Remembering Ron Dellums, West Oakland-born Orator, Political Leader and Fighter for Justice and Humanity

Ron Dellums at civil disobedience demonstration at the South African Embassy to bring an end to Apartheid. (c) Rick Reinhard.

By Ken Epstein

The following are some of the outpouring of statements on Facebook from Oakland residents following the news that former Congressman, Oakland Mayor and Berkeley City Councilmember Ronald V. Dellums died early Monday morning.

 

Congresswoman Barbara Lee

Barbara Lee

 “I was lucky to call Congressman Ron Dellums not just my predecessor, but also my mentor and dear friend.

“Congressman Dellums was the father of coalition politics. He co-founded the Congressional Black Caucus, advocating for social and economic justice for his community and communities across the country.

“His principles and values were evident in not just his policies, but also his actions. He was proud to be a feminist, way ahead of his time, ardently supporting women’s rights before it was the norm. His anti-apartheid work, anti-war efforts, civil rights advocacy and historic chairmanship of the Armed Services Committee improved countless lives.

“He was a social worker, which was evident in the way he tackled challenges and fought for the most vulnerable among us. Congressman Dellums always said that when constituents came to his office asking for help, we must ask ourselves ‘Is this the right thing to do?’ He said if the answer is yes, you help that person. No doubt about it.”

Oakland City Councilmember-at-Large Rebecca Kaplan

Rebecca Kaplan

 

“His passion and commitment made a deep impression on me, when I was a young politician. I will never

forget reading his response, when then a Berkeley Councilmember, Dellums was called a radical, ‘If it’s radical to oppose the insanity and cruelty of the Vietnam War, if it’s radical to oppose racism and sexism and all other forms of oppression, if it’s radical to want to alleviate poverty, hunger, disease, homelessness and other forms of human misery, then I’m proud to be called a radical,’ he said.

“Besides our work- related interactions, I was also honored to have the opportunity to share bible study with him.”

 

Kitty Kelly Epstein, educator and aide in Mayor Dellums’ administration:

Dr. Kitty Kelly Epstein

“Ron Dellums was the epitome of kindness, courage, dignity and path-breaking politics. He was the first in Congress to oppose the war in Vietnam, the first Black congressman elected from a mostly white district, the first to introduce legislation for universal health care and for sanctions against apartheid in South

Africa.

“And he was Oakland’s most progressive mayor thus far.

“Although he got less credit for this leadership, because he was not the choice of the corporate media, he was the first to explicitly fight gentrification.

“He strategized to maintain working class jobs in Oakland, insisted that local control of the school district be returned to its residents, lowered police costs by rejecting costly police overtime, cut the homicide rate by more than a third, insisted on the indictment of the killer of Oscar Grant, appointed the first West Oakland resident to the Port Commission, invited the formerly incarcerated into the Mayor’s office to be close to him and work with his reentry specialist.

“He personally appeared at an elementary school where an immigration raid was rumored. And he listened to the voices of 800 people who worked on his community task forces. There is much more than what can be posted in this small space.

“We will miss his jokes, his speeches, and his wisdom. And most of all we will miss his love for humanity. He believed that we would all come together to fight climate change because eventually we would recognize that we are ‘all in this foxhole together.’

“Let us make it so.”

 

Local business woman Cynthia Mackey

 

Cynthia Mackey

“Ron Dellums was the only Oakland politician that ever took an interest in me and my business and gave me opportunities to be in the forefront. I can’t thank him enough.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Miguel Bustos, director of Intergovernmental Relations for Mayor Dellums:

Miguel Bustos

“Working to end apartheid was one of Dellums’ primary legacies when he left a 27-year career in Congress in 1998. Dellums first introduced a sanctions bill in 1972.

“The anti-apartheid movement in the United States was nascent in the early 1970s, but Dellums pushed for sanctions year after year. Success came in 1986 when the House passed Dellums’ legislation. Then-President Ronald Reagan rejected a Senate version of the bill, but his veto was overridden. It was the first time in the 20th century that Congress overrode a foreign-policy veto.”

 

Oakland City Councilmember Desley Brooks:

Desley Brooks

“Ron paved the way for so many elected officials and professionals, especially African Americans. He was a trailblazer, a visionary and most of all he was the conscience of Congress when we needed it.

“When I was in high school, Ron gave me my first job in politics; I interned in his D.C. office for two summers. That experience exposed me to so many great people and provided me with a great example of true public service. I am forever grateful to you Ron Dellums.”

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Johnny Lorigo, former school counselor and coach: 

Johnny Lorigo

“He was truly a bright, kind and wonderful gentleman. I first met Ron when he was a recreation director at Lafayette Elementary School (in West Oakland) during summers when he was a SF State student.”

