Archive for October, 2013

Report: 75 Percent of Juvenile Arrests in Oakland Are Black Males

By Spencer Whitney

Spencer WhitneyNearly three quarters of juvenile arrests in Oakland are African American boys, who are often picked up for relatively minor offenses, according to a study recently released by the local nonprofit Black Organizing Project, Public Counsel and the American Civil Liberties Union of Northern California.

Titled “The Impact of Policing Oakland Youth,” the report looks at arrest data between 2006 and 2012 and found that African American boys made up almost 75 percent of all juvenile arrests in Oakland despite being under 30 percent of the city’s under 18 population.

The study calls on the school district to make dramatic improvements by making a greater investment in counselors and mentors and implementing a memorandum of understanding between the Oakland Police Department and OUSD that clearly defines and limits the role of OPD officers in and around campuses.arrests

“There is no oversight on how Oakland police operate in schools, and that is why we need more accountability of the police and transparency in their reports,” said Misha Cornelius, communications coordinator of the Black Organizing Project.

“This an example of the school to prison pipeline and not being trained for success or being put on track for job skills.”

Cornelius says that she and her organization were astonished to find how many young African American students were getting arrested for minor offenses like gambling or skipping school and wondered why more money is not being invested in training counselors in restorative justice practices and conflict resolution.

Currently, there are only 20.5 counselors in OUSD.

More than 72 percent of calls from schools to the OUSD’s police force were to respond to allegations of “non-criminal conduct” by students or others. Only 28 percent of calls were in response to allegations of drugs, alcohol, weapons, and crimes against a person, according to the report.

The report also found that Black youth were referred to Alameda County Probation at more than two-and-a-half times their percentage in the population.  About 44 percent of Black male students suspended or arrested at Oakland’s schools multiple times were ousted as punishment for “defiance of authority.”

During the period that report covered, there were more than 13,680 juvenile arrests in or near schools, mostly by OPD. Between 2010 and 2012, Oakland school police officers made 85 arrests.

To reduce these numbers of arrests, according to district spokesman Troy Flint, the district has changed its suspension policy, relying more on counseling students instead of suspensions, as well as taking steps to go from punitive to restorative and preventive justice practices.

“The report reflects a combination of social, economic, and historic societal factors that Black communities in Oakland have been underserved for generations, and we’re seeing that culminate in these arrest records,” said Flint.

“We recognize the disproportionality, and that this isn’t just an Oakland problem, it’s a national problem,” he said.

In response to the alarming rate of young Black male dropout rates and incarceration, the district formed the Office of African American Male Achievement in 2010. The office works to analyze data, track individual students, arrange internships and mentors, promote black male achievements, and lead workshops for students and parents.

Chris Chatmon, executive officer of the Office of African American Male Achievement, says the district is placing a focus on early literacy so that by the time students finish third grade everyone is on the same reading level.

“We have to have alternative programs for supporting children and keeping them in a nurturing environment,” said Chatmon. “This includes implementing social and emotional learning for both students and staff, revising the discipline policies, and a multitiered intervention system to curb dropout rates.”

Teresa Clincy, an administrator at OUSD ,said the district’s plan to reduce suspensions through restorative justice will go a long way towards solving the problems of Black male achievement. Since she began working for OUSD in 2010, she has seen a dramatic drop in the numbers of referrals for expulsion.

“In 2009, there were 350 referrals for expulsion,” said Clincy. “During my first year in 2010, the number of referrals fell to 270 and in 2011 that it was 201. Last year, the number dropped to 177.”

Clincy noted that only 12 out of the 25 students arrested last year were referred for expulsion. Already there are steps being taken to change expulsion policies, Now, school principals must seek secondary approval on expulsion recommendations.

“One person doesn’t hold the answer,” said Chatmon. “We have to change the culture and hold each other accountable on both a national and domestic level.”

Courtesy of the Oakland Post, October 12, 2013 (www.postnewsgroup.com)

Compliance Director Frazier Explains Why He Overruled Council on Police Reform

 OPD Investigating Itself Seen as the ‘Fox Guarding the Hen house,” Say Reformers

By Ken A. Epstein

The federal overseer with authority over the Oakland Police Department this week finally explained why he overruled City Council decision to house intake of all complaints against OPD officers outside of the department’s Internal Affairs Division.

Compliance Director Thomas Frazier announced over two weeks ago that he was overturning the implementation of the council’s 2011 ruling to consolidate intake of complaints at the city’s Civilian Police Review Board.

Thomas Frazier

                              Thomas Frazier

He said on Tuesday he had made the decision because he was concerned that if the intake of complaints become completely independent of OPD – not left under control of department officials – police officers were likely to lose confidence the complaint system.

