Category: Homelessness

UN Report Says Oakland Guilty of “Cruel and Inhumane Treatment” of Homeless

City bulldozer at Oakland homeless encampment

 

The United Nations Special Rapporteur to the Right to Adequate Housing, Lelani Farha, released her new report on Oct. 19 documenting the “global scandal” of homeless encampments.

In January of 2017, Farha spent time in the San Francisco Bay Area and Southern California to meet with unhoused residents and housed advocates and described the conditions as “cruel and inhumane”.

The only U.S. cities explicitly called out for violations in the UN’s report on global homelessness are San Francisco and Oakland.

She states that while the existence of “informal settlements” are human rights violations due to local government’s lack of will to provide permanent housing to all residents, these encampments are also people’s assertion to their denied human right of housing.

She declares curbside communities are acts of resilience, resourcefulness and ingenuity in the face of dire circumstances.
Rather than criminalize or ignore these settlements, until permanent housing can be offered to all, it is the duty of local governments not to evict curbside communities but to upgrade them and residents of these encampments should participate in all areas of the upgrading, including sanitation, clean water, food services and support services.

Homeless leaders and advocates in San Francisco, Berkeley and Oakland hosted Ms. Farha, including Coalition on Homelessness, Western Regional Advocacy Project (WRAP), East Oakland Collective, Village/Feed the People and First They Came for the Homeless.

Ms. Farha was able to hear and speak directly with people living in encampments and on our streets about the oppression, hatred and police violence they experience every day.
In Ms. Farha’s report she frames the encampments and street dwelling in the United States under the same vein as the informal settlements around the world. Finding that “the scope and severity of the living conditions in informal settlements make this one of the most pervasive violations of human rights globally,” states the report.

The Oakland conditions of discrimination and harassment of encampment residents and punitive denials of access to basic services constitute “cruel and inhuman treatment and is a violation of multiple human rights… Such punitive policies must be prohibited in law and immediately ceased.”

The Rapporteur summed up her visit in California:

“I visited California and saw firsthand the human right violations being experienced by people who are homeless. They are the victims of failed policies—not the perpetrators of crime.”

“That truth is that by any measure — moral, political or legal — it is unacceptable for people to be forced to live this way. Refusing to accept the unacceptable is where we must begin.”

The report is available at https://wraphome.org/research-landing-page/legalresearch/

Published October 27, 2018, courtesy of the Oakland Post

 

Pastors, Black Panther Co-Founder, Residents React to Outside Money Pouring into D-6 Council Race

Community leaders defend Councilmember Desley Brooks’ fearless leadership

Former Black Panther Party leader Bobby Seale speaks at a rally Thursday in front of City Hall, condemning Mayor Libby Schaaf’s fundraising efforts to pump outside money into District 6 to defeat Desley Brooks. Among others who spoke in in favor of Desley’s Brooks outspoken leadership on the City Council in defense of the community were Post Publisher Paul Cobb, Henry Gage of the Police Accountability Coalition, civil rights attorney and District 6 resident Dan Siegel, Rev. L.J. Jennings of Kingdom Builders Christian Fellowship and leaders of the public workers union, SEIU Local 1021. Photo by Ken Epstein

A community coalition comprised of Pastors, former Black Panther Co-Founder, Bobby Seale, Civil Rights attorneys and residents held a press conference this week calling out “money in politics” in the race for Oakland’s District 6 Council seat.

The group is responding to Mayor Libby Schaaf, her big money donors and Building Trade Unions tied to powerful, luxury real estate developers, who are now pouring outside money into the race to unseat District 6 Councilmember Desley Brooks.

Brooks has been a staunch critic of Schaaf and the lack of African American workers employed at construction sites throughout the city.

The community coalition is calling upon Mayor Schaaf and her supporters to immediately cease the outside money they are pumping into the local race and maintain what they deem a “fair and clean” election, free of distortions and attacks.

Mayor Schaaf has a history of mobilizing her base of wealthy donors to target councilmembers who have opposed her policies, including Councilmembers Noel Gallo and Rebecca Kaplan in 2016.

Over one-third of the Independent expenditure aimed at unseating Schaaf’s most vocal critic, Desley Brooks, has come from wealthy donors who have contributed tens of thousands of dollars over the years to the Mayor’s campaign efforts.

Speakers at the press conference, including Black Panther Party Co-Founder Bobby Seale, highlighted what they see as coordinated retaliation against Brooks for the many, community-based positions she has taken in City Hall.

Earning powerful enemies, Brooks has advocated for more inclusivity of the hiring of African-Americans in the powerful, Building and Construction Trades Unions and fought to to establish a Department of Race and Equity, which was initially opposed by the Mayor.

Published October 21 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

Mayor Schaaf’s Proposals for Building Affordable Housing on Public Land Challenged

“The mayor and the people who work for her have been trying to kill the public land policy all along,” said Councilmember Kaplan.

By Ken Epstein

Community activists and others are raising concerns about whether the latest affordable housing proposals backed by Mayor Libby Schaaf’s administration would event make even a dent in the wave of gentrification and displacement that is remaking the city right in front of their eyes.

Margaretta Lin

Looking at the basic numbers, one of the most contentious issues in the city staff’s proposal is how many affordable units can be built on available public land.  The administration’s report claims that there are only 20 parcels available for housing development and that six of those need to be sold to market rate developers in order to subsidize affordable housing on the remaining 14 parcels, promising only 746 units in the price range that many Oaklanders could afford.

That number of potential units seems like a pittance to affordable housing advocates who point to the magnitude of the crisis – the unending surge of homelessness and the huge numbers of seniors, young workers, teachers and city workers who are being forced out of the city.

The Schaaf administration proposal acknowledges the city owns over 1,000 parcels of land but says only 20 of them are suitable for residential housing.

Rebecca Kaplan

Of those 20 buildable parcels, totaling 24 acres, 14 would be utilized for affordable housing. Of the remaining six parcels, one would be sold for market-rate housing, totaling 492 units, and five be sold for market-rate commercial development, according to staff.

However, there are reports that show there is significantly more public land available, and many more units could be built on those properties, according to Margaretta Lin of the Dellums Institute for Social justice.

A former Deputy City Administrator, Lin led the work on the city’s Housing Equity Roadmap plan in 2014 that was adopted by the City Council in Fall 2015.

Lin says two reports show there are “50 publicly owned vacant or underutilized parcels that the City’s Housing Element identified as suitable for housing development, which could produce over 7,300 new housing units.”

The city owned 36 of these parcels, which are capable of producing over 3,600 housing units per the City’s Housing Element, and other public agencies own the other 14, she said. However, the City sold one of those parcels, capable of producing 25 units, in January 2018 to what appears to be a market rate developer. (The reports are available at www.dellumsinstitute.org/community-justice-data/)

“We commissioned the two public land reports from UC Berkeley Public Policy and City Planning in 2015 because none of the City departments had a full list of City owned land.  With the departure of Claudia Cappio who was briefed on this information, the City administration may be lacking complete information,” she said.

 Councilmember Rebecca Kaplan said city staff makes two separate mistakes in estimating of how many affordable units can be built.

“They are under-counting the number of suitable parcels that the city owns, and their estimate is way lower than the number of units that could be built on them, said Kaplan.

Another major contentious issue is how to pay for construction of the affordable housing. City staff wants to sell public land to market-rate developers to pay for affordable housing development.

The “staff strategy assumes” utilizing market-rate development on the six parcels in order to generate revenue to pay for “100 percent affordable housing for the other 14 sites,” said Mark Sawicki, director of Economic and Workforce Development Department, speaking on behalf of the Schaaf administration at last week’s Community and Economic Development (CED) Committee meeting.

The number of affordable units is constrained by the availability of funding, according to Sawicki’s report. Building 100 percent affordable units on the 20 parcels would increase the total number of possible units on the 20 parcels to 1,080, but it would take 10 to14 years to raise the $112 million needed to cover construction costs.

Staff’s proposal, on the other hand, would only cost the city $6 million (plus the sale of six parcels of land), which could be raised in three to four years, he said.

The question of funding, says Lin, depends on how the city  defines the problem and the solutions.

“If the public policy problem is defined as a State of Emergency especially for people who are the working poor and/or newly homeless, then we would utilize every resource available, especially public lands,” she said.

“The city’s public land policy proposal is based on a traditional housing development model where it costs $500,000 to $650,000 to build one housing unit, and the City needs to provide $150,000 to $165,000 public subsidy.  Instead, if the City utilized innovative housing development and financing models being deployed by other communities, such as new and attractive mobile homes that cost $35,000 a unit, then the (costs) and the public policy proposal would be completely different, said Lin.

Councilmember Kaplan, a longtime supporter of utilizing public property for affordable housing, says the staff “strategy” proposal does not consider other sources of funding: the city’s Measure KK, Alameda County’s A1 housing bond where Oakland is anticipated to receive over $200 million for affordable housing, impact fees, new State housing funds, and foundation grants.

“If they need to sell parcels, why not sell some of those that can’t be used for housing?” Kaplan asked.

Another issue that deeply concerns affordable housing advocates is whether the staff’s strategy would have teeth or would result in something the administration could modify or ignore as wished.

After meetings between staff and housing advocates on developing an affordable housing policy dragged on for almost two years, city staff announced a few months ago that they were no longer interested in passing a policy, instead proposing a “strategy” on how to utilize the 20 parcels of land.

“The mayor and the people who work for her have been trying to kill the policy all along,” said Councilmember Kaplan. “Even if we adopt a strategy, we need a policy,” she said.

The desperate need is for the City Council to adopt a binding public lands policy, said Lin.

According to Lin,  as of December 2017, “there were 20,000 market-rate housing units under construction or in the pipeline, compared with less than 1,500 affordable units.”

“We’re in Oakland’s worst housing crisis in its entire history,” she said. “And affordable housing developers are having a hard time competing with market rate developers for access to land.  An equity based public land policy would solve this access to land problem.  Market-rate housing developers don’t need public resources. They’re doing fine.”

Published August 1, 2018, courtesy of the Oakland Post

 

Independent Police Commission Wins – Mayor Schaaf’s Staff, Attorney Parker Overruled

Gentrification and police abuse linked

“(This) enabling legislation … assures that the staff and the legal adviser will operate under the supervision of the commission and not the city administration,” says Rashidah Grinage of the Coalition for Police Accountability.

By Ken Epstein

The City Council gave final approval this week to an ordinance that will allow the newly formed Police Commission to function independently of the Oakland Police Department and City Hall administrators who work closely with OPD.

The “enabling” ordinance, which passed 6-1 at Tuesday’s council meeting, lays out guidelines for the commission that were not covered in Measure LL, an amendment to the City Charter approved by 83 percent of the voters in 2016.

John Jones III

Voting in favor of regulations that require commission staff to report to the commission and not to the City Administrator and the City Attorney were Councilmembers Larry Reid, Rebecca Kaplan, Lynette Gibson McElhaney, Dan Kalb, Abel Guillén and Noel Gallo. Annie Campbell Washington voted no.

At its first reading at the last council meeting in June, the measure passed over the objection of the City Attorney’s office and a legal consultant hired by the City Attorney.

At Tuesday’s council meeting, the ordinance passed despite the City Administrator’s last-ditch attempt to defeat it.

City Administrator Sabrina Landreth, who had served as police chief for months as OPD tried to recover from the fallout over its notorious sex abuse scandal, told councilmembers that despite the passage of the Measure LL charter amendment, the commission cannot operate independently of her and City Attorney Barbara Parker.

Mike Hutchinson

“The ordinance contains provisions that violate the City Charter,” she said. “It is important that we reflect carefully on the impact of something that erodes the integrity of our City Charter, the equivalent of our city’s constitution.

The enabling ordinance violates the city charter “as it relates to administrative functions,” she said.

Councilmember Kaplan, a strong backer of community efforts to bring police accountability to Oakland, defended the enabling ordinance as written.

“I urge that we hold strong and adopt … police enabling legislation and respect the voters of this city, respect the (police) commissioners themselves who have requested items (in the ordinance) and respect the principle of independent oversight,” she said.

The police commissioners themselves have said they need staff who are “independent and who can be relied upon by the commission to be working for them and not be in the same chain of command as the police department,” she said.

Continuing, Kaplan said, “In law, there is always potential for dispute, and there are always gray areas. But as this was a voter-approved ballot measure, the will and intent of the voters is also important. And it was clearly the intent to have independent (police) oversight.”

“We need to have police accountability all the way to the top,” Kaplan continued. “This is a chain-of-command-based organization, and most of what is done is done because it is ordered to be done.

“The commission has to have independence from the full chain of command,” she said.

During OPD’s sexual misconduct scandal, “it was a decision at the very top of the chain of command to let the senior officials involved not be punished,” she said.

During the ICE raid in West Oakland, OPD participated, but it was because of a decision of individual officers,” said Kaplan. “They were assigned to go. There was a decision made above to engage in that behavior.”

Members of the Coalition for Police Accountability, who have been working on the Police Commission for more than two years, thanked the council for passing the ordinance.

“Despite the horrors that are going on in Washington, D.C., Oakland is really taking a step forward that the rest of the country will be watching and the rest of the country will hopefully emulate,” said Pamela Drake of the coalition.

John Jones III, who works for the Dellums Institute for Social Justice, connected police abuse to the runaway gentrification that is sweeping the city.

Rebecca Kaplan

“There’s a reason why OPD is under federal review,” he said. “If we go back to 2003, when displacement first started in Oakland, there’s a clear connection between the housing crisis and law enforcement.”

Former Mayor Jerry Brown “wanted to bring 10,000 white affluent people into downtown Oakland (also called Brown’s 10K Plan). A mandate (was) given to get rid of Black people in order to make this city more attractive for developers.”

School activist Mike Hutchinson connected Oakland’s ongoing education crisis to Brown’s gentrification efforts.

“One other thing happened in 2003 that was a direct result of Jerry Brown being our mayor,” he said. “Our school district got taken over by the state. I would argue that the same person who came up with the 10K plan also came up with a version of that plan for education (opening) up our city to outsiders to come in and profit off our backs and destroy our communities. And we still haven’t recovered since.”

Published July 12, 2018, courtesy of the Oakland Post

Councilmember McElhaney’s Proposal Would Help “Cash-Strapped” Landlords Evict Tenants

Proposal offers a city-subsidized “incentive” for small landlords  to displace tenants, says housing rights activist James Vann

By Post Staff

The Oakland City Council is scheduled Tuesday to decide on a resolution proposed by Councilmember Lynette Gibson McElhaney that would establish a city loan program to help “distressed low-income homeowners” evict their tenants when the landlord or relative wants to occupy the property.

Lynette McElhaney

Under this proposal, co-sponsored by Councilmember Rebecca Kaplan, the city would set aside $300,000 “to make available no-interest loans” to “cash-strapped” landlords to help them pay city-required relocation payments to tenants they are evicting.

The $300,000 fund would be created by re-allocating part of the $2.2 million the City Council set aside last year to provide legal representation for tenants facing eviction.

“This is common sense anti-displacement legislation that helps preserve the social and economic diversity of home ownership in our city, especially of African American and other low-income legacy owners,” said McElhaney. “This is about addressing all sides of the

James Vann

displacement issue and not creating pressure on legacy owners to sell the homes they want to return to.”

This past January, the City Council amended the Uniform Residential Tenant Ordinance requiring that tenants who are evicted for an owner or relative move-in receive relocation payments. Payments range from $6,500 for a studio or one-bedroom unit to $9,875 for a three or more bedrooms.

“These payments may pose a hardship for low-income and low-asset owners, especially those who need to recover possession of their homes to support themselves or relatives,” according to Councilmember McElhaney’s press statement.

To qualify for the interest-free loans, owners must meet a set of criteria:

  • Own five or fewer units
  • Be low-income or have less than six months of financial reserves
  • Be denied a cash-out refinance loan on their property, and,
  • Certify that the relative moving in is also low or moderate income and does not own any other real estate

Sharply criticizing McElhaney’s proposal, James Vann, co-founder of the Oakland Tenants Union, said that the resolution was “framed by landlord advisers to (Councilmember) McElhaney, (providing) no opportunity for tenant advocates to review or comment on the proposal” before it was introduced.

The proposal “actually (creates) an incentive for small property owners to get longstanding tenants out of their homes, and in the process, have the city pay for the eviction,” said Vann.

“Meanwhile, there is no monitoring by city. So, many of these (landlords) will only pretend to enter but may never actually occupy the freed-up unit. The owner is then able to re-rent the unit at exorbitant prices,” he said.

 

Backers of “Public Land for Public Good” Challenge City’s Commitment to Market-rate Housing

 

Supporters of utilizing all public land for community benefit, especially for affordable housing, speak Tuesday at the council’s Community and Economic Development (CED) committee. Photos by Ken Epstein.

By Ken Epstein

A citywide coalition of community organizations and nonprofits stepped up pressure this week on the Oakland City Council and the Mayor Libby Schaaf’s administration to adopt a policy that prioritizes “public land for public good,” calling for building affordable housing rather than continuing the city’s business-as-usual backroom deals that force out Oakland residents to make room for market-rate, high-rise development projects.

At Tuesday’s crowded meeting of the council’s Community and Economic Development (CED) Committee, councilmembers heard three proposals that will that will be debated in coming months as the council grapples with possible future restrictions on public land sales.

However, perhaps indicating their attitude on the issues, members of the CED committee was unwilling to pass a resolution this week that would have required the city to place a moratorium on the sale of public land while the council debates and adopts a public lands policy.

By blocking new sales of public land, the moratorium would have increased the incentive for the council to adopt a binding lands policy and would have prevented the city from selling off all the most valuable parcels of land before a policy was finalized.

Councilmembers Lynette Gibson McElhaney and Annie Campbell Washington opposed the moratorium. Only Noel Gallo supported it.

But Councilmembers did agree to bring the moratorium back to the next CED meeting on July 17.

Towanda Sherry

One of the speakers in favor of the moratorium was Towanda Sherry of the Beloved Community Action Network. “We are being sold down the river. Every time, we turn around, land is being given away or sold off. We need to put a halt to it right now,” she said.

“We need to have a moratorium because we need to talk. We need to seriously talk so the people’s voice is heard,” she said.

Councilmember McElhaney said she opposed the moratorium because she was unsure of its legality. She said she wanted to hear an opinion of the City Attorney in closed session.

However, the City Attorney had already signed off on the legality the resolution, and the City Attorney’s representative at CED said she was unsure that it was appropriate to address issues about the moratorium in closed session.

One of the three proposals was developed by the city administration, while one alternative was presented by Councilmembers Rebecca Kaplan and Abel Guillén. The third was a “People’s proposal” developed by the Citywide Anti-Displacement Network.

The staff proposal would sell some public land to market-rate developers in order to raise the money to pay for as many as 746 affordable units. The administration has decided it does not want a policy with teeth but instead seeks to pass a “Public Lands Strategy,” which allows the administration the “flexibility” to ignore its strategy when it wishes.

The staff strategy also opposes creating a community advisory board to provide input and oversight on public land sales.

Speaking for the administration, Mark Sawicki, head of the city’s Department of Economic Workforce Development, said, “One percent of the (property) is where we have focused our strategy,” explaining that only 20 of the city’s many parcels are suitable for housing.

Vanessa Riles

The numbers of units that can be built on these sites are limited by zoning and other regulations, he said, and staff is proposing that 14 of the 20 sites be utilized for affordable housing, while six be set aside for market-rate housing and commercial development.

Vanessa Riles of East Bay Housing Organizations (EBHO) spoke for the “People’s proposal” developed by the Citywide Anti-displacement Network, which is a comprehensive statement of community values, calls for 100 percent of public land to be used for affordable housing and making city decisions with the full-on inclusion of community voices, particularly African Americans and others who have been most severely impacted by the housing crisis.

“The Citywide Anti-Displacement Network is concerned about the astronomical rate of displacement of individual families in Oakland and the rapid rate of development without transparency, accountability or community engagement,” she said.

The proposal developed by Councilmembers Kaplan and Guillén proposal would require that an average of 50 percent affordable housing be built on all sites and 100 percent of land sale proceeds go to an Affordable Housing Trust Fund, which would be overseen by a standing Community Advisory Committee.

This proposal also would require a Project Labor Agreement (PLA) with construction unions on large projects that have an estimated cost of at least $40 million.

Kaplan said she supports sending the labor proposal to the city’s Department of Race and Equity for analysis before it is adopted.

“We have an opportunity to use our land for public good, both for what is put on it and also who gets hired, who gets contacts and how we make sure there are decent jobs that benefit our local community,” she said.

“In a time of gentrification, cities can use can use public land as a resource, in addressing high demand for affordable housing and public services to benefit low-income residents who face displacement or even homelessness,” said Sarah Ting, a member of Councilmember Guillén’s staff.

“It’s critical that the way we use public land not exacerbate displacement,” she said.

Published June 29, 2018, courtesy of the Oakland Post

 

Open Letter: Support the Right of African Americans to Work on City-funded Construction Projects

 

To Council Members, Mayor, City Staff, and Members of the Public:

Three principles should prevail in upcoming discussions of public land: 1) Democracy and transparency; 2) Racial justice and 3) Housing the current residents of Oakland.

What Should Not Happen:

  • The City should not sell any more public land before discussion and adoption of a policy.
  • The city’s land should not be used for housing affluent non-residents.  It should house current residents of Oakland who are mostly low- or middle-income, or it should be used to serve the needs of those communities.
  • The City should not adopt a Project Labor Agreement (PLA) in a resolution on Public Lands Policy.

Many Oakland residents have never heard of a PLA.   Even the title of the item on the City Council committee agenda which proposes a PLA does not mention that it is being discussed “Subject: Receive A Report on the Public Lands Policy Process and Analysis
from Councilmembers Guillén And Kaplan”

Residents of the city have a right to a detailed, open, well-publicized discussion of proposals about how the expanding amounts of work that their taxes are paying for are being awarded.

African-Americans obtain only nine percent of the work on city-funded construction projects (City of Oakland statistics). African-Americans are 25 percent of the city’s population and the largest percentage of the unemployed and unhoused both nationally and locally.   A project labor agreement could contribute to maintaining that status quo.

What the City Council Should do Instead:

  1.  Immediately enact the ordinance establishing a 180-day moratorium on the sale of public land or until the Council adopts a comprehensive “Public Lands” Policy.  A properly vetted public lands policy will take time.  Harmful sales of public land cannot be allowed in the meantime.
  2. Separate the discussion of jobs policies and lands policy and organize a transparent, understandable, democratic discussion of each.   The Department of Race and Equity should be asked for an equity assessment of proposals

Among items that could be part of a thorough jobs policy discussion:

  • Discuss the differences between a PLA and a public city-adopted jobs policy;
  • Remove discriminatory barriers that result in only 9 percent African-American employment in construction;
  • Prioritize employment of disadvantaged workers;
  • Protect the union rights of employees;
  • Fund job-training and apprenticeship programs that are  geographically accessible to Oakland residents;
  • Living wage requirements;
  • Employ at least 50 percent local Oakland residents;
  • Ban the box to assist the employment of formerly incarcerated;
  • Require a twice-yearly report to Council including trade-by-trade demographic statistics;
  • Increase funding for contract compliance to reflect the expanded work being required by new construction;
  • Incentivize contracting with women and “minority” owned business and other provisions.

Respectfully submitted,

  • OaklandWORKS Alliance (Founding organizations include the West Oakland Environmental Indicators Project (WOEIP), Black Women Organized for Political Action (BWOPA); Oakland Parents Together (OPT); John George Democratic Club; Oakland Branch NAACP; Oakland Native Give Back).
  • Brian Beveridge, Co-Director, West Oakland Environmental Indicators Project
  • Gay Plair Cobb, Member, BWOPA State Board; Executive Board member, NAACP
    Henry Hitz, Oakland Parents Together
  • Robyn Hodges, OaklandWORKS
  • Pastor Anthony Jenkins, Taylor Memorial United Methodist Church
  • Kimberly Mayfield Lynch, Dean of the School of Education, Holy Names University
  • Kitty Kelly Epstein, Professor; Community Assembly of the Post Salon, Host of Education Today on KPFA
  • James Vann, Co-Founder, Oakland Tenants Union and member of the Community Assembly of the Post Salon

(Partial list. Titles for identification only)

Published June 24, 2018, courtesy of the Oakland Post

Councilmember Rebecca Kaplan Endorses Cat Brooks

Rebecca Kaplan (left) and Cat Brooks. Photo by Ken Epstein

 

By Ken Epstein

City Councilmember-at-Large Rebecca Kaplan, one of Oakland’s most popular progressive political leaders, ended months of speculation about whether she would jump into the mayoral race when she announced last Thursday that she is committing her energy to elect community activist, actor and radio journalist Cat Brooks as mayor of Oakland.

“With a lot of thought and prayer and contemplation” of the social justice issues facing Oakland, “I have come to the conclusion that the best way to strengthen our community’s voice (for our) vital goals is by endorsing and supporting Cat Brooks for mayor,” said Kaplan, speaking at an event held at the Joyce Gordon Gallery in downtown Oakland.

“We will continue to build and move forward together,” she said. “We have an opportunity to strengthen our solidarity, to strengthen our city and to make sure we have a city hall that is responsive to the community.”

Kaplan focused on some of the major social and moral challenges the city is facing that she says are being ignored by Mayor Libby Schaaf.

“We deserve leadership that believes in respect and that believes in justice and understands that we are judged by how we treat the least of these,” she said.

“Every additional person who is homeless should be a heartbreak to all of us and a call to action and a demand to do something about it,” said Kaplan.

She also spoke about what she considers Mayor Schaaf’s failure to punish police who participated in and covered up the Oakland Police Department’s sex abuse scandal.

“The level of police misconduct that has been tolerated is totally unacceptable,” she said, accusing the mayor of intervening to hide OPD officers’ “brutal sexual misconduct,” promoting those who covered it up and punishing those who spoke against it.

A rabbi, Kaplan said a prayer for Brooks’ campaign:

“I pray that you may be protected and strengthened in this incredible journey and that I may be blessed to have the opportunity to work together with you…May your voice be strong, may you be heard.”

Thanking Kaplan and assembled supporters, Brooks invited everyone to “support a vision of justice, a vision of transformation, a vision of mobilizing our people to the polls to take back our city.”

Rather than having to fight City Hall every day, “What if we spent all of our time building the kind of Oakland we want to live in?” she asked.

She said the city should be working to build housing so teachers and low-paid nonprofit employees can afford to live in Oakland.

“It can be done, and if the current administration had the will to do it, it would be done,” said Brooks.

Saying that this is not “a Cat Brooks campaign,” she emphasized that she would hold “people’s assemblies” or town hall meetings during the next two months for input of community people who are struggling to improve conditions and are knowledgeable about the issues.

“There’s amazing work that’s being done on a range of issues, and those will be the voices that determine the direction of this city,” said Brooks. “There are so many brilliant, beautiful ideas that are being ignored by City Hall.”

For more information, go to www.catbrooksforoakland.com/ and www.kaplanforoakland.com/

Published June 15, 2018, courtesy of the Oakland Post