Category: Politics

New Year, New Leadership, New Oakland?

 Rebecca Kaplan unanimously elected City Council President

Oakland swears in new City Council members (L to R): Nikki Fortunato Bas, District 2; Sheng Thao, Disrict 4: and Loren Taylor, District 6. Photo by Howard Dyckoff.

By Ken Epstein

Oakland honored its newly elected city leaders this week at a swearing-in ceremony held in the City Council Chambers of Oakland City Hall.

Sworn in were Mayor Libby Schaaf, who elected to a second term: Nikki For­tunato Bas, the city’s first Filipina-American council member, representing Dis­trict 2. Sheng Thao, the first Hmong-American council member in the state of Cali­fornia, representing District 4; and Loren Taylor, a third generation Oakland resident, representing District 6.

Making the increased strength of local progres­sives, Councilmember-at- Large Rebecca Kaplan was unanimously elected council president by her colleagues. , The council’s most powerful position, the president pre­sides over City Council meet­ings, influences the council’s agenda and makes appoint­ments to council committees and some outside agencies.

Newly Elected Council President Rebecca Kaplan (left) stands with Cat Brooks, a progressive runner-up in the Oakland mayoral race and co-founder of the Anti Police-Terror Project. Photo by Howard Dyckoff.

Kaplan, the first openly LGBT+ Council President in Oakland’s history, distanced herself from some of the city government’s past practices, pledging that her leadership would be based on a commit­ment to social justice, inclu­sivity and working closely in coalition with the local com­munity.

“We must acknowledge injustice and prejudice exist and we need leaders to assure we work together to move our city forward,” Kaplan said in a prepared statement.

“I believe in giving all Councilmembers the oppor­tunity to affect change, and all council members will have an opportunity to chair a commit­tee.,” she said. “I look forward to working together in coalition with community to advance Oakland’s vital needs.”

Her priorities include reor­ganizing council meetings so community members do not have to wait until past mid­night talk about major issues, strengthening the city’s com­mitment to providing afford­able housing and to responding more effectively to homeless­ness and displacement of resi­dents, as well as providing ac­cess to job training and taking aggressive steps to reduce il­legal dumping.

In her remarks after she was sworn-in, Councilmember Bas said laid out an agenda focused on “equity, inclusion and community participa­tion.”

“More and more (working and middle class families) are feeling left out, feeling the impact of gentrification, rac­ism and income inequality,” she said. “Decisions (will) not made for you but with you. These are all problems that we can solve together.”

“We want developers and corporation that are part of our city but not to tear our city apart,” said Bas, emphasizing that the Black community is “disproportionately impacted by homelessness, joblessness and over-policing.”

Sheng Thao, a daughter of Hmong refugees, said, thanked Councilmember Ka­plan for hiring her as an intern as later as a staff member and her family and the community for backing her.

“I want to be a voice for those who don’t have a voice, because I understand what that looks like,” she said. “I under­stand what it looks like to have to work multiple different jobs just to make rent.”

Acknowledging the efforts of outgoing District 6 Council­member Desley Brooks, Tay­lor said:

“I look forward to serving and delivering greater eco­nomic opportunity, especially for those who have been left out, underserved and under­represented in our communi­ty. We are fully committed to stopping the pushing out and pricing out of the residents of our city.”

Mayor Schaaf, celebrating her 20 years in city govern­ment, said her priorities re­main the same.

She said, “We are ready to bring even more dramat­ic changes in the next four years,” including “an even greater reduction” in homi­cides and violence, support for her favored nonprofit – Oak­land Promise, road repair “in the neighborhoods,” as well as building more units of housing and increasing ways to make “headway on homelessness.”

The council elected District 7 Councilmember Larry Reid to serve as vice mayor and Dis­trict 1 Councilmember Dan Kalb as mayor pro tem. Reid (a reappointment) and Taylor were picked to represent the city on the Oakland-Alameda County Coliseum Authority board of commissioners.

Published January 10, 2019, courtesy of the Oakland Post

2019 Oakland Women’s March, Saturday, Jan. 19

2018 Women’s March in Oakland

 

The Women’s March Oakland 2019 will flood the streets with a wave of women and their allies from the East Bay and beyond, joining more than 130 chapters across the country in hosting rallies on the anniversary of the historic Women’s March.

