Archive for October, 2014

UN Officials “Shocked” by Detroit’s Continuing Water Shut-offs

Detroit residents address members of the United Nations during a UN Fact-Finding Town Hall Meeting, Sunday, Oct. 19 at Wayne County Community College (photo courtesy of the Washington Post

Detroit residents address members of the United Nations during a UN Fact-Finding Town Hall Meeting, Sunday, Oct. 19 at Wayne County Community College. Photo courtesy of the Washington Post.

By Post Staff and news reports

Two United Nations rapporteurs who visited Detroit, Michigan on an informal fact-finding mission this recently were “shocked” to learn that city has shut-off water to at least 27,000 households this year, with as many as10,000 currently without running water.

Charity Hicks, a beloved Detroit community leader and commons advocate, died July 8 from injuries sustained after being struck by a hit-and-run driver in New York City. She was a founder of the Detroit People's Water Board.

Charity Hicks, a beloved Detroit community leader and commons advocate, died July 8 from injuries sustained after being struck by a hit-and-run driver in New York City. She was a founder of the Detroit People’s Water Board.

Hundreds of thousands of additional households are at risk of having their water turned off.

“We were shocked, impressed by the proportions of the disconnections and by the way that it is affecting the weakest, the poorest and the most vulnerable,” said Catarina de Albuquerque, the U.N. special rapporteur on the human right to safe drinking water and sanitation, at a press conference in Detroit on Monday last week.

“I’ve been to rich countries like Japan and Slovenia where basically 99 percent of population have access to water, and I’ve been to poor countries where half the population doesn’t have access to water … but this large-scale retrogression or backwards steps is new for me,” she said.

“From a human rights perspective, any retrogression should be seen as a human right violation,” she added. “I heard testimonies from poor, African American residents of Detroit who were forced to make impossible choices – to pay the water bill or to pay their rent.”

Rapporteur de Albuquerque and Leilani Farha, U.N., special rapporteur on adequate housing, went to Detroit Oct. 18 to look the Detroit Water and Sewerage Department’s water shut-offs.

Contractors are proceeding from block to block turning off the water of households that are behind in their monthly bill. Monthly bills have risen by 119 percent in the last decade.

When a contractor reached the block where Charity Hicks lives, Hicks – who a community leader in the fight against the shutoffs – demanded, “Where’s your water termination notice?”

I

Water protest in Detroit

Water protest in Detroit

nstead of answering, the contractor drove away, knocking Hicks over and injuring her leg. Soon two policemen soon arrived – to arrest her. Mocking her questioning the water shut-offs, they took Hicks, who is pregnant, to jail, where she spent two days before being released without charges.

A lawsuit was filed on behalf of residents who have had their water turned off. But in late September, Detroit’s bankruptcy judge ruled that, although “water is a necessary ingredient to sustaining life,” residents nevertheless have no “enforceable right” to water and that the city needed the revenue.

A number of residents reported to the UN fact-finders that they fear they will lose custody rights because having no running water is grounds for the city’s child protective services to remove their children.

According to one news report, Theresa Clayton, a third-grade teacher in the Detroit public school system, said she is required to report students without water to child protective services. “I have had to train my children, [saying to them]: ‘If you do not have water, you cannot tell me … because the people will come get you,” Clayton said.

At a town hall meeting a week ago on Sunday, a school board member said that one high school principal has begun to open the school at five a.m. so that the students could shower and wash their clothes.

The Detroit mayor’s office criticized the U.N. review as one-sided. Alexis Wiley, Mayor Mike Duggan’s top aide, said the city is “very disappointed” with them.

“They weren’t interested in the facts,” she said. “They took a position and never once [before Monday] reached out to the city for data.”

The city policy is to shut off water to businesses and residents who either are 60 days past due or owe more than $150.

Detroit is country’s largest municipality to file for bankruptcy. Most shut-offs were halted for several weeks this summer to give residents an opportunity to enter a payment plan, but they have resumed with 5,100 shut-offs in September alone.

Courtesy of the Post News Group, October 26, 2014 (postnewsgroup.com)

City Considers Prompt Payment to Nonprofits

By Ken Epstein

The City Council is considering an amendment to its Prompt Payment Ordinance that would ensure nonprofit organizations that do business with the City of Oakland receive payments in a timely manner for the work they do.

