Category: Politics

Youth at MLK Freedom Center Join Struggle to Empower Voters

Sophia Quintana of Berkeley and active member of the MLK Freedom Center registers voters at July 4 naturalization ceremony in Seattle, WA.

Sophia Quintana of Berkeley and active member of the MLK Freedom Center registers voters at July 4 naturalization ceremony in Seattle, WA.

By Ken Epstein

Young people who participated in an intensive six-week voter registration and community engagement project this summer recently attended a labor breakfast celebration in their honor, where they talked about their efforts to register new voters and reflected on what they learned and how it transformed them.

The “Civic Engagement Pilgrimage,” organized by the Martin Luther King Jr. Freedom Center, which is based at Merritt College in Oakland took a diverse group of 65 young people, mostly high school students from Oakland and Washington state, on a journey from Washington to Portland to Bakersfield and Fresno in California, where they registered voters and had in-depth discussions with elected officials, community and tribal leaders in urban and rural areas and Indian nations.

The breakfast was held Aug. 4 at the offices of the Alameda Labor Council in Oakland, attended by Congresswoman Barbara Lee, former Oakland Mayor Elihu Harris and Peralta Community Colleges Chancellor Dr. Jowel C. Laguerre, who are strong supporters of the work of the freedom center.

The young people said they heard the same words over and over from people in different communities: “Our voices don´t matter; nothing you do will change the system,” according to Laelah Jackson, a junior at Berkeley High.

“It is important to educate and be educated,” she said.  “What we´re doing is bigger than each of us. “It’s the ‘we’” that makes the difference.

“We learned that we live in very trying times night now,” said Angela Drake, a student at Castlemont High School. “We have to give hope to each other. No one is going to do it for us, but us.”

The young people said that in the course of their discussions with people and the classes and trainings among themselves they learned critical thinking, experienced growing self confidence and a sense of “love and solidarity” with each other and the people.

The Martin Luther King Freedom Center, which was created by Oakland’s MLK Day March and Rally Committee, began its work in 2001.  Executive Director Dr. Roy Wilson has led the organization for the past 10 years.

Based on the lessons of summer´s listening sessions and discussions in communities, the center plans to launch intensive voter education and registration efforts this year, including work in congressional districts in California´s Central Valley.
For more information on the Freedom Center, go to www.mlkfreedomcenter.org

Published August 17, 2017, courtesy of the Post News Group

Noel Gallo Faces Viola Gonzales in Oakland District 5 Race

Noel Gallo and Viola Gonzales

Noel Gallo and Viola Gonzales

 

By Tulio Ospina

In the City Council race for Oakland District 5, incumbent Noel Gallo is facing off against Viola Gonzales, who previously served on the Oakland Board of Education as an appointee of then-Mayor Jerry Brown.

Gallo, who has been on the council since 2012, is a lifelong resident of the Fruitvale District and previously served on the Oakland Board of Education for 20 years. He also sits on the Life Enrichment, Public Works and Public Safety city council committees.

Gonzales was, until June 30, the chief executive officer of AnewAmerica, a non-profit that helps immigrants and refugees start small and micro-businesses.

According to Gonzales, she has the backing of Mayor Libby Schaaf, former Councilmember Ignacio de la Fuente and former Mayor Elihu Harris.

Councilmember Gallo has achieved broad popularity in the city for his strong role in supporting renter protection and a police commission—Measures JJ and LL respectively— which the City Council placed on the November ballot.

Gallo has also taken strong positions on recent city development decisions, arguing that Oakland’s city-owned land should not be sold to private developers and should, instead, be leased and remain public.

Referring to Oakland’s current housing crisis, Gallo told the Post, “Investors and developers are coming in from out of state and outside the country, and they’re here to make a dollar. They have no commitment to Oakland.”

“If there is to be development, it has to be considerate of the people who live here already. And we must keep public land for public good,” said Gallo.

In terms of the two landmark city measures that Gallo openly supported and is endorsing in November, he said, “The police commission is really important to deal with police discipline and Oakland needs a strong citizens’ body.”

“The housing situation is an emergency issue, too, because people are being displaced like crazy. Whole families are being displaced with children. We see grandmothers and children sleeping in their cars. Every democracy needs to take care of the people who live in it, and that’s what the renter protection measure does.”

