Since I know next to nothing about Clifford Gilmore (other than that he’s the son of longtime Councilman Carter Gilmore), I was really looking forward to this forum. Not being particularly invested in this race, or particularly knowledgeable about specific District 7 controversies, I figured I might learn something new, and sat down to watch with no real expectations, thinking that I really had no idea who I thought would or should win.
Larry Reid went first, saying that when he first ran for Oakland City Council, he did it to give residents in his district a sense of hope that it was possible to make changes in long-neglected areas, and that he’s proud of the “tremendous changes” that have come to District 7. He predicted that the growth and change Oakland, particularly East Oakland, witnesses in the next five to ten years will be among the most spectacular in the US.
Clifford Gilmore started out strong, complaining that crime is out of control, the schools are a mess, and people have to leave the District to shop for basic necessities. He said he’d served as the executive director of a local nonprofit for 10 years, but bizarrely didn’t say its name. He said that he’s worked with residents to create NCPCs, worked with the business community to create partnerships, and led the campaign to create the first school report card in Oakland.
V: Winner: Larry Reid! As soon as he opened his mouth, I realized that I was kidding myself to think I didn’t have an opinion on this race. Opening statements reminded me exactly why Larry Reid is my hands-down favorite Councilmember, and the whole contest was just over for me right here. I’m thrilled he’s running for re-election, even though he did say four years ago that “12 years is enough.” Reid is the Councilmember who most consistently sells me on his passion and commitment to his job – this is not to say that others don’t care, but that it shows so much more with him. When everyone else is tired and trying to blow through an agenda as quickly as possible, Reid never passes up a chance to share how excited he is about things happening in his district. There are some positions we don’t share, but I agree with his votes more than anyone else’s. Sure, he has a tendency to pout and generally act like a spoiled child sometimes when he doesn’t get his way, but I can forgive that because I’m always convinced that he’s doing what he truly believes is right for Oakland. He and Desley Brooks are also the only Councilmembers who consistently seem to consider whether proposed legislation will actually accomplish anything, rather than just sound nice. Gilmore didn’t say anything wrong, but he had a rough job convincing voters that he can deliver for the District better than Reid does, and I just don’t think he met that bar.
A: Clifford Gilmore said yes, because we need oversight in the budget process, Oakland’s government has a lot of waste, and that residents want to know where our money is going. Larry Reid said that he would be willing to look at the issue and have an “open, public discussion,” then make a decision with his colleagues about it, and that off the top of his head, it sounded like something he’d support.
V: Draw. I love that Larry Reid so obviously found the question completely out of left field, and kudos to him for not committing to do something he didn’t really understand. Gilmore’s response was strange – we eliminate waste in our budget through audits and better budget deliberations, not records management. While we’re talking about it – the City really does need better records management. I’m constantly looking for old agendas and reports on legistar only to discover that they’re just completely missing. The City has been commendably quick to fix the problem when I point out missing agendas and minutes, but it’s a real failure of our records program that the files aren’t available in the first place.
A: Larry Reid brought up the proposed Chabot-Dunmsuir Estates development (PDF!), saying that he went on record publicly opposing the project, and ultimately the developer backed away from the plan. He’s now working with the East Bay Regional Park district to get the acquisition of those 66 acres in East Oakland included in the Measure AA extension, so that the area will remain open space forever. Clifford Gilmore said that District 7 has many beautiful open space areas, and that they should be preserved for future generations.
