Leafbox Podcast
Interview: Seneca Scott - Candidate for Oakland Mayor 2022

Interview: Seneca Scott - Candidate for Oakland Mayor 2022

Seneca Scott was so generous to give me an hour of his time to walk through his background, his philosophical framework, his vision for Oakland and give me what he call’s the “Green Pill”....

Seneca Scott was so generous to give me an hour of his time to walk through his background, his philosophical framework, his vision for Oakland and give me what he call’s the “Green Pill”. He’s running as an independent for Mayor of Oakland, California in 2022.

Leafbox: Seneca, I really appreciate your time today. I was looking through your Twitter feed, your bio, reading a few articles about you, you stood out to me since I used to live in the Bay Area, and had a warehouse in Oakland and before we start that maybe you can tell us about where you grew up, and I know you went to Cornell, and some of your background before we get into what you are doing now?

Seneca:Sure, I grew up in Cleveland, Ohio, I was born and raised there. My background is pretty normal, mid-western life, my parents were high school sweet hearts, my father’s side of the family includes some famous lineage, Coretta Scott King.

Leafbox: So Seneca, you grew up in Cleveland, Ohio, normal family, parents being high school love birds?

Seneca:Yep. And I have some civil rights lineage on my father's side with Coretta Scott King being my grandfather's niece, so my father's first cousin and my first cousin once removed. We've always had a proud history of just being involved in the neighborhood. My mother has been a long time union rep, she's held every elected position in her teachers' union over the years, and just being engaged people in our church and our community and in the workplace.

And so I was actually conceived in Isfahan, Iran, although my parents made it back in 1979, right before I was born in May, in late spring. So I just barely missed the cutoff for being able to run for president of the United States by being born on the mainland because I would've been born in either Europe or in the Middle East where I was conceived at. And I came to Oakland-

Leafbox: What were your parents doing in Iran?

Seneca:A lot of Black Americans moved to the Middle East during the '70s to escape the bad economy, racism, looking for greener pastures. My father was a photographer, he worked with Bell Helicopters taking pictures of the oil fields on helicopters with long lenses, really skilled work, and did some photojournalism. My mother was a writer and still has sort of... Bohemians if you will. And my father's older brother had moved to Saudi Arabia, he worked for the Air Force and was doing research on the Black Hawk helicopter, of which he actually was one of the people who helped invent that technology back in the early '80s.

So a lot of people don't know this, but before Arab Spring of '79, it was like Dubai over there. Lebanon, Beirut was a beautiful coastal city. It's returned to prominence, not its old glory, but it's not a war torn shell anymore. But before that happened, it was beautiful. My parents had seaside houses and multiple vehicles, and they had all their money in Iranian banks. And like many Americans, their money was seized when the fundamentalism started and the Shah took over and they lost over a hundred grand. This is in the '70s, a hundred grand in US dollars that was in their account.

Had to come back to Ohio and start over with me in the belly, and my older brother in tow, who's four years older than me. So they moved back, luckily for me, both sides of my parents, both of their families owned their homes as investment properties, so we were able to have a house that was owned by my grandfather. And I grew up in pretty normal working class, inner city lifestyle until crack hit in '95. Things got so bad so quick, my parents bought a house in the suburbs meaning that we didn't have to pay any rent. So you can imagine the sacrifice from living in a house that your parents own to have to pay a mortgage just because things got so unsafe so quick.

And in my new public high school, 15 minutes away from my own house, it was a night and day level of education. That was my first brush with institutional racism, if you will, in a way that was tangible to me. The infrastructure of how we do things was blatantly racist. And what I mean by that is property taxes are used to determine the quality of education in public schools, but you have a group of people who had a significant head start on acquiring property through hundreds of years, if not, and then we said... all this, all the fuckery, right?

So how do you have this group that's been disenfranchised from acquiring property and then continue that path of disparate treatment of public sector schools depending on wealth and property taxes? I think it should be one standard for the state, but that's just me. So my education was night and day, bro, and I had to... In my physics class, I was AP physics, I showed up, I looked at the test, I've got to take a midterm in two weeks, I'm like, "Bro, I don't know none of this stuff, teacher." I didn't talk-

Leafbox: So Seneca when you moved, the new school was much better, you're saying? Is that what you're saying?

Seneca:Much better. Much better. And then my teacher told me, I said, "Hey, can I get an extension through winter break so I could take this physics test after winter break?" This story I always tell because it made a big difference to me. And the teacher said, "No, because you already have a plus 4.0 GPA that we had to absorb from your old school. And we've got complaints from parents that you're valedictorian and all of that stuff, and you've had an unfair advantage because the other school is easier."And I said, "I don't care about valedictorian, I care about learning the material, and being judged fairly." And he said, "Well, see how you do. And for some reason we could petition afterwards." So the person who ended up being valedictorian, Ali Shapiro, offered to tutor me, and he did, and I got an A on it. But it always stood out, that experience for me.

And because of that experience, I was able to go to Cornell or I would not have been prepared had I continued my trajectory in inner city education. So I may have gotten in, maybe, but I wouldn't have been prepared to succeed. And like many inner city children who have poor education who matriculate to high Ivy Leagues or elite universities, the drop out rates are high because they're just not ready for the intensity of the curriculum, it's just night and day compared to children who went to private schools or more affluent spaces.

So I went to Cornell, studied industrial labor relations, had a blast in college. I started organizing as a union organizer while in college during my junior year summer. And I actually worked, and would go back and forth my last year of college, I stayed five year to work as a legal organizer in California with the United Domestic Workers. So the moment I got out of school, studying school of industrial labor relations, I went right into a director position at the Central Valley director with 50 staff.

Leafbox: Seneca, when you were at Cornell, what were your politics like then?

Seneca:My politics have never changed. I only officially joined the Democratic Party to run for city council in 2020 at the insistence of my campaign manager who was one of Chesa Boudin's ADAs. Lovely, lovely, brilliant young lawyer, and she would not take me on as a client unless I joined the party to get myself in that chance to win. It made logical sense to me, although not ideological sense because I always been more of a free thinker.