According to Gallo, his number one platform priority is increasing public safety in his district.

For four years, he has organized and participated in weekly volunteer walks through the Fruitvale, picking up illegal dumping and cleaning neighborhoods.

An increase in public safety also means concentrating resources to meet the district’s infrastructure needs—building sidewalks, repaving streets and installing crosswalks.

Gallo is asking people to vote for the city infrastructure bond, which will be on the November ballot.

He also wants to increase police presence in his district to try to curb what he sees as an uptick in robberies and traffic violations.

Gonzales, meanwhile, is running against Gallo on a platform of bringing economic development and job creation to Fruitvale, based on her 15 years of experience as an executive of a non-profit.

“We need to create jobs in the community, and I think we can do more,” Gonzales said in an interview with the Post. “Oakland has the responsibility to create more jobs and help local businesses grow.”

Gonzales said she will not take a position on the renter protection and police commission measures, though she says she understands what is at stake and sees why the measures were put on the November ballot.

“I say let the voters decide. I feel like the obligation of the City Council is just to move quickly to do what the public asks and to stop dragging its feet, which is what it’s been doing,” she said.

“With the police commission, I think we’ve got to have accountability, but the commission itself isn’t enough to fix larger issues like racial profiling that permeate society. And with the renters’ issue, we have the Costa-Hawkins state law that limits what you can do.”

Gonzales said she has gained the public and financial support of Mayor Schaaf because she is able to make room for differences in opinion and bring public conversations into meetings. The mayor has contributed $700, the maximum allowed, to Gonzales’ campaign.

“She would not give endorsements unless she thought we could work together,” Gonzales said.

 

Commentary: Insurgents Trump and Sanders Send a Message

By Jesse Jackson

This has been insurgent summer in presidential politics. Donald Trump and Bernie Sanders have soared. They are raising issues that politicians in both parties can no longer duck.

Insurgent candidates gain traction when their campaigns resonate with voters. When I ran in 1984 and 1988, my campaigns surprised pundits because I was speaking to what many Americans felt.

Jesse Jackson visits Street Academy

Jesse Jackson visits Street Academy in Oakland

Reagan’s conservative reaction was on the march; Democrats were tacking to the right. But many Americans were left out of the equation. Workers suffered as jobs were shipped overseas.

The working poor suffered as investments in housing, health care, education and more were slashed. Many were dismayed at Reagan’s reckless new Cold War, and his idiotic covert war on Nicaragua.

Both parties had embraced top-end tax cuts, deregulation and corporate trade policies. Both supported apartheid South Africa and called Mandela a terrorist. Neither could see that Israeli security depended upon Palestinian statehood.

Democrats decided that they had to compete to be hawkish on foreign policy, corporate on domestic policy and timid on social policy.

My campaigns exploded in the vacuum. And while we didn’t win, we changed the agenda. A boycott was imposed on South Africa over Reagan’s veto. Congress ended support for the contras of Nicaragua. Years later, U.S. policymakers belatedly embraced the two-state solution in the Middle East.

And Bill Clinton ran on Putting People First, calling for tax hikes on the rich, investment in education, national health care and labor rights in trade accords.

In this election, Sanders and Trump have raised fundamental issues that challenge a bipartisan consensus that does not work for most Americans.

The first of these is the corrupting effects of big money in our politics. Sanders, funding his campaign with small donations, warns of the perils of big money directly. Trump, using his fortune to declare his independence, scorns his opponents as “puppets” of their donors.

Politicians in both parties better wake up: Clean up our politics or lose the respect of your voters.

The second issue is our corporate trade policies that are racking up deficits of $500 billion a year while shipping good jobs abroad and undermining wages here at home.

Sanders correctly indicts these policies as rigging the rules against American workers. Trump makes our “bad deals” a centerpiece of his appeal. The next president will have to change course, or this protest will grow.

A third issue is America’s endless wars. Both Sanders and Trump emphasize that they opposed Bush’s invasion of Iraq from the start. Both counsel caution about more interventions in Syria, Ukraine and Iraq.

Both are appealing to the vast majority of Americans who do not believe the U.S. can afford to police the world.

