Archive for May, 2018

Attorney and Activist Don Hopkins, 81

Congresswoman Barbara Lee and Don Hopkins.

By Post Staff

Donald Ray Hopkins, an attorney activist who worked for civil rights causes and served as district representative for Congressman Ronald V. Dellums for 22 years, died on April 22 after a year-long illness. He was 81.

Born on Nov. 14, 1936 in Tulsa Oklahoma, Hopkins was the fifth of six children of Stacy and Carrie McGlory Hopkins. He graduated from Sumnet High School in Kansas City, Kansas, where he was a member of the National Honor Society and class president.

Hopkins graduated Phi Beta Kappa from the University of Kansas in 1958 with a Bachelor of Arts in Political Science.  He went on to earn a master’s degree and a law degree from UC Berkeley.

He also attended Harvard Law School where he received an LLM focused on international law.

In New York City, he worked the NAACP Legal Defense and Education Fund on a number of civil rights cases, learning the value of close communication with communities and constituencies in order to advance equal rights agenda.

Using those skills, he worked from 1972 to 1994 as a district representative for Congressman Ronald V. Dellums, who represented the 8th Congressional District in the House of Representatives. In his position, Hopkins was the person constituents sought to help them take their issues and concerns to Congress.

Preceding him in death were his father Stacy E. Hopkins Sr., his mother Carrie McGlory Hopkins and his brother Rev. Stacy E. Hopkins Jr.

He is survived by his daughter and granddaughter, four siblings: Leo S. Hopkins, Richard M. Hopkins, Dr. Betty G. Hopkins-Mason, Anita J. Hopkins-Walker, their families and his loving and devoted companion Maria Bryant.

Published May 27, ,2018, courtesy of the Oakland Post

‘BBQing While Black’ Leader Kenzie Smith to Become Park Commissioner

Kenzie Smith (left) and Onsayo Abram at last Sunday’s “BBQing While Black” event at Lake Merritt in Oakland.

By Post Staff

Councilmember-at-Large Rebecca Kaplan announced this week that she is recommending Kenzie Smith, one the two men who was racially targeted for “BBQing while Black” at Lake Merritt, for a seat on Oakland Parks and Recreation Advisory Commission.

“He has a deep commitment to the Oakland community and a track record of public service and philanthropy,” she wrote in a statement that was released Tuesday.

Before the appointment is final, Kaplan’s recommendation must go to the mayor for approval.

Smith is a lifelong Oakland resident, community activist and founder of Dope Era Magazine. He wants to start a nonprofit to hire young people during the summer, including keeping the Lake Merritt park clean.

The Advisory Commission consists of 11 members appointed by the mayor and council. As a member of the commission, Smith would help make sure “regulations for use of our parks are clear and fair,” said Kaplan.

Smith is looking forward to an opportunity to make policy for the parks. He told the East Bay Express, “I’m not going to let someone else have a ‘BBQ Becky.’”

Published May 27, 2018, courtesy of the Oakland Post

City Leaders Determined to Fight Against Coal Terminal

One of the many protests against the coal terminal held at the offices of developer Phil Tagami.

By Sarah Carpenter

City leaders are pledging to continue to fight for “No Coal in Oakland” after a federal judge’s recent decision overturned the City of Oakland’s ban on shipping or handling coal in the city.

U.S. District Judge Vince Chhabria on May 15 ruled in developer Phil Tagami’s favor in his lawsuit against the City for breaching its contract by instituting the ban.

“This is a fight for environmental justice and equity. Oakland’s most vulnerable communities have unfairly suffered the burden of pollutants and foul air for too long. We will continue to fight this battle on all fronts,” said Mayor Libby Schaaf.

Many City Council members, who voted unanimously to ban coal in 2016, are saying they will continue their efforts to keep coal out of Oakland.

Tagami’s project, the Oakland Bulk & Oversized Terminal (OBOT), intends to ship coal, petroleum coke, and other commodities overseas through a new terminal at the site of the currently unused Oakland Army Base.

