Category: Economic Development

Black Workers Call for City Council Summit on Discrimination in Hiring on City Projects

Community meeting at the San Antonio Senior Center in the Fruitvale District to dis- cuss racial disparities in hiring African American workers and contractors on City of Oakland building projects, Monday, Aug. 19, 2019. Photo by Ken Epstein

 

By Ken Epstein

African American contractors and construction workers  are opposing a proposal that has been presented to the City Council requiring that all jobs on city projects should be awarded to building trades unions that discriminate against Black workers.

“It’s a pure power play right now,” said one speaker, who is a member of four unions.  “The (unions) are not designed to grow their membership. They are only designed to make the strong stronger.  If anything, the unions are a detriment to anyone starting off (in construction).”

In response to charges that unions want to control the hiring on all city projects while excluding African American members, the City Council had previously asked the building trades to submit reports on the race and gender of their membership.

So far, only six of 28 union locals have submitted that information, according to city staff.

Reports by construction workers on the job indicate that African Americans are denied membership in almost all of these unions, while Latinos only find work in the laborers’ and to some extent in the carpenters’ unions. The higher paid trades, such as electricians, plumbers   and heavy equipment operators are almost all white.

Speakers at the Monday meeting, where Councilmembers Noel Gallo, District 5; and Loren Taylor, District 6, were in attendance, want the City Council to hear their concerns, not to be steamrolled by powerful interests into an agreement without a full discussion of the issues.

They are asking the council to hold a work session or a community summit rather than voting on the labor proposal at a council meeting, where speakers would only receive one minute to talk, and important issues about persistent discrimination in the building trades might be buried.

The meeting was the third and final community engagement session called by the City Council to examine ways to mitigate inequities in a potential Project Labor Agreement, backed by local building trade unions and their supporters, requiring developers on city projects to exclusively hire union workers for labor, while non-union contractors would be limited in their use of their non-union workers for projects that are built on city-owned land and or involve city funding.

Speakers also expressed concern that the building trades only sent people to the first community meeting several weeks ago at Castlemont High School but did not come back to second or third meetings, apparently not interested in engaging with Black Oaklanders about the issues they are raising.

Published Aug. 22, 2019, courtesy of the Oakland Post

Opinion: City’s Kaiser Center 99-Year Lease Proposal “Lacks in Benefits to Marginalized Communities”

Henry J. Kaiser Convention Center, circa 1917. Courtesy of Wikipedia.

By Ayodele Nzinga, MFA, Ph.D.

Ayodele Nzinga

In 2014, the City of Oakland issued an RFP for the redevelopment of the  Henry J Kaiser Center and Calvin Simmons Auditorium. Two proposals were considered. One was a  detailed a robust reuse of the historic site with “baked in community benefit”, and self-accessed itself to supplement funding for cultural affairs.

The other proposal offered a less defined plan for the use of the site, and at one point considered market rate offices and perhaps a brewery as a use for the refurbished building.

The city accepted the latter proposal and entered into a relationship with Orton Development in 2015 and has bent over backward ever since to accommodate shifting iterations of the project now described as arts and nonprofit offices with a 1,500-seat theater.

In April 2019, the Community Coalition for Equitable Development filed an appeal opposing the April 3rd, 2019 Planning Commission decision granting Orton Development a Conditional Use Permit and clearing the way for the negotiation of a 99-year lease between the Developer and the City, privatizing this public site for the length of the agreement.

The appeal, which is scheduled to be heard by City Council this month, cites a failure on the part of the developer to engage stakeholders,  calls out a lack of benefit to marginalized communities,  questions the benefit to the City of Oakland, and was fueled in part by the city’s failure to enact its equity policies regarding the use of publicly owned property.

The negotiations between CCED and the developer have  become a struggle, not over the levels of the anemic concessions contained in the term sheet of a project that was not designed with equity as a lens; but for a way to construct mechanisms that animate and implement some of the equity strategies  the city has yet to employ.

Oakland changed between 2014 and 2019. The change is easy to observe in the correlation of the proliferation of cranes in the sky,  the not so subtle change in the city’s demographics, and the rising price of living working and creating in The Town. Oakland is booming, but the effect of the boom doesn’t benefit all Oaklanders equally.   Oakland has an equity problem.  It has studied the root causes of these prevalent inequities, and crafted strategies informed by data and best practices to mitigate displacement and create more equitable outcomes.