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Art Shanks, executive director of the Cypress Mandela Training Center

Art Shanks

Congressman Dellums was responsible for bringing the Green Job Corps to Oakland with seed money of $250,000 in partnership with Laney College and the growth sector. The Oakland Green Job Corps is still very much needed and has been replicated all across the United States. Congressman (Dellums) truly believed in workforce development and was adamant about pre-apprenticeship training and education; he was an avid supporter of Cypress Mandela.”

 

 

Kweli Tutashinda, Brotherhood of Elders Network/Imhotep Chiropractic

 

Kweli Tutashinda

 “(In 1967 and 1968), Ron was the only elected official at major Black Power gatherings and rallies to free Huey Newton. He was that rare politician who had the courage to embrace radical politics in an electoral forum.

“One of America’s greatest orators, Ron, as Mayor of Oakland attempted to usher in Participatory Democracy by engaging over 800 citizens in a task force process that met for over six weeks. Two-hundred proposals were created that are still exerting their influence in Oakland.

“Ron’s legacy is huge. The American with Disabilities Act, South African freedom, and American conversion of military bases to civilian use are just three of his impressive accomplishments.”

Mayor Schaaf’s Proposals for Building Affordable Housing on Public Land Challenged

“The mayor and the people who work for her have been trying to kill the public land policy all along,” said Councilmember Kaplan.

By Ken Epstein

Community activists and others are raising concerns about whether the latest affordable housing proposals backed by Mayor Libby Schaaf’s administration would event make even a dent in the wave of gentrification and displacement that is remaking the city right in front of their eyes.

Margaretta Lin

Looking at the basic numbers, one of the most contentious issues in the city staff’s proposal is how many affordable units can be built on available public land.  The administration’s report claims that there are only 20 parcels available for housing development and that six of those need to be sold to market rate developers in order to subsidize affordable housing on the remaining 14 parcels, promising only 746 units in the price range that many Oaklanders could afford.

That number of potential units seems like a pittance to affordable housing advocates who point to the magnitude of the crisis – the unending surge of homelessness and the huge numbers of seniors, young workers, teachers and city workers who are being forced out of the city.

The Schaaf administration proposal acknowledges the city owns over 1,000 parcels of land but says only 20 of them are suitable for residential housing.

Rebecca Kaplan

Of those 20 buildable parcels, totaling 24 acres, 14 would be utilized for affordable housing. Of the remaining six parcels, one would be sold for market-rate housing, totaling 492 units, and five be sold for market-rate commercial development, according to staff.

However, there are reports that show there is significantly more public land available, and many more units could be built on those properties, according to Margaretta Lin of the Dellums Institute for Social justice.

A former Deputy City Administrator, Lin led the work on the city’s Housing Equity Roadmap plan in 2014 that was adopted by the City Council in Fall 2015.

Lin says two reports show there are “50 publicly owned vacant or underutilized parcels that the City’s Housing Element identified as suitable for housing development, which could produce over 7,300 new housing units.”

The city owned 36 of these parcels, which are capable of producing over 3,600 housing units per the City’s Housing Element, and other public agencies own the other 14, she said. However, the City sold one of those parcels, capable of producing 25 units, in January 2018 to what appears to be a market rate developer. (The reports are available at www.dellumsinstitute.org/community-justice-data/)

“We commissioned the two public land reports from UC Berkeley Public Policy and City Planning in 2015 because none of the City departments had a full list of City owned land.  With the departure of Claudia Cappio who was briefed on this information, the City administration may be lacking complete information,” she said.

 Councilmember Rebecca Kaplan said city staff makes two separate mistakes in estimating of how many affordable units can be built.

“They are under-counting the number of suitable parcels that the city owns, and their estimate is way lower than the number of units that could be built on them, said Kaplan.

Another major contentious issue is how to pay for construction of the affordable housing. City staff wants to sell public land to market-rate developers to pay for affordable housing development.

The “staff strategy assumes” utilizing market-rate development on the six parcels in order to generate revenue to pay for “100 percent affordable housing for the other 14 sites,” said Mark Sawicki, director of Economic and Workforce Development Department, speaking on behalf of the Schaaf administration at last week’s Community and Economic Development (CED) Committee meeting.

The number of affordable units is constrained by the availability of funding, according to Sawicki’s report. Building 100 percent affordable units on the 20 parcels would increase the total number of possible units on the 20 parcels to 1,080, but it would take 10 to14 years to raise the $112 million needed to cover construction costs.

Staff’s proposal, on the other hand, would only cost the city $6 million (plus the sale of six parcels of land), which could be raised in three to four years, he said.

The question of funding, says Lin, depends on how the city  defines the problem and the solutions.

“If the public policy problem is defined as a State of Emergency especially for people who are the working poor and/or newly homeless, then we would utilize every resource available, especially public lands,” she said.

“The city’s public land policy proposal is based on a traditional housing development model where it costs $500,000 to $650,000 to build one housing unit, and the City needs to provide $150,000 to $165,000 public subsidy.  Instead, if the City utilized innovative housing development and financing models being deployed by other communities, such as new and attractive mobile homes that cost $35,000 a unit, then the (costs) and the public policy proposal would be completely different, said Lin.

