Archive for July, 2015

OPD Still Refusing to Release Evidence in Demouria Hogg Shooting Death

OPD May be Breaking Law by Withholding Name of Officer Who Killed Hogg

Scene of the June 6 police kiling of Demouria Hogg, 30, in Oakland. Photo courtesy of ABC7 News.

Scene of the June 6 police kiling of Demouria Hogg, 30, in Oakland. Photo courtesy of ABC7 News.

By Ken Epstein

Almost six weeks after the shooting death of Demouria Hogg, the Oakland Police Department and the City of Oakland have not released information related to the killing, including the name of the OPD officer who shot Hogg or the video evidence, police reports or coroner’s reports.

A Public Records Act request to OPD from the Post was denied on June 18.

On July 14, a police spokesperson told the Post, “The investigation is still ongoing, and because there are multiple investigations (OPD, Internal Affairs and the DA’s office), the release of information will take some time. Additionally, we are not releasing the name of the officer due to officer safety concerns.”

However, a May 2014 ruling of the California Supreme Court indicates that OPD may be in violation of the state law in refusing to release the officer’s name.

Demouria Hogg, 30,

Demouria Hogg, 30,

“If it is essential to protect an officer’s anonymity for safety reasons or for reasons peculiar to the officer’s duties — as, for example, in the case of an undercover officer — then the public interest in disclosure of the officer’s name may need to give way,” according to the ruling. “That determination, however, would need to be based on a particularized showing.”

“Vague safety concerns that apply to all officers involved in shootings are insufficient to tip the balance against disclosure of officer names,” the ruling said.

“This is big decision,” said attorney James Chanin, who is involved in the Negotiated Settlement Agreement (NSA) that resulted in Judge Thelton Henderson’s oversight of OPD.

“There is a presumption that the public has a right to know the identities of officers involved in shooting incidents,” said Chanin.

The Post contacted City Attorney Barbara Parker, asking her legal opinion on OPD’s refusal to release the officer’s name. By press time, she did not reply.

Hogg, 30, a Hayward resident, was killed on Saturday, June 6 near Lake Merritt. At about 7:30 a.m., Oakland firefighters saw a man unconscious or asleep in a BMW stopped on the Lakeshore Avenue exit of Interstate 580.

When firefighters saw a handgun on the passenger seat, they called police, who arrived and set up a perimeter around the car.

Police repeated attempted to wake the man, using a bullhorn and tried to break the car windows with beanbag rounds. When Hogg awoke, one officer fired a Taser, and a second officer shot him with her gun. Hogg was taken to Highland Hospital, where he was pronounced dead.

OPD Chief Sean When had originally said in a press conference after the shooting that the name of the officer who killed Hogg would be released shortly. Since then, OPD has changed its mind.

A local group, Anti Police-Terror Project, held a demonstration on June 12 at the site of Hogg’s death, demanding that police release any footage that captured the shooting and police or coroners reports.

Relatives also have demanded that an independent investigator be brought in to investigate the fatal shooting.

Courtesy of the Oakland Post, July 17, 2015 (postnewsgroup.com)

Peralta Community Colleges Receive Accreditation Warnings

Teachers’ union warns of “rogue” accrediting agency

Culinary Arts at Laney College in downtown Oakland.

Culinary Arts at Laney College in downtown Oakland.

By Tulio Ospina

Laney College, Merritt College, College of Alameda and Berkeley City College – the four community colleges that make up the Peralta Community College District – have been issued warnings and imposed probations by the Accrediting Commission for Community and Junior Colleges (ACCJC).

According to the accrediting commission, the Oakland colleges—which serve about 34,000 students in Oakland—must meet a variety of requirements before October 2016 to avoid losing its accreditation from the commission.

Berkeley City College

Berkeley City College

Colleges that are not accredited are not eligible to receive public funding and, as a result, are forced to shut down.

None of the problems that ACCJC has cited against the Peralta district colleges are related to quality of education or teaching standards.

Rather, the accrediting organization is finding fault with the colleges’ bureaucratic processes such as irregular course and personnel assessments, providing online distance learning without gaining proper approval and failing to give appropriate attention to long-term financial planning.

