Archive for August, 2018

Remembering Ron Dellums, West Oakland-born Orator, Political Leader and Fighter for Justice and Humanity

Ron Dellums at civil disobedience demonstration at the South African Embassy to bring an end to Apartheid. (c) Rick Reinhard.

By Ken Epstein

The following are some of the outpouring of statements on Facebook from Oakland residents following the news that former Congressman, Oakland Mayor and Berkeley City Councilmember Ronald V. Dellums died early Monday morning.

 

Congresswoman Barbara Lee

Barbara Lee

 “I was lucky to call Congressman Ron Dellums not just my predecessor, but also my mentor and dear friend.

“Congressman Dellums was the father of coalition politics. He co-founded the Congressional Black Caucus, advocating for social and economic justice for his community and communities across the country.

“His principles and values were evident in not just his policies, but also his actions. He was proud to be a feminist, way ahead of his time, ardently supporting women’s rights before it was the norm. His anti-apartheid work, anti-war efforts, civil rights advocacy and historic chairmanship of the Armed Services Committee improved countless lives.

“He was a social worker, which was evident in the way he tackled challenges and fought for the most vulnerable among us. Congressman Dellums always said that when constituents came to his office asking for help, we must ask ourselves ‘Is this the right thing to do?’ He said if the answer is yes, you help that person. No doubt about it.”

Oakland City Councilmember-at-Large Rebecca Kaplan

Rebecca Kaplan

 

“His passion and commitment made a deep impression on me, when I was a young politician. I will never

forget reading his response, when then a Berkeley Councilmember, Dellums was called a radical, ‘If it’s radical to oppose the insanity and cruelty of the Vietnam War, if it’s radical to oppose racism and sexism and all other forms of oppression, if it’s radical to want to alleviate poverty, hunger, disease, homelessness and other forms of human misery, then I’m proud to be called a radical,’ he said.

“Besides our work- related interactions, I was also honored to have the opportunity to share bible study with him.”

 

Kitty Kelly Epstein, educator and aide in Mayor Dellums’ administration:

Dr. Kitty Kelly Epstein

“Ron Dellums was the epitome of kindness, courage, dignity and path-breaking politics. He was the first in Congress to oppose the war in Vietnam, the first Black congressman elected from a mostly white district, the first to introduce legislation for universal health care and for sanctions against apartheid in South

Africa.

“And he was Oakland’s most progressive mayor thus far.

“Although he got less credit for this leadership, because he was not the choice of the corporate media, he was the first to explicitly fight gentrification.

“He strategized to maintain working class jobs in Oakland, insisted that local control of the school district be returned to its residents, lowered police costs by rejecting costly police overtime, cut the homicide rate by more than a third, insisted on the indictment of the killer of Oscar Grant, appointed the first West Oakland resident to the Port Commission, invited the formerly incarcerated into the Mayor’s office to be close to him and work with his reentry specialist.

“He personally appeared at an elementary school where an immigration raid was rumored. And he listened to the voices of 800 people who worked on his community task forces. There is much more than what can be posted in this small space.

“We will miss his jokes, his speeches, and his wisdom. And most of all we will miss his love for humanity. He believed that we would all come together to fight climate change because eventually we would recognize that we are ‘all in this foxhole together.’

“Let us make it so.”

 

Local business woman Cynthia Mackey

 

Cynthia Mackey

“Ron Dellums was the only Oakland politician that ever took an interest in me and my business and gave me opportunities to be in the forefront. I can’t thank him enough.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Miguel Bustos, director of Intergovernmental Relations for Mayor Dellums:

Miguel Bustos

“Working to end apartheid was one of Dellums’ primary legacies when he left a 27-year career in Congress in 1998. Dellums first introduced a sanctions bill in 1972.

“The anti-apartheid movement in the United States was nascent in the early 1970s, but Dellums pushed for sanctions year after year. Success came in 1986 when the House passed Dellums’ legislation. Then-President Ronald Reagan rejected a Senate version of the bill, but his veto was overridden. It was the first time in the 20th century that Congress overrode a foreign-policy veto.”

 

Oakland City Councilmember Desley Brooks:

Desley Brooks

“Ron paved the way for so many elected officials and professionals, especially African Americans. He was a trailblazer, a visionary and most of all he was the conscience of Congress when we needed it.

