Category: Transportation

A’s Stadium Proposal “Is a Once in a Lifetime Opportunity,” Say Fans and Local Businesses

Carl Chan

By Ken Epstein

Supporters are mobilizing to support the latest proposal to keep the Oakland A’s from moving out of Oakland –  to build a 35,000-seat stadium next to Laney College and Lake Merritt that would transform both the immediate area and all of downtown Oakland.

The A’s corporation is seeking to purchase the property currently occupied by the Peralta Community College District headquarters, and the company appears willing to negotiate a number of community benefits to sweeten the deal.

The final decision will be made by the elected Peralta Board of Trustees.

Backers of the deal include many A’s fans and supporters of what is often called the “growth coalition,” regional alliances that exist in most metropolitan areas, composed of real estate developers, contractors, financiers, many local politicians and construction unions.

Andreas Cluver

One A’s fan who spoke at the Oct. 10 Peralta board meeting was Jennifer Medeiros, who has lived in Oakland for 19 years. She calls herself a “passionate A’s fan”

“I’ve been involved in efforts to try to keep the team in Oakland since 2001,” she said. “This is the first time I believe the Athletics are truly committed to Oakland and working with the community to build a premier experience for the fans and to be a model of collaboration between public and private entities.”

Andreas Cluver, secretary-treasurer of the Alameda County Building and Construction Trades Council told board members he believes a deal can be negotiated that is a “win-win” for the Oakland community and the A’s.

“We have been partnering and talking with them, and they are fully committed to having strong local hire provisions for not only Oakland residents but for residents of the impacted area,” Cluver said. “We think that spirit will carry into the discussions around community benefits, benefits for the community college and benefits for Oakland residents.”

Carl Chan, who has worked in Oakland Chinatown for 40 years, is a member of the Chinatown Chamber of Commerce and the Oakland Neighborhood Crime Prevention Council NCPC).

“This is a once in a lifetime opportunity,” for Oakland and the Chinatown community, he said.

“I want to embrace the potential improvements: public safety, business opportunities, jobs and resources to improve our community, especially workforce housing,” he said.

“I’m not here to support a ballpark, but I’m here to support a project with ballpark that will benefit the city,” he said, emphasizing that there will be many obstacles to overcome, including traffic congestion in the area.

Jose Macias, a member  of the family that owns La Estrellita Restaurant at 446 E. 12th St. in Oakland, said the ballpark would be a shot in the arm for local business.

“(Like) many merchants, we feel this would be a great thing. We could have more foot traffic, revitalize our area…(bringing) safety, which is much needed,” said Macias.

“Remember, the A’s are family, really family,” he added.

Another speaker was a fan named John who moved away from Oakland 32 years ago but comes back 40 times a year for A’s games.

“In San Jose, people ask me if I feel safe going to Oakland at night,” he said.

“I say yes I do. And that’s because there is a major league baseball stadium there. There’s a police presence there. There’s security there. I feel safe,” he said. “I know if there was a stadium built (downtown), that would improve this area, along with all the jobs and opportunities like that.”

Published October 30, 2017, courtesy of the Oakland Post

Health Dangers of Coal Spark Local Debate

Operators at the Spring Creek Mine near Decker, Mont., apply a topper agent as rail cars are loaded with coal to reduce the amount of dust and coal lost during transportation.Photo courtesy of Jo Dee Black, Great Falls Mont.Tribune

Operators at the Spring Creek Mine near Decker, Mont., apply a topper agent as rail cars are loaded with coal to reduce the amount of dust and coal lost during transportation.Photo courtesy of Jo Dee Black, Great Falls Mont.Tribune.

By Tulio Ospina

As hundreds rallied at Oakland City Hall Tuesday protesting possible coal shipments through the developing Oakland Army Base, health concerns were one of the key issues that people raised.

In particular, the effects of exporting 5 million tons of coal per year on the respiratory health of West Oakland residents—who already suffer from some of the highest asthma rates in Alameda County—have been at the forefront of the debate.

According to experts, Alameda County has the third highest asthma-related hospitalization rates of all California counties and 24 percent of children in West Oakland suffer from asthma.

This health disparity has been mostly attributed to a combination of urban poverty, lack of routine healthcare and diesel pollution caused by constant cargo ship and truck traffic.

Dan Jaffe, professor of atmospheric and environmental chemistry at the University of Washington-Bothell, says that after years of studying the impacts of coal in the atmosphere, he believes there are environmental reasons to be concerned.

Regardless of whether coal dust is ever exposed to California air, the west coast of the U.S. would be contributing to its own air and sea pollution by shipping coal to Asia, where dust, ozone smog and mercury would be carried over on westerly winds.

“Pollutants can be transported in 7 to 10 days at high elevations and then touch down here in the US to contribute to the pollution that we breathe,” said Jaffe. “The amount of ozone coming from Asia can cause cities to go beyond their own ozone standards.”

Jaffe also claims that the majority of human-produced mercury found in seafood consumed by the United States comes from Asian coal burning.

The Sierra Club, a leader in the anti-coal fight, has taken a strong position on the carbon fuel’s health dangers.

“Transporting the coal via rail car to the port will increase train traffic and pollution in an area already overburdened by bad air,” according to a press release from the Sierra Club’s Bay Area chapter.

“Each open-top rail car of coal can lose up to one ton of dust between the mines and the port, resulting in the release of 60,000 pounds of toxic fine particulate matter in communities near the rails,” the press release said.

According to Brian Beveridge, co-director of the West Oakland Environmental Indicators Project (WOEIP), coal dust contains carcinogen and is most likely the cause of black lung and can lead to respiratory ailments such as asthma and lung cancer.

However, supporters of a coal deal claim shipping coal out of Oakland will not harm residents or workers, citing proposals to transport the coal in sealed cars and load cargo ships in ways that limit coal particles being released into the air.

In a statement released Thursday, Oakland Army Base developer Phil Tagami emphasized that no commitment has been made yet to transport any particular commodity through the bulk export terminal.

Tagami said that with whatever commodity shipped through Oakland, all rail transport “will occur utilizing newly designed covered rail cars and other measures to minimize and potentially eliminate fugitive dust issues.”

Dr. Washington Burns, executive director of the Prescott-Joseph Center and founder of the mobile asthma clinic, called the Breathmobile, says he is neutral on passing coal through Oakland but supports the export if the promised physical protections are fully implemented.

(To read Phil Tagami’s July 23 statement, go to http://postnewsgroup.com/blog/2015/07/23/op-ed-developer-phil-tagami-responds-debate-coal-transport-army-base/)

Courtesy of the Oakland Post, July 19, 2015 (postnewsgroup.com)

Mayor Says No to Coal

“We will not have coal shipped through our city,” Says Schaff

Environmental activists rally recently in front of Oakland Army Base developer Phil Tagami ‘s office in Frank Ogawa Plaza. Photo courtesy of Occupy Oakland.

Environmental activists rallied recently in front of Oakland Army Base developer Phil Tagami ‘s office in Frank Ogawa Plaza. Photo courtesy of Occupy Oakland.

 By Tulio Ospina

In a sharp email exchange, Oakland Mayor Libby Schaaf has blasted local developer Phil Tagami for moving ahead with a deal to export coal out of the former Oakland Army Base.

Libby Schaff

Libby Schaff

The digital dispute was documented in an email exchange that the Sierra Club obtained through a Public Records Act request.

In 2013, Tagami had said use of the Army Base to bring coal to Oakland by rail and ship it abroad was the farthest thing from his mind. He said that his company, California Capital and Investment Group (CCIG), had “no interest or involvement in the pursuit of coal-related operations at the former Oakland Army Base.”

But that was then.

Schaaf wrote in an email to Tagami, dated May 11, that she was “extremely disappointed to once again hear” mention of the “possibility of shipping coal into Oakland” during a community breakfast.

Phil Tagami

Phil Tagami

“Stop it immediately,” Schaaf wrote. “You have been awarded the privilege and opportunity of a lifetime to develop this unique piece of land. You must respect the owner and public’s decree that we will not have coal shipped through our city.”

