Archive for January, 2015

District Administration Seeks to Explain Reform Process for Five Schools

Boardmember Jody London, Supt. Antwan Wilson and Board President James Harris listen to speakers at Wednesday evening's school board meeting

Boardmember Jody London, Supt. Antwan Wilson and Board President James Harris listen to speakers at Wednesday evening’s school board meeting.

By Ken Epstein

Parents, students, teachers and community members are struggling to understand exactly what the district has in mind for their schools after it announced the start of a “high quality” school redesign process at five Oakland public schools.

At issue are the futures of three of the district’s main high schools – Fremont, Castlemont and McClymonds – as well as Brookfield Elementary School and Frick Middle School in East Oakland.

Speakers at Wednesday's school board meeting. Photos by Ken Epstein

Speakers at Wednesday’s school board meeting. Photos by Ken Epstein.

District meetings to explain the process at several of the schools were attended by hundreds of teachers, parents and students. About 500 people reportedly attended the meeting last Thursday night at Fremont High, where students took over the meeting and denounced the district’s approach.

Outspoken community members and students are saying they do not care what test scores say – their schools are not terrible and not “failing,” but they need resources and support to help them build on their strengths. They say it is the school system that has failed them.

They especially do not want changes foisted on them they do not approve.

Already the object of successive failed experiments over the past decade, they do not want the district again to rip up everything they have achieved by turning the schools over to charters or other outside organizations.

Many people in the community are also saying that they want to see dramatic improvements in the schools, which continue – despite the decades of school reorganization projects – to fail to meet the needs of many students, particularly Black and Latino students and English language learners.

A number of people have great hopes in the district’s new Supt. Antwan Wilson and the team of administrators he brought with him from Denver. But at the same time, they want to be sure the administration listens to and involves the community in whatever decisions are made about the future of the schools.

Responding to the angry criticisms, the district administration has admitted that it has not communicated well with the community and is seeking to clarify the redesign program’s intent.

“This is definitely not about more charters,” said Supt. Wilson in an open letter to the Oakland community dated Jan. 14.

“Our focus is on quality schools for every child –not on adding charters,” he wrote.

Board members listen to community speakers at Wednesday evening. L to R: Nina Senn (District 4) Shanthi Gonzales (District 6), Aimee Eng (District 2) and Roseann Torres (District 5).

Board members listen to community speakers at Wednesday evening. L to R: Nina Senn (District 4) Shanthi Gonzales (District 6), Aimee Eng (District 2) and Roseann Torres (District 5).

 He said, however, that charters are welcome to apply to run the five schools. “Charters can and probably will participate, and we are going to do everything in our power to make sure this is a fair process for all,” he wrote.

(But) the idea that an unsolicited, unsupported school proposal will come in and somehow take over your school is simply false,” he wrote. “I can’t express this more firmly.”

“We are also working closely with school and community-based site teams to ensure this process is not only fair, but also transparent by providing meaningful and authentic opportunities for these teams to collaborate with, provide feedback on, and offer ideas (on proposals),” he wrote.

Supt. Wilson emphasized that whatever changes he recommends will have to go to the elected Board of Education for approval. “Our Board is committed to placing the needs of students as their top priority, and they care deeply about the voice of the community, including students, families, and educators most deeply impacted,” he said in his letter.

Jumoke Hinton

Jumoke Hinton

Speaking at a McClymonds High School community meeting Tuesday night, district Chief of Schools Allen Smith said, “McClymonds will not close, and it will not become a charter,” repeating the statement three times for emphasis.

In a Post interview, district spokesman Troy Flint said that guidelines for the school reform process will come out in February. “This is a general call for people who are invested in the outcomes of these schools” to produce proposals, he said.

In essence, this will be a competition between proposals. This is not an issue of charter vs. non-charter, he said. “We are agnostic on who should submit. We will look at the quality of the proposals and how they stand to benefit (each school).”

The superintendent will decide on what he believes is the best proposal for each school and will make a recommendation to the school board, which will make the final decision, Flint said.

Supt. Wilson has said the district will put up funds to help school sites develop and write proposals.

Courtesy of the Oakland Post, January 18, 2015 (postnewsgoup.com)

Bay Area Groups Call for 96 Hours of Action to “Reclaim King’s Legacy”

“Jobs and Economy” march on Monday from Fruitvale BART to Oakland Coliseum

Martin Luther King Jr. Arrested.

