Category: Uncategorized

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)

Judge Blasts Oakland for Mishandling Police Discipline

By Post Staff

Federal Judge Thelton Henderson issued a court order this week criticizing the City of Oakland for failing to consult the court-appointed federal overseer when the City Administrator reduced the punishment for a police captain accused of striking a suspect during an arrest.

Judge Thelton Henderson

Judge Thelton Henderson

After the police chief and the federal compliance director had agreed upon a level of discipline, “The City Administrator subsequently imposed a different level of discipline without consulting the compliance director … (which) violated the orders of this court,” Henderson wrote in the order dated July 22.

Henderson said he was issuing the order as a “stern reminder” to follow the terms of the Negotiated Settlement Agreement (NSA). “The court hopes this order will serve its intended prophylactic effect and that this situation will not recur,” he wrote.

“If the defendants fail to heed the court’s warning, they should expect a show cause order for future violations, which would also undermine any confidence in the sustainability of the reforms that have been and continue to be achieved,” according to Henderson.

Though Henderson did not mention details of the police discipline case, he was referring to the handling of the discipline of Capt. Ersie Joyner III for striking a suspect during an arrest in March 2013, according to reports.

Capt. Ersie Joyner

Capt. Ersie Joyner

In that case, Joyner was accused of inappropriate use of force when he struck Dantjuan McElroy twice in the face with his hand during the suspect’s arrest, the reports said. McElroy was charged with possessing an automatic weapon.

The department at first wanted to demote Joyner to lieutenant, according to reports. However, officials reduced the punishment to a 10-day suspension after outside experts wrote reports that cleared the officer of wrongdoing, the reports said.

When the case went to then City Administrator Fred Blackwell, he further reduced the punishment to counseling after he heard that the suspension would be reversed on appeal, without consulting the federal compliance director, the reports said.

Over the years, Capt. Joyner, a longtime high-ranking OPD officer, has been the subject of a number of internal police investigations and civil lawsuits.

City Rights Attorney John Burris is currently suing the city, Joyner and another officer for shooting and killing two men in 2011. Prosecutors have already cleared police of any wrongdoing in that case.

Joyner was also under investigation for misconduct for approving the use of beanbag projectiles against Occupy Oakland protesters in November 2011.

In addition, Joyner faced an internal probe on how he handled the investigation into death of Chauncey Baily in 2007. In early 2009, Sgt. Derwin Longmire and Joyner, who was Longmire’s immediate supervisor in the Bailey case, were reassigned from the   homicide detail to patrol duties in the wake of that investigation, which involved internal affairs detectives and investigators from the California Department of Justice

Howard Jordan, then assistant police chief, told the Oakland Tribune at the time that neither move had anything to do with the Bailey case or subsequent investigations.

One of the City of Oakland’s highest paid employees, Joyner had a total compensation in 2011 of $252,286. In March 2014, he received an award for his work with Ceasefire and gang case management at a Neighborhood Champions Award ceremony.

Courtesy of the Oakland Post, July 25, 2014 (postnewsgroup.com)

 

Congresswoman Barbara Lee Holds Meeting on West Oakland Hazardous Cargo Inspections

By Ashley Chambers

Congresswoman Barbara Lee’s office hosted a meeting last week so community members could finally talk to the officials who want to bring big rigs into West Oakland to perform inspections of hazardous cargo coming into the Port of Oakland.

Port of Oakland Custom's Inspectionss

Port of Oakland Custom’s Inspectionss

West Oakland community leaders have been raising concerns that U.S. Customs plans to sign a contract with entrepreneur Tom Henderson to inspect potentially hazardous cargo, including explosives, poisonous gas and nuclear materials, at the old Horizon Beverage building at 1700 20th St. in Oakland.

While U.S. Customs officials did not provide clear estimates of the anticipated truck and cargo traffic they would inspect, the meeting last Thursday did bring together for the first time Henderson, leaders of the West Oakland Environmental Indicators Project (WOEIP), staff from Lee’s office, Councilmember Lynette McElhaney, Assistant City Administrator Fred Blackwell and City Zoning Manager Scott Miller.

