Category: Gentrification

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

Parents Ask: “Who’s Behind Roots School Closure?”

“Who are really the key players here. It appears board members don’t have any control,” said a Roots parent

Roots International Academy parent leaders Sylvia Ornelas and Adelaida B Rios, with teacher Quinn Ranahan and a contingent of Roots students at the march and rally for public education in Oakland, Saturday, Jan. 12. Photo by Mona Lisa Treviño.

 

By Ken Epstein

The Oakland Unified School District is moving full throttle with the closing of Roots International Academy, even though the proposal has not yet been approved by the Board of Education and though the district so far has not determined how much money closing the school would save, if any.

Nor does the district provide answers why the up to 24 schools that are being considered for closure are in flatland East Oakland and West Oakland neighborhoods. None of those affected are Oakland’s 44 charter schools or schools that serve more affluent students.

Studies about the wave of closures across the country, which have hit predominately Black and Latino schools, indicate that school districts save no money and that the long-lasting effects are detrimental to the education of students who are displaced as well as those who attend the receiving schools.

A big question about the closing of Roots, located at 66th Avenue and International Boulevard in East Oakland, is one about democracy: Who made the decision to close the school if it is not the elected school board.

School district officials say that the decision to close the school in June means they have to move ahead quickly, so Roots students will have other schools to attend in the fall. The board is scheduled to discuss the issue on Jan. 23 and make the final decision Jan .28 at a special meeting.

According to OUSD spokesman John Sasaki, “Staff is making a recommendation, and the school board will make the final decision.”

However, the administration  seems to have been decided the issue without waiting for the board to act on its recommendation. Supt. Kyla Johnson-Trammell met with the Roots community in December, the week before the holiday break, to notify teachers and parents that their school would close.

The district is already starting to counsel students and parents about other schools in East Oakland they can attend next year instead of Roots. No decision has been announced about paying for bus transportation for the families.

And CCPA (Coliseum College Prep Academy), the more favored public school that shares the campus with Roots, called a meeting this week about what to do with all the extra classroom space once Roots shuts down.

“Parents are invited to give input about CCPA’s expansion plan. Roots is scheduled to close next year, and CCPA is planning to grow to serve more students in the community,” according to a CCPA newsletter. The CCPA administration told parents the school is not willing to take more than about a half dozen current Roots students.

“What’s the real deal? Who made the decision? Asked Sylvia Ornelas, a parent leader at Roots.

“We’re not getting any answers,” she said.  “Who are really the key players here? It appears the board members don’t have any control.”

The Oakland Post this week filed a Public Records Act (PRA) Request with the district asking for communications related to Roots and other school closings.

In addition to communications and reports by district officials, the PRA requested said, “The documents should include exchanges with the Fiscal Crisis Management and Assistance Team (FCMAT), the Alameda County Office of Education, Oakland’s state-appointed trustee, representatives of the State Department of Education and atate legislators and representatives of GO Public School, Educate78, New Schools Venture Fund and the California Charter School Association.”

Asked why the district objects to sending current Roots students to CCPA, which would minimize disruption of the tightknit Roots school community, District spokesman Sasaki emphasized that the merging of the two adjacent schools would have a harmful impact on students.

“Merging the two schools was not an option as that would have been too disruptive for all the students, families and staff,” he said

Presumably, displacing Roots families to schools around East Oakland – Elmhurst Community, Greenleaf, Madison Park Upper and Urban Promise Academy, according to the district – would not disrupt the educational stability of those schools or the displaced students.

Sasaki said the reason for closing Roots has to do with saving money and efficiency:

“All the changes the district is look at are aimed at making the district function more efficiently with better schools while saving money. The changes for Roots have to do with declining enrollment and problems with staff retention.”

However, Sasaki says the district still not know how much will be saved by closing the school.

“The district is still working to determine what the savings will be  with the closure of Roots,” according to KQED, citing an email from Sasaki.

In a strong statement of support for Roots, Oakland Education Association (OEA) President Keith Brown said:

“Our association firmly believes that every student deserves a quality public education. So, we are dismayed by discussion of school closures and consolidations,  particularly in Black and Brown neighborhoods. We should be building up our community schools, not shutting them down.”

Published January 19, 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

Roots Families Heat Up Fight to Save Their Neighborhood School

Roots International Academy in East Oaklad

By Ken Epstein

Students, parents and teach­ers at Roots International Academy in East Oakland are reacting with shock and deter­mination since learning right before the holiday break that their neighborhood middle school will be closed in June.

