District 7 City Councilmember Treva Reid. Credit: Amir Aziz

We’ve invited nine of the 10 people running to be the next mayor of Oakland to sit down with us for in-depth interviews, asking them mostly the same questions. Such as, how many police officers does the Oakland Police Department need? How would they help the City Council and the city administration work together better? How would they fix Oakland’s potholes? We developed these questions with help from hundreds of Oakland residents who answered our election survey this summer; thank you to everyone who weighed in. 

Settle in for a long read; these conversations are weighty, befitting the office these candidates seek. They’ve been edited for length, relevance, and clarity, with some added fact-checking and background reading from us. (And note that we decided not to interview candidate Peter Liu and provide another platform for his dangerous and hateful rhetoric.

This interview is with Treva Reid, the City Council District 7 representative. Reid previously was a government affairs manager for California Waste Solutions, the city’s recycling contractor, and PG&E. Before that, she was an aide to Nancy Skinner in the California State Assembly. A ministry leader at Shiloh Church, Reid described herself at a recent forum as a “resilient single mother” hailing from a large family of civil servants, faith leaders, and business people who have always centered “taking care of the community.” She is the daughter of former District 7 Councilmember Larry Reid.

The City Council often feels like the city administrator isn’t enacting the policies and laws they’ve approved. On the other hand, the city administration’s staff often feels like the City Council is overstepping or loading their plate with too much work. If you were elected mayor, how would you repair this relationship?

We have a great opportunity to rebuild trust and relationships between the mayor and the council. We’re in an election year. We’re going to have at least two new councilmembers and a new mayor. As mayor, I would propose a multibillion-dollar budget with priorities for each council district. I would work with each council member to understand what their priorities are, and I would work with them in their districts, engaging in the community. I would work to ensure that the budget that I’m proposing has an equity lens. And as mayor, I would make sure I execute council directives.

This does not mean that every priority would be able to be funded or prioritized, particularly in that first year. But there are opportunities to make sure community members and councilmembers feel heard and that we build a more collaborative partnership. 

I’ve always been a bridge builder. It’s what I was raised to do. You’ve heard my story of my father’s siblings. I’m one of the oldest grandchildren of 130-plus cousins who are amazingly all still alive. And on my mom’s side, there are 50-plus cousins. So I was raised to learn how to navigate a lot of dynamics with personalities and find a path of peace to bring people together.

I believe that as a mayor, you work to build off that one connecting point, and if that one connecting point that we have is we need Oakland to recover for all of us, then how do I show up as mayor, aside from any politics, to just deliver for the people we are all called to serve? How do I shepherd that relationship of bridge building, and collaboration, and integrity, and have systems and processes that work where I’m holding my team accountable for results so that it’s not a fight [with the] council because they’ve not seen us show up, they’ve not seen a mayor equitably allocate resources, or seen a mayor direct timely response? 

That’s what my desire is to do. It’s to allocate equitably. It’s to direct timely response. It’s to make sure we’ve got critical service implementation to deliver. And it’s to make sure we’ve got department leaders in place. Accountability begins with me as mayor in partnership with my administration and the councilmembers. And I believe there’s a term before us where we can see better dynamics aside from politics to show up for people.

The public expects better of us. I have seen more deals cut, more of a disservice to our role as leaders, and the polls show it. In East Oakland, those politics have led to disinvestment.

Regarding the last budget written by the mayor and approved by the City Council with amendments, was there anything in there that you would have cut as mayor? Did they leave anything out that you feel should have been included?

There were a number of things that were missing. If you look at my initial budget memo, we asked for a designated illegal dumping crew [to clean up trash from city streets]. And we asked for an equitable amount of waste cans. Waste cans should not require five votes on the council.

Do you mean trash cans on sidewalks?

Yes. Illegal dumping and blight in [District 7] is [a big problem]. It’s an issue that we SeeClickFix every day in East Oakland. We asked for priority and a more active response. And a part of that was we also asked for a designed overtime crew. Can we just get a crew that we’re not sharing with the other most impacted district next to us [District 6] to show up and give our community clean, healthy streets in the midst of COVID? People are overwhelmed by the trash and conditions on our streets. And we didn’t see that response. But we did get some garbage blitz crews and other things. 