Inspection at port

Inspection at port

In order to conduct inspections, Henderson, the warehouse owner, must first obtain city permits to inspect for contraband and for hazardous materials but apparently does not have staff certified to handle hazardous materials, said Brian Beveridge of WOEIP.

According to Beveridge, U.S. Customs considers that the dangers uninspected cargo may pose to local communities is a city issue, not a concern of U.S Customs and Border Protection, which is part of the Department of Homeland Security.

“There’s a real disconnect between federal government policies on safety around this issue and government statements on why we spend a lot of money on anti-terrorism,” said Beveridge.

Customs representatives said they would take the appropriate action if there were a risk to the community such as explosive cargo. According to the U.S. Customs website, the most serious terrorist threats to the country are through containers at the port.

Beveridge and others are concerned that the city of may not fully understand what is at stake.  “The city doesn’t seem to understand the nature of a Customs warehouse and zoning rules to protect the public,” he said.

Councilmember McElhaney is planning to hold a follow-up meeting so U.S. Customs can provide more detailed information about its day-to-day operations.

 

Aboudi’s Army Base Project Means 900 Jobs and Reduced Pollution

By Ashley Chambers and Ken Epstein

The City Council this week approved a 55-year lease for a 17-acre, $25 million development to create a new up-to-date home for Bill Aboudi’s Oakland Maritime Support Services (OMSS) as part of the Army Base Gateway project.

The development will be a big win for West Oakland residents who do not want to return to the days when polluting trucks filled city streets, and drivers parked overnight in West Oakland.  The project will also mean jobs for local small businesses and Oakland workers.

Jose Dueñas of the Hispanic Chamber of Commerce, Len Turner of Turner Group Construction and Carl Chan of Oakland Chinatown Chamber of Commerce spoke at last week's Community and Economic Developent Committee (CED) meeting to support  favor of the OMSS. Photo by Ken Epstein

Jose Dueñas of the Hispanic Chamber of Commerce, Len Turner of Turner Group Construction and Carl Chan of Oakland Chinatown Chamber of Commerce spoke at last week’s Community and Economic Developent Committee (CED) meeting to support favor of the OMSS. Photo by Ken Epstein

The City Council voted Tuesday night to give Aboudi a lease on the property, which he will develop with Turner Group Construction and other local and minority firms to hire well over 50 percent local residents.

“There has been a problem in the West Oakland community for a long time about trucks driving through the community and parking there,” said Paul Junge of the Oakland Metropolitan Chamber of Commerce at the city’s Community and Economic Development (CED) meeting Nov. 12.

“Because of the good work OMSS does, that problem is greatly reduced if not eliminated. I salute the staff of the city and the port for working with OMSS through these difficult times,” he said.

In addition to Turner Group Construction, the Chinatown Chamber of Commerce and the Hispanic Chamber of Commerce support Aboudi ‘s commitment to hiring local and minority Oakland residents.

“We’re bringing the community together with this project,” said Len Turner, owner of Turner Group Construction and a member of the African American Chamber of Commerce.

According to Jose Dueñas, president of the Hispanic Chamber of Commerce, “If there’s somebody that’s committed to minorities and making sure that they get the jobs, I don’t think there’s anybody better qualified to do that than Bill Aboudi.”

Representing the Oakland Chinatown Chamber of Commerce, Carl Chan said, “We realize that this is going to be creating a lot of local jobs and benefitting many of our local residents and also including our community. It’s going to be a good project.”

OMSS for years has been caught into a vise between some city administrators and master developer Phil Tagami on one side and the Teamsters and its supporters on the other.

Tagami and city staff have seemed bent on pushing Aboudi out of business to make way for the Oakland Global development on the site by the Port of Oakland. The way the city has written its agreements, if for some reason Aboudi fails to sign a lease by Dec. 4, the property would go to Tagami.

