Category: Equal Rights/Equity

Clergy Leaders Endorse Desley Brooks While Mayor and Developers Raise Money to Defeat Her

Brooks’ opponents are spending nearly $400,000 in District 6

Shown are (top left to right): Pastor Joe Nobles, Pastor Dr. Kevin Ary, Rev. Eric Barfield, Pastor Eli Lloyd D.D. Second Row (not shown): Bishop Johnson, Pastor Joe L Smith, President, Pastor L. J. Jennings and Rev. Michael N Jones Sr. Bottom row: Pastor Larry Atkins, Pastor Dr. Lee E. Henry and Desley Brooks.

By Ken Epstein

A huge amount of outside money is being spent by outside interests tied to Oakland Mayor Libby Schaaf and her developer and building trades allies to back the candidates who are trying to unseat veteran City Councilmember Desley Brooks.

Brooks, who has significant grassroots support and financial backing, is facing four opponents and two Political Action Committees that have war chests totaling over $360,000, close to five times as much as Brooks has raised.

“The influence of outside money has been dictating and changing the culture of our city for years now,” said Angela Thomas, a lifelong resident of Oakland and former family childcare provider who has lived in District 6 for 14 years.

“Now, it seems that same money, currently being directed by Mayor Libby Schaaf and her big money donors, is seeping into a local election in our neighborhood, distorting the facts, rehashing old news and aiming to take out an elected official who has consistently stood up to them and who has also stood up for us, and I take it personally,” she said recently in a media release for a press conference on the steps of City Hall.

“The Mayor and her donors are using her power, influence and big money to take out Desley and poison the water in a local race,” said local civil rights attorney Dan Siegel, a District 6 resident.

The largest of the two PACSs that are funding mailings and canvassing against Brooks is “Oaklanders for Responsible Leadership, Opposing Desley Brooks for Oakland City Council,” which has $81,665 in donations but has already spent $114,479 as of Oct. 20.

Many of the donations to this PAC come from regional and statewide building trades unions, which do not hire very many Black workers on Oakland projects and work together with developers to support continuous gentrification and displacement of local residents.

Among the donations are: Sprinkler Fitters and Apprentices Local 483 PAC in Sacramento for $15,000, International Brotherhood of Electrical workers Local 595 in Dublin for $10,000; Sheet Metal Workers Local Union No 104 in San Ramon for $10,000; and the State Building and Construction Trades Council of California for $10,000.

Other contributors to the Anti-Brooks PAC were Libby Schaaf, $999.99; Oakland Metropolitan Chamber of Commerce, $7,500; Kenneth Schmier, self-employed investor in Emeryville, $4,990; Lisa Schmier, retired, in Larkspur, $4,990; and Kim A. Thompson, attorney, PricewaterhouseCoopers, $2,500.

The other PAC, “Citizens for a United Oakland, Opposing Desley Brooks for City Council,” has raised $26,100 and spent $31,320 as of Oct. 20.

Donations to this PAC include: Robert Spears, Shoreline Venture Management, $4,500; Derek Benham, Piedmont CEO of Purple Wine, $4,500; Stephan Pezzola of Oakland, business consulting Yorkshire Ventures, $2.500; and Frank Yeary, Berkeley, Executive Chairman, Camberview Partners, $1,000.

Of the four candidates running against Brooks, the one with the most donations is Loren Taylor, who has worked in non-profits and is a PTA president. As of Oct. 20, he listed campaign contributions of $141,041.

Among his contributors are: Jeremy Zachary, Gold Coast Industries, $800; Joe Simitian, Palo Alto, Santa Clara County Supervisor, $800, Andrew Deangelo, General Manager Harborside Health Center, $700; and Louise Godfrey, Piedmont, $600.
Taylor loaned his campaign $8,000 of his personal funds.