A number of organizations, however, including student groups and college teacher unions, have expressed concerns about the motives and methods of the ACCJC.

According to Edward Jaramillo, president of the Peralta Federation of Teachers (PFT), the teachers’ union is in support of faculty and administration’s efforts to work with the district to review the recommendations.

Merritt College in Oakland

Merritt College in Oakland

“On a larger level, we support the efforts of the California Federation of Teachers to push through legislation and bring more transparency and some guidelines to ACCJC’s process of accreditation,” said Jaramillo.

ACCJC is the organization that nearly revoked accreditation of City College of San Francisco in 2013, causing widespread protests of students, teachers’ unions and community members, ultimately resulting in a court-ordered suspension of the revocation.

While not as dire as City College’s circumstances were back in 2013, Peralta’s situation has brought many to question ACCJC’s interests and draw parallels between the two situations.

“The areas they’re both being attacked in have to do with record keeping and finances,” said Joe Berry, a retired teacher and member of AFT 2121, the faculty union at CCSF.

“Neither one has been about quality of education being delivered to students, whose benefit is the core mission of accreditation bodies in general.”

Berry helped fight against the ACCJC’s actions in 2013 and has noticed many community and junior colleges facing similar issues under their jurisdiction.

“Something is amiss. This is not the pattern anywhere else in the country. It at least wasn’t the pattern in this state until the present administration of ACCJC came to be,” said Berry. “They are engaged in imposing more sanctions in the institutions they are accrediting by a factor of ten than any other (accrediting organization).”

On Tuesday, PFT posted a letter on its website calling upon its members to “help reform the broken community college accreditation system” by calling their state senators and requesting they vote ‘yes’ on two pieces of legislation during next week’s Senate Education Committee.

“AB 1397, the California Community Colleges Fair Accreditation Act of 2015, will force the rogue Accrediting Commission for Community and Junior Colleges (ACCJC) to have greater transparency, and restrict its ability to issue crippling sanctions like the one it imposed on City College of San Francisco,” says the letter.

Furthermore, “AB 1385, Ending Blank Checks for Accreditation Legal Fees, would prevent the ACCJC from billing community colleges for its mounting legal fees without a vote of the colleges.”

Jeff Heyman, a spokesperson for the Peralta district, confirms that the Peralta colleges are not unique in their accreditation status with ACCJC, referring to nearly 30 colleges that are on their list in some form.

According to Heyman, Peralta’s accrediting issues stem from “a fair amount of recent management turnover, so the institutional memory isn’t there.”

“The district is already addressing OPEB (Other Post-Employment Benefits) and the student assessments,” he said. “It’s been easy to look at the list of requirements, assemble the team and start taking it seriously.”

Meanwhile, Peralta Colleges remain fully accredited, offering all their classes, with every unit transferrable to other colleges.

Courtesy of the Oakland Post, July 17, 2015 (postnewsgroup.com)

City Council May Abandon Controversial East 12th Street Development

Protesters stayed late Wednesday night to oppose the sale of the East 12th STtreet property. Photo by Ken Epstein

Protesters stayed late at a recent City Council meeing to oppose the sale of the East 12th STtreet property. Photo by Ken Epstein

By Post Staff

The City of Oakland has quietly issued a new notice offering to sell or lease a city-owned parcel on East 12th Street near Lake Merritt that has been in limbo since the council pulled the final decision on the contract.

The “Notice of Intent and Offer to Convey Property,” dated July 14, tells agencies “If you submit a response, the city will enter into good faith negotiations with your agency or organization to discuss your proposed development.”

The city has been under intense pressure for the last six months from protesting residents and has been challenged on the legality of the sale of the East 12th street property to UrbanCore Development to construct a luxury apartment tower.

The City Council has still not released a statement about what it intends to do about its former agreement to sell the property to UrbanCore, which passed the council once but was tabled before the final vote.

“We are very exited about the city’s decision to comply with the law and address community concerns by reopening the process,” said Monica Garcia, a member of the neighborhood group Eastlake United for Justice.

“The council has stepped up to do the right thing and we’ll be watching to make sure that they comply fully with the law this time around,” said David Zisser, attorney with Public Advocates.

