Category: Rebecca Kaplan

Community Wins Major Victory for Independent Police Oversight Commission

Police Commission Chair Thomas Smith. Photo courtesy East Bay Express.

By Ken Epstein

The debate at the City Council meeting went on for hours into the night, deciding the fate of the Oakland Police Commission. Would it be allowed to gain strength as an independent body that deliberates issues of police accountability and discipline, in the manner promised by Measure LL when it was passed by 83 percent of the voters in 2016?

Rebecca Kaplan

Or would the commission be required to operate like all other departments and commissions in the city, overseen by the City Attorney and City Administrator, who have not managed to produce a scandal-free police department after 15 years of federal oversight of OPD.

Ultimately, the debate ended Tuesday night in a major victory for the supporters of Measure LL and community members who were determined to hold onto the promise of an independent police commission.

Community members, over 80 of whom signed up to defend the commission, were backed by City Councilmember-at-Large Rebecca Kaplan, who fought hard on the council for their proposal. After two resolutions failed, she backed a resolution that most councilmembers were willing to accept in the face of the determined opposition of both City Attorney Barbara Parker and City Administrator Sabrina Landreth.

The vote was 6-1 in support of the resolution. Kaplan, Desley Brooks, Noel Gallo, Lynette Gibson McElhaney, Dan Kalb and Abel Guillén voted in favor.  Annie Campbell Washington voted “no.”

City Administrator Sabrina Landreth ran the Oakland Police Department for one year after the resignation of successive police chiefs. Photo courtesy of ABC7.

Despite the victory, the conflict might not be settled. The ordinance must pass again at a second reading at the next council meeting, and there are indications that Landreth and Parker may try to influence councilmembers to reverse their position, according to police commission supporters.

The disagreements centered on the content of the enabling ordinance, which will establish the guidelines for how the police commission will function. The commission itself was established by passing an amendment to the City Charter, Measure LL.

The enabling ordinance has been tied up in behind the scenes discussions with city staff for over 18 months since Measure LL’s passage.

Barbara Parker

At the heart of the dispute is whether those who staff the police commission, an inspector general and an attorney, will be hired by and report to the commissioners, who are volunteers, or if the inspector general will report to the city administrator and the attorney to City Attorney Parker.

The whole point of creating the police commission, according to its supporters, was to establish oversight of the police that is independent of the city administration.

Pointing out that the City Administrator Landreth serves as supervisor of the Chief of Police, and the City Attorney represents the police department, police commission supporters argue there is a clear conflict of interest if these two officials are allowed to be in charge of police oversight.

“I feel like a broken record. I keep coming here saying the same thing…We need an independent police commission, and every time I turn around, someone else is trying to undermine that independence,” said Lorelei Bosserman, one of those who spoke in favor of maintaining the independent of the police commission.

“The City Attorney should have no authority over the legal counsel for the police commission. (She) represents the Oakland Police Department. There is an inherent conflict of interest there,” she said.

However, Parker’s legal opinion said the Police Commission’s recommendations for the enabling ordinance the draft ordinance that was already passed once by the City Council are “not in compliance with the City Charter.”

According to Parker in her legal opinion, “The staff who provide services to the commission are under the City Administrator’s personnel jurisdiction because the Charter does not provide an exception to the City Administrator’s jurisdiction.” (For the legal opinions, go the City Attorney’s website: oaklandcityattorney.org and click on the “Opinions and Reports” link.)

Speaking to the council meeting, Chair of the Police Commission Thomas Smith said that in order for the commission to do its job, it needs a “non-City Attorney-appointed legal advisor” and “an inspector general (who) reports directly to the commission—not somewhere else within the chain (of command).”

He said, “When you consider the fact that there is a constant interaction…between the police department and the people who serve the City Attorney, there is a relationship there… Does it have some influence? Is there some bias?”

Councilmember Kaplan, backing the police commissioners’ requests, said, “I think it is very important that we stick to the commitment that was made when this was being written, which is independent oversight.”

“We need independent oversight both so the commission can actually be independent and do the functions it was intended to by the voters and also so the commission can maintain its credibility, so its actions can be trusted and not seen as under the control of anyone who might have a dual role in terms of their management of the police department.”

Councilmember Kalb’s motion to accept the City Attorney’s changes to the enabling ordinance failed to pass, as did Kaplan’s motion to adopt the community coalition’s proposal.

What finally passed was a compromise motion, crafted by Kalb and Kaplan, that contained the two most important provisions of the commission’s recommendations.

Published June 23, 2018, Courtesy of the Oakland Post

Moratorium on Public Land Sales Goes to CED Committee

Representatives of the Post Salon community – Kitty Kelly Epstein (Left), James Vann and Cathy Leonard – speak to a council committee about putting a moratorium on sale of publicly owned land on the City Council’s agenda. Photo by Ken Epstein.

By Post staff

The City Council’s Community and Economic Development (CED) Committee will hear a community-initiated proposal for a Moratorium on Public Land Sales at the committee’s next meeting.