The problem is, that as of this moment, the city does not seem to have found a way, or lacks the will, to implement the equity strategies outlined in multiple city policies, documents, and guidelines.

An approach suggested in the Mayor’s Task Force on Arts, and Housing suggests that the City utilize existing properties or buy properties on which to create equitable outcomes for artists at risk of displacement. The Calvin Simmons and the Henry J Kaiser represent unique opportunities to implement equity strategies. They offer an opportunity for the City to do a better job for the community than they did with the Fox, which presents an insurmountable access barrier in the price of production for the few days a year it is available to the community.

This project has become subject to Oakland’s Art Ordinance percent and is subject to the city Impact fee on new development, both grandfathered in. However, the developer was never instructed to use an equity lens. At what point does a failure to enact policy become a form of benign neglect?

The Henry J. Kaiser Center appeal is scheduled to be heard by City Council on July 9.

Ayodele Nzinga, MFA, Ph.D. is executive producing director of the the Lower Bottom Playaz, Inc.

Published July 4 2019, courtesy of the Oakland Post

$44.4 More Million for Homeless

Affordable housing, parks, illegal dumping, potholes are top priorities

Clockwise from top, Councilmembers Loren Taylor, Nikki Fortunato Bas,Rebecca Kaplan, Sheng Thao, who introduced the budget that the Council passed on June 24.

By Post Staff

In an unusual unanimous vote, the Oakland City Council passed the Oakland Together budget that included $44.4 million in amendments to the administration’s original proposal, focusing city investments on the homeless crisis, affordable housing, maintaining local parks and tackling illegal blight remediation.

The Oakland Together budget, approved on June 24, also restored cuts to Parks Maintenance positions and increased funding around police accountability and workforce development.

The budget was introduced by Council President Rebecca Kaplan together with Council­members Nikki Fortunato Bas, Loren Taylor, and Sheng Thao.

“I want to thank my colleagues for working hard to provide for the needs of our community,” said Council President Kaplan. “A special thank you to Councilmembers Thao, Bas and Taylor for serving on the budget team, and to Councilmembers McElhaney and Kalb for their thoughtful amendments. And to Vice Mayor Reid and Councilmem­ber Gallo for their successful advocacy for pro-active illegal dumping removal and cracking down on people who trash Oakland. “Although we made significant progress, there is still critical work to do including valuing working people and increasing funding for workforce development.”

One key inclusion for police reform was funding to study the CAHOOTS model of sending EMT and mental health workers to respond to appropriate 911 calls reducing the need for police to intervene in an individual experiencing a mental health crisis.

For housing and unsheltered neighbors there is funding for mobile showers and restrooms, a navigation center, a tiny house village project and additional safe parking sites.

The Oakland Together bud­get adds funding for food se­curity and healthy options by adding funding to Meals on Wheels and the Alameda Food Bank and piloting a healthy food conversion program in corner stores in East and West Oakland.

To alleviate blight and il­legal dumping, the Council added a fourth illegal dump­ing crew, additional cameras and enforcement measures, and an educational outreach program to assure that people know Oakland is not the place to dump their trash; and assist homeowners and other small property owners in adding an Accessory Dwelling Units (ADUs) or other projects to their properties, the budget adds evening hours at the per­mit desks for planning/build­ing.

The budget amendments se­cured funding for workforce development programs, and the council still needs to assure the programs are fully funded and working to help unem­ployed and underemployed community members get the training they need to secure living wage jobs, said Kaplan. Employment in the Black com­munity is much higher than their unemployed white coun­terparts, and a thriving work­force development program that focuses on equity is a solid step to balance the inequity, she said.

There is also the issue of impact fees. It is important to have transparency around funds paid to the city for the benefit of community.

Finally, city staff gave much in the downturn, some even count among Oakland’s working homeless. It’s time to thank them for making the sac­rifices the city needed and re­ward them with a contract that shows that residents value the work they do every day to keep the city running efficiently and effectively, said Kaplan.

