A story about the Oakland City Council District 7 race incorrectly reported the former employer of candidate Sheryl Walton. Her employer was the Alameda County Public Health Department.
OAKLAND -- Voters in November will choose from among three candidates vying for Oakland's District 7 City Council seat.
The challengers, Beverly Williams and Sheryl Walton, are two women with a strong history of community activism but no political experience. In contrast, the four-term incumbent Larry Reid is relying on his track record of development in the district he has represented for 16 years.
Now 62, Reid dismissed questions about his health after having undergone several coronary-related procedures in recent years. Instead he ran down a list of new companies and real estate developments in District 7 for which he claimed credit. He said more jobs, more affordable housing and more retail have been created under his watch than anywhere else in Oakland. A Ross bargain clothing store, a Foods Co grocery outlet and a Chase bank branch will follow soon, he said.
If people can't see a difference between District 7 now and 16 years ago, Reid said, "Then they have blinders on."
But as the incumbent, Reid also has to answer for problems facing the district, including stretches of foreclosed homes, blighted property, illegal dumping, drug-dealing gangs and violence. He also backed a recent controversial decision to shut down sections of the City Hall chambers. The city administrator imposed a shutout in order to keep large, angry crowds from overwhelming council meetings, which happened on several occasions in the past year.
In addition, Reid and his fellow council members were slow in making banks responsible for the upkeep of blighted foreclosed properties and has shown a pattern of uninformed decisions. Reid said the council relies on staff for information. The Oakland City Council jobs are "supposed to be part-time," he said, adding that he works full-time hours. His efforts to improve public safety through opposing curfews, anti-loitering ordinances and gang injunctions, Reid said, were hindered by his fellow council members.
Reid has been a council member for 16 years and the conditions he said would change are still there and worse, Walton said. She was a member of the city's Central City East Project Area Committee. She also worked for the Alameda County Social Services Agency and served on the City-County Neighborhood Initiative project for Sobrante Park.
Walton, a 60-year-old public health consultant, admitted she would face a learning curve as a council member. She did have some concrete ideas about balancing the city's budget, including collecting fees from large institutions and raising local taxes on corporations, property owners and hotels. She said she would also try to rein in the money spent settling claims against the Oakland Police Department.
Walton said she would expand the community participation model and "look at the root causes" of crime in Oakland. She suggested starting with simple fixes, such as lighting, flowers, trees and garbage removal.
She said she agreed with the basis of Mayor Jean Quan's 100 blocks crime-fighting initiative but would have implemented the program differently.
She supported efforts to rebuild the coliseum, a proposal pushed by Reid called Coliseum City.
Beverly Williams was also enthusiastic about Coliseum City. She spent several years bringing lenders like Lehman Bros. -- which still owns the Oak Knoll land in District 7 that will soon be under development -- and Wells Fargo to account over their role in the mortgage meltdown. She worked with the Alliance of Californians for Community Empowerment, or ACCE, the group behind Oakland's Vacancy Resident Property Ordinance and is active in other community organizations. The 63-year-old administrative assistant was, however, fuzzy about the responsibilities council members hold and her plans for the district because she said she was not familiar enough with the details of city governance yet to make concrete plans.
She said she would look for alternatives to gang injunctions such as an advisory task force but would not rule them out. Curfews, however, she would oppose. And she said she would question the city attorney's decision "very hard."
Williams stressed reaching out to people to help rebuild the community based on long-term goals. The district needs a strategy instead of reacting to problems, she said. For example, she said District 7 lacks a solid business merchants group that works together.
"We need to build a financial district," she said.
Occupation: City of Oakland council member, District 7
Professional/elected history: Oakland council member 16 years; Oakland chief of staff of former Mayor Elihu Harris six years; Oakland chief of staff of former Councilmember Aleta Cannon
Personal: Married, father of six children
Education: Attended University of Cincinnati
Occupation: Public Health Consultant
Professional/elected history: Member of Oakland's Central City East Project Area Committee; worked for the Alameda County Social Services Agency; served on the City-County Neighborhood Initiative project for Sobrante Park.
Personal: Oakland native, attended Oakland public schools, parent of adult son
Education: Bachelor's degree in child development from Mills College; Bachelor's degree in public health from UC Berkeley
Occupation: Administrative Assistant for the Continuing Education of the Bar
Professional/elected history: Personnel specialist; commissioner vice-chairwoman on the Oakland Rent Board; co-chairwoman Neighborhood Crime Prevention Council; community advocate, Alliance of Californians for Community Empowerment
Personal: Oakland native, attended Oakland public schools, parent of two adult children
Education: Bachelor's degree in public administration from Golden Gate University