Archive for July, 2018

Mayor, OPD Face Questions on Continued Racial Profiling

Oakland police

By Ken Epstein

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

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

Deputy Chief LeRonnne Armstrong

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

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

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

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

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

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

Desley Brooks

were making even a year ago.”

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

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

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

Rebecca Kaplan

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Published July 30, 2018, courtesy of the Oakland Post

Moratorium on Sale of Public Land Dies in Council Committee

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

By Ken Epstein

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

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

Cathy Leonard

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Published July 20,2018, courtesy of the Oakland Post

Oakland Charter School Approved Amid Concerns Over Fiscal Impact on District

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

By Theresa Harrington, EdSource

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

Published July 20,2018, courtesy of the Oakland Post

‘White’ Challenges Privilege in Shotgun Players’ Comedy

 

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

By Wanda Ravernell

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

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

James Ijames

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Published July 14, 2018, courtesy of the Oakland Post

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

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

By Post Staff

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Published July 13, 2018, courtesy of the Oakland Post

Council Delays Decision on Selling Public Land to Build Charter School

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

Derby Street parcel

Ken Epstein

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

Aimee Eng

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

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

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

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

Mike Hutchinson

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Gentrification and police abuse linked

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

By Ken Epstein

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

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

John Jones III

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

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

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

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

Mike Hutchinson

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Rebecca Kaplan

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

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

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

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

Published July 12, 2018, courtesy of the Oakland Post

Councilmember McElhaney’s Proposal Would Help “Cash-Strapped” Landlords Evict Tenants

Proposal offers a city-subsidized “incentive” for small landlords  to displace tenants, says housing rights activist James Vann

By Post Staff

The Oakland City Council is scheduled Tuesday to decide on a resolution proposed by Councilmember Lynette Gibson McElhaney that would establish a city loan program to help “distressed low-income homeowners” evict their tenants when the landlord or relative wants to occupy the property.

Lynette McElhaney

Under this proposal, co-sponsored by Councilmember Rebecca Kaplan, the city would set aside $300,000 “to make available no-interest loans” to “cash-strapped” landlords to help them pay city-required relocation payments to tenants they are evicting.

The $300,000 fund would be created by re-allocating part of the $2.2 million the City Council set aside last year to provide legal representation for tenants facing eviction.

“This is common sense anti-displacement legislation that helps preserve the social and economic diversity of home ownership in our city, especially of African American and other low-income legacy owners,” said McElhaney. “This is about addressing all sides of the

James Vann

displacement issue and not creating pressure on legacy owners to sell the homes they want to return to.”

This past January, the City Council amended the Uniform Residential Tenant Ordinance requiring that tenants who are evicted for an owner or relative move-in receive relocation payments. Payments range from $6,500 for a studio or one-bedroom unit to $9,875 for a three or more bedrooms.

“These payments may pose a hardship for low-income and low-asset owners, especially those who need to recover possession of their homes to support themselves or relatives,” according to Councilmember McElhaney’s press statement.

To qualify for the interest-free loans, owners must meet a set of criteria:

  • Own five or fewer units
  • Be low-income or have less than six months of financial reserves
  • Be denied a cash-out refinance loan on their property, and,
  • Certify that the relative moving in is also low or moderate income and does not own any other real estate

Sharply criticizing McElhaney’s proposal, James Vann, co-founder of the Oakland Tenants Union, said that the resolution was “framed by landlord advisers to (Councilmember) McElhaney, (providing) no opportunity for tenant advocates to review or comment on the proposal” before it was introduced.

The proposal “actually (creates) an incentive for small property owners to get longstanding tenants out of their homes, and in the process, have the city pay for the eviction,” said Vann.

“Meanwhile, there is no monitoring by city. So, many of these (landlords) will only pretend to enter but may never actually occupy the freed-up unit. The owner is then able to re-rent the unit at exorbitant prices,” he said.

 

Anti-Coal Activists Ask Big Bank to Cut Ties With Coal Terminal

Martin MacKerel (left) and Matthew Gerring protest the Oakland Oversized & Bulk Terminal in front of developer Phil Tagami’s Crocker Highlands home during a youth-led “zombie march on coal” on October 30, 2017.

