Archive for July, 2013

Brooks Victorious, Kernighan Humiliated

Multiracial outpouring of community support for Brooks

 By Tasion Kwamilele

Council President Pat Kernighan’s motion to censure Desley Brooks died for the lack of a second.

Brook’s resolution to drop the motion to censure her and begin work on a policy governing council ethics in the future passed

Desley Brooks

Desley Brooks

by a 6-0 vote, with Kernighan and Lynette McElhaney abstaining.

McElhaney was loudly booed for abstaining.

Based on a recent report by the Alameda County Grand Jury, Brooks was accused of violating the City Charter for interfering with city staff to ensure the building of the Rainbow Teen Center at 58th and International Boulevard.

“I received numerous emails (asking) why we’re not saying this was wrongful behavior,” said Kernighan.

Audience members shouted in protest suggesting the motion to censure Brooks was a ”witch hunt” and that the council needed to “do the right thing.”

Others complained that those favoring censure were “putting the cart before the horse,” trying to pass a censure motion before the council had developed a policy for censure.

Nearly all of the 74 public speakers who signed up to speak at the meeting supported Brooks and opposed censure.

Brooks argued that the charges against her utilized documents that did not have any connection with her, and she gave examples of other councilmembers, such as  Libby Schaff,  who violated  the City Charter by directing the actions of staff.

“Facts you’re sharing with the public are not true,” Brooks told Kernighan, addressing Kernighan’s explanation of the censure.

“You have a pattern of misstating things to fit your argument,” Brooks said to Kernighan.

Brooks also said the meeting was being improperly held because the council does not have a censure policy in place.  Councilmember Larry Reid called the motion a racially motivated attack.

“…On this council that I am a part of racism is alive and well,” Reid said. “This action you’re taking today is a dog and pony show.”

“How can we trust you when you’re attacking your colleagues?” asked Jean Johnson-Fields, a native and resident of Oakland, speaking to the council.

Carol Williams Curtis, an Oakland resident who lives in Brooks’ district, said her son was killed in Brookfield Village in 2005. But another murder had not happened at that particular site because of the work Brooks does in the community.

“The stench of death is too high [and] that’s the act that needs to be censured,” Curtis said. Let’s not make Desley the scapegoat.”

Courtesy of the Oakland Post, July 26, 2013 (www.postnewsgroup.com)

 

 

Charges, Counter-charges as SF Community College Faces Shut Down

 By Helena Worthen and Joe Berry

The explosive news came on July 3 when the Accrediting Commission of Community and Junior Colleges announced that it would withdraw accreditation from City College of San Francisco in one year, effectively shutting the college down.

In response to charges leveled by the accrediting commission, the California Federation of Teachers and AFT 2121, the union of City College faculty filed a 280-page complaint against the commission at the end of April.

Barbara Beno

Barbara Beno

The complaint was sent to the accrediting commission and filed at the Department of Education, which is scheduled to review the work of the commission.

The commission says the college must adopt a streamlined management system and stop using its financial reserves to cover operational costs. The Save City College Coalition charges the commission with operating in secret and trying install its own model of top-down management at the college.

Here is some of what both sides are saying:

Charges Against City College

Interestingly, the main concerns raised by the commission in their evaluation were not whether the education provided to students is good quality or whether the credentials awarded to graduates are accepted as legitimate by employers and universities. There is no debate about that: the college is doing a good job.

The commission says the college should not use its financial reserves, grants or contracts to cover operational costs to keep its doors open.  This is even though the people of San Francisco voted for the Prop A parcel tax in fall 2012 specifically to keep classes open.

The college has too few administrators and should stop relying on regular faculty elected to do administrative work.

The college should hire consultants to streamline its decision-making, which involves too many people and too much discussion.

The college should create detailed lists of student learning outcomes (SLO’s) for every course or program.

In addition, public resistance has also become an issue for the accrediting commission. In the July 3 letter announcing the decision to terminate accreditation, the commission focused on this resistance.