Natasha Middleton, a management analyst at the Alameda County Probation Department, has reported $68,874 in donations and $74,862 in expenditures as of Oct. 20.
Her contributions include: International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers Local 332 in San Jose, $1,600; Leigh Morgan, Seattle, executive, Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, $750; Northern Calif. Carpenters Regional Council, $1,600; Plumbers & Steamfitters Local 460, Bakersfield, $1,000; Southern California Pipe Trades District Council 16, Los Angeles, $1,600; and Plumbers and Steamfitter Local Union No. 230, San Diego, $1,600.

Marlo Rodriguez, a Registered Nurse, has raised $24,534 so far.  She has loaned $16,680 to her campaign.  The donations to her campaign are mostly about $100.

Mya Whitaker, a counselor for foster youth, has raised $15,691 at Oct. 20.

Her funders include William Koziol, Crockett, $800; Rebecca Vasquez, Sacramento, $800; Khalil Yearwood, San Francisco with Gibson Dunn, $800; Jason Burke, Sunnyvale, corporate/business official, Aosense, $800.

(Correction: An earlier edition of this story misspelled Mya Whitaker’s name.)

Published November 3, 2018, courtesy of the Oakland Post

Report: Oakland Can House 2,000 Homeless People in 6 Months “If Political Will Exists”

Real number of homeless in Oakland is over 9,000

A number of Oakland groups released a “Community-Based Oakland Plan to House the Unhoused” at a press conference Monday at Geoffrey’s Inner Circle in downtown Oakland. Among the speakers were Needa B of The Village, Margaretta Lin of the Dellums Institute for Social Justice and Candice Elder of the East Oakland Collective. Photo by Amir Saadiq.

The Housing and Dignity Project released a report this week showing that solutions to housing Oakland’s unhoused residents are available, if the political will exists.

A collaboration between The Village, the East Oakland Collective, and the Dellums Institute for Social Justice,  The Housing and Dignity Project’s report, “Housing Oakland’s Unhoused Report,” is available on the Dellums Institute’s website, http://dellumsinstitute.org/community-justice-data/.

It is the perfect response to the recently released UN Report that called out only two cities in the US for human rights violations of the homeless–Oakland and San Francisco.

As the UN Special Rapporteur on Adequate Housing, Leilani Farha, decried in the recent special report, “The world has come to accept the unacceptable.”  With escalating income inequality and “systemic exclusion” of the poor, nearly one in four of the world’s urban population lives in informal settlements or encampments—883 million people.

These intolerable conditions exist not only in Mumbai, but shockingly, in US cities like Oakland and San Francisco.

With Oakland’s out of control housing market and 75 percent increase in median rents since 2014, escalating numbers of Oakland’s working poor have lost their homes.

Said Needa Bee, leader of The Village, “It took the United Nations to validate what unhoused people have been saying.  Instead of working with us, the City of Oakland has bulldozed community housing, denied its residents struggling to survive access to basic rights to water and sanitation, evicted encampments, and criminalized the homeless.”

Spurred by the City of Oakland’s failure to adequately house over 9,000 unhoused Oakland residents (a more accurate number according to the Alameda County Healthcare for the Homeless Program research), the Housing and Dignity Project recently convened unhoused residents to design strategies that can provide immediate and long-term housing solutions.

“Unhoused residents who have been the most impacted by Oakland’s insane housing crisis know what solutions look like.  The problem is that few people are willing to listen,” said Candice Elder, leader of the East Oakland Collective.

The “Housing Oakland’s Unhoused Plan” harnesses alternative building solutions and community ingenuity with available public land that could provide over 7,000 new housing units for the unhoused.

As former Oakland Deputy City Administrator and co-architect of the Plan, Margaretta Lin, said, “I was at the City of Oakland during the Great Recession and witnessed firsthand the power of government to solve big problems.  We need government to unleash their full powers to partner with unhoused residents and reverse Oakland’s current course.  Systemic exclusion and human rights violations are happening on our collective watch.”

The report identified short term emergency solutions implementable within six months including:

  • Housing 1,200 people in tiny home villages for up to $7,500 per unit;
  • Housing 800 people in mobile homes for up to $35,000 per unit;
  • Utilize 50 parcels of available public land in Oakland that could produce 7,300 housing units.

