Why We Need Strong Public Services in Oakland

For the past two years, I have had the pleasure of serving on Oakland's Library Advisory Commission (LAC).  The commission is charged with advocating for strong and vibrant library services, overseeing Measure Q, the revenue source for the majority of the library's funding, and also plays a liaison role between library patrons and the library's administration.

What we seem to spend most of our time on, however, is working to keep library services strong in the midst of the financial downturn that has affected all city services.  The library's branches are now only open five days/week, with much shorter hours.  There is no longer a bookmobile, which affects seniors and others with mobility issues.  And the library's workforce has changed dramatically, with more temporary and part-time staff, many of who have worked for the library for many years.  These staff aren't able to form the same quality of relationships with community members and patrons because they don't usually serve in the same branch for long.

I view the role of the library in Oakland's civic life in much the same way I view schools - they are places for Oaklanders to build their human capital, the foundation that will support the fulfillment of their dreams, whatever those dreams may be.

The building of human capital is something that parents also contribute to, but each family has a different capacity to play this role.  That is why schools and libraries and other public services are so critical.  One's opportunities in life should not depend solely on the family one had the luck or misfortune to be born into.

In Oakland, many low-income families do not have reading materials or internet access at home, and cannot afford enrichment activities such as music lessons, homework help and after-school programs.  Libraries can provide some of these services, which is why we on the commission believe these are services worth fighting to preserve.  It has been an honor to serve Oaklanders on the LAC, and to fight for strong public services.

If elected to the School Board, I will be equally persistent in working to make all Oakland schools into schools we can be proud of and confident in.  Schools to build dreams on.

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