Category: Reentry/Formerly Incarcerated

Report: Oakland Can House 2,000 Homeless People in 6 Months “If Political Will Exists”

Real number of homeless in Oakland is over 9,000

A number of Oakland groups released a “Community-Based Oakland Plan to House the Unhoused” at a press conference Monday at Geoffrey’s Inner Circle in downtown Oakland. Among the speakers were Needa B of The Village, Margaretta Lin of the Dellums Institute for Social Justice and Candice Elder of the East Oakland Collective. Photo by Amir Saadiq.

The Housing and Dignity Project released a report this week showing that solutions to housing Oakland’s unhoused residents are available, if the political will exists.

A collaboration between The Village, the East Oakland Collective, and the Dellums Institute for Social Justice,  The Housing and Dignity Project’s report, “Housing Oakland’s Unhoused Report,” is available on the Dellums Institute’s website, http://dellumsinstitute.org/community-justice-data/.

It is the perfect response to the recently released UN Report that called out only two cities in the US for human rights violations of the homeless–Oakland and San Francisco.

As the UN Special Rapporteur on Adequate Housing, Leilani Farha, decried in the recent special report, “The world has come to accept the unacceptable.”  With escalating income inequality and “systemic exclusion” of the poor, nearly one in four of the world’s urban population lives in informal settlements or encampments—883 million people.

These intolerable conditions exist not only in Mumbai, but shockingly, in US cities like Oakland and San Francisco.

With Oakland’s out of control housing market and 75 percent increase in median rents since 2014, escalating numbers of Oakland’s working poor have lost their homes.

Said Needa Bee, leader of The Village, “It took the United Nations to validate what unhoused people have been saying.  Instead of working with us, the City of Oakland has bulldozed community housing, denied its residents struggling to survive access to basic rights to water and sanitation, evicted encampments, and criminalized the homeless.”

Spurred by the City of Oakland’s failure to adequately house over 9,000 unhoused Oakland residents (a more accurate number according to the Alameda County Healthcare for the Homeless Program research), the Housing and Dignity Project recently convened unhoused residents to design strategies that can provide immediate and long-term housing solutions.

“Unhoused residents who have been the most impacted by Oakland’s insane housing crisis know what solutions look like.  The problem is that few people are willing to listen,” said Candice Elder, leader of the East Oakland Collective.

The “Housing Oakland’s Unhoused Plan” harnesses alternative building solutions and community ingenuity with available public land that could provide over 7,000 new housing units for the unhoused.

As former Oakland Deputy City Administrator and co-architect of the Plan, Margaretta Lin, said, “I was at the City of Oakland during the Great Recession and witnessed firsthand the power of government to solve big problems.  We need government to unleash their full powers to partner with unhoused residents and reverse Oakland’s current course.  Systemic exclusion and human rights violations are happening on our collective watch.”

The report identified short term emergency solutions implementable within six months including:

  • Housing 1,200 people in tiny home villages for up to $7,500 per unit;
  • Housing 800 people in mobile homes for up to $35,000 per unit;
  • Utilize 50 parcels of available public land in Oakland that could produce 7,300 housing units.

These scalable solutions could immediately house 2,000 people for about $23 million, less than the cost to build one 40-unit building. In addition, the Housing and Dignity Project has identified city, county, and state available funds for their plan.

Published November 2, 2018, courtesy of the Oakland Post

 

Pastors, Black Panther Co-Founder, Residents React to Outside Money Pouring into D-6 Council Race

Community leaders defend Councilmember Desley Brooks’ fearless leadership

Former Black Panther Party leader Bobby Seale speaks at a rally Thursday in front of City Hall, condemning Mayor Libby Schaaf’s fundraising efforts to pump outside money into District 6 to defeat Desley Brooks. Among others who spoke in in favor of Desley’s Brooks outspoken leadership on the City Council in defense of the community were Post Publisher Paul Cobb, Henry Gage of the Police Accountability Coalition, civil rights attorney and District 6 resident Dan Siegel, Rev. L.J. Jennings of Kingdom Builders Christian Fellowship and leaders of the public workers union, SEIU Local 1021. Photo by Ken Epstein

A community coalition comprised of Pastors, former Black Panther Co-Founder, Bobby Seale, Civil Rights attorneys and residents held a press conference this week calling out “money in politics” in the race for Oakland’s District 6 Council seat.

