Restorative Justice in Oakland and Beyond-a Wellstone Club Discussion with Fania Davis and Malachi Scott

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What is Restorative Justice and How It Is Being Implemented 
in Oakland and Beyond 

Fania E. Davis, Oakland attorney and director of Restorative Justice for Oakland Youth (RJOY), will speak at the Wellstone Democratic Renewal Club meeting on Thursday, February 26, 2015, at 7 pm at the Humanist Hall, 390 27th Street, Oakland.  Ms. Davis will discuss Restorative Justice principles, practices, data, with applications in Oakland.  She will also touch on how Restorative Justice might be used to address police violence and structural racism.  A potluck dinner begins at 6 pm; please bring food to share.

The dramatic successes of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission in healing the wounds of mass violence in South Africa and of restorative juvenile justice legislation in making youth incarceration virtually obsolete in New Zealand inspired civil rights attorney and community activist Fania E. Davis to explore the possibility of an Oakland initiative.

A leader since 2005 in bringing restorative justice policies and practices to Northern California, Restorative Justice for Oakland Youth interrupts cycles of violence, incarceration, and wasted lives by promoting restorative justice policies and practices in schools, communities, and in the juvenile justice system. RJOY’s advocacy and successes at its first pilot site in eliminating violence, reducing racially disparate suspensions, and increasing academic outcomes led the Oakland school district to adopt restorative justice as official policy in 2010. In 2007, there was only one restorative justice school site. Today, there are almost 30. RJOY’s work with formerly incarcerated youth has led to lowered recidivism.

CONTACT
Jack Kurzweil
jack.kurzweil@gmail.com
510-292-8757

The Living Wage, BART Protestors, and Charter Schools, a Blog for Friday the 13th, Oakland

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Today’s blog is just a Friday-the-13th-kinda-thing -lots of seemingly strange stuff happening in the Town lately. Since we don’t know yet what might come out of it all, keep your eyes open and proceed with caution.

For one, last Tuesday the City Council subcommittee for economic development, in the name of that very concept, offered to give away the wages of struggling Oaklanders, East Oaklanders, many of whom continue to survive against great odds. Here’s the story as I’ve gleaned it- a developer started working with the City way back when there was redevelopment funding to secure a nice commercial parcel for development in Desley Brooks district at Seminary and Foothill, and she worked with him to make it happen. Millions of dollars in tax credits later including an extra capital fund of  $1.2 million, the developer will be paying about $6000 for the property which already has an anchor tenant in Walgreens.

Now let that sink in, $6000 is less than a down payment on a condo in most of Oakland, but, of course, this corner of Oakland sits at the beginning of the retail desert that extends all the way to San Leandro (but don’t tell that to the hard working businesses on International.) Residents of that area were happy to hear that a full-service Walgreens, which sells all the stuff your average chain drugstore carries plus food, would come in and bring other needed tenants. In an area with limited walkability due to the lack of offerings and the level of crime, this project was very welcome.

Here it starts getting confusing-if you weren’t bewildered enough by all the monies that developers and corporations manage to secure in an era when Oakland had long ago shuttered its adult schools and reduced public safety staffing, etc, etc-we have two laws that govern wages for the lowest paid workers. From what I’ve read in social media, people are using them interchangeably but they are different.

Back in 1998 a living wage ordinance was passed so that businesses that received subsidies or contracts from the city would be required to offer a wage that a person could live on-although the actual wage needed for life in the East Bay these days now hovers around $25 an hour-rather than the $14.10 currently required. Our new minimum wage that was fought for and won by a coalition of advocacy groups and labor unions is only $12.25 per hour but it’s still the highest in the area, at least until nearby cities pass proposed increases that may match or surpass ours.

Back to the project, as it was nearing the point of lease signing  with Walgreens, etc, a city staff report surfaced that the developer wanted a waiver to get out of paying the required “living wage” as per the ordinance in order to secure Walgreens. The old fear rose up in City Hall among city staff and council members that, once again, East Oakland might lose out.

Oh, another wrinkle is that the living wage only requires $12.27 an hour, 2 cents more than the new minimum wage so no big deal, right? The higher wage, $14.10, only gets implemented if the employer does not offer healthcare or some type of benefits package. Some proponents assume that with Obamacare (the ACA) employees will get healthcare anyway but that is only if the employee can get 30 hours of work a week. You may have heard that many employers are not offering 30 hours, even cutting their hours, so they can circumvent the ACA, and there’s the rub.

When some of the advocacy groups that worked for Measure FF, the new minimum wage, found out that staff was recommending that the waiver be granted, they showed up at the Community Economic Development meeting and objected to giving waivers willy nilly, particularly to large corporate chains. But folks from the neighborhood-to be fair some of the advocacy groups members also live in the area-heard from Councilmember Brooks that they needed to lobby for the waiver in order to get the project built. They seemed to feel under attack from “outside groups” who are actually Oakland community organizers who see the very real threat of gentrification-development that makes a neighborhood more desirable, thus raising rents and prices, without the attendant increase in local income for residents who have persevered through the worst of times.