A fourth issue is taxes. Sanders tells billionaires “enough is enough.” He calls for raising taxes on the wealthy and shutting corporate loopholes to invest in rebuilding the country, making college free for all, expanding Social Security and investing in children.

Trump is more confused, but he earns applause for insisting that hedge fund billionaires should pay their fair share of taxes.

For years we’ve had paralysis in Washington on the key issue of immigration. Millions of undocumented workers live in the shadows, exploited by callous employers.

Sanders seeks a solution that will bring the country together; Trump has slanderously chosen to drive us apart. He’s tried to make immigration a Mexican issue, but that ignores reality. Threatening the largest deportation — 11 million people — in world history isn’t about Mexico; it’s about who we are.

Clearly we are paying a huge price for the cowardice of politicians unwilling to address this issue sensibly and that has to stop.

Single issues like these are markers for the bigger reality. This economy doesn’t work for most people. The rules are rigged to favor the few. Big money corrupts our politics to defend their privileges. Americans are looking for a new deal here at home.

Sanders and Trump, of course, are stark contrasts. Sanders is a thoughtful progressive; Trump an entertainer, offering postures, not policies. Sanders calls for a popular movement to transform America; Trump argues voters should trust him to do it.

But on right and left, among Republicans and Democrats, more and more are unwilling to accept politics as usual. Too many people are left out of that arrangement. The two major parties will have to change, or they are likely to be changed by voters who have had enough.

 Courtesy of the Post News Group, September 4, 2015 (postnewsgroup.com)

Commentary: This Is the Difference Between Donald Trump and Bernie Sanders

By Kareem Abdul-Jabbar

Ernest Hemingway once said that courage was “grace under pressure.” Two presidential candidates, Donald Trump and Bernie Sanders, have recently tested this proposition.

Donald Trump vs. Kareem Abdul-Jabbar

Donald Trump vs. Kareem Abdul-Jabbar

And how each man responded revealed the type of person he is and the type of president he would make: Trump authored his own doom, and Sanders opened immense new possibilities as a compassionate person and serious candidate for president.

Here’s where it went fatally wrong for Trump. During the GOP debate on Fox, when Megyn Kelly famously queried him about his attitude toward women (whom he has called “fat pigs,” “dogs,” “slobs” and “animals”) he hit back by threatening the questioner: “I’ve been very nice to you, although I could probably maybe not be, based on the way you have treated me. But I wouldn’t do that.”

Bad enough to alienate women in this way, but there’s even more insidious political crime here: attacking the First Amendment’s protection of a free press by menacing journalists. “I wouldn’t do that,” he said coyly.

If you wouldn’t do it, why bring up that you could? For no other reason than to stifle other journalists who might want to ask tough but reasonable questions. If Americans learned that a leader in another country was threatening reporters, we would be outraged.

Yet here it is. Right here. Right now.

During the first GOP presidential debate, Fox News anchor Megyn Kelly asked Donald Trump about his insulting remarks toward women over the years. Here are five examples, from Rosie O’Donnell to Brande Roderick. (The Washington Post)

Later, after Trump had blamed her attitude on her menstrual cycle, Kelly went on what Fox says was a planned vacation. Nevertheless, Trump suggested he may have been the cause.

What kind of candidate takes credit for bullying the media? And last week, Trump allowed Univision reporter Jorge Ramos to be ejected from a press conference for asking questions about immigration without being called upon.

Ramos was later readmitted and permitted to ask about immigration, during which he said Trump could still deport immigrants compassionately. “I have a bigger heart than you do,” Trump replied. Trump’s non-specific answer to the question ended with a personal insult directed at the reporter.

Trump’s vendetta against the press extended to the Des Moines Register. When the paper issued an editorial calling for Trump to withdraw from the campaign, he refused to give the paper’s reporters credentials to attend his campaign event in Iowa in July.

He also called the paper “failing” and “very dishonest.” Other journalists he thinks have treated him harshly he refers to as “losers” or unintelligent, as if the definition of lack of intelligence is to not agree with him.

Attempting to bully the press to silence criticism of him is anti-American. He followed up this salvo on the First Amendment with a strike at the 14th Amendment, asserting that he’d like to deny those born in the country their citizenship.

The biggest enemy to the principles of the Constitution right now is Trump.

