City Council: how to participate.

In honor of MLK Day, I will repost this blog entry in the hopes that this encourages more local participation in city government.

2012 is an important election year not just for our nation, but for the city of Oakland. I’ve heard there are 5 council seats up for grabs in November, a burgeoning recall effort of the mayor..and who knows what else might be put on the ballot.

Take the time to read this post and learn how you can get involved.

Council chambers are packed during a Council meeting on pot. July, 2010. Read article by The Bay Citizen here:

Today we celebrate Martin Luther King Jr’s Birthday. A prominent leader of the civil rights movement, King led protests, marches, and made numerous speeches towards the advancement of African American people.

The culmination of his efforts led to the ending racial segregation and the passage of the Civil Rights Act of 1964.

Racial harmony hasn’t quite been achieved but now we are allowed to participate in the process of making things better. Unfortunately, a lot of people take this for granted.
I choose to do my part by learning as much as I can about what is going on in Oakland’s local politics and sharing it with the world!

Last week, I attended my first set of Oakland City Council meetings and boy was that an experience. Each session that I attended  deserve posts of their own.

Today, I would like to share how you can participate in city council meetings. Please note that all of this information can be found in detail on the Oakland City Council Website:

First, the Oakland City Council is the governing body that makes decisions for the city. They approve the city budget, adopt ordinances (laws) and each member represents the citizens who live in their district and elect them to office. Oakland has seven districts with one at large member. Look at a map which outlines all seven districts here! Basically, the City Council is Congress at the local level.

The priorities of the City of Oakland, as agreed upon by the City Council and the Mayor, include:

  • Increasing public safety by reducing crime and violence.
  • Fostering a sustainable and healthy environment by investing and encouraging the use of clean energy. They are also supposed to provide programs that support the mental, spiritual and physical health of it’s residents. Yay!
  • Increasing Economic development by developing and maintaining businesses that will attract people to the city.
  • Community involvement and empowerment
  • Help facilitate private and public partnerships
  • And to deliver government services with openness and efficiency.

The Council meets every 1st, 3rd and 5th Tuesday every month at City Hall. They meet pretty much all day, from 10:30 am – 7:30 pm. The meetings are broken into 7 different committees: Public Works, Finance and Management, Community and Economic Development, Life Enrichment, Education Partnership, Public Safety and Rules and Legislation. You can find the meeting schedule and download the agenda here.

According to rules and procedures, anyone is allowed to attend meetings and to comment on items found on the agenda. This is where we can participate in the process and make our voice heard. You can make suggestions on future ordinances, request funds for a city program, or share your opinion on a key vote that can affect your city or neighborhood.

You are allowed to speak on each agenda item. If you want to address a concern that is not on the agenda, you request to speak in Open Forum, which occurs at the 6 pm hour and lasts for 15 min. In order to speak on an agenda item and/or Open Forum, you have to submit a speaker’s card to the City Clerk beginning noon Friday before the meeting and until 6 pm the day of the meeting. You can download a speakers card and find more information by clicking here.

Given that the Council meets during a regular business day, it’s understandably difficult for those with jobs to come to a meeting. However, if there is a chance that you have a free day, going to a city council meeting is a great way to find out exactly what is happening at the local level and being a part of the process. You can also hold the people you vote into office accountable.

Because of the efforts of the Martin Luther King, Jr and those part of the Civil Rights Movement, every American citizen has the right to participate in the running of their government. Let’s not let those efforts go in vain. The simplest way to honor them is by voting. However, if you can take the time and learn about how Oakland is run and be a part of the process, you will not only do historical activists proud, you can potentially make Oakland a better place to live.


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *