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Oakland Tribune Editorial: We Recommend Rebecca Kaplan For Oakland Mayor

OAKLAND MAYOR: With instant-runoff voting in place, voters should make Kaplan their top choice followed by Joe Tuman and Jean Quan

MediaNews Editorial
Oakland Tribune
October 12, 2010

OAKLAND is at a critical juncture. Violent crime occurs at more than twice the rate of similar-size cities, yet the city cannot afford the police officers it needs. While the city faces crushing debt far into the future, nearly one in five residents is out of work and thousands have lost and continue to lose their homes to foreclosure.

Ron Dellums was largely an absentee mayor, leaving many residents with the feeling no one was in charge.

Oakland needs bold, new leadership. The city must change direction if it hopes to take its rightful place as the jewel of the East Bay. This election offers a chance to do that.

Among 10 mayoral candidates on the Nov. 2 ballot, only Councilwoman Rebecca Kaplan, former state Sen. Don Perata, Councilwoman Jean Quan and university professor Joe Tuman merit voter consideration as serious contenders.

This election also adds a new wrinkle because voters for the first time face what is called ranked-choice or instant-runoff voting. Voters will be asked to select their top three choices. If no candidate receives a majority of the first-place votes, the winner will be selected by factoring in voters' second and, if necessary, third choices.

Our first choice is Kaplan. Tuman earns our second vote and Quan our third. The fourth viable candidate, Perata, did not make our cut.

We regret voters do not have a more robust field. But among the choices, Kaplan stands out as the candidate who best blends intellect, fresh ideas, an ability to work with diverse groups, a clear understanding of city issues and the passion and communication skills needed at Oakland's helm.
Kaplan, 40, was elected to the City Council at-large seat in 2008. Before that, she was an AC Transit board member for six years. A graduate of MIT, with a master's degree in Urban and Environmental Policy from Tufts University and a law degree from Stanford University, Kaplan possesses a keen mind that makes up for her short political resume.

She has a vision for what Oakland could be that includes retail businesses along major transportation corridors to create a more environmentally friendly city where more residents bike or take public transportation. She wants to transform the ghost town near the Coliseum into a retail and entertainment district.

It is Kaplan's innovative thinking, enthusiasm and grasp of city finances that attract us to a candidacy still seen by many as a long-shot. As mayor, Kaplan would press police union members to start contributing to their generous pensions. She would also offer financial incentives to veteran officers to retire early. The city could then hire new officers at lower salaries. This would help avert more layoffs and perhaps help grow the force.

Kaplan is on the right track. The city faces an unfunded liability of more than $2 billion for its employee pension and retiree health benefits. The next mayor must reform financially unsustainable benefits.

That will require someone like Kaplan, someone with charisma who can help mobilize diverse constituencies behind a common goal.

While we respect Kaplan's intellect, she can sometimes get distracted by minor issues. But if she can remain focused on the big picture, we believe she has a chance to become an effective mayor.
Tuman, 52, is also very bright. A longtime television political analyst and a professor of political science at San Francisco State University, Tuman has no elected office experience. Yet we are impressed by his command of the issues and his creative ideas. We hope that, if he loses, he stays active in Oakland politics. He has much to offer.

Quan, 60, was elected to the City Council in 2002 after serving 12 years on the Oakland school board. She is a tenacious grass-roots organizer who works hard and can gets things done. Yet we don't see in Quan the leadership skills and ability to rise above the political fray that will be necessary to unite the city.

Finally, there's Perata, 65, a former Alameda County supervisor and leader of the state Senate. We found Perata's poor grasp of the issues appalling. He has repeatedly dodged tough questions while blaming others for the city's problems rather than offering constructive solutions.

He has no viable plans to avoid the looming layoffs of 122 more police officers. He also would not commit to reopening pension negotiations with the police union, which supports his candidacy.

Perata was a major player in the horrible 1995 Coliseum deal that still costs taxpayers $10 million a year on a debt that stands at $150 million after 15 years of payments. Moreover, he has a history of ethically questionable dealings. In this election, he violated the spirit, if not the letter, of the law by surpassing the voluntary campaign spending limits.

Oakland deserves better. It's time for new leadership, for the next generation to take the helm and bring fresh ideas. That's why we're turning to Kaplan.

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