Viola Gonzales, Candidate for Oakland City Council District 5


Viola Gonzales is a former School Board member, businesswoman and non-profit executive.


1- What do you think should be Oakland’s response to the lack of housing stock? Do you support having a moratorium of any kind on rent increases, stronger rent control measures, restrictions on sales to foreign nationals? Please elaborate.

The federal government under our U.S. immigration permits wealthy foreigners to secure a green card by investing at least a half-million dollars to create at least 10 jobs in America. It is unclear how we can restrict sales to foreign nationals at the local level without support at the state and national level.

We should have had a longer moratorium.

On the issue of the local renters rights measure, I am dissatisfied with both sides.

We need housing for all income levels; we need policy to address homeless, low income, affordable and market rate. In my own extended family, we have every experience from homelessness to being renters and never hoping to ever secure their own home. While on one hand we attempt to stabilize the situation for renters as we did for homeowners in Prop 13 there are unintended consequences to all our decisions.

The proposed changes also sweep up mom and pops that live on their properties; they are small business owners, a group that I hope to keep in Oakland. Will we be better served if we force them to sell with the result that their property becomes market rate?

The city has done a poor job of educating small apartment owners as to what is expected of them to meet and maintain code and be good landlords. We could do a much better job, and help them to stay in Oakland.

However, if the voters support the ballot measure, then I will do all in my power to have it implemented to meet expectations of our voters. If it doesn’t pass, then we must work doubly hard to fix the situation, in a way that protects both renters and small owners.

What we are doing now is not working and it isn’t good enough.

2 – Do you support the measure creating a Police Commission that’s on the November ballot? What changes would you have made to it? What do you propose the City Council do to address the systemic issues of police brutality and misconduct?

Regarding the Police Commission, I am dissatisfied with both sides. I believe we could do more.

However, I want to respect the many hours that community members spent in crafting language to move our community forward. At this point in time, instead of spending time reworking what might have been, we need to leave it to the voters. If voters support the new police commission, then I will do everything in my power to execute the will of the people. We as a city often fall short of implementation. If the measure doesn’t pass, then I will work hard to institute changes to the existing citizen’s review board that have long been recommended, but have fallen on deaf ears.

Not for the first time, there is a national crisis in confidence in our law enforcement. Profiling has impacted people of color for a very long time.

The Black Lives Matter movement has given deserved visibility to lack of equal justice that has been going on unchecked for far too many years. The affected also include Latinos, other ethnic groups, members of non­mainstream religious groups and the LGBT community especially LGBT people of color. These individuals have also felt the humiliation of bias and unequal treatment but received substantially less press coverage.

The City’s first priority is to hire a competent Chief Of Police and secondly to continue to do provide training and communication that humanizes all sides – both police and residents. It is not acceptable that we have residents fearful of the very services that their tax dollars support. We can’t just adopt zero tolerance policies; we must also have consistent enforcement. This gets back to continued training for our police force, more opportunity to have outreach and liaison between the community and police and an effective citizen’s complaint review board. Moreover, we need to continue to diversify our police force, more women and more individuals that reflect the population that is being served.

Currently the city has fewer police officers per capita and a very high workload ( property and crime rate) per police officer compared to other communities. We need to work collaboratively and creatively with our union leadership to address how we as a community can improve public safety without alienating large segments of our populace.

Some of the efforts of former Police Chief Sean Whent –around procedural justice training, and the ceasefire program seemed to be have been moving the community toward improvement in terms of community policing. Additionally, it appeared that the City might be working itself out of its 13 years under the Negotiated Settlement Agreement (NSA) or consent degree. Now the City is facing a leadership vacuum without a Chief of Police in place and it is unclear if and when the Negotiated Settlement Agreement will come to an end and how the consent degree will work with the creation of a new police commission.

Residents throughout District 5 want the police to increase its response time and for police to have the resources by which to investigate crimes and bring justice to all concerned. We are not going to have police respond to more than homicides unless we can generate more revenues with which the city can serve its populace.
We cannot hope to address crime without also addressing the economic well being for all of our community. We cannot afford to pay for police to be in our neighborhoods and work toward building trust between police and community members without also looking at increasing the economic pie for all of our residents. This is why my first priority is on_economic development to create jobs in all areas of our city for all residents:

• Support policies that help local businesses grow. Create jobs by encouraging self-employment, micro enterprise development, business revitalization and larger business development
• Support quality training & education that leads to good paying jobs
• Support smart growth and creativity in housing options: transit­oriented development; secondary units, infill and new, et al.

