Change Meow: the California neighborhood where dogs and cats are vying for mayor


OAKLAND, Calif. (Reuters/CBS News) — Amid the acrimonious political fight playing out across the U.S., a neighborhood in Oakland, California, is putting on a much friendlier race, with dogs and cat vying to become the mayor of a local street.

Mary Owen, a 57-year-old project manager whose 11-year-old Shiba Inu named Mimi is running, called the race a much-needed reprieve from the animosity shown in the nation’s capital.

“Honestly, I think everyone just needs a little levity from this anxiety-filled election season and so this has just been a pure joy for our neighborhood just to be out here talking with the constituents,” Owen said.

The 55th Street mayoral race started with one incumbent cat named Wally running unopposed, but a few canines and felines pounced at the opportunity to make this cat-and-dog race competitive.

“We decided our cat Betty seemed mayoral and that maybe we needed a change on 55th Street and we thought we’d just jump right in,” said Kirstyn Russell, a 49-year-old photography teacher whose 10-year-old Tabby has a campaign sign in the yard with the slogan “Change Meow.”

The only campaign finance decision in this race depends on each owner’s budget. Betty’s sign includes the punny financial disclosure “Paid for by Oakland Purrrgressives”.

Russell’s daughter Maeve, 8, will cast her ballot for Betty.

“She’s really good and she wants to crush the patriarchy, and so that’s why I’m going to vote for her. And she’s awesome,” Maeve said.

Owen said it’s a chance to share the importance of civic engagement and participation with kids.

“Mostly we’re teaching the kids about democracy and about fairness, equity, justice. And we’re going to have all the kids make a choice, put it in the ballot box, have a little talk about democracy and our country, and of course candy because it’s Halloween night,” Owen said.

The neighborhood will host an outdoor, mask-required election for the kids on Halloween night. One neighbor who works as a graphic designer is building a ballot box and printing ballots with each candidates’ face on them.

The ballot will – like in California’s actual elections – feature ranked voting, in which voters rank their preferred candidates.

Rachel Kadner, a 43-year-old school librarian, put 6-year-old pit bull mix Macy on the ballot with the slogan “Keep Oakland Ruff.” Kadner said the joyfulness and community behind the election has been the best part.

“People are really responding to just how fun this is. The amount of pet puns that come out are incredible. (It’s) just a way to enjoy our neighborhood and enjoy our neighbors,” Kadner said.

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