'They didn't see me coming': Oakland community organizer defeats two-term city councilwoman

OAKLAND, Calif. (KGO) -- There was a big political upset in the East Bay -- A housing activist who sparked a national movement is now on the Oakland City Council, ready to transform the city.

From community organizer to council member-elect, Carroll Fife says she's hoping to combat the housing crisis in her city from inside City Hall.

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"It's the place where I've been organizing my entire adult life. I was evicted and I was displaced from this district and I've always said that I was going to come back," said Carroll Fife, Oakland Councilmember elect District 3.

In the last five months, she along with more than 700 volunteers knocked on over 12,000 doors, campaigning to unseat two-term City Council Incumbent Lynette Gibson McElhaney.

"It was a successful campaign because they didn't see me coming," said Fife.

Fife is now turning that campaign team into her personal group of advisors.

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"We are transforming that structure into a permanent organizing structure where the people are consistently giving their voices for what should be the agenda for the councilmember," said Fife.

Last November Fife was one of the main organizers for the "Moms 4 Housing" movement in which Oakland moms occupied a vacant house for two months.

"I want to see inclusionary zoning. I want to make housing a human right to make it the priority," said Fife.

Fife is looking into proposing a tax increase for corporations.

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"Oakland is one of the only cities in Northern California that doesn't have a progressive business tax that taxes your gross receipts based on income," said Fife.

Another idea Fife has for housing is protecting tenant past the pandemic moratorium.

"We had federal bailouts. We had a federal bailout of the bank. We bailed out billionaires by astronomical amounts. We've done it in the former housing crisis. Why can't we do the same thing?" said Fife.

The city of Oakland says they have a homeless strategy framework looking to address homelessness which includes creating affordable, extremely low income and permanent supportive housing units. Fife says that's not enough.

"I had a platform that really resonated and it's a time of transformation and people want to see something different. I think that's why I won," said Fife.
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