OAKLAND — Mayor Libby Schaaf has less than two weeks left in office, time she insists won’t be spent contemplating anything besides serving the city’s top political office.
In her final news conference on Wednesday, Schaaf offered few hints at her next big career move after two successive terms as mayor, one as a councilmember and years of work at Oakland City Hall and the city’s port.
“I really am focused on being the mayor of Oakland, 1000%, until the last second,” Schaaf said. “I’m going to decide what I do next with my career next year.”
The mayor was in her comfort zone Wednesday, celebrating new education partnerships paid for by a parcel tax that she and other city officials won a three-year legal battle to secure after 62% of voters approved it in 2018.
The $198-per-year tax for single-family parcels will last three decades, paying nonprofits First 5 Alameda County and Oakland Promise a combined $34.5 million to boost preschool access for children in low-income families, and get them on track to college as part of a “cradle-to-career” pathway.
The tax was challenged in court by property owners who believed its language required two-thirds of voters to pass it, before an appellate court decided last winter that state precedent allowed the policy to move forward by simple majority.
It is another political notch in the belt for Schaaf’s education policy goals after she completed a fundraising effort of $50 million in donations earlier this year for a separate Oakland Generation Fund.
The mayor, known for tracking down money — through both philanthropy and tax initiatives — to support her policy goals, suggested the education sector might be part of her future plans.
“You can see I have a passion for this work, so don’t be surprised if I find a way to continue to be involved in supporting cradle-to-career initiatives in Oakland, and possibly other communities,” she said.
Schaaf leaves office at a precarious time for Oakland. The pandemic seemed to make everything worse, from violent crime to the health of local businesses, and a looming economic recession threatens to further worsen the city’s intractable homelessness problem.
And one of Schaaf’s favorite projects to promote — the Oakland A’s new waterfront ballpark and large housing development near Jack London Square — hangs in the balance, with the team’s future still shaky as she leaves office.
When the commissioner of Major League Baseball suggested in October that the A’s time in Oakland was likely limited, Schaaf swept in to smooth things over, assuring the public soon after that a deal was on track.
On Wednesday, Schaaf said she has “every confidence” that Mayor-Elect Sheng Thao can reach an agreement with the team, distancing herself from the notion that she will remain involved in negotiations when she leaves the mayor’s pulpit behind.
“I’d like to think I’m leaving them with the bases loaded,” Schaaf said of the A’s and the new mayor, who will be sworn in the first week of January. “We’ve come a long way, (and) we’ve worked out tremendous aspects of what is a complicated deal.”
Schaaf did not endorse Thao, a union-backed critic of the mayor, instead tapping now-outgoing Councilman Loren Taylor as her preferred successor. Still, after Wednesday’s news conference, she mentioned feeling pleased that Thao plans to keep all the furniture that the mayor had purchased for the office.
When Taylor, after losing to Thao in the Nov. 8 election, attacked the city’s ranked choice voting system as playing a part in his defeat, his criticisms didn’t get much sympathy from the outgoing mayor, who said the two have not discussed the issue.
“Everyone criticizes the process when they lose,” she said.
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