Councilmember Kaplan, a longtime supporter of utilizing public property for affordable housing, says the staff “strategy” proposal does not consider other sources of funding: the city’s Measure KK, Alameda County’s A1 housing bond where Oakland is anticipated to receive over $200 million for affordable housing, impact fees, new State housing funds, and foundation grants.

“If they need to sell parcels, why not sell some of those that can’t be used for housing?” Kaplan asked.

Another issue that deeply concerns affordable housing advocates is whether the staff’s strategy would have teeth or would result in something the administration could modify or ignore as wished.

After meetings between staff and housing advocates on developing an affordable housing policy dragged on for almost two years, city staff announced a few months ago that they were no longer interested in passing a policy, instead proposing a “strategy” on how to utilize the 20 parcels of land.

“The mayor and the people who work for her have been trying to kill the policy all along,” said Councilmember Kaplan. “Even if we adopt a strategy, we need a policy,” she said.

The desperate need is for the City Council to adopt a binding public lands policy, said Lin.

According to Lin,  as of December 2017, “there were 20,000 market-rate housing units under construction or in the pipeline, compared with less than 1,500 affordable units.”

“We’re in Oakland’s worst housing crisis in its entire history,” she said. “And affordable housing developers are having a hard time competing with market rate developers for access to land.  An equity based public land policy would solve this access to land problem.  Market-rate housing developers don’t need public resources. They’re doing fine.”

Published August 1, 2018, courtesy of the Oakland Post

 

Ron Dellums, “Political Lion of the Bay Area,” Dies at 82

 

Ron Dellums

By Post Staff

Ron Dellums, a progressive political giant who was born in West Oakland and represented the East Bay in Congress for 27 years and later served as Mayor of Oakland, died early Monday morning in his home in Washington, D.C. He was 82.

According to Oakland Post Publisher Paul Cobb, quoted on ABC7, Dellums was “the political lion of the Bay Area. He was unafraid to challenge authority from a principled position. He stood strong and solid.”

Cobb, a close personal friend of the former Congressman, was among those who pushed a reluctant Dellums to run for Oakland mayor, who served from 2007 to 2011.

A former social worker, Dellums began his political career as a member of the Berkeley City Council before being elected to Congress 1971 as an anti-war in Vietnam candidate who then spent decades in the House of Representatives fighting for equal rights and social justice.

When he first arrived in Washington, he demanded a Congressional investigation into U.S. war crimes in Vietnam. Ignored by his pro-war colleagues, he held “his own informal hearings, which drew national attention,” according to the New York Times.

“As antiwar protests raged outside the Capitol, a former Army sergeant told in unsworn testimony how he and his platoon had massacred 30 men, women and children in a Vietnamese village. It was a shocking beginning,” the Times said in its obituary of Dellums.

As a member of Congress, winning a dozen election campaigns, he helped found the Congressional Black Caucus and served as chairman of the powerful House Armed Services Committee.

Dellums led a 14-year campaign against apartheid in South Africa. He eventually wrote the legislation in 1986 that mandated trade embargoes and divestment by American companies and citizens with holdings in South Africa.

Congress overrode President Ronald Reagan’s veto of the bill, a first in 20th-century foreign policy.  Sanctions ended in 1991 when South Africa repealed its apartheid laws.

In 1993, while serving as Chairman of the House Armed Services Committee, he was the sole sponsor of a bill to integrate gays and lesbians into the military.

After retiring from Congress, he was recruited by Oakland residents to run for mayor. An informal group, a committee called “Draft Dellums,” collected 8,000 signatures and presented them to the former Congressman at a public meeting at Laney College.

As hundreds of Oaklanders chanted “Run, Ron, Run,” he famously replied, “”If Ron Dellums running for mayor gives you hope, then let’s get on with it.”

As part of his transition plan, Mayor Dellums brought the enthusiasm and energy of Oakland residents directly into the local governing process at City Hall, organizing 41 task forces that involved over 800 residents to make recommendations for new city policies, including public safety, jobs, anti-gentrification, support for small businesses, local hiring and education.

In 2009, Dellums reported that the city had implemented two-thirds of the task force recommendations.

He was the only mayor in the last several decades to dramatically decrease the cost of police overtime expenditures. Since Dellums left office, overtime pay for police officers has been growing rapidly again – with little discernable effort to keep these expenses within the city budget.

While in office, he cut the city’s homicide rate by more than a third and insisted on the indictment of the BART officer who killed Oscar Grant,

The Dellums administration joined with the Oakland school district create a program to diversify the teaching force, bringing more Black and Latino educators into the district. His office helped a new program, Teach Tomorrow in Oakland, to obtain $2.7 million in federal funding.