I asked for us to also partner more deeply with community-based organizations to fund jobs. That was an amendment we put in the budget to try to build up capacity with community organizations. But as a mayor, I want to see how we can invest more deeply into an area like illegal dumping and blight. How could we create a “Love On Our Town” initiative with programs across the city that focus on just the outdoor living conditions of what’s before us? Even though shootings and homicides are a major threat, the one thing our neighbors say is, “Can you just clean up the streets?”

We failed to deliver that more proactive response [in the last budget].

Another area that wasn’t fully invested in was traffic calming and street safety measures. I uplifted a number of specific target areas in East Oakland.

Mayor Libby Schaaf has done an exceptional job of raising private money from philanthropic sources to meet some of her big goals rather than going through the city budget. What do you think of this approach? Is it good for Oakland? Is it something you would also do as mayor?

As mayor, you have got to identify what the priorities are. And you’ve got to fund those priorities. That will require you to go after every dollar we can get at the local level from our county partner, state partners, federal partners, and philanthropic partners. They should be at the table to help fund our designated priorities. We know the city’s budget will not allow us to address all our needs with the significant amount of restricted funds that come into our budget. 

[Editor’s note: Reid that most of the money in Oakland’s budget—62%—is already designated for specific uses and the City Council can’t just reallocate it to other programs. These “restricted” funds come from specific fees, taxes, and other sources, and they can only be spent on a narrow range of things like paying back bond debt or funding the Department of Planning and Building.]

So we do need to find those opportunities to partner outside our ability with the [revenues] we’re bringing into the city. Corporate partners, how do you partner with us if you want to be a part of this community? How do you begin to invest more deeply into our community, into jobs, housing, and education? I believe everyone should be at the table, and we need to determine how those investments can benefit us. I don’t think it should be tied politically. It should be tied to our priorities and how we drive to those priorities. 

We need to look at more partnerships coming into the city that will uphold our values.

Oakland is thousands of units short of meeting the affordable housing goals set by the region and state, the so-called RHNA goals. Would expanding affordable housing in Oakland be a goal of yours? If so, what concrete steps would you take? How would market-rate development and social housing fit into this plan?

We know that we have not had an intentional strategy that’s been funded and resourced, and staffed to deliver for us to ensure that affordable housing was something we are moving forward to.

There’s been systemic disinvestment from affordable housing, and we need to work to figure out how we invest more deeply. That’s going to come with subsidies and housing vouchers, which I believe the federal government has just been egregious in not participating in those areas. My first home was a $60-a-month subsidized affordable home. 

As mayor, I would look at how we are investing the dollars to alleviate homelessness. We’ve invested in Measure W and Measure Q and need to audit to understand how we have spent that money and what we have available moving forward.

[Editor’s note: the city auditor is already required to conduct audits of Measure W, a vacant property tax used to fund homelessness services and affordable housing, and Measure Q, a parcel tax used to fund parks and homelessness services. The Measure W audit will begin in January 2023, and the Measure Q audit is currently in progress.]

It’s going to require us to restructure how we’re funding [homelessness services]. We’ve seen the reports where we’ve invested in managing homelessness versus really investing more deeply into bringing people off the streets into housing.

We’ve got to look at where and how we utilize our city-owned land and how we prioritize fast-tracking affordable housing projects through the pipeline. Certainly, lack of staff has been a barrier there to ensuring those projects are moving forward, but we’ve had other barriers. 

[Editor’s note: Oakland’s Department of Housing and Community Development, which works on affordable housing projects with nonprofit developers, currently has a job vacancy rate of about 27%. Lots of other city departments have similarly high rates of job vacancies.]

We’ve got to increase our rental assistance and our mortgage assistance program. We’ve got to increase the opportunities for people to come into affordable home ownership. 

[Editor’s note: Rental assistance during the COVID-19 crisis was made available with state and federal funds, but the program is no longer accepting applications. The city mortgage assistance program for first-time homebuyers is currently suspended for lack of funding.]

