Parker is using the exploratory Crowdtilt campaign as a gauge of his popularity. Before he started the venture on June 19 with a “Tilt Oakland Forward” party, he’d said if he reached his $20,000 crowdfunding goal he would run against Mayor Jean Quan next year. Parker surpassed the goal in less than 24 hours — with 79 donors contributing $23,000, according to a San Francisco Chronicle report.
Parker set a new $50,000 target and now, on the 10-day campaign's closing day, he's surpassed it — netting $50,969 from 167 contributors.
Enlisting a crowdfunding platform doesn’t seem that great a stretch from the internet fund-raising that buoyed Obama’s first bid for prez, but Parker’s campaign staffers claim this is “the first time this technology is applied to the political arena.” For him, using this platform has the potential to broaden political engagement, according to a campaign press release: “Crowdfunding helps make this election about what’s best for everyday Oaklanders, not just the political insiders,” Parker said. “For too long, a few people have funded most politics in this town. Working with Crowdtilt gives every interested resident a chance to participate.”
Parker is backed by Movement50, a group of “young professionals” whose stated mission is to “1) build a network of motivated new leaders to advocate and support policy and 2) support Bryan Parker in his exploratory efforts for the 2014 Oakland Mayoral election. Harnessing strength from our diversity, expansive resources and experience, we promote innovative solutions and are advocates for global responsibility.”
While information about his platform is sparse, his message seems to revolve around the celebration of Oakland’s awesomeness and the failure of current leadership to harness that awesomeness for economic growth. “This can be the moment that we are as good as any city in America,” Parker tells a crowd of young business types in a video on his Crowdtilt site. “Where we step up and know what we deserve and demand it.” He’s also, apparently, inclined toward establishing Oakland as a tech hub.
Parker has served as a healthcare and tech executive and he recently finished his tenure as chairman of Oakland’s Workforce Investment Board, a body that works on unemployment issues. Mayor Quan nominated him for port commissioner and he was appointed by the city council last summer.