With nearly one month left before Oaklanders head to the voting booths, City Council candidates are ramping up their campaign efforts to reach undecided voters.
District 3 is seeing political newcomer Noni Session campaigning for the seat occupied by incumbent Lynette Gibson McElhaney.
Session is a West Oakland native and the daughter of Major Session Jr. and Carolyn Session.
According to Session, she is running a grassroots campaign on a progressive platform of community empowerment to address her district’s most pressing issues—which include displacement, funding for jobs and police accountability.
She has the endorsements of SEIU 1021, Alameda Labor Council, National Union of Healthcare Workers and the John George Democratic Club.
McElhaney is also a West Oakland native who has served as City Council president for the past four years.
McElhaney has not responded to weeks of requests from the Post for an interview or responded to written questions, and information about her campaign was gathered from her website.
Her platform focuses on increasing community policing and lists a track record of changes that she has helped bring about in Oakland during her tenure as a council member.
Housing affordability is one of West Oakland’s ever-increasing challenges, and the Post asked both candidates how they would address the issue.
“My number one concern is keeping people here and ending Oakland’s housing crisis,” Session told the Post.
Session said she plans to stop the outflow of longtime Oakland residents by vigorously enforcing the renter protection ballot measure known as Measure JJ and has been campaigning strongly to get the measure passed in November.
“We also want to reevaluate the definition of affordable housing, since the average Black Oaklander makes $30,000 a year and the average white Oaklander makes $80,000,” she said. Currently, affordable housing is set for households making up to $110,000 a year.
McElhaney has helped take steps to improve the housing crisis during the past four years, by voting on establishing impact fees on market-rate developments to help fund affordable housing.
She also “led efforts that established dedicated funding for the affordable housing trust fund,” according to her website.
In terms of jobs for local residents and African Americans, West Oakland has been hit particularly hard recently with the threatened closure of its only neighborhood job center.
McElhaney was able to help secure temporary relief to keep the job center open and Session vows to fully fund and reopen West Oakland’s local employment development offices.
“Right now, the city takes some of the federal money for jobs off the top,” said Session. “We could take a lot less off the top for administration to keep these centers open.”
According to McElhaney’s website, she also saved hundreds of West Oakland jobs by supporting Cal Waste Solutions, a locally-controlled recycling company.
Yet McElhaney has not addressed the closing of Alliance Metals in her district, a recycling center which was the sole source of income for many of West Oakland’s homeless.
Where the two candidates differ the most is in their approach to public safety and community policing.
In the wake of the Oakland Police Department’s recent sex-crime scandal and a slew of killings of Black men in the past year, Session calls for strengthening police accountability and to shift residency requirements for officers.
“I would like for an officer who has state power over me to also be my neighbor,” Session said. “It’s important that my own community is empowered to keep my own community safe.”
Meanwhile, McElhaney’s public safety platform focuses on reducing crime in West Oakland neighborhoods by increasing police presence in communities.
On her website, McElhaney cites adding 150 officers to OPD since she got into office and helping get Measure Z passed, which secures $30 million annually to pay for crime reduction services.
Session is pushing for a different approach to help reduce crime in her community— making sure that youth summer jobs programs get funding.
“We need to make sure that the kids who could be a source of violence get the resources and opportunities that they need,” said Session.