But in college I was a union organizer and I had the same value system that I have today, working people need to stop getting the shitty end of the stick. Working people deserve to have more say and control over the means of production. And the experience on economic mobility in this country is what makes us special and labor history is American history and there's nothing more important to our destination than the American worker and the American family.

I've maintained that value system, it seems that the country's values have dramatically shifted. And the reason I got back into politics in the first place was just being a regular neighbor and local business owner and community organizer, I felt completely disenfranchised. I saw right through the facade of our local labor union and non-profits, most of them, not all, who claim altruism, but when you look at their leadership, they don't live in impacted areas, or they don't look like the people they mean to serve, not that that's a requirement, but the pattern is a red flag, especially when it comes to a person like myself who is Black, has dreadlocks, doesn't code-switch, is very informal in my approach to mass communication-

Leafbox: Could you tell me before, not to interrupt you, just the code-switch word. I think-

Seneca:Code-switch means you change when you're talking to white people, to Black people, or poor people to rich people.

Leafbox: Got it. So you basically stay the same as you.

Seneca:I don't ever change.

Leafbox: Got it.

Seneca:Now, there are slight adjustment to communication to your audience, you don't want to alienate everyone with vocabulary. But when it comes to substance, I don't change. I don't change what I talk about. I only try to make it understandable. If the meaning of communication is the response you receive, I want my communication to be received, so I will make adjustment as appropriate, but not for... To give you an example. If I go to 98th and MacArthur or 98th and International, in East Bay Dragons headquarters and I'm talking to majority poor, Black and Latinos, and then they ask me questions about homelessness and crime and economy. Then I go to the hills and they ask me the same questions, both people get the same answer.

Leafbox: No, I think that's very... How was that ?. So when you joined the Democratic party, did they engage more in the code-switching, or did they...

Seneca:No, I didn't never join the party, I just registered as a Democrat. I never went to any party stuff. I just registered because in Oakland, if you're not a registered Democrat, you can't come to a lot of the forums and debates.

Leafbox: Got it.

Seneca:So being a new candidate, you don't have assets, you already don't have a lot of money, you need every opportunity to get your name out. And so they control the political system here. So this time around, I'm an independent and I call myself post-partisan, meaning I don't go left-right, I go up-down, you have integrity and solutions or you don't, and that's it.

Leafbox: That sounds a little bit like the Andrew Yang Campaign.

Seneca:Yeah, he took my shit, bro. Andrew Yang... I'll be joking. But I will say this, members of my campaign worked on Andrew Yang's campaign in New York City. And the reason they were attracted to my message was because they saw what Andrew Yang was missing, an actual plan to introduce a third political party to the United States of America. And I've got that plan and we've started it with proof of concept with me running for mayor in a Democratic super liberal city on a contrarian message where I routinely torment progressive Democrats, and I'm still popular when I shouldn't be.

Leafbox: Do you think you're in a similar movement to what Tulsi is doing right now? Tulsi Gabbard?

Seneca:Very similar except the difference is, and this is the same thing with Tulsi, I can't comment if she's messing up yet or not, but here's what they're missing my good neighbor, they're missing neighborship. The reason I call my non-profit Neighbors Together Oakland, and we will call our political activist committee, which we're starting after this election, Neighbors Together America, it's the only way to rebuild local politics, is locally.

People always like to say all politics are local, and they completely ignore the gruel, the organizing, the patience it takes to organize door to door, neighbor to neighbor. So we're going to start over and here's what we're going to do. Here's the plan. And the timeline of this plan can change depending on the political velocity of our country. So this move under current status quo, which is by no means a given, so these numbers can change, but the approach and methodologies won't. Here's what I'm trying to do in American politics.

I want the neighbors to run for offices that impact them. And I want to start a political revolution at the lowest level of politics. What are the lowest-level elected positions? And what are the boards and groups or all those things that make up the electorate advisory board? What does that look like in your area? I want to pick 100 targets in America. I want to spend two years researching those targets and finding neighbors like myself who are dynamic people who are not traditional politicians, but have the knowledge, skills and ability to perform a job.

And I want to get them elected for city council, school board, at most mayor, nothing higher than the mayor position. And those would be with... cautiously approach. And then you want to win those positions at a 60% win rate, and then you want to get them re-elected. That's decade one. That's how long it takes.

Then at decade two, in the 2030s, if you will, we want to take those same people, if not more, use that pack to run them for higher positions now that they've served two terms they can run for mayor, they can run for state legislator, or county board of supervisors, whatever, everybody's set up different, whatever the next level of the trial is. Then and only then would you name your party. It has to remain decentralized, and it has to remain asymmetrical because that's what revolutions are.

A political third party being a legitimate threat to a duopoly that they control with an iron fist is a revolution. Revolutions don't have names until they do. That's what supposed to and they ain't no messing up, in my opinion. It seems like controlled opposition. I'm not going to pass judgment, I like what Tulsi Gabbard's doing, but she needs to take it back local, very, very local, and use her influence to influence local politics where she's at. So thank you for listening to all of that, but that's kind of what I'm after here. I want people to get involved.

Leafbox: Do you think the libertarians are doing a similar kind of strategy? I think you follow-

Seneca:They don't have a strategy. I don't hear a strategy. I don't hear any incubation of a language. Language is metaphysical. The party is called the Neighbor Party, I'm just not naming it. I never say voter, I'll never say constituent, I'll never say voter, I'll never say resident again. I'll only say neighbor.

Leafbox: So let's go through some of your neighbor initiatives. I was looking at your website. Well, in Oakland when we had our warehouse there, the neighbors were all kinds from other businesses to street workers, to homeless people. Very-

Seneca:When did you leave?

Leafbox: I left four years ago, and it was just getting too... to be honest, it was just impossible to do... We were on 30th and San Pablo, and it was just...

Seneca:Yeah, I know exactly where you are you. You're in the west like me.

Leafbox: Yeah, so it was a very challenging place and it's just crime. And to be honest, the biggest thing for us was we kept getting hit by graffiti, just constant graffiti, and then the city would be there the next day to fine us.

Seneca:It's even worse now. If you thought it was bad then, the whole town's tagged now, bro.

