Category: Responsive Government

Community Action Needed Against Illegal Dumping and Litter

Illegal dumping in Oakland

By Desley Brooks

Litter has become a major problem in Oakland. Throughout the city you see the devastating effects of illegally abandoned construction waste and garbage. It blights our streets and parks, impacts our health and safety, and is a disgrace to everyone who calls Oakland home.

Despite my advocacy and the work of many volunteers, our city services still don’t have the capacity to meet this challenge. Between 2011 and 2016, calls to report illegal dumping increased 129 percent. The old, complaint-driven model is inadequate. We are reaching crisis levels, and something needs to be done.

Last week we finished the budget process.  One victory was the City Council voted to increase funding to fight illegal dumping, including:

  • $85,000 for a pilot program that will employ unsheltered individuals to help clean our streets;
  • $1 million dedicated to sanitation, health, and hygiene services;
  • $452,415 for three litter enforcement officers.

In total, approximately $1.4 million will be spent to fight illegal dumping. While this is a good start, it’s not enough.

In my district, I spearheaded an innovative pilot program to address illegal dumping. Instead of following the typical complaint-driven process, we organized a rapid response team that proactively removed litter from wherever they found it in their designated zone.

This program made a visible difference while it was active, and now that it has ended we can see the problem getting worse again. This pilot program was effective and cost-efficient, collecting more waste per man-hour than regular garbage trucks.

I asked the administration what it would take to ramp up this program and make it citywide – they estimated it would cost $3 million. After seeing how effective this program was in my district, I know what a huge impact this program could have on our city.

I was gratified that the Council voted to fund a partial expansion of the program – but one three-person crew just isn’t enough. I’m in this for the long term and want to deliver long term solutions.

This problem affects everyone in Oakland, and it’s going to take broad support to make change. Oaklanders deserve clean streets. Oaklanders deserve to take pride in their neighborhoods.

Oaklanders deserve a city that responds to their needs. I will continue to advocate for a proactive, geographic program to address the crisis because I believe that it’s the best option we have to tackle the problem.

I will keep leading monthly cleanups in my district and encourage everyone to take part in a community cleanup in your neighborhood. Together we can keep Oakland the beautiful place that we know it deserves to be.

There are many ways you can help:

Organize or join a community cleanup; “Adopt a Spot” or set up a free bulky drop off event;

Report illegal dumping by calling 311.

If you are concerned about this problem and want to get involved, please email me at desleyb@gmail.com or you can call my office at (510) 238-7006.

Desley Brooks is the District 6 representative on the Oakland City Council.

Published June 29. 2018, courtesy of the Oakland Post

Opinion: City Attorney Should Not Be Allowed to Undermine Police Commission

 

Oakland police

By Larry White, Attorney

Oakland’s City Council is poised to enact an enabling ordinance that would fill in the gaps in Measure LL, which created the Oakland Police Commission and the Civilian Police Review Agency and that was approved by 83 percent of the city’s voters.Our new Police Commission is one of the strongest and most independent civilian oversight bodies in the country. The City Council will take a vote on July 10 that could affirm that independence—or undermine it.

Larry White

The Coalition for Police Accountability drafted the original City Charter amendment and gave it to the City Council, which made changes and put it on the ballot in 2016.

Unfortunately, the messy process of amending the Charter—the back and forth of compromise and re-drafting the measures, as well as the influence of the police union—resulted in language wasn’t always crystal clear.
At least one important item was left out completely—a civilian Inspector General of the Police Department. Another matter was left murky: can the Commission have its own lawyer, or must its lawyer be under the thumb of the City Attorney.

Although Measure LL twice calls for a “non-City Attorney legal advisor,” City Attorney Barbara Parker says that another section of the Charter overrules the voters’ wishes and makes her the Commission’s legal advisor.
That’s a misreading of the Charter, which gives her office the right to represent the Commission in lawsuits against it but does not require the Commission to request legal advice from her.

