Archive for August, 2014

Police Union Says City Lacks Plan to Deal with “Chaos on the Streets” – Mayoral Candidates Respond

“Upcoming Urban Shield Weapons Expo in downtown Oakland is ‘an insult to all the important work that so many of us are doing to reduce violence,’ Says Rebecca Kaplan.”

By Ken Epstein and Ashley Chambers

An open letter from the head of the Oakland police officers’ union criticizing city leaders for their handling of recent protests is raising questions about how officers will ensure public safety while at the same time guaranteeing the public’s constitutional right to protest.

Barry Donelan

Barry Donelan

The Aug. 20 letter, called “Where is the Plan?” was addressed to the mayor and the City Council and signed by Barry Donelan, president of the Oakland Police Officers Association.

“This past weekend saw chaos on the streets of Oakland. Friday night a protest turned violent injuring Oakland Police officers; Saturday saw hundreds of Oakland Police officers deployed at the Port of Oakland; and Sunday protesters at the Port were replaced by cars conducting a ‘sideshow’ that grew so large it blocked the Bay Bridge toll plaza,” Donelan wrote, specifically criticizing the police chief who praised the handling of the events.

“Oakland needs elected leaders and command staff that lead,” he wrote.

He said that last Friday evening’s protest was a “Hate the Police” march through downtown Oakland that resulted in officers being sprayed with “bear mace” and injured.

“We will always defend the right of all citizens to protest peacefully. But this weekend was anything but peaceful,” Donelan continued. “And we worry that more violence on Oakland’s streets will eventually lead to further serious injury or death.”

Several candidates for mayor discussed the issues raised in Donelan’s open letter, though Mayor Jean Quan, Joe Tuman, Councilmember Libby Schaaf and Courtney Ruby failed to respond to the Oakland Post by press time.

Jason “Shake” Anderson is calling on city leaders and other community leaders to hold a “summit” with the police chief and Mr. Donelan to address “the current tense situation between our citizens and the police.”

Anderson says he is concerned that the police union is going over the heads of the mayor and the police chief. The time to deal with the issues is before people get hurt, he said.

Jason "Shake" Anderson

Jason “Shake” Anderson

At issue, says Anderson, is  how the police will respond to protests that are sure to occur when police departments from around the country participate in the “Urban Shield” SWAT team training weapons expo Sept. 4 – Sept. 8 at the downtown Oakland Marriott.

“I think it is irresponsible for leaders to call themselves leaders and not do something before something goes wrong,” he said. “We should not just be reactive – we should be proactive.”

Agreeing with Anderson’s call for specific strategies, Councilmember and mayoral candidate Rebecca Kaplan says bringing the “Urban Shield” weapons expo to Oakland is “an insult to all the important work that so many of us are doing to reduce violence” in the city.”

“A wide range of people support efforts to improve the relationship between the community and police,” but “it’s not enough that we have a goal to achieve better community relations, we need real strategies to fight for that,” she said.

Kaplan adds that the city’s 50 percent local hire policy required of companies seeking to bring their business to Oakland should also be required of the Oakland Police Department.

Rebecca Kaplan

Rebecca Kaplan

“It’s time for us to practice what we preach,” she said. “Imposing the 50 percent local hire policy for our police department will help strengthen those community ties and make police more effective.”

Civil rights attorney Dan Siegel says he agrees with Donelan “that the city and OPD must have consistent and clear guidelines for police actions during protests.”

“I am concerned about the negative impact on police morale that flows from inconsistent and arbitrary directions to officers,” said Siegel.

Bryan Parker called for an emergency City Council meeting to address the city’s safety crisis.

“City Hall’s continued failure to act with urgency and address our safety crisis is

Bryan Parker

Bryan Parker

underscored by the consistent lack of leadership from those in City Hall who seemingly spend more time campaigning to be Mayor than they do governing towards a safe city,” he said.

“We need more officers now,” Parker continued, insisting on sensitivity training and the protection of civil rights at all costs.

 Courtesy of the Oakland Post, August 30, 2014 (postnewsgroup.com)

Systemic Barriers Keep Teachers of Color Out of Oakland Classrooms

teachers

By Ashley Chambers

There are no shortage of reports that point to the lack of diversity among urban teachers, but most of these reports fail to pinpoint and find solutions to the obstacles that keep potential teachers of color – particularly African Americans and Latinos – from going to work in elementary and secondary classrooms.

“There’s a whole set of barriers that have been erected over the past 20 years that keep people out of teaching,” said Kitty Kelly Epstein, who teaches at Holy Names University in Oakland. “There are multiple standardized tests that exclude people of different groups, costs of these tests, and some programs require you to teach for a year for free.”

As a result many students go through school without hardly ever having a teacher who looks like them and might share similar cultural experiences.

A recent report by the Center for American Progress underlined the lack of teacher diversity in public schools across the nation. The report finds that the teacher diversity gap is growing in nearly every state. More and more, students of color in urban schools are now being taught by White teachers.Latina Teacher

The Oakland Unified School District, which for a variety of reasons has representation that is better than national and regional averages, is still failing to recruit a teaching force that does not come close to representing the students who attend public schools in the city.

Of the 46,486 students who attended Oakland schools in 2012-2013, the student body was 9 percent white, 29 percent African American, 42 percent Hispanic/Latino and 15 percent combined Asian, Pacific Island and Filipino.

By contrast the district’s staff of 2,562 teachers were overwhelmingly white – 45 percent. Eighteen percent of the teachers were African American, underrepresented by 38 percent in comparison with the numbers of Black students in the schools.

Ten percent of the teachers were Latino/Hispanic – 75 percent underrepresented in comparison with the student body. Asian, Pacific Islander and Filipinos made up 13 percent of the teachers – 13 percent underrepresented.

The basic requirements to become a teacher include completing a bachelor’s degree, taking the necessary test assessments such as the California Basic Educational Skills Test (CBEST) and the California Subject Examination Test (CSET), and completing a credential program, many of which require one year of free practice teaching.

black-teacherAlthough the requirements to enter teaching should be rigorous, says Dr. Epstein, incoming teachers should be assessed on “the reality of their knowledge, their commitment and their ability to engage the students” – not just paper and pencil tests.

“Because of the racial wealth gap, the extra costs and unpaid labor fall more heavily on those from communities with less wealth. Every new requirement is an extra cost, and every extra cost means the loss of thousands of potentially effective teachers,” Epstein added.

“The disparity of a lack of racial and cultural diversity is a national issue – it’s not just Oakland,” said Jumoke Hinton Hodge, District 3 Oakland School Board member.

Hodge, who has served on the school board since 2008, says she finds many obstacles that limit access to teaching for people of color.

“I think that as a district, we have to identify those barriers and figure out how Human Resources is going to support [incoming teachers]. We have to look at how we retain people and make sure that there’s opportunity for growth inside our system,” she said.

Dr. Kimberly Mayfield-Lynch

Dr. Kimberly Mayfield-Lynch

Oakland has begun to come to grips with the lack of teacher diversity through Teach Tomorrow in Oakland (TTO), a program that was started as a partnership between former Mayor of Oakland Ron Dellums and the school district to recruit local teachers that reflect the diversity of Oakland students.

Seeking to overcome the revolving door of teachers who come and go in urban classrooms, TTO requires teachers to commit to five years working in the city’s highest need schools and provides them with the resources they need to be successful – in-class coaching, monthly professional development sessions and free tutoring support to help pass the standardized tests required of all new teachers.

“For Oakland, and even nationally, until recently districts have contracted with national recruiting agencies, and the people recruited haven’t looked like the people in the community,” said Kimberly Mayfield-Lynch, chair of the Education Department at Holy Names University.

Sixth grade teacher Francisco Ortiz says that he finds that Latino and other educators may not want to teach in urban schools because the pay is low and classrooms lack supplies and other resources.