These scalable solutions could immediately house 2,000 people for about $23 million, less than the cost to build one 40-unit building. In addition, the Housing and Dignity Project has identified city, county, and state available funds for their plan.

Published November 2, 2018, courtesy of the Oakland Post

 

Bernie Sanders Endorses Jovanka Beckles for Assembly

Senator Bernie Sanders and Congresswoman Barbara Lee with Jovanka Beckles at get-out-the-vote rally last Saturday.

Senator Bernie Sanders endorsed Jovanka Beckles for Assembly District 15 following a weekend rally in Berkeley.

“While in Berkeley, I had the chance to meet with Jovanka Beckles, and I was impressed by her commitment to progressive values,” said Sanders.

“In the State Assembly, she will fight for Medicare for all, a living wage for all California workers, environmental justice and criminal justice reform,” he said. “I’m proud to support Jovanka Beckles in the 15th Assembly district.”

Sanders met with Beckles following an auditorium-packing rally with Congresswoman Barbara Lee (CA-13) in a speech excoriating President Trump. Berkeley was the final stop on his dynamic, nine-state Get Out The Vote (GOTV) tour.

The event, on the grounds of Berkeley High School at the packed 3,500-seat Berkeley Community Theater, began with a speech by Berkeley Mayor Jesse Arreguín.

Published November 1, 2018

Are Schaaf Administration and City Attorney Undermining Independent Police Commission?

Mayor Schaaf, City Administrator Landreth and City Attorney Parker failed to respond to Oakland Post’s Questions

City Attorney Barbara Parker, Chief of Police Anne Kirkpatrick, Mayor Libby Schaaf and City Administrator Sabrina Landreth. Photo courtesy of Oakland Magazine.

By Ken Epstein

Back in July when the Oakland City Council passed the enabling ordinance for the Oakland Police Commission—over the strenuous objections of the City Administrator and the City Attorney—it appeared for a moment that the issue was finally settled: commission staff would be independent of the mayor and the mayor’s administration.

In other words, the City Council decided the commission’s staff would report to the commission, not the City Attorney or the City Administrator.

Rashidah Grinage

Based on the Measure LL charter amendment, the City Council passed the ordinance July 10 on a 6-1 vote (with only Annie Campbell Washington voting no). The City contests the council decision, saying its provisions conflict with the City Charter.

Councilmembers rejected the City Attorney’s and the City Administrator’s contention that the City Charter as whole requires commission staff to be controlled by them, not independent of the administration as intended by the charter amendment, which passed two years ago with 83 percent of the vote.

Now, however, the mayor’s administration and the City Attorney are prepared to ignore the City Council’s decision, based on their interpretation of the City Charter, according to members of the steering committee of the Coalition for Police Accountability who met last Thursday with Mayor Libby Schaaf.

“The mayor is siding with the position of the City Attorney and the City Administration, even though the enabling ordinance was passed,” said Rashidah Grinage of the Coalition for Police Accountability.

“Regardless of her opinion, they have to implement what was passed. Period. They are saying they don’t have to abide by it. But their only recourse is to go to court to get an injunction. Otherwise, they have to implement it,” she said.

Henry Gage, a coalition member who attended the meeting with Mayor Schaaf, said “The Mayor seems unwilling to go against the City Administrator and the City Attorney.”

“You’d think once the City Council votes it would be over,” said Gage. “However, what I’ve learned is that if the executive branch doesn’t want to do something, the only real remedy is go to the courts.”

Chair of the Police Commision Thomas Smith, speaking at a City Council meeting, emphasized the need for the commission’s staff to be independent . “Having someone who is not a member of the City

Henry Gage

Attorney’s Office is very important,” he said.

Pamela Drake of the coalition said that what the public is seeing is the latest maneuver in a series of actions the mayor and the administration have taken to weaken the police commission. “They are doing everything they can to undermine an independent police commission,” she said.