Published Jul 3, 2019, courtesy of the Oakland Post

Council Adopts Kaplan’s $3.2 Billion Budget

Bas wins $12 million for Community Land Trust affordable housing fund

 

Hundreds of supporters of the City Council’s modifications to Mayor Schaaf’s proposed budget filled City Hall during the council’s budget deliberations over the past month. Photo by Ken Epstein.

By Ken Epstein

Voting Tuesday night, the Oakland City Council adopted a two-year, $3.2 billion budget, partially resolving the ongoing political fight with Mayor Libby Schaaf’s administration over how much of the city’s income will be directed toward services for residents  and wages for the city workers who deliver many of those services.

The new budget, named the “Oakland Together” budget, directs $87 million to priorities identified by council members and supported by community members and groups, including the ReFund Coalition, which represents a number of community organizations and city worker unions.

Rebecca Kaplan

Council President Rebecca Kaplan, who had faced attacks from Mayor Libby Schaaf and the media for her leadership in producing the Oakland Together budget, told the Oakland Post she was pleased with what was in the new spending package but that several key issues were still unresolved.

“Even though many, many great items were  included in the budget we passed (Tuesday) night, I’m not celebrating yet because we are still working to finish up some very important final items, specifically, resolving the (funding) situation with our workforce development funding and issues of our own city workers.”

In a statement to the Post, Mayor Schaaf said, “I’m grateful our City Council kept the administration’s proposal as the framework for the budget it unanimously adopted last night. The last-minute augmentations still warrant close review, yet I’m pleased the Council’s unified action will allow us to make unprecedented investments in homelessness and affordable housing and to start a historic road-paving plan on July 1.”

The City Council’s changes in the Schaaf administration budget included:

• A study of Cahoots, a program that would utilize mental  health workers to respond to mental health crises instead of police;

• Remove the Mayor’s proposal to cut parks maintenance workers, which would have primarily impacted parks in flatland neighborhoods;

• Conduct an audit of the Oakland Police Department, which would examine police overtime costs;

• Substantial increase of homeless services;

• Some additional funding for the Private Industry Council and other workforce development;

• East Oakland healthy corner store conversions;

• Public bathrooms;

• Evening hours for permits at Planning and Building so small property owners can get timely approval of projects.

Nikki Fortunato Bas

Councilmember Nikki Fortunato Bas said in a statement that she was pleased the council passed her proposal, the Preservation of Affordable Housing Fund (PAHF), to allocate $12 million to create a municipal fund for community land trusts and limited equity housing cooperatives to take housing off of the speculative market by acquiring and preserving rental properties with 25 or fewer units.

“This fund is a bold investment in a visionary solution that…puts (properties) permanently in the hands of Oaklanders,” said Fortunato Bas, who developed the proposal with local grassroots organizations Alliance of Californians for Community Empowerment (ACCE) Action and Oakland Community Land Trust (OakCLT).

She emphasized that the new budget also includes programs to address Oakland’s housing, displacement, and homelessness crises, including hiring a mobile outreach team and full-time administrator focused on homelessness, creating homeless navigation centers, and expanding direct legal and emergency rent assistance for tenants.

“Our longtime neighbors are being pushed out while thousands of luxury housing units are being developed. This budget is a huge systemic opportunity to fix a crisis that is everywhere we look and only getting worse,” said Fortunato Bas. “We can’t solve it by tinkering at the margins, dedicating resources only a fraction the size of the challenges we face.”

Carroll Fife, director of Oakland ACCE and part  of the Refund Oakland Community and Labor Coalition, told the Post that the coalition had realized many of the demands they had sought to achieve this year, “from funds for affordable housing and anti-displacement to additional resources to address the city’s illegal dumping epidemic.”

However, she said “There is a great deal of work to do. One budget cycle will not rectify the years of disinvestment that have impacted our most disenfranchised residents.”

Fife also called on people to support city workers in their fight for a pay raise and the filling of vacant jobs. “Vacancies in Housing and Community Development, Public Works and the Sewer department, to name a few, have direct and immediate repercussions on the entire city,” she said.

Former mayoral candidate Cat Brooks told the Post, “This is the most progressive budget Oakland has ever passed. It’s a big step in the right direction.”