The group is responding to Mayor Libby Schaaf, her big money donors and Building Trade Unions tied to powerful, luxury real estate developers, who are now pouring outside money into the race to unseat District 6 Councilmember Desley Brooks.

Brooks has been a staunch critic of Schaaf and the lack of African American workers employed at construction sites throughout the city.

The community coalition is calling upon Mayor Schaaf and her supporters to immediately cease the outside money they are pumping into the local race and maintain what they deem a “fair and clean” election, free of distortions and attacks.

Mayor Schaaf has a history of mobilizing her base of wealthy donors to target councilmembers who have opposed her policies, including Councilmembers Noel Gallo and Rebecca Kaplan in 2016.

Over one-third of the Independent expenditure aimed at unseating Schaaf’s most vocal critic, Desley Brooks, has come from wealthy donors who have contributed tens of thousands of dollars over the years to the Mayor’s campaign efforts.

Speakers at the press conference, including Black Panther Party Co-Founder Bobby Seale, highlighted what they see as coordinated retaliation against Brooks for the many, community-based positions she has taken in City Hall.

Earning powerful enemies, Brooks has advocated for more inclusivity of the hiring of African-Americans in the powerful, Building and Construction Trades Unions and fought to to establish a Department of Race and Equity, which was initially opposed by the Mayor.

Published October 21 2018, courtesy of the Oakland Post

Hold Sheriff Accountable for Human Rights Violations at Alameda County Jail, Says New Report

 “Remember those who are in prison, as though you were in prison with them.”  Hebrews 13:3

Santa Rita Jail, Alameda County

The Live Free Committee of Oakland Community Organization (OCO) released a  report titled “What’s Up With Our Jails?” on Oct. 2, detailing human rights violations  taking place in Alameda County jail.

This important report is available online at www.oaklandpost.org and was published in the Oakland Post.

The 2,600 people held in Alameda County jails daily are our brothers and sisters, fathers, mothers, and neighbors. The jails are ours, as taxpayers and voters, and should reflect our values.

Racial and economic injustices are evident in who ends up in jail. While we work to correct these injustices, our research raises urgent questions about county jail operations:

  • Do our jails meet basic human rights standards?
  • Do we offer persons leaving jail the resources they need to successfully return to our communities?
  • What can we, as a community, do to make a difference?

Who Runs Our Jails?

The Alameda County Sheriff is the elected official with authority over county jail operations. The Alameda County Sheriff’s Office (ACSO), under the direction of Sheriff Gregory Ahern since 2006, also polices unincorporated areas of the county and functions as county coroner.

Sheriff Greg Ahern

The Alameda County Board of Supervisors, also an elected body, is responsible for authorizing the annual ACSO budget and monitoring jail conditions.

Who Is Locked Up?

Alameda County has two jails — the Santa Rita Jail (the larger facility, in Dublin) and the Glenn E. Dyer Detention Facility (a high-rise maximum security jail in Oakland).

In early 2018, the county jails held on average 2,362 men and 236 women daily. The average daily jail population is more than 50 percent African-American, 20 percent Latino, and less than 20 percent white.

Reasons for Incarceration: Only 446 (18 percent) of the 2,598 people held in our jails in early 2018 were actually serving sentences. According to ACSO data from December 2017, of those detained but not sentenced, one-third were bail-eligible.

They remained in custody because they were too poor to afford bail.

Length of Incarceration: Some people are serving sentences of years rather than months in our jails. State prison reforms in 2011 moved many people convicted of nonviolent crimes from state jurisdiction to the counties.