Hundreds of people from more than two-dozen groups associated with the Anti-Police Terror Project (APTP) will join thousands around the country in 96 hours of action over the Martin Luther King Weekend, Jan. 16-19.

In response to a call from Ferguson Action, organizers seek to reclaim Dr. King’s legacy and radical stance against poverty and all forms of violence.

The weekend’s events will culminate in a Jobs and Economy March for the People on Monday, Jan. 19, beginning at 11 a.m. at the Fruitvale BART Station, Oscar Grant Plaza, and ending at the Oakland Coliseum, where a massive Coliseum City development project is planned.

Coliseum City Entertainment District (rendering)

Coliseum City Entertainment District (rendering)

The project, which has yet to be approved, is proposed to include development of up to three sports stadiums, market-rate condominiums, hotels and an entertainment complex in the heart of East Oakland.

As planned, it would wipe out the city’s only business park.

The concerns of many Oakland residents, specifically people of color, are that they could be displaced or otherwise negatively impacted. The protesters are questioning why the city would support a project unless it provides jobs, housing and community development for Oakland residents.

“We march to demand an end to economic violence, police violence, educational violence and psychological violence that is perpetrated without consequence in our communities ” according to a statement by the APTP.

Proposed Coliseum City

Proposed Coliseum City

The group is also demanding that the Coliseum City project include: 1) Decision-making by residents of East Oakland on the plans for Coliseum City and surrounding areas; 2) A hiring policy ensuring that jobs go to Blacks and Latinos in proportion to the percentages of these groups living in East Oakland and including jobs for the disenfranchised who are on probation and parole; 3) No displacement of local small businesses and expanded opportunities for minority businesses; and 4) All housing developed with city funds should be affordable to Oakland families at the median income.

“We have seen the Black population of urban communities shrink all over the country,” the call for the protest said. “In Oakland the African-American population has shrunk from 49 percent to 27 percent. We want to stop the policies that have led to this shrinkage and turn it around so that African-Americans are able to live and thrive in this city.”

The APTP is a coalition of over 20 groups, including the Onyx Organizing Committee, Workers World, the Alan Blueford Center for Justice, Healthy Hoodz, Young Oakland, Asians for Black Lives, Black Out Collective, Black Brunch, and CRC

For more information, go to www.postnewsgroup.com.

Courtesy of the Oakland Post, January 17, 2015 (postnewsgroup.com)

Community Speaks Out on School Redesign at McClymonds High Meeting

 “McClymonds will not become a charter,” says district official

Longtime educator and coach at McClymonds Ben Tapscott speaks at Tuesday's community meeting at McClymonds High School. Photo by Ashley Chambers.

Longtime  community activist, educator and coach at McClymonds Ben Tapscott speaks at Tuesday’s community meeting at McClymonds High School. Photo by Ashley Chambers.

By Ashley Chambers

Concerned about the future of their local neighborhood school, parents, teachers, and alumni of McClymonds High School showed up at a community meeting Tuesday night in the school cafeteria, looking for answers from the school district.

270px-McClymonds_High_School

McClymonds High School

This was one of many community meetings planned in coming weeks around the Oakland Unified School District’s plan to redesign five schools that are said to be underperforming, according to the school district.

The transformation of these schools – McClymonds, Castlemont, and Fremont High schools, Frick Middle School and Brookfield Elementary – will be open to charters and other groups to submit proposals in April.

Speaking at the meeting Chief of Schools Allen Smith – part of Superintendent Antwan Wilson’s new team from Denver – stressed that “McClymonds will not be a charter.” He added that community input from school leadership, staff, parents and students will drive the process.

“You need to tell us what your students need,” Smith said, amid outbursts from community members opposing the school becoming a charter.

“What this process is designed for is this – we want to make sure that anybody who wants to come in and work with any of our students anywhere around the district is actually going to work with our students,” he added.

While the school district enters this process as a strategy to the declining enrollment and performance at these schools however, parents and educators at McClymonds say the school needs more resources to better prepare students for college.

McClymonds graduates

McClymonds graduates

Longtime educator and coach at McClymonds, Ben “Coach” Tapscott has advocated for West Oakland students to gain access to more advanced placement courses and electives.