He led citywide efforts to bring millions in American Recovery and Reinvestment Act federal and state stimulus funding to Oakland, totaling over $300 million.  The new resources were prioritized for the needs of low-income residents in severe needs, resulting in the generation of over 14,000 short-terms jobs and other community benefits.

He pushed for the state to return local control of the school district to the city’s residents, ending the state takeover that had been engineered in part by State Senator Don Perata and previous Mayor Jerry Brown.

Dellums hired a reentry specialist to work in his office and brought the formerly incarcerated into City Hall.

Born in Oakland on Nov. 24, 1935, Ronald Vernie Dellums was one of two children of Vernie and Willa (Terry) Dellums. His father was a longshoreman. His uncle, C. L. Dellums, was  an organizer of the Brotherhood of Sleeping Car Porters.

Ron Dellums with wife Cynthia

Attending McClymonds High School in West Oakland, he played baseball with the future Major League legends Frank Robinson and Curt Flood.

After graduating from Oakland Technical High School in 1953, he joined the Marine Corps. Discharged in 1956, he attended Laney College in Oakland. He earned a bachelor’s degree in 1960 from San Francisco State College and a master’s degree in social work in 1962 from UC Berkeley.

He was memorialized by his daughter Piper Dellums, who wrote:

“He was the first Democratic Socialist in Congress who also called himself a

Assemblywoman Loni Hancock, Oakland Mayor Ron Dellums and Congresswoman Barbara Lee on AIDS Walk at Lake Merritt in Oakland on Sep 8, 2007.

feminist. He was a hero to the invisible, to the oppressed, to the lost and shattered, the marginalized, the despised and abused, the faceless, from the evicted to the incarcerated, from the healed to the disabled, from the activists to the veterans. He was a peace-monger….

“He was focused on human trafficking and the AIDS pandemic and the human condition and the Cuban Missile Crisis and human dignities in every race, gender, and sexual orientation including in the military.”

As word of Dellums’ passing spread,  social media was filled with an outpouring of love from those whose lives he touched. He is remembered by his family: his wife Cynthia, his children Pamela Holmes (deceased), Rachel Chapman, R. Brandon Dellums, Erik Todd Dellums, Piper Monique Dellums, stepson Kai Lewis, six grandchildren, and two great grandchildren.

Services will be held in Washington, D.C. and Oakland. Information will be provided at a later date.

Published Aug. 1, 2018, courtesy of the Oakland Post

Mayor, OPD Face Questions on Continued Racial Profiling

Oakland police

By Ken Epstein

Mayor Libby Schaaf’s administration and the Oakland Police Department are facing questions about whether they have a serious plan to end racial profiling by police of African-American residents, who make up the overwhelming majority of local residents stopped by OPD for no reason at all.

The issue came up sharply at the City Council’s Public Safety Committee meeting last week when Deputy Police Chief LeRonne Armstrong—speaking for OPD—addressed the public’s concerns about the persistence of the high percentage of Africans who are racially profiled by the police.

Deputy Chief LeRonnne Armstrong

“When you practice precision-based or intelligence-based policing, you have to focus in on those who are committing crimes,” he said.  “The disparity exists based on who commits crimes in this city.”

In response, Councilmember-at-Large Rebecca Kaplan sent a tweet last Tuesday calling for the administration and OPD to retract the comment:

“This comment is offensive and untrue—and OPD leadership and (the) Oakland administration should formally retract this claim. Black people are being pulled over, searched and even arrested, when there is no crime and no cause for suspicion,” said Kaplan.

Deputy Chief Armstrong clarified his comment in an interview with the Oakland Post:

“I think some people took the comment out of context. I apologize that the community has had to endure a comment that was taken in that way,” he said, pointing out that he is from the community and has had to experience unfair policing practices while growing up.

Continuing, he said, “The chief and I have been very committed to doing everything we can to reduce these disparity numbers. We are making far fewer stops than we

Desley Brooks

were making even a year ago.”

“We are not satisfied with the disparity numbers,” he said, adding that the department is holding more training for officers on diversity and around procedural justice. He said people are stopped for something they do, not because of their race.

It is important for officers to explain to people the reason they were stopped, so they will know that “it was not racial but some behavior that occurred,” which caused the stop, he said.

Mayor Schaaf did not respond to the Oakland Post’s questions. However, her office said she “addressed the issue directly at a Public Safety Town Hall… last Thurday.” The event had not yet been posted by OPD by the Post’s deadline.

Rebecca Kaplan

In an interview with the Post, Councilmember Kaplan raised concerns about the Schaaf administration’s reliance on the work of Stanford consultant Jennifer Eberhardt to end racial profiling by OPD.

“They are still disproportionately pulling over and questioning Black people, not based on the possibility of a particular crime being committed,” she said.  “It is time to demand an end to suspicionless stops.”

The trends indicate that fewer people are being stopped by the police, but African Americans are still stopped the most.