We’ve got to make sure we’re building more multifamily dwellings. We’re talking ADUs and modular homes and creating an innovative path of housing. 

I’ve been on a Black regional housing task force looking at where we haven’t had targeted investments for our Black community members in this region. We know that those who are living and experiencing homelessness are over 60% Black. We’ve got to find targeted and intentional ways to address the needs of those who have been inequitably impacted by this crisis. And we’ve got a path, a “PATH framework.” [Editor’s note: the PATH framework is a city strategy to reduce homelessness.

But it needs to be funded. It needs to be invested in. How are we investing in it, making sure we have targeted funds and that we call on the state to invest with us? We need to call on our county partners to invest with us. The health and welfare and life stability [of residents] fall under the responsibility of our county. They should come to the table to support us. 

What other policies and programs would you pursue to help get the 5,000 unhoused people into shelters and off our streets? 

The Homekey program is an opportunity. We have properties that we’re trying to bring back into funding consideration that missed the mark with the administration’s prioritizing in phase one. The administration created a layer of an RFP process that caused there to be a delay in our submission for state Homekey funds, and we missed phase one funds. That was a critical challenge for us to realize that we added a bureaucratic layer that wasn’t necessary, and we were at the back of the line in receiving funding. 

In my district, we had a senior housing development we hoped to get funded. I served on the board of Satellite Affordable Housing Associates. We know it takes a lot of funding and time to get those projects built up. So that was a project that we missed out on state funding for. And we also missed out on [another application], which put that project in jeopardy again.

We’ve got to make sure that on the administrative level, we have projects ready to go and we don’t create layers of bureaucracy that impede us from competing.

I also think the funding system is not favorable for us. I don’t believe Oakland should compete with Humboldt County or San Mateo County for homeless and housing funds. There should be another type of system for cities like ours that are experiencing the crisis of homelessness and the need to secure housing at a different level than some of our counties and jurisdictions across the state. 

[Editor’s note: San Mateo County is estimated to have at least 1,808 homeless residents, while Humboldt County has about 1,402 homeless residents. Alameda County has 9,747 homeless residents.]

I believe there’s an opportunity to work with our state senator and assembly members to advance a change in the funding system where it can benefit Oakland and other cities like San Jose, San Francisco, Los Angeles, and San Diego. 

The EIFD is something we’re also progressing on. We’re supposed to get a report back in the coming month to understand how the enhanced infrastructure financing district can be a benefit to us and what we can gain in those increased tax revenues in different parts of the city to increase housing. 

[Editor’s note: The EIFD, which was proposed by councilmembers Sheng Thao, Nikki Fortunato Bas, and Carroll fife, would use growth in future property tax revenues to fund affordable housing construction.]

Do you support the EIFD or are you waiting on that report to make up your mind about it?

I support progress [on reviewing its feasibility]. We’re all waiting to hear back about how it can be a benefit. When that report comes back in November, I’ll be able to tell you more.

A few weeks back, there were fires along the 580. You and other elected officials went to the scene during the first one. We noticed a video you posted in which you connected that fire to homeless camps at that location. To our knowledge, the fire department still hasn’t determined a cause or said whether there were homeless camps there. Can you clarify what was your thought process there?

We’ve not heard back about the final investigative report on that fire. I shared with you what was told to me when I came onto the scene from what I understood the impact of that fire was assumed to be.

We know that too many people live along our highways and underpasses, and that’s not where anyone should live. We shouldn’t allow dangerous living conditions outdoors. I step in as a leader and say it’s unacceptable [whatever the cause of the fire ultimately is] that there are people living on the sides of our highways, up in the brush. We see them. We see the tents on exit ramps and on-ramps, and we’ve got to do better to bring humanity and dignity to our neighbors.

Residents have noted the lack of large grocery stores with fresh produce in Oakland, particularly in West and East Oakland. How will you work with those areas’ councilmembers to create more grocery stores with better, healthier options? 

COVID has certainly impacted that. There have been significant delays with ordering parts and supplies to maintain our public safety vehicles.

As mayor, I would support the procurement of local goods and local foods. How do we build up a local economy of manufacturing and supply for us to rely more deeply on? Where are the opportunities to ensure more of those things we were relying on [from national suppliers], that we can build that capacity here? Who do we have in this area that we could be doing more business with?