School enrollment declined from 900 students, 14 advanced placement courses and four honor classes in 2005 – in a small school structure, to 230 students and one advanced placement course in 2011, he said at Tuesday’s meeting.

“This school has been disrupted by the Oakland Unified School District…it was broken up and experimented with in three small schools,” said Tapscott. “For eight years, they did nothing over here for Black students.”

McClymonds is the only high school in the West Oakland community, serving predominantly African American students. Yet, trends show that more students attending schools in the West Oakland area have gone to Oakland Technical High School or Skyline over McClymonds.

Jumoke Hinton

Jumoke Hinton

“Our kids deserve more,” Tapscott said. “This, in my opinion. (There was)Tony Smith who did nothing, Gary Yee who did nothing, and now we have a new team, a new sheriff but the same old mess.”

District 3 school board member Jumoke Hinton Hodge said to community members, “share your own story,” encouraging them to take control of their own narrative.

“Look at the optics,” she said holding up a Post newspaper, highlighting the image of Mayor Libby Schaaf “above the fold” and Supt. Wilson and Board President James Harris below the fold, seeming to illustrate that the Post is criticizing Black male school leaders and supporting a white woman mayor.

Post Publisher Paul Cobb, a former member of the Board of Education, is encouraging Hinton Hodge to write an editorial to share her views on the redesign process, which he will run in The Post newspaper.

Courtesy of the Oakland Post, January 17, 2015 (postnewsgroup.com)

“I Am Black, I Am Jewish, and My Life Matters.”

Kim Carter Martinez spoke at the #BlackLivesMatter Hanukkah demonstration Dec. 16 in San Francisco. Photo by Gabrielle Lurie.

By Kim Carter Martinez

 
My name is Kim. I am Black, I am Jewish, and my life matters. For the last few months, our country has seen a movement growing from a wave of protests against the police and vigilante law enforcement killings of unarmed Black men.

As a country we have struggled with talking about the issues of police brutality and racism — individual racism, and the systemic and institutionalized racism that Black and Brown people in our country fall victim to on a daily basis.

In America, a black person is killed by the police or by vigilante law enforcement every 28 hours. #BlackLivesMatter, the movement that arose out of the outrage over these killings, describes itself as “an ideological and political intervention in a world where Black lives are systematically and intentionally targeted for demise … [an affirmation of black folks’] contributions to this society, our humanity, and our resilience in the face of deadly oppression.”Hanukkah march

Over and over again, I’ve heard people in the Jewish community talk about #BlackLivesMatter as if the violence and racism toward people of color is happening to an outside group we are not a part of.

It’s happening to “them,” and we can only show solidarity to this group in certain ways because it is a group to which we do not belong.

Many Jews post on Facebook or Twitter showing their solidarity for the cause. Some attend rallies and marches to show their solidarity for the cause.

Many talk with their friends and watch comedy television with quasi-political pundits who talk about #BlackLivesMatter.

We do everything we can to align ourselves with the cause and show our solidarity — except at the same time we continue to ignore the fact that, according to several estimates, there are tens of thousands of Black Jewish Americans for whom the issues of police brutality and institutional and systemic racism are an everyday reality.

These are not just Black issues, these are also Jewish issues, and we cannot continue to count them as something separate. Doing so erases the identity of people like me, who are both Black and Jewish.

We are moved by our Jewish teachings of tikkun olam (heal the world) and tzedek, tzedek, tirdof  (justice, justice you shall pursue). Yet how can we, as a Jewish people, truly heal the world and pursue justice when we continue to not include Jews of color in leadership roles in our work fighting racism and police brutality in America?

Are we really healing the world and pursuing justice if we ignore the racism that Jews of color have to endure? Organizations must make a concerted outreach effort to Jews of color if they want to have an authentic campaign of solidarity with the issues of all people of color.

Recently I attended a #BlackLivesMatter action in San Francisco, held on the first night of Hanukkah. I was honored to be the emcee, and disappointed to see only a handful of Jews of color among the participants. Why were they left out? Jews of color must be at the forefront of these movements.

I was happy to see J. and other Jewish newspapers carry the story of the Hanukkah action with some prominence. But I also was disappointed to see no quotes or pictures of Jews of color. Why were they left out?

