Category: Uncategorized

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

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

Pope Francis arrives in Ecuador. Photo courtesy of the Guardian

Pope Francis arrives in Ecuador. Photo courtesy of the Guardian

By Tulio Ospina

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

 

 

Oakland Must Enforce Police Accountability, Says 100 Black Men

Public Safety Committee will discuss proposals on Tuesday

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

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

By Ashley Chambers

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

Frank Tucker

Frank Tucker

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

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

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

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

Dan Kalb

Dan Kalb

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

(postnewsgroup.com)

Healthcare Racial Disparities Persist Despite ACA

More Californians than ever before have health insurance, but coverage isn’t care, and the Affordable Care Act (ACA) has magnified the deep racial, ethnic and cultural disparities in accessing quality health care in California.

Gary Delgado

Gary Delgado

Latino and African Americans especially remain heavily uninsured and struggle to receive health care.

Language and cultural barriers, lack of Internet or an email address, a lack of experience in using health insurance, a shortage of doctors and clinics in poor and rural communities, and high costs are preventing many from receiving health care and medications.

A new report “Breaking Barriers: Improving health insurance enrollment and access to health care in California,” reveals a deep divide between social class, income, culture and ethnicity emerging under the state’s Covered Care.

New report: "Breaking Barriers"

New report: “Breaking Barriers”

“It’s unconscionable that so many have been left out of something as basic as the chance to enjoy good health,” said Gary Delgado, author of Breaking Barriers. “Lack of Internet access or speaking another language is not a reason to be locked out of a health system that purports to be open to all.

“Obamacare did not cause the widespread racial disparities we found, but neither did it solve them. Now we have to take them on directly,” said Delgado.

“Breaking Barriers” is a year-long study that includes a survey of nearly 1,200 low-income people in 10 states in Spanish, Cantonese, and English. They were contacted at food banks, health clinics, and homeless centers.

Alfredo DeAvila did surveys and interviews for the Breaking Barriers California report.

“If the ACA is going to be successful, we need to help people transition not only into the health insurance system, but also into the health care system,” he said. “We must invest in public education about how to get ongoing preventive care.”

The Korean America community, especially seniors are struggling because of costs, said DJ Yoon, executive director of NAKASEC (National Korean American Service and Education Consortium.)

“California can be a leader in assuring quality health care for all people. We have let people of color again slip through the cracks in our system, we can do better – and here is a roadmap for how we get there,” said Delgado.

Key recommendations in the report include:

Improve language access. Make provider directories available in multiple languages and list addresses, phone numbers, languages spoken, hospital affiliations, and specialties;

Simplify the insurance-shopping experience. Make cost information transparent and communicate clearly about deductibles, co-pays, and preventive services that are included;

Covered California should enforce and impose penalties on insurers who do not reduce racial health care disparities within required timeframes;

Assure that primary care providers are within 30 minutes driving or public transit time. Enrollees who must travel further should be offered free transportation;

Expand school-based health centers, especially in medically underserved communities;

Address underlying causes of poor health, especially in poor communities, (mold, infestations, domestic violence) Expand medical-legal partnerships as an avenue toward addressing poor health in low-income communities;

Reinforce the ACA-mandated “well-woman preventive” care and provide education about the value of preventive care for all. Ensure that all plans include reproductive health care services.

The full Breaking Barriers in California report is available at http://allianceforajustsociety.org/wp-content/uploads/2015/04/BBReport_CALIF.pdf

 

Opinion: Oakland Needs Office of Race and Equity

“Allow ourselves to become comfortable with being uncomfortable”

 By Desley Brooks

It is widely known now that I have called for an office of Race and Equity to be established in the City of Oakland. Voices have risen up across our entire city from residents, community

Desley Brooks

Desley Brooks

organizations, agencies, and other elected officials discussing the need for such an office in our city.

The most resounding voice on the issue is in absolute agreement of a need for an office of Race and Equity. However there are other opinions as well ranging from moderate consideration, outright disagreement, as well as those who are undecided.

