Sokhom Mao, 26, a commissioner on the Citizens’ Police Review Board and a former foster youth, has entered the race for Oakland’s City Council District 2 seat.
Based on his experience in advocating for foster care reform and working with the County of Alameda’s Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention program, he has attracted supporters to his grassroots campaign, which says will knock on every door in the district.
“It’s really about engaging the community,” said Mao. “People look at me and say he’s too young, but they don’t my background.”
Mao has already opened a bank account for fundraising and has begun gathering volunteers and campaign staff. His platform focuses on reforming public education, addressing public safety concerns and attracting more businesses to increase employment opportunities for minorities.
As a foster youth, he experienced the challenges of the foster care system. At 14, he became an advisory board member of California Youth Connection, a policy advocacy organization that works with legislators on programs that deal with the importance of resources in higher education.
As a student at Oakland High School, Mao felt the school did not place enough emphasis on college preparation and had a curriculum that did not engage students.
When he graduated, he went on to work at the California Social Work Education Center, which creates curriculum for public child welfare workers.
He also testified before the San Francisco Planning Commission, advocating for students to have equal access to learning materials, which led to City and County of San Francisco to approve a new Chinatown-North Beach City College Campus.
Mao’s education initiatives involved creating an apprenticeship program to serve as a pipeline to full-time employment for Oakland students.
As a commissioner of the Citizens’ Police Review Board, Mao says public safety is one of his key concerns.
“We need OPD to be treated as a department we call for services instead of them just responding to a crime scene,” said Mao. “When a crime happens, people are afraid to report it because they feel it won’t help. I was a victim of attempted robbery in my district, and that’s why I believe there should be a community policing plan that is customized to the serve the needs of the neighborhood.”
Mao will kick off his campaign on March 28.