Category: Politics

Support Grows for City of Oakland Department to Address Racial Inequality

By Ashley Chambers

A number of community leaders are speaking out in support of a new city department designed to decrease inequities and racial barriers in city policies and operations, such as housing, development contracts, employment, and education.

Desley Brooks

Desley Brooks

The proposal to create a Department of Race and Equity in the City of Oakland, developed and led by Councilwoman Desley Brooks and supported by several councilmembers, seeks t address some of the main issues are frequently being raised by Oakland residents: gentrification and the lack of affordable housing, jobs at city-funded projects and access to city contacts, environmental and air quality, as well as other health conditions in minority and disenfranchised communities.

“We think about gentrification and displacement, and we think about the role that the city plays in perpetuating the invasive class remake of our city,” said Robbie Clark, housing rights organizer with Causa Justa: Just Cause.

“We know that a department like this is at the core of the types of change that we need to see on a local level to stop that tide of displacement and to stop gentrification from continuing to happen,” Clark said.

The department would answer directly to the City Administrator and would be implemented as soon as December of this year – if approved by the City Council.

The department would provide education and technical support to city staff and elected officials to address systemic racism in city operations “with a focus on how the city does business, including human resources, contracting, access, funding and decision-making,” according to the proposal.

“The city spends enormous amounts of money on development in Oakland. Twenty-eight percent of the people who live in this city are African American, yet they get only five percent of the hours on those jobs,” said Kitty Kelly Epstein, an education professor and member of OaklandWorks.

“What happens when you don’t have anything specifically devoted to dealing with an issue as major and primary and hurtful as racism in this society is, people get afraid to bring it up,” Kelly Epstein said.

“If we do the work of actually allocating and designating a department to that work, then people won’t be shut down when they want to bring up the fact that there is great inequity,” she said.

There is the notion that there are two Oaklands, residents have said: one has access to minor investment from the city, declining jobs and parks and schools that are closing operating limited resources. The other Oakland has access to better schools, parks, greater investments that benefit the community and more responsive government.

Imagine East Oakland’s Havenscourt neighborhood compared to the Glenview. Some neighborhoods require a bus ride or long drive to complete such daily tasks as grocery shopping or going to the bank.

“There’s no way that a city should be able to develop, do any type of business and not represent the citizens that live right there,” said Esther with Communities for a Better Environment (CBE). “It’s time for all of us to step up, be responsible and understand that we need to start leading with our hearts before our pockets.”

“There is an urgency with respect to people of color being able to have equal participation in this city,” said Councilwoman Brooks.

In response to inquiries of how much it will cost to operate this new department, Brooks said, “Think of the costs that communities have suffered for far too long not being able to participate fully in the government that they pay into. When do they get that return in dividends?”

“We will have to look like we have looked for other things that have been unbudgeted and find a way to make this happen. I would hope that we don’t just look at the dollars and cents, but we will look at truly moving a full community forward,” said Brooks.

Some of the organizations supporting the Department of Race and Equity are Alliance of Californians for Community Empowerment (ACCE), East Bay Asian Youth Center (EBAYC), East Oakland Building Healthy Communities, Oakland Community Organizations (OCO), ONYX Organizing Committee, and People United for a Better Life in Oakland (PUEBLO).

The proposal will go to the City Council on March 31.

Courtesy of the Oakland Post, March 28, 2015 (postnewsgroup.com)

Coliseum City Development Should Benefit Oakland Residents, Say Local Groups

 Mayor Libby Schaaf does not support building sports arena in business park

By Ken Epstein

At least three local organizations and coalitions are pushing to make sure that the Coliseum City project – if it comes to pass – will provide economic and social benefits to the people who live and work in Oakland, not only the owners of the sports franchises, developers and hedge fund investors who are hoping to build a massive, entertainment, housing and hotel complex around new stadiums for the A’s, Raiders and possibly for the Warriors.

Libby Schaaf

Libby Schaaf

Taking somewhat different approaches are the OaklandWorks Alliance, the Oakland Heritage Alliance and a community benefits coalition that includes Communities for a Better Environment (CBE) and Just Cause/Causa Justa.