Because of it, said commission President Barbara Beno in the letter, City College would never be able to move fast enough toward meeting the commission’s demands, making termination inevitable.

“City College of San Francisco would need more time and more cohesive institution-wide effort to comply with accreditation standards, “Beno wrote. “While some groups work to make needed changes others militate against change. The acrimony is evident in behaviors at governing board meetings and other venues.”

The protests “indicate that not all constituencies are ready to follow college leadership to make needed changes in a timely manner,” she wrote.

It is true that street demonstrations, testimony at board meetings, creation of a Save City College coalition and other actions have drawn national attention.

 Charges Against the Commission

The complaint filed by the California Federation of Teachers and AFT 2121, the faculty union, charges that commission operates with a lack transparency, lack of accountability and lack of fairness or due process.

The commission has abandoned the real mission of accreditation, which is to ensure that students get a good education.

The commission operates in secret. It requires a pledge of non-disclosure of discussions and proceedings from its board members. It appoints its own appeals panel, so that no outside appeal is possible. Its meetings are closed to the public.

The commission explicitly rejects educational standards accepted by government agencies, the legislature or other organizations such as the faculty union.

It has not taken time to educate itself or its members in scientifically based studies of what makes good educational practices.  It relies on discredited measures of education quality such as requiring teachers to create and document SLO’s (Student Learning Outcomes).

Many faculty believe that student progress is best judged by tests and assignments and that final grades are the most accurate way to communicate that students have satisfied course requirements as stated in the catalog. Thus SLO’s are viewed as redundant, phony busy work.

The commission is trying to impose its own top-down management model.  It intimidates faculty and administration of colleges that it reviews, using threats of sanctions to coerce cooperation.

It tries to interfere with legally binding agreements about job security, pay and benefits that have been negotiated between administration and the faculty and staff unions.

On May 31, the accrediting commission responded to the April 30 complaint with a letter saying, “We appreciate your effort in sharing this information with us.”

Helena Worthen and Joe Berry can be reached at Worthenberry@yahoo.com.

 Courtesy of the San Francisco Post, July 26, 2013 (www.postnewsgrooup.com)

 

Council Calls for WIB Budget Transparency

By Ken A. Epstein

The City Council has approved a $4.9 million Oakland Workforce Investment Board budget that will provide federal funds for job services to the unemployed for the next two years.  But at the same time, the council urged the WIB to adopt a transparent budget process that creates more opportunities for public participation.

The budget was approved at the July 16 council meeting, with an amendment that calls on the WIB to discuss developing new procedures to provide public notice and create standing committees, rather than the current ad hoc committees, to consider any expenditures.

City Council President Pat Kernighan

City Council President Pat Kernighan

“I understand that there is an ad hoc committee where the budget gets formulated,” which means that nonprofits that provide job services “don’t have input into that discussion,” said Councilmember Larry Reid.

“We as a council wouldn’t allow that during our budget discussions.”

Defending the current practices, WIB member Mike Hannigan said, “There’s open and virtually unlimited public input.  A proposal, a shell of a budget, is developed by an ad hoc committee, (and) the ad hoc committee brings that to the board.”

“Maybe there could be a different process, maybe the actual formulation of the budget could be micromanaged by a public forum,” Hannigan said.

Councilmember Desley Brooks challenged the assertion that the WIB was doing enough to guarantee opportunities for public input.

How can you say that “that it would be micromanaged by the public, when these are public dollars?” Brooks said. “The crafting of the original budget ought to be based on something other than by three members of a 42-member committee coming to their own conclusions.”

“I’m struck that we’ve been using this practice (of setting up ad hoc committees) for years,” said Brooks. The city is

Agnes Ubalde

Agnes Ubalde

“continuing to see a workforce investment board that has ongoing issues that are not addressing the serious needs of people in this community.”

“Voices of the people who work with the community are not always being heard,” she said. “There ought to be some point when people who are served by these dollars, not the membership on the board, have some input on the services they want to be provided.”

Councilmember Rebecca Kaplan said the issues raised about the WIB’s practices should come back to the council.  “I want to be sure that the very serious concerns raised tonight don’t get neglected,” she said.