The ordinance is scheduled for discussion and a vote at the city’s Finance and Management Committee meeting, Tuesday, Oct. 28, 9:30 a.m., at City Hall.

Desley Brooks

Desley Brooks

Many agencies, especially smaller nonprofits, have frequently complained that they in effect have to float a loan to the city, as they wait for months or even over a year for the city to pay invoices of tens of thousands of dollars or more for work that has already been completed.

A few nonprofits even have had to curtail programs or even shut down as result of failure to receive payments from the city.

Sponsored by Councilmember Desley Brooks in 2008, a Prompt Payment Ordinance was passed requiring timely payments to city contactors – normally within one month.

However, the City Attorney ruled that the ordinance applied only to private businesses that do work for the city, not to grant-funded programs

“Nonprofits frequently would carry the burden of the city,” said Brooks “We’re talking not just small sums of money. Sometimes, it would be in the six figures. Sometimes, they wait for over year to be paid.”

Rebecca Kaplan. Photo courtesy sfgate.

Rebecca Kaplan. Photo courtesy sfgate.

“They can’t function when face that kind of uncertainty.”

The amendment, introduced by Councilmembers Brooks and Rebecca Kaplan, is intended to clarify and extend the ordinance to nonprofits that are grant recipients.

“We’re supporting this amendment that would go back to ordinance’s original intent, that everybody should be paid in a timely fashion,” said Brooks.

Oakland Private Industry Council CEO Gay Plair Cobb welcomed this clarification stating “the question is why would the city not want prompt payment requirements to apply to non-profits which do such important work for Oakland citizens?”

Cobb has disputed previous rulings that the current ordinance excluded contractors which receive grant funds. “This made no logical sense whatsoever,” she said.

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

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Young Leaders from Ferguson Speak in Oakland

Young leaders in the ongoing struggle against police violence and injustice in Ferguson, MO spoke Tuesday night at Race and Faith II, "A conversation with Ferguson Activists, Oakland Leaders and Specials Guests on Race and Healing in America" at Shiloh Church in Oakland. (L to R): Taureen Russell; Tef Poe; Rev. Mike McBride of LIVEFREE MOVEMENT, who introduced the young people; Alexis Templeton; and  Brittany Ferrell. Photo by Ken Epstein.

Young leaders in the ongoing struggle against police violence and injustice in Ferguson, MO spoke Tuesday night at Race and Faith II, “A conversation with Ferguson Activists, Oakland Leaders and Specials Guests on Race and Healing in America” at Shiloh Church in Oakland. (L to R): Taureen Russell; Tef Poe; Rev. Mike McBride of LIVEFREE MOVEMENT, who introduced the young people; Alexis Templeton; and Brittany Ferrell. Photo by Ken Epstein.

By Ken Epstein

Four young leaders from Ferguson, MO were in Oakland this week to speak about their ongoing struggle for justice for Mike Brown, the 18-year-old young man who was killed on Aug. 9 by Ferguson police officer Darren Wilson, who remains uncharged for the shooting.

The young people spoke Tuesday night at Race and Faith II, “A conversation with Ferguson Activists, Oakland Leaders and Specials Guests on Race and Healing in America” at Shiloh Church in Oakland.

Introducing the speakers were Michael McBride, pastor of The Way Christian Center in Berkeley, and Ben McBride, who have gone a number of times to Ferguson to participate in the protests.

Ferguson activist Alexis Templeton explained that she was “usually the person with the megaphone. He led the audience in a call and response. “Tell them what democracy looks like,” she called out.

“This is what democracy look like,” was the reply.

“I put every bit of anger I feel into the chants,” she said. “We have to make our anger have a purpose.”

Templeton is a member of Ferguson’s Millennial Activists United, a predominately women’s group.

Brittany Ferrell, a young mother with a six-year-old daughter, gave up her job and dropped out of nursing school to give everything to the fight for justice.

Alexis Templeton being arrested in Ferguson. "I've spent more time in jail than Darren Wilson," she said.

Alexis Templeton being arrested in Ferguson. “I’ve spent more time in jail than Darren Wilson,” she said.

“The work needs to be done in the community for the systematic justice that Black people are due – you can’t put that on pause,” she said.

Tef Poe with Hands Up United spoke about what Ferguson residents are up against.

“We’re not dealing with moderate racism – We’re dealing with unapologetic racism. The media does not show the blatant, disgusting racism of the Ferguson Police Department.