Weighing in on the issue, Mayor Libby Schaaf called for Coliseum City plans to include a mix of uses and did not support a proposal to but the Warriors arena in the middle of the business park, would would likely to eliminate a number of local buisnesses and jobs.

“There are no current plans for putting a basketball arena below the 880 freeway, nor do I see that as the most desirable location for any future new sports facilities,” Schaaf said. “Oakland needs to balance housing, entertainment, retail, businesses and industries to ensure we have a vibrant economy and great quality of life for our residents.”

Members of the OaklandWorks Alliance said they would support the Coliseum City Specific Plan and draft Environmental Impact Report (EIR) if they are modified to deal with a number of specific concerns.

The OaklandWorks Alliance is made up of individuals and eight local organizations, including Black Women Organized for Political Action (BWOPA) and the West Oakland Environmental Indicators Project (WOEIP).

Revolution Foods, based int the Oakland Airport Business Park across from the Coliseum, is one of the businesses that would be impacted by zoning changes. According to Fortunte, the company  serves over 200,000 healthy meals daily to school districts across the country and has a total of over 1,0000 employees..

Revolution Foods, based in the Oakland Airport Business Park across from the Coliseum, is one of the businesses that could be adversely affected by zoning changes. According to Fortune, the company serves over 200,000 healthy meals daily to school districts across the country and has a total of over 1,0000 employees.

In a letter to the Oakland Planning Commission, several OaklandWorks members wrote:

“African-American workers make up 28 percent of Oakland residents and 5 percent of the hours worked on city-funded construction jobs. This means that African-Americans are underrepresented more than five-fold in city-funded employment.”

“Any project on which this injustice is not rectified should not be built.”

The OaklandWorks letter also criticized city staff for failing to involve community members in a democratic process.

“Residents of East Oakland should be involved at every step of every decision-making process. This has not occurred thus far,” the letter said.

Robert Schwartz of Key Source International (left) and James Curtis, president of the Oakland Commerce Corporation, wait for their opportunity to speak at the Oakland Planning Commission public hearing Wednesday at City Hall. Photos by Ken Epstein.

Robert Schwartz of Key Source International (left) and James Curtis, president of the Oakland Commerce Corporation, wait to speak at an Oakland Planning Commission public hearing. Schwartz says the Specific Plan, as it is currently written, would allow developers to rezone property in the buisness park to build housing, thereby eliminating businesses and jobs in the city.

“There was no community participation until the Specific Plan was completely developed, and then city staff provided ‘information’ sessions for people to ask questions.”

The plan should only provide housing for people at the median income of Oakland residents, the letter said. “Our land and city services should not be used to build housing for people who do not live here.”

The OaklandWorks letter also calls for not rezoning the Coliseum Business Park across Highway 880 from the Coliseum arena.

The business park houses “approximately 150 businesses and employs 8,065 workers, according to statistics provided by Oakland’s economic development department,” the letter said. “These businesses could be disrupted by: a) Increased land prices created by the possibility of residential uses; b) Restricting business activities which are allowed by the current zoning.”

Naomi Schiff and the Oakland Heritage Alliance are supporting mitigations proposed by the city’s Landmarks Preservation Advisory Board, which have been included by Planning Commission staff in their draft Coliseum Area Specific Plan.

If the arena or Coliseum are torn down, the developer should make financial contributions to improve East Oakland communities to offset the loss of the historic buildings, according to the proposed mitigations.

“The amount of any such contribution shall be as negotiated between the city and the developer(s), as ultimately determined by the City Council,” according to the proposal. “Mitigation shall be provided as financial and/or cultural enhancement. Such contribution shall be commensurate with the cultural value of the Coliseum.”