The WIB needs to “look at more early participation in the budget,” not just “for the public to comment when it’s written,” Kaplan said.

Gay Plair Cobb, executive director of the Oakland Private Industry Council and a longstanding WIB member, said the board’s budget process is flawed.

“(I) disagree emphatically that the WIB budget process invites much public input and debate. That is simply not the case.  The only way budgets have been formulated is through ad hoc committee meetings,” she said.

“Ad hoc committee meetings are not noticed to the public and  are not open to the public,” she said. Even at public WIB meetings, “there is very little opportunity for the public to have a meaningful discussion.”

“There definitely is room for improvement within the WIB and the administration of the dollars and the process,” said Council President Pat Kernighan, who sat on the WIB while more than $600,000 was returned to the state because City staff

was unable to allocate the funds to the community.

Kernighan said she also wanted to acknowledge “the enormous amount of improvement that has taken place” at the WIB.

Brooks, however, criticized Kernighan, the council member who still sits on the WIB, for not reporting back to the council.

Mike Hannigan

Mike Hannigan

“I am not sure how the council representative, who doesn’t bring back items to us, speaks on behalf of the council and what the council wants at a WIB meeting,” Brooks said.

The WIB will work to ensure public input, said Agnes Ubalde, WIB chair and vice president for community development for Wells Fargo Bank, East Bay area,

“We aim as a WIB Board, and I will continue to aim as chair, for transparency, inclusion of input from the public so we are effectively equipped to recommend sound public policy to the mayor and City Council around workforce development issues in the City of Oakland,” Ubalde told the Post.

Larry Reid said the Community and Economic Development committee will hold a hearing in the fall on WIB-related issues that have come up in the last few months.

Courtesy of the Oakland Post, July 26, 2013 (www.postnewsgroup.com)

Port Commission Blocks Deal to Move Truck Parking Company

By Post Staff

Port of Oakland Commissioners have passed an amended resolution that may put a truck parking company out of business, potentially creating turmoil in the community if big rig trucks are again parking and driving on the streets of West Oakland.

Bill Aboudi

Bill Aboudi

The original resolution, backed by the City of Oakland, was designed to allow the city to have a temporary 30-month lease of Port land so it can sublet the property to Oakland Maritime Support Services (OMSS), a company that not only provides space to park big trucks but also offers a mini-mart and mechanical and tire repair – 18 small businesses in all – so that polluting big rigs have less reason to go out into the community.

OMSS has a long history with West Oakland groups, who view the company as an important element in their efforts to reduce asthma-causing pollution in their community.

“Our goal is to assure that trucks and truck activities do not intrude on our communities, which include West Oakland. We are working closely with the city,” said Port Communications Manager Robert Bernardo.

The addendum added by the Port Commissioners, apparently in line with concerns raised by the Alameda Labor Council and the Teamsters Unions, says the port will not lease five acres of land to the city unless OMSS meets certain conditions.

The conditions are OMSS owner Bill Aboudi must  settle a $1 million judgment against another of his companies, AB Trucking,  even though that case is still in litigation.

If Aboudi sues the city or the Port of Oakland, it could possibly disrupt the tight timeline for starting the Army Base development project.  If all the Army Base companies are not moved, and the project is not set to go by Sept. 3, the project stands to lose $242 million in state matching funds.

“This attempt to use the port’s authority as a landlord to exert economic pressure on an affiliate of a port sub-lessee over an unrelated dispute is not only unseemly but illegal,” said Aboudi in a written statement.

