Archive for June, 2018

Opinion: We Have a Moral Imperative to Fight for Children Who Have Been Taken From Their Parents

By Cat Brooks

At the U.S.-Mexico Border, thousands of children have been stolen from parents fleeing horrific conditions in their home countries – conditions that have been greatly influenced by US policy and practice.

They risk life and limb and endure horrific conditions in the hope of capturing a sliver of the American “dream”. What greets them instead is an American nightmare.

Cat Brooks

Though mounting public outrage forced Donald Trump to sign an Executive Order to end family separations, thousands of young people remain warehoused in cages with up to 20 children in one cell, too young to comprehend what is happening, where their parents are, or what is coming next.

What’s more, ending family separations just means holding families in prisons together.  That is not an acceptable answer either. Incarceration is not Immigration reform.

Losing a parent as a child is devastating. I know. When I was eight years old, my father’s struggle with substance abuse landed him in prison.

I knew something significant in my life was shifting, but I wasn’t really clear about what it meant until my aunt said to my granny, “we need to figure out when we’re going visit Leonard … but not you Cat … he doesn’t want you to see him in there.” My body went numb, tears welled and devastation took over. I had no say. No power. He was just gone.

Of course, there were phone calls and letters, but my daddy’s arms could not be felt through the telephone. To this day, when I replay that moment with my aunt, tears come and my throat constricts. It’s difficult to breathe.

At least I had my mother’s comfort and the safety of sleeping in my own bed.

The children is US detention facilities, however, sleep on mats in cages filled with other youths who have been torn from their families. Some of these children, particularly those who speak languages indigenous to areas south of our border, are unable to communicate with those caged beside them.

And it is policy that the detained children cannot be consoled when they cry. Phone calls are being planned to connect children to parents, but officials don’t know  which facilities to call.

What is happening in this country is inhumane. Unacceptable. Disgusting.

As a descendant of slaves, deep within my DNA lies the emotional memory of our children being ripped from our breasts and sold on auction blocks. The trauma lives on and manifests itself in generation after generation of Black families.

This country is creating an entirely new generation of traumatized human beings who will be scarred for the rest of their lives.

We have a moral imperative to not sit idly by as this President enacts programs that resemble chattel slavery. We do not have the luxury to think that this does not impact our communities. We are obligated to scream loudly about human rights violations and to create a groundswell of resistance.

The word “Resist” trended across social media when Trump was elected. Now is the time to put words into action. Trump and political pundits say this is the law. Unjust laws are made to be broken, ignored, violated and rebuked.  This is the history of resistance in America.

What can you do? Donate to an organization doing the work. Head to the border and stand in solidarity. Talk to every neighbor on your block. Use social media platforms to amplify your voice. Get busy. Stand for the people. Do it right now. Lives are on the line. Justice is on the line. Humanity is on the line.

See you in the streets.

Cat Brooks is a candidate for mayor of Oakland.

Published June 30, 2018, courtesy of the Oakland Post

Community Action Needed Against Illegal Dumping and Litter

Illegal dumping in Oakland

By Desley Brooks

Litter has become a major problem in Oakland. Throughout the city you see the devastating effects of illegally abandoned construction waste and garbage. It blights our streets and parks, impacts our health and safety, and is a disgrace to everyone who calls Oakland home.

Despite my advocacy and the work of many volunteers, our city services still don’t have the capacity to meet this challenge. Between 2011 and 2016, calls to report illegal dumping increased 129 percent. The old, complaint-driven model is inadequate. We are reaching crisis levels, and something needs to be done.

Last week we finished the budget process.  One victory was the City Council voted to increase funding to fight illegal dumping, including:

  • $85,000 for a pilot program that will employ unsheltered individuals to help clean our streets;
  • $1 million dedicated to sanitation, health, and hygiene services;
  • $452,415 for three litter enforcement officers.

In total, approximately $1.4 million will be spent to fight illegal dumping. While this is a good start, it’s not enough.

In my district, I spearheaded an innovative pilot program to address illegal dumping. Instead of following the typical complaint-driven process, we organized a rapid response team that proactively removed litter from wherever they found it in their designated zone.

