Clergy Leaders Endorse Desley Brooks While Mayor and Developers Raise Money to Defeat Her

Brooks’ opponents are spending nearly $400,000 in District 6

Shown are (top left to right): Pastor Joe Nobles, Pastor Dr. Kevin Ary, Rev. Eric Barfield, Pastor Eli Lloyd D.D. Second Row (not shown): Bishop Johnson, Pastor Joe L Smith, President, Pastor L. J. Jennings and Rev. Michael N Jones Sr. Bottom row: Pastor Larry Atkins, Pastor Dr. Lee E. Henry and Desley Brooks.

By Ken Epstein

A huge amount of outside money is being spent by outside interests tied to Oakland Mayor Libby Schaaf and her developer and building trades allies to back the candidates who are trying to unseat veteran City Councilmember Desley Brooks.

Brooks, who has significant grassroots support and financial backing, is facing four opponents and two Political Action Committees that have war chests totaling over $360,000, close to five times as much as Brooks has raised.

“The influence of outside money has been dictating and changing the culture of our city for years now,” said Angela Thomas, a lifelong resident of Oakland and former family childcare provider who has lived in District 6 for 14 years.

“Now, it seems that same money, currently being directed by Mayor Libby Schaaf and her big money donors, is seeping into a local election in our neighborhood, distorting the facts, rehashing old news and aiming to take out an elected official who has consistently stood up to them and who has also stood up for us, and I take it personally,” she said recently in a media release for a press conference on the steps of City Hall.

“The Mayor and her donors are using her power, influence and big money to take out Desley and poison the water in a local race,” said local civil rights attorney Dan Siegel, a District 6 resident.

The largest of the two PACSs that are funding mailings and canvassing against Brooks is “Oaklanders for Responsible Leadership, Opposing Desley Brooks for Oakland City Council,” which has $81,665 in donations but has already spent $114,479 as of Oct. 20.

Many of the donations to this PAC come from regional and statewide building trades unions, which do not hire very many Black workers on Oakland projects and work together with developers to support continuous gentrification and displacement of local residents.

Among the donations are: Sprinkler Fitters and Apprentices Local 483 PAC in Sacramento for $15,000, International Brotherhood of Electrical workers Local 595 in Dublin for $10,000; Sheet Metal Workers Local Union No 104 in San Ramon for $10,000; and the State Building and Construction Trades Council of California for $10,000.

Other contributors to the Anti-Brooks PAC were Libby Schaaf, $999.99; Oakland Metropolitan Chamber of Commerce, $7,500; Kenneth Schmier, self-employed investor in Emeryville, $4,990; Lisa Schmier, retired, in Larkspur, $4,990; and Kim A. Thompson, attorney, PricewaterhouseCoopers, $2,500.

The other PAC, “Citizens for a United Oakland, Opposing Desley Brooks for City Council,” has raised $26,100 and spent $31,320 as of Oct. 20.

Donations to this PAC include: Robert Spears, Shoreline Venture Management, $4,500; Derek Benham, Piedmont CEO of Purple Wine, $4,500; Stephan Pezzola of Oakland, business consulting Yorkshire Ventures, $2.500; and Frank Yeary, Berkeley, Executive Chairman, Camberview Partners, $1,000.

Of the four candidates running against Brooks, the one with the most donations is Loren Taylor, who has worked in non-profits and is a PTA president. As of Oct. 20, he listed campaign contributions of $141,041.

Among his contributors are: Jeremy Zachary, Gold Coast Industries, $800; Joe Simitian, Palo Alto, Santa Clara County Supervisor, $800, Andrew Deangelo, General Manager Harborside Health Center, $700; and Louise Godfrey, Piedmont, $600.
Taylor loaned his campaign $8,000 of his personal funds.

Natasha Middleton, a management analyst at the Alameda County Probation Department, has reported $68,874 in donations and $74,862 in expenditures as of Oct. 20.
Her contributions include: International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers Local 332 in San Jose, $1,600; Leigh Morgan, Seattle, executive, Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, $750; Northern Calif. Carpenters Regional Council, $1,600; Plumbers & Steamfitters Local 460, Bakersfield, $1,000; Southern California Pipe Trades District Council 16, Los Angeles, $1,600; and Plumbers and Steamfitter Local Union No. 230, San Diego, $1,600.