Courtesy of the Oakland Post, July 16, 2015 (postnewsgroup.com)

Oakland Street Academy Teacher Betsy Schulz Retires After 40 Years

By Jaron Epstein

Jaron K. Epstein

Jaron K. Epstein

Betsy Schulz, who has taught generations of high school students at Oakland Emiliano Zapata Street Academy, has retired after 42 years

Schulz began her teaching career at the small alternative school, inspired by school’s commitment to the values of the Civil Rights Movement. And she never left.

“It was during the 70’s an era of activism and change, and I wanted to do something where I felt like I could make a real difference,” said Schulz. “I felt like urban education was an area I could do that.”

In an interview with the Post, Schulz did not talk about her retirement plans but about the school that has been her life’s work.

Betsy Schulz

Betsy Schulz

What continues to make the Street Academy unique is its philosophy of social justice and overall attitude towards students, she said. If students did not succeed or fit in at previous schools it, was not their fault.

But if they are ready to learn and believe in themselves and their future, the staff at the school does everything it can to encourage that belief and help the young people make that future a reality.

Schulz says that what has kept her invigorated in her role at the school is the freedom teachers have had to design curriculum to fit students’ changing needs.

As problems within society have worsened, teachers and staff have seen the problems of the students worsen as well.

“We have added both restorative justice and life skills to our curriculum to help deal with the issues which students are faced with,” she said.

The combination of a social justice curriculum – including African American and La Raza Studies – as well as a focus on restorative justice/transformative life skills and commitment to student’s college success make Street Academy a very special school, she said.

“We are always questioning and fine tuning, finding better ways to serve our students, said Schulz.

The restorative justice/transformative life skills program with Nairobi yoga teaches students about focused breathing and strengthening their breathing, said Schulz

“It allows students to acknowledge the stress and tensions brought on throughout the day – and then to be able to put aside whatever is bothering you to be able to focus on the day,” she said.

All Street Academy staff are trained in restorative justice, and the school deals with conflict and discipline in a much different way than most schools.

The student has a chance to make amends with the person who was harmed and then is welcomed back into the community.

“It works often and is a different way of thinking,” she said. “It takes a while for both staff and students to incorporate it into their thinking. Students start off seeing it as a sign of weakness.”

Street Academy class

Street Academy class

It’s not the normal way to deal on the streets.”

Partners in the restorative justice work, who also support the overall mission and philosophy of the school, have been the Native American Health Center (NAHC), Rose Foundation and Bay Peace.

One of Schultz’s contributions has been a unit in her physiology course. “The students look at not only the biology of diabetes but the social forces that contribute to its prevalence in communities of color,” she said.

street academy one

Street Academy

Schulz says a critical part of the school’s approach is the Counselor/Teacher/Mentor (CTM). Each member of the staff serves as an academic teacher and is also a counselor and mentor for about 20 CTM students.

Staff members work with students daily and meet with parents quarterly about students’ progress. Staff members check in with parents if the student is missing class or not doing homework and will also call to talk about how great the student is doing.

“When I think back over the years, my CTM students are my fondest memories,” she said. “Parents have said this school is the first one my child has done well at.”

Schulz said she has been luck to find herself in the enviable position where she has been able to do work in which she believes.

“Street academy made it possible to merge the personal with the political,” she said. “Most people live separate lives between what they do for work and what their passions are.”

 Courtesy of the Oakland Post, July 15, 2015 (postnewsgroup.com)

Pope Francis Returns to South America, Calling for Climate Justice for the World’s Poor

He says government should include indigenous groups, people of African descent, women in decision-making

Pope Francis arrives in Ecuador. Photo courtesy of the Guardian

Pope Francis arrives in Ecuador. Photo courtesy of the Guardian

By Tulio Ospina

Pope Francis arrived in Ecuador on Sunday, visiting his home continent for a three-country tour that includes Bolivia and Paraguay.

The pope’s visit to Quito—Ecuador’s capital city—attracted over one million people who traveled from across the country and camped out overnight to get a good view of the pontiff.