“When I was in high school, Ron gave me my first job in politics; I interned in his D.C. office for two summers. That experience exposed me to so many great people and provided me with a great example of true public service. I am forever grateful to you Ron Dellums.”

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Johnny Lorigo, former school counselor and coach: 

Johnny Lorigo

“He was truly a bright, kind and wonderful gentleman. I first met Ron when he was a recreation director at Lafayette Elementary School (in West Oakland) during summers when he was a SF State student.”

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Art Shanks, executive director of the Cypress Mandela Training Center

Art Shanks

Congressman Dellums was responsible for bringing the Green Job Corps to Oakland with seed money of $250,000 in partnership with Laney College and the growth sector. The Oakland Green Job Corps is still very much needed and has been replicated all across the United States. Congressman (Dellums) truly believed in workforce development and was adamant about pre-apprenticeship training and education; he was an avid supporter of Cypress Mandela.”

 

 

Kweli Tutashinda, Brotherhood of Elders Network/Imhotep Chiropractic

 

Kweli Tutashinda

 “(In 1967 and 1968), Ron was the only elected official at major Black Power gatherings and rallies to free Huey Newton. He was that rare politician who had the courage to embrace radical politics in an electoral forum.

“One of America’s greatest orators, Ron, as Mayor of Oakland attempted to usher in Participatory Democracy by engaging over 800 citizens in a task force process that met for over six weeks. Two-hundred proposals were created that are still exerting their influence in Oakland.

“Ron’s legacy is huge. The American with Disabilities Act, South African freedom, and American conversion of military bases to civilian use are just three of his impressive accomplishments.”

Mayor Schaaf’s Proposals for Building Affordable Housing on Public Land Challenged

“The mayor and the people who work for her have been trying to kill the public land policy all along,” said Councilmember Kaplan.

By Ken Epstein

Community activists and others are raising concerns about whether the latest affordable housing proposals backed by Mayor Libby Schaaf’s administration would event make even a dent in the wave of gentrification and displacement that is remaking the city right in front of their eyes.

Margaretta Lin

Looking at the basic numbers, one of the most contentious issues in the city staff’s proposal is how many affordable units can be built on available public land.  The administration’s report claims that there are only 20 parcels available for housing development and that six of those need to be sold to market rate developers in order to subsidize affordable housing on the remaining 14 parcels, promising only 746 units in the price range that many Oaklanders could afford.

That number of potential units seems like a pittance to affordable housing advocates who point to the magnitude of the crisis – the unending surge of homelessness and the huge numbers of seniors, young workers, teachers and city workers who are being forced out of the city.

The Schaaf administration proposal acknowledges the city owns over 1,000 parcels of land but says only 20 of them are suitable for residential housing.

Rebecca Kaplan

Of those 20 buildable parcels, totaling 24 acres, 14 would be utilized for affordable housing. Of the remaining six parcels, one would be sold for market-rate housing, totaling 492 units, and five be sold for market-rate commercial development, according to staff.

However, there are reports that show there is significantly more public land available, and many more units could be built on those properties, according to Margaretta Lin of the Dellums Institute for Social justice.

A former Deputy City Administrator, Lin led the work on the city’s Housing Equity Roadmap plan in 2014 that was adopted by the City Council in Fall 2015.

Lin says two reports show there are “50 publicly owned vacant or underutilized parcels that the City’s Housing Element identified as suitable for housing development, which could produce over 7,300 new housing units.”

The city owned 36 of these parcels, which are capable of producing over 3,600 housing units per the City’s Housing Element, and other public agencies own the other 14, she said. However, the City sold one of those parcels, capable of producing 25 units, in January 2018 to what appears to be a market rate developer. (The reports are available at www.dellumsinstitute.org/community-justice-data/)

“We commissioned the two public land reports from UC Berkeley Public Policy and City Planning in 2015 because none of the City departments had a full list of City owned land.  With the departure of Claudia Cappio who was briefed on this information, the City administration may be lacking complete information,” she said.

 Councilmember Rebecca Kaplan said city staff makes two separate mistakes in estimating of how many affordable units can be built.

“They are under-counting the number of suitable parcels that the city owns, and their estimate is way lower than the number of units that could be built on them, said Kaplan.