Noel Gallo

Noel Gallo

“There is a lack of resources afforded to most neighborhoods that serve children of multi-cultures or lower socioeconomic status,” he said.

At bottom, the problem comes down to a lack of compensation and incentives to hire young people to go into teaching and provide a better working environment so that they will stay in the profession, said City Councilmember Noel Gallo, who served on the school board for 20 years.

“To be a teacher takes a true commitment to helping people, and the compensation may not be the greatest,” which is true locally and at the state and national levels, Gallo said.

Kitty Kelly Epstein

Kitty Kelly Epstein

Some people are wary of going into teaching because of all the negative reporting they hear about public schools and educators, said Mayfield-Lynch.

“For years, teachers were the bedrock of the community,” she said, but now the profession is taking a beating.

“At the end of the day, what is really clear about the profession is that it’s always going to be there, and the beginning salary for a lot of people is the first step to a middle class socioeconomic status,” she said.

Community Demand for Stronger Police Discipline

OccupyOaklandStrikePolice

“Imposition of discipline is meaningless if not final,” Judge Henderson wrote. “The city’s promises to correct deficiencies have fallen short, and further intervention by this court is now required.”

 By Ken Epstein

A coalition of police accountability activists is considering its next steps, while still smarting from city council members’ refusal to place a community-backed measure on the November ballot to create a police oversight commission.

The ballot measure was supported by a cross section of community groups but never made it to the City Council, failing to receive more than one vote at the Council’s Public Safety Committee meeting at the end of June.

Only District 5 Councilmember Noel Gallo was willing to back the initiative.

Judge Thelton Henderson

Judge Thelton Henderson

“It is the lack of political will on the part of city leaders that has kept Oakland under federal oversight for 12 years when it was supposed to take five,” said Rashidah Grinage, executive director of People United for a Better Life in Oakland (PUEBLO).

“It was lack of political will that kept the City Council from endorsing our police accountability ballot measure over the opposition of the Oakland Police Officers’ Association (OPOA).”

“And it is an ongoing lack of political will that means the city’s police disciplinary process almost never results in discipline, which is now being addressed by Judge Henderson,” she said.

Judge Thelton Henderson issued a ruling Aug. 14 instructing Compliance Director Robert Warshaw to investigate OPD’s internal disciplinary procedure after an arbitrator recently overturned the termination of an officer for misconduct during an Occupy Oakland protest in 2011.

“Imposition of discipline is meaningless if not final,” Judge Henderson wrote. “The city’s promises to correct deficiencies …have fallen short, and further intervention by this court is now required.”

“The court questions whether the defendants are adequately preparing cases for arbitration such that consistency of

Anthony Finnell

Anthony Finnell

discipline can be assured to the greatest extent possible.”

Agreeing with Henderson’s ruling, Anthony Finnell the newly hired executive director of the Citizens’ Police Review Board, told the Oakland Post that his observations and conversations with authorities underscore what the judge said.

“I have spoken to members of OPD IAD (Internal Affairs) as well as the president of the OPOA (Barry Donelan of the Oakland Police Officers Association) and learned the arbitration process is so successful that when discipline is handed down to an officer the officer doesn’t even worry about it,” Finnell said in an email to the Post.

On Tuesday, Aug. 12, community members met with Federal Monitor/Compliance Director Warshaw in one of his rare public meetings with local residents.

“Our primary responsibility to make sure the OPD is in compliance with the NSA,” said Warshaw. He explained, however, that compliance does not simply mean gaining a passing score on all the tasks – it also requires that reforms achieve “sustainability.”

He said that Judge Henderson is committed to continuing court oversight of OPD until the city and the police department demonstrate that reforms are sustainable.

Robert Warshaw

Robert Warshaw

At present, Warshaw said he is working with police to evaluate the stop data the department collects to determine whether OPD is conducting racial profiling.

On Monday this week, community members met with Finnell, the new executive director of the Citizens’ Police Review Board.