Responding to Oakland Unified School District Su­perintendent Kyla Johnson- Trammell and her staff, who held a meeting at the school on December 18 to announce the closing, an eighth-grader at the school wrote a letter to the superintendent, accusing the district of “destroying/interfer­ing with our education and our relationships with our teachers and peers.”

Students at Roots

“You (aren’t) closing Roots about equality,” the student wrote. “It’s about money, the money you are supposed to pro­vide, but you are not providing. You provide (it) for CCPA and OUSD schools in the hills.” CCPA is the better funded school that shares the campus with Roots at 66th Avenue and International Boulevard.

The district has already closed 15 schools in the last dozen years or so. Once the justifications were no longer needed, nobody mentioned anything about the closings saving any money, improv­ing the quality of the remain­ing schools nor the poor test scores of many the charter schools that replaced the pub­lic schools.

One teacher at Roots told the Oakland Post that she does not buy the arguments she has heard that Roots is a failing school. District officials and local charter school propo­nents frequently justify school closing based on statistical analysis of test scores.

Students at Roots

“We don’t feel it’s a failing school,” she said. “They’re displacing a community, a community that is often over­looked and underserved.”

More resources go to fa­vored schools than those that are neglected, which can be seen at the school next door that shares the campus with Roots, according to the teacher. The other school even has wa­ter fountains that work better, she said. “You can see the dif­ference in how they’re served by the district.”

Student athletes at Roots International Academy

Speaking on “Education To­day,” a program on radio station KPFA 94.1 FM, Roots parents Addy Rios and Silvia Ornelas explained what Roots means to them and their children.

“For me as a parent, it was devastating,” said Rios. “My kid still doesn’t comprehend or doesn’t want to believe (it).”

She said her son is doing well at the school. “It’s a good school. With the help of us, the parents, he is doing really good (in) his classes, with his teach­ers and his classmates,” Rios said. “I don’t understand why they are saying that it’s going to be closed because it’s not doing good. We asked questions, but just don’t have an answer.”

Ornelas said Roots has been a great fit for her daughter. “It’s a smaller school (than her previ­ous school) where she didn’t get the necessary attention. With her teachers at Roots, all the staff is so committed to ev­ery single student who walks through those doors.”

In the mornings, she said, the teachers and staff mem­bers “greet the kids with a high five, a hug, a handshake, a smile on their faces. Every single child feels accepted at Roots.

“The school district is try­ing to take it away from our kids.”

Rios said the real reason for closing of schools in Oakland has to do with “money, gentri­fication.”

“They’re going to sell the (schools) to build housing, which is going to be very expensive, for the techs and everybody (who) is going to come and replace us and push us out,” she said.

The message they are giv­ing to the kids is that they are no good, that “they don’t de­serve education, they don’t de­serve to have a public school,” said Rios.

The parents said there is no community engagement: no­body is listening to them, not the superintendent, not the school board, not even Shanthi Gonzales, who is supposed to represent Roots families on the board of education.

At the December 18 meet­ing, Gonzales said she support­ed closing Roots but would not answer the parents’ questions or even look directly at them, according to the parents.

Added Ornelas, “This is a public school – it is not private­ly owned. t’s not funded by bil­lionaires. They need to answer our questions before taking such drastic measures. “

According to a message on her email account, Board­member Gonzales is out of the country and not available for comment until late Janu­ary. Questions emailed to the district were not answered be­cause most staff are on holiday break, according to OUSD Communications Director John Sasaki.

In an email newsletter dated December 30, Supt. Johnson- Trammell said, “The effort to re-imagine OUSD relates di­rectly to the work we are doing to address the Community of Schools Board Policy, which is moving forward towards a right-sized district with the aim of offering a high qual­ity school in every neighbor­hood…In order to right-size, changes will be made that will be challenging.”

The Roots community is are asking for people to attend the school board meeting on Wednesday, Jan. 9, 5 p.m., at La Escuelita Education Center, 1050 2nd Ave. in Oakland.

Published January 4, 2019, courtesy of the Oakland Post

 

Displaced Residents Seek Compensation After City Evicts Them, Tows Their RVs

Dayton Andrews, Kelly Thompson and Gary Rosenquist speak about the mass towing at a press conference for the United Front Against Displacement outside the County of Alameda Administrative Building at noon on Dec. 20.