I turned on to watch the meeting expecting a battle royale between labor, anti-gentrification groups and the proponents of the project. What I saw was that a few folks from groups like EBASE (East Bay Alliance for a Sustainable Economy), Causa Justa, and a union or two had shown up. They spoke in favor of the project and against the waiver and the need for Oakland residents to get something out of all the government tax credits, city staff time, and valuable property the chain was getting to utilize. At a time when the economic boom seems to be luring lots of businesses to Oakland, it seemed weird to assume Walgreens would not like to come, especially as there is so little competition in that area as pointed out repeatedly by the proponents.

I was surprised, chagrined really to see how quickly the council members on the committee, plus Noel Gallo, and Ms. Brooks asserted that, indeed, Walgreens would leave and the project would collapse. There was not even a peep of negotiating or possibly sunsetting the waiver (did I miss something?) So this waiver was granted to a giant corporation on the eve of the new minimum wage going into effect, not to a small business or struggling local entrepreneur, or non-profit doling out wages from federal grants, no a giant successful chain. The TV news got hold of that part of the story, the struggling small business part, and it gained traction, I’m guessing, on the evening news. IMG_20141201_212805

No one knows what really happened but maybe someone at Walgreens got wind of how it would look for them to refuse an extra $1.45 an hour in wages and declared that they did not intend to ask for a waiver of city laws. Now the project may go forward and the amount of the living wage will hinge on whether Walgreens avoids granting enough hours to its employees to enroll them in healthcare. I certainly hope the city is a better watchdog of its own laws in the future than it was last week, but everyone who worked on Measure FF needs to prepare themselves to continue the fight.

Now let’s talk about BART and civil disobedience for a minute.

The BART board voted just the other day to back off demanding retaliatory fines from the Black Friday 14 (however, that doesn’t mean the DA will have to abide by their resolution) but they maintained that the DA should go ahead with criminal charges. So, many people are still demanding that the District Attorney drop them. Or are they? If you look at social media, you will see that there is a difference of opinion among some of those folks calling themselves “supporters”of the Black Lives Matter movement.

They say that in the good ole days of Martin Luther King and Rosa Parks, people expected to suffer for their cause and were willing to “take their medicine.” But I was reminded while viewing Selma that the activists in the Southern Christian Leadership Conference saw jail and even beatings as part of heightening the contradictions, as pure PR that could demonstrate to the media and hence lawmakers, their plight in a way which had not been visible to them before.

No, folks, they didn’t go to jail because they thought they deserved it for disturbing the ugly peace of Jim Crow. They went as a tactic, and they used it because it worked. Sure they were willing to suffer for their cause. Some of them even suffered death. Are we harkening back to those days, and if so, why? Don’t we want to at least pretend that things have advanced in this country toward social and racial justice? Do we need more proof of suffering before we can implement change?

Whether disturbing the transport of the average citizen is a tactic we can get behind, I think well-intentioned people can disagree. But unlike BART Board Member Joel Keller’s manipulative op-ed in the Oakland Tribune, no, teachers weren’t trying to go to work that day, it was part of the Thanksgiving holiday-so remember that what they disturbed was the ultimate capitalist holiday, shopping day. Didn’t we tell you all to shop Oakland Grown that day anyway?

IMG_20141201_175233But, as to BART itself, though they have made improvements, it is still difficult to forget, as someone said, a movie, a real life tragedy,  was made about BART called Fruitvale Station. BART police and their supporters didn’t care about killing a young man and brutalizing others, and they certainly weren’t concerned about whether folks were able to catch the train home from work at that point.

And I can’t forget that this board cavalierly forced their union workers into a lengthy contract battle during which many average riders struggled to get to work on a regular basis, because BART’s GM didn’t think that the people who do the actual work should be able to maintain a middle-class lifestyle. For many BART workers of color those union contracts allowed them and their families to be the first generation to enter the middle class. Don’t forget also that at least two workers died directly due to that recent struggle.

So, to me, when community service is suggested as part of their penance for that short disruption, I say that is their community service-what they are already doing. The Black Friday 14 and the Black Lives Matter organizers are taking steps to bring their community together to protect themselves and prevent further abuse by authorities and they are doing so in a well-organized, peaceful and disciplined manner. If BART wants to make itself a target of continuing unrest, well, they’re doing it just right.

Since it’s Friday the 13th, I’ll just throw this issue on the pyre. If you want to see a large unwieldy government bureaucracy that is much less transparent and seems to produce less for its constituents, look not further than the Oakland Unified School District. And, no it’s not about not allowing charter schools to loosen that up, that ship has sailed since the Oakland district has likely authorized more charters than other cities its size. It’s about whether Oakland families and taxpayers will have a coherent public system or whether charters will swallow the entire system.

If you think schools run by organizations not beholding to citizens, parent committees, unions or even the kids who need change the most, can do a better job, then turn our system over to charter organizations altogether. But, on second thought, please don’t. Happy Friday the 13th! IMG_20141201_213625

Wellstone Club Spearheads Alameda County Dems Resolution to Tell the DA, Drop the Charges

Supporters of the Blackfriday 14 outside the Wiley Manual Courthouse

February 5th, Oakland ,CA

Last night, the Alameda County Democratic Central Committee, the elected body of local Democrats who determine the political direction of Alameda County, one of the most progressive counties in the US, voted unanimously to endorse a resolution put forward by the Wellstone Democratic Renewal Club-authored by club communications director Jack Kurzweil and submitted by the club’s local politics coordinator and elected ACDCC delegate, Pamela Drake-demanding that the  BART Board and the District Attorney’s office drop all charges against “the Black Friday 14″ who used non-violent civil disobedience to shut down the BART system for a number of hours on November 28th of last year.