This program made a visible difference while it was active, and now that it has ended we can see the problem getting worse again. This pilot program was effective and cost-efficient, collecting more waste per man-hour than regular garbage trucks.

I asked the administration what it would take to ramp up this program and make it citywide – they estimated it would cost $3 million. After seeing how effective this program was in my district, I know what a huge impact this program could have on our city.

I was gratified that the Council voted to fund a partial expansion of the program – but one three-person crew just isn’t enough. I’m in this for the long term and want to deliver long term solutions.

This problem affects everyone in Oakland, and it’s going to take broad support to make change. Oaklanders deserve clean streets. Oaklanders deserve to take pride in their neighborhoods.

Oaklanders deserve a city that responds to their needs. I will continue to advocate for a proactive, geographic program to address the crisis because I believe that it’s the best option we have to tackle the problem.

I will keep leading monthly cleanups in my district and encourage everyone to take part in a community cleanup in your neighborhood. Together we can keep Oakland the beautiful place that we know it deserves to be.

There are many ways you can help:

Organize or join a community cleanup; “Adopt a Spot” or set up a free bulky drop off event;

Report illegal dumping by calling 311.

If you are concerned about this problem and want to get involved, please email me at desleyb@gmail.com or you can call my office at (510) 238-7006.

Desley Brooks is the District 6 representative on the Oakland City Council.

Published June 29. 2018, courtesy of the Oakland Post

Mayor Schaaf May Have Violated the State Campaign Law

Peggy Moore (left) and Mayor Libby Schaaf

 

By Post Staff

Same election tactic resulted in $2,500 fine last week for her former staffer, Peggy Moore

Mayor Libby Schaaf may have recently committed the same state campaign law violation that resulted in a fine for her former staff member when she ran for a seat on the Oakland City Council.

Peggy Moore, who ran unsuccessfully against Councilmember-at-Large Rebecca Kaplan in 2016, was fined $2,500 last week by the Fair Political Practice Commission (FPPC), the state’s political watchdog agency, for failing to properly identify who sent two mass mailings to voters before the Nov. 8, 2016 election, according to a report published by the East Bay Times.

Moore’s two campaign emails were sent to about 200 potential voters in August 2016  inviting them “to participate in a short, confidential survey about local issues in Oakland.” However, the emails did not list who paid for the survey, in violation of a section of the Political Reform Act.

Mayor Schaaf’s campaign, utilizing the same firm and campaign consultant hired by Moore, this month conducted a similar poll to voters, without identifying who paid for it.
This campaign tactic is called a “push poll,” which according to Wikipedia “is an interactive marketing technique, most commonly employed during political campaigning, in which an individual or organization attempts to manipulate or alter prospective voters’ views/beliefs under the guise of conducting an opinion poll.”

The poll was conducted by EMC Research on behalf of both Moore’s and Schaaf’s political campaigns. According to last week’s FPPC report, “The seriousness of the violations is heightened by the number of mass mailings, which evidences a pattern of non-disclosure,” according to the FPPC ruling, quoted by the East Bay Times. “However, respondents do not have a prior history of other violations of the act.”

Councilmember Kaplan, who had filed the complaint against Moore’s campaign, said the survey sent out by Mayor Schaaf’s re-election campaign did not indicate who paid for it.  Both campaigns used the same campaign consultant, Ace Smith of SCN Strategies.

“They committed the same crime again,” Kaplan said. “The FPPC is saying this behavior is absolutely illegal, and it’s the exact same behavior they just did again.” By the Oakland Post’s deadline neither Moore, Mayor Schaaf nor their campaign consultants had responded to a request for comments.

Published June 29, 2018 courtesy of the Oakland Post

Backers of “Public Land for Public Good” Challenge City’s Commitment to Market-rate Housing

 

Supporters of utilizing all public land for community benefit, especially for affordable housing, speak Tuesday at the council’s Community and Economic Development (CED) committee. Photos by Ken Epstein.

