Archive for May, 2013

Last Minue Scramble to Save Army Base Jobs and Businesses; Without Base Businesses, Trucks and Uninspected Cargo Could End Up in Local Communities

By J. Douglas Allen-Taylor

With Assistant Oakland City Administrator Fred Blackwell admitting to City Councilmembers that the administrator’s office “probably could have done a lot more” in advance to plan for the relocation of Port-related businesses from the old Army Base, Oakland city officials engaged in a series of detailed negotiating meetings this week and last to meet an extended deadline to move those businesses over to Port of Oakland property.

Fred Blackwell

Fred Blackwell

Several tenant companies representing hundreds of jobs-including customs inspectors Pacific Coast Container and truck support firm Oakland Maritime Support Services-had originally been given until the end of this month to vacate from the old Oakland Army Base to make way for the massive Gateway development project scheduled to break ground on the property this fall.

However, after complications developed in relocating the companies to warehouses on the Port of Oakland portion of the Army Base property, City Council authorized a two-week extension for the evictions.

Officials from PCC, OMSS, and other affected companies have said that because their work with the port requires them to be in a location immediately adjacent to the port, they could be forced to go out of business if they cannot make the move to the port portion of the Army Base.

Some Oakland community leaders are saying that companies may already be lining up to take over those port-support contracts if the vacating Army Base businesses aren’t able to move to locations near the port, which could potentially mean that big rig trucks loaded with uninspected cargo could be moving through the streets of West Oakland or other nearby communities.

Brian Beveridge of the West Oakland Environmental Indicators Project and OaklandWORKS coalition told members of Council’s Community and Economic Development Committee this week, “Recently, Horizon Beverage was purchased by a local developer, and we understand that the new property owner is hoping to move the U.S. Customs Service to the new property.”

OaklandWORKS followed up later in the week with a letter of protest to Reginald Manning, local area port director of the US Customs and Border Protection service, saying in part that moving the customs inspection from port property to the Horizon Beverage site would be a “type of use [that is] not acceptable to our neighborhood. Any cargo that is suspect should be inspected in close proximity to the port (separated) from the West Oakland Community. Our community does not support any activity which we deem to be at risk of health, safety and welfare of the people of this neighborhood.”

PCC currently holds the contract for customs inspections for the Port of Oakland, but PCC representatives have reported that officials of the United States Customs and Immigration Enforcement Agency have issued a Request For Proposal for a replacement company in the event PCC is forced to go out of business because of the relocation problem.

According to the San Francisco Business Journal, Oakland business entrepreneur Tom Henderson bought the 92,000-square-foot Horizon Beverage property late last year from Port of Oakland Commissioner Ces Butner.

The Horizon property is located at Wood Street and 20th Street near Raimondi Park, just across 880 Freeway from the Port of Oakland. Henderson reported to the Business Journal that he plans to set up a conglomeration of companies in the Horizon building under a newly-formed limited partnership company called Berkeley Healthcare Dynamics.

Among other properties, Henderson already owns the old Oakland Tribune Tower Building-which he purchased in 2011 from former Port of Oakland Commissioner John Protopappas-and the Community Bank of the Bay headquarters at 17th and Broadway in downtown Oakland.

Tom Henderson

Tom Henderson

Henderson could not be reached for comment before deadline for this story.

In his remarks to the CED Committee members, OaklandWORKS’ Beveridge criticized city officials for not starting the process of relocating the Army Base businesses “until the eviction notices went out.”

Meanwhile, Assistant City Administrator Blackwell told committee members that even though Army Base developer Phil Tagami’s California Capital and Investment Group is handling the evictions and collecting rents from the vacating Army Base business tenants, the developer is not required under its Army Base development contract with the city to assist in finding new locations for those businesses.

“Unfortunately,” the Assistant City Administrator said, “comprehensive retention strategy was not something that was included in the Request For Proposals or the RFQ that the City put out and therefore was not really a part of the scope of work for CCIG.”

Blackwell said that at least two more negotiating sessions-including one on Friday of this week-will be needed with representatives of the Port and Tagami’s CCIG company before any deal is expected.