Race is a subject that we handle very interestingly in America. It impacts so much of the atmosphere in the worlds of business, politics, education, and family life, whether we admit it or not.

Yet we are largely uncomfortable having meaningful discourse around this thing that is so prevalent in our day-to-day lives. Because we are uncomfortable talking about race, many of us tend to pick a side on an issue concerning race and just stand on that square, unwilling to really hear the perspective of others.

If we are going to address racial inequalities in our city, we are going to have to get comfortable being uncomfortable.

We are going to have to be willing to respectfully listen to the opinions and ideas of others that may not always sit well with us or even stir up emotions of fear, anger, and guilt.

Racial equity is not an issue of politics – it is an issue of humanity that can be addressed through a political process.

I obviously believe in the need for such an office in our city, but I’m not asking anyone to blindly join this cause or agree with me automatically.

I invite all of us to explore the facts and consider the climate in our city as it relates to race and equity in Oakland.

My hope is that we all will allow ourselves to be comfortable being uncomfortable and asking ourselves questions and reflecting personally on our experiences and beliefs relating to race and racism.

Desley Brooks is a member of the Oakland City Council, representing District 6.

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

Oakland Unified’s Administration Bypasses School Board to Hire Jackson for $30,000 Per Month

By Ken Epstein

The Oakland Unified School District administration bypassed Board of Education approval in order to pay Lance Jackson $30,000 a month to oversee the district’s multimillion dollar construction program, the Oakland Post has learned.

Jacqueline Minor

Jacqueline Minor

While the district is conducting a search for a new person to head the work, Jackson is overseeing OUSD’s construction programs and repairs, maintenance and custodial services.

Uncertain that the Board of Education would be willing to vote for the $30,000 a month interim contract for Jackson, the administration has decided to pull the contract and instead to pay the consultant out of the ongoing contract the district has with Jackson’s company, Seville Group Inc.

Jackson is Chief Operating Officer of Seville, a construction management firm that provides oversight of OUSD construction projects.

The Post recently reported that Jackson was hired for the interim position at a rate of $360,000 a year – more than double the $156,000 a year received by former chief of construction management Tim White. Jackson’s annual salary is higher than the $280,000 annual salary that Supt. Antwan Wilson receives.

Passed by the board under Acting Supt. Gary Yee, the district’s $10.9 million contract with Seville was approved to provide program management services for Measure B and Measure J and capital projects on behalf of the district in the Division of Facilities Planning and Management.

Lance Jackson

Lance Jackson

The term of the contract commenced on Aug. 14, 2013 and concludes by Dec. 31, 2015. Seville received $4 million from the district in 2014.

Raising questions on the details of the agreement with Jackson, the Oakland Post asked the district administration what will happen to the Seville staff working in the district and the work they were doing when that money is transferred to cover Mr. Jackson’s pay.

In response, district spokesman Troy Flint said, “When working on large projects of the kind SGI (Seville) handles for OUSD, there’s flexibility to adjust, in fact, it’s a necessity. Lance’s contract is not going to impact the work delivered or the manner in which it’s delivered as, relative to our agreement with SGI, it’s a small piece of the pie.”

In response to the question whether the agreement with Seville allows for the company to head up the facilities department, Flint said, “There’s not explicit wording in the contract to cover this specific circumstance, but the general language of the contract indicates that decisions can be made as needed to facilitate SGI’s successful management of the projects under its scope–and this falls under that consideration.”

The Post also emailed several questions to Jacqueline Minor, head of OUSD’s Legal Department.

“Can you please tell (the Post) what is your legal rational for your decision“ when Minor approved or advised the administration to pull that contract and to instead pay Mr. Jackson from the district’s ongoing contract with SGI?”

In addition, the Post asked: “How do you respond to the public perception that the decision appears to be a way to circumvent the decision-making power of the governing board?”

Minor did not respond.