“They call us animals.”

Taureen “Torey” Russell, also with Ferguson Hands Up United, said it was regular “poor” people who stood up to the police.

“I didn’t see no race, no class, no sex. I saw hurt people, and that’s what they organized around that night – their pain.”

Other speakers at Shiloh included Wanda Johnson, mother of Oscar Grant, and Phillip Agnew of the Dream Defenders, a young leader in Florida who fought for justice in the killing of Trayvon Martin.

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

Mayoral Candidates Consider Plan to Activate Community Involvement

 Community task forces designed to debate, develop and implement city policy were an innovation established in Oakland almost a decade ago (shown above). Some people are now seeking to build on that experience  to establish new task forces to involve and empower residents in an ongoing way.

Community task forces designed to debate, develop and implement city policy were an innovation established in Oakland almost a decade ago (shown above). Some people are now seeking to build on that experience to establish new task forces to involve and empower residents in an ongoing way.

By Post Staff

Several of Oakland’s mayoral candidates have expressed interest in creating communitywide action task forces that could potentially involve hundreds of Oakland residents in developing, passing and implementing policies that will affect the future of the city.

The goal of this process would be to take residents out of their traditional role as passive observers of city decisions or participants who try to intervene at the eleventh hour to halt or modify policies and ordinances they do not support that are advocated by city staff, the mayor or City Council.

Proposals so far include task forces on the arts, jobs, economic development, youth and education, police accountability and public safety, housing and tenant rights, protections and encouragement of small businesses, increased transparency and public involvement in city government and creating opportunities for the formerly incarcerated.

Participants would volunteer for a task force in which they have interest and expertise.

Elected officials would be asked to pledge to support active community involvement by bringing completed task force proposals to the City Council for a full discussion and a vote.

A similar task force process was pioneered during the administration of Mayor Ron Dellums, which involved 900 residents for a number of months, and led to about 150 polices and programs being proposed and about 80 being implemented.

These policies and programs included the first-ever appointment of a resident of West Oakland to the Port Commission; an industrial land-use policy; removal of a barrier to local hire policy; the creation of a Business Assistance Center;“Banning the box” on city applications; creating a position within the Mayor’s office to work on the re-entry of previously incarcerated individuals;  and continuing the compliance period on the Riders consent decree.

Other initiatives included a successful project to diversify the teaching force; return of the school district to local control; “green workforce development,” enhancing the “culture of learning” which led to yearly Back to School rallies at City Hall; anti-drop-out initiatives; and health services in the schools.

Already, the Post has received an offer of $10,000 to help facilitate this community engagement process.

Anyone interested in participating in a task force can send their name and area of interest to oaktaskforce@gmail.com

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

Civicorps and City of Oakland Work Together to Train Youth as Truck Drivers

Recycling and organics truck driver Wulliam Montolla

Recycling and organics truck driver Wulliam Montolla

By Ken Epstein

Oakland may become the only place in the nation where job opportunities for young people are written into a city’s franchise agreement to pick up the trash.

As part of the Oakland City Council’s recent 10-year contract with Waste Management, Civicorps – which provides high school diplomas and job training for young adults – is negotiating agreements that will allow its participants to work in jobs picking up green waste and enter relatively high paid positions as truck drivers.

Though the deals are not yet finalized, Alan Lessik, executive director of Civicorps, is optimistic that young people in the program will soon be driving trucks to pick up organic waste at commercial establishments throughout the city, to be delivered to East Bay Municipal Utility District’s green digesters at the Army Base in West Oakland where bacteria will turn the garbage into electricity.

Currently trainees can earn their Class B drivers license through the recycling program. Under the new agreement, these trainees they will become Teamster Local 70 Apprentice drivers, which will allow them to become union truck drivers and earn substantial raises in pay.

“We don’t have numbers yet, but their wages will almost double when they move from the pre-apprenticeship to the Teamster apprenticeship program,” said Lessik.

Although Civicorps provides young people with work experience, education is at the heart of the program.

For the first four months in Civicorps, students go to school 30 hours a week, full time. After that, they go to a job site for 30 hours a week and attend school for eight hours a week.

Civicorps is the only accredited high school and job training program for youth 18-26 years old in the East Bay. As a charter school in Oakland for the last 10 years, the school offers students a real high school diploma, not a G.E.D.

