Mayoral candidate: Rebecca Kaplan
on November 3, 2014
Oakland city councilmember at-large Rebecca Kaplan was the first out lesbian elected to office in Oakland when she joined the city council in 2008. Now, at age 44, she has another goal for change: to become Oakland’s mayor.
Born in Toronto, Kaplan attended MIT, where she got her bachelors in psychology; Tufts, where she got her masters in urban & environmental policy; and Stanford, where she got her law degree. While an undergrad, she was involved in campus advocacy. Kaplan said her group successfully lobbied the administration at MIT “to divest from Apartheid-era South Africa” during the late 80s. Her first major political campaign was working for Ted Kennedy’s reelection campaign in 1994.
The newly married Kaplan (she wed this summer) moved to Oakland in the mid-1990s and is now a resident of North Oakland. She worked as a housing rights attorney in Oakland and served on the AC Transit Board of Directors before being elected to the city council. During her time as councilmember-at-large, she helped facilitate a 10-year lease deal with Oakland A’s. She also worked to restart the Oakland Pride Festival, which celebrated its 5th anniversary this year.
This is Kaplan’s second time running for mayor. She ran against many of this year’s candidates in the 2010 election, where she finished third under the ranked choice voting system. She accumulated nearly 29 percent of the total vote before being eliminated.
In this race, one of Kaplan’s top two issues is making neighborhoods safer. She says she plans to improve the relationship the Oakland Police Department has with the community, “so that they can solve crimes better, and so that you don’t have a negativity and tension between the police and neighborhood.”
Kaplan has two strategies to make that happen. One, she said, is to “to hire more Oakland residents to our police department so that you have more people that are from Oakland working in the police department.” Kaplan has been advocating for more Oakland resident officers, and in September proposed a hiring goal that 50 percent of new police academy graduates should be Oakland residents.
The other is to restore more beat officers to neighborhoods. “Instead of people only seeing an officer after an emergency has happened, after they call 911, that we would have officers walking a beat,” she said. “They would get to know people and the people would get to know them, and at the same time, when people see an officer walking around the area, then that would deter them from committing crime in that area.”
Another plan she mentioned is bringing better lighting to key corridors. “That improves two different kinds of safety,” Kaplan said, “because there’s safety in terms of not getting mugged, and then there’s a different kind of safety in not getting hit by a car.”
Kaplan also wants to bring businesses to Oakland. “In underserved neighborhoods, in addition to grocery stores, I would work specifically to bring banks and pharmacies,” she said. “[They] are two of the things people complain about the most beyond grocery stores in some of the neighborhoods that have been left out of some of the economic development.”
She said she also plans to court more retail businesses like stores selling clothing, furniture, and housewares, because “people who live in Oakland travel outside of Oakland to do that shopping. Oakland is losing those jobs, Oakland’s losing that sales tax revenue, because people who live here go elsewhere to shop for things.”
Kaplan also has plans to woo larger industries to Oakland. “Some of the larger industries I would work to expand in Oakland are food production and food processing, which Oakland was a center for in the last century. Oakland was a hub for canning and food processing and bakeries,” she said.
“We can restore those industries in Oakland,” Kaplan continued, “as well as healthcare, and some of the new technology sectors: Things like digital video editing, computer systems, and the music and video gaming industries—all of which are industries that are growing, and which have a strong capacity to grow in Oakland, in addition to healthcare.”
“Given the range of problems we have to solve,” Kaplan said, “we really need to bring to Oakland’s leadership an approach to win-win solutions.”
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