As a result, Frazier said, officers might quit, while new officers could be hard to attract, meaning the department would continue to be understaffed.

“The issue of the location of the Intake Unit was difficult to reconcile. The working men and women of OPD … must be confident that the system is effective. If confidence in this system is lost, officer retention, recruiting, and attracting lateral transfer officers from other law enforcement agencies could be damaged,” said Frazier in a monthly report on his work.

“This would add to the substantial difficulties in growing the size of the department,” he said.

Reacting strongly to Frazier’s statement, local advocates of police reform complained that his position does not speak to the need for Oakland residents to be able to feel that OPD is accountable to the community that it serves.

“There has never been an issue to reconcile – at least, not in public,” said Rashidah Grinage, executive director of PUEBLO.

“At public discussions of this proposal, OPD command staff never objected to the transfer of intake to the CPRB. If there were issues that needed to be reconciled, they occurred behind closed doors and were never part of a public discussion or debate,” Grinage said.

“The public perception is that OPD investigating itself is like ‘the fox guarding the hen house’ and that fairness and objectivity are inherently lacking. Placing civilians in Internal Affairs will do nothing to alter that perception.

“Claims that OPD will fail to attract candidates because the intake of complaints has been transferred to CPRB are ludicrous on their face and there is no evidence to suggest that this would be the case.”

Walter Riley

Walter Riley

Also disagreeing with Frazier, civil rights attorney Walter Riley said, “The problem with the police department is that it needs to get into shape,”

“If they can’t answer to the public, and have no confidence (in the system) if they are required to fair, then they are in the wrong place,” he said.

What Frazier is saying “is no approach to having them shape up. It’s contrary to the needs of the people of Oakland,” said Riley.

Grinage said PUEBLO has filed a complaint with the city’s Ethics Commission for the years of closed-door meetings between the city administration and the Oakland Police Officers Association (OPOA).

“Bargaining with the OPOA over decisions that are public policy, not labor issues, is a violation of the Ralph M. Brown Act,” the state’s open meeting law, said Grinage.

“In the late 1990s, we discovered that the OPOA essentially had a secret veto over elements of an updated CPRB ordinance that we were trying to get passed,” she said.

“No matter what we said, they were able to veto anything they didn’t like behind closed doors.”

Taking action, PUEBLO and the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) filed a complaint with the Ethics Commission and won.

The commission told the city to stop the closed-door meetings, she said, “But the city turned around and sued the Ethics Commission. And we sued the city.”

“In the end we prevailed in Superior Court,” she said. “The judge said that civilian oversight is a managerial prerogative. It’s up to city leaders to decide on what kind of civilian oversight they want. It’s not bargainable with a labor unit.”

“And yet (City Administrator) Deanna Santana has continued to bargain with OPOA, who continued to have input in the job description” and to demand that intake workers be housed in Internal Affairs, she said.

Courtesy of the Oakland Post, October 6, 2013 (www.postnewsgroup.com)

 

 

 

OMSS Truck Parking Evicted at Army Base, Site Handed to Another Parking Company

Mayor Quan Allows Apparent Favoritism

 By Ken A. Epstein

The city’s hard line decision to evict Bill’s Aboudi’s Oakland Maritime Support Services (OMSS) to start it’s Army Base development project – evicting small businesses and putting big rig trucks out into the community – is being questioned this week after it has been learned that the city is preparing to give at least some of Aboudi’s former property to Douglas Parking in an apparent no bid agreement to conduct the same business that had been performed by OMSS.

Alameda County Sheriff deputies talk to Bill Aboudi as they prepare to evict OMSS from Oakland's  Army Base property.  Photo by Ken Epstein

Alameda County Sheriff deputies talked to Bill Aboudi as they prepared to evict OMSS from Oakland’s Army Base property. Photo by Ken Epstein

The city and its agents are temporarily giving 3.4 acres of OMSS’s former 15 acres site to Douglas Parking to provide about 70 spaces of truck parking, according to Phil Tagami, head of CCIG and master developer of the Army Base project, writing Tuesday in a Facebook exchange with Aboudi and others.

“The City of Oakland directed us to provide 70 additional truck parking (spaces) for the next 120 days and has selected a local operator Douglas parking to provide that service,” said Tagami.

“There will be some temporary truck parking on a portion of the site that was occupied by OMSS. The cost of fencing and k-rail is nominal, which is being advanced by the project and which will be recovered by parking fees paid by users over the short term duration,” he said.

“The city controlled truck … lot will be at fees set by the City of Oakland,” Tagami said.

Questioned by the Post, Mayor Jean Quan was asked to explain the decision, which gives the appearance of favoritism, as the city removed one company from its Army Base land, only to turn around and give the business to another company, which was selected without a public process.

