Oakland Mayor Schaaf opens new chapter

Libby Schaaf was sworn into office Monday as Oakland’s 50th mayor, saying, “It’s hella time for Oakland.”

Sounding like the cheerleader she once was, Schaaf said:

“Today begins a new chapter in the Oakland story … a moment of promise and growth.”

Schaaf, who has been active in local government for many years and served on the City Council for the past four years, acknowledged that being the city’s mayor isn’t an easy job but vowed:

“I’m ready for the challenge with a determination you’ve never seen before.”

Speaking to several thousand people who packed the Paramount Theatre for the swearing-in ceremony for her and other city and school district officials, Schaaf rattled off a number of goals, including getting Oakland off the nation’s top 10 list for crime, providing quality preschool education for all children and bringing more businesses to the city.

Other priorities she mentioned were modernizing government services, cleaning up public spaces, paving city streets and supporting public art. In addition, Schaaf said:

“It’s time to build more housing at all income levels, especially near transit.”

Schaaf said that among the ways she wants to reduce Oakland’s crime rate are implementing “effective community policing” and completing reforms of the city’s Police Department that the city had promised to complete 10 years ago in its settlement of a police misconduct lawsuit.

Schaaf didn’t directly address the subject of recent protests in Oakland and across the country about grand jury decisions in Missouri and New York not to prosecute police officers for the deaths of unarmed black men.

However, about 100 people raised that issue in a peaceful protest outside the Paramount before the swearing-in ceremony, carrying signs such as “Black Lives Matter” and “Libby Schaaf Supports Racial Profiling.”

Cat Brooks of the Onyx Organizing Committee, who helped organize the protest in conjunction with the Anti-Police Terrorism Project, said people came to the ceremony because Schaaf “does not have the best record” in dealing with police relations with the community.

Brooks said among the things she doesn’t like about Schaaf’s record is that she supported gang injunctions and curfews for Oakland youths. A small group of protesters disrupted the beginning of the ceremony by chanting slogans such as, “Which side are you on, friends?”

during the presentation of the American flag and the singing of the national anthem. They also hung a banner from the theater’s balcony that said, “End Police Terror.” But after a short time the chanting ended and the sign was removed.

Schaaf, who was a cheerleader when she attended Skyline High School and also achieved the top award in the Girl Scouts, said:

“I’m so proud to be made in Oakland. … I’m one of Oakland’s biggest boosters but I’ve also been frustrated by the lack of safety and I get miffed when investors pass us by.”

Schaaf said Oakland should follow other cities that have reduced their crime rates dramatically and made other improvements.

Schaaf, 49, who is married and has two young children, is only the second Oakland mayor to take office before reaching the age of 50, according to Sherry Hu, a former local television reporter who hosted the ceremony.