Category: Elections & Voting Rights

Mayoral Candidates Side with Local Company Against Waste Multinational

By Ashley Chambers

Part 1

National trash hauling company Waste Management is playing hardball after losing its bid on the 10-year, $1-billion garbage contract with the City of Oakland.

Mayor Jean Quan

Mayor Jean Quan

The company pledged in August to support the city’s transition to Oakland-based, minority-owned California Waste Solutions (CWS), which won the contract when its offered lower garbage rates and jobs for local residents.

Now, however, Waste Management is doing whatever it can to disrupt the deal. In the midst of the petition referendum conflict that is playing out on Oakland streets, a number of Oakland’s 15 mayoral candidates have weighed in with their views on the City Council’s strong stand.

In a press release issued after the council decision, Mayor Jean Quan backed the deal as “one of the greenest garbage contracts in the country.”

“With this contract Oakland is taking a historic step toward fulfilling our goal of zero waste … diverting more waste away from our landfills and dramatically reducing our greenhouse gases,” Quan said.

Rebecca Kaplan

Rebecca Kaplan

As one of the councilmembers who voted for the CWS award, Rebecca Kaplan says the council’s decision “saved the people of Oakland $200 million by not going with the worst bid.”

Libby Schaaf

Libby Schaaf

“The Waste Management proposal was so much worse than what we voted for. We voted for lower prices, more jobs, a local customer service call center, and green energy,” she said.

CWS will add new services to create local jobs and partner with Civicorps to provide job opportunities for teens in Oakland. The company will hire all of the former Waste Management workers.

Councilmember Libby Schaaf, who voted to award the contract to CWS, called for the city to take steps to support the move to the new company.

“The city needs to do everything in its power to ensure a smooth transition to CWS, (and) that includes transfer of the land” at the Army Base that will be used for the company’s trash facility, she said.

Jason "Shake" Anderson

Jason “Shake” Anderson

Schaaf said the city needs to respond to Waste Management’s misleading referendum by educating residents about the real facts in the new contract. “Oakland needs to fight back against this bullying behavior,” she said.

Mayoral candidate Jason “Shake” Anderson said he trusts that the City Council made the right decision for Oakland, though he has concerns, “How long is it going to take [CWS] to actually do the job that’s necessary to provide for the citizens of Oakland?” He asked.

“A small company getting a big contract is going to change a lot of things. I hope it changes for the better,” Anderson said.
The Post will cover the positions of other mayoral candidates next week.

Courtesy of the Oakland Post, September 13, 2014 (

Urban Shield War Games Stir Up Oakland

Photo courtesy of

Photo courtesy of

By Post Staff

Energized by images of police armed with military hardware in Ferguson, MO, Bay Area activists are mobilizing to oppose the Urban Shield SWAT war games and firearms expo that is taking place in Oakland this weekend at the downtown Marriott.

Urban Shield is a four-day event that brings together law enforcement agencies from around the world — including Israel, Bahrain, Qatar, Brazil, Guam, South Korea and Singapore. 1409883906-urban-shield-expo-opens-in-oakland_5676090

A two-day trade show on Thursday and Friday features the latest in policing and surveillance technology and is followed by two days of emergency-preparedness training exercises throughout the Bay Area.

The event is billed as a disaster-preparedness exercise and is funded by the Urban Areas Security Initiative, a Department of Homeland Security program that mandates 25 percent of its funding is allocated to counterterrorism activities.

Urban Shield began in Oakland eight years ago and has expanded to Boston, Austin and Dallas.

After weeks of protests in Ferguson, Missouri that followed the police killing of teenager Michael Brown, the militarization of local law enforcement has become a national concern. Prominent images showed police with armored vehicles, assault and sniper rifles and dressed in SWAT uniforms that resembled battle clothing.

Last week, the San Jose Police Department announced it is getting rid of its M-RAP, a military-grade vehicle designed to protect combat soldiers from roadside bombs, citing community concerns over an increasingly militarized police force. The Davis City Council has given its sheriff’s office 60 days to get rid of the city’s M-RAPs.