Marlo Rodriguez, a Registered Nurse, has raised $24,534 so far.  She has loaned $16,680 to her campaign.  The donations to her campaign are mostly about $100.

Mya Whitaker, a counselor for foster youth, has raised $15,691 at Oct. 20.

Her funders include William Koziol, Crockett, $800; Rebecca Vasquez, Sacramento, $800; Khalil Yearwood, San Francisco with Gibson Dunn, $800; Jason Burke, Sunnyvale, corporate/business official, Aosense, $800.

(Correction: An earlier edition of this story misspelled Mya Whitaker’s name.)

Published November 3, 2018, courtesy of the Oakland Post

Report: Oakland Can House 2,000 Homeless People in 6 Months “If Political Will Exists”

Real number of homeless in Oakland is over 9,000

A number of Oakland groups released a “Community-Based Oakland Plan to House the Unhoused” at a press conference Monday at Geoffrey’s Inner Circle in downtown Oakland. Among the speakers were Needa B of The Village, Margaretta Lin of the Dellums Institute for Social Justice and Candice Elder of the East Oakland Collective. Photo by Amir Saadiq.

The Housing and Dignity Project released a report this week showing that solutions to housing Oakland’s unhoused residents are available, if the political will exists.

A collaboration between The Village, the East Oakland Collective, and the Dellums Institute for Social Justice,  The Housing and Dignity Project’s report, “Housing Oakland’s Unhoused Report,” is available on the Dellums Institute’s website, http://dellumsinstitute.org/community-justice-data/.

It is the perfect response to the recently released UN Report that called out only two cities in the US for human rights violations of the homeless–Oakland and San Francisco.

As the UN Special Rapporteur on Adequate Housing, Leilani Farha, decried in the recent special report, “The world has come to accept the unacceptable.”  With escalating income inequality and “systemic exclusion” of the poor, nearly one in four of the world’s urban population lives in informal settlements or encampments—883 million people.

These intolerable conditions exist not only in Mumbai, but shockingly, in US cities like Oakland and San Francisco.

With Oakland’s out of control housing market and 75 percent increase in median rents since 2014, escalating numbers of Oakland’s working poor have lost their homes.

Said Needa Bee, leader of The Village, “It took the United Nations to validate what unhoused people have been saying.  Instead of working with us, the City of Oakland has bulldozed community housing, denied its residents struggling to survive access to basic rights to water and sanitation, evicted encampments, and criminalized the homeless.”

Spurred by the City of Oakland’s failure to adequately house over 9,000 unhoused Oakland residents (a more accurate number according to the Alameda County Healthcare for the Homeless Program research), the Housing and Dignity Project recently convened unhoused residents to design strategies that can provide immediate and long-term housing solutions.

“Unhoused residents who have been the most impacted by Oakland’s insane housing crisis know what solutions look like.  The problem is that few people are willing to listen,” said Candice Elder, leader of the East Oakland Collective.

The “Housing Oakland’s Unhoused Plan” harnesses alternative building solutions and community ingenuity with available public land that could provide over 7,000 new housing units for the unhoused.

As former Oakland Deputy City Administrator and co-architect of the Plan, Margaretta Lin, said, “I was at the City of Oakland during the Great Recession and witnessed firsthand the power of government to solve big problems.  We need government to unleash their full powers to partner with unhoused residents and reverse Oakland’s current course.  Systemic exclusion and human rights violations are happening on our collective watch.”

The report identified short term emergency solutions implementable within six months including:

  • Housing 1,200 people in tiny home villages for up to $7,500 per unit;
  • Housing 800 people in mobile homes for up to $35,000 per unit;
  • Utilize 50 parcels of available public land in Oakland that could produce 7,300 housing units.

These scalable solutions could immediately house 2,000 people for about $23 million, less than the cost to build one 40-unit building. In addition, the Housing and Dignity Project has identified city, county, and state available funds for their plan.