Community policing is best described as a philosophy of law enforcement. ( “What Works in Community Policing” by Chief Justice Warren institute On Law & Social Policy” at University of California Berkeley School of Law in 2013.) and such there is a lack of standardization across cities as to its specifics but in general it has three aspects that are widely accepted and these include:

1) organizational transformation, 2)community partnership, and 3) problem solving.

To do any of these we must foster trust between the police and the residents and that the police department be managed with a more consumer-focused attitude. This will require a change in culture.

This is why my second priority is to instill a culture of excellence in the delivery of all city services in all areas of the city, for all of our residents. Our public services need to be well managed whether these are public works, libraries, parks, police or fire departments. We deserve to live in a city where our residents do not fear the very same services that are paid by tax dollars to protect them. Our city workers should know to what standards they are held accountable, take pride in providing those services and be respected for providing them.

3 – What do you propose to do to address issues of gangs, street violence and drug addiction in Oakland?

Some of my response above addresses this question, in part.

Youth and young adults need alternatives to feel they are part of the larger community and that we care about what happens to them. We need to develop more alternatives for fun: through art, music, dance, athletics­, whatever gives our young people outlets for creativity and confidence. And for those looking for work, we need to be doing more with our training dollars–­connecting them to paths of entry that lead to good paying jobs-working collaboratively with nonprofit training service providers and local businesses to provide paid internships, school to work transitions and expanding the Mayor’s Summer Jobs Program. And the Mayor’s efforts with Oakland Promise-increasing opportunities for college attainment need to be supported but leadership for District 5 needs to make sure that our residents receive a fair share of those resources.

Our children need recreation, access to training and paths to good paying jobs. We need to be working more effectively with Alameda County and the three large health related foundations in our community to address these needs that encompass health, mental health and drug addition.

4 – How do you propose Oakland should respond to formerly incarcerated citizens re-entering the community? What will you do to support community-based support services for formerly incarcerated citizens?

Whether they have been incarcerated or not, they are still members of our community and need our support. Again, here is an opportunity for the City to work with county resources to increase training and opportunities for self­ employment and micro business development and to work with existing services, e.g., East Bay Law Center that offers legal advice on a wide range of related issues including: Certificate of Rehabilitation; Dismissal of Conviction (“Expungement”); Early Termination of Probation; Employment Denials Due to Criminal Background;Errors on Commercial/Private Criminal Background Reports; Felony Reduction / Prop 47 Relief; Juvenile Record Sealing;

• Occupational Licensing Denials (ex: DSS, Security Guard, CNA, etc.)
• Sealing of Arrest Record-Factual Innocence
• and Voting Rights, Jury Service Rights

Additionally, reentry individuals need to understand their rights and obligations and the community also must afford them opportunities to work and fully participate in the community.

5 – Do you support a sales tax on soft drinks? What’s your general view about sales taxes?

Yes, I do support a sales tax on soft drinks, although I would have preferred that we had worked with Alameda County as they have responsibility for health policy and services in our community and therefore we might have directed those dollars more specifically to health related issues. Still, I do support any reasonable measure that reduces the high rates of metabolic syndrome and diabetes in our community especially among young people of color. If we don’t take bold action, our children will have shorter life spans than their parents. However, in general, I don’t support sales taxes because they burden disproportionately those with less income.

6 – How do you propose Oakland address the causes and effects of climate change? Do you have specific policy recommendations for reducing greenhouse gas emissions? How do you propose it prepare for sea level rises?

We need to reduce pollution from fossil fuels. We need to reduce our dependence on these sources by expanding clean energy wherever we can. However we also need to make sure that we don’t encourage development near the sea. No matter how effective we reduce our carbon emissions, we will not entirely stop the rise of the sea.
The California State Legislature recently passed Senate Bill 32 and Assembly Bill 197-to strengthen California’s requirements to cut global warming emissions by 40 percent by 2030. Their intent is to reduce global warming pollution, invest in clean energy, and create green jobs. We simply need to mirror those goals at the local level.

We can take action at the local level on how we do economic development-to the extent we reduce use of autos and encourage density where there is already infrastructure in place. We need to invest in neighborhood commercial corridors, work with transit authorities to ensure safe quality public transit is available and that the infrastructure funding that may come from either recent bond measure or from any at the national level are equally distributed to all our neighborhoods.
The City has for many years supported the concepts behind alternatives to autos but has often lacked the force of leadership to make it possible to direct resources to implement them fully. Public transit is not directly under the City’s purview; therefore the city must continually negotiate and collaborate with other responsible entities. Efforts underway need to be supported not just at the policy level but more fundamentally at the community level. I would look for opportunities to connect people of color to play a larger role in shaping policies that impact their ability to get from home to work or school to work.