Leafbox: I know, but they would fine us and then we'd have to paint it, and it just became such a cost. We'd paint it'd be like a thousand dollars to paint the whole building or whatever, and then the next day they'd be threatening us with fines and then the graffiti would come up again. We didn't even have a problem with the prostitutes because they kind of... It just devolved into chaos and-

Seneca:Yeah, we're collapsing. You're right, that sounds about right.

Leafbox: So it's interesting.-

Seneca:Four years ago, it's gotten remarkably worse since then, if you can imagine.

Leafbox: So I'm interested in that post-partisan description because I think Californians are very scared to have quote "Republican" or conservative ideals or ideas, but everything you're sounding sounds... I went to Berkeley for college, and it sounds like classic left wing kind of class politics, your position, maybe with a more decentralized approach. And nowadays a lot of what you're saying gets tagged as almost right wing or... I don't know what the politics are.

Seneca:Yeah, I'm way out of here to the progressives.

Leafbox: Yeah, so I just wonder-

Seneca:Union organizer as a farmer, and I've only helped my hood, and I'm a poor guy who does his own thing, I'm really fucking Larry Elder to these progressives just because I dare to call them out on their hypocrisy.

Leafbox: So I'm just curious, what's your strategy for, I guess, inoculating against their attacks? I think people resonate with what you're saying. If you talk to moms in Oakland, regardless of race, they hear what you're saying. So I'm just curious what your strategy is for-

Seneca:Strategy is door to door, keep it small until it's not. But more importantly, tell the truth, tell it plainly and don't be afraid. So Gandhi has a great quote that I'm internalizing now as I'm going through these things myself, "First they ignore you, then they laugh at you, then they attack you, then you win." And there's a great video... have you ever seen a YouTube video or video about leadership where there's a narrator describing a boy dancing on a hill on a college party? Are you familiar?

Leafbox: No. Walk me through it.

Seneca:Yes, gladly. So there's a big old college party and they have a big slope like we had at Cornell, and all the kids are hanging out, sitting on the grass to music, hanging out and chilling, and there's loud music playing, it's like a big festival. And one guy gets up and he starts doing this funny little dance, but it's a simple dance, but he looks absolutely ridiculous. Think John Travolta in Pulp Fiction or something like that, doing a little simple dance. But he's doing it, and he's doing it enthusiastically, and everybody's laughing at him and looking at, "Who's that weirdo?"

Then a first follower shows up, and he starts does to dance with him. And the narrator goes, "If you want to start a movement, you have to be brave enough to stand alone by yourself and look ridiculous. Your first follower is the real leader. Your first follower is the real person who's courageous." That's the underrated form of leadership, is to be the first person to follow the lead of someone who everyone thinks is crazy. But the person who's leading's moves have to be simple enough to follow. That's a very important part, the moves have to be simple.

And then you get your first follower, and he does the move, now you've got two people dancing on a hill. Then the third person comes up, that third person is magical because now you have a group and now you have a movement. The time elapsed from one guy dancing on a hill to not even being able to see him because after the third guy, then a fourth and a fifth. By one minute in, people are breaking their necks, tripping over each other to dance on the hill, and the leader is nowhere to be seen in the picture.

That's how you do it, you nurture your first followers. When you have a movement, you keep it going and you keep your simple moves going, and then you give it up because it's not yours, it's the people's. And then we all dance on the hill together. So that sounds a little utopian, but the point I'm making is all mass movements and real grassroots movements start like that. And right now people are trying to buy movements. Any movement that's popular is fake. No grassroots movement of the people to face immense control or people who control the means of production, who induce fear and keep people under mentalcide and absolute rule, and social media, and all the things you're going up against, if your grassroots movement is immediately popular, then that shit is fucking fake.

That's what I thought. I saw right through Black Lives Matter, they co-opted it. It started off legit, and then they co-opted it and bought it out. Now everybody gets to put... if it's popular, it ain't a revolution. Revolutions aren't popular until they are, not in its infancy, that's ludicrous. So what I'm going to do is I'm going to take these arrows and bullets, I'm going to be called every name in the book, racist, transphobe, whatever the hell you want to call me. Like Eminem said, "I am whatever you say I am. If I wasn't, why would I say I am? I don't give a fuck."

And I'm going to dance on that hill. I'm going to keep my moves simple. And those moves are going to sound like this, "Working people, we're getting played. Working people, the banks are not your friend. Working people, Democrats and Republicans are alike, the one thing that they both agreed on out of all of this artificial fighting that they do is they all agreed that they should be able to continue playing that stock market, didn't they? Look between the lines, they're not our friends."It's time for a revolution. If you want a revolution that doesn't involve killing people and violence, you need to build a parallel system, not only of politics, but a parallel system of neighborhoods sustainability, decentralized soil-based economies. That's our revolution. Our revolution is acting out. Our revolution is taking back over our elected positions that control our taxpayer dollar from the small scale and then moving up. They can't stop it without ending our democracy. And believe me, the moment we figure this out, they'll twist the goal posts on us. And maybe we will have to get our guns out. Who knows? That's why I like guns. I like guns because guns are freedom. It used to be a sword or arrow."

There's a guy named Lars on YouTube, and I know this is a non sequitur, but this guy named Lars on YouTube was the best arrow dude, he's like the real Robin Hood. And this dude be shooting arrows and going around the wall and stuff. Remember the movie when they was bending the bullets with Angelina Jolie? He was doing that with the arrows, and he was talking about back in the day, they was shooting arrows around walls, 90-degree turns. And I'm like, "Man, they was shooting arrows for thousands of years." Imagine the sky going dark with arrows in a war.It's every which way to kill a person as you want, but when it comes down to it, the great equalizer, firearms, allows people to resist oppression and tyranny. And I hope it doesn't come to that, but that's why I'm an enthusiast and I train and I advocate for, especially, Black people, and single mothers and poor people to not give up those rights, and make sure that we could keep each other safe because we live in an oppressive system. This is not an okay system. This system is not set up for poor people, working people. So basically what I'm getting at is my politics ain't changed a bit. The left just sold out. They sold out.

Leafbox: With the COVID and the Ukraine war, and there's just no... a lot of things seem flipped now, it's very confusing.