For the past five years, the CPRB has lacked city support and funding. It did not have a director or investigators. Its findings were routinely ignored, and police often did not send representatives to the meetings.

There is cautious optimism now among police accountability activists that the CRPB can have more impact after the hiring of Finnell and a city decision to hire two investigators next month.

Finnell, a former homicide inspector in Indianapolis, said he is committed to seeking justice for Oakland residents and working with police to make sure they follow the law.

“I can make the changes” that people want to see, said Finnell. “We’ll keep trying until we get it right.”

Courtesy of the Oakland Post, August 30, 2014 (postnewsgroup.com)

Oakland Natives Give Back at “Attend and Achieve” Back-to-School Event

Attend and Achieve Event

Attend-and-Achieve event on Saturday, Sept. 23. Photos by Laura Wong

By Carla Thomas

An Attend and Achieve Back to School event last Saturday welcomed over 950 students who walked away with backpacks filled with notebooks, pencils and other necessary school supplies.

The annual backpack and school supply giveaway held at Oakland’s City Hall included foo and festivities sponsored by Oakland Natives Gives Back, the Office of Mayor Jean Quan and the Office of Assemblyman Rob Bonta.

Students registered in the early morning and had the opportunity to enjoy an outdoor concert prior to the school supply distribution.

“Ensuring kids are prepared for school is really important and the best foundation for their educational experience,” said Dr. Nyeisha DeWitt, co-founder of Oakland Natives Give Back.

Oakland Natives Give Back was among the sponsors of the Attend and Achieve Back-to-School at City Hall.

Oakland Natives Give Back was among the sponsors of the Attend and Achieve Back-to-School at City Hall.

Established in 2008, Oakland Natives Give Back was founded DeWitt, Dee Dee Abdur-Rahim, and Tameka Raymond. All natives of Oakland, the women formed their team to spread solidarity with Oakland and surrounding communities.

Derrick Johnson, one of many local business owners who participated in the event, organized a school supply drive at his Home of Chicken and Waffles restaurants in Oakland and Walnut Creek.

“These kids deserve the best, and our restaurant patrons were generous the past few weeks,” said Johnson.

DeWitt, an active member of the Oakland Unified School District’s Truancy Task Force and Effective Teachers for Oakland Task Force, works closely with the Office of Mayor Quan and Oakland’s Promise Alliance.

Skipping class can be the beginning of a downward spiral that leads to dropping out of school, said DeWitt, who was herself a high school dropout. Today the mother of three is a UC Berkeley and Santa Clara School of Law and has earned her doctorate.

With the support of Assemblyman Rob Bonta and Attorney General Kamala Harris, DeWitt says students will have a chance to earn prizes for school attendance.

“We really want to make our back–to-school effort a year-round project, and with lots of support, our children will be rewarded for their success and school attendance,” she said.

For more information, visit oaklandnatives.org.

Courtesy of the Oakland Post, August 29, 2014 (postnewsgroup.com)

City to Rezone School Headquarters Property for Residential Housing

Manp in proposed Lake Merritt Station Area Plan shows school district administration building and Dewey Academy as "urban residential" property

Map in proposed Lake Merritt Station Area Plan shows school district administration building and Dewey Academy as “urban residential” property.

By Ken Epstein and Ashley Chambers

Plans are moving forward to lease or sell the Oakland Unified School District property at Second Avenue near the estuary – which current houses the Dewey Academy high school campus and the district’s former administration building – to build condominiums or residential housing.

The city’s Planning Commission is scheduled to vote on the zoning changes of the school district’s property at the commission’s meeting Wednesday, Sept 3 at City Hall. The plan would then go the Community and Economic Development Committee and the City Council for approval.

The zoning changes are specified in the city’s 298-page Lake Merritt Station Area Plan, which covers the one-half mile radius around the Lake Merritt BART Station in downtown Oakland.

The final plan, which was released at the end of July, “illustrates the desired ‘land use character’ for different geographic areas” and “estimates all potential future development in the Planning Area.”

