Affordable Housing Forum sponsored by Wellstone & BBBON

Press Advisory

Affordable Housing Forum, May 28th

Announcing the Wellstone Democratic Renewal Club Meeting, co-sponsored by the Oakland Block by Block Organizing Network, this Thursday, May 28th at Humanist Hall, 390 27th Street between Broadway and Telegraph in Oakland, wheelchair access and more parking available on 28th Street.

There will be a potluck at 6. Please bring food to share. Club business including updates on political events in and around Oakland/Berkeley starts at 6:45-info on affordable housing legislation upcoming in Sacramento and possible club action, with the panel discussion to follow about 7:20pm.

TOOLS TO SAVE AND INCREASE AFFORDABLE HOUSING:

Over a quarter of California renters are severely burdened by housing costs – defined as paying more than 50% of their income for housing. The mortgage meltdown has forced many from their homes and into the overheated rental market.

The panel will discuss what can be done locally and at the state level to reduce displacement, increase local and state funding for affordable housing and strengthen requirements for affordable housing in market rate developments.

Panelists:

Chris Jackson, CEO, Center for Economic Opportunity, ACCE, Oakland,
Sasha Hauswald, Senior Program Officer for Inclusionary Housing Policy, Cornerstone, Oakland,
Dr. Larry Rosenthal, Goldman School of Public Policy, Executive Director, Berkeley Program on Housing and Urban Policy, President, Board of Directors, Berkeley Food and Housing Project.

http://blog.sfgate.com/ontheblock/2015/05/12/what-you-can-get-for-oaklands-median-1-bedroom-rent-of-2000-per-month/

For more info-contact Pamela Drake, pamelaadrake@gmail.com or @bethpikegirl on twitter and instagram.

Mayor Libby Schaaf Takes a Wrong Turn

IMG_20150524_210616Last night I was very disappointed, even angry at our police department and new mayor, when the police took a hardline approach for the 2nd time this week with a peaceful group of highly disciplined demonstrators. Sadly,I had just started to feel the new mayor was on the right track in some areas. She appointed Sabrina Landreth as the new city administrator who was Mayor Quan’s budget director and helped us get through one of the worst budget periods in this city’s history.

Mayor Schaaf also appointed Claudia Cappio as the economic development director working on new retail projects with which she’s had lots of experience. She made one other move that surprised and heartened me in appointing Gary Malachi Scott, a young man I made a short video of for PUEBLO, who has real experience with restorative justice as her Measure Z rep.

I had heard her talk to business groups about preventing any more nights of destruction like that which happened to Broadway Auto Row-the remains of a once robust auto row, mostly now gone to the burbs and which generates high sales tax for the city-on the night of May Day. Fifty-seven cars had been damaged in one dealership alone that night and no one could explain why.

Schaaf thought she could reinterpret our crowd control policy to prevent night time vandalism by outlawing night time marches through downtown Oakland as the former cat and mouse strategy had not been working. Clearly, the police and her new administration were under tremendous pressure to find some solution to a problem that most Oaklanders had grown weary of, especially when it seemed to have no connection to recent local injustices; and in fact, moved the focus of protest away from current injustices.

Interestingly, Mayor Schaaf’s first instinct was to announce her decision, which she insists is not a new policy, to the media and the community but the police department discouraged her from going that route. Rather than obey her own political instincts which served her well during the election, she went with law enforcement’s analysis. That has turned out to be a huge mistake which may reverberate night after night unless she decides to fix it.

Police think about security first, policy much less citizen rights, are not their specialty, as those of us who have worked for social justice for decades learned long ago. That is not their job either. It is the policy makers job to determine the correct solutions and  and law enforcement’s job to implement them even when they don’t understand or agree. This tendency of Libby Schaaf’s should not surprise us. Though she talked little about her approach to public safety during the campaign, I remember what she did when the idea of a youth curfew came up on the council.

Noel Gallo had dredged up this old curfew idea but the council voted it down, again. When asked for Libby’s position, she replied that she had queried the chief and he said that it was not useful. So she voted against it on the basis that OPD did not particularly want it rather than on principles or data, or a combination of both.

