An Open Community Letter: Oakland City Council District 2 Election

Published by Beth Gunston on

October 2018

Dear Neighbors, 

We write as community organizers and residents of Oakland and District 2 to ask you to support Nikki Fortunato Bas for City Council District 2 in the November 6th election.  It’s absolutely time for Oakland to have an Asian Pacific Islander voice on the Council, and it’s a critical time for new leadership.

We must be honest and hold the highest levels of transparency and accountability for our elected officials, in order to turn this nation around.  As our neighbors begin to vote by mail, we feel it is also important to share the truth of our first-hand experiences over the last four years with the current Councilmember Abel Guillen.

As community organizers who work to engage immigrants, working families, and young people everyday, we believe that Nikki is part of the wave of women of color and unapologetic progressives taking this nation by storm – no-nonsense, deeply rooted in their values, highly collaborative, hardworking, unafraid to speak truth to power, and involving everyone in the democratic process.  

Nikki has been walking the talk for the last several decades, beginning as an organizer in Oakland Chinatown in the 1990s fighting for fair conditions for immigrant garment workers, and since then has become a nationally celebrated advocate for working families:

  • As Executive Director of the East Bay Alliance for a Sustainable Economy, Nikki was a key leader in the Revive Oakland Coalition that won a landmark win-win community benefits agreement on the redevelopment of the Army Base, surpassing the 50% local hire goal and providing living wages and meaningful workforce development with a strong Project Labor Agreement.  

  • Nikki led the charge to guarantee paid sick leave and increase the minimum wage with Measure FF, foreseeing that young workers and low-income workers would soon need a large bump in their pay to be able to stay in Oakland with the rising cost of living.

  • Working in partnership with communities impacted by environmental injustice, Nikki helped create the Port of Oakland Clean Trucks Program to reduce diesel emissions and asthma rates in young people.

  • Nikki also worked in coalition to enact stronger protections for tenants in Oakland through Measure JJ, a critical measure to protect 12,000 more tenants with just cause eviction regulation and stop outrageous rent increases.

  • Most recently as Executive Director of the Partnership for Working Families, Nikki innovated national programs to improve the lives of 3.2 million working families across the country through stronger policies for economic, transportation and housing justice.   

Everyday, Nikki works in partnership with communities organizing on the ground to win concrete results for our families and lifts up the voices that most need to be heard.  She’s also a working Mom who has raised her family in District 2 for 20 years, sent her daughter to the local public school, and is an active community member with deep knowledge and experience in our neighborhoods.

We are deeply disappointed that after many of us helped him get elected in 2014, Guillen immediately turned his back on social justice advocates, working class residents, and the progressive movement working to improve the quality of life for District 2’s residents, and instead allied himself with special and corporate interests.

Again and again, Guillen has demonstrated a lack of the kind of initiative, responsiveness, and leadership that we need in District 2 to preserve our cultural districts, win economic justice for struggling families trying to stay in their hometown, and help small businesses thrive:  

  • In East Lake, in the spring of 2015 Guillen quickly moved to make a backroom deal with Urban Core developers, who had left a trail of broken promises and unfair dealings in San Francisco, rather than working closely with his own constituents in the impacted neighborhood to advance a vision of a piece of land on East 12th Street that came to symbolize the hope of keeping Oakland affordable, diverse, and inclusive.
  • He has done little to help struggling homeless residents around Lake Merritt, other than to express support for the Mayor’s insufficient plan to temporarily house only 20 of the over 100 people there who need housing and forcibly evict already-displaced Oaklanders with nowhere else to go.
  • When Eastlake and Chinatown residents asked him to oppose the A’s stadium at Peralta that would have caused massive displacement, he lied to the community that he was neutral while privately advocating for the project.  The community had to rely on progressive Peralta trustees instead to shut down the plan.
  • In Chinatown, in the fall of 2016 Guillen maneuvered against Chinatown advocates working to create equitable community benefits agreements on new developments planned for 100% market-rate apartments from $3,000-6,000 per month.  When community appeals came to City Council, Abel worked to defeat the labor-community coalition that fought for a Project Labor Agreement that would ensure living wage jobs for Oakland residents on projects, when cheaper labor is often brought in from other cities.
  • He failed to enact needed protections for the neighborhoods, as developers pushed low-income residents from SROs and failed to meet the affordability and open space goals of the city’s own Lake Merritt Station Area Plan.
  • He did little to prioritize Lincoln Recreation Center and Madison Park in the city budget, which have been neglected for too long.
  • In Lakeshore, D2 staff failed to follow-up with resident and business concerns.  A Council office’s job is to serve constituents, and whenever we have asked office staff to assist or work with us on advancing policies, we have received no follow-up. There has been constant turnover in his staff over the last four years, leading to very little actually getting done on important projects for our neighborhoods.

