Category: Oakland Job Programs

Oakland Schools’ PR Chief Receives New $192,000 Contract

By Ken Epstein

Isaac Kos-Read, chief of Communications and Public Affairs for the Oakland Unified School District, recently signed a $192,000-a-year-contract, extending his previous contract for two years.

Isaac Kos-Read

Isaac Kos-Read

When he was hired last school, his salary was paid by the Oakland Public Education Fund, which has an office in the school district headquarters and is associated with GO (Great Oakland) Public Schools and the Rogers Foundation, both of which are proponents of charter school expansion in Oakland.

Kos-Read’s two-year contact was renewed in June, split between OUSD funding and a grant from Kaiser Foundation. He previously worked as director of External affairs at the Port of Oakland and was a public affairs consultant for the Oakland Metropolitan Chamber of Commerce.

He serves as the “chief public affairs and communication strategist for the district,” according to the report on the board website written by Jacqueline Minor, the district’s general counsel.

In the last year or so, the district communications’ staff has grown from one or two to a staff of eight – including four people who works in communications and four who work in community engagement.

These staff members have been busy this school year during intense teacher contact negotiations and angry community reactions over the possibility that Castlemont, Fremont and McClymonds High schools could be converted to charter schools.

Community engagement staff have also had to respond to concerns and some opposition to the the building of a districtwide commercial kitchen at the site of Foster Middle School, the rebuilding of Glenview Elementary School and the construction of a new district headquarters at Second Avenue and East 10th Street.

Troy Flint, who is part of the district’s communications staff and serves as OUSD spokesman, told the Post earlier this year that Kos-Read plays a crucial role at the school district.

“Isaac brings substantial experience and expertise in Public Affairs and Communications, areas where the district has suffered from lack of capacity for years,” Flint said. “The marginal benefits of adding someone of Isaac’s talents yields benefits far beyond the cost in terms of increased ability to interact with diverse stakeholder groups, identify community concerns, and deal with those issues effectively.”

Courtesy of the Oakland Post, November 14, 2015 (postnewsgroup.com)

 

High Priced Consultant Still Earning $30,000 a Month at Oakland Unified

Buildings and Grounds Workers Fear They Will Be Replaced by Consultants

By Ken A. Epstein

Lance Jackson, a $30,000-a-month, $360,000-a-year consultant hired by the Oakland Unified School District, has entered his second school year at the helm of the district’s Facilities Planning and

Lance Jackson

Lance Jackson

Management Department.

Jackson, who is listed on the OUSD website as interim deputy chief of the Facilities department, serves on the district’s top leadership body – the Executive Cabinet – and oversees the expenditure of at least $435 million in taxpayer bond money for the construction and renovation of school buildings.

When he was hired, the district told the Post that Jackson would be working only for a few months while the district conducted a national search to fill the position.

In a Feb. 18 email introducing the consultant, Supt. Antwan Wilson wrote, “Jackson will serve in this role pending the search and selection of a new Deputy Chief for Facilities Planning and Management.”

In addition to his work for Oakland Unified, Jackson is chief operating officer of Seville Group Inc. (SGI), a construction management firm that has a nearly $11 million, three-year contract to provide project management oversight of OUSD’s construction projects.

SGI’s contract is up at the end of December, and according to district insiders, OUSD is planning to extend the contract for another year.

Jackson was hired by the school district as the interim replacement for Tim White, who was forced out of his $156,000-a-year position as head of Facilities Management in February after 14 years in the district.

Originally, the district was planning to submit a contract to the Board of Education for Jackson’s work. In the face of community and school board opposition, his salary has been folded into the contract the district currently has with SGI.

Seville is being paid for Jackson’s work from school bond funds.

At the time when Tim White was forced out, employees told the Post they were demoralized by the loss of the popular supervisor. They said they were concerned by the lack of support from top management and the potential that they might be replaced by consultants.

The rift between some of the employees and the district appears to have only gotten worse in the months after White left.

Buildings and Grounds workers, who include plumbers, electricians, carpenters and gardeners and total about 80 employees, recently overwhelmingly rejected a new contract, which they feel guts their grievance procedure and sets them up to be fired and replaced by consultants.

Nearly 80 percent of the employees voted against the contract because of their concern that the “superintendent’s ultimate goal is to do away with the Building and Grounds Department and contract everything out to contractors, who do not have the best track record of accountability,” said Dennis Nichols, who works for Buildings and Grounds.

“The workers’ concerns are growing, especially among the people who have been around for a while and can read the writing on the wall – we can see what is happening,” said Nichols.