I passed this off as election politics but now wonder if she really believes it’s appropriate for the chief to make these important policy decisions. The chief was right about this based on data, the size of our force, etc. But a mayor must have an understanding of how this kind of curtailment of activity becomes punitive in many of our communities and may lead to the expansion of the childhood to prison pipeline that Oakland youth are so familiar with. In other words, a mayor has to make political decisions based on the knowledge of a  wide breadth of how our community experiences law enforcement, schooling, and many other factors in high crime-impacted neighborhoods.

So now we’re in a situation in which the women of the #BlackLivesMatter movement, the next stage in our long American struggle for Civil Rights, have been lumped in with the masked vandals who tear up our retail districts. Unfortunately, many Oaklanders have already conflated the two-they may be excused for not paying attention but the mayor should know better. It’s her job to know who is working for a better Oakland even if their strategies differ from hers.

These women and their partners in other organizations have helped jump start this new movement, indeed the hashtag, the rallying cry #BlackLivesMatter, started with them. Though OPD has come a long way, some of our residents still have reason to eschew the “assistance” of OPD and fear the officer in their rear view mirror. There’s no need to reiterate all the ways that fear affects folks’ lives, I hope; but we still have a ways to go before each community in Oakland feels comfortable working with their neighborhood police officers.

This mayor’s confused policy directive has reminded us of our unhappy past and its consequences and it may take us back there if she doesn’t act soon. Why has she not met with the representatives of this and other groups who seek to make positive change? It’s not too late to apologize for knowing so little about the folks she shut down last night and Thursday night. It’s not too late to admit an error or a wrong turn when struggling with a difficult situation in an atmosphere of distrust. But it will be soon. See you on the plaza tonight.

Artifical Intelligence and Film Critics or How to Imagine Better Movies

2015-05-04 11.04.28 From my review of Ex Machina on Rotten Tomatoes-

One reviewer suggests that when the lights come up, you might find yourself thinking about the true meaning of intelligence, yeah, but only as to whether all film criticism is the real answer to whether AI exists, that is, how to find meaning where none exists and no real character development has taken place, leaving the reviewer to conjure it artificially for the sake of his critique.

This movie had little plot, the twists were telegraphed-spoiler alert-you knew that young Caleb would not leave the lonely mountain range alive from the moment the helicopter landed there-and the music told you the rest. Thank god, because all the other stuff these reviewers imagined developed between these characters, the over achieving egoist, his pale techy antagonist and the cool and calculating female character, just didn’t happen.

The script leaped from one vague interaction to another with no connecting tissue, just some reviewer’s desire to find some kind of (well) hidden meaning in this otherwise useless exercise, ultimately,  in the difficulty of designing the perfect woman who can be controlled absolutely. Fortunately, the filmmaker failed there too.

Desperate for some escapism last week, I had seen the Age of Adaline which was mostly forgettable. There were a couple of things to draw the attention and displeasure of any viewer with a passing acquaintance of San Francisco in the way that they flubbed many of the identifying scenes-like the address on 18th Street which resembles no corner or view of that street in the Mission/Castro and the lions at the main library, a scene most probably filmed in Manhattan.

But, if you went just for the popcorn, you might have enjoyed a couple of moments watching the aging but still romantic countenance of Harrison Ford at his most vulnerable since Regarding Henry, an emotionally manipulative movie which I can’t help watching whenever it reappears on television.

Here’s hoping for a better movie-watching experience next week!

Mini Movie Critique, the 3 Hearts, with a side of the Last (Exotic) Marigold Hotel

Ah, French movies, so opposite of American jumpcut, blow’em up sagas. Actually, I rarely go to those but I do know that in an American family drama, in the scenes where the character has something difficult, tedious, or just confusing to accomplish, the director will relieve your angst, by jumping to the following scene where all that is done and we’ve moved on; whereas, the typical European flick will drag you through every tedious moment.