In response to the mayor’s email, Tagami explained that by entering into a binding contract with Terminal and Logistics Solutions (TLS), he and the city had agreed to “a complete transfer of our rights and obligations with respect to the terminal operations under the ground lease.”

Additionally, he states the scope of the binding deal “is not driven or defined by any single commodity, product, or good in transit,” claiming that the city cannot legally restrict what products flow through the rail terminal development.

What is essential to the new facility’s financial and legal viability, said Tagami, is “the ability to accommodate the full universe of bulk goods,” which includes coal.

Tagami claims that the binding legal contract signed by the city gives it no control over what commodities can be shipped. But according to a number of community members, under the contract’s “Regulation for Health and Safety” clause, the city can apply regulations for health-related reasons.

Sierra Club image

Sierra Club campaign

The clause states that the city has the right to apply regulations at any time after the agreement’s adoption if failure to do so “would place existing or future occupants or users of the project, adjacent neighbors, or any portion thereof, or all of them, in a condition substantially dangerous to their health or safety.”

According to Brian Beveridge, co-director of the West Oakland Environment Indicators Project (WOEIP) and an West Oakland resident, there is ample evidence that shipping coal through Oakland would be detrimental to residents’ health.

“Coal dust is related to diesel pollution and the burning of fossil fuels,” said Beveridge. “It contains carcinogens and is likely the cause of black lung disease and asthma.”

“The whole community’s health is at stake,” he said. “Our advances in cleaning air in West Oakland are at stake. The city’s pride in calling itself a green city is at stake.”

Community observers have also criticized the city’s lack of transparency in negotiations with developers of city land. The examples, they say, include the Oakland Army Base and sale of the parcel at Lake Merritt and East 12th Street.

“It’s completely in line with all these other development deals happening behind closed doors where the public is being cut out of the conversation,” said Jess Dervin-Ackerman of the Sierra Club’s San Francisco Bay Area chapter.

“All these proposals are on city-owned land and should be used for community benefits. What City Council is doing is just letting developers have at it.”

“We’re ready to back Mayor Schaaf if she’s ready to stand up and say ‘no’ to coal,” said Beveridge. “Oakland is unanimously opposed to shipping coal to or out of our city.”

Courtesy of the Oakland Post, July 10, 2015 (postnewsgroup.com)

Lynette McElhaney Puts Damper on Tagami’s Coal Plan

Demonstrators rallied Thursday morning out the Rotunda Building in downtown Oakland where Phil Tagami's office is located, calling on him to keep his promise not to ship coal through the Port of Oakland. Photo by Ethan Bruckner.

Demonstrators rallied Thursday morning out the Rotunda Building in downtown Oakland where Phil Tagami’s office is located, calling on him to keep his promise not to ship coal through the Port of Oakland. Photo by Ethan Bruckner.

By Ashley Chambers

News has spread of developer Phil Tagami’s plan to negotiate a deal with four counties in Utah to ship coal to a new export terminal at the Oakland Army Base that could begin operation as early as 2017.

However, opposition by city officials and community activists indicate tat they are many in the city who have no intentions of allowing the greenhouse gas producing material to be exported from the city’s port.

Last month, the Utah Permanent Community Impact Fund Board approved a $53 million loan to the four counties – Sevier, Sanpete, Carbon and Emery – to lease a large share of the Oakland terminal to export five to six million tons of coal each year.

Moving forward with this project would directly conflict with a resolution passed by the Oakland City Council last year “opposing the transport of coal, oil, petcoke (a byproduct of the oil refining process) and other hazardous materials by railways and waterways within the city.”

Council President Lynette Gibson McElhaney, whose district includes West Oakland, the Oakland Army Base and the Port of Oakland, has voiced her opposition to the export of coal from city land, saying, “West Oakland cannot be subjected to another dirty industry in its backyard.”

“We were told that this new terminal on city property would increase economic growth, but I see coal exports as the Trojan horse in the development of the Oakland Army Base. It is not the type of economic development that we want – no thank you!”

McElhaney said, “Since coal was not contemplated to be exported when the Army Base Development project was approved, the community has not yet had the chance to make their voices heard on this subject. This is unacceptable.”

