Listening as the Clock Ticks: Mitchell Oster on Political Organizing

Traveling by water taxi: Mitchell takes a scenic ride to San Francisco!

“There’s an old adage that, around election time, voters behave stupidly. That’s wrong. Voters are treated like they’re stupid. It’s not the same thing.” Mitchell Oster doesn’t mince words. In fact, as Save The Bay’s new Regional Political Organizer, he finds there’s much to be gained by avoiding them altogether. “The most important thing you can give of yourself [as an organizer] is the openness to listen to the other person. An exchange of ideas is how you unlock an unexpected opportunity.” Interestingly, Mitchell made this connection in public schools – not political circles. Save The Bay’s newest Policy staffer spent six years working as a paraprofessional. Mitchell says his experience in a special education setting taught him that “different people come with different gifts. You have to be willing to meet them where they are.”One summer, he decided to spend his free time volunteering for a “young candidate’s” campaign. Mitchell worked tirelessly calling voters, planning events, and entering data. The candidate lost. From his defeat, Mitchell learned something powerful: “even when you lose, you can still bring people together around a cause.” The candidate’s field offices covered an expansive area, but the political hopeful still “drove to every one with a six-pack and pizza and spoke to all of the reps” on election night. Mitchell brought this model of empowerment to his role as Field Organizer for Measure AA, and ultimately, to Save The Bay. “I’m building the number of people who support us. I’m working to maximize the positive impact we can all make on our Bay.” As a Californian who loves the outdoors, Mitchell wants to make sure nobody takes San Francisco Bay’s beauty for granted. “Part of what I want to do [at Save The Bay] is raise an alarm to people who do care but perhaps don’t know how much there is left to be done – or how to do it effectively.” Mitchell is sounding that alarm right now – on several fronts – with state and local elections coming up in both June and November 2018. A top priority? Empowering Save The Bay’s wide range of supporters to win additional state money for wetlands restoration. But Mitchell is also helping his Policy colleagues fundamentally expand their scope. He’s fighting for sustainable development measures that center on housing and transportation. The vision: pass equitable laws, ones that protect the environment while benefiting our diverse community. Even as these elections grow closer and closer, Mitchell remains unfazed by the ticking clock. Our Regional Political Organizer thrives under pressure, and finds: “in a strange way, the urgency and stress is calming. There’s certainly an adrenaline rush. Getting into the cycle is when things start to feel normal.”