 Courtesy of the Oakland Post, April 3, 2015 (postnewsgroup.com)

Oakland School District Faces Conflict Over Teacher Pay and “Redesign” of Five Schools

Members of the McClymonds High School community attended Wedesday's school board meeting, asked to be given information about what is planned for their school and saying they want to be inlcuded in making the changes. Photo by Ken Epstein

Members of the McClymonds High School community attended Wedesday’s school board meeting, asked to be given information about what is planned for their school and saying they want to be inlcuded in making the changes. Photos by Ken Epstein

By Ken Epstein

The Oakland Unified School District’s three new school board members and newly hired superintendent have taken their positions just as two of the district’s most protracted conflicts are coming to a head: poorly paid teachers are demanding decent pay and job security, and communities at five schools are fed up with district-led reorganizations that have repeatedly disrupted and destabilized their schools over the last decade.

Most everyone agrees that Oakland’s teachers desperately need a raise. According to the teachers’ union, they are the lowest-paid in Alameda County and lowest-paid in the nine-county Bay Area.

Teachers rally in front of school board meeting Wednesday.

Teachers rally in front of school board meeting Wednesday.

As a result, the district has a 20 percent turnover rate each year, meaning the schools are stuck on a treadmill, hiring and recruiting mostly inexperienced teachers.

Angry teachers came out in force Wednesday night, marching down Park Boulevard to rally and speak at this week’s Board of Education meeting at La Escuelita Education Center.

In protest, teachers at many schools are staging a slowdown, called “work to rule,” coming at the beginning of the school day and leaving when school ends, not giving or correcting homework or doing any of the myriad other tasks they generally do.

The district is offering a 10 percent raise over three years – 3 percent this year, starting in January; 3 percent next January; and 4 percent the following year, depending on the funds that come from the state.

Oakland Education Association (OEA) President Trish Gorham says the mid-year 3 percent raise this year does not keep up with the 3.25 percent other Bay Area teachers have received this year.

“That just makes us fall further behind,” she said.

Supt. Antwan Wilson responded to teachers at the meeting and in an email to the school community.

“We need to finalize these negotiations so that we can focus all of our energy on the work that is before us to ensure quality schools for all – and there is a lot of work to do,” he wrote.

“I remain committed to making Oakland the leader in attracting, retaining and rewarding the best talent,” he continued. “While this vision cannot be achieved overnight, it is possible.”

He pointed to the constraints the district is facing. “We can’t forget that California remains 46th out of 50 states in per pupil spending.” Further, he said the district still has to give $6 million per year to the state to repay the $100 million bailout OUSD received when it went into bankruptcy and was taken over by the state in 2003.

In addition to salaries, OEA President Gorham says teachers are concerned about the district’s desire to weaken teacher transfer provisions in the contract, allowing the administration to unilaterally and involuntarily remove teachers from schools and weaken seniority rights to open positions.

The three high schools facing “redesign” this year – Fremont, McClymonds and Castlemont – were reconstituted three years ago, and every teacher had to reapply for their job.

Now the district is going to do it again, Gorham said. “Where is the analysis of what they did then? What is going to happen to the teachers who don’t want to leave their school sites and are forced to leave?”

The administration and the school board have admitted that they have to do a better job explaining their plans to “transform” five “failing” schools this year – Brookfield Elementary and Frick Middle schools, in addition to the two East Oakland and one West Oakland high schools.

There is general agreement that Oakland’s schools must make deep changes in order to improve graduation rates and post-secondary admission rates, particularly for African American and Latino students.

But that is where the consensus ends. A group of students from Fremont High and other schools came to this week’s board meeting to oppose the administration’s plan. A group from the McClymonds community called on the district to explain what it is planning and to include the community in making the changes.

The districts plan calls for an open competition period to submit school redesign proposals, starting in February. Charter schools and other outside organizations are eligible to apply to run the schools.

This approach was adopted by the school board in 2013 and re-approved in 2014 under the leadership of then Board President David Kakishiba and acting Supt Gary Yee. Supt. Wilson was hired to implement it.

District spokesman Troy Flint told the Post that no school would be forced to become a charter over community opposition. If a school is opposed to “the idea of charter, it would naturally follow that a charter proposal would not prevail in the selection process at that particular school,” he said.