Oaklanders pushed back, concerned about potential health risks and poor air quality that could be caused by coal dust in West Oakland—already the area most affected by pollution in the city.

The City responded the next year with a ban on the shipping and handling of coal in Oakland. Judge Chhabria’s ruling determined that the City did not have enough evidence of health risks to warrant the ban, which breached the original contract. In his 37-page decision, Chhabria stated:

“Given the record before it, the City Council was not even equipped to meaningfully guess how well these controls would mitigate emissions.”

Councilmember Dan Kalb, who co-authored the coal ban with Schaaf, said he was appalled by Chhabria’s decision.

“There is no doubt that the scientific evidence shows there are substantial safety risks and health impacts of handling and moving nine million tons of dirty coal each and every year into and out of Oakland,” he said.

No Coal in Oakland, the activist organization that sprouted in response to OBOT’s plan to ship coal, released a long-winded statement on May 16 concerning Chhabria’s ruling.

In the statement, the group acknowledged that the ruling was fact-based. It also criticized Chhabria for his lack of legislative leadership in combating climate change. During the trial, Chhabria said it was “ridiculous to suggest that this one operation resulting in the consumption of coal in other countries will, in the grand scheme of things, pose a substantial global warming-related danger to people in Oakland.”

The City could appeal the decision, but activists and news commentators raise concerns that this course of action would be costly and likely unsuccessful.

The ruling specifically found that the City had breached its contract with OBOT by instituting the unsubstantiated coal ban after the agreement was made.

The City can still issue a new ordinance, which would have to be backed up by legal standards of “substantial evidence,” that the ordinance would prevent “substantial health risks.”

Councilmember Kalb has expressed his determination to continue resisting coal at the terminal. “I will do everything in my power to stand against attacks on the health and safety of our East Bay communities. The City should do whatever it takes within the law to make sure this coal terminal never gets built. This is critical to protect our residents, our workers, and our planet,” he said.

Councilmembers Rebecca Kaplan and Abel Guillén have also voiced their support of the fight against coal in Oakland. Tagami has not responded to a request for comment.

Published May 26, 2018, courtesy of the Oakland Post

Open Letter: Councilmember Kaplan Challenges Sale of Public Land for Charter School

 Mayor and City Administrator Don’t Want a Public Lands Policy, Says Kaplan

By Rebecca Kaplan

The Community and Economic Development (CED) committee of the Oakland City Council voted two weeks ago to forward to the full council the sale of public land at Derby Street in the Fruitvale District for development of a charter school.  The sale was on the City Council agenda last week but was withdrawn without explanation. In response to the proposal, Councilmember Rebecca Kaplan sent the administration and the mayor the following letter:

Rebecca Kaplan

I am writing to you to share questions and concerns about your proposal to sell a parcel of the City of Oakland’s public land, which is zoned for multi-family residential, to sell for a charter school, without public lands policies regarding jobs and other standards.

During the administration’s prior presentation on the Derby St. parcel, in 2015, you stated that “The new development could also produce over a hundred new affordable housing units for the residents of Oakland.”  In addition, your 2015 report, both verbally and in writing, stated that the negotiations would be for a lease, not a sale.

Now, you have brought forward a proposal to sell the land for a dramatically increased size charter school, not housing, despite our large and growing housing crisis.

In addition, I am concerned about the public lands policy effort.  As you may know, there have been extensive meetings over the past two years to develop a public lands policy.

When I proposed last year to adopt a policy setting certain standards for use of public lands, and for quality jobs, local hiring, and other public benefits for public lands, the administration requested that my proposal not move forward, due to your claim that there was already a public lands policy development process underway covering many of the same topics.

I have been participating in many of those meetings now, and, in recent weeks, the administration has stated that you do not intend to bring forward or propose a public lands policy, for how public land would be used for the public good, local jobs, and other benefits, despite extensive work by a broad community coalition to develop such policies.