Tagami’s consent to the relocation may be required because of the possibility it could involve CCIG giving up rights to Army Base property contracted to the company under its development agreement with the city.

City Council has scheduled a review of the tenant relocation on June 11, with Port of Oakland Commissioners expected to vote on possible leases for the relocating businesses two days later.

Courtesy of the Oakland Post, May 31, 2013 (www.postnewsgroup.com)

Insufficient Job Center Funding for Army Base

By Post Staff

Some supporters of the new West Oakland Job Resource Center are raising concerns that the center may not be able to realize its promise of helping job seekers at the Oakland Army Base project if the city goes ahead with its plan to take over 50 percent of the funding off the top – $254,000 of the $500,000 a year allocated for the center.

Kitty Kelly Epstein

Kitty Kelly Epstein

“The Army Base development is said to be a $500 million project. Developers and city officials have repeatedly asserted that a top

priority is jobs for Oakland residents, and yet they can only find less than $250,000 of very vulnerable money to make those jobs a reality,” said Kitty Kelly Epstein member of OaklandWORKS, one of the organizations that has worked to create the job center.

“That’s less than .05  of one percent of the project budget. Let’ get real about this.”

Scheduled for opening in the fall, the center is budgeted at $500,000 per year for both operation and city support. The Job Center is intended to serve as a liaison between job seekers, job training programs, unions and employers.

The city has earmarked $200,000 to pay for city staff who will work on guaranteeing Army Base jobs and an additional $54,000 to pay for the maintenance and security of the library where the center is located.

In a letter to City Council members, Gay Plair Cobb, CEO of the Oakland Private Industry Council, questioned whether the limited funding can possibly implement the services included in the Request for Proposals (RFP) issued by the city for a provider to operate the Job Center.

Gay Plair Cobb

Gay Plair Cobb

“Service providers are deeply concerned that the funding under current West Oakland Job Resource Center RFP is inadequate to support the scope of work and the outcomes expected of the contractor,” Cobb said in the May 14 letter.

While its primary first job is intended to train and refer workers to the massive Oakland Army Base development project scheduled to begin later this year, the center is also intended to assist recruitment of workers for other upcoming major projects in the city—including the Oak To Ninth and Oak Knoll Naval Hospital development—as well as for other jobs and projects throughout the city.

Local organizations that have worked to make the Job Center a reality include the West Oakland Environmental Indicators Project, the OaklandWORKS consortium, Revive Oakland!, PUEBLO, the Oakland Branch of the NAACP, the Building and Construction Trades Council of Alameda and the Alameda Labor Council.

Funding for the Job Center will come from revenue from five new I-880 billboards through an agreement reached between the city and Prologis CCIG Oakland Global, master developers of the Oakland Army Base project.

City Councilmember Lynette Gibson McElhaney, who represents West Oakland, said she has supported the Job Center since the

Lynette Gibson McElhaney

Lynette Gibson McElhaney

beginning and will push for more funding to support the center.

At the same time, however, she has serious questions about whether the plan will do what it is supposed to do. “I’m going to go back and ask for a half million dollars,” she said, but added that the most important question is, “How are we going to make the

promise real?  How will it reach its goal, find a way to increase employment rates in West Oakland?

“I don’t think we’ve asked for enough money,” she said. Do we want a job center, or do we want jobs. What I see is inadequate.”

She also questions how dependable billboard income is as a source of funding.  “I don’t know how stable those funds are. I know there are other coalitions out there that are trying to stop the billboards. I don’t like the vulnerability of this money.”

Courtesy of the Oakland Post, May 17, 2013 (www.postnewsgroup.com)

Shake-Up at Oakland Police Department

John Burris

John Burris

By Ken A. Epstein

Most of the Oakland Police Department’s top commanders have resigned or been replaced, just a week after Oakland’s new federal overseer issued a blistering report criticizing Oakland police leaders for the department’s failure to institute policies and practices that protect residents’ constitutional rights.

“All the top people were removed or reshuffled. This is a new command staff, and we will find out now if they can work,” said attorney John Burris in an interview with the Post.

