2018 Election Endorsements

Mayor — Libby Schaaf. Her commitment to sustainable and equitable transportation policies and track record of results sets her apart from other candidates. In her first term alone, Mayor Schaaf oversaw the creation of the Oakland Department of Transportation, removed minimum parking requirements downtown, took action to expedite hiring staff at OakDOT, and many additional accomplishments. Read more

City Council, District 2  — Abel Guillen. In his first term, Councilmember Guillen has been a strong supporter of sustainable transportation projects including the 2016 Grand Avenue road diet and the proposed Park Boulevard road diet. He also co-authored Oakland’s Infrastructure Bond that was overwhelming approved by voters in 2016 which provides $600 million for street repaving, bicycle and pedestrian safety improvements, affordable housing, and community facilities across the city. Read more

City Council, District 4 — Pamela Harris. Harris supports great transportation, from transit-oriented development to complete and safe streets. We believe her experience with community organizing and service, her commitment to social justice, and her interest in improving Oakland’s relationships with AC Transit and BART will make her a good addition to Oakland’s City Council. Read more

City Council, District 6 — Loren Taylor AND Mya Whitaker. With a dual endorsement for District 6, we believe both Loren Taylor and Mya Whitaker would do a great job representing East Oakland on City Council.

  • Loren Taylor: With a campaign focused on improving economic vitality and housing in East Oakland, Taylor understands the necessity of better transportation to achieve that vision. He understands that improving transportation across Oakland can increase opportunities for residents and improve access to jobs, housing, and healthcare. Read more
  • Mya Whitaker: Whitaker grew up in East Oakland and understands what her community needs from City leaders. Her vision for including the community in decision making processes would support better and more equitable transportation options in Oakland. Read more

AC Transit, Ward 3 — Elsa Ortiz. Director Ortiz has served on AC Transit’s Board of Director since 2006 and has steadfastly supported good policies that put riders first. AC Transit is facing numerous challenges including unstable funding sources and declining ridership. Transport Oakland believes that Ortiz’s leadership is vital to resolving these challenges.

Use this map to find out if you’ll be able to vote for Ortiz this November

BART Board of Directors, District 4 — Robert Raburn. Director Raburn has served on the BART Board of Directors since 2010 and his leadership resulted in the 2016 BART Board adoption of a Transit Oriented Development policy with strong affordability goals. He has also championed core capacity and reliability projects and voted against the proposed Livermore extension that would have diverted limited capital funds from maintaining the BART system to another costly extension.

Use this map to find out if you’ll be able to vote for Director Raburn this November.

Robert Raburn Campaign Website


We endorse Libby Schaaf for re-election

Libby SchaafMayor Schaaf’s commitment to, and understanding of, sustainable and equitable transportation policies as well as her track record of delivering results sets her apart from other candidates. Throughout her first term, Mayor Schaaf has many significant accomplishments including:

  • The creation of the Oakland Department of Transportation (OakDOT), which has set itself up as a leader among city DOTs in prioritizing social equity when making transportation decisions. Mayor Schaaf oversaw the creation of OakDOT’s Strategic Plan which contains 37 goals and over 100 actions that reflect our shared priorities for Oakland’s streets. In creating OakDOT, Mayor Schaaf successfully recruited Ryan Russo, previously Deputy Commissioner at NYC DOT as the first permanent director. Mayor Schaaf is committed to ensuring OakDOT’s success. In response to its current challenges with a high vacancy rate, she funded a dedicated Human Resources analyst in the 2018 budget cycle to expedite filling open positions at OakDOT and has charged one of her Assistant City Administrators with a total re-do of the City of Oakland’s hiring process.
    Mayor Schaaf was a chief sponsor of Measure KK in 2016, an extremely popular measure with voters, garnering 82% approval. The $600 million raised by the bond will fund street repaving, bicycle and pedestrian safety improvements, affordable housing, and community facilities across the city. Oakland’s streets have deteriorated from years of deferred maintenance due to funding shortfalls and Measure KK will address the backlog of fixing Oakland’s streets.
  • Mayor Schaaf has a strong grasp on regional issues and uses her seat on the Metropolitan Transportation Commission to advocate for Oakland as well as what is best for the region. Due to her advocacy, Regional Measure 3 included an equity component: funding for West Oakland residents to mitigate the effects of emissions from the additional transbay buses funded in this measure. She also was a key player in achieving approval of a plan to link MTC transportation funding with housing production, preservation and protection.
  • Mayor Schaaf’s leadership resulted in the reform of parking requirements and the establishment of parking maximums near major transit hubs. Reducing parking requirements helps to lower the cost of housing, encourages transit use, and fosters a more walkable and healthy city.
  • We also loved hearing Mayor Schaaf tell us she has a “girl crush” on former NYCDOT Commissioner Janette Sadik-Khan (JSK)! Mayor Schaaf successfully convinced JSK to include Oakland as a city receiving philanthropic support from Bloomberg Associates, providing critical support to set up OakDOT and create the Strategic Plan.