Last year, Port Commissioners voted to reject a proposal to construct a coal export terminal.

Activists rallied Thursday across from Oakland City Hall in front of the Rotunda building – where Tagami’s California Capital & Investment Group (CCIG) is located – demanding that the developer keep the promise he made to bring no coal into Oakland.

“CCIG is publicly on record as having no interest or involvement in the pursuit of coal-related operations at the former Oakland Army Base,” Tagami wrote in a 2013 newsletter.

Coal is one of the largest producers of carbon dioxide. The health impacts of bringing this fossil fuel to the city would affect residents, workers at the port, and disintegrate the global environment.

Photo by Ethan Buckner.

Photo by Ethan Buckner.

Former Port of Oakland executives Omar Benjamin and Jerry Bridges, who were supporters of the failed coal terminal proposal in 2014, are involved in the project with Tagami and recently met with the West Oakland Environmental Indicators Project (WOEIP) and explained their plans to use “clean” coal.

They said they would use clean, contained cargo shipping train cars that will be unloaded inside contained warehouses. Clean coal refers to the process of capturing and storing carbon dioxide emissions underground.

It has also been said that coal would be covered on the trains to reduce the spill of coal dust.

However, these efforts will not eliminate the health effects that the West Oakland community will be exposed to, according to many.

Jess Dervin-Ackerman, Conservation Manager of the Bay Area Sierra Club, said harmful health impacts would take effect immediately “in a community already overburdened with air pollution, and diesel particulates from trucks, trains, and ships.”

Residents would experience higher risks of asthma, heart and lung disease, and cancer from “one of the dirtiest energies on the planet,” she said.

Local residents would be exposed to coal dust and diesel particulates in the air that they can easily breathe in, even through walls, and enter into their lungs and blood stream, explained Dervin-Ackerman, a resident of Emeryville.

“We have to be moving away from these fuels if we want to have food and a world to live in that isn’t blazing hot, or flooded under rising sea levels, ” said Brian Beveridge of WOEIP.

Courtesy of the Oakland Post, May 16, 2015 (postnewsgroup.com)

Richmond Seeks Support for “Cybertran” Ultralight Rail Transit System

Cybertran rendering

Cybertran rendering

By Post Staff

The Richmond City Council has agreed to continue searching for federal and state dollars to fund an innovative transit system that could bring a high-tech passenger rail transit system to the city along with thousands of manufacturing jobs and billions in economic revitalization.

The council unanimously agreed to pursue the funding following a presentation from CyberTran International on March 24. The city hopes to be the first city in the world to implement the transit program.

Dexter Vizinau

Dexter Vizinau

“We’re excited about this project,” said Richmond City Councilwoman Jovanka Beckles, a strong advocate for the project. “This is important on so many different levels. It’s going to bring much-needed jobs to Richmond and renown to the city, too. We would be the first in the country to launch a program like this – it’s pretty amazing.”

When the project begins it could bring thousands of construction and manufacturing jobs, approximately 50 transit operator positions, about 100 new vehicle construction technicians and an estimated $13.5 billion in economic activity with increased property values and new businesses.

The CyberTran project could solve a lot of Richmond’s transportation goals and priorities including a long-standing desire to connect the city’s Hilltop area with areas like downtown, Parchester Village and the Marina that have not happened because it’s been cost-prohibitive, Beckles said.

“This could connect the city in ways not possible with AC Transit nor BART,” she said.

Dexter Vizinau, president of CyberTran said he specifically chose Richmond as the site of CyberTran because it will help the city.

“I could have moved the company to Silicon Valley and we would be a lot further along than we are,” he said. “But I moved to the City of Richmond because I wanted to move where the jobs are needed most and the city that needs it most is Richmond.”

CyberTran is developing a network of computer-automated, solar-powered trains that actually are more like large passenger cars, which can transport up to 20 passengers at a time.

Each vehicle will move non-stop, direct to destination.

Because of the smaller size of the vehicles, they are easier to build and implement and much cheaper than traditional rail systems. The computer-operated railcars, which are smaller than Disney Monorail cars, could be summoned and arrive to various locations on demand.

