Can you guys believe the election is less than two weeks away? Crazy, huh? Campaign season has gone by so fast!
I really thought would have written a lot more about the elections, but there are just so many races and so many candidates (42!), and it has taken me a really long time to get my head around them all. And since the blog is about, you know, what I think, I felt like I should probably figure out what it is that I think about the elections before writing about them. So even though it ended up taking a lot longer that I had hoped, I’m happy to say that I’m finally where I want to be and my complete list of endorsements will go up on Monday.
Some of these races took me a really long time to figure out, and others were pretty easy. And then there’s one that I could have written about, no problem, months ago — the District 4 City Council election.
With Jean Quan giving up her current job to run for Mayor, we have a rare open Council seat, and seven candidates are vying to take her place: Libby Schaaf, Jill Broadhurst, Daniel Swafford, Ralph Kanz, Clinton Killian, Jason Gillen, and Melanie Shelby. With the exception of Jason Gillen, who I honestly don’t even understand why he’s running, all of these candidates have made impressive contributions to Oakland, are knowledgeable about the City, and have some good ideas. Jill Broadhurst and Daniel Swafford, in particular, stand out as bright, hard-working, and very devoted to improving Oakland. I think that both would grow into capable Councilmembers if elected.
But there is one candidate who just stands head and shoulders above everyone else, and would be a kick-ass Councilmember from day one, and that candidate is Libby Schaaf.
While most of the candidates have impressive records of service to Oakland, Libby’s is downright ridiculous. She has been volunteering her time to make this city a better place literally since she was in kindergarten. She’s devoted her professional life to Oakland as well, serving as Chief of Staff to Councilmember Ignacio De La Fuente, then as aide to Mayor Jerry Brown, then as Director of Public Affairs for the Port of Oakland, and then as Senior Policy Advisor for Community and Economic Development to the City Council until she got laid off last year due to budget cuts. She knows the City inside and out, and has a thoughtful platform grounded in four key areas — building a thriving economy, making government more responsive, supporting Oakland’s public schools, and reducing and preventing crime.
And she’s endorsed by like everyone on the planet. Including me. And I hope you’ll indulge me a little bit and let me give you kind of a long winded explanation of why.
I first met Libby in Spring of 2006. I had not ever been involved in local politics at all before that. I had never watched a City Council meeting, I had never been inside City Hall — you get the idea. Everything I knew about City government came from reading the newspaper. And one thing I knew for sure was that I did not want Ron Dellums to be Mayor.
I kept telling myself I should go volunteer for Ignacio De La Fuente, and every day, as I walked past his campaign office on the way home from work, I would promise myself I would go in tomorrow. I’m not like this anymore, obviously, but back then I was very intimidated by the idea of going in and volunteering for a campaign. I was afraid I wouldn’t know what to say when I was talking to people, or I would not be persuasive, or just do a bad job in some other way. (I think a lot of people are intimidated about phoning and walking for campaigns. Don’t be! It’s scary the first couple of calls you make or doors you knock on, but it gets easy really quick.)
Anyway. So one day, I force myself to go in. And who greets me but like, the nicest, most welcoming, most enthusiastic woman you could imagine. Ten seconds of talking to Libby, and I just felt instantly at ease and found myself wishing I had done this weeks ago. At one point, dto510 told her about this MySpace page we had set up about how we supported Ignacio, which I totally did not want him to do, because I was afraid she would think it sounded stupid and laugh at us or roll her eyes. But her reaction was the opposite. She was thrilled about it and just so encouraging, and then when we started our blog, which I also didn’t want to tell people about because I thought they would laugh and think it was pointless, she was even more enthusiastic and boosterish about it.
On election day that year, dto510 really wanted to go to Ignacio De La Fuente’s election night party. I did not want to go. I get really nervous being around lots of people, especially people I don’t know, which was going to be like, everyone there. Plus I don’t have very good hearing, so I prefer to avoid places that are really loud. Like big parties. But it was important to him, so I went. And, as I often do when I feel nervous and don’t know who to talk to or what to say at events, I spent most of the night standing outside chain smoking.