Treva Reid speaking at a mayoral candidates forum in August. Credit: Amir Aziz

Residents have noted the lack of large grocery stores with fresh produce in Oakland, particularly in West and East Oakland. How will you work with those areas’ councilmembers to create more grocery stores with better, healthier options? 

We have FoodMax and FoodsCo now at Foothill and Durant, but Oakland residents are struggling significantly with poor nutrition and a lack of access. Food deserts are a public health crisis. It’s a lack of access to affordable food and a burden on households like those in East Oakland who are also experiencing issues like paying high rent, covering transportation costs, affording health care, and sustaining good employment opportunities. Inflation inflames these issues more.

Since I’ve come into office, we’ve partnered with food co-ops. We partnered with Saba Grocers and went out to those stores in our communities to understand the needs and opportunities to invest more deeply.

We’ve got new coops coming up, like DEEP Grocery Coop. In West Oakland, we’ve got Mandela Grocery, which I used to visit frequently when I worked there for over a decade. We’ve got partnerships we can build up with our county food bank, and OUSD has a central kitchen. 

One of the things we did through Alameda County Public Health nutrition services was run a healthy retail program. While we’re working to build out more healthy food options—whether that’s grocery stores or investing more deeply into local retail stores, or partnering with small neighborhoods markets, those that can be walked to that are more convenient and accessible to seniors and youth in underserved neighborhoods that lack healthy food—it’s working with them to incentivize our neighbors to have fresh fruits and vegetables on demand but also to incentivize them to purchase those foods that are healthier as they’re shopping. 

We had seven stores in East Oakland that got about $3,000 in coupons. We distributed these coupons to customers, whoever they saw fit. We had door hangers on people’s homes to encourage neighbors to make purchases at their local stores. And we had health and wellness-nutrition classes.

Just to clarify, who paid for the grocery coupon program?

It was paid for by the county: It helped people be able to afford to choose fruits and vegetables over snacks or other things. People want to buy better, but often the prices are too high, or it’s too difficult. Why let someone go hungry or make unhealthy choices when we can help provide better options?

One other thing we’ve done in East Oakland—and it’s an approach we can build on across the city—is a partnership with Homies Empowerment. We’ve given them access to develop surplus land if you’ve not gone there yet. It used to be a hotel that had a lot of crime and prostitution, and drugs at one time, but that hotel was torn down. Now on that 20,000 square feet of land, we have the Freedom Farm. The goal is to provide food for over 300 families. We can utilize our public land by working with organizations like Homies Empowerment and others across the town. That land is scheduled to have affordable housing on it, but until it’s built, we can work with these community organizations on the ground to address food deserts.

You represent D7 which is home to Oakland’s fast-growing Latino community. When you were elected, you told us the city hadn’t done the best job of connecting with Latinos. In what ways have you effectively served the Latino community, and where could you have done better?

It begins with representation. From the beginning, I’ve had staff representing the communities I serve in East Oakland. So I’ve had staff be a point of contact for our Spanish-speaking communities to be heard and seen. We’ve held 15 town halls and had Spanish interpretation to ensure everyone can engage.

We’ve worked on the ground to make sure our Spanish-speaking business owners [are heard]. Every month we do walks, we door-knock to understand what the issues are, and we talk about programs and partnerships. We talk about our business assistance center at the library. We’re out on the ground with our neighbors to meet them where they are.

We do a day of action with up to 30 organizations where we come together with city and county partners to deliver for the community. We do it with organizations that have deeper relationships and more street cred, perhaps than our office on the ground, like the Latino Taskforce. So we learn from them to understand what the community needs. It’s making sure they’re involved in the budget, that our City Council meetings are accessible, and that there’s funding for communities.

Readers who took our election survey wanted us to ask about police staffing. Oakland has 681 officers right now. Is that too few or too many? Can you explain your thinking?

Well, it’s below our budgeted amount. It’s too few based on the fact that we’ve budgeted more police resources with sworn officers. We’ve yet to fill those seats. So we’ve got to do a better job of how we’re recruiting and retaining our sworn officers and to invest more deeply into every area of public safety resources. 