V: Winner: Larry Reid. Okay, I don’t know enough about the Chabot-Dunsmir Estates to have an opinion on the project. I know that neighbors were concerned about loss of hiking trails and trail access. Since Larry Reid is generally pro-development, I’m assuming he had a good reason for opposing it. Memo to Nancy Nadel: if you care about prioritizing open space and parkland over development, this is how you do it. The Chabot-Dunsmir Estates, now cancelled, according to Reid (I couldn’t verify if this was true), conformed to both the existing zoning and the General Plan. The developer didn’t need variances or amendments. But not only did Reid get the development halted, he’s also in the process of identifying funding to purchase and protect the land. Compare this to Nancy Nadel’s treatment of the Emerald Views project. Nadel has opposed the project from the outset, complaining that tall buildings are inappropriate near the lake, but hasn’t done anything to slow or stop the project. She talked about a land swap, but produced no land. She held meetings about height limits on the lake, but admitted in Friday’s forum that any zoning changes wouldn’t apply to Emerald Views. And this is why even anti-development types shouldn’t vote for Nancy Nadel. So what if she shares their views about growth and density more than another candidate – she won’t do anything about it. It doesn’t matter if your Councilmember votes against a project you don’t like if it gets approved anyway.
A: Clifford Gilmore said that as the director of a non-profit, he’s done a lot of work on violence prevention, and that he would expand the number of outreach workers, engage the faith community, strengthen community policing, add more NCPCs and problem solving officers. Larry Reid talked about Youth Uprising and the East Oakland Youth Development Center, saying that the save young peoples’ lives and that he’s funded both of them through his pay-go account and he has independently raised money for them, as well as for the schools.
V: Winner: Larry Reid. It was driving me crazy the Clifford Gilmore still wouldn’t say what he does. Finally, I just looked it up. He’s executive director of the Oakland Coalition of Congregations. I don’t get why he didn’t just say that. Do people not like OCC? Strange. Anyway, his answer was fine, but Larry Reid really impressed me talking about how he works to fundraise for worthy organizations in his District. Every Councilmember should be doing this.
A: Larry Reid said that his door is always open, and that he’s encouraged constituents to be involved in the political process. He talked about his quarterly leadership breakfasts, where he invites representatives of every homeowner, neighborhood, and merchants association in his district to come together and talk about their issues, and how to access the bureaucracy. Clifford Gilmore said that the community feels disconnected with their government, and that he would open an office in the district because residents should not have to drive downtown to see their elected officials.
V: Winner: Larry Reid. I don’t think having a district office for Councilmembers to base constituent services out of is a bad idea, but I would not support that unless the Council got more staff. Our elected officials are limited in what they can accomplish do by their inadequate support, and beholden to city staff, who often have other priorities and certainly have other responsibilities, to get things done.
Clifford Gilmore said that we are not prepared, and that our fire department’s equipment is outdated. He said that we need to create incentives to get residents prepared, and that he’s worked with the community to try to get them prepared and CORE trained. Larry Reid said that we’re more prepared than we were, but that we can do better, and need to educate residents more. He said that the CORE program has been hosting trainings throughout his district, and that if you look at his garage, you will see that he’s prepared for the disaster.
V: Draw. They pretty much said the same thing, although I was happy to see that Larry Reid was talking about how they’re doing CORE trainings in his district, instead of telling people to call up if they want one.
A: Larry Reid said that we’ve been doing a great job with that in District 7, and said that we would hopefully be breaking ground on the Coliseum Transit Village within two years, calling it “the most incredible project in the City,” which will be on formerly industrial land. Clifford Gilmore said that we can do better, and that he wants to preserve some of the existing industrial parcels for emerging industries, and complained that District 7 has traditionally had high unemployment.
V: Winner: Larry Reid. Clifford Gilmore had the same problem throughout the debate. His positions are so similar to Reid’s that he needed to make a strong case that he will be better able to deliver than Reid is, and I just didn’t get that from him. They both want to save some industrial land, but not all of it. Larry Reid was able to identify specific formerly underutilized parcels that benefitted from conversion.
A: Clifford Gilmore said that, on the positive side, it will bring new homes and amenities to the community, and might increase property values, while negatives include increased traffic and density, the fact that the project is on contaminated land, and that it might intrude onto wildlife habitats. Larry Reid called the Oak Knoll project “an incredible opportunity to do something real special.” He said that the 960 housing units and 80,000 square feet of retail will transform East Oakland and the benefits will spin over to the MacArthur corridor.
V: Winner: Larry Reid. Have I mentioned how great he is yet? Reid strongly backed the controversial Oak Knoll development, and when asked about it, he stands behind it with unequivocal and enthusiastic support. Good for him.
