Meet the Oakland Metropolis Council District 4 candidates

October 8, 2022

Two political newcomers, Nenna Joiner and Janani Ramachandran, are contending for the District 4 Metropolis Council seat that Sheng Thao is abandoning to run for mayor.

The D4 boundaries have been redrawn by town earlier this yr. It contains the neighborhoods of Panoramic Hill, Glen Highlands, Dimond, Oakmore, Lincoln Highlands, Glenview (beforehand in District 5), Laurel, Redwood Heights, Montclair, Crestmont, and Allendale, amongst others.

In case you’re unsure which district you reside in, you may sort in your handle right here to seek out out.

Whereas each D4 candidates have expertise in Oakland politics, having served on totally different commissions and boards, neither have held an elected workplace.

We interviewed each candidates to see how they might go about addressing a number of of the large points on the minds of D4 residents, together with public security, fires, and housing.

Nenna Joiner

Nenna Joiner is a small enterprise proprietor in Oakland and Berkeley. Credit score: Courtesy of the candidate

Joiner has made their expertise as an area enterprise proprietor, almost three many years in Oakland, and standing as a political outsider the centerpieces of their marketing campaign. For Joiner, well-functioning neighborhoods which are clear and really feel secure for companies, households, and youngsters are what the subsequent D4 councilperson ought to be specializing in.

“Essentially the most urgent points that Oakland is going through are public security, blighted infrastructure, housing, and the unhoused,” mentioned Joiner (who makes use of the pronouns they/them). 

Initially from Las Vegas, Joiner has resided in Oakland for the previous 27 years. Since 2009, they’ve owned and operated Feelmore, an grownup retailer with areas in Oakland and Berkeley. 

Joiner mentioned Oakland at the moment has the tax {dollars} to enhance its neighborhoods—Oakland voters in 2016 accredited Measure KK, a bond that offered $600 million for avenue enhancements, public services, and inexpensive housing tasks—and that as councilmember they might see to it that these revenues are used to handle the wants of D4 residents.

Joiner mentioned town may be doing extra in partnership with different authorities companies on the county, state, and federal ranges to handle points in Oakland, together with fires. Seasonal wildfires have lengthy been a priority of residents in District 4, which incorporates a lot of the Oakland hills. Fires are more and more additionally a priority within the decrease areas of the district. Previously month alone, there have been a number of fires in District 4 alongside I-580, some brought on by arson and others nonetheless below investigation. Joiner lives across the street from the latest hearth, which occurred on Oct. 3. 


“We’ve to handle the vegetation administration and getting PG&E and Caltrans to come back in right here to do a variety of the work that they need to be doing,” Joiner mentioned about vegetation alongside the freeway that helps unfold fires. “One thing shouldn’t be being finished.”

When requested about housing, Joiner mentioned that accent dwelling items, or ADUs, may assist meet town’s excessive demand however that it’s at the moment too troublesome to acquire permits to construct them. Oakland’s Metropolis Council is at the moment contemplating a ban on constructing these kind of yard cottages in sure areas of the Oakland hills, together with massive swaths of D4, which are thought-about high-risk for fires. 

However Joiner famous that many properties in D4 neighborhoods like Laurel have the benefit of being constructed on outsized tons that would doubtlessly accommodate extra of those small rental items. As a councilmember, Joiner mentioned they might work to carry data assets to D4 residents, so they might have a greater understanding of what they should do to acquire a allow to construct an ADU. 

On the subject of public security, Joiner believes there’s a task for each conventional policing and extra community-driven alternate options like town’s new MACRO program, the place non-police personnel reply to sure non-violent emergencies. Joiner mentioned they’d help the MACRO pilot program being made everlasting and prolonged to 24 hours.  

“I believe the primary factor that we’re all saying is, everyone needs peace,” Joiner mentioned concerning the polarizing nature of Oakland’s ongoing public debate over policing. “You need to be certain your group is taken care of. You additionally need to guarantee that those that fall into bother have locations to go as nicely and are welcomed again into the group.”

Oakland at the moment employs 681 cops. Joiner believes the best quantity can be round 1,200. Final December, the Metropolis Council accredited two police academies for subsequent yr and employed a recruitment agency to assist fill vacancies.

Joiner additionally needs to seek out viable methods to assist longtime Oaklanders keep of their properties. Many Oakland seniors and longtime residents, they mentioned, personal properties however lack the assets for correct repairs. And even when they have been to promote their properties, mentioned Joiner, the income are nonetheless usually not sufficient to permit them to buy a brand new house inside the metropolis.