Trump’s rationale for avoiding Kelly’s debate question – that neither he nor America has time for “political correctness” – taps into a popular boogeyman.

The term “political correctness” is so general that to most people it simply means a discomfort with changing times and attitudes, an attack on the traditions of how we were raised. (It’s an emotional challenge every generation has had to go through.)

What it really means is nothing more than sensitizing people to the fact that some old-fashioned words, attitudes and actions may be harmful or insulting to others.

Naturally, people are angry about that because it makes them feel stupid or mean when they really aren’t. But when times change, we need to change with them in areas that strengthen our society.

It’s no longer “politically correct” to call African Americans “coloreds.” Or to pat a woman on the butt at work and say, “Nice job, honey.” Or to ask people their religion during a job interview.

Or to deny a woman a job because she’s not attractive enough to you. Or to assume a person’s opinion is worth less because she is elderly.

Or that physically challenged individuals shouldn’t have easy access to buildings. If you don’t have time for political correctness, you don’t have time to be the caretaker of our rights under the Constitution.

It’s easy to buy into the Trump mirage because his rising poll numbers indicate he’s actually doing well. But polls are historically misleading, and his supporters will eventually desert him.

Many, such as Tom McCarthy in the Guardian, have laid out the statistical reasons Trump can’t win, complete with graphs that show polls from past presidential candidates who were doing even better than Trump at this stage of an election, only to fade into political irrelevance, like Rudy Giuliani, Howard Dean and Ross Perot.

In 2008, Hillary Clinton was also a front-runner who unexpectedly got beat for the nomination by Obama.

Americans may flirt with the preppy life of the frathouse partier because he’s poked sacred cows, said stuff we all wish we could say (except that reason keeps us from doing it), and acted buffoonishly entertaining.

But when you wake up the next morning and he’s saying you’re now in a four-year relationship, reason comes rushing in, and it is time for the “it’s me, not you” speech.

With over a year until the elections, there are too many Republican hopefuls that dilute the polls. Once the herd thins out (Rick Perry seems out of money; Bobby Jindal out of breath; Huckabee out of touch), other candidates with more substance will have their voices heard.

And when it comes down to just three or four candidates, Trump’s blustering inarticulation and dodging of questions will seem untrustworthy.

Although each absurd, uninformed or just plain incorrect statement seems to give Trump a bump in the polls, there are only so many times supporters can defend his outrageous assault on decency, truth and civility.

Yes, a few will remain no matter what. (One 63-year-old woman told CNN that the Republicans were out to discredit Trump: “They twisted what the words were, because they’re trying to destroy him.”

No one has to twist his words because what he says is twisted enough. He speaks fluent pretzel.) But voters will eventually see the light.

Meanwhile, Bernie Sanders faced his own challenge at a political event this summer, when two African American women pushed in front of him to use the microphone to demand four and a half minutes of silence to honor the death of Michael Brown.

Sanders left the stage and mingled with the crowd. Later, Trump criticized Sanders as being “weak” for allowing them to speak, but truly he showed grace under pressure by acknowledging their frustration and anger. Instead of bullying their voices into silence or ridiculing them as losers, pigs or bimbos, Sanders left.

After all, it was not his event; he was a guest. Besides, his voice was not silenced, but came back booming even louder: The next day, Sanders posted a sweeping policy of reform to fight racial inequality. (The timing coincided with Michael Brown’s death and had nothing to do with the two women.)

The two approaches reveal the difference between a mature, thoughtful and intelligent man, and a man whose money has made him arrogant to criticism and impervious to feeling the need to have any actual policies.

Trump threatens to run an independent campaign (he won’t; that’s a negotiating ploy). Trump is a last-call candidate who looks good in the boozy dark of political inebriation.

There’s a lot of complaining about the lengthy process in the United States of winnowing candidates, but this year has shown its great strength.

It gives a wide variety of people the chance to have their voices heard, and it gives voters a chance to see the candidates over a period of time when their political masks slip. Some rise to the challenge, others deflate under the pressure of nothing to say.

Two roads diverged in a political wood, and one man took the road of assaulting the Constitution and soon will be lost forever.

The other will be a viable candidate who, regardless of whether he wins the nomination, will elevate the political process into something our Founding Fathers would be proud of.