The resolution reads in part, “On Black Friday, November 28, 2014, in response to a call to action from the Black community of Ferguson, MO, a team of 14 members of the #BlackLivesMatter network, dubbed the Black Friday 14, joined hundreds of thousands of others nationwide using civil disobedience to protest a discriminatory pattern of police and vigilante violence that has taken too many Black lives — including, most recently, the lives of Michael Brown, Aiyana Stanley-Jones, Tamir Rice, Tanisha Anderson, Antonio Martin, and Eric Garner.”

A spirited discussion preceded the passage of the resolution in which it was noted that other mostly White groups, have shut BART down for a time but that this group of highly disciplined, well organized African-American protestors had “the book thrown at them” for a similar-but more peaceful-demonstration  in what seemed like an effort by BART’s GM and its police chief to chill the expression of peaceful civil disobedience. This action was seen by many as a warning to the Black community that disrupting the system will bring swift and severe punishment.

That same day there was a court hearing on the BART protest during which a peaceful protest was also held, and some confusion remains as to whether BART has backed off its demand for an expensive restitution scheme from the protestors amounting to a total of $70,000. The BART GM Grace Crunican has reportedly called for “community service” in lieu of the former demand for restitution, but according to the Black Friday 14’s lawyer, Walter Riley, well-known Oakland civil rights attorney, the restitution demand cannot come off the table unless the charges are dropped.

Alameda County School Board Member, Marlon McWilson remarked that community service would wrongly connote that a crime had been committed by the protestors while others suggested that organizing for social justice is itself a community service and should be lauded whether or not one agrees with the tactic used. The group asserted that the non-violent nature of the action, which called attention to the crimes that continue to be committed against Black people all over the country, should be honored by the community.

Finally the resolution reads that the ACDCC “calls upon District Attorney Nancy O’Malley to immediately and unconditionally cease all efforts to penalize members of #BlackLivesMatter for their actions of non-violent civil disobedience on November 28, 2014; and

Be it Further Resolved:

That the Alameda County Democratic Central Committee calls upon the BART Board of Directors to join in this appeal to District Attorney O’Malley.”

Contact: Pamela Drake, pamelaadrake@gmail.com

Wellstone Club Letter on Oakland’s Proposed “Quality Improvement Schools” Process to Board Members and Superintendent

OAKLAND INTERNET OFFERBoard members and Superintendent Wilson:

The Wellstone Democratic Renewal Club believes that no institution is more important to the promotion of a vibrant democracy than public education which, as you know, has been under attack in this country for decades and that attack has come in many forms, including promulgating charters in large numbers.

As a result of the state takeover, Oakland became the guinea pig for school restructuring in which many of our public schools were turned over to charter organizations. When this experiment first started, there was some hope in the new forms of schooling; many homegrown models were tried and a few succeeded.

However, under state control, we saw charter conversion expand in a way that has weakened many of our neighborhood schools while recent studies have shown that charters, in and of themselves, do not improve educational outcomes. In addition, they reduce transparency and stability in the school community and often pull resources from the neediest students.

After years of state experimentation many of our schools, particularly the high and middle schools, have been churned in turmoil set in motion by the District itself. For instance, Castlemont High School was broken up and then put back together, albeit, haphazardly.

We understand that now the District is proposing more radical changes for half of our high schools, one middle school and one elementary school- McClymonds, Castlemont, Fremont, Frick Middle School and Brookfield Elementary School. The proposal to remake these important institutions has left the Oakland community confused, disheartened, and angry. No one knows what it really means; is the District prepared to abandon its responsibility for these troubled schools and turn over half of our high schools to charter companies or something else entirely?

We hope that the unfolding process will quash these fears, but we think that the school board needs to declare some basic guarantees now-1) that none of these schools will be turned into charters and 2) that the District apply a slow, deliberate and transparent process since these school communities-parents, students, and teachers-have already suffered too much.

These conditions are basic to restoring trust in our local governing board. We expect this board to go above and beyond sitting on the dais and listening to speakers from the community. What is really necessary during these troubling times, is leadership that reaches out to the whole city and brings us into the process. We suggest utilizing local media in all forms, holding community meetings in your district, and offering better ways to proceed than the traditional labyrinthine process that has infected our school community with distrust for so long.
The Coordinating Committee of the Wellstone Club

Wellstone Club Panel on Protests, Policing & Social Change in the East Bay

On Thursday, January 22nd at Humanist Hall in Oakland, the Wellstone Democratic Renewal Club will host a wide ranging discussion on the status of local police agencies, their records in our East Bay communities and the invigorated social movement that is demanding these agencies respect the communities they were hired to serve.