A: Larry Reid said that District 7 does get a lot of affordable housing, and that it will continue to get it, so he’s trying to encourage affordable home ownership housing that will help stabilize the community, and that the mixture of market rate and affordable home ownership housing along MacArthur and International will be an incredible transformation. Clifford Gilmore said that low income housing has historically been located in East Oakland, and that the city needs a balanced approach, and that East Oakland needs mixed income developments to bring business to the district.
V: Winner, Larry Reid, because Clifford Gilmore was so vague. Saying that we need to find a balance is hardly a bold statement! Although I am not a fan of below market rate ownership housing, at least Reid is pushing a different approach that he believes will benefit the community. I understand the idea that increasing home ownership rates will improve stability in the neighborhood, but I would rather see the funds spent on facilitating ownership of market rate units, so that those receiving the subsidy can actually realize the benefits of home ownership.
A: Clifford Gilmore said that he’s been working with local clergy to target 4th and 5th graders, who are posed to become the next generation tangled in the criminal justice system, and that this is a way to get ahead of the problem. Larry Reid again referenced Youth Uprising and the East Oakland Youth Development Center, as well as the programs at Allen Temple and Acts Full Gospel churches. He said that he’s tried to make a difference in the schools by independently fundraising for them, and that he was able to raise over half a million dollars last year for schools in his district.
V: Winner: Larry Reid. This question was nearly identical one asked earlier, and unsurprisingly, the answers were similar. I’m pleased to hear about Gilmore’s work with local clergy on the problem, but once again, he failed to make the case that Reid wasn’t doing enough, or that he could do more.
A: Larry Reid said that the issue isn’t specific to downtown, and that sustainability needs to be considered throughout the City. He bragged about the green and state of the art Xion dealership opening later this year, and said that we are expected to break ground on a 400 room LEED certified hotel with conference facilities this year as well. Clifford Gilmore said that he wants to bring more economic development to District 7, and that we need to create thriving neighborhood corridors to put people to work. He said that most of the progress is at the margins of the district, but that nothing is going on in the neighborhoods.
V: Winner, hmm. Draw, I guess. Good for both of them for ignoring downtown and focusing on the district. Good for Larry Reid that he can point to green projects coming to District 7, but there’s more to sustainability than LEED certified buildings. Like I said before, I don’t know a ton about what goes on in District 7, so if it’s true that people feel neighborhoods are not seeing the benefits of economic investment in the area, Gilmore should have criticized Reid for this more forcefully and frequently.
A: Clifford Gilmore said that other cities are not producing their fair share of affordable housing, and that we need to work with them to ensure that they do. Larry Reid said that he’s served on the Alameda County Congestion Management Agency board for 10 years, including 2 years as chair, and that they’ve been able to bring over $200 million to the community because of his ability to work well with his colleagues and the respect they have for him.
V: Winner: Larry Reid. Being able to point to something you’ve done is always better than saying what you would do. I’m sure Gilmore must have done some partnering at some point in his work at OCC – not bringing it up as an example was a mistake. Regular readers know how much I care about transportation issues, so Reid’s commitment to regional planning around them makes me happy. Interestingly, Reid appears to be the only board member without an alternate.
A: Larry Reid once again brought up the attempt to acquire those 66 acres near Dunsmuir through the Measure AA extension. He said that he’s used his pay-go money to fund park improvements, and that he’s trying to acquire land to build pocket parks in neighborhoods that don’t have any. Clifford Gilmore siad that we don’t have enough parks, and that we can’t maintain our parks because a third of Oakland’s population is on some sort of aid. He said that we need to attract new businesses to Oakland so we can have more parks.
V: Winner: Larry Reid. Same thing as last question. The two agree on this, Larry Reid was able to provide specific examples of how he delivered, and Gilmore failed to make a case that he could do more.
A: Clifford Gilmore said that there needs to be a process for the two parties (program and neighbors) to come together and talk about how to make it work. Larry Reid said that this sort of facility should not be concentrated in East Oakland, and needs to be distributed throughout the city. He said that residents need to have some input into the functions of facilities before they move in.