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Property crime in Oakland, they mentioned, can compound the monetary stresses that many Oakland residents are already feeling. “It’s arduous for folks to switch issues. When you’ve got an older automobile, and your catalytic converter will get stolen, you bought to switch it. That’s more cash out of your pocket,” they mentioned. 

If elected, Joiner needs District 4 voters to know that they’ll be a constant advocate for his or her issues and that their selections will come right down to what’s wanted, not what’s politically expedient. “I simply need to be somebody who appears on the information and takes the vote, sure or no. And never abstaining from the choice for folks to vote me into workplace,” they mentioned. “You possibly can lean left or proper, however in the event you don’t vote, that issues much more.”

Nook of thirty fifth Avenue and MacArthur Boulevard, a part of District 4. Credit score: Amir Aziz

Janani Ramachandran

Janani Ramachandran is a social justice legal professional. Credit score: Courtesy of the candidate

Ramachandran, like Joiner, believes public security is high of thoughts for a lot of voters in District 4. “The primary subject is public security. It doesn’t matter the place within the district you’re residing; folks really feel unsafe of their properties and their neighborhoods,” mentioned Ramachandran.

A social justice legal professional who was born and raised within the East Bay, Ramachandran ran a aggressive race final yr for the state Meeting’s 18th District seat towards eventual winner Mia Bonta.

A former Oakland Public Ethics Fee member, Ramachandran feels she’s nicely certified to tackle one other of her core points: a scarcity of accountability and corruption in metropolis authorities, which she mentioned ranges “from blatant schemes to others which are quieter.”

Ramachandran was concerned as a citizen within the metropolis’s current redistricting course of, usually collaborating within the public remark parts of public conferences. “There was a variety of political gamesmanship that went on [with the redistricting], a variety of financial pursuits from each in and outdoors of town,” she mentioned. 

When her house within the Bartlett neighborhood was redistricted from D4 to D5, she moved to a brand new residence in D4 in an effort to run for the open council seat.

In relation to public security, Ramachandran believes there aren’t sufficient police presents to answer calls. When a comfort retailer within the district, Dimond Market, was burglarized in September, Ramachandran spoke with the house owners and realized that they’d waited two hours for police to reach. The shop, which is situated on MacArthur Boulevard and Maple Avenue, stays closed. 

“The naked minimal with public security must be a completely staffed [police department] with [beat cops] strolling and biking in business corridors,” she mentioned. “I don’t imply we have to change into a militarized Oakland. However it is a pragmatic intervention to the wave of crimes occurring proper now.”

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She mentioned she additionally helps the MACRO program, however not on the expense of decreasing the effectiveness of Oakland’s police power. “I’m not for defunding the police—that’s not certainly one of my platforms or targets,” she mentioned. “If there are issues that may be redirected out of police, both briefly or completely, let’s determine what these are to soundly occur.”

Ramachandran mentioned she has taken calls on psychological well being and home violence hotlines in Oakland and understands the requires non-police interventions. “I do know there’s a significant urge for food for folks everywhere in the metropolis to have different kinds of nonviolent calls addressed by non-police workers,” she mentioned. “If MACRO expands in the best way that’s initially supposed, I believe it may be actually impactful.”

In relation to housing, Ramachandran needs to see extra of it accessible in any respect revenue ranges—however particularly extra inexpensive housing. One solution to obtain that, she mentioned, is by constructing on empty tons in District 4 which are near public transit. One such lot on the nook of Excessive Road and MacArthur Boulevard was not too long ago accredited for senior housing to be developed by AMG & Associates.

When requested about the specter of fires in D4, Ramachandran mentioned she’d prefer to see extra finished by town to stop vegetation fires just like the current ones close to I-580 and bigger fires which have the potential to happen within the hills. Oakland is at the moment within the course of of making a vegetation administration plan, however its standing hasn’t been up to date since final spring. Ramachandran mentioned she’d work with town’s planning fee “to guarantee that that plan is carried out after which absolutely funded.”

Making use of for state grants by means of companies like Cal Fireplace to take away useless timber and vegetation, mentioned Ramachandran, may additionally assist. So too may offering extra data to residents about emergency preparedness, she mentioned—not just for fires however for earthquakes.

Because the D4 councilmember, Ramachandran mentioned she would work to lift cash from the state and federal governments to assist Oakland handle its issues. “Federal funds are going to create jobs,” she mentioned. “That is going to be so vital for an financial revival popping out of the pandemic.”