“We hope they will move the department in the right direction, that they will support the NSA and hold officers accountable and improve the relationship between the community and police department.”

Burris and his partner James Chanin have been involved in every stage of federal court negotiations since they represented the 119 plaintiffs in the Riders Case who sued the OPD in 2000, leading to the 2003 Negotiated Settlement Agreement (NSA), which brought Oakland under the oversight of Judge Thelton Henderson.

The first to leave in last week’s shakeup was Chief Howard Jordan, who announced he was resigning for medical reasons. He was followed by Anthony Toribio who, after two days as acting chief, announced Friday that he was voluntarily accepting a demotion to a job as a captain.

Sean Whent, a 17-year department veteran, was named as the new acting chief while the city conducts a national search for a new chief. Whent has been a deputy chief overseeing internal affairs, risk management and personnel assessment, a major focus of the court order on police misconduct that Frazier was brought in to enforce.

Besides Whent, three new deputy chiefs were named, leaving only one of the five top people in the department who held onto his position.

Mayor Jean Quan and City Administrator Deanna Santana said they made their decisions after meeting Wednesday with Thomas Frazier, the federal court-appointed compliance director who began overseeing the department in March, and Robert Warshaw, the court-appointed monitor.

In his Remedial Action Plan released May 1, Frazier said that police department top brass has not held officers accountable for misconduct. “Executive leadership has permitted members of the organization to believe that (unacceptable) behaviors … are both tolerated and acceptable.”

“It did not surprise me that the chief and his assistants left,” said Burris. “(Frazier’s) report really condemned the command staff for not providing the kind of leadership that was necessary to get the department into compliance and to change the culture of the department. (The report) was a very powerful document, (which showed) the command staff was in jeopardy.”

Sean Whent

Sean Whent

The new leaders will be expected to bring the city into compliance with the NSA: “cut down police shootings, cut down racial profiling, cut down drawing of weapons and hold officers accountable when they violate the general orders.”
Burris said he was optimistic that OPD will make the changes the judge is ordering. “If it were just left to the officers, no, I wouldn’t be optimistic,” he said.

“Now we have a compliance director who can make hard decisions, who can be ruthless in making those decisions. He’s real fair and tough minded. That’s what’s important.”

A lot of money and time has been spent over the past decade, and the city is still not in compliance with the NSA, Burris said.  “They haven’t made the progress that I thought the case would make. I’ve given over 10 years of my life, monthly meetings, many court appearance, and we’re not as far along as we should be. It was supposed to end in five years, and now we’re 10 years in.”

Burris explained that Frazier’s report has a different focus than the report submitted by the city’s police consultants of the Bratton Group, which seeks to reorganize local policing to better respond to burglaries, robberies and shootings.

“The Bratton people were looking at how to improve the quality of policing as it relates to crime reduction. That’s different than the issue that we have, which has to do with compliance with constitutional policing,” Burris said.
“The focus of the NSA is making sure that police work in a constitutionally mandated and correct way – how to hold the department accountable, how to stop constitutional violations.

“We’d like to have both, good (constitutional) policing and reduction of crime.”

Looking at police practices that he was hoping would change, Burris pointed to the ongoing issue of racial profiling, which the department is still not adequately documenting.

“They have to stop doing racial profiling and begin treating the people in the street with respect,” he said.  “ If you can do that, you will improve the relationship between the police and the community, and they will help you fight crime.”

There are far too many cases, he said, where people are needlessly “stopped, searched, put on the ground, handcuffed. This is a fact, and this is what we have been trying to fight all these years.”

According to Sean Maher, the mayor’s communication director, “ “Mayor Quan, City Administrator Deanna J. Santana and Interim Police Chief Sean Whent are united in tackling these (NSA) issues head-on. Reducing crime and enhancing our constitutional policing are complementary goals, and this is something Interim Chief Whent understands very well. As Mayor Quan has often said, police cannot function effectively when they do not have the trust of the communities they serve.

“As we accelerate our progress toward full compliance with the NSA, we know it’s important for people in our neighborhoods to feel that difference directly and for our police to build stronger relationships with those communities.”