Courtesy of the Oakland Post, October 7, 2015 (postnewsgroup.com)

 

 

 

Gentrification Threatens Oakland Churches and Artists

Coalition of faith-based, housing and cultural groups join to protect sacred spaces, say speakers at Post Salon

Speakers at the Oct. 25 Post Salon at Geoffrey’s Inner Circle were (L to R): Pastor Thomas Harris, Pleasant Grove Baptist Church; Pastor Phyllis Scott of Tree of Life Empowerment Ministries; Anyka Barber, owner of Betti Ono gallery; Theo Williams, SambaFunk!. and co-moderator Pastor Debra Avery. Photo by Tulio Ospina, First Presbyterian Church. Photo by Tulio Ospina

Speakers at the Oct. 25 Post Salon at Geoffrey’s Inner Circle were (L to R): Pastor Thomas Harris, Pleasant Grove Baptist Church; Pastor Phyllis Scott, Tree of Life Empowerment Ministries; Anyka Barber, owner of Betti Ono gallery; Theo Williams, SambaFunk!; and co-moderator Pastor Debra Avery, First Presbyterian Church. Photo by Tulio Ospina

  By Ken Epstein

Oakland and other Bay Area cities are in the throes of a market-driven surge in evictions and rent increases, as long-term residents, small businesses and nonprofit agencies are being pushed out of their communities at an increasingly feverish pace.

Tensions are reaching a flashpoint in Oakland, where veteran residents are finding that a handful of gentrifiers  – perceived as acting out of a sense of entitlement – are trying to suppress the culture and religious worship that many see as the expression of life and breath.

At the heart of the conflict are two incidents that have become emblematic of the deepening tensions.
One of the incidents occurred in August when a resident called 911 to complain about an evening church choir practice at Pleasant Grove Baptist Church in West Oakland, which received a city letter threatening penalties.

The second occurred in September when a resident approached drummers at Lake Merritt, tried to take away their drumsticks and called police to press assault charges against the musicians.

Exacerbating tensions, the city has seemed to side with the complainers – by threatening the church with penalties and filing charges against two of the drummers – though all charges were ultimately dropped this week.

Many residents see a double standard on the part of city agencies, which rarely respond when neighbors complain about a crack house next door or when garbage and other trash are piling up on their block.

These were concerns raised last Sunday, when residents, members of church congregations and cultural workers packed into a space at Geoffrey’s Inner Circle in downtown Oakland for a community discussion led by a panel of religious and arts’ leaders about how to come to grips with the current threat.

“(Our) church has been there over 65 years, and Wednesday night is choir rehearsal,” said Pastor Thomas Harris of Pleasant Grove.

“We were shocked, stunned when we heard that we were a nuisance in the community,” he said.  “We want to embrace change, (but) we also want the community to realize there is a tradition.”

Pastor Harris said he was also surprised by the widespread support his church has been receiving.
“I didn’t know this was going to take off like this,” he said, adding that he has heard from someone in Colorado, who told him, “We can’t hear you – you’re not loud enough.”

“I can’t believe all this is going on,” Pastor Harris said. “ If I’m the instrument to be used to make a change, I’m ready to be used.“

Co-moderator Pastor Debra Avery of the First Presbyterian Church of Oakland emphasized the connections between the churches and cultural expression, saying, “The church and the artists belong together.”

Another speaker, Theo Williams, is head of the drumming group SambaFunk! Funkquarians and co-founder of the Soul of Oakland coalition.

“We are all in this this together – this monster is coming to devour our community and devour our soul, ” he said.   “Just know we are standing with you. It is our job to come together now, not to look at our differences,” he said.

Drumming is rooted in African culture, Williams said, and, “We go to church almost every day of the week (somewhere in the city), and you are saying that it is going to be prohibited and restricted – that is our culture.”

Williams said the city should pass an ordinance to protect its cultural institutions. New residents who are moving next door to churches and cultural spaces should know they are protected by law.

The city should also eliminate policies that penalize or undermine cultural spaces.  “It’s time to look through all the municipal codes,” he said.

Pastor Phyllis Scott of Tree of Life Empowerment Ministries said churches receives complaints because, “We do a major work the city does not do. We feed the hungry, and we have HIV testing.”

Some people are complaining because they don’t want the “flood of homeless people coming into the neighborhood,” because the churches are feeding those who are in need, she said.

Anyka Barber, co-creator of the Oakland Creative Neighborhoods Coalition and owner of the Betti Ono art gallery, explained she was born in Oakland and is committed to fight for the city’s cultural identity.

“It is my responsibility as a native, as a business owner (and) as a mother to step up,” she said. “There is no disconnection between the churches and the cultural workers. Everything I know I learned in church.”

Barber called for the city to reestablish its Cultural Arts Commission, “made up of residents who really represent our interests.”

She criticized the city’s process for creating a downtown development plan. “This planning process is not indicative of the community,” she said. “A lot of people feel like it should be scrapped and start all over. That’s my sense of it.”

