October 4, 2021 6:00am

Loren Taylor Outpolls All Potential Rivals in Oakland Mayoral Survey

Meanwhile, panelists are ambivalent about use of license-plate cameras in law enforcement.

By Stephen Buel
Oakland, CA Correspondent

East Oakland City Councilmember Loren Taylor handily prevailed over 14 other actual or possible 2022 mayoral candidates in a recent survey of Oakland Power Poll panelists asked to pick their favorite from among a list of potential nominees.

Taylor’s strong showing came as no surprise based on his performance in the nomination phase of our informal poll. Our runners up were less predictable, however. Port Commissioner Cestra “Ces” Butner finished second, and City Council President Nikki Fortunato Bas and Police Commission Chair Regina Jackson tied for third.

On other topics, panelists were conflicted with regard to police use of photographs from license-plate cameras. An almost equal number of voters oppose the long-term retention of such images yet believe that city privacy regulations needlessly hamper criminal investigations.

Finally, panelists demonstrated strong support for firm measures designed to reduce the spread of Covid-19 at restaurants and schools.

Here are the specific questions and responses to our poll:

Question 1

Last month’s poll asked for nominations of people whom panelists would like to see run for mayor in 2022. This month, we imagine that all those people intend to run — along with other rumored or actual candidates. Please select your favorites in this three-round, ranked-choice ballot, with the numeral one representing your top choice.

Loren Taylor, councilmember — Score 1.53

Cestra “Ces” Butner, port commissioner and Horizon Beverage Company owner — Score .63

Nikki Fortunato Bas, city council president — Score .53

Regina Jackson, police commissioner and CEO, East Oakland Youth Development Center — Score .53

Treva Reid, councilmember — Score .40

Noel Gallo, councilmember — Score .33

James Harris, school board member — Score .33

Sheng Thao, councilmember — Score .33

Jose Corona, vice president at Stephen and Ayesha Curry’s Eat. Learn. Play. — Score .30

Rebecca Kaplan, vice mayor and councilmember — Score .20

Carroll Fife, councilmember — Score .13

Cat Brooks, activist, actress and radio host — Score .03

Joseph Tanios, city construction inspector — Score 0

Nancy Sidebotham, tax consultant — Score 0

Derrick Soo, homelessness activist — Score 0

Question 2

A lawsuit filed by the anti-surveillance activist who chairs Oakland’s Privacy Advisory Commission alleges that police retain data from city license plate cameras longer than is legal, and inappropriately share that data with the FBI. If that is true, what are your thoughts? Please select up to six positions you share, with the number 1 representing greatest agreement.

The city should audit its use of this technology, as required by law — Score 2.97

The city should not hang on to license-plate photos for more than six months. It’s invasive — Score 2.06

Oakland’s privacy regulations needlessly hamper criminal investigations — Score 1.97

Oakland needs to abide by laws and ordinances, regardless of their wisdom — Score 1.68

Look around. OPD should do what it can to monitor violent demonstrations — Score 1.61

There is no reason police should have to discard photos taken in public places — Score 1.35

Worried about privacy? Why are you carrying a cellphone? — Score 1.16

OPD should not cooperate with the FBI unless legally required to do so — Score .74

The city really just wants to spy on protesters, which should not be allowed — Score .19

Question 3

San Francisco, Berkeley and Contra Costa County now require restaurants to make customers age 12 and older prove they are fully vaccinated against Covid-19. Should Alameda County?

Yes — 77.4%

No — 9.7%

No opinion/don’t care — 12.9%

Question 4

The American Academy of Pediatrics reports that children accounted for almost 26 percent of new Covid cases during the week ending Sep. 16. School districts in Oakland and Piedmont recently mandated that students 12 and up be vaccinated, and California is considering that. Do you support such policies?

Yes — 83.9%

No — 9.7%

No opinion/don’t care — 6.5%

Question 5

Please provide additional thoughts about any of these topics. And please suggest future poll topics.