The panel will include Cat Brooks of ONYX and the Blackout Collective,  Attorney Jim Chanin, who along with John Burris brought the suit resulting in the federal oversight of OPD, Jesse Douglas Allen-Taylor, local journalist, author and political commentator, and Rasheed Shabazz, photojournalist and online editor of the ONYX Express.

The event is free and open to the public.  Potluck dinner begins at 6, panel around 7:15.

Contact Pamela Drake, Pamelaadrake@gmail.com or Wellstone club.org for more information.

Why I will No Longer Protest in Oakland

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I think we need an Adrenaline Junkies Anonymous here because I am one but it’s time to quit. It’s hard for me to stay away from demonstrations, but I am sick of what happens in Oakland every time something wrong goes down somewhere.

I am also sick of the reductionist memes–guess that’s what memes are by nature–that say broken windows are not violence. Technically, unless you are standing near one as it breaks, they are not. But do we really want to base our actions on technicalities?

Are most Oaklanders distraught, angry, sad, and in terrible pain over the deaths of young people at the hands of so-called public servants, those whose job it is to serve and protect whether it’s here or in Ferguson or Florida? They undoubtedly are-I see that anger, sadness, and despair all around me.

But I also see movement building, people who spend their lives trying to solve the problems of inequality, racism, injustice, and let us not forget, environmental degradation. Efforts to remake our society actually abound in Oakland. The so-called ultra left likes to put some of these folks down and make them part of the problem, but movement building is hard, life-long work and it is often difficult to notice during times of extreme stress.

So back to the meaning and types of violence which surround us. I remember attending an Occupy meeting long after the plaza had been closed to demonstrators while the City tried to reseed its commons-interesting analogies and ironies abound there-but we’ll let that go for now.

Community members who still saw opportunity in Occupy showed up to discuss next steps. They wanted to talk about how to broaden the reach of the group and expand the efforts to folks who did not want to come downtown every night, did not want take over streets, much less smash windows.

One of the OO leaders, yeah, there were leaders, belittled and sidelined those discussions, making it clear that the speakers were not welcome and those folks could no longer be considered a part of Occupy. It was a small example among many of how a once joyous, open movement narrowed to a state of annoyance or just plain irrelevance.

We’ve all heard stories of people being threatened or even hurt by demonstrators bent on property destruction as few as they may be. And that is violence. But so is bullying violence. And if you make it uncomfortable, even scary, for people to come out and express themselves on the streets of Oakland, your are promoting bullying and a type of facism that says your anger is more important and your expression of it is the one that matters. I believe that if you do not speak out about that type of exclusivity and intimidation, because, well, folks have a reason to be angry-you have muted the pain of great swaths of people. 20141126_091804

There is also much talk about whether these folks who rough up our streets are Oaklanders or outside agitators. Here’s how you can tell. If you’ve lived in Oakland for 6 months or 60 years, you can be an Oaklander, no, being born and raised here is not the only way to be a true Oaklander.
Of course, many people have raised their families here and contributed to the local economy but additionally-
Someone who teaches our kids with an open heart and their own open pocketbook who looks for and encourages all of their talents is an Oaklander.
Someone who volunteers at a public school, who rescues neighborhood dogs, who rallies outside of city hall for tenants’ rights, who runs for office or goes door-to-door for a candidate or sets up an electoral debate is an Oaklander.
Someone who advocates for police reform and libraries is an Oaklander, who paints a mural or buys local art is an Oaklander, who plants a garden and picks up your neighbor’s trash is an Oaklander, who visits the elderly and brings them meals, or who buys toys for Oakland tots at Christmas is also an Oaklander.
Someone who protects our streets judiciously and treats those they protect with dignity and respect can also be an Oaklander.
Someone who opens a small business and puts their soul, their life’s investment, and all their energy into the Town is an Oaklander though they might not live here.20141126_090925
Someone who points out the bad while promoting the good is an Oaklander.
Someone who intimidates justice-seeking Oaklanders out of the movement, much less threatens to harm the delicate social ecosystems that are our recently renewed residential hubs or our long-in-coming downtown renaissance-to me that person is not an Oaklander.
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I Am an An Occupy Oakland Survivor & I am Voting to Reelect Mayor Jean Quan-Guest Blog by Joy Newhart

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To my Friends and former Occupiers, please forward this letter,

I am an Occupy Oakland Survivor. I regularly attended the meetings, even caught a cold sitting for long hours on the chilled cement stairs listening to debates about the use of a “diversity of tactics.” I brought food, blankets, and refreshments to the residents of the Tent City, and I attended a huge rally at Laney College that Mayor Quan spoke at supporting the Occupy movement. Then only days later at 4am I got a phone call from a friend telling me the raid was starting.

Armed with my video camera I stood on the front lines as we, the unarmed citizens, watched hundreds of police from all over the region arrive in full riot gear ready for a fight. I was not arrested and managed to avoid the teargas, but I was furious-the friend who called me at 4am still is. Only a few days earlier the mayor and several other city council members had said they supported Occupy. Now people were getting beat up. I blamed Mayor Quan and-though I had voted for her- when I was later asked to help fight the recall I declined. One word “Occupy.”

[Editor’s note: the attempted recall was initiated before the Occupy Oakland eviction by parties who objected to a port commission change and the lack of funding for hundreds more police. It was a combination of more conservative groups who ironically, called for more development at the Oakland Army Base, which Mayor Quan has moved forward. It was not connected with events at Occupy Oakland.]