President Barack Obama is a proponent for reducing greenhouse emissions and has promoted the idea of environmentally-friendly, sustainable cars and transit projects. He approved a federal funding bill in December 2014 that could provide funding for projects like CyberTran in Richmond, according to Vizinau.

The Richmond City Council voted unanimously in September to enter a public-private partnership with CyberTran.

On Feb. 14, another agency, i-Gate, also signed an agreement with the company. The state-sponsored business incubator i-GATE has asked CyberTran to participate in a network of green transportation and clean-energy technologies, where the company can access advanced industry and technology development opportunities.

There are a total of five US cities and one in China that are working to deploy the transit technology, he said.

Vizinau and company representatives have also visited Richmond’s sister city Zhoushan, China four times in the past year and is also working to implement CyberTran there in hopes of making that city the first international site with the technology.

“It’s going to be phenomenal to be getting people out of their cars and good for the climate and good for mobility of Richmond residents,” Beckles said.

Courtesy of the Post News Group, April 5, 2015 (postnewsgroup.com)

City Council Votes to Protect Businesses in the Path of Coliseum City Project

By Ken Epstein

The City Council voted Tuesday to keep residential development out of the Oakland Airport Business Park, passing the Coliseum Area Specific Plan without the the zoning amendments that would allow market-rate condominiums and apartments to be built in the area.

Dexter Vizinau

Dexter Vizinau

Councilmembers overwhelmingly passed the community-backed motion to preserve the 150 businesses and 8,000 jobs that would have likely have been displaced over time.

Councilmember Rebecca Kaplan said she had heard community members’ concerns that the specific plan could eliminate the business park and that she was backing changes that would protect local businesses and jobs.

“I offered the amendment to remove housing from the (business park) zoning that is before us,” Kaplan said. “I have verified that the development team is fine with the change.”

Backing the amendments to the amendments to the plan developed by staff and consultants, Councilmember Desley Brooks said, “It’s important that we retain industrial land in this city. Loss of jobs happens when industrial lands go away.”

Businessman Dexter Vizinau spoke in favor of the change. “ It’s great to see this project moving forward. It’s about business retention, business expansion and business attraction,” he said.

“Not every kid wants to sell popcorn, clean a bathroom or punch a cash register. We want to make things. We want to build things.”

Rev. Damita Davis-Howard

Rev. Damita Davis-Howard

Also speaking at the meeting were representatives of a coalition of East Oakland residents who are determined that any “New City¨ Coliseum agreement that the council signs with a developer must contain iron-clad community benefits.

Among the groups in the coalition are Oakland Community Organizations (OCO), Just Cause/Causa Justa, East Bay Housing Organizations (EBHO) and Communities for a Better Environment (CBE)

Residents are deeply concerned about avoiding higher rents, providing decent jobs for workers in East Oakland and affordable housing for people who earn less than $50,000 a year.

“The threat of displacement of thousands of residents has not been addressed adequately,” said Rev. Damita Davis-Howard of OCO.

“We need to develop strategies now that will protect residents 10 years from now,” she said. “The project should protect and invest in the exiting culture of our city.”

The city currently has an Exclusive Negotiating Agreement (ENA) with a development team that is working on funding and talking to the Raiders and the A’s.

The ENA expires in August but could be extended.

Courtesy of the Oakland Post, April 3, 2015 (postnewsgroup.com)

Community Pushes for AC Transit Project without Displacement

Organizers who attended the Bus Rapid Transit community meeting Wednesday evening at Allen Temple in East Oakland are (L to R): left to Right: Redana Johnson, Towanda Sherry, Esther Goolsby, Cesar Fragoso, Jorge Hernandez, Mabel Tsang, Marina Muñoz, Omyinye Alheri, Davida Small, Evelyn Sanchez. ​ Photo by Nikolas Zelinski.

By Nikolas Zelinski

Neighbors gathered at Allen Temple Baptist Church in East Oakland Wednesday night to discuss their concerns about the new AC Transit project, called Bus Rapid Transit (BRT).

The project will build high-speed bus service along International Boulevard between downtown Oakland and San Leandro, operating in the middle of the roadway.