Neither Mayor Quan nor Tagami responded to the Post’s questions.

The underlying problem is that the city’s agreement establishing Tagami as master developer gives the “project preapproval to do whatever they want,” said Aboudi.

“They do not have to go through a public process because the city gave the project a lot of leeway. The project can make decisions on anything they want,” Aboudi said.

According to Councilmember Lynette Gibson McElhaney, the City Council was not informed about the Douglas Parking decision.

“I just learned about these new movements,” she said.  “And the council has not been informed by the process by which Douglas Parking was selected.  There are several local parking companies, at least one minority owned, that should have been given the opportunity to bid if the city had made the decision to contract these services.

“I will reach out to the administration to get a better understanding,” McElhaney said.

Oakland business consultant Dexter Vizinau, who represents OMSS and other businesses based at the port, says Aboudi’s business is exactly the kind of company the city needs to support.

“This is a small business in Oakland – it’s a minority business.” He said. “This a perfect opportunity for the city to have local small businesses.”

However, Aboudi has run afoul of serious opponents. “Bill (Aboudi) has powerful enemies, and it appears that there is an on-going campaign to disrupt and destroy any and all businesses that he is connected with,” said McElhaney.

According to one local observer of the Army Base project, “This a local small business that is battling the Teamsters union on one side and the master developer on the other.”

Courtesy of the Oakland Post, Oct. 6, 2013 (www.postnewsgroup.com)

Speculators Control Oakland Housing Market

By Tanya Dennis

Existing home sales in the past 24 months have been heavily driven by speculators, private equity funds and hedge funds buying up huge blocks of foreclosed and distressed homes in Oakland.

Neil Sullivan owner of REO Homes has purchased over 250 homes in West Oakland, and Richard Marr of Community Fund LLC has purchased over 307 foreclosed homes and apartments.

 Map of two largest speculators in Oakland. Neil Sullivan (blue dots), owner of REO Homes, has purchased over 250 homes in West Oakland ,and Richard Marr (red dots) of Community Fund LLC has purchased over 307 homes.

Map of two largest speculators in Oakland.
Neil Sullivan (blue dots), owner of REO Homes, has purchased over 250 homes in West Oakland, and Richard Marr (red dots) of Community Fund LLC has purchased over 307 homes.

Speculators have purchased nearly half of the foreclosed properties in Oakland.

Oakland is leading the national trend, where speculators control the housing market.  Currently Oakland is number two in the nation for the high cost of home rentals currently on the market, second only to San Francisco.

The pattern Oakland follows the national trend, with speculators controlling the housing market.

“They swarmed the distressed housing market, buying thousands of foreclosed properties and pushing prices higher faster than anyone expected,” said Diane Olick at Realty Check.

“Now investors are pulling back, dissuaded by the higher prices they themselves brought about.”

Banks have created fake demand by lending cheap money to financial speculators. According to Business Insider, “We now have an all-time high level of investor activity, reaching 30 percent of all re-sales in the markets we track and 45 percent in markets such as Orlando, Florida.”

Speculators are creating a false perception that the housing market is recovering.  Mortgage applications have dropped for seven straight weeks, refinance activity is down 57 percent, and refinanced homes are at a two-year low having slipped another 4 percent in July.

With home ownership at an 18-year low, and as 30 year fixed mortgage rates increase to 4.58 percent, potential homebuyers are holding off on purchasing a home.

According to the Wall Street Journal, “First-time home buyers, long a key underpinning of the housing market, are increasingly getting left behind in the real-estate recovery.”

First-time buyers usually account for between 40 percent and 50 percent of home sales.  In June, first-time buyers accounted for 29 percent of purchased homes compared to 32 percent a year ago according to the National Association of Realtors.

“First-time home buyers are scarce because the economy stinks.  Wages are falling, unemployment is high, and 40 percent of traditional first time home buyers are so loaded with debt from student loans they’ll never enter the middle class,” said Mike Whitney, who writes for the website Counterpunch.

“The fundamentals which supported strong housing markets of the past no longer exist . . .the upward distribution of wealth has widened the chasm between the nation’s rich and poor, which has weakened demand creating conditions for a long-term and irreversible slump,” he said.

According to David Kranzler of Seeking Alpha, “There are other signs that the housing market has topped out, like the reappearance and preponderance of home “flipping” and the expanded use of subprime mortgages and adjustable rate mortgages (ARMs).  The primary drivers of the market for existing home sales are rapidly deteriorating.”

A new housing bubble has been created. Some economists anticipate that housing prices will fall as speculators leave the housing market before the market sours.

Courtesy of the Oakland Post, October 5, 2013 (www.postnewsgroup.com)