Our stories of racism and discrimination inside and outside the Jewish community must be lifted up and heard. We must welcome Jews of color to tell their stories of racial discrimination in our organized Jewish community, such as synagogues, federations, social groups and Jewish nonprofits. We must not just listen to the stories of racism that Jews of color have endured, we must stand up to it and act, because these are not just Black or Brown issues, they are Jewish issues. And all Jewish people matter.

Kim Carter Martinez is a campaign coordinator for a public employee labor union. She served on the regional council of Bend the Arc and lives in Oakland. This article was reprinted from jweekly.com

 Courtesy of the Post News Group, January 16, 2015 (postnewsgroup.com)

Harlem Globetrotters Meet Local Youth with Disabilities, Play Wheelchair Basketball

Harlem Globetrotters play wheelchair basketball after school at Edna Brewer Middle School in Oakland

Harlem Globetrotters play wheelchair basketball after school at Edna Brewer Middle School in Oakland. Photos by Laura Ming Wong.

By Post Staff

In advance of six games in the Bay Area, two stars of the world famous Harlem Globetrotters and youth with disabilities played wheelchair basketball Wednesday afternoon at Edna Brewer Middle School in Oakland.Harlem Globetrotters at Edna Brewer

Slick Willie Shaw and Buckets Blakes took turns in wheelchairs while spinning balls and trading baskets with the children. Trooper Johnson, a former Paralympic basketball player, coached the group and also shared his expertise.

Attending the event were school faculty and students enrolled in the after school program Safe Passages program, which serves about 25 percent of Edna Brewer’s students.

As the Ambassadors of Goodwill, the Globetrotters granted the request by the staff at the Center for Independent Living. Members of the Disability Action Network for Youth (DANY) also attended the event.

The Globetrotters spoke at schools in Oakland and San Jose this week.

The team will play a total of six games at Oracle Arena in Oakland and SAP Center in San Jose from Friday, Jan. 9 through Saturday, Jan. 17. foDwALfsqHP7ds1yjhU5ZrBUM0QBM0ZKV98Ol8GRyHU,kNMyvpmXGBkbdQ9sYysoIt7j0cMYJz5bJwuKsIbIH1E

For tickets and details, visit www.harlemglobetrotters.com.

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

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Protesters in Black Friday BART Shutdown Face Misdemeanors and $70,000 in Restitution

Next court date is scheduled for February 4

Photo courtesy of NBC Bay Area

Photo courtesy of NBC Bay Area

By Ken Epstein

A national petition has gathered over 7,000 signatures in less than a week, calling on BART to drop the charges against 14 African American “Black Lives Matter” protesters who are facing misdemeanors and as much as $70,000 in restitution for blocking BART trains on Black Friday, the day after Thanksgiving.

The “Black Friday 14” shut down the West Oakland BART station on Nov. 28 to disrupt “business as usual” on the nation’s largest shopping day of the year.

When a train pulled into the West Oakland station that day, a woman chained herself to a train car handrail, and others then linked arms using cylinder tubes, stopping transbay service for several hours.

Photo courtesy of Mercury News.

Photo courtesy of Mercury News.

The protesters are arguing that BART is not an innocent victim but bears responsibility for the killing of Oscar Grant on New Years Day in 2009, as well as being guilty of a number of cases of allowing BART police to harass, assault and arrest Black and Brown youth, and for utilizing eminent domain to construct its tracks above ground in West Oakland, disrupting the life of the local community.

In addition, the protesters see the demand for restitution as part of a pattern of seeking harsher penalties for African Americans who participate in the Black Lives Matter protests nationwide.

According to several sources, BART is informally saying it is not committed to restitution but needs to negotiate a punishment that will discourage people in the future from disrupting the train system, inconveniencing riders and perhaps putting them in danger.

Cat Brooks, co-chair of the Onyx Organizing Committee in Oakland, was one of the 14 arrestees.

“The action on Black Friday was part of a national response to the war on Black people,” she said. “This is the beginning of the next social justice movement in this country. As long as it is business as usual to gun down Black people in the streets, there will be no business as usual.”

Photo courtesy of NBC Bay Area.

Photo courtesy of NBC Bay Area.

Demands for restitution at present are being raised only in the cases of Black-led protests – by BART in the Bay Area and by the Mall of America in Milwaukee, which was shut down by protests over the police killing of Dontre Hamilton.

Oakland civil rights attorney Walter Riley is the lead attorney representing all of the 14 arrestees.