Seneca:Yeah, it's okay for the left to be all... they're making excuses for war. Every war, there's a reason. Remember in, was it Legends of the Fall? Maybe Legends of the Fall, not Legends of the Fall... No, it was Legends of the Fall, I think. Or maybe it was the one with Mel Gibson. No, the one with Mel Gibson in the Revolutionary War. Do you remember that movie? Braveheart, but with the Revolutionary War?

Leafbox: What does Mel Gibson do there? He....

Seneca:He was the father of two young men and one of them wanted to fight in the Revolutionary War or the Civil War or something like that. No, Revolutionary War. Revolutionary war. And his son was like, "If we don't do this, then this and that." And his father told him, "There's always a reason to go to war. Every war, they will tell you, 'If we don't do this, something bad's going to happen,' and it's never true."

Leafbox: So Seneca, in Oakland or in the Bay Area, the Second Amendment is seen as pretty toxic. How do you convince your neighbors that those rights are-

Seneca:I don't agree with that framing.

Leafbox: I know. Maybe I'm in familiar... Here in Hawaii there's a lot of guns and a very strong gun culture, and there's a lot of respect towards firearms, both from liberty or for hunting or for sport. It's, I would say, a healthy gun culture. We don't have in Hawaii the gun culture maybe of Oakland with illegal guns or gang gun culture. So I'm just curious how you communicate or what's your framing? Maybe I'm not familiar with it.

Seneca:Here's the framing, we're not safe. If the police take 19 minutes to pick up a 911 call, then how are you going to protect yourself and anyone from anyone violent? I had a young... I call her young, but she's in her 60s, one of my neighbors visited me today and she said, "Seneca, I asked somebody were they voting for you, and they said, 'No, because that guy pulled a gun on someone.' And then I said, 'Well, you go to church with me, and I shot and killed a man before.'" I didn't know that, but yeah, I said, "Wow, you shot and killed a man?" She said, "Yeah, my ex-husband came into my house, and I had a restraining order, and I shot and killed him."I said, "Well, good for you." She said, "And good for you for protecting yourself." I said, "How do you think people think about it?" She said, "It's mixed feelings. People who live in impacted neighborhoods full of violence, they love it, the fact that someone like you is running for mayor because you're not a criminal, you're a nice guy, you run a garden. You just want to help your neighbors. You're just fed up." It's a net positive. It's a net positive. If you look at gun ownership in Alameda County, it's skyrocketed since COVID, the numbers don't lie.

Leafbox: That's because with the-

Seneca:California is the number one gun state in the country for the last two years in a row, it's California, not Texas. So the numbers don't lie. We buy more guns in California per person than any other state. Not as a whole, but per person on average, we're the most gun-biased state in the country right now. Why do you think that is?

Leafbox: Yeah, obviously the crime wave that seems to be growing.

Seneca:So I'm on the hill and my simple move is, "Get you a gun. Grow you some food." Those are my simple directions to people. Not be a vigilante, but be a responsible, trained gun owner. I don't like to say... And if it's not for you, don't do it, you should be of right sound mental health. You should not be a substance abuser. But there's a lot of things that go into firearm culture. People who are into firearm culture are usually the most safe people with the least amount of issues.

But here's the problem we've got right now in Oakland, it's the ghost gun. All the gun control went out the window, the moment I can make them in my tent, or my trailer, or my living room, or whatever like Legos. The youth are so smart. These kids today, they're geniuses, they grew up with the phones in their hand as babies, they grew up with the iPads in their face as babies, so there's nothing they can't do. I know 15-year-olds right now who will go, "I'll make you whatever you want. I'll build you an AR. I'll put the optics on it. I'll put a fully auto switch on it." 15-years-old gunsmith.

So once you've got the ghost guns in play and then don't even talk about the open borders. How are they going to be fierce about gun control and have a fucking open border? How does that make any sense? They're obviously not serious about it. So we have a gun problem in Oakland. There's too many guns, people use them. They've already got the switches on their glocks now, so now you've got people dumping mag 30 rounds at a second or so. It goes from being 10 to 12 shell cases to 200 shell cases in shootouts. Them bullets go somewhere, they find homes. Some of those homes are people who are innocent.So we're in a lawless, it's a lapse of society. Inflations are high, food and energy prices are escalating, there's no end in sight, we've got presidents talking about, "Well, we may have a nuclear war." People are scared about... I don't even worry about stuff like that to be honest with you. I don't care if they don't like it or not. What I'm going to do is do what I think is right and I'm going to give... I talk to neighbors all day, every day in all corners of the city, and they all say the same things to me, "I want someone who's serious about crime, who's not into performative politics, a purity pageant. I want someone who's not a hypocrite. I want someone who's honest, who can balance the interests between the house and unhoused, who understands that these external pressure facing in Oakland aren't this systemic root cause boogeyman who drop the postulancy.

Everyone's dealing with these problems, we're going to have to work it out together. And they all tell me this, "We don't feel safe. We need more police. We want the roads fixed. We want the homeless regulator. We want the open-air drug markets closed." They all tell me this. And I look around, and no one's running on it. So I said, "Do you know what I'm going to do? I'm going to give them someone to vote for, and see how this little experiment plays out. I'm going to say everything that I know people want, not under cut it.”

Leafbox: Seneca, are you shifting some of the window of what other candidates are talking about? Are they responding to your message, or are they just going-

Seneca:Absolutely. So check this out, in January I debuted my platform. I want to take us to 900 officers, we're at 680 roughly. I want 900 officers. I want an Encampment Management Policy that was unanimously passed in October 2020, two years ago, I want that implemented. Today is the 20th, huh? EMP. Hold on, I've got to do an EMP. I'm sorry. I was writing something down. EMP anniversary. Ooh, my list is piling up. So I want the Encampment Management Policy followed, and I want city hall open. We're still under a state of emergency, and city hall is still closed to COVID. City hall is still closed.

Leafbox: Yeah, they don't want to do anything, probably.

Seneca:Well no, it's deeper than that. It's deeper than that. Why do you think we're still in a state of emergency?

Leafbox: There's probably some federal funding issue or California funding issue or something, probably.