Seeking an explanation of the administration’s decision, the Oakland Post contacted the City Attorney, the City Administrator and Mayor Schaaf. By Post deadline, none of them had responded. According to Grinage, the issue of independence concretely comes down to the employment contracts and jobs descriptions of three employees and consultants.

One issue has to do with contracts for the two attorneys who work for the police commission and the Civilian Police Review Agency (CRPA).

“These contracts predate the enabling ordinance, and they have to be rewritten in order to be in conformity with the ordinance. (At present), their supervisor is the City Attorney’s Office, and that is unacceptable,” said Grinage.

The other issue has to be with the position of the inspector general, who has yet to be hired and would work for the police commission.
“They are on the verge of putting out the job announcement for the inspector general,” said Grinage. The question is whether that person will report to the commission or the City Administrator, she said.

“I expect sooner or later that we will wind up in court over this,” said Grinage.

By ignoring the City Council decision, the mayor and the City Attorney are bypassing the requirements of the City Charter, according to Councilmember Desley Brooks.

“The City Charter is clear: The City Council sets the policy of the city, and it is the responsibility of the mayor to implement it,” she said.

Attorney Dan Siegel, who served as Mayor Jean Quan’s legal advisor, said that he has carefully studied Oakland’s City Charter.

“The main takeaway is that the City Attorney does not have an independent role in city government. The City Attorney is lawyer for the mayor, council and departments and has to follow the direction of her employers.”

When various agencies of government disagree, he said, the dispute must often be settled in court.

Mayoral candidate Cat Brooks said, “Oaklanders voted for what they believed would be a community-controlled police commission. The City and the Mayor need to respect the voices of the people.”

“The mayor has tried to prevent the commission from having full autonomy from the beginning,” with her demand to have the authority to appoint three members of the commission, said Brooks.

Attorney Pamela Price, also a mayoral candidate, supports the need for the commission to be an independent body.

“The voters have shown their lack of confidence in the city administration’s willingness to hold the police department accountable,” said Price. “Their intent was clearly to create an independent structure, and that structure should be fully empowered to carry out its function.”

Published October 20, 2018, courtesy of the Oakland Post

Pamela Price Campaign Joins Forces with Jovanka Beckles

Price has been endorsed by Black Democratic Clubs and Dr. H. Geoffrey Watson

 

Jovanka Beckles (fifth from left) and Pamela Price (fourth from right) join with volunteers to talk to voters at East Bay BART stations.

Pamela Price

The Pamela Price for Oakland Mayor campaign has joined forces with the Jovanka Beckles for Assembly District 15 campaign to canvass at BART stations throughout the East Bay, from Richmond to Rockridge station.

Together, volunteers from both teams and the two candidates themselves have engaged with voters.  Jovanka Beckles recently earned the endorsement of Congresswoman Barbara Lee.

“I am excited by the progress of Jovanka’s campaign and the prospect of her victory,” said Price.

“I look forward to having a steady advocate for the people in Sacramento once Jovanka is elected to the State Assembly. I am thrilled that Congresswoman Barbara Lee has stepped up to endorse Jovanka.”

Jovanka Beckles

Meanwhile, Pamela Price has been endorsed by two Democratic Clubs founded by African American activists in the East Bay, the Oakland East Bay Democratic Club (OEBDC) and the Niagara Movement Democratic Club.

OEBDC was founded in the late 1940s to work for Black political self-determination through electoral politics by organizing grassroots coalitions of East Bay African Americans.
The Niagara Movement Democratic Club was established in 1973 to bolster the voice of Oakland’s Black community and ensure equal representation in politics.

Additionally, Price has been endorsed by Dr. H. Geoffrey Watson, longtime community activist and president and CEO of the James A. Watson Wellness Center.

Dr. Watson has spent decades working for healthcare services to meet the needs of the African American community in the East Bay. He has been a pioneer in educating the public about health, wellness, and preventive pathways through the media, having launched and hosted local radio and broadcast television shows, including Health Beat.