Ecuador's President Rafael Correa, right, welcomes Pope Francis upon his arrival at Quito Airport, Ecuador, Sunday, July 5. Photo courtesy of Fox News

Ecuador’s President Rafael Correa, right, welcomes Pope Francis upon his arrival at Quito Airport, Ecuador, Sunday, July 5. Photo courtesy of Fox News

The pope, who is Argentinian, had been expected to address the exploitation of the Amazon—the planet’s most ecologically important rainforest—following the release of his extensive encyclical on the environment.

The encyclical reveals his deep scientific, economic and social knowledge surrounding the causes and effects of “the harm we have inflicted on [the planet] by our irresponsible use and abuse of the goods with which God has endowed her.”

In accordance with Francis’ concern for the poor, the encyclical asserts that while human-induced global warming—based on “a very solid scientific consensus”—concerns all people, “its worst impact will probably be felt by developing countries” and the world’s neediest populations.

Pope visits nursing home in Quito, Ecuador. Photo courtesy of the New York Times

Pope visits nursing home in Quito, Ecuador. Photo courtesy of  the Associated Press.

Known informally as “the pope of the poor,” his visit to the region has focused on a message that uplifts family values, communal love and unity.

“The people of Ecuador are beyond excited and pleased, the majority of them being Catholic,” said Azalia Cruz, a Post correspondent in Quito. “In Quito, it was extremely cold, and it was raining a lot when he arrived. Despite this, thousands of people gathered to greet the Pope.”

In one of Latin America’s oldest Catholic churches, Francis pressed a variety of issues,

Addressing ecological concerns, he reminded the Ecuadorean people that “when exploiting Ecuador’s natural resources, the focus should not be on instant gratification” and that appropriate environmental caution and gratitude must be paid when managing these resources.

“Groups of environmentalists opposing petroleum extraction in the Amazonian Yasuní National Park were trying to get a letter to the pope to get a statement out of him,” said Cruz.

These groups have come together in protest to Ecuadorean President Rafael Correa’s intention to open the park’s untouched interior for oil extraction, which will strongly affect the lives of the region’s indigenous tribes and the environment around them, as it has in the past.

Over many years, Ecuador and it’s peasant and indigenous populations have been involved in ongoing international legal battles with Chevron, accusing the oil company of deliberately dumping more than 18 billion gallons of toxic wastewater and 17 million gallons of crude oil and leaving behind hundreds of open pits filled with hazardous waste.

Courtesy of the Post News Group, July 12, 2015 (postnewsgroup.com)

 

 

 

The Government’s Response to Church Burnings Must Have “Real Teeth,” Say Clergy

Church Fire

By Ashley Chambers

The discussion of entrenched of racism in America is intensifying in the wake of the recent killing of nine parishioners at Emanuel AME Church in Charleston, South Carolina by a young white supremacist, followed by fires at eight predominantly Black churches in the South.

Though most the church fires have not yet been confirmed as arson, at least three fires have been found to be intentional. These incidents bring to memory the rampant church burnings during the Civil Rights Movement that targeted Black families and congregations in the South as a form of intimidation.

There has been a national outcry on social media and in the faith community denouncing these acts of arson and white supremacy that are hovering over the country.

As part of the national outcry, Bay Area clergy are calling for the federal government to exercise its authority to halt the assaults on Black churches.

“Our country needs to respond with a lot more empathy and swiftness to make sure that our Black institutions can be protected,” said Pastor Michael McBride of The Way Christian Center in Berkeley.

The government response must be forthcoming with a sense of urgency, he said.

“There’s never a moment where people even think that Black folks are being afforded due process,” he said. “When we are experiencing terror, we are always being asked to wait for more information, rather than just acknowledging that what’s happening is terrorizing our communities. But the system rarely waits for more information when it’s our time to go on trial.”

Pastor Michael McBride

Pastor Michael McBride

In an effort to combat a rise in attacks on Black churches, the federal government established the Church Arson Prevention Act in 1996. The act reads, “Whoever intentionally defaces, damages, or destroys any religious real property because of the race, color, or ethnic characteristics of any individual associated with that religious property, or attempts to do so, shall be punished.”

However, federal officials have not identified the recent arsons as hate crimes. Since 2009, the FBI has recorded one racially motivated church burning, Fusion reports.

