Aimee Allison, Canidate for Oakland City Council, District 2.
She was a virtual unknown fourteen months ago when she entered the Special Election for the District 2 seat on the Oakland City Council. In a crowded competitive field of candidates, her lack of name recognition and Green Party registration hardly marked Aimee Allison as a rising star on Oakland's political scene.
An intense effort in the Special Election, and a year of speaking at anti-war, social justice, and community events, has changed that. Aimee Allison has become a highly sought after speaker and is now widely regarded by progressives and activists as a leading figure not only in Oakland, but the entire Bay Area.
At her many appearances at anti-war events, Ms. Allison speaks of her experience as a soldier who resisted deployment when her unit was called up for the first Gulf War. Ms. Allison had been recruited out of high school, enticed by college benefits, and had become an Army Medic. She had embraced a philosophy against war, resisted, and eventually won an honorable discharge on the grounds of conscientious objection. Since then Ms. Allison has counseled many military resisters and has become a staple at anti-war and counter-recruitment events.
"There's a direct connection between a war that is costing $10 Billion a month...and the fact that there is not enough money for health care and services here in our city. The necessity of taking a strong stand against the war, war spending, and for prioritizing human needs over corporate needs is the kind of work we can so effectively in Oakland," explained Ms. Allison.
Ms. Allison often couches her remarks with her perspective as an African American woman of mixed race working class parents, a mother, a former teacher, and veteran. Her intellect and thoughtful comments, eloquence, sincere convictions, willingness to speak truth to power, attractive smile,charm and humor all combine to make Ms. Allison a politician of rare charisma.
Progressive voters will have no problem in identifying Ms. Allison as one of their own. Epicenter News Service interviewed Ms. Allison at her campaign headquarters on Grand Avenue next to the Grand Lake Theater in Oakland (see video & audio at www.EastBayNews.org). "District 2 is the most diverse district in the City...has the highest percentage of Lesbian households, so it has strong representation by the LGBT community, the highest number of immigrants, and the greatest disparity between wealthy and poor," described Ms. Allison.
She criticized Mayor Brown and City Councilmembers who, "choose more cops over more classes and for subsidizing developers over parks & rec. every time."
Schools and youth programs are top priorities for Ms. Allison. "If our schools are the heart blood of our community, then we have a terminal disease. We won't advance as a community unless we fix our schools." "The parents in District 2 are very upset that the State Administrator [Randy Ward] s not paying attention to their needs and their children's needs."
On crime, Allison said, "We've been hearing we're in a crisis in terms of crime in Oakland. All I can say is that this year is no more of a crisis than last year, or the year before or the year before that...The truth is that our problems with crime have been decades in the making, a systematic under-funding of parks & rec., investment in schools, and jobs programs, that are proven to prevent crime longterm."
Ms. Allison stands for tenants rights and advocates an inclusionary zoning policy that mandates the inclusion of affordable housing in any development project of new units. On the Oak-to-Ninth development, Ms Allison said, "Oak-to-Ninth is the largest development Oakland has seen since World War II, with 3100 units, not a single unit of affordable housing is guaranteed, there is 40 percent less open space than promised in our General Plan...as it stands, it's a bad idea."
Regarding her membership in the Green Party, Ms. Allison quips she tells people, "don't discriminate against me because of the color of my Party." Ms. Allison explained, "the Green Party is the expression of living movements - the anti-war movement, immigrant rights, and environmental justice movements. We're actively working...to figure out how our beliefs can be translated into policy or into the budget."
Ms. Allison emphasizes that she has a broad coalition of people supporting her and that most aren't Greens. President of the Alameda County Board of Supervisors, Keith Carson (D), is among her notable individual endorsements, as are Oakland School Board members Greg Hodge (D) and Dan Siegel (D). Organizational endorsements include the Alameda County Central Labor Council, statewide Service Employees International Union, the Oakland Education Association, Oakland ACORN, and the Oakland Tenants Union. Ms. Allison is the first Green candidate in Oakland to receive the Central Labor Council's endorsement.
Ms. Allison played an active role in the campaign to draft former Congressman Ron Dellums (D) to run for Mayor. While she endorses Mr. Dellums, she also had good words for Councilmember Nancy Nadel, who is also running for Mayor.
The Green Party was put on the map in Oakland as never before by Ms. Allison's run in the Special Election last year. Her current campaign, the likelihood of Mr. Dellums' election to Mayor, and the leadership role in the Green Party taken on by former Oakland City Councilmember Wilson Riles, Jr., who jumped from the Democratic Party to the Greens following his run against Mayor Jerry Brown (D) in 2002, are brightening the prospects for the Oakland Greens, and literally changing the complexion of their leadership.
The Oakland Green Party has made winning Instant Runoff Voting (IRV) election reform a top priority. If Ms. Allison were to be elected, the Oakland Greens would not only be a big step closer to getting IRV as an election reform, but will have arrived as a significant player in Oakland politics.
This will not be easy for Ms. Allison. The District 2 election figures to be highly competitive. The encumbant, Patricia Kernighan (D), won the Special Election o May 17, 2005, but only received 28.8 percent of the vote. Ms. Kernighan had been the Chief of Staff of former Councilmember Danny Wan, whose resignation precipitated the Special Election. Ms. Kernighan enjoys the support of Oakland's political establishment.
Another formidable candidate is Shirley Gee (D), who came in third in the Special Election with 16.5 percent and has a long history of community activism and a strong base of support in the Asian American portion of the district.
Ms. Kernighan has a considerable lead in the money race. According to records kept by the Oakland City Clerk, as of March 17, 2006, Ms. Kernighan reported raising $51,873, Ms. Allison had raised $21,607, followed closely by Ms. Gee who had raised $21,316.
With three strong candidates, the District 2 election may well go to a runoff in November. The challenge for Ms. Allison and her progressive coalition is to make that runoff. She is relying on a strategy of mobilizing her volunteer base and door-to-door campaigning to get there.
For more info visit www.AimeeAllsion.org
Tel.: (510) 277-0182 for Aimee Allison Campaign Headquarters
3208 Grand Avenue, Oakland.
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