Gayle was born in Chicago, Illinois into a working class union family. She is the middle child of five daughters. Her father was a carpenter and member of the Carpenter’s Union and her mother was a factory worker and housewife. As a young activist during the 1980’s, Gayle worked with the Central American solidarity movement, People United to Save Humanity (PUSH), and the Rainbow Coalition. Gayle is married to Paul Kilkenny, also a Richmond activist for social and environmental justice.
Gayle holds a Bachelor of Science degree in psychology, graduating summa cum laude. Her graduate studies include psychology and education.
Gayle is a founding member of the Richmond Progressive Alliance (RPA), a corporate-free grassroots political organization which has many successes in Richmond, Ca. The RPA is also an Our Revolution affiliated organization and Bernie Sanders endorsed her in 2014. Gayle was elected and served the people of Richmond for the last 13 years as Richmond’s first corporate-free councilmember (2005-2006/2015-2017) and two term mayor (2007-2014). She blazed the path in Richmond and in 2017 Richmond has a super-majority of five out of seven councilmembers who are true progressives, members of the RPA, and elected without a dime of corporate money.
“Whether you know it or not, the eyes of the country are on you. And if Chevron can roll over you, they and their buddies will roll over every community in America. If you can stand up and beat them with all of their money, you’re going to give hope to people all over America that we can control our destinies.”
- Increased the local minimum wage to $15 by the end of 2018
- Passed the first Fair Rent Control and Just Cause for Eviction law in 30 years in California to protect renters and homeowners
- Reduced homicides by 75% in eight years as Mayor – and crime in general – by promoting community policing and community mobilization against crime; created the Office of Neighborhood Safety (ONS) while promoting a reform-minded chief of police
- Defeated Chevron’s $3.5 million attempt to buy local elections
- Defended immigrant rights and the city’s sanctuary status, ending drivers’ license checkpoints and creating a municipal identification for all people residing in Richmond who wanted an ID
- Redefined Chevron’s tax ($114 million additional taxes in 15 years) and environmental obligations
- Filed a law suit against Chevron for its abuses and damages to Richmond residents
- Promoted a plan to keep homeowners in their homes and neighborhoods stable by appropriating ‘underwater’ mortgages from banks using City eminent domain powers (Richmond CARES)
- Increased powers of the Citizens Police Review Commission
- Rejected an urban casino in Richmond and preserving the North Richmond shoreline from bad development
- Promoted Community Aggregation Choice electricity for Richmond, by which currently 85% of residents and businesses get greener and less expensive electricity
- Promoted solidarity and the development of work cooperative
- Promoted solidarity and the development of work cooperative
- Ended the local criminalization of the homeless
- Affirmed and defended LGBT rights and equality for all in Richmond
- Defended City employees and their union, SEIU 1021
- Implemented safe return policies for residents returning from incarceration
- Opposed the expansion of local jails
- Defended public schools, opposed the expansion of charter schools
- Opposed the Patriot Act, militarism, wars and U.S. acts of economic aggression and embargoes against foreign countries
- Created a nationally-acclaimed green jobs training program, leading the Bay Area in solar installations per capita (2010)
- Advanced a local Climate Action Plan, a moratorium on pesticide use, a green building ordinance, a plastic bag ban, a Styrofoam ban, bicycle paths and cultural activities
- Helped secure a supermajority of corporate-free progressives (n=5 out of 7) on the Richmond City Council
“These inspiring victories in Richmond would not have been possible without the prior development of a multi-issue, multi-racial progressive organization. Our country obviously needs a great deal of change at the state and federal levels. But laying a solid local foundation, like activists in Richmond have done, is an important first step toward overcoming working-class alienation from politics and resulting low voter-turnout rates.” – Bernie Sanders, from the foreword to “Refinery Town: Big Oil, Big Money and the Remaking of an American City” by Steve Early.
As Mayor, Gayle led the City in a progressive direction, and Richmond was significantly transformed into a better City. Under her leadership Richmond passed the first rent control law in California in 30 years, increased the minimum wage, reduced homicides 75% in 8 years, forced Chevron to pay on average an additional $7.5 million in taxes per year and sued Chevron for damage to the population, promoted Community Choice Aggregation resulting in 85% of homeowners and businesses now receiving greener and cheaper energy.
She also prioritized the interests of Richmond residents and families, advocating for residents evicted by banks and speculators and approving policies to hold Wall Street accountable. Gayle proudly stood up for her community with the Richmond CARES (Community Action to Restore Equity and Stability) the foreclosure prevention program that sought to acquire underwater mortgages in Richmond from the banks (either through voluntarily sales or through eminent domain) so the City can refinance the loans for the homeowners with reduced principals in line with current home values
Gayle also voted to assist Kennedy High School and other public Richmond schools with $3 million, she opposed privatizing public education and the expansion of Charter Schools, passed resolutions in support of single-payer universal healthcare coverage, and was in the forefront of defending Richmond’s immigrant population.
Gayle has a background as an educator, and professional experience in nonprofit leadership organizations promoting literacy, social justice, and environmental health. She has also been involved in nonprofit research and data-driven projects addressing the needs of disadvantaged youth. Gayle also co-founded Solar Richmond, a nationally-recognized local program promoting solar power and green jobs in Richmond, and Richmond Residents for a Responsible General Plan, a community organization committed to ensuring that the General Plan process be transparent and open to public participation.
Gayle is an independent (NPP) Bernie Sanders supporter.
- 2016 “Millie Award, Leadership in the fight to pass rent control and just cause for eviction” from the Tenant Lawyer Network- a project of Tenants Together
- 2015 “Phil Burton Badge of Courage for Protecting Democracy and the Environment from Corporate Pollution” from the Sierra Club
- 2015 “13th Annual Human Rights Award: Democracy”, from Human Agenda
- 2015 “Building Strength California Gala Honor, in Supporting The Innovative Richmond CARES Programs and Standing Up Against Corporate Greed”, from ACCE Institute and the Center for Popular Democracy
- 2014 “Day of Peace Award of Appreciation” from San Quentin State Prison
- 2013 “Award for Excellent Leadership” Alliance of Californians for Community Empowerment,
- 2013 “Best Politician Against All Odds” from East Bay Express
- 2011 “Homeless Advocacy in Action Award” from Saffron Strand,
- 2009 “Solar Champion Award Leading Solar City” from Environment California
- 2008 “Contribution to Environmental Justice Award” from Communities for a Better Environment