Courtesy of the Oakland Post, July 26, 2013 (www.postnewsgroup.com)

 

Community Coalition Wins Police Accountability Victory

By Ken A. Epstein

After struggling for two years to overcome city staff resistance to carrying out a council-approved reform of intake of complaints against police, PUEBLO and other community organizations finally may be seeing light at the end of the tunnel

Supporters of civilian instake of police complaints stood in the hallway Mondaay outside Mayor Jean Quan's office. Shown back row (L to R): Max Cadji, Ken Houston, John Bey, Saleem Shakir. Front row (L to R): Gloria "Jack" Mejia-Cuellar, Renee Peoples, Kim Mejia-Cuellar, Mary Vail, Rashidah Grinage, Susan Shawl, Deborah Houston, Gwen Hardy, Marnay Andrews. Phone by Ken Epstein

Supporters of civilian instake of police complaints stood in the hallway Mondaay outside Mayor Jean Quan’s office. Shown back row (L to R): Max Cadji, Ken Houston, John Bey, Saleem Shakir. Front row (L to R): Gloria “Jack” Mejia-Cuellar, Renee Peoples, Kim Mejia-Cuellar, Mary Vail, Rashidah Grinage, Susan Shawl, Deborah Houston, Gwen Hardy, Marnay Andrews. Phone by Ken Epstein

At the Public Safety Committee meeting this week, it was announced that the civilian complaint intake workers would be hired by mid November.

Up until now, supporters of the City Council decision to put intake of all police complaints into the hands of the Civilian Police Review Board (CPRB) have been continually frustrated by what they have seen as City Administrator Deanna Santana’s actions that  “at first delayed and then thwarted and subverted” the decision to hire, train and place intake workers at the office of the CPRB, located at Frank Ogawa Plaza.

This past Monday morning they took their demand to Mayor Jean Quan, Santana’s boss, who until then had refused to take a stand on the issue or set a date to meet with them.

A delegation of about 15 people, carrying picket signs, went to Quan’s City Hall office, determined to sit there until she talked to them.  One of the signs read, “Quan Keep Your Promise.”

They found the door to the office waiting room locked. A staff member inside said through the door that the group could continue standing outside in the hallway if they were peaceful.

Otherwise, the police would be called.  All staff were involved in meetings and could not meet with the group, the voice in the office said.

However, Anne Campbell Washington, the mayor’s chief of staff, finally met with four members of the group, who explained their concerns.   They were told mayor would meet with them, Tuesday, July 30.

Fresh from that victory, PUEBLO and other community attended Tuesday evening’s Public Safety Committee meeting, where they announced they had received support for their position from both Thomas Frazier, Thelton Henderson’s compliance officer over OPD, and Mayor Quan.

“Now it’s clear that there is consensus about the direction. The mayor fully supports that the new intake personnel will reside with the CPRB,” said Rashidah Grinage, executive director of PUEBLO, who also handed out a copy of an email from federal Monitor Robert Warshaw that said he and Frazier had no objections to moving complaint intake to CPRB.

Grinage told the Post she had learned about the mayor’s position earlier Tuesday in a conversation with Campbell Washington.

In response to questions from the Post, Quan backed the reform of complaint intake. “This is sound policy that I have been advocating for since I was on the City Council. It has taken longer than I wanted it to, but it is well underway, and we are on track to meet the City Council’s deadline,” she said

“To the extent that challenges arise throughout this process, we will work collaboratively with the parties to resolve them and move forward. Nothing will stand in the way of progress on completing these reforms.”

Presenting her report at the meeting, Santana finally gave a timetable for hiring civilian intake workers.  She said the process will be completed by Nov. 15

Santana did not refer to her position, stated an earlier Public Safety meeting, that training of intake workers would take up to 18 months and will be conducted by and at OPD’s Internal Affairs Division. After training is completed, the civilian workers might continue to be located at OPD, she said.

Public speakers were enthusiastic about the announced timetable but remained concerned about Santana’s proposals for training and housing the new workers.

“It is absolutely imperative that the civilians who are hired not be placed temporarily or otherwise within the police department. If you do that, there is no need to make any of these changes,” said community member Claudine Tong.

“I urge you to listen to the public will,” said Kim Mejia-Cuellar, a Yale student and graduate of Fremont High School.

“There seems to be a lack of political will to move this process forward,” said Alona Clifton, co-chair of the John George Democratic Club.

Responding, council members assured community members they had the political will to make police reform happen.