But “It still does not go far enough in terms of divesting some monies from the bloated police budget and redirecting those dollars to critical needs for Oakland that actually keep us safe,” she said.

Published June 28, 2019, courtesy of the Oakland Post

Opinion: We Need to Stand for Leonard Powell

 Court Hearing Jan. 29 for Veteran Fighting to Keep City from Taking His Home

Leonard Powell stands on the front porch of his home.

By Gene Turitz

Mr. Leonard Powell is going to Alameda County Superior Court on Tuesday, Jan. 29 to fight to  keep the home where he and his family have lived for over 40 years, which is being taken by the City of Berkeley.

The hearing will be held at 10:30 a.m. at the superior court at 24405 Amador St. in Hayward.

The court has ordered the receiver, Gerard Keener, and the City of Berkeley to provide the documents to Mr. Powell that show how the cost for bringing his house up to code  increased from between $150,000 and $200,000 to over $700,000, which he is now being forced to pay.

We still do not know who in the City of Berkeley decided to go after Mr. Powell by “Red Tagging” his home.  Was it the Police who wanted to “punish” a member of Mr. Powell’s family?  Was it the inspection services, which were responding to concerns over Mr. Powell’s well-being?

While we have been asking these questions, the City of Berkeley, whose assistant City Attorney is appearing in court with the receiver, claims that the city is really not involved in this situation.

While the City of Berkeley and its City Council express concerns about its low and extremely low-income residents, the actions of the city administration speak differently.

Walking around South Berkeley we can see multi-unit buildings posted with signs saying that buildings are not earth-quake safe.  While a program has been in effect since about 2005 to have these “Soft-Story” buildings brought up to code, landlords are still collecting rents from the tenants living in unsafe conditions.

Have any of these properties been assigned “receivers”?  Have any of these property owners paid huge amounts to get their property back?  Who in the City of Berkeley makes the decisions to protect the owners of these properties rather than ensuring the safety of the residents?

Can the City Council explain how a home, lived in by a low-income resident in South Berkeley for over 40 years now, through actions carried out by the City, becomes a place where only a high-income person can live?

This must be the same City Council that approves the construction of buildings that will only house people from high-income backgrounds or who are earning high incomes.

Join us in asking the City Council these questions.  Write to your councilmember about Mr. Powell and what the City of Berkeley is doing to him.  Write to ask what affect the housing policies of the City will have on those of us whose lives and families are here?  Ask why the only people for whom they seem to have concerns are the profit-making developers of high cost, market rate units.

Get together with Friends of Adeline to talk about these questions and to stand with Mr. Powell and other families being forced out of our community.  Meet with us on Saturday, Jan. 26, 11 a.m.-1p.m., at Harriet Tubman Terrace Apartments, 2870 Adeline St., Berkeley (between Oregon and Russell streets) .

Attend the court hearing Tuesday, Jan. 29 in Hayward.

Contact the Friends of Adeline at (510) 338-7843 or friendsofadeline@gmail.com

Gene Turitz is a member of Friends of Adeline.

Published January 20, 2019, courtesy of the Oakland Post

New Year, New Leadership, New Oakland?

 Rebecca Kaplan unanimously elected City Council President

Oakland swears in new City Council members (L to R): Nikki Fortunato Bas, District 2; Sheng Thao, Disrict 4: and Loren Taylor, District 6. Photo by Howard Dyckoff.

By Ken Epstein

Oakland honored its newly elected city leaders this week at a swearing-in ceremony held in the City Council Chambers of Oakland City Hall.

Sworn in were Mayor Libby Schaaf, who elected to a second term: Nikki For­tunato Bas, the city’s first Filipina-American council member, representing Dis­trict 2. Sheng Thao, the first Hmong-American council member in the state of Cali­fornia, representing District 4; and Loren Taylor, a third generation Oakland resident, representing District 6.

Making the increased strength of local progres­sives, Councilmember-at- Large Rebecca Kaplan was unanimously elected council president by her colleagues. , The council’s most powerful position, the president pre­sides over City Council meet­ings, influences the council’s agenda and makes appoint­ments to council committees and some outside agencies.