Published November 2, 2018, courtesy of the Oakland Post

 

No on AA: Congress of Neighborhoods, East Bay Times Oppose Schaaf’s Education Initiative

“It’s not clear where the money is going, for there is no plan,” says the newspaper

Members of East Oakland Congress of Neighborhoods go to City Hall to demand the city keep its promises to clean up trash and illegal dumping. Photo by Ken Epstein.

By Ken Epstein

The East Oakland Congress of Neighborhoods is opposing Measure AA,  a city charter amendment back by Mayor Libby Schaaf to establish a parcel tax at the rate of $198 per parcel for 30 years to fund education services for pre-K through college students and career readiness.

“While we agree that deeper investments need to be made in education, we are concerned that the mayor is prioritizing this issue over immediate needs like the housing crisis,” said the Congress of Neighborhoods in its voters’ guide.

Others raise concerns about the lack of public oversight and accountability of the money that the measure would raise.

“There are too many problems with AA, which is why many public education advocates, myself included, will be voting no,” said Mona Traviño,  an education activist in Oakland.

In a recent editorial, the East Bay Times wrote, “Oakland Mayor Libby Schaaf’s 30-year, billion-dollar Measure AA “Oakland Children’s Initiative” is a poorly conceived attempt to throw taxpayer money at the problem with no clear budget or plan for achieving the goal.”

According to the newspaper, “It’s not clear where the money is going, for there is no plan. Only guidelines for establishing one. There is no budget. There is no explanation provided of how the amount was determined.”

In addition, the measure does not provide public oversight. It does not “give voters a chance to periodically weigh in on whether they think the money is being spent wisely,” the newspaper said.

Published November 1, 2018, courtesy of the Oakland Post

Bernie Sanders Endorses Jovanka Beckles for Assembly

Senator Bernie Sanders and Congresswoman Barbara Lee with Jovanka Beckles at get-out-the-vote rally last Saturday.

Senator Bernie Sanders endorsed Jovanka Beckles for Assembly District 15 following a weekend rally in Berkeley.

“While in Berkeley, I had the chance to meet with Jovanka Beckles, and I was impressed by her commitment to progressive values,” said Sanders.

“In the State Assembly, she will fight for Medicare for all, a living wage for all California workers, environmental justice and criminal justice reform,” he said. “I’m proud to support Jovanka Beckles in the 15th Assembly district.”

Sanders met with Beckles following an auditorium-packing rally with Congresswoman Barbara Lee (CA-13) in a speech excoriating President Trump. Berkeley was the final stop on his dynamic, nine-state Get Out The Vote (GOTV) tour.

The event, on the grounds of Berkeley High School at the packed 3,500-seat Berkeley Community Theater, began with a speech by Berkeley Mayor Jesse Arreguín.

Published November 1, 2018

Opinion: Schaaf’s Leadership of OPD Compels Support of Cat Brooks for Mayor

Cat Brooks (right) speaks at mayoral debate.

By Dan Siegel

Dan Siegel

Mayor Libby Schaaf owns the multiple failings of the Oakland Police Department and must be held accountable for them. Her lack of leadership on the reforms needed in the OPD is one of the primary reasons I support Cat Brooks for Oakland Mayor.

OPD is the City’s largest, most expensive, and arguably most important department. It spends almost half of the City’s General Fund, twice as much as the Fire Department.

The Oakland Police Department has been under the supervision of the federal court since January 22, 2003 because of the City’s failure to remedy systemic police misconduct, including abusing members of the public and racial profiling during traffic stops.

Mayor Schaaf promised during the 2014 campaign that she would meet the court’s demands and end federal oversight but has failed to so. In his September 2018 report, the Court Monitor concluded that OPD’s claims of decreased use of force were flawed because of the Department’s failure to accurately document incidents where officers used force.

On September 25, 2015, Officer Brendan O’Brien committed suicide, leading to the investigation of the sexual exploitation by Oakland and other law enforcement officers of a minor known as Celeste Guap (Jasmine Abuslin). OPD officials downplayed the sexual abuse claims and failed to investigate them properly.

Mayor Schaaf claims that she was not advised about the abuse investigation until March 22, 2016, but her statement can be questioned in light of the routine practice of OPD Internal Affairs officials to advise the City Administrator – and through her the mayor – of much less serious claims of police misconduct.