Seneca:No, but that's a good guess. I don't know. Okay. I can't say no. I don't know if that's an influencing factor or not, but that's not the primary factor in my opinion. Just the primary factor tied to our state of emergencies is an eviction moratorium that has been going on for two and a half years now. In Alameda County, in the City of Oakland, I've had an eviction moratorium for one year longer than most other counties in the state of California. Because of that, people are losing their shit. People are losing evaluations on their projects. Oakland is collapsing economically because no one's investing here because we have a state of emergency and you can't charge rent if people can just not pay.

Because of the moral hazard that we created by having just a blanket eviction moratorium where we didn't have any demand approved that you had to have a hardship, and there was no support for the property owner, but they claimed it was, but it never came to fruition, they created such a moral hazard to upwards of 20,000 renters in the City of Oakland are more than eight months delinquent on their rent, they ain't never going to be able to pay that shit. So the moment it's over, you've got a wave of evictions, 10% of your city is up for eviction. You can't have that in election season. 60% of Oakland registered voters are renters. You're going to get crucified.

So they've had no choice but to push it until after the election. And mark my words, the moment this election's over, magically, it'll go away. There's a major lawsuit right now against the county of... there's multiple lawsuits.

Leafbox: From the landlords?

Seneca:Yeah, from the landlords, the California Pacific Legal Fund joined one. It was started by Madison Park with John Protopappas, and California Pacific Legal Fund joined. And then there's another one with the City of Alameda is suing the County of Alameda for it, over this eviction moratorium where you cannot get rent and people can get to live in your place rent-free for two and a half years now.

Meanwhile, the city council responsible for the state of emergency, who cheerly goes unmasked to social events, travels, all of that, but claims it's not safe to go back to work and be held accountable or we have to go to city meetings, or open city hall. And there's another reason, four of our city council people out of eight, are currently running for higher offices. So they like not having to go to work and working from home because it allows to campaign on city time. Not that all of them are doing that, it's not a blanket accusation, but it's definitely a motivating factor for at least a select a few of them.

Leafbox: So Seneca, is the vibe still about defunding the police in Oakland, or is that just kind of…?

Seneca:Hell no. Defunding the police is so bad, the defunders are claiming it never happened. The defunders are like, "We never defunded."

Leafbox: Got it. So they were just gaslighting people.

Seneca:They're trying to memory hold 2020. They act like they never before defunded the police. This thing was ludicrously, comical thing I've ever seen. The progressives here are scared to say the word defund. They're terrified to say that, "I was for defund." And so they're going to lie and gaslight people and say, "We never defunded, the budget grew." Yeah, the budget grew, but it grew a lot less than it's supposed to, and we have a lot less cops and a lot less police academies because the budget didn't grow enough to hire them, and you stopped that. You had the Department of Violence Prevention and Reimagining Public Safety Task Force that had a stated goal of decreasing OPDs budget by 50%, and now all of a sudden y'all don't remember that shit?

So no defund the police is wildly unpopular in Oakland to the point that not a single person running for public office right now would dare use that hashtag.

Leafbox: So are they-

Seneca:However, they still regularly rub shoulders and work with the non-profits who are police abolitionists and defunders. So they're hypocrites. They won't say it because it's not popular, but they'll still do it, and they'll still work with the organizations who say do it, if that makes sense.

Leafbox: Got it. And then aside from increasing the police number, what other ideas do you have for the crime issues? Is this educational? Is it parenting? I'm just curious, where is the crime? Is it economic?

Seneca:All of that. All of that. Mentorship, starting urban agriculture like farms. We have legal cannabis and mushrooms And cannabis grows very well outdoors in Oakland. I'm smoking on some cannabis I grew in outdoors in Oakland right now. It's a great place to grow because kids like it, it makes some money. Food, vegetables, all things to be grown here. Our community garden has absolutely made our neighborhood of West Oakland safer, cleaner, and more vibrant.

And even the people who are not the best neighbors, the ones selling the drugs or doing the shooting, they even respect it and keep it and protect it. And because of our garden, in my particular neighborhood we don't have a lot of broken windows and we don't have a lot of the property death, and a lot of that comes because we work with the people who are selling the drugs and we tell them, "We're not going to tell you what to do or not do, but one thing we need your help with is to make sure that people aren't stealing from us and immediately taking it to you to fence for drugs. So if we tell you, and we show you some bling ideos or we show you the phone videos or whatever, and we show you that somebody is stealing, you've got to put them on timeout and not sell to them. And we needed your agreement on that, and then we won't call the cops on you, right?" But-

Leafbox: Do you have a similar strategy with the homeless or with the sex workers?

Seneca:The homeless? So here's the thing about the homeless. The homeless problem in Oakland, it's changed. So it's a different problem now, but the other problems still exist. Prior to 2018, when you left, 80% of the homeless people were Black and they were homeless in the neighborhoods they grew up in. Now, only 60% of Oakland's homeless are Black. We've grown 24% in the past two and a half years, during that eviction moratorium, and the average new face of a new homeless is a white male drug transient in RV buses. And they're flooding here, flooding here by the hundreds. We went from 360 homeless encampments to 800 in six months, just the last six months.

So I don't care how much housing or shelters you build, if people keep coming here, you're never going to keep up. Also, Housing First is a failure. We need shelter first, and housing earned. If 70% of your unhoused have drug addiction and mental health issues, we're forgetting the 30% that doesn't. The 30% that doesn't needs Housing First, they're just poor. But the others, they need drug and mental health rehab. We're never going to get a hold of this problem until we, number one, end the open-air drug markets and the permissiveness that creates the promised land of milk and fentanyl that Oakland has become.

That's the first step, we've got to stop people from going homeless. So we're going to have a big problem with our eviction moratorium, as I just said. The more I talk about the problems that the mayor's going to inherit, the more I'm like, "What the hell am I doing?" But someone's got to do it. But it's a quagmire. I believe that we're facing the great unwashed 2.0.

Leafbox: The great what?

Seneca:Are you familiar with the great unwashed?

Leafbox: I don't know that term.

Seneca:No one knows the term nowadays. How old are you, bro?

Leafbox: I'm 40.

Seneca:You're my age. Yeah. Don't you remember reading about the Great Depression and the Dust Bowl?

Leafbox: Correct, yeah.

