Ten Questions for Oakland Councilmember Patricia Kernighan

By Jonathan Wafer Special to the Planet
Thursday June 05, 2008 - 10:03:00 AM
Patricia Kernighan
Patricia Kernighan


Oakland City Councilmember, District 2. 

First elected 2005. 


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 and grew up in Washington state, on the rural side. A place like the California Valley: Modesto or Sacramento. The town I grew up in was a lower-middle class almost all white town where everybody thought the same, looked the same; very boring. By the time I was 14 years old I couldn’t wait to get out of there. So, having grown up in a place where there is no diversity of thought or anything else, Oakland was a very appealing place to me. 


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

I have a college degree in social sciences from the University of Washington and a law degree. I practiced poverty law as a legal aid lawyer for several years after law school. Being a lawyer is always helpful in any kind of legislative position. 


3. What are the top three most pressing issues facing your district (District 2)? 

Well, right now I’d have to say public safety, public safety and public safety. Normally, I would have answered public safety and economic development, which encompasses a lot of things, including jobs and affordable housing. So there are lots of issues facing Oakland. But until we solve our public safety problems we’re not going to make any headway. 


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

I agree with his vision. I think we all have a vision of where we want to end up which is with a city that does not have poverty. A city where all young people have access to education and a safe and nurturing environment in which to grow up and have real opportunities for success. I’m not sure that I agree with how Mayor Dellums proposes to get there but that’s where we all want to end up. 


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? 

Well, the City Council has already approved a Request for Proposals (RFP) for the Oakland Army Base which is something of a hybrid of these two approaches. The RFP states what our goals are and some of our key priorities such as creating high-quality good paying jobs. And it also outlines a number of modern industries the we would look favorably upon. But it also leaves enough flexibility for the developer. It’s not completely restrictive. I think it’s a good balance of showing the direction of what we want but leaving enough flexibility for the developer to make a proposal that will be successful given marketing positions. 


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

What I would like to do and what I have the money to do are two different things. I would like to have teen centers, recreational programs, health centers at every school, enough counselors at every school for kids who need it, safe places to play, internship programs so that kids can become exposed to work places. So I’d love to do a million things, but what we have the money for is much smaller and as a council we are trying to tackle a number of those things but it’s on a smaller scale. 


7. It has been suggested that Oakland’s police strength be immediately increased above the currently authorized 803 to combat the city’s current 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? 

Yes, I do support the increase. And we passed a plan to fund it which will be a mixture of General Fund and Measure Y. But that’s not going to solve the problem by itself and we are also funding a lot of new violence prevention programs through Measure Y. I believe that it has to be a balance of effective law enforcement and both violence prevention programs and programs that give young people who live in our poorest neighborhoods opportunities. 


8. Former Mayor Jerry Brown’s economic development program for Oakland was his 10K Plan. Mayor Dellums has said he wants to put one together in collaboration with the leaders and citizens of Oakland. What do you think Mayor Dellums’ economic development program should be? 

Well, he actually kicked off an initiative last spring called The Oakland Partnership, which brought in heads of corporations and other leaders. And they have been engaged in a process toward coming up with an economic development plan which is almost finished and was actually previewed before the City Council. It looks like a very good plan which identifies about four different industries of the future which Oakland should be trying to attract and provide space for. So, I’m very supportive of the concepts that have come out of The Oakland Partnership so far. Mayor Dellums did articulate early on that his focus is on creating jobs. So this economic development plan will do not only that but have other economic benefits for Oakland as well. 


9. What is your favorite thing about Oakland? 

My favorite thing about Oakland is that there are so many people of different backgrounds and different styles, different ways of thinking, and we’re all living pretty harmoniously. That, and the weather. 


10. What is your least favorite thing about Oakland? 

The fact that people cannot walk on our streets at night and, sometimes even in the day, without worrying about their personal safety.