Groups in the in a community benefits coalition include Communities for a Better Environment (CBE), Just Cause/Causa Justa, E), East Bay Housing Organization (EBHO), Ella Baker Center for Human Rights, Oakland Community Organizations (OCO) and East Bay Alliance for a Sustainable Economy (EBASE), which is closely allied with the Building and Construction Trades Council and other local labor unions,

This coalition, which came out in force to speak at last week’s Planning Commission meeting, is asking for an increase in the percentage of affordable housing in the proposal. The plan at present talks about provisions for 15 percent affordable housing, but the plan itself 1,700 units of market-rate housing at the site of the Oakland Corporation Yard, facing the Bay.

The demands are also for “good jobs with living wages,” protections for tenants so they will not be “pushed out by rising rents,” and protections to prevent air pollution and build a grocery store, youth center and other public services in nearby East Oakland neighborhoods.

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

Coliseum City: What Are the Benefits for East Oakland Residents?

Coliseum City Entertainment District (rendering)

Coliseum City Entertainment District (rendering)

By Ken Epstein

A number of community members spoke at a public hearing this week at the Planning Commission, raising concerns about how East Oakland neighborhoods and businesses will be impacted by a city proposal to clear the way for the massive development called Coliseum City.

This development seems like a “formularic corporate development…. this is like an alien space city,” dropped into East Oakland, said Nehanda Imara, a community organizer for Communities for a Better Environment (CBE) who lives about a mile from the proposed development.

“It’s a beautiful project, but it doesn’t seem like it includes the people who live on the outside,” she said. “We’d like some of the benefits surrounding the project,” including jobs, better air quality and affording housing.

Artist's drawing of Coliseum City

Artist’s drawing of Coliseum City

The development project has the potential to go in different directions, Imara said. “It could be connected to the community, or it could be disconnected from the community.”

The city’s proposal, contained in the Coliseum Area Specific Plan and several volumes of documents in an Environmental Impact Report, is designed to establish new land use and zoning regulations that will guide development in the area around the Oakland Coliseum and the Oakland International Airport for the next 25 years.

The draft plan was released on Aug. 28 and the final plan was released on Jan. 30. – developed by city staff and consulting firms for the past few years.

The timeline calls for the specific plan to be discussed at a couple more community meetings and then approved by the Planning Commission and forwarded to the City Council for approval in March or April.

The plan has been kept purposely “flexible” or indeterminate because the content of the project ultimately will depend to a large extent on who the developers will be and what they will want to build on the 800 plus acres that include the Coliseum and

Nehanda Imara

Nehanda Imara

its parking lots, the Oakland Airport Business Park across the freeway from the Coliseum and waterfront area along the Bay.

A number of community members complained that public input has been inadequate.

“I attended one of the library meeting to which this document refers. There was no planning done by the community. Staff simply made presentations and answered a few questions,” said Fred Ellis, who represented OaklandWorks Alliance.

“This is unlike the lengthy process which took place in West Oakland,” Ellis continued. “Few East Oakland residents are even aware of these zoning changes or their implications.”

Robert Schwartz, who owns a company at the business park, said he had submitted a letter with his objections to the proposal in October, but city staff never responded.

He said the proposed zoning changes that would allow residential development where the business park is located would cause the market values of the properties to skyrocket, effectively ending the business park.

Local industries and the jobs they produce can only can to stay in Oakland if the city is committed to protecting the industrial zoning designation of the area, Schwartz said.

“This is not a good idea. This is the only business park we have (in Oakland),” he said.

Schwartz asked why the city was in such a hurry to pass the plan and is seemingly reluctant to involve community and business people in the planning process. “You’re talking about a 25 year (development) plan, and all of a sudden it has to be passed in 25 days,” he said.

Senior citizen Carolyn Holloway said the people she knows are concerned they will be forced to move away.

“They feel they will be displaced. They feel they will have to move to Stockton or Sacramento,” she said.

“We don’t really see many benefits for residents,” she said. “What about sidewalks? Or trees?”

Theola Polk said that she and other senior citizens are feeling that Coliseum City offers nothing to people who live in East Oakland.

“We’d like to know if you’ve forgotten us, she said. “Have we been overlooked? When will our area get a facelift?”