Instead, you have suggested a listing and case-by-case basis.  And now, in the absence of either a policy, or of the strategy list the administration says you will bring forward, we are being asked to go ahead with the sale of this particular piece of public land, with no analysis or understanding of how it fits into a public lands policy or strategy.

In addition, it contains no mention of quality jobs, local hiring, ban the box, or other community benefits.

Furthermore, while this decision would have substantial impact on the overall school system in Oakland, we have received letters from OUSD leaders, stating that they have not been consulted on this decision, and expressing further concerns as well.

Please clarify:

  • Why is affordable housing not included?
  • What jobs policies or other community benefits will be included?
  • Why is the administration retracting your prior commitment to a public lands policy? On whose direction was this decision made?
  • What consultations on this decision have taken place? With whom? Has OUSD been included in these discussions?
  • What is your analysis of the potential impact of the proposed project, including the impact on surrounding schools?
 Published May 26, 2018, courtesy of the Oakland Post

Mayoral Candidate Cat Brooks Pledges to “Turn the Tables” on Business as Usual in Oakland

Cat Brooks

By Ken Epstein

“It’s time to turn the tables” on the developer- and financier-led displacement agenda that currently runs Oakland, says mayoral candidate Cat Brooks, radio host, actor and justice activist, who wants the city to move in the direction of utilizing its resources to solve homelessness, promote education, build housing that regular people can afford and spend public safety dollars to eliminate conditions that give rise to crime.

Brooks formally kicked off her campaign May 1 on Radio Station KPFA, speaking to Brian Edwards-Tiekert, who until that morning was her co-host on the “Up-Front” driver-time public affairs program on the station.

Taking at least a six-month leave of absence from KPFA, she is focusing on organizing the majority of Oaklanders “who can’t afford to purchase power in City Hall,” she said in the interview.

Win or lose, she hopes her campaign will build “a base of 10,000 … to push to save the soul of the City of Oakland,” Brooks said.

She said her campaign will promote the voices of the unhoused, immigrants and poor people, “who in the last four years have borne the brunt of a neoliberal mayor who has put development over people.”

Central to her program is dealing with “the housing crisis like the epidemic that it is,” mustering the city-wide commitment to turning around the alarming rise in homelessness and uncontrolled rent increases that are displacing tens of thousands of Oaklanders.

“We need to deal with the unhoused crisis in this city like a bomb dropped in the middle of our city – because it did, a gentrification bomb,” she said, calling for the city to build 4,000 affordable units.

“We have to take a stand on the side of our most vulnerable residents,” she continued.

Not a fan of solving crime by increasing policing, Brooks said, “We should actively be walking away from militarized policing and incarceration.”

She said that police funding drains almost 50 percent of the city’s budget, including $30 million a year in unauthorized overtime. A significant amount of that money can be redirected to solve the city’s social problems, she said.

People in Oakland rightfully want to be safe, but the current approach is not working well, she said, adding that there are many car break-ins and burglaries, and the police department’s homicide solve rate is only a little over 30 percent.

Rather than increasing the numbers of police, the city can increase public safety by hiring “community ambassadors,” “training (people) for community safety,” she said, recognizing that “police should not be the solution to every single issue.”

“At the same time, (we should be) reforming and holding accountable the Oakland Police Department, finally for the first time in that department’s history,” said Brooks.

For information on Cat Brooks’ campaign, go to www.catbrooksforoakland.com/

Published May 12, 2018, courtesy of the Oakland Post

Councilmembers Not in a Rush to Hold City Accountable for Late Payments to small Businesses and Nonprofits

By Post Staff

A number of speakers at this week’s meeting of the City Council’s Finance Committee asked councilmembers to handle an urgent issue: the failure to hold the city accountable for late payments on contracts, jeopardizing the nonprofits and businesses that depend on the city to honor its agreements.

But following a discussion, councilmembers voted to postpone examining possible solutions to the longstanding problem until September, after the council’s summer vacation.

At present, a local ordinance – passed in 2007 – requires the city to pay vendors a penalty if they are not paid within 20 business days. However, the city interprets the law to mean that it pays only interest, not penalties that would compensate the vendors for expenses they incur for the city’s failure to pay on time.

A report was discussed at Tuesday’s committee meeting at the request of Councilmember Noel Gallo, which shows that while late payments to contractors are a small percentage of the total number of invoices the city pays each year, the numbers have been growing steadily.

“There is a steady increase in the number of late payments,” said Councilmember Abel Guillén, who chairs the committee. He pointed out that the report shows there were 141 late invoices in 2013 and 609 in 2017.

Annie Campbell Washington

A statement by Councilmember Rebecca Kaplan, read by one of her staff members, emphasized the importance of putting teeth into the law.

“This was a hard -ought victory and is now the law in Oakland. It should be taken seriously,” Kaplan said in the statement.

“The failure to pay on time can cause a business or nonprofit to go out of business or be evicted if they can’t pay their rent on time. It can cause workers to be laid off or have their own pay delayed and have ripple effects in service reduction.

“We enacted a prompt payment policy and intended that it would include penalties that would make the policies meaningful, to make sure the policy is truly implemented.”

While the report does describe “token amounts” of interest that is paid, interest if not the same as penalty, Kaplan said.

Richard de Jauregui of the Oakland Private Industry Council (PIC) told council members that small businesses and nonprofits face significant penalties, not only interest, if their rent or payroll taxes are paid even one day late.

As an example, he said that if a business was paid 1 million late for one year, it would receive about $7,300 in penalties from the city.

“(But) the damages to the business (would be) in excess of $75,000,” he said.

Because the issue was only on the agenda as an informational item, the main debate at committee was when to reschedule for possible action.

Finance Director Katano Kasaine proposed scheduling the item for next year after her department had more data.

Councilmembers Annie Campbell Washington and Abel Guillén ignored Councilmember Gallo, who wanted to schedule the discussion in June, instead scheduling the discussion for the end of September.

Published May 12, 2018, courtesy of the Oakland Post

 

Congress of Neighborhoods Says Mayor’s Illegal Dumping Proposal is “Insufficient”

“The time for partial solutions and unmet promises is over,” says community activist

Trash in East Oakland

By Post staff

Facing mounting pressure to solve the illegal dumping crisis in flatland neighborhoods, Oakland Mayor Libby Schaaf has announced a proposal that community members say is “insufficient and overly focused on enforcement as a solution.”

The East Oakland Congress of Neighborhoods raised the demands April 16 at an angry community meeting of 600 flatland residents, where the mayor and city council members spoke.

“The issue of illegal dumping is an issue of access and equity,” says Chris Jackson, Congress leader from District 7. “Equity is everyone getting what they need to thrive. We expect elected leaders to support all of our demands, not the punitive ones they like best.”

Congress is demanding comprehensive solutions to what they see as a public health emergency: One new Public Works crew focused on illegal dumping, three litter enforcement officers, better lighting in chronic dumping areas, a zone-based clean-up system focused on the hotspots rather than simply reacting to complaints.

Responding, Mayor Schaaf and District 2 Councilmember Abel Guillén on Thursday announced plans to hire three litter enforcement officers. However, residents are continuing to press the mayor to meet all of the demands.

Councilmembers Desley Brooks, Annie Campbell-Washington, Noel Gallo, Abel Guillén and Rebecca Kaplan have all agreed to find funding for the demands in the mid-cycle budget review process, which occurs in June.

“We pay taxes just like residents in the hills. We want to see the same level of city services here in the flatlands,” says Congress leader Evangelina Lara of District 2. “We expect all of our demands to be met in the mid-cycle budget review process, as was promised on April 16. We intend to make sure that city officials fulfill their commitments to the community. The time for partial solutions and unmet promises is over.”