V: Draw. They both said basically the same thing, and I wasn’t terribly impressed with either answer. I wish they had asked this question during the District 3 forum, particularly in light of the new CBD draft zoning chapter, which severely restricts transitional and supportive housing downtown.
A: Larry Reid said that the City is suing the Housing Authority over unmaintained property, but that some of their property is nice. He brought up the Lion Creek Crossing development on 66th and San Leandro, saying that he would be willing to move into it himself. He said that the 192 units of new rental and homeownership housing being built at Tassaforanga will reshape the community. Clifford Gilmore said that problems come from concentrating poor residents in a given area, and that we need to look at the impacts of development.
V: Winner: Larry Reid. Just like in the Nadel and Sullivan debate, I wasn’t thrilled with either answer. Our housing stock is outdated and how we’re going to address rehabilition is a very real issue that nobody seems to be talking about. Reid wins by default, because Gilmore pretty much bombed the question and said virtually nothing of substance. Reid, by the way, also voted to appoint a teenager to the Housing Authority Board. I know some people who live in Lion Creek Crossing, and they love it.
A: Clifford Gilmore said that it is, and that we need to maintain our industrial parcels so we can market Oakland as a welcoming place for new, emerging industries. He said that we rely too heavily on the real estate transfer tax and that we need to diversify our economy. Larry Reid said that we do not need to maintain 100% of the industrial land, because the industry that occupied it is never going to return. He said that some places, like the Army Base, are appropriate for industry, but that many parts of District 7 aren’t. He said that the 400 units of housing, 30,000 sf of retail, and office space that will be built next to the Coliseum BART station will be an improvement over the vacant industrial space its replacing.
V: Winner: Larry Reid. Again, we already got this question, and the answers were the same then. Gilmore kept talking about emerging industries, yet failed to provide any examples of them. I was not convinced he had a good grasp of the issue.
A: Larry Reid said that we have acquired the old Glen Fields King Estate to ensure it is maintained as open space, and that we’re trying to do that with the 66 acres near Dunsmuir. Clifford Gilmore said that we need to make sure all the stakeholders are at the table negotiating something fair when it comes to open space versus development, and that the character of our neighborhoods should be preserved.
V: Winner: Larry Reid. This is like, the third time they asked this question.
Clifford Gilmore said that if we want real change, we can’t keep traveling on the same path, and that he’ll bring new leadership to the City Council and would be an independent voice. Watch it yourself:
Larry Reid rattled off investment in East Oakland during his tenure – a 48,000 sf grocery store in the East Oakland flatlands, the first full service bank, 250 units of new housing at Durant Square, 250,000 sf of new retail on Hegenberger, jobs creation, etc. Watch it. No really, you have to watch it. He’s awesome:
Winner: OMG, Larry Reid. Watching his closing statement reminds me so much of why Nadel Nadel needs to go. They both said roughly the same thing in their closing remarks – that they’ve come a long way, and that many changes have occurred, and they want to continue serving. Both represent Districts with some of the worst problems in the city – they have exceptionally high rates of crime, poverty, underhousing, and unemployment. Both districts had these problems in 1996 and they both have them now. So why did Larry Reid make me want to move to District 7 just so I could vote for him, while Nancy Nadel made me resolve to work extra hard for Sean Sullivan? Because you can see his passion. The level of energy and excitement, and the detailed knowledge that he displays make me confident that he really cares, that he’s been working to bring real change, and that he will continue doing so. He told us what improvements he’s proud of, rather than just vaguely insisting on “amazing changes.” Four more years for Larry Reid!
Clifford Gilmore’s election website is here, and I can’t find one for Larry Reid (e-mail me if you know of one), so I have nothing to link to for him. As much as I adore Larry Reid, I don’t think anyone would deny that District 7 has some serious problems. Gilmore should have used his time to hammer Reid on the areas where progress has not been made, and explain what he would do differently. He didn’t.
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