Seneca:The great unwashed were the homeless people through the Dust Bowl because they was dirty, and all the homeless people in the Great Depression on the trains and the hobos and the shanty towns. We went through this before.

Leafbox: Yeah. I know the difference though-

Seneca:We're going through it again.

Leafbox: ... there seems to be a lack of... I don't know if it's the mental illness or the drugs seem harder. San Francisco's always had a homeless kind of vibe, but there used to be more of an independent hobo kind of vibe, whereas now there's definitely a violence and a lack of safety aspect. So I don't know if that's the fentanyl, or-

Seneca:No, it's all of it… It's the open air drug market free for all filled with hundreds of burned out vehicles, meth labs that explode, violence, and just... it's crazy. You'll be hard-pressed to find crazier things anywhere in the world right now. We can compete in some of our homeless campus in the Bay area for absolute bunker wildness. And not the whole city, but there are places that are competing with the worst slums in Haiti. How?

Leafbox: Well, at least in Haiti, there seems to be an understanding of the poverty, whereas in Oakland, it's difficult to understand when you have a base of resources there.

Seneca:We have the disparity. If you have the glaring wealth disparity in front of us, and then we have the escape... here's the big part. Escape avoidance behavior and normalcy bias, and those are mental conditions.

Leafbox: What is the normalcy bias? Is that when you start just accepting having people shooting heroin on the street? Is that-

Seneca:Yeah, anything that's bad becomes normal and you just accept it. People are-

Leafbox: Yeah, if someone visited from Singapore, they would've a heart attack if they went to Downtown Oakland.

Seneca:Yeah, and they'll be like, "What?" They're like, "This is not normal." And they're like, "Oh, it's normal for us." And they're like, "Well, wake the fuck up. This is not normal. What are you doing? You don't just let people trash your city and call it compassion. We don't let people die of drug overdoses and sleep in their own waste and feces, and go around acting all crazy and say, 'No, they have the right to do that. It's compassionate.'"

No one has the right to disenfranchise another person. We all have to be good neighbors, that's how I put it. I don't care if you're homeless or not. One of my best friends doesn't live in traditional houses. He's a plumber, he just don't want to spend the money on rent, he'd rather spend it traveling. So he has a trailer in our community garden, a great neighbor, one of the most popular people in our neighborhood. We're talking about people being bad neighbors. If you're stealing from your neighbor, if you're pooping and pissing, and living in the street, leaving needles out, acting crazy, you're a bad neighbor.

Leafbox: So let's talk to a more conservative, maybe the Asian community in Oakland, are they hearing your message? Or the business community, or-

Seneca:Yeah, we've gotten a lot of support from the Asian community in Oakland. We have tremendous support from the San Francisco recall Asian-American population. They've donated. Most of our Twitter followers are San Francisco recall people, a lot of them Asian. And they really love my stance on crime. They like that I'm honest about the violence that mostly young Black males are committing against mostly older Asian neighbors. And then I'm willing to speak up about that.

And if you look at the recall, which was mostly an Asian, but also a collaboration between Asians and Black people in Fillmore and other places that were impacted, we're all feeling the same disenfranchisement of the progressive left right now, the woke left. We're all saying, "This is crazy and this doesn't work for us." So we have a lot of support.

Leafbox: Are they doubling down? When you talk to the people who are more favorable of harm reduction or those kind of models, are they-

Seneca:More favorable of what? I'm sorry, I didn't hear you.

Leafbox: Let's say the traditional progressive who believes in harm reduction, full legalization-

Seneca:Oh, they hate that shit. It's ludicrous to them.

Leafbox: I know, but when they hear you, what, they just think you're a fascist? They just think you're-

Seneca:Oh, those people. Oh yeah, yeah. I hate poor people. I'm a racist fascist, and any name you can learn, I'm literally Hitler.

Leafbox: Got it.

Seneca:Meanwhile, my We Deserve Better coalition has homeless people on it and homeless advocates on it. I've never held a single press conference about addressing our homeless encampments without having homeless people speak at the press conference. I don't speak for people's lived experiences, I bring them to speak for themselves. And then I reflect what I learned from them, but I never speak for them. That nuance, that aggressive nuance, they hate it.

Well, here's another thing about being aggressively nuanced, someone can just tell part of the story and make you look crazy. And the reason that people are so sanitized, because they don't want to leave any room for weakness. So when you're aggressively nuanced, that means you have to consider alternative perspective, and you have to allow for just the contradictory nature of how people are. We're very contradictory. It's just how we are. It's genetic in us. We're very cautious, we're always second-guessing ourselves. And I think that it's... Let me redirect.

I think it is a projection. I have a saying, whenever I'm attacked by the progressive left and they're making up straw man or ad hominem attacks, or they can't debate on the issue, or they just ignore any facts, it's just extremely anti-intellectual in their approach, what I say is their accusations are confessions. When they say you're cool, it's a confession. You're accusing me of being cruel, but I'm a person who runs a community garden and grows food. Every Monday, I feed people who are homeless. I've housed several people in my empty bedrooms who have been homeless over the years, even though I don't talk about it.

I've helped donate to causes, and I work as a community organizer to make sure people are fed. I've helped people who have all these things that the philanthropists, to the tune of hundreds of thousands dollars out of my pocket in Oakland in the past decade. And the people saying this, they just walk their dogs and go home and talk shit at the end of the day. They don't even come out the fucking house in the neighborhood. And they have all this judgment and sanctimony about what actual stakeholders and activists are doing and saying, it's disgusting. It absolutely is... Do you know what it is? This is the last stage before genocide. And I truly understand how such intelligent people...

Do you know Germany, another... I do this a lot, I'm a little space cadet sometimes, my mind floats around and things that are connected to me may not stay on like they connect, but to me they connect. Germany and Japan did a cultural exchange in the late 1800s and the early 1900s. Are you familiar?

Leafbox: Correct, with the Meiji Restoration, yeah.

Seneca:Beautiful part of global history that should be encouraged more, right? More nations should engage in cultural exchanges like they did. Both of these people were very intelligent old cultures with a lot of tradition, a lot of pride, a lot of relevance. Germans, engineering, analytical. Japanese people, engineering, analytical, deep, reflective. And they both, in one decade, lost their fucking mind and started genocide and shit. How did that happen? These were agitated, intelligent, intentional societies. What happened to them?