“There have been other acts of hatred that we’ve seen across the years with delayed action, if any, from the federal government,” said Pastor Harold Mayberry of First AME Church in Oakland.

hqdefault

Pastor Harold Mayberry of First AME Church in Oakland.

Mayberry says he wants the federal government to sit down with people of color to have real discussion around racism in America. Also, any legislation against church burning must have real teeth, he said, “not just a law passed to pacify [those affected] people, but prosecutes to the fullest extent of the law those who participate in those acts of hatred.”

Clergy around the country this week are calling for a “Week of Righteous Resistance (WORR),” July 12 through July 18, with national religious partners, PICO, as well as members of the AME Church.

“We have to help amplify the need for a courageous, faith-based call to end white supremacy and racial terror,” said McBride.

For more information, search hashtag #thisisWORR or visit www.thisisworr.org information.

Courtesy of the Post News Group, July 11, 2015 (postnewsgroup.com)

Oakland Must Enforce Police Accountability, Says 100 Black Men

Public Safety Committee will discuss proposals on Tuesday

Some of the poposals would protect the right of residents to film police and encourage them to do so. Photo courtesy of defendingdissent.org.

Some of the poposals would protect the right of residents to film police and encourage them to do so. Photo courtesy of defendingdissent.org.

By Ashley Chambers

The Oakland City Council’s Public Safety Committee next week will discuss a set of police accountability reforms that were proposed by 100 Black Men of the Bay Area during the wave of national outrage generated by the killing of Walter Scott by a police officer in April in South Carolina.

Frank Tucker

Frank Tucker

Among the recommendations are psychological screenings of new officers, enhanced police training in use of force, investigating and publicizing officer misconduct and legal protections of the right to record law enforcement.

100 Black Men says these new policies or laws would improve safety of all citizens, particularly African Americans, who to according to city statistics have much higher rates of interaction with Oakland Police than other racial groups.

“The major objective is to overcome the systemic problems that we see in law enforcement, which has led to the rash of murders and abuse of African Americans in general, and specifically a disproportionate volume of African American men,” said Frank Tucker, president the local chapter of 100 Black Men.

“We need policy change to make an impact and reduce the amount of killings of Black men by law enforcement,” he said. “We’re hoping that it becomes a national movement across the country in the other 106 chapters.”

Dan Kalb

Dan Kalb

The proposals that will be discussed at the committee meeting call for the city to end the criminalization of victims in officer-involved shootings, adopting a policy on the release of criminal and personal information of officers involved in cases of excessive use of force; adopt legislation requiring psychological testing and screening of newly hired officers, and testing of all sworn personnel every five years; adopting policies requiring the police department to train officers more effectively to avoid the use of force, especially lethal force.

Other proposals include: adopt legislation to eliminate the concealing of investigations into police officer misconduct; mandatory firing and criminal prosecution for failure to report and/or disclose officer misconduct, and for providing false information in all cases of use of force by police; adopt legislation to send law enforcement video and dash cams to the cloud in real time, to prevent tampering of evidence; establish a “Do Shoot” campaign encouraging the public to record police stops and arrests as a form of self-defense.

The committee will also consider adopting an ordinance establishing the right to photograph, video, and/or audio record police and peace officers, as well as require a warrant before a police officer can obtain someone’s camera, phone, or other recording device.

City Councilmember Dan Kalb, a member of the Public Safety Committee, told the Post he is happy to support the ordinance to establish the right for people to record police officers.

“It’s another thing to walk up to a police officer and stand in front of them and stick your camera in their face so they can’t do their job,” Kalb said. “As long as they’re not getting in the way of the officer doing their job,” I’m all for that.

However, Kalb says he is not sure what the council can do to alleviate the problems related to police patterns of concealing investigations into officer misconduct and the criminalizing of victims of officer-involved shootings,

“OPD officers are trained and told that reporting misconduct is what they’re supposed to do. I’m not sure what we as a council can do to make sure that officers report misconduct about other officers,” he said.

He also says the city is in discussion about upgrading the police body camera system to secure video evidence.

Tucker said that 100 Black Men believes that action on these recommendation is urgent.

“Every minute that we delay in taking action, we take the risk of another African American life being senselessly lost,” he said. “If we can get these policies in place, we’re positioned to save lives.”