 

Donald Trump’s reponse to this column can be read at https: www.washingtonpost.com/posteverything/wp/2015/09/02/heres-how-donald-trump-responded-to-my-essay-about-him/

 

Courtesy of the Washington Post, September 2, 2015

Nurses Back Bernie Sanders for President

Candidate calls for an end to racism and mass incarceration and for jobs and free education

Senator Bernie Sanders spoke Monday, Aug. 10 at a rally at the headquarters of National Nurses United (NNU), where he received the union's endorsement for the Democratic presidential nomination. Standing next to Sanders is Deborah Burger, RN, NNU co-president. Photo by Ken Epstien.

Senator Bernie Sanders spoke Monday, Aug. 10 at a rally in Oakland at the headquarters of National Nurses United (NNU), where he received the union’s endorsement for the Democratic presidential nomination. Standing next to Sanders is Deborah Burger, RN, NNU co-president. Photo by Ken Epstien.

 By Ken Epstein

Senator Bernie Sanders was in Oakland this week, where he won the endorsement of the 185,000-member National Nurses Union (NNU), adding serious momentum to his low-budget, grassroots campaign to win the Democratic presidential nomination that is becoming an ever more serious challenge to frontrunner Hillary Clinton.

Sanders spoke Monday to a wildly enthusiastic crowd at the downtown Oakland national headquarters of the NNU.

“I have spent my career fighting for something that I consider to be a human right. That human right is health care. And let me say loudly and clearly – health care is a right of all people, not a privilege,” said Sanders.

“The time has come for us to end the international embarrassment of the United States of America, our great country, being the only major country on earth that does not guarantee healthcare to all people as a right,” he said. “And together – with your help – we are going to end that embarrassment.”

He called for raising taxes on bankers, financiers and corporations.

“Not only would a tax on Wall Street speculation provide us with the revenue that we need to make a college education tuition free, it would also reduce speculation and encourage Wall Street to invest in the job-creating productive economy,” said Sanders.

As hundreds listened to and cheered his remarks in Oakland, groups of nurses around the country watched him live on television monitors and asked the candidate questions.

The union is composed mostly of women, registered nurses. Over the years, the organization has gained a reputation for tough and politically savvy organizing and has captured national attention in battles over the future of corporate healthcare and the inadequate medical industry response to the Ebola threat.

Sanders also denounced racism and mass incarceration and called for good paying jobs and free education at all public universities to allow people to enter the middle class – to end economic disparities.

Black Lives Matter and other activists have criticized Sanders for his lack of a program to end racial injustice, and he elaborated his position at the nurses’ rally.

“When we talk about creating a new America, it is to end racism,” he said, adding that Sandra Bland would not have been dragged out of her car and arrested in Texas if she had been white.

“Shamefully, the U.S. has more people in jail than any other country on earth,” he said, and the rate of incarceration “is disproportionately higher for African Americans and Hispanics.”

“We need a criminal justice justice system (in which) police departments do not look like military occupiers,” he said. “We need police officers to wear cameras. When a police officer commits a crime, that officer must be held accountable.”

“We need to end (mandatory) minimum sentencing for nonviolent crimes,” he continued.

“When people go to jail, we need to provide a path back into society,” said Sanders. “You’re not going to have that when people leave jail without jobs, without education and in some cases, without the mental health counseling they need.”

“If you check my record, there is no candidate running for president of the United States who will be stronger fighting institutional racism and in reforming a broken criminal justice system – period,” he said.

Last Saturday, 15,000 people turned out to hear Sanders speak in Seattle. About 28,000 attended a rally Sunday in Portland, and 27,500 stood in a line that stretched for blocks to hear him speak Monday night at the Los Angeles Memorial Sports Arena.

RoseAnn DeMoro, executive director of NNU, explained why her union decided to endorse Sanders and throw the weight of thousands of the NNU’s grassroots activists into his campaign.

“He says what he means, and that is reflected in his work,” she said. “Nurses know Senator Sanders is a warrior.”

In response to those who might have expected a union with a large number of women leaders to back Hillary Clinton for president, DeMoro said, “I’d love to break the glass ceiling, but we ‘d love more to break the stranglehold of the billionaire class.”