Post publisher Paul Cobb, co-moderator of the event, called on the City Council to pass a “Church Pride Day” to acknowledge the churches, “so Oakland can be a sanctuary city for our sanctuaries.”

City development plans should include a “faith-based zone,” where affordable housing can be built around the churches, he said.

“The city needs a master plan for downtown that protects all the nonprofits, community groups and small businesses that are being pushed out because of gentrification,” Cobb said.

He also suggested putting out a national call for people to come to Oakland to hold sit-ins and picket lines at some of some of the city’s hip new restaurants that do not hire Black workers, “to integrate the jobs in these new restaurants in the same manner that we integrated southern lunch counters and restaurants in the 60s.”

Courtesy of the Oakland Post, October 30, 2015 (postnewsgroup.com)

End Jim Crow Segregation at Oakland Restaurants, Say Activists

The study "Ending Jim Crow for Workers in the Restaurant Industry" was released on Oct. 20 at a presss conference in Oakland where a number of speakers discussed how to address race and gender segregation in local restaurants. (L to R) Glenn Harris, president of the Center for Social Inclusion; Shonda Roberts, ROC-The Bay member; and Adrian Henderson, co-owner of Kingston 11 in Oakland and ROC-The Bay High Road Employer. Photo by Ashley Chambers.

The study “Ending Jim Crow for Workers in the Restaurant Industry” was released on Oct. 20 at a presss conference in Oakland where a number of speakers discussed how to address race and gender segregation in local restaurants. (L to R) Glenn Harris, president of the Center for Social Inclusion; Shonda Roberts, ROC-The Bay member; and Adrian Henderson, co-owner of Kingston 11 in Oakland and ROC-The Bay High Road Employer. Photo by Ashley Chambers.

By Ken Epstein and Ashley Chambers

Restaurants and hospitality businesses employ nearly 11 million workers nationally, one of the largest industries in the country, and are growing at a feverish pace in Oakland.

However, the inequality is stark.

White men at the pinnacle of the pyramid, who work as bartenders and servers at luxury restaurants, can make as much as $100,000 to $150,000 a year. But Black and Latino workers are either not hired or paid closer to the minimum wage, according to a study released this week by Restaurant

Nicole Deane

Nicole Deane

Opportunities Centers United (ROC United), a nationwide nonprofit that is moving to Oakland.

The study, called “Ending Jim Crow in America’s Restaurants: Racial and Gender Occupational Segregation in the Restaurant Industry,” was conducted in collaboration with Dr. Chris Benner of UC Santa Cruz and the Food Labor Research Center at UC Berkeley.

The statistics confirm what Oaklanders can see at many of the 300 fancy new bars and restaurants that have opened in the city in the past year.

People of color are in the lowest paying jobs. Black people, regardless of experience and qualifications, are not hired.

Latinos make up 52 percent of all restaurant employees in California, but are 65 percent of back-of-the-house workers, the report said. African Americans, on the other hand, only make up 3 percent of the total workforce in the state’s restaurant industry, and those who are hired, work disproportionately in the lowest paying jobs.

Saru Jayaraman, co-founder of ROC United, cited investigative research done by her organization, which sent out white job seekers with worse resumes to the same restaurants as people of color with resumes that showed more and better work experience.

In general, white applicants were hired. People of color were told there were no openings.

One of the speakers at Tuesday’s release of the study was Adrian Henderson, an owner of Kingston 11, a Black-owned restaurant on Telegraph Avenue in Oakland.

He said that Black job applicants who come into his business have told him they “don’t even get an opportunity to talk to a manager when they walk into an establishment that is owned by white folks.”

In addition, he said, Black applicants show up to apply for jobs dressed professionally, while white jobseekers, tend “to show up in flip flops, shorts, t-shirts, not looking presentable for an interview.”

Shonda Roberts, a member of ROC-The Bay, has been working in restaurants for the past 20 years.

“Id love to move up in the industry, but I was never able to move up to the front of the house. The front of the house is white, and the back of the house is people of color. It is segregated,” said Roberts, speaking at the Tuesday press conference.

Nicole Deane, a co-founder of the Oakland Alliance, is part of Oakland Opportunity Challenge, which is a coalition that is developing a campaign to encourage restaurants to hire Black workers and follow up with picketing and other kinds of public pressure on those businesses that are not interested in becoming responsible residents of the city.

“My perspective is that there’s nothing wrong with Black workers,” she said. “There is something wrong with not hiring Black workers.”

Deane said she was told by the owner of one restaurant in response to the question as why there were no Black workers in the establishment, “I don’t think about race when it comes to hiring, but I have to be sure I’m hiring people who can work hard and provide good service.”

In addition to hearing that kind of racism, she said she knows of a number of incidents of disrespectful treatment of Black customers at upscale restaurants in Oakland.

“Businesses that come here should be welcoming to all races,” said Deane.