The march will be begin at 10 a.m. with a rally at the Lake Merritt Amphitheater, followed by a march down 14th Street to Frank Ogawa (Oscar Grant) Plaza. Lake Merritt is the BART station closest to the march’s starting point.

At this nonpartisan, peaceful event on the Saturday before Martin Luther King, Jr. Day, the march organizers proclaim their commitment, in Scott King’s words, to “create new homes, new communities, new cities, a new nation. Yea, a new world, which we desperately need!”

The 2019 march is co-hosted by Women’s March Oakland, Black Women Organized for Political Action, and the Martin Luther King Jr. Freedom Center.

Speakers at the event will include Alicia Garza, Arushi Avachat, Rep. Barbara Lee, Hai Yan Wu, Kimberly Ellis, Nikki Fortunato Bas and Stacey Milbern.

The following are guidelines for participants:

  • We will not use violence (physical or verbal) towards any person.
  • We will not destroy or damage property.
  • We will promote a tone of respect, honesty, transparency and accountability in our actions.
  • We will not carry anything that can be construed as a weapon, nor possess (or consume) any alcohol or drugs.
  • We are nonpartisan and will use Women’s March Oakland primarily to express our support for women’s rights and human rights in our communities and the country.
  • We will all hold each other accountable to respecting these agreements.

For more information, go to https://womensmarchoakland.org/

Published January 9, 2019, courtesy of the Oakland Post

Open Letter: Support Rebecca Kaplan for City Council President

Rebecca Kaplan

Oakland City Council will be sworn in to office, including three newly-elected members. Immediately after the swear­ing-in (which starts at 11 a.m.), the Council will have the op­portunity to select its leaders for the coming year, including selecting the Council Presi­dent.

The President runs the meet­ings, initiates the Commit­tee assignments and takes the lead on crafting the agenda and making sure participation hap­pens smoothly. For the com­ing term, we urge the Council to support Councilmember-at-large Rebecca Kaplan for the position of Council President.

Kaplan has served on the Council for 10 years and has been re-elected by large mar­gins, city-wide, representing all the people of Oakland, and has a track record of working successfully to build broad co­alitions and advance policies to protect the needs of our com­munity.

She holds a bachelor’s de­gree from MIT, a Master’s in Urban and Environmental Policy, and a J.D. from Stan­ford Law School and is well equipped to handle the work of the Council Presidency, both in terms of understanding policy and for handling the procedural rules that govern Council meet­ings.

Kaplan was elected unani­mously, twice, as Chair of an­other government Board, the Alameda County Transporta­tion Commission, which in­cludes representatives from all of the cities in Alameda County, along with transit agencies and County Supervisors.

Therefore, Rebecca has ex­perience chairing meetings, making committee assign­ments, and leading the passage and implementation of suc­cessful ballot measures, with an even larger and more com­plicated Board.

Rebecca has a track re­cord of successfully bringing people together to develop and pass important initiatives, including the recent Oakland Vacant Property tax to fund homeless solutions, passing a citywide public lands policy for Oakland, Alameda Coun­ty’s Measure BB to fund trans­portation and infrastructure, and winning over $50 million in regional funding to clean up air pollution in Oakland’s hardest-hit communities from trucks, trains, and more.

Kaplan has helped to fight for fairness in employment and contracting, including for a disparity study, to improve access and equity in bank­ing, for meaningful commu­nity police oversight, and will work to help make sure home­less solutions and job training are strengthened.

Recently, Kaplan success­fully intervened to help reject racial profiling and strengthen the police commission, includ­ing regarding the problem of searches of people on parole and probation.

As a person who treats oth­ers with respect and under­stands that we are to be judged by how we treat the least of these, and as a person of faith and bible scholar who works well with those of all back­grounds, Kaplan will ensure a welcoming and harmonious environment at Council meet­ings.

For all these reasons and more, we urge the Council to elect Rebecca Kaplan as Coun­cil President for the coming term.

Co-signers of open letter supporting Kaplan for council president are:

Noni Session,

John Jones III,

Kimberly Mayfield,

Rev. Dr. Harold R. Mayberry, Henry Gage III,

James Vann,

Lynette Nei­dhardt,

Rashidah Grinage,

Henry Hitz,

Pamela Drake,

Gary Jimenez (VP of Politics, SEIU 1021*)

*Organization listed for iden­tification only.

