Archive for July, 2014

Council to Consider Minimum Wage Ordinance

By Ken A. Epstein

The City Council next week will vote on an ordinance that would gradually raise the minimum wage for workers in Oakland to $13 an hour in three years and eventually as high as $15 per hour.fastfood1

Contrary to the labor-backed Lift Up Oakland measure, which would go into effect next March, five months after the November election, the City Council ordinance would not have to be approved by voters. It would take effect immediately but spread the wage increases over a number of years.

In addition, the council’s ordinance would exempt or otherwise protect small nonprofits, youth and adult job training programs from the increases. Small businesses with less than 15 employees would have a longer period before the increases kick in.

Council members voted to send the proposed ordinance to next Tuesday’s council meeting, where details would be worked out and voted on. The vote in committee was 3-1 for the proposal, Lynette McElhaney, Pat Kernighan and Larry Reid voting in favor.

Libby Schaaf opposed the resolution, saying she was backing the Lift Up measure.

According to a city consultant, 73.5 percent of the city’s 9,524 businesses employ nine or fewer workers, which represent 14.2 percent of the 195,600 workers in the city.

mcdonald's strikersCouncil President Kernighan said she was sponsoring this ordinance to raise the minimum wage in way that would avoid “unintended consequences” of harming small businesses and result in job loss.

Kernighan and other council members said they had been hearing these concerns from small businesses with less than 15 employees and nonprofits that operate youth and adult job training programs.

Also affected would be programs that hire direct care workers for the frail, disabled and elderly, which might have to shut down because they are paid by federal and state programs that would not raise hourly rates to accommodate a city minimum wage ordinance.

According to members of the Lift Up coalition, the council would not be considering a minimum wage increase if they had not put a measure on the ballot. Now, they say, the council is trying to put together its own measure in order to circumvent raising wages.

In a press release, Lift up says, “The Kernighan/ Chamber of Commerce” proposal would create a loophole for “major chains, (and they) will take advantage of this exemption.”.

“At the Oakland International Airport, Jamba Juice and Subway are individual franchises and have taken the position that they do not have to comply with the Port of Oakland Living Wage policy,” based on a similar loophole, according to the Lift Up statement.

Backing the Lift Up ballot measure, Councilmember Schaaf said, “This is our opportunity to lead and stand up for what is right. That’s without exemption and without delay and without hesitation. We should respect the will of the 33,000” who signed the Lift Up petition to put their measure on the ballot.low wage worker protest

Responding to Lift Up members, Councilmember Reid said, “We are where we are” because the coalition did not come to the council to discuss their proposal prior to putting it on the ballot. “All of us are committed to raising the standard of living of residents in the city.”

“I do not want to be at odds with the coalition,” Reid said. “If you guys had just spread out the increase, I would have supported it.”

It is unclear at present how the differences between the council-backed ordinance and the Lift Up ballot measure will be resolved if they both pass.

 

Courtesy of the Oakland Post, July 25, 2014 (postnewsgroup.com)

Attorneys Burris and Chanin Meet with Community to “Sustain” Police Accountability

By Ken A. Epstein

Two leading local civil rights attorneys, John Burris and Jim Chanin, met this week with community members who belong to an Oakland police accountability coalition that is seeking ways to improve oversight of police and sustain reforms that have been achieved over the last 12 years while the Oakland Police Department has been under federal court supervision.

John Burris

John Burris

Burris and Chanin were two of the main lawyers who helped develop the Negotiated Settlement Agreement (NSA) with the federal court and the City of Oakland and have been involved in its implementation since the beginning.

The NSA is likely to be winding down and may end within next few years, the attorneys have said.

“There needs to be some accountability. Some kind of continued review has to occur,” said Burris, agreeing with community concerns that OPD could backslide once the department is no longer under court supervision.

“The number one issue is the racial profiling issue,” said Chanin. “That’s why we started the NSA to begin with. It was not clear at the beginning that this was the massive kind of systemic failure that it turned out to be – of an amazing and horrible nature,” he said.

“We thought it would never end, but now it’s clear that (the NSA) will end,” Chanin said. In the last few years, there has been significant progress, including a reduction in the number of officer involved shootings, he said.