For lower-level offenders, local supervision is supposed to be better than state prison. Yet county jails were never intended for long confinement.

Even pretrial incarceration can take years. In 2013, for instance, Dajon Ford was arrested as a juvenile and spent four years in Santa Rita awaiting trial before community efforts finally won his freedom.

OCO Findings

OCO leaders have heard many complaints about the treatment of people detained in the county’s jails over the years. Based on our research, we find these to be the most serious current problems.

Pregnancy: At Santa Rita, pregnant women are in with the general population unless they ask to be moved to a medical unit, which means isolation 23 hours a day. Multiple sworn testimonies reveal that medical needs for pregnant women are often neglected.

“A very pregnant woman … was in so much pain she could not walk. … Instead of taking her to receive medical care, [deputies] placed her in an isolation cell … [she] began to scream. This went on for hours. … Finally, we could hear the crying of a baby … [she] had given birth, alone,” from a sworn declaration of a woman incarcerated at Santa Rita.

Medical Care: Many lawsuits have been brought against the jails’ for-profit medical care contractors. Sheriff’s deputies are not trained as certified emergency medical responders. In 2015, Mario Martinez died in Santa Rita when deputies ignored cries for help and failed to provide needed medical care.

Food Services: Complaints about poor jail food and kitchen cleanliness — including reports of animal feces and rats — are common. A recent Alameda County Public Health Department inspection found that 24 percent of persons in Santa Rita were not getting their required diets. Canteen food is available, but only to those who can pay for it.

Hygiene Services: Female inmates have testified in recent lawsuits that they cannot get the sanitary supplies they need. During the 2017 hunger strike at Glenn Dyer, inmates complained that they were getting only one set of clean clothes per week.

Isolation: Ten percent of Santa Rita inmates and 20 percent of Glenn Dyer inmates are held in “administrative isolation” — a kind of solitary confinement. Isolation was a major grievance of the Glenn Dyer strikers. Studies have shown solitary confinement can “severely impair prisoners’ capacity for normal human functioning.”

Contact with Family and Community: Family visitation is restricted to 30 minutes. No physical contact is permitted. Visiting hours are available during limited hours, three days a week. The cost of phone and video calls runs about $6 for 15 minutes.

“It kills me mentally to be in jail,” said a young man who was held in Santa Rita.

“A 30-minute visit maximum a week … is not enough. It breaks families. They use visits as punishment, taking visits away,” said two men formerly held in Santa Rita.

Lack of Translators: Although there are bilingual deputies and ACSO has a rulebook in Spanish, there are no dedicated translators on staff. Translation is often done informally among inmates. Language barriers can prevent individuals from participating in programs and services.

ICE and Undocumented Persons: Despite sanctuary policies passed by the Board of Supervisors that restrict contact between ICE and law enforcement, the Sheriff’s Office has posted inmates’ release dates on the internet. This allows ICE to take undocumented persons into custody (even though being held at Santa Rita Jail is not evidence of criminal guilt) and exposes others to harassment or retaliation as they leave the jail.

Release from Jail: People are often released from our jails at night and alone with no more than a BART ticket — without even a few days’ supply of essential medications. Since Medi-Cal benefits are automatically suspended in jail, many people return to the community with no medical coverage.

“They just release you. No referrals. They gave me a $5 BART ticket. I had to walk to the BART station in my [jail] blues,” according to two young men released from Santa Rita.

Re-entry and Rehab Programs: In 2014, the Alameda County Board of Supervisors adopted a re-entry strategic plan to help break the cycle of returning the same people to jail.

The plan, not yet implemented, acknowledges the need to provide inmates with a wide range of services such as housing, health care, mental health and substance abuse services; employment; and education.

Yet rehabilitative programs within Santa Rita Jail remain underfunded and understaffed, serving relatively few inmates effectively. Only the most motivated individuals tend to get the help they need. But society would be better off if everyone received needed services.

They classify people by tattoos, gang, where they’re from. … Couldn’t take college or trade classes in there because of security,” said one young man who had been in Santa Rita.