Courtesy of the Oakland Post, August 14, 2015 (postnewsgroup.com)

Barbara Parker Cites Confidentiality, Refuses Comment on Sale of Property for Luxury Apartment Tower

By Ken Epstein

A local community group has not yet received a reply from City Attorney Barbara Parker about their complaint that the City of Oakland is violating local, state and federal laws in going ahead with the sale of public property to developers to build a luxury apartment tower at the East side of Lake Merritt.

Barbara Parker

Barbara Parker

“There are serious unanswered questions about the city’s compliance with federal, state and local laws governing disposition of this property,” according to a letter to the City Council on May 4 from lawyers for Public Advocates on behalf of the neighborhood group Eastlake United for Justice.

The lawyers urge the council to remove the agreement to sell the property at the corner of East 12th Street and Lake Merritt Boulevard from its agenda “until the city has publicly demonstrated that it has complied with all legal requirements.”

City Attorney Parker or her representative is generally present in all public and closed session meetings of the council. Her office was appraised of the decisions leading to the council decision to offer the property for sale and the proposed agreement with Urban Core Development and its financial partner UDR.

Parker’s officer has also received the letter from Public Advocates.

Reached for comment by the Post, Alex Katz, Parker’s chief of staff, said she does not respond to questions regarding her legal advice to the City Council, citing attorney-client privilege.

Rendering of Lake Merritt Boulevard Apartments, courtesy of UrbanCore.

Rendering of Lake Merritt Boulevard Apartments, courtesy of UrbanCore.

“We can’t talk out what advice we give the City Council or whether we’ve given them legal advice,” he said.

According to the letter from Public Advocates, the East 12th Street parcel qualifies as “surplus land,” and “disposition must therefore comply with all procedural and substantive provisions of the (California Surplus Lands Act).”

Under the law, the lawyers wrote, “All public lands no longer needed for public use (must) be made available for affordable housing, recreation, and other state priorities.”

In addition, the law provides that if property is sold to a developer, the city should seek to assure 25 percent of the units are reserved for affordable housing and at a minimum, “no less than 15 percent of the total number of units (are) developed on the parcels at affordable housing cost… or affordable rent…to lower income households.”

“There are no exceptions,” the letter said.

Members of Eastlake United for Justice also have repeatedly alleged that the city has violated its own procedures in this land deal. At several city meetings, they accused the council of making the decision to sell the property in closed session – without the public – and that the request for proposals only went out to three developers.

Further, the lawyers argued that the decision to sell the property violates the federal Fair Housing Act’s and California Fair Employment and Housing Act’s protections against reinforcing or perpetuating “segregated housing patterns…. regardless of intent.”

Approving an agreement with the developers “that allows for 100 percent luxury housing on a publicly owned site without including affordable housing, would disproportionately impact people of color and individuals with disabilities, perpetuating segregation in the city,” the lawyers said in their letter.

David Zisser, staff attorney for Public Advocates told the Post that the City Attorney’s office has received the letter, but, “They have not directly responded t it.”

“If the council had gone along with the provisions of the state Surplus Lands Act, 25 percent or 75 units out of the 298 units (in the project) would actually be affordable for Oakland,” said Zisser. “If they could not find a developer to do the 25 percent affordable housing, they still could do 15 percent or 45 units of affordable housing.”

“Everyone knows there’s a housing crisis in this city, and this crisis is causing the exodus of Oakland families. The council has talked about favoring a diverse, inclusive city and has the opportunity to do something about it,” he said.

“This not a technical legal maneuver. It’s the moral thing to do, it’s good policy, and it’s also legally required.”

Zisser emphasized that Public Advocates and community members are not picking a fight with Urban Core Development and its owner Michael Johnson. “This is not about blaming the developer. “It’s about what the city’s obligations are.”

Courtesy of the Oakland Post, May 22, 2015 (postnewsgroup.com)

Protesters Shut Down Council Meeting , Demand Affordable Housing Not Luxury Apartments

Jos Healey was one of the spekers on the bullhorn when protesters  shut down the City Council meeting Tuesday. Photo by Ken Epstein

Jos Healey was one of the speakers on a bullhorn Tuesday when protesters shut down the City Council meeting. Photo by Ken Epstein

 By Ken Epstein

Oakland City Council chambers became ground zero for protests against gentrification and displacement this week as young activists chained themselves together to keep the City Council meeting from taking place, instead holding a rally for several hours in the chambers to voice their anger and frustration with the city’s leadership.