In the past, he said, officers had resisted turning on lapel video recorders when making arrests, but now do so after they heard directly from commanders that they would face dire consequences if they fail to activate their recorders.

There are now early warning systems for police misconduct in place, said Burris, “But none of it works if you don’t do anything about it. Ultimately, what counts is the integrity of the people at the top,” he said.

Praising Burris and Chanin for making a “heroic” commitment to the people of Oakland, community members talked about

Jim Chanin

Jim Chanin

their ongoing concerns about police accountability.

Attorney Yolanda Huang mentioned the persistent difficulties she faces when representing criminal defendants. “(Written) police reports are inaccurate to the point of wondering if they are falsehoods,” she said, also complaining of photo lineups, “which Oakland police do terribly.”

“We want effective public oversight, that is transparent,” said community activist Paula Hawthorn.

Before federal oversight ends, “There must be some structural change the city must commit to,” said Rashidah Grinage of People United for a Better Life in Oakland (PUEBLO).

“At some point, the city will petition the judge to vacate this judgment,” Grinage said. At that point, the court needs to say, “The city is not in full compliance until it has made a commitment to assure that the compliance will be sustainable and ongoing,” enacting something like an independent police oversight commission, she said.

Chanin said that he was surprised when he and Burris were originally picked to be involved in the NSA.

“They limited our salary to $5,000 a year for the first five years. I believe they thought we would not actually go through with it,” he said, pointing out that he would receive $5,000 for his fee in January and then work February through December for free.

The Negotiated Settlement Agreement can be traced back to the Allen v. City of Oakland federal civil lawsuit, which began in December 2000 when Chanin, Julie Houk and Burris became involved in what they saw as a pattern of civil rights abuses by members of OPD in what became known as the “Riders” scandal.

Rashidah Grinage

Rashidah Grinage

Eventually, 119 individual plaintiffs, almost all African American, joined the lawsuit.  Their claims involved many constitutional violations, including false arrests, unreasonable seizures, false imprisonments, the planting of evidence, excessive use of force, falsification of police reports, racially biased policing and kidnapping.

Criminal cases were brought by the District Attorney’s Office, but many of these cases were dismissed or overturned.

The plaintiffs in the lawsuit settled with the city for $10.5 million. The city also agreed to enact and implement institutional reforms by means of a non-monetary settlement agreement, the NSA, to prevent the recurrence of the civil rights violations that gave rise to this litigation and to bring OPD in line with professional policing practices.

The product of more than a year of negotiations between plaintiffs, the city and OPD, the NSA became a federal court order in January 2003.

Courtesy of the Oakland Post, July 25, 2014 (postnewsgroup.com)

Judge Blasts Oakland for Mishandling Police Discipline

By Post Staff

Federal Judge Thelton Henderson issued a court order this week criticizing the City of Oakland for failing to consult the court-appointed federal overseer when the City Administrator reduced the punishment for a police captain accused of striking a suspect during an arrest.

Judge Thelton Henderson

Judge Thelton Henderson

After the police chief and the federal compliance director had agreed upon a level of discipline, “The City Administrator subsequently imposed a different level of discipline without consulting the compliance director … (which) violated the orders of this court,” Henderson wrote in the order dated July 22.

Henderson said he was issuing the order as a “stern reminder” to follow the terms of the Negotiated Settlement Agreement (NSA). “The court hopes this order will serve its intended prophylactic effect and that this situation will not recur,” he wrote.

“If the defendants fail to heed the court’s warning, they should expect a show cause order for future violations, which would also undermine any confidence in the sustainability of the reforms that have been and continue to be achieved,” according to Henderson.

Though Henderson did not mention details of the police discipline case, he was referring to the handling of the discipline of Capt. Ersie Joyner III for striking a suspect during an arrest in March 2013, according to reports.

Capt. Ersie Joyner

Capt. Ersie Joyner

In that case, Joyner was accused of inappropriate use of force when he struck Dantjuan McElroy twice in the face with his hand during the suspect’s arrest, the reports said. McElroy was charged with possessing an automatic weapon.

