OAKLAND -- It's been 16 years since an incumbent Oakland council member failed to win re-election. The odds seldom favor the challenger, but this year they're especially long for Mick Storm, Theresa Anderson Downs and Carol Ann Tolbert.
They don't have to beat one incumbent in their bid for Oakland's at-large council seat; they have to beat two of them.
With five-term Councilmember Ignacio De La Fuente abandoning his safe seat in the Fruitvale district to challenge incumbent Rebecca Kaplan for the seat representing the entire city, it's tough to look beyond the two incumbents.
But for those who want new blood on the council, the trio does provide alternatives.
Storm, a technology executive, pledges to find more money for police even if it means scaling back development projects.
Anderson Downs, 50, a neighborhood leader who worked for attorney John Burris, wants to decrease police funding to pay for more youth services.
And Tolbert, a 62-year-old social service consultant, says she can bring vitality to the council and help restore civility on the factious board.
"I know how to work across the aisle to get things done," she said.
Tolbert also knows as well as anyone that incumbency doesn't always guarantee victory. She lost her re-election bid for Oakland's school board more than a decade ago.
She's returning to politics convinced that she can help the city deal with its rising crime, famished budget and troubled schools.
When it comes to police, Tolbert wants to put more civilians in desk jobs and won't shy away from controversial measures such as youth curfews. "I'm open to any strategy that could save a kid's life," she said.
She also would support additional measures to make sure that city jobs go to Oaklanders and that more residents get job training programs.
Tolbert grew up in Oakland in an era when the city had a roller rink, bowling alley and affordable recreation programs open every day of the week. She would make it a priority to restore those services and amenities.
"If you don't know what Oakland was," she said, "you don't know what Oakland can be."
Anderson Downs also grew up in Oakland, and as a youth found herself in and out of jail. She credits social programs with helping her get on the right track and attorney John Burris for giving her a chance first as an intern and later as an office manager.
"To me, John Burris was a hero," she said. "I liked the fact that he fought the police."
Anderson Downs said she would support reducing both police pay and staffing to pay for youth programs and services helping people who are returning from prison.
"We need to invest in our youth," she said. "The reason they're creating the violence is that nobody cares about them."
Anderson Downs doesn't work because of a disability, but she volunteers where she lives at 45th and Market streets, partnering with local musicians to help feed the needy and give out backpacks to kids.
"My neighborhood is now a loving neighborhood," she said. "We created a sense of family. We need to create that across Oakland."
Storm grew up in Stockton, but has lived in Oakland for the past decade, even though it means a long commute every day to work in Mountain View.
"I think this city is really dynamic," he said. "There's a spirit here I haven't seen in any other Bay Area city."
Storm believes that regular folks like himself can better represent their neighbors than career politicians. He's refusing to accept any campaign contributions, which he says compromise Oakland's established elected leaders.
Storm, a software engineering manager at Intuit, said he could help the city and especially the police department make better decisions when it comes to buying computer systems. He noted a city auditor's report released earlier this year that found police had wasted nearly $2 million on technology that either doesn't work or was never used.
Storm also said that his first priority would be to find money to hire more police officers. One place to look for the funds, he said, is city subsidized developments, especially funds that would go to build new homes for the Raiders or A's.
"We don't even have commitments from the teams," he said. "I bet that money will be largely wasted."
Contact Matthew Artz at 510-208-6435.
Theresa Anderson Downs
Occupation: Unemployed due to disability
Elected history: None
Personal: Mother of four children, Oakland native, has devoted time to doing charity work where she lives at 45th and Market streets
Occupation: Software Engineering Manager
Elected history: None
Personal background: Studied Forestry Conservation and Anthropology at Humboldt State University. Musician and Artist.
Carol Lee Tolbert
Occupation: Consultant to social service agencies
Elected history: Oakland School Board, 1993-97
Personal: Founder of volunteer group Oakland Civic Pride, nonprofit executive for two decades, chair of the school district's Career Technical Education Advisory Committee.