Police non-traffic stops have fallen between December 2016 and November 2017 from 14,259 to 11,219, a 21 percent decrease.

“Very little progress has been made as the share of Africans (in non-traffic) stops (has increased) slightly from 66 percent to 68 percent” of total stops, according to a PowerPoint presentation presented to OPD in February 2018 by the Stanford Technical Assistance Team.

(See http://www2.oaklandnet.com/oakca1/groups/police/documents/webcontent/oak069090.pdf)

In the six months between June-November 2017, 5,259 African Americans were stopped by police—1,161 less than the previous six months.

According to the researchers’ PowerPoint, “Reducing disparities in policing outcomes is notoriously difficult because they are multiply determined, including by sociological factors outside of the police’s control. But changing policies to reduce (total numbers) can make an immediate difference in terms of impact on populations of color.”

The City Council voted this week to extend Eberhardt’s contract over the objections of the Public Safety Committee, which wanted to look into what the city is going to do to end racial profiling before approving the $500,000, two-year agreement.

“There’s no explanation at all of what this contract is supposed to be doing,” said Kaplan. “We’ve had the contract for four years. Why is it not working?”

At last week’s Public Safety Committee meeting, Couincilmembers Desley Brooks and Noel Gallo questioned approving a contract without a full discussion.

“People who appear to have done nothing (illegal) have been stopped by police because of their race. That is not acceptable. And the mayor should not think that it’s acceptable,” said Councilmember Brooks.

“Why doesn’t the mayor want to address the issue? Asked Brooks. “She said she is concerned, and this is important work, but she isn’t interested” in discussing the substantive issues.

Mayor Schaaf released a statement to the media late Wednesday afternoon thanking the City Council for renewing the consultant’s contract.

“Dr. Eberhardt’s intensive and transparent research will continue to advance policies that change the impact of policing communities of color,” she said.

“Dr. Eberhardt’s work has helped OPD dramatically reduce the number of stops of African Americans, which contributes to improved police-community trust.”

Published July 30, 2018, courtesy of the Oakland Post

Moratorium on Sale of Public Land Dies in Council Committee

Esther Goolsby of Communities for a Better Environment (CBE).

By Ken Epstein

A proposed moratorium that would block the sale of public land until the City Council adopts a policy that guarantees “public land for public use,” died in the Community and Economic Development (CED) Committee this week.

Not a single member of the committee—neither Lynette Gibson McElhaney, Annie Campbell Washington, Larry Reid nor Noel Gallo—spoke in favor of the resolution or made a motion to approve it.

Cathy Leonard

While the other councilmembers sat in silence, Councilmember McElhaney opposed the motion, which was supported by 22 speakers this week and many more when it came up at the last CED meeting.

McElhaney said that since the council has scheduled a public lands policy diuscussion for mid-October, “it almost seems that (the moratorium) is moot given that we’re going to make a final decision on a public lands policy” at that time.

Community members were left to wonder whether the council committee’s silence and inaction meant that they remain committed to selling public property before a transparent policy can be passed that restricts the long-standing process of making behind-doors, no-bid agreements with favored market-rate developers that have led to many protests at City Council meetings.

Speaking in favor of the moratorium, James Vann of the Post Salon Community Assembly pointed out that putting something on the agenda for October does not mean that it would be passed at that time.

“This has been going on for years,” said Vann. “Everything that comes before you is usually delayed again and again. The moratorium simply says, put the brakes on. Hold your horses. “Let’s not keep selling public land while we work this out. This will be an incentive to get the (ball) rolling and get this done by October. We need the moratorium.”

Gloria Bruce, executive director of East Bay Housing Organizations (EBHO), said, “I’m frustrated that you’re still resistant to putting the moratorium in place.” Jeff Levin of EBHO said, The point of a moratorium is to temporarily prevent the selloff of land, which would result in “making the public land policy meaningless.”

Community member Assata Olugbala said the community needs to see a moratorium in writing, quoting James Baldwin, who said, “I can’t believe what you say because I see what you do.”

“Don’t think of it like a moratorium,” she said, “think of it like a prenup. Even in a loving situation people get a written agreement that secures their best interests. Trust but verify.”

Mike Hutchinson said that a moratorium would not be necessary if councilmembers would refuse to sell property until there is a policy.

“We need a pledge from each City Council member that you will not vote for any more land sales until we have a policy,” he said.

“We need action, and the first action we need is relief from the threat of our public land being sold out from under us,” he added. “Where do each of you stand on the moratorium. This is a vote, and this is a decision we won’t forget.”

Esther Goolsby of Communities for a Better Environment emphasized the importance of affordable housing to Oakland’s homeless. “We need to put people in places—not storage units, not cages, not Tuff Sheds—actual homes,” she said.

Kathy Leonard reminded councilmembers that President Donald Trump is (only) concerned “about the wealthy, not the poor.”

If the council shows no concern for preserving public land for affordable housing, she asked, “How are we any different than Trump?”