The council passed the resolution transferring intake to civilians two years ago, said Councilmember Libby Schaaf, while the “city was in a huge financial crisis. Yet we allocated a million dollars to fund this change.”

“ You want to talk about political will, this council had the political will and still has the political will to make this change,” she said.

Councilmember Lynette McElhaney acknowledged PUEBLO and other community groups that have fought to implement the council’s decision.

“I want to publicly thank PUEBLO and the advocacy of the community to make sure this remained a front burner issue,” McElhaney said, adding that she backs “the concerns the community continues to voice about making sure that as we train the civilians, we ensure they are impartially trained to maintain the integrity” of their work.

The Oakland Police Accountability Coalition includes PUEBLO and more than 20 other organizations, including the Oscar Grant Foundation, Oakland Black Caucus, Nation of Islam, Black Women Organized for Political Action, Paul Robeson Chapter ACLU, Allen Temple Baptist Church, Lakeshore Baptist Church and John George Democratic Club.

Courtesy of the Oakland Post, July 26, 2013 (www.postnewsgroup.com)

 

Prison Hunger Strike Against Endless Solitary Detention

By Jaron K. Epstein

Over 200 people, including community groups and families of prisoners rally at Corcoran State Prison in California to support the prisoner hunger strike which began in Pelican Bay State Prison.

Over 200 people, including community groups and families of prisoners rally at Corcoran State Prison in California to support the prisoner hunger strike which began in Pelican Bay State Prison.

The treatment of prisoners in the U.S. has continued to worsen with the widespread placement of thousands of inmates in indefinite solitary detention is what is known as the SHU or Security Housing Unit policy.

Beginning last year, prisoners in California went on a hunger strike in protest to the horrendous conditions they are subjected to.  Despite promises of prison officials to improve conditions, California inmates – now grown to 30,000 strong – recently renewed their statewide hunger strike and are calling on officials to sit down negotiate inmate demands,

A key demand is to end of group punishment and administrative abuse. When inmates participate in a work strike or a hunger strike, they are individually punished by issuing a Rule Violation Report (RVR).

These RVRs are used to keep prisoners held in solitary confinement indefinitely as well as restricting other rights such as having visitors or making phone calls.

Another of the demands is to abolish the system’s debriefing policy and to modify active/inactive gang status criteria.  Debriefing is where inmates must provide information about other prisoners in order to gain release from solitary confinement.

At present, prisoners may be labeled as gang members and placed in solitary based on the slightest reason, including talking to someone in the yard, a tattoo, a book that is read or a comment in a letter.

The outcome of the Castillo v Alameida settlement restricts the proof of gang membership to the use of photographs for association. But currently inmates are contesting that prison staff does not follow the decision made in the settlement.

In 2006, the U.S. Commission on Safety and Abuse in America Prisons issued recommendations saying there should be an end to conditions of isolation.

Among the recommendations are that segregation should only be used as a last resort.  A more productive form of confinement would be to allow prisoners in isolation the possibility of engaging in meaningful work, education and religion, which would give them a sense of connection to a community.

Also included in the recommendations is the call for an end to the practice of long-term solitary confinement, which means releasing prisoners into the general population who have already been held in solitary continuously for the past 10 to 40 years.

Courtesy of the Oakland Post, July 25, 2013 (www.postnewsgroup.com)

Rainbow Teen Center, a “Hidden Jewel,” Was Built in 45 Days

By Post Staff

The East Oakland Rainbow Teen Center is located in a beautifully renovated site that was built in 45 days at a cost to the public of only $157,000 and offers professional level training to young people who live in an area that has a reputation as one of most neglected and violent parts of the city.

The center at the corner of 58th Avenue and International Boulevard is a unique accomplishment for the City of Oakland.

Rainbow Teen Center

Rainbow Teen Center

The center’s program, which only has sufficient funding to be open part time, hires instructors, who are accomplished in their fields, to train young people in state-of-the-art skills in the areas of digital audio production, digital video production, culinary arts and urban agriculture.

