Thank You Oakland City Government!

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I know the headline of this blog is shocking-and if you’re one of those people who believes government can’t do anything right-you might want to stop now. To paraphrase a friend-intelligent and radical young leader, Dannette Lambert, I believe in government-it gives us things like schools, hospitals, healthcare and-regulations against harm.

I’ve written a lot on the current Oakland City Council, that they can’t build coalitions, that they don’t want to step out and lead. I’m not rescinding those critiques, not yet. They are overall a moderate group but they have heard the roar of our communities and coalitions for change-well, you’d have to be deaf not to but-wait!

Wait-I’m doing it again when I want to thank them for stepping out of their comfort zones to struggle around the police accountability measure, ultimately placing a really unique proposal for the voters to decide on this November’s ballot.[PS.the measures for renters’ protections are no chopped liver either-they are real change.]

Time to Correct the Record-

Last night quite a few folks denounced the measure and said they wouldn’t support it because they found it deficient. Some of their conclusions were correct and some were incorrect but I can’t agree that it won’t make some people’s lives better because it will. It may even save some lives and that counts as worthy of doing to me and the folks I’m working with.

Some of us have been in so many meetings with council members in the last couple of weeks that perhaps we were a bit shell shocked last night after the roller coaster ride of change, compromise, and confusion. We forgot how much we won and why it is so important.

Writing and Researching the Measure-

We should have acknowledged the importance of the moment and spent more time thanking everyone involved so let’s do it now. I especially want to thank the folks who researched and wrote this unique measure, by which I mean the Coalition’s version-Larry White, an attorney and more recent arrival to Oakland, of course Rashidah Grinage, Mary Vail, long time police accountability stalwart, Paula Hawthorn MOBN member, Susan Shawl Wellstone and CPRB member, Nate Dewart of Black Men/White Men (in addition to writing and posting the petition!), and Saied Karamooz.

More thank yous

Jason Pfeifle did yeoman’s graphic and web work along with Sandra Tasic, quite pregnant at the time. Joel Tena contributed heavily to messaging. Len Raphael was our financial wiz who along with Jose Luis Fuentes set up our official organization with the state. Allene Warren, Ann Janks, and Sheryl Walton worked hard to recruit other organizations and to relay the nuances to them. Carroll Fife supported us with the Oakland Justice Coalition as did April Thomas, Nicole Dean, and Deb Avery , and Millie Cleveland(Cat Brooks was there for us also but I believe she is unable to support the current iteration.) Tonya Love is a communications’ treasure in her own right.

Josie Camacho, head of the Alameda Labor Council, joined SEIU leaders Gabriel Haaland, Gary Jimenez and Rachel Richman-Local 21- who worked long hours to help us make this right with Labor with special notice to their union, Local 1021, long time Coalition members who showed up en masse to speak at council meetings.

As for me I want to acknowledge the tremendous support the Coalition and I personally received from The Block By Block  Organizing Network and the Wellstone Democratic Club-so many members, in addition to those listed above showed up to every  council meeting and waited hours to speak-Sharon Rose, Floyd Huen, Margaret Cunningham, Gen Katz, Mike Davis, Rich Johnson, Kit Vaq, Cathy Leonard, Eileen Benevides, Jean Quan, and Berkeleyite Jack Kurzweil-Wellstone also funded snacks for all participants at the council meetings-no small thing. Sorry, if this list is too long but that’s how it’s done in coalition work. There will be many not listed and for that I’m sorry, truly.

Brief summary of what this measure will do from Ms. Grinage-

“This proposal changes the City Charter, transferring the authority to impose discipline on police officers from the City Administrator (who reports to the Mayor) to a Police Commission made up of Oakland residents. This is a fundamental change in power.

The Commission will also be able to influence policies and practices that will include the issues raised by video footage of incidents, privacy and surveillance, use of force, racial profiling, and so on. They will be able to make recommendations on the budget request submitted by the Police Department to make sure that resources are used in a way that is consistent with the priorities of the community.