Oakland’s Police Department has been under the supervision of a federal judge since 2003. In 2015, Judge Thelton Henderson commissioned attorney Edward Swanson to report on why so many Oakland police officers accused of misconduct were never punished.

Swanson found that the City usually lost the arbitrations that are police officers’ last step in discipline.  “Time and again, the City wrote checks to settle civil lawsuits arising out of police misconduct, only to see the City Attorney’s Office fail to uphold discipline for that very same misconduct,” he wrote.

The City Attorney’s office, Swanson charged, failed to prepare cases, delayed in assigning cases to outside counsel, didn’t select outside counsel with police discipline expertise, and failed to prosecute cases vigorously.
The City Attorney’s office didn’t get evidence ahead of time, rarely if ever called civilian witnesses, and didn’t use outside expert witnesses.

Swanson concluded that “the same problems arose again and again—vague policies, incomplete investigations, unprepared attorneys—with nothing done to ensure that the problems were corrected before they arose again.”

Since then, the City Attorney’s office, under intense scrutiny, has somewhat improved its performance. Swanson was still worried. Eventually, Court supervision will end. “The question, then, is how to make sure that when the Court and the key individuals in the City working on discipline have moved on, the discipline system will not revert to its former, ineffectual state,” wrote Swanson.

That was written before the November 2016 vote that created the Oakland Police Commission.  The Commission was designed by people who believed that the City of Oakland had failed for many years to effectively oversee the police and that none of the City’s existing institutions were capable of doing so.

The Commission’s sole mission is to oversee the Police Department, to promote constitutional policing that is free of racial bias and to make sure that police misconduct is punished effectively.

Court supervision, even if it lasts for another decade, is temporary. The Police Commission is here to stay.
The battle for effective civilian oversight goes on.

When the City Council considers approving an ordinance with a lawyer and an Inspector General reporting to the Police Commission, we hope they will heed the wish of the voters and make the Police Commission as independent and effective as it was designed to be.

The Council should also go one step further: put on this year’s ballot a clean-up to Measure LL that settles these matters once and for all.

Attorney Larry White is a member of the Oakland Coalition for Police Accountability.  He served as a Senior Staff Counsel for the California Department of Insurance from 1992 to 2013. His responsibilities included reviewing and commenting on dozens of pieces of legislation every year as well as drafting new legislation and regulations.

Published June 28, 2018, courtesy of the Oakland Post

 

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

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

Homeless

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Thank you for your attention to our comments.

Endorsers, affiliations, for identification only

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

Councilmembers Not in a Rush to Hold City Accountable for Late Payments to small Businesses and Nonprofits

By Post Staff

A number of speakers at this week’s meeting of the City Council’s Finance Committee asked councilmembers to handle an urgent issue: the failure to hold the city accountable for late payments on contracts, jeopardizing the nonprofits and businesses that depend on the city to honor its agreements.

But following a discussion, councilmembers voted to postpone examining possible solutions to the longstanding problem until September, after the council’s summer vacation.

At present, a local ordinance – passed in 2007 – requires the city to pay vendors a penalty if they are not paid within 20 business days. However, the city interprets the law to mean that it pays only interest, not penalties that would compensate the vendors for expenses they incur for the city’s failure to pay on time.

A report was discussed at Tuesday’s committee meeting at the request of Councilmember Noel Gallo, which shows that while late payments to contractors are a small percentage of the total number of invoices the city pays each year, the numbers have been growing steadily.

“There is a steady increase in the number of late payments,” said Councilmember Abel Guillén, who chairs the committee. He pointed out that the report shows there were 141 late invoices in 2013 and 609 in 2017.

Annie Campbell Washington

A statement by Councilmember Rebecca Kaplan, read by one of her staff members, emphasized the importance of putting teeth into the law.

“This was a hard -ought victory and is now the law in Oakland. It should be taken seriously,” Kaplan said in the statement.

“The failure to pay on time can cause a business or nonprofit to go out of business or be evicted if they can’t pay their rent on time. It can cause workers to be laid off or have their own pay delayed and have ripple effects in service reduction.

“We enacted a prompt payment policy and intended that it would include penalties that would make the policies meaningful, to make sure the policy is truly implemented.”

While the report does describe “token amounts” of interest that is paid, interest if not the same as penalty, Kaplan said.

Richard de Jauregui of the Oakland Private Industry Council (PIC) told council members that small businesses and nonprofits face significant penalties, not only interest, if their rent or payroll taxes are paid even one day late.

As an example, he said that if a business was paid 1 million late for one year, it would receive about $7,300 in penalties from the city.

“(But) the damages to the business (would be) in excess of $75,000,” he said.

Because the issue was only on the agenda as an informational item, the main debate at committee was when to reschedule for possible action.

Finance Director Katano Kasaine proposed scheduling the item for next year after her department had more data.

Councilmembers Annie Campbell Washington and Abel Guillén ignored Councilmember Gallo, who wanted to schedule the discussion in June, instead scheduling the discussion for the end of September.

Published May 12, 2018, courtesy of the Oakland Post

 

Oaklanders Urge City to Take Legal Action Against NFL and Raiders

 

Shown (L t R): Bob Bobbit, Griz Jones, Councilmember Rebecca Kaplan, (behind Kaplan is Geoffrey Pete), Councilmember Noel Gallo and John Jones III.

 

Councilmember At-Large Rebecca Kaplan and Councilmember Noel Gallo stood in solidarity with community members and the “Forever Oakland” group for a press conference May 1

on the steps of City Hall urging the city to take legal action against the NFL and Raiders.

The “Forever Oakland” and “We Stand with Oakland Citizen Driven Initiative are working with Councilmembers Kaplan and Gallo as they request that the Oakland City Council retain, under a contingency-fee agreement, Jim Quinn, Michael Fay with Berg and Andropy and Eric Hochstadt with Weil, Gotsal to explore Oakland’s legal options against the NFL and the Oakland Raiders’ decision to leave Oakland.

“After a year of collecting data and working with several local based community groups, it’s time for the City Attorney’s office and our local municipalities to do what’s right for all Oakland and Alameda County tax payers and push forward to become a client for the #1 Anti-Trust Lawyers within the USA,” according to a media statement released Monday.

“The Forever Oakland / We Stand with Oakland Citizen Driven Initiative has brought “a Gift” to the table that will greatly benefit our community and municipalities. This is a “Win – Win” for everybody. We are in total support of the Oakland City Council to become a client and further explore options in pursuing a law suit against the NFL and the Oakland Raiders,” the media statement said.

According to Councilmember Kaplan, “We must stand up for the tax-payers of Oakland and Alameda County. I’m pleased to have the opportunity to work together with dedicated advocates on this goal”.

“In light of these new developments and the continued public and media interest in this subject, Supervisor Miley, Councilmember Gallo, and I believe that the reasonable and responsible decision is to take advantage of this incredible opportunity and begin exploring the legal action that the citizens of our community are responsibly calling for,” said Assemblyman Rob Bonta.

“These citizens have gone above and beyond to do their part. It is now imperative that we as civic leaders do our part,” he said.

In addition to Kaplan and Gallo, speakers at the press conference included Griz Jones of Forever Oakland, Ray Bobbit of We Stand with Oakland and John Jones III of Forever Oakland.

Published May 6, 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

Post Salon Calls for Moratorium on Sale of Public Land as Market Rate Building Boom Sweeps City

Mayor and City Administration push property sales without transparency or community involvement. Speakers at the Post Salon included (L to R): Margaretta Lin, Councilmember Abel Guillén, Post Publisher Paul Cobb (moderator) and Vanessa Riles (Back to camera). Photo by Ken Epstein.

By Ken Epstein

This past week’s Oakland Post Salon examined a critical issue that underlies many of Oakland’s recurring conflicts: the mayor and administration are rapidly selling to developers the city’s limited numbers of publically owned properties—paid for by taxpayers—without regard to the impact on communities or the needs and wishes of local residents.