“Black people should be able to work in these restaurants and walk into a restaurant and get good service.”

 Courtesy of the Oakland Post, October 23, 2015 (postnewsgroup.com)

Oakland Anti-Displacement Coalition Says “Speak Out to Stay Put!”

Carroll Fife (top left), a co-founder of the Oakland Alliance, spoke at a workshop on developing an anti-displacement electoral strategy Oct. 17 "Speak Out to Stay Put!"forum in Oakland. Photo b Ken Epstien

Carroll Fife (top left), a co-founder of the Oakland Alliance, spoke at a workshop on developing an anti-displacement electoral strategy Oct. 17 “Speak Out to Stay Put!”forum in Oakland. Photo b Ken Epstien

By Ken A. Epstein

Local organizations took a big step forward last weekend in their efforts to coalesce the growing movement to impact the market-driven wave of displacement that is pushing out local residents and small businesses, fueling criminalization of young people and adults and suppressing Oaklanders’ cultural expression in the parks and churches.

About 500 people squeezed into the West Oakland Youth Center last Saturday for an event called “Speak Out to Stay Put! An Oakland-wide Anti-Displacement Forum,” hosted by over a dozen organizations and endorsed by over 20 groups.

Groups that helped put on the event included: Alliance of Californians for Community Empowerment (ACCE), Asian Pacific Environmental Network (APEN), Causa Justa: Just Cause (CJJC), California Nurses Association (CNA), Community Planning Leaders (CPL), East Bay Alliance for a Sustainable Economy (EBASE), East Bay Housing Organizations (EBHO), East Bay Organizing Committee (EBOC), Oakland Alliance, Oakland Tenants Union (OTU), SEIU 1021 and Women’s Economic Agenda Project (WEAP).

Robbie Clark

Robbie Clark

 The purpose of the forum was enhance connections between the groups that are working against displacement and to deepen the understanding of the complex connections between various aspects of displacement and the variety solutions that organizations that groups are supporting.

“We wanted to come together to unite a lot of the forces who are in motion against gentrification, people who are involved in their neighborhoods or working on a variety of development plans and policies,” said Robbie Clark, regional housing rights campaign lead organizer at Causa Justa, in an interview with the Post.

“We want to broaden how people look at displacement, look at the factors that play into gentrification, plug people into additional ways to fight displacement and expand the strategies they can use,” said Clark

 The day’s workshop topics indicate the breath of the concerns: climate change and displacement, community land trusts for public control of city-owned land, the poor people’s movement to fight homelessness, police brutality and gentrification, the fight for jobs and decent wages for Oaklanders, promoting tenant rights and how to elect public officials who are accountable to residents.

 Clark pointed out an aspect of gentrification that so far have not received much attention are the explosive commercial rental increases that are pushing out small businesses and nonprofits that provide services to residents.

“These small businesses and nonprofits are all part of the neighborhood fabric that holds communities together – businesses and services that people utilize are being threatened,” said Clark.

One of the speakers at the workshop on elections and voting was Carroll Fife, a co-founder the Oakland Alliance, a citywide organization that formed about a year ago.

 Fife said her experience working in Dan Siegel’s mayoral campaign last year showed her, “There is a lot of energy that is untapped in this city – (but) we have to put egos aside. There are lots of organizations that are doing work in silos,” unconnected to each other.

She said the Oakland Alliance is trying to find ways groups can work together, not in interests of one organization, but “for what is good for everyone in the city.”

Dan Siegel, an Oakland civil rights attorney, said that voting is a component of building peoples’ power.

“An electoral strategy by itself will not make change,” but the movement needs to select and elect leaders who will be accountable to the community and the promises they make when they running for office, said Siegel.

“(At present), we see people who say they are going to do this or they are going to do that, but (once elected) they don’t do it,” said Siegel. “Oakland has a city council that has completely checked out on housing.”

Courtesy of the Oakland Post, Oct. 22, 2015 (postnewsgroup.com)

City of Oakland and Local Businesses Must Hire Oakland Now, Say Community Leaders

Speakers at the Post Salon on jobs for Oakland residents were ( L to R): Gay Plair Cobb, CEO of the Oakland Private Industry Couuncil; Alicia Contreras, executive director of the Spanish Speaking Citizens' Foundation; Margaret Gordon, co-founder of the West Oakland Environmental Indicators Project (WOEIP); Rebecca Kaplan, Oakland City Councilmember: and Caroll Fife, OaklandWORKS. Photo by Ken Eptein

Speakers at the Post Salon on jobs for Oakland residents were ( L to R): Gay Plair Cobb, CEO of the Oakland Private Industry Couuncil; Alicia Contreras, executive director of the Spanish Speaking Citizens’ Foundation; Margaret Gordon, co-founder of the West Oakland Environmental Indicators Project (WOEIP); Rebecca Kaplan, Oakland City Councilmember: and Caroll Fife, OaklandWORKS. Photo by Ken Eptein

By Ken Epstein

A seemingly declining jobless rate masks the actual reality in Oakland where 19 percent of the city’s residents live in poverty, and many Oaklanders are being forced out of the city due to a lack of decent paying jobs, combined with out-of-control rent increases.