At the close of a public hearing on the proposed city budget for next year, but before the city council meeting could get underway, activists entered the well area behind the low barrier between the council dais and the public.

Some chained themselves together, standing in a line below the shocked council members. Others produced a bullhorn and began speaking about their issues and invited others to speak.

Many members of the audience stood, chanted and shouted in solidarity with the protesters. Police made no moves to intervene, but police and security attempted to keep more people from entering the chambers.

While people spoke, a projector flashed the group’s issues on an overhead screen:

“You can fight city hall,” “Development without displacement;” “A people’s budget, not a policing budget;” and “Public service, not lip service,” the projected signs said.

The focus of the protest was the seeming willingness of most council members to vote Tuesday night to approve the sale of a one-acre, city-owned parcel on East 12th Street across from Lake Merritt to build a 24-story luxury apartment building.

The proposed building includes no affordable housing and will have a median rent of $3,150 for a one-bedroom apartment, making the units affordable only to households that make $120,000 or more a year, according to activists who say the median household income in Eastlake around the proposed building is $38,363.

The coalition against the high rise is led by a neighborhood group, Eastlake United for Justice and includes Causa Justa/Just Cause, East Bay Housing Organizations, Black Seed, SEIU 1021, Oakland Rising, and the Oakland Tenants Union.

Calling for public land to be used only for affordable housing and other public needs, the groups are concerned that the development will lead to displacement of working class residents on the east side of Lake Merritt, as well as the development’s inadequate community engagement process.

At a rally in front of City Hall before the council meeting, members of Eastlake United for Justice and others spoke about their concerns.

Huan Bao Yu spoke at a rally in front of Oakland City Hall Tuesday opposing the E. 12th Street highrise. Mari Rose Taruc held the bulllhorn. Photo by Ken Ken

Huan Bao Yu speaks at a rally in front of Oakland City Hall Tuesday opposing the E. 12th Street highrise. Mari Rose Taruc held the bulllhorn. Photo by Ken Epstein.

“We are here because there are people in there (City Hall) who are trying to sell out our land,” said Josh Healey, also part of the Eastlake group.

“We’ve been here to talk to the mayor and city council, and they haven’t been hearing us,” he said.

Mari Rose Taruc, also of the Eastlake neighborhood group, said, “Oakland is 62 percent renters. We don’t want luxury condos at Eastlake. We want affordable housing.”

Asked Huan Bao Yu, a senior citizens speaking for Asian Pacific Environmental Network (APEN), “Who is (this development) for? “Is it for us? No, it’s to kick us out.”

Courtesy of the Oakland Post, May 9, 2015 (postnewsgroup.com)

 

Tagami’s New Deal to Bring Coal to Oakland Draws Opposition

A pile of coal sits near the Crandall Canyon Mine northwest of Huntington. Mining experts say Utah has about 40-45 years of coal left. Photo courtesy of Kristin Nichols, Deseret Morning News.

A pile of coal sits near the Crandall Canyon Mine northwest of Huntington. Mining experts say Utah has about 40-45 years of coal left. Photo courtesy of Kristin Nichols, Deseret Morning News.

By Ashley Chambers

Now that the Oakland Army Base development project is well underway, city developer and project manager Phil Tagami is working on a behind-the-scenes $53 million deal to ship coal from Utah through the new Oakland trade and logistics.

Phil Tagami

Phil Tagami

Last year local residents spoke out, and the City Council and the Port of Oakland have voted not to allow coal to be shipped through the port.

The Utah Permanent Community Impact Fund Board last month approved funding that would allow four counties in the state to acquire interest in the port in Oakland, according to The Richfield Reaper.

Utah is the14th largest producer of coal in the U.S.

The coal would be exported as soon as summer 2017 through a terminal at the Army Base that is expected to begin construction later this year. The new Oakland Bulk and Oversized Terminal will be designed to transport “bulk commodities” including iron ore and oversized equipment.

