Category: Business

Mayoral Candidates Consider Plan to Activate Community Involvement

 Community task forces designed to debate, develop and implement city policy were an innovation established in Oakland almost a decade ago (shown above). Some people are now seeking to build on that experience  to establish new task forces to involve and empower residents in an ongoing way.

Community task forces designed to debate, develop and implement city policy were an innovation established in Oakland almost a decade ago (shown above). Some people are now seeking to build on that experience to establish new task forces to involve and empower residents in an ongoing way.

By Post Staff

Several of Oakland’s mayoral candidates have expressed interest in creating communitywide action task forces that could potentially involve hundreds of Oakland residents in developing, passing and implementing policies that will affect the future of the city.

The goal of this process would be to take residents out of their traditional role as passive observers of city decisions or participants who try to intervene at the eleventh hour to halt or modify policies and ordinances they do not support that are advocated by city staff, the mayor or City Council.

Proposals so far include task forces on the arts, jobs, economic development, youth and education, police accountability and public safety, housing and tenant rights, protections and encouragement of small businesses, increased transparency and public involvement in city government and creating opportunities for the formerly incarcerated.

Participants would volunteer for a task force in which they have interest and expertise.

Elected officials would be asked to pledge to support active community involvement by bringing completed task force proposals to the City Council for a full discussion and a vote.

A similar task force process was pioneered during the administration of Mayor Ron Dellums, which involved 900 residents for a number of months, and led to about 150 polices and programs being proposed and about 80 being implemented.

These policies and programs included the first-ever appointment of a resident of West Oakland to the Port Commission; an industrial land-use policy; removal of a barrier to local hire policy; the creation of a Business Assistance Center;“Banning the box” on city applications; creating a position within the Mayor’s office to work on the re-entry of previously incarcerated individuals;  and continuing the compliance period on the Riders consent decree.

Other initiatives included a successful project to diversify the teaching force; return of the school district to local control; “green workforce development,” enhancing the “culture of learning” which led to yearly Back to School rallies at City Hall; anti-drop-out initiatives; and health services in the schools.

Already, the Post has received an offer of $10,000 to help facilitate this community engagement process.

Anyone interested in participating in a task force can send their name and area of interest to

Courtesy of the Oakland Post, October 24, 2014 (

Civicorps and City of Oakland Work Together to Train Youth as Truck Drivers

Recycling and organics truck driver Wulliam Montolla

Recycling and organics truck driver Wulliam Montolla

By Ken Epstein

Oakland may become the only place in the nation where job opportunities for young people are written into a city’s franchise agreement to pick up the trash.

As part of the Oakland City Council’s recent 10-year contract with Waste Management, Civicorps – which provides high school diplomas and job training for young adults – is negotiating agreements that will allow its participants to work in jobs picking up green waste and enter relatively high paid positions as truck drivers.

Though the deals are not yet finalized, Alan Lessik, executive director of Civicorps, is optimistic that young people in the program will soon be driving trucks to pick up organic waste at commercial establishments throughout the city, to be delivered to East Bay Municipal Utility District’s green digesters at the Army Base in West Oakland where bacteria will turn the garbage into electricity.

Currently trainees can earn their Class B drivers license through the recycling program. Under the new agreement, these trainees they will become Teamster Local 70 Apprentice drivers, which will allow them to become union truck drivers and earn substantial raises in pay.

“We don’t have numbers yet, but their wages will almost double when they move from the pre-apprenticeship to the Teamster apprenticeship program,” said Lessik.

Although Civicorps provides young people with work experience, education is at the heart of the program.

For the first four months in Civicorps, students go to school 30 hours a week, full time. After that, they go to a job site for 30 hours a week and attend school for eight hours a week.

Civicorps is the only accredited high school and job training program for youth 18-26 years old in the East Bay. As a charter school in Oakland for the last 10 years, the school offers students a real high school diploma, not a G.E.D.

Civicorps Graduates Nykimbe Broussard, Harris Cox, and Michael Wilder.