What's happening to us right now? And if you look at the rhetoric and the escalation, hypocrisy, and the sanctimony, and the purity, all of that, I forget the name of it, but virtue signaling, all those things happen. And when you study, when I look at history, this is one of the last phases before I just have to kill you because you have a different opinion than I do. We're doing it virtually. We're trying to cancel people. We're going to really start canceling people if we don't get our shit together.

Leafbox: Well, that's what's so attractive about your neighbor model. It's very hard to kill someone who you know, and work with, and plot, and have a garden with. So that is-

Seneca:That part, brother, now that's the green pill. Everybody's got a pill now, that's what we call the green pill. When you realize that nothing else matters but your neighbor right now, and the only way to start over is to build mutual aid, a resilient community. Because guess what? If we all do that, if we all just stop, plant our own feet and let our own roots grow in our community, it's going to overlap quickly because they're not natural borders. Where does your neighborhood begin and end? That's why I called you my neighbor in Hawaii.

That's why I love Mr. Rogers, "Won't you be my neighbor." Everybody's a neighbor to Mr. Rogers. Very powerful work. Neighborship, what does it mean? Neighboring country? Neighboring city? It never stops. So let's start over with the people who live around you because if something happens, those are going to be the only people that matter.

Leafbox: So Seneca, going back to your green pill, where did you get that green pill from? Did someone start a farm or did you work on a farm? Or where did you get in touch with the earth first?

Seneca:My grandfather always had a farm, he's from Alabama, they grow. He kept a lot next door. But to be honest, I came to Oakland and I left the unions in 2014 and I wanted to cook. I was really into cooking and I wanted to cook and start a restaurant. And so I moved to Oakland, and right down the street, a community garden had just started. And I didn't know much about growing food or any of that. But I got involved and here you go, 10 years later, I know all about farming and growing food, and I've learned livestock and all of that. I learned a lot from the garden's co-founder, my good friend Jason Burn, he's from lower Michigan, and that's his lifestyle. So everywhere he goes, he just keeps goats, chickens... he recreates his home. And so he's largely responsible for bringing that energy to the lower bottoms.

And as an organizer, I help facilitate or blow it up or just make it bigger and better and get more attention to it. But on the day-to-day, he's milking the goats or getting the chicken eggs and all of that. So when I started doing it and I started Oakhella Festival out of the garden, we were selling breakfast sandwiches, we had a little popup. And to sell more breakfast sandwiches, I wanted to throw parties. So I had a Halloween party, we sold a bunch of food. Then I had a Christmas party, we sold a bunch of food and drinks. And I was like, "People are having a ball in a garden." It was like, I've never seen people happier than being around nature and birds and bees and chickens clucking in the inner city, and it's this beautiful surrounding with towering sunflowers.

There's an article in Makezine, Make Magazine, about Bottom's Up Community Garden, you can google it, it's called Organizing a Community Hub Around a Garden, or something. And I said, "Ah, this is it," and so we started upscaling it. And even though the garden will only anchor the festival, and it would go all the way down the block, the energy remains. And it just made sense, these are the new community centers, these are the new places that are third spaces that we need.

They serve a dual purpose of giving people an outdoor space to engage with their neighbors, get out of the house, get exercise, fresh air and sunlight. But also, you're not going to replace your food supply, but you can supplement your food supply with fresh vegetables and eggs that are not only very expensive for their counterparts, but the nutritional density is unrivaled. So it helps us become healthier. We get a gallon of goat milk a day, it gets drank by a few of us, that's a lot of calories we don't pay for. That's high quality calories and fatty acid. And all the eggs that we get from ducks and chickens, and the honey from the bees, and the herbs from the... all of that saves the money when you add it up. You're talking about a lot of money, when an heirloom tomato could be three to five bucks in a store.

Leafbox: So Seneca, is that your model then for the City of Oakland, not just agricultural-

Seneca:So I have a campaign platform and I'm going to read it off the flyer for you, so it's succinct. "Part of our campaign platform is changing our city charter for a more accountable mayor." I'm not going to go into that because most people can't follow it. "But our charter is confusing and we have a hybrid system of government unique to Oakland. There's no clear delineation of power in our city and that's why there's no accountability in Oakland's government. So one thing we're going to do as a charter amendment to give the mayor line item veto power and legislative power over city legislation."

So if you understand that, you do, if you don't, I can't explain much more. But here's the flyer. "Oakland is new leadership. Oakland's climate is destroying our potential." We just talked about the crime. "But businesses are failing and neighbors are leaving because the mayor won't enforce laws to stop crime. We are no longer functioning as a city and we are losing rule of law. I'm going to empower our OPD to increase staff to 900 officers and prioritize safety. We'll fight for vehicle confiscation and heavy fines to deter illegal dumping and clear abandoned vehicles."

I've already went over the homeless part. But then the third part is, "Growing food brings neighbors together and improves our community's health and safety. As food grows more expensive, families and elders will need to access healthy food locally to stay healthy. Seneca will lead the creation of a department of agriculture in Oakland dedicated to increasing our agricultural identity and viability to create a soil-based economy."

So I put it on my platform and on my website and everyone said, "People are going to think you're a weird hippy." And I said, "Well, it's order of operation, it's the last thing. We'll start with the crime and homeless first, but there's no out for that, there's no silver bullet. We're in the age of consequence. We've got to weather the storm." But that's just what it is. But something positive is growing our food and creating an edible and forgeable and walkable Oakland, and bikeable Oakland. And that to me, would be the most important thing that I'll accomplish as the next mayor because that's a real solution to building a parallel system in Oakland to sustain us as the current system pretty much collapses before our eyes.

Leafbox: Seneca, who are some of your mentors that are advising you or you're looking to follow or emulate?

Seneca:I have a high mind of people who are my friends, we argue all the time. Mentor-wise, he's dead, I never met him before, but Christopher Lasch, if you're familiar with the philosopher, he's absolutely a mentor with his writing which he left behind, in particular The Revolt of the Elites and the Betrayal of Democracy, which I believe was an amazing book. He wrote it and published it in the early '90s, and it describes what we're going through right now, eerily.