Civicorps Graduates Nykimbe Broussard, Harris Cox, and Michael Wilder.

Civicorps Graduates Nykimbe Broussard, Harris Cox, and Michael Wilder.

About 75 percent of the program’s students graduate, a higher rate than Oakland public high schools. Over 75 percent of Civicorps graduates go onto college or jobs, an impressive achievement for a program whose students had previously dropped out of high school.

In school, students study English, math, science and social studies. They explore career and college and can act in Shakespeare plays.

“What we know is everyone can learn, no matter what their past history has been,” said Lessik. But in order to be successful in their studies, he says, young people may need support to overcome serious obstacles, such as homelessness, before they can focus on schoolwork.

Civicorps works with about 130 students at time. About 90 percent are from Oakland, the rest from other parts of Alameda and Contra Costa counties. Thirty percent have been involved in the criminal justice system; 28 percent are from foster care.

Ninety-eight percent are students of color.

“All of our students are poor – the school system has failed all of our kids in the past,” said Lessik.

As the young people progress through the program, they begin “traditional conservation corps work,” which provides them with basic skills training.

Civicorps has contracts with EBMUD, the cities of Berkeley and Oakland, as well as the East Bay Regional Parks District. The youth do fire prevention, build trails, clean out streams, pick up litter and learn to handle small tools.

“Our aim is to integrate our kids into the community in a positive way,” said Lessik. “They’re doing environmental and social good in the community and are seeing themselves as part of the community.”

In Civicorps’ recycling program, young people can earn their regular drivers’ license and a Class B License that enable them to drive garbage trucks and other large vehicles.

“Through our program, they can get experience,” Lessik said. “We keep them for two years, because you have to show you have two years of violation-free, drug-free work experience to be eligible for fairly well-paying jobs as drivers.”

Civicorps, located at 102 Myrtle St. near the West Oakland BART station, has year-round enrollment for its school, job training and recycling truck driving program. For more information, call (510) 992-7800 or go to www.cvcorps.org.

Courtesy of the Oakland Post, October 16, 2014, (postnewsgroup.com)

 

 

Oakland Youth Head to Ferguson, MO for National Weekend of Resistance

Demonstrators march in Ferguson, Mo. with signs that read "[Gov.] Nixon doesn't care about Black kids", "Can I live", and "Truth is on the side of the oppressed".

Demonstrators march in Ferguson, Mo. with signs that read “[Gov.] Nixon doesn’t care about Black kids”, “Can I live”, and “Truth is on the side of the oppressed”.

By Post Staff

Four young people from the Martin Luther King Jr. Freedom Center in Oakland will travel this weekend to Ferguson, Missouri to join in a national effort to stand united against

Jabari LaChaux

Jabari LaChaux

police violence and excessive use of force in Ferguson, across the country, and in the world.

The delegates from Freedom Center in Oakland, which promotes the principles of nonviolence and offers an environment where young people actively seek peaceful, nonviolent solutions to the difficult challenges people face in their communities.

Eric Fuller, Maira Perez, Jabari LaChaux, and Rasmyah Hammoudeh will be in Ferguson to join the National Weekend of Resistance sponsored by diverse clergy, labor, education, peace, and community organizers.

“We know it’s the right thing to do, and we want to show solidarity to all of the people to there who are struggling for justice against police brutality,” said 18-year-old Perez, a student at Mills College.  “There’s a lot of work ahead of us, and I’m excited to be a part of that.”

Rasmyah Hammoudeh

Rasmyah Hammoudeh

LaChaux, 21, is a student at Merritt College. He says the trip is important because it “aids the global consciousness on violence and brutality.”

The Days of Resistance are sponsored this weekend by scores of national organizations including the NAACP, National Organization of Women,

Eric Fuller

Eric Fuller

Fellowship for Reconciliation, interfaith clergy and Veterans for Peace.

This national call for an united interracial, intergenerational response to the brutal killing of Michael Brown, the unarmed Black teen who was shot and killed by police in Ferguson, is designed to send a message to St. Louis area and the nation: “Black lives matter, Not One More.”

In Ferguson the delegates will join in organized rallies,

Maira Perez

Maira Perez

marches, and panel presentations, meet with regional coordinators, document experiences, and return to student and community organizing roles with lessons to assist in addressing local and regional abuse of force actions.