The city has worked with BART and the Peralta Community College District over the past four years to develop this plan. On page 87, it contains a map that shows Dewey and the administration building rezoned as “urban residential.”

Jody London

Jody London

According to the city administrator’s staff, the area would be “appropriate for multi-unit, mid-rise or high-rise residential structures in locations with good access to transportation and other services.”

However, this rezoning would not affect the property if it continues to be used for school purposes.

OUSD officials have let the city know they were considering “new or additional uses ” for their property, according to staff in the city’s Planning Department. If the district decides to sell or lease their property, the property then has to comply with the city’s zoning regulations.

The rezoning plan is the work of the city, not the school district, according to city staff. But during the four-year process of creating the plan, “staff have made significant effort to involve the school district and ask for their input,” said Edward Manasse, the city’s Strategic Planning Manager.

The school district has said it has to dispose of property in order to generate money in order to build a new administration building to replace the old building, which was destroyed by a water leak. The funds could also be used to pay off part of the debt the district incurred to the state when it went bankrupt over a decade ago.

Part of the plan is to sell or lease Dewey property to the developer that is already building high-rise condominiums or apartments next to the Dewey site.

David Kakishiba

David Kakishiba

The district also wants to find a developer that will sign a long-term lease to build a new administration building for the district in exchange for residential housing at the site.

However, the request for proposals is flexible and allows developers to submit proposals that involve sale of the property and construction of an administration building at another site rather than at the estuary.

School officials distanced themselves from the city’s rezoning plan and said they knew nothing about it.

“We didn’t make this zoning change, so I can’t speak to [the city’s] rationale” in making this change,” said Troy Flint, Communications Director of OUSD.

School Board President David Kakishiba is listed on the area plan as a member of the Community Stakeholder Group and Technical Advisory Committee, but says he has no knowledge of the rezoning and has never attended a meeting of the group.

Asked about the rezoning, he said, “I have no idea. (It’s a) question for the City of Oakland. They may have me on a list, but I have never attended or participated in any meetings.”

According to School Boardmember Jody London, the board has voted that it favors long-term lease rather than a sale of property.

“Under my leadership, the School Board adopted a policy,” she said, that the district’s first priority is to “pursue long-term leases over sale of property unless otherwise directed after consultations with the Board of Education.”

Community members opposed to sale of school property point to Measure DD passed by over 80 percent of Oakland voters in 2002 to improve the lower Lake Merritt /estuary area for public use, not for a handful of condo owners.

Spearheaded by Mayor Jean Quan when she was on the City Council, the $198.25 million bond provided for waterfront improvements at Lake Merritt and the estuary. Funded projects included parks, trails, bridges, a recreation center and an arts center, land acquisition, and creek restoration.

Kakishiba was on the school board in 2006 when he helped lead a community fight to fend off plans to develop the district administration building complex as condominiums, a proposal submitted by developers connected to then State Senator Don Perata.

Courtesy of the Oakland Post, August 29, 2014 (postnewsgroup.com)

Face-to-Face with Music History Maker Barry Gordy

Post reporter Tasion Kwamilele interviews Berry Gordon. Photo by Ashley Chambers.

Post reporter Tasion Kwamilele interviews Berry Gordon. Photo by Ashley Chambers.

 

By Tasion Kwamilele

We’re talking about history. What that means is as clear as it comes when we look at the legacy of Motown founder Barry Gordy.

Gordy was in Oakland Monday to celebrate Berry Gordy Day in front of City Hall, an event organized by Alameda County Supervisor Keith Carson.

From Diana Ross and Stevie Wonder to Marvin Gaye and Michael Jackson, Gordy has produced and worked with some of the world’s greatest artists who created a body of work that changed the course of global culture.

“We at Motown did music out of love,” said Gordy, 84, reflecting on Motown’s musical history. “Artists were taught to love what you do, writers were taught to love what you write (and) write what you feel.”

