Oakland activist vows encampment cleanup, safety, and accountability as mayor

The head of an Oakland organization that sued the city over its failed homelessness policies is taking on career politicians in a bid for mayor.

Seneca Scott, executive director of grassroots organization Neighbors Together Oakland, said his focus is tackling the biggest threats to health, safety and prosperity across all parts of the city. 

His group was formed among business owners and residents at the onset of the pandemic aimed at challenging the city's approach to homelessness and encampments and demanding immediate action. Scott now wants to lead the city in those efforts.

"We have to be honest with ourselves that we are in a very serious crisis," Scott said. "There are burned-out cars and trash is everywhere. There is massive human suffering, and our neighbors are not just terrified, but also ashamed to walk down the streets that they know and love."

Adding to the running list of 14 other prospective mayoral candidates, Scott said his motivation started by seeing squalor, encampment fires, and violent crime all increase.

He said Neighbors Together maintains the city failed to enforce its own encampment management policy, so the group sued. A trial is scheduled for April.

"An encampment is the visual representation of our failures," Scott said. "As we walk, bike and drive by each other every day we’re intentionally aware of the mutual shame that we feel for allowing ourselves to get here."

With Mayor Libby Schaaf termed out, Scott said he has the solutions to deal with the growing problems.

He’s proposed a zero tolerance policy and stiff penalties for illegal dumpers.

Scott also wants to make is safer for small businesses and decrease neighborhood crime by boosting police resources, training and staffing.

As an Oaklander for a decade, he said he wants to look out for all, especially in the flatlands where disparities are evident.

"The most important thing is that we start caring more for each other," Scott said. "We need to start to talk to our children because it’s mostly our children who are acting violently right now."

Violent crime, theft and policing are just a few of the issues that have become the source of political debate.

But Scott said he will stand out as a leader of courage, conviction and someone who cares about his neighbors.

With inflation and supply chain issues, Scott wants to create a city department of agriculture to benefit the entire community.

"We could be growing food and growing plant medicine as a revenue generator and to sustain our lives," he said. "Have you seen these prices at the grocery story? Have you seen the gaps in the shelves?"

Scott is among an already crowded group of potential candidates including progressive city councilmember Sheng Thao who has received several political endorsements.

Additionally, councilmember Loren Taylor plans to run and has backed Mayor Schaaf on many policy decisions. She has not announced any endorsement.

Also planning to run is councilmember Treiva Reid and former council president Ignacio De La Fuente.

Potential candidates can officially file to be on the ballot in July.

The election is scheduled for Nov. 8.

Brooks Jarosz is an investigative reporter for KTVU. Email him at brooks.jarosz@fox.com and follow him on Facebook and Twitter: @BrooksKTVU