Courtesy of the Oakland Post, May 17, 2013 (www.postnewsgroup.com)

Groups Want State to Investigate Tagami’s Army Base Financing Scheme

By J. Douglas Allen-Taylor

While construction groundbreaking is still months away, Oakland’s massive Gateway Army Base development project moved forward on three separate fronts last week, with the project winning key state funding approval, frantic negotiations continuing to move out existing Army Base tenants in advance of the wrecking balls, and a group of West Oakland organizations requesting a state investigation into the project’s financing.

Margaret Gordon

Margaret Gordon

The City of Oakland has contracted with Oakland developer Phil Tagami’s CCIG-Prologis Company to develop a 165-acre portion of the old Oakland Army Base property primarily for support for the nearby Port of Oakland.

By far the best news of the week for the project was the announcement that the California Transportation Commission voted to allocate $176 million in state matching funds to the Gateway development. CCIG president, and former Port Commissioner, Phil Tagami called the allocation “a critical step in a long process” in tying down funding for the half-billion dollar project.

However, disclosure of where all of the money will come from for the Army Base development was one of the issues raised in a letter sent by West Oakland based OaklandWORKS advocacy alliance to officials representing Oakland in the state legislature.

In the letter to State Senator Loni Hancock and Assemblymembers Rob Bonta and Nancy Skinner and members of the Oakland City Council, OaklandWORKS said taxpayers might be drawn into taking on public debt to complete the funding of the project.

The alliance members, which also includes former Port Commissioner Margaret Gordon,said that Tagami’s CCIG had been cited in a City Audit for “failure to deliver publicly-funded projects on time and within published budgets” in the Fox Oakland development, adding that the developers had only identified sources for one-half of the funding for the Army Base project.

“While the city and port have recently released documents describing the funding amounts and sources for what is now called, Phase 1, of the project, where is the funding for subsequent phases?” the OaklandWORKS letter said.

“With a total projected cost of more than a billion dollars, only about $475 million has been identified. How will the gap be filled? If the public is expected to take on debt for subsequent phases of the [Army Base] project, it behooves our policymakers to offer a complete understanding of how much debt will be involved and how it is proposed to be financed.”

However, the OaklandWORKS letter appeared to be including the cost of both the Port of Oakland and City of Oakland development of the Army Base property, which was split in two portions and given to the respective agencies when the old Army Base closed down.

Documents on the Port of Oakland’s website list a total cost of $1.2 billion for the combined Port-City development of the project, but since that time, the Port dropped former Port Commissioner Tagami and his CCIG as the developer of its portion of the base property, and has yet to choose a new developer.

In response to the OaklandWORKS desire to stop funding until all environmental issues are resolved , Tagami said “Neither the city nor the port will be required to incur any public debt in conjunction with the delivery of the City Project or the Port Project.”
Tagami and CCIG said the environmental claims are “simply and demonstrably untrue” and “wrap[ped] in misrepresentation and myth.”

Bill Aboudi

Bill Aboudi

Meanwhile, several port-support businesses, including Pacific Coast Container Logistics (PCC) and Oakland Maritime Support Services (OMSS), which is owned by Bill Aboudi, have been in daily negotiations with the City and Port of Oakland, and CCIG for an extension of the May 31  deadline to vacate from the Oakland portion of the Army Base.

The United States Customs Agency has threatened to vacate its contract with PCC if the company cannot demonstrate it will be able to move over to the Port of Oakland portion of the property by the end of the month, but Oakland business consultant Dexter Vizinau told Oakland leaders that Customs officials  will delay pulling the contract to see if City Council grants PCC an extension of its eviction.

But PCC, OMSS, and the other businesses that were scheduled to move to the Port’s portion of the property, have been delayed over a land swap between the city and the port over a 15,000-square-foot parcel of the property called the “Notch.” The hitch in the “Notch” can only be resolved by Tagami.

Courtesy of the Oakland Post, May 16, 2013 (www.postnewsgroup.com)

Auditor’s Political Move to Lobby Council’s Help

By Ken A. Epstein

City Auditor Courtney Ruby has sent out an email “Call to Action” asking Oakland residents to defend her audit that accuses two city council members of interfering with staff in awarding a $6 million Army Base development contract.

