Wednesday, August 29, 2012

Inside Info for Tonight's At-Large City Council Debate

Candidates for Oakland City Council At Large Seat will Debate Tonight at the Kaiser Center

Four of the five candidates for Oakland’s City Council At Large Seat will debate tonight in an open forum at Kaiser Center, located on the shores of Lake Merritt in Oakland.  The debate, produced by the Oakland Metropolitan Chamber of Commerce Public Policy Committee starts at 6:30pm and is free to attend. Doors open at 6pm, and questions will be solicited from the audience.
The role of the Oakland City Council is to be an elected governing body representing the City of Oakland. There are seven council districts in Oakland, and one at-large member for a total of eight seats. If needed, the Mayor serves as the tie breaking vote. Since 1998, Oakland has had a strong mayor form of government. The mayor is elected for a four-year term and council members serve staggered four-year terms. Oakland's Mayor is subject to a tenure limited to two terms. There are no term limits for the city council members. The At Large council seat has often been considered a more city-wide policy focused position, as the 8th council member doesn’t have just one district of constituents to represent, and can instead have more flexibility to view issues with a city-wide scope.

The job of council member for the At-Large sear has been most recently held by Rebecca Kaplan. First elected to the Oakland City Council in 2008, the former AC Transit District board member has advocated for attracting retail, housing and job-producing businesses to Broadway's Auto Row and to the Oakland Army Base redevelopment site. A resident of the Temescal district, Kaplan is the first openly lesbian City Council member.  Currently, Councilmember Kaplan is a member of both the public works and life enrichment committees of the council and represents the City of Oakland on the Alameda County Transportation Commission Board.

Many political consultants consider this year unique for the Oakland City Council in that it will have at least three new council members after the November election, a turnover unseen for 16 years. The existing council is characterized as having “fractious dynamics” and even some seated council members themselves are excited for a chance to change the tone of the conversation.

This debate will likely cover (but won’t be limited to) several critical issues concerning Oakland as a whole, including economic development, public safety, jobs, pensions, and basic services. What do you think are the biggest issues facing the city in the next four years? Please attend and submit a question for the candidates. Or let us know your comments by following the event on Twitter tonight @oaklandchamber and using the tag #oakdebates.

Candidate Backgrounds (Alphabetical by First Name)

Carol Lee Tolbert is the President and Principal Consultant of Tolbert & Associates (a School Improvement Consulting Firm), she also has been the executive director of the North Oakland Parish, Seniors Care Service, and the Education Learning Center. Ms. Tolbert is a native of Oakland and is an alumna of Oakland Technical High School. She holds both a Bachelor of Arts Degree in Human Development and Masters of Arts Degree in Public Administration from California State University, Hayward.   

Ignacio De La Fuente has been the city council member for Oakland’s District 5 since 1992. Mr. De La Fuente has served as the chair of the Council's Economic and Community Development Committee until January 1999. De La Fuente then became the first Council member to serve as Council President, and held the post of Vice Mayor from 2009-2011. Mr. De La Fuente is stepping down at this end of this term (Dec ember 2012) as the District 5 representative to concentrate on his campaign for the At-Large Council seat for Oakland.  Most recently, Councilmember De La Fuente has chaired the influential Finance & Management Committee of the council. De La Fuente also co-chairs the Oakland-Alameda County Coliseum Joint Powers Authority, overseeing the City’s Coliseum-Arena complex and three professional sports franchises. Mr. De La Fuente was born in Mexico City and came to Oakland to work as a machinist at age 21.

Mick Storm (not attending the debate tonight)

Mick Storm  has a campaign website at this address:

Rebecca Kaplan has the City of Oakland At Large councilmember since 2008. Prior to her service on the Oakland City Council, Ms. Kaplan served as At-Large Director on the AC Transit Board of Directors from 2002 to 2008. Councilmember Kaplan’s work experience includes serving as an aide for the California State Legislature in the 16th Assembly District and as an attorney. Ms. Kaplan earned a Bachelor of Science from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (Phi Beta Kappa) and also holds a Master of Arts in Urban & Environmental Policy from Tufts University and a Juris Doctorate from Stanford Law School.

Theresa Anderson-Downs is currently the CEO at Dandell Entertainment and is running for the At-Large seat on the Green Party Ticket. Ms. Anderson-Downs is holds a degree in business law from Heald's Business College.


Chamber Support
The Oakland Metropolitan Chamber of Commerce (OMCC) public policy committee does not endorse political candidates, but there is a separate political action committee OakPAC that does.  For more information on OakPAC, please contact Paul Junge, OakPAC Executive Director at 

Full Debate Schedule
Tonight’s At-Large debate is the fifth of six debates in this series. The full schedule is posted below; all debates are FREE and begin at 6:30pm.  All are welcome and encouraged to attend.

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