In between bites from a hen and veggie sandwich, Oakland resident Connor Hunter, 9, learn aloud from a poster he had simply signed at Lincoln Summer season Nights, a group occasion hosted by a coalition of native organizations. The immediate: “When you have been an elected official in Oakland, what would your first act be?”
“I wrote that if I used to be elected mayor, I’d give $500,000 to companies in Oakland as a result of it will assist the group and companies develop. I may get extra sandwiches extra typically. … Perhaps extra meals would assist extra folks in Oakland who stay in a meals drought,” Connor mentioned.
He was taking part in an exercise referred to as “My Oakland Agenda,” an art-meets-journalism collaboration between the UC Berkeley Graduate Faculty of Journalism’s Oakland North information web site and the Oakland Lowdown — a group studio for native information and artwork — to facilitate dialogue round voting earlier than the November election.
Connor had simply stepped off the occasion’s heart stage after performing “We Don’t Discuss About Bruno” from the film “Encanto” and encountered our pop-up set up, becoming a member of dozens of others who shared their priorities for Oakland’s elected officers.
In October, we introduced our pop-up “voting sales space” — a desk in entrance of a colourful backdrop — to a number of group occasions together with Lincoln Summer season Nights, the Previous Oakland Farmers Market, and Friday Nights on the Oakland Museum of California.
We requested group members to inform us concerning the largest points that Oaklanders face and what they might do in the event that they have been in cost. Individuals wrote their responses on a silk-screened poster, touching upon housing and homelessness, schooling, public security, and extra. We took portraits of members and later interviewed them to study extra about what they wrote and why.
We obtained greater than 150 responses, which we printed on massive picket shows in Oakland Lowdown’s storefront studio at 300 14th Avenue. We produced an audio reel of interviews, displayed portraits from the engagements, and hosted a free group occasion on the Lowdown to share what we heard and to ask dialog.
In January, we’ll be bringing the responses to Oakland’s new mayor, Sheng Thao.
Right here is an summary of what Oaklanders needed to say.
Housing and Homelessness
Greater than 1 / 4 of the responses we collected talked about housing, making it the one hottest situation. Of those 36 responses, practically half talked about housing people who find themselves unhoused. Some advised changing vacant workplace buildings into flats. Others referred to as for brand new shelters, hospitals, and supportive housing.
One respondent wrote, “Incorporate actual housing options for the homeless. NOT TINY HOMES!!!” whereas one other referred to as for critical funding in any answer, tiny houses included.
The opposite half of the housing responses touched on zoning, improvement, and what type of housing respondents wish to see. Many emphasised that new housing must be inexpensive, with some calling for all new housing to be reserved for Bay Space natives or unhoused people.
“We’re all having to maneuver out of Oakland,” Jakeya Parker mentioned on the Oakland Museum. “I’m a Bay Space native. I’m uncommon now. It’s good we’re a melting pot, but it surely’s additionally unlucky for individuals who grew up right here. That is house. You at all times wish to come again to house.”
As staffing shortages proceed to have an effect on the Oakland Unified Faculty District, together with after-school packages, virtually the entire 25 respondents who talked about schooling referred to as for rising the variety of academics and their pay. To English trainer Sarah Falls, it’s a query of priorities.
“We’ve billionaires who can afford to ship rockets to the moon and but we are able to’t even rent one Spanish trainer at my faculty,” she mentioned.
In response to upticks in sure violent crimes, one Oaklander wrote, “I’d make sure that everybody felt secure of their beloved metropolis.”
As of Dec. 4, reported homicides in Oakland have been at 111, in comparison with town’s three-year common of 109. The variety of robberies and burglaries additionally has risen, by 4% and 13%, respectively, in comparison with the three-year averages.
Metropolis leaders have attributed the rise in crime to the pandemic, police division attrition charges, a rise in gang violence, and an overabundance of ghost weapons.
Of the 17 responses we obtained round public security, roughly a 3rd voiced a need for harsher punishments, hiring extra cops, and having extra security patrols. Others advised disbanding Oakland’s Police Division and making a “public well-being power” as a substitute.
These opposing views straight mirror the group’s grappling with the best way to greatest deal with violent crime.
Some acquired much more particular, calling for crime prevention packages, decriminalizing intercourse work, stricter gun legal guidelines, and putting in license plate readers at high-crime intersections — a contentious situation that was revisited by councilmembers Treva Reid and Loren Taylor earlier this yr.
Sixteen extra responses handled infrastructure enhancements: extra bushes and bike lanes, much less canine waste and trash.
Town arrange surveillance cameras earlier this yr to implement anti-dumping legal guidelines and in addition enacted a program that rewards residents who catch somebody within the act. Nonetheless, volunteer teams just like the Trash Falcons proceed to select up the slack.
And whereas tree planting and upkeep has largely been a grassroots effort for over a decade, town’s latest City Forest Grasp Plan presents some hope. For bike lovers, there’s been progress on Oakland’s 2018 Bike Plan — over 12.5 miles of bikeways have been put in final yr. However residents comparable to Scott Forman need extra.
“I feel that bikes are low-key among the finest options to all of our issues,” he mentioned. “It’s at present approach too harmful to journey a motorcycle in a variety of locations. There’s no motive that must be the case.”
There have been loads of lone responses that resisted categorization — from a citywide day of relaxation to creating minimal wage no less than $30, to creating cultural preservation districts. Some folks had a much less policy-oriented method — one Oaklander simply wrote “Kindness.”
Irrespective of the response, underlying each dialog was love for the city.
In January, you’ll hear Thao weigh in on among the solutions and focus on what her first act can be as she takes workplace.
High picture: My Oakland Agenda “voting sales space” at Lincoln Summer season Nights. (Florence Middleton)
This story was printed in collaboration with The Oaklandside.
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