President Barack Obama has called for a federal review of the 1033 program, which has transferred more than $4 billion of military supplies to local police departments with no oversight.

Organizations endorsing protests against Urban Shield include: Critical Resistance
War Resisters League – Facing Tear Gas, the Bay Area Childcare Collective (BACC),
Iraq Veterans Against the War – San Francisco, Code Pink and Oakland Privacy Working Group.

Among the mayoral candidates taking a position against Urban Shield was Jason “Shake Anderson, who says Mayor Jean Quan is failing to show leadership around police accountability issues.

Urban Shield protest 2013

Urban Shield protest 2013

“Oakland has a long history of police repression,” he said. “Our officers don’t need more extreme training. The city needs leaders who are proactive, who don’t wait to react to the possibility of violence until after something happens.”

According to Councilmember Rebecca Kaplan, bringing the “Urban Shield” weapons expo to Oakland is “an insult to all the important work that so many of us are doing to reduce violence” in the city.

Councilmember Libby Schaaf added, “The militarization of police is dangerous and destroys public trust – the last thing Oakland needs,” she said. “The vendor show connected with the exercise appears to promote this dangerous direction and is ill-suited for Oakland.”

However, Schaaf said, “I recognize that most of the exercises involve emergency response, which is incredibly important and beneficial for this region.”

Civil rights Attorney Dan Siegel said Urban Shield would not be coming to Oakland year after year if city leaders did not vote to help for it.

“Given the city’s disturbing history of brutal force against people of color and peaceful protestors – it is unacceptable to open our arms and welcome agencies that glorify violence, weaponry and militarized responses to the people of Oakland.”

“Last year, Urban Shield was met with community protest – and will be again,” he said. “Oakland residents have sent a clear message: No Urban Shield in Our City.”

For more information on Urban Shield, go to

Information from groups opposed to Urban Shield can be found at and

Courtesy of the Oakland Post, September 5, 2014 (


Waste Management Uses Dirty Tricks to Overturn Garbage Deal

The corporation that lost the bid is circulating a referendum, calling itself “Oakland Residents for a Clean City”

coutesy of sfgate

Photo courtesy of sfgate

 By Ken A. Epstein

Oakland residents may have thought that the city’s acrimonious trash debates were over last month when the City Council ousted Texas-based Waste Management corporation that has had a lock on the billion-dollar garbage contract for decades.

But the corporation – rich, arrogant and furious – is back, not only with a lawsuit but a petition on the streets of Oakland to overturn the council decision to give the 10-year contact to California Waste Solutions (CWS).

CWS is a West Oakland-based company that won over almost the entire council in the face of determined opposition of city staff and lobbyists who included former Council President Ignacio de la Fuente.

CWS’ proposal was compelling to council members because the company hires local residents, partnering with youth training agency Civicorps, and will charge customers smaller rate increases than Waste Management offered in its proposals.

“In addition to the lawsuit we filed on August 18, we are taking our case to the streets of Oakland. On Saturday (Aug.30), we helped launch, and are backing, a referendum campaign to overturn the … contract awards,” wrote Barry Skolnick, area vice president of Northern California-Nevada Waste Management, in an email memo dated Sept. 2.

“We continue to pursue every option to overturn the ill-conceived and illegal award of the Zero Waste contracts by the Oakland City Council to California Waste Solutions (CWS),” he said.

The company has hired local political consultant Larry Tramutola to lead the referendum, according to the East Bay Express.

According to Skolnick, the petition demands that the City Council rescind its decision or “schedule an election so the citizens of Oakland can cast their vote to overturn CWS’ out-of-county … solution that doesn’t deliver Zero Waste services or guarantee services on day one of the contract.”

The petition is “paid for by ‘Oakland Residents for a Clean City’ with major funding by Waste Management and affiliated entities, Skolnick said in the memo.