Open for almost three years, the center offers students more than training in marketable skills. Instructors get to know the young people, jointly eat dinner with them daily at the end of class and keep in touch with them after they leave the program.

“You grow the food, you harvest it and then you prepare it and eat it together,” said Timothy Quick, instructor and coordinator of the urban agriculture program, whose expertise is especially in mini-gardens and trellises.

He works with young people to plant and maintain the garden beds outside the center. Usually, young gardeners who enter the program are mostly interested in growing flowers or fruit, he said.

Claytoven Richardson, who grew up in Sobrante Park in East Oakland, is co-director of the center and part of the music

Claytoven Richardson, co-director of Rainbow Teen Center

Claytoven Richardson, co-director of Rainbow Teen Center

production program. An award-wining producer, he says he is excited to see young people learn the skills and then find work in the field.

“This is really incredible for me,” said Richardson, “to see them take it and use it and then begin a career with what they learn. This is an exciting opportunity to do something positive for these kids and this community.”

Andrea President, the other co-director of the program and guitar instructor, is also enthusiastic over Rainbow’s accomplishments in a short time.

“This is a hidden jewel,” she said.  “It looks beautiful on the outside, and on the inside it is even prettier. People are surprised to see it on International Boulevard.

“It has a homey feel. I tell the kids who participate here that this is your home away from home.”

Elizabeth Bagot, a senior at Coliseum Prep Academy, an Oakland public school, spoke to the Post while on the way to a field trip with the program to Tilden Park in Berkeley.

Bagot, who is studying digital video production, said the Rainbow center is special to her because it gives her the tools to make her “vision a reality.”

“It has been very helpful,” she said.  “You can’t work in an actual video environment anywhere else, where you can go out into the streets (to shoot video) and then edit your own films. You learn all the parts that go into making a film.”

Andrea President, co-director at teen center

Andrea President, co-director at teen center

The teachers are good, she said, “because they support you in what you’re trying to do.”

Building the Rainbow Center in 45 days at the cost of only $157,000 was the brainchild of District 6 City Councilmember Desley Brooks. She worked with the nonprofit Rebuilding Oakland Together, which provided volunteers, and the nationally known builder, Pulte Homes.

In comparison, all other council members were allocated $500,00 to build teen centers, except Larry Reid, who was building a sports center.

Besides Brooks, the only council member to build a teen center was Nancy Nadel, whose project took three years at the cost of over $3 million.  That center still has not opened, though Lynette McElhaney has secured some funds for it in the new city budget.

While many allegations have been raised about Councilmember Brooks’ involvement in the building of the center, she says she worked on the project with city staff and successive City Administrators.

She said the city’s personnel department hired all the employees.

Contrary to press reports, instructors at the center said that nobody at the site worked directly with young people until after fulfilling legally required fingerprints and background checks.

The reason there were no competitive bids, Brooks said, was because city staff originally had told Pulte that it was eligible for a grant. It was only after Pulte completed the work and submitted its invoices that staff said they could not pay the company.

Ultimately, staff figured out a way to make the payment, which was approved by the full council.

Courtesy of the Oakland Post, July 19, 2013 (www.postnewsgroup.com)

 

Councilmembers, City Auditor Speak on Censure Motion

By Post Staff

City Councilmembers are reacting to the turmoil generated in the community after Council President Pat Kernighan placed a motion to censure Councilmember Desley Brooks on the agenda of a special council meeting for next Thursday.

Larry Reid

Larry Reid

A source at City Hall said the vote to reprimand Brooks would break down 5-3, the same as the vote on the new city budget. Supporting that budget were Libby Schaaf, Pat Kernighan, Lynette McElhaney, Dan Kalb and Rebecca Kaplan.

Opposed were Desley Brooks, Larry Reid and Noel Gallo.

However, Kaplan has said she will not support the motion, and reports are that Gallo also will not back it.  As of press time, McElhaney has not said how she will vote.

If the vote divides 4-4, the mayor will be called on to break the tie.

