Category: Elections & Voting Rights

President to Award Medal of Freedom to Three Slain Civil Rights Workers

Slain civil rights workers Michael Schwerner, James Chaney, and Andrew Goodman will be posthumously awarded with the Presidential Medal of Freedom. During Freedom Summer 1964, they worked to register African Americans to vote in Mississippi.

Slain civil rights workers Michael Schwerner, James Chaney, and Andrew Goodman will be posthumously awarded with the Presidential Medal of Freedom. During Freedom Summer 1964, they worked to register African Americans to vote in Mississippi.

Three young men murdered in Neshoba County 50 years ago registering African Americans to vote will receive the Presidential Medal of Freedom, the White House has announced.

Murdered in a plot hatched by the Ku Klux Klan, James Chaney, 21, Andrew Goodman, 21, and Michael Schwerner, 24, will be awarded the medal posthumously by President Barack Obama at the White House on Monday, Nov. 24.

In the midst of Freedom Summer 1964, the three men on Father’s Day were investigating the ruins of Mt. Zion United Methodist, burned to the ground by the Klan because it was being used as a meeting place.

Driving back into Philadelphia the trio was stopped on trumped-up speeding charges, arrested and jailed.

They were released that night and later pursued by a mob of Klansmen that included law enforcement. They were pulled from their station wagon, driven to a remote county road and shot at point-blank range.

After a massive search that included federal authorities, their bodies were found 44 days later buried in an earthen dam off Highway 21 south.

In 1967, seven men were convicted of conspiring to violate their civil rights. Some served prison time.

In 2005, Edgar Ray Killen, a part-time Baptist preacher and sawmill owner, was indicted by a Neshoba County grand jury and later convicted on three counts of manslaughter for his role in orchestrating the murders.

He received three 20-year consecutive sentences and is still serving.

The murders gained international attention, and the Neshoba County murders helped lead to passage of the 1964 Civil Rights Act and the Voting Rights Act of 1965.

“Fifty years ago, the lives of James Chaney, Andrew Goodman, and Michael Schwerner were taken away from us at a far too early age,” said Congressman Bennie Thompson of Mississippi.

“These three young men, and countless others, paid the ultimate sacrifice in an effort to help bring equality to the state of Mississippi,” Thompson said. “Bestowing the nation’s highest civilian honor to these three men is a fitting tribute for their contribution toward making this country a more perfect Union. I commend President Obama for honoring these men and look forward to carrying on the spirit of their effort.”

On May 29, Congressman Thompson and members of the Congressional Black Caucus wrote to President Obama requesting for the Presidential Medal of Freedom to be bestowed posthumously to Chaney, Goodman, and Schwerner.

Courtesy of the Post News Group, November 18, 2014 (postnewsgroup.com)

Libby Schaaf Starts Search for City Administrator, Reaches Out to Councilmembers

“I have been very clear that I will be unbending about not putting public money into stadium projects,” Schaaf said.

By Ken Epstein

A week after winning an intense race to become mayor of Oakland, Libby Schaaf is busy preparing for her term of office, which will start when she is sworn at the beginning of January

Libby Schaff

Libby Schaff

At the top of her “to do” list is the hiring a first-rate permanent city administrator to replace Henry Gardner, who is currently serving in that position on an interim basis.

“The recruiter is already on board, and I am meeting with them tomorrow to finalize the job description,” said Schaaf in an interview Thursday with the Post.

“They will do a national search to find someone who has the background and the track record, who can deliver great services for Oakland residents,” she said.

Schaaf emphasized that she had broad experience working in all parts of Oakland, including stints running a citywide school volunteer program, operating a homework center in West Oakland and initiating the school district’s Parenting University, which for years was a project of the Marcus Foster Educational Institute.

Pledging to work collaborative with the City Council, she said she has already contacted councilmembers, requesting to do a “driving tour” of their districts with them. She says she wants to see their districts and priorities through the councilmembers’ eyes.

“Nobody gets anything done alone,” said Schaaf. “I have so much respect for councilmembers – I’ve worked with them for decades. They know their communities best.”

A major issue that the new mayor will have on her plate will be “Coliseum City,” a proposal to build new sports arenas and an entertainment, housing and hotel complex on the property surrounding where the current Coliseum is located.

“I want to keep my teams in Oakland,” said Schaaf, adding that she has already called the owners of the Raiders and the A’s.

“(But) I have been very clear that I will be unbending about not putting public money into stadium projects,” she said.

The project can be done with private money, as has been done in other cities, she said.

“It’s is appropriate to for the city to look at investments into infrastructure and transportation, which will be owned by the city in perpetuity.”

In addition, she said, the city has committed to an open process in which residents would be able to have a say on the project.