The department at first wanted to demote Joyner to lieutenant, according to reports. However, officials reduced the punishment to a 10-day suspension after outside experts wrote reports that cleared the officer of wrongdoing, the reports said.

When the case went to then City Administrator Fred Blackwell, he further reduced the punishment to counseling after he heard that the suspension would be reversed on appeal, without consulting the federal compliance director, the reports said.

Over the years, Capt. Joyner, a longtime high-ranking OPD officer, has been the subject of a number of internal police investigations and civil lawsuits.

City Rights Attorney John Burris is currently suing the city, Joyner and another officer for shooting and killing two men in 2011. Prosecutors have already cleared police of any wrongdoing in that case.

Joyner was also under investigation for misconduct for approving the use of beanbag projectiles against Occupy Oakland protesters in November 2011.

In addition, Joyner faced an internal probe on how he handled the investigation into death of Chauncey Baily in 2007. In early 2009, Sgt. Derwin Longmire and Joyner, who was Longmire’s immediate supervisor in the Bailey case, were reassigned from the   homicide detail to patrol duties in the wake of that investigation, which involved internal affairs detectives and investigators from the California Department of Justice

Howard Jordan, then assistant police chief, told the Oakland Tribune at the time that neither move had anything to do with the Bailey case or subsequent investigations.

One of the City of Oakland’s highest paid employees, Joyner had a total compensation in 2011 of $252,286. In March 2014, he received an award for his work with Ceasefire and gang case management at a Neighborhood Champions Award ceremony.

Courtesy of the Oakland Post, July 25, 2014 (postnewsgroup.com)

 

Leaders Should Reflect Community, Not Corporate Interests, Says Jason “Shake” Anderson

Jason "Shake" Anderson

Jason “Shake” Anderson

 

By Ashley Chambers

As election season gets into full swing, Oakland’s mayoral race is heating up, and candidates are staking out their positions. One of the younger candidate is Jason “Shake” Anderson, who is pushing for progressive leadership in the city, public safety, local jobs, and more effective programs to engage young people.

“The City of Oakland should be at the forefront of progressive politics,” says Anderson, who served in the military for seven years and was involved in the Occupy Oakland movement.

The Occupy movement served as his gateway into politics and provided a “vehicle to engage in what I can do for humanity.”

The Bay Area native says city leadership should reflect community needs, not corporate interests, he said. Growing up in Oakland, a former a radio host and now a spoken word artist, Anderson feels that he has what it takes to represent the community.

“I think now is the time for Oakland to really make the change to have the leadership it deserves,” he says. “It would take someone like myself who is already dedicated to civil engagement, fighting against economic inequality and social injustice and who has a strong community background without any corporate ties, to push the progressive movement that Oakland should have.”

It’s about working together, Anderson continues.

“The problem with government and politics is this ‘isolation politics,’ where people only help those that help them. What it looks like at the end of the day is a small group of people advance while the general populace falls behind, and I would like to see the general populace advance,” he says.

Focusing on a number of issues including youth engagement and jobs, Anderson takes a different approach when addressing public safety.

He says, “To decrease crime, you have to actually identify not just who’s perpetrating but why they’re perpetrating.”

Addressing the need for local jobs, Anderson is supporting running mate Sam Washington’s plan, Oakland First, which would prioritize hiring and employment goals for Oakland residents.

When corporations want to bring their business to Oakland, the conversation is not about if it’s going to happen, it’s about how much they are willing to give, says Anderson.

“For years, Oakland has always taken a position of weakness when it comes to corporations, and that’s just a bad way to negotiate,” he says.

“We have to come from a position of strength, and that means setting standards on what we want from corporations before they even come to the table. If we don’t have any standards on what corporations are going to give back to the community, then we’ll always be negotiating from a deficit.”

The self-proclaimed “Town Mayor” professes his adaptability in reaching both the younger and older generations. Another priority issue for Anderson is ensuring that current youth programs are effective in benefiting those young people who are in need of resources. Some of these programs, he says, are either underfunded or mismanaged.

“Intelligence shouldn’t be stifled by a lack of resources,” he said. “We should help people get the resources they need so that we can use their intelligence to make things better for everyone.”