Analysis of Question About Mayoral Race

Fresh on the heels of his strong performance in last month’s nominations, Taylor has distinguished himself as the clear favorite of our survey’s participants. He showed up on two thirds of all ballots while his closest competitors, Ces Butner, Nikki Fortunato Bas and Regina Jackson, each showed up on approximately one quarter.

Taylor strongly outpolled the two other people who also might be expected to court the coalition that propelled Libby Schaaf to the mayor’s office, Reid and Corona. With Taylor already running and Reid believed to be interested, the stage looks set for a contest between East Oakland councilmembers, as one panelist hopes. “Treva Reid and Loren Taylor are a great 1-2 vote in either order, and I hope they run together and ask people to leave #3 blank,” that voter wrote. Another added: “We need adults at the helm like Loren Taylor or James Harris who rise above the political noise to lead pragmatically, with conviction and commitment.”

The also-pragmatic Jackson, who was appointed to the police commission by the mayor, has managed to lead that body without wearing her politics on her sleeve, leaving it unclear whether she would run as a progressive or another Schaaf-style centrist. Interestingly enough, both Jackson and Corona are close to Stephen and Ayesha Curry, which begs the question of whether the high-profile couple harbors any desire for political influence in The Town.

Meanwhile, Bas bested the other people who might seek to represent Oakland progressives, though it unclear whether she harbors any interest in running. The politics of Thao, who is said to be running, tend to weave between progressive and centrist, as evidenced by her backing of a city budget that trimmed police staffing followed by her support for the creation of two new police academies. Kaplan, Fife and Brooks, clear progressives all, polled poorly in our survey.

The clearest lane for any potential candidacy seems to belong to Butner, the port commissioner and Horizon Beverage Company owner. But Oakland is not San Diego. The city’s last mayor with business roots was the tamale magnate John H. Reading, who took office in 1966, and is perhaps most notable for defeating Black Panther Bobby Seale in 1973.

Finally, one wag on our panel made the following request: “Please also offer a ranking of the mayoral candidates in reverse — the six candidates that should not run.”

Analysis of Question About License-Plate Cameras

Panelists appear to be of two minds regarding the use of license-plate photos in criminal investigations. There was strong support for auditing the city’s usage of such images, as well as general agreement that the city should abide by all laws and ordinances even if they are unwise. But there was almost equal support for two seemingly contradictory propositions: that license-plate photos should not be retained for longer than six months, and that city privacy rules hamper effective law enforcement.

As always, Oakland is nothing if not conflicted when it comes to law enforcement.

Analysis of Questions About Covid-19

Panelists displayed broad support for two additional measures that could be taken to safeguard people during the pandemic. More than 77 percent would favor a policy to require restaurants to make customers age 12 and older prove they are vaccinated. And almost 84 percent would support a requirement that students 12 and up be vaccinated. Those two results are almost identical to the views expressed by participants in last week’s related San Jose poll — perhaps unsurprisingly here in the healthiest region of the healthiest state.

One panelist seemed to capture the general attitude: “The data are clear that the vaccines protect and save lives. If people want their ‘freedom’ to choose not to be vaccinated (for other than a specific medical reason as recommended by their physician), then they also choose not to be allowed indoors at places where the public gathers. This may include restaurants, other venues and perhaps their workplace. There are consequences to these choices, just as there have been for the rest of us as people have unwisely chosen not to get vaccinated. What happened to the spirit of ‘We are all in this together’ that was so pervasive decades ago?”

But another panelist worried about a backlash to such rules: “Restaurants should continue COVID19 safety protocols (masking, distancing, outdoor seating) and not mandate proof of vaccination. This step I believe is furthering conspiracy theories and making it more difficult to get those who are hesitant (not the hardcore anti-vax) to get their vaccinations.”

Oakland Power Poll is not a scientific poll. Rather, we ask questions of influential people with a wide range of viewpoints to help advance informed dialogue about the city. Power Poll is studiously non-partisan.

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