By SHANE BOND, The Citizen
Oakland City Council candidates gathered last week at the City Hall for a public forum hosted by the Sierra Club in partnership with the Oakland Climate Action Committee (OCAC). The forum marks one of the first opportunities for citizens to get a glimpse at their potential representatives vying for District 1. Candidates for District 3 tackles some of same issues later in the night.

The candidates for District 1 include Daniel Kalb, Amy Lemley, Richard Raya, Don Link. Donald Macleay, another candidate, was represented by campaign staffer Vicente Cruz during last week’s debate, while Craig Brandt was unable to attend the event.

The District 1 candidates are hoping to replace Councilmember Jane Brunner, who is running for city attorney after 20 years of service on the Oakland City Council. District 1 encompasses much of North Oakland.

Kalb is an environmental advocate, policy analyst, progressive reformer and community service volunteer. He was recently the California Policy Director at the Union of Concerned Scientists and the former Chapter Director of the hosting organization, Sierra Club.

Lemley, a children’s advocate, is the founder of First Place Fund for Youth and served on the Measure Y Oversight Committee. She is also a member of the PTA and a room parent at Chabot Elementary.

Macleay is a Green party candidate, a machinist for 19 years, environmental and grassroots activist and exemplifies a three prong approach to Oakland issues tackling education, crime and employment. He emphasizes renewing and modernizing democracy and focusing on local economic upheaval by facilitating job growth.

Raya is an environmental advocate, former budget director for Alameda County and current policy director for California Forward.

Link is an electrical contractor for Controlled Energy, an Oakland-based company that has been in existence for 26 years. Energy efficiency and alternative energy choices are a cornerstone of his campaign for the city council seat.

The Sierra Club posed four main questions to the candidates first tackling Community Choice Aggregation (CCA) and PG&E’s tough stance against the initiative in recent years, highlighting their proposition 16 in 2010. Many candidates equally condemned Proposition 16, which PG&E sought to limit CCA’s grant aggregation of buying power of individual customers within a defined jurisdiction in order to secure alternative energy contracts.

The proposition went to vote in 2010 but failed to pass although the effort left PG&E as an apparent bulwark against the CCA initiative that some Oakland citizens actively advocate for. “I support East Bay MUD members to create a community choice aggregation but it is difficult when we have those who stand against it, such as PG&E,” said Kalb. He added it may be worthwhile to work with Oakland and Berkeley jurisdictions to create a CCA entity in the region.

Link emphasized a tough approach to PG&E’s grounded stance against CCAs.
“We can put PG&E’s feet to the fire,” said Link, “PG&E has gotten good at trying to fight this model but what we need to do is fight for more autonomy in the situation.” Raya said he didn’t see why East Bay MUD and PG&E would not be capable of working together with the city to further energy efficiency and independence. “I don’t know anybody in the Bay Area who wouldn’t want to work toward that goal,” said Raya.

Lemley advocated for a democratic choice over energy efficiency needs and sought CCAs as a method to acquire that privilege, but Cruz questioned why the city did not just transfer the work. “PG&E and East Bay MUD aren’t even really a part of this community,” said Cruz in protest to competing candidates’ arguments. “The work should maybe just go to bio-fuel centers in Berkeley.”

Candidates also praised Oakland’s urban farming and advocated for further growth and expansion of the farming initiative emphasizing the capacity of individual ownership and business opportunity it brought to local citizens. Link criticized the cost of a conditional use permit calling them overly expensive, ranging in the thousands, to run an urban farm. Link noted the healthy food the urban farms could produce and their ability to foster individual business growth. Cruz, representing Macleay, added that urban farming could cut down on the traffic by stemming the flow of trucks shipping goods from Fresno to Oakland thus reducing the environmental effect on local citizens.

Lemley supported urban farming but stopped short of animal slaughter citing her experiences growing up on a farm in Iowa. Lemley also praised her own history by working with people who turned 18 and coming out of foster care to get stable living. “Hundreds of youth have been able to move into affordable housing, almost 2/3 are tenants,” said Lemley to applause and “whoot whoots” echoing from Causa Justa members in the audience, a social and political activist group based in Oakland.
Other candidates advocated for more rent control to help sustain tenants in an economic climate that has hit Oakland hard.

Crime in Oakland continues to be a topic of discussion repeatedly brought up by candidates with Cruz lashing out against America’s jailing of minorities. “It’s not even Jim Crow anymore, its slavery!” shouted Cruz, “half of our clothes are made in jails.” Candidates widely praised David M. Kennedy’s CEASEFIRE program that was first enacted in Chicago in the mid-90’s to great success prompting media to call it the “Chicago Miracle.” Candidates mentioned Oakland’s flirtation with the model that was recently thrown into the limelight via Kennedy’s release of his book and memoir, “Don’t Shoot.”