Rather than allowing Mayor Libby Schaaf and the City Administrator to continue with their version of Ronald Reagan’s “trickle-down economics,” promising that someday a few of the benefits will reach the people, the community can ask the City Council to stop selling city-owned parcels as investments for market-rate housing and high-priced office buildings for the wealthy, according to speakers at the Post Salon.

Vanessa Riles

Instead, the city can use public lands for community needs such as grocery stores, playgrounds, affordable housing, solutions to homelessness and office space for the nonprofits that serve the community, the speakers said  The Salon agreed unanimously at its April 29 meeting to call on the City Council to pass a moratorium on sale of public land, except for real affordable housing, until the council passes a strong policy requiring that 100 percent of city-owned land should be utilized for community needs, prioritizing community land trusts that promote long-term leases instead of sale of public land.

In addition, the moratorium calls for a process that requires the mayor and administration to be fully transparent in its dealings with the public, involving affected communities in decisions on how to use the land.  In addition, decisions should be made in public rather than secretly behind closed doors, as so often happens at present.

The panel of speakers at the Salon, which was held at Geoffrey’s Inner Circle in downtown Oakland, were Vanessa Riles of the Citywide Anti-Displacement Network, City Councilmember Abel Guillén and Margaretta Lin, former city staffer and executive director of the Dellums Institute for Social Justice.

“Oakland is the epicenter for the racial displacement crisis,” said Margaretta Lin, pointing out that rents in the city have increased 63 percent since 2014, causing widespread evictions and an “explosion of homelessness.”

An answer to this crisis is within the city’s grasp, if it has the political will, she said. Citing reports, she said that Oakland has 2,400 publicly owned land parcels, 50 of which have been earmarked as suitable for affordable housing and capable of accommodating over 7,300 new housing units.

“Oakland is becoming the next San Francisco,” said Lin, adding that affordable housing advocates across the Bay tell her the lesson they have learned is that Oaklanders should “hold down land.”

However, she said, “We have a mayor and city administration that is not friendly to this.”

At present, “We have this policy vacuum,” she said.  “The city does not have a policy.”

Citing studies, Lin said that as of December 2017, Oakland has 20,000 market rate housing units under construction or in the pipeline, while there are less than 1,500 affordable units that are being built, she said.

Truly affordable housing would be available to the majority of Oakland renters, who have an average annual income of $36,000 a year for a family of four, she said. But the units that the city labels as affordable often require family incomes of as much as $100,000 a year or more.

Councilmember Guillén in his remarks pointed out that California has one of the highest numbers of homeless in the country, 140,000 people statewide, “and it’s getting worse.”

“The city has not had a clear process on how we deal with public land,” which has allowed “sweetheart deals” with individual developers, he said.

“Our process is not transparent at all,” Guillén continued, adding that “right now we are not building enough affordable housing. What we have right now is not good. The number is not good.”

Rather than build affordable housing and market-rate housing in separate locations, all new construction should include affordable housing, he said.

“Every project should have at least 15 percent affordable housing, if not more,” he said.

Vanessa Riles said that those at the table when decisions on public land are made must be indigenous people, low-income residents and Black people—those who have been experiencing the violence of displacement since the beginning.
“Public land should be used for public good. Period. The decisions should be made by the public and the most vulnerable populations, the people who live in the places that are being developed.”

She called for rejecting present policies with “loop holes,” which allow the city administration to do anything it wants.

“Staff has been able to go forward because (existing) policy has not been strong enough. I want the city to actually mitigate displacement and homelessness in Oakland,” she said.

There are many different organizations in the city with different ideas and priorities about what should be done, Riles continued. She said she supports “deep levels of community engagement, (the formation) of a community advisory committee and prioritizing the public good: maybe it’s a grocery store, a community garden or low-cost clinic.”

The City Council has the authority to stand up to the mayor and the administration, she said. “It’s question of political will.”

Community members are backing the proposal for a moratorium on the sale of public lands at the City Council’s Rules and Legislation Committee, Thursday, May 10, 10:45 a.m., in Oakland City Council Chambers.

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

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.