“The community’s collective work pushing city officials is creating a reaction,” says Congress leader Manuel Arias of District 5. “We will continue to organize—our children, elders, parents, all residents deserve better. No one’s children should have to walk over garbage to go to school.”

In March, the Congress of Neighborhoods held a “trash tour” that began at Mayor Schaaf’s home and visited trash hot spots in Oakland flatlands, designed to show elected leaders the difference between how the city takes care of hills and flatland streets.

Published May 11, 2018, courtesy of the Oakland Post

 

“It Makes No Sense to Sell Public Land,” Say Local Residents

 

Attending this week’s Rules and Legislation Committee to support a moratorium on the sale of public property were ( L to R): John Jones III, Kitty Kelly Epstein, James Vann, Gay Plair Cobb and Cathy Leonard. Photo by Ken Epstein.

By Post Staff

The Oakland Post Community Assembly is asking the City Council to adopt a 90-day moratorium “on the sale of any public land until the council passes a policy that reflects the will of the people of Oakland in regard on how public land should be used and whether it should be sold or leased.”

“The only exception to the moratorium would occur if and when a proposal was made to use a piece of land by lease for deeply affordable public housing,” according to the proposal submitted to Thursday’s meeting of the city’s Rules and Legislation Committee by members of the Post Salon Community Assembly.

According to the proposal for the moratorium, which was passed unanimously by the Salon at its April 29 meeting, “These public lands are the most likely way to create genuinely affordable housing, and very, very little affordable housing is being built.”

Reports indicate that the city owns 50 parcels that are considered suitable for affordable housing and capable of accommodating over 7,300 new housing units. Yet as of December 2017, Oakland has 20,000 market-rate units under construction and only 1,500 affordable units that are being built.

Kitty Kelly Epstein, speaking for the Post Salon, asked members of the Rules Committee to place the moratorium on the City Council agenda.

“The administration seems to have adopted its own policy to sell property at will to private developers, without transparency,” she said,

Until the city adopts a policy, city staff should stop selling the public’s property, she said.

“We’ve been talking about this (issue) for a long time, but in the meantime the city continues to sell public property,” said James Vann of the Post Salon.

John Jones III said he was a member of the Citywide Anti Displacement Network, which has been meeting with city staff for a year and a half on a public land policy.

“The desire of the city is to sell all public land at market rate value. This is not an accident – this is really their intention,” he said.

In addition, he said, city staff proposes to use 40 percent of the profits from the sale of land for affordable housing.

The Post Salon is working with Councilmember Rebecca Kaplan’s staff to write a formal moratorium resolution, which will be submitted to the council within the next few days.

Published May 11, 2018, courtesy of the Oakland Post

Council Committee Approves Sale of Public Land to Charter School

Public hearing will be held at Tuesday’s City Council meeting

Activists say the proposed 625-student charter school would drain students from existing nearby schools, such as those at the César Chávez Education Center, located at 2825 International Blvd. in the Fruitvale District.

By Ken Epstein

The City’s Community and Economic Development (CED) voted unanimously to approve the sale of a publicly owned parcel of land for a K-8 charter school in the Fruitvale District that community activists say would compete with and undermine nearby public schools.

Councilmembers Noel Gallo, Annie Campbell Washington and Lynette Gibson McElhaney voted in favor of the sale, which now goes to the City Council for a public hearing next Tuesday.

The school, Aspire Eres Charter Academy, is currently located at 1936 Courtland Ave., near Fremont High School, serving 217 students. The proposed three-story school would serve 620 students, nearly three times as many as attend the existing school.

The 9,000-square-foot property is located on the northwest side of Derby Avenue between East 15th Street and International Blvd, which city staff intends to sell to a private developer for $450,000.

Parents, children and staff at the charter school told city councilmembers they desperately need a larger and more up-to-date space.

“We’re currently in a very cramped, dated facility,” said, Kimi Kean, superintendent of Aspire Public Schools 11 Bay Area campuses.

The sale of the property was already approved by the city’s Planning Commission on April 18.

