photos by Breannie Robinson
by Selena Williams
Move over, Hofstra University. You have competition in hosting debates: students at McClymonds High School ran their school’s first Election Candidates Forum last Thursday.
About 60 people attended the forum, including first-time voters like senior Carlos Valladares. “I sense that all these candidates want to make West Oakland a better community,” said Valladares after the forum.”Tough choice.”
There were few disagreements, unlike the second debate between President Barack Obama and Mitt Romney. One candidate — Lynette McElhaney — left early and school board candidate Richard Fuentes could not attend because he had to work (for the Oakland City Council). City council candidate Alex Miller-Cole said he would be “one politician whose cell phone number you have” and candidate Larry Lionel Young Jr. stressed that he understood youth issues better because he was young.
The political forum grew out of interest by students participating in Alternatives in Action’s YOLO Youth Organizing Leadership Opportunities. Senior Donte Jackson asked many of the questions about safety, violence, jobs, a proposed teen curfew and McClymonds’ future.
City council candidates included Nyesha DeWitt, a youth dropout prevention specialist, Lynette Gibson-McElhaney, director of a housing non-profit (who left early), Alex Miller-Cole, a small business owner, Sean Sullivan, who works with homeless youth, and Larry Lionel Young, a realtor who ran for mayor in 2010.
The candidates are competing for Nancy Nadel’s seat. Nadel announced that she would step down after four terms representing West Oakland. All contenders describe themselves as liberal or progressive. They all support community policing and oppose gang injunctions, and youth curfews.
Also speaking were school board candidates, incumbent Jumoke Hinton Hodge and challenger Benjamin Lang, who said he was the only candidate who has spent no money on his campaign and has accepted no donations. Candidate Richard Fuentes, who has the support of the teachers’ union, could not attend.
Among the more striking statements, Sullivan said that better lighting in Emeryville made the streets there safer and cleaner. And Young kept using slogans to push his candidacy. “Vote LL: Oakland will be well.”