Chapters of 100 Black Men have introduced similar proposals in San Francisco and will do the same in Berkeley and Richmond.

The Public Safety Committee is scheduled to meet Tuesday, July 14 at 5 p.m. at Oakland City Hall.

(postnewsgroup.com)

City Council Mum After Exposure of Confidential Legal Opinion

Council ignored City Attorney’s advice that sale of Lake Merritt parcel was illegal

Josh Healey, an Eastlake resident, spoke Tuesday against the City Council's decision to sell the East 12th property to a private developer. Photo by Tulio Ospina.

Josh Healey, an Eastlake resident, spoke Tuesday against the City Council’s decision to sell the East 12th property to a private developer. Photo by Tulio Ospina.

By Tulio Ospina and Ken Epstein

The Oakland City Council was uncharacteristically at a loss for words this week after public exposure that it had moved ahead on a controversial sale of city property near Lake Merritt to UrbanCore Development, ignoring the confidential legal opinion of its own attorney.

The council had approved the sale of the property in a 6-0 vote last month, and the motion was scheduled for final approval at Tuesday night’s council meeting and was expected to be a formality.

Robbie-Clark-300x199

Robbie Clark speaks at City Council meeting.

But without a word of explanation, councilmembers pulled the final decision from the agenda. They never once referred to the exposure of the city attorney’s legal opinion, though it was discussed by a number of speakers at the meeting.

The final vote was postponed to the council’s July 21 meeting.

Oakland City Attorney Barbara Parker’s written opinion, issued on Feb. 17, had warned councilmembers their plan to sell the parcel across from the lake on East 12th Street to build a 315-unit luxury apartment tower would be in violation of state law – California’s Surplus Land Act.

In the confidential document that was obtained by the East Bay Express and released Monday, Parker told the council that the East 12th Street parcel “qualifies as surplus land, and the California Surplus Land Act requires the city to offer the property to ‘preferred entities’ designated in the act, for 60 days before agreeing to convey the property to UrbanCore.”

Under the law, the developer would be required “to rent or sell at least 15 percent of project units to lower income households at an affordable rent or housing cost,” according to the Parker’s written opinion.

The deal approved by the council on June 17 would sell the property to UrbanCore for $5.1 million, plus an additional $8 million to build other affordable housing elsewhere in Oakland with some additional community benefits. None of the units in the proposed building would be rented at a rate affordable to most Oakland residents.

One of those who spoke at the council meeting on Tuesday night was David Zisser, an attorney at Public Advocates, which is representing the community members who are fighting the sale of the property.

“We were not surprised by the city attorney’s opinion,” he said. “After all, we have been saying the same thing for months.”

“What is surprising is that the council decided to go ahead with the sale anyway,” he said, adding that he was glad councilmembers had pulled the property sale from the agenda.

Local resident Oscar Fuentes criticized City Attorney Parker, an elected official, for keeping silent – never revealing her legal opinion to the public.

“Wasn’t the city attorney obligated by her duty to the City of Oakland to give (the people) her actual interpretation of the law? I think the people deserve an answer,” he said.

Robbie Clark, an activist in local fights in opposition to gentrification and displacement, said that the council’s Lake Merritt property deal “is the kind of decision that helps gentrification continue.”

Instead of selling public property for private development, the city needs to “set aside land for affordable housing,” Clark said. “Those are the kinds of laws we need to enforce.”

“It’s hard to say we’re going to crack down on crime when some of that crime comes down from the city,” said Josh Healey, Eastlake resident.

One city hall observer stated, “Barbara Parker is supposed to be the city’s ultimate watchdog as city attorney. But since she is not seeking re-election, she doesn’t care enough to save taxpayers money and legal hardship.”

“If she were running again, she would be hyper-vigilant rather than denying the public its right to know what is going on,” according to the observer.

In an interview with the Post this week, Monica García, a member of the neighborhood group Eastlake United for Justice, spoke about her organization’s reaction to the exposure of Parker’s opinion.

“I’m shocked to see this in black and white, knowing that City Councilmembers went against their own legal opinion,” she said.

“As taxpayers, we want to know why they’d go against it,” she said, “It’s the taxpayers who pay every time the city loses a lawsuit.”