Ruby’s email was sent on April 26, after the council’s Rules Committee placed an item on the May 21 City Council agenda to

Courtney Ruby

Courtney Ruby

consider hiring an outside auditor to examine Ruby’s March 21 Non-Interference in Administrative Affairs Performance Audit.
The item will be discussed at the May 21 council meeting.

Under a headline –“Call to Action: Is Integrity in Government Important to You?” – the email asks residents to “Make sure your councilmember knows how you feel about the recently released…audit report, which found two councilmembers and one aide violated the City Charter….

“Email your councilmember and/or attend the City Council meeting on May 21 where we will be presenting our report to the City Council.”

In response to Ruby’s call to action, District 5 Councilmember Noel Gallo said he has received about 20 emails supporting the city auditor, adding that he is not happy with the direction the discussion has taken.

Rashidah Grinage

Rashidah Grinage

“It’s a shame all this is taking place,” he said. “It’s very divisive. It keeps us from discussing the issues.”

Longtime community activist Rashidah Grinage faulted Ruby for politicizing her audit findings. “It’s inappropriate. An auditor should not be political. It should not be a political position,” she said.

Grinage said she has heard Ruby may have political ambitions. “It’s rumored that she may run for mayor or has some interest in that,” said Grinage. “I don’t think this judgment is the kind of judgment we want in a mayor.

“I think she’s going to have to wear the consequences of this. Something that she thought was going to somehow give her some mileage has backfired.”

Courtesy of the Oakland Post, May 10, 2013 (www.postnewsgroup.com)

Frazier: Police Reform a Rocky Road

By Post Staff

The new independent Compliance Director who oversees the Oakland Police Department has released a sweeping  “Remedial Action Plan” that requires broader reforms than those that were part of the original settlement that led to the federal takeover.

“This action plan…goes well beyond the issues contained in the 11 Negotiated settlement Agreement (NSA) remaining

Commissiioner Thomas Frazier

          Thomas Frazier

noncompliant items. This authority was specifically granted by Judge (Thelton) Henderson to ensure that Oakland has a strong police department…at the end of our work here,” wrote Compliance Director Thomas Frazier in his May 1 report, who also said he was not expecting easy acceptance of the reforms.

“Very few of the items we list in this plan can be initiated easily and painlessly. The road ahead will certainly be rocky, and occasionally divisive. However, we feel confident that we can navigate these issues and produce a solid foundation for the future success of the Oakland Police Department,” he said.

The 2003 NSA, which brought Oakland under the oversight of Judge Henderson, was the part of the settlement in the Riders Case, in which 119 local plaintiffs sued the city in 2000. The city paid out a $10.9 million award and agreed to be in compliance with the reforms called for in the NSA within five years.

Areas of concern that Frazier will focus on:

“While the vast majority of OPD officers are dedicated, hardworking men and women doing an extraordinarily difficult job, a few behave in manners that result in citizen complaints and administrative investigations,” according to the plan.

“Supervisors fail to enforce departmental policy by not intervening in or reporting unacceptable behavior that they are either informed of or witness.”

“Investigations fail to thoroughly and impartially seek the truth in reported allegations of officer misconduct.

Executive leadership has permitted members of the organization to believe that (unacceptable) behaviors … are both tolerated and acceptable.”

One of Frazier’s specific concerns is that OPD uses confidential informants, whose reports sometimes lead to confrontations between suspects and police, even though nothing has been done to verify what the informants said.

“We are troubled that OPD officers are initiating stops and point their firearms at subjects based on information that has not been determined to be reliable. Most informants have issues with their own conduct and credibility.”

“We have noted occasions where no further investigation was conducted to support the information proved by an OPD ‘confidential informant.’”

Another area of Frazier’s concern was the racial disparity in incidents where officers pointed firearms at suspects.
“The total racial breakdown for the 61 use of force events reviewed is as follows: Black, 70 percent; Hispanic, 22 percent; White, 3 percent; Asian, 2 percent; and Other, 3 percent.