And they did just that, sometimes bringing a difference of opinions, but Gordy said it never got in the way of the love.

In an exclusive interview with the Post, he reflected on the time he spent with Marvin Gaye and how they fought all the time about concepts. At one point, the singer was determined to do a protest album.

“He wanted to be an activist, and I wanted him to be a love song singer,” said Gordy.

But Gordy didn’t get in the way, and Gaye’s album, “What’s Going On,” became one of Motown’s most successful projects. It rang true to the issues that were important to people at the time.

The song came from Marin Gaye’s is heart “and was beautifully written,” said Gordy. “If you do it just to make money or write songs just to make money, it never really, really works.”

Gordy said he didn’t like the song “Cloud 9” by The Temptations because it came across as a “drug record.” But he was outvoted, and though he had the power to veto it, he didn’t.

That song later gave Motown its first Grammy.

Such stories are captured and reflected in the exhibit, Motown Legends: Artwork by Chris Clark, featured at the Joyce Gordon Art Gallery and at Everett and Jones BBQ in downtown Oakland until Nov. 30.

Clark travelled with Gordy and most of the Motown artists, capturing and sketching intimate moments of Stevie Wonder, Michael Jackson, The Temptations and others.

Gordy called Clark a humble artist. However, he considered her thoughts to be always different and above everyone else’s because of the time she spent with them.

Gordy pointed out a photograph of young Michael Jackson asleep, possibly dreaming, and surrounded by later pictures of him in the prime of his career.

“It’s almost too deep for people to even realize,” said Gordy, noting Jackson’s success began with just a dream. “Michael wanted to be what he became.”

Courtesy of the Oakland Post, August 24, 2014 (postnewsgroup.com)

Historic Liberty Hall Takes on New Life in West Oakland

Liberty Hall Oakland

Liberty Hall Oakland

By Tasion Kwamilele

City officials, church leaders, and community members gathered recently at Liberty Hall to celebrate the preservation and restoration of the historic building in the West Oakland.

Built in 1877, the building was Post 188 of Marcus Garvey’s Universal Negro Improvement Association (UNIA), considered one of the largest African American organizations in U.S. history.

Liberty Hall History

Liberty Hall history

The Oakland building served as home to the Black Pullman Porters, Jubilee West, and as the first dollar store in West Oakland.  It was added to the National Registrar of Historic Places in 1989.

For the past three years, Bishop J.E. Watkins, CEO of Overcomers With Hope, spearheaded a movement to save the historic building from bank seizure. He later partnered with Rev. Raymond Lankford of Healthy Communities, Inc. (HCI) to purchase the building.

Watkins acknowledged the help of numerous community and city leaders who attended the event, Mayor Jean Quan, Councilmembers Lynette McElhaney and Rebecca Kaplan, School Board Member Jumoke Hinton- Hodge and Bishop Ernestine Reems.

According to Lankford, the grand opening of Liberty Hall brings together accessible resources that will better the lives of West Oakland residents Health Communities will house the West Oakland Male Achievement Center at Liberty Hall to help men rebuild their lives after incarceration.

The program will also work to help men obtain employment and achieve a level of financial stability.

“If you can help the man, he can help his family, [and] also help his community,” said Watkins.

Councilmember McElhaney referred to ideas of Marcus Garvey, saying, “Liberate the minds of men and ultimately you will liberate the bodies of men.”

While the building stands for liberation, she said, “We still have minds that need to be liberated”.

inside Liberty Hall

inside Liberty Hall

Along with the support of public and private donors, the City of Oakland contributed $30,000 this year to support renovation of the building’s façade.

“We’re celebrating the restoration of a building, but we’re preserving our footprint in the community,” school board member Hinton-Hodge added.

By recognizing the history and legacy of liberty Hall in the West Oakland community, said Councilmember Kaplan, “We [can] use that honoring to step into the future.”

Courtesy of the Oakland Post, August 24, 2014 (postnewsgroup.com)

Waste Management Loses Vote, Sues City

 

Civicorps will  partner with California Waste Solutions to provide job and training opportunities for local young people.