By Zack Haber

At 8 a.m., Oct. 23, Auto Plus Towing & Auto Body and the Oakland Police De­partment collaborated to tow over 15 vehicles near 20th and Willow streets in West Oakland.

The vehicles were mostly homes to long-term Oakland residents who could no lon­ger afford to pay rent.

Emma Chum, an immi­grant from Guatemala who has lived in Oakland for 16 years, says that as police of­ficers towed her RV, “They were laughing like it was funny.”

Chum’s RV had a kitch­en, bed, solar power and a closet. She now lives in a tent and has trouble sleep­ing. Though she works six days a week at a beauty sup­ply store, she hasn’t found a room in Oakland she can af­ford to rent.

Chum’s missing papers relating to citizenship and employment have served as an additional roadblock to her securing indoor housing. Since these papers were in her vehicle when it got towed, she lost them.

Kelly Thompson and Gary Rosenquist, two Vietnam veterans who have lived in Oakland for decades, insist that the Police Department worked strategically to seize their vehicles and intimidate them. Both claim that after police towed their vehicles, officers tracked them down later in the day and told them to “get out of Oakland.”

Though police had given residents at 20th and Willow streets a three-day eviction notice, Rosenquist claims that in the past police would allow vehicular residents time to move during the day of an eviction. This time, there was no leniency. If a vehicle couldn’t be moved immediately, it was towed.

“It was heart-wrenching. They were acting like we were second-class people,” said Rosenquist.

Thompson thinks he was targeted. “They know my truck and what I’ve done in the past so they snagged mine first,” he said. Though his truck ran, it was past registration and he arrived a few minutes too late to move it. It was towed.

In the past, Thompson had used his truck to tow displaced people’s ve­hicles to new locations so that they could avoid hav­ing them seized by towing companies. He had planned to help people on the morn­ing of Oct. 23, but with his truck gone, his neighbors who couldn’t immediately start their vehicles were left helpless.

Thompson and Rosen­quist feel the City of Oakland has treated them unjustly and have connected with hous­ing activists like Dayton Andrews to form the United Front Against Displacement (UFAD).

UFAD meets at Raimondi Park every Friday at 4:30 p.m. and works to stop evic­tions, house all Bay Area res­idents, and hold city agen­cies financially accountable to the people they displace.

In the days immediately following Oct. 23, Thomp­son, Rosenquist, Andrews and other UFAD members attempted to talk with the city government about the mass towing and were di­rected to Michael Hunt, an aide to Mayor Libby Schaaf.

Hunt told them the police shouldn’t have towed their vehicles and that the city would help to retrieve them.

But the former 20th and Willow streets residents claim the city hasn’t helped as police have informed them that their vehicles would not be returned.

Hunt hasn’t responded to an Oakland Post email ask­ing him to comment.

The former residents agree with Andrews, who says “the City of Oakland owes people compensation for their lost property, their lost vehicles and ultimately should be held accountable for not pro­ducing spaces in Oakland for people to live in.”

Published January 2, 2019, courtesy of the Oakland Post

 

School District Wants to Close Roots International Academy This School Year

Holiday Robocall upsets parents and teachers at East Oakland middle school

Roots International Academy football team. Roots is a neighborhood middle school located at the old campus of Havenscourt Middle School at 66th Avenue and International Boulevard.

B Ken Epstein

As students and teachers were celebrating and preparing for the holiday winter break, officials of the Oakland Unified School District held a meeting at Roots International Academy to tell families and teachers that their school will be closed at the end of the current school year.

The announcement on the evening of Tuesday, Dec. 18 – only four days before the start of the holidays – was delivered by Supt. Kyla Johnson Trammell, a team of central

Roots is a neighborhood middle school at 66th Avenue and International Boulevard in East Oakland. The school shares a campus with a much better funded sixth through 12th-grade school, Coliseum College Prep Academy (CCPA), which make may take over the entire site if Roots closes.

The district’s decision, re­peated in a robocall to the entire school community on Friday – the last school day of the year, was blunt. The school will be closed and the students dispersed to other schools throughout the district. Students were promised an “opportunity ticket,” a pledge they would be able to enroll at a higher preforming school else­where in the district.

Without waiting for Roots or public input, the Board of Edu­cation is scheduled to start the process of closing the school at its first meeting after the win­ter break on Wednesday, Jan. 9, making the final decision on Jan. 23.

The large turnout at Tuesday’s meeting was surprising, accord­ing to people at the school. More than 100 parents, students and teachers took time from their holiday preparations to come to the meeting to speak out against the district’s rushed decision.

