In a poll conducted this October a whopping 96% of Oakland voters say Oakland leaders should attract new companies and businesses. This comes from residents in every district in Oakland. It includes every demographic – every age group, ethnicity, party affiliation, sex and sexual preference; in short, everybody. This is the highest approval for a single concept that we have seen in our polls since 2005.
The Jobs and Housing Coalition takes regular polls of Oakland residents to gauge their perceptions of what is right and wrong with the city. These polls are eye openers. In 2005, when we heard complaints from a small but very vocal group of people at city hall that it was foolish to try to bring 10,000 new residents to town, our polls told us that this was exactly what more than 70% percent of the residents wanted.
Fortunately, city leadership was undeterred. It focused razor sharp attention on the 10K plan and it is now beyond speculation that the city has improved tremendously. The new residents have revitalized Uptown, Jack London Square and other parts of the city. Following the new residents, came a major infusion of restaurants, entertainment venues and new businesses and jobs.
Today, Oakland gets glowing press reports and recognition as the culinary ground zero for the Bay Area. In the past year, hundreds of thousands of people have flocked to the opening of the Fox, the Unveiling of Uptown, Eat Real in Jack London Square, and other grand Oakland events. Specialty food and beverage producers are flocking to the city bringing new jobs and revenues. Soon, Oakland will have a new free shuttle service that will link Broadway Grand and Jack London Square and help fill in the area in between. None of this would have happened without city leadership’s commitment to the 10K plan.
This fall we did another poll to see what are the top concerns of Oakland residents. Reeling from the recession and the city’s $144 Million budget deficit, we asked respondents to tell us how they wanted to see the city move forward. Should we increase taxes? No, said 52% of the respondents. Should we cut city staff? Yes, said 53% of the respondents. Should we increase parking fees and fines? Hell NO, said 78% of the respondents. With the exception of parking, these numbers suggest that a lot of Oaklanders have mixed opinions on whether new taxes and spending cuts will solve our problems.
So what should be the focus of city leader’s efforts? Oaklanders are nearly unanimous on the need for economic development.
These results tell us in no uncertain terms that Oakland residents want growth; they want our leaders to institute bold policy initiatives that encourage economic development.
It is time for Oakland leaders to send the clear and unmistakable message that the city is open for business. The business community will respond just as surely as home builders flocked to the city when they were assured that they were welcomed.
Send out the word city leaders. Encourage businesses, residents and consumers to bring your dollars to Oakland!
In our next report we will talk about the kinds of businesses residents want attracted to Oakland. Hint – think of Oakland, one of the top five green cities in the nation, with more retail, office workers, restaurants, residents, and more green dollars.
Greg McConnell is the CEO of the Jobs and Housing Coalition, a nonprofit association of major employers and commercial and residential developers and property managers dedicated to growing Oakland.