“They could have been charged with infractions,” Riley said, “but BART is asking for prosecution and restitution, though the amount of restitution has not be established in a written document. They want to make an example of them.”

“If the restitution does not get paid, it would be forever on their records as an unpaid fine, and it could be enforced arbitrarily at some future date,” he said. “Other local institutions, like UC Berkeley, have not taken that approach in dealing with protesters.”

Demonstrations and civil disobedience may inconvenience people, but these are the kinds of actions that bring long hidden conditions to public light, he said. This is the kind of free public expression that should not be stifled in a democratic society, he said.

“I remember civil rights demonstrations in the past, and the same kind of arguments were made against them,” said Riley. “We need older people to show some real love for our people. This means there should be an outpouring of support for them.”

In an interview with the Post, BART Boardmember Robert Raburn said he was not involved in discussions of BART’s demand for restitution.

“I didn’t get elected to the BART board to be a judge,” he said, referring questions to the agency’s staff and denying that the board has a policymaking role in leveling charges and restitution against the protesters.

Rev. Dr. Lawrence VanHook of Community Christian Church in Oakland said he has been in conversations with BART, and the agency is willing to drop the demand for restitution against the 14 if they would be willing to accept terms such as probation and community service, which would inhibit other potential protesters from trying the same tactics.

According to a Jan. 7 statement released by BART General Manager Grace Crunican, “It is critical that the post -Thanksgiving BART shutdown be handled in a manner that is fair and equitable to all stakeholders.”

“The (Alameda County) DA indicated that her office is guided by California Law on issues regarding restitution, and she made it clear that the handling of restitution is within her purview and premature to discuss at this time.”

The protesters’ next court date is Feb. 4, and they are asking community members to come to the Alameda County Courthouse to support them.

Courtesy of the Oakland Post, January 10, 2015 (postnewsgroup.com)

Fremont, Castlemont and McClymonds High Schools May to Be Turned into Charters

Students protest Charter school plans at OUSD-organized meeting to discuss the proposal Thursday evening at Fremont High School in East Oakland. Photos courtesy Oakland Eduation Association.

Students protest charter school plans at OUSD-organized meeting Thursday evening to discuss the proposal at Fremont High School in East Oakland. Photos courtesy Oakland Eduation Association.

By Ken Epstein

Many long-time educators and Oakland parents are raising serious questions about a new Oakland Unified School District plan to turn over five schools – including three East and West Oakland high schools – to charter school companies or other groups to redesign and restart by the fall of 2016.

Targeted for “transformation” are Castlemont, Fremont and McClymonds high schools. Frick Middle School and Brookfield Elementary School. All of these schools are located in the flatlands of East Oakland, with the exception of McClymonds, which is in the flatlands of West Oakland.Fremont HIgh protest Jan. 8, 2014

“These are not necessarily the worst schools, but there’s a combination of long-term academic underperformance and declining enrollment,” schools spokesman Troy Flint told the Oakland Tribune.

The 18-month plan for the five schools involves community engagement this month followed by a Call for Quality Schools in April, when charter organizations or other academic groups can submit proposals to redesign and restart new schools.

The district will review and approve proposals in May and June. An “incubation period” for the approved schools will start in July, with new schools opening in fall 2016.

Many teachers and parents and are raising concerns about this plan.

Why is there only a one-month “community engagement” for a plan, which has already been decided? Why the rush to do this without full community transparency? People are asking.

In an email to constituents, one school board member wrote: “(This is) essentially a very unfair competition between charter and district school plans for these five schools, with an unrealistic timeline for district plans being due in April (guidelines don’t even go out until February).”

The high schools the district will keep – Skyline, Oakland Technical High and Oakland High – are the ones that most of the district’s Asian and white students attend.

One sign read "I want at diploma at 18, not a tombstone."

One sign read “I want at diploma at 18, not a tombstone.”

In addition, the teachers’ union and others point out that these targeted high schools have been the subject of many radical reorganizations in the past decade, broken down from large into small schools and then back again in large schools.

There is also a revolving door at many of these schools as principals and other administrators are frequently hired, transferred, promoted or fired. For years, these schools have experienced no stability.

The upheavals and school closings have generally impacted schools where students and families are Black and Latino.