Published July 20,2018, courtesy of the Oakland Post

Oakland Charter School Approved Amid Concerns Over Fiscal Impact on District

A coalition of Oakland students, educators, parents, unions, school board members, & community orgs caravaned to Sacramento to ask the State Board of Ed to reject the Latitude charter petition from Education For Change.

By Theresa Harrington, EdSource

A California State Board of Education decision to approve a charter school over a school district’s objections laid bare the limits of the state’s charter laws.

Oakland Unified had refused to approve a charter for the proposed new Latitude 37.8 high school in part because the district faces a fiscal crisis and can’t afford to lose more students, along with the state aid that follows them when they go to charter schools.

Already, 43 charter schools operate in the city, enrolling one in four students in the Alameda County district.

The district is under pressure to cut at least $5.8 million next year and to close district schools to close its budget deficit.

“We did make a tough decision,” Oakland school board President Aimee Eng told the state board. “And we hope the state stands behind our tough decision.”

After intense discussion amid sympathy for Oakland’s situation, the state board during its meeting Thursday approved a new charter high school expected to open in the fall, based on the California Department of Education’s recommendation, which said it met all legal requirements.

The board said the state law does not allow it to consider the charter school’s financial impact on the local district.

However, Glen Price, chief deputy superintendent of the California Department of Education, said California’s charter school laws — passed in the early 1990s — were outdated and needed to be revised.

He pointed out that both the Oakland and Alameda County school boards have approved many charter schools in the past.

“But, they know that at some point, we have to consider the whole ecosystem — the whole community we’re operating in,” Price said, adding that no other local planning body would make a decision about expanding services without considering the financial impacts.

“It’s time for us to take a fresh look at policies in the state,” he said.

Some state board members struggled with the decision. State board member Ilene Straus said she understood that the Oakland school board was grappling with managing its finances and reducing the number of schools in the district.

“I think we’re stuck between wanting great things for kids, which everybody wants, and really clear guidance about what we can approve,” Straus said.

The Education for Change Public Schools charter management organization expects to open Latitude on the site of the organization’s Epic middle charter school next month in the Fruitvale area of Oakland with 50 9th-graders. It will expand to 320 students in grades 9-12 by 2022-23.

 

Published July 20,2018, courtesy of the Oakland Post

‘White’ Challenges Privilege in Shotgun Players’ Comedy

 

Adam Donovan as Gus and Santoya Fields as Vanessa star in the West Coast premier of “White.” Photo by Ben Krantz Studio.

By Wanda Ravernell

White Fragility is getting its comeuppance as ‘BBQ Becky,’ ‘Pool Patrol Paula,’ ‘Permit Patty’ and their ilk lose face and livelihoods for calling police on Black people while barbecuing, swimming, selling water on a hot day or otherwise minding their business.

It’s a perfect time for Shotgun Players Theater’s West Coast premiere of “White,” a 2015 play by James Ijames, a prolific black author from Philadelphia.

James Ijames

In what director M. Graham Smith calls “a comedy with consequences” “White” can be characterized as a warped “Pygmalion” or “Frankenstein’s Monster” where a black woman outmaneuvers a white man at his own game.

Opening July 13 in Berkeley, the play stars Adam Donovan as Gus, a gay, white artist who is hurt when his museum curator friend Jane (Luisa Frasconi) won’t include him in a prestigious show.

Refusing to be thwarted, Gus hires Vanessa, a black actress portrayed by Santoya Fields to take on an unconventional role.

Ijames was inspired to write ‘White’ because of a 2014 controversy at New York’s Whitney Museum where a white artist hired Black actors, making them the visible enactors of a piece he created.

The question then, (and now, in “White,”) was how is racial/ethnic inclusion accomplished? How is art decreed as Black? Or, as anthropologists might put it, Who has agency here?

Is “White”’s Vanessa inhabiting her own mind and body or is it really Gus whose the driving force using Vanessa for self-serving reasons?

The coping mechanisms of bitter humor and scathing insight that Black people have used over scores if not hundreds of years are vividly expressed under Ijames capable writing.

Those old mechanisms have new terminologies: ‘Code-switching,’ refers to what W.E.B. DuBois and others called ‘double-mindedness; or ‘twin-ness.’ ‘White privilege’ is a much better term for ‘double-standard’ and ‘micro-aggressions’ are general pettiness. And BBQ Becky, Permit Patty and Pool Patrol Paula are now publically shamed on social media where the knowing laughter and scorn once heaped on delicate Miss Anne and wicked Mr. Charlie was done behind closed doors.

In the play, the ‘joke,’ so to speak, is definitely on white people, but for Assistant Director Samira Mariama “White” also validates black people’s experience with white privilege.

Vanessa’s role, says Mariama, demonstrates the tedium racial minorities endure as they navigate a sea of whiteness and exposes its ugliness. The consequences Smith referred to are the choices white people have to make.