Another major contentious issue is how to pay for construction of the affordable housing. City staff wants to sell public land to market-rate developers to pay for affordable housing development.

The “staff strategy assumes” utilizing market-rate development on the six parcels in order to generate revenue to pay for “100 percent affordable housing for the other 14 sites,” said Mark Sawicki, director of Economic and Workforce Development Department, speaking on behalf of the Schaaf administration at last week’s Community and Economic Development (CED) Committee meeting.

The number of affordable units is constrained by the availability of funding, according to Sawicki’s report. Building 100 percent affordable units on the 20 parcels would increase the total number of possible units on the 20 parcels to 1,080, but it would take 10 to14 years to raise the $112 million needed to cover construction costs.

Staff’s proposal, on the other hand, would only cost the city $6 million (plus the sale of six parcels of land), which could be raised in three to four years, he said.

The question of funding, says Lin, depends on how the city  defines the problem and the solutions.

“If the public policy problem is defined as a State of Emergency especially for people who are the working poor and/or newly homeless, then we would utilize every resource available, especially public lands,” she said.

“The city’s public land policy proposal is based on a traditional housing development model where it costs $500,000 to $650,000 to build one housing unit, and the City needs to provide $150,000 to $165,000 public subsidy.  Instead, if the City utilized innovative housing development and financing models being deployed by other communities, such as new and attractive mobile homes that cost $35,000 a unit, then the (costs) and the public policy proposal would be completely different, said Lin.

Councilmember Kaplan, a longtime supporter of utilizing public property for affordable housing, says the staff “strategy” proposal does not consider other sources of funding: the city’s Measure KK, Alameda County’s A1 housing bond where Oakland is anticipated to receive over $200 million for affordable housing, impact fees, new State housing funds, and foundation grants.

“If they need to sell parcels, why not sell some of those that can’t be used for housing?” Kaplan asked.

Another issue that deeply concerns affordable housing advocates is whether the staff’s strategy would have teeth or would result in something the administration could modify or ignore as wished.

After meetings between staff and housing advocates on developing an affordable housing policy dragged on for almost two years, city staff announced a few months ago that they were no longer interested in passing a policy, instead proposing a “strategy” on how to utilize the 20 parcels of land.

“The mayor and the people who work for her have been trying to kill the policy all along,” said Councilmember Kaplan. “Even if we adopt a strategy, we need a policy,” she said.

The desperate need is for the City Council to adopt a binding public lands policy, said Lin.

According to Lin,  as of December 2017, “there were 20,000 market-rate housing units under construction or in the pipeline, compared with less than 1,500 affordable units.”

“We’re in Oakland’s worst housing crisis in its entire history,” she said. “And affordable housing developers are having a hard time competing with market rate developers for access to land.  An equity based public land policy would solve this access to land problem.  Market-rate housing developers don’t need public resources. They’re doing fine.”

Published August 1, 2018, courtesy of the Oakland Post

 

Ron Dellums, “Political Lion of the Bay Area,” Dies at 82

 

Ron Dellums

By Post Staff

Ron Dellums, a progressive political giant who was born in West Oakland and represented the East Bay in Congress for 27 years and later served as Mayor of Oakland, died early Monday morning in his home in Washington, D.C. He was 82.

According to Oakland Post Publisher Paul Cobb, quoted on ABC7, Dellums was “the political lion of the Bay Area. He was unafraid to challenge authority from a principled position. He stood strong and solid.”

Cobb, a close personal friend of the former Congressman, was among those who pushed a reluctant Dellums to run for Oakland mayor, who served from 2007 to 2011.

A former social worker, Dellums began his political career as a member of the Berkeley City Council before being elected to Congress 1971 as an anti-war in Vietnam candidate who then spent decades in the House of Representatives fighting for equal rights and social justice.

When he first arrived in Washington, he demanded a Congressional investigation into U.S. war crimes in Vietnam. Ignored by his pro-war colleagues, he held “his own informal hearings, which drew national attention,” according to the New York Times.

“As antiwar protests raged outside the Capitol, a former Army sergeant told in unsworn testimony how he and his platoon had massacred 30 men, women and children in a Vietnamese village. It was a shocking beginning,” the Times said in its obituary of Dellums.