Programs that worked were plowed under and abandoned. Why does it seem that the district’s constant churning creates turmoil and chaos for teachers and students, more than any tangible academic progress? Some observers are asking.

Further, what happened to the newly passed property tax, which the district sought by telling the public that it had the plan to fix the high schools that it knew would work?

The public was told the bond would be used to create enriched school-to-career programs that would help all students graduate and attend post secondary education programs. There was nothing in the bond appeals about turning the schools over to charter companies or other agencies.

Courtesy of the Oakland Post, January 10, 2015 (postnewsgroup.com)

New City Leadership Team Takes the Helm

Photo by Godfrey Lee

Photo by Godfrey Lee

By Ken Epstein

Tuesday was a day to celebrate the changing of the guard in Oakland, as Mayor Libby Schaaf, three councilmembers, three school boardmembers and the new city auditor were sworn in.

Mayor Schaaf was sworn in during a quiet ceremony early in the morning, and the other new officials were sworn in during an organizational meeting at 11 a.m., where new officers were also selected.

All the newly elected and re-elected officials were ceremoniously sworn in again later in the afternoon at a festive event at the Paramount Theater at 2025 Broadway.

(L to R): Desley Brooks, Annie Campbell Washington, Abell Guillen. Photo by Adam L. Turner

(L to R): Desley Brooks, Annie Campbell Washington, Abell Guillen. Photo by Adam L. Turner

James Harris, District 7, was elected president of the Board of Education, and Jody London, District 1, was named vice president.

Lynette McElhaney, District 3, was elected president of the City Council. Larry Reid, District 7, was elected president pro tem, and Councilmember-at-large Rebecca Kaplan was elected vice mayor.

In a speech at the Paramount, Mayor Schaaf, emphasized her love for the city and her roots – “Oakland made,” born and bred.

Saying that she, like so many others, is upset by the lack of equality in the public schools and the lack of public safety.

“Transformative change is possible” she said. “If other cities can do it, so can we.”

It’s time for Oakland to get off the list of the 10 most dangerous cities in the country, Mayor Schaaf said, also pledging that the police department would complete federally required reforms “that we promised to finish 10 years ago.”

“It’s time to address quality preschool for all children, so all of our children show up to kindergarten ready to learn,” she said, calling the continuing racial disparities in education “morally outrageous.”

Mayor Schaaf said she would mobilize the city to stop illegal dumping, fix the “raggedy roads” in the neighborhoods and clean up parks and other public spaces.

She also said she would bring new businesses to Oakland and support the city’s existing small businesses, “particularly the ones in our neighborhoods,” providing zero interest loans and encouraging residents to “put your money where your heart is.”

In remarks after he was sworn in, District 2 Councilmember Abel Guillen said,

“We must provide housing for Oakland’s workforce – this is something we can do.”

Annie Campbell Washington, District 4 representative, spoke about her years working as a staffer for the city, where she learned that it was necessary to go to the grassroots to find out about programs and people.

“I learned it’s not about the numbers – it’s about the people,” she said.

“Here is where the rubber meets the road,” she continued. “The decisions we make are incredibly important to the lives of people here (in Oakland).”

District 6 Councilmember Desley Brooks, who has been on the council for 12 years, was sworn in for new term.

“Too many of our residents are left out,” she said. “Too many are hungry, homeless or are feeling hopeless. Too many cannot afford to live here.”

Brooks, who was wearing a “Black Lives Matter” t-shirt, had participated in a silent vigil held by protesters in front of the Paramount at the beginning of the swearing in.

She urged elected officials to pay attention to the protest, which also took place in the theater at the beginning of the swearing in ceremony, when some people unfurled a “End Police Terror” banner from the balcony and for a few minutes sang “Which side are you on?”

“I wore this t-shirt for a reason,” said Brooks “ We’ve got to listen to ideas others than our own. We have to hear voices other than our own. We have to include everybody. We have to come out of our comfort zone.”

 Courtesy of the Oakland Post, January 10, 2014 (postnewsgroup.com)

Op-ed: Council President Lynette Gibson McElhaney Responds to Criticisms

By Lynette Gibson McElhaney

The East Bay Express (EBX) has been investigating me for the last nine months – digging into my personal life, my work in Richmond and on the City Council.

Lynette Gibson McElhaney

Lynette Gibson McElhaney

Frustrated in their attempt to find any meaningful evidence of wrongdoing or unethical behavior, they have concocted a front-page “scandal” about the practices of the affordable housing non-profit, where I have served as a leader since 2001.