Reacting with surprise and anger, speakers expressed their concern that the district was making the decision without consulting them. They said the district is disrupting their children’s education and destroying their school community.

The district bears responsibility for neglecting and under-funding Roots for years, as well as frequently disrupting the school by chang­ing principals and removing staff and teachers, they said.

“They told the staff and community (at the Tuesday meeting) … that they would displace our neighborhood kids to schools that are not in their community,” said Roots teacher Quinn Ranahan in a Facebook post.

“The district told us that community voice(s) would not have anything to do with their choice as to whether to close a neigh­borhood public school,” Ranahan said. “School Board Rep. Shanthi Gonzales verbally committed to closing Roots without reason.”

“OUSD, how can you close a school you never fully funded?” she asked.

Silvia Ornelas, an eighth-grade parent who is active at the school, asked why the district is not answering the school community’s questions.

Roots parent Silvia Ornelas plays the robocall she received from the school district announcing that her child’s school would be closed in June. To view  a video of Ornelas playing the robo-message, go to www.facebook.com/pelesmom/videos/10218240051741630/UzpfSTY2ODI3ODMxNzoxMDE1NjI1MTU5MDg2ODMxOA/

“Why are they targeting Roots so quickly? What’s the rush?” Asked Ornelas.

“We’re trying to get the answers for our community,” she said. “People are devastated, parents and students alike. It’s heartbreak­ing. There are no clear answers.”

“Our kids need a one-on-one connection with adults,” she said. “They need to know they have somebody they can talk to. At Roots they have it. If they go to a bigger school, many of them will fall through the cracks.”

In statement to the Post, district spokesman John Sasaki said, “The plan is to absorb many students into the adjacent Coliseum College Prep Academy. All other students will receive an opportunity ticket which will give them priority placement to a higher performing mid­dle school.”

The Oakland Post has heard from staff that only a handful of stu­dents will be able to transfer to CCPA. The district so far not ex­plained whether the “Opportunity Ticket” amounts to more than a vague promise, which “higher preforming” schools students will be made available or why Roots cannot be merged with CCPA.

Last year, Roots had 309 students, 29 percent African American and 60 percent Latino, according to state statistics. The student popu­lation may have fallen last school year after an infestation of rats or mice led parents to pull 40 to 60 children from the school.

Megan Bumpus, a member of the Oakland Teachers Association (OEA) executive board, questioned why the district is ignoring its own community engagement plan for closing up to 24 schools in the next few years.

“Getting a robocall at the start of winter break announcing that your child’s school is closing is not community engagement,” Bum­pus said.

“Saying that there’s a three-year Blueprint process with a Board vote but then officially announcing that a school is closing in a few months without following the plan creates mistrust in a system de­signed to fail students of color in targeted neighborhoods,” she said.

The Roots community is are asking for people to attend the school board meeting on Wednesday, Jan. 9, 5:30 p.m., at La Escuelita Edu­cation Center, 1050 2nd Ave. in Oakland.

Published December 29, 2018, courtesy of the Oakland Post

 

Opinion: Black Veteran Wins Temporary Reprieve in Fight to Save His Home

Supporters attend superior court hearing Monday, Dec. 17 to back veteran Leonard Powell’s fight to stay in his home of 44 years.

By Gene Turitz

Backed by friends, neighbors and members of the Berkeley community, Leonard Powell – a 76-year-old African American veteran – won a temporary reprieve in Superior Court this week as he struggles to find a way to stay in the home that is fully paid for and where he has lived for 44 years.

Leonard Powell (right) with relative.

At the Monday morning hearing in Alameda County Superior in Hayward, the court was scheduled to hand the house over to a city- and court-appointed receiver who had run up nearly $700,000 in renovations after the city descended on the house with a building code inspection.

Mr. Powell, who lives at 911 Harmon St. in south Berkeley, and his neighbors were joined by Friends of Adeline, the Probate Court Reform Movement and Berkeley City Councilmember Ben Bartlett

The court decided that receiver Gerard Keena and Mr. Powell’s attorney should meet and come to an agreement about how much is owed.  Keena is saying that Mr. Powell owes $600,000 or $700,000.

Mr. Powell’s attorney argued that there has to be a justification for the inflated expenses, such as a $2,000 shower door, granite countertops in both kitchens, new hardwood floors throughout the house, and Italian tile in the two kitchens.

“Obviously, this wasn’t done for my benefit,” said Mr. Powell. “He wants me gone.”