The item was originally scheduled for Tuesday, June but postponed due to the Warriors victory parade. The issue may be discussed at the next CED committee meeting, which will be held June 26.

The moratorium originally was proposed at a Post Salon community assembly discussion on April 29 concerning the lack of a city policy to protect public land and utilize it for truly affordable housing.

“The city allegedly has a policy of preserving publicly-owned land as an irreplaceable resource and giving preference to ‘leasing’ city land, rather than to sell for private profit,” said housing activist James Vann, a spokesman for the Post Salon.
“Despite adopting a policy favoring leasing, the city has continued to sell valuable public property to private developers and corporations for expensive housing, luxury condominiums, corporate offices, and market-oriented development,” said Vann.

Over the last two years, the city has received numerous complaints from the community that “public land should be used for public good,” and lobbying from non-profit housing organizations that public land should be used for affordable housing to aid the city’s critical affordable housing crisis.

A joint committee of city staff and community representatives met for almost two years to develop a new policy on the disposal of city-owned land. Early this year, the badly divided joint committee disbanded, according to Vann.

In the meantime, city staff continues to recommend parcel sales, approved by the City Council with little deliberation.

With the assistance of Councilperson Rebecca Kaplan and her staff, the Salon’s resolution to enact a “180-Day Moratorium of the Sale of Public Land Until the Council Adopts a Public Land Policy” was written as a resolution and placed on the June 12 CED Committee agenda.

Published June 11, 2018, courtesy of the Oakland Post

 

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

 

‘BBQing While Black’ Leader Kenzie Smith to Become Park Commissioner

Kenzie Smith (left) and Onsayo Abram at last Sunday’s “BBQing While Black” event at Lake Merritt in Oakland.

By Post Staff

Councilmember-at-Large Rebecca Kaplan announced this week that she is recommending Kenzie Smith, one the two men who was racially targeted for “BBQing while Black” at Lake Merritt, for a seat on Oakland Parks and Recreation Advisory Commission.

“He has a deep commitment to the Oakland community and a track record of public service and philanthropy,” she wrote in a statement that was released Tuesday.

Before the appointment is final, Kaplan’s recommendation must go to the mayor for approval.

Smith is a lifelong Oakland resident, community activist and founder of Dope Era Magazine. He wants to start a nonprofit to hire young people during the summer, including keeping the Lake Merritt park clean.

The Advisory Commission consists of 11 members appointed by the mayor and council. As a member of the commission, Smith would help make sure “regulations for use of our parks are clear and fair,” said Kaplan.

Smith is looking forward to an opportunity to make policy for the parks. He told the East Bay Express, “I’m not going to let someone else have a ‘BBQ Becky.’”

Published May 27, 2018, courtesy of the Oakland Post

City Leaders Determined to Fight Against Coal Terminal

One of the many protests against the coal terminal held at the offices of developer Phil Tagami.

By Sarah Carpenter

City leaders are pledging to continue to fight for “No Coal in Oakland” after a federal judge’s recent decision overturned the City of Oakland’s ban on shipping or handling coal in the city.

U.S. District Judge Vince Chhabria on May 15 ruled in developer Phil Tagami’s favor in his lawsuit against the City for breaching its contract by instituting the ban.

“This is a fight for environmental justice and equity. Oakland’s most vulnerable communities have unfairly suffered the burden of pollutants and foul air for too long. We will continue to fight this battle on all fronts,” said Mayor Libby Schaaf.

Many City Council members, who voted unanimously to ban coal in 2016, are saying they will continue their efforts to keep coal out of Oakland.

Tagami’s project, the Oakland Bulk & Oversized Terminal (OBOT), intends to ship coal, petroleum coke, and other commodities overseas through a new terminal at the site of the currently unused Oakland Army Base.

Oaklanders pushed back, concerned about potential health risks and poor air quality that could be caused by coal dust in West Oakland—already the area most affected by pollution in the city.

The City responded the next year with a ban on the shipping and handling of coal in Oakland. Judge Chhabria’s ruling determined that the City did not have enough evidence of health risks to warrant the ban, which breached the original contract. In his 37-page decision, Chhabria stated:

“Given the record before it, the City Council was not even equipped to meaningfully guess how well these controls would mitigate emissions.”

Councilmember Dan Kalb, who co-authored the coal ban with Schaaf, said he was appalled by Chhabria’s decision.

“There is no doubt that the scientific evidence shows there are substantial safety risks and health impacts of handling and moving nine million tons of dirty coal each and every year into and out of Oakland,” he said.

No Coal in Oakland, the activist organization that sprouted in response to OBOT’s plan to ship coal, released a long-winded statement on May 16 concerning Chhabria’s ruling.

In the statement, the group acknowledged that the ruling was fact-based. It also criticized Chhabria for his lack of legislative leadership in combating climate change. During the trial, Chhabria said it was “ridiculous to suggest that this one operation resulting in the consumption of coal in other countries will, in the grand scheme of things, pose a substantial global warming-related danger to people in Oakland.”

The City could appeal the decision, but activists and news commentators raise concerns that this course of action would be costly and likely unsuccessful.