Civicorps Graduates Nykimbe Broussard, Harris Cox, and Michael Wilder.

About 75 percent of the program’s students graduate, a higher rate than Oakland public high schools. Over 75 percent of Civicorps graduates go onto college or jobs, an impressive achievement for a program whose students had previously dropped out of high school.

In school, students study English, math, science and social studies. They explore career and college and can act in Shakespeare plays.

“What we know is everyone can learn, no matter what their past history has been,” said Lessik. But in order to be successful in their studies, he says, young people may need support to overcome serious obstacles, such as homelessness, before they can focus on schoolwork.

Civicorps works with about 130 students at time. About 90 percent are from Oakland, the rest from other parts of Alameda and Contra Costa counties. Thirty percent have been involved in the criminal justice system; 28 percent are from foster care.

Ninety-eight percent are students of color.

“All of our students are poor – the school system has failed all of our kids in the past,” said Lessik.

As the young people progress through the program, they begin “traditional conservation corps work,” which provides them with basic skills training.

Civicorps has contracts with EBMUD, the cities of Berkeley and Oakland, as well as the East Bay Regional Parks District. The youth do fire prevention, build trails, clean out streams, pick up litter and learn to handle small tools.

“Our aim is to integrate our kids into the community in a positive way,” said Lessik. “They’re doing environmental and social good in the community and are seeing themselves as part of the community.”

In Civicorps’ recycling program, young people can earn their regular drivers’ license and a Class B License that enable them to drive garbage trucks and other large vehicles.

“Through our program, they can get experience,” Lessik said. “We keep them for two years, because you have to show you have two years of violation-free, drug-free work experience to be eligible for fairly well-paying jobs as drivers.”

Civicorps, located at 102 Myrtle St. near the West Oakland BART station, has year-round enrollment for its school, job training and recycling truck driving program. For more information, call (510) 992-7800 or go to

Courtesy of the Oakland Post, October 16, 2014, (



In 11 Years of State Oversight, No Audits of Oakland Schools’ Finances

By Post Staff

In the 11 years since the State of California declared the Oakland Unified School District bankrupt and seized complete control of district governance and finances, the state has not conducted an audit of the district’s financial condition.

State Senator Don Perata pushed for a state takeover of Oakland schools.

State Senator Don Perata pushed for a state takeover of Oakland schools. Photo courtesy of SFGate.

According to a new report by the Alameda County Grand Jury, over 10 years of poor financial recordkeeping in the district cost city residents over $29 million in extra property taxes after the district lost its credit rating for borrowing money.

Moody’s removed its credit rating in 2012, and Standard & Poor’s withdrew its rating of the district in 2011, driving up the cost of borrowing on bonds.

The credit ratings were removed because the district’s state appointed trustees, acting under the authority of the State Superintendent of Instruction, did not require financial recordkeeping reforms since 2003 that would allow the district to do an audit.

Then State Superintendent of Instruction Jack O´Connell hired trustees to run the school district

Then State Superintendent of Instruction Jack O´Connell appointed a trustee to run the school district

The problem is a lack of internal accounting controls and books that are basically in shambles, according to a spokesman from the State Controller’s Office

In 2003, OUSD was $37 million in debt and forced by the state to take a $100 million emergency loan, and the State Controller’s Office became the district’s auditor. The superintendent of schools was fired, and the power of the elected Board of Education was suspended.

Oakland’s powerful State Senator Don Perata pushed for the takeover. He also advocated for selling the school district headquarters complex to real estate developers in order to repay the loan.

Though the district was only $37 million in debt, it was forced to take the $100 million loan, in part to install new computer systems to put Oakland’s finances in order.

Senator Perata wanted to sell Oakland school district headquarters property to build this TerraMark development on Lake Merritt.

Senator Perata supported selling  Oakland school district headquarters property to build this TerraMark development on Lake Merritt.