Climate change cannot be solved in the City of Oakland alone. Nonetheless local environmental decisions need to acknowledge the science behind global initiatives to combat catastrophic climate change.

7 – Have you ever been accused of any impropriety related to your serving in a governmental position? Please describe what took place.


How do you think the Oakland City Council should address impropriety or appearance of impropriety by its members?

We have a public ethics commission in place with authority to take action. The Oakland Government Ethics Act (GEA) was approved by the Council’s Rules & Legislation Committee on October 16, 2014. Then the full Oakland City Council voted to approve 8-0 the legislation on December 9,2014. The GEA is a companion measure to Measure CC, which amended the Oakland City Charter to strengthen the PEC’s authority, structure, and staffing, approved by voters on November 4,2014.

8 – Can you share an instance where you have shown moral courage? (i.e. standing up for your values in the face of opposition or other negative consequences).

I was a recent graduate and had accepted to a fellowship to graduate school but was unhappy with the program. So I decided to work for a year and accepted a post as teacher for a preschool program teaching 5 year olds in a very poor school district in San Antonio, Texas. I had no teaching experience but they told me that it wasn’t necessary given that I had been a good student, had an undergraduate degree and spoke Spanish well. I have always been good at organizing events so mid-school year, I helped assemble a program for my 20 students that went over well with parents and other staff. Then administration asked me to organize the year-end “graduation” of five year olds-I forget the exact number, 100-200 children.

Because I was so involved in this extracurricular organizing effort, the project director asked me to say a few words at the graduation ceremony. The cafeteria/auditorium was packed with the extended families of all the children involved, the superintendent of schools and other dignitaries were seated up on the dais. I spoke without prepared remarks and from my heart. I shared with the families in Spanish that I had learned so much from them and their children that I felt privileged to have worked with them and their families and but that they as parents needed to demand more. I told them that it wasn’t enough that I be hired to teach their children given that I had no prior experience-that it wasn’t enough that I spoke Spanish and had an undergraduate degree-that as parents they needed to advocate for more for their children and expect more from the schools. The result was that I was called on the carpet and told that I would absolutely never work for that school district again. And it was true. I never did but I also never forgot how freeing it was to state the truth of my convictions.

9 – How many individuals have contributed to your campaign? Do you or your campaign have a financial relationship with a member ofthe ACDCC? Who and in what capacity?

50 donors. Linda Perry is Treasurer of the campaign.

10 – Are you running as a Berniecrat?

Not sure what that means to you. This is a nonpartisan seat. I am a lifelong Democrat that grew up in a liberal county in a conservative region in Texas that grew up to see the Voting Rights Act get passed and the poll tax removed.


It is time for Oakland leaders to stop taking the easy route and start listening to the people who live here.

District 5 families need a representative who knows the issues that impact their lives including housing, public safety, transportation, and health. As an advocate for equity, I know how to build consensus and collaboratively move an agenda forward.

I am a leader who knows how to get things done in Oakland, having served on the Oakland Unified School District, City Planning Commission, and Oakland Fund for Children and Youth.

My priorities for Oakland are to grow the local economy with middle-income jobs, address the distrust between our residents and its public safety employees, and instill a culture of excellence in serving residents.

I know what it’s like to be part of a working family, get an education through scholarship, and feel the sting of discrimination.

I look forward to serving you and respectfully ask for your vote.


Viola Gonzales serves as Member of Advisory Board of OneCalifornia Bank, FSB. Ms. Gonzales serves as the Executive Director of the Latino Community Foundation. Prior to joining LCF, she was executive director of Latino Issues Forum, a California based public policy and advocacy institute. She has held management positions in nonprofits and businesses and policy positions in local and federal government entities. She was the Mayoral appointee to the City of Oakland’s Planning Commission and Oakland Unified School District. Her community service & board affiliations include serving on the Oakland Fund for Children & Youth, Health Access Foundation and Verizon Consumer Advisory Board. She received her MBA from the Harvard Business School and earned a BBA in Business Economics from St Mary’s University/San Antonio, TX.

from Bloomberg

Currently Viola Gonzales is CEO of anewamerica



Oakland Police Officers’ Association, Libby Schaaf, Elihu M. Harris, Ignacio De La Fuente,