In addition to postponing the vote on the property sale, the council should “offer an explanation for why they chose to defy the legal opinion,” said García.

Opponents of the project have repeatedly told the council that the sale was in violation of the California Surplus Land Act and warned that a decision to go ahead with the sale would lead to a lawsuit.

Mayor Libby Schaaf – a member of the city council when a number of the decisions were made related to the sale of the parcel – did not respond to the Oakland Post’s request for a comment on the public exposure of Parker’s confidential opinion.

Courtesy of the Oakland Post, July 11, 2015 (postnewsgroup.com)

Mayor Says No to Coal

“We will not have coal shipped through our city,” Says Schaff

Environmental activists rally recently in front of Oakland Army Base developer Phil Tagami ‘s office in Frank Ogawa Plaza. Photo courtesy of Occupy Oakland.

Environmental activists rallied recently in front of Oakland Army Base developer Phil Tagami ‘s office in Frank Ogawa Plaza. Photo courtesy of Occupy Oakland.

 By Tulio Ospina

In a sharp email exchange, Oakland Mayor Libby Schaaf has blasted local developer Phil Tagami for moving ahead with a deal to export coal out of the former Oakland Army Base.

Libby Schaff

Libby Schaff

The digital dispute was documented in an email exchange that the Sierra Club obtained through a Public Records Act request.

In 2013, Tagami had said use of the Army Base to bring coal to Oakland by rail and ship it abroad was the farthest thing from his mind. He said that his company, California Capital and Investment Group (CCIG), had “no interest or involvement in the pursuit of coal-related operations at the former Oakland Army Base.”

But that was then.

Schaaf wrote in an email to Tagami, dated May 11, that she was “extremely disappointed to once again hear” mention of the “possibility of shipping coal into Oakland” during a community breakfast.

Phil Tagami

Phil Tagami

“Stop it immediately,” Schaaf wrote. “You have been awarded the privilege and opportunity of a lifetime to develop this unique piece of land. You must respect the owner and public’s decree that we will not have coal shipped through our city.”

In response to the mayor’s email, Tagami explained that by entering into a binding contract with Terminal and Logistics Solutions (TLS), he and the city had agreed to “a complete transfer of our rights and obligations with respect to the terminal operations under the ground lease.”

Additionally, he states the scope of the binding deal “is not driven or defined by any single commodity, product, or good in transit,” claiming that the city cannot legally restrict what products flow through the rail terminal development.

What is essential to the new facility’s financial and legal viability, said Tagami, is “the ability to accommodate the full universe of bulk goods,” which includes coal.

Tagami claims that the binding legal contract signed by the city gives it no control over what commodities can be shipped. But according to a number of community members, under the contract’s “Regulation for Health and Safety” clause, the city can apply regulations for health-related reasons.

Sierra Club image

Sierra Club campaign

The clause states that the city has the right to apply regulations at any time after the agreement’s adoption if failure to do so “would place existing or future occupants or users of the project, adjacent neighbors, or any portion thereof, or all of them, in a condition substantially dangerous to their health or safety.”

According to Brian Beveridge, co-director of the West Oakland Environment Indicators Project (WOEIP) and an West Oakland resident, there is ample evidence that shipping coal through Oakland would be detrimental to residents’ health.

“Coal dust is related to diesel pollution and the burning of fossil fuels,” said Beveridge. “It contains carcinogens and is likely the cause of black lung disease and asthma.”

“The whole community’s health is at stake,” he said. “Our advances in cleaning air in West Oakland are at stake. The city’s pride in calling itself a green city is at stake.”

Community observers have also criticized the city’s lack of transparency in negotiations with developers of city land. The examples, they say, include the Oakland Army Base and sale of the parcel at Lake Merritt and East 12th Street.

“It’s completely in line with all these other development deals happening behind closed doors where the public is being cut out of the conversation,” said Jess Dervin-Ackerman of the Sierra Club’s San Francisco Bay Area chapter.

“All these proposals are on city-owned land and should be used for community benefits. What City Council is doing is just letting developers have at it.”

“We’re ready to back Mayor Schaaf if she’s ready to stand up and say ‘no’ to coal,” said Beveridge. “Oakland is unanimously opposed to shipping coal to or out of our city.”

