ELECTION '12//OAKLAND CITY COUNCIL DISTRICT 3|
By SHANE BOND, The Citizen
Candidates searching for ways to reinvigorate Oakland's perennially underserved, but potentially vibrant neighborhoods surrounding West Oakland met last week to discuss their visions for the city at a candidates forum featuring a distinct environmental flavor.
District 3 candidates include, Damon Eaves, Lynette McElhaney, Alex Miller-Cole, Derrick Muhammed, Nyeisha Dewitt and Sean Sullivan. Each are looking to replace current District 3 Councilmember Nancy Nadel, who is not running for re-election.
Eaves is the director of Alameda County’s Oakland and Alameda Children’s Services. He is also the founding director of the Court Advocacy Project. Sullivan works for Covenant House, which serves homeless people and is board chair for the Khadafy Washington Foundation for Non-Violence.
Miller-Cole is a local businessman and McElhaney is an executive director of a local non-profit organization. Muhammed was a longshoreman for eight years and currently a commissioner on the Oakland Citizens Police Review Board. Dewitt is a program director for the Citywide Dropout Prevention and received her Master’s in teaching from University of San Francisco.
Questions posed by the Sierra Club last week reflected the group's goals concerning climate change, community choice aggregation (CCA) and urban farming. Affordable housing also was a topic of discussion posed by the environmental organization.
All candidates issued their support for CCA while advocating for its capacity to promote alternative energy and as Muhammed stated, “Its ability to break up the monopoly over energy that PG&E has.” Miller-Cole invited residents to think of ways to promote alternative energy use and drew on local environment opportunities to produce electricity such as wave turbines in the bay or solar power citing the “wonderful weather we have here all the time.”
Concerning urban farming the candidates supported widening the capacity and accessibility to farming local goods, but noted another issue in West Oakland. “West Oakland doesn’t have any grocery stores. We have liquor stores on every corner that use to be quality access to meat and dairy foods,” said DeWitt.
Muhammed agreed citing examples like KFC and donut shops as the food options in West Oakland rather than fresh fruits and vegetables. McElhaney drew attention from the crowd on housing calling the demand for affordable housing as a direct result of “broke folk.” McElhaney said to solve the affordable housing issue, what Oakland needs is more jobs. “It isn’t just jobs though but we also need to create a platform for people to start jobs,” said McElhaney, “We need to sensitize and prioritize so that we can provide solutions.”
Miller-Cole advocated for a day in which all Oakland residents could own a house telling attendees that right now is the perfect time to consider home ownership. “What you pay in rent turns out to be far more than what it cost to pay a mortgage,” said Miller-Cole. Sullivan differed in opinion from Miller-Cole stating that home ownership is not for everyone but noted how homeowners had been taken advantage, referencing to collapse of the mortgage market at the onset of the Great Recession.
“Let’s look at trying to keep people in the homes they already have,” said Sullivan who also said that the city should look at emergency and transitional housing as options for those currently homeless. Miller-Cole took issue with Sullivan’s argument and called him out later in the debate, “I beg to differ with Sean,” said Miller-Cole, “I came to this country from Mexico and did about everything to survive and I got to tell you that home ownership is for everyone.”