By Ken Epstein

A citywide coalition of community organizations and nonprofits stepped up pressure this week on the Oakland City Council and the Mayor Libby Schaaf’s administration to adopt a policy that prioritizes “public land for public good,” calling for building affordable housing rather than continuing the city’s business-as-usual backroom deals that force out Oakland residents to make room for market-rate, high-rise development projects.

At Tuesday’s crowded meeting of the council’s Community and Economic Development (CED) Committee, councilmembers heard three proposals that will that will be debated in coming months as the council grapples with possible future restrictions on public land sales.

However, perhaps indicating their attitude on the issues, members of the CED committee was unwilling to pass a resolution this week that would have required the city to place a moratorium on the sale of public land while the council debates and adopts a public lands policy.

By blocking new sales of public land, the moratorium would have increased the incentive for the council to adopt a binding lands policy and would have prevented the city from selling off all the most valuable parcels of land before a policy was finalized.

Councilmembers Lynette Gibson McElhaney and Annie Campbell Washington opposed the moratorium. Only Noel Gallo supported it.

But Councilmembers did agree to bring the moratorium back to the next CED meeting on July 17.

Towanda Sherry

One of the speakers in favor of the moratorium was Towanda Sherry of the Beloved Community Action Network. “We are being sold down the river. Every time, we turn around, land is being given away or sold off. We need to put a halt to it right now,” she said.

“We need to have a moratorium because we need to talk. We need to seriously talk so the people’s voice is heard,” she said.

Councilmember McElhaney said she opposed the moratorium because she was unsure of its legality. She said she wanted to hear an opinion of the City Attorney in closed session.

However, the City Attorney had already signed off on the legality the resolution, and the City Attorney’s representative at CED said she was unsure that it was appropriate to address issues about the moratorium in closed session.

One of the three proposals was developed by the city administration, while one alternative was presented by Councilmembers Rebecca Kaplan and Abel Guillén. The third was a “People’s proposal” developed by the Citywide Anti-Displacement Network.

The staff proposal would sell some public land to market-rate developers in order to raise the money to pay for as many as 746 affordable units. The administration has decided it does not want a policy with teeth but instead seeks to pass a “Public Lands Strategy,” which allows the administration the “flexibility” to ignore its strategy when it wishes.

The staff strategy also opposes creating a community advisory board to provide input and oversight on public land sales.

Speaking for the administration, Mark Sawicki, head of the city’s Department of Economic Workforce Development, said, “One percent of the (property) is where we have focused our strategy,” explaining that only 20 of the city’s many parcels are suitable for housing.

Vanessa Riles

The numbers of units that can be built on these sites are limited by zoning and other regulations, he said, and staff is proposing that 14 of the 20 sites be utilized for affordable housing, while six be set aside for market-rate housing and commercial development.

Vanessa Riles of East Bay Housing Organizations (EBHO) spoke for the “People’s proposal” developed by the Citywide Anti-displacement Network, which is a comprehensive statement of community values, calls for 100 percent of public land to be used for affordable housing and making city decisions with the full-on inclusion of community voices, particularly African Americans and others who have been most severely impacted by the housing crisis.

“The Citywide Anti-Displacement Network is concerned about the astronomical rate of displacement of individual families in Oakland and the rapid rate of development without transparency, accountability or community engagement,” she said.

The proposal developed by Councilmembers Kaplan and Guillén proposal would require that an average of 50 percent affordable housing be built on all sites and 100 percent of land sale proceeds go to an Affordable Housing Trust Fund, which would be overseen by a standing Community Advisory Committee.

This proposal also would require a Project Labor Agreement (PLA) with construction unions on large projects that have an estimated cost of at least $40 million.

Kaplan said she supports sending the labor proposal to the city’s Department of Race and Equity for analysis before it is adopted.

“We have an opportunity to use our land for public good, both for what is put on it and also who gets hired, who gets contacts and how we make sure there are decent jobs that benefit our local community,” she said.

“In a time of gentrification, cities can use can use public land as a resource, in addressing high demand for affordable housing and public services to benefit low-income residents who face displacement or even homelessness,” said Sarah Ting, a member of Councilmember Guillén’s staff.

“It’s critical that the way we use public land not exacerbate displacement,” she said.

Published June 29, 2018, courtesy of the Oakland Post

 

Opinion: City Attorney Should Not Be Allowed to Undermine Police Commission

 

Oakland police

By Larry White, Attorney

Oakland’s City Council is poised to enact an enabling ordinance that would fill in the gaps in Measure LL, which created the Oakland Police Commission and the Civilian Police Review Agency and that was approved by 83 percent of the city’s voters.Our new Police Commission is one of the strongest and most independent civilian oversight bodies in the country. The City Council will take a vote on July 10 that could affirm that independence—or undermine it.

Larry White

The Coalition for Police Accountability drafted the original City Charter amendment and gave it to the City Council, which made changes and put it on the ballot in 2016.

Unfortunately, the messy process of amending the Charter—the back and forth of compromise and re-drafting the measures, as well as the influence of the police union—resulted in language wasn’t always crystal clear.
At least one important item was left out completely—a civilian Inspector General of the Police Department. Another matter was left murky: can the Commission have its own lawyer, or must its lawyer be under the thumb of the City Attorney.

Although Measure LL twice calls for a “non-City Attorney legal advisor,” City Attorney Barbara Parker says that another section of the Charter overrules the voters’ wishes and makes her the Commission’s legal advisor.
That’s a misreading of the Charter, which gives her office the right to represent the Commission in lawsuits against it but does not require the Commission to request legal advice from her.

Oakland’s Police Department has been under the supervision of a federal judge since 2003. In 2015, Judge Thelton Henderson commissioned attorney Edward Swanson to report on why so many Oakland police officers accused of misconduct were never punished.

Swanson found that the City usually lost the arbitrations that are police officers’ last step in discipline.  “Time and again, the City wrote checks to settle civil lawsuits arising out of police misconduct, only to see the City Attorney’s Office fail to uphold discipline for that very same misconduct,” he wrote.

The City Attorney’s office, Swanson charged, failed to prepare cases, delayed in assigning cases to outside counsel, didn’t select outside counsel with police discipline expertise, and failed to prosecute cases vigorously.
The City Attorney’s office didn’t get evidence ahead of time, rarely if ever called civilian witnesses, and didn’t use outside expert witnesses.

Swanson concluded that “the same problems arose again and again—vague policies, incomplete investigations, unprepared attorneys—with nothing done to ensure that the problems were corrected before they arose again.”

Since then, the City Attorney’s office, under intense scrutiny, has somewhat improved its performance. Swanson was still worried. Eventually, Court supervision will end. “The question, then, is how to make sure that when the Court and the key individuals in the City working on discipline have moved on, the discipline system will not revert to its former, ineffectual state,” wrote Swanson.

That was written before the November 2016 vote that created the Oakland Police Commission.  The Commission was designed by people who believed that the City of Oakland had failed for many years to effectively oversee the police and that none of the City’s existing institutions were capable of doing so.

The Commission’s sole mission is to oversee the Police Department, to promote constitutional policing that is free of racial bias and to make sure that police misconduct is punished effectively.

Court supervision, even if it lasts for another decade, is temporary. The Police Commission is here to stay.
The battle for effective civilian oversight goes on.

When the City Council considers approving an ordinance with a lawyer and an Inspector General reporting to the Police Commission, we hope they will heed the wish of the voters and make the Police Commission as independent and effective as it was designed to be.

The Council should also go one step further: put on this year’s ballot a clean-up to Measure LL that settles these matters once and for all.

Attorney Larry White is a member of the Oakland Coalition for Police Accountability.  He served as a Senior Staff Counsel for the California Department of Insurance from 1992 to 2013. His responsibilities included reviewing and commenting on dozens of pieces of legislation every year as well as drafting new legislation and regulations.

Published June 28, 2018, courtesy of the Oakland Post

 

End of School Year Letter from OUSD Supt. Kyla Johnson-Trammell

Oakland Supt. Kyla Johnson-Trammell, second from left. Photo by Ken Epstein

Oakland Supt. Kyla Johnson-Trammell, second from left. Photo by Ken Epstein.

By Supt. Kyla Johnson-Trammell

As I wrap up my first year as superintendent, I am filled with resolve and optimism for the future.

The collective efforts of our staff and the community to keep students at the center of everything is what drives me to help move the District forward through tough financial times.

I am confident that the steps we are taking to process and learn from past mistakes and our work to improve our accountability and budget forecasting systems are putting us on the right track.

While I know we have more work to do in service of students and families, I am confident about our future because I believe in OUSD.

Our achievements as a District defy the conditions we face every day. Our commitment to providing every Oakland student a high-quality education is first and foremost. We keep proving that we will stop at nothing to prepare our young people for success in college, career and community.

We owe a debt of gratitude to our committed partners, participants in OUSD committees, Oakland voters who helped bring much needed investment to our schools via Measures N, G, and G1 and our existing bond, and our families.

We cannot do this work alone. Here are a few of our accomplishments that show we are headed in the right direction:

  • We are leading the State in our efforts to transform high school experiences through Linked Learning. Seventy-eight percent of OUSD high school students participated in pathways this year. That’s up from 53 percent just two years ago, in 2015-16. This means that the majority of our graduates are leaving the District having participated in relevant work-based learning.
  • Graduation rates continue to rise across the District; we have seen improvement in each of the past three years with an increase of 5 percent total from the class of 2014 to the class of 2016. We’ve also seen meaningful gains in graduation rates among Special Education students, with more work to be done.
  • We are deepening our commitment to Social Emotional Learning (SEL) practices to increase both adult and student engagement, and to foster positive interactions that help our youth express their feelings, manage their actions, and engage in learning.
  • Additionally, this year, more than 300 youth were trained as Restorative Justice (RJ) peer facilitators and more than 48,000 (duplicated) students utilized RJ practices.

The explosive growth and interest in computer science at the middle and high school levels continues, building on the 1,000 percent increase in computer science course enrollment we saw between 2015 and 2017. This year, 3,750 middle and high school students were inspired in computer science courses.

We are taking steps towards bringing our Equity Policy to life. The Office of Equity has built on the nationally recognized model of African American Male Achievement to change the narrative and provide targeted support to students through the African American Female Excellence, Latino/a Student Achievement, and Asian Pacific Islander Student Achievement initiatives.

Strengthening our Student and Family Engagement efforts remains a top priority. We continue to work with families and students to understand critical information about student learning, school budgets, and District-wide initiatives. We are continuously improving the ways we encourage participation in OUSD committees and how we ask for partnership and feedback from students and families.

The first year of the Blueprint for Quality Schools process to increase quality education and address sustainability across OUSD is complete. The multi-year strategy continues next year with our first Cohort of schools and the selection of the second Cohort.

As a Sanctuary District, we continue to welcome and stand behind ALL students, no matter where they were born or the barriers they overcame to be here. We cherish the cultural richness in our District and make no exceptions when it comes to including learners with a wide variety of backgrounds and needs.
All of us can take pride in these accomplishments. Next year and going forward, we will continue to make strides to become a more sustainable and thriving District. By aligning and uniting around our District values of Joy, Integrity, Equity, Excellence, Cultural Responsiveness – and, above all – putting Students First, we will realize our vision. Together.

We look forward to welcoming students back for the first day of school on Monday, August 13.

Published June 27, 2018, courtesy of the Oakland Post

 

“Moratorium on Public Land Sales” Goes to CED Committee, Tuesday, June 26

Representative of the Post Salon community assembly put a moratorium on sale of publicly owned land on the City Council’s agenda. Shown are James Vann (speaking) with Cathy Leonard (right) and Kitty Kelly Epstein. Photo by Ken Epstein.

By Post Staff

The City Council’s Community and Economic Development (CED) Committee will hear a community-initiated proposal for a Moratorium on Public Land Sales at the committee’s next meeting, Tuesday, June 26, 1 p.m. in City Hall Hearing Room 1.

The moratorium originally was proposed at a Post Salon community assembly discussion on April 29 concerning the lack of a city policy to protect public land and utilize it for truly affordable housing.

With the assistance of Councilperson Rebecca Kaplan and her staff, the Salon’s proposal to enact a “180-Day Moratorium of the Sale of Public Land Until the Council Adopts a Public Land Policy” was written as a resolution and placed on the CED Committee agenda.

Despite claiming to have a policy of protecting public lands, “the city has continued to sell valuable public property to private developers and corporations for expensive housing, luxury condominiums, corporate offices, and market-oriented development,” said housing activist James Vann, a spokesman for the Post Salon.

Over the last two years, the city has received numerous complaints from the community that “public land should be used for public good,” and lobbying from non-profit housing organizations that public land should be used for affordable housing to aid the city’s critical affordable housing crisis.

Most recently, Mayor Libby Schaaf and the City Administrator have been pushing the city the sell a parcel of land in the Fruitvale District to private developer to build a charter school.

Published June 24,, 2018, courtesy of the Oakland Post

Open Letter: Support the Right of African Americans to Work on City-funded Construction Projects

 

To Council Members, Mayor, City Staff, and Members of the Public:

Three principles should prevail in upcoming discussions of public land: 1) Democracy and transparency; 2) Racial justice and 3) Housing the current residents of Oakland.

What Should Not Happen:

  • The City should not sell any more public land before discussion and adoption of a policy.
  • The city’s land should not be used for housing affluent non-residents.  It should house current residents of Oakland who are mostly low- or middle-income, or it should be used to serve the needs of those communities.
  • The City should not adopt a Project Labor Agreement (PLA) in a resolution on Public Lands Policy.

Many Oakland residents have never heard of a PLA.   Even the title of the item on the City Council committee agenda which proposes a PLA does not mention that it is being discussed “Subject: Receive A Report on the Public Lands Policy Process and Analysis
from Councilmembers Guillén And Kaplan”

Residents of the city have a right to a detailed, open, well-publicized discussion of proposals about how the expanding amounts of work that their taxes are paying for are being awarded.

African-Americans obtain only nine percent of the work on city-funded construction projects (City of Oakland statistics). African-Americans are 25 percent of the city’s population and the largest percentage of the unemployed and unhoused both nationally and locally.   A project labor agreement could contribute to maintaining that status quo.

What the City Council Should do Instead:

  1.  Immediately enact the ordinance establishing a 180-day moratorium on the sale of public land or until the Council adopts a comprehensive “Public Lands” Policy.  A properly vetted public lands policy will take time.  Harmful sales of public land cannot be allowed in the meantime.
  2. Separate the discussion of jobs policies and lands policy and organize a transparent, understandable, democratic discussion of each.   The Department of Race and Equity should be asked for an equity assessment of proposals

Among items that could be part of a thorough jobs policy discussion:

  • Discuss the differences between a PLA and a public city-adopted jobs policy;
  • Remove discriminatory barriers that result in only 9 percent African-American employment in construction;
  • Prioritize employment of disadvantaged workers;
  • Protect the union rights of employees;
  • Fund job-training and apprenticeship programs that are  geographically accessible to Oakland residents;
  • Living wage requirements;
  • Employ at least 50 percent local Oakland residents;
  • Ban the box to assist the employment of formerly incarcerated;
  • Require a twice-yearly report to Council including trade-by-trade demographic statistics;
  • Increase funding for contract compliance to reflect the expanded work being required by new construction;
  • Incentivize contracting with women and “minority” owned business and other provisions.

Respectfully submitted,

  • OaklandWORKS Alliance (Founding organizations include the West Oakland Environmental Indicators Project (WOEIP), Black Women Organized for Political Action (BWOPA); Oakland Parents Together (OPT); John George Democratic Club; Oakland Branch NAACP; Oakland Native Give Back).
  • Brian Beveridge, Co-Director, West Oakland Environmental Indicators Project
  • Gay Plair Cobb, Member, BWOPA State Board; Executive Board member, NAACP
    Henry Hitz, Oakland Parents Together
  • Robyn Hodges, OaklandWORKS
  • Pastor Anthony Jenkins, Taylor Memorial United Methodist Church
  • Kimberly Mayfield Lynch, Dean of the School of Education, Holy Names University
  • Kitty Kelly Epstein, Professor; Community Assembly of the Post Salon, Host of Education Today on KPFA
  • James Vann, Co-Founder, Oakland Tenants Union and member of the Community Assembly of the Post Salon

(Partial list. Titles for identification only)

Published June 24, 2018, courtesy of the Oakland Post

Community Wins Major Victory for Independent Police Oversight Commission

Police Commission Chair Thomas Smith. Photo courtesy East Bay Express.