Published October 19, 2018, courtesy of the Oakland Post

Open Letter: Who Should Be Making the Decisions, the Residents or Outside Millionaires?

By Desley Brooks

A lot is at stake for District 6 voters in this election. We have serious issues around affordable housing, gentrification, displacement, illegal dumping, blight, and economic development. And, our district needs a representative that can be a voice and a champion on these issues.

I am an independent voice on the City Council to represent you—the community’s interest—not outside interests—and my focus is on delivering results to you and your neighbors on the issues that matter most. I am the only candidate in this race who has a proven track record of addressing all of these important issues.

Over the past couple weeks, my opponents and the Mayor’s millionaire, developer, and real estate supporters have begun spending a lot of dark money to get me out. They are funding negative attack ads against me to distract from the significant issues at stake.

Their goal is to control the City Council, and to do that, they need to remove the few remaining voices standing up for the people. They want to replace me with anybody that will listen to them, especially candidates lacking the experience to be able to be effective at fighting for important issues inside City Hall.

If their money wins the election, District 6’s representative will be accountable to them, not to you.

Right now is a critical cross roads moment for Oakland—and the main question to ask yourself is who should be making the decisions- the people of District 6 or outside millionaires?

For those of you who know me, who have called me directly, emailed me or met me at one of the many events I attend or volunteer at each month, you know I don’t have time for distractions and that I deliver for you directly because the stakes are too high.

I’ve shared where I stand on the issues — and more importantly — my track record of taking them on, on my website.  If you are still not sure, before you decide, please take a look at www.desley4d6.com to see what I have and will continue to accomplish as your Council representative.

From our work to remove abandoned vehicles or tons of illegal dumping off the street, to our work to stabilize housing, stop racial profiling or bring equity and access to the many new jobs passing over our community—I am not going to give up my dedication to working with you for our community.

The dark money in this election will likely outspend my campaign 4 to 1 to attack the work I am proud of, that I have not compromised on, and that you have asked of me.

If you are one of the thousands of constituent calls I have answered over the years, please take a moment to volunteer so we can stop their distraction and misinformation and continue to improve our District.  Can we count on you to join our campaign?

We are walking, phoning and contacting voters to talk about the things that matter.  Please join us.  To learn more about our issue-based campaign or to donate to the campaign go to www.Desley4D6.com.

Published October 19, 2018, courtesy of the Oakland Post

Open Letter: Elect Clarissa Doutherd for School Board, District 4

Doutherd’s opponent, Gary Yee, supported “top heavy administration” and closed the 25,000-student Oakland Adult Education program

Clarissa Doutherd (holding sign) with supporters at Allendale Recreation Center in Oakland.

 

Clarissa Doutherd, who is running for the District 4 School Board, has a son who attends an Oakland public school and is executive director of Parent Voices, a parent-led organization that advocates for public school children and quality early childhood programs.

As leader of Parent Voices, she has balanced and grown the organization’s budget year after year, leading a successful statewide campaign for childcare resources. Doutherd understands what working families need in their schools and encourages them to take charge of their children’s futures.

Clarissa Doutherd

She’s smart and caring – not only for Oakland’s children but for our whole school community.

Endorsed by all of Oakland’s state representatives – Nancy Skinner, Rob Bonta, and Tony Thurmond, Doutherd will be a much-needed breath of fresh air and innovative ideas on the School Board.

At a time when there is a very high rate of teacher turnover, she has pledged to hire and retain the best educators. At a time when budget cuts are constantly demanded, she has pledged to shift funds to the classrooms and away from OUSD’s administration.

Where does her funding come from?  It comes from Oakland families in small donations and from the Oakland Education Association, the teachers’ union.

Her opponent, Gary Yee, is OUSD old school.  He’s been there and done that, and we can see the results.  In 2002, he was elected to the school board to represent District 4.

That year, the district was taken over by the state due to a $37 million budget deficit. Yee continued as a school board member until 2013, when he was named interim superintendent. Throughout that time, Yee led in growing the top-heavy administration at the expense of the classrooms, especially those of students of color.

