Mayoral candidate: Peter Liu
on May 21, 2014
When he turned 23, Army veteran Peter Y. Liu came home from Iraq and found that there wasn’t a job waiting for him in his military specialty, journalism. The largest metropolitan newspapers on the West Coast were in the midst of downsizing.
Now at 33, after a decade of working in the nonprofit, insurance and real estate sectors, Liu has declared his candidacy for Oakland mayor. He is running a frugal campaign, limited to $1,000 of his own funds, highlighting business education, entrepreneurial values and police surveillance, while downplaying the city’s sports teams.
To survive during his lean years, he started a 501(c) 3, an American tax-exempt non-profit corporation called Cost Effective Living Society, which provides temporary housing for homeless people. He was part of a group that gave away tents fully financed through fundraising and donations. The venture was not profitable, so he placed his resume on Craigslist, and Farmers Insurance offered him a job to manage a branch in Walnut Creek.
Four years later, he left that job to become an independent agent starting his own business, Secret Insurance Services. He said he was able to tap into a little known resource called the SBA Patriot Express Loan for Veterans for his start-up costs.
When his business stabilized, he bought his first house for cash in Merced – the value of which has grown to $200,000 from $55,000. Four houses later, he used his equity to invest in a 6,500 square-foot commercial building in Vallejo.
Liu lives frugally working from his parent’s original Oakland home across the street from Fruitvale BART. He runs an efficient mayoral campaign, capping expenditures at $1,000. He said he’s opposed to a hike in the minimum wage, preferring to support small business creation of a new generation of business people.
“I do not want Oaklanders to aspire to minimum wage. I want them to be a new class of entrepreneurs. No matter, if you are homeless, poor or rich, uneducated or Ph.D., you can start a business if you love what you are doing,” he said in an interview.
Raising the minimum wage to $15 an hour would only hurt businesses in Oakland, Liu said. For instance, restaurants already operate with a small profit margin. By raising minimum wage, this will stunt businesses’ growth, and they will move out of Oakland, he added.
To make Oakland safer and more economically viable, he outlined what he called his Community Empowered Safety Plan (CESP).
The plan would enable the new police chief to readily issue a concealed carry permit to lawful business owners over 21. The police could also obtain warrants to search residences for illegal weapons, mandate surveillance in medium to high-crime areas, and increase community policing.
The program would be self-funding, he said, in that the concealed permit fees and warrant fines would pay for the police. The police would be able to pay for surveillance equipment and the staff required to manage community policing.
Another feature of Liu’s platform is a plan to create business centers that would educate residents with practical entrepreneurial skills crucial for job growth and the economic recovery of Oakland.
Liu explained that most people are looking for jobs, when really they should be looking for problems to solve. “When you find solutions to the problems, then you can turn that problem into profit,” he said. He would extend entrepreneurial values into the school system.
“Under CESP,” Liu declared, “Core Curriculum is obsolete. We need to teach practical education necessary to succeed in life, leadership, honesty, teamwork, responsibility and integrity.”
“This will address safety, commerce, jobs and education. The plan is actionable, self-funding, so even a middle school kid can understand it,” he said. “The biggest problem is economic recovery. For that to happen, we need people to create the jobs.”
Liu said he considers himself a non-partisan candidate, more aligned to the conservative side. He is Chinese and grew up with Christian beliefs. He came to the United States when he was eight. When his mother became a U.S. citizen, he was still under 18 so he was naturalized.
Citing two major reasons for his candidacy, Liu stressed his faith and family. “God told me to bring peace to this world through the Community Empowered Safety Plan,” he said. “Secondly, I have a son, who is two years old now. I have the ability to create a peaceful world for him, one where he can learn in a safe environment,” he added.
“Oakland will be that model city of peace. We need to bring honesty to politics and the only way to do this is by not accepting any donations whatsoever and use my own funding, I will prove to the people that it can be achieved,” Liu continued.
“As for the sports teams, I have no plans to keep them,” he said. “The city does not have any leverage at this point. However, when I am mayor of the city, under CESP, I will turn Oakland into an economic powerhouse to rival [Hong Kong].”
“Until then, if there are no teams staying, the stadium will be played [in] by local high schools and community college players,” Liu said.
Oakland North is an online news service produced by students at the UC Berkeley Graduate School of Journalism and covering Oakland, California. Our goals are to improve local coverage, innovate with digital media, and listen to you–about the issues that concern you and the reporting you’d like to see in your community. Please send news tips to: email@example.com.