Category: Business

Oakland City Council Set to Choose Developer to Renovate Kaiser Convention Center

Rendering of proposed hotel between the Kaiser Convention Center and the Oakland Museum of California.

Rendering of CDP’s proposed hotel between the Kaiser Convention Center and the Oakland Museum of California.

By Ashley Chambers

The Henry J. Kaiser Convention Center, a historic Oakland landmark that has been shuttered and vacant for a decade, will undergo a transformation as the City Council is expected to vote next week on which of two developers will restore the building.

The convention center previously housed large-scale events, concerts, and prominent speakers – Dr. Martin Luther King who spoke there in 1962, Stokely Carmichael in 1968, the Grateful Dead, James Brown, and the Oakland school district’s annual Martin Luther King, Jr. Oratorical Fest.

The building includes a 45,000-square-foot arena that seats up to 6,000 people and the Calvin Simmons Theater that seats 1,900, two banquet rooms and a ballroom.

City staff is recommending that the city enter into a contract and long-term lease with Orton Development, Inc., which is based in Emeryville, to rehabilitate the convention center and its historic architecture.

Under the city plan, the developer would foot the bill for the entire project and would recoup its investment by using at least part of the building for profit-generating purposes.

The city’s RFP requires restoration of the Calvin Simmons Theater as a performance space and for the entire project to include “as many community benefits as possible,” including “local and small business participation, commitment to living and prevailing wages, commitment to labor peace and opportunities for job training and mentoring, a high number of jobs created for a range of training and education levels, and provision of high quality public facilities and amenities,” according to the city report.

Orton’s proposal, which is in accord with the city RFP, includes restoration of the Calvin Simmons Theater as an event space, and use of the arena as a “multi-floor rehab combining office, flex, public access, and food uses.”

The plan also proposes to use the surrounding outdoor space for community gardens, barbeque areas, public art and entertainment.

A coalition of community members and arts enthusiasts is opposing to the Orton proposal, saying the project would transform the arena – which is the majority of the interior of the building – into offices for private businesses.

The city’s RFP has suggested that the building could be used for offices, technology, design and private commercial use as well as entertainment, conference and event space, retail uses, performance space, and light industrial uses such as a brewery, maker spaces, and artist studios.

The alternative proposal came from Creative Development Partners (CDP), based in Oakland. It includes restoration of the Calvin Simmons Theater as a world-class performing arts center and use of the arena for sporting and other large events, and paying for the project by building a 15-story hotel adjacent to the Convention Center.

The hotel would be nestled in between the Oakland Museum and the convention center on park land that is presently a parking lot, incorporating a green design.

The CDP proposal is built around community benefits, including: creating more than 1,700 jobs and a career training program in partnership with Laney and Merritt Colleges for jobs in hospitality, culinary arts, creative arts, and landscaping, as well as a partnership with the Oakland Unified School District’s Linked Learning program.

The CDP proposal, called “One Lake Merritt,” envisions the building as a hub for local music, cultural and performing arts companies to use as rehearsal and performance space.

The proposal has garnered significant support from the local arts community. But while city staff found the CDP proposal “compelling,” they are recommending that the city go with the Orton plan and look for other potential sites for a hotel.

The City Council is expected to vote on the issue on Tuesday, July 7.

Courtesy of the Oakland Post, July 5, 2015 (postnewsgroup.com)

 

Richmond Seeks Support for “Cybertran” Ultralight Rail Transit System

Cybertran rendering

Cybertran rendering

By Post Staff

The Richmond City Council has agreed to continue searching for federal and state dollars to fund an innovative transit system that could bring a high-tech passenger rail transit system to the city along with thousands of manufacturing jobs and billions in economic revitalization.

The council unanimously agreed to pursue the funding following a presentation from CyberTran International on March 24. The city hopes to be the first city in the world to implement the transit program.

Dexter Vizinau

Dexter Vizinau

“We’re excited about this project,” said Richmond City Councilwoman Jovanka Beckles, a strong advocate for the project. “This is important on so many different levels. It’s going to bring much-needed jobs to Richmond and renown to the city, too. We would be the first in the country to launch a program like this – it’s pretty amazing.”