OUSD emerged from state takeover in 2009 with a huge debt – greater than the deficit that caused the takeover in the first place.  All districts were taking hits that year as a result of the economic recession.

But Yee led Oakland to make the disastrous decision to shut down its thriving Adult Education programs which were serving 25,000 people. Oakland’s most popular Adult Ed programs provided high school diplomas for former dropouts and English as a Second Language for its many immigrants.

Both of these programs served Oakland parents who wanted to better both their lives and the lives of their children.

While neighboring cities like Alameda and Berkeley absorbed some cuts in their Adult Ed programs, they managed to maintain many of their classes and still do to this day.

But in Oakland, neither of these programs have been restored-in a city where they are desperately needed-there are no second chances and thousands of Oaklanders are still unable to get the opportunities they need.

In the 20010-11 school year, OUSD faced a deficit of $18 million and Yee voted for more cuts, including cuts to teachers by imposing a union contract that drove many experienced educators out of our schools.

Later that year, the school board voted to close five elementary schools, including one (Lazear) that reopened as a charter school within weeks.  It remains unclear if any real money was ever saved by school closures, given the burden of expanding other schools and moving students and staff around.

School closures are always associated with loss of students to the district, especially when a charter steps in to scoop up the state attendance dollars.

Gary Yee cannot be counted on to change the culture that preserves OUSD’s top heavy bureaucracy, and he cannot be counted on to understand the needs of today’s struggling families.

Where does his support come from? It comes from GO, a local lobbying group for charter schools, whose major donor is Michael Bloomberg, one of several billionaires who have targeted California, especially Oakland, for takeover by the charter school industry.

 

We cannot afford a return to business as usual. Elect Clarissa Doutherd to the school board for District 4.

Signed:

Pamela Drake, Wellstone, Local Politics Chair

Sharon Rose, BBBON Co-chair

Ellen Salazar, OUSD teacher, ret

Jan Malvin, Educators for Democratic Schools (EDS)

David Weintraub, Chair, Wellstone Education Committee

 

Published October 18, 2018, courtesy of the Oakland Post

 

New Teacher Union President Keith Brown Seeks Parent, Community Unity

“We will join with our families and communities in campaigns for access to quality jobs, affordable housing and safe neighborhoods,” says Brown

Keith Brown,

By Ken Epstein

Keith Brown, Oakland’s newly elected teacher union president, is still cleaning out his classroom at Bret Harte Middle School as he prepares to take the helm of the 2,700-member teachers union, the Oakland Education Association (OEA).

Brown, until recently vice president of the OEA, is a 19-year veteran teacher in Oakland, including 12 years at Bret Harte. A lifelong Oakland resident, he grew up in the city’s public schools, attending Hawthorne Elementary, Bret Harte Junior High and Skyline High.

Ismael “Ish” Armendariz

When he takes office on July 1, he will be joined by teacher leaders who were elected as part of his team: Ismael “Ish” Armendariz, special education teacher at Edna Brewer Middle; Tuwe Mehn, early childhood teacher; Jasmene Miranda, director of the Media Academy at Fremont High; and Jennifer Brouhard, fifth-grade teacher at Glenview Elementary.

In an interview last week on Radio Station KPFA, Brown discussed his program for change, including “bargaining for the common good” and supporting “organic teacher leadership” at school sites, which he believes are necessary for the union to effectively respond to local, state and national challenges threatening the city’s public schools and the wellbeing of Oakland families and community.

“One of the (key) points on our platform was to join with our families and communities in campaigns for access to quality jobs, affordable housing, safe neighborhoods, healthcare and social services,” Brown said.

In “bargaining for the common good,” parent and community leaders will become “part of the union’s expanded bargaining team, where negotiations with the district are not only about salaries, working conditions and health benefits (but) also about … the common good of the community,” he said.

Jasmene Miranda

This innovative approach is already being implemented by teachers in St. Paul, Minnesota and Sacramento, he said.

