Category: Labor

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

 

Mayoral Candidate Cat Brooks Pledges to “Turn the Tables” on Business as Usual in Oakland

Cat Brooks

By Ken Epstein

“It’s time to turn the tables” on the developer- and financier-led displacement agenda that currently runs Oakland, says mayoral candidate Cat Brooks, radio host, actor and justice activist, who wants the city to move in the direction of utilizing its resources to solve homelessness, promote education, build housing that regular people can afford and spend public safety dollars to eliminate conditions that give rise to crime.

Brooks formally kicked off her campaign May 1 on Radio Station KPFA, speaking to Brian Edwards-Tiekert, who until that morning was her co-host on the “Up-Front” driver-time public affairs program on the station.

Taking at least a six-month leave of absence from KPFA, she is focusing on organizing the majority of Oaklanders “who can’t afford to purchase power in City Hall,” she said in the interview.

Win or lose, she hopes her campaign will build “a base of 10,000 … to push to save the soul of the City of Oakland,” Brooks said.

She said her campaign will promote the voices of the unhoused, immigrants and poor people, “who in the last four years have borne the brunt of a neoliberal mayor who has put development over people.”

Central to her program is dealing with “the housing crisis like the epidemic that it is,” mustering the city-wide commitment to turning around the alarming rise in homelessness and uncontrolled rent increases that are displacing tens of thousands of Oaklanders.

“We need to deal with the unhoused crisis in this city like a bomb dropped in the middle of our city – because it did, a gentrification bomb,” she said, calling for the city to build 4,000 affordable units.

“We have to take a stand on the side of our most vulnerable residents,” she continued.

Not a fan of solving crime by increasing policing, Brooks said, “We should actively be walking away from militarized policing and incarceration.”

She said that police funding drains almost 50 percent of the city’s budget, including $30 million a year in unauthorized overtime. A significant amount of that money can be redirected to solve the city’s social problems, she said.

People in Oakland rightfully want to be safe, but the current approach is not working well, she said, adding that there are many car break-ins and burglaries, and the police department’s homicide solve rate is only a little over 30 percent.

Rather than increasing the numbers of police, the city can increase public safety by hiring “community ambassadors,” “training (people) for community safety,” she said, recognizing that “police should not be the solution to every single issue.”

“At the same time, (we should be) reforming and holding accountable the Oakland Police Department, finally for the first time in that department’s history,” said Brooks.

For information on Cat Brooks’ campaign, go to www.catbrooksforoakland.com/

Published May 12, 2018, courtesy of the Oakland Post

Opinion: Rebecca Kaplan Should Run for Mayor of Oakland

Sandré R Swanson (with Rebecca Kaplan.

By Sandré R. Swanson

 I was born in the City of Oakland and I have proudly served Oakland as our Assemblymember for three terms.

I was honored to serve as Oakland’s Deputy Mayor, as chair of Oakland’s Civil Service Commission and chair of Oakland’s Reuse and Redevelopment Commission.

During my service to Oakland, City Councilmember-at-Large Rebecca Kaplan has been consistent in her hard work for the prosperity of all Oakland citizens and her vision of Oakland as one of California’s most desirable cities.

Rebecca Kaplan has challenged Oakland government to serve all of its citizens, and now it’s time for her to lead the city as Mayor.

I know that as mayor, she would support good paying job opportunities for working families. She will promote affordable housing, long term solutions for assisting homelessness, support schools with a safe and great learning environment for our children, promote small business growth and protect Oakland’s environment as a great city by the bay.

Rebecca Kaplan has been promoting and honoring Oakland’s beautiful diversity for years, supporting a growing middle class and giving needed attention to our senior citizens and the too often ignored, our poor.

Rebecca will work for real opportunity for our youth from school to work.

When I was growing up in Oakland, my parents and I enjoyed safe parks and Oakland neighborhoods that positively supported family life. Rebecca Kaplan will work for a police force that has the full confidence of the community.

She would work for the recruitment of officers from local residents with a strong commitment to community and the safety of all citizens.

I am encouraging a visionary, Councilwoman-at-Large Rebecca Kaplan, to join the race and give Oakland voters a creative, hard-working, progressive choice for mayor this November.