The practice in question? A modest investment in market-rate real estate, with the proceeds from that investment being used to fulfill our mission of providing affordable housing for veterans.

A child of the Civil Rights movement, I have dedicated my life to public service. I am proud of both my service at Richmond NHS where I have served since 2001 and as an elected representative on the Oakland City Council since 2013.

In light of the unwarranted and dishonorable attacks on my reputation I want to make it clear to all of my supporters, colleagues, and constituents that I have done nothing wrong or unethical. This attack only strengthens my commitment to tackling the real problems facing Oakland.

And to (Express editor) Bob Gammon, I want to make it crystal clear that at a time when funds for affordable housing have been decimated and tensions are rising between communities of color and law enforcement across the country, your decision to focus the considerable power of your publishing platform on me, calls into question your editorial judgment.

The public needs to know that in its response to the EBX inquiry, the NHS Board of Directors investigated its claims and found that there has been no violation of policy or law by the Executive Director, members of the board or its partners, Richard Reese or Kevin Hampton, in any deal where Richmond NHS was involved.

Further, Boardmember Niels Povlsen is a leader with an impeccable reputation who did not do anything in violation of any law or policy of NHS. There have been no conflicts of interest found by any agency by any member of the board or staff.

As a fierce advocate for affordable housing I have worked closely with my city council colleagues to create a designated fund for affordable housing and to strengthen tenant protection laws. I am also a pro-growth advocate for smart development because

I understand that failure to meet the demand for market-rate housing will lead to more displacement. And, while it is true that I am deeply concerned about maintaining economic and racial diversity in Oakland, I believe the biggest threat is the ability to attract and retain working-class jobs and to maintain public safety in our neighborhoods.

Like many others, I have often put the needs of others ahead of my own. Those who know me can attest that I work tirelessly to care for the people in my family, the community, and my work. This has resulted most notably in the painful and embarrassing failure to file timely tax returns – a matter which was rectified this week. In addition,

I was unaware of a technical difficulty that resulted in the delinquent filing of our mid-year campaign report.

These errors, as embarrassing as they are, do not rise to level of unethical behavior or some indication that my work in service to the community is anything other than honorable. Sadly, this type of coverage centering on innuendo and personal attacks often serves to discourage average people from serving in public life.

Most of us are not born with the privilege of having a life unscathed by personal or financial challenges, tragedies or imperfections. This is very unfortunate because every level of government is better served by the diversity of representation that can relate to the daily challenges the average working class American must confront.

I am grateful and honored for the opportunity to serve the people of Oakland as an elected leader. Despite this attack, I will continue to serve with the utmost respect for the public and for my colleagues.

In the past two years I have worked to fulfill my campaign pledge to focus on strengthening the local economy, improving public safety and improving the professionalism of the Council.

And, I sincerely hope that my service inspires others to serve without the need to be perfect.

District 3 Councilmember Lynette McElhaney was elected president of the Oakland City Council at the council’s meeting on Monday, Jan. 5.

Lynette Gibson McElhaney, District 3 City Council member, is president of the Oakland City Council.

Courtesy of the Oakland Post, January 10, 2014 (postnewsgroup.com)

Two Developers in Running to Restore Historic Kaiser Convention Center

Henry J. Kaiser Convention Center

Henry J. Kaiser Convention Center

 

By J. Douglas Allen-Taylor

The announcement of one of the most important Oakland public works restoration projects in recent memory went virtually unnoticed during the recent mayoral campaign.

Last September, the City of Oakland issued a Notice of Development Opportunity to restore the closed-down Kaiser Convention Center at the western end of Lake Merritt as a public-private partnership.

Two companies—Creative Development Partners of Oakland and Orton Development of Emeryville—have been listed as finalists for the bid, with the winner expected to be announced this spring.

Under the terms of the city’s Request For Proposals, the center will be used for both public and private use, with the building façade restored and maintained and the ownership of both building and land remaining with the city but rented out on long-term lease to the developers.

The Oakland auditorium until 1941 the Ringling Brothers and Barnum and Bailey Circus. fairies.[7] From 1967 through 1989, the Grateful Dead, an American rock band, performed at the Convention Center 57 times.