Civicorps will partner with California Waste Solutions to provide job and training opportunities for local young people.

By Ken Epstein

The country’s biggest trash hauler is refusing to take no for an answer after the City Council voted overwhelmingly to reject Waste Management’s proposal, instead giving the 10-year, $1-billion contract to a local company that has cheaper rates and is pledging to local hiring and partnering with local agencies to handle the city’s waste.

Waste Management filed a lawsuit against the City of Oakland for illegally giving the contract last week in a 7-1 vote to its competitor – California Waste Solutions (CWS) – accusing the council of being “heavily swayed by long-term personal and political connections with (CWS),” according to the lawsuit filed in Alameda County Superior Court on Aug. 18.

The suit asks the court to set aside the council’s decision and award damages and attorney’s fees to Waste Management of Alameda County. As the only other bidder besides CWS, the company would effectively be awarded the contract.

According to the suit, Waste Management spent $1 million to create a proposal to meet the city’s needs to more efficiently handle recycle and compost trash. “(But) the City Council was dedicated to subverting the process to ensure (California Waste Solution’s) success,” the lawsuit said.

The real issue is not that the playing field was tilted toward CWS but rather that many in the community feel that city staff tried to rig the deal to go to Waste Management, according to Post Publisher Paul Cobb, who has spoken with numbers of members of the community and the City Council.

Cobb said a Freedom of Information Act request of emails would show staff’s role in the bidding process.

“I think its important for people to know that our vote brought significant cost savings to the people of Oakland,” said Councilmember Rebecca Kaplan.

“Waste Management should not have been surprised that it lost. It was significantly more expensive and offered significantly fewer services to the community,” she said.

Cobb said he was hearing that staff extended negotiations with the companies up to the last minute, making it difficult for a competitor like CWS to win the contract and get its operations up to speed in a relatively short period of time.

In addition, Kaplan said, “The city had an option to extend the contract through December 2015. Without tell us, staff chose to shorten the contract to June 2015,” tilting the field n favor of the incumbent.

The city paid a consultant $1 million to find companies to bid for the contract but only came up with two. Other cities like San Mateo and Contra Costa County did not have trouble finding six or eight bidders, Cobb said.

“Staff liked Waste Management, though it was charging much higher rates, and hated CWS, though it charged less and is committed to hiring local residents,” he said.

“They tried to make it look like CWS owner David Duong did not have the expertise, though he operated trash services in Ho Chi Minh City in Vietnam,” Cobb said. “I think the city has been fairly disrespectful of a vendor of color. He lives in West Oakland and hires 69 percent Oakland residents.”

“I look forward to the seeing the results of the city’s ‘disparity study’ – which was finally approved seven years late – only because Councilmember Rebecca Kaplan pushed for it,” he said.

“I think the study will show that the city is bypassing minority and women-owned businesses in favor of the usual suspects.”

“The Waste Management lawsuit is political ploy to the City Council to reconsidering option 2, which would give part of the contract to Waste Management.

“Even though Oakland is only 4 percent of Waste Management’s national business, they don’t want to cities to learn from Oakland’s example,” Cobb said.

Courtesy of the Oakland Post, August 24, 2014 (postnewsgroup.com)

Schools Will Open with Shortage of Teachers and Textbooks

school childrenBy Ashley Chambers.

The Oakland Unified School District (OUSD) is scrambling to hire teachers and purchase new textbooks to ensure that every classroom has a teacher and books before school starts Monday, Aug. 25.

“Every year, it’s down t e wire to staff schools fully,” says Troy Flint, OUSD communications director.

The district is looking to find teachers in the areas of foreign language, special education, math and science. However according to Flint, very few teachers have the credentials to teach those subjects.

Flint emphasizes that there is extreme competition with many surrounding districts for the services of those teachers. Without full staff, some students will temporarily have substitute teachers, he said.

“It’s an ongoing process for us,” said. Flint.

