Below is the second in a series of interviews with Oakland mayoral candidates. Today is university professor, department chair and community activist Joe Tuman.
BW: Why are you running for mayor of Oakland?
JT: "I've lived in this city close to 30 years. I've seen a beautiful city beset by crime, ongoing poverty and a real lack of economic development. I don't see anyone willing to make difficult choices to really change things. As mayor, I will focus on three things: making Oakland safe -- not safer, but safe; invest in programs that complement one another; and attract private-sector business that will bring jobs and increase tax revenue. I'm going to marshal the resources on those three things, and this is what I will be judged on. If after four years I haven't done it, throw me out; if I have, let me keep going."
BW: What did you learn from your first mayoral candidacy four years ago?
JT: "I was only in the race 11 weeks. In spite of it being a brief campaign, I learned that I could have an impact and definitely win. Eleven weeks isn't long enough. This time we've come out 15 months early. I also learned voters are hungry for change. A lot of people talked to me after the last race saying they wished they had time to know me, urging me to say involved."
BW: What should residents of Oakland realistically expect from its mayor?
JT: "Let me enlarge the question to include the city. All of us have the right to expect basic services, and topping that list is public safety. It is as intrinsic as breathing. After that, we should expect basic infrastructure -- roads, water, etc. I would also add honesty to the list. Being transparent about what you're doing, and using accurate data so that people can follow you to your conclusion when they're looking at the same numbers. On any of those measures we are currently failing."
BW: What would you do differently?
JT: "One of the things that (former mayor) Ron Dellums did well in his first year was the creation of the public commissions. It actually re-engaged the public. Unfortunately, the great ideas that came from the community went nowhere. What I would do differently to engage the public would be to put city staff on each of those commissions.
Let's say an issue arose out of those commissions, there would be someone from the city to work with them directly. I have my ideas on how to change things, but the first thing I'm going to do before I set up the commissions will be to talk with the people who work for the city. Those are the people who usually know what's broken and they are the ones who know how to fix it. I don't mean department heads but those who actually interact with the public."
BW: Everyone in the race is making public safety a priority. How are you defining public safety?
JT: "First, we must shift the focus of law enforcement so that it is not only crime solving (after the fact), but also crime prevention. You must have a police staff that is visible, that projects its presence. That requires a minimum of 900 officers. The second part of that is to begin prevention to address the systemic causes of crime, which means investing in the programs that I mentioned earlier that include violence prevention, mentoring, and re-entry programs.
These programs must be measured by the outcomes that I'm looking for, which is crime prevention. But public safety is also a quality-of-life issue. It's not only the crime you suffer but also the crime you fear. It lowers the self-esteem of the city; it dominates how we're described. A comprehensive approach to public safety must be the focus of the city. If not, we'll be having the same conversation four years from now."
Byron Williams is a contributing columnist. Contact him at 510-208-6417 or email@example.com.