He continued, “How can it cost $35,000 for lead and asbestos abatement?  How can it cost $6,000 to take out a fireplace?”

According to Mr. Powell, he felt the reason the judge asked Keena and Mr. Powell’s attorney to come to an agreement was because of the turnout organized by the Friends of Adeline.

The judge also ruled that Mr. Powell could not move back into his own home until this matter is cleared up, perhaps at the next hearing on Jan. 29.

Mr. Powell’s supporters showed up to let the court and the City of Berkeley know that the community cares about this Berkeley resident. They asked: If Mr. Powell has committed no crime, why is the City trying to force him out of his own home?

Keena originally was appointed as a receiver to oversee the correction of the Substandard Conditions on Mr. Powell’s property.  The Berkeley City Attorney, sitting with the receiver and his attorney in court, told the judge that the City “doesn’t have a dog in this fight.”

Although the judge did not respond directly to that statement, he did urge the city to do whatever it could to expedite the approval of a no interest $100,000 loan to Mr. Powell (routinely given to low-income seniors for home repairs), which would reduce Mr. Powell’s financial burden.

 Community members are raising questions they say need to be answered: Why did the cost go from an estimated $150,000 to $200,000, to correct substandard conditions, to a final cost of about $700,000?  Who gave the receiver the authority to completely renovate the house?

 Over the years, many rental properties in Berkeley were found to be not earth-quake safe, “Soft-story” buildings, but landlords often took years and years to carry out required repairs.

While leaving many tenants lived in unsafe conditions, the city did not try to take the property from any of these landlords. Receivers were not assigned, and no one lost their property.

Concerned Berkeley residents want the City of Berkeley to end these actions, committed by the city and greedy property owners, which result in removing more African-Americans from the city. They say there must be a right of return for those who have been driven out by gentrification and the unequal application of zoning codes.

Contacted by the Post for a response, Keena said, “My intention is to have Mr. Powell back in the house. It’s a challenging situation. I don’t usually comment on active cases.”

By Post deadline, the Berkeley City Attorney’s Office had not replied.

To contact the Friends of Adeline, contact  friendsofadeline@gmail.com or 510-338-7843.

To contract Probate Court Reform Movement (PCRM), call (510) 287-8200 or (831) 238-0096.  The PCRM meets every Wednesday at 6 p.m. at 360 14th St. in downtown Oakland.

Gene Turitz is a member of Friends of Adeline. Oakland Post staff contributed to this article.

 Published December 22, 2018, courtesy of the Oakland Post

Defend and Transform Oakland’s Public Schools

More than 100 teachers, parents and community members attended a community assembly Sunday, Dec. 9 to discuss the fight for a living wage for teachers and other school employees and “for schools our students deserve.” Photo by Ken Epstein.

 By Post Staff

The Post Salon co-sponsored a community dialogue on schools Sunday, Dec. 9. along with Oakland Public Education Network (OPEN), Educators for Democratic Schools, the New McClymonds Committee and the Ad Hoc Committee of Parents and Education.

Speaking at the meeting were Oakland teachers, parents and community leaders concerned about low teacher salaries, upcoming budget cuts and the threat of closing schools and selling or leasing the campuses to charter schools.

Mike Hutchinson from OPEN said, “There’s only one way to stop this. That’s to organize.” And he presented information to indicate that the district is not really in a deficit. Taylor Wallace explained why the state does not have Black and Latino teachers and called for changing this serious situation. Oakland teacher Megan Bumpus represented the Oakland Education Association and explained the teachers’ struggle with the school district.

Among ideas presented at the Salon was a brief draft program that includes demands on the State of California, which bears much of the responsibility for Oakland’s problems.
While the district may be guilty of misspending, it is the State of California that is responsible for funding and is depriving the public schools of the money they need to serve the needs of Oakland children.

And it is the State that decides who is allowed to teach and creates obstacles that keep some of the best young teachers out of the classroom.

More than 100 teachers, parents and community members attended a community assembly Sunday, Dec. 9 to discuss the fight for a living wage for teachers and other school employees and “for schools our students deserve.” Photo by Ken Epstein.

At the end of the dialogue, participants adopted a motion to hold a press conference at the State Building in January.