Yet during those years, the district has not been able to complete a single audit because “there was a weakness in internal controls, and their records were in disarray,” according controller’s office spokesman Garin Casaleggio in an interview with the Oakland Tribune.

The latest audit the State Controller attempted to finish was for the 2010-11 school year. The controller will continue to audit the district’s books until it pays off the remaining $55 million of the emergency loan.

Courtesy of the Oakland Post, October 11, 2014 (


Plan to Divert Garbage from Landfill to Produce Green Energy Awaits Waste Management OK

EBMUD green digesters at Oakland Army Base in West Oakland

EBMUD green digesters at Oakland Army Base in West Oakland

By Ken Epstein

Oakland’s renegotiated trash deal may mean better rates and services for the city’s residents. But the agreement does not settle whether Oakland’s food waste will end up in a landfill or be diverted to East Bay Municipal District’s green digester that turns the garbage into electricity energy.

Under the now defunct plan the city had with California Waste Solutions (CWS), green waste from commercial establishments, such as restaurants, hospitals and cafeterias, would go to the EBMUD plant at the Oakland Army Base. CWS and EBMUD had a signed memorandum of understanding.

William "Bill" Patterson

William “Bill” Patterson

However, the terms of the city’s contract with Waste Management only require the company to negotiate with EBMUD.

“We are at a much earlier stage with Waste Management (than CWS),” said Abby Figueroa, EBMUD spokesperson. If the parties reach a deal, “We would end up being a subcontractor with Waste Management,” she said.

“This contract (would) enable us to put more resources into the plant, turning discarded food scraps and other digestible organic materials into renewable energy,” said William “Bill” Patterson, member of the EBMUD Board of Directors, speaking at a recent City Council meeting.

The idea behind EBMUD’s green digester is quite simple and utilizes technology that has been around for years. Carbon-rich food waste is blended and dumped into one of EBMUD’s 12 tanks to be decomposed by bacteria.

“The (2-million gallon) tanks are kept at about 100 degrees for 2-3 weeks (where the) bacteria chomp away and release byproducts, most of which is methane gas,” said Fugueroa.

The gas is captured and fed into EBMUD turbines or engines to create electricity. Most of what goes into the digesters at present are solids from wastewater, she said.

The digesters were built in the 1980s when the East Bay was still a center of the food processing industry. Most of that capacity is unused at present.

In 2001, EBMUD started collecting food waste to utilize its excess capacity in the digesters. This includes wastes from wineries, dairies, food processors, grease from restaurants and commercial food scraps, said Figueroa.

On average, every day about 10 tons of food waste is delivered to the plant.

In 2012, EBMUD became the first wastewater utility in the country to produce enough energy from biodegradable waste to power its plant and sell extra energy back to the grid, said Figueroa.

This cuts fossil fuel use, greenhouse gas emissions and saves about $3 million each year in electricity bills, she said. Last year, EBMUD produced 6 megawatts of power. Currently, the excess power that is generated is sold to the Port of Oakland.

If EBMUD contracts with Waste Management to take Oakland’s commercial food waste, the utility estimates it will receive 70-100 tons of food waste per day.

“We estimate this will produce 1 megawatt of power, or enough to power 1,200 homes,” she said. “ The alternative is to send all this food waste to landfills, where methane will be produced naturally but not captured for energy production.”

Figueroa said that EBMUD responds immediately to concerns of West Oakland community members about odors that intermittently come from the utility’s plant,

She emphasized that the utility takes these concerns seriously and has spent millions of dollars for the latest technology and uses chemicals to reduce odors. In addition, she said, the odors that cause the concerns come mostly from the wastewater treatment plant, not the digesters.

“We’ll continue our commitment of being a good neighbor in the West Oakland community. We are using the state-of-the-art odor control technology,” said Patterson, EBMUD board member.

EBMUD daily treats about 63 million gallons of wastewater from nine East Bay cities, including Alameda, Albany, Berkeley, El Cerrito, Emeryville, Kensington, Oakland, Piedmont and part of Richmond.

