Mayoral candidate: Joe Tuman

on May 21, 2014

Oakland mayoral candidate Joe Tuman says he isn’t interested in having a career in politics for the rest of his life. He’s already pursued careers in academia and media as a political science professor and department chair at San Francisco State University, as well as a political journalist, commentator and analyst.

A 30-year resident of Oakland, the 54-year-old Tuman feels that the city needs a change. He said he is willing to offer that leadership by running in the nonpartisan election for mayor to fix the city as he sees it.

“What a voter is getting with me is someone who is a father of two, and someone who really loves the city,” Tuman said. “I’m not looking to run for governor. I just want to fix the problems that are here. I’m also the only candidate who is a member of a union. I’m a member of the California Faculty Association. My parents were immigrants to this country from Iran, and I self identify as a person of color.”

The issues for Tuman are public safety and economic development. In his view, the absence of economic development keeps part of the city in poverty, and poverty is at the root of most crime. The absence of economic development also means that the city does not have the tax base and revenue growth it needs to afford sufficient numbers of police officers to respond to a growing crime problem.

“We need to correct the staffing issue for the police department,” he said. “The bottom line is we need to put money in the budget to make sure that the staffing levels are adequate. My commitment [if elected] is, over the time I’m in office, to drive us towards another 300 officers net of attrition. I want to have at least 900 police officers in our force.”

On the economic development front, Tuman wants to attract a larger number of private businesses, as opposed to public sector employers. He points to three specific areas that will provide more sales tax for the city: hotel and hospitality, retail, and technology corridors, which he said will create more opportunities for Oaklanders to stimulate the ecosystem in their city instead of other Bay Area cities.

“Change doesn’t come from inside City Hall, change comes from outside City Hall,” he said. “The next person in office, if it is not our incumbent, is going to have to have some very difficult conversations with people about what our priorities should be and then show the political courage and will to bring those changes.”

Tuman announced his candidacy at the end of July and started campaigning in August. He said the vast majority of donations he has received come from Oakland residents and Oakland business owners. Tuman also said there are institutional interests across the board in the community that like keeping things the way they are, and they are part of the reason that things don’t change.

“I’m an outsider to the process so, in a sense, I’m not compromised by past associations,” he said. “I’m an outsider who knows the inside. If you’ve successfully been elected a bunch of times or have been part of that system, then the reason you’re still here after many years is because that system is comfortable with you. If you’re somebody that has already benefited from those people, then you’re not going to challenge them.”

Looking to the future of the three Oakland-based sports teams, Tuman said he believes the most likely candidate to stay is the Oakland Raiders and the most likely candidate to leave is the Golden State Warriors. He said he can’t imagine the Raiders leaving Oakland, and added that he thinks the city can create the right situation to keep them.

Of the two options for the construction of a new ballpark for the Oakland Athletics, which include “Coliseum City” and Howard Terminal, Tuman likes the Howard Terminal prospect the best.

“Howard Terminal would be a beautiful property,” he said. “As a mayor I wouldn’t spend a dime of city treasury to build a ballpark… that’s something that a private developer should do. But I unquestionably would rezone some of that land around the ballpark for bars, restaurants and shops because that’s an investment in a retail tax base. I’d might look at partnering or actually spend city treasury on a light rail service to deliver pedestrians, not cars, from the downtown Civic Center BART station down to Jack London Square and around to the ballpark.

“Baseball is a much better investment frankly than football because there’s way more games… so you have more opportunities to capture your revenue,” Tuman said. “Politically, Oaklanders already suffer from enough low self-esteem because of the crime problem, and we pale by comparison unfairly to San Francisco.”

“When people talk about the teams like the A’s leaving, I hear this… rejection, kind of like a lover talking about their companion leaving them for somebody better,” he said, adding, “I want us to feel good about who we are.”

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