Upcoming meetings on the Coliseum Area Specific Plan:

Wednesday, Feb.11, Community Workshop, 6 p.m. – 8 p.m. ,81st Avenue Library meeting room , 1021 81st Ave. 

Tuesday, Feb. 17, Business and Property-owners Meeting,  9: a.m. – 11 a.m. OneToyota community meeting room , 8181 Oakport St. 

Wednesday, March 4, Oakland Planning Commission,  6 p.m., in City Council Chambers, Oakland City Hall, One Frank H. Ogawa Plaza).  The Planning Commission will conduct a public hearing to consider certifying the Coliseum Plan Final Environmental Impact Report (FEIR), and recommending to the City Council adoption of the Final Specific Plan and the proposed new Planning Code and General Plan amendments.

Courtesy of the Oakland Post, February 7, 2015 (postnewsgroup.com)

New City Leadership Team Takes the Helm

Photo by Godfrey Lee

Photo by Godfrey Lee

By Ken Epstein

Tuesday was a day to celebrate the changing of the guard in Oakland, as Mayor Libby Schaaf, three councilmembers, three school boardmembers and the new city auditor were sworn in.

Mayor Schaaf was sworn in during a quiet ceremony early in the morning, and the other new officials were sworn in during an organizational meeting at 11 a.m., where new officers were also selected.

All the newly elected and re-elected officials were ceremoniously sworn in again later in the afternoon at a festive event at the Paramount Theater at 2025 Broadway.

(L to R): Desley Brooks, Annie Campbell Washington, Abell Guillen. Photo by Adam L. Turner

(L to R): Desley Brooks, Annie Campbell Washington, Abell Guillen. Photo by Adam L. Turner

James Harris, District 7, was elected president of the Board of Education, and Jody London, District 1, was named vice president.

Lynette McElhaney, District 3, was elected president of the City Council. Larry Reid, District 7, was elected president pro tem, and Councilmember-at-large Rebecca Kaplan was elected vice mayor.

In a speech at the Paramount, Mayor Schaaf, emphasized her love for the city and her roots – “Oakland made,” born and bred.

Saying that she, like so many others, is upset by the lack of equality in the public schools and the lack of public safety.

“Transformative change is possible” she said. “If other cities can do it, so can we.”

It’s time for Oakland to get off the list of the 10 most dangerous cities in the country, Mayor Schaaf said, also pledging that the police department would complete federally required reforms “that we promised to finish 10 years ago.”

“It’s time to address quality preschool for all children, so all of our children show up to kindergarten ready to learn,” she said, calling the continuing racial disparities in education “morally outrageous.”

Mayor Schaaf said she would mobilize the city to stop illegal dumping, fix the “raggedy roads” in the neighborhoods and clean up parks and other public spaces.

She also said she would bring new businesses to Oakland and support the city’s existing small businesses, “particularly the ones in our neighborhoods,” providing zero interest loans and encouraging residents to “put your money where your heart is.”

In remarks after he was sworn in, District 2 Councilmember Abel Guillen said,

“We must provide housing for Oakland’s workforce – this is something we can do.”

Annie Campbell Washington, District 4 representative, spoke about her years working as a staffer for the city, where she learned that it was necessary to go to the grassroots to find out about programs and people.

“I learned it’s not about the numbers – it’s about the people,” she said.

“Here is where the rubber meets the road,” she continued. “The decisions we make are incredibly important to the lives of people here (in Oakland).”

District 6 Councilmember Desley Brooks, who has been on the council for 12 years, was sworn in for new term.

“Too many of our residents are left out,” she said. “Too many are hungry, homeless or are feeling hopeless. Too many cannot afford to live here.”

Brooks, who was wearing a “Black Lives Matter” t-shirt, had participated in a silent vigil held by protesters in front of the Paramount at the beginning of the swearing in.

She urged elected officials to pay attention to the protest, which also took place in the theater at the beginning of the swearing in ceremony, when some people unfurled a “End Police Terror” banner from the balcony and for a few minutes sang “Which side are you on?”

