10 Questions for Oakland Councilmember Desley Brooks

By Jonathan Wafer
Thursday May 08, 2008 - 10:20:00 AM

1. Where were you born and where did you grow up, and how does that affect how you regard the issues in Oakland and in your district? 

I was born in New Orleans. Grew up in Los Angeles and Seattle. And it’s not so much the place that affects my thought process about how I represent my district but rather the upbringing that I had. 


2. What is your educational background, and how did that help prepare you for being a council member? 

I have a B.A. in Political Science and a Juris Doctor [law] degree. I practiced law for 13 years. I think that it gives me an analytical ability and a framework in which to look at issues. 


3. What are the top three most pressing issues facing your district (6)?  

I think the question should be probably phrased in a way as, if it’s a real issue or the perception of an issue. Public safety is an issue. Throughout the district people have concern about their personal safety. I think it’s economic development and revitalization of neighborhoods. And I think education is a major issue within the district. The lack of a quality education feeds into our unemployment rate and lack of hope.  


4. Do you agree with the direction and vision Mayor Dellums has for Oakland. Why or why not? 

I haven’t sat down and analyzed exactly what the mayor’s vision is. As a council person I pretty much determine what my vision is and try and go about implementing that. There are points at which I work with the mayor on issues. I think that there’s a reason that people also elect district representatives. And so my focus is to be responsive to the needs of the residents of my district. 


5. Mayor Dellums has proposed that the city put together its own development plan for the Oakland Army Base, and then solicit bids from developers. What would you propose as the overall development plan for the base?  

I think we need to look at the army base with respect to logistics. With respect to generating some sales tax increments with respect to employing people and providing living wage jobs for people within our city. And we need to look to a new industry that we might be able to grab ahold of. People talk about biotech. I think we missed the biotech opportunity and so now we should probably be looking at green jobs and how we create a niche for Oakland that’s going to move us into the next decade.  


6. What plans, if any, do you want to implement in terms of the youth in your district? 

I do a lot of work with respect to youth. I’ve been working for the last two years on a park initiative which has been restoring and revitalizing parks throughout the district. Creating new parks. I have an opportunity coming up. We’re going to build a pocket park at 65th Avenue with a new play structure.  

We just, on Dec. 11, redid a total field (laid 75,000 square feet of sod). There are a lot of activities that I do that are centered around the youth and our recreation centers. So I just intend to continue to work on those. I do the concert series which brings out families. Because it’s not about segmenting one population but rather bringing us all together so we can have inter-generational activities that will provide for a family structure that’s supportive.  


7. It has been suggested that Oakland’s police strength be immediately increased above the currently authorized 803 to combat the city’s crime situation. Do you support such an increase and, if so, how would you propose financing it? What other specific steps would you propose taking to combat Oakland’s crime problem, including funding source? 

I think that the public safety issue is a major issue within the city. I think the issue of us throwing out numbers of police, and because we say it, then it’s going to materialize into people taking these positions, is a wrong one. A year ago, the council told the chief “You’re going to hire X number of officers by this date.”  

It came to pass and we still don’t have those officers. So what we need to do is back up from that question. And let’s let the law enforcement people do their jobs.  

Because what happens is there’s a public outcry, and elected officials say we’ve got to hurry up and do something, to make it look like we’re doing something. And then what happens? You destroy the trust of people in their elected officials by doing things like that.  

Instead of looking at some key issues, one of which is the chief currently does not have the ability to deploy officers in the way he needs to, in order to insure we are effectively using the officers that we have.  

And so what we need to do is look at all of the issues simultaneously while addressing the public safety issue and the deployment issue.  

So I have people say “I want more officers on the street.” But when the chief said let’s go to a 3-12 shift for the officers, we had those same citizens say “Oh, that’s terrible. You shouldn’t make the officers do that.” But it would have put more officers on the streets.  

So what I tell people is, when you talk about public safety, what do you want? What will make you safe in your home? And start from there. Don’t start with anybody else’s issues. Not the union’s issues. Not the elected officials’ issues. But, what will make me safe in my home. I have more officers on the streets and I have more money available to the general fund because I’m not paying those officers overtime. Then do I begin to address your issues? And should you let that happen instead of being jerked around by other people’s issues? So let’s start rethinking this whole public safety issue.  

Oakland has actually had a decrease in crime. When that report came out about us being the fourth worst city, that data was over a year old. And so nobody said it’s data in the past. Definitely we should look at the trends. But currently our crime stats are down. So we need real information with which to make informed decisions. 


8. What should Oakland’s economic development program be? 

I know that we need to look at how we address the economic engines throughout the city and with those engines, create economic opportunity for our residents. So the port is an economic engine for the city. How do we look at these engines and incorporate it into our community?  

The whole issue of the industrial lands issue will create workforce jobs for people. There are, again, searches for new industries to attract to the city of Oakland (i.e. green business.) That is another direction that we may consider.  


9. What is your favorite thing about Oakland? 

Oakland. I think Oakland is a great city with enormous potential. 


10. What is your least favorite thing about Oakland? 

That people don’t realize the potential of it.  



Desley Brooks 

Oakland City Councilmember, District 6 

First Elected: 2003 


This is the first in a series of Q&A sessions with Oakland City Councilmemebers. Other Q&As will be published in upcoming issues.