Webster Lincoln, 33, has positioned himself as a homegrown data scientist who, if elected, will bring critical thinking and problem-solving skills and an understanding of the community's spirit, culture, history and challenges to his role on East Palo City Council.
"I'm new to politics, but I have strong and deep roots in this community," Lincoln stated in his campaign statement. "My goal as a council member is to improve quality of life, health, and housing security for all members of our community."
Born in Oakland, Webster was raised in East Palo Alto and attended Menlo-Atherton High School. He continued his education at San Jose State University, where he obtained his bachelor's degree in psychology, with a double minor in biological science and chemistry, and is pursuing a master's degree in biological science. He has had multiple bylines in biomedical journals during his career as a data scientist at various companies along the Peninsula, including his current role at Genentech.
"Regardless of the stigma that East Palo Alto had in the '90s ... there's success within the community," Lincoln said in a Facebook Live event he hosted on Oct. 4 on his campaign page. "I hope to inspire other people and make sure that East Palo Alto also remains a place, where regardless of your socioeconomic status or your skin color or where you live, there's always opportunities for people to make it."
Lincoln is seeking a seat on the council to ensure that East Palo Alto's future accommodates its residents — something he believes the council hasn't always kept in mind when making policy decisions, especially those that could lead to gentrification. He points to the time when the council set aside its long-standing first-source jobs rule of hiring to make way for Amazon in 2017.
"There's a big divide in the community," Lincoln said. "Some people say (Amazon) is good for revenue, but other people say, 'No, it causes displacement.'"
Lincoln hopes to bridge that divide by seeking policies and developments that are representative of East Palo Alto's residents.
When it comes to housing, for example, Lincoln said the city needs to focus on developments that increase access to affordable and low-income housing.
According to his campaign website, he would focus on inclusionary zoning ordinances, increase multifamily housing zones and provide incentives for homeowners to build second units on their property.
Lincoln also believes that the needs to encourage mixed-use developments that can house residents as well as projects that can accommodate small businesses and startups.
The city has already made efforts to ensure new commercial office space will benefit the community through Measure HH — the 2018 voter-approved parcel tax on larger office developments, which will fund housing and job training programs. Lincoln said the measure, however, is not enough.
"We need to focus on development that supports people and helps prevent displacement within our community," he said. "I want to move good development forward, but I don't want it to be at the cost of our residents and our diversity."
On top of affordable housing and equitable development, Lincoln is pushing for greener building standards.
By establishing a climate change task force, the city should start taking an emissions inventory to keep track of East Palo Alto's overall climate impact, he said. That data could then be integrated into all of the city's decision-making, including new developments.
Police reform is also a top priority in Lincoln's campaign.
"I think we need to take a step back and really look at what is policing," he said. "What's the need for policing? And what really should police be doing in our communities?
Lincoln said he believes the city should create a task force to evaluate how many arrests and traffic stops are the result of racial profiling and other bias. He hopes to significantly reduce negative interactions between the police and local residents, partly by redirecting traffic enforcement duties away from officers and handing them to unarmed civilians. (The Berkeley City Council approved a similar proposal in July.)
Lincoln also supports reallocating some of the city's police budget into a "Restorative Justice Fund." His campaign website states that the fund would provide down payment assistance for displaced residents looking to return to East Palo Alto; small business loans and grants; and support for science, technology, engineering and math education programs.
For traffic congestion, Lincoln acknowledges that it will likely require longer-term solutions that will extend beyond a four-year term on the council. Still, he hopes he can push support toward a southern connection to the Dumbarton Bridge that would link the Bayshore Freeway south of the Embarcadero Road and Oregon Expressway in Palo Alto. Another possible solution would be to extend public transit from the east bay, since most of the traffic isn't coming from East Palo Alto, Lincoln said.
"We really need people on the council who do their research, read the documents and are forward thinkers," Lincoln said. "Right now, we're in a place where we can negotiate how this development is occurring and moving forward. At the end of the day, I'm running for City Council to represent and align with the people."
Read profiles of the other six candidates: