Archive for November, 2017

Consulting Firm Will Make Recommendation to OUSD on School Closings

Lakeview Elementary School, across the street from Grand Lake Theater, was closed by the school district in 2012. The site now houses a charter school and district administrative offices.

By Ken Epstein

The Oakland Unified School District, near the end of the former Superintendent Antwan Wilson’s administration, paid $2.3 million to a multinational company, headquartered in Dallas, Texas, to develop a new facilities master plan, which would include proposals or “options” for closing or moving schools in different parts of Oakland.

The company, which has an office in Oakland has operations in Africa, Asia, the Middle East and Central and South America, in addition to North America, according to Jacobs’ website.

Under the contract with Jacobs, hired on Jan. 11, the company will issue a final report to the school board next year in January.

Jacobs was originally hired by Supt. Wilson because he wanted updated facilities information and construction costs for a school construction bond measure he hoped to place on the ballot in 2018.

The current process – which has been named Blueprint for Quality Schools – includes the involvement of a 54-member advisory that includes parents, teachers, school administrators and some representatives of charter school organizations based in the city.

It is not clear how much influence the advisory group, which was scheduled to meet five times, will have on Jacobs’ final report to the school board.

A number of the people in the advisory group told they feel the process was flawed from the beginning – the discussion of a “blueprint for quality schools” should be based on the values of the community and the needs of students – not on the work of a group of engineers who study facilities and enrollment trends, regardless of how valuable that information may be.

At this point, the process has produced a series of options, which are available on the website:  

Some of the options related involve “consolidation” or closing schools:

  • “Consolidate (central district) elementary schools from seven down to six campuses.’
  • “Consolidate Castlemont-area elementary schools from 10 down to 7-8 campuses.”
  • “Move Melrose out of an over-crowded facility and into one of the larger area elementary schools.”
  • “Consolidate Northeast (area) elementary schools from seven down to five-six campuses.”

The campuses of the school sites that would be vacated under this plan would be “repurposed” “high school career instruction, a pre-kindergarten (PK) center, teacher housing, administration, or another high-need priority.”

Published November 13, 2017, courtesy of the Oakland Post

Stroller Brigade and Rally Held in Berkeley to Save Alta Bates Medical Center

Community protests closing of Alta Bates Hospital in Berkeley, Sunday, Nov. 4.

Community members, elected officials and registered nurses held a rally and march Sunday, Nov. 4,  led by a brigade of strollers, to protest Sutter Health’s proposed closure of Alta Bates Medical Center in Berkeley, the city’s only acute care medical facility and the birthplace of thousands of East Bay residents.

Scheduled speakers at the rally will Berkeley Mayor Jesse Arreguín; Ethel Long-Scott, executive director of the Women’s Economic Agenda Project [WEAP]; Rochelle Pardue-Okimoto, El Cerrito City councilmember; and RN, Neonatal Intensive Care Unit, Alta Bates, and retired RN Anjali Sundaram, who was delivered by Alta Miner Bates, the nurse who founded the hospital in 1905 to care for women and infants.

The march and rally was held to celebrate the “important role Alta Bates plays in in the East Bay, especially for mothers and newborns and to collectively speak up for its survival,” said Rochelle Pardue-Okimoto, an RN in the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit at Alta Bates.

“Sutter Alta Bates had 5,863 live births last year, ranking number seven out of all the hospitals in California,” said Pardue-Okimoto. “We can’t let Sutter shut down this vital center of maternity and neonatal health care in our region!”

“Sutter’s claim that patients rerouted from a closed Alta Bates to Summit will only experience a 12-minute delay in care is laughable to anyone who lives in the East Bay. Even if it were true, 12 minutes to someone who has experienced a massive heart attack, a GI bleed or a stroke can mean the difference between life and death, even traveling in an advanced life support ambulance,” said Stephanie Crowe Patten, a Cardiac Telemetry Nurse at Summit.

“It means the difference between a UC Berkeley student graduating and becoming a biologist and discovering a cure for cancer or your husband coming home to you rather than dying in route or in the parking lot,” she said.

Last year the Berkeley City Council unanimously approved a resolution opposing the closure of the Alta Bates hospital and emergency room recognizing that a closure would restrict access to emergency care for thousands of Berkeley residents — as well as students, faculty and staff on the UC Berkeley campus.

Sutter says it will maintain only doctors’ offices and potentially an “urgent care center” in Berkeley. But a broad range of vital patient services cannot be treated at an urgent care center, including heart attacks, strokes, seizures, internal bleeding, most burns, life threatening allergic reactions, poisoning, electrical shock, and severe abdominal pain, head and back injuries, and bone breaks, according to statement released by the California Nurses Association.

Published November 11, 2017, courtesy of the Oakland Post

 

 

 

 

Port of Oakland Passes Groundbreaking Jobs Policy

 

After 21 months of negotiations with the local community, the Port of Oakland Board of Commissioners voted Thursday to approve a “Good Jobs” policy on the Port’s new state-of-the-art warehousing complex.

Community groups say this be one of the most equitable job policies in the warehousing and logistics industry, setting a standard for online retailers like Amazon. And because it provides pathways to good jobs for primarily low-income people of color, it begins to curb economic inequality and structural racism.

A number of environmental groups asked the Port Commission to the delay the vote, but the commission voted unanimously to approve the lease.

Calling for postponement was a group of regulators, local, regional and national environmental advocates who requested the commission delay accepting this lease until port staff engages in good faith negotiating on the environmental elements of the new warehouse. The environmental group says it is committed to jobs but just as committed to clean air and healthy neighborhoods in West and East Oakland and the 880 corridor.

During the campaign for the jobs policy, a demonstration was held at the Port of Oakland focusing on a Ban the Box policy, and many formerly incarcerated workers testified at the Port Commission. Photo courtesy of EBASE.

So far, the port has agreed to discuss the group’s environmental concerns but never scheduled meetings, according to the environmentalists.

The warehouse development sits on the port’s side of the former Oakland Army Base – a massive, incredibly valuable, publicly-owned property. OaklandWorks and Revive Oakland, a coalition of community, labor, and faith groups, led the negotiations with the Port and won an even stronger agreement than its 2012 deal on the city-owned part of the Army Base.

With the rise of online retailers like Amazon, jobs in warehousing and logistics – or “goods movement” – have become increasingly common. These jobs are typically low-paying and often part-time, temporary, and/or subcontracted.

The new port warehouse jobs policy establishes a model that other cities could follow, including living wages; limitations on the use of temporary agencies; equal protections for subcontracted workers; and one of the strongest Ban the Box policies in the country.

“As the port becomes a gateway for the booming tech, online, and app-centric economy, we are creating policies that lift low-income workers and communities of color,” said Jahmese Myres, Revive Oakland Coalition Director.

“With racism and economic inequality on the rise during the Trump Era, we are helping to ensure that low-income people of color have good jobs and can stay in their homes,” she said.

Cities across the country recently submitted proposals to lure Amazon to build their new headquarters in their areas. The bidding war outlined community giveaways rather than what the company could do for cities struggling to create living wage jobs with benefits that would allow workers to afford housing and provide for their families.

This comes at a time when low-income communities of color are increasingly being pushed out of many urban areas due to the high cost of housing and the lack of opportunity for formerly incarcerated workers.

However, the port agreement can serve as a model for how community driven negotiations result in better outcomes for workers and residents, particularly people of color who have been shut out of good jobs.

In addition to living wages, the agreement would mandate local hire, equal protections for subcontracted workers, and one of the strongest “Ban the Box” policies in the country. The latter curtails discrimination against the formerly incarcerated, who are disproportionately people of color.

“With one of the strongest Ban the Box policies in the country, the Army Base redevelopment is standing against discrimination, employment inequality, and the racial injustices that we face daily,” said Saabir Lockett, a formerly incarcerated Oakland resident.

“Policies like this create a more sustainable relationship between employers and local residents, giving more of us the chance to provide for our families with dignity,” said Lockett.

Published November 11, 2017, courtesy of the Oakland Post

East Oakland Organizations Unveil New Grassroots People’s Agenda

Speakers Tuesday evening at the East Oakland Congress of Neighborhoods rally at Oakland City Hall were (L to R): Mercedes De La Torre of Communities for a Better Environment, Andre Spearman of Oakland Community Organizations and Vernetta Woods, Oakland Community Organizations Photo by Ken Epstein.

East Oakland residents gathered in front of city hall his week to unveil a community-created East Oakland People’s Agenda.

The agenda, based on community needs, was created Sept. 30 at a Community Assembly of the newly-formed East Oakland Congress of Neighborhoods, attended by Oakland residents who live in communities between Lake Merritt and the San Leandro border

The release of the agenda on Tuesday, Nov. 7 was intentional—one year ahead of the 2018 elections— announcing residents’ determination to vote for candidates and ballot measures that align with their agenda.

“We are inspired by the hundreds of East Oaklanders who made our Community Assembly such a fantastic success,” says Sonya Khvann, an EBAYC leader and resident of District 2. “We are ready to fight for the agenda that we created there.”

The East Oakland Congress of Neighborhoods is an umbrella organization formed by six of East Oakland’s most prominent community organizations, whose members are fed up with a lack of action on extremely pressing problems in East Oakland—including housing and homelessness, fears about immigration raids, illegal dumping, gun violence and the street-level sex trade, air quality and the lack of green space, school quality and safety, and good jobs for the unemployed.

Beginning in January, members of East Oakland Congress of Neighborhoods will start a process of research and trainings to prepare residents to advocate effectively for the People’s Agenda.

“We are in this for the long haul,” says Andre Spearman, a leader with Oakland Community Organizations (OCO) and District 5 resident. “We are serious about building the power we need to be in charge of our communities.”

Evangelina Lara, an EBAYC organizer and a District 2 resident, says the purpose of the Congress is to provide East Oakland with the same kind of clout that more affluent neighborhoods have. “We represent the East Oakland majority,” said Lara. “Politicians are on notice that they need to respond to OUR agenda.”

“Residents from all four East Oakland City Council Districts came together to create this agenda,” says Alba Hernandez, an OCO organizer and a District 6 resident. “Our members are working together to make it come true.”

Published November 10, 2017, courtesy of the Oakland Post

 

Former OUSD Supt. Antwan Wilson Overspent Budget for Administrators as Much as 100 Percent

By Ken Epstein

As the Oakland Unified School District (OUSD) struggles to maintain financial solvency – cutting expenses and realigning spending priorities –  reports are coming to light indicating that expenditures for administrators and consultants grew dramatically during the three years of Supt. Antwan Wilson’s administration and regularly exceeded the adopted budget by as much as 100 percent.

“As leader of OUSD, these are not the kind of numbers I want to see,” said Superintendent Kyla Johnson-Trammell.

Supt. Kyla Johnson-Trammell

“Our schools need the best leadership we can find, but we must find and keep those leaders while working within our means,” she said. “It is our duty to ensure that we are operating in as efficient and cost-effective way as possible. I am committed to putting us on the right path to fiscal stability.”

According to one of the numerous financial reports presented Monday night to the school board’s Budget and Finance Committee, total spending for classified (non-teaching) supervisors and administrators grew by 69 percent during Supt. Wilson’s administration, July 2014 – January 2017.

Classified spending was at $13.1 million in the final year of previous Supt. Tony Smith’s administration (2013-2014), and rose to $22.3 million in 2016-2017.

At the same time, the district overspent its allocated budget for classified supervisors by over 100 percent in the past two school years.

Spending for administrators and supervisors with teaching certificates grew 44 percent – from $13.9 million in 2013-2014 to $20 million last school year,

Spending in that category exceeded the approved budget by $4 million in 2015-2016 and $1 million last year.

In the category of professional and consulting services, spending grew 25 percent, from $22.7 million in 2013-2014 to $28.3 million in 2016-2017.

Last year, expenditures for consultants exceeded the budget by 32 percent.

Reversing the pattern, expenditures for books and supplies fluctuated but never reached the amounts budgeted during the three years of Wilson’s administration. In 2015-2016, $18.6 million was budgeted and only $12 million was spent.

