Opinion: Navigating the City’s Entrenched Politics to Deliver Equity and Opportunity


By Desley Brooks

Thank you to the editors at the Post for allowing me to shed some insight into what it takes to push through the entrenched politics of Oakland to deliver equity and opportunities for the generations who have been ignored in East Oakland.

Paul Cobb called me a “passionate advocate,” which is what it takes to break through the political barriers, power broker politics played out behind the scenes and the market-driven mudslinging led by mainstream news media that care more about headlines over content and money over people.

This column and the ones I will contribute over the next few months are a chance to celebrate our collective work to achieve the housing, jobs, and quality of life East Oaklanders—new and old—deserve.
We’ve shared so many victories.

We came together to defend against predatory lending, bank foreclosure and then speculation-driven displacement. We united to support funding of more affordable housing and have looked to innovative policies like the land trust to keep property in the hands of the community.

But, all of this will mean very little unless we can house those seniors, families and Oaklanders who had homes but have now been pushed into the streets because of the banking or affordability crisis.

My leadership on living wage, paid sick days, investment in new businesses to hire locally, is just a foundation for what we need to address growing inequality.

My agenda on jobs and the recent heat I have taken must mean that I am doing something right. There is no real change without agitation.

Some mud was slung through premature critiques of a new jobs idea to fully fund our most successful job training programs. These programs are asked to do the work but have lost stable funding due to a hostile federal government or limited funding.

A ladder into living wage career jobs, stable affordable housing and eventual homeownership are only two legs of a sustainable community. We need to make sure a third leg includes investment in opportunities for families, our youth and our seniors.

The City Council recently committed the necessary funding to make sure the vision for Rainbow Recreation is realized and that our community receives a beautiful new building.
For the last decade I’ve launched a parks initiative in District 6 restoring neighborhood parks. Through this initiative we have achieved a new level of volunteerism and partnership.

We began by reactivating a park which had been dormant for 20 years, the Tomas Melero Smith Peace and Unity playground. Recently we upgraded the play structure at Concordia and Burkhalter parks.

These kinds of partnerships are important and have resulted in thousands of families and seniors having free and beautiful parks within walking distance to their neighborhoods.
We also offer a monthly food distribution at Arroyo park and recently had a wash machine and dryer installed so families can wash their children’s clothes for free.

Our accomplishments have come because of our willingness to push against the status quo; to sometimes make people uncomfortable; to agitate.

This is what is necessary to push against Oakland’s entrenched political system. Together we will navigate Oakland’s political system and win.

Desley Brooks represents District 6 on the Oakland City Council.


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