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

In 11 Years of State Oversight, No Audits of Oakland Schools’ Finances

By Post Staff

In the 11 years since the State of California declared the Oakland Unified School District bankrupt and seized complete control of district governance and finances, the state has not conducted an audit of the district’s financial condition.

State Senator Don Perata pushed for a state takeover of Oakland schools.

State Senator Don Perata pushed for a state takeover of Oakland schools. Photo courtesy of SFGate.

According to a new report by the Alameda County Grand Jury, over 10 years of poor financial recordkeeping in the district cost city residents over $29 million in extra property taxes after the district lost its credit rating for borrowing money.

Moody’s removed its credit rating in 2012, and Standard & Poor’s withdrew its rating of the district in 2011, driving up the cost of borrowing on bonds.

The credit ratings were removed because the district’s state appointed trustees, acting under the authority of the State Superintendent of Instruction, did not require financial recordkeeping reforms since 2003 that would allow the district to do an audit.

Then State Superintendent of Instruction Jack O´Connell hired trustees to run the school district

Then State Superintendent of Instruction Jack O´Connell appointed a trustee to run the school district

The problem is a lack of internal accounting controls and books that are basically in shambles, according to a spokesman from the State Controller’s Office

In 2003, OUSD was $37 million in debt and forced by the state to take a $100 million emergency loan, and the State Controller’s Office became the district’s auditor. The superintendent of schools was fired, and the power of the elected Board of Education was suspended.

Oakland’s powerful State Senator Don Perata pushed for the takeover. He also advocated for selling the school district headquarters complex to real estate developers in order to repay the loan.

Though the district was only $37 million in debt, it was forced to take the $100 million loan, in part to install new computer systems to put Oakland’s finances in order.

Senator Perata wanted to sell Oakland school district headquarters property to build this TerraMark development on Lake Merritt.

Senator Perata supported selling  Oakland school district headquarters property to build this TerraMark development on Lake Merritt.

Yet during those years, the district has not been able to complete a single audit because “there was a weakness in internal controls, and their records were in disarray,” according controller’s office spokesman Garin Casaleggio in an interview with the Oakland Tribune.

The latest audit the State Controller attempted to finish was for the 2010-11 school year. The controller will continue to audit the district’s books until it pays off the remaining $55 million of the emergency loan.

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

 

School District Curriculum Website Still Offline in Censorship Dispute with Teachers

By Ashley Chambers

Oakland teachers are still waiting to see if the Oakland Unified School District (OUSD) will re-establish a curriculum website that provided federally funded history curriculum units that encouraged students to study and evaluate social justice issues

Craig Gordon

Craig Gordon

The website was shut down after Fox News published an article that contained complaints from the Philadelphia Fraternal Order of Police on one lesson plan.

The website, called “Urban Dreams,” consists of 27 curriculum units developed by educators.

“Academic and professional freedom is essential to the teaching profession. When these criteria are met, even controversial issues may be an appropriate part of the instructional program,” said National Education Association President Lily Eskelsen Garcia in a letter to OUSD.

The site was shut down by OUSD in April, without public notice, immediately after the Fox News story was published alleging that one unit by Urban Dreams teacher Craig Gordon compared Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. to Mumia Abu-Jamal, a renowned journalist now serving life in prison for the killing of a Philadelphia police officer in 1981.

Gordon’s unit introduced high school juniors to Dr. King’s views that are more unknown to the public highlighting his opposition to the War in Vietnam and his advocacy of racial solidarity and how his ideas are censored or ignored by mass media.

NEA President Lily Eskelsen García

NEA President Lily Eskelsen García

Using what they learned in the unit, one lesson asks students to look at the media censorship and distortion that have impacted the case of Abu-Jamal

As a whole, the lessons in the Urban Dreams curriculum seek to engage students’ critical thinking skills and challenge them to look at historical issues through different lenses.

From the point of view of the school district, the Fox News coverage brought attention to staffs’ lack of knowledge about the curriculum website, which meant that the site had to be taken down and evaluated.

But according to some community members, the district gave in to Fox and the Fraternal of Police when it shut down the site.

In a previous Post article published in July, OUSD Communications Director Troy Flint said staff was reviewing the curriculum to ensure it complied with district standards before making a decision on whether or not to repost the Urban Dreams site.