Since the project was first announced, concerns have been raised the number of bus stops will be reduced and parking on International will be eliminated, negatively impacting seniors and people with disabilities, as well as small business and their customers.

One of the evening’s panelists, Nehanda Imara of Communities for a Better Environment (CBE), said that she knows first-hand how large-scale transportation infrastructure projects have the power to tear up neighborhoods, examining the negative impacts of BART and Highway 880.

She said that these developments rarely do anything to help the people that live around the projects. “(BRT) must benefit the people who already live here,” Imara said.

Another panelist was Isaiah Tony of the Alliance of Californians for Community Empowerment (ACCE) said that BRT does not respond adequately to current complaints from bus riders.

“The stuff I hear from riders is the bus doesn’t come on time, or I’m late to work. I’ve even talked to people who have been fired from their jobs because the bus wasn’t on time for five days in a row,” said Tony.

“I’ve heard stories about people in wheelchairs being passed by a bus because it was full,” he continued. “When we turn around and look at the BRT, does it solve the problems that we’re raising? A little bit yes, and a little bit no.”

The BRT will be a 9.5-mile public bus line that is designed to reduce traffic congestion and improve efficiency of bus service by creating bus-only lanes, reducing the number of bus stops, reducing parking, and constructing centralized bus stations.

These stations will be placed in the middle of the street, and around one third of a mile apart. Stations will feature level platforms, overhangs with powerful lighting, and bus ticket machines.

Responding to the concerns that were raised, AC Transit Media Affairs Manager Clarence L. Johnson said, “AC Transit is not necessarily trying to promote gentrification. We are primarily interested in making sure that the corridor doesn’t become impassible in the next 10-20 years.”

Johnson also confirmed that around 500 parking spaces will be lost as a result of the project but added that the number will likely be much lower by the time the project is completed.

Also, AC Transit has purchased a few vacant lots to convert into parking areas, so that “there will not be any losses in any crucial commercial area,” according to Johnson.

Construction is set to begin by the end of 2015 and fully operable by November 2017.

The Allen Temple meeting was co-hosted by Just Cause/Causa Justa, Community Planning Leadership program (CPL), and the Oakland Sustainable Neighborhood Initiative (OSNI).

 Courtesy of the Oakland Post, March 21, 2015 (postnewsgroup.com)

Coliseum City Proposal Remains in Play; Community Raises Questions

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

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

By Ken Epstein

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Mayoral Candidates Consider Plan to Activate Community Involvement

 Community task forces designed to debate, develop and implement city policy were an innovation established in Oakland almost a decade ago (shown above). Some people are now seeking to build on that experience  to establish new task forces to involve and empower residents in an ongoing way.

Community task forces designed to debate, develop and implement city policy were an innovation established in Oakland almost a decade ago (shown above). Some people are now seeking to build on that experience to establish new task forces to involve and empower residents in an ongoing way.

By Post Staff

Several of Oakland’s mayoral candidates have expressed interest in creating communitywide action task forces that could potentially involve hundreds of Oakland residents in developing, passing and implementing policies that will affect the future of the city.

The goal of this process would be to take residents out of their traditional role as passive observers of city decisions or participants who try to intervene at the eleventh hour to halt or modify policies and ordinances they do not support that are advocated by city staff, the mayor or City Council.

Proposals so far include task forces on the arts, jobs, economic development, youth and education, police accountability and public safety, housing and tenant rights, protections and encouragement of small businesses, increased transparency and public involvement in city government and creating opportunities for the formerly incarcerated.

Participants would volunteer for a task force in which they have interest and expertise.

Elected officials would be asked to pledge to support active community involvement by bringing completed task force proposals to the City Council for a full discussion and a vote.

A similar task force process was pioneered during the administration of Mayor Ron Dellums, which involved 900 residents for a number of months, and led to about 150 polices and programs being proposed and about 80 being implemented.

These policies and programs included the first-ever appointment of a resident of West Oakland to the Port Commission; an industrial land-use policy; removal of a barrier to local hire policy; the creation of a Business Assistance Center;“Banning the box” on city applications; creating a position within the Mayor’s office to work on the re-entry of previously incarcerated individuals;  and continuing the compliance period on the Riders consent decree.