City Auditor Courtney Ruby sent out an email blast Wednesday to mobilize residents to attend the meeting next Thursday.

Her performance audit issued earlier this year report focusing on alleged interference with staff by Brooks and Reid set off the current furor that led to the recent Grand Jury Report and Kernighan’s censure motion.

“My audits may raise issues that are difficult to face. However, you elected me and other city leaders to do just that. Please

City Council President Pat Kernighan

City Council President Pat Kernighan

continue to hold us accountable to the promise we made when we took our oath of office,” said Ruby in the email.

Reid reiterated his opposition to the motion, saying, “It makes no sense. There is no policy in place to censure a council member. It’s going to be a dog and pony show.”

In addition, he said, the district attorney did not press charges against Brooks, and every member of the council is guilty of what the Grand Jury report is calling interference.

“The entire council could be censured, if any kind of action is going to take place,” he said.

“It puts the three new councilmembers in a bad position, voting for something they were not here to (witness).”

While not indicating how she would vote, McElhany said,  “People are making this out to be more than what it is.  A censure vote is a symbolic gesture that acknowledges disapproval.  It has no direct effect on the validity of the councilmember’s service nor is there any particular legal consequence. It is too bad that we have to talk about this now rather than focus on the city’s needs, but we must respond to the Grand Jury report.  These actions took place a long time ago.  It is time for the city to move forward.”

Kernighan said that controversy and inaction swirling around Brooks since the city auditor’s report has “been a drag on the reputation of the Oakland City Council,” according to Oakland Local.

“I am painfully aware that this is going to be a difficult conversation,” Kernighan was reported to have said during a rules committee meeting. “I think it is important that we just deal with this issue that has been dogging us for awhile, and I would like to dispense with it one way or another regardless of how it turns out before we go on break.

Courtesy of the Oakland Post, July 19, 2013 (www.postnewsgroup.com)

 

Council Members Favoring Censure Are a “Bunch of Hypocrites,” Says de la Fuente

By Post Staff

Former Councilmember Ignacio de la Fuente is saying council members who support censuring Desley Brooks are “a bunch of hypocrites.”

In an interview with the Post this week, de la Fuente weighed in on the public uproar over the pending motion to censure Councilmember Desley Brooks.

Igancio de la Fuente

Igancio de la Fuente

De la Fuente said he knew of an instance when Council President Kernighan had called city staff specifically to instruct them to stop issuing citations in the hills to drivers who park on the wrong side of the street.

“All of us have done something when it comes to pushing to solve our constituents needs,” he said. “All councilmembers get calls from their constituents demanding actions on their needs and problems and concerns.”

Frequently, council decisions would not be carried out without councilmembers working directly with staff, he said.

“I remember when Jane Brunner, Pat Kernighan and I would get calls and complaints, and we would try to move things along to solve problems and bottlenecks in the bureaucracy.

“All city councilmembers have shepherded projects – we all have pushed staff to get things done.”

Instead of backing a motion to censure, the City Council should focus on writing a policy that would give them something concrete by which to measure their actions, he said.

“Let’s not be a bunch of hypocrites,” he said.

In related news, the Post has learned that the Grand Jury is in possession of an email dated Feb. 5 from Libby Schaaf on police staffing that documents the council member’s attempt to direct city Budget Director Donna Hom.

“I’ve asked Donna Hom to develop an Excel tool that would allow us to easily cost-out various scenarios,” in order to “figure out how to get Oakland to 1,000 cops,” Schaaf wrote in the email.

Courtesy of the Oakland Post, July 19, 2013 (www.postnewsgroup.com)

Accusations Against Brooks Are a “Witch Hunt,” Say Community Members

By Ken A. Epstein

Community members are responding angrily as news has began to spread that City Council President Pat Kernighan has called a special City Council meeting to reprimand District 6 Councilmember Desley Brooks for violating the City Charter for interfering with staff.

Ron Muhammad

Ron Muhammad

The meeting will be held Thursday, July 25 in the Council Chambers at 6:30 p.m. Though the motion to censure Brooks carries no formal penalties, it could potentially impact next year’s District 6 council race.

