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Nine of 10 Oakland mayoral candidates sought to sway the public’s conscience at a forum held less than two weeks from Election Day.

Attending the Oct. 28 event at St. Columba Catholic Church were civil rights attorney Allyssa Victory Villanueva, nonprofit executive Gregory Hodge, former City Councilmember Ignacio De La Fuente, small business owner Seneca Scott, City Councilmember Loren Taylor, entertainer Peter Liu, retired carpenter John Reimann, City Council President Pro Tem Sheng Thao and City Councilmember Treva Reid.

Legal assistant Tyron Jordan was absent from the church’s first-ever mayoral forum.

Two residents who attended were still undecided following the event, which called on candidates to answer questions on gun violence, executive leadership and climate action.

Oakland needs change, said attendee and Oakland resident Angela Jeffers.

“There needs to be a cleaning of the house,” she said.

Jeffers was impressed by the candidates who have grown up in Oakland and less so by endorsements, she said.

Oakland resident Richard Miller was contemplating which five candidates to vote for since Oakland uses ranked choice voting.

Miller is looking for someone who will take a multi-pronged approach and measure how well the city is doing or not doing. Miller was interested in the candidates’ approach to crime, which he said needs to involve police and non-police forms of prevention.

He cited Taylor, Reid and Thao as three of the strongest candidates.

Taking aim at gun violence

Gun violence was the first issue candidates were asked about, a choice reflective of a church that plants a cross in its yard for every Oakland killing. Every New Year’s Eve, St. Columba retires the crosses, an event the mayor typically attends.

“We expect to see you again,” the moderator said, referring to the eventual mayor.

More than 130 people were slain in Oakland last year, police records show. It’s the highest number since 2006 and follows a downward trend in killings before the COVID-19 pandemic.

More than 100 homicides have been reported this year, according to police.

“We are in a state of emergency,” said Reid, who is advocating for at least four police academies a year.

More than 130 people were slain in Oakland last year, the highest number since 2006 following a downward trend in killings before the COVID-19 pandemic.

“I’ve been here laying crosses,” said Reid, who lost a son to violence.

Among other things, Reid will advocate to expand to the whole city a non-police response to non-violent mental health crises.

Thao, citing public safety as her No. 1 priority, said she will be doubling the violence prevention fund.

“We have to expand Ceasefire,” Thao said of the program credited with bringing down the city’s shootings and killings before the coronavirus pandemic hit.

Thao also wants to bring officers into business corridors.

Taylor said the gun violence problem requires both prevention and holding to the laws that keep us safe. Taylor will increase the number of sworn officers on the police force, which is now at more than 700.

Taylor will advocate for other forms of violence prevention, too, he said.

No more crosses

Hodge will triple the funding for the Oakland Department of Violence Prevention and employ 700 full-time police officers, he said.

Hodge doesn’t want to see another cross go up at St. Columba’s.

“It’s not normal to bury our children,” he said.

Some candidates emphasized their business experience when the moderator posed the second question, which was about executive leadership.

Reimann reminded people about former President Donald Trump, who had lots of business experience.

De La Fuente served more than 20 years on the Oakland City Council. He said the mayor must deliver change and “accountability is a must.”

Scott suggested making city services more efficient while Taylor, for one, will implement a performance monitoring system to determine how the city is doing against its goals.

For Thao, it’s important for the mayor to work in concert with the City Council, which has not been the case under Mayor Libby Schaaf.

Schaaf has been hyper focused on bringing a new ballpark to the city for the Oakland A’s baseball team, Thao said.

On the issue of climate action, Thao will implement a permanent ban on coal exports through the city and, among other things, bring more grocery stores to Oakland. Thao has the endorsement of the Sierra Club.

Taylor supports the electrification of buildings rather than using natural gas as energy.

In closing, Reid told the crowd of about 100 to hold her accountable. Thao said she will bring unity to the City Council and Taylor wants to bring change.