When the project begins it could bring thousands of construction and manufacturing jobs, approximately 50 transit operator positions, about 100 new vehicle construction technicians and an estimated $13.5 billion in economic activity with increased property values and new businesses.

The CyberTran project could solve a lot of Richmond’s transportation goals and priorities including a long-standing desire to connect the city’s Hilltop area with areas like downtown, Parchester Village and the Marina that have not happened because it’s been cost-prohibitive, Beckles said.

“This could connect the city in ways not possible with AC Transit nor BART,” she said.

Dexter Vizinau, president of CyberTran said he specifically chose Richmond as the site of CyberTran because it will help the city.

“I could have moved the company to Silicon Valley and we would be a lot further along than we are,” he said. “But I moved to the City of Richmond because I wanted to move where the jobs are needed most and the city that needs it most is Richmond.”

CyberTran is developing a network of computer-automated, solar-powered trains that actually are more like large passenger cars, which can transport up to 20 passengers at a time.

Each vehicle will move non-stop, direct to destination.

Because of the smaller size of the vehicles, they are easier to build and implement and much cheaper than traditional rail systems. The computer-operated railcars, which are smaller than Disney Monorail cars, could be summoned and arrive to various locations on demand.

President Barack Obama is a proponent for reducing greenhouse emissions and has promoted the idea of environmentally-friendly, sustainable cars and transit projects. He approved a federal funding bill in December 2014 that could provide funding for projects like CyberTran in Richmond, according to Vizinau.

The Richmond City Council voted unanimously in September to enter a public-private partnership with CyberTran.

On Feb. 14, another agency, i-Gate, also signed an agreement with the company. The state-sponsored business incubator i-GATE has asked CyberTran to participate in a network of green transportation and clean-energy technologies, where the company can access advanced industry and technology development opportunities.

There are a total of five US cities and one in China that are working to deploy the transit technology, he said.

Vizinau and company representatives have also visited Richmond’s sister city Zhoushan, China four times in the past year and is also working to implement CyberTran there in hopes of making that city the first international site with the technology.

“It’s going to be phenomenal to be getting people out of their cars and good for the climate and good for mobility of Richmond residents,” Beckles said.

Courtesy of the Post News Group, April 5, 2015 (postnewsgroup.com)

U.S. and Cuba Will Both Benefit from Improved Relations, Says Congesswoman Lee

Congresswoman Barbara Lee speaks at memorial to Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. in Havana, Cuba. Next to her are Cuban Protestant church leader Rev. Raul Suarez and Congressman Bobby Rush.  Photo courtesy of  Reuters/Stringer.

Congresswoman Barbara Lee speaks at memorial to Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. in Havana, Cuba. Next to her are Cuban Protestant church leader Rev. Raul Suarez and Congressman Bobby Rush. Photo courtesy of Reuters/Stringer.

By Ashley Chambers

After fighting for improving relations between Cuba and the U.S. for 37 years, Congresswoman Barbara is savoring the moment – the formal announcement recently that President Barack Obama is beginning to breaking the down the walls between the two countries

Reflecting on her many visits to Cuba over the years, Lee told the Post that improving American-Cuban relations and lifting the embargo will have significant social and economic benefits to the U.S.

“We will benefit in many ways,” said Congresswoman Lee, noting the access to medical treatment and education, as well as trade.

“There are many medical treatments that we can benefit from,” she said. “They have very few cases of Hepatitis B and have treatment for diabetic ulcers in 70 to 75 percent of cases. Having that access to treatment would be phenomenal.”

U.S. Medical students from low-income communities are already able to study in Cuba through a free program with The Latin American School of Medicine.

After Cuba established the program for international students from countries in Latin America, Congresswoman Lee advocated for the program to be expanded to include U.S. students.

A number of U.S. students, some from the Bay Area, now the opportunity to travel to Cuba to study medicine.

Congresswoman’s main concern is that other countries are building economic ties with Cuba and that window of opportunity for U.S. trade is closing very quickly.

But, she is hopeful that the U.S. will “be able to engage in trade soon…Business opportunity means jobs in America,” he said.