By Ken Epstein

The debate at the City Council meeting went on for hours into the night, deciding the fate of the Oakland Police Commission. Would it be allowed to gain strength as an independent body that deliberates issues of police accountability and discipline, in the manner promised by Measure LL when it was passed by 83 percent of the voters in 2016?

Rebecca Kaplan

Or would the commission be required to operate like all other departments and commissions in the city, overseen by the City Attorney and City Administrator, who have not managed to produce a scandal-free police department after 15 years of federal oversight of OPD.

Ultimately, the debate ended Tuesday night in a major victory for the supporters of Measure LL and community members who were determined to hold onto the promise of an independent police commission.

Community members, over 80 of whom signed up to defend the commission, were backed by City Councilmember-at-Large Rebecca Kaplan, who fought hard on the council for their proposal. After two resolutions failed, she backed a resolution that most councilmembers were willing to accept in the face of the determined opposition of both City Attorney Barbara Parker and City Administrator Sabrina Landreth.

The vote was 6-1 in support of the resolution. Kaplan, Desley Brooks, Noel Gallo, Lynette Gibson McElhaney, Dan Kalb and Abel Guillén voted in favor.  Annie Campbell Washington voted “no.”

City Administrator Sabrina Landreth ran the Oakland Police Department for one year after the resignation of successive police chiefs. Photo courtesy of ABC7.

Despite the victory, the conflict might not be settled. The ordinance must pass again at a second reading at the next council meeting, and there are indications that Landreth and Parker may try to influence councilmembers to reverse their position, according to police commission supporters.

The disagreements centered on the content of the enabling ordinance, which will establish the guidelines for how the police commission will function. The commission itself was established by passing an amendment to the City Charter, Measure LL.

The enabling ordinance has been tied up in behind the scenes discussions with city staff for over 18 months since Measure LL’s passage.

Barbara Parker

At the heart of the dispute is whether those who staff the police commission, an inspector general and an attorney, will be hired by and report to the commissioners, who are volunteers, or if the inspector general will report to the city administrator and the attorney to City Attorney Parker.

The whole point of creating the police commission, according to its supporters, was to establish oversight of the police that is independent of the city administration.

Pointing out that the City Administrator Landreth serves as supervisor of the Chief of Police, and the City Attorney represents the police department, police commission supporters argue there is a clear conflict of interest if these two officials are allowed to be in charge of police oversight.

“I feel like a broken record. I keep coming here saying the same thing…We need an independent police commission, and every time I turn around, someone else is trying to undermine that independence,” said Lorelei Bosserman, one of those who spoke in favor of maintaining the independent of the police commission.

“The City Attorney should have no authority over the legal counsel for the police commission. (She) represents the Oakland Police Department. There is an inherent conflict of interest there,” she said.

However, Parker’s legal opinion said the Police Commission’s recommendations for the enabling ordinance the draft ordinance that was already passed once by the City Council are “not in compliance with the City Charter.”

According to Parker in her legal opinion, “The staff who provide services to the commission are under the City Administrator’s personnel jurisdiction because the Charter does not provide an exception to the City Administrator’s jurisdiction.” (For the legal opinions, go the City Attorney’s website: oaklandcityattorney.org and click on the “Opinions and Reports” link.)

Speaking to the council meeting, Chair of the Police Commission Thomas Smith said that in order for the commission to do its job, it needs a “non-City Attorney-appointed legal advisor” and “an inspector general (who) reports directly to the commission—not somewhere else within the chain (of command).”

He said, “When you consider the fact that there is a constant interaction…between the police department and the people who serve the City Attorney, there is a relationship there… Does it have some influence? Is there some bias?”