Months later the mayor finally professed outrage at the officers’ actions. Worse still, Schaaf’s chosen Chief, Anne Kirpatrick, has promoted some of the key administrators found to have covered up the sex abuse scandal.

Schaaf’s pattern of hiding OPD problems continues. Last weekend, after the San Francisco Chronicle exposed OPD’s practice of asking police officer applicants if they had been victims of sexual abuse, Schaaf again expressed surprised outrage and ordered that the practice end.

But complaints about the improper questioning of applicants were raised at City Council meetings months ago. Schaaf is either asleep at the wheel or indifferent to OPD problems until they become public

OPD’s one area of improvement has been the reduction of civilian killings since 2015. Citizen outrage, organized and led by Cat Brooks’ Anti Police Terror Project, deserves more credit for stopping trigger happy officers than any changes made by Mayor Schaaf.

Published October 31, 2018

Attacks on Desley Brooks Are “Shameful and Dishonest,” Say Community Leaders

 “Desley has the courage to speak naked truth to the powerful  people with money who run everything,” says Rev. J. Alfred Smith Sr.

Ken Epstein

Until now, District 6, a largely flatland community in East Oakland, has been generally ignored by downtown gentrifying politicians and their allied developer/financier partners.

Rev. Dr. J. Alfred Smith Sr.

But that is changing as tens of thousands of dollars flow into the district to fuel a campaign of personal attacks and smears designed to unseat veteran Councilmember Desley Brooks, funded by Mayor Libby Schaaf, outside real estate developers and their allied building trades construction unions, according to required Political Action Committee filings.

Many of those who know Brooks and her track record are standing with the council member.

“I support Desley – I haven’t changed,” said Rev. J. Alfred Smith Sr. pastor emeritus of Allen Temple Baptist Church in East Oakland.

Rev. Dr. Harold Mayberry

“No matter what the enemy says, I stand with her because she loves Black people,” said Pastor Smith. “She has never done anything to harm the Black community. She has the courage to speak naked truth to the powerful people with money who run everything.”

“I don’t see the same group crying out to help the jobless and the homeless or to help the neighborhoods in the same way they spend money on downtown (development).

“So, I shall not be moved.”

Brooks’ opponents put out flyers filled with vague and unfounded charges of corruption and dishonesty. But they do not talk about Brooks’ track record.

She has been outspoken in her opposition to police misconduct and racial profiling. She took on powerful interests in her fight for jobs and training opportunities for Black and Latino residents who want to enter good careers in the construction trades.

She opposed powerful businessmen when she worked to pass the city’s cannabis equity ordinance, winning national recognition for her efforts to create opportunities for individuals and communities that bore the

Dan Siegel

brunt of the War on Drugs.

She fought for the resources that have been denied to East Oakland and to create the city’s Department of Race and Equity, part of her effort to end the City of Oakland’s long-term discrimination in contracting against small Black, Latino- and Women-owned businesses.

Rev. Dr. Harold Mayberry, senior pastor of First AME Church Oakland, said, “I live in District 6, and I’ve seen the work that (Brooks) has done. It’s unfortunate that people who don’t even live in the district and in a number of cases don’t even live in Oakland would be attacking a very effective member of the City Council.

“(Brooks’) opponents have not been tested or proven themselves to be productive” Mayberry continued. “I’ve been living here for 23, but I’ve seen nothing like this – it’s a divisive, evil, mean spirited campaign. It’s way over the line.”

Said local civil rights attorney Walter Riley. “It is a smear campaign, full of unjustified attacks on Desley because she has stood up for people in her district. More specifically, she has stood up for Black people in this climate of big money and powerful political interests that are taking control,”

Walter Riley

“They’re coming after her, and we need to defend her,” Riley said, emphasizing that people should not be distracted by Brooks’ past conflicts with people who have disagreed with her.

Dan Siegel, Oakland civil rights attorney and a District 6 resident, said “They are making charges without a shred of evidence, making assumptions, full of a lot of implicit bias.” “An old cliché says that you can tell a lot about a person by their enemies,” he said.