The issue of joblessness and what city government and local businesses can do right now to hire Oakland was the subject of a recent Oakland Post Salon, where a panel of community leaders discussed how residents can push for solutions to the continuing unemployment crisis.

“We need to call on every employer in the city to hire people from Oakland – an Oakland opportunity challenge so every business can be proud to say, ‘We hire Oakland,’” said Carroll Fife, a member of the OaklandWorks coalition and one of the speakers at the Sept. 27 Post salon.

The opportunity challenge, backed by a growing coalition of organizations, will encourage Oakland’s businesses and restaurants to hire Black and Latino residents and follow up with meetings with owners, as well as public protests, if necessary.

OaklandWorks also wants the city to enforce its local hiring policies on city-funded construction projects. Such a policy was passed during the administration of Mayor Ron Dellums but never implemented by city staff.

“We have a 50 percent local hire ordinance – We want contractors to recognize those priorities,” said Fife.

Gay Plair Cobb, CEO of the Oakland Private Industry Council, moderated the panel and pointed out the realities of joblessness in Oakland.

“We’re talking about the lost, the last, the lonely and the left out – homeless people, the formerly incarcerated, displaced workers, younger and older workers who face age discrimination, those displaced by technology, those who face the barriers of physical limitations and immigrants,” said Cobb.

“All these groups represent the absolute urgency of what is happening and what is not happening,” she said.

Oakland’s official unemployment rate is 12.5 percent, higher than many other places, but the real unemployment rate is probably double that amount, because there are many people who stopped looking for work and are no longer counted, according to Cobb.

“Unemployment for African American youth and Latino youth is off the charts,” she said.

She said federal funding for job training and placement has been declining, but Oakland, unlike nearby cities, fails to invest any funds from its budget to support the programs that are carried out solely by nonprofit service providers.

Compounding the problem, Cobb said, the city spends one-third of its federal job funding for administrative overhead – to pay for city staff instead of putting the money onto the street to help the unemployed.

Another speaker, City Councilmember Rebecca Kaplan, said creating jobs for Oakland residents needs to be a city priority.

“Our job is to lift up those who are struggling,” she said.

Kaplan said she authored a resolution that requires a Disparity Study, which will show what companies are receiving City of Oakland contracts. Though the resolution was passed and funded a year ago, the study still has not been completed, she said.

“We still need the administration to actually complete the Disparity Study,” she said.

The last Disparity Study, completed over seven years ago, showed, “When (city) contracts go out, they overwhelmingly go out to a handful of white-owned, male businesses, (not) anyone outside the favored few,” said Kaplan.

Kaplan supports removing the oversight of federal job funds from the city, to hire an outside agency that will carry out the oversight more effectively and efficiently.

“Federal money for job training needs to be used for job training, not for administrative overhead,” she said.

Speaker Alicia Contreras, executive director of the Spanish Speaking Citizens’ Foundation, emphasized the common fight of Blacks and Latinos, immigrants, people with disabilities and LGBT workers.

“We have to break barriers,” she said. “When we get all these minorities together, we are not a minority any more. We are a majority. We are all connected. That is the key for Oakland to move forward.”

Margaret Gordon, co-founder of West Oakland Environmental Indicators Project (WOEIP), said West Oakland residents had been promised jobs on the Oakland Army Base development, but they have not materialized.

“We still have to have a mechanism to connect the jobs to those who are most in need of those jobs,” said Gordon.

For more information, go to Oakland-WORKS on Facebook.

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

Oakland Residents Push City Council to Protect Renters and Homeowners Who Are Being Driven from the City

 A panel of experts spoke at the Oakland City Councl's  housing crisis public hearing on Wednesday evening. Left to right:  Muntu Davis, Alameda County public health director; Kalima Rose, senior director of the PolicyLink Center; Edward Del Beccaro, Transwestern; and Alma Blackwell, Oakland Housing Rights Organizer at Causa Justa: Just Cause. Photo by Tulio Ospina.

A panel of experts spoke at the Oakland City Councl’s housing crisis public hearing on Wednesday evening. Left to right: Dr. Muntu Davis, Alameda County Public Health director; Kalima Rose, senior director of the PolicyLink Center; Edward Del Beccaro, Transwestern; and Alma Blackwell, Oakland Housing Rights Organizer at Causa Justa: Just Cause. Photo by Tulio Ospina.