State law permits groups of parents or teachers at individual schools to apply to become a charter, said Gorham. But the district is adopting an approach that does not exist in the law: open up a competition for charters to submit applications, and the board and superintendent will make the decision.

According to Gorham and others, the district plan dooms the existing schools. “If you publically call them ‘failing schools,’ how many parents are going to enroll their kids in the schools next year?”

“It’s a self-fulfilling prophecy. You destabilize, reconstitute, and then you convert to charter,” said Gorham.

Instead, a number of the opponents of the plan say the district should listen respectfully with the school communities, find out what they need, and pour in resources and other support to make them schools that students want to attend and where parents want to send their children.

Flint denied that anyone at OUSD referred to the schools as failing.

“I’m not aware of anyone publicly referring to these schools as ‘failing schools.’ Perhaps this was mentioned at a meeting I didn’t attend, but that’s not what we’ve been saying in our official communications,” he wrote to the Post. “We do refer to patterns of relatively low academic performance and under-enrollment.”

Courtesy of the Oakland Post, January 31, 2015 (postnewsgroup.com)

San Jose Cop on Leave After Posting Twitter Death Threats

Phillip White, a 20-year veteran police officer, is shown here in October teaching a class of fifth graders in San Jose. Photo Courtesy of the San Jose Mercury.

Phillip White, a 20-year veteran police officer, is shown here in October teaching a class of fifth graders in San Jose. Photo Courtesy of the San Jose Mercury.

San Jose police officer Phillip White was put on leave Monday after posting a series of death threats to Black Lives Matter protestors on his personal Twitter account.

An online petition at change.org that demanded his firing had received 5,000 signatures in less than a day. Menlo College, where the officer was an assistant basketball coach, cut ties with him.

The 20-year veteran officer’s most racist tweets read, “Threaten me or my family and I will use my God given and law appointed right and duty to kill you. #CopsLivesMatter” and “By the way if anyone feels they can’t breathe or their lives matter I’ll be at the movies tonight, off duty, carrying my gun.”

Demonstrators marched on San Jose police headquarters Thursday to demand the city fire Officer Phillip White. Photo courtesy Jennifer Wadsworth, San Jose Inside.

Demonstrators marched on San Jose police headquarters Thursday to demand the city fire Officer Phillip White. Photo courtesy Jennifer Wadsworth, San Jose Inside.

The officer was rebuked by San Jose police Chief Larry Esquivel, who said in a statement that White’s posts do not reflect “the thoughts or feelings” of those on the force.

The police union spoke out against the posts but did not mention White by name.

“Offensive, disrespectful and inappropriate social media comments have no place in the public discourse surrounding the tragic loss of life from recent officer involved incidents,” according to a statement. “We condemn these comments.”

Mayor-elect Sam Liccardo said he would support firing White

“(He) undermines everything that our officers are working to accomplish in our police department to build relationships with trust in our community, and I’d support the chief taking any and all disciplinary actions, including termination, to ensure this kind of conduct does not continue,” he said.

Growth Is Exploding in Oakland, Say Developers

 Local business people packed into the grand ballroom in Oakland Marriott City Center last Friday to hear Mayor Jean Quan, Mayor-elect Libby Schaaf and a panel of five major Bay Area developers talk about the development free-for-all that is beginning to unfold in Oakland.

The event, called “Oakland Structures,” was sponsored by the San Francisco Business Times at a cost of $70 a head and was billed as offering insight on the big changes that are coming to the city.

“Investors are converging on Oakland in unprecedented numbers, and it’s a pivotal time for the city. Oakland can no longer be considered to be on the ‘verge,’” according to the announcement for the event.

Claremont Lanai Tower (rendering)

Claremont Lanai Tower (rendering)

Remarkably for Oakland, African Americans and Latinos were absent from the speakers’ platform and few in number in the ballroom.

Beside the present and future mayors, speakers included Michael Ghielmetti, president of Signature Development Group, which along with a major Beijing investor, is building 3,100 units of market-rate housing on the Embarcadero in Oakland; and Floyd Kephart, chairman of the Renaissance Companies, Inc., who hopes to build the massive Coliseum City project near the Oakland Airport.