In Mayor Schaaf’s second term we expect to see OakDOT continue to build capacity to deliver rapid improvements to our streets using low cost materials. In addition we expect her to use her position on the MTC to continue to effectively advocate for Oakland’s interests including good regional land use and transportation planning and to ensure that transportation improvements don’t negatively impact communities of concern.

Given her strong leadership qualities and her shared belief in our vision for Oakland transportation, we conclude that voting to re-elect Mayor Libby Schaaf is the best choice.

Mayor Schaaf’s Campaign Website

We also recommend Cat Brooks in ranked choice

Cat BrooksCat Brooks has proven to be an effective advocate on one of the most pressing issues of our time—police violence in our communities—and is the co-founder of the Anti Police-Terror Project. During our interview with her, it was clear that we share a vision of Oakland’s streets where access, safety, and equity are an overriding objective. As an activist and community organizer, Brooks is highly supportive of our “Involve the People” priority, offering great ideas such as rotating City Hall meetings to locations in different communities across the city as public transit access to City Hall can be challenging from neighborhoods far from Downtown. Additionally, she is supportive of transit oriented development as long as adequate public input and sufficient affordable housing policies are included to prevent gentrification. Given her strong belief in our vision for a transportation network that includes all Oaklanders, we recommend Cat Brooks for an additional vote on your ranked choice ballot.

Cat Brooks’ Campaign Website

City Council District 2

We endorse Abel Guillen for re-election

Abel GuillenIn his first term, Councilmember Guillen has been a strong supporter of the Transport Oakland platform. With his leadership Oakland has made significant progress on structural reforms to Oakland’s transportation and housing policies. Some of his major transportation accomplishments include:

  • His championing of the Grand Avenue road diet. Despite some of his constituents’ concerns that this project would increase travel times for drivers, Councilmember Guillen remained a strong supporter, allowing this project to proceed. The street is now safer for people walking and biking and has smoothed out what was previously fast and erratic traffic flow.
  • Councilmember Guillen co-authored Oakland’s Infrastructure Bond, an extremely popular measure with voters, garnering 82% approval. The $600 million raised by the bond will fund street repaving, bicycle and pedestrian safety improvements, affordable housing, and community facilities across the city. Councilmember Guillen has used his position as chair of City Council’s Finance and Management Committee and as a member of the Public Works Committee to monitor these funds, ensuring accountability.
  • He is a great liaison between his constituents and OakDOT, meeting monthly with staff to stay abreast of transportation projects and issues in his district and to give advice about project priorities.
  • He helped pass parking reform legislation to eliminate expensive parking requirements in the downtown area and near transit hubs.
  • He helped negotiate community-benefit agreements for major TOD/housing developments in his district to create more affordable housing and neighborhood improvements.

Councilmember Guillen has proven to be strong advocate for the Transport Oakland platform and we value the leadership and effectiveness he has provided in his first four years as a Council Member and support his re-election.

Use this map to find out if you’ll be able to vote for Councilmember Abel Guillen this November.

Abel Guillen’s Campaign Website

City Council District 4

We endorse Pamela Harris

Pamela HarrisPam Harris supports Transport Oakland’s vision and can earn community trust to enable the council to move forward on key projects and guide OakDOT’s strategy. Harris’ career has spanned the non-profit, documentary film, and philanthropy sectors and she has devoted her career to issues such as youth development, violence prevention, health care reform, LGBTQ rights, racial and socioeconomic inclusion, and fiscal management for nonprofits. Harris has been very active in Oakland civic and political life including serving as an Assembly District Delegate to the California Democratic Party and having received awards for her organizing and service from Congresswoman Barbara Lee and California Assemblymember Rob Bonta.