Libby also spent much of the night outside, checking election results on her Blackberry and greeting people as they came and went. All I wanted to do was like, hide on the patio and avoid talking to anyone until I could go home. But Libby, who would have been more than justified in ignoring me, instead insisted on introducing me to like every single person who came by. “Oh, hi so and so. Do you know V? No? Oh, you just have to meet V! This is V. She’s a blogger!” She had the funniest tone when she would say it, like a blog was the most exotic thing in the world. Like, “Wow, can you believe you’re actually meeting one of those people you always read about in the newspaper,” as though I were some kind of celebrity. Or maybe a zoo animal.
What I owe Libby
I will forever be grateful to Libby for her kindness on that first day I met her, and on that night. She made me feel like writing this silly little blog that (at that time) nobody read was something worth doing. Something important, even. But of course, that wasn’t the end. She followed up with me after the election was all over and encouraged me to stay involved with the City. It was her prodding that prompted me to get involved with the Measure N library bond campaign, which, although the outcome was sad, was a deeply rewarding experience for me (and also led indirectly and several years later to the job I have now, which, despite all the frustrations that come with dealing with the City every day, is just hands-down the best and most rewarding job I have ever had).
We fell in and out of touch over the years, but every so often, she would pop up somewhere and she was always the same — so nice and encouraging about my blog, always ready with helpful and thoughtful feedback, and always trying to get me involved with this or that good cause.
I know I am well into gushing mode at this point, but I can’t help it. I owe her so much. I can say without hesitation that this blog would not exist if it had not been for Libby Schaaf’s support and encouragement. Without her truly relentless nagging, I would never have joined the League of Women Voters, an organization I just could not be prouder to be a part of. And I am plain a better person because of her. I watch the way she treats people, and I listen to the amazingly kind things she says about me, and even though I think she’s usually being over-generous, it inspires me. I want so badly to be the person Libby tells me I am, and many of my efforts to get more people involved in Oakland are driven in large part by my desire to live up to the image she paints of me, and the example she sets — always trying to bring out the best in people, always trying to show people how they can be involved and making them feel good about it, always trying to find ways to bring people together to find new ways to do good things for Oakland.
Exactly what the Council needs
If Oakland had more people like Libby Schaaf, it would be a much better place. The Council will definitely be much better with her as a member. Her enthusiasm for public input and involvement in government stands in stark contrast to the can’t-be-bothered attitude of so many elected officials, and just for that reason alone she will be a breath of fresh air.
As far as voting goes, Libby absolutely leans to the left of me on a lot of issues, and I know there will be times when I vehemently disagree with her decisions. But I am not too worried about the fact that Libby is a bleeding heart, because 1) she is a thoughtful listener and always willing to hear arguments on the other side of an issue and seriously consider them, and 2) she is also a total policy geek. Early on in Libby’s campaign, I talked to her a couple of times about her platform, and she would just get so ridiculously excited talking about the wonkiest things like stabilizing operational budgets and fiscal policies and regionalized sales tax, and I would be like “You need to take it down a couple of levels. People just want their potholes fixed. They are not going to listen to all of that.” I think she did end up striking a good balance in her issues statements of getting a lot of her ideas across while also keeping it accessible to the average voter.
In addition to being super smart and having an incredible depth of knowledge about the City, Libby is also one of the hardest working people I know. Seriously. I mean, I could count on my fingers the number of people I know who work as hard as she does — I’m always getting e-mails from her at like 3 AM.
Anyway, I’ve probably gone on long enough. There are a number of good candidates in this race, but Libby is by far the best, has the most experience, and is the only one who understands the City and the budget well enough to really start getting things done her first day in office. There’s no learning curve here, and that’s a good thing, because Oakland doesn’t have time for one right now. So if you live in District 4, you really should vote for her. Three cheers for Libby Schaaf!
(Yes, that is her, cheering for Skyline High School.)
See for yourself
And if you don’t want to take my word for it? Hey, that’s cool too. When you watch all the candidates answer questions side by side, it is so clear than Libby is just on a whole other level than the rest of them.
I videorecorded a District 4 candidate forum earlier this month, and so you are of course welcome to watch that.
If the whole thing is too much for you, you can also watch just Libby’s responses to all the questions in the video below:
And if you still have questions after watching that, or just prefer to see things in person, you are fortunate to have an opportunity to do so on Friday! What better way to spend a Friday night than at a candidate forum, right?
The forum, sponsored by the Laurel District Association and Laurel Village Association, will be held from 6 PM to 8 PM this Friday, October 22nd at the Allendale Recreation Center (3711 Sutter St.)