Then I saw that Mayor Quan was just as furious as I was that Police Chief Jordan had authorized the use of tear gas while she was in the air and out of reach-returning from a trip to D.C. to secure funds for port development. This needs to be re-stated-Chief Jordan authorized the use of tear gas without first getting approval from his boss, and as soon as she landed she ordered the tear gas stopped, but the damage had been done. She ordered an investigation into the department’s actions. This is the first thing Mayor Quan did to “fix the problem.”

The next thing she did had never happened in the history of the Oakland Police Department. Forty four police officers were either fired or disciplined. She made these 44 officers suffer the consequences of their illegal behavior. This is why the Oakland Police Department is resentful and will not endorse Mayor Quan.

Finally, she replaced those officers with recruits trained in the many new police academies she has funded. These new officers reflect the diversity and values of Oakland. I am a West Oakland resident and proud that the new captain of the West Oakland district was raised in West Oakland and is the first woman commander in the department.

The next thing she did was meet with the federal regulator overseeing the federally mandated police reforms, as neither Jerry Brown nor Ron Dellums had bothered to do. She re-invigorated the community policing reorganization model that previous mayors had allowed to stagnate. In many ways these two previous mayors hold a lot of the responsibility for what happened with Occupy because they did not focus on implementing these mandated reforms.

The next thing Mayor Quan did was select Police Chief Whent to head the Oakland Police Department. Prior to Chief Whent’s appointment as chief he was the supervisor of the Internal Affairs Division. Chief Whent was in charge of policing the police and with that background and experience, who better to rebuild the department?

As a result of these reforms and others, violent crime is down over 30% across the city and murders are down almost 50% from 2012. While violent crime is down all over, the decrease is greater in Oakland than other cities.

This is why I am voting for Mayor Quan. She analyzed the problems with the Oakland Police Department and addressed them at their root. She approaches this city’s problems from a socio-economic perspective, not a Law & Order perspective and she’s done all this with four balanced budgets.

You can’t argue with success.

Sincerely, Joy Newhart

Allan Brill-Why I am Voting for Oakland Mayor Jean Quan-Guest Blog

Long time community and political activist Allan Brill wrote this to his neighborhood listserve.

Dear Friends,

It upsets me that some candidates are filling up the list-serves attempting to position themselves as “The Effective Law and Order Candidate for Mayor.” So I will address this important issue now.

When the muggings and burglaries were up in our neighborhood during her first 2 years, Mayor Quan was the target (mostly from a few outspoken folks who have always been against her). Now that the Mayor’s police reform, academies cranking out new officers from Oakland, successful youth employment/after school programs, community engagement initiatives, and various targeted crime prevention programs including Operation Ceasefire have substantially reduced violent crime (shootings down 19%, murders down 30 % in one year), residential burglaries (down 32% in one year), robberies (down 37% in one year), etc., these same neighbors can’t give credit where it is due.

I’ve had strong differences with Mayor Quan on a number of issues, and have organized against some initiatives where I thought the policy was off base.

Yet during my 30 years in this neighborhood, I’ve watched the performance of many politicians. Where were the critics when the Mayor Brown/Libby Schaaf team had 148 murders in one year (2006) of the Brown team’s administration, giving Oakland the rep as the world’s murder capitol? What about Brown/Schaaf not doing much of anything to meet the police reform court ordered directives poising Oakland PD for federal receivership (they left us with 22 ignored items decreed by the courts!). Now Quan’s reformed PD needs only 5 more changes completed, and at this point rogue police shootings hardly ever happen. Casting that Brown era, with Libby Schaaf as the administrator of his programs, as the “good old days” lacks historical perspective and common sense, IMHO. So check out this short youtube piece for more facts:

Quan’s programs will result in less than half of those 148 lives lost this year, and we see the resultant benefits to our neighborhoods from the dramatic crime drop in all areas. Yet some politicians and their minions are demanding “a change in leadership and a new direction”. Noel Gallo, our premier “law and order” City Councilmember, strongly supports and is actively campaigning for Quan precisely because of her initiatives in this area that are paying off big time in his home neighborhoods. Our OUSD School Board Member Rosie Torres sees the impact in our schools, and is also campaigning for the Mayor and her programs.

Take 2 minutes and check out this link, but please wait until the first video replays and the second video comes up:

Now it’s your turn to decide.

Allan on Townsend

Why I am voting for Mayor Jean Quan, Abel Guillen, Annie Campbell Washington, Julina Bonilla, Marguerite Young and Measure Z, plus Measure FF, Props 45 & 47

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My mini-Oakland-voter-guide:
As your neighbor, small business advocate, local politics chair of the Wellstone Democratic Renewal Club, single mom, and former teacher, and, oh an elected representative of the Democratic party, these are some of the candidates and propositions I urge you to support. Jean Quan, Oakland’s first woman and first Asian mayor, who rose through the ranks, leading local government boards and agencies putting our youth first, is far and away my first choice for mayor of Oakland.