“We also tabulated the racial breaking of the subjects involved in the events, where, in our opinion, the pointing of a firearm was not necessary or appropriate and found the following: “Black, 87 percent; and Hispanic 13 percent.”

In addition, OPD has not carried out its policy that requires regular report on whether officials are conducting racial profiling, stopping residents for no reason except race or ethnicity.

The policy says the “Racial Profiling Manager shall produce a written report to the Chief of Police twice per year that includes an analysis of the data collected and appropriate policy recommendations,” according to the action plan.

“Based on our knowledge, OPD has not prepared such a report in the last 12 quarters; however OPD has advised of its intent to analyze the collected data once the data is accurate,” the action plan said.

The full text of the Remedial Action Plan is available at www.cand.uscourts.gov/pages/964

Courtesy of the Oakland Post, May 10, 2013 (www.postnewsgroup.com)

Santana’s Quandary, Jordan Rolls

By Ken A. Epstein

Police Chief Howard Jordan’s decision to retire from the Oakland Police Department, effectively immediately, took police and city officials by surprise this week.

Some of the those who have had a say on how the Oakland Police Department is run are (from Top, L to R): Consultant Bill Bratton, Consultant Chief Patrick Harnett, Acting Chief Anthony Toribio, Consultant Robert Wasserman, Commissioner Thomas Frazier, U.S. Judge Thelton Henderson, former OPD Chief Howard Jordan, Mayor Jean Quan, City Administrator Deanna Santana, Acting Chief Toribio. Collage by Adam L. Turner.

Some of the those who have had a say on how the Oakland Police Department is run are (from Top, L to R): Consultant Bill Bratton, Consultant Chief Patrick Harnett, Acting Chief Anthony Toribio, Consultant Robert Wasserman, Commissioner Thomas Frazier, U.S. Judge Thelton Henderson, former OPD Chief Howard Jordan, Mayor Jean Quan, City Administrator Deanna Santana, Acting Chief Toribio. Collage by Adam L. Turner.

He made his announcement Wednesday morning right before a press conference scheduled to discuss recommendations of the city’s outside police consultants. The press conference was cancelled.
“I am on medical leave and taking steps toward medical retirement,” he said.  “This decision has been difficult, but necessary.”
Jordan provided a little more information in an interview with ABC7 News.
“I was never forced out,” he told a television reporter. “I actually had been talking to my physician for quite some time now, and based on his recommendation I decided to make that decision…

“In the long run, you know, after 25 years of service I have to think about what’s good for me and my family. And my goal is to control my own destiny, and at this point the only way for me to do that is to resign or seek medical retirement so I can live longer.”

Anthony Toribio, a 23-year OPD veteran, is now acting chief.  The city has announced it will conduct a national  search for Jordan’s replacement.

There was much media speculation that Jordan may have been fired or forced out by Commissioner Thomas Frazier, the federal court-appointed overseer who Judge Thelton Henderson gave the authority to demote or fire the chief.

But according to PUEBLO Executive Director Rashidah Grinage, who met with Frazier and Independent Monitor Robert Warshaw this week, she had no indication the two federal appointees had an inkling the chief was planning to quit the next day.

“I was talking to them about our frustrations and concerns about the leadership. It is not at all obvious to me they were aware he was leaving,” she said.

Grinage said, however, that she had a meeting in March with Jordan that seemed to reveal something about his state of mind.
She was talking with the chief about adopting a policy suggested by youth that officers should give business cards to young people who they come in contact with.

“At one point, Jordan asked,  ‘Whose decision do you think it is – this new policy?´  I said, ‘It’s yours. You’re the chief.’ He replied, ‘Not everybody sees it that way.’”

“I have had the feeling, ever since he made that remark, that he was feeling that he had no authority anymore. He felt besieged. So, who can blame him for leaving?”

In addition to Monitor Warshaw and Commissioner Frazier, OPD is currently being evaluated by teams of police consultants hired by the city.

While consultants Bill Bratton and Robert Wasserman are making recommendations, they do not have the authority to make decisions, Grinage said.

“ Tom Frazier is running this department now. Ultimately, it’s up to Frazier what will be implemented. He’s doing what he was hired to do by the judge.”