In our interview with Harris, we were impressed by:

  • Her clear vision for an equitable transportation system that brings proactive community engagement to the planning process,
  • Her support for transit oriented development on transit corridors and complete streets to reduce pedestrian/bicycle deaths,
  • Her perspective on council/OakDOT interactions (setting clear guidelines for approval, acting as a buffer/sounding board for community concerns)
  • Her ability to consider the many actors and think collaboratively about solutions to interagency planning.
  • Her clear understanding of past challenges with AC Transit and BART coordination, and viable suggestions for improving their working relationship with OakDOT

Use this map to find out if you’ll be able to vote for Harris this November.

Pamela Harris Campaign Website

In ranked choice, we recommend Charlie Michelson

Charlie Michaelson has some of the most concrete and actionable transportation proposals for District 4 and has earned our recommendation as the best number two choice. Michaelson works in the ship supply industry and is involved in efforts to provide educational opportunities and services to underserved Oakland youth.

We are impressed by:

  • Michaelson’s proposal to establish a Transbay bus Park and Ride at the City-owned Montclair village garage and to increase transit service between Montclair and downtown Oakland.
  • His strong support for the equity approach in the City’s paving program.
  • His clear support for upzoning transit-rich areas like Rockridge, setting parking maximums citywide, and construction of mid-rise “missing middle” housing along the entirety of the MacArthur corridor.

Charlie Michelson Campaign Website

We also recommend Sheng Thao in ranked choice

Sheng Thao has shown herself as very capable and knowledgeable during her tenure as Councilmember Rebecca Kaplan’s Chief of Staff and has earned our recommendation as the best number three choice. We believe she would be an effective councilmember and largely support Transport Oakland’s goals. We are impressed by:

  • Thao’s clear understanding of the issues and the path to solutions.
  • Her support for upzoning strategic parcels in District 4 adjacent to the transbay buses and along MacArthur Boulevard
  • Her support for clear direction from the Council to OakDOT for approval of projects.

Sheng Thao Facebook

City Council District 6

We endorse both Loren Taylor and Mya Whitaker

We believe both Loren Taylor and Mya Whitaker would do a great job representing East Oakland on City Council.

Loren TaylorLoren Taylor. Running on a campaign of improving economic vitality, increasing access to affordable homes, and improving community health and safety, Taylor understands that improved transportation is part of the foundation to achieving his vision for East Oakland. Taylor’s day job is at a management consulting firm, and outside of work, he cites involvement in range a community service projects from supporting homeless youth and improving community-police relations, to helping low-income women start businesses and working to reduce diabetes and cancer rates in the Black community.

His community leadership and his understanding of city council governance would make Taylor an effective leader in the fight for better and more equitable transportation options in East Oakland. Loren understands how good transportation can reduce barriers and provide access to opportunities.

Some examples of the transportation projects and programs Taylor supports include:

  • Upzoning near transit corridors and “aggressively interrogat[ing] existing minimum parking requirements”, noting that increased density is key to achieving higher levels of affordability
  • BRT along International Boulevard, which he understands will bring faster and more efficient transit access to downtown Oakland. Taylor keenly recognizes the connections this project brings to economic opportunity for District 6. On the one hand, the project has created local jobs that are benefiting East Oakland residents. On the other hand, while there are short-term challenges to businesses as a result of construction disruption that should be mitigated, ultimately he believes the project will benefit these businesses by providing improved access for customers and employees.
  • The Alameda County Student Transit Pass Pilot Program which provides a free AC Transit bus pass to all students attending several middle and high schools in Oakland. Taylor understands that the cost of transit can limit students school choice options and their ability to participate in after-school activities. This program is an example of how he believes equity can be advanced through transportation and he will champion extending the program after the pilot period concludes.

We also appreciated Taylor’s pragmatic approach to decision-making, noting the importance of data-driven analysis in addition to first-hand/lived experience and the recommendations of staff and external experts.

Loren Taylor Campaign Website

Maya WhitakerMya Whitaker. Whitaker grew up in District 6 and understands the strengths of her community as well as the need for improved access to resources through better transportation options. Though young, Whitaker has solid experience in policy and governance including in her current role as Program Director for the Bay Area Urban Debate League and in her past service to Oakland’s Citizen Police Review Board. Anyone who has seen her speak knows she is a powerful and passionate force for positive change in East Oakland.