The investigative agency director does have access to the personnel records of officers accused of misconduct and can take that history into account when deciding on appropriate discipline. These are all major shifts.

As Larry White said, “I think a lot of confusion was caused by the format of the text that was voted on.  There were two sections (g). One was the deleted text.  Both were in gray and if you didn’t look closely you might think that all of it was in strikethrough. In fact only the second (g) was deleted text.”

More from Mr. White-“The Agency Director will have access to the personnel records but can only share them as permitted by law. As a practical matter, this is access. The disciplinary part was not struck in the final version. One big thing is that the City Administrator’s role as final arbiter of discipline is eliminated.”

Just the beginning

More from Rashidah Grinage, “This proposal is more than good, but it is not everything we had envisioned. That being said, as we know, every journey begins with a single step. This is a journey to justice for those who have suffered the abuses of the Oakland Police Department for decades, and the Police Commission will be one giant step in this journey.

We are not dismayed and we are not discouraged: we are committed to continuing to challenge the City to alter its relationship with the OPOA so that further changes can be implemented without facing a Court battle. So, for those who seek justice, join us, let’s get this Commission established, and let’s continue with the work that lies ahead!”

The City Council Struggles to Find Consensus-

Council Member Noel Gallo came out early to support the community-driven measure, a surprise, as he had always been seen as a law’n order CM, but he has a big heart and uses it to listen to his constituents. Then Dan Kalb got involved and threw himself and his staffer, Oliver Luby, into it with hours and hours of researching, checking and rechecking what would work and what would get him the votes to put it on the ballot. Without their attention to detail, this measure wouldn’t have made it onto the agenda much less the ballot.

Other CMs who had been skeptical but then began to meet assiduously-Rebecca Kaplan threw herself into it. Annie Campbell Washington went line by line working on what each one meant and how to clarify it. Abel Guillen checked in frequently and Lynette McElhaney held numerous workshops with our folks, eventually becoming a co-sponsor. Desley Brooks lent us her expertise and unique voice from her position as chair of Public Safety, and Larry Reid, long time police advocate, welcomed us into his office, too.

City Attorney Barbara Parker may have gotten a bad rap in a previous blog, as we understand she personally AND her staff worked long and hard on the details. We’re not even sure she did advise removing the pivotal provisions at all. To be honest, our sessions included- confusion, a little back-biting, and yes, some shouting matches as we made our way up and down the halls of city power. But ultimately, everyone including Mayor Schaaf, supported our efforts in some way. Thank You!

Driving home after the vote at 11:30 pm, I couldn’t help but imagine our CMs as characters from the Wizard of Oz. You can decide for yourselves who is which character hmm. And sometimes I think, we the residents who love Oakland so passionately, are both Dorothy and the Wiz, trying to find our way home all the while hiding behind a curtain of our own inability to move ahead together. Maybe we won’t make it to the Emerald City but we can and shall build a better Oakland.

Join the CoalitionforPoliceAccountability.org now!

 

Breaking:Oakland City Attorney Advises Gutting Police Commission

FOR IMMEDIATE DISTRIBUTION

 

CONTACT: Pamela Drake, PamelaADrake@gmail.com, 510-593-3721

 

City Attorney Gives Commission Away to OPOA

 

Oakland — Today, the Coalition for Police Accountability learned that City Attorney Barbara Parker advised the Oakland City Council to gut the proposed charter amendment for an independent police commission. Parker’s advice was prompted by pressure from the Oakland Police Officers Association (OPOA) who have historically, obstructed any oversight of the police department.

 

The Coalition, anticipating this eventuality, has already filed a legal brief with the Mayor, City Attorney, and the City Council explaining that the provisions of the charter amendment are not subject to OPOA Meet and Confer obligations because they are not within the scope of employment. It is not surprising that OPOA would do everything in their power to protect their interests, what is surprising is that the City Attorney would provide faulty advice. The council is not obligated to heed the advice of its attorney, and we challenge them, as policy makers, to listen to community and place a strong independent police commission on the November ballot.