“Out on the streets when they are collecting signatures, “They’re telling people all kinds of lies,” said a source inside City Hall.

“They are using the most aggressive bully tactics I have ever seen,” said an obviously angry Councilmember Lynette McElhaney. “They have paid petitioners, saying that if people sign the petition, they will get lower garbage rates.”

“They know they will lose in the court, that’s why they are trying to subvert the process,” McElhaney continued. “It’s disgusting and dishonest. If they win a special election, the taxpayers will have to pay for the election. Nobody in the history of the city has done anything like this when they lost a competitive bid.”

“It would be one thing if they were just collecting signatures, but they are not telling the truth,” said the City Hall source.

A number of people are reporting the petition is being circulated under false pretenses. “I signed the petition last weekend because they told me it was opposed to higher garbage bills. I was misled – I wouldn’t have signed it if I knew what it was,” said Post reporter Tasion Kwamilele.

“Waste Management was arrogant during the negotiations – they never came up with reasonable costs, and they thought they were entitled to the contact,” the source continued.

“They blame everybody else, but they did this to themselves,” the source said. “They didn’t listen. They thought they had the upper hand.”

Waste Management is also trying to mobilize its workers to circulate the petitions. “We will hold meetings at each (work) site to distribute petition packets and instructions to any Oakland resident employee who wants to collect signatures in their neighborhood,” Skolnick wrote.

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

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

By Ken Epstein and Ashley Chambers

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

Barry Donelan

Barry Donelan

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Jason "Shake" Anderson

Jason “Shake” Anderson

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

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

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

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

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

Rebecca Kaplan

Rebecca Kaplan

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

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

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

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

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

Bryan Parker

Bryan Parker

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

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

 Courtesy of the Oakland Post, August 30, 2014 (

Oakland Mayoral Candidates Talk Army Base Jobs

By Ashley Chambers

Oakland is in the midst of a hot mayoral campaign season, and the city is beginning to see a rising concern about unemployment and jobs as top issue for candidates, along with public safety and affordable housing.

Dan Siegel

Dan Siegel

This week, the Post asked a number of the candidates what their stance is on the $1.2 billion Oakland Global Army Base project’s s promise of thousands of jobs for city residents.

The candidates were asked if they believe results so far of the Oakland Global project are transparent to public oversight and if equal opportunity to jobs is available to all Oakland residents?

If they become mayor, the Post asked, how would they ensure that major development projects that utilize public funds and public land deliver on promises to local and minority residents?

Master developer Phil Tagami of California Capital & Investment Group (CCIG) has served as the city’s agent on the project. Until recently, transparency has been stifled amid concerns that local, minority residents are not getting jobs on the project.

Mayor Jean Quan and Joe Tuman did not return the Oakland Post’s requests for an interview for this article.

Civil rights attorney Dan Siegel said he strongly “disagrees with the model for the Oakland Army Base development where the master developer has so much control over the project. That concentration of authority explains the inadequate efforts to hire local residents.”

The city needs “complete transparency and strict, impartial oversight over city development projects,” said Siegel.

Libby Schaaf

Libby Schaaf

Siegel says his highest priority as mayor would be “creating good paying jobs for Oakland residents…and require a developer such as Tagami to pay for the recruitment and training of workers to fill the jobs at the Oakland Army Base.”

Councilmember and mayoral candidate Libby Schaaf also expressed her concerns.

“This half-billion dollar project should be creating thousands of jobs. It’s frustrating to see the slow hiring process and the slow hiring of Oaklanders,” she said.

However, she says, the horizontal infrastructure development is slow work that will not employ many people, but later there will be vertical development of warehouses and business that will create more jobs. “I am very optimistic that the vertical construction will indeed hire thousands more,” she said.

Bryan Parker

Bryan Parker

Promoting the hiring of ex-offenders, Schaaf says Oakland should “look at hiring Oaklanders first, hiring ex-offenders and taking care of our own,” adding that the the city must also to ensure that local, minority firms have a fair chance at winning contracts in the city.