The Oakland Auditorium until 1941 hosted the Ringling Brothers and Barnum and Bailey Circus. From 1967 through 1989, the Grateful Dead, an American rock band, performed at the Convention Center 57 times.

Details of the final development plans will not be released, however, until the developer is chosen.

In its original release announcing the Kaiser project, city officials said that “while proposals should include the restoration of the existing Calvin Simmons Theater, the city is open to creative and new ideas for the adaptive reuse of the rest of the building, including uses such as performance space, entertainment venues, conference and event spaces, light industrial or maker space, commercial office uses and retail and restaurant space.”

Oakland’s decision to restore the Kaiser Convention Center as a public-private partnership may have been inspired, in part, by the City of Richmond’s successful restoration of the old Ford Building on that city’s bay waterfront.

In 2011, the online architectural magazine Archinnovations said of the Ford restoration, “The project converted a crumbling historic icon into a model of urban revitalization and sustainability. [The site] now houses an acre-sized public event venue, restaurant/retail, and tenants including SunPower and Mountain Hardwear. … The restoration and preservation of the Ford Assembly Building … saved an historic architectural icon from the wrecking ball, and converted a long-vacant auto plant into a current-day model of urban revitalization and sustainability.”

Outgoing Oakland Mayor Jean Quan made little mention of the Kaiser Request For Proposals during her unsuccessful re-election bid this fall, concentrating instead on promoting development plans at the old Oakland Army Base, Brooklyn Basin (the old Oak-To-Ninth site south of Jack London Square), and Coliseum City.

And at least one Quan political associate says it is because the idea came from another powerful Oakland government official.

Saying the Kaiser proposal “obviously came from up high,” Oakland architect and housing activist James Vann says that interim Oakland City Administrator Henry Gardner may have been the instigator of the renovation project.

Gardner, who served as Oakland City Manager in the pre-strong mayor days from 1981 through 1983, was brought back by Mayor Quan to serve as interim City Administrator this year after the resignation of Administrator Deanna Santana.

It was widely understood that Gardner had only agreed to serve in that post through the first of next year, regardless of the results of the mayoral election.

“I have a feeling,” Vann says, “that Gardner looked at [several] city-owned properties that are either sitting vacant or the use could be expanded and just decided to go ahead with putting out development proposals for them.”

Vann, who walked door-to-door for Quan during her original bid for mayor in 2010, said that the mayor “never mentioned anything” to him about the Kaiser restoration proposal.

“She’s not opposed to it, but I think she would have mentioned it [if she was behind it.] And I don’t think the new planning director, who hasn’t been here a year yet, would have come up with these plans,” Vann said. “So it seems to me that this is something that would have gone back to Henry and he would have gotten various people to sign off on them. But I have a feeling they originated with him.”

The Kaiser Convention Center sits directly across from where the city has made major public space renovations to the lake and to the adjacent Lake Merritt Channel in the past several years. The Center, which includes an arena and a 1,900 seat theater, once served as Oakland’s major event center, was closed in 2005 for what was called at the time budgetary problems.

That was only three years after Oakland voters passed the $198 million bond Measure DD, and long before the authorized bond money resulted in the complete renovation and restoration of the western end of Lake Merritt and the Lake Merritt Channel, the narrowing of the streetway between the convention center and the lake, and the connecting of the two properties by pedestrian bridges.

When those changes were completed in the summer of 2013, they immediately raised the profile of the Kaiser Convention Center as one of the most important, most visible, and most underused pieces of public property in Oakland.

But long before that happened, and almost as soon as Measure DD passed in 2002, efforts were made within Oakland city government to sell off the Kaiser property, including a little-known behind-the-scenes proposal to tear down the Kaiser and include it in an aborted plan by the state school administrator to turn the nearby Oakland Unified School District Administration Building into high-rise condominiums during the period when the Oakland schools were under state control.

In addition, there was a failed effort in 2006 to pass a bond measure to build a new Main Library on the Kaiser property, as well as a rejection by city officials in 2005 of a joint developer/Peralta Community College District proposal to turn the Kaiser into a performing arts center.

But this new effort is the first time since the Kaiser closed that the property is in line to restore to anything approaching its original position in Oakland public life.

City officials repeatedly failed to answer requests to comment on this story.

Courtesy of the Oakland Post, January 9, 2014 (postnewsgroup.com)