Whitaker supports equitably involving the people of Oakland in decision-making processes that affect them, and is a strong supporter of bringing different voices to the table in order to have a comprehensive debate about what’s best for their community. She says East Oaklanders have long wanted the BART Coliseum station to be redeveloped with community housing, similar to Fruitvale, and wants to work to see that community desire become a reality. Additionally, while she recognizes the potential for the Bus Rapid Transit (BRT) project on International to bring affordable access to East Oakland, she knows addressing the city’s housing affordability crisis is key to ensuring that BRT ultimately benefits existing residents who are enduring the disruption from ongoing construction. With Whitaker’s leadership and emphasis on involving the people of District 6 in decision making, we think District 6 would be well served with Whitaker as the District 6 Council Member.

Whitaker understands the need for and will support:

  • Improved transit access as a way to get people to jobs
  • Educating community members on why improved transit is good for the community, and how to make better transportation choices
  • Transportation-focused programs like Safe Routes to School, and will work to find more funding to expand this program

Use this map to find out if you’ll be able to vote for Taylor and Whitaker this November.

Mya Whitaker Campaign Website

How can I help?

You can sign up to provide field support for our endorsed candidates! Candidates value your time the most and every volunteer hour that Transport Oakland can provide to our endorsed candidates directly influences the election. Whether or not you can provide your time please also consider donating directly to these candidates campaigns if you able.

2018 Election Priorities

Transport Oakland has 3 priorities for 2018 and beyond. During our endorsement interviews we shared our priorities with the candidates and asked them to support our platform.

  1. Support the Agency: Provide OakDOT with the backing and resources it needs to be successful
  2. Involve the People: Broaden community input into transportation-related decisions
  3. Fix the Streets: Support existing projects and processes that promote safe, multi-modal, street use

Support the Agency

Fix the hiring process

chart showing OakDOT vacancies by category When OakDOT was created the city added new funded positions to support the goals in the Strategic Plan. However OakDOT has struggled to fill these positions and as of September 2018 has a 18% vacancy rate, which is about 8 times as high as the national average of 2.3% for state and local government. Of these 58 vacant jobs, the largest number are among technical and field staff. For example, only 8 of the 20 new paving crew jobs have been filled. The shortage of staff is limiting OakDOT’s capacity to fix the streets.

This appears to be a city-wide issue as OakDOT positions are hired by the City of Oakland HR department. As of September 2018 there is a single analyst that fills vacancies for both OakDOT and Public Works, with a second analyst funded but not yet hired.

Transport Oakland believes there is an important role for the Mayor and City Council to understand and address this issue by requesting periodic reports from both OakDOT and HR on the status of filling OakDOT vacancies and by dedicating additional HR staff to support OakDOT if the vacancy rate does not get below 5% within the next fiscal year.

Ensure transparency

Two years ago, a very impressive Strategic Plan for OakDOT was unveiled with 37 goals and over 100 actions. Transport Oakland is aware of some progress on these actions however there has been no progress reporting. We would like the Mayor and Council to demand transparency and accountability.

Involve the People

Our second priority is to Involve the People. Oakland should have equitable, flexible, and respectful community involvement in how we make transportation decisions and the planners and engineers who make up OakDOT should reflect Oakland’s diversity. Historically, in Oakland and around the country and the world, this has not been the case.

Traditional outreach techniques such as public meetings and hearings tend to turn out more privileged residents and ignore the voices of those unable to attend. Recently, we have been encouraged by alternative approaches OakDOT has taken such such as contracting with community based organizations to conduct inclusive and effective outreach for the 2018 Bike Plan Update. We want to see more efforts like this that build trust in government from those who have strong historical reasons to distrust government. At the same time, more inclusive processes benefit from practitioners who have experience working in diverse communities. We challenge OakDOT to set a goal of hiring more public-facing staff who reflect Oakland’s diversity and who have experience—lived or professional—of working in Oakland’s diverse communities.

Transport Oakland is well aware that all elected officials receive a substantial number of constituent requests but we are concerned that those requests tend to come from those with more privilege. While electeds have a role in being responsive to those proactively reaching out, we want to ensure this does not result in inequitable resource allocation. Transport Oakland would like to see the Mayor and City Council prioritize staff and resources toward more inclusive outreach, and support OakDOT’s efforts to prioritize service requests using an equity model, rather than enabling  constituent-driven resource allocation.