The ruling specifically found that the City had breached its contract with OBOT by instituting the unsubstantiated coal ban after the agreement was made.

The City can still issue a new ordinance, which would have to be backed up by legal standards of “substantial evidence,” that the ordinance would prevent “substantial health risks.”

Councilmember Kalb has expressed his determination to continue resisting coal at the terminal. “I will do everything in my power to stand against attacks on the health and safety of our East Bay communities. The City should do whatever it takes within the law to make sure this coal terminal never gets built. This is critical to protect our residents, our workers, and our planet,” he said.

Councilmembers Rebecca Kaplan and Abel Guillén have also voiced their support of the fight against coal in Oakland. Tagami has not responded to a request for comment.

Published May 26, 2018, courtesy of the Oakland Post

Mayor’s Role in Taking Kaplan Off Air Quality Board “Is Politics at Its Worst,” Says Boardmember

Councilmember Rebecca Kaplan received appreciation and an award on her lat last day on Bay Area Air Quality Management (BAAQMD) board. Kaplan is shown with BAAQMD board Chair David Hudson, member of the San Ramon City Council.

By Ken Epstein

 Members of the Bay Area Air Quality Management District (BAAQMD) board paid tribute recently to Oakland City Councilmember-at-Large Rebecca Kaplan at her last meeting on the regional body. A few members criticized Mayor Libby Schaaf for indulging in “politics at its worst” to remove the councilmember from the BAAQMD board and encouraged Oakland residents to work for Kaplan for mayor.

 

“It’s ridiculous that you have to leave this board. I think it’s politics at its worst,” said Supervisor Shirlee Zane, a board member representing Sonoma County.

“The fact that someone bright and capable and articulate as you is being replaced after two years, well shame on the mayor,” she said.

Added Boardmember Supervisor Scott Haggerty, representing Alameda County, “For those of you who think Rebecca should be here, maybe you should help her run for mayor.”

Kaplan, who served for two years as one of Alameda County’s two representatives on the 24-member board, whose members come from cities and counties from Napa to Palo Alto.

According to a spokesman of the Alameda County Mayors’ Conference, which appoints a representative on the BAAQMD board, mayors have first preference in seeking appointments, but Mayor Schaaf had the right to nominate Kaplan for reappointment to the position.

Kaplan was “not precluded” from reapplying, according to the spokesman, but, “If a council member applies for a position, the councilmember (must) receive the approval of the mayor,” the Mayors’ Conference spokesman said.

Instead of nominating Kaplan and despite a deluge of community letters in support of her reappointment, Schaaf nominated the mayor of Berkeley. In March, the Mayor’s Conference voted to give the position to the mayor of Emeryville.

In her response to the letters in support of Kaplan, Schaaf said her hands were tied, and that she was precluded by the rules of the County Mayors’ Conference from reappointing Kaplan to the board.

As Oakland’s first representative on the board 25 years, Kaplan worked to bring funds to improve air quality in the city, which persistently has had some of the highest levels of air-borne toxic wastes—including cancer—and asthma-causing pollutants—in the Bay Area.

Kaplan has helped secure money for major projects to improve air quality for Oakland and other East Bay cities, including for the Broadway Shuttle, replacing a diesel locomotive engine to clean the air around the Port/Army base and setting up a fund to get old, high polluting diesel trucks off the road.

Members of the BAAQMD board praised Kaplan for what she has been able to accomplish in only two years.

“(Kaplan) represents the kind of person that is the reason I want to be on this board, someone who is a critical thinker, thinks about the big picture and has helped to shape a unique profile for the district,” said Boardmember Mayor Doug Kim of the City of Belmont.

Another board member referred to the time when Kaplan went to North Dakota to stand in solidarity with Dakota Access Pipeline protests (#NODAPL). “That’s walking the talk, you really did it. I thought after that: ‘you know what, Rebecca really means it,’” said Mayor Liz Kniss, City of Palo Alto.

“You’ve distinguished yourself as a thoughtful advocate for human health. You’ve done a very effective job articulating concerns in communities most affected by air pollution, which certainly includes your city (and) which your mayor should appreciate. I know we do,” said Vice Mayor Rod Sinks, City of Cupertino.

“We’ve gotten the message about cash for clunkers. We’ll make sure we carry that mantle,” said Supervisor David J. Canepa, San Mateo Count.

Speaking to the board, Jed Holtzman of 350.org Bay Area member said, Rebecca is the kind of textbook example of what the public would like to see on this board and any board in terms of consciousness and engagement.”

She paraphrased a minister she knows in her remarks: “If you woke up this morning, you still have work to do. I ain’t done.”

The video of the discussion at the April 4 BAAQMD board meeting can be viewed here

Published May 5, 2018, courtesy of the Oakland Post

Opinion: Rebecca Kaplan Should Run for Mayor of Oakland

Sandré R Swanson (with Rebecca Kaplan.

By Sandré R. Swanson

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Activist Cat Brooks Joins Race for Mayor of Oakland

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

 

By Sarah Carpenter

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Published May 4, 2018, courtesy of the Oakland Post