'It's Good to Be Home': Kamala Harris Pays First Visit to Oakland as Vice President

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US Vice President Kamala Harris and California Governor Gavin Newsom tour the Upper San Leandro Water Treatment Plant on April 5, 2021 in Oakland, California.  ( Patrick T. Fallon/AFP via Getty Images)

Kamala Harris visited her hometown of Oakland for the first time since becoming vice president. While love was in the air at speeches made across the Bay Area on Monday, Harris used the backdrop of the working-class East Bay to tout President Biden's $2 trillion American Jobs Plan, the administration's latest "go big" package before Congress.

But the trip was also a homecoming — the sense of hometown pride was everywhere, starting with Oakland Democratic Congresswoman Barbara Lee, one of three state officials who greeted Harris at Oakland International Airport when Air Force Two touched down Monday morning.

“This is a historic day,” Lee said at a visit later in the morning at Red Door Catering, a woman-owned catering business in Oakland. “It is so exciting for all of us, and I'm so proud and excited to welcome our vice president back home."

Harris returned the love saying several times, "It is great to be in Oakland and to be home." Speaking at the East Bay Municipal Utility District's Upper San Leandro Water Treatment Plant, Harris noted that she and her mother had lived not too far from the plant when she was growing up.

Harris was joined at the water treatment plant by Gov. Gavin Newsom. "He and I have worked together for a long time,” Harris said. The governor, not usually known for his brevity, made only short remarks in deference to Harris.

"This Recovery Act, this American Recovery Act, this infrastructure effort is ... a game-changer to complement the efforts that are happening at the local level to address the needs here in the East Bay, a system that was designed in the 1930s that needs investment, needs an upgrade,” Newsom said.


Before touring the plant, Harris was introduced to two former EBMUD trainees. The Biden administration’s $2 trillion infrastructure plan will create similar opportunities, Harris said, “where we partner up with the building trades, the pipefitters, the plumbers, electricians, the carpenters, understanding they have some of the best apprenticeship programs in our country to build up the skills of the American workforce to get these jobs, which are good union jobs, good-paying union jobs.”

Harris emphasized that “water is a right,” mentioning how contaminated drinking water has led to terrible health outcomes in places like Flint, Michigan, and parts of the Central Valley.

"We must understand the equities and inequities of distribution and access to clean water, especially clean drinking water, and address it in a way that is about supporting what governments must do in a local, at a state and on a federal level,” Harris said. The Biden administration's proposed infrastructure plan would help remove lead pipes and outdated water systems, she said.

“Let's upgrade them. Why? Because drinking lead will kill our children, literally," she added.

Noting the value of water, Harris likened it to oil, a precious resource that countries have fought over. “I would suggest to you in a short matter of time, wars will be fought over water," she said without further elaboration.

Harris also made a stop at Red Door, a catering business founded and operated by Reign Free, who like Harris is part Indian American. Joining the entourage in the company’s kitchen were Sen. Alex Padilla, Lt. Gov. Eleni Kounalakis and Rep. Barbara Lee, who all talked about the virtues of government support for entrepreneurs.

Noting that Harris had been born in her congressional district, Lee said, “Vice President Kamala Harris has taken the values of the East Bay to Washington, D.C., and with her brilliance, (will) make sure that all the policies and the agenda of the Biden administration have an added lens of racial and gender equity and justice. And I think today is a reflection of that."

As Harris's motorcade made its way down Adeline Street in Oakland, dozens of people stood along the streets and in front yards to take photos and catch of glimpse of the hometown hero who became the first woman and first woman of color to become vice president of the United States. While Harris did not make much news during her brief stops Monday, her return to Oakland some 56 years after she was born there as the woman first in line to the presidency is a remarkable story in itself.