The utility has been treating the East Bay’s wastewater since 1951.

Courtesy of the Oakland Post, October 10, 2014 (


Army Base Developer Gets Amnesia on Promises to Hire West Oakland Workers

By Ken Epstein

City agent and Army Base developer Phil Tagami of CCIG lashed out recently in an email newsletter against West Oakland community and environmental activist Margaret Gordon as one of a “handful of critics” who have “publically questioned

Phil Tagami

Phil Tagami

whether the project is creating ‘enough’ jobs” and claimed that “more jobs should be going to West Oakland and African American residents.”

“In reality, there rightly was not a provision in the jobs policies that a particular Oakland neighborhood or ethnicity would receive a priority over another,” according to Tagami’s email “Oakland Global Newsletter” at the end of August.

According to Tagami’s newsletter, African Americans so far have obtained 15.3 percent of the hours worked on the project – about 46 percent below what they should be receiving as 28 percent of Oakland’s population.

Tagami’s present position, however, is at odds with the “consensus “agreement produced by the Jobs Working Group that included community members, labor and city representatives, on Oct. 27, 2011.

The Jobs Working Group met for nearly four years and was facilitated by then Councilmember Jane Brunner for its last year and a half. The report on the consensus agreement was submitted to the City Council on Jan. 24, 2012.

“The goal for local hire is 50 percent of work hours for Oakland residents … with first priority being given to zip codes that comprise West Oakland and City Council District 3, and second priority to areas within the Oakland Enterprise Zone Targeted Employment Area,” according to the Recommendations from the Jobs Working Group on Employment-Related Community Benefits for the Development and Operations at the Former Oakland Army Base.

Margaret Gordon

Margaret Gordon

In the course of the working group’s meetings, there was a recognition and eventual consensus agreement on the need to hire African Americans in jobs in the building trades from which they have been traditionally excluded.

Since legal constraints do not allow for race-based preferences or goals, the working group decided to utilize zip codes with high numbers of African Americans and low income workers. This approach was worked out in consultation with the U.S. Labor Department , according to Gordon and Brian Beveridge, who were both involved in the working group.

“We never said anything about African Americans.. We just talked about West Oakland,” said Gordon.

Further, Gordon and Beveridge say that Tagami and city consultant Julian Gross have been trying to portray them as going back on an agreement they helped to negotiate. Gross was hired by the city as a recognized expert on community benefits agreements.

Tagami criticized Gordon for telling the Oakland Post, “People negotiated one thing, but then the agreement went to labor and other ‘stakeholders,’ and it was changed before it went to the City Council.”

“The notion that there were surprise twists and something was changed in the backroom without everyone who signed the cooperation agreement knowing about it, is not a fair or accurate representation of the city’s process,” according to Gross, quoted in Tagami’s base

“It’s one place they’re trying to adjust history,” said Beveridge. “We were part of a working group that was collaborating to figure out how to get people hired.”

“We never got to sit at the table while the unions and the developer and the contractor were actually in negotiations. .We had (then assistant City Administrator) Fred Blackwell and Julian Gross representing our interests in those negotiations.”

“We wanted to sit at the negotiating table, but we were told by Blackwell that Phil Tagami would not meet with us at the table,” said Gordon.

When the final negotiated agreement went to the City Council, Beveridge and Gordon were told that this was best agreement they could obtain and that all other parties were going along with the agreement.

“They act now like we’re being bad sports” to complain about the agreement, said Beveridge.

“We were asking for them to lower the barriers so that people could get into the jobs,” Beveridge added. ”Maybe we made a mistake signing the (agreement) – then we would be not be getting used the way we are now.”

Courtesy of the Oakland Post, October 10, 2014 (

Will Proposed Coliseum City Benefit or Displace East Oakland Residents?