By Ken Epstein

Angry, desperate and determined residents filled city council chambers Wednesday evening for a public hearing that had been called to discuss Oakland’s housing crisis, demanding that councilmembers move beyond talk to take immediate action to protect them from the runaway housing market that is driving Oaklanders from their homes and the city.

Pressured by speaker after speaker and some on the council, councilmembers ultimately voted unanimously to adopt an action roadmap that will provide a framework for them to deal with many aspects of the crisis.

Tenants spoke about rents being raised and being evicted after decades in the same apartment. A few said they were already packed and preparing to move out of the city.

A woman talked about losing her home and being forced to live in her car, while one man said that he has been fighting illegal rent increases and landlord harassment for five years.

The focus of the hearing was a document called “A Roadmap Toward Equity: Housing Solutions for Oakland, California,” a comprehensive set of proposals to protect residents from displacement and to build more housing that Oakland’s low- and moderate-income residents can afford.

The plan was developed by city staff and the nonprofit organization PolicyLink after 18 months of research, examining what other cities are doing and evaluating the experiences of existing City of Oakland policies, programs and laws.

The roadmap’s many proposals include strengthening code enforcement to require landlords to maintain their units in habitable condition, a rent control ordinance to replace the existing one that tenants’ rights supporters consider ineffective and free legal support for the thousands of tenants who are evicted each year, often illegally.

Housing activists told a Post reporter that they were happy the document had passed but saw the unanimous vote as a small first step – the priorities in the plan have yet to be adopted.

While the council is sounding like it is willing to fight for residents, many of the housing activists are concerned that the council as a whole does not have a good track record on protecting tenants or assuring that new projects require developers to build affordable housing units.

Over the last decade, the City Council has repeatedly failed to muster the five votes needed to pass a number of the ordinances and policies that are now in the road map.

The council has repeatedly voted to support developers with little or no guarantees of affordable housing. Ordinances are passed frequently that have no budget to pay for staff to implement or enforce them.

Sometimes, staff failed to implement council decisions.

Councilmember Desley Brooks underscored the urgent need to take immediate and decisive council action.

Brooks proposed a motion for the full council to discuss and vote to fund a program to provide for rapid housing relocation money for tenants who are evicted and to help low-income home owners with loans to pay for code violations and retrofits.

The funds would also pay for outreach to support the enforcement of the city’s minimum wage ordinance.

Brooks’ motion, jointly seconded by Councilmembers Dan Kalb and Rebecca Kaplan, will be discussed by the full council on Oct. 20.

Brooks also called on the council to take steps to guarantee that the city signs contracts with local businesses that hire Oakland residents.

“We can look at our contracting process and give Oaklanders contracts,” she said. “We have to save ourselves. We have to grow businesses in our communities.”

Brooks said the roadmap contains many proposals that can make a difference in the coming years, but the council needs to focus first on those that can be done right away.

“We have to look at how we can assist people staying in place,” she said.

“We have everything we need, right now, right here in order to address this problem,” Brooks said. “We don’t have the luxury of working on one thing at a time. We have to work on many things at the same time.”

Kaplan said the council should look at steps right away to relieve the plight tenants are facing.

“We have people kicked out of their homes today, many in ways that are illegal,” she said. “We have a relocation assistance ordinance that is not effective – it is confusing.”

The city can make the ordinance more consistent with a high enough dollar amount to make sure it really helps people with their relocation expenses, she said.

In addition, she said, landlords can be required to pay $5,000 to $10,000 per unit for tenant relocation. Such fees would discourage landlords from evicting tenants to re-rent apartments at a higher rate.

Mayor Libby Schaaf, in a statement released Wednesday, discussed the work of the mayor’s housing cabinet, which she formed to propose concrete steps to deal with the crisis.

“I am working on strategies to immediately stabilize neighborhoods and protect existing residents by converting market-rate housing to affordable, as well as longer-term measures to build new housing at all income levels,” she said.

Courtesy of the Oakland Post, October 4, 2015 (postnewsgroup.com)

Oakland’s Coal Train Dispute Pits Public Health vs. Local Jobs

By Tulio Ospina

Hundreds of community members attended Oakland City Council’s public hearing Monday on the health and safety impacts that exporting coal through the former Oakland Army Base could have on residents in West Oakland and surrounding areas.

Those opposed to coal shipments wore red at the public hearing.

Those opposed to coal shipments wore red at the public hearing.

Opponents of coal, backed by expert witnesses, are calling on the City Council to act on a “health and safety” section in the contract between the city and Army Base developer Phil Tagami that would allow the city to halt shipments of a commodity on its property if those shipments would place workers and surrounding communities “in a condition substantially dangerous to their health and safety.”

Monday’s public hearing was the first step for the City Council to make this determination, which could result in halting, regulating or placing a moratorium on shipping coal through the bulk commodities terminal at the army base.

For over six hours, speakers presented reasons why the city should prohibit or allow coal to be shipped through the future Oakland Bulk and Oversized Terminal (OBOT).

