Our Backyard: Unnecessary Strife
Libby Schaaf made a mistake backing challengers to Rebecca Kaplan and Noel Gallo. It’s time for them to set aside their differences.
Oakland voters sent a fairly clear message on Election Day: They generally approve of how things have been working at City Hall. All five of the city councilmembers who were up for reelection won handily. In addition, voters OK’d all five of the measures that the council placed on the ballot.
But the election also exposed some dysfunction in Oakland politics—namely, the personal clashes between Mayor Libby Schaaf and Councilmembers Rebecca Kaplan and Noel Gallo. During the campaign, Schaaf decided to endorse candidates Peggy Moore and Viola Gonzales against Kaplan and Gallo, respectively. Kaplan and Gallo then promptly trounced the Schaaf-backed candidates.
It’s somewhat unusual for a mayor to endorse opponents of sitting councilmembers. And this particular case was even more bewildering given the fact that Moore and Gonzales had failed to lay out political platforms substantially different from those of the incumbents. The only real change that Moore and Gonzales offered was that they promised to get along better with Schaaf. City voters, not surprisingly, were unimpressed.
Schaaf’s maneuver now threatens to destroy whatever’s left of her relationship with Kaplan and Gallo. That’s a shame, considering that the mayor’s policy positions are really not that different from those of the two councilmembers. For example, they all supported the five ballot measures.
It seems obvious that Oakland voters like all three of them and want them to get along. It’s also clear that it’s now up to Schaaf to reach out to Kaplan and Gallo so they can set aside their personality issues and re-establish productive relationships.
At the same time, Kaplan and Gallo would be smart to denounce the silly recall effort of Schaaf that has been launched by some radical activists, including those still upset about the mayor’s handling of Black Lives Matter protests in 2015. The recall campaign is not only unnecessarily divisive, it's a waste of time, considering Schaaf’s popularity. A recent Oakland Chamber of Commerce poll put her approval rating at a robust 53 percent.
In other words, it’s time for Oakland’s leaders to come together for the betterment of the city. Oaklanders deserve it.
Our Backyard is an occasional column by senior editor Robert Gammon.
Published online on Nov. 28, 2016 at 8:00 a.m.