I've always looked up to a Booker T. Washington and Fred Hampton as mentors from beyond with the legacy and theology of revolution that they left with us. And I talked to Dr. Chris Martenson, I don't know if you know who he is.

Leafbox: Yeah, Peak Prosperity. Yep.

Seneca:Yeah, I watched that guy for two years. I randomly hit him on Twitter one day, and next thing I know I'm on his show, I've done an episode with him. It was the most awesome thing ever. And now we talk. I ask him, he could go answer policy questions, he'll do research, he's absolutely one of my mentors and people who... I got that from him, "I don't go left-right, I go up-down." That's Chris. That's his saying. "Either you haven't, have it if you don't," verbatim, that's Dr. Chris Martenson. So he's definitely one of my mentors now in terms of real people who I can call for advice and not necessarily the political stuff because he thinks I'm crazy for running, but-

Leafbox: Well, I think it's important regardless of your... Just shifting the window to, like you said, a mirror on some of the policies that aren't working and trying to find policies that are effective, regardless of politics, that seems like what people in the Bay Area are looking for. They just recalled Chesa Boudin because his policies weren't working and people are looking for alternatives. So it's the same... I think that Shellenberger was-

Seneca:They don't have any. I know Shellenberger too. Well, I don't know... I've met with Shellenberger. I do know him because I met with him but we're not friends. And then I just shot some content with his friend Leighton Woodhouse, his name is.

Leafbox: Yeah, the journalist. Yep.

Seneca:Yeah, he lives in Oakland, he's a neighbor over here. And I went to talk to him for a brief moment and we shot some content. But he got cleaned. Shellenberger did disappointingly low in the polls because I thought he was going to get a lot more votes. I didn't think he was going to win, but I thought he was going to get a lot more votes. He didn't even beat out the Republican candidate. And there's no reason for that. So what I've done is I've courted the Republican vote in Oakland. We have the Alameda County young Republicans door-knocking Oakland Republican voters for.

And I've been open that many Bay Area Republicans are really tired, there's just a duopoly, and they don't want to be independents or libertarians, they want a side, so they end up being team red. But if you talk to them, they're not like MAGA Republicans, they're more like regular Republicans. The regular Republicans are almost indistinguishable from Obama Democrats. What's the difference between these people at this point? So there's a lot of votes there. The 10,000 registered votes in Oakland for registered Republicans, 7,500 who vote pretty much in every election, and we're aggressively courting.... that's our secret path to victory because it's such a ranked choice voting combined with five candidates who are really in this, anything can happen.

Leafbox: What's your strategy for building a cabinet?

Seneca:So, for building a cabinet, I've already got some ideas in my head. So if I win, I would take the current... I don't know if you know the players in Oakland, but there are two main positions you've got to worry about. The city manager and the third position, I forgot the name of it. The city manager runs the city. The city administrator runs the city and then the other city administrator runs inter-department coordination, they're the guy who has to do all the work to get all the departments to work together and-

Leafbox: Get things done. Got it.

Seneca:Yeah, that's Joe DeVries. So I would get rid of Ed Reiskin. The current city administrator, Ed Reiskin, to me he needs to go somewhere else. And the third-in-charge Joe DeVries, he's been around a long time and we need continuity of government, especially with something as complex as Oakland's corruption. So I will elevate Joe Devries to the city administrator role as interim, he's going to have to earn that job if he wants it. He's going to have to earn that job, but at least I'll have continuity of government.

I will be recruiting from my own personal circles, I have lots of friends who I went to Cornell with who have served as city managers in the state of California for various cities who are very skilled and really smart business people that come with their own connections. Hopefully one of them will accept the job and be the number three for a while. And then after that I'm going to have to see what's up with the neighbors.

The whole point of getting the neighbor in office is to empower the neighbor. So I'll immediately have a neighbor conference at wherever city, wherever we can have it at, downtown, either Frank Ogawa Plaza or city hall, somewhere in the city government, and invite all neighbors who have a special set of skills like Liam Nelson, if you will, and all neighbors who want to work for Oakland and have executive-level positions or appointed for all positions show up, and we're going to have a whole symposium to educate them on what those positions do and just work it out and see where we can find talent at from our neighborhoods, and not do the same thing everyone else does, which is put people there that can get you influence with other people.But we're going to really seek out the best people to start, and we're not going to have a lot of time to do that because it's only two months from the election to the swearing in. Another thing is we have 20% vacancies in our city. So it's not just building your own cabinet, it's how do you attract people to want to work for Oakland, to think of this is an exciting place that's on the up and up? And we are, we have perfect... I mean, you lived here, you know. The weather's perfect. There's no reason Oakland shouldn't be the best city in the United States of America. We have everything we need right here. A port, a culture, idyllic weather, access to the Bay Area. The only thing we're missing is good leadership.

Leafbox: Well, it's very exciting to have an optimistic view, Seneca, I think. I wish you good luck. I'm very proud that you're at least trying to shift the window and try to find solutions, that seems missing from most politicians, so I commend you on that, Seneca.

Seneca:Thank you. I appreciate it. Well, every voice helps. All your friends you left behind here in Oakland, let them know to vote for me, send me money if they got some money, we still need it. Every day we're fighting, and that's it, man. Thank you for the hour and listening to me and providing me a platform to share what we've been working on.

Leafbox: And Seneca, what's the best way for people to follow up with your campaign?

Seneca:They can go to senecascottforoaklandmayor2022.com. We have one-on-one Zooms there, I do them every day. I don't think there's another candidate as accessible as I am, you can schedule yourself for 15 minutes with me. I'm on Twitter and Facebook. On Twitter, I try to be as responsive as I can, obviously, I'm in the middle of a campaign, so that's not perfect. But the best way to get a hold of me is email and to schedule a one-on-one Zoom because you'll have a meeting with me and I'll pop up on your computer and you can ask me anything you want.

Leafbox: Great. Well, Seneca, I really, really appreciate your time. Best of luck. We'll publish this interview and hopefully it gets you some more support and more questions and more people engaging in building neighbors.

Seneca:Thank you. I really appreciate it.

Connect with Seneca Scott @Seneca4Mayor

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