Nathan Stalnaker: Moving Oakland Forward

27 Oct

This guest post was written by Nathan Stalnaker, who spends the day organizing in West Oakland and serves on the Board of Make Oakland Better Now! and is an elected at-large member of the East Bay Young Democrats.

The City of Oakland suffers from gridlock and a fiscal crisis that just won’t quit.  Even so, again and again, the same characters are repeatedly elected to the same positions.  Our system is broken.  Our local races are anti-competitive.  New people enter the races and win only when an incumbent steps down.  It begins to seem that to become an elected official in Oakland, you already have to be or have been an elected official or spend your time currying favor with those already in office.

A Catch-22?   Sure.  Could an initiative calling for term limits for City Council stir things up sufficiently enough to get fresh policy thinking in City Hall?   Absolutely.  Read the petition yourself.  To balance experience and fresh ideas, the petition was crafted with a three-term (12 year) lifetime limit.

The other petition circulating tackles the Oakland budget.  Petitioners seek to bring the idea of a Rainy Day Fund (RDF) to Oakland Voters.  Nicolas Heidorn of the Budget Advisory Committee has a perfect, detailed explanation of the proposal on Make Oakland Better Now’s blog.  In short, RDF is a savings account for the City.  If Council had adopted this same policy in 1997, the available reserve would have covered the deficits experienced in the last four fiscal years.   Here is the petition for RDF.

Join the movement to put Term Limits and Rainy Day Fund on the 2012 Ballot.  Let’s open up the electoral process and protect future generations from the stagnation that grips this current Council.  It’s the perfect time for this initiative and the perfect time for Oakland to discuss this pressing issue openly.

How:  Join us for the campaign kickoff!

  • Come enjoy breakfast
  • Councilmember Libby Schaaf and Mayoral Candidate Joe Tuman will speak
  • Come and see the inside of the Old Mother’s Cookies Factory
  • Spend the afternoon meeting your neighbors, gathering signatures, and talking about Moving Oakland Forward

When: Saturday, October 29 • 10:00am – 2:00pm

Where: 1148 East 18th Street Suite #10, Oakland, CA 94606

Please RSVP name and contact information to

Special thanks to TOLA for their efforts in these reforms.

3 Responses to “Nathan Stalnaker: Moving Oakland Forward”

  1. MarleenLee October 27, 2011 at 3:42 pm #

    Term limits and a rainy day fund are distractions from the real problems, and will not fix anything. Look at Jean Quan. She drove the OUSD into bankruptcy, and then ran for City Council. She didn’t serve more than two terms on the City Council until she was promoted to the position of Mayor. Could term limits have prevented Jean Quan, one of the biggest problems in Oakland? NO! Look at what term limits have done in the California legislature. Nothing! Look at some of the people who have run against the incumbents – they’re even worse than the incumbents themselves. No, term limits will not solve anything.

    Rainy day fund? This is a joke, considering how much debt Oakland is already in.
    The real solution is getting rid of this debt with pension reform. If your group is serious about tackling Oakland’s fiscal problems, it needs to deal with pension reform, like Jerry Brown is doing at the state level. These other proposals are just fluff.

  2. Melquis Naveo October 27, 2011 at 4:24 pm #

    Marleen, I am one of the committee members for term limits, and I just want to state that some of your points are valid. However, what we are doing isn’t fluff by any means. Our efforts is a gateway to drive change in the city from us, the citizens.

    Oakland is the 2nd largest city in California without term limits for city council. Also, 8 of the 10 largest cities in the US have term limits on their city councils. Ironically, the 2 that don’t, Chicago and Philadelphia, are riddled with corruption and stagnation in their local government. Keep in mind that, yes, maybe term limits couldn’t have prevented Jean Quan from becoming a councilor. However, if she didn’t become mayor, how much time would have gone by before she would have moved on from the council? Oakland suffers from stagnation in city hall. Currently, there are 4 councilors who will have 16 years or more in council seats when their terms are up. Oakland has had a much higher average for council tenure than other cities in the US. Only 3 incumbents have lost a re-election bid in the city in the last 20 years. Imagine, 40 elections, and 3 losses. Most of the time, the variety of qualified candidates are significantly reduced when an incumbent has been in-place for a long time. Most contributors automatically give to incumbents fearing that they will fall out-of-favor with the incumbent if they win re-election. Plus, it’s important for our legislators to go back to civic-life in order to identify again with the people they serve. Yes, the state level term limits has it’s faults. However, we are pursuing a 12-year limit to address getting rid of experience too fast with allowing stagnation. Term limits for city council have worked in major cities across the country. I don’t see why it can’t be a positive thing for the city.

    As for rainy-day fund, this also is common in major cities across the country. It makes sense for the city to have a savings account for when the economy is bad. If the city would have had a rainy-day fund in 1997, like the one that we are proposing, then the layoffs and cuts experienced in the last few years would have been prevented. Yes, addressing pensions is incredibly important. But, that doesn’t mean that rainy-day fund is less important than pension reform.

  3. Naomi Schiff October 28, 2011 at 11:29 am #

    I agree with Marleen. Term limits have been a disaster in Sacramento, empower lobbyists and not needed when the voters can vote somebody out.

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