Last school year, $20 million was budgeted and only $6.8 million was spent.

Former OUSD Supt. Antwan Wilson

Wilson, who left Oakland at the end of January to head Washington, D.C. schools, minimized the economic dangers facing OUSD in an interview about the district’s financial condition with the Washington Post (WP)

“He said the projected shortfall is part of the annual budget process; many of the nation’s school systems, in seeking full funding, report projected shortfalls to their local governments,” according to the WP. “He said the shortfall in Oakland will materialize only if the school system keeps all programs fully funded and makes no cuts.

“That’s not what’s going to happen. That’s not what has happened any year I have been here,” Wilson told the WP. “Every year that I have been at Oakland, Oakland has balanced its budget.”

To keep from going into the red this year, the district is cutting $46.7 million from its budget, including $32.5 million last school year and an additional $14.2 million this year.

The district administration has proposed that this year’s cuts will be divided between the schools and the central office, $5.6 million or 2.2 percent of school site expenditures and $8.6 million or 11.6 percent of the central office budget.

The administration is proposing that each school community will decide what to cut.

Published November 2, 2017, courtesy of the Oakland Post

 

Oak Knoll Project Passes Council Committee, Goes to City Council for Approval

Oak Knoll project rendering.

By Ken Epstein

The City Council Community and Economic Development (CED) Committee this week approved zoning changes and development permits for a 918-unit, market-rate housing project at the site of the old Oak Knoll Naval Hospital in the Oakland hills at 8750 Mountain Blvd.

Members of CED voting in favor of the project were Councilmembers Larry Reid, Annie Campbell Washington and Lynette Gibson McElhaney.

Councilmember Noel Gallo voted no.

Already approved Oct. 18 by the city’s Planning Commission, the development will now go to full City Council for discussion and approval.

The 72,000-square-foot development would feature neighborhood-serving commercial uses, restoration of the creek that runs through the site and moving part of the historical Oak Knoll club house to a central location to accommodate commercial and home owners’ association uses.

The remainder of the 183-acre site would be utilized as parks, open space, bicycle and walking paths and streets.

Of those who spoke in favor of the deal at the Tuesday morning, meeting were members of Oak Knoll neighborhood associations, the Oakland Metropolitan Chamber of Commerce, leaders of the Laborers Union, real estate development groups and organizations supporting job training programs for Oakland residents.

Opponents included most construction unions, the Alameda Labor Council and residents and members of neighborhood associations representing East Oakland areas, such as Toler Heights, below Highway 580.

Speaking to opponents of the project, Councilmember Reid said, “This plan is not perfect, but (real estate developer) SunCal really wanted to do something in the city of Oakland.

“We have had hundreds of meetings on the future on that piece of dirt. It’s not the best (deal) but it is something we can live with.”

According to the development’s supporters, SunCal is backing apprenticeship training programs for Oakland residents run by Bishop Bob Jackson’s Men of Valor and Cypress Mandela Training Center.

The homes and the retail development will also bring in millions of dollars millions of dollars in tax revenue and provide thousands of construction jobs, supporters said.

Responding to union critics, SunCal says it has an agreement is with the union that is working on its part of the project – building the neighborhood. Other developers will build the units, and labor is free to negotiate a Project Labor Agreement (PLA) with them, according to SunCal.

In addition, the project will consist of market rate units, but over a period of 6-8 years, the development will by law pay $20 million in impact fees, which can be used in Oakland for affordable housing., according to supporters.

Couincilmember Gallo, who represents the Fruitvale District, explained that he voted against the project because it does not guarantee living wage jobs and its homes are not affordable by most Oaklanders.

“The reality is where I live, they are not market rate people. On a daily basis, they are trying to make ends meet,” he said.

“Look of people who are being displaced. Some are ending up on the street. I want to make sure that those who are currently here in Oakland have an opportunity to stay here, “he said.

According to Jeff Levin of East Bay Housing Organizations (EBHO), the units will cost on average $884,000, which will require an annual income of about $218,000. A 20 percent down payment would mean buys would have to pay $177,000 upfront.

Published November 1, 2017