“Desley’s opponents are led by Libby Schaaf, Jean Quan, the San Francisco Chronicle, and the Building and Construction Trades unions, which are angry because Desley has demanded that more high paying construction jobs on local development projects go to Black and Brown Oakland residents.

“People need to withhold judgment on the Elaine Brown case, which was lost because of the horrible job done by the City Attorney’s office,” he said. “I am representing Desley in her claim against the City Attorney, and I am confident the facts show that Elaine Brown was to blame in their confrontation.”

“I hope voters in District 6 will focus on the issues rather than the personalities,” said Siegel.

The anti-Brooks Political Action Committees (PACs) are largely funded by three groups: “supporters of Libby Schaaf’s city hall; large unions with mostly suburban, not Oakland memberships; and venture capitalists, developers and real estate investors,” according to an online article “The United Front Against Desley Brooks Part II.”

Published October 28, 2018, courtesy of the Oakland Post

Opinion: “Oakland’s Democracy Is Strengthened by the Re-Election of Councilmember Desley Brooks,” Says Sandré Swanson

Desley Brooks and Sandré Swanson

I was born in the City of Oakland and have devoted my life to public service. I proudly represented the city of Oakland as our California State Assemblymember, Deputy Mayor of Oakland, the Chief of staff for Congresswoman Barbara Lee and a senior advisor to former Congressman Ron Dellums.

The Citizens of Oakland elect their Councilmembers by districts to ensure that their vote determines who will speak for and represent our community. I endorse and support Councilmember Desley Brooks because she has been a clear and effective voice for her district and the underrepresented in our city.

In my career, I have had the honor of meeting many dedicated public servants, and I have seen the challenge and negative effect of big money campaigns to oppose those dedicated public servants.

The people of Oakland’s District 6 should send a clear and strong message that Oakland’s democracy is strengthened by the re-election of Councilmember Desley Brooks, an independent and uncompromising voice for her district.

For the past 16 years, Councilmember Desley Brooks has had a successful record for Oakland. Desley Brooks’ mission to bring representation for historically underrepresented groups and Oakland’s diverse communities into City Hall is her record of service:

  • As rents have skyrocketed, she has passed renter’s protection ordinances and advocated for affordable housing for all.
  • As police accountability and violence has challenged safety in our community, she pushed for an independent police review commission.
  • She stood up for immigrant rights and strengthened Oakland’s Sanctuary City ordinance and opposed illegal ICE raids.
  • To fight joblessness and homelessness, she has set up job training programs that build bridges into the middle class for Oakland’s residents.
  • To make sure Oakland is a fair, equitable place for all, she led the fight to establish the Department of Race and Equity, ensuring that City policies don’t discriminate against minorities and women.

Desley Brooks has worked tirelessly for the communities she represents, and that’s why she has earned the support of her constituents, City workers, firefighters, religious leaders, and others.

It’s why she has earned my support, and it’s why she deserves yours.

Published October 27, 2018, courtesy of the Oakland Post

 

UN Report Says Oakland Guilty of “Cruel and Inhumane Treatment” of Homeless

City bulldozer at Oakland homeless encampment

 

The United Nations Special Rapporteur to the Right to Adequate Housing, Lelani Farha, released her new report on Oct. 19 documenting the “global scandal” of homeless encampments.

In January of 2017, Farha spent time in the San Francisco Bay Area and Southern California to meet with unhoused residents and housed advocates and described the conditions as “cruel and inhumane”.

The only U.S. cities explicitly called out for violations in the UN’s report on global homelessness are San Francisco and Oakland.

She states that while the existence of “informal settlements” are human rights violations due to local government’s lack of will to provide permanent housing to all residents, these encampments are also people’s assertion to their denied human right of housing.

She declares curbside communities are acts of resilience, resourcefulness and ingenuity in the face of dire circumstances.
Rather than criminalize or ignore these settlements, until permanent housing can be offered to all, it is the duty of local governments not to evict curbside communities but to upgrade them and residents of these encampments should participate in all areas of the upgrading, including sanitation, clean water, food services and support services.