In a recent column published in Cuban media by Fidel Castro, Called “Reflections by Comrade Fidel,” the former leader wrote about his 2009 visit with Congresswoman Lee and members of the Congressional Black Caucus.

Congresswoman Lee had a chance to hear Castro’s perspective of the world, Cuban policies, and discuss human rights issues when she visited his home.

He praised Lee for her stance against “Bush’s genocidal war in Iraq.”

“It was unbeatable proof of political courage.  She deserves every honor,” he wrote.

Lee said in her interview with the Post that she hopes President Obama will visit Havana before he finishes his term.

“I look forward to additional steps to fully normalize relations with Cuba – it is far past time,” said Lee.

Courtesy of the Post News Group, January 2, 2015 (postnewsgroup.com)

Historic Meeting Brings Together Civil Rights Leaders with Execs of Verizon, Google, Facebook, Intel

  Jesse Jackson and Rainbow Push Coalition hosted a Tech Diversity and Tech Forum Dec. 10 at Intel, where Jackson addressed an audience of 300 on changing the face of the tech industry to reflect society. Photo By Carla Thomas.

Jesse Jackson and Rainbow Push Coalition hosted a Tech Diversity and Tech Forum Dec. 10 at Intel, where Jackson addressed an audience of 300 on changing the face of the tech industry to reflect society. Photo By Carla Thomas.

By Carla Thomas

In an unprecedented move, Jesse Jackson’s Rainbow Push Coalition brought together 25 tech companies, civil rights organizations, venture capitalists, non-profits, entrepreneurs and U.S. Department of Labor office at Intel in Santa Clara on Dec. 10.

“(This) is the result of conversations to bring about collaborative efforts to make a change in the tech industry,” said Jackson, who has pressured a number of the largest tech companies to share their workforce demographic data.

Billed as an adversity and inclusion forum, the event featured African American leaders work at the tech titans Google, HP, Intel, Facebook, Verizon, and Cisco, among others. The forum was coordinated by Rainbow Push Communications Director Butch Wing and Executive Director Glenda Gill.

“Tech industry has demonstrated that it can solve the most complex and challenging problems in the world – inclusion is a complex problem that can be solved,” said Jackson.

Among the panelists were Intel Vice President and Chief Diversity Officer Rosalind Hudnell, Intel Supplier Diversity Manager Minea Moore; Pandora Diversity Program Manager Lisa Lee, and HP Chief Diversity Officer Brian Tippens.

Other panelists included HP Strategic Procurement Manager, InMichael McQuarry; Google Director of Global Diversity and Inclusion, Yolanda Mangolini; Cisco Chief Collaboration and Inclusion Officer Shari Slate; Microsoft General Manager of Global Diversity and Inclusion Gwen Houston; Google Head of Diversity Markets Chris Genteel; and Verizon Vice President of Entertainment and Tech Policy Eric Reed.

“There’s a whole body of people who qualify to be on boards, in C-suites and employed in the tech industry and Black, Brown and women are underrepresented,” said Jackson.

“These companies get government contracts and government taxes and have every obligation to open up the marketplace responsibly,” he said.

Jackson suggested corporations reveal the deficits in diversity and set goals and timelines for change. He also proposed making a deal with the government to provide 10 percent of the $5 trillion in offshore tax monies.

“If you took 10 percent and made a deal with the government, labor and corporations and customers to reinvest to build an infrastructure for purposes and money set aside for capital…there’s enough money to be used for diversifying a

Jackson made reference to the needs of two students he had met at the Oakland Emiliano Zapata Street Academy. “Every city should have a STEM high school, and all schools should have studies relevant to the future created in Oakland, San Jose, Memphis, etc,” said Jackson.

Courtesy of the Post News Group, December 20, 2014 (postnewsgroup.com)

Coliseum City Proposal Remains in Play; Community Raises Questions

A artist's iew of the Colisuem City might look like

A artist’s iew of the Colisuem City might look like

By Ken Epstein

Many people are furiously committed to a plan to knock down the Oakland Coliseum and replace it with a glitzy Coliseum City complex – which could include up to three sports arenas as well as hotels, entertainment, housing, retail and restaurants.