“We need to work with a variety of firms to ensure we get great projects, like the Army Base,” she said. “There are far too many locally grown firms already here that we should be using.”

Deeply involved in the port’s side of the Army Base project, Port Commissioner Bryan Parker says the project is in “the first inning of a nine inning ballgame,” referring to the five-year construction phase of the project and the vertical construction that will come afterward.

“I want to see more African American jobs created – as an underrepresented group, that is fair,” Parker said. “However, we must also recognize Oakland’s overall diversity and also make sure all races, ages, and sexual preferences are addressed in our job plans.”

Rebecca Kaplan

Rebecca Kaplan

He said that the 425 jobs created – half of which have gone to Oakland residents – is “fairly significant.” A city consultant has projected 1,523 construction jobs for the first phase of the project, he said.

“As mayor, I am going to insist that any developer who develops in Oakland receives all the benefits Oakland has to offer, but in exchange, invests in our economy including vital safety services,” Parker said, emphasizing his support for re-entry residents.

“Investing in our re-entry residents is a step at making a safer Oakland,” he continued.

Councilmember Rebecca Kaplan says she is backing local jobs by ensuring that the city addresses “the disparity in city contracting between large corporations and local, minority-owned firms.”

City administration “needs to do a better job when it comes to enforcing the local hire rules in place” at the Army Base Project, she said.

As mayor, Kaplan says she won’t “just promise local jobs and do a ribbon cutting but make sure we’re actually creating the jobs.”

Courtney Ruby

Courtney Ruby

“Oakland is the best city in the Bay Area, but it has the worst city government,” said City Auditor Courtney Ruby. “A big part of the problem is a failure in leadership that has squandered opportunities by bouncing from crisis to crisis, always looking for a political solution, instead of implementing sound decisions by focusing on results.”

“The only way we can rebuild trust in local government is to focus on transparency and results,” Ruby said.

Courtesy of the Oakland Post, August 15, 2014 (

Leaders Should Reflect Community, Not Corporate Interests, Says Jason “Shake” Anderson

Jason "Shake" Anderson

Jason “Shake” Anderson


By Ashley Chambers

As election season gets into full swing, Oakland’s mayoral race is heating up, and candidates are staking out their positions. One of the younger candidate is Jason “Shake” Anderson, who is pushing for progressive leadership in the city, public safety, local jobs, and more effective programs to engage young people.

“The City of Oakland should be at the forefront of progressive politics,” says Anderson, who served in the military for seven years and was involved in the Occupy Oakland movement.

The Occupy movement served as his gateway into politics and provided a “vehicle to engage in what I can do for humanity.”

The Bay Area native says city leadership should reflect community needs, not corporate interests, he said. Growing up in Oakland, a former a radio host and now a spoken word artist, Anderson feels that he has what it takes to represent the community.

“I think now is the time for Oakland to really make the change to have the leadership it deserves,” he says. “It would take someone like myself who is already dedicated to civil engagement, fighting against economic inequality and social injustice and who has a strong community background without any corporate ties, to push the progressive movement that Oakland should have.”

It’s about working together, Anderson continues.

“The problem with government and politics is this ‘isolation politics,’ where people only help those that help them. What it looks like at the end of the day is a small group of people advance while the general populace falls behind, and I would like to see the general populace advance,” he says.

Focusing on a number of issues including youth engagement and jobs, Anderson takes a different approach when addressing public safety.

He says, “To decrease crime, you have to actually identify not just who’s perpetrating but why they’re perpetrating.”

Addressing the need for local jobs, Anderson is supporting running mate Sam Washington’s plan, Oakland First, which would prioritize hiring and employment goals for Oakland residents.

When corporations want to bring their business to Oakland, the conversation is not about if it’s going to happen, it’s about how much they are willing to give, says Anderson.