Published December 27, 2018, courtesy of the Oakland Post

 

Do Schaaf and Her Administration Bury City Policies They Oppose?

By Ken Epstein

At this week’s City Council meeting, Assistant to the City Administrator Joe DeVries reported on another set of “Tuff Sheds” the city is installing.

James Vann

Councilmember-at-Large Rebecca Kaplan asked DeVries what city staff is doing about implementing the comprehensive set of actions on homelessness passed in April by the council, the city’s policy-making body.

DeVries responded: “They’re under consideration.”

A number of community leaders are saying that this response is a bold statement of what Schaaf and her administration have long been doing, refusing to implement policies they do not like and they show no intention of doing anything meaningful about homelessness.

Rashidah Grinage

“Whatever the council decides does not matter. Staff is doing what it wants to do, making fools of the council members,” said James Vann of the Homeless Advocacy Working Group.

“That has been our experience as well,” said Rashidah Grinage of the Coalition for Police Accountability.

“The City Council legislates, and the administration does what it wants to do—to implement what the council voted for, ignore it or do something different altogether.”

A policy is passed but whether it is implemented never comes back to council, she said. “We have a runaway situation where the administration” has no controls.

“We learned that lesson very early on,” said Grinage. “Whatever you think passed, unless you keep watching it, it could be all for nothing.”

Published December 15, 2018, courtesy of the Oakland Post

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

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

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

By Ken Epstein

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Published November 3, 2018, courtesy of the Oakland Post

Bernie Sanders Endorses Jovanka Beckles for Assembly

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

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

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

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

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

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

Published November 1, 2018

Opinion: Schaaf’s Leadership of OPD Compels Support of Cat Brooks for Mayor

Cat Brooks (right) speaks at mayoral debate.

By Dan Siegel

Dan Siegel

Mayor Libby Schaaf owns the multiple failings of the Oakland Police Department and must be held accountable for them. Her lack of leadership on the reforms needed in the OPD is one of the primary reasons I support Cat Brooks for Oakland Mayor.

OPD is the City’s largest, most expensive, and arguably most important department. It spends almost half of the City’s General Fund, twice as much as the Fire Department.

The Oakland Police Department has been under the supervision of the federal court since January 22, 2003 because of the City’s failure to remedy systemic police misconduct, including abusing members of the public and racial profiling during traffic stops.

Mayor Schaaf promised during the 2014 campaign that she would meet the court’s demands and end federal oversight but has failed to so. In his September 2018 report, the Court Monitor concluded that OPD’s claims of decreased use of force were flawed because of the Department’s failure to accurately document incidents where officers used force.

On September 25, 2015, Officer Brendan O’Brien committed suicide, leading to the investigation of the sexual exploitation by Oakland and other law enforcement officers of a minor known as Celeste Guap (Jasmine Abuslin). OPD officials downplayed the sexual abuse claims and failed to investigate them properly.

Mayor Schaaf claims that she was not advised about the abuse investigation until March 22, 2016, but her statement can be questioned in light of the routine practice of OPD Internal Affairs officials to advise the City Administrator – and through her the mayor – of much less serious claims of police misconduct.

Months later the mayor finally professed outrage at the officers’ actions. Worse still, Schaaf’s chosen Chief, Anne Kirpatrick, has promoted some of the key administrators found to have covered up the sex abuse scandal.

Schaaf’s pattern of hiding OPD problems continues. Last weekend, after the San Francisco Chronicle exposed OPD’s practice of asking police officer applicants if they had been victims of sexual abuse, Schaaf again expressed surprised outrage and ordered that the practice end.

But complaints about the improper questioning of applicants were raised at City Council meetings months ago. Schaaf is either asleep at the wheel or indifferent to OPD problems until they become public

OPD’s one area of improvement has been the reduction of civilian killings since 2015. Citizen outrage, organized and led by Cat Brooks’ Anti Police Terror Project, deserves more credit for stopping trigger happy officers than any changes made by Mayor Schaaf.

Published October 31, 2018

Attacks on Desley Brooks Are “Shameful and Dishonest,” Say Community Leaders

 “Desley has the courage to speak naked truth to the powerful  people with money who run everything,” says Rev. J. Alfred Smith Sr.

Ken Epstein

Until now, District 6, a largely flatland community in East Oakland, has been generally ignored by downtown gentrifying politicians and their allied developer/financier partners.