Though some people may blame the compliance director for the difficult situation OPD now faces, “Ultimately, it is the city’s fault,” Grinage said.

“If City Administrator Deanna Santana were doing her job, we wouldn’t have a compliance director. She is the supervisor of the police department.”

“I wish people would start holding Santana accountable,” Grinage said. “If Mayor Quan wants to be re-elected, she better do something to hold Santana accountable. Leadership is all about being accountable for what happens on your watch.”

The city has had had two police chiefs resign since Quan has been mayor, she said. The city has had 10 years, more than enough time, to comply with the agreement with the federal court. “It’s the fault of the city’s leadership,” said Grinage.

Courtesy of the Oakland Post, May 10, 2013 (www.postnewsgroup.com)

Frick School Family Fights for Principal Jerome Gourdine

Frick Jerome Gourdine was honored in 2008 as one of America's 25 "most collaborative" public school principals. Courtesy of UCB.

Frick Jerome Gourdine was honored in 2008 as one of America’s 25 “most collaborative” public school principals. Courtesy of UCB.

By Ken A. Epstein

The Oakland Unified School District is moving ahead with plans to remove Frick Middle School Principal Jerome Gourdine, who over the past 18 years has earned a reputation as one of the best and most loved educational leaders in the district.

The district is also transferring popular assistant principal Jeffrey Taylor, saying decreased enrollment means the school does not have the budget to support having an assistant principal.

Frick is located at 2845 64th Ave., by MacArthur Boulevard.

Stunned and angry parents and staff met Wednesday after school in the school library with district Regional Executive Officer Kimi Kean, who told those at the meeting that Gourdine was leaving the school on his own accord to accept a promotion.

“Why does this suddenly come up four days ago? All of a sudden he’s doing something wrong?  We’re going to fight you to the last minute, whatever we have to do” said Dr. Larry Moore, who works at the school and is a member of the West Oakland Renaissance Committee, the Elders’ Council.

“Why are you taking away two fantastic African American administrators?” he asked.

“I understand that nothing went wrong.  This is his family (at Frick).” replied Kean. “There are opportunities out there, and it is a promotion.  It’s going right, and we actually need to use him in a different position to have wider influence.”

However, when asked pointblank whether leaving or staying was the principal’s choice, Kean said the decision was in Supt. Tony Smith’s hands.

Jacqueline Simon, a school security officer, asked Kean,  “Is it up to Mr. Gourdine at this point?  Or is it up to you or the superintendent? We just want to be clear.”

“(Gourdine’s) input is very important,” replied Kean.   “(But) it is up to the superintendent.”

“You don’t know what it’s like on the inside. You’re looking in through a small window,” Simon said to Kean.  “You’re not going to separate us from something so strong that we built. This is a family that’s never going to be broken apart.”

“I have never been to a school where my child has been more loved, cared for, helped, and pushed to go to college, Mr. Gourdine pushes for every single student going to this school,” said Teresa Jauregui, whose son Jesus broke into tears during the emotional discussion.

“We’re going to fight for him,” said school custodian Geraldine Lovato.

“Why would you come here at test time, during state mandated testing, and make this announcement, upsetting the students, making them angry?” asked Moore.

“We need the superintendent out here to talk to us,” said another parent.

OUSD Executive Officer Kimi Kean

OUSD Executive Officer Kimi Kean

Responding, Kean said, “There are costs to any transition. The superintendent is looking out for the interests of the whole district.”

According to a school board member, who did not want to be identified, Gourdine agreed to leave the school after he was told that he could not continue at Frick.

Though the Wednesday afternoon meeting had been called by Kean’s office, on the day of meeting, her office sent out a robo-call and emails saying it  was cancelled.  But the meeting was held, attended by about 25 staff and parents.

In an interview with the Post, parent Adriane Harry talked about what made Principal Gourdine’s leadership so special. She has one 12 year old at the school and a son and daughter who graduated from Frick.

“He told all the children that that are kings and queens, and my two older kids (18 and 19 years old) still consider themselves kings and queens. Because that’s what he always called them.