Fix the Streets

Our final priority is to fix the streets. And by fix the streets, we do mean fill in the potholes, but potholes are not the only thing wrong with our streets.

Fixing the streets means ensuring that our streets are designed for everybody – not just those driving. Our streets should be safe for people of all ages and abilities, balance the needs of those walking, riding the bus, riding a bike, or driving, and support local land uses, economies, cultures and natural environments. However, almost all of our streets have been designed to prioritize cars and this had led to over 30 Oakland residents a year being killed in traffic collisions and countless more seriously injured on our streets.

Traffic deaths are preventable

In June 2017 a driver struck and killed Robert Bennett as he was crossing Harrison at 23rd street. OakDOT immediately initiated a crash response project and with 3 months of staff time and $30,000 in materials OakDOT transformed the Harrison and 23rd street intersection.

With some purple paint and flexible bollards, OakDOT shortened the crossing distance, created a safe place to wait while crossing and increased the visibility of the crosswalk. This fast and cheap transformation led to a 7% decrease in drivers speeding and 96% of drivers started yielding to people using the crosswalk. Now that the paint is dry, OakDOT is planning a permanent installation and will replace the purple areas with concrete sidewalk extensions and median. Transport Oakland would like to see more OakDOT projects use low cost materials like this to provide immediate safety improvements to the community during the multiple years of planning it takes to pour concrete.

Don’t miss opportunities when repaving streets

In 2016, Oakland overwhelmingly passed Measure KK to provide $350 million for transportation improvements and with this new funding source OakDOT is increasing the number of miles of pothole ridden streets which are repaved. In 2018, OakDOT planned to repave over 4 times the number of miles as compared to previous years. Transport Oakland would like to see OakDOT use these street repavings as an opportunity to rethink the allocation of space at the same time. For example, this block of 4th street was repaved and OakDOT added a bike lane. Transport Oakland would like to see the Oakland City Council and Mayor support rebalancing roadway space as a part of all repaving projects and commit to expediting contracting and approval processes that include road diets and complete streets upgrades.

4th street before and after (photo: Robert Prinz)

We’ve done the planning – now it’s time to act

Over the past several years OakDOT and planners with other agencies have created extensive plans on how to fix our streets. AC Transit’s Major Corridors Study has identified priority bus corridors in Oakland where traffic from drivers is causing excessive delays to high ridership lines. These corridors have been prioritized for better bus infrastructure including boarding islands, queue jumps, and bus only lanes so that buses can escape traffic and provide an attractive alternative to driving. In 2017 Oakland approved an updated Pedestrian Plan which includes 5 years of prioritized investments to close sidewalk gaps, repair damaged sidewalks, and safety fixes for high injury corridors and intersections.

OakDOT is also updating the Bike Plan and for the first time using an equity lens to ensure that Oakland provides safe bike access to everyone–not just those who are currently biking. Transport Oakland expects the bike plan to prioritize separated bike lanes because the plan’s research found that 67% of people feel comfortable biking when they are physically separated from cars compared to only 5% when using traditional bike lanes. It also found that only 6% of Oakland streets have bike routes that feel safe for most people and many of these routes don’t connect to other low stress routes.

With these 3 plans we have done the research and we know how to fix the streets for everybody – not just those driving. Transport Oakland will endorse candidates for City Council and Mayor who will champion implementation of these plans even if some of these changes are controversial for some.

Transport Oakland Endorsement Meeting

Thursday, September 13 from 5:30pm to 8:30pm
Location given upon RSVP

Endorsement season is upon us and we need you to help Transport Oakland decide which candidates to support! At our September 13th Board Meeting, we will be deciding who to endorse in November. Transport Oakland Board members and volunteers who conducted endorsement interviews will provide recommendations to the group, with discussion and a vote following.

Everyone is welcome to listen and participate in the discussion! However, only those who are on the Board, participated in an endorsement committee, OR have attended at least two Transport Oakland meetings earlier this year will be able to vote. We want to hear everyone’s voice and opinion in the endorsement process.

5:30pm — Socializing with light food
6:30pm — Endorsement Board Meeting

Help us decide who to support in the fight for better transportation in Oakland!