“There are waiting lists. Everybody is trying to get into a program,” said another young man who did time in the jail.

Our sources report that ACSO’s jail classification system (the way it segregates and houses people for security and other reasons) ends up denying program access to those who need resources the most. (ACSO, unlike state prisons, does not make its classification system public.)

ACSO also routinely excludes formerly incarcerated persons from serving as community program staff and peer mentors within the jail, eliminating another invaluable resource for inmates.

We must reduce the likelihood of people returning to jail. The community has a right to expect that people returning to our families and neighborhoods after staying in our jails will not be worse off than before they were detained.

Community Action Make a Difference

  1. Demand that our jails adopt best practices – changes Alameda County should initiate immediately:
  • Adopt the higher California state prison standards for conditions of confinement, which reflect the needs of inmates held for longer periods.
  • Adopt a supportive model for meeting the critical needs of pregnant women and new mothers.
  • Make the cost of phone calls and jail canteen food affordable for all inmates, as Santa Clara County has done.
  • Prohibit the posting of inmate release information on the internet where it can endanger the lives and safety of those departing custody.
  1. Insist on more effective community re-entry programs.
  • Return to the community is the expected outcome for every person held in our jails. This understanding should drive a comprehensive “needs-based” re-entry plan for each individual. As the re-entry strategic plan adopted by the county in 2014 stated, effective re-entry “begins with assisting the individual at the earliest possible point of contact with the criminal justice system [and continues] through community-based supervision and community integration.”
  • Require A Full Needs Assessment: Every inmate must receive a full assessment of their needs so that they are better prepared to re-enter the community. This means identifying their health, education, housing, and employment needs. Job training and placement are particularly essential to successful re-entry.
  • Release with a Warm Hand-Off: Our jails must ensure that all released individuals have safe transportation, emergency housing if needed and access to critical community services to meet their immediate needs (medical services, mental health care, substance abuse treatment and domestic violence prevention).

Four hours after her 1:30 a.m. release from Santa Rita on July 28, 2018, Jessica St. Louis, 26, was found dead near the passenger pick-up area of the Dublin/Pleasanton BART station, two miles from the jail, according to the San Francisco Chronicle, Aug. 8, 2018.

The county must ensure that Medi-Cal benefits are reinstated at the point of release. San Diego and Los Angeles counties work with the Department of Motor Vehicles so that everyone leaving jail has an ID or driver’s license. Alameda County should adopt this model.

  • Ensure Continuity with Community-Based Providers: On-site and re-entry programs are better run by community-based providers who can offer continuity of services once people are released, rather than by the Sheriff’s Office whose primary expertise is detention and law enforcement.

In its re-entry strategic plan, the Board of Supervisors concurred that a successful return to the community relies on “high-quality, peer-involved and comprehensive” programs and services.

  1. Hold our elected officials accountable and institute community oversight.

The Alameda County Board of Supervisors holds the purse strings of the Sheriff’s Office. Since 2005, the county jail population has declined by 45 percent while the sheriff’s budget for detention and corrections has increased by 92 percent. This large increase in ACSO’s resources raises questions for taxpayers:

How are these dollars being used?

How can money be reinvested in community-based re-entry programs and services?

  • Conduct a financial management and performance audit: The Justice Reinvestment Coalition (a community group that includes OCO) has proposed a Financial Management and Performance Audit to determine how ACSO has used increased resources while its jail population has decreased — and to what effect. The audit is an essential step toward systematic ACSO transparency. We demand that the Board of Supervisors adopt the audit as proposed.
  • Separate coroner duties from the sheriff: In Alameda County, the sheriff is also the county coroner by law. Deaths that occur inside the jails are medically examined by ACSO (including two deaths that occurred within one week in June 2018). Coroner duties must be separated from the Sheriff’s Office.
  • Establish independent oversight: No one can be expected to monitor their own behavior objectively. Los Angeles and Santa Clara counties have initiated independent oversight agencies of their sheriff’s departments. Alameda County should adopt a model of independent community oversight of jail conditions and re-entry programs.