Homeless leaders and advocates in San Francisco, Berkeley and Oakland hosted Ms. Farha, including Coalition on Homelessness, Western Regional Advocacy Project (WRAP), East Oakland Collective, Village/Feed the People and First They Came for the Homeless.

Ms. Farha was able to hear and speak directly with people living in encampments and on our streets about the oppression, hatred and police violence they experience every day.
In Ms. Farha’s report she frames the encampments and street dwelling in the United States under the same vein as the informal settlements around the world. Finding that “the scope and severity of the living conditions in informal settlements make this one of the most pervasive violations of human rights globally,” states the report.

The Oakland conditions of discrimination and harassment of encampment residents and punitive denials of access to basic services constitute “cruel and inhuman treatment and is a violation of multiple human rights… Such punitive policies must be prohibited in law and immediately ceased.”

The Rapporteur summed up her visit in California:

“I visited California and saw firsthand the human right violations being experienced by people who are homeless. They are the victims of failed policies—not the perpetrators of crime.”

“That truth is that by any measure — moral, political or legal — it is unacceptable for people to be forced to live this way. Refusing to accept the unacceptable is where we must begin.”

The report is available at https://wraphome.org/research-landing-page/legalresearch/

Published October 27, 2018, courtesy of the Oakland Post

 

Pastors, Black Panther Co-Founder, Residents React to Outside Money Pouring into D-6 Council Race

Community leaders defend Councilmember Desley Brooks’ fearless leadership

Former Black Panther Party leader Bobby Seale speaks at a rally Thursday in front of City Hall, condemning Mayor Libby Schaaf’s fundraising efforts to pump outside money into District 6 to defeat Desley Brooks. Among others who spoke in in favor of Desley’s Brooks outspoken leadership on the City Council in defense of the community were Post Publisher Paul Cobb, Henry Gage of the Police Accountability Coalition, civil rights attorney and District 6 resident Dan Siegel, Rev. L.J. Jennings of Kingdom Builders Christian Fellowship and leaders of the public workers union, SEIU Local 1021. Photo by Ken Epstein

A community coalition comprised of Pastors, former Black Panther Co-Founder, Bobby Seale, Civil Rights attorneys and residents held a press conference this week calling out “money in politics” in the race for Oakland’s District 6 Council seat.

The group is responding to Mayor Libby Schaaf, her big money donors and Building Trade Unions tied to powerful, luxury real estate developers, who are now pouring outside money into the race to unseat District 6 Councilmember Desley Brooks.

Brooks has been a staunch critic of Schaaf and the lack of African American workers employed at construction sites throughout the city.

The community coalition is calling upon Mayor Schaaf and her supporters to immediately cease the outside money they are pumping into the local race and maintain what they deem a “fair and clean” election, free of distortions and attacks.

Mayor Schaaf has a history of mobilizing her base of wealthy donors to target councilmembers who have opposed her policies, including Councilmembers Noel Gallo and Rebecca Kaplan in 2016.

Over one-third of the Independent expenditure aimed at unseating Schaaf’s most vocal critic, Desley Brooks, has come from wealthy donors who have contributed tens of thousands of dollars over the years to the Mayor’s campaign efforts.

Speakers at the press conference, including Black Panther Party Co-Founder Bobby Seale, highlighted what they see as coordinated retaliation against Brooks for the many, community-based positions she has taken in City Hall.

Earning powerful enemies, Brooks has advocated for more inclusivity of the hiring of African-Americans in the powerful, Building and Construction Trades Unions and fought to to establish a Department of Race and Equity, which was initially opposed by the Mayor.

Published October 21 2018, courtesy of the Oakland Post

Are Schaaf Administration and City Attorney Undermining Independent Police Commission?

Mayor Schaaf, City Administrator Landreth and City Attorney Parker failed to respond to Oakland Post’s Questions

City Attorney Barbara Parker, Chief of Police Anne Kirkpatrick, Mayor Libby Schaaf and City Administrator Sabrina Landreth. Photo courtesy of Oakland Magazine.

By Ken Epstein

Back in July when the Oakland City Council passed the enabling ordinance for the Oakland Police Commission—over the strenuous objections of the City Administrator and the City Attorney—it appeared for a moment that the issue was finally settled: commission staff would be independent of the mayor and the mayor’s administration.

