Category: Business

U.S. and Cuba Will Both Benefit from Improved Relations, Says Congesswoman Lee

Congresswoman Barbara Lee speaks at memorial to Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. in Havana, Cuba. Next to her are Cuban Protestant church leader Rev. Raul Suarez and Congressman Bobby Rush.  Photo courtesy of  Reuters/Stringer.

Congresswoman Barbara Lee speaks at memorial to Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. in Havana, Cuba. Next to her are Cuban Protestant church leader Rev. Raul Suarez and Congressman Bobby Rush. Photo courtesy of Reuters/Stringer.

By Ashley Chambers

After fighting for improving relations between Cuba and the U.S. for 37 years, Congresswoman Barbara is savoring the moment – the formal announcement recently that President Barack Obama is beginning to breaking the down the walls between the two countries

Reflecting on her many visits to Cuba over the years, Lee told the Post that improving American-Cuban relations and lifting the embargo will have significant social and economic benefits to the U.S.

“We will benefit in many ways,” said Congresswoman Lee, noting the access to medical treatment and education, as well as trade.

“There are many medical treatments that we can benefit from,” she said. “They have very few cases of Hepatitis B and have treatment for diabetic ulcers in 70 to 75 percent of cases. Having that access to treatment would be phenomenal.”

U.S. Medical students from low-income communities are already able to study in Cuba through a free program with The Latin American School of Medicine.

After Cuba established the program for international students from countries in Latin America, Congresswoman Lee advocated for the program to be expanded to include U.S. students.

A number of U.S. students, some from the Bay Area, now the opportunity to travel to Cuba to study medicine.

Congresswoman’s main concern is that other countries are building economic ties with Cuba and that window of opportunity for U.S. trade is closing very quickly.

But, she is hopeful that the U.S. will “be able to engage in trade soon…Business opportunity means jobs in America,” he said.

In a recent column published in Cuban media by Fidel Castro, Called “Reflections by Comrade Fidel,” the former leader wrote about his 2009 visit with Congresswoman Lee and members of the Congressional Black Caucus.

Congresswoman Lee had a chance to hear Castro’s perspective of the world, Cuban policies, and discuss human rights issues when she visited his home.

He praised Lee for her stance against “Bush’s genocidal war in Iraq.”

“It was unbeatable proof of political courage.  She deserves every honor,” he wrote.

Lee said in her interview with the Post that she hopes President Obama will visit Havana before he finishes his term.

“I look forward to additional steps to fully normalize relations with Cuba – it is far past time,” said Lee.

Courtesy of the Post News Group, January 2, 2015 (postnewsgroup.com)

Historic Meeting Brings Together Civil Rights Leaders with Execs of Verizon, Google, Facebook, Intel

  Jesse Jackson and Rainbow Push Coalition hosted a Tech Diversity and Tech Forum Dec. 10 at Intel, where Jackson addressed an audience of 300 on changing the face of the tech industry to reflect society. Photo By Carla Thomas.

Jesse Jackson and Rainbow Push Coalition hosted a Tech Diversity and Tech Forum Dec. 10 at Intel, where Jackson addressed an audience of 300 on changing the face of the tech industry to reflect society. Photo By Carla Thomas.

By Carla Thomas

In an unprecedented move, Jesse Jackson’s Rainbow Push Coalition brought together 25 tech companies, civil rights organizations, venture capitalists, non-profits, entrepreneurs and U.S. Department of Labor office at Intel in Santa Clara on Dec. 10.

“(This) is the result of conversations to bring about collaborative efforts to make a change in the tech industry,” said Jackson, who has pressured a number of the largest tech companies to share their workforce demographic data.

Billed as an adversity and inclusion forum, the event featured African American leaders work at the tech titans Google, HP, Intel, Facebook, Verizon, and Cisco, among others. The forum was coordinated by Rainbow Push Communications Director Butch Wing and Executive Director Glenda Gill.

“Tech industry has demonstrated that it can solve the most complex and challenging problems in the world – inclusion is a complex problem that can be solved,” said Jackson.

Among the panelists were Intel Vice President and Chief Diversity Officer Rosalind Hudnell, Intel Supplier Diversity Manager Minea Moore; Pandora Diversity Program Manager Lisa Lee, and HP Chief Diversity Officer Brian Tippens.

Other panelists included HP Strategic Procurement Manager, InMichael McQuarry; Google Director of Global Diversity and Inclusion, Yolanda Mangolini; Cisco Chief Collaboration and Inclusion Officer Shari Slate; Microsoft General Manager of Global Diversity and Inclusion Gwen Houston; Google Head of Diversity Markets Chris Genteel; and Verizon Vice President of Entertainment and Tech Policy Eric Reed.

“There’s a whole body of people who qualify to be on boards, in C-suites and employed in the tech industry and Black, Brown and women are underrepresented,” said Jackson.

“These companies get government contracts and government taxes and have every obligation to open up the marketplace responsibly,” he said.