These are the three neighborhoods Guillen was elected to serve, and yet in each one he has turned his back on his own constituents.  He stopped being a champion, made excuses for the current system, and tried to take credit for wins won by the hard work of community members.  We are very concerned that his donations now come largely from real estate and developer interests and lobbyists seeking to profit off of the displacement of working-class communities of color seen by them as blight.  

We have realized that District 2 and Oakland deserve better, and that we must from now on support candidates who are profoundly accountable to their base and their values as leaders, and who will advance a bold progressive agenda and deliver effective results rather than become part of the status quo.

Nikki is the go-getter we need who works nonstop in service of community.  She is tenacious, with strong relationships to neighborhood leaders to work together to advance progressive policy at the city, regional, state and national levels.  We know she has real backbone because she has shown it to us on every campaign we have worked with her on – when the going gets tough, she doesn’t play it safe, she stands up for what’s right and gets meaningful results.  We know that Nikki’s platform is real, and not just empty campaign promises, because when she puts her mind to something, it actually gets done.

The Oakland City Council must have an Asian Pacific Islander representing the experiences and voice of over 68,000 APIs in Oakland, and District 2 is the core and strength of this community, especially as it faces an uncertain future, displacement, and intense development and speculation.  Nikki will be the champion we deserve and need right now. She would be the first Filipina Councilmember in Oakland’s history, joining other firsts around the nation, to better serve the Asian Pacific Islander community in Oakland that is almost 20% of our city and often underserved without equitable access to city resources.

We hope you will join us and progressive organizations and elected officials across Oakland in standing with Nikki and our movement to advance a more just, inclusive and equitable Oakland.  To win in November, we need everyone to share this information with all District 2 voters whom you know, we need to raise money to beat developer money trying to buy this race, and we need your boots on the ground to knock on doors and talk to other neighbors about what’s at stake.  Please sign-up now, and make sure that you and everyone you know votes by November 6th!

Forward for Oakland,

Alvina Wong, Chinatown Organizer

Alicia Garza, Black Lives Matter

Gala King, Eastlake United for Justice

Vivian Chang, Crocker Highlands Community Leader

Camilo Zamora, Tenants Rights Organizer & Cleveland Heights Resident

Julina Bonilla, Lake Merritt Resident & Peralta Area 7 Trustee

Katherine Saviskas, District 2 Resident

Mychi Nguyen, Eastlake Physician

Robbie Clark, Oakland Organizer

Amado Uno, APEN Action

Bashari George, District 2 Resident

Jessamyn Sabbag, Oakland Rising Action

Peggy Saika, District 2 Resident & Activist

Mari Rose Taruc, Eastlake United for Justice

Carroll Fife, ACCE Action & District 2 Resident

Lailan Huen, Chinatown Advocate & District 2 Homeowner

Katie Loncke, District 2 Resident & Buddhist Peace Fellowship

Pamela Drake, Lakeshore Community Leader

Claudia Leung, Eastlake United for Justice

Francis Calpotura, Chinatown Resident & Grassroots Racial Equity Taskforce

Timmy Lu, Chinatown Activist & 12-year D2 Resident

Kiernan Rok, Eastlake United for Justice

Sarah Roland, District 2 Resident

Carlos Uribe, Oakland PRIDE

Kimi Lee, Bay Rising Action

Joshua Fisher Lee, AYPAL

Lauren Biga, District 2 Resident

Miya Saika Chen, Crocker Highlands Attorney

Sharon Rose, Block by Block Chair

Lily Williams, District 2 Resident

Alex Tom, Cleveland Heights Community Leader

Dunya Alwan, Eastlake United for Justice

Dr. Art Chen, Oakland Chinatown Physician, Former Alameda County Health Officer

Josie Camacho, Alameda Labor Council Executive Secretary-Treasurer Emeritus, Asian Pacific American Labor Alliance Executive Board

Cayden Mak, Eastlake United for Justice

Terry Bautista, Educator, Activist & District 2 Resident

Organizations listed for identification purposes only.