The Oakland Green Party held a public forum Friday evening at Humanist Hall in downtown Oakland, where members of other political parties as well as members of the public were invited to brainstorm ideas for Oakland’s future and form an alliance before the next city government election.
The Green Party panel was comprised of four Oakland Green candidates, including Don Macleay (who is running for City Council for District 1), Randy Menjivar (running for District 7), Theresa Anderson (running for the councilmember at large position), and Vicente Cruz (who is running for the Oakland school board seat for District 3). Macleay said the party proposed an Oakland Progressive Alliance based on ethics, and the understanding that the members would not accept funding from corporate donors. Speakers from other platforms included former mayoral candidate Terence Candell and Sean Sullivan (who are both running for the District 3 city council position), and Richard Fuentes (Oakland school board candidate for District 3).
Laura Wells, the California Green Party’s gubernatorial candidate, who also ran against Governor Jerry Brown in the last election, was one of the speakers at the forum. Wells said she was thrilled that an alliance was forming between local candidates. “We need people to run and win at the local level,” she said.
The guest speakers and candidates touched on various subjects during the discussion, including police violence and biases against minority communities such as African Americans and Hispanics, corporate funding for elections, and the involvement of the community in local politics.
“Some among us think the definition of police is violence,” said Andrea Pritchett, who has been with the Berkeley Cop Watch for 22 years. “I’d like the Green Party to lead us into a civilization of the police force.”
Cruz agreed with Pritchett, and said that police violence has to be curbed. “What is bias? It’s the police showing up at a rally with a bunch of nonviolent protestors whose biggest weapon is a water bottle,” he said, referring to Occupy Oakland protestors.
Shawn McDougal from the Community Democracy Project, another guest speaker, introduced his group’s idea to begin a voter initiative that would create direct democracy in terms of the city budget of Oakland, allowing the voters to decide the budget. “We need people to act,” he said. “We need people to stop looking at politics as a spectator sport.
Andrés Soto, from the Richmond Progressive Alliance (an alliance between Greens and Democrats), said the model in Richmond could work for Oakland too. “This is how we change the political paradigm in a community,” he said.
The audience of around 40 people was divided into groups, and encouraged to talk about the issues that concerned them and the solutions they recommended, as the candidates roamed around the room and listened to their feedback for about half an hour.
Kit Olson, a special education instructor in the Oakland Unified School District, said that the state of California needs to begin taxing oil corporations to pay for schools, and asked that members of the audience sign in support of the millionaires’ tax – a ballot initiative proposal for the 2012 election that would ask Californians earning more than $1 million per year to pay extra taxes, beginning at an additional 3 percent. Many members of the public also expressed their support for the idea to give the citizens more power over the city budget.
“I think we did what we needed to do,” Macleay said about the forum. “I was pleased to see that we had Democrats and Independents here today. This was a definite act of consultation with our community at large.”