“I think this is a political witch hunt – it has bigger political implications in terms of the mayoral election and future political races – because it is much to do about nothing,” said Ron Muhammad, West Oakland community activist.

He said the council should not be considering censure because “there’s not a process in place to judge her, but propaganda has created the momentum.”

The move to censure Brooks originally started out because she was able to build a teen center in District 6 utilizing significant support of volunteers and donations before former Councilmember Nancy Nadel could complete one in West Oakland, and Nadel resented Brooks for “leapfrogging the process,” he said.

Brooks’ center was built for $157,000 and in “45 days as opposed to three years” for Nadel’s West Oakland project at a cost of over $3 million, said Muhammad.

In addition, the East Oakland center has state-of-art programs serving young people, while the West Oakland center has until now lacked funds to open its doors.

Underscoring concern over staff’s lack of accountability to the community, Rev. Daniel Buford of Allen Temple Baptist Church argues that responsible council members must make staff accountable to the public.

Rev. Daniel Buford

Rev. Daniel Buford

“Far from keeping council people from talking to city staff, I think they need to be meddled with, they need to be monitored and they need to be censured for encumbering the city in million-dollar schemes that are bilking taxpayers,” Buford said.

“It was the city staff that years ago encumbered the city for millions of dollars to Goldman Sachs,” he said. “ It is that same city staff that is now dragging their feet in resolving the issue,” and is attempting to keep the city from debarring that organization from future dealings with Oakland.

In addition, he said, it was staff that agreed to a contract with Neptune Society to build a crematorium in East Oakland that would burn and pollute the air with the dust of 3,000 corpses a year.

“Once again, staff has gotten the city into something without proper citizen review or environmental quality review,” he said.

While the main charge against Brooks is that she violated the City Charter by interfering with staff, the bigger issue in city government is that  “staff interferes and sabotages the decisions of the council,” said Rashidah Grinage, executive director of PUEBLO, which, along with other organizations, has worked for years for police accountability to local residents.

Staff does not carry out city decisions and are even guilty of saying, “they have done things that they have not done,” Grinage said. “This is the far more serious problem about city accountability to its residents.”

As an example, she cited the failure of city staff, including the City Administrator, to properly oversee the Oakland Workforce Investment Board, which has led to failure to fund non-profit job programs in a timely way and to the return of $600,000 in on-job-training funds to the state.

She said the City Administrator also failed to adequately oversee small businesses located at the site of the Oakland Army Base development project. As a result, the city has had to scramble at the last minute to find temporary locations for these local companies, trying to keep them from closing down and laying off hundreds of workers.

“It was entirely foreseeable that they would have to get out of where they were,” Grinage said.

Further, Grinage said that actions of city staff and the City Administrator have cost city $10-$15 million in court fees, lawsuits and consultants for failing for over 10 years to reform the Oakland Police Department as required by the Negotiated Settlement Agreement, overseen by federal Judge Thelton Henderson.

Grinage is currently contending with City Administrator Deanna Santana for stalling the implementation of the transfer of intake of complaints against police from Internal Affairs to an independent review board.

Rashidah Grinage

Rashidah Grinage

“She’s supposed to have it done by Oct. 15,” Grinage said. “But it’s already been delayed two years.”

Kitty Kelly Epstein, an Oakland educator and former staffer for the previous mayor, also opposed the motion to reprimand Brooks.

“Censure is a political weapon.  It isn’t any prettier in Oakland than it is in the U.S. Congress,” she said.  “ Desley Brooks is the only council member who has actually succeeded in getting a teen center operating in her district.

“Instead of considering a censure of her, maybe the president of the council would want to figure out how to get city administration to work in such a way that the other badly needed teen centers are actually built and operating.

“And while she’s at it, Ms. Kernighan could look at how to get some other city policies carried out – like jobs for the residents of East and West Oakland and a reformed police department.”

Courtesy of the Oakland Post, July 19, 2013 (www.postnewsgroup.com)