Rev. Dr. J. Alfred Smith Sr.

But that is changing as tens of thousands of dollars flow into the district to fuel a campaign of personal attacks and smears designed to unseat veteran Councilmember Desley Brooks, funded by Mayor Libby Schaaf, outside real estate developers and their allied building trades construction unions, according to required Political Action Committee filings.

Many of those who know Brooks and her track record are standing with the council member.

“I support Desley – I haven’t changed,” said Rev. J. Alfred Smith Sr. pastor emeritus of Allen Temple Baptist Church in East Oakland.

Rev. Dr. Harold Mayberry

“No matter what the enemy says, I stand with her because she loves Black people,” said Pastor Smith. “She has never done anything to harm the Black community. She has the courage to speak naked truth to the powerful people with money who run everything.”

“I don’t see the same group crying out to help the jobless and the homeless or to help the neighborhoods in the same way they spend money on downtown (development).

“So, I shall not be moved.”

Brooks’ opponents put out flyers filled with vague and unfounded charges of corruption and dishonesty. But they do not talk about Brooks’ track record.

She has been outspoken in her opposition to police misconduct and racial profiling. She took on powerful interests in her fight for jobs and training opportunities for Black and Latino residents who want to enter good careers in the construction trades.

She opposed powerful businessmen when she worked to pass the city’s cannabis equity ordinance, winning national recognition for her efforts to create opportunities for individuals and communities that bore the

Dan Siegel

brunt of the War on Drugs.

She fought for the resources that have been denied to East Oakland and to create the city’s Department of Race and Equity, part of her effort to end the City of Oakland’s long-term discrimination in contracting against small Black, Latino- and Women-owned businesses.

Rev. Dr. Harold Mayberry, senior pastor of First AME Church Oakland, said, “I live in District 6, and I’ve seen the work that (Brooks) has done. It’s unfortunate that people who don’t even live in the district and in a number of cases don’t even live in Oakland would be attacking a very effective member of the City Council.

“(Brooks’) opponents have not been tested or proven themselves to be productive” Mayberry continued. “I’ve been living here for 23, but I’ve seen nothing like this – it’s a divisive, evil, mean spirited campaign. It’s way over the line.”

Said local civil rights attorney Walter Riley. “It is a smear campaign, full of unjustified attacks on Desley because she has stood up for people in her district. More specifically, she has stood up for Black people in this climate of big money and powerful political interests that are taking control,”

Walter Riley

“They’re coming after her, and we need to defend her,” Riley said, emphasizing that people should not be distracted by Brooks’ past conflicts with people who have disagreed with her.

Dan Siegel, Oakland civil rights attorney and a District 6 resident, said “They are making charges without a shred of evidence, making assumptions, full of a lot of implicit bias.” “An old cliché says that you can tell a lot about a person by their enemies,” he said.

“Desley’s opponents are led by Libby Schaaf, Jean Quan, the San Francisco Chronicle, and the Building and Construction Trades unions, which are angry because Desley has demanded that more high paying construction jobs on local development projects go to Black and Brown Oakland residents.

“People need to withhold judgment on the Elaine Brown case, which was lost because of the horrible job done by the City Attorney’s office,” he said. “I am representing Desley in her claim against the City Attorney, and I am confident the facts show that Elaine Brown was to blame in their confrontation.”

“I hope voters in District 6 will focus on the issues rather than the personalities,” said Siegel.

The anti-Brooks Political Action Committees (PACs) are largely funded by three groups: “supporters of Libby Schaaf’s city hall; large unions with mostly suburban, not Oakland memberships; and venture capitalists, developers and real estate investors,” according to an online article “The United Front Against Desley Brooks Part II.”

Published October 28, 2018, courtesy of the Oakland Post

Open Letter: Community Leaders Call on Mayor, Council to Improve Services for Unsheltered Residents

Homeless

The following is an open letter to Mayor Libby Schaaf, City Council Members, City Administrator Landreth and Staff, dated June 11.

Recently, about 30 groups focused on Lake Merritt have been meeting to discuss how to safeguard and improve the parks around Lake Merritt, the facilities within it, and the coordination of everyone’s efforts.

As you know, one of the issues concerning our groups has been the growing number of encampments throughout the parklands of Lake Merritt. We know that you receive complaints and worries from citizens.