Jackson suggested corporations reveal the deficits in diversity and set goals and timelines for change. He also proposed making a deal with the government to provide 10 percent of the $5 trillion in offshore tax monies.

“If you took 10 percent and made a deal with the government, labor and corporations and customers to reinvest to build an infrastructure for purposes and money set aside for capital…there’s enough money to be used for diversifying a

Jackson made reference to the needs of two students he had met at the Oakland Emiliano Zapata Street Academy. “Every city should have a STEM high school, and all schools should have studies relevant to the future created in Oakland, San Jose, Memphis, etc,” said Jackson.

Courtesy of the Post News Group, December 20, 2014 (postnewsgroup.com)

Coliseum City Proposal Remains in Play; Community Raises Questions

A artist's iew of the Colisuem City might look like

A artist’s iew of the Colisuem City might look like

By Ken Epstein

Many people are furiously committed to a plan to knock down the Oakland Coliseum and replace it with a glitzy Coliseum City complex – which could include up to three sports arenas as well as hotels, entertainment, housing, retail and restaurants.

The Coliseum City plan, according to the City of Oakland’s website, “seeks to transform the underutilized land around the Oakland-Alameda County Coliseum and Arena into a world-class sports, entertainment and science & technology district that boasts a dynamic and active urban setting with retail, entertainment, arts, culture, live and work uses.”

Probing questions about the plan are being raised by city leaders, mostly focusing on how to put together the financing and the costs that will have to be borne by Oakland taxpayers.

The value of the massive project is generally taken for granted. More or less unexamined are concerns about the value and impact of the project on the people who live in the city.

Yet Oakland residents and business owners are pressing forward with their own questions. How many and what quality jobs would there be for local residents? Would the proposed housing be only for the affluent?coliseum_city_rendering.0_standard_709.0

Who will be able to afford to go to the expensive venues and restaurants? How would a colossal development parachuted into the middle of the city impact surrounding neighborhoods and companies in East Oakland?

Some community members are saying they would like to see new stadiums built but question the purpose of the massive complex, which they say could negatively impact East Oakland residents and would effectively destroy the city’s only business park, pushing small businesses out of the city.

The city is already moving ahead with the Coliseum Area Specific Plan, which if passed would change zoning requirements and make other permit amendments, putting into place the legal basis for the project if and when financing and other issues are resolved.

Speakers at recent public hearings have questioned why community input was not sought before the draft specific plan was released and why the city allowed such a short period for public comments on the voluminous plan.

There were complaints that the plan’s proposed Environmental Impact Report only deals with Coliseum area property, ignoring impacts on nearby residents and neighborhoods.

Before final approval, the project would have to be passed by the Coliseum’s Joint Powers Authority, as well as the Oakland City Council and the Alameda County Board of Supervisors.

The project also has designs on what is presently the Oakland Airport Business Park, which contains property owned by the Port of Oakland, therefore requiring the Port Commission to weigh in.

Business Center in West Oakland Will Give Opportunities for Formerly Incarcerated

Oakland & the World Enterprises launched their new co-op business in partnership with the City of Oakland on Monday in West Oakland. Pictured: Alameda County Supervisor Keith Carson, Councilmember Lynette Gibson McElhaney, Grammy award-winning artist D'Wayne Wiggins, Elaine Brown, Mayor Jean Quan, CEO of Mo' Better Foods David Roach, Oakland Housing & Community Development Director Michele Byrd, representative from Congresswoman Barbara Lee's office, and board members of Oakland & the World Enterprises. Photo by Ashley Chambers

Oakland & the World Enterprises launched their new co-op business in partnership with the City of Oakland on Monday in West Oakland. Pictured: Alameda County Supervisor Keith Carson, Councilmember Lynette Gibson McElhaney, Grammy award-winning artist D’Wayne Wiggins, Elaine Brown, Mayor Jean Quan, CEO of Mo’ Better Foods David Roach, Oakland Housing & Community Development Director Michele Byrd, representative from Congresswoman Barbara Lee’s office, and board members of Oakland & the World Enterprises. Photo by Ashley Chambers

By Ashley Chambers

A vacant lot left blighted for over three decades on 7th and Campbell streets in West Oakland in being turned into a launching pad for cooperative businesses that will provide opportunities for the formerly incarcerated to become business owners.

Spearheaded by co-founders social activist Elaine Brown and Alameda County Supervisor Keith Carson, Oakland & the World Enterprises (OAW) is partnering with the City of Oakland to create six co-op businesses on the abandoned lot.

The project is designed to reverse the decades of neglect and lack of resources – to restore hope in a community that has been struggling with crime and poverty.

“We decided that we would build a wonderful field of dreams,” said Brown at the launch event Monday.

Those who attended the event included Councilmember Lynette Gibson McElhaney, Mayor Jean Quan, Len Turner of Turner Group Construction, staff of Congresswoman Barbara Lee, CEO of Oakland PIC Gay Plair Cobb and School Boardmember Jumoke Hinton Hodge.