Newly Elected Council President Rebecca Kaplan (left) stands with Cat Brooks, a progressive runner-up in the Oakland mayoral race and co-founder of the Anti Police-Terror Project. Photo by Howard Dyckoff.

Kaplan, the first openly LGBT+ Council President in Oakland’s history, distanced herself from some of the city government’s past practices, pledging that her leadership would be based on a commit­ment to social justice, inclu­sivity and working closely in coalition with the local com­munity.

“We must acknowledge injustice and prejudice exist and we need leaders to assure we work together to move our city forward,” Kaplan said in a prepared statement.

“I believe in giving all Councilmembers the oppor­tunity to affect change, and all council members will have an opportunity to chair a commit­tee.,” she said. “I look forward to working together in coalition with community to advance Oakland’s vital needs.”

Her priorities include reor­ganizing council meetings so community members do not have to wait until past mid­night talk about major issues, strengthening the city’s com­mitment to providing afford­able housing and to responding more effectively to homeless­ness and displacement of resi­dents, as well as providing ac­cess to job training and taking aggressive steps to reduce il­legal dumping.

In her remarks after she was sworn-in, Councilmember Bas said laid out an agenda focused on “equity, inclusion and community participa­tion.”

“More and more (working and middle class families) are feeling left out, feeling the impact of gentrification, rac­ism and income inequality,” she said. “Decisions (will) not made for you but with you. These are all problems that we can solve together.”

“We want developers and corporation that are part of our city but not to tear our city apart,” said Bas, emphasizing that the Black community is “disproportionately impacted by homelessness, joblessness and over-policing.”

Sheng Thao, a daughter of Hmong refugees, said, thanked Councilmember Ka­plan for hiring her as an intern as later as a staff member and her family and the community for backing her.

“I want to be a voice for those who don’t have a voice, because I understand what that looks like,” she said. “I under­stand what it looks like to have to work multiple different jobs just to make rent.”

Acknowledging the efforts of outgoing District 6 Council­member Desley Brooks, Tay­lor said:

“I look forward to serving and delivering greater eco­nomic opportunity, especially for those who have been left out, underserved and under­represented in our communi­ty. We are fully committed to stopping the pushing out and pricing out of the residents of our city.”

Mayor Schaaf, celebrating her 20 years in city govern­ment, said her priorities re­main the same.

She said, “We are ready to bring even more dramat­ic changes in the next four years,” including “an even greater reduction” in homi­cides and violence, support for her favored nonprofit – Oak­land Promise, road repair “in the neighborhoods,” as well as building more units of housing and increasing ways to make “headway on homelessness.”

The council elected District 7 Councilmember Larry Reid to serve as vice mayor and Dis­trict 1 Councilmember Dan Kalb as mayor pro tem. Reid (a reappointment) and Taylor were picked to represent the city on the Oakland-Alameda County Coliseum Authority board of commissioners.

Published January 10, 2019, courtesy of the Oakland Post

Oakland Pays Tribute to Outgoing Councilmember Desley Brooks

“Desley was the lightning rod who took all the bad energy (and stood) up for us in this city,” said Carroll Fife.

Community activist Carroll Fife spoke Tuesday evening, Dec. 11, at the City Council meeting, backed by Oaklanders who joined her in paying tribute to outgoing Councilmember Desley Brooks. Photo by Ken Epstein.

By Ken Epstein

Oaklanders crowded into City Council chambers this week – the last meeting of the year – -to pay tribute to outgoing Councilmember Desley Brooks, who represented District 6 in East Oakland for 16 years.

Brooks, who was excused due to illness in her family, did not attend the meeting.

Almost 40 people signed up to speak about the issues Councilmember Brooks championed – including homelessness and construction jobs for Black and Latino workers – and praise her for courageous stands on behalf of the city’s most vulnerable residents.

Two drummers beat a solemn, celebratory rhythm, and the crowded chambers reverberated with clapping, cheering and chants of “Desley! Desley! Desley!”

Those who appreciated the work of Councilmember Brooks, especially her outspoken demands for equity for Black Oaklanders, crowded around the podium as Oakland activist Carroll Fife spoke of the “scars and battle wounds that Brooks took for standing up for us in this city.”