Jason “Shake” Anderson is endorsed by the Oakland Green Party. Visit a webpage supporting him at http://linkis.com/democracy.com/townma/bg468.

Courtesy of the Oakland Post,  July 25, 2014 (postnewsgroup.com)

 

Council Approves West Oakland Development Plan

Rendering of development on 7th Street at West Oakland BART Station.

Rendering of development on 7th Street at West Oakland BART Station.

By Ken A. Epstein

The West Oakland Specific Plan, designed to guide and encourage residential, commercial and industrial development on 1,900 acres of land next to downtown Oakland, was approved at the City Council this week.

Some community members wanted to postpone the decision, protesting against the plan. They are concerned about the ongoing displacement of the West Oakland community. They say the plan lacks teeth, especially a way to maintain and build affordable housing to keep current residents in the city.

Desley Brooks

Desley Brooks

On the other side, some West Oakland residents are complaining the approval is a year and half late, jeopardizing the possibility of development projects in the area, especially the Mandela Village plan at the West Oakland BART station.

Council members voted for the plan 7-0. Desley Brooks abstained, arguing the passage should be postponed for a few months until affordable housing provisions could be added to the document. She points to the displacement of the elderly, disabled and people of color that has swept through the city and especially West Oakland in recent years.

“Why is there a rush to adopt a piecemeal plan? A whole lot of things are falling through the cracks,” said Brooks. “ We need to build housing for the people who want to move here and the low-income and middle income people who are already here – to maintain the rich diversity that makes Oakland special.”

According to the city, the plan will result in no displacement of residents and create about 28,000 jobs over the next 10 years.

In the works since 2010, the specific plan looks at land use, economic and market conditions, infrastructure deficiencies, transportation, public safety and security.

The plan will create a blanket West Oakland Environmental Impact Report (EIR) for the area, which means developers, as long as they stay within the plan’s guidelines, will be able to move ahead on projects without dealing with zoning approvals.

The plan focuses on four “Opportunity Sites” to be developed: the Mandela/West Grand area, the San Pablo corridor, the area around the BART station on 7th Street and the area next to the Port of Oakland around 3rd Street. At these sites, transit, housing, light industrial and retail outlets will be developed.

Councilmember Lynette McElhaney, who represents West Oakland, was the primary member of the council advocating for the plan.

She says that opponents are understandably deeply concerned about the gentrification forces that are leading to the displacement of so many low-income and middle-income residents. But their concerns about the plan are unfounded.

Lynette Gibson McElhaney

Lynette Gibson McElhaney

“The things people things are afraid of, I don’t find in the plan.” she said.

In addition, McElhaney says some activists are proposing solutions that do not deal with the actual economic forces that are unfolding in West Oakland and throughout the city.

For instance, many groups do not want to build market-rate housing. But the lack of market-rate housing in Oakland is driving up existing rents and home price because people with money want to move here and are willing to pay more.

“More market rate housing removes pressure on existing units,” she said. “In some ways, the thing people fear is producing the thing they are afraid of.”

McElhaney also says that people are unrealistic about development prospects. Developers want to build in San Francisco, but they do not want to build in Oakland, she said. The only one willing to build in the city are Oakland-based developers like Michael Ghielmetti and John Protopappas.

“It would be great to build something, but we’re not building,” she said. “Oakland can’t beg a developer to come to the city right now. The reality is that you can’t get (developers) to come here without incentivizing the development.”

On the other hand, there are speculators who have snapped up property in West Oakland in the hope that Emeryville real estate development will spill into West Oakland, she said, but they will be disappointed.

“That’s not going to happen,” McElhaney said. “This plan very much constrains any residential growth.”

The plan includes the suggestions of local people who want to keep a lot of the area zoned as industrial land for companies that will produce jobs. If industrial land ends up being rezoned for housing, prices will soar, and industrial uses would be forced out, she said.

In summary, she said, “This is a very conservative plan that will not relieve housing congestion” but attempts to strike a balance between commercial, residential and industrial development, as well as maintaining the cultural integrity of the area.