“For years, Oakland has always taken a position of weakness when it comes to corporations, and that’s just a bad way to negotiate,” he says.

“We have to come from a position of strength, and that means setting standards on what we want from corporations before they even come to the table. If we don’t have any standards on what corporations are going to give back to the community, then we’ll always be negotiating from a deficit.”

The self-proclaimed “Town Mayor” professes his adaptability in reaching both the younger and older generations. Another priority issue for Anderson is ensuring that current youth programs are effective in benefiting those young people who are in need of resources. Some of these programs, he says, are either underfunded or mismanaged.

“Intelligence shouldn’t be stifled by a lack of resources,” he said. “We should help people get the resources they need so that we can use their intelligence to make things better for everyone.”

Jason “Shake” Anderson is endorsed by the Oakland Green Party. Visit a webpage supporting him at

Courtesy of the Oakland Post,  July 25, 2014 (


Two More Measures on November Ballot? Why Not Police Accountability?

By Ken Epstein

When a community coalition sought the city council members’ approval recently to put a police oversight commission on the November ballot, most of them opposed it.

Rashidah Grinage

Rashidah Grinage

The opinion on the council seemed to be that putting the $22 million a year public safety tax – the successor to Measure Y – on the ballot trumped all other issues.

They said any other ballot measure would be a distraction and confusing to the public and jeopardize funding to pay for 60 police officers and programs for crime reduction and youth.

Council members also said they could not vote to put the issue on the ballot because they did not have time to discuss and modify it, and staff did not have time to analyze it.

Therefore, supporters of police accountability noted with surprise that council members voted Tuesday night to put Councilmember Libby Schaaf’s charter amendment, an Independent Redistricting Commission, on the ballot.

Councilmembers also may be prepared to add a second charter amendment to the ballot at their July 15 meeting: an enhanced Public Ethics Commission that would cost $900,000 a year, backed by Councilmember Dan Kalb.

Neither of these measures has gone through the council’s committee process, nor were they analyzed by staff for their budget, legal and policy implications, which was cited as an insurmountable obstacle to the police measure.

Lynette McElhaney

Lynette McElhaney

“Different strokes for different folks – Both Kalb’s and Schaaf’s ballot measures were written by them, and ours was written by the community,” said Rashidah Grinage, a spokesperson for the coalition that had written the police accountability measure.

“ It’s OK for them to skirt the process, but it’s not OK for the community,” she said.

“The implication is the they know what they’re doing, and the community doesn’t.”

“I promise that if you poll the community, police oversight would come up as the number one issue, compared with the priorities of the council,” said Grinage, adding that the she was not sure the council has still had time to reconsider the police measure.

Councilmember Noel Gallo, who had championed putting the police measure on the ballot, said he has no problem backing a ballot measure that encourages citizen involvement and allows the public to vote.

Libby Schaaf

Libby Schaaf

He also noted that the redistricting measure will have no impact for six years, and is author, Libby Schaaf, is a mayoral candidate.

“I have no problem getting the citizens to engage and letting the public vote, and

Libby is running for mayor,” he said.

Councilmember Lynette McElhaney is chagrined by her fellow council members’ double standard as to what ballot measures are considered legitimate.

She told the Post that she strongly backs putting police accountability on the ballot in the future but remains convinced that nothing is more important than passing the successor to Measure Y at this point.

“I think it was the height of hypocrisy and insensitivity to bring (the redistricting measure) forward,” said McElhaney, adding that Schaaf made powerful arguments in the Public Safety committee against allowing the police measure to go forward but took the opposite position on her own ballot measure.

“She wanted to ramrod this measure that has no life or death consequences to it through the City Council,” she said. “This is something that doesn’t even apply until 2020.”

McElhaney is also concerned that putting a measure on the ballot costs between $350,000 and $400,000, which was not discussed or budgeted at this week’s council meeting.