Sandré R Swanson served in the California Assembly from 2006 to 2012

Activist Cat Brooks Joins Race for Mayor of Oakland

Cat Brooks, co-founder of the Anti Police-Terror Project and now former host of “Upfront” on KPFA, speaks at the ILWU Local 10 May Day rally on May 1, 2018. Earlier that day, Brooks announced live on KPFA that she is now a candidate in the race to become Oakland’s next mayor, challenging the re-election of current Mayor Libby Schaaf. Photo by Sarah Carpenter.

 

By Sarah Carpenter

Cat Brooks, co-founder of the Anti Police-Terror Project, is running for mayor of Oakland.

Brooks was a host of KPFA’s “Upfront,” until the final 10 minutes of Tuesday morning’s show, when she had to take a leave due to her status as a political candidate.
Brian Edwards-Tiekert interviewed Brooks as a guest following the live on-air announcement of her candidacy.

She said she has been asked by many grassroots organizations to run for the office of mayor, and until now she has always said no. “And then I said yes,” she told Tiekert.

“Because my life’s work is centered on the needs of the people,” Brooks said in her prepared remarks on May 1, “I am here to announce—today—on International Workers Day that I am throwing my hat in the ring to challenge neoliberal Libby Schaaf for mayor.”

Brooks described her campaign as one that would minimize police spending (currently almost 50 percent of the city’s general fund) to pay for community programs, specifically related to the housing crisis. She said her campaign would treat homelessness as “the epidemic that it is.”

Councilmember-at-Large Rebecca Kaplan, who has been an active in searching for solutions to the city’s housing crisis, responded to the news that Brooks will be in the race for mayor this November,
“I think it’s wonderful,” she said.

Brooks’  May Day announcement coincided with the springtime festival that has since the late 1800s become known as a worldwide celebration of workers’ solidarity,  International Workers Day.

Brooks spoke at the International Longshore and Warehouse Union (ILWU) May Day rally in DeFremery Park, where  renowned actor, director and activist Danny Glover delivered an impromptu speech in support of the longshoreman and their continued social activism.

The ILWU Local 10 shut down all Bay Area ports in 2010 in protest of the killing of Oscar Grant  by an Oakland BART police officer. This year, family members of Sahleem Tindle and Stephon Clark, two unarmed young men who were killed by police,  attended the ILWU May Day march and rally.

Brooks marched alongside the Tindle family down Adeline St. from the docks to DeFremery Park. She, along with the APTP, has been a leader in organizing to bring about the arrest of BART officer Joseph Mateu, who shot and killed Tindle outside West Oakland BART station in January.

Published May 4, 2018, courtesy of the Oakland Post

Opinion: Re-elect Desley Brooks to City Council

Desley Brooks

 By Dan Siegel, Oakland Justice Coalition

Dan Siegel

Desley Brooks deserves another term on the Oakland City Council because she has been a strong, creative advocate for the residents of District 6 and all the people of Oakland.

The only thing toxic about Desley Brooks is the campaign being waged against her by Mayor Schaaf and her allies determined to turn Oakland into Walnut Creek West.

At a time when the City Council majority is afraid to have lunch without the Mayor’s approval, Council Member Brooks has successfully fought for programs that benefit working people in Oakland and attract positive national attention.

In response to the rapid decline in the City’s African American population from almost half to barely a quarter of Oakland’s people, she worked to create the new Department of Race and Equity to ensure that people of color share in the City’s growing prosperity. She created the Cannabis Equity Program to create opportunities for Oakland residents to share in the profits from the exploding marijuana industry.

Desley worked to spur the revitalization of the Seminary Point business district and fought for $13.7 million to renovate the Rainbow Recreation Center.

She has worked hard to bring benefits and services to low income residents, including monthly food distributions and placing washers and dryers in area schools. She was the first to bring a farmers’ market to East Oakland.

Councilmember Brooks takes seriously the problems that are driving lower- and moderate-income people from Oakland.

She is leading efforts to increase affordable housing, including supporting the expansion of the Oakland Community Land Trust to create housing that will be permanently affordable.

She has been a leader in supporting the statewide effort to repeal the Costa-Hawkins law so that cities are free to establish their own rent control programs.

Desley was an early supporter of Oakland’s Living Wage Ordinance and is now focusing on creating good jobs for Oakland residents by increasing the availability of job training programs.  She supports efforts to create a People’s Budget for the City.

Mayor Schaaf has apparently decided that there is no room for disagreement among Oakland’s elected officials and that anyone who challenges her must be purged from City government.  She and other critics of Councilmember Brooks focus on her style and personality, but public service is not a popularity contest.