[Editor’s note: The City Council has budgeted for 752 officers, but the police department has only been able to staff 681 officer positions due to difficulties recruiting and training new officers and the rate at which the department loses its current officers to retirement and for other reasons.

I have mostly heard from neighbors that they want more [police] resources, not less. At the time I came into office, we had 400 [911] calls pending on nights, and no [police officers] were there to respond. 

We heard at the time that the data showed that Black women were calling OPD the most and were retraumatized because [OPD] didn’t have anyone there to respond to them. So having an efficient number of sworn officers, getting up to our budgeted level, and recruiting more Oakland-grown officers who understand and are accountable to our trauma-informed and constitutional policing [policies], who understand the culture and have been part of the community, and who will uplift our motto of “Love Life” even in their public service commitment, that is important. 

But we know it’s really hard to hire police officers. The process is grueling, and we’re constantly losing police officers. Is there anything new we could do to increase police staffing to the budgeted level?

I believe that as we come together [under my] administration, between the mayor and council partnering more deeply on public safety and that collective, more unified approach to strategies and solutions, we’ll also create a more welcoming environment for those [police recruits] who may not be considering Oakland right now. I know a lot of work is going into recruiting and retaining officers. We’ve given council directives in that area and see that the academies have been more diverse under Chief Armstrong. 

[Editor’s note: The City Council has directed the administration to hire officers from more diverse backgrounds, including more women and people of color.]

As mayor, I would build on that. [I will] be open and honest and transparent about how we’re approaching public safety and how we’re engaging our community, and working with our inspector general, and working with our community citizens boards, and police commission, that will also be a part of what we create as a culture for public safety and policing. 

Gun violence is one of the most pressing issues our city faces. What’s your plan to reduce gun violence? Do you think Ceasefire is working? Did it go off the rails somewhere, and how do you get it back on track? What about the Department of Violence Prevention? Would you invest more in DVP, and if so, how much?

It’s going to take a number of different approaches. When I came onto the council, I declared gun violence a public health crisis. That [resolution] not only called on the city to make deeper investments in violence prevention, intervention, healing, and trauma care—like Ceasefire, and like MACRO, and building on those Reimagining Public Safety Task Force goals—but it also called on us to have our county partner and community-based organizations to show up with us. The county needs to utilize its funding more intentionally in public safety investments in Oakland. 

We need deeper investments in violence prevention programs and partnerships, culturally responsive mental health services, additional community clinic providers to support more holistic health services, the county investing with us in rental support, homeowner retention, affordable housing development, [all to get] to the root causes [of gun violence]. We also need more investment in life coaching and living wage jobs in the region and city. We need support for technical assistance for Black and brown businesses. We need to enhance economic self-sufficiency and expand workforce development and business assistance programs. 

But it also calls on us to invest in public safety. We should have at least four police academies. [Editor’s note: the last budget approved by council included four police academies. Council later amended this to include two additional police academies for a total of six.]

We need to double our investment in the Department of Violence Prevention. DVP asked for $40 million. We’ve got to work to build on strategies that are funded. We’ve got good plans, but they are not funded. Where we lack the funding to meet these investment goals, we’ve got to call on our state and federal partners to come show up with us. We have incredible partnerships with the state budget chair, a leader I’ve fortunately had an opportunity to work for, Nancy Skinner, when she was the assembly budget chair. She’s now the senate budget chair. When we worked in the state assembly, there were ways she crafted a budget that allowed us to have funding formulas that benefitted cities like Oakland. Oakland was in line to receive significant dollars for public safety at that time.

We’d like to expand MACRO. I want to see MACRO expanded 24/7. [Editor’s note: MACRO is currently a pilot program in which civilians will eventually respond to nonviolent 911 calls, but the MACRO teams currently don’t take many 911 calls and they don’t respond to calls around the clock, and the MACRO teams only work in a few areas of the city.]

I want to see other technology tools utilized in the city. There’s going to be an opportunity with a new mayor to really look at our public safety system as we’re reimagining it, to look at where we’re investing, how we can invest differently, and more to show up with a real response on the ground to meet the crisis that’s before us, and address the unchecked lawlessness that is wreaking havoc across the town.