Other Bay Area developers who shared their views on Oakland’s future and their projects were Michael Cohen, co-founder and principal of the Strada Investment Group; Phil Kerr, president of the Northern California City Ventures; and Scott Smithers, managing principal of Lane Partners LLC.

“We are hungry for development after winning the Nov. 4 election,” said Mayor-elect Schaaf, in an interview with the SF Business Times a few days after the election.

“However, we also have tremendous needs. We are an old city, and we have incredible deferred maintenance,” she said, emphasizing developers have to expect to pay city fees.

She told the developers at the Business Times event that her goal is to create “predictability and clarity” for development projects in the city, hire “kick-ass (staff) who get things done” and make the City of Oakland “the least irritating government possible.”

Uptown Station, formerly the Sears building (rendering).

Uptown Station, formerly the Sears building (rendering).

Floyd Kephart said that he represented a number of investors who want to build the Coliseum City project, which has been proposed but not yet approved by the city.

The project has already stirred concerns among city residents – some who want to assure that jobs and housing go to local people and others who say that the project as proposed would create a destructive, not constructive, presence in the city.

“I don’t know what the future will bring, but I know it’s coming,” said Kephart, who said that he and the financiers he represents would like to go ahead with the full project that has been proposed by city staff and consultants.

“We don’t know exactly what form it will take,” he said, but the city has created a great proposal. “We’re not trying to change that. We’re trying to implement that.”

As proposed, the huge complex would contain new stadiums for up to three teams, 1.9 million-square-feet of retail and office space, several hotels and restaurants and

Brooklyn Basin (rendering)

Brooklyn Basin (rendering)

entertainment.

“All of us (financiers) live on demographics” who base their decisions looking at the trends, Kephart said. “I represent 40 private equity hedge funds. Private capital goes where the opportunities are.”

“There is no doubt that capital is coming here,” he said. ”The question is whether it will build the future “ that Oaklanders want.

This development is going to take time, Kephart said. “It’s a process, and it never comes out the way” people expected it would be at the beginning of the process.

Courtesy of the Oakland Post, December 15, 2014 (postnewsgroup.com)

Nurses Strike Kaiser, Rally for Global Ebola Awareness Day

Nearly 1,000 nurses protested Wednesday at the federal building in Oakland. Photos by Ken Epstein

Nearly 1,000 nurses protested Wednesday at the federal building in Oakland. Photos by Ken Epstein

 

By Nikolas Zelinski

About 18,000 nurses went on strike this week at Kaiser Permanente facilities in northern and central California and rallied at the Ronald V. Dellums federal building in Oakland to demand improved staffing and called on hospitals to take better steps to prepare for Ebola.

The Oakland rally on Wednesday was among strikes and protests that took place in 16 states and Washington, D.C., where nurses held a vigil outside the White House – to join with international actions for Global Ebola Awareness Day.

The centerpiece of the national actions was the California strike against 86 Kaiser facilities in nearly two dozen cities including San Francisco, San Leandro, San Rafael, Stockton and Oakland on Tuesday and Wednesday.nurses protest

The California Nurses Association and National Nurses United are saying that the CDC is not doing enough to address threats such as Ebola and that hospitals are not prepared to deal with large-scale emergencies.

Even though two nurses in Dallas were infected by an Ebola patient, many hospitals still lack full-body protective suits and sufficient training to deal with potential Ebola cases, said Rose Ann DeMoro, executive director of the California Nurses Association and National Nurses United.

“Nurses, who have been willing to stand by the patients whether it’s the flu, whether it’s Ebola, whether it’s cancer, are now being asked to put themselves in harm’s way unprotected, unguarded,” DeMoro said at a news conference announcing the actions.

Speakers at the Oakland rally said that “Ebola kits” that are supplied by the CDC, but nurses are only given a choice between slip-on booties, a fluid-resistant gown or an n-95 respirator.