He said the decision on the website would be made by September. Now, Flint says the plan is to have a decision by December.

According to Gordon, a credible source confirmed that OUSD staff has already deemed the curriculum to meet district standards. He also heard of a commitment to repost a revamped site by December or January.

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

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

“I think there’s at best evasiveness; they’re not being honest, not being straightforward. It seems to me they’re still giving themselves excuses to allow the police to dictate what’s acceptable in Oakland and for our students,” says Gordon.

Flint says, “There’s a lot of information to review…to see how it fits into the overall structural program” of the school district. The district is also looking at how “to provide professional development to make sure teachers are teaching material appropriately” when dealing with controversial topics.

“That takes time,” Flint says.

In addition to the position taken by the national teachers’ union president, the California Teachers Association (CTA) has called for the reposting of the Urban Dreams site in support of academic freedom.

“As educators, we strongly support curriculum that encourages students to think critically about history and society, and challenges them to examine all perspectives of issues…we again urge OUSD to restore the Urban Dreams curriculum and website,” said CTA President Dean Vogel in a Sept, 24 letter addressed to OUSD Supt. Antwan Wilson. “

Although Gordon has tried to communicate with the district through the review process, he has received no response. He says he is looking for some direct communication from the district going forward.

“I see no reason for delaying to repost the site. The fact that they’re equivocating on their commitment is disturbing,” he said.

Courtesy of the Oakland Post, October 10, 2014 (postnewsgroup.com)

Plan to Divert Garbage from Landfill to Produce Green Energy Awaits Waste Management OK

EBMUD green digesters at Oakland Army Base in West Oakland

EBMUD green digesters at Oakland Army Base in West Oakland

By Ken Epstein

Oakland’s renegotiated trash deal may mean better rates and services for the city’s residents. But the agreement does not settle whether Oakland’s food waste will end up in a landfill or be diverted to East Bay Municipal District’s green digester that turns the garbage into electricity energy.

Under the now defunct plan the city had with California Waste Solutions (CWS), green waste from commercial establishments, such as restaurants, hospitals and cafeterias, would go to the EBMUD plant at the Oakland Army Base. CWS and EBMUD had a signed memorandum of understanding.

William "Bill" Patterson

William “Bill” Patterson

However, the terms of the city’s contract with Waste Management only require the company to negotiate with EBMUD.

“We are at a much earlier stage with Waste Management (than CWS),” said Abby Figueroa, EBMUD spokesperson. If the parties reach a deal, “We would end up being a subcontractor with Waste Management,” she said.

“This contract (would) enable us to put more resources into the plant, turning discarded food scraps and other digestible organic materials into renewable energy,” said William “Bill” Patterson, member of the EBMUD Board of Directors, speaking at a recent City Council meeting.

The idea behind EBMUD’s green digester is quite simple and utilizes technology that has been around for years. Carbon-rich food waste is blended and dumped into one of EBMUD’s 12 tanks to be decomposed by bacteria.

“The (2-million gallon) tanks are kept at about 100 degrees for 2-3 weeks (where the) bacteria chomp away and release byproducts, most of which is methane gas,” said Fugueroa.

The gas is captured and fed into EBMUD turbines or engines to create electricity. Most of what goes into the digesters at present are solids from wastewater, she said.

The digesters were built in the 1980s when the East Bay was still a center of the food processing industry. Most of that capacity is unused at present.

In 2001, EBMUD started collecting food waste to utilize its excess capacity in the digesters. This includes wastes from wineries, dairies, food processors, grease from restaurants and commercial food scraps, said Figueroa.

On average, every day about 10 tons of food waste is delivered to the plant.

In 2012, EBMUD became the first wastewater utility in the country to produce enough energy from biodegradable waste to power its plant and sell extra energy back to the grid, said Figueroa.

This cuts fossil fuel use, greenhouse gas emissions and saves about $3 million each year in electricity bills, she said. Last year, EBMUD produced 6 megawatts of power. Currently, the excess power that is generated is sold to the Port of Oakland.

If EBMUD contracts with Waste Management to take Oakland’s commercial food waste, the utility estimates it will receive 70-100 tons of food waste per day.

“We estimate this will produce 1 megawatt of power, or enough to power 1,200 homes,” she said. “ The alternative is to send all this food waste to landfills, where methane will be produced naturally but not captured for energy production.”