In this film, we have scene after scene in which the Jaws-like score makes you think something momentous is about to happen and then…it doesn’t. Ok, basic plot. Boy, albeit, wimpy, pudgy faced boy, meets boylike girl in a scene full of silly but sensitive dialogue and they bond….somehow. They make the predictable date that Pudgy Boy misses due to an anxiety attack, not as most reviewers wrote, a heart attack, and off Boylike Girl goes to the states full of sad-eyed regret to join her husband in the states.

So as strange things will happen, Pudgy-faced Boy (actually, a petty bureaucrat in an ill-fitting shirt) meets Boylike Girl’s crybaby sister and beds her. We get to repeatedly see his pasty-skinned back on top of Miss CryBaby. It invoked that feeling in me that people get when realizing their parents probably had sex with each other (and don’t tell me you never fantasized that you were adopted.)

Over the course of the next few hours, or at least it seemed that long, the Pudgy-faced Bureaucrat finally realizes that he is marrying Boylike Girl’s sister. Having not seen much evidence of their budding romance, you’re not sure why he can’t just tell Miss CryBaby and have a laugh about it since they now have a charming little boy with the square jaw and large eyes of Boylike Girl in a gender switching play on the old-whose-baby-did-she-have bit.

Finally, Miss Boylike Girl shows up and passion ensues, actually smoking ensues, and much of this romantic fantasy seems to revolve around it-a ubiquitous lighter becomes symbolic of all that was lost during the missed assignation. The director, who is said to long after the days of Douglas Serk films, full of primary colors and pointy bras, takes a lighter caressing scene to a new absurdity of underediting. And while we’re talking pointy bras, what’s with Boylike Girl and that sad little black bra that she wears under the same see-through linen shirt over the years (shades of Carrie Bradshaw’s bra etiquette?)

The new lovers at one point take off in a plane with the narrator-what, yeah, just plonks a narrator in there every once in a while-says they took off far and fast and then they came back, with a scene of a jet taking off and then a jet landing. I laughed and I still believe it was meant as a joke but no one else in the theater did so after the next heart-rendingly pathetic scene, I split.

My friend had already left because the Jaws score, deedeedeedee, made him too tense. But bottom line, I suspect it was the unlikability of the characters that made the ending so unimportant for both of us. Well, maybe unlikability is too strong, annoying might be better. All the protagonists were annoying and the biggest star, Deneuve, was underutilized, mostly eating, smoking and clearing the dishes. In the end, the little dog who hangs around Deneuve’s kitchen and the child were the only sympathetic characters in this lugubrious “country town,” as the sisters both named it.

One of the reasons I went to see this movie was that I was interested in the actors so it wasn’t a complete waste. Outside of the pudgy-faced bureaucrat, there was the senior Deneuve, thick of body like the rest of us, but with the same beautiful face (and hair style) in a flick with her and Marcello Mastroianni’s real life daughter, Chiara Mastroianni, along with actress Charlotte Gainsbourg, who also has a theater family pedigree. These folks are very watchable even in this limited-range story, more’s the pity.

I loved the first Best Exotic Marigold Hotel. I enjoyed all the actors, Judi Dench, Maggie Smith, Bill Nighy, Tom Wilkinson, Penelope Wilton, and Dev Patel so even though I knew the sequel might be less surprising and more formulaic, since Richard Gere had signed on and Dame Judi would be there with young Patel whom I had come to love on HBO’s Newsroom, I had to see it.

Well, the story is the usual, we’re putting on a show/building-another-hotel kinda theme. Poor Dev has to continue to put on his labored accent which, of course, we didn’t hear in Newsroom (he was born in London.) He has to continue to present as naive and childlike, where’ve we seen that kind of writing before?

The story line forces Mr. Patel into a phony mean-spiritedness where he must kiss up to the wrong person while pushing away his lovely bride in order to make his dream come true so that we soon cease to care about his goals and him. Poor Judi’s romance diddles along always on the verge of dying out like a lawn mower whose motor just won’t catch, and, of course, Richard, finally finds love. And, oh well, I think I aged during the movie cause I’d rather take a nap than see another one of these.

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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