As a woman who has been somewhat of a trail blazer with a small “t”, whose mother was a newspaper reporter who blazed trails in her time, I have to say, I resent the notion that Ms. Quan has to prove her worth over and over.

In any other town, when a city is improving in as many ways as Oakland is with less violent crime, whose streets, sidewalks and parks are filled with families, couples, youth and old folks from all economic backgrounds and ethnicities picnicking, jogging, bicycling and enjoying the beauty that is Oakland together-why should this mayor have to defend herself against so many challengers, so many untested folks who have not done the work and who do not offer the results that this mayor has shown us? No, I believe if it weren’t for sexism, racism, biased press coverage, and yes, her own inability to be glib, including her occasional tongue-tied responses to reporters, there would be no consideration for any of these other candidates.

On the other hand, you could write an entire book about Jerry Brown’s gaffes, including the numbers and groups of people he offended and his general inattentiveness to Oakland’s regular folk. You could talk about the police chiefs he went through and the mistakes he made with city managers.

Jeez, that was years ago and even now some folks who run the Coliseum are trying to bring one of them back, Robert Bobb, to shore up our sports teams that Jerry so glibly dissed. We might have had a downtown A’s stadium by now had he cared enough to consider it, but for so many reasons, some very obvious and some not as obvious, his mistakes were shrugged away.

But Jean Quan has worked diligently to keep our teams without sacrificing our community’s largesse or dignity. We’ve been through many mayors and many proposals for the former Oakland army base and still nothing had happened-remember the Wayans’ studio, the shopping centers, the car sales lots, but now we’re doing with that land what is was meant for-building a logistics center to move goods into and out of our port, one of the most important ports in the country. This port had begun to lag behind others on the West Coast just as trade to the Far East started to pick up-now it will once again become the economic engine of the Bay Area, and possibly all of California. Jean Quan made the tough decisions and fought for the funding to make it happen. It will provide family and community sustaining jobs for the Oaklanders who need them most way into the future.

To make sure that our long-time residents are prepared for those jobs and because many aren’t, she is working directly with our community colleges to build that school to career pipeline, to insure that classes are available for youth who need a GED, specialized training, and counseling for those thousands of jobs which will develop out of our logistics center.

Mayor Quan spends much of her time fundraising for the summer jobs program, for toys for tots, peace in the parks and all the programs that bring direct city services along with opportunity and hope to the young people and families who live in long-neglected neighborhoods. She now knows many of those kids by name when she holds her barbecues in the park, or knocks on doors, or personally delivers Christmas presents to them. Everyone says they have seen this mayor in the toughest neighborhoods of Oakland more than any other politician, even including their own city council members. It goes without saying that they’ve seen her much more often than our city council member-at-large who is only seen when she is running for office.

Mayor Quan has laid the foundation for so many improvements in this city that if someone else is elected, that work may be able to continue for a while; but I challenge you to find a candidate who will work with and for our youth like this mayor has, and for that, she holds a special place in my heart. Please give her your vote if you agree that Oakland is moving in the right direction and you want a mayor who is already up to speed.

Abel Guillen is my candidate to be our District 2 Council Member. I have known Abel for a number of years now and I like him more each year. He has proven himself as a legislator as President of the Peralta Community Colleges Board. He also is an advocate for our youth. He like Mayor Quan is the child of immigrants, he knows how every day obstacles can become insurmountable and make it almost impossible to succeed without an advocate. He helped students get bus passes so that they would not miss classes at our community colleges. He is already working on securing that school to career pipeline with Mayor Quan that will result in family-sustaining jobs.

Abel is an expert at municipal finance something that the Oakland City Council sorely needs. He is that rare creature-a fiscal expert with a conscience and will make decisions considering all the needs of Oakland residents. Since we have another vote, I suggest neighborhood activist Andrew Park who gets my second. Sorry no suggestions for your 3rd vote but there are lots of reasonable choices out there.

I’ve endorsed Annie Campbell Washington for District 4 even though I cannot vote for her. She is a budget analyst, a level-headed and kind person who knows Oakland, its finances, its neighborhoods and their leaders inside and out. She is also a liberal running against an ideologue. Her opponent was recently scolded by the Sierra Club for using their logo without their endorsement, an endorsement that Annie does have.

Julina Bonilla is running for the Peralta Community College Board to take Abel Guillen’s place. Julina is currently the director of the West Oakland Job Center which was set up to help Oakland residents get at least 50% of the new jobs coming from the port/army base and other projects. She has spent her life working in re-entry programs and advocating for careers in non-traditional jobs for under-served youth. She herself rose through the community college system and is passionate about its needs. She is also a member of the Wellstone Club’s coordinating committee and we have appreciated her organizational skills and clear thinking.

Most of us don’t spend much time thinking about down ballot races like the East Bay Municipal Utility Board, that is, EBMUD our water agency. This year may be different. Many Oakland residents have worked hard to decrease our water usage as the drought drags on, but we watched with horror last spring as leaks, spills, and gushers ran down our streets as pipe after pipe failed and precious drinking water was lost forever. Because we know that we’re lucky enough to flush our toilets, water our gardens, and wash our clothes with some of the best drinking water in the world, we had reason to be upset.