 The City of Oakland has relased the detailed plans for a proposed 800-acre “Coliseum City” to rise upon Oakland’s existing Coliseum site and 550 acres of adjacent land on the other side of I-880. The plan includes nearly 6,000 units of housing, three hotels, over 500,000 square feet of retail space, and nearly 7 million square feet of science, technology, office, and industrial space.

The City of Oakland has relased the detailed plans for a proposed 800-acre “Coliseum City” to rise upon Oakland’s existing Coliseum site and 550 acres of adjacent land on the other side of I-880. The plan includes nearly 6,000 units of housing, three hotels, over 500,000 square feet of retail space, and nearly 7 million square feet of science, technology, office, and industrial space.


By Ken Epstein

City officials seem to be moving full steam ahead on a plan to knock down the Oakland Coliseum and replace with a glitzy Coliseum City – which could include up to three arenas and hotels, entertainment venues, housing, retail and restaurants – even though no money so far been found to put the project in motion.

If the proposal is approved by the Coliseum’s Joint Powers Authority, along with the Oakland City Council and the Alameda County Board of Supervisors, the zoning and other permit amendments will be in place if the financing can be put together.

Seeking funding, Mayor Jean Quan announced in the spring that she secured funding from the crown prince of Dubai, but that promise has not been substantiated.

However, the mayor now says she has worked out an agreement to build at least part of the deal – a new Raider’s Stadium in exchange for giving free land to the team to build the $900 million to $1.2 billion project.

Proposed Coliseum City

Proposed Coliseum City

As part of the deal, city and Alameda County taxpayers will pay off $120 million still owed for the 1990s overhaul of the Coliseum that would be demolished. In addition, the city would pay for other subsidies to prepare the site.

At a public hearing Wednesday night at City Hall at the Planning Commission, many residents raised concerns that the officials want to build a new city in East Oakland and bring new people into the area while ignoring the people who live in the existing city.

They say city is rushing to approve the Coliseum City plan, which does not does not offer sufficient guarantees of local jobs and moderate- and low-income housing and more generally ignores the needs and voices of the East Oakland community that surrounds the proposed project.

In addition, they argue the community was not involved for two years when the plan was drafted and only have less then two months to comment on the 168-page draft Coliseum Area Specific Plan and the extensive draft Environmental Impact Review documents, reportedly developed at a cost of over $5 million.

“(This plan) may not happen, but is it going to serve the people in East Oakland?” Asked Nehanda Imara from Communities for a Better Environment (CBE), who was concerned about the zoning amendments.

“This is a deal between the planners, the developers and the city,” said another speaker. “The haves nothing for the people who live here,” to mitigate the environmental and noise problems they will experience as a result of the project.

“The people who lived here the longest, we get the all the burnt of it,” the speaker said. “It’ just not right.”

This is a low-income housing area (in East Oakland),” said Anwan Zeidi. “When you start putting in something like this, you are going to drive the people out.”

In an interview with the Post, Coliseum area businessman Bob Schwartz complained about the whole process

“This thing has been worked on for two years,” he said. “There was supposed to be community input, and money was in the budget for it,” but there was no outreach to the affected community, he said.

“Now, we’re asked to comment on it when the plan is done and is very hard to change,” he said. “They want to pass this almost immediately.”

Courtesy of the Oakland Post, October 4, 2014 (

Phil Tagami’s Uninspected Trench Harms Port, Could Cost Taxpayers Up to $5 Million

By Post Staff

Work on a portion of developer Phil Tagami’s Army Base project has been at a halt since March because the job was not built to Port of Oakland safety specifications and also utilized contaminated dirt that has to be dug up and replaced.

In an Oakland Post article on April 3, 2014, the newspaper revealed that work had halted on the trench. Shown are Mayor Jean Quan and Phil Tagami at Army Base groundbreaking. Photo Courtesy of Oakland Local

In an Oakland Post article on April 3, 2014, the newspaper revealed that work had halted on the trench. Shown are Mayor Jean Quan and Phil Tagami at Army Base groundbreaking. Photo Courtesy of Oakland Local

When the work will be resumed and who will have to pay for the errors has not yet been announced by city officials. The total cost could run as high as $5 million, according to Post sources.

