Some say Oakland mayor's situation distracting from city's challenges

The FBI raid of Oakland Mayor Sheng Thao's home - and her fiery response to it Monday - comes as the city is facing an extraordinary number of challenges.

The big question many Oakland residents have is: can the mayor handle it all while facing legal trouble of her own? 

"I think we should avoid a rush to judgment here," said Ajay Martin, who lives and works in Oakland. "But on the other hand, I think it is a bad time for the mayor to be distracted from all the city's problems."

Problems like crime, business closures and budget concerns.

On Monday came official word that the Hilton Oakland Airport will close in August after 56 years in business, in part because of economic challenges after the pandemic.

On Sunday, Taylor Jay, a clothing store in the Rockridge District, had its "grand closing," a month after a break-in. Its flagship store at 24th Street and Broadway - itself broken into Easter Sunday - will remain open for business.

Eight days before the FBI raid, Thao stood with new Oakland Police Chief Floyd Mitchell, whom she hired, at his first news conference to discuss recent arrests. 

On Monday, Thao made her first remarks about the mass shooting on Juneteenth that injured 15 people near Lake Merritt.

"I am sickened by this senseless act of violence, and I want every Oaklander to know that we will work hard to ensure that those responsible are held accountable," Thao said.

At a rally outside City Hall immediately after Thao's remarks, retired Alameda County Superior Court Judge Brenda Harbin-Forte, a leader in the recall effort against the mayor, said Thao should step down because she can't effectively govern the city.

"This is all deflection at the mayor. She's trying to keep everybody from not focusing on that disastrous budget that the City Council's about to vote on," Harbin-Forte said.

Oakland civil rights attorney Walter Riley is a firm supporter of Thao.

"The mayor is on the job and doing that work that the mayor is supposed to do, mandated to do by charter," Riley said.

Oakland City Councilmember Janani Ramachandran succeeded Thao in representing the city's Laurel, Montclair and Redwood Heights neighborhoods. 

She isn't taking a stance on the mayor's situation but said of the FBI investigation, "It's causing even more mistrust in city hall than individuals already have right now, I absolutely understand that.

Ramachandran said she's focused on the city's mid-cycle budget, which has to be passed this week. 

"I am deeply concerned that we are nowhere near figuring out where councilmember amendments are, what the different proposals are," she said.

Henry Lee is a KTVU crime reporter. E-mail Henry at and follow him on Twitter @henrykleeKTVU and