The people of the Bay Area deserve a local government where our representatives represent all of us — where candidates and elected officials can focus on what our communities need, not what big-money donors and special interests want. If we want to see change on issues like affordable housing, community safety, and quality schools, we need more transparency about the outside groups that are spending millions to influence our elections and we need more responsive local government. We need to bring much-needed accountability to local government and make it possible for all Bay Area residents to support candidates who will best represent them, no matter what neighborhood they live in, the color of their skin, or how much money they make. We must ensure that everyone can exercise full and independent political power by protecting fair elections and expanding voting rights. We envision a Bay Area where Black and Brown communities along with working-class people exercise full and independent political power.
Orange denotes Bay Rising member organizations. Green denotes partner organizations. Click on the circles to visit each organization’s website.
Public school students are the primary participants in the services provided by our school districts but often have no say in how they are run. Students have been advocating and organizing for better schools for all students for decades, and their experiences, needs, and concerns should inform district policy and the priorities of school board members. Allowing young people to vote for school board members at 16 instead of 18 years old deepens their civic engagement, makes them more likely to be lifelong voters, and increases accountability to students’ needs by giving them a direct voice in school board leadership. California and the Bay Area are also home to millions of people who are not US citizens, many of whom have immigrated here as a result of US imperialism and militarism around the world. It’s important that all of our local residents – citizens or not – have an opportunity to have their voice heard in matters that directly affect them, such as public schools.
Oakland Youth Vote (Measure QQ, 2020, passed): Home Page
District lines are the building blocks of local government and democracy. How district lines are drawn shapes how communities are defined, reflected, how political power is distributed, and how services are planned and delivered. In 2014, Oakland voters put redistricting into the hands of residents by creating an Independent Redistricting Commission through the passage of Measure DD.
Ranked-choice voting, also known as instant runoff voting, is an opportunity to develop more civic engagement and voter turnout, by eliminating the low-turnout primary election and only holding a general election. If one candidate doesn’t get more than 50% of the vote, then voters’ second and third choice votes are counted until a candidate wins a majority. By eliminating the primary, we see greater voter participation and ultimately more representative election results. Ranked-choice voting provides an opportunity for voters to vote for whom they really believe in, not just whom they think will win the election. In so doing, ranked-choice voting helps to even the playing field for candidates who may not have as much money or who may not have received big name endorsements.
Many smaller cities and towns throughout the Bay Area have at-large city council and school board elections, meaning that elected officials represent the whole city rather than specific geographic districts within the city. This at-large system of voting most benefits those people who are most likely to vote – whiter, wealthier, older, and more educated people. Shifting to district-based elections is a proven way to increase representation and bring about a shift in political power, by ensuring that neighborhoods with less resources get the chance to contend for local political power.
Bay Rising member East Bay Alliance for a Sustainable Economy (EBASE) was involved in advocacy in the drawing of the maps and communities of interest in 2018 for Concord’s move to district-based elections.
Reform local elections, especially money in politics
Given barriers at the federal level, local reforms together with grassroots voter organizing are the best way to stand up to big money and special interests, building local government that works for all of us.
Greater Transparency: Measure W requires the top 3 highest contributors to be disclosed on independent expenditures supporting or opposing an Oakland candidate or measure, and requires all independent expenditures be submitted to Oakland’s watchdog agency, the Public Ethics Commission.
The Democracy Dollars Program: An innovative Democracy Dollars program equips all eligible Oakland residents with four $25 certificates to contribute to campaigns of their choosing, encouraging candidates to engage ordinary voters for their support––including low-income communities who may not have been able to support campaigns in the past.
Lower Contribution limits: Measure W lowers individual contribution limits (to $600 for individuals and $1,000 for committees), reducing candidates’ reliance on wealthy donors who can afford to give a higher maximum amount.
New Limits on Lobbying: Closes the revolving door of top officials becoming lobbyists after leaving office, instituting a two-year ban on the practice.