On Thursday, he said only five classrooms would be without teachers when school opens Monday, though he did not say how many classes will be staffed by substitutes.

Flint did not give numbers on how many classrooms will not have textbooks.

Because of the adoption of the new Common Core, the district must spend about $12 million to replace all of its textbooks at one time, rather than staggering new purchases over a period of years as is usually done.

“There going to be a few bumps along the way,” Flint said,

Some administrative staff had to be sent back to classrooms “to free up money for textbooks,” he said.

Courtesy of the Oakland Post, August 24, 2014 (postnewsgroup.com)

Army Base Project Hired Only Eight Workers from West Oakland

Oakland Army Base

Oakland Army Base

By Ken A. Epstein

More and more people in the community are raising concerns that the $1.2 billion Army Base project is not living up to its promises to deliver jobs to local residents who are trying to break into the construction trades.

George Holland

George Holland

In particular, the project hired only eight workers who live in West Oakland out of 171 total new hires between October 2013 and Aug. 1, 2014.

During negotiations several years ago it was agreed upon by all parties at the table that community benefits would prioritize jobs for West Oakland residents, who have been adversely affected for many years by the Army Base and the Port of Oakland.

Because of legal restrictions, the city can only require hiring by zip code and residence but not by race. However, activists have wanted to see increased percentages of African American workers, who have long been underrepresented in many construction unions.

At the Army Base, though African Americans represent 27.3 of the city’s population, they have received only 14.9 percent of the total work, which means they are 45 percent underrepresented in comparison with their percentage in the population.

Focus is now being turned to the benefits agreement, which was negotiated with community groups at the table and passed by the City Council requiring that 50 percent of the jobs go to local residents and allegedly providing stronger guarantees than ever before that these promises would be delivered upon.

But along the way, say activists, the verbal agreements were subverted. As written, the agreement does not match up with what everyone had thought they had agreed upon during negotiations.

“We believe that the African American community has not received a fair portion of the jobs available at the Oakland Army Base – the process, whatever it is, is not working,” said attorney Gorge Holland, president of the Oakland chapter of the NAACP and member of the Oakland African American Chamber of Commerce.

Margaret Gordon

Margaret Gordon

“We were led to believe that a large number of jobs were supposed to go to West Oakland,” Holland said. “There should be better oversight to make sure those who are affected by lack of employment would be considered more favorably.”

The West Oakland Job Resource Center was supposed b a “clearing house” for Army Base jobs, a place where all the jobs would be listed, so that the proof of what was happening at the base would be transparent to all.

But somewhere along the line, the job center turned out to be something different. Though the center has found work for a number of people, only 11 people have been employed at the Army Base through June.

When the job benefits were originally negotiated, there were a number of community groups at the table along with city representatives and master developer Phil Tagami of CCIG.

Questions about what happened to the promises and what can be done to repair and enforce the agreement were directed to the community groups who sat at the table and negotiated the agreements. Besides OaklandWorks, which is speaking out, there were a number organizations claiming to represent community interests: East Bay Alliance for a Sustainable Economy (EBASE), Alliance of Californians for Community Empowerment (ACCE), Alameda Labor Council and the Building and Construction Trades Council of Alameda County.

Post spoke with leaders of OaklandWorks but by deadline was unable to interview Andreas Culver, secretary treasurer of the building trades council.

Despite repeated calls, the Post did not receive replies from EBASE, ACCE, or Josie Camacho, executive secretary treasurer of the Alameda Labor Council.

“There are so many loopholes now that it comes down to a voluntary, ‘good faith’ agreement,” said Margaret Gordon of OaklandWorks, who was at the negotiating table.

People negotiated one thing, but then the agreement went to labor and other “stakeholders,” and it was changed before it went to the city council, said Gordon.

At this point, the discussion must go back to the City Council, which has to deal with Phil Tagami, has final say-so over changes in the written agreement, she said.

Courtesy of the Oakland Post, August 23, 2014 (postnewsgroup.com)