Courtesy of the Oakland Post, July 21, 2014 (postnewsgroup.com)

Councilmember Noel Gallo Calls for Support for Migrant Children

A Border Patrol agent stands on a ranch fence line with children taken into custody in South Texas brush country north of Laredo, Texas, Tuesday, June 6, 2006. According to agents, the children were separated from their families after the Border Patrol apprehended a large group of immigrants that crossed into the U.S. illegally. They spent the next 11 hours in the brush until agents found them. This came  a few hours before President Bush visited the Laredo Border Patrol Sector. (AP Photo/LM Otero)

A Border Patrol agent stands on a ranch fence line with children taken into custody in South Texas brush country north of Laredo, Texas. (AP Photo/LM Otero)

By Ken A. Epstein

Councilmember Noel Gallo, who represents the Fruitvale District, is seeking to promote a alliance between Oakland and San Francisco to pressure the federal government and involve local churches to provide humanitarian aid to Central American refugee children who cross the border and eventually arrive in the Bay Area.

“My understanding is that the children come across the border with the idea of connecting with a family member in the U..S. ” and a number end up in San Francisco and Oakland, Gallo said.

In Oakland neighborhoods, Gallo is seeing mostly young people, as young as 4 years old, along International Boulevard. A few are moving in near where he lives.

Many of those who come to Oakland are from Guatemala.

Noel Gallo speaking with students

Noel Gallo speaking with students

The new immigrants are often in desperate need of housing, medical care and other kinds of assistance. “I cannot do it alone, and Oakland cannot do it alone,” said Gallo, adding that he is contacting the Catholic Church and Christian churches, which are most likely to be able to provide immediate assistance.

“We’ve always had a good number of families from Guatemala in our elementary schools and at Fremont High. Some speak Spanish, others speak their native language, which is not Spanish,” he said.

He also hopes city governments can help push the federal government to be more humane to the migrants. “We’ve made contact with the consulates of Guatemala, El Salvador and Honduras, ” said Gallo, “and we’re working with David Campos of the San Francisco Board of Supervisors. We want to put pressure on the feds to be more responsible. Maybe we do it as a joint effort.”

The so-called child-migrant “surge,” expected to reach as high as 70,000 this year, began in 2011 and became a crisis this year.

Gang violence in Central America, especially in Honduras and El Salvador, is driving a substantial exodus to other countries throughout the region. Often, Teenagers in these countries are being recruited to join gangs. If they refuse, the gang will often retaliate against them and their families.

The children also face violence – including kidnapping, rape and murder – during the danger filled journey to the U.S.

Pope Francs this week issued a statement on the migrant crisis.

“Globalization is a phenomenon that challenges us, especially in one of its principal manifestations which is emigration,” he said. “Many people forced to emigrate suffer, and often, die tragically; many of their rights are violated, they are obliged to separate from their families and, unfortunately, continue to be the subject of racist and xenophobic attitudes.”

“A change of attitude towards migrants and refugees is needed on the part of everyone, moving away from attitudes of defensiveness and fear, indifference and marginalization – all typical of a throwaway culture – towards attitudes based on a culture of encounter, the only culture capable of building a better, more just and fraternal world,” he said.

He called for support for “The tens of thousands of children who migrate alone, unaccompanied, to escape poverty and violence: This is a category of migrants from Central America and Mexico itself who cross the border with the United States under extreme conditions and in pursuit of a hope that in most cases turns out to be vain.

“As a first urgent measure, these children (should) be welcomed and protected.”

Courtesy of the Oakland Post, July 21, 2014 (postnewsgroup.com)

Teachers Accuse School Officials of Censorship for Shutting Down Website

Craig Gordon

Craig Gordon

By Ashley Chambers

Teachers, community members and students are complaining that the Oakland Unified School District has violated academic freedom when it unilaterally, without any public discussion, shut down an “Urban Dreams” website, containing 27 units of federally funded curriculum developed by educators focusing on human rights issues.

Martin Luther King Jr.´s Poor People's Campaign

Martin Luther King Jr.´s Poor People’s Campaign

The site was removed by the school district on April 10, only hours after a Fox News reporter contacted the district and Urban Dreams teacher Craig Gordon. The reporter alleged Gordon’s curriculum unit compared Martin Luther King Jr. to Mumia Abu-Jamal, a renowned radio commentator who is serving life in prison for the murder of a Philadelphia police officer in 1981.

The Fox News report, which was published on April 14, interviewed the police officer’s widow, angry at the supposed comparison between Dr. King and Abu-Jamal.

Quoted in the story, Troy Flint, the school district’s director of public relations, said, “To avoid any confusion in the future, we will conduct an inventory of the numerous websites created to support learning district-wide to ensure they conform with our present academic philosophy and do not inadvertently misrepresent Oakland schools.”

However, Urban Dreams’ supporters, including members of the teachers’ union the Oakland Education Association, feel the district caved in when contacted by Fox, which is well known for inaccurate reporting.

The facts disapprove the allegations, they say.

Developed with the help of the Martin Luther King, Jr. Papers Project at Stanford University led by Dr. Clayborne Carson, the curriculum unit seeks to expose high school juniors to “a range of King’s ideas almost completely unknown to most of the public.” Gordon designed the unit to guide students to look at how King’s ideas and legacy are portrayed and censored by the mass media and cultural institutions.

The unit highlights King’s views such as his opposition to the War in Vietnam and U.S. involvement in wars around the world, and his support of racial and class solidarity.

After looking at King’s legacy, the lesson plan has one lesson that encourages students to apply what they have learned to a current issue, how the facts and debate over the case of Mumia Abu-Jamal has been constricted by media.

MLK leads march against War in Vietnam, Chicago, 1967.

MLK leads march against War in Vietnam, Chicago, 1967.

“King’s ideas become a very potent tool for helping students understand the fundamental basis of equality in society, and not just the most superficial understanding of what racism is. King’s critique of society was that we have profound economic inequality,” said Gordon, who taught history and media in OUSD for 24 years.

“It’s very powerful for students to have access to these ideas and to see them as legitimate. It legitimizes a radical vision of the world,” he continued.

Urban Dreams was funded by a grant from the Department of Education from 1999-2004 and includes 18 lessons in English Language Arts and 9 lessons in History, all which cover socially relevant issues.

According to Troy Flint, the decision to take the website down stemmed from OUSD staff’s lack of knowledge about the content of the site.

“We didn’t and still don’t have comprehensive knowledge of all the websites that are out there representing OUSD, or connected to OUSD. That’s an area that we need to upgrade,” Flint said in an interview with The Post.

“We have to make these decisions beyond individual opinions and look at it through the lens of what’s necessary through a systemic perspective. Too often in this district, we don’t operate as an organization with protocols, systems and procedures that are applied universally,” he said.

According to Flint, the staff in the district’s Leadership, Curriculum and Instruction Department is currently reviewing the content before making a recommendation on whether to restore it as is or modify the site, although there is no timeline on when that recommendation will be made.

Gordon and supporters of Urban Dreams are calling for the site to be reposted immediately or at least by the beginning of the school year.

“I don’t trust the district to act in good faith on this,” Gordon said.

Courtesy of the Oakland Post, July 20, 2104 (postnewsgroup.com)

 

cThere should be a full reposting of the entire curriculum including a statement explaining the importance of teaching historical issues, he said. “I want to see a more specific commitment [from the district].”

West Oakland Development Plan Goes to Council

By Ken Epstein

The West Oakland Specific Plan, a federally funded effort to develop guidelines for the development of residential, commercial and industrial properties in the West Oakland community, unanimously passed the city’s Community and Economic Development (CED) Committee this week and is set to go to the City Council for approval.

Elaine Brown

Elaine Brown

According to the city, the plan will effect economic development on 1,900 acres near downtown businesses and result in no displacement of residents and will lead eventually to over 28,000 new jobs and up to 11,000 new residents.

In the works since 2010, the plan looks at land use, economic and market conditions, infrastructure deficiencies, transportation, public safety and security.

The plan is meant to be a tool for supporting, attracting and developing commercial and industrial enterprises to provide jobs and services needed by the West Oakland community and the city of Oakland at large.

The specific plan would create a blanket West Oakland Environmental Impact Report (EIR)   for the area, which means developers would be able move ahead on projects without dealing with zoning regulations.

 The plan focuses on four “Opportunity Sites” to be developed.: the Mandela/West Grand area, the San Pablo corridor, the area around the BART station on 7th Street and the area next to the Port of Oakland around 3rd Street. At these sites transit, housing, light industrial and retail outlets will be developed.

Opponents of the plan threatened to file a lawsuit, arguing that the plan lacks community input and will result in

Naomi Schiff

Naomi Schiff

gentrification and displacement of Black and low-income residents.

“I want to urge this committee not to pass on this plan –(it) effectively will remove a large number of Black people (from West Oakland),” said Elaine Brown, a former leader of the Black Panther Party.

“I will advocate for a lawsuit against the city … because of minority displacement,” she said, because the plan violates the civil rights of residents and the guidelines of the federal grant that require community input.

Robbie Clark, a Housing Rights Campaign organizer for Causa Justa: Just Cause, said the council should postpone a decision until there is “a robust community process..”

The plan contains “a bunch of ideas that have no implementation strategies attached to them” and will do nothing to guarantee affordable housing or protect the community, she said.

Other critics argued that the plan promises thousands of jobs, but that they are just empty words.

They said that the plan has involved many meetings for several years but that the real plan has only been available for four weeks.

In addition, they complained that the plan was not put online for the public to read.

Naomi Schiff, with the Oakland Heritage Alliance, said the plan needs better incentives for small businesses on Seventh Street. “Otherwise we’re just going to have chain stores,” she said.

Councilmember Lynette McElhaney, who represents West Oakland, backed the plan.

“We need to move forward on this plan,” she said, emphasizing that it will provide some tools to get market forces under control.

“Market forces are already doing what we don’t like,” McElhaney said. “There are 20-30 percent increases in rent, and (real estate companies) are locking up our rental stock. I am concerned we will have no tools to deal with these market forces.”

“West Oakland is going to be shredded and left out,” said Monsa Nitoto of the Mandela Village Project, urging the council to approve the specific plan.

17-Story Condo Tower at Jack London Square Entrance?

By Ken A. Epstein

The City Council’s Community and Economic Development committee is rushing to send a proposal to build a condominium tower at the entrance to Jack London Square to the council for a decision before members’ August recess.

Ben Delaney

Ben Delaney

The committee is leaving it up to the full council to rule on the request by the developer, Ellis Partners, to build the 17-story, 193-foot condo tower.

The parcel at the corner of Broadway and Embarcadero is currently used for surface parking that is across from the former Barnes & Noble bookstore. The site has already been approved for 120,000-square-feet of office and retail space.

In response to councilmember and community concerns about the height of the proposed tower, the developer offered a compromise – to reduce the height to 179 feet, a decrease of 14 feet.

Residents and businesses in the Jack London Square area are not opposed to development in their area, but they are against the high-rise tower, said Ben Delaney, president of the Jack London District Association.

Delaney handed committee members a petition signed by 1,400 people opposed to the tower.

“This is an opportunity to set a precedent for smart development,” to avoid the feeling of a gated community and exclusionary development, he said.

“This development towers over (other) large buildings” in the area, he said, urging the city to limit the building to six or eight stories.

Courtesy of the Oakland Post, July 11, 2014 (postnewsgroup.com)

Disputes Continue Over Police Accountability, City Ballot Measures

By Ken A. Epstein.

Community members continue to express anger and frustration toward the Oakland City Council as it moves forward with plans to put several measures on the November ballot though it is not considering a community-backed measure to create a police oversight commission.

“The (community) coalition is definitely not turning away. Instead of asking the City Council, we will opt for a petition drive

Noel Gallo

Noel Gallo

to put the measure on the ballot in 2015 or 2016,” said Rashidah Grinage, a representative of the community coalition that wrote the police accountability measure.

“We’ve been talking to all the councilmembers and trying to work with the city (staff) since February. The council and the city’s attorney had plenty of time to review this – they just didn’t do it,” she said.

The city found the time to support councilmembers’ pet issues, she said. “There’s a clear double standard.”

“When (the issue) does anything that provokes a confrontation with the OPOA (Oakland Police Officers Association), the city balks. It stands down,” Grinage said. “The city has never found the wherewithal to stand up to this police union.”

