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Oakland Mayors Forum Presents Different Views

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Mayoral candidates look to city's future
De La Fuente, Dellums, Nadel discuss schools, policing and revitalization
By William Brand, STAFF WRITER - OAKLAND TRIBUNE

OAKLAND — The three candidates for mayor offered differing visions of the future of the city Saturday at a well-attended town hall meeting at St. Lawrence O'Toole Catholic Church.

Candidates Ignacio De La Fuente and Nancy Nadel emphasized their years of experience on the City Council to combat the star power of retired congressman Ron Dellums.

Dellums, who retired from Congress in 1998 after serving the East Bay since 1971, said he would greatly augment Mayor Jerry Brown's plan to bring 10,000 new residents to downtown Oakland to revitalize the area.

"Ten-thousand people doesn't get you there," Dellums said. "You've got to think big; there should be 100,000 people downtown; there should be new office buildings, with mixed-use commercial. With 100,000 people, commerce will come. We need to be a full service city with a viable downtown."

De La Fuente, who has represented the Fruitvale area for 13 years and is City Council president, pledged to work to get more police on the streets. He said he would also — as Oakland's strong mayor — pay attention to the Oakland schools and create a Deputy Mayor for Education as one of his first acts in office.

De La Fuente also said that he would ensure that buses are staffed and available to take Oakland classes to the many cultural activities, the symphony and the Chabot Space & Science Center. He said a teacher at one school complained that the schools no longer can provide buses for field trips.

Nadel, who has represented West Oakland for nine years, said she's running for mayor because this is a city where people choose to live here out of love. "People are still very racist," she said. "But those of us who chose to live in Oakland do so because we love. We love the diversity. We love walking around Lake Merritt and seeing people walking hand-in-hand across the races."

Nadel said the problem isn't having a vision, the problem is putting it into effect. Her experience on the City Council has given her an understanding of the problems and how to get things done.

If elected mayor, she said she would do everything possible to help the Oakland public schools.

The flawed school budget should not be the end of a democratically elected school board, it should have been the end of the people who made the mistakes that got Oakland schools into bankruptcy, she said, drawing applause from the audience.

Nadel said she supports charter amendments to give Oakland's strong mayor more power over the public schools and over the Port of Oakland.

In opening remarks, De La Fuente said there are everyday things that destroy the quality of life, he said. "I'm running for mayor to make sure the city is safe, that every school is a good one."

Dellums said he's reminded of the proverb that says a vision without action is a daydream, action without a vision is a nightmare. "The challenge is to marry the two into a new, extraordinary reality for Oakland," he said.

"I dream of Oakland becoming a model for cities in the 21st century," he said. "We're all here in this community that is small enough we can get our hands around it and large enough to be significant. If we can't (fix things) here, it can't be done anywhere," he said.

The only protest came early, when Mark Airgood, a teacher and Oakland Education Association member, and students from Skyline High, Technical High and Edna Brewer Middle School quietly held up signs asking the state to hand control of the Oakland schools back to Oakland.

The questions to the candidates were read by Skyline High students Spencer Feng, Kathleen Hauser, Angela Nelson and Jake Cowan. A group of students sat in the front rows, and when the forum ended they surrounded the candidates, peppering them with questions.

The primary election is June 6; the last day to register to vote in May 22. If one candidate receives 50 percent plus one vote, he or she will be elected. Otherwise, the two leading candidates will compete in the Nov. 7 runoff.

The next candidates town hall meeting will be at 7 p.m. March 30 at the First Presbyterian Church at 27th Street and Broadway. It will be sponsored by the Oakland Community Organization.
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