In Sacramento, the union, in partnership with communities of color and faith-based organizations, was able to win significant funding for restorative justice programs in classrooms, moving away

from the “zero tolerance” approach to discipline that fuels the school-to-prison pipeline, he said.

In St. Paul, teachers “aligned with groups such as Black Lives Matter, participating in protests against the tragic murder of Philando Castile,” a school employee who was killed by a police officer on July 6, 2016, he said.

“There is so much potential in Oakland,” said Brown, pointing out that the OEA already has strong ties with many community groups, such as Alliance of Californians for Community Empowerment (ACCE), Oakland Parents Together (OPT) and Justice for Oakland Students (J4OS).

Tuwe Mehn

“Now is the time to really strengthen those relationships, moving beyond the teachers union having a transactional relationship with community organizations and parents, rather to have a transformative, authentic relationship where we’re working together and fighting for the things that are going to make our Oakland community a much better place to live,” said Brown.

He said his leadership team is also committed to supporting strong site “organic” leaders who are among the best teachers at their schools and who other educators seek out for advice on how to improve their teaching.

“Our role is to provide due process for all of our members, as a right that every worker should have – public school teachers or any worker,” he said.

Jennifer Brouhard

“There are a lot of excellent teachers in the public schools,” Brown said. “We really need to be in the driver’s seat, having some teacher driven professional

development, (so) our union becomes a space for our educators to come present new ideas, to collaborate.”

“Of course, there are teachers who need extra support, extra mentorship,” he said.  “It is our role as a union to provide those teachers with support so they can get

better.  It’s about improving outcomes for students.”

Looking at current negotiations with the Oakland Unified School District (OUSD), where the OEA has been negotiating for 18 months without a contract, he said:

While the school district continues to face financial difficulties, “there is money there to settle a contract with Oakland teachers that prioritizes students, reducing

class sizes, giving teachers a living wage. There is money, but that has to be made a priority,” he said.

“But for the transformative change that we really need to have outstanding public schools, we need to come together, collectively,” he said.

“We live in California, the fifth largest economy in the world. However, we are 46th in per pupil spending,” said Brown.

Published June 16, 2018, courtesy of the Oakland Post

 

Councilmembers, Community Groups Push Mayor for Funding for Homeless, Job Training and Trash Cleanup

Members of East Oakland Congress of Neighborhoods demand the city keep its promises to clean up trash and illegal dumping. Photos by Ken Epstein

By Ken Epstein

As the City Council examines a “midcycle” revision of the city’s two-year budget, community groups are demanding the city allocate money to relieve the suffering of Oakland’s rapidly growing homeless population, clean up illegal dumping and trash in flatland neighborhoods, support job-training for low-income Oaklanders and fund social programs for vulnerable residents by reducing out-of-control spending on the Oakland Police Department.

The budget revisions were discussed at Tuesday’s special City Council meeting and  scheduled to be finalized before the end of June.

Mayor Libby Schaaf and the City Administration, in a move that dampened demands for new spending coming from the community and some councilmembers, released a report showing that the 2018-2019 budget includes a projected deficit of $11 million.

To close the deficit, the City Administrator has asked departments to cut two percent of their expenditures.

At the same time the administration is proposing cuts, it is requesting the council adopt $31.3 million in new spending, including $1 million for the homeless, $27.5 million for new appropriations for affordable housing, $982,000 for trash cleanup, $1.6 million to hire three new staff in the Human Resources Department and conduct a Fire Academy, and $167,000 for two new employees for the Oakland Animal Shelter.

No mention was made in the City Administrator’s report of going over the budgeted spending limit for police overtime by $17 million, which more than accounted for the hole in the city’s budget.

Most of those who spoke at the meeting—residents and councilmembers—called on the city to fund concerns and community needs that they said had been shortchanged or ignored when the budget was adopted last year.

Rebecca Kaplan presented a list of new expenditures she is supporting, including cleanup crews for illegal dumping hot spots, public toilets and expanded support for homeless sanitation, job training and apprenticeship programs and support for the Oakland Animal Shelter.