Councilmember Kaplan, backing the police commissioners’ requests, said, “I think it is very important that we stick to the commitment that was made when this was being written, which is independent oversight.”

“We need independent oversight both so the commission can actually be independent and do the functions it was intended to by the voters and also so the commission can maintain its credibility, so its actions can be trusted and not seen as under the control of anyone who might have a dual role in terms of their management of the police department.”

Councilmember Kalb’s motion to accept the City Attorney’s changes to the enabling ordinance failed to pass, as did Kaplan’s motion to adopt the community coalition’s proposal.

What finally passed was a compromise motion, crafted by Kalb and Kaplan, that contained the two most important provisions of the commission’s recommendations.

Published June 23, 2018, Courtesy of the Oakland Post

Are Democratic Legislators Working for or Against Oakland Schools?

Teachers and parents protest budget cuts at school board meeting earlier this school year. Photo by Ken Epstein

 

Oakland and several other school districts were hoping this month that legislators would be willing to adopt provisions in the new state budget that would give their districts the financial relief they need to stabilize their finances.

But unfortunately, the Democratic administration was not interested in putting out a helping hand to these cash-strapped districts, which are made up primarily of students of color.

The four districts—Oakland, Inglewood, Vallejo and South Monterey County—were all taken over by the state in the past 15 years and are still struggling to regain stability while repaying loans that were imposed on them by the state.

Oakland was forced to take a $100 million loan in 2003 even though its deficit at the time was only about $37 million. The district is scheduled to continue paying about $6 million a year until 2024.

Although the OUSD superintendent and school board now run the district, a state-appointed trustee still has veto power over all of the district’s financial decisions.

Inglewood, which went into state receivership in 2012, is paying $1.8 million a year on a $29 million state loan debt and remains under the control of a state-appointed administrator.
Legislators recently rejected a recommendation proposed by Assemblymember Rob Bonta, which would have given the districts a five-year deferment on those loans.

The money might have averted a teachers’ strike in Inglewood Unified, where the district and union reached a tentative agreement, contingent on the district being able to receive $4 million in “state relief” for at least two years.

Oakland Unified, which also faces a possible teachers’ strike, wanted to be included in whatever deal was offered to Inglewood.

“To continue to offer high quality education to the young people of Oakland, we believe that our leadership needs this temporary budget relief so that they can make strategic choices to preserve the financial integrity of our district,” said Oakland Superintendent Kyla Johnson-Trammell.

“The alternative could lead to draconian cuts that would hurt all students in our city.”
Oakland made $9.3 million in cuts this year and must cut another $10 million next year, according to district reports.

Assemblymember Bonta, (D-Oakland), worked with legislators from all four districts to provide the same relief to all of them, while recognizing that his proposal was a long shot, especially for Oakland.

He is now looking for other ways to obtain financial support for Oakland, according to his office.

“The state is not sympathetic to Oakland’s situation,” Bonta told EdSource. “I think there’s definitely push back from the administration on this, otherwise it would have been granted by now.”

Bonta said the governor’s administration does not look favorably at Oakland, in part because Oakland’s fiscal management has been criticized by the Fiscal Crisis Management & Assistance Team (FCMAT).

In an interview with EdSource, Michael Fine, CEO of FCMAT, said a just-completed analysis of district finances to be posted online soon shows that Oakland can meet its financial obligations at this time without state assistance.

“It’s in distress,” he said, “but Oakland doesn’t need this relief right now.”

According to FCMAT, which helped the state run the school district during the period of state receivership between 2003 and 2009, the district’s current financial woes are unrelated to the state takeover.

However, reports from the time show that under state receivership, with the involvement of FCMAT staff, the state spent Oakland’s $100 million state loan without consulting the community and ran the district’s finances without conducting any outside audits.

When receivership ended and FCMAT left, the district still had a deficit. Gov. Jerry Brown, who was mayor of Oakland at the time of the state takeover of the schools, was deeply involved in engineering the takeover, along with political allies. While mayor, he focused his efforts to support education by creating and fundraising for two Oakland charter schools.

Published by Post staff with material from EdSource/Theresa Harrington.

Published June 22, 2018, courtesy of the Oakland Post