Greater accountability and oversight of the Sheriff’s Office are in the interests of a wide range of stakeholders in Alameda County, including deputies working in the jails.

What’s Next?

The immediate goals of OCO’s Live Free Committee are to guarantee humane jail conditions and to return individuals to the community with the resources to improve their chances for success.

For information about OCO’s jail project as well as sources, methods, citations and notes, see www.oaklandcommunity.org/OurJails  or contact BK Woodson Sr. at servantbk@
oaklandcommunity.org

 

 

 

Opinion: Re-elect Desley Brooks to City Council

Desley Brooks

 By Dan Siegel, Oakland Justice Coalition

Dan Siegel

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Desley Brooks deserves another term on the City Council.

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

Councilmembers Delay Vote on Proposal for Construction Job Opportunities for Oaklanders

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Published April 29, 2018, courtesy of the Oakland Post

Port of Oakland Passes Groundbreaking Jobs Policy

 

After 21 months of negotiations with the local community, the Port of Oakland Board of Commissioners voted Thursday to approve a “Good Jobs” policy on the Port’s new state-of-the-art warehousing complex.

Community groups say this be one of the most equitable job policies in the warehousing and logistics industry, setting a standard for online retailers like Amazon. And because it provides pathways to good jobs for primarily low-income people of color, it begins to curb economic inequality and structural racism.

A number of environmental groups asked the Port Commission to the delay the vote, but the commission voted unanimously to approve the lease.

Calling for postponement was a group of regulators, local, regional and national environmental advocates who requested the commission delay accepting this lease until port staff engages in good faith negotiating on the environmental elements of the new warehouse. The environmental group says it is committed to jobs but just as committed to clean air and healthy neighborhoods in West and East Oakland and the 880 corridor.

During the campaign for the jobs policy, a demonstration was held at the Port of Oakland focusing on a Ban the Box policy, and many formerly incarcerated workers testified at the Port Commission. Photo courtesy of EBASE.

So far, the port has agreed to discuss the group’s environmental concerns but never scheduled meetings, according to the environmentalists.

The warehouse development sits on the port’s side of the former Oakland Army Base – a massive, incredibly valuable, publicly-owned property. OaklandWorks and Revive Oakland, a coalition of community, labor, and faith groups, led the negotiations with the Port and won an even stronger agreement than its 2012 deal on the city-owned part of the Army Base.

With the rise of online retailers like Amazon, jobs in warehousing and logistics – or “goods movement” – have become increasingly common. These jobs are typically low-paying and often part-time, temporary, and/or subcontracted.

The new port warehouse jobs policy establishes a model that other cities could follow, including living wages; limitations on the use of temporary agencies; equal protections for subcontracted workers; and one of the strongest Ban the Box policies in the country.

“As the port becomes a gateway for the booming tech, online, and app-centric economy, we are creating policies that lift low-income workers and communities of color,” said Jahmese Myres, Revive Oakland Coalition Director.

“With racism and economic inequality on the rise during the Trump Era, we are helping to ensure that low-income people of color have good jobs and can stay in their homes,” she said.

Cities across the country recently submitted proposals to lure Amazon to build their new headquarters in their areas. The bidding war outlined community giveaways rather than what the company could do for cities struggling to create living wage jobs with benefits that would allow workers to afford housing and provide for their families.

This comes at a time when low-income communities of color are increasingly being pushed out of many urban areas due to the high cost of housing and the lack of opportunity for formerly incarcerated workers.

However, the port agreement can serve as a model for how community driven negotiations result in better outcomes for workers and residents, particularly people of color who have been shut out of good jobs.

In addition to living wages, the agreement would mandate local hire, equal protections for subcontracted workers, and one of the strongest “Ban the Box” policies in the country. The latter curtails discrimination against the formerly incarcerated, who are disproportionately people of color.