That is why I am voting for Marguerite Young who is running to replace a long-term politician and the former mayor of Piedmont who has shown little leadership on the EBMUD Board. Marguerite is really an expert on water issues, where our water comes from, how to preserve it, and what EBMUD needs to do to prevent its loss. Her slogan is apt, “Make every drop count.”

Measure Z is the renewal of Measure Y with some improvements and restrictions. I have heard all the slanders on this compromise property tax, but I think it has worked well combining neighborhood-oriented law enforcement and programs that promote both intervention and prevention against the kinds of violence that have long plagued Oakland.

Programs like Missey which counsels and serves young women who’ve been caught up in prostitution and the renewed Operation Ceasefire-partially funded by Measure Y and currently saving lives in East and West Oakland-will be continued by extending this existing tax. It also funds some fire services that we desperately need. Given all the budget hits Oakland has endured over the last few years, loss of this fund would be devastating to all Oakland officials. That’s why the leading mayoral candidates have joined together to support it.

I’m excited by the probable passage of Measure FF, the initiative that would raise the minimum wage immediately to $12.25, but I will admit that I was concerned about the suddenness of the increase for our small businesses. I have been convinced by the economic research that these businesses may only have to increase the price of their products by pennies and that the workers who make these low wages will return those dollars to the local economy in buying power.

Proposition 45 was proposed by our Insurance Commissioner Dave Jones, himself up for reelection and deserving of it, because he’s grown tired of watching insurance companies increase the rates of individual and small company plans without being able to stop them when they are not justified. Nothing you see in the anti-Prop 45 ads, paid for by our friends on insurance company boards, by the way, is even relevant to the content of this proposition.

This is how the League of Women Voters describes the proposition, “Prop. 45 applies only to individual and employer small-group plans. The Insurance Commissioner would have to approve rate changes for those plans before they could be implemented. The application process would require the company to publicly disclose and justify its requested rates. Consumers or insurance companies could challenge the outcome in court. Rates in effect as far back as November 6, 2012 would be subject to refund if found to be excessive. Under Prop. 45, “rates” would be defined to include any charges that affect cost, such as co-payments, deductibles, installment fees, premium financing, and more.” Vote your self-interest on this proposition.

Prop 47
Here’s how the League describes this prop in a nutshell, “Prop. 47 would reduce the penalty for most nonviolent wobblers and felonies to misdemeanors, unless the defendant has prior convictions for violent and serious crimes. Prop. 47 would permit resentencing for anyone currently serving a prison sentence for any of the offenses reclassified in Prop. 47 as misdemeanors, and certain offenders who have already completed a sentence for one of those felonies may apply to the court to have their convictions changed to misdemeanors.

State savings from Prop. 47 would go to a newly created fund, “Safe Neighborhoods and Schools Fund,” for truancy and drop-out prevention programs in schools, victims’ services, and mental health and drug treatment services designed to keep individuals out of prison and jail.”

After we succeed in passing Prop 47, it’s time its’ time to take on the proliferation of private prisons in addition to tackling the concept of imprisoning whole sectors of our population at a rate and in a style that would warm the heart of your average Inquisitor back to the Middle Ages.

Yes, there are other important initiatives and races on the ballot that deserve your attention. I have picked the ones that are the most important to me. Remember that you can go to Votersedge.org, the former Smart Voter, or CAvotes.org to get more info and background on all the races-state and local-that you might find on your ballot. You can also look up the recommendations of my Democratic Club, Wellstoneclub.org, for more of our endorsed candidates and positions.

Most importantly the last day to register in California is October 20th. You can debate all day about how we make progressive social change or you can urge everyone you know to vote and remind them and remind them again until they do it. Expect a call from me or someone like me on election day until you get out and cast that vote!
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Oakland’s Mayor Jean Quan:The Problem with Being First

Mayor Quan with friends at Chabot event

Mayor Quan with friends at Chabot event


Addendum: After reading this to my daughter, she felt that I should add that she has never heard the “N” word used as much as she has since Obama became president and it seems to me that the pervasiveness of our endemic racism and sexism have been exposed with these firsts-first Black president, first woman-of-color mayor. But should we tolerate the social sickness that often seems about to overwhelm and drown out any progress we thought we’d made?