Figueroa said that EBMUD responds immediately to concerns of West Oakland community members about odors that intermittently come from the utility’s plant,

She emphasized that the utility takes these concerns seriously and has spent millions of dollars for the latest technology and uses chemicals to reduce odors. In addition, she said, the odors that cause the concerns come mostly from the wastewater treatment plant, not the digesters.

“We’ll continue our commitment of being a good neighbor in the West Oakland community. We are using the state-of-the-art odor control technology,” said Patterson, EBMUD board member.

EBMUD daily treats about 63 million gallons of wastewater from nine East Bay cities, including Alameda, Albany, Berkeley, El Cerrito, Emeryville, Kensington, Oakland, Piedmont and part of Richmond.

The utility has been treating the East Bay’s wastewater since 1951.

Courtesy of the Oakland Post, October 10, 2014 (postnewsgroup.com)

 

Army Base Developer Gets Amnesia on Promises to Hire West Oakland Workers

By Ken Epstein

City agent and Army Base developer Phil Tagami of CCIG lashed out recently in an email newsletter against West Oakland community and environmental activist Margaret Gordon as one of a “handful of critics” who have “publically questioned

Phil Tagami

Phil Tagami

whether the project is creating ‘enough’ jobs” and claimed that “more jobs should be going to West Oakland and African American residents.”

“In reality, there rightly was not a provision in the jobs policies that a particular Oakland neighborhood or ethnicity would receive a priority over another,” according to Tagami’s email “Oakland Global Newsletter” at the end of August.

According to Tagami’s newsletter, African Americans so far have obtained 15.3 percent of the hours worked on the project – about 46 percent below what they should be receiving as 28 percent of Oakland’s population.

Tagami’s present position, however, is at odds with the “consensus “agreement produced by the Jobs Working Group that included community members, labor and city representatives, on Oct. 27, 2011.

The Jobs Working Group met for nearly four years and was facilitated by then Councilmember Jane Brunner for its last year and a half. The report on the consensus agreement was submitted to the City Council on Jan. 24, 2012.

“The goal for local hire is 50 percent of work hours for Oakland residents … with first priority being given to zip codes that comprise West Oakland and City Council District 3, and second priority to areas within the Oakland Enterprise Zone Targeted Employment Area,” according to the Recommendations from the Jobs Working Group on Employment-Related Community Benefits for the Development and Operations at the Former Oakland Army Base.

Margaret Gordon

Margaret Gordon

In the course of the working group’s meetings, there was a recognition and eventual consensus agreement on the need to hire African Americans in jobs in the building trades from which they have been traditionally excluded.

Since legal constraints do not allow for race-based preferences or goals, the working group decided to utilize zip codes with high numbers of African Americans and low income workers. This approach was worked out in consultation with the U.S. Labor Department , according to Gordon and Brian Beveridge, who were both involved in the working group.

“We never said anything about African Americans.. We just talked about West Oakland,” said Gordon.

Further, Gordon and Beveridge say that Tagami and city consultant Julian Gross have been trying to portray them as going back on an agreement they helped to negotiate. Gross was hired by the city as a recognized expert on community benefits agreements.

Tagami criticized Gordon for telling the Oakland Post, “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.”

“The notion that there were surprise twists and something was changed in the backroom without everyone who signed the cooperation agreement knowing about it, is not a fair or accurate representation of the city’s process,” according to Gross, quoted in Tagami’s newsletter.army base

“It’s one place they’re trying to adjust history,” said Beveridge. “We were part of a working group that was collaborating to figure out how to get people hired.”

“We never got to sit at the table while the unions and the developer and the contractor were actually in negotiations. .We had (then assistant City Administrator) Fred Blackwell and Julian Gross representing our interests in those negotiations.”

“We wanted to sit at the negotiating table, but we were told by Blackwell that Phil Tagami would not meet with us at the table,” said Gordon.

When the final negotiated agreement went to the City Council, Beveridge and Gordon were told that this was best agreement they could obtain and that all other parties were going along with the agreement.

“They act now like we’re being bad sports” to complain about the agreement, said Beveridge.

“We were asking for them to lower the barriers so that people could get into the jobs,” Beveridge added. ”Maybe we made a mistake signing the (agreement) – then we would be not be getting used the way we are now.”

Courtesy of the Oakland Post, October 10, 2014 (postnewsgroup.com)