“With one of the strongest Ban the Box policies in the country, the Army Base redevelopment is standing against discrimination, employment inequality, and the racial injustices that we face daily,” said Saabir Lockett, a formerly incarcerated Oakland resident.

“Policies like this create a more sustainable relationship between employers and local residents, giving more of us the chance to provide for our families with dignity,” said Lockett.

Published November 11, 2017, courtesy of the Oakland Post

East Oakland Organizations Unveil New Grassroots People’s Agenda

Speakers Tuesday evening at the East Oakland Congress of Neighborhoods rally at Oakland City Hall were (L to R): Mercedes De La Torre of Communities for a Better Environment, Andre Spearman of Oakland Community Organizations and Vernetta Woods, Oakland Community Organizations Photo by Ken Epstein.

East Oakland residents gathered in front of city hall his week to unveil a community-created East Oakland People’s Agenda.

The agenda, based on community needs, was created Sept. 30 at a Community Assembly of the newly-formed East Oakland Congress of Neighborhoods, attended by Oakland residents who live in communities between Lake Merritt and the San Leandro border

The release of the agenda on Tuesday, Nov. 7 was intentional—one year ahead of the 2018 elections— announcing residents’ determination to vote for candidates and ballot measures that align with their agenda.

“We are inspired by the hundreds of East Oaklanders who made our Community Assembly such a fantastic success,” says Sonya Khvann, an EBAYC leader and resident of District 2. “We are ready to fight for the agenda that we created there.”

The East Oakland Congress of Neighborhoods is an umbrella organization formed by six of East Oakland’s most prominent community organizations, whose members are fed up with a lack of action on extremely pressing problems in East Oakland—including housing and homelessness, fears about immigration raids, illegal dumping, gun violence and the street-level sex trade, air quality and the lack of green space, school quality and safety, and good jobs for the unemployed.

Beginning in January, members of East Oakland Congress of Neighborhoods will start a process of research and trainings to prepare residents to advocate effectively for the People’s Agenda.

“We are in this for the long haul,” says Andre Spearman, a leader with Oakland Community Organizations (OCO) and District 5 resident. “We are serious about building the power we need to be in charge of our communities.”

Evangelina Lara, an EBAYC organizer and a District 2 resident, says the purpose of the Congress is to provide East Oakland with the same kind of clout that more affluent neighborhoods have. “We represent the East Oakland majority,” said Lara. “Politicians are on notice that they need to respond to OUR agenda.”

“Residents from all four East Oakland City Council Districts came together to create this agenda,” says Alba Hernandez, an OCO organizer and a District 6 resident. “Our members are working together to make it come true.”

Published November 10, 2017, courtesy of the Oakland Post

 

Congress of Neighborhoods Seeks Community Power in East Oakland Flatlands

Esther Goolsby of Communities for a Better Environment (CBE) spoke last Saturday at the first community assembly of the Congress of East Oakland Neighborhoods. Photo by Ken Epstein

 

By Ken Epstein

Hundreds of local residents packed into an elementary school gymnasium last Saturday to attend the kickoff gathering of the East Oakland Congress of Neighborhoods taking the first steps to bring together the kind of flatland coalition that can force public officials to take the needs of their communities seriously.

The meeting, held at International Community Schools at 2825 International Blvd., was organized by some of the strongest community-based organizations in East Oakland: Alliance of Californians for Community Empowerment (ACCE), Just Cause: Causa Justa, Communities for a Better Environment (CBE), East Oakland Building Healthy Communities, EBAYC and Oakland Community Organizations (OCO).

The main purpose of Saturday’s meeting was to create a common vision for going forward.  To develop this vision, participants attended one of nine workshops: fair share of city services, including ending illegal dumping; homelessness, displacement and affordable housing; community peace and safety; holding elected officials accountable; creating a clean healthy environment; jobs, including jobs for youth and the formerly incarcerated; quality education; big development projects, such as the A´s stadium; and immigration.

Leading the meeting were representatives of East Oakland neighborhoods San Antonio, Fruitvale, Elmhurst and Sobrante Park.

