Prioritize Oakland Indies First: A Letter to Our Mayor and Councilmembers

by | Jul 6, 2019

An “Oakland Indies First” Vision to Ensure a Bright Future for Oakland

Yes, we wrote a letter to the City of Oakland to propose that we get together to develop an “Oakland Indies First” vision. The benefits of such a bold approach are far reaching. In short, this approach to imagining Oakland’s future would ensure that we have a city that we all enjoy to live in.

The Letter

Dear Mayor and Councilmembers

By now, I hope you have all heard about LOCALMOTIV. Maybe you are familiar with our mission to create an ecommerce solution for people who crave an easier way to shop locally online. We believe our one-stop local shopping platform will disrupt the online shopping landscape and prove to help Oakland indie proprietors win in this challenging space. But that is not why I am writing to you.

LOCALMOTIV is concerned about the future of Oakland Indies

I am reaching out because we at LOCALMOTIV have transformed from bootstrapping startup entrepreneurs into activist-entrepreneurs. Why? Because while working on LOCALMOTIV we have become painfully aware of a very troubling scenario: Too many of our local independent small businesses are struggling. Each one is a “David” individually fighting hundreds, if not thousands, of “Goliaths.” And many dedicated owners have already shuttered their doors. And more are sure to follow.
The problem is not only heartbreaking, it’s not sustainable. And I am absolutely certain that you all feel the same way about this untenable situation as we do.
Because we all know the value and importance of having a thriving indie scene. First, it is a powerful economic engine for diverse growth. Secondly, small businesses have less impact on the environment. And perhaps most importantly, indies help create healthy and vital communities that we can all enjoy. We all know that a robust Oakland indie community, at minimum, enriches our own lives and the lives of those around us.

An Oakland without Indies will transform it into a city without soul

Indeed, without a successful independent small business community, we can be sure that Oakland will lose its identity, character, and soul. And it can happen very fast–like another city nearby that shall remain unnamed. And quite frankly, we have seen this scenario repeat itself over and over in communities all over the USA.
But we don’t have to let that happen here. We don’t have to stand by helplessly and idly watch Oakland transform into something like a glorified and gentrified suburb. That is not why people seek to live in Oakland, right?
There are things that we can all do to rectify the situation.
I am new to activism, so this might be a rather clunky and naive approach (I don’t know what I don’t know, sorry). But, we need to do something–together–to preserve Oakland’s spirit and to make it even better for all Oaklanders.

A modest proposal

Here is what I propose: We should all meet to discuss the possibility to create a “Local Business First” vision for Oakland. Let’s determine how to advance it by building necessary alliances, policy making, and marketing. Let’s also identify the roadblocks to implementation and how to remove them.
Now, I am not so naive to think that you don’t have much bigger fish to fry, like: homelessness, crime and safey, our environmental issues, and our roads, etc. And I wouldn’t be surprised if there were developers and big Corporations throwing around their weight and money to get what they want.

An Oakland with a vibrant Indie scene can help solve the systemic problems

But here’s the rub: If we can successfully launch a “Local Indies First” initiative, we can produce the growth necessary to effectively address and fund those larger systemic problems. In other words, we need our local business community to thrive in order to tackle the very difficult problems we all face here in Oakland.

How to proceed

Let’s start with this compelling toolkit from ILSR. First, it covers the benefits of Local First policies. Starting on page 6, it conveniently outlines several easily adaptable local policy initiatives. These platforms have proven to be successful elsewhere in the U.S. We can use this document as an anchor for our discussion.
There really is no downside to this approach. And there is possibly a fantastic political upside–certainly, Elizabeth Warren knows this.
Warmest regards,
Sarah Stefaniuk

Before you go

If you are aligned with our vision for the future of oakland:  Consider joining our movement. We need to build a strong collective voice to demand the City of Oakland preserve our city and design a viable, vibrant future for it. Let’s build an “Oakland Indies First” movement together. Follow us on Facebook and Instagram. Participate in the conversation!

Interested in the “Local Indies First” approach? Read another blog that we wrote recently about this critical subject.


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