“The directive was to get a lot of public input on the different development scenarios for the entire area, going down to the waterfront,” she said. “The public process should be including robust community participation.”

Courtesy of the Oakland Post, November 15, 2014 (postnewsgroup.com)

 

Tony Thurmond Wins District 15th Assembly Race

Tony Thurmond and Kamala Harris

Tony Thurmond and Kamala Harris

By Nikolas Zelinski

In a race between two Democrats, Tony Thurmond beat Elizabeth Echols with 54 percent of the vote for the 15th District of the California Assembly.

District 15 includes 11 cities that are found between the southern edges of Oakland and the northern border of Hercules.

The victory is considered “upset” by some due to the political backing Echols received from Berkeley Mayor Tom Bates, his wife, State Senator Loni Hancock and termed-out District 15 Assemblymember Nancy Skinner.

This is the first time in years that a candidate had won the seat without support from Bates.

Thurmond gives credit for his victory to the hard work of his supporters. .

“Our win is a testament to our volunteers who walked the precincts every single day and stayed focused,” Thurmond said. “I didn’t get the sense that being in the precincts every day was happening for the other campaign.”

Thurmond’s platform emphasized climate change issues, combatting violent crime, creating jobs, and fostering youth development. He has been outspoken and nurses’ picket lines backing efforts to save Doctors Medical Center in San Pablo.

His first plan of action in Sacramento is to push for youth recidivism and truancy reduction. Schools lose government funding when students are absent; less funding means less supplies and equipment.

Thurmond sees criminal justice reform and truancy reform as interrelated issues, “When young children miss school, their learning suffers, which puts them at risk of dropping out of school and ending up in the criminal justice system.”

Courtesy of the Post News Group, November 7, 2014 (postnewsgroup.com)

Mayoral Candidates Call for Task Forces for Greater Community Voice in Making Policy

By Ken Epstein

Some of Oakland’s mayoral candidates – from the highly visible frontrunners to the grassroots community activists who are running more low-budget campaigns – are backing a post-election plan to create progress in the city through community involvement in developing and implementing new policies and laws in Oakland

Libby Schaaf

Libby Schaaf

“I’m committed to reinvigorating the community process for crafting sensible policy solutions for moving Oakland forward. In fact, the recommendations for policymaking that were generated through active community input in the past have often been fruitful and innovative,” said Councilmember Rebecca Kaplan.

“I am very passionate about community involvement. People support what they create,” said Councilmember Libby Schaaf.

“It is these efforts that allow the community voice, which are the only thing that will bring progress and unity to Oakland,” she said.

“I enthusiastically support the creation of a strategic planning process and the development of task forces to involve members of the community in the development of city policy, including creating the city budget, public safety, economic development, education, housing, and the arts,” said attorney Dan Siegel “Similar efforts during the Elihu Harris and Ron Dellums administrations had a positive impact on both community engagement and city policy.”

Dan Siegel

Dan Siegel

“I am a big fan of more community involvement,” said Bryan Parker. “I think we can use ‘crowdsourcing’ technology to ‘source’ ideas and create further engagement.  As mayor, I will be creating an office of innovation with a Chief Innovation Officer.”

The proposal is to create 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.

Community involvement in task forces or community councils “is already in action in the more affluent areas of Oakland, “said Jason “Shake” Anderson, pointing to organizations that have had input on Measure Z and developing spending priorities.

“The next mayor needs to ensure that the entire city is represented, not just the hills (in efforts) to engage in policy creation,” he said.

Ken Houston

Ken Houston

East Oakland community leader Ken Houston has been involved in task forces in the past.

“I agree with having 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.”

Houston emphasized the need for city action to support the formerly incarcerated.

“My company is already doing this through construction jobs,” he said. “In the last

Jason "Shake" Anderson

Jason “Shake” Anderson

24 months, we hired 60 ex-felons.  Because of the construction boom in Oakland, we need to take construction as the tool to lift Oakland out of its economic, crime, and public safety problems.”

A community involvement task force process was pioneered during the administration of Mayor Ron Dellums, involving 900 residents for a number of months, leading to about 150 policies and programs being proposed and about 80 being implemented.

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

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, November 1, 2014 (postnewsgroup.com)

Mayor Candidate Jason “Shake” Anderson, Committed for the Long Haul

Jason "Shake" Anderson

Jason “Shake” Anderson

By Post Staff

Jason “Shake” Anderson – a U.S. veteran, artist and community organizer – is one of the new leaders who has emerged during the citywide mayoral race this year.

Already a seasoned leader in the community, Jason was active in Occupy Oakland on its media committee and helped organize Oakland’s popular First Fridays in 2012.

Looking at what his campaign for mayor has achieved, he said he hopes it has served “as a starting point to get more people of all ages, but especially youth, engaged in changing policies and service to the community.”