Voters who study her record and productivity will conclude that no-one on the City Council can match her record of advocacy and accomplishments for working Oaklanders, especially low- and moderate-income people.

Desley Brooks deserves another term on the City Council.

Dan Siegel is a civil rights attorney and co-chair of the Oakland Justice Coalition. He and his family have lived in District 6 since 1977.

Councilmembers Delay Vote on Proposal for Construction Job Opportunities for Oaklanders

Pre-apprenticeship building trades trainees from the Cypress Mandela Training Center, which was founded by the Oakland Private Industry Council, joined a rally recently in front of City Hall asking City Council members to fund programs like theirs and others that prepare people for well paying jobs in construction. Photo by Ken Epstein.

 

By Ken Epstein
Forty-six people signed up to speak at this week’s Community and Economic Development (CED) committee meeting, almost all of them arguing in favor of Councilmember Desley Brooks’ proposal to utilize city funds to support pre-apprentice training programs for construction workers and career centers that provide opportunities for low-income residents of East and West Oakland.

Despite the passion and enthusiasm of the speakers – community leaders, young job trainees, program staff, labor representatives and the formerly incarcerated – they were disappointed to learn that council members were not going to vote on the proposal but were postponing it until the May 22 CED committee meeting.

According to council members, they could not vote on the matter Tuesday because staff reports analyzing the proposal had not yet been submitted by the City Attorney’s office and the city administration, even though the issue had been discussed during last year’s budget deliberations, and Brooks had submitted her proposal over five months ago.

The matter was also on the CED agenda two weeks ago but was not be discussed because it lacked a cover memo.

This, week, City Attorney Barbara Parker sent a “confidential” opinion to the council but has not issued a public opinion on the proposal, according to council members.

Councilmember Noel Gallo, who co-sponsored Brooks’ resolution, said Parker’s opinion contains “legal recommendations” but “doesn’t close the door on us.”

Speaking to members of the CED committee, Councilmember Brooks said, “There is a crisis in this city, a crisis in terms of putting people to work, and we’d rather play games and look smug than carry out the business of the people.”

Though criticisms have been raised about how the measure would be funded, Brooks said she had patterned her proposal after the Percent for the Arts ordinance, which has utilized bond money to generate millions of dollars for public arts programs.

“I don’t know why the City Attorney is having difficulty figuring out if it is legal since we have been using the Percent for the Arts ordinance since 1989,” she said.

She pointed to the page on the city’s website, which talks about “exciting Public Art projects funded through local bonds and state grants (that) are underway throughout Oakland.”

According the web page, the money for public arts comes from “Measure DD: Lake Merritt – Estuary Channel, Lake Merritt Garden Gates, Lakeside Green Streets, Estuary Park,” “Measure WW: DeFremery Park,” and “Measure KK: Coming soon.”

“What we’re asking for right now that is that you think that the Black and Brown people of this city are important, that you think that it is important that they see a 15 percent decline in unemployment, that you see that it is important that they be able to continue to live in this city, that you think it is important that they be able to support their families,” Brooks said.

Brooks says her ordinance has a clause that excludes any funding proposal that cannot be utilized legally, and she challenged councilmembers to come up with their own ideas for funding job training if they do not like the ones she proposed.

“We are playing around trying to find reasons why we can’t do something, and none of you have come up with a proposal to figure out what we can do. What have you come up with? What are you doing to rectify this issue that is moving our residents out of this city.”

Many of the community speakers underscored the importance of the proposal, which would provide city support for the Cypress Mandela Training Center, the Men of Valor Academy, East and West Oakland Career Centers and other programs.

Richard de Jauregui, director of Planning for the Oakland Private Industry Council (PIC), said the city has been relying on federal dollars to supports its workforce development programs for the past 18 years but now has to figure out how to fund these programs itself.
“Federal funds are dwindling. They are talking about cutting as much as 40 percent under the current administration,” he said.

Sylvester Hodges, director of training at Cypress Mandela Training Center, urged council members to be creative.

“If this isn’t the source of money that you want to give… (you can) come up with ways you can help the people in the community.”

Speaking to Councilmember Campbell Washington, who has announced she is not running for reelection, Hodges said, “You don’t have to quit because we disagree with you. Don’t do that. We just want you to think and work together and compromise.”