We have come to the understanding that this is a time for everyone to pull together and work collaboratively to accommodate all our residents, whether regular park users, or people with no shelter.

Therefore, we urge your support and funding in the FY ’18-’19 budget for three efforts to address the city-wide encampment crisis:

1) Improve sanitation and health measures, as outlined by the Homeless Advocacy Working Group, for $1 million: Provide adequate water, hand-washing, health & hygiene facilities, shower capability, porta-potties, and rubbish removal services for all encampments of six (6) or more people-units

2) Support “green teams” established by the unsheltered residents, by providing debris bags, tools, and trash pickup. Establish a small stipend for participation (either through the city directly or through one of the nonprofits), as has been done in many other cities.

Several of these teams already exist and have made noticeable improvements in their areas; we should support this, and we should support the resultant involvement of residents in their communities and in better interaction with city workers.

3) Fund and facilitate three pilot projects of sheltered communities as suggested by the Homeless Advocacy Working Group, for $3 million.

At the request of homeless representatives, at least one of the temporary shelter communities should be a clean-and-sober-only area: Enable three (3) “pilot projects” of “alternative housing models” on City-owned land: (a) 2 to 3 small-home villages; (b) a village of converted shipping containers; (c) a 100-unit comprehensive campus of manufactured housing units, complete with gang kitchen, classrooms, computer room, storage, counseling, and job training.

We have come to agree that unless the unsheltered community members are themselves part of the effort, City efforts will not succeed.

We urge you to appropriate money wisely now, rather than incurring increased expenditures later on in remedial public works, social services, and health services efforts.

Thank you for your attention to our comments.

Endorsers, affiliations, for identification only

  • Dan Altemus, Lake Merritt Breakfast Club, Lake Merritt Advocate
  • Barbara Azad, Adams Point Neighborhood Group Leadership, LMA 
  • Richard Bailey, Former Director Lake Merritt Institute, Board Member LMI
  • Terry Boom, Lake Merritt Weed Warriors
  • Susan Casentini, Autumn Lights Festival, LMBC, LMA
  • Steven Cochrane, Ad Hoc Group for Rotary Nature Center
  • Susan Campodonico, Lake Merritt Institute Volunteer
  • Adrian Cotter, Community For Lake Merritt, Sierra Club, LMA
  • Kathy Dwyer, Friends of Lincoln Park, City Team Ministries 
  • Jennie Gerard, Measure DD Coalition, LM Weed Warriors, LMA Coordinator
  • C.J. Hirschfield, Children’s Fairyland Executive Director, LMA, LMBC
  • Pat Kernighan, Former City Council Member, District 2
  • Caroline Kim, Coalition of Advocates for Lake Merritt
  • John Kirkmire, LakeMerritt.org, LMA Coordinator, LMBC 
  • Kyle Milligan, LMBC, Children’s Fairyland Board, LMA, ALF
  • Mary Ellen Navas,LM Weed Warriors, LMA Coordinator
  • Katie Noonan, Lake Merritt Institute Board, LMBC, LMA, Ad Hoc RNC
  • Susan Porter, Lake Merritt Institute, St Paul’s School Teacher
  • Vivian Romero, Ad Hoc Group for Rotary Nature Center
  • Naomi Schiff, Measure DD Coalition, LM Weed Warriors, LMA, CALM 
  • Nancy Sherman, Measure DD Coalition, W. Oakland Walk, LMA, Ad Hoc RNC
  • Marcille Sibbitt, Oakland Lawn Bowling Club Director, LMA
  • Rob Stewart, Executive Director LM Breakfast Club
  • Bill Threlfall, Measure DD Coalition, Waterfront Action Co-Director
  • Sandra Threlfall, Measure DD Coalition, Waterfront Action Co-Director
  • Mike Udkow, Measure DD Coalition, LM Weed Warriors, Bicycle Trail Council
  • Sarah Van Roo, Friends of the Gardens at Lake Merritt, LMA
  • Susan Veit, Oakland East Bay Garden Center Inc.
  • Paul Vidican, Lake Merritt Weed Warriors, OPRF Board Member
  • Kathleen Williams, Lake Merritt Weed Warriors
  • David Wofford, Rotary Nature Center Ad Hoc

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

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

By Ken Epstein

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Noel Gallo

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Posted June 3, 2018, courtesy of the Oakland Post