The work in question was done by a contractor hired by the city’s agent, Master Developer Phil Tagami of CCIG, to dig a trench around the Army Base project.

The trench will contain underground electrical wiring that is placed within conduit and buried – what is referred to as the “utility corridor.” The Port of Oakland says the part of the trench that goes through its property is not deep enough because large vehicles and stacked containers could potentially damage or break the electrical lines.

According to sources, the Port of Oakland is also saying the trench should be covered by a concrete cap over the conduit.

Overall, the Army Base infrastructure project covers 160 acres and involves earthwork, grading, drainage, replacement of utilities and public roadway improvements. The total estimated cost is $270 million and will be completed on a four-and-a-half year timeline.

The city will not have to pay the costs of replacing the material in the trench, according to Assistant City Administrator Arturo Sanchez, speaking Tuesday at the meeting of the city’s Community and Economic Development (CED) committee.

“The material that went inappropriately into the trench – that cost will be borne by the contactor,” he said.

However, according to Post sources, the contractor who built the trench is not expected to pay for the additional work. Therefore, the name of contactor who will pay is still unspecified.

John Monetta

John Monetta

In addition, the Port of Oakland has come up with changes in its specifications for the trench, and these costs will have to be paid, said John Monetta, the city’s real estate manager at the Army Base Project.

According to Post sources, the port made its specifications clear from the beginning, and Tagami chose to ignore them.

Seeking answers to the costs to the city, Councilmember Lynette McElhaney said, “It is my understanding that the project doesn’t have any excess funding. We need to understand what the (change) is and what the fiscal impact is. “

Responding, Assistant City Administrator Sanchez said, “We believe we have a way to resolve it without it having a significant impact to the financial picture of the project.”

The total cost to replace the contaminated material and upgrade the trench is still not known, according to city staff

Tom Chasm

Tom Chasm

In addition, city staff is saying the problem of the contamination can be traced to aggregate left at the base by Urban Recycling Solutions, a company that is no longer in existence. But under questioning by Councilmember McElhaney, staff admitted that the material – crushed concrete and asphalt – was placed in the trench without being tested.

Tom Chasm, former manger of Urban Recycling, said the aggregate his company left at the base was tested and up to industry standards.   There is no way to know if Urban Recycling was the source of the material used in the trench or if it was dumped by a different operator, according to Post sources.

Courtesy of the Oakland Post, October 4, 2014 (

Oakland Seeks Answers as Residents Continue to Be Displaced and Dispossesed


Photo courtesy of Oakland North.


By Ken Epstein

With all the talk of economic and housing market recovery, people may think that Oakland’s flatland residents are singing, “Happy Days Are Here Again.”

But the reality is quite different. Fueled by market forces as well as policies implemented by courts and financial institutions, the gentrification of Oakland – displacement and dispossession of homeowners and renters – continues at alarming rates.

City and nonprofit efforts lend support to individual families but so far have not reached a scale sufficient to make a difference in current trends.

The foreclosure tsunami, which blasted through Oakland from 2007-2011, took 10,500 Oakland homes. The families that were ejected were mostly Black, Latino, seniors on pensions or people with disabilities.forclosure-620x465

Though it is true that the rate of foreclosure is down and continuing to decline, a total of 3,435 notices of default have been issued to Oakland homeowners since January 2012, according to an Aug. 21 report on foreclosure issued by the City of Oakland.

In the latest quarter, between April and June, 161 homeowners received notices of default. During the same period, 71 homes were sold at auction.

Meanwhile, Oakland’s housing market prices continue to explode, “bolstered by an influx of international capital that makes our city one of the nation’s fastest-moving housing markets,” according to the report produced by the city’s Housing and Community Development Department.

“Homes in Oakland only stay on the market for an average of 14 days, with many homes attracting multiple offers and resulting in inflated sales prices,” said the report, citing a study by the California Association of Realtors.