Councilmember-at-Large Rebecca Kaplan told council members, “I’d like to encourage us to imagine what would happen if we all decided to all be ‘all in’ on figuring out how to make sure the job training gets funded.”

“Understand why it matters,” she continued. “We have construction projects that can’t get built because they can’t get workers. We have a Black unemployment rate that is so much higher than the white unemployment rate that it would be considered a national crisis if white unemployment was at that level.”

Men of Valor Academy director Pastor Jerald K. Simpkins said, “This city has spent hundreds of millions of dollars, and all we ask is for a seed to go into some of the communities that rarely receive those kinds of investments. Sow a seed, and you’ll reap a harvest.”

Gregory McConnell, who frequently represents developers, also supported the proposal. “I don’t know if there are technical difficulties … but (I know) these programs are transforming lives.”

The three speakers opposed the proposal because they were against spending infrastructure bond funds, Measure KK, for pre-apprenticeship training. But they did not say if they would support the resolution if funding came from other sources. One woman suggested trainees raise money for their programs with a GoFundMe campaign.

Campbell Washington, who chaired the CED meeting, said the resolution would come back to the committee May 22 “either with the City Attorney’s analysis that we received confidentially, or whatever that can be put out to the public, and a city staff analysis.”

Councilmember Gallo praised Councilmember Brooks for taking the initiative on job training.
“I really applaud you, and I value what you’re doing,” he said. “For me employment and training are extremely important.”

Gallo said that a proposal to fund the Cypress Mandela Training Center was discussed when the budget was adopted last year, but “it didn’t happen because we didn’t have the majority of the votes.”

“The opportunity is here,” Gallo continued. “We did receive a communication from the City Attorney with some changes they are recommending in terms of how we may be able to get to the funding level to support training programs that we have and future training programs.”

He suggested council members give the City Administrator a directive to come back to the council with proposals on how to fund job training in Oakland.

Published April 29, 2018, courtesy of the Oakland Post

Opinion: Support Community Leadership on the Oakland Planning Commission

By Rev. Damita Davis-Howard 

We’re in a development boom in Oakland. Cranes and bulldozers clang downtown, building luxury condos, offices, and hotels. More and more people huddle in tents

Rev. Damita Davis-Howard

under overpasses, and more of us struggle to keep a roof over our heads.

Right now, we have an opportunity to influence whether the development boom creates an Oakland with clean air, affordable homes for all, and fair wages for the people who build them, or whether it makes us a gentrified city like San Francisco.

Few people know that the seven members of Oakland’s Planning Commission make critical decisions every week about our city’s future — about what is built, where, and for whom. In the next few weeks, the Mayor will nominate people for two seats to replace two Commissioners who are terming out.

We need more community voices on the Planning Commission. The Commission shapes and approves developments in Oakland, whether it’s market-rate luxury condos or development of publicly-owned land. These decision-makers could be our first line of defense against skyrocketing housing costs and homelessness. Oakland’s planning decisions should come from the real input of all of Oakland’s people – especially people of color, flatland communities, and people closest to development sites.

Oakland has something special and beautiful: our diversity. As longtime organizers, we know it’s crucial to represent all of our communities in the decisions that affect us. The Oaklanders hit hardest by poverty and racism are experts in the solutions our town needs.

However, as the East Bay Express reported last year, Mayor Schaaf has stacked the Commission with a supermajority of real estate industry representatives – developers, architects, or attorneys in the industry. Recently, the Commission has voted overwhelmingly to build thousands of market-rate luxury units, and only a handful of affordable ones, in the midst of Oakland’s biggest housing affordability crisis in decades.

Union researcher-campaigner Nischit Hegde is a great candidate for the Planning Commission; she has organized closely with impacted workers and East Bay communities for years.

Hegde has long supported the working people of Oakland, especially people of color, by speaking out against new hotels that would create more low-wage jobs in Oakland and strain the city’s housing shortage; and by advocating for local “sanctuary workplace” agreements that would protect immigrants on the job.

As a mom living in Bella Vista/Eastlake, Hegde also advocates for affordable housing on public land.

We need more leaders of color like Nischit Hegde and Jahmese Myres, a current Commissioner, who will practice the values that the majority of Oaklanders espouse.

During Commissioner Myres’ four years in office, she has spoken out for more affordable housing, for opportunities for local workers, and against policies and projects that push our neighbors out of their homes.

Oakland’s working people and communities of color cannot survive if the city is built only for the rich and hip. We need an Oakland for all, and that’s why we need the expertise of community leaders like Nischit Hegde and Jahmese Myres on our Planning Commission.

Reverend Damita Davis-Howard is the Political Director at Oakland Rising, a voter organizing collaborative of nine grassroots organizations in Oakland. Gary Jimenez is the East Bay Vice President of SEIU 1021, which represents over 54,000 employees in local governments, non-profit agencies, health care programs, and schools throughout Northern California.

Published April 23, 2018, courtesy of Oaklandpost.org

Open Letter: Oakland Mayor Should Reject Job Policies That Increase Discrimination Against Black Workers

Black Americans have twice as much unemployment as white workers.

You can see one of the causes if you walk by any construction site and count up the number of Black workers you can find.

In Oakland, Black workers get only nine percent of the work on city-funded construction projects even though they are 25 percent of the population.

Nationally, 90 percent or more of electricians, painters, construction supervisors, tool and die makers, cement masons and others are white.

Yet Mayor Libby Schaaf is considering a policy that will increase that discrimination by giving all the work on city-funded projects to members of organizations that have few African-American members.

In order to inform herself about the consequences of the policy she is considering, the Mayor should:

  • Ask the Oakland construction unions to release statistics on their membership by trade and ethnicity, so that the public knows exactly what it would mean in terms of ethnic representation to award almost all the construction work in the city to members of their organizations;
  • Wait for completion of the disparity study, which is being paid for by the city should be completed, so that we can see the extent to which there is current discrimination against minority and women-owned businesses.
  • The Department of Race and Equity should do an assessment of the impact of Project Labor Agreements on various segments of the population.
  • There should be public discussion in neighborhoods on both jobs policy and public lands policy.

Otherwise, the displacement of African-Amerians and the gentrification of the city will be increased.

In Oakland we need to do what is fair and just.

Signed,

Kitty Kelly Epstein, PhD, Professor of Education and Urban Affairs; member of OaklandWORKS, author of “Organizing to Change a City” (2012);

Paul Cobb, Publisher, Post News Group;


Margaret Gordon, Co-Director, West Oakland Environmental Indicators Project (WOEIP), former Port Commissioner

Brian Beveridge, co-director, West Oakland Environmental Indicators Project (WOEIP), OaklandWORKS Alliance;


Robyn Hodges, OaklandWORKS Alliance;


Pastor Anthony L. Jenkins Sr., Taylor Memorial United Methodist Church;


Kimberly Mayfield Lynch, EdD, dean of the School of Education, Holy Names University, member of Black Women Organized for Political Action (BWOPA).

Published April 1, 2018, courtesy of the Oakland Post

Opinion: Full Funding For Apprentice Training and City Job Centers

By Desley Brooks, District 6 Councilwoman

Construction is booming in Oakland. From almost anywhere in the city you can see cranes, building materials stacked near the streets and people in hard hats working hard throughout the day.

Desley Brooks

As our city undergoes this much needed growth it’s imperative we make sure local residents benefit from the jobs as well as the buildings that are created. Too often that hasn’t been the case. That’s why I’ve proposed proactive legislation focusing on construction sector jobs that will help provide job security and training within these booming industries.

For 16 years I’ve worked to keep Oaklanders employed, with a holistic approach including worker protections, living wages and appropriate training. I’ve advocated for serious investment into places that prepare young adults for the working world because I know sustainable jobs require proper preparation and training.

These programs focus on providing real work experience, industry specific hands-on training and the life skills necessary for success to under resourced communities.

My efforts have been aimed at not only ensuring that profitable temporary jobs go to Oakland residents, but that residents also have a pathway to careers, business ownership and true economic security.

This is why I’ve introduced legislation that provides funding for Cypress Mandela, the Laborers Local 304 Training Foundation, Oakland Job Centers and other programs with successful records of developing, growing and sustaining workforces in Oakland.

Building a strong economy requires making sure that our communities have the resources required to produce a skilled workforce, with well trained workers equipped to handle modern industry jobs.

The institutions that once provided our communities with entryways to careers are waning while programs like those supported in the legislation

I’ve proposed pick up the slack. Too often these organizations are left without the support of local government to provide the services our communities so desperately need. We cannot expect these programs to function at their full potential while they lack the resources needed to operate.

The legislation I’ve presented ensures adequate funding for places like Cypress Mandela so they are better able to serve all Oakland residents.

