On Saturday, January 5th, two days before being sworn into
office, newly elected district two city council member Nikki Fortunato Bas held
a lunchtime meeting both for her constituents and those who live outside of
her district. More than 125 people attended the event held in the cafeteria of
Cleveland Elementary School.
The meeting excited Josie Camacho, former executive director
of The Alameda Labor Council, who had never seen an Oakland city council
member convene a community meeting before being sworn in. Camacho, who also
worked at city hall for ten years, said “In convening this meeting, Bas exemplifies
leadership and vision we’ve been lacking for so long.”
While former Mayor Jean Quan and former mayoral candidate
Dan Siegel were inspired to attend, the meeting also drew people like Noah
Kratznelson, a lifelong Bay Area resident who had never before been involved
with local electoral politics but has felt more inspired to engage since the
election of Donald Trump.
“This is new to me,” said Kratznelson. “I want to meet my
neighbors and get more involved at the local level.”
After some time for socializing, networking, and eating,
Bas got the meeting’s attendees attention by beginning a unity clap, a method
where a clap begins slowly, gains momentum, and then becomes more unified and
loud as more people start clapping. She was inspired to use the clap by
Filipino and Mexican workers of The United Farmworker’s Movement who used it to
express solidarity across language barriers.
Bas introduced new staff members but did not speak at length
about policy. She instead centered most of the event’s time around listening to
concerns and ideas of Oakland residents.
“We want to be making decisions with you and not for you,”
said Bas while addressing the meeting’s attendees. “We want to get a head start
connecting with all of you, hearing about the organizations you’re involved in
so we can partner with you.”
Bas and her team organized the events attendees into four
groups based around district two neighborhoods, with one additional group for
those who lived outside the district. Each group had facilitators who asked
their group members a few open ended questions that were audio recorded for Bas
to hear later.
Those who attended the meeting spoke about many issues, but
the issues addressed most frequently related to homelessness and housing.
In an interview after the meeting Bas spoke of how, during
her first hundred days in office, she wants to meet with city staff about
issues relating to homelessness while continuing to meet with unsheltered
residents and activists. She thinks the city could improve services for
encampments of unsheltered people by increasing the frequency of trash pick
up, and providing clean water and decent sanitation.
Bas also wants city services to be more effective for non-
English who often find them difficult to access.
“Not all of our city services are in the languages that our
neighbors speak,” she said.
She plans to work with city staff and residents to help non-
English speaking Oakland residents access city services and permits.