“For me this, election is an extension of activism,” he said. “So I suggest anyone motivated to change things (should), find like-minded people, pick a cause, create a project and work to make Oakland better.”

Anderson was communications director for the successful effort in 2013 to raise $375,000 to save the Liberty Hall, a historic landmark building in West Oakland that was facing foreclosure by Citibank.

Earlier in the mayoral campaign, he called on candidates and the Mayor’s Office to sit down with the police to reduce

Liberty Hall Oakland

Liberty Hall Oakland

the potential for violence after the police union, Oakland Police Officers Association, wrote a public letter saying it had no confidence in police and city leaders to maintain public safety.

Three of Jason’s key campaign issues are property/safety, transparency and arts and culture. He has also emphasized that the city’s mayor has the responsibility to act as a global citizen.

“Public Safety has been politically used to mislead the public on how our tax dollars are spent,” he says. “As mayor, I would like to define terms clearly. Prosperity-Safety (means) raising the standard of living of citizens.”

Anderson has also used his platform as a mayoral candidate has called on local officials not to keep information from public and avoid misleading local residents on important issues. “As a community organizer, I would like to influence clearer communication between Oakland residents and City Hall through transparency,” he said.

An artist himself, Anderson says arts and culture can play a key role in developing a more democratic and inclusive Oakland. “Often overlooked as a crime deterrent, the arts are the safest way to move individuals from the inner city criminal culture to a creative and productive lifestyle.”

“Arts and culture provide opportunities to become an entrepreneur can help prepare citizens – especially youth – reach full employment.”

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)

Desley Brooks Helps Family After City Sewer Workers Wreck Their Home

Left to Right: Gerard Gray, Kameron Gray, Christina Gray and City Councilmember Desley Brooks

Left to Right: Gerard Gray, Kameron Gray, Christina Gray and City Councilmember Desley Brooks

By Ken Epstein

Gerard and Christina Gray have been working with the City of Oakland for over a year to get back into their home after a city crew accidently caused sewage to back up into their house – completely destroying it.

During that time, the couple says, they have been able to turn repeatedly to their representative, City Councilmember Desley Brooks, who has worked with the City Administrator to overcome bureaucratic obstacles to make sure the city fulfilled its responsibilities to the family.

“We knew this was the city’s fault, and this family should not have to go through this,” said Brooks.

“Along the way, we’ve talked to Councilmember Brooks when the city was not hearing us,” said Christina Gray.

The Gray’s nightmare began on July 16, 2013 when a city crew was working in the neighborhood using pressurized water to flush out the sewer lines, and something went wrong.

Apparently, there was too much water pressure, and a camera had not been used to check the pipe. As a result, sewage erupted from the bathtubs, drains, sinks and toilets in the Gray’s home at Keller Avenue and Mountain Boulevard in East Oakland.

The raw sewage contaminated the garage level and the two levels of the home. The liquid that pooled on the floor of the top level sank through the flooring, causing the ceiling of the first level to collapse.

The Grays, who had been living in their home for 15 years, had only an hour to go into the house in HAZMAT suits to gather their clothes and few personal possessions.

Their home had to be gutted.

The couple moved with their three children to a hotel. Since then, they have lived in hotels and moved six times. Their renovated home is supposed to be ready in January.

The couple called Councilmember Brooks who talked to the City Administrator when the city was being unresponsive.

Though city willingly accepted responsibility for the repairs, staff objected to paying for the family’s hotel stay.

City staff also pressured the Grays to accept the cheapest contractor, who would not thoroughly renovate the home but would instead clean and reinstall the old fixtures and patch instead of replace walls, according to the couple, who had to pay an attorney to represent them.

“(Originally,), all they did was give us a claim form and tell us to save the receipts so we could be reimbursed at the end,” said Gerard Gray, pointing out that the couple has had to continue to pay the mortgage and all the utilities for their home for the 15 months that they have lived in a hotel.

In addition, the City Attorney’s Office in writing agreed to waive permit fees for rebuilding. But staff changed their minds and wanted the couple to pay many thousands of dollars in fees.

Councilmember Brooks brought a resolution recently to the full City Council, which voted unanimously to waive the fees.

Courtesy of the Oakland Post, October 3, 2014 (postnewsgroup.com)

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 (postnewsgroup.com)

Mayoral Candidates Dispute Council on Garbage Contract

Part 2

By Ashley Chambers

With Oakland’s garbage conflict capturing public attention, a number of mayoral candidates are expressing discontent with the two-year process of how the City Council came to a 7-1 decision.

Bryan Parker

Bryan Parker

“The city government really messed up the process. They created a process where Waste Management was almost guaranteed to win,” says Dan Siegel, civil rights attorney.