It’s always tough being a trailblazer. Ask Hilary Clinton or Geraldine Ferraro, oh yeah, all we need to do is remind ourselves that no woman has yet gotten elected to the highest post in our democracy. But we do have some female governors and mayors. Oakland only recently elected its first woman mayor who is also an Asian-American, the tough and resilient Jean Quan.
If you don’t know how tough she is, you probably haven’t met her. You might gather from the frown she gets when she is concentrating on something, that she’s troubled, but you’d probably be wrong. As the newscasters who gathered in front of her house, including a KRON reporter who followed her home after her recent accident and then knocked on the Huen-Quan door at 6:45 in the morning the next day, found out. She greeted the crowd with a smile, saying, “Wow, I hope all of you will be coming to the city budget discussion, too.”
This all happened after she had been hit on the side rear of her city-owned car and spun around in the street, but that was nothing compared to the spin KRON news reporters tried to put on the mayor’s reputation after reporting the other driver’s story first.
I admit, I wasn’t there so I can’t say what happened although there are witnesses who disagree. But having been hit a couple of years ago where the damage to my vehicle made it obvious that I was traveling in my lane while the other driver crossed into me, I know how long the investigative process can take. It was almost a year before I got my deductible back.
However, the fact that some of the news media decreed without any evidence that the mayor had not only blown a red light, she had done it because she was on her cell phone, like the little girl in the Exorcist, my head is still spinning. But what made me almost throw up was the response from some of our “liberal, progressive” folks in the Bay.
[I acknowledge that there is a photo of the mayor talking on her phone while driving and she did get convicted at another point of rolling through a right hand turn, hence not coming to a full stop at the light. So have I-so we must be partners in crime-I guess! The usefulness of red light cameras is in dispute but they are now a fact of life in California that we must all deal with.
However, having a violation on your record does not mean that every time you are in an accident, it should be assumed that you caused it, should it? How fair is that or does fairness have nothing to do with it?]
But what startled me the most were the comments of the folks who posted on KQED’s Facebook page after the incident and some of the other Facebook responses I saw. Now, I know better than to read the online comments to newspaper articles which are invariably written by anonymous angry assholes and not a few racists.
On Facebook, though, I had come to expect a little more reserve if not basic good manners. Did I think we were a bit more concerned about political correctness, that is, not categorizing people or their actions based on stereotypes or bigotry?As an aside, I can’t tell you how many friends made cracks about Asian drivers when they heard….
Perhaps I thought that in the same space where people sign petitions on the correct treatment of wolves and dairy cows, the first Asian-American woman mayor might merit some demonstration of human decency so I was shocked when I read some of the publicly posted commentary there. I will list some of the more egregious comments which were interspersed with others like, “how is this even news” or “I don’t like Quan but come’on, it was an accident.”
Warning, some of this is hard to read for those of us who thought people at least knew better when it comes to the ugliest kind of sexism, the rankest anti-Chinese bigotry or the viciousness of folks who just hate politicians and easily paint them all as corrupt and useless-running for office has become another of those jobs that most Americans think are beneath them, how sad.
After reading these, I felt sick at heart. I started to write this blog but I thought, why bring all this bad stuff back up. Then I talked to my daughter, a young biracial person, who makes her way as a pretty and petite Black woman in the business world, quite successfully, I might add; but not without the experiencing the denigrations that her gender and her race elicit in our world.
She said to me, “I used to think things were getting better for People of Color but now I think they are getting worse. Mom, you’ve got to call them out for their double standard and bullying behavior cause that’s what it is.”
Here’s another point brought up by the responses-on the one hand, most folks believe that the mayor is driven around in style with a police escort, as many city mayors are. On the other hand, they complain that she should not have even a nice car to drive to her many activities. So which is it or do we even care about the facts? Almost everyone in Oakland knows that this mayor is on the go from morning til late at night, weekdays, weekends, and holidays included, and I have never known any other Oakland mayor who did not have a city car and driver.
Both city council members and the mayor get a car allowance; but for the first half of her term, you could see Jean Quan’s little old Prius in the mayor’s spot at city hall. When Mayor Quan started personally bringing groups of investors to our city for projects that she has spearheaded and government agency folks who are working with us, it became obvious that she needed a larger, less-used city car to chauffeur them around with herself of course, as chauffuer.
It’s up to the city council to budget a driver for this busy mayor, but we expect her to do it all. Is this once again because she’s a woman so that multi-tasking, like housework, is the norm expected of her along with having the smallest mayoral staff of any recent mayor?!
Back to the comments, I am going to list some of the ones that astonished me along with a few that were milder with the names as posted since the comments were known to be public at the time and are still up.
I want you to tell me how some of these are anything but hateful and painful to those of us who either share our mayor’s gender or racial characteristics or just care about common decency and civility. Does being a public official mean all bets are off?
Here are a few of the “choice” comments on the KQED facebook page-

John Orrock: Busted bitch
Mike Silveira: cant stand this bitch…..
Richard Ponce Jr. Lier!
Juan Manuel Quiros Raffo: China pendeja!!
Victoria Lambino: Uhhh, she’s in trouble now!
Eduardo Lara: sum ting wong! lol !
Cindy Merical Cano: Fire her lying ass.
Michael Giluso: I’m more concerned that she has a Government Issued Lexus SUV. Isn’t a Honda Accord sufficient?
Carlos Nochez, JR.: If there ever was a woman worthy of the term “cunt” Jean Quan is it.
Michael Manjarrez: Get over it people, seriously.
Patricia Garlitos: Looks just as Guilty as all the other drivers who do this.
Hmm maybe the shot was taken After the incident – who in their right mind would catch this action shot.
Michael Giluso: I had that same model, 2010 Lexus SUV 450H Hybrid and I can say, it has STANDARD bluetooth. She’s probably too stupid to figure out how to set it up.
Eileen McSorley: What a loser.
Fernando Monterey: Of course everyone is lying. She said she was not on the phone, so you are all lying! (If senator McCain can say it why not her)
Misty Gandee: i dont know that much about her but she seems unfazed by her bad behavour& to the person whining abour ppl speaking their mind, grow up

No, Ms. Gandee, I don’t think I want to grow up if it means accepting this kind of bad behavior.