And those who support the coal shipments wore yellow.

And those who support the coal shipments wore yellow.

The coal discussion quickly polarized into a debate between health, safety and environmental concerns for Oakland residents versus the creation of jobs.

However, a number of observers consider the dichotomy between jobs and public health to be misleading because it is unclear whether shipping coal through the bulk terminal would create any more jobs for Oakland residents than any other commodity—such as wheat or potash—that might pass through the terminal.

At the end of the six-hour long hearing, some of the councilmembers weighed in on the issue with thoughts and questions they felt still needed to be answered.

“There’s no reason to think that if we’re shipping wheat or something else (through the terminal) that there would be any less jobs than coal,” said Councilmember Rebecca Kaplan at the end of the hearing. “In fact, there are many products that would generate more jobs than coal.”

Councilmember Desley Brooks questioned the health evidence that opponents of a coal deal were presenting, saying she believes the health experts lack convincing evidence that coal dust and emissions are detrimental to people’s health and the environment.

Derrick Muhammad ILWU Local 10

Derrick Muhammad ILWU Local 10

Her principal concern seemed to be focused on job creation.

“We need to understand the effects of other issues such as poverty on the health impacts and ask ourselves does it outweigh coal,” said Brooks. “I can’t tell people who cannot feed their children that, yet again, they ought to wait for their next job opportunity.”

Pastor Gerald Agee of the Friendship Christian Center said, “The folks who come to our churches that are unable to find jobs and are being pushed out of their places because landlords want more money with rent.”

Agee says public health and safety are his primary concerns. He said his support for coal shipments is contingent on the city’s ability to create a binding contract with the developers to ensure there would be consequences if the operators of the terminal fall short on their health and safety promises.

Meanwhile, members of the International Longshore and Warehouse Union (ILWU) Local 10 and Local 34, who stand to gain most of the jobs at the terminal, have rejected the plan to export coal through the bulk terminal.

Longshore workers are opposed to “locking Oakland into a decades-long lease with a coal industry that many say is dying,” according to an ILWU press release.

Jasmin Ansar, a professor of economics at Mills College, told the council that coal is a questionable economic investment, saying the Port of Los Angeles lost money on coal shipment.

“The coal industry is in economic decline, and demand has decreased sharply due to cheaper alternatives such as oil, gas and renewables.”

“It would be a poor investment choice to tie up investment funds in a project that is unlikely to succeed and will likely leave Oakland to become stranded,” said Ansar.

“Coal isn’t going to be making jobs here for people in the community. These are ILWU jobs,” said Brian Beveridge, Co-Director for the West Oakland Environmental Indicators Project (WOEIP).

According to Beveridge, not only is it a myth that coal would generate more jobs than any other commodity but there would be “little to no chance that the unemployed and those not in a union would get whatever jobs the terminal would create.”

Beveridge said that he and Margaret Gordon of WOEIP had lunch with the developers of the coal terminal, Jerry Bridges and Omar Benjamin, who offered them 12 cents for every ton shipped through the terminal, which could amount to between six and eight million tons a year.

The developer told them that WOEIP could use the money any way it wants, including opening a health clinic, according to Beveridge, but he and Gordon turned down the offer.

The City Council concluded on Monday that it will keep the public hearing open until Oct. 5, to allow city staff to evaluate the evidence and present options for consideration to City Council by no later than Dec. 8.

The Post asked the City Attorney’s office to clarify whether a simple majority or a super major of seven out of eight councilmember would be needed to declare the shipment of coal to be a “health and safety” hazard under the development agreement. The City Attorney did not reply to the the Post’s question.

City Attorney Barbara Parker’s general position is that, though she is an elected official, she only provides her legal opinion in closed session with the City Council.

Courtesy of the Oakland Post, September 26, 2015 (postnewsgroup.com)

Joys and Struggles of Public School Teaching, Discussed at Post Salon

Educators who spoke at last Sunday's Post Salon were (L to R) Dr. Kimberly Mayfield, Francisco Ortiz and Dr. Kitty Kelly Epstein. The event was held at Geoffrey's Inner Circle in downtown Oakland. Photo by Jaron Epstein.

Educators who spoke at last Sunday’s Post Salon were (L to R) Dr. Kimberly Mayfield, Francisco Ortiz and Dr. Kitty Kelly Epstein. The event was held at Geoffrey’s Inner Circle in downtown Oakland. Photo by Jaron Epstein.

By Post Staff

About 70 people attended the Post newspaper’s most recent Salon to discuss the joys of teaching in the public schools and the policy barriers facing U.S. education

Speaker Francisco Ortiz is a popular teacher in Contra Costa County, the same district where he attended school.   He talked about his personal difficulties of being a Spanish-speaking student without enough Latino teachers.

