(l to r) Mayoral candidates Libby Schaaf, Nancy Sidebotham, Cat Brooks and Saied Karamooz.
Last Thursday evening, the first debate of the 2018 Oakland Mayor’s race took place, hosted by the Democratic Party and multiple co-sponsors, and held at the Elihu Harris State Office Building auditorium in downtown Oakland.
A large and engaged crowd attended and had the opportunity to submit written questions.
Former Assemblymember and Mayor Elihu Harris moderated the debate, which included current Mayor Libby Schaaf, Nancy Sidebotham, Cat Brooks, Saied Karamooz, Cedric Anthony Troupe, and Pamela Price.
Candidates discussed how to help small businesses, improve public safety, and, substantially, what to do about Oakland’s large and growing homelessness crisis.
Mayor Schaaf read from prepared remarks, and incorrectly claimed that other cities’ homeless problems are all as bad as Oakland’s, in defending her record.
Cat Brooks, leader in the movement against police abuse, prior radio host, and, longtime community organizer, gave a strong response, which included her moral commitment to the urgency of solving the homelessness crisis, and specific solutions, including use of publicly-owned properties, tiny homes, churches and other community partners, which received much applause from the crowd.
Candidate Saied Karamooz, member of the Oakland Privacy Advisory Commission, opposed the Mayor’s “tuff sheds” program.
Pamela Price, who recently won a majority of the Oakland vote while running for District Attorney in Alameda County, criticized Schaaf for failing to issue over $2 million in anti-displacement funding that the Council had approved, which would have helped protect more renters from being pushed into homelessness.
Price called for the city to utilize vacant warehouses as a temporary homeless solution, saying that homelessness is a “crisis like we have never seen before.” She said that leaders would have responded immediately with food, social services and shelter if this had been a natural disaster.
Another topic of much discussion Thursday evening was policing and meaningful public safety. Multiple candidates expressed concern about militarized policing and the importance of improving relations with the community, and healing from recent scandals.
Pamela Price and Cat Brooks shared information from the recent Oakland Equity Report, which found that the Oakland Administration failed dramatically and is not improving on racial equity in public safety.
On the importance of changing our safety focus, Cat Brooks stated, “If we could police and incarcerate our way into safety, we’d be the safest country in the world. We need to get to the gun before the bullet flies, not hold the mothers as they mourn.”
By the end of the debate, a number of attendees saidthat Cat Brooks led in the debate, while incumbent Libby Schaaf struggled to keep up.
One tweet by #Demdebate said:
“Post-game mayoral analysis: Libby is weak. Weaker than you know. A paper tiger.
“The crowd was extremely polite. Her weakness was unbearably offensive when she tried to defend and congratulate herself on homelessness.
“There’s something fearful or ashamed in her.”