The Coliseum City plan, according to the City of Oakland’s website, “seeks to transform the underutilized land around the Oakland-Alameda County Coliseum and Arena into a world-class sports, entertainment and science & technology district that boasts a dynamic and active urban setting with retail, entertainment, arts, culture, live and work uses.”

Probing questions about the plan are being raised by city leaders, mostly focusing on how to put together the financing and the costs that will have to be borne by Oakland taxpayers.

The value of the massive project is generally taken for granted. More or less unexamined are concerns about the value and impact of the project on the people who live in the city.

Yet Oakland residents and business owners are pressing forward with their own questions. How many and what quality jobs would there be for local residents? Would the proposed housing be only for the affluent?coliseum_city_rendering.0_standard_709.0

Who will be able to afford to go to the expensive venues and restaurants? How would a colossal development parachuted into the middle of the city impact surrounding neighborhoods and companies in East Oakland?

Some community members are saying they would like to see new stadiums built but question the purpose of the massive complex, which they say could negatively impact East Oakland residents and would effectively destroy the city’s only business park, pushing small businesses out of the city.

The city is already moving ahead with the Coliseum Area Specific Plan, which if passed would change zoning requirements and make other permit amendments, putting into place the legal basis for the project if and when financing and other issues are resolved.

Speakers at recent public hearings have questioned why community input was not sought before the draft specific plan was released and why the city allowed such a short period for public comments on the voluminous plan.

There were complaints that the plan’s proposed Environmental Impact Report only deals with Coliseum area property, ignoring impacts on nearby residents and neighborhoods.

Before final approval, the project would have to be passed by the Coliseum’s Joint Powers Authority, as well as the Oakland City Council and the Alameda County Board of Supervisors.

The project also has designs on what is presently the Oakland Airport Business Park, which contains property owned by the Port of Oakland, therefore requiring the Port Commission to weigh in.

Business Center in West Oakland Will Give Opportunities for Formerly Incarcerated

Oakland & the World Enterprises launched their new co-op business in partnership with the City of Oakland on Monday in West Oakland. Pictured: Alameda County Supervisor Keith Carson, Councilmember Lynette Gibson McElhaney, Grammy award-winning artist D'Wayne Wiggins, Elaine Brown, Mayor Jean Quan, CEO of Mo' Better Foods David Roach, Oakland Housing & Community Development Director Michele Byrd, representative from Congresswoman Barbara Lee's office, and board members of Oakland & the World Enterprises. Photo by Ashley Chambers

Oakland & the World Enterprises launched their new co-op business in partnership with the City of Oakland on Monday in West Oakland. Pictured: Alameda County Supervisor Keith Carson, Councilmember Lynette Gibson McElhaney, Grammy award-winning artist D’Wayne Wiggins, Elaine Brown, Mayor Jean Quan, CEO of Mo’ Better Foods David Roach, Oakland Housing & Community Development Director Michele Byrd, representative from Congresswoman Barbara Lee’s office, and board members of Oakland & the World Enterprises. Photo by Ashley Chambers

By Ashley Chambers

A vacant lot left blighted for over three decades on 7th and Campbell streets in West Oakland in being turned into a launching pad for cooperative businesses that will provide opportunities for the formerly incarcerated to become business owners.

Spearheaded by co-founders social activist Elaine Brown and Alameda County Supervisor Keith Carson, Oakland & the World Enterprises (OAW) is partnering with the City of Oakland to create six co-op businesses on the abandoned lot.

The project is designed to reverse the decades of neglect and lack of resources – to restore hope in a community that has been struggling with crime and poverty.

“We decided that we would build a wonderful field of dreams,” said Brown at the launch event Monday.

Those who attended the event included Councilmember Lynette Gibson McElhaney, Mayor Jean Quan, Len Turner of Turner Group Construction, staff of Congresswoman Barbara Lee, CEO of Oakland PIC Gay Plair Cobb and School Boardmember Jumoke Hinton Hodge.

Jerry Elster. Photo by Ashley Chambers.