By Sarah Carpenter

Oakland anti-coal activists continue to resist the Oakland Bulk & Oversized Terminal’s plan to ship millions of dollars of Utah coal through a West Oakland port.

Developer Phil Tagami successfully sued the City of Oakland, overturning the 2016 ban on coal shipments.

As the City Council and other officials prepare to appeal the federal ruling issued in May, anti-coal activists are looking for other ways to block the terminal.

Jeffrey Holt, an investment banker for Bank of Montreal (BMO), has played a central role in a deal between Bowie Resources and the State of Utah’s Community Impact Board.

No Coal in Oakland and the West Oakland Environmental Indicators Project collaborated to send a letter to the Bank of Montreal’s chief executive Darryl White.

“The community of West Oakland has not been engaged with as per BMO’s commitments an an Equator Bank,” said Morgan La Manna, an organizer who helped write and send the letter.

The letter asked BMO to refrain from advising on or arranging financing for the terminal project. The bank is one of 93 financial institutions who have adopted “Equator Principles,” for determining, assessing and managing environmental and social risk in investment projects.

Friends of the Earth United States and Canada, 350.org, and Rainforest Action Network supported the letter, which said that Bank of Montreal’s role in financing the terminal is at odds with Equator Principles.

“If the Bank of Montreal continues its role in financing the OBOT, it risks several serious breaches of best practice that could damage the reputation of the bank and its officers and may even expose the bank to a variety of unforeseen liabilities,” the letter reads.

The second Equator Principle is “Environmental and Social Assessment” which says that financial institutions should examine the environmental and social risks of proposed projects.

Margaret Rossoff, an anti-coal activist, said the bank has yet to respond to their letter, which was sent March 29.

The Post reached out to Bank of Montreal, and is awaiting comment.

Published July 4 2018, courtesy of the Oakland Post

Kaplan Proposes City Support Labor Unions in Wake of Supreme Court Ruling

 

City workers strike, others rally outside Mayor Libby Schaaf’s State of the City address. Photo courtesy of Oakland North.

By Post Staff

The Rules and Legislation Committee of the Oakland City Council was scheduled this week to hear a  resolution proposed by Councilmember-at-Large Rebecca Kaplan urging the City Administration to continue to work with public labor unions after the Supreme Court’s  Janus undermining the strength of the labor movement.

Rebecca Kaplan

The Janus decision Resolution was proposed by  Councilmember Kaplan and co-sponsored by Councilmembers Noel Gallo and Dan Kalb.

In February 2018, the United States Supreme Court heard arguments in the Janus v. AFSCME Council 31 case, which could overturn the precedent set by the Abood v. Detroit Board of Education case in 1977, which allowed public sector unions to require “fair-share” fees from non-members that benefit from the union’s collective bargaining activities.

In the lead up to this week’s Supreme Court decision against labor this week, many cities and organizations have been passing resolutions urging for the continued partnerships with public unions no matter what the outcome of Janus.

“If the current precedent is overturned, unions could be restricted from requiring ‘fair-share’ fees from nonmembers, thereby weakening the unions’ power to effectively negotiate on behalf of all public-sector workers and to promote policies that protect workers’ rights, fair wages, and safer working conditions,” said Kaplan.

Others in the Bay Area that have already passed similar resolutions, include the Alameda County Board of Supervisors, San Francisco Board of Supervisors and AC Transit.

“This action, by the Supreme Court that was stacked with a more right-wing majority by the blockade on President Obama’s last nominee, will weaken unions’ power to effectively negotiate on behalf of all public sector workers, including to promote policies that protect workers’ rights, fair wages, and safer working conditions,” said Kaplan.

“As a life-long supporter of the rights of workers, I am  concerned that this will hurt those who most need the protections. Today, we see financial struggles rising, including personal bankruptcies and the number of unhoused people at an all-time high,” said Kaplan.

“Without the appropriate negotiation power to fight for worker protections, we may see these numbers climb higher and at a faster rate. Also, it is important that people are able to afford to live in the cities in which they work, send their children to school, and have adequate healthcare and pensions available to them.”

The resolution passed the council committee Thursday and will go to the full council on July 10.

Published July 1, 2018, courtesy of the Oakland Post