When the council polled the public’s concerns, public safety was a top issue, she said, but, ”There was a very low response on public ethics reform, and redistricting never shows up.”

“I am going to ask council members to reconsider the (redistricting) measure,” she said. “There are considerable flaws in how the measure was drafted.”

To support police oversight “is a hard vote but a right vote,” McElhaney said. “This redistricting measure is a wrong vote.”

“I don’t know how we can look at the faces of the people who came to council to ask for the police oversight commission.”

Councilmember Desley Brooks says she has nothing against a measure that would create an independent commission to redraw council districts but questioned the rush to adopt a ballot measure that appears to be ill considered.

Desley Brooks

Desley Brooks

“If you say you’re doing this for the benefit of the community, why don’t you take it the community and discuss it?” She asked.

First of all, the names of people who are interested in being part of the commission would be reviewed by a retired judge, a law student and someone from a good government nonprofit. “Why these people?” Asked Brooks.

“The measure says there be ‘robust outreach’ to find members of the commission, but the proposal does not explain what that outreach would be,” she said.

After that, names of potential members of the commission “would be dropped into a hat and drawn,” she said. “This commission is supposed to be representative – people of color, low-income people, people from different parts of the city. I don’t know how that happens on a random draw.”

“This is very serious – it’s about voting rights,” added Brooks. “Be wary and leery before you vote for something just because it calls itself good government.”

Post Publisher Paul Cobb said he agrees with the questions being raised about the redistricting measure by Brooks and by Mayor Jean Quan at Tuesday’s council meeting. “I think these questions are serious, and that means the measure should be postponed,” he said.

“However, I agree with the ethics issues addressed by the public ethics commission measure and the police oversight measure. I think these two ethics measures should be joined and placed on the ballot.”

At press time, Councilmember Schaaf had not responded to the Post’s questions.

Courtesy of the Oakland Post, July 3, 2014 (

Kaplan Jumps into Mayoral Race

By Ken Epstein

Ending months of speculation, Councilmember-at-Large Rebecca Kaplan has joined the crowded field of candidates running to replace Jean Quan as mayor of Oakland.kaplan

With most polls showing her at the head of the pack, she broke the news of her candidacy Wednesday on nightly television news and on Facebook.

“Oakland isn’t ungovernable, just ungoverned,” she wrote on Facebook. “I’m running to provide strong, stable leadership. For safe neighborhoods. For local jobs. For a fresh start for our city.”

She held her official kickoff press conference Thursday afternoon at the corner of 92nd Avenue and International Boulevard, which was strewn with trash and where a dead dog recently remained on the sidewalk for a week before it was picked up by the city.

“We must take action to make sure that everyone in Oakland has their basic needs met,” she said, pledging to make sure that trash and illegal dumping are cleaned up and police respond to 911 calls, as well as to work to bring 30,000 new jobs to the city.

She decided to run, said Kaplan, because she has been frustrated to have the City Council pass legislation to improve the city, only to have the mayor fail to implement the measures.

Besides the mayor, Kaplan faces a number of candidates who are already campaigning hard, including Councilmmember Libby Schaaf, Attorney Dan Siegel, Port Commissioner Bryan Parker, Joe Tuman and Jason “Shake” Anderson.

Courtesy of the Oakland Post, June 7, 2014 (

Mayoral Candidates Address Black Issues

Mayoral candidates who spoke Wednesday night at the forum were: Jason Anderson, Patrick McCullough, Mayor Jean Quan, City Auditor Courtney Ruby, Sam Washington, Dan Siegel, City Councilmember Libby Schaaf, Joe Tuman, Port Commissioner Bryan Parker and Larry Lionel Young Jr. Photo by Ken Epstein.

Mayoral candidates who spoke Wednesday night at the forum were: Jason Anderson, Patrick McCullough, Mayor Jean Quan, City Auditor Courtney Ruby, Sam Washington, Dan Siegel, City Councilmember Libby Schaaf, Joe Tuman, Port Commissioner Bryan Parker and Larry Lionel Young Jr. Photo by Ken Epstein.