Kaplan also requested changes in administrative practices that would not cost additional money but would require new ways of relating to the community: proactive trash pickup based on focusing on hotspots, not just responding to complaints; working with congregations and community-based organizations to establish alternative homeless encampments; and utilizing less costly security guards instead of police for City Hall security that is being requested by the administration.

Noel Gallo

The city needs to adopt real homeless solutions that “don’t just push the problem from one underpass to the next, at great expense,” she said.

She was also skeptical of the new horse-mounted police unit OPD is reportedly organizing. She asked: who authorized the “ponies”, how much money is being spent and what fund is the money coming from?

Kaplan also raised concerns that the administration has repeatedly failed to carry out resolutions the Council has passed.

“We on the Council should consider that what actually gets implemented is so different than what we voted for,” she said.

OPD overspending for police overtime “essentially accounts for the entire (budget) gap we are talking about,” she said.

Councilmember Noel Gallo proposed that he and his fellow Councilmembers help pay for homeless and trash services by contributing as much as much half of the $600,000 a year each of them receives from the city to operate their offices.

He also said Mayor Schaaf’s office budget is over $3 million. “The mayor should at least contribute a million dollars from her budget,” he said.
A large group from East Oakland Congress of Neighborhoods demanded full funding for their proposals to clean up flatland streets.

“Our children pass through piles of filthy, stinking garbage, human feces and the carcasses of dead animals to walk to school,” said Lidia, a spokesperson for the Congress.
“Some of you live in neighborhoods where this would never be allowed,” she said.

Carroll Fife, also speaking for the Congress, criticized the Mayor’s trash proposals.

“We see the proclamations the Mayor is making to the news media about the wonderful things that she is doing… to address the trash issue. We’re here to say it is not enough. It is not even real,” said Fife.

“You have to be honest with the residents of this city,” she said.

James Vann was one of the speakers with the Homeless Advocacy Working Group (HAWG), which is requesting $4.2 million to provide portable bathrooms, shower facilities and clean water at homeless encampments throughout the city.

The $1 million the Mayor is proposing for homeless services is “a pittance—that’s nothing, and it’s not (even) true,” said Vann.

He said the city’s proposed $1 million in new homeless spending is eaten up by the $500,000 the city owes for work on Tuff Sheds that is already completed. In addition, he said providing sanitary services at one site costs about $250,000 a year.

Speakers for the Anti Police-Terror Project (APTP) called for redirecting some of the money that currently goes to OPD, which accounts for about 43 percent of the general fund.

As little as $10 million taken from police spending would make a dramatic difference in services for the homeless and elimination of trash on the streets, ATPT speakers said.

Posted June 3, 2018, courtesy of the Oakland Post

 

‘BBQing While Black’ Leader Kenzie Smith to Become Park Commissioner

Kenzie Smith (left) and Onsayo Abram at last Sunday’s “BBQing While Black” event at Lake Merritt in Oakland.

By Post Staff

Councilmember-at-Large Rebecca Kaplan announced this week that she is recommending Kenzie Smith, one the two men who was racially targeted for “BBQing while Black” at Lake Merritt, for a seat on Oakland Parks and Recreation Advisory Commission.

“He has a deep commitment to the Oakland community and a track record of public service and philanthropy,” she wrote in a statement that was released Tuesday.

Before the appointment is final, Kaplan’s recommendation must go to the mayor for approval.

Smith is a lifelong Oakland resident, community activist and founder of Dope Era Magazine. He wants to start a nonprofit to hire young people during the summer, including keeping the Lake Merritt park clean.

The Advisory Commission consists of 11 members appointed by the mayor and council. As a member of the commission, Smith would help make sure “regulations for use of our parks are clear and fair,” said Kaplan.

Smith is looking forward to an opportunity to make policy for the parks. He told the East Bay Express, “I’m not going to let someone else have a ‘BBQ Becky.’”

Published May 27, 2018, courtesy of the Oakland Post