He also talked about his curriculum, which includes the autobiographical story, “The Circuit,” his love of teaching and his father’s encouragement to pursue a career as an educator.

Kitty Kelly Epstein is a college professor, an author and an activist. Her presentation focused on the built-in racism of the U.S. system and its early roots in Oakland, the first place that used the racially biased group I.Q. tests created in 1916 by Stanford professor and Eugenics supporter Lewis Terman.

Dr. Epstein explored the growing movement of opposition to profit-oriented educational companies and to the new breed of standardized tests they promote.

Dr. Kimberly Mayfield is the chair of the Education Department at Holy Names University and one of the authors of Diversifying the Teacher Workforce.

She had encouraged people interested in becoming teachers to attend the Salon in order to participate in the discussion and to hear about the Teacher Apprentice Program (TAP), which recruits and supports local, diverse teachers as they move into teaching.

Her presentation focused on the joy of teaching and the barriers facing Black, Latino indigenous and Asian people attempting to enter the field.

Dr. Mayfield said that the TAP program, based at Holy Names University in Oakland, is designed to helps prospective teachers overcome the hurdles that keep them from entering the profession.

For information on the TAP program, call Stacy Johnson at (510) 436-1195 or email sjohnson@hnu.edu

Courtesy of the Oakland Post, August 29, 2015 (postnewsgroup.com)

 

We Must Speak Up” for Racial Justice, Say Teen Leaders and Rep. Barbara Lee

Calling for Black-Brown unity, a youth said, “The system has us pinned against each other.”

Jose Alejandre speaks at the Community Forum on Racial Justice on Aug. 18 at Brookins AME Church in Oakland. Photos by Ashley Chambers.

Jose Alejandre speaks at the Community Forum on Racial Justice on Aug. 18 at Brookins AME Church in Oakland. Photos by Ashley Chambers.

 

By Ashley Chambers

“In order to improve race relations in America, we must speak up. Comfortable silence has gotten us nowhere,” said Alomar Burdick, one of the young panelists speaking at the Community Forum on Racial Justice on Aug. 18 at Brookins AME Church in Oakland.

Stressing the need for community and action, three young people led the discussion, sharing their outlook on race in America and ways that people can work together against racism.

“In order for us to speak up, we must replace comfortable silence with verbal discomfort, and we must take action,” said Burdick, who works with the Martin Luther King Jr. Freedom Center.

Congresswoman Barbara Lee hosted the forum and participated in the panel, along with Oakland Councilmember Desley Brooks.

Another young panelist stressed the importance of knowing and embracing one’s identity.

“What I think is really important is to really know where we’re trying to go,” said Adeniji Asabi-Shakir, of Young, Gifted and Black.

“I would like to find a way to be able to…thrive and speak pride openly,” added Asabi-Shakir.

Another young panelist emphasized that in order to make strides in fighting the system of racial injustice, Black and Brown communities need to work together.

“The system has us pinned against each other – its divide and conquer. Our kids are growing up alongside each other and don’t understand each other,” said Jose Alejandre.

“I want to put a call out to community members to lead by example to show the kids that we can build up Black and Brown communities in East Oakland, wherever we are,” he said.

“If we don’t do it now, the separation between Black and brown (people)…will get bigger and bigger.”

The discussion addressed the impacts of institutional racism, pointing to racial disparities that exist in education, criminal justice, housing, jobs and other areas.

Studies show that African Americans are incarcerated at nearly six times the rate of whites.

A recent Department of Education survey highlights inequities in the education of Black preschool kids. While Black children, ages 2 to 4, are only 18 percent of students in preschool, they make up 40 percent of the number of the kids that are kicked out of preschool.

“How do you suspend a preschool baby from school? There’s something wrong,” said Congresswoman Lee.

“Everywhere you look in American society, you’ve got issues around structural and institutional racism,” she said

It is especially important, said the congresswoman, that we “really not allow people to say we’re playing the race card if we want to talk about race. We have to talk about public policies and structures and funding policies in a way that includes race.”

Lee said she is pushing legislation to reverse these disparities, including language to address the expulsion of Black preschool children.

She is also pushing for legislation to increase police accountability, end racial profiling and address inequalities in school funding, job training, re-entry programs, violence prevention and apprenticeships for youth.

Councilmember Desley Brooks recently led a fight to establish a Department of Race and Equity in the City of Oakland, which the city approved this summer.

“This (department) is about truly looking at the policies and procedures of the city and changing them,” she said.

The new department, expected to start by December, will address systemic inequities in city policies and practices – such as housing, jobs, contracting, and employment.

Congresswoman Lee will hold additional forums in the future throughout her congressional district.

For more information, visit Rep. Barbara Lee on Facebook, Twitter or Instagram.

Courtesy of the Oakland Post, August 29, 2015 (postnewsgroup.com)