By Ken A. Epstein

The contest to become the next mayor of Oakland began to get more serious this week, as 10 candidates for the job faced some tough questions at the 100 Black Men of the Bay Area’s mayoral debate.

Speaking at a packed meeting in Oakland City Hall chambers Wednesday evening, the candidates answered questions from representatives of African American organizations.

An immediate challenge confronting the candidates is to distinguish themselves from each other and from incumbent Jean Quan, who is standing on what she considers to be her accomplishments – creating affording housing, reducing violent crime and bringing economic development to the city.

John Burris

John Burris

City Auditor Courtney Ruby was asked a question about what she would do as mayor if there were a recurrence of a situation where Oakland’s Workforce Investment Board (WIB) administrators failed to utilize funds and therefore had to send back $650,000 to the state for job training for unemployed Oaklanders.

“This is absolutely unacceptable in our community – we need to be able to track every dollar that’s coming in,” said Ruby, who at the time did not use her elected position to investigate why the city lost the money.

“The Workforce Investment Board is a total travesty in my opinion,” said civil rights attorney Dan Siegel. “It sucks up too much of the job funds. The administration should be cut,” he said adding that anyone who gives back funds should be fired.

“It’s atrocious, but its goes beyond that. Oakland needs to put some skin in the game,” said Councilmember Libby Schaaf, pointing out that Oakland uses a significant part of its federal Workforce Investment Act funding for overhead rather than kicking in additional money for on-the-ground services.

The panel of questioners included Kimberley Mayfield Lynch of the Oakland Berkeley Chapter of Black Women Organized for Political Action (BWOPA), Merlin Edwards of the Oakland African American Chamber of Commerce, Diane Lewis of 100 Black Women, Pastor Gerald Agee of Pastors of Oakland and Paul Cobb publisher of the Post and El Mundo newspapers.

Civil rights attorney John Burris moderated the debate and asked some questions. Leaders of 100 Black Men of the Bay Area Frank Tucker and Derrick Bulls hosted the forum.

Celebrating the huge Oakland Army Base development that broke ground under her administration, Mayor Quan said the project is reaching the city’s 50 percent local hiring goal. But finding people to fill these jobs is tough, she said, adding that she has to do outreach to churches to recruit workers.

However, according to the West Oakland Job Resource Center, there is a waiting list of construction workers seeking employment at the Army Base project.

Post publisher Cobb chimed in, saying that Quan was reluctant to advertise her message in the Black and Brown media. All the other candidates then said if they were mayor, they would enthusiastically advertise in the Black press to reach the voters who attendthe city’s more than 500 Black houses of worship.

With the new development coming into the city, “We have to be sure people are not left behind,” said Quan, citing figures that place unemployment of 18-25 year olds at 35 percent in East Oakland and only 4 percent in Montclair.

Addressing the hot button issue of public safety, the candidates pledged to contribute resources to reduce recidivism and help unemployed and out-of-school youth.

Several candidates pledged to dramatically increase the number of police officers to 800 or more, though they did not say how they would pay for them.

Oakland had 654 sworn police officers as of the beginning of May, and public safety already consumes about 50 percent of the city’s annual budget. Potential new officers are currently attending a Police Academy at a cost of about $4 million.

“The minimum is 900 (officers),” said candidate Joe Tuman,

Bearing down on public safety, Port Commissioner Bryan Parker asked, “Do you feel safer than you did four years ago? People do not feel safe at home, at work and walking round in the streets. “

“We need a safe, educated, economically healthy Oakland,” he said.

Ruby ended her remarks with a call to action. “Imagine what we could do if we had City Hall on our side.”

Quan emphasized the progress that OPD has made during her administration. “Our police force is the most diverse (it has been) and more effective than it has been in more than a decade,” she said.

Candidates also opposed gentrification, comparing Oakland’s potential future to the negative example of the forcing out of African American and Latino residents of San Francisco.