“I wore this t-shirt for a reason,” said Brooks “ We’ve got to listen to ideas others than our own. We have to hear voices other than our own. We have to include everybody. We have to come out of our comfort zone.”

 Courtesy of the Oakland Post, January 10, 2014 (postnewsgroup.com)

Op-ed: Council President Lynette Gibson McElhaney Responds to Criticisms

By Lynette Gibson McElhaney

The East Bay Express (EBX) has been investigating me for the last nine months – digging into my personal life, my work in Richmond and on the City Council.

Lynette Gibson McElhaney

Lynette Gibson McElhaney

Frustrated in their attempt to find any meaningful evidence of wrongdoing or unethical behavior, they have concocted a front-page “scandal” about the practices of the affordable housing non-profit, where I have served as a leader since 2001.

The practice in question? A modest investment in market-rate real estate, with the proceeds from that investment being used to fulfill our mission of providing affordable housing for veterans.

A child of the Civil Rights movement, I have dedicated my life to public service. I am proud of both my service at Richmond NHS where I have served since 2001 and as an elected representative on the Oakland City Council since 2013.

In light of the unwarranted and dishonorable attacks on my reputation I want to make it clear to all of my supporters, colleagues, and constituents that I have done nothing wrong or unethical. This attack only strengthens my commitment to tackling the real problems facing Oakland.

And to (Express editor) Bob Gammon, I want to make it crystal clear that at a time when funds for affordable housing have been decimated and tensions are rising between communities of color and law enforcement across the country, your decision to focus the considerable power of your publishing platform on me, calls into question your editorial judgment.

The public needs to know that in its response to the EBX inquiry, the NHS Board of Directors investigated its claims and found that there has been no violation of policy or law by the Executive Director, members of the board or its partners, Richard Reese or Kevin Hampton, in any deal where Richmond NHS was involved.

Further, Boardmember Niels Povlsen is a leader with an impeccable reputation who did not do anything in violation of any law or policy of NHS. There have been no conflicts of interest found by any agency by any member of the board or staff.

As a fierce advocate for affordable housing I have worked closely with my city council colleagues to create a designated fund for affordable housing and to strengthen tenant protection laws. I am also a pro-growth advocate for smart development because

I understand that failure to meet the demand for market-rate housing will lead to more displacement. And, while it is true that I am deeply concerned about maintaining economic and racial diversity in Oakland, I believe the biggest threat is the ability to attract and retain working-class jobs and to maintain public safety in our neighborhoods.

Like many others, I have often put the needs of others ahead of my own. Those who know me can attest that I work tirelessly to care for the people in my family, the community, and my work. This has resulted most notably in the painful and embarrassing failure to file timely tax returns – a matter which was rectified this week. In addition,

I was unaware of a technical difficulty that resulted in the delinquent filing of our mid-year campaign report.

These errors, as embarrassing as they are, do not rise to level of unethical behavior or some indication that my work in service to the community is anything other than honorable. Sadly, this type of coverage centering on innuendo and personal attacks often serves to discourage average people from serving in public life.

Most of us are not born with the privilege of having a life unscathed by personal or financial challenges, tragedies or imperfections. This is very unfortunate because every level of government is better served by the diversity of representation that can relate to the daily challenges the average working class American must confront.

I am grateful and honored for the opportunity to serve the people of Oakland as an elected leader. Despite this attack, I will continue to serve with the utmost respect for the public and for my colleagues.

In the past two years I have worked to fulfill my campaign pledge to focus on strengthening the local economy, improving public safety and improving the professionalism of the Council.

And, I sincerely hope that my service inspires others to serve without the need to be perfect.

District 3 Councilmember Lynette McElhaney was elected president of the Oakland City Council at the council’s meeting on Monday, Jan. 5.

Lynette Gibson McElhaney, District 3 City Council member, is president of the Oakland City Council.