During the last budget cycle, there was a conflict that boiled down to whether we should give the police department an extra $18 million to fund 911 surge units and other things or put that money in the Department of Violence Prevention. If there appears to be a similarly limited pot of money in the next budget cycle and the question is more or less the same, what will you do? Fund OPD a little more, or fund DVP or MACRO? What’s your budget going to look like?

My budget is going to look like investing in OPD and DVP. We’re going to have to look at where we are with the budget to get that done. Do we have to make sure we have resources on the ground to respond to our community? Absolutely. We have to make sure those positions that are budgeted are filled. 

[Editor’s note: The budget Reid supported in 2021 did not include an additional investment of $18 million in the Department of Violence Prevention. Reid supported Schaaf’s plan to use this funding to pay for two additional police academies, maintain OPD’s 911 surge units, and pay for up to two police traffic squads.]

We’ve got another [OPD academy] that just started with 30 [police trainees], another that has started with about 25 [trainees], and another that’s coming up. We’ve got to continue to progress, ensuring we have a culturally diverse and inclusive officer force, criminal investigators, Ceasefire, and 911 response officers. 

And we need to also make sure that historic investment into DVP does not stop in one year after one [budget] cycle. Some of that funding is just going out the door. We’re just beginning to assess and realize how that work is going to benefit us. [Editor’s note: the funding Reid is referring to here are grants from DVP to nonprofits that are carrying out violence prevention services in the community, including life coaching, counseling, emergency responses to violent incidents to de-escalate and prevent retaliation, and much more. DVP is handing out about $19 million in grants to dozens of organizations.]

You asked about Ceasefire. Ceasefire fell off for a moment. It did fall off in COVID. The city couldn’t do call-ins. It couldn’t be responsive in the ways we had seen success before to address, and target strategies for those [individuals] we know have been involved in a number of incidents of crime and redirect them to opportunities and resources to engage them away from that life of crime. Whether it’s emergency rehousing or workforce training, what’s needed is getting to the root of the issues they’re facing. That’s needed.

 When we’re looking at two schools that have been impacted by gun violence and a mass shooting here in East Oakland, you’ve got to have that investment in healing and trauma care. We’ve not invested in communities that have lived from one generation to the next terrorized and traumatized by violence. So as we’re talking about investment into DVP, that’s an investment that also includes school safety funding. We put $2.4 million into restorative justice measures and violence interrupter partnerships with the schools to put clinicians there to support our students.

I won’t just depend on our city budget. We know that our city budget is limited. That’s where we get to work with our federal and state partners. There was a grant at the federal level that we had received in years past [but we didn’t receive this last year] because of freezing positions.

That was a federal grant of some sort for our police department?

Yes.

Public Schools in Oakland are run by OUSD and charter management organizations. But that hasn’t stopped Mayor Schaaf from including education as one of her platforms with programs like Oakland Undivided, Oakland Promise, and the Teacher Residency Program. What do you think the mayor’s role should be in getting involved in public education issues in Oakland?

Oakland’s public education issues are all of our issues. We have a number of education crises. I chair the city’s education partnership to partner with OUSD to ensure we deliver an equitable path of academic enrichment programs and overcome equity gaps. [Editor’s note: The City Council’s Education Partnership Committee includes councilmembers and OUSD directors and helps coordinate the city with the school district.]

As mayor, I would make sure there’s continuing access to technology, make sure there’s stable housing and nutritious food for our children who are growing. [I would also make sure] we have internship programs that we are supporting.

One of the things I did when I came onto the City Council, in this last midcycle budget, was to invest in a transportation rideshare partnership through the OK Program, which is going to be the partner we lead this through.

What led to this was there was an issue, a football practice at Castlemont High School, where Skyline High School players were coming onto the field, and someone shot off a gun; bullet rounds went off. This was during COVID. This was the one safe place students had to go to, where they could connect, get outside, and have this healthy place. That day left them traumatized. 