Oakland’s median home sales price in June reached an “unprecedented” $489,150, a 28.6 percent increase over the price in 2012.

foreclosure action 3  8 12 003.previewRelated to the changes in property value, estimated rents for all houses in Oakland in June was $2,124, a 31 percent increase in the last 36 months.

“The high cost of housing may … be a contributing factor in Oakland’s existing income inequality by discouraging low- to moderate-income households from moving into (the city) or pushing existing households out of Oakland,” the report said, citing a Brookings Institution study that ranked Oakland as the 7th highest city in the nation for income inequality.

The brunt of these trends is being experienced by the city’s African American families. The number of Black residents dropped by 24 percent or 33,502, residents between 2000 and 2010, according to the report.

In addition, the report said, the median income for African American, Latino and Asian households has fallen since 2000, and the number of children in the city has decreased in that period by 16.7 percent.

Between 1980 and 2010, seven census tracts in the East Oakland flatlands had more that a 25 percent drop in home ownership.

As a side effect of the housing crisis, many families are “living in deplorable conditions,” the report found. “Oakland homes in 2011 had more problems with signs of rats, heating equipment failure and a lack of kitchen facilities, compared to the national average,” the report said.

This crisis also means that Oakland’s homes are not ready for a natural disaster. “In the next major earthquake, over 14,000 housing units in low- to moderate-income flatland neighborhoods are at risk for collapse or other damage,” the report said.

Meanwhile, the city continues to build affordable housing units and fund a foreclosure prevention and mitigation program.

Approved by the City Council in 2012, the foreclosure prevention program in its first year kept over 90 homeowner households and over 50 tenant households in their homes. This year, the program has helped 18 successfully obtain loan modifications.

In addition, nonprofits are helping out. The Unity Council in the Fruitvale District this year created a fund that helped three families keep their homes.

Catholic Charities recently has begun offering $5,000 grants to households threatened with being pushed out of rental housing, helping 18 households with eviction prevention and utility shut-off prevention.

Acknowledging a housing crisis that impacts urban areas through the country, the City Council is seeking solutions that can address the magnitude of the problem that the city’s residents face.

“The City of Oakland has been attempting to develop bigger scale prevention solutions beyond the labor-intensive individual-by-individual homeownership preservation strategies,” the report said.

City staff is working on proposals, which are scheduled to be discussed by the council in December.

 Courtesy of the Oakland Post, October 4, 2014 (

Kaplan, Brooks Push for City to Pay Bills on Time

Oakland City Council President Pro Tem Rebecca Kaplan and Councilmember Desley Brooks introduced legislation Thursday morning that would strengthen requirements that the city pay its bills on time.

Desley Brooks

Desley Brooks

Councilmembers Brooks and Kaplan submitted the following item title to the Rules Committee this Thursday: “Ordinance Amending Oakland Municipal Code Chapter 2.06 To Clarify and Add Language Specifically Identifying Requirements for Prompt Disbursements of Grant Funds to Grant Recipients.”

“People, non-profits, and companies that do business with our City deserve to get paid on time,” Kaplan said. “This is an incredibly basic part of running a government — or any other kind of organization — and we should treat our local businesses and non-profits with respect.”

The bill would clarify the City’s Prompt Payment Ordinance, which Brooks originally authored in 2008, to clarify that it covers payments to non-profits and ensure consistent and respectful treatment of our community. The bill is a clarification of the intent of Brook’s original ordinance and is not a rewrite.

Brook’s leadership resulted in the original ordinance passing unanimously.

Kaplan and Brooks said that the City of Oakland has a poor record of paying vendors and contractors on time — especially small businesses, non-profits and minority-owned companies.

Rebecca Kaplan

Rebecca Kaplan

“The city administration has fallen down on the job,” Brooks said. “And it’s most adversely affected Black- and women-owned small businesses with the least flexibility to wait around. City Hall has left them in the lurch, and it’s simply not acceptable.”