Jerry Elster. Photo by Ashley Chambers.

Jerry Elster. Photo by Ashley Chambers.

The businesses at this new center will be owned and operated by those who are often denied access to economic opportunity and will provide individuals returning home from prison a chance to rebuild their lives and families by supporting their economic stability.

“West Oakland has become a vast empty place where people are being moved out by gentrification and mass incarceration, and so forth. With the help of Supervisor Keith Carson, we can say this is our place and we need to find ways to make something happen,” Brown said.

OAW will launch an urban farm that will produce organic fruits and vegetables for the West Oakland community and for sale to local restaurants and farmers’ markets. Implementing healthy economics, the farm will “redirect the school-to-prison pipeline to a school-to-agriculture manufacturing pipeline,” said David Roach, CEO of Mo’ Better Foods.

“Healthy economics promote (the idea) that every school should have a garden, a farmers market and a grocery store…that every child should gain the education to not only learn the sciences to grow healthy food but to also learn the careers connected to the agriculture industry,” Roach continued.

Other businesses will include: a fitness center, tech hub, an athletic shoe and clothing manufacturing businesses with retail outlets, and a juice and fresh food bar.

The development will also include over 100 housing units for mixed-income families, and 40 percent will be affordable to low- and very low-income families.

OAW will promote economic development and encourage self-sufficiency for individuals who otherwise have a hard time finding employment. Jerry Elster, a member of All of Us or None, emphasized the importance of community in this new project.

“I’m standing here for the formerly incarcerated and underrepresented populations of people throughout this nation,” said Elster, who served time in prison. “I’m standing here for countless others including those in Campbell Village. This is our community. We’re bringing opportunities of entrepreneurship for them and the rest of Oakland.”

Elster acknowledged those who helped him reenter the workforce after he was released from prison, including Rev. Raymond Lankford and the Oakland PIC.

“I’m excited about today because today is only the beginning,” said Supervisor Carson, who recalled meeting Elster 14 years ago when Carson visited San Quentin State Prison.

“It was the education we got from individuals in prison saying, if you don’t want us to commit the crime, we have to be a part of changing the dynamic,” Carson said. “Let’s support these brothers and sisters who are returning back home become self-sufficient, to welcome them back to our community.”

Courtesy of the Oakland Post, November 1, 2014 (postnewsgroup.com)

Councilmembers Endorse Prompt Payments to Nonprofits

By Ken Epstein

The City Council’s Finance and Management Committee this week endorsed an amendment to its Prompt Payment Ordinance that will ensure nonprofits that contract with the City of Oakland will receive payments for the work they do in a timely manner.

Desley Brooks

Desley Brooks

The proposed ordinance will affect payments to many of the agencies in the city that work with youth, provide job training and reentry support for the formerly incarcerated.

Many of these agencies, especially, the smaller nonprofits, have frequently complained that they in effect they have had to float a loan to the city, as they wait for months or even over year for the city to pay invoices of tens of thousands of dollars or more for work that has already been completed.

“Look (at the impact) on small profits, which often are serving the most vulnerable people in the city,” said Councilmember Desley Brooks, speaking at Tuesday’s meeting.

Rebecca Kaplan. Photo courtesy sfgate.

Rebecca Kaplan. Photo courtesy sfgate.

“They did the work and did not get paid for over a year,” she said. “Some organizations had to lay off people. They did good work for the city, and yet we didn’t pay them.”

An amendment to the prompt payment ordinance should have been unnecessary, according to Brooks, who wrote the original ordinance in 2008. . Though it should have applied to nonprofits, the City Attorney ruled that it only applied to private contactors, she said.

“Typically, if there is a question, they look at the legislative intent,” said Brooks. “You would have thought somebody would have come and asked me what was the intent.”

“The city should always pay its bills on time,” said Councilmember Rebecca Kaplan, adding she does not understand why the City

John Tang

John Tang

Attorney is requiring this clarification of the payment policy.

“The notion that nonprofits should be treated even worse (than private contractors) makes no sense at all,” Kaplan said. “Small organizations suffer serious harm when they are not paid on time.”

One of those who supported the revised policy was John Tang, executive director of the English Center, which offers job services in Oakland.

“It is very important to have a significant cash flow to keep the doors open,” he said. “We simply don’t have the resources to operate without prompt payments.”

Courtesy of the Oakland Post, November 1, 2014 (postnewsgroup.com)

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 oaktaskforce@gmail.com

Courtesy of the Oakland Post, October 24, 2014 (postnewsgroup.com)

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 www.cvcorps.org.

Courtesy of the Oakland Post, October 16, 2014, (postnewsgroup.com)

 

 

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 (postnewsgroup.com)

 

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 (postnewsgroup.com)

 

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 newsletter.army 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 (postnewsgroup.com)