John A. Russo (politician) - Background


John Russo was born and raised in the Italian immigrant Carroll Gardens section of Brooklyn, New York. His father, a construction worker and union vice president, and his mother, a dressmaker, moved to the United States from London in 1958 five months before he was born. He graduated with honors in economics and political science from Yale University and earned his law degree from New York University School of Law.

After a two-year stint as a Legal Aid attorney in St. Louis, Missouri, Russo moved to Oakland in 1987. He served as president of Friends of Oakland Parks and Recreation, treasurer of the East Bay League of Conservation Voters, and pro bono attorney to several neighborhood associations and non-profits.

In June 1994, John was elected to the Oakland City Council, where he became the council's leading advocate for fiscal accountability and government reform. In his six years on the council, John implemented community policing, developed the first balanced budget in a generation, and working closely with the League of Woman Voters, authored Oakland's open government law called the "sunshine" ordinance.

In 2002, John served as president of the League of California Cities spearheading initiatives to protect local tax revenues from state fiscal mismanagement and amend California's Constitution to ensure public access to government records and decision-making. His ability to work 'across the aisle' earned him a seat on the Board of the National League of Cities, an organization which represents more than 18,000 towns and cities, in December 2003.

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