Last week, the Post interviewed mayoral candidates who hold public office – Mayor Jean Quan and Councilmembers Rebecca Kaplan and Libby Schaaf –who upheld the council’s decision as democratic and transparent and called it the deal that will provide the best services and lowest rates for Oakland residents.

Siegel says he prefers CWS over Waste Management but adds that the Council “bought themselves a huge lawsuit and created incredible uncertainties to what’s going to happen” through this process.

While Port Commissioner Bryan Parker says he supports investment in a local West Oakland business, he also criticized the contracting process.

“I would have ensured that every concern – including whether a particular vendor had the capacity to provide services – was addressed before the contract was awarded,” Parker says. “Then the lawsuit could have been avoided. We need better planning, better processes and less drama. We need real leadership to avoid these issues in the future.”

Joe Tuman

Joe Tuman

City auditor Courtney Ruby has failed to comment on the heated trash debates. But mayoral candidate Joe Tuman, a professor at San Francisco State University, was willing to weigh in on the matter.

“I’m bothered by the fact that there has been misleading information,” says Tuman, responding to the Waste Management referendum that seeks to disrupt the trash contract with CWS.

Dan Siegel

Dan Siegel

“The process was fair and to claim otherwise is just silly,” he says, having personally witnessed paid signature gatherers make incorrect claims.

“City Council decided to award the contract differently than what city staff had recommended.” However, he says, “that’s just fine; we don’t elect our City Council members to be rubber stamps, we elect them to exercise independent judgment.”

While he believes in awarding the contract to the local company, Tuman criticized City Council for not being transparent about the franchise fee – $30 million – that the company awarded with the contract pays annually to the city, and would ultimately raise rates for consumers.

“The city knew full well that the winning vendor would pass that rate on to ratepayers…the money goes right back into the city’s pockets,” Tuman says. “Our city government should’ve been more honest about what that [franchise fee] was. It’s reprehensible that the council and the Mayors office weren’t more vocal and upfront about this.”

CWS will build a new state-of-the-art facility at the Oakland Army Base and offer job opportunities for youth, local residents, and Waste Management workers. The new contract is scheduled to start July 1, 2015.

Photos by Adam L. Turner.

Courtesy of the Oakland Post, September 19, 2014 (postnewsgroup.com)

Mayoral Candidates Side with Local Company Against Waste Multinational

By Ashley Chambers

Part 1

National trash hauling company Waste Management is playing hardball after losing its bid on the 10-year, $1-billion garbage contract with the City of Oakland.

Mayor Jean Quan

Mayor Jean Quan

The company pledged in August to support the city’s transition to Oakland-based, minority-owned California Waste Solutions (CWS), which won the contract when its offered lower garbage rates and jobs for local residents.

Now, however, Waste Management is doing whatever it can to disrupt the deal. In the midst of the petition referendum conflict that is playing out on Oakland streets, a number of Oakland’s 15 mayoral candidates have weighed in with their views on the City Council’s strong stand.

In a press release issued after the council decision, Mayor Jean Quan backed the deal as “one of the greenest garbage contracts in the country.”

“With this contract Oakland is taking a historic step toward fulfilling our goal of zero waste … diverting more waste away from our landfills and dramatically reducing our greenhouse gases,” Quan said.

Rebecca Kaplan

Rebecca Kaplan

As one of the councilmembers who voted for the CWS award, Rebecca Kaplan says the council’s decision “saved the people of Oakland $200 million by not going with the worst bid.”

Libby Schaaf

Libby Schaaf

“The Waste Management proposal was so much worse than what we voted for. We voted for lower prices, more jobs, a local customer service call center, and green energy,” she said.

CWS will add new services to create local jobs and partner with Civicorps to provide job opportunities for teens in Oakland. The company will hire all of the former Waste Management workers.

Councilmember Libby Schaaf, who voted to award the contract to CWS, called for the city to take steps to support the move to the new company.

“The city needs to do everything in its power to ensure a smooth transition to CWS, (and) that includes transfer of the land” at the Army Base that will be used for the company’s trash facility, she said.

Jason "Shake" Anderson

Jason “Shake” Anderson

Schaaf said the city needs to respond to Waste Management’s misleading referendum by educating residents about the real facts in the new contract. “Oakland needs to fight back against this bullying behavior,” she said.

Mayoral candidate Jason “Shake” Anderson said he trusts that the City Council made the right decision for Oakland, though he has concerns, “How long is it going to take [CWS] to actually do the job that’s necessary to provide for the citizens of Oakland?” He asked.

“A small company getting a big contract is going to change a lot of things. I hope it changes for the better,” Anderson said.
The Post will cover the positions of other mayoral candidates next week.

Courtesy of the Oakland Post, September 13, 2014 (postnewsgroup.com)