Courtesy of the Oakland Post, July 10, 2015 (postnewsgroup.com)

Alicia Garza of #BlackLivesMatter Serves as Grand Marshal, Speaks at SF Pride Parade

“We have a lot of work to do to make sure that there is equity for all of us,” says Garza

Oakland's Alicia Garza, co-founder of #BlackLivesMatter, was selected as Community Grand Marshal for the 2015 Pride Parade and spoke before City Hall about the need to keep fighting for all Black lives. Photo by Tulio Ospina.

Oakland’s Alicia Garza, co-founder of #BlackLivesMatter, was selected as Community Grand Marshal for the 2015 Pride Parade and spoke before City Hall about the need to keep fighting for all Black lives. Photo by Tulio Ospina.

By Tulio Ospina

Amid the rainbow-clad crowds cheering at this year’s San Francisco Pride Parade arose a mass of Black Power fists. They belonged to the Bay Area contingent of #BlackLivesMatter, an organizing network comprised of an intergenerational and all-gendered crew of activists fighting for the human rights of Black people around the world.

Amid the rainbow-clad crowds cheering at this year’s San Francisco Pride Parade arose a mass of Black Power fists. They belonged to the Bay Area contingent of #BlackLivesMatter, an organizing network comprised of an intergenerational and all-gendered crew of activists fighting for the human rights of Black people around the world.

Alicia Garza, the Oakland-based co-founder of #BlackLivesMatter, was selected as the Member’s Choice for Community Grand Marshal at the 2015 Pride celebration. Grand Marshals are considered local heroes who have made significant contributions to the LGBTQ community and society at large.

Speaking at the parade rally at City Hall, Garza emphasized that despite the progress that has been made, there is still much work to be done for Black lives.

“Is it okay that the average life expectancy of a Black trans person in this country is 35 years old? No, that ain’t right!” said Garza.

“Is it okay that there’s more Black people in jail than are in the population of San Francisco right now? Hell no! Look around you right now. Do you know this city has less than a four percent Black population? And that is not a mistake, my friends,” she said.

#BlackLivesMatter was co-created by Garza along with Patrisse Cullors and Opal Tometi in 2013 after the acquittal of George Zimmerman in the murder of Trayvon Martin. Symbolically, it has stood firmly “as a love note to Black people in the face of state and vigilante brutality, violence and oppression,” said Garza.

The network began as a hashtag and expanded into an international organizing project, seen by many as an affirmation and embrace of the resistance and resilience of Black people.

Last Sunday, over two dozen #BlackLivesMatter organizers and supporters marched in the Pride Parade behind Garza who sat next to Miss Major, last year’s Community Grand Marshal, in a convertible reserved for her.

The movement’s supporters carried a banner inscribed with Assata Shakur’s name and her famous call, “It is our duty to fight.” They were dressed mostly in black in contrast to the colorful gathering surrounding them.

The group was mostly comprised of Black queer and trans people, some just married.

#BlackLivesMatter came out in full force to San Francisco’s Pride Parade 2015 on June 28  to highlight the intersections between race, gender, sexual orientation, ability and class. Over two dozen Black organizers and affiliates marched down Market Street with their fists raised and a banner that quoted Assata Shakur's words:  “It is our duty to fight.” Photo by Tulio Ospina.

#BlackLivesMatter came out in full force to San Francisco’s Pride Parade 2015 on June 28 to highlight the intersections between race, gender, sexual orientation, ability and class. Over two dozen Black organizers and affiliates marched down Market Street with their fists raised and a banner that quoted Assata Shakur’s words: “It is our duty to fight.” Photo by Tulio Ospina.

“With our contingent in the parade, we tried to hammer home the message that all Black lives matter, that Black trans lives matter, that Black queer lives matter and that Black people are also queer and are also trans,” said Garza.

“As we think about the celebration of Pride, let us not forget that the road is still long and that we have a lot of work to do to make sure that there is equity for all of us,” urged Garza after her speech.

“We’re going to keep pushing forward this motto: ‘None of us are free until all of us are free.'”

Courtesy of the Post News Group, July 6, 2015 (postnewsgroup.com)