The people who are forced to move out, said Tuman, are the most vulnerable residents with limited “social and economic capital.”

Siegel said he would work with organizations like Urban Strategies Council to use up to 1,200 acres of existing public land to build affordable housing for 5,000 Oakland residents. He also was interrupted with applause when he said he would help establish a minimum wage of $15 an hour and create an Oakland Bank to help with housing affordability issues.

The answer, said Parker, is training and better paying jobs for Oakland residents.

Other candidates who spoke at the forum were Jason Anderson, endorsed by the Green Party; Patrick McCullough; Sam Washington, business and technology solutions strategist; and Larry Lionel Young Jr., past candidate for City Council, District 3, and for mayor in 2010.

Anderson was warmly received over his plans on how to purchase and preserve historic housing in the Black community, such as the Marcus Garvey Building.

Publisher Cobb said, “Based upon the candidates’ answers, I’d say the forum attendees’ ranked choices would be Siegel, Parker and Schaaf. But Anderson is coming on strong.”

Courtesy of the Oakland Post,  May 23, 2014 (



Wide Open Race to Replace Outgoing County Superintendent of Schools

Naomi Eason

Naomi Eason

By Ken Epstein

Five candidates are competing to replace Alameda County Superintendent of Schools Sheila Jordan, who is retiring after 16 years in the position.

The superintendent, an elected office, runs the Alameda County Office of Education (ACOE), which serves 18 school districts comprising more than 400 schools with more than 11,000 teachers, nearly 8,000 classified employees and nearly 215,000 students.

The office provides a broad range of services including fiscal oversight for school districts, direct operation of schools for at-risk students, including the school at Alameda County Juvenile Hall and provides teacher in-service programs to advance teaching and learning.

If no candidate wins at least 50 percent in the June 3 primary election, the top two will compete in the November general election.

Karen Monroe

Karen Monroe

Jeff Bowser, Board of Education member of the Pleasanton Unified School District, was elected in 2010. According to his campaign, he has led his school board’s efforts to “right the ship” after devastating cuts from the state and federal governments – working to reduce class sizes, balance budgets and restore programs for arts, music and reading.

Ursula Reed

Ursula Reed

A fourth-generation Alameda County Democrat, he has worked for 14 years as a credentialed teacher and administrator at the school, district and county levels.

Naomi Eason, with over two decades of experience, is a professional educator, administrator, parent of five and Oakland PTA member. She has worked as a teacher and administrator in Oakland and Emeryville and served as Assistant Superintendent at ACOE.

At present, Eason is California executive director of Building Educated Leaders for Life, a nonprofit delivering afterschool and summer school programs.

“Your vote for me will keep student achievement for all at the forefront as I collaborate with district administrators, teachers, staff and parents to improve education across the county,” she said.

Helen Foster is a member of the board of the San Lorenzo Unified School District and works as human resources director for the Hayward Unified School District. She said her priorities include implementing California’s new “local control” funding Jeff Bowenformula and nationwide Common Core standards.

A former high school science teacher, Foster said she wants to attract more funding to science and math education while also restoring arts programs.

Karen Monroe, associate superintendent of the ACOE, is the candidate endorsed by County Supt. Jordan. She has worked for the Bay Area Liaison for A Better Chance, formed the non-profit Educational Technology Training Institute, served as an Oakland teacher and principal and worked as Director of Academics for the Seneca Center.

Monroe wants to expand Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math (STEM) instruction in the schools and in afterschool programs.

Helen Foster

Helen Foster

Ursula Reed, a member of the San Leandro City Council, has 25 years experience in education, including serving as a principal, teacher and central office administrator in the Oakland and Hayward school districts.

“At the top of my priorities is the goal to put our children first on the list when it comes to funding,” said Reed, who would conduct an audit of ACOE t to eliminate duplication and waste.

Courtesy of the Oakland Post, April 25, 2014 (