In other words, the City Council decided the commission’s staff would report to the commission, not the City Attorney or the City Administrator.

Rashidah Grinage

Based on the Measure LL charter amendment, the City Council passed the ordinance July 10 on a 6-1 vote (with only Annie Campbell Washington voting no). The City contests the council decision, saying its provisions conflict with the City Charter.

Councilmembers rejected the City Attorney’s and the City Administrator’s contention that the City Charter as whole requires commission staff to be controlled by them, not independent of the administration as intended by the charter amendment, which passed two years ago with 83 percent of the vote.

Now, however, the mayor’s administration and the City Attorney are prepared to ignore the City Council’s decision, based on their interpretation of the City Charter, according to members of the steering committee of the Coalition for Police Accountability who met last Thursday with Mayor Libby Schaaf.

“The mayor is siding with the position of the City Attorney and the City Administration, even though the enabling ordinance was passed,” said Rashidah Grinage of the Coalition for Police Accountability.

“Regardless of her opinion, they have to implement what was passed. Period. They are saying they don’t have to abide by it. But their only recourse is to go to court to get an injunction. Otherwise, they have to implement it,” she said.

Henry Gage, a coalition member who attended the meeting with Mayor Schaaf, said “The Mayor seems unwilling to go against the City Administrator and the City Attorney.”

“You’d think once the City Council votes it would be over,” said Gage. “However, what I’ve learned is that if the executive branch doesn’t want to do something, the only real remedy is go to the courts.”

Chair of the Police Commision Thomas Smith, speaking at a City Council meeting, emphasized the need for the commission’s staff to be independent . “Having someone who is not a member of the City

Henry Gage

Attorney’s Office is very important,” he said.

Pamela Drake of the coalition said that what the public is seeing is the latest maneuver in a series of actions the mayor and the administration have taken to weaken the police commission. “They are doing everything they can to undermine an independent police commission,” she said.

Seeking an explanation of the administration’s decision, the Oakland Post contacted the City Attorney, the City Administrator and Mayor Schaaf. By Post deadline, none of them had responded. According to Grinage, the issue of independence concretely comes down to the employment contracts and jobs descriptions of three employees and consultants.

One issue has to do with contracts for the two attorneys who work for the police commission and the Civilian Police Review Agency (CRPA).

“These contracts predate the enabling ordinance, and they have to be rewritten in order to be in conformity with the ordinance. (At present), their supervisor is the City Attorney’s Office, and that is unacceptable,” said Grinage.

The other issue has to be with the position of the inspector general, who has yet to be hired and would work for the police commission.
“They are on the verge of putting out the job announcement for the inspector general,” said Grinage. The question is whether that person will report to the commission or the City Administrator, she said.

“I expect sooner or later that we will wind up in court over this,” said Grinage.

By ignoring the City Council decision, the mayor and the City Attorney are bypassing the requirements of the City Charter, according to Councilmember Desley Brooks.

“The City Charter is clear: The City Council sets the policy of the city, and it is the responsibility of the mayor to implement it,” she said.

Attorney Dan Siegel, who served as Mayor Jean Quan’s legal advisor, said that he has carefully studied Oakland’s City Charter.

“The main takeaway is that the City Attorney does not have an independent role in city government. The City Attorney is lawyer for the mayor, council and departments and has to follow the direction of her employers.”

When various agencies of government disagree, he said, the dispute must often be settled in court.

Mayoral candidate Cat Brooks said, “Oaklanders voted for what they believed would be a community-controlled police commission. The City and the Mayor need to respect the voices of the people.”

“The mayor has tried to prevent the commission from having full autonomy from the beginning,” with her demand to have the authority to appoint three members of the commission, said Brooks.

Attorney Pamela Price, also a mayoral candidate, supports the need for the commission to be an independent body.

“The voters have shown their lack of confidence in the city administration’s willingness to hold the police department accountable,” said Price. “Their intent was clearly to create an independent structure, and that structure should be fully empowered to carry out its function.”

Published October 20, 2018, courtesy of the Oakland Post