“This is not just a matter of ‘I’ll be nicer to my Black friends,’ or  ‘I’ll go to a Black show,’ said Mariama, a recent UC Berkeley grad who was hand-picked by veteran director Smith to assist him and also understudy the role of Vanessa. “No. We’ve called (whiteness) out.”

‘White’ will run on weekends from July 13-Aug.5 at the Shotgun Players Theater, 1901 Ashby Ave. Berkeley. $7-$42 For more information, please call (510) 841-6500, ext. 303.

Published July 14, 2018, courtesy of the Oakland Post

City Workers and City Council Stand in Solidarity Against Supreme Court’s Janus Decision

Representatives of City of Oakland unions speak at Tuesday’s Council meeting supporting a resolution opposing the Supreme Court’s recent Janus decision undermining the bargaining strength of public sector unions.

By Post Staff

Representatives of the City of Oakland’s labor unions attended this week’s City Council meeting to support Councilmember-at-Large Rebecca Kaplan’s resolution opposing the U.S. Supreme Court’s recent decision that will undermine the bargaining strength of public sector unions.

“The Supreme Court ruled against the needs of workers to have effective representation,” said Kaplan in a prepared statement.

Liz Ortega-Toro of the Alameda Labor Council speaks at City Council meeting. Photo by Ken Epstein.

“This action, by the Supreme Court … will weaken unions’ power to effectively negotiate on behalf of all public-sector workers, including to promote policies that protect workers’ rights, fair wages, and safer working conditions.”

The resolution, co-sponsored by Councilmembers Dan Kalb and Abel Guillén, calls on the city to continue working with public-sector unions to respond to the problems raised by the Janus decision.

“Your support of this resolution sends a strong resolution to everyone…that you stand with workers,” said Liz Ortega-Toro, representing the Alameda Labor Council.

“We appreciate your support and hope that all of your workers will continue to have the freedom to organize a union and for dignity on the job,” she said. “We’ve been working to blunt the impact of this decision, which includes working with elected leaders like yourselves.

“Trump’s Supreme Court majority has reversed 40 years of labor, with their decision in Janus vs. AFSCME. This decision comes as no surprise given Trump’s disdain for workers in general and public workers in particular.”

Published July 13, 2018, courtesy of the Oakland Post

Council Delays Decision on Selling Public Land to Build Charter School

The Oakland school board asked the City Council not to sell the property to the charter school

Derby Street parcel

Ken Epstein

Thirty-six people were signed up to speak at this week’s City Council meeting for and against the proposed sale of public land to an out-of-state developer to build a large charter school in the Fruitvale District.

Aimee Eng

However, the council pulled the item from the agenda, indicating that they needed to talk first to the school district before selling the parcel.

“We received notice from the Oakland Unified School District that we would confer on this matter.  I think it is prudent for us to do so before undertaking action. I would ask that we defer action on this and bring it back to (the Rules Committee) for rescheduling,” said Councilmember Lynette Gibson McElhaney.

Though councilmembers did not discuss or vote on the issue, speakers went ahead with their public comments.

Supporting the sale were children, parents, teachers and administrators of Aspire Eres Academy, a charter elementary school serving 217 students, currently located near Fremont High School in East Oakland.

Mike Hutchinson

They are seeking to build a new home for their school, which is too small and in poor physical condition.

Kimi Kean, Bay Area Superintendent at Aspire Public (Charter) Schools, said that students at Eres Academy “have waited far

too long for an acceptable facility… They need and deserve a new facility.”

She said Aspire has an ongoing working relationship with the city staff to build the school.

“We have been honored to collaborate with the City of Oakland for the last three years to develop a state of the art facility,” she said.

Opposing the sale were school activists, leaders of the Oakland teachers’ union who supported affordable housing at the site and teachers and families from district schools that would be negatively impacted if the large new charter was built near their schools, as well as the Oakland Board of Education.

Kimi Kean, Bay Area Superintendent of Aspire Public (Charter) Schools.

“I want to thank you for postponing the vote tonight,” said School Board President Aimee Eng, who summarized a resolution passed by the board on June 27 opposing the city’s sale of the land for a charter school.

“The school board does not support the sale of the property for the purpose of building an education complex that would house 620 students, which is triple the size of the current school population,” she said.

In the nearby area to the proposed school site, “there are already 18 district and charter schools, serving a similar population,” she said.  “The demographic data also does not support the need for a school this large.”

A school district analysis indicates that a high number of families in the area already go to neighborhood schools. A huge new school at that location would directly compete with existing schools in the area, she said.

Pamela Long, a veteran teacher at International Community School, said, “I support their need for a new building, but we are asking that it not be two short blocks from our thriving schools.

The land should be used for affordable housing, she said.

Bethany Meyer, a special education teacher and member of the executive board of the teachers’ union, said, “This charter school is going to take about 625 students out of the school district, which is about $7 million in lost revenue.”

