Civil Rights and Labor Law attorney Allyssa Victory is running for mayor of Oakland in 2022, and she seems to be one of a few candidates that will be bringing some new blood to the race and town, if she wins, since she has never been a politician. She has some of the most progressive views of any candidate that I have seen so far from the race, it will be interesting to see if Oakland is still the progressive place that people all over the country think it is, or has gentrification bleached the town beyond recognition into being conservative? Will Oakland elect its first Black woman mayor, who’s agenda cares about the well-being of longtime residents from places like the Flatlands, or will its electoral pendulum swing in the direction of the conservative beneficiaries of former Oakland Mayor Jerry Brown’s 10k plan? We will know next November, and only time will yell.
Until then, we can begin to politically educate ourselves on the issues that are important before the election season, so the Black community will be less likely to get sold a candidate, through a media soundbyte, since we will be more informed on the positions of each of the candidates. Check out attorney and Oakland Mayoral candidate Allyssa Victory as she discusses her stances on issues pertinent to Oakland, especially Black Oakland.
JR Valrey: What are your ideas around addressing the age old issue of police terrorism in Oakland?
Allyssa Victory: I am an author on the history of police terrorism in the U.S. and currently practice as a criminal justice attorney, providing legal and policy advice to municipal governments across our state on public safety, including in Oakland. In the last 2 years, I specifically worked with our City to provide legal guidance on police labor rights in reimagining public safety; recommended that our City budget non-sworn employees to respond to non-criminal conduct; thereby reducing unnecessary contact with police and police overtime. And I worked with our Police Commission to revise the OPD Use of Force policy, with suggestions aimed at protecting residents from unnecessary force and violence.
As Mayor, I will take swift action to reorient our police department to its mission of public safety by focusing staffing on increasing their response times, and solve rates for violent crimes. I want to increase our public sector workforce to transition our police from responding to non-criminal conduct, which frees them to respond to crime. For example, the November 2021 HR staffing report shows that the Department of Violence Prevention has the highest vacancy rate out of all City departments, showing that we can better invest in violence prevention not just response. I will also faithfully and swiftly implement changes already adopted by our City Council including transferring all special events permitting from OPD to City Administration and initiating the MACRO alternative response program through the Fire Department..
I also have the unique skills as a civil rights attorney to understand and to address our policing legal issues. Despite the promises of reforms and renewed public safety, OPD is still failing to meet all requirements of the 2003 Negotiated Settlement Agreement, stemming from racial profiling and excessive use of force against Black Oaklanders. 18 years is an exceptionally long time for our City to be under federal Court monitoring. No other city department has incurred so much litigation costs, monitoring, staffing, and city resources. Traffic stops are a traditional place where high rates of racial profiling and disparity continue. Removal of police from responding to non-criminal conduct like traffic, will help our city faster achieve compliance to end our federal monitoring. Moreover, OPD continues to violate civil and human rights while being under federal monitoring, including use of chemical weapons on residents exercising their First Amendment rights in 2020, which resulted in over 30 officers being disciplined. Our City has even less control and accountability of outside law enforcement agencies, including CHP who killed Erik Salgado in June 2020, and the FBI who killed Jonathan Cortez, this year. Law enforcement’s conduct is contributing to a complex of violence, terror, and fear, while others depend on them to be the solution to these very problems. Proposed solutions like simply increasing officer diversity, does not address these serious issues. I will end the contradiction with leadership rooted in racial justice, repairing public safety and trust, and with my deep legal and policy expertise in criminal justice.
JR Valrey: What kinds of ideas do you have around youth employment and entertainment in the flatlands of Oakland?
Allyssa Victory: My first paid job was working for Oakland Youth Together, as a high school student. I know that many of our youth today face real decisions of working and taking care of their families versus attending school. I will expand youth development programs and internship opportunities in our community. I will partner with OUSD, schools, and teachers to increase access to mentorship, afterschool enrichment, and summer employment. Part of addressing the shantytown crisis is housing those who have taken over public parks and recreation centers, so that these spaces can be put back to their intended uses, including offering enrichment and entertainment for our youth. We also have a youth population that is homeless, and those who have lost parents or guardians during the pandemic that require a safety net, along with economic opportunity. I want to increase union apprenticeships to provide pathways to skilled labor careers with union protections. I previously employed students through Oakland’s Summer Youth Employment Program, and want to increase investments to place more students in summer employment throughout our city. This year I worked with Oakland Youth Advisory Commission on a Love Oakland educational campaign, and will lead as Mayor in partnership with young people and youth leaders at the table. I was a sponsor of Oakland Youth Vote that went into effect in 2020, allowing 16 and 17 years olds to determine their school board representatives and their resulting policy on these topics as well. We have exceptional youth leadership in our city and we must return to heavily invest in them.
JR Valrey: What are your ideas around helping the small businesses of Oakland that are especially struggling because of the pandemic?
Allyssa Victory: I will move our city to a circular economy, with Oakland’s residents and local businesses at the center. Many small businesses were struggling before the pandemic, due to rising commercial rent costs, race inequity, and city bureaucracy. The pandemic showed that our government can provide payroll protection funds to businesses, protect against commercial eviction, and enact emergency zoning that allowed businesses to build parklets and other structures, to respond to the pandemic. However, many of the business safety nets were applied inequitably, with our chambers of commerce raising monies for Black or Asian businesses that should have received government assistance. I will work to address commercial real estate affordability in our city, revise our business taxes, and to establish a public bank to allow our city to partner more with small businesses. I will improve our city administration for small businesses, making permitting and other resources easier to access and to navigate. I will work with councilmembers to ensure we deliver information and resources directly to business owners and entrepreneurs in each district.
What is your position on vaccine mandates and vaccine passports, being mandatory to operate in the City of Oakland?
We are still very much in a pandemic and the ongoing health and welfare of Oaklanders must inform our response. I personally lost unvaccinated friends and family to this pandemic and have others still recovering from COVID’s effects. The pandemic has shown us that we are only as healthy as our most vulnerable populations. Our City and the state of California have already adopted vaccine mandates for public employees. Oakland’s mandate requires that all city employees be fully vaccinated or apply for a legal exemption by November 29, 2021, provides up to 2 paid hours to receive vaccination, and will give access to 3 free vaccination sites. Alameda County Public Health Department reports that Oakland’s fully vaccinated rate is around 83% but that Black residents are the lowest vaccinated population in the County. This current statistic ensures that an immediate expanded mandate will lead to a disparate impact on Black residents. Thus, any further mandates must follow the principles of ensuring residents are able to take off time to receive a vaccination and rest from any potential side effects; offer free and easily accessible vaccinations; and utilize culturally competent outreach and staffing. The legal exemptions available include (1) it is opposed by your religion or (2) existence of a qualifying medical reason (e.g. allergy to a component in the vaccine). This an ongoing challenge for all governments as we learn more about the long-term effects of COVID, as children become eligible for vaccinations, and as we learn about the impact of booster shots.
JR Valrey: How can people stay informed with your campaign?
Allyssa Victory: Sign up or contribute to our historic campaign at VictoryforOakland.com. You can follow us on social media at the hashtag #Victory4Oakland.