Some may argue that the allocation of resources towards these organizations is unfair, that all communities deserve entryways to gainful employment.

I remind those people that these programs exist to focus on communities that are often left out of other efforts aimed at hiring, training and retaining local workers.These communities deserve real support too. Investing in these often overlooked communities is money wisely spent, providing benefits for community-at- large. For example just last year, Cypress

Mandela passed the first class of students to receive railroad specific training. This training provided them with the skill set necessary to maintain our BART system and keep over 50,000 daily riders safe.

That’s a return every BART rider in the Bay Area benefits from. Investing in programs like those supported by my legislation guarantees that every community has an opportunity to participate in our thriving economies and that no Oakland resident is left behind. Please join me and call your Council Member and ask them to support this legislation and provide the necessary funding to keep our community working.

The legislation is scheduled to be heard at the Community Economic Development Committee (CEDA) on April 10, 2018 at City Hall.

Please call and email your councilmembers and let them know you want Oaklanders to be a part of the economic boom taking place in our city. Come to the City Council committee meeting and show your support.

Published March 29, 2018, courtesy of the Oakland Post

Stopping the Stadium Mega-Development Was an Important Victory, But This Fight Is Far from Over

Oakland Coliseum

By Alvina Wong

After four months of organizing by Laney students, faculty, and staff, Chinatown and Eastlake residents, and Lake Merritt environmentalists, the Peralta Board of Trustees decided to end talks with the Oakland A’s about constructing a stadium mega-development next to Laney College.

Alvina Wong

Their decision is a testament to our communities’ power to fight for a future where we can stay and thrive.  We also know that this fight is far from over.

Since 2014 when BART and City officials completed the Lake Merritt Station Area Plan, Chinatown and Eastlake have been bombarded with a wave of luxury condo developments, soaring rents, and mass displacement of longtime residents.

At the time, many of our organizations demanded that we be included in the city-led ‘community-engagement process’.  We advocated for affordable housing and storefronts, parks and open space, and resources for working class immigrant and refugee communities.

Despite countless meetings, letters, and petitions to city officials, none of our communities’ needs were reflected in the plan.

Instead, we got a plan that incentivized high-density market-rate development by rezoning the neighborhood to allow developers to build up to 275 feet in some areas, without a conditional use permit.

Our vision for a neighborhood where new immigrants and refugees could stay and thrive was noted, but no policies were put in place to help realize this vision.

The Lake Merritt Station Area plan, like the West Oakland BART plan and many others, has paved the way for developers to turn Chinatown and Eastlake into playgrounds for the wealthy, with 20 and 30 story luxury apartment buildings that literally cast shadows over our communities.

So, when the Oakland A’s decided to build a stadium with upscale stores and hotels next to Laney College, our communities quickly decided that we needed to oppose it.  Chinatown and Eastlake groups joined with Laney students, faculty, and staff who were fighting to protect Laney as a public resource.

Groups that had been working for years to restore Lake Merritt and its saltwater channel also joined the fight.  We went door-to-door and classroom-to-classroom.  Despite the A’s aggressive PR campaign, we found that people overwhelmingly opposed the stadium at Laney.

While we were successful in stopping the A’s stadium mega-development at Laney, we know that there are more developers that want to use this public land for their own profits.

Many of us have been part of building community, culture, and resources in neighborhoods that formed as a result of racist housing covenants, suffered from disinvestment after white flight, and are now threatened with mass displacement.  In these times, we’ve learned that our public land is one of the last remaining places where we can build the resources our communities need.

For us, this decision to say no to a stadium at Laney opens the door for our communities to say yes to stewarding this land to serve the public good.

It helps us transition away from looking at land as a commodity that exists to maximize profits for the wealthy, and toward looking at how this land can help sustain our lives and communities for generations to come.

As for big corporations like the A’s that benefit from Oakland’s public infrastructure and diverse communities, they should have been giving back all along – whether that means supporting public education institutions like Laney College, affordable housing and good jobs for local residents, or growing in ways that take leadership from working class people of color who want to stay and thrive.

We hope the Oakland A’s will stay the right way.  Oakland has already invested millions of public dollars in the Coliseum.  Now it’s the A’s turn to invest in East Oakland’s communities.

Alvina Wong works with the Stay the Right Way Coalition and is employed by the Asian Pacific Environmental Network (APEN).

Published December 13, 2017, courtesy of the Oakland Post