“Desley was the lightning rod that took all of the bad energy from the press, from you all (on the council), from the gentrifying agents of the city. She took it, and she wore it. She is African. That is what we do…

“Desley was unapologetically Black. (She) unapologetically stood with the people who are most in need.”

Over her years in office, Brooks helped create the landmark Race and Equity Department, fought for Black neighborhoods stigmatized by the War on Drugs to have equitable opportunities to engage in the legalized cannabis industry and stood up to the police chief and mayor when they violated Oakland’s Sanctuary City ordinance.

Earning the anger of state construction trade unions, she recently had been questioning the proposal for a Project Labor Agreement that would give all the construction jobs on city projects to segregated unions that have few Black members.

Though members of the council praise ‘bad sistas,’ said Fife, “We have to talk about the difference and the disparity. She cannot be bad on that seat (on the council), but Libby gets to be ‘Oakland Tough’ (referring to one of the Mayor Schaaf’s recent campaign slogans).”

“You did not lose your seat Desley Brooks – it was stolen from you by the mayor, by independent expenditures, by the half a million dollars (they raised) to put out of office so you couldn’t represent us,” Fife continued.

“We see, and we are united.  We are coming together. This is bigger than Desley, but Desley was our drum.”

Published December 13, 2018, courtesy of the Oakland Post

 

Opinion: Disguised Discrimination Against Black Workers Returns to City Council Agenda

Hold Public Hearings Before Passing a Project Labor Agreement

By Paul Cobb

Black workers get only 9 percent of the work on city-funded projects, although Black people make up 25 percent of the Oakland population.    The City Council is scheduled vote next week to continue or even reduce this small percentage of Black employment.

The proposal for a Project Labor Agreement (Item 13 on this week’s City Council agenda) is actually not as complicated as it sounds.  For most employment you apply for a job, and if the employer discriminates you make a complaint.

With a citywide Project Labor Agreement, the construction unions decide who works and you cannot complain, if you do not belong to the construction union.

Of course, in most industries we support what unions ask for, because they are working for the common good.  In the case of the construction unions,  they will not disclose their membership by ethnicity, and from all the available evidence they have few Black members.

So guaranteeing them all the work is guaranteeing that Black people will have little of it.

Making this Council motion even more deceptive is the fact that it is hidden in a social justice proposal to use public land for public good.  So council members and the construction trades have set up good folks to oppose an important policy on public land, because they insist on hiding a discriminatory policy on employment within it.

What should happen?

Council members (Kaplan and Guillen) should:

  • Separate the two issues;
  • Pass a strong public lands policy; and
  • Hold public hearings on the Project Labor Agreement so that Oaklanders can understand the issues, deliberate, and propose Oakland city policies that both protect all workers and enhance Black participation in construction.

Published December 11, 2018, courtesy of the Oakland Post

Health Advocate Margaret Gordon Receives West Oakland Health Trailblazer Award

Margaret Gordon

West Oakland Health is honoring Margaret Gordon, co-director of the West Oakland Environmental Indicators Project (WOEIP), with a West Oakland Health Trailblazer Award for her work as a “forward thinker in the field of health care.”

“The purpose of the …Trailblazer Award is to recognize and honor an individual who has demonstrated innovation, creativity and overcoming obstacles to meet the challenges of health care delivery in education, clinical service, public policy or community service,” according to the award letter sent to Gordon.

Gordon will receive the award at West Oakland Health’s 50th Anniversary Gala Celebration Saturday, Feb. 16 at the Marriott Hotel, 1001 Broadway in Oakland.

Gordon co-founded WOEIP in 2003 to fight to clean up air quality in West Oakland, classified as a major “toxic hotspot.” The community is located next door the Port of Oakland, a hub for ships and diesel trucking, which produces 90 times more diesel emission participates per day compared to the state of California.

Up until the founding of WOEIP, the voices of West Oakland residents were entirely absent from the Port of Oakland’s governing process.

“I was the first member of the impacted community in over 80 years to meet at a table with Port of Oakland executives,” said Gordon said in an interview with Breathe California – California Golden Gate Public Health Partnership.