Courtesy of the Oakland Post, January 10, 2014 (postnewsgroup.com)

U.S. and Cuba Will Both Benefit from Improved Relations, Says Congesswoman Lee

Congresswoman Barbara Lee speaks at memorial to Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. in Havana, Cuba. Next to her are Cuban Protestant church leader Rev. Raul Suarez and Congressman Bobby Rush.  Photo courtesy of  Reuters/Stringer.

Congresswoman Barbara Lee speaks at memorial to Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. in Havana, Cuba. Next to her are Cuban Protestant church leader Rev. Raul Suarez and Congressman Bobby Rush. Photo courtesy of Reuters/Stringer.

By Ashley Chambers

After fighting for improving relations between Cuba and the U.S. for 37 years, Congresswoman Barbara is savoring the moment – the formal announcement recently that President Barack Obama is beginning to breaking the down the walls between the two countries

Reflecting on her many visits to Cuba over the years, Lee told the Post that improving American-Cuban relations and lifting the embargo will have significant social and economic benefits to the U.S.

“We will benefit in many ways,” said Congresswoman Lee, noting the access to medical treatment and education, as well as trade.

“There are many medical treatments that we can benefit from,” she said. “They have very few cases of Hepatitis B and have treatment for diabetic ulcers in 70 to 75 percent of cases. Having that access to treatment would be phenomenal.”

U.S. Medical students from low-income communities are already able to study in Cuba through a free program with The Latin American School of Medicine.

After Cuba established the program for international students from countries in Latin America, Congresswoman Lee advocated for the program to be expanded to include U.S. students.

A number of U.S. students, some from the Bay Area, now the opportunity to travel to Cuba to study medicine.

Congresswoman’s main concern is that other countries are building economic ties with Cuba and that window of opportunity for U.S. trade is closing very quickly.

But, she is hopeful that the U.S. will “be able to engage in trade soon…Business opportunity means jobs in America,” he said.

In a recent column published in Cuban media by Fidel Castro, Called “Reflections by Comrade Fidel,” the former leader wrote about his 2009 visit with Congresswoman Lee and members of the Congressional Black Caucus.

Congresswoman Lee had a chance to hear Castro’s perspective of the world, Cuban policies, and discuss human rights issues when she visited his home.

He praised Lee for her stance against “Bush’s genocidal war in Iraq.”

“It was unbeatable proof of political courage.  She deserves every honor,” he wrote.

Lee said in her interview with the Post that she hopes President Obama will visit Havana before he finishes his term.

“I look forward to additional steps to fully normalize relations with Cuba – it is far past time,” said Lee.

Courtesy of the Post News Group, January 2, 2015 (postnewsgroup.com)

Lynette McElhaney Has the Backing to Become Next Council President

By Ken Epstein

District 3 Councilmember Lynette McElhaney appears to have the necessary votes to become the next president of the Oakland City Council.

Lynette McElhaney

Lynette McElhaney

Councilmembers will elect the new president and vice mayor at the swearing in ceremony for new Oakland elected officials Monday at the Paramount Theater.

The president chairs council meetings, hands out committee assignments and has considerable control over the council’s agenda.

Former Council President Pat Kernighan, who is retiring from public office, told the Post she believes McElhaney has sufficient votes to be elected and is the best person for the job.

“I would predict that Lynette will be elected president,” Kernighan said. . “If I were still on the council, I would vote for her.”

“Of all the councilmembers, she’s best able to pull people together in a team,” said Kernighan. “She has great leadership skills, and she knows how to be inclusive. She has vision – she looks ahead to where the council is going, seeing what issues are important to the city.

District 1 Councilmember Dan Kalb also backed McElhaney- “I think she will be the next president of the council. I support that. I think she’ll do a fine job.”

“I think she’s been very thoughtful on the range of the issues that the council has dealt with during the last couple of years,” he said. “She’s willing to listen to a range of perspectives on key issues. I think she cares very much about the city.”

Most councilmembers did not seem to be swayed by recent criticisms that have surfaced against McElhaney but emphasized what she has accomplished during the two years she has been on the council and her willingness to seek unity in the interests of the city and its residents.

McElhaney said she and staff are resolving the issues raised in the media concerning her reporting of her financial statements.

“I’m supporting Lynette,” said District 7 Councilmember Larry Reid, adding that he was the one who encouraged her to run to become president of the council.

“When we went through the budget process, she led the effort to put together the ‘all-in budget,” he said. “She exhibited incredible leadership in getting the budget through the council.”

New Councilmembers, Abel Guillen representing District 2, and Anne Campbell Washington representing District 4, are also reportedly supporting McElhaney.

In addition to the backing of council members, McElhaney has earned the respect of community members. Her herculean efforts were largely responsible for the passage of Measure Z, the publicity safety tax that pays for police and youth services.

She also led the council in its fight over the Waste Management contract renewal by standing up to the national corporation to secure lower rates for homeowners, jobs for Oakland residents and opportunities for a small local business.

District 5 Councilmember Noel Gallo told the Post that he respected McElhaney but did not support her for president.

 Courtesy of the Oakland Post,  January 2, 2015 (postnewsgroup.com)

Coliseum City Proposal Remains in Play; Community Raises Questions

A artist's iew of the Colisuem City might look like

A artist’s iew of the Colisuem City might look like

By Ken Epstein

Many people are furiously committed to a plan to knock down the Oakland Coliseum and replace it with a glitzy Coliseum City complex – which could include up to three sports arenas as well as hotels, entertainment, housing, retail and restaurants.

The Coliseum City plan, according to the City of Oakland’s website, “seeks to transform the underutilized land around the Oakland-Alameda County Coliseum and Arena into a world-class sports, entertainment and science & technology district that boasts a dynamic and active urban setting with retail, entertainment, arts, culture, live and work uses.”

Probing questions about the plan are being raised by city leaders, mostly focusing on how to put together the financing and the costs that will have to be borne by Oakland taxpayers.

The value of the massive project is generally taken for granted. More or less unexamined are concerns about the value and impact of the project on the people who live in the city.

Yet Oakland residents and business owners are pressing forward with their own questions. How many and what quality jobs would there be for local residents? Would the proposed housing be only for the affluent?coliseum_city_rendering.0_standard_709.0

Who will be able to afford to go to the expensive venues and restaurants? How would a colossal development parachuted into the middle of the city impact surrounding neighborhoods and companies in East Oakland?

Some community members are saying they would like to see new stadiums built but question the purpose of the massive complex, which they say could negatively impact East Oakland residents and would effectively destroy the city’s only business park, pushing small businesses out of the city.

The city is already moving ahead with the Coliseum Area Specific Plan, which if passed would change zoning requirements and make other permit amendments, putting into place the legal basis for the project if and when financing and other issues are resolved.

Speakers at recent public hearings have questioned why community input was not sought before the draft specific plan was released and why the city allowed such a short period for public comments on the voluminous plan.

There were complaints that the plan’s proposed Environmental Impact Report only deals with Coliseum area property, ignoring impacts on nearby residents and neighborhoods.

Before final approval, the project would have to be passed by the Coliseum’s Joint Powers Authority, as well as the Oakland City Council and the Alameda County Board of Supervisors.

The project also has designs on what is presently the Oakland Airport Business Park, which contains property owned by the Port of Oakland, therefore requiring the Port Commission to weigh in.

Libby Schaaf Starts Search for City Administrator, Reaches Out to Councilmembers

“I have been very clear that I will be unbending about not putting public money into stadium projects,” Schaaf said.

By Ken Epstein

A week after winning an intense race to become mayor of Oakland, Libby Schaaf is busy preparing for her term of office, which will start when she is sworn at the beginning of January

Libby Schaff

Libby Schaff

At the top of her “to do” list is the hiring a first-rate permanent city administrator to replace Henry Gardner, who is currently serving in that position on an interim basis.

“The recruiter is already on board, and I am meeting with them tomorrow to finalize the job description,” said Schaaf in an interview Thursday with the Post.

“They will do a national search to find someone who has the background and the track record, who can deliver great services for Oakland residents,” she said.