While the deal is still being negotiated, according to reports, the project is Tagami’s deal and has remained off the city’s radar until recently.

Tagami said his seven years of securing approvals and environmental entitlements for the Oakland Army Base project allow him to “lease space to a private company that can export just about anything except ‘nuclear waste, illegal immigrants, weapons and drugs,’” as reported in the Contra Costa Times.

However, according to a number of residents, bringing coal into the city could jeopardize everything that community residents and activists have fought for in massive Army Base development project – among them, clean energy and reduced environmental impacts on the West Oakland community adjacent to the port and to the city in general..

“This (Army Base) is city property, and at least half of the total investments are public money,” said Brian Beveridge of the West Oakland Environmental Indicators Project (WOEIP) and resident of Oakland. “Ultimately, Tagami and his group is a tenant of the City of Oakland; they don’t own the land.”

There are two core local environmental impacts, said Beveridge – “hundreds of pounds of coal dust emissions in the area, with 150 to 850 pounds of coal dust lost in transit.”

Secondly, “Oakland has a greenhouse gas reduction plan. Everything we’ll have gathered will be lost” by buying and exporting coal into the city, he said.

“Coal is one of the worst greenhouse gas producers in the world,” Beveridge added.

Oakland Mayor Libby Schaaf has also voiced her opposition to the export of coal in the city, voting last in May as a councilmember in support of a resolution against the transport of fossil fuels through the city.

Although Utah has already approved funding, winning support for the deal in Oakland is likely to be a hard sell.

According to the Sierra Club, the nation’s largest grassroots environmental organization, coal burning is responsible for one-third of U.S. carbon emissions and leads to as many as 13,000 premature deaths every year and more than $100 billion in annual health costs.

In 2013, Tagami told Sierra Club leaders that there was no way he would consider coal as a commodity, according to Michelle Myers, director of the Sierra Club San Francisco Bay Chapter.

Myers suggested that the city amend the development agreement to allow them greater oversight on Tagami’s role as project manager and developer on the project.

“(Councilmembers) clearly expressed that they don’t want this type of commodity coming through the community, but they don’t have the legal levers to prevent it,” she said. “This is public land. They could potentially repeal his authority.”

Added Beveridge, “The city needs to define more clearly what kind of action and activities are appropriate to happen on their public land.”

“We have to connect our world-view to our local view, and exporting coal is a disconnect,” he said.

Courtesy of the Oakland Post, May 9, 2015 (postnewsgroup.com)

 

 

Opinion: Oakland Needs Office of Race and Equity

“Allow ourselves to become comfortable with being uncomfortable”

 By Desley Brooks

It is widely known now that I have called for an office of Race and Equity to be established in the City of Oakland. Voices have risen up across our entire city from residents, community

Desley Brooks

Desley Brooks

organizations, agencies, and other elected officials discussing the need for such an office in our city.

The most resounding voice on the issue is in absolute agreement of a need for an office of Race and Equity. However there are other opinions as well ranging from moderate consideration, outright disagreement, as well as those who are undecided.

Race is a subject that we handle very interestingly in America. It impacts so much of the atmosphere in the worlds of business, politics, education, and family life, whether we admit it or not.

Yet we are largely uncomfortable having meaningful discourse around this thing that is so prevalent in our day-to-day lives. Because we are uncomfortable talking about race, many of us tend to pick a side on an issue concerning race and just stand on that square, unwilling to really hear the perspective of others.

If we are going to address racial inequalities in our city, we are going to have to get comfortable being uncomfortable.

We are going to have to be willing to respectfully listen to the opinions and ideas of others that may not always sit well with us or even stir up emotions of fear, anger, and guilt.

Racial equity is not an issue of politics – it is an issue of humanity that can be addressed through a political process.

I obviously believe in the need for such an office in our city, but I’m not asking anyone to blindly join this cause or agree with me automatically.

I invite all of us to explore the facts and consider the climate in our city as it relates to race and equity in Oakland.

My hope is that we all will allow ourselves to be comfortable being uncomfortable and asking ourselves questions and reflecting personally on our experiences and beliefs relating to race and racism.

Desley Brooks is a member of the Oakland City Council, representing District 6.

Courtesy of the Oakland Post, April 11, 2015 (postnewsgroup.com)