As a member of Congress, winning a dozen election campaigns, he helped found the Congressional Black Caucus and served as chairman of the powerful House Armed Services Committee.

Dellums led a 14-year campaign against apartheid in South Africa. He eventually wrote the legislation in 1986 that mandated trade embargoes and divestment by American companies and citizens with holdings in South Africa.

Congress overrode President Ronald Reagan’s veto of the bill, a first in 20th-century foreign policy.  Sanctions ended in 1991 when South Africa repealed its apartheid laws.

In 1993, while serving as Chairman of the House Armed Services Committee, he was the sole sponsor of a bill to integrate gays and lesbians into the military.

After retiring from Congress, he was recruited by Oakland residents to run for mayor. An informal group, a committee called “Draft Dellums,” collected 8,000 signatures and presented them to the former Congressman at a public meeting at Laney College.

As hundreds of Oaklanders chanted “Run, Ron, Run,” he famously replied, “”If Ron Dellums running for mayor gives you hope, then let’s get on with it.”

As part of his transition plan, Mayor Dellums brought the enthusiasm and energy of Oakland residents directly into the local governing process at City Hall, organizing 41 task forces that involved over 800 residents to make recommendations for new city policies, including public safety, jobs, anti-gentrification, support for small businesses, local hiring and education.

In 2009, Dellums reported that the city had implemented two-thirds of the task force recommendations.

He was the only mayor in the last several decades to dramatically decrease the cost of police overtime expenditures. Since Dellums left office, overtime pay for police officers has been growing rapidly again – with little discernable effort to keep these expenses within the city budget.

While in office, he cut the city’s homicide rate by more than a third and insisted on the indictment of the BART officer who killed Oscar Grant,

The Dellums administration joined with the Oakland school district create a program to diversify the teaching force, bringing more Black and Latino educators into the district. His office helped a new program, Teach Tomorrow in Oakland, to obtain $2.7 million in federal funding.

He led citywide efforts to bring millions in American Recovery and Reinvestment Act federal and state stimulus funding to Oakland, totaling over $300 million.  The new resources were prioritized for the needs of low-income residents in severe needs, resulting in the generation of over 14,000 short-terms jobs and other community benefits.

He pushed for the state to return local control of the school district to the city’s residents, ending the state takeover that had been engineered in part by State Senator Don Perata and previous Mayor Jerry Brown.

Dellums hired a reentry specialist to work in his office and brought the formerly incarcerated into City Hall.

Born in Oakland on Nov. 24, 1935, Ronald Vernie Dellums was one of two children of Vernie and Willa (Terry) Dellums. His father was a longshoreman. His uncle, C. L. Dellums, was  an organizer of the Brotherhood of Sleeping Car Porters.

Ron Dellums with wife Cynthia

Attending McClymonds High School in West Oakland, he played baseball with the future Major League legends Frank Robinson and Curt Flood.

After graduating from Oakland Technical High School in 1953, he joined the Marine Corps. Discharged in 1956, he attended Laney College in Oakland. He earned a bachelor’s degree in 1960 from San Francisco State College and a master’s degree in social work in 1962 from UC Berkeley.

He was memorialized by his daughter Piper Dellums, who wrote:

“He was the first Democratic Socialist in Congress who also called himself a

Assemblywoman Loni Hancock, Oakland Mayor Ron Dellums and Congresswoman Barbara Lee on AIDS Walk at Lake Merritt in Oakland on Sep 8, 2007.

feminist. He was a hero to the invisible, to the oppressed, to the lost and shattered, the marginalized, the despised and abused, the faceless, from the evicted to the incarcerated, from the healed to the disabled, from the activists to the veterans. He was a peace-monger….

“He was focused on human trafficking and the AIDS pandemic and the human condition and the Cuban Missile Crisis and human dignities in every race, gender, and sexual orientation including in the military.”

As word of Dellums’ passing spread,  social media was filled with an outpouring of love from those whose lives he touched. He is remembered by his family: his wife Cynthia, his children Pamela Holmes (deceased), Rachel Chapman, R. Brandon Dellums, Erik Todd Dellums, Piper Monique Dellums, stepson Kai Lewis, six grandchildren, and two great grandchildren.

Services will be held in Washington, D.C. and Oakland. Information will be provided at a later date.

Published Aug. 1, 2018, courtesy of the Oakland Post