In an interview with the Oakland Post, Vernetta Woods, a leader of Oakland Community Organizations (OCO) who lives in District 7, says she believes the event will build more unity and a more powerful voice for East Oakland residents.

For her, the main issue is education, the failure of the Oakland public schools.

“We’re coming. People power is here,” she said.  “We need thousands to come together on this thing, not just one race or one organization. If that happens, we can make changes.”

Teresa Salazar, a leader of Just Cause: Causa Justa who has lived in the San Antonio area for 23 years, explained the different organizations that are working together are creating a “stronger power.”

“Rent is increasing. Is that the New Oakland – a lot of people living under the bridge?”  She asked.

“At International (Boulevard) and 15th (Avenue), there is a lot of prostitution – Is that the New Oakland?

“No, Oakland needs a big change,” said Salazar. “Everybody needs to participate, to organize for change, for there to be a New Oakland.”

The Congress of Neighborhoods plans to release its “East Oakland Community Agenda” Tuesday, Nov. 7 at 5:30 p.m. outside City Hall.

For more information, email Nehanda Imara at nehanda@eastoaklandbhc.org or Alba Hernandez at alba@oaklandcommunity.org

Published October 8, 2017, courtesy of the Oakland Post

“Unite Against Hate,” Say East Bay Leaders

East Bay leaders speak at a press conference Tuesday, prolcaiming that local communities are united against against hatred and bigotry and committed to nonviolence. Left to Right: Supervisor Keith Carson, Congresswoman Barbara Lee, Berkeley Mayor Jesse Arreguín, Senator Nancy Skinner, Assemblyman Tony Thurmond and Assemblyman Rob Bonta. Photo by Ken Epstein.

 

By Ken Epstein

Congresswoman Barbara and other East Bay political leaders held a press conference at Berkley City Hall Tuesday to condemn hatred, bigotry and violence as local communities prepare for white supremacists rallies planned for Saturday in San Francisco and Sunday in Berkeley.

“President Trump has emboldened white nationalists, but we must hold steadfast to our progressive values as a community, regardless of the challenges,” said Congresswoman Lee.

“We cannot allow anyone, certainly not the president, to roll back the clock on progress. We must stand united against hate,” she said.

Growing up in the South, she said, “I have seen the kind of world these demonstrators want to create.”

Joining Congresswoman Lee at the press conference were Berkeley Mayor Jesse Arreguín, Senator Nancy Skinner, Assemblyman Tony Thurmond, Alameda County Supervisor Keith Carson and District Attorney Nancy O´Malley.

Some protesters are planning to confront the white supremacists in downtown Berkeley. Others are calling for a rally, supported by labor, faith-based organizations and Democratic clubs, in another part of Berkeley to demonstrate the Bay Area’s commitment to oppose racist terrorism.

Berkeley Mayor Arreguín urged people not to to confront the white supremacists.

He underscored the city´s support for free speech for all points of view but drew a distinction between those who want to express themselves and those who come to town seek to terrorize the community.

“We are working to keep our public safe,” he said. “We are not going to allow bigotry and hate in our community.”

Organizers of the rallies in San Francisco and Berkeley claim they are not white supremacists, but according to Mayor Arreguín the discussion on social media about the events indicates otherwise.

Senator Skinner announced she is introducing a bill to strengthen California´s anti-hate crime laws calling on local, state and federal law enforcement to treat white supremacists as terrorists and direct law enforcement to use all available options to prosecute members of these groups.

“If their intention is to terrorize our communities, it makes sense to prosecute them as terrorists,” she said.

Local branches of the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) issued a statement distinguishing between free speech and marching with guns and other weapons with the intent to commitment violence.

“Thee ACLU of California fully supports the freedom of speech and expression, as well as the freedom to peacefully assemble,” the statement from directors ACLU’s Northern California, Southern California and San Diego chapters says.

“If white supremacists march into our towns armed to the teeth and with the intent to harm people, they are not engaging in activity protected by the United States Constitution. The First Amendment should never be used as a shield or sword to justify violence.”