Other initiatives included a successful project to diversify the teaching force; return of the school district to local control; “green workforce development,” enhancing the “culture of learning” which led to yearly Back to School rallies at City Hall; anti-drop-out initiatives; and health services in the schools.

Already, the Post has received an offer of $10,000 to help facilitate this community engagement process.

Anyone interested in participating in a task force can send their name and area of interest to oaktaskforce@gmail.com

Courtesy of the Oakland Post, October 24, 2014 (postnewsgroup.com)

Army Base Developer Gets Amnesia on Promises to Hire West Oakland Workers

By Ken Epstein

City agent and Army Base developer Phil Tagami of CCIG lashed out recently in an email newsletter against West Oakland community and environmental activist Margaret Gordon as one of a “handful of critics” who have “publically questioned

Phil Tagami

Phil Tagami

whether the project is creating ‘enough’ jobs” and claimed that “more jobs should be going to West Oakland and African American residents.”

“In reality, there rightly was not a provision in the jobs policies that a particular Oakland neighborhood or ethnicity would receive a priority over another,” according to Tagami’s email “Oakland Global Newsletter” at the end of August.

According to Tagami’s newsletter, African Americans so far have obtained 15.3 percent of the hours worked on the project – about 46 percent below what they should be receiving as 28 percent of Oakland’s population.

Tagami’s present position, however, is at odds with the “consensus “agreement produced by the Jobs Working Group that included community members, labor and city representatives, on Oct. 27, 2011.

The Jobs Working Group met for nearly four years and was facilitated by then Councilmember Jane Brunner for its last year and a half. The report on the consensus agreement was submitted to the City Council on Jan. 24, 2012.

“The goal for local hire is 50 percent of work hours for Oakland residents … with first priority being given to zip codes that comprise West Oakland and City Council District 3, and second priority to areas within the Oakland Enterprise Zone Targeted Employment Area,” according to the Recommendations from the Jobs Working Group on Employment-Related Community Benefits for the Development and Operations at the Former Oakland Army Base.

Margaret Gordon

Margaret Gordon

In the course of the working group’s meetings, there was a recognition and eventual consensus agreement on the need to hire African Americans in jobs in the building trades from which they have been traditionally excluded.

Since legal constraints do not allow for race-based preferences or goals, the working group decided to utilize zip codes with high numbers of African Americans and low income workers. This approach was worked out in consultation with the U.S. Labor Department , according to Gordon and Brian Beveridge, who were both involved in the working group.

“We never said anything about African Americans.. We just talked about West Oakland,” said Gordon.

Further, Gordon and Beveridge say that Tagami and city consultant Julian Gross have been trying to portray them as going back on an agreement they helped to negotiate. Gross was hired by the city as a recognized expert on community benefits agreements.

Tagami criticized Gordon for telling the Oakland Post, “People negotiated one thing, but then the agreement went to labor and other ‘stakeholders,’ and it was changed before it went to the City Council.”

“The notion that there were surprise twists and something was changed in the backroom without everyone who signed the cooperation agreement knowing about it, is not a fair or accurate representation of the city’s process,” according to Gross, quoted in Tagami’s newsletter.army base

“It’s one place they’re trying to adjust history,” said Beveridge. “We were part of a working group that was collaborating to figure out how to get people hired.”

“We never got to sit at the table while the unions and the developer and the contractor were actually in negotiations. .We had (then assistant City Administrator) Fred Blackwell and Julian Gross representing our interests in those negotiations.”

“We wanted to sit at the negotiating table, but we were told by Blackwell that Phil Tagami would not meet with us at the table,” said Gordon.

When the final negotiated agreement went to the City Council, Beveridge and Gordon were told that this was best agreement they could obtain and that all other parties were going along with the agreement.

“They act now like we’re being bad sports” to complain about the agreement, said Beveridge.

“We were asking for them to lower the barriers so that people could get into the jobs,” Beveridge added. ”Maybe we made a mistake signing the (agreement) – then we would be not be getting used the way we are now.”

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