Since the launch of WOEIP, the Port of Oakland has reduced its emissions by 70 percent, and Gordon has been a principle catalyst.

West Oakland Health is a nonprofit community health center with four sites providing primary care, women, children, and infant care, behavioral health, substance abuse recovery services and an oral health program to residents of West, North and East Oakland, Emeryville and Southwest Berkeley.

Published December 6, 2018, courtesy of the Oakland Post

 

Oakland Race & Equity Dept. Report Calls for End to Systemic Racial Disparities

Affordable housing protest at Oakland City Hall

City Councilmembers  this week took the “first step” to implement the “2018 Oakland Equity Indicators Report,” a recent study that provides data on racial disparities experienced by African Americans and Latinos in nearly all areas of life in Oakland, including housing, health, public safety and education.

Darlene Flynn

The report, a joint project of the Resilient Oakland Office and the city’s Department of Race and Equity, was released in July. The plan now calls for the council and city departments to begin to examine policies and programs “through intentional focus on race and ethnic disparities and their root causes,” said Darlene Flynn, director of the Department of Race & Equity, speaking at Tuesday’s meeting of the council’s Life Enrichment Committee.

The report was funded by a $140,000 grant from the Rockefeller Foundation,

The ultimate goal is “fairness,” which means that “identity—such as race, ethnicity, gender, age, disability, sexual orientation or expression—has no detrimental effect on the distribution of resources, opportunities and outcomes for our city’s residents,” according to the report to the council submitted by Flynn.

The report will be updated each year, “measuring how much we have changed (in terms of) what our outcomes are,” because “if we keep doing things the same way we are doing them, we will keep getting the same outcomes,” Flynn said.

The report looked at Oaklanders’ quality of life based on 72 indicators in six areas: economy, education, public health, housing, public safety and neighborhood and civic life.

On a scale of 1 to 100, the report gave the city an overall average score of 33.5. The number 1 represents the highest possible inequity, while 100 represents the highest possible equity.

“This is not good news. It should also not be surprising news for people who are paying to attention to how people’s lives are going in (Oakland),” Flynn said.

“This (report) shows that race does matter. Every area that we looked showed some level of disparity by race and usually quite a bit of disparity,” she said.
One indicator, “Oakland Poverty Rate by Race/Ethnicity,” shows that 26.1 percent of African Americans live at or below the poverty line, while only 8.4 percent of whites are classified as poor.

In other words, “African Americans are three times more likely to live in poverty than whites,” she said.

In addition, one of five Latinos, 21.9 percent, live in poverty. Overall, the poverty rate in Oakland is 17 percent.

This pattern can be seen in nearly all of the 72 indicators: African Americans are the most “negatively impacted,” followed by Latinos, she said.

On 12 indicators, the city received a 1.0, the lowest possible score:

  • Education – student suspensions
  • Education – teaching staff representative of the student body
  • Public Health – child asthma emergency department visits
  • Public Health – substance abuse emergency department visits
  • Housing – homelessness
  • Public safety – adult felony arrests
  • Public safety – jail incarceration
  • Public safety – prison incarceration,
  • Public safety – use of force
  • Public safety – homicides
  • Public safety – juvenile felony arrests
  • Neighborhood and Civil Life – pedestrian safety

The five highest scoring indicators:

  • Equal Access Accommodations (language access) – 100
  • Adopt-a-Drain – 80
  • Homeownership with mortgage – 78
  • Life expectancy – 77
  • Labor force participation – 72
  • Participation in workforce development – 72

A high score does not necessarily mean that an outcome is good, but that is it more equal across different groups of residents.

Flynn, who has headed the Department of Race and Equity since it was formed two years ago through the efforts of Councilmember Desley Brooks, was cautiously optimistic about what the work around the new equity report can achieve.

“This is just the first step, not the end of the story,” said Flynn, pointing out that government played a role in creating the systemic inequities that exist, and it can play a role in reversing them. “I have some level of optimism that with public will, with leadership support, with changes in strategy, we can make a difference,” she said. “By leading with race, we can make a difference.”

To read the report, go to www.ca.gov/projects/oakland-equity-indicators

Published November 15, 2018, courtesy of the Oakland Post