That was the same day of the murder at Concordia Park, where a coach was killed in front of his children. [In response] I began going to school to pick the students up and take them home after practice. I realized it wasn’t sustainable for me to try to do that. We had called on the OK Program to bring vans to help us. We realized there was going to be more support needed, so we’re now $45,000 into a partnership with a rideshare service that supports youth, giving access to free rides so they can get home following their afterschool programs at McClymonds and Castlemont. That’s one approach I will build on. 

That $45,000 was a private investment or city funding?

Private and city. From the city, I was able to secure $25,000 and then $20,000 from a private partner.

There’s also an apprentice trade program. Youth workforce development opportunities under my administration will be essential to connect students with apprenticeships at the port, with tech careers, and some jobs that may not require a college degree. Some are partnerships with the trades. I worked to secure a much larger investment into a trades program at Castlemont to build a pipeline for students who have interests in non-college degree tracks.

Both the Coliseum and Arena are huge entertainment hubs for the city. Regardless of what the A’s end up doing, going to Howard Terminal or leaving the city altogether, what do you envision for the future of the Coliseum and Arena site?

The Coliseum has a lot of opportunities to be developed. We are in partnership with the African American Sports and Entertainment Group, founded by local owners who are deeply invested in working in partnership with community-driven processes and making sure the community is at the table. It’s 100-plus acres, and we want to build out the vision that has been presented between the community’s interest and AASEG. 

They’ve talked about what that looks like with bringing a pipeline of 30,000 jobs, workforce development, school mentorships, deeply affordable housing at that transit corridor, perhaps a university satellite campus, a Black-owned business district, banks that serve the community, hotels, retail shops, opportunities for generational wealth to be created in a community that we are working to prioritize and preserve from further displacement.

That project can be an economic engine that revitalizes the Coliseum and the communities around it. There’s been a plan in place since 2014, the Coliseum Specific Plan, and we now have a partner who we’re working with. We need to ensure it does so with a lens of equity and priority for the surrounding community. A jobs benefit agreement and community benefits agreement [is important]. I worked on that type of agreement at the Oakland Army Base when I worked for a private company at that time. It’s making sure we ensure there are environmental justice priorities. 

[Editor’s note: a jobs agreement would ensure that whoever develops the Coliseum area hires locally, pays well, and recruits Oakland residents for trainee or apprentice positions. A community benefits agreement would ensure that a variety of things in the project are a benefit to the surrounding community, including possibly affordable housing or subsidized commercial space for nonprofits.]

As the AB 617 [committee] is moving from West Oakland into East Oakland, we need to make sure [the Coliseum] development has that lens and that we don’t displace residents or local businesses. [Editor’s note: AB 617 was a state bill that created a community-led committee in West Oakland with the power to study air pollution’s impact on neighborhoods and make recommendations for reducing air pollution.]

Oakland spends millions each year through the city budget on the arts. Is this something the city should do, or are there bigger priorities?

Arts and culture are a part of our city. We need to look at where and how we’re investing.  I tried to secure more specific funding for communities like East Oakland, where we don’t see a lot of vitality in our arts culture. We could have this “Love on Our town” initiative that’s not just about investing in a culture of cleanliness, but it is about investing in the culture of Oakland. I went recently to the Center for ArtEsteem’s grand opening for their new property, and we talked about the opportunity to raise up local youth artists and create a space through art and STEAM initiatives to give our children an opportunity to heal, create, and innovate. 

I believe we should invest in more of those opportunities. I believe we could invest more in beautification, into graffiti cleanup. We should look into where those dollars can come from outside of the city budget. We have not had a grant writer. I think there’s an opportunity to tap into more grants. Part of that is having staff that can be an extension to get funding for us outside of the city’s budget so that we’re not in conflict trying to compete for something that is important, even though when you look at the scheme of what our community members are driving for—their priorities are homelessness, housing, public safety, illegal dumping, and blight.

And we have to preserve cultural landmarks. We have to make sure we have funding to maintain them and keep them beautiful and not have our unhoused people in places where those works of art have been established.

Will it take priority over public safety or homelessness? I don’t believe it has to compete. I believe we can find the funding that we need to uplift arts and culture in the city.