A serious Sheng Thao addressed guests at her inauguration as Oakland mayor Monday afternoon with commitments to improve public safety, and among other things, work with the Oakland A’s to keep the team rooted locally while upholding the city’s values. Thao, whose family is from Laos, was sworn in by California Attorney General Rob Bonta.
The theme of her speech was unity, calling on Oaklanders to join her and pledging to earn the trust of residents who voted for other candidates.
“We are one team,” Thao said. “We are one team Oakland.” She believes the city’s best days are ahead.
Thao is one of 10 immigrant children and lived in her car at one time with her son, who accompanied her on stage during her speech. Thao was valedictorian of Merritt College and is a graduate of University of California at Berkeley. She is a survivor of domestic violence. She said she knows what it is like to face great odds and to overcome those obstacles.
“I could have given up,” Thao said. “But I still had some fight in me.”
Before her election in November, she was a city councilmember and council president pro tem. Thao is the city’s 51st mayor and its youngest in over 75 years.
Her family stood behind her during her speech, except for her mother who was ill and at home. Thao said the mission of her administration will be to create a safer Oakland, a more affordable Oakland and a more just Oakland. “This administration will take a comprehensive approach to Oakland’s complex public safety challenges,” Thao said.
The administration will double down on violence prevention strategies that work, like the Ceasefire program to ease conflicts, lower the amount of guns on the streets and “restore hope.”
She pledged to fill the Police Department with experienced, diverse, homegrown officers. She pledged to address the root causes of violence by creating strong-paying jobs and educational opportunities. That means investing in job training, expanding the summer youth job program and creating a school to work pipeline. She also wants to strengthen Head Start early education programs.
She said Oakland abortion clinics will remain open and safe.
Oakland will be the most proactive city in the state on affordable housing and homelessness, Thao said. She pledged to reform the city’s permit process and make public land available for housing wherever possible. She plans to create at least 30,000 new housing units over the next eight years, indicating her plan to run for a second term.
Thao wants to expand safe recreational vehicle sites for people without homes and the Mobile Assistance Community Responders of Oakland (MACRO) program. MACRO crews respond to some non-violent, non emergency calls instead of police. She committed to treating unhoused residents with dignity and to fiercely defend renters, of which she is one. If you’re a renter, “you’ve got a mayor that’s got your back,” Thao said.
She pledged to fill staffing vacancies in city government and bring a green new deal to Oakland with good, green jobs, while reducing greenhouse gas emissions and improving public transportation. She wants the Port of Oakland to be the greenest port in California. She said the city must improve the air quality in West Oakland and East Oakland. “The right to breathe clean air must be seen as a human right,” Thao said.
“Finally,” she said, she’ll be working with the Oakland A’s, Major League Baseball and other stakeholders on a deal to keep the team in Oakland while protecting Oakland values.
She said Oaklanders must improve the city together and promised to hear residents’ voices. “I will be a mayor for all of Oakland,” Thao said.