Draft of a People’s Program:

  1. No public school closings. Closing schools does not save money. It hurts kids and neighborhoods.
  2. No sale of public property. A major element of privatization is selling off the legacy of publicly owned property and institutions left to us by earlier generations of Oaklanders.
  3. No budget cuts to the schools. California is one of the richest economies in the world. It has a budget surplus, a Democratic majority in the legislature, and the capacity to fully fund schools.
  4. End the teacher shortage and the lack of Black, Latino, indigenous and Asian teachers by eliminating such barriers as multiple standardized tests and multiple fees and by reforming the non-elected, unrepresentative State Commission on Teacher Credentialing.
  5. Rescind the remainder of the debt imposed on Oakland by the State legislature 15 years ago and spent by state-appointed administrators without input from Oakland residents
  6. A living wage for all school employees. A first-year teacher, a custodian, a school secretary should all be able to live in the city where they work, if they wish to do so. That’s a “community school.”
  7. End the discrimination against schools below the 580 freeway.
  8. FCMAT (Fiscal Crisis Management and Assistance Team) out of Oakland. Democratic control of our school budget and school governance.
  9. Open the books of the Ed Fund, which was created by non-elected State Administrators and does not provide transparency.
  10. Reduce class sizes, standardized testing, test prep, age-inappropriate expectations, unnecessary bureaucracy, and mid-year consolidations. Engage parents and teachers in a collaborative recreation of special education and the education of immigrant and emergent bilingual students.

If you have thoughts or comments on this draft program, send an email to Salonpost02@gmail.com

 

Published December 15, 2018, courtesy of the Oakland Post

Opinion: City Agency Set to Seize Black Veteran’s Home

Leonard Powell is facing “an unconscionable and unwarranted debt”

Leonard Powell (right) with relative.

By Steve Martinot

The City of Berkeley is campaigning right now to drive Leonard Powell, a 76-year-old Black veteran, and his family out of their home at 1911 Harmon St. in south Berkeley.

This family has lived there for 44 years and owned the house free and clear. By a legal process called receivership, the city has succeeded in placing Mr. Powell in a financial position beyond his means, in order for him to lose the house to foreclosure or sale.

Receivership means that the house, after it is found to be in violation of the city’s housing code, is placed under the control of a “receiver,” who then he takes over the job of repairing the house.

Where initial estimates of repair expenses were around $200,000, the receiver has racked up expenses of $700,000, a debt which ultimately falls on Mr. Powell’s shoulders.

Right now, the case is in Superior Court, and the judge has demanded that Mr. Powell come up with the full amount right away. Clearly, he is acting to protect the interest of the receiver, who is white.

This writer would ask that the legal system be as diligent in protecting the interests of the Black family, who are now faced with an unconscionable and unwarranted debt.

This kind of thing has happened to other families. It has also been accomplished through Probate Court, as well as through receivership. But Mr. Powell’s case is instructive.

It occurred through three stages. And it is important to note that at no time did Mr. Powell object to doing the repairs on his house. He simply asked the city for assistance and negotiation, which the city subtly declined.

First, there was a police raid on the house, ostensibly to arrest a person who didn’t live there. The entire raid was fake, reporting fabricated evidence, and no charges were ever filed. But it gave city officials a chance to inspect the house without prior notice.

The city knew Mr. Powell’s financial situation, and that he had family members in the house in ill health who depended on the house.

Second, though inspection found some 23 code violations, all were of housing maintenance. Mr. Powell was given deadlines, negotiation on those deadlines were refused, and missed deadlines allowed the city to label the house a public “nuisance.”

The label made the city’s desire for receivership much stronger (though without evidence of any specific danger to the neighborhood). Without material foundation, this essentially admitted that for the white power structure, black people are just a nuisance.

Third, there is the receivership process. Mr. Powell opposed the house being placed under receivership in court declarations, but his objections were ignored.

The city’s petition was granted, and a white man appointed as receiver to repair the violations. The receiver then violated his mandate by having his contractor reconstruct the house rather than simply repair the code violations.

This is what tripled his expenses, and tripled the debt placed on Mr. Powell. The receiver admitted, in a later report to the court, that in shifting the work on the house from repairs to reconstruction, he was following city directions in doing so.

The receiver must have sensed a vulnerability, because he has asked the judge to get full payment from Mr. Powell immediately, and the judge has done so.

 

Leonard Powell’s case is scheduled to be heard Monday, Dec. 17, 10:30 a.m., at Alameda County Superior Court, Second Floor, Room 511, 24405 Amador St., Hayward. For more information or to support Mr. Powell, contact Friends of Adeline at (510) 338-7843 or friendsofadeline@gmail.com

Published December 12, 2018, 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