At the same time, the Teamsters and its supporters have intensely lobbied city council members against Aboudi.

Fundamentally, they have seen him and his company as leaders who have opposed pushing truckers who are independent owner operators to become employees at large trucking companies and who will then join the union, according to some observers.

OMSS, temporarily occupying five acres on Wake Avenue, not only provides parking for big rigs but also   houses 18 minority-owned small businesses that provide truck repairs, food and other services. OMSS started in 2007. The company was originally selected from among four other firms that responded to the city’s Request for Proposals (RFP).

After many years of unending conflicts, Aboudi is breathing a sigh of relief. “It’s a long time coming. We’re going to meet or exceed all the community benefits requirements that are out there,” said Aboudi, who estimated the project would mean about 900 permanent and construction jobs.

“This project provides infrastructure that supports the truckers who support the Port of Oakland. It means emission reduction for the community, because of a lot of new green technologies It’s a big win for the truckers and community,” he said.

Courtesy of the Oakland Post, November 21, 2013 (www.postnewsgroup.com

)

 

 

 

Review Board for Complaints Against Police Still On Hold

By Ken A. Epstein

The city’s administration has not implemented a City Council decision to begin sending complaints against Oakland police offers to a Civilian Complaint Review Board, which was supposed to staffed and operating by Jan. 1.

Rashidah Grinage

Rashidah Grinage

Nor has the delay been discussed at a City Council meeting.

According to supporters of the review board, the new agency is a crucial step in making the Oakland Police Department more accountable to local residents.

When it is finally in operation, the review board will handle all intakes of new complaints. As part of the change, 10 to 15 highly trained officers who are part of the police department’s Internal Affairs Division could be reassigned to patrol duty, meaning that money could be saved on hiring sheriffs and Highway Patrol officers to beef up police on the streets.

Internal Affairs has been criticized by the federal monitor for finding in favor of the officers in many complaints.  In addition the results of a survey indicated that many residents are unwilling to turn in complaints to the police about the police.

Rashidah Grinage, executive director of PUEBLO, which has been working on increasing police accountability for many years, wants to know why the City Council’s decision has not been carried out.

“Why are all these discussion happening behind closed doors rather than in open session where somebody would have to be accountable?” asked Grinage.

In an interview with the Post Wednesday, Santana said the city cannot move ahead with the review board without the approval of the new federal compliance officer, who has not yet been appointed by Judge Thelton Henderson.

“We have to seek his or her approval,” she said, reiterating a Jan. 16 memo to city officials in which she said a December federal court order contains “provisions which we believe require the city to work with the court assigned compliance director before action is taken to transfer these functions.”

Grinage disputed Santana’s reasons.

“That’s factually not correct,” she said. “This has been run through monitors and all the other parties involved (in the federal agreement) since day one. We would not have been stupid enough to go through a seven-year process without having done our due diligence. And the City Council would not have approved it if all the parties had not agreed.”

“They don’t care who investigates the complaints as long as they were done to the standards of the (federal agreement).”

Santana also said the city’s Human Resources Department, which was responsible for writing job descriptions and hiring new staff, is short-staffed and overworked. “We have a real staff constraint,” she said.

Further, the city has had to talk with the Oakland Police Officers Association (OPOA).  The change “was subject to a ‘meet and confer’ process” with the OPOA, Santana said in the Jan. 16 memo.

Disagreeing with the city administrator, Grinage said the city had previously tried to argue that it needed agreement of the police officers’ association before starting the review board but had lost in court.

“Our position is that it was not subject to met and confer. We established that when we went to superior court,” referring to a 1999 decision in which Superior Judge Henry Needham “ruled civilian oversight belongs to ‘managerial prerogative’ rather than labor and therefore needs to be discussed publically, and not subject to bargaining.”

“It was a settled matter. It was supposed to start in January. Then the lights went out,” said Grinage.

“Where has the City Council been on this? Why has there been no public discussion.”

Courtesy of the Oakland Post, March 1, 2013 (www.postnewsgroup.com)