Jerry Elster. Photo by Ashley Chambers.

The businesses at this new center will be owned and operated by those who are often denied access to economic opportunity and will provide individuals returning home from prison a chance to rebuild their lives and families by supporting their economic stability.

“West Oakland has become a vast empty place where people are being moved out by gentrification and mass incarceration, and so forth. With the help of Supervisor Keith Carson, we can say this is our place and we need to find ways to make something happen,” Brown said.

OAW will launch an urban farm that will produce organic fruits and vegetables for the West Oakland community and for sale to local restaurants and farmers’ markets. Implementing healthy economics, the farm will “redirect the school-to-prison pipeline to a school-to-agriculture manufacturing pipeline,” said David Roach, CEO of Mo’ Better Foods.

“Healthy economics promote (the idea) that every school should have a garden, a farmers market and a grocery store…that every child should gain the education to not only learn the sciences to grow healthy food but to also learn the careers connected to the agriculture industry,” Roach continued.

Other businesses will include: a fitness center, tech hub, an athletic shoe and clothing manufacturing businesses with retail outlets, and a juice and fresh food bar.

The development will also include over 100 housing units for mixed-income families, and 40 percent will be affordable to low- and very low-income families.

OAW will promote economic development and encourage self-sufficiency for individuals who otherwise have a hard time finding employment. Jerry Elster, a member of All of Us or None, emphasized the importance of community in this new project.

“I’m standing here for the formerly incarcerated and underrepresented populations of people throughout this nation,” said Elster, who served time in prison. “I’m standing here for countless others including those in Campbell Village. This is our community. We’re bringing opportunities of entrepreneurship for them and the rest of Oakland.”

Elster acknowledged those who helped him reenter the workforce after he was released from prison, including Rev. Raymond Lankford and the Oakland PIC.

“I’m excited about today because today is only the beginning,” said Supervisor Carson, who recalled meeting Elster 14 years ago when Carson visited San Quentin State Prison.

“It was the education we got from individuals in prison saying, if you don’t want us to commit the crime, we have to be a part of changing the dynamic,” Carson said. “Let’s support these brothers and sisters who are returning back home become self-sufficient, to welcome them back to our community.”

Courtesy of the Oakland Post, November 1, 2014 (postnewsgroup.com)

Councilmembers Endorse Prompt Payments to Nonprofits

By Ken Epstein

The City Council’s Finance and Management Committee this week endorsed an amendment to its Prompt Payment Ordinance that will ensure nonprofits that contract with the City of Oakland will receive payments for the work they do in a timely manner.

Desley Brooks

Desley Brooks

The proposed ordinance will affect payments to many of the agencies in the city that work with youth, provide job training and reentry support for the formerly incarcerated.

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

“Look (at the impact) on small profits, which often are serving the most vulnerable people in the city,” said Councilmember Desley Brooks, speaking at Tuesday’s meeting.

Rebecca Kaplan. Photo courtesy sfgate.

Rebecca Kaplan. Photo courtesy sfgate.

“They did the work and did not get paid for over a year,” she said. “Some organizations had to lay off people. They did good work for the city, and yet we didn’t pay them.”

An amendment to the prompt payment ordinance should have been unnecessary, according to Brooks, who wrote the original ordinance in 2008. . Though it should have applied to nonprofits, the City Attorney ruled that it only applied to private contactors, she said.

“Typically, if there is a question, they look at the legislative intent,” said Brooks. “You would have thought somebody would have come and asked me what was the intent.”

“The city should always pay its bills on time,” said Councilmember Rebecca Kaplan, adding she does not understand why the City

John Tang

John Tang

Attorney is requiring this clarification of the payment policy.

“The notion that nonprofits should be treated even worse (than private contractors) makes no sense at all,” Kaplan said. “Small organizations suffer serious harm when they are not paid on time.”

One of those who supported the revised policy was John Tang, executive director of the English Center, which offers job services in Oakland.

“It is very important to have a significant cash flow to keep the doors open,” he said. “We simply don’t have the resources to operate without prompt payments.”

Courtesy of the Oakland Post, November 1, 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)

 

 

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)