Bonnie Castillo (RN) argued that the supplies simply are not enough. “If nurses aren’t protected, the public isn’t protected,” she said.

nurses against EbolaMany of the nurses said a failure to prepare for Ebola and the decline in standards of patient care in the Bay Area and nationwide are the result of for-profit medicine that only looks at the bottom line.

“There are many factors to why we’re not ready, and why it’s not just about Ebola. This situation just highlights how ill prepared we really are,” said Maureen Dugan, a nurse with 25 years of experience, speaking to the Post.

“In today’s fractured health care system, it’s all about profit…We are constantly struggling to get the staff and supplies we need,” she said.

The nurses are calling for the federal government to mandate guidelines for hospitals, such as fully protective HAZMAT suits for potential outbreaks. Also, they say the new guidelines must be enforced by the government so patients and caregivers are better protected.

Responding to the strike, Kaiser Permanente said it is meeting and working with the nurses. “We are absolutely committed to keeping Kaiser Permanente the best place for our nurses to work, and we have assured them of that commitment,” according to a prepared statement issued by Kaiser.

Courtesy of the Oakland Post, November 13, 2014 (postnewsgroup.com)

Tagami’s $1.2 Billion Army Base Project Fails to Create West Oakland Jobs

By Ken Epstein and Ashley Chambers

Community members are raising concerns about what has happened to the promise of jobs for Oakland residents at the $1.2 billion Oakland Army Base development project.

Phil Tagami

Phil Tagami

“Less than 10 percent of jobs are going to the people of West Oakland. They are giving some jobs in other places but not at the Army Base,” says Oakland resident Margaret Gordon, a member of OaklandWorks, who was involved in negotiating the project’s community benefits agreement.

Inflated promises of jobs, running from 1,500 to 8,000 or even more, appear to have been overblown marketing hype meant to stampede Oaklanders into supporting the project.

While some people have been hired at construction jobs, the question remains: How many of these jobs are going to Oakland residents? How many are going to people who live in East Oakland and West Oakland?

How many are going to Black workers?

According to Phil Tagami’s California Capital & Investment Group (CCIG), a total of 425 jobs have been created so far on the project.

As of July 16, the project had hired 91 new Oakland workers, though even these are not necessarily Black or Latino workers, or any of the many residents who over the years have been unable to overcome the barriers to finding work in the relatively highly paid building trades.

“Staff is saying they’ve exceeded the goals of local hire, mostly by percentages or hours worked,” Councilmember Lynette McElhaney said. However, they do not say if 2,000 hours worked by Oakland residents represent 10 people or two people, she said.

Recent data indicates that the West Oakland Jobs Resource Center, the tool that was created to funnel West Oakland and other local residents into jobs at the project, has found 11 jobs for Oaklanders at the Army Base. They have found some jobs at other places.

“I had not heard that the numbers of people hired through the Job Resource Center were that low,” McElhaney said. “That’s shocking to me. It raises the question of whether Tagami and the subcontractors are serious about working with the center.”

In recent years, only 5 percent of journeymen hours on city-funded developments have gone to African Americans. Community members want to know what the racial breakdown is on this project.

Community members also want to know why the community benefits jobs policy, negotiated with community input over a period of several years, is turning out to be weaker than the city’s general jobs policy.

There was supposedly a fairly ironclad agreement to hire 50 percent Oakland residents, which seemed to have been the case, at least up to a few months ago.

However, the city on May 22 sent a letter to Master Developer Phil Tagami, saying that under the army base agreement, contractors only have to make a good faith effort one time to hire local residents. If they are not able to find anyone, they are free from that point on to hire anyone they want.

A good faith effort constitutes contacting a city department and the Job Resource Center.

For Oakland’s other projects, “waivers” are issued for only 160 hours for work performed by a nonresident when no resident is available for immediate referral.

During the long negotiations over community benefits, it was agreed that there would be preference for hiring West Oakland residents, but that preference was eliminated from the final construction labor agreements, says Gordon.

Courtesy of the Oakland Post, August 2, 2014  (postnewsgroup.com)