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The Oakland Unified School District's inability to rise to the city's economic and scholastic demands remains a black eye. But this November, Oakland voters will be afforded the unprecedented opportunity to remake the seven-member school board. All four races this fall include a total of 17 mostly first-time candidates for public office—and no incumbents. The OUSD board's decision last year to begin closing some Oakland public schools and reports of contaminated water at McClymond's High School appear to have galvanized candidates to run in each of the four contests.
In District 1, three candidates—Stacy Thomas, Sam Davis and Austin Dannhuis—are in the race to replace current school board president Jody London in a district that witnessed strong opposition from parents over the closing of Kaiser Elementary School last December. Oakland Unified, which has struggled with budget woes for years, said the closure and consolidation of some schools is needed. In District 3, five candidates—including Maiya Edgerly, a education non-profit executive; educator Maximo Santana; parent Cherisse Gash; and OUSD teacher VanCedric Williams—hope to replace Jumoke Hinton Hodge. In District 5, educators Sheila Pope-Lawrence, Jorge Lerma and Mike Hutchinson, along with nonprofit director Leroy Roches Gaines, seek outgoing school board member Roseann Torres' seat. In District 7, retired teacher and former McClymonds basketball coach Ben Tapscott along with current educators Clifford Thomspon and Bronche Taylor are in the run for current school board member James Harris' seat, as well as transportation project engineer Victor Valerio and communication coordinator Kristina Molina.
Oakland police accountability activists will finally get an opportunity to add teeth to the city's independent Police Commission. Measure S1 would allow the commission to create an Office of the Inspector General to monitor the handling of police misconduct cases, and hire its own attorneys. Measure QQ hopes to expand Oakland's voting pool by allowing 16- and 17-year-olds to vote in school board elections. Measure RR removes a cap on monetary penalties for code-enforcement fines.
Across the estuary In Alameda, councilmembers Jim Oddie and Malia Vella are seeking re-election in a five-person race for two at-large seats. Two years ago, a City Hall scandal involving accusations by the previous city manager that Oddie and Vella improperly attempted to influence her decision to hire a new fire chief, weighed heavily on voters' minds. Oddie technically lost his seat on the council in the aftermath, but still rejoined the council under a charter provision that allows the runner-up in council elections to take over the seat of a departing councilmember—in this case when then-Councilmember Marilyn Ezzy Ashcraft became mayor. There are signs that some Alameda voters still harbor resentment toward Oddie and Vella. But the trio of challengers—former Mayor Trish Herrera Spencer, Gig Codiga and Amos White—all espouse platforms that in many cases are diametrically opposed to the council incumbents. For instance, all three oppose the passage of Measure Z, the hot-button initiative to excise the remnants of Measure A from the City Charter. While either Oddie or Vella's re-election could be in danger this November, most believe the likelihood is lowered by the potential that Spencer, Codiga and White may split a portion of the vote that has shown itself in recent elections to be the minority in Alameda's pronounced progressive electorate.
The aforementioned Measure Z represents a chance for Alameda voters to remove charter language that significantly limited the building of new housing on the island for a generation. Critics believe the charter amendment fueled the city's recent housing crisis because of low supply and high demand borne out of an intent to block outsiders from moving to Alameda. Proponents—ever distrustful of city government—disagree and contend Measure A provides residents with a bulwark against runaway development. Measure AA, also on the ballot this fall, asks voters to give additional powers to the newly formed city prosecutor's office, while cleaning up gender-specific language in the Charter.
Four years ago, Cheryl Davila surprised many in Berkeley politics by unseating longtime District 2 Councilmember Darryl Moore. Her campaign for re-election, though, has proven difficult this fall with the emergence of Terry Taplin, a Berkeley transportation commissioner who has the backing of several progressive groups, along with a near sweep of the city's state and local elected officials. Taplin has repeatedly asserted during the campaign that District 2 struggles with quality-of-life issues. It's a criticism Davila used against her predecessor four years ago. During a candidates forum last month, Davila said that the district is "getting the attention it needs" and much more than before her time on the council. She also boasts of passing more than 300 pieces of legislation since joining the City Council. Taplin believes he's the most progressive candidate in the race, but Sen. Bernie Sanders endorsed Davila last week. Alex Sharenko, a solar-energy scientist, and Timothy Carter, a Berkeley small-business owner, are also in the ranked-choice voting race.
Berkeley Mayor Jesse Arreguín's re-election will face three challengers next month. In typical Berkeley fashion, the candidates sound more intent on saving the world's problems than its own. Arreguín has become a regional leader since his election four years ago. Arreguín touted his successes in approving and building affordable housing in Berkeley, while shoring up the city's budget despite trying times this year. But Arreguín faces a highly aggressive challenge from activist Wayne Hsiung, who labels himself a political outsider. He has doggedly portrayed Arreguín as supporting policies to the detriment of the city's homeless, allowing the militarization of the police department and for being too slow on climate change. Arreguín rejected each argument during a recent forum. Also in the race is Aidan Hill, a Cal political science student, and Naomi Pete, a retired senior.