“From what I am reading, the city stands to gain about $200,000 from the sale, which doesn’t seem to justify the amount of opposition you’re going to be facing,” she said.

School activist Mike Hutchinson said, “It is the not the responsibility of the City Council to sell (Aspire charter schools) public property, a parcel that was never put out to competitive bid.”
The parcel first had an Exclusive Negotiating Agreement (ENA) with the city in October 2015, but “there’s no record of that ENA being extended,” Hutchinson said.

The original ENA included affordable housing on this parcel, and the developer has already knocked down existing affordable housing on adjacent property to make room for this project, he said.

Independent Police Commission Wins – Mayor Schaaf’s Staff, Attorney Parker Overruled

Gentrification and police abuse linked

“(This) enabling legislation … assures that the staff and the legal adviser will operate under the supervision of the commission and not the city administration,” says Rashidah Grinage of the Coalition for Police Accountability.

By Ken Epstein

The City Council gave final approval this week to an ordinance that will allow the newly formed Police Commission to function independently of the Oakland Police Department and City Hall administrators who work closely with OPD.

The “enabling” ordinance, which passed 6-1 at Tuesday’s council meeting, lays out guidelines for the commission that were not covered in Measure LL, an amendment to the City Charter approved by 83 percent of the voters in 2016.

John Jones III

Voting in favor of regulations that require commission staff to report to the commission and not to the City Administrator and the City Attorney were Councilmembers Larry Reid, Rebecca Kaplan, Lynette Gibson McElhaney, Dan Kalb, Abel Guillén and Noel Gallo. Annie Campbell Washington voted no.

At its first reading at the last council meeting in June, the measure passed over the objection of the City Attorney’s office and a legal consultant hired by the City Attorney.

At Tuesday’s council meeting, the ordinance passed despite the City Administrator’s last-ditch attempt to defeat it.

City Administrator Sabrina Landreth, who had served as police chief for months as OPD tried to recover from the fallout over its notorious sex abuse scandal, told councilmembers that despite the passage of the Measure LL charter amendment, the commission cannot operate independently of her and City Attorney Barbara Parker.

Mike Hutchinson

“The ordinance contains provisions that violate the City Charter,” she said. “It is important that we reflect carefully on the impact of something that erodes the integrity of our City Charter, the equivalent of our city’s constitution.

The enabling ordinance violates the city charter “as it relates to administrative functions,” she said.

Councilmember Kaplan, a strong backer of community efforts to bring police accountability to Oakland, defended the enabling ordinance as written.

“I urge that we hold strong and adopt … police enabling legislation and respect the voters of this city, respect the (police) commissioners themselves who have requested items (in the ordinance) and respect the principle of independent oversight,” she said.

The police commissioners themselves have said they need staff who are “independent and who can be relied upon by the commission to be working for them and not be in the same chain of command as the police department,” she said.

Continuing, Kaplan said, “In law, there is always potential for dispute, and there are always gray areas. But as this was a voter-approved ballot measure, the will and intent of the voters is also important. And it was clearly the intent to have independent (police) oversight.”

“We need to have police accountability all the way to the top,” Kaplan continued. “This is a chain-of-command-based organization, and most of what is done is done because it is ordered to be done.

“The commission has to have independence from the full chain of command,” she said.

During OPD’s sexual misconduct scandal, “it was a decision at the very top of the chain of command to let the senior officials involved not be punished,” she said.

During the ICE raid in West Oakland, OPD participated, but it was because of a decision of individual officers,” said Kaplan. “They were assigned to go. There was a decision made above to engage in that behavior.”

Members of the Coalition for Police Accountability, who have been working on the Police Commission for more than two years, thanked the council for passing the ordinance.

“Despite the horrors that are going on in Washington, D.C., Oakland is really taking a step forward that the rest of the country will be watching and the rest of the country will hopefully emulate,” said Pamela Drake of the coalition.

John Jones III, who works for the Dellums Institute for Social Justice, connected police abuse to the runaway gentrification that is sweeping the city.

Rebecca Kaplan

“There’s a reason why OPD is under federal review,” he said. “If we go back to 2003, when displacement first started in Oakland, there’s a clear connection between the housing crisis and law enforcement.”

Former Mayor Jerry Brown “wanted to bring 10,000 white affluent people into downtown Oakland (also called Brown’s 10K Plan). A mandate (was) given to get rid of Black people in order to make this city more attractive for developers.”

School activist Mike Hutchinson connected Oakland’s ongoing education crisis to Brown’s gentrification efforts.

“One other thing happened in 2003 that was a direct result of Jerry Brown being our mayor,” he said. “Our school district got taken over by the state. I would argue that the same person who came up with the 10K plan also came up with a version of that plan for education (opening) up our city to outsiders to come in and profit off our backs and destroy our communities. And we still haven’t recovered since.”

Published July 12, 2018, courtesy of the Oakland Post