Kaplan added that residents are also harmed when small businesses and non-profits stop doing business with the city.

“When the Administration doesn’t pay them,” Kaplan said, “they can’t pay their own bills, which hurts workers, and can lead some to stop working for Oakland.”

With the leadership of Brooks and Kaplan the council also recently won funding in the city budget for a disparity study — to determine and identify disparities in the awarding of contracts to minority-owned firms. The city is required to conduct such a study every two years, but hasn’t done so since 2007.

The requested Prompt Payment item will be heard at the city’s Oct. 28 Finance and Management Committee.

 Courtesy of the Oakland Post, October 3, 2014 (

Pressure Grows for Tagami to Turn Over Army Base Property to CWS

Rebecca Kaplan. Photo courtesy sfgate.

Rebecca Kaplan. Photo courtesy sfgate.

By Post Staff

Connected with the implementation of the Oakland’s garbage agreement is the unsettled question of when the city’s agent Phil Tagami will turn over property at the Oakland Army Base Development so that California Waste Solutions (CWS) can build a new recycling center and finally move out of the West Oakland community.

Henry Gardner

Henry Gardner

CWS’ recycling facility will mean construction and recycling jobs for Oakland residents and will take 18 months to build.

The city has promised to give the property at the North Gateway area of the Army Base to CWS in 2016, but some say the date could be put off for a year or more beyond that date.

Speaking at Monday’s council meeting, Councilmember Rebecca Kaplan pushed the administration to fast-track efforts to turn the property over to CWS.

Addressing concerns of residents who are distressed that the company is still in their community, Kaplan said, “City Council voted years ago to move the recyclers out of the neighborhood and over onto the Army Base.”

Mayor Jean Quan

Mayor Jean Quan

“For reasons that still continue to baffle, years pass, and that piece of property still has not been turned over,” Kaplan said. “It is not the fault of the recyclers that they have still not moved.”

“Despite the vote of this council, … that has not been done. I want to be very clear that we expect that to be accomplished – immediately. Is work being done to expedite the process?”

Responding to Kaplan, City Administrator Henry Gardner said, “I have met with Phil Tagami, who is our agent on that site and our future developer.” There is an “urgency” and a “commitment” to make the property transfer happen, he said.

And there are questions why  the city is paying Tagami to be its staff/agent, which permits him arrange for his own businesses with taxpayers’ funds, while city priorities are paced on the waiting list.

Mayor Jean Quan said that the transfer of the property to CWS had bogged down in a lot of complicated issues.

“I started working with Fred Blackwell, and we will continue to work on how quickly we can get CWS into their space,” said a the council meeting. “The original delay is that they are still using part of that space over there as a staging area for the demolition of the (old Bay) Bridge.”

“This is something that needs collaboration. I don’t like that people are being blamed for something that’s pretty complicated,” said Quan.

Some say Tagami wants to push that date back, though other are saying that he is responding to pressure and seeking to start the project on time or move the date forward.

Phil Tagami

Phil Tagami

In a recent email to the Oakland Post, Tagami wrote: “The city has requested an earlier delivery date of July 2016 in January 2014, and such a date is possible if the current sequencing plan continues without interruption or unreasonable weather delay,” Tagami said.

According to Councilmember Lynette McElhaney, Tagami is hearing the concerns raised by the council and community members and is seeking to address those concerns.

A major problem facing the infrastructure development is that it may run out of money before it is completed, according to a source close to the project.

If the development runs out of cash before it is completed, scheduling becomes crucial, because what is scheduled to be built at a later date may never get built, said the source, who raised some questions.

Will the project complete the work first for Tagami and his partner Prologis? Or will he expedite the city’s priorities – preparing the property for the recyclers and for OMSS truck parking?

Why is the city paying Tagami to be its staff/agent so he can arrange for his own businesses to benefit his personal private gain while using taxpayers’ money?

Courtesy of the Oakland Post, September 27, 2014 (