Name: Dan Kalb
Position: Oakland City Council member
J.: How did you get into politics?
Dan Kalb: I’ve been involved in politics ever since I can remember. My entire family was always involved in community affairs and occasionally politics. It was just something you did because you wanted to make something better. I got the bug and I’ve been volunteering on a campaign or helping with some sort of policy paper for most of my adult life.
J.: What was the first campaign you volunteered on?
DK: It depends on the type of volunteering, because I worked on many campaigns as a kid while growing up in Los Angeles. I’d say Tom Bradley, the first African American, five-term mayor of L.A. I remember volunteering with my family on his campaign in 1973.
J.: About three weeks before the November 2012 election, when you were running for the Oakland City Council, you were robbed at gunpoint near your home in the Rockridge neighborhood. Did that change your perspective on crime in Oakland?
DK: I already felt that safety for residents around Oakland was a top priority. I felt it on an intellectual level, but after I was mugged, I felt a commitment on a more gut level than I had previously. Among other things, I’m working hard with the mayor (and lobbying in Sacramento) on Senate Bill 962 (which would require a “kill switch” in smartphones) as a way to reduce strong-arm robberies.
You’ve been in office since 2012. What are you currently working on?
DK: I’ve been in office for less than a year and a half, but I’m in the middle of working on some major ethics reforms right now, including beefing up the authority and staffing of the Oakland Public Ethics Commission (a seven-member citizen oversight committee). Right now we are not at a high level of confidence and trust from the public overall.
Also, last year I offered legislation to set money aside for an affordable housing trust in Oakland. One of the challenges that we have on the Oakland City Council is gaining back the [public’s] confidence and trust in local government. But the top priority for me, without any question, is public safety.
J.: Prior to being elected as the city council’s District 1 representative, your career was in public policy. Is being a councilmember a full-time position?
DK: Yes, I work full-time as a councilmember. That includes most evenings and parts of weekends, as well. For example, on the weekends, there are occasional town hall gatherings in North Oakland (District 1). Also, I have my monthly community office hours, usually on the first Saturday of each month at rotating cafés.
J.: What are you hoping to accomplish with the affordable housing trust?
DK: Everyone knows about the pressures that are on Oakland because of people moving over from San Francisco and other West Bay communities, which is driving up housing costs for both ownership and rentals. North Oakland is really ground zero for dramatically increased housing costs, gentrification and all the things that go with it. We need to take more action to provide additional affordable housing for different income levels and protect those people who live here now, making sure they’re not nudged out.
J.: You’re a member of the regional council of the East Bay’s Jewish Community Relations Council. Any other ties to the Jewish community?
DK: My wife and I go to Chochmat HaLev in Berkeley on an intermittent basis and for the High Holy Days. We like that Chochmat HaLev doesn’t fit neatly into Reform or Conservative, because it’s more of a hybrid. Being Jewish is very much a part of who I am and I don’t need to identify with a label.
J.: Oakland doesn’t have the best reputation. What do you say to people who point to the negative aspects of the city?
DK: I say come to Oakland and discover the many wonderful things happening in our good city: the vibrancy of our arts, artists and arts organizations. We have first-class restuarants, Lake Merritt and a fantasticly rich diversity of residents.
J.: Where do you go for your Jewish deli fix in the Bay Area?
DK: We go to Saul’s in Berkeley. I don’t know if an Oakland elected official should mention a place in Berkeley. That’s scary. I’m a big chopped liver fan, but I also like a good knish and matzah ball soup.
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