What’s next for Oakland Mayor Libby Schaaf? That seems to be the question on a number of people’s minds these days. After successfully warning all of the illegal aliens in her city (along with businesses who employ many of them) of an impending ICE sweep, Schaaf became something of a national figure. The White House and the DoJ called her out for her actions. The liberal cheering section was figuratively hoisting her up on their shoulders. So what now?
As the LA Times points out, there is zero danger of seeming too anti-Trump in a city like San Francisco where the President pulled an astounding 5% of the vote. The same holds for all of the state of California, and Schaaf is positioned to essentially write her own ticket to higher office there should she wish to do so. But more quietly, behind the scenes, there are some members of her own party and big supporters of illegal immigrants who are worried that Schaaf has gone too far and there may be some payback on the way.
“I wish she’d simply made that notification quietly,” said Joe Tuman, one of more than a dozen candidates who ran against Schaaf for mayor. “Because she’s in [Trump’s] gun sights, rhetorically speaking, Oakland is in his gun sights.”
Noel Gallo, a councilman who represents a large immigrant population in the city’s Fruitvale district, fears his constituents — many of whom are in the country illegally — will be the ones who pay a price. “The city of Oakland does need federal support for many services,” Gallo said. “I don’t want to get into a fight with Trump at that level.”
Nor, Schaaf responded, does she. She sat at a corner table in her City Hall office, the rainy morning brightened by a cheerful bouquet from a well-wisher, and made her case with lawyerly precision.
For her part, the Mayor is sticking to her earlier explanation and telling reporters that everyone has this story all wrong. Of course she wasn’t trying to give a heads up to the illegals so they could go to ground before ICE arrived. Perish the thought! She was simply trying to “avoid a panic.”
Quiet warnings issued through community leaders hadn’t worked, Schaaf said — “I had tried going through those informal channels” — so she issued a public alarm to ensure “the information about rights, responsibilities and resources was spread widely.”
Not, as critics have charged, to act as “a gang lookout,” but to avoid panic.
That’s a cock and bull story if I’ve ever heard one, but with the possibility of criminal penalties hanging over her head, I suppose she’s got to sell this tale as strongly as possible. But what about the other concerns that her fellow Democrats are raising?
There’s a distinct line between politics and the day-to-day logistics of running a major city. On the political side, Oakland can move boldly in a fearless fashion because they can essentially pretend that the Republican Party and conservatism in general don’t exist. Both are virtually extinct in the region. But when it comes to the business of municipal operations, Oakland doesn’t exist in a vacuum. They rely on money from the state and, as councilman Gallo pointed out above, from the federal government as well. If you start too big of a fight with the Trump team you quickly learn that they’re willing to kick back. And those are some pretty big boots.
Something tells me that the story of Libby Schaaf is far from over. Perhaps we’ll be seeing her on the ballot for the House or Senate someday soon. Or possibly on a court docket facing charges. Maybe both? Only time will tell.