According city staff, the property must be sold and rather than leased to the developer because of legal requirements connected to the $30 million in funding that the project is receiving from the state.

Opposing the sale of public land to the charter school, school activist Mike Hutchinson said, “Charter schools are in direct competition with our public schools. For every student who goes to charter schools, that (money) doesn’t go to the public school, schools, it goes to the charter school.”

Underscoring the impact of charters on the Oakland Unified School District, a new report released this week says that charters cost OUSD $57.3 million in funding every year. The study, called “Breaking Point: The Cost of Charter Schools for Public School Districts,” was commissioned by In the Public Interest, an Oakland-based think tank.

Furthermore, Hutchinson said, the charter would be located only two blocks away from two elementary schools housed at the Cesar Chavez Education Center, which the school district and the city spent tens of millions of dollars to build.

“This will destroy (those schools),” he said.

Tyler Earl, a legal fellow with Communities for a Better Environment (CBE), said that selling the property to a developer to build a charter school was a violation “in total disregard of the city’s responsibility to properly consider this land for affordable housing.”

“(You are) getting rid of this land without considering the state law (that says) you must first consider affordable housing. This must be done – it’s required by law, and it’s required by city ordinance,” he said.

Published May 10, 2018, courtesy of the Oakland Post

Questions Continue on Fate of Oakland Public Library’s African-American History Books

 

Discarded library books. Photo courtesy of John Jones III’s Facebook page.

By Ken Epstein

Concerns over the erasure and preservation of Black history and culture in Oakland’s public libraries continued to grow this week, as City Administrator Sabrina Landreth explained library policy on discarding books, while District 6 Councilmember Desley Brooks rasied questions on the specifics of the policy and how it is implemented.

Oakland Public Library’s practice of discarding books was brought to public attention last week when community member Assata Olugbala showed up at week’s City Council meeting with an armful books on African American themes that the library had discarded.

One of the emails the Oakland Post received on the subject asked, “How do we protest the discarding of African American books at Oakland Public Library? I am infuriated!”
In a memo dated May 7 to the Oakland City Council, City Administrator Sabrina Landreth wrote:

“Upon research, these particular books, in addition to others, were withdrawn from the Elmhurst Branch Library, having been published between 1990-2007, about 11-28 years ago.
“Books are officially withdrawn periodically to keep the collection responsive to patron needs, to ensure its vitality and usefulness to the community, and to make room for newer materials or newer formats.
“When OPL discards a book, it is typically donated to the local branch of the Friends of the Oakland Public Library.”

In removing books from its 18 branches, Landreth said Oakland follows the guidelines of the American Library Association.

“Oakland librarians are professionals that receive formal training in the care and management of the OPL collection,” she said. “Decisions about what to have in the collection are made by subject specialists at each location based on the needs and interests of the community”

Brooks replied to Landreth in a letter, questioning the policy and seeking information on whether it was followed in this case.

“While your memo responds generally to the concerns raised it doesn’t provide adequate information to make an informed determination that the proper protocols were followed prior to discarding the books,” she wrote.  “This is a serious and extremely troubling issue which warrants a more comprehensive response.”

Further, she wrote, “It is insufficient to say that we follow the American Library Association guidelines. We should revisit a policy which gives the public perception of purging the history and existence of a community. We should make sure that the community is involved in the deselection process. We should also develop a policy to donate discarded books to community and educational institutions.”

Citing OPL policy, Brooks said the library uses statistical reports to analyze whether books are being used by patrons, but “your memo fails to provide sufficient information to determine whether any of this analysis was completed,”

Said Post Publisher Paul Cobb, a former library commissioner, “It is going to be hard for African Americans to support a library tax this year when the Oakland Public Library shows such disregard for   the preservation of Black history information and culture.

“I asked the mayor to resolve this matter, and she said she would look into it, but she has not responded,” said Cobb.

Published May 10, 2018, courtesy of the Oakland Post