“He’s concerned about how they do in school, but he’s also concerned about how they turn out as individuals,” she said.

“He’s a mentor,” she said. “He tells them to be successful, go to college, and how to care for others. He tells the kids, ‘I know your mom would want you to go straight home from school.’  He and Mr. Taylor are just awesome people.”

“He came to my daughter’s birthday with his wife and his children,” she said. “He has made such a difference in my children’s lives, and he still does. My older kids still come back to visit him.”

Several sources say Kean has removed or fired several African American administrators this year.  Neither district spokesman Troy Flint or Supt. Smith has responded to questions from the Oakland Post.

A district observer said he believed the district may be considering closing Frick, which has been losing enrollment, and therefore decided to remove Gourdine, a strong school leader , to make closing the school easier next year.

Courtesy of the Oakland Post, May 3, 2013 (www.postnewsgroup.com)

Police Monitor Warshaw: OPD Reform Still “Stagnant”

By Post Staff

The Oakland Police Department’s performance has improved slightly, though its progress in achieving federal court-ordered

Federal Monitor Robert Warshaw

Federal Monitor Robert Warshaw

reforms is still stagnating, according to the latest report from the federal monitor who is evaluating the city’s police services.

“We have noted in our past reports our serious dismay with the department’s stagnation in its progress toward effective, just and constitutional policing,” wrote Monitor Robert Warshaw in his 13th quarterly report on the OPD, which was released Monday.

In the report, Warshaw blamed city and police officials for blocking required changes for more than 10 years.

While noting that there had been “a slight improvement in the department’s overall compliance picture,“ he said, “The department and the city have stifled and sidetracked this effort for far too long.“

But Warshaw said he was hopeful that the city was entering “a new chapter” with the appointment of Compliance Director Thomas Frazier who will  “hold to great account those in the city and department who have the responsibility to institute these reforms.”

One of the issues that the report focused on was the failure of police officers to report misbehavior or rimes committed by their colleagues.

Examining police actions during Occupy Oakland demonstrations, the report said, “Many officers consistently avoided commenting about the misbehavior – and sometimes, felonious actions – of their fellow officers; and while officers apparently remembered seeing participants in the demonstrations and riots clearly, they often could not say which officers were next to them even when they viewed videos of the incidents.

“We found instances where supervisors, even when viewing videos of clearly improper behavior, were evasive and reluctant to comment.”

In another case, according to the report, an officer was next to another who “used excessive force hitting a citizen in the head and elsewhere on the body with his baton.”

“In spite of the fact that the two were shown on a video that appeared on YouTube, the assisting officer denied seeing the baton strikes by the arresting officer.”

In addition,  “We believe that is a serous violation” for officers to fail to activate their personal video recorders when they are in use-of-force situation, the report said.

Another key issue has been the failure to report the reason for making a stop on OPD’s field-based reporting system, which undermines the ability to monitor racial profiling, the report said.

Responding to Warshaw’s report, city officials released a joint statement.

We are pleased to be making progress toward full compliance, though we know more work lies ahead. We are in close collaboration with the Compliance Director to accelerate these efforts, and together we will achieve our mutual goals of reform and strengthened relationships between our police and our community, ” according to the statement by Mayor Jean Quan, City Administrator Deanna

Santana, and police Chief Howard Jordan.

The federal oversight was the result of a 2003 lawsuit settlement in what has become known as the Riders case.  In the settlement, the city agreed to implement 51 police reforms in a variety of areas, including improved investigation of citizen complaints, better training of officers and increased field supervision.

Federal Judge Thelton Henderson has repeatedly said he is frustrated by the city’s slow progress slow in making reforms over the past decade.

Last year, civil rights attorneys John Burris and James Chanin, who represent the plaintiffs in the original case, asked Henderson to order a takeover of the police department and have a federal receiver appointed.

The city reached an agreement with the court in December to hire an independent, court-appointed compliance director to be in charge of completing all the reforms.

Frazier, who was appointed to that position, reports to the judge and has the power to fire police Chief Howard Jordan and order city leaders to spend money.

Courtesy of the Oakland Post, May 3, 2013 (www.postnewsgroup.com)