Schaaf emphasized that she had broad experience working in all parts of Oakland, including stints running a citywide school volunteer program, operating a homework center in West Oakland and initiating the school district’s Parenting University, which for years was a project of the Marcus Foster Educational Institute.

Pledging to work collaborative with the City Council, she said she has already contacted councilmembers, requesting to do a “driving tour” of their districts with them. She says she wants to see their districts and priorities through the councilmembers’ eyes.

“Nobody gets anything done alone,” said Schaaf. “I have so much respect for councilmembers – I’ve worked with them for decades. They know their communities best.”

A major issue that the new mayor will have on her plate will be “Coliseum City,” a proposal to build new sports arenas and an entertainment, housing and hotel complex on the property surrounding where the current Coliseum is located.

“I want to keep my teams in Oakland,” said Schaaf, adding that she has already called the owners of the Raiders and the A’s.

“(But) I have been very clear that I will be unbending about not putting public money into stadium projects,” she said.

The project can be done with private money, as has been done in other cities, she said.

“It’s is appropriate to for the city to look at investments into infrastructure and transportation, which will be owned by the city in perpetuity.”

In addition, she said, the city has committed to an open process in which residents would be able to have a say on the project.

“The directive was to get a lot of public input on the different development scenarios for the entire area, going down to the waterfront,” she said. “The public process should be including robust community participation.”

Courtesy of the Oakland Post, November 15, 2014 (postnewsgroup.com)

 

Mayor-elect Tom Butt, Richmond Progressive Alliance Celebrate Victory

Gayle McLaughlin, Jovanka Beckles and Eduardo Martinez

Gayle McLaughlin, Jovanka Beckles and Eduardo Martinez

By Post Staff and press reports

Tom Butt was elected Richmond Mayor Tuesday despite a multimillion-dollar campaign by the Chevron Corporation that failed to defeat him or elect the candidates the oil company had supported.

Butt won with 51.43 percent of votes, beating Nat Bates – backed by Chevron – who received 35.46 percent of the votes and Uche Justin Uwahemu, who came in third with 12.73 percent.

“I’ve never had such a bunch of people who are dedicated and worked so hard. It’s far away above anything that I’ve ever experienced,” said Butt quoted in the SF Chronicle

Mayor-elect Tom Butt

Mayor-elect Tom Butt

Also winning three members of the Richmond Progressive Alliance who ran for City Council: Jovanka Beckles, Gayle McLaughlin and Eduardo Martinez.

By winning both the campaigns for mayor and city council, the progressives will probably be able to fill Butt’s vacated council seat.

A number of observers said that Chevron’s aggressive campaign turned off voters.

“The election was a referendum on Chevron, and the people obviously made it clear they did not appreciate the unnecessary spending by Chevron – so they took it out on the rest of the candidates,” said mayoral candidate Uwahemu.

Butt’s campaign spent about $58,00 while Chevron spending totaled over $3 million and attracted national attention to Richmond, a city of 107,000 people.

Speaking at his campaign headquarters, Bates told his supporters, “It looks like the campaign is over, and Butt is your new mayor. “Everyone that Chevron supported was unsuccessful.”

Quoted in the Richmond Confidential, Bates, “I’m still in love with this city. There was just too much mail, and people became resentful. They turned against Chevron.”

In the campaign for a short-term City Council member, Jael Myrick won with 50.96 percent of the vote, defeating Corky Booze, who received 32.30 percent.

In a press release, Richmond Progressive Alliance said the winning three council members have “pledged to stand strong for Richmond residents in the city’s dealings with the Chevron Corporation, demanding safety, transparency and accountability from the oil giant.”

According to the press release, “The newly-elected City Council will preside over the refinery’s massive retooling project, as well as oversee the City’s lawsuit against Chevron, a result of the horrific 2012 refinery fire that sent 15,000 residents to seek medical treatment and caused property values to plunge.”

In Congressional races, Mark DeSaulnier won with 66.17 percent of the vote, and Jerry McNerney won with 55.32 percent.

Courtesy of the Post News Group, November 7, 2014 (postnewsgroup.com)