Noel Gallo was the only councilmember who fought to put the police accountability measure on the ballot. Dan Kalb said he was willing to support it, and Lynette McElhaney said she would back it if it were not on the same ballot with the successor to Measure Y.

Wishing to set the record straight, Libby Schaaf said the measure as written was not ready for the ballot because it had not been analyzed and evaluated by city staff.

Rashidah Grinage

Rashidah Grinage

Pat Kernighan said there was no need for it since the police department is now making progress.

Councilmembers appear united in their desire to pass the new Measure Y, a tax that would generate $22 million a year to pay for 60 police officers and programs that support young people.

While opposition has not yet become public, a number of community members are raising concerns that the city wants more money for police but balks at supporting community demands for strengthened police accountability.

Criticisms are also being expressed that the measure generates millions of dollars a year for a handful of nonprofits, but the city has done little to guarantee these programs produce results.

In addition, while the measure pays the salaries of officers who are supposed to be community policing Problem Solving Officers, the new measure leaves the final decision on how the money will be spent up to the police department.

The council is scheduled to vote next week on a measure to put a new Public Ethics Commission on the ballot. Sponsored by Councilmember Dan Kalb, the commission would have the authority and resources to enforce election campaign contribution limits and other campaign contribution regulations; examine Sunshine Ordinance, public records and transparency complaints; handle conflict of interest issues; and protect employees who are whistleblowers.

The new commission will cost roughly $900,000 a year and have seven staff, compared with the existing body, which costs about $300,000 and has two staff.

Councilmember McElhaney has doubts whether there is the time to examine the measure, whether there is funding available, whether the proposal has had enough community input and whether that input has been sufficiently diverse. She also wants to know if the measure conflicts with anything in the City Charter.

Dan Kalb

Dan Kalb

Responding, Kalb said the public ethics commission measure “has had strong community input development” and diversity among the community members who worked on the proposal and who have served on the commission in the past.

“We ‘ve gone through very extensive analysis, both external and internal,” he said.

“Our-nine member working group includes two African Americans, two Latinos and one Asian American,” he said. Besides consulting many individuals, he said, the group also talked to local organizations – Oakland Rising, Oakland Community Organizations (OCO) and Make Oakland Better Now.

The Post erroneously reported last week that the Public Ethics measure and the Libby Schaaf’s redistricting measure skirted the city’s committee and staff review process. Both proposals went to the council’s Rules and Legislation Committee.

“Our office began consultation last year with both the City Attorney’s office and the City Administration, in order to thoroughly vet budget, legal and policy implications,” according to Councilmember Kalb’s office.

“This process began well before the measure was even drafted.  We worked with the City Attorney’s office for months to craft the drafting.  We also requested staff budget analysis of the proposal far in advance of consideration of the measure by committee,” said Kalb’s office.

Councilmember Schaaf has been working for about a year with community members on her redistricting measure. It would take redrawing of council districts out of the hands of the City Council and create an independent redistricting commission, mirroring the state’s commission.

“This is a good government reform that puts the power of voting rights into the hands of the voters and not in the politicians’, who have an inherent conflict of interest,” Schaaf said. “It has to do with the preservation of voting rights.”

Under this proposal, the city would choose the members of the independent commission through a number of steps. First, the council would set criteria for outreach, and the city administrator would conduct the outreach.

The resulting pool would have to contain at least 40 applicants, including at least three people from each district, and reflect the racial, ethnic, geographic and economic diversity of the city.

Libby Schaaf

Libby Schaaf

Secondly, the pool would be reduced to 30 applicants reflecting the city’s diversity, chosen by a panel of three – a retired Oakland judge, a law or public policy graduate student and a representative of a good government organization, who would be selected by the City Administrator based on City Council criteria.

Third, a random drawing from among the 30 applicants would be conducted to pick six commissioners.

Finally, the six commissioners would appoint the remaining seven commissioners. These appointments must reflect the city’s diversity, and there must be at least one commissioner from each council district.

The process could be conducted every 10 years, as the population numbers of council districts shift.

Courtesy of the Oakland Post, July 11, 2014 (postnewsgroup.com)