A large coalition of groups and individuals is holding a “Bay Area Rally Against Hate,” which is not organized to physically confront the white supremacists.

According to the rally announcement, “fascists and white supremacists are meeting in Berkeley to try to intimidate us and incite violence. We’re meeting near UC Berkeley campus, blocks away and on the other side of the downtown, to speak to each other about the world we want. Join us, bring snacks, bring signs.”

The rally, hosted by Unite for Freedom Right Wing Violence in the Bay Area, will be held Sunday, 10:30 a.m. to 1 p.m., at Crescent Lawn, Oxford and Addison streets at UC Berkeley.

Published August, 25, 2017, courtesy of the Oakland Post

New Citizens’ Police Commission Could Become Among Strongest in Nation

 OccupyOaklandStrikePolice

 

By Post Staff

A selection panel made its final choices this week for the city’s new citizens’ police commission, established by an overwhelming vote in November, which will have significant power to investigate and punish police misconduct and help set policies for the Oakland Police Department.

Four commissioners were picked Monday by the selection panel. Three additional members were appointed by Mayor Libby Schaaf. Two alternates, one picked by Mayor Schaaf and one selected by the panel, were also named.

Edwin Prather

Edwin Prather

Originally, almost 150 Oakland residents applied to be on the commission. The selection panel ultimately interviewed 28 finalists.

A number of observers have argued that Oakland’s police commission, which has the power to fire the police chief and recommend a pool of finalists to replace the chief, could end up being one of the strongest in the nation.

According to Rashidah Grinage of the Coalition for Police Accountability, “The selection panel was absolutely stunned” that so many applications were turned in, including 50 that came in on the last day.

The members of the panel had a huge amount of work  sorting through the applications and contacting references, she said. “(But) I think they came out with an absolutely great group of people. I think they did a fabulous job.”

The idea of utilizing a selection panel composed mostly of residents, not politicians, to pick the members of police commission “has never been done before” anywhere in the nation, she said.

Once the City Council comes back from recess in September, it will have to vote on confirming the commissioners, giving the public a chance to weigh in, she said.

Regina Jackson

Regina Jackson

The City of Oakland also has to hire two positions that were budgeted to staff the work of the commission.

“I think by October the police commission should be ready to start work,” said Grinage.

Panel appointees:

Mubarak Ahmad works for AC Transit. He coaches little league baseball and is a basketball coach for Montera Middle School.  He is the father of six children and six grandchildren.

Jose Dorado, an Oakland native, runs a tax and bookkeeping business in the Frutivale District. He is the longtime leader of Maxwell Park Neighborhood Council, which works on public safety issues. He also served on the Measure Y oversight committee.

Jose Dorado

Jose Dorado

Ginale Harris lives in East Oakland. She currently works as a San Francisco deputy court clerk. She has worked as a probation and parole advocate helping formerly incarcerated people. In 2012, she served on SFPD Chief Greg Suhr’s violence prevention committee.

Mike Nisperos, who was raised in Oakland, has served as an Alameda County prosecutor and an associate in the John Burris law firm handling police misconduct cases. He authored the Oakland Mayor’s 2001 Public Safety Plan. He has been arrested by OPD four times.

Alternate Maureen Benson is a 17-year Oakland resident. She has worked as an Oakland teacher and principal.

Mayoral appointees:

Edwin Prather is an attorney in San Francisco. He has worked with the Asian Law Caucus and for the San Francisco Public Defender’s Office.

Thomas Smith serves as the political action chair of the Oakland NAACP. He previously worked as a management consultant for McKinsey and Company. He helped set up a charter school in Massachusetts and was on the board of a charter school in Oakland.

Regina Jackson serves as president and CEO of the East Oakland Youth Development Center (EOYDC).
Alternate Andrea Dooley is an attorney and an arbitrator who has worked at Kaiser Permanente.

Published August 17, 2017, courtesy of the Oakland Post