This is Oakland's time

  • by Libby Schaaf
  • Wednesday January 7, 2015
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I am proud to be made in Oakland. I have lived here all my life, but I have spent my life frustrated by Oakland's lack of safety and the inequities of our public schools. I have been miffed when investment has passed us by, and I have been furious when people disrespect our beautiful city with graffiti, trash and most recently, with smashed windows. Other cities have shown us that transformative change is possible. If they can do it, so can we.

This is Oakland's time. It is our time to finally overcome these longtime challenges and realize our city's great potential. And as Oakland's 50th mayor elected to lead this incredible city, I am ready to attack these problems with a tenacity and determination that has never been seen before.

It is time that we get off the top 10 list of most dangerous cities in America by relentlessly focusing on building up our police department, implementing modern community policing practices and expanding proven prevention efforts like Ceasefire and restorative justice. It is time we finish implementing the police reforms we promised to complete a decade ago.

It is time we provide enough free quality pre-school, so all of Oakland's children start kindergarten ready-to-learn, instead of the unacceptable 40 percent who do so now. It is time we support educational initiatives, like the office of African American Male Achievement, to end the morally outrageous racial disparities in every aspect of educational attainment – from early literacy, to high school and college graduation.

It is time to modernize government services and make it easier to transact business and get the city to respond faster and more effectively to problems like dumping and blight by using technology and data analytics. It is time to pave Oakland's raggedy roads and to repair and revitalize our public spaces because our Oakland deserves to look polished and clean.

We must revitalize and grow, but do so in a way that keeps Oakland affordable and does not push out what makes Oakland Oakland . Our Oaklandishness – our diversity, our artists, our gritty industrial flavor, our natural and architectural beauty, our embracing of social movements – that magical mix that makes up Oakland's poppin', sizzling secret sauce! As the city with the most lesbian couples per capita and the third-most gay and lesbian heads of household of any American city, Oakland's vibrant LGBT community is a necessary ingredient in that secret sauce! Oakland's recipe is one no other city can steal or imitate – and doesn't it taste great?

It is time to support our small businesses, particularly the ones serving our neighborhoods. We need to help them grow with interest-free loans and promote the importance of spending your money where your heart is. Some of my favorite LGBT owned businesses include Laurel Bookstore, which just opened an amazing downtown location near City Hall, and Paws n Claws in my Dimond neighborhood, where I buy supplies for my two shelter-adopted cats.

It is time we see more businesses calling Oakland home, recognizing that today�s millennial workforce wants to both live and work in Oakland. This city is exciting, this city is beautiful, and all the smart, cool people are already here.

It is time to build more housing and lots of it – at all income levels – near public transit, so the new residents who are coming to Oakland do not push out or price out the Oaklanders who are already here. It is time that people invest and help revitalize Oakland, and do it in a way that benefits our long-term residents and lifts up those who have gone too long without decent wages or the ability to build wealth.

I know it is time for Oakland because there are so many amazing Oaklanders, so many of them who are part of Oakland's LGBT community, with a burning commitment to helping this city realize its potential right now. Two such committed LGBT Oaklanders include my two highest-ranking mayoral staffers – my chief of staff Tomiquia Moss and my senior adviser Peggy Moore, a prominent LGBT activist and founder of Sistahs Steppin' in Pride.

I have lived here all my life, I am finally seeing it; I'm feeling it – a time of great progress, promise and growth for our city is here. Join me in saying, it is hella time for Oakland.


Libby Schaaf was sworn in January 5 as Oakland's new mayor.