 

Reform of OPD is one of the hottest topics in the city today. We will be taking these issues to Temple Sina’i at 2808 Summit Street, in Oakland tonight at 6:00 pm where four local journalists will be on a panel discussing local hot topics. We are asking all concerned community members to turn out on Tuesday, July 26th at 5:30 p.m. to the Special City Council Meeting where this item will be decided.

Policing Oakland, California, What Is to Be Done?

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Please come to the Wellstone Democratic Renewal Club on Thursday, June 23rd, 7pm, at Humanist Hall for a discussion on forming independent police commissions in Oakland and Berkeley.

It’s not a surprise that Oakland finds itself in the middle of a new police scandal-we’re becoming a bit jaded to the police-chief-musical-chairs situation. But, even those of us who’ve been working on police accountability for years, are shocked and chagrined by what is being revealed about our costly department. We had thought they were on the road to reform, albeit, a rocky, circuitous road filled with breakdowns but it turns out-the changes were only superficial.

http://www.cc.com/video-clips/tuipgo/the-nightly-show-with-larry-wilmore-police-crisis-in-oakland–ca

The Horror Story Unfolds

It was horrifying enough to find out about that a young woman had been trafficked as a teenager and then passed around by officers and commanders, but let us not forget the number of police killings that took place in Oakland last summer-death being so much more final.

And, it’s a measure of the low bar we hold police departments to in this country that so few Oaklanders took notice of this abrupt return to homicidal behavior. Still I had felt hopeful that Chief Whent was doing the best possible job in a department with a tradition of murder and brutality. He seemed to be turning it around and the change was noted by other government agencies. By all accounts, at some point he began to give up and things took many turns for the worse.

Now we find out that OPD was just another piece in the puzzle of Bay area police corruption. The fact that it seems to be the largest piece of a disgusting mess, is embarrassing not just to the mayor and council but to all of us. Now comes the reckoning and, even though I didn’t give Mayor Schaaf any of my votes, I appreciate her recent admission that civilian oversight is needed.

Next Steps

The first step is almost in place. If you read this space, you will already be aware that a coalition of organizations and individuals has been researching and designing a unique model of civilian oversight, an independent police commission unlike any others. The proposal has been reworked and tweaked by City Council Members Kalb and Gallo.

Then on June 14th the proposal passed through the Public Safety Committee led by Councilwoman Desley Brooks and is on its way to being heard by the full council where we must garner five votes to get it on the ballot. The full council hearing is set for July 5th and we believe it will be prepared for the ballot shortly afterwards. At that point we will mount a campaign for the fall and will need volunteers and funding. Keep checking coalitionforpoliceaccountability.org for more information and to donate after the 5th.

Truth and Reconciliation

In the wake of almost daily revelations, the Anti-Police Terror Project has proposed that Oakland establish a version of the South African Truth and Reconciliation Commission [https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Truth_and_Reconciliation_Commission_(South_Africa)] and this is a brilliant and quite necessary part of a change in how our community is policed. While APTP has yet to detail its proposal, nothing less than a full process of bearing witness by the entire Oakland community will begin to turn around the horrendous situation we find ourselves in.

It is tempting to throw up our hands and declare that nothing can be done but with Oakland’s history of innovation combined with its story of resistance, we can once again become the models in how change is accomplished.

My first thoughts about this process would include 1) community groups writing the rules, choosing the sites throughout the city, and being charged with how the process unfolds while, 2) the City would pay for any costs incurred by the commission including a large publicity campaign-while not attempting to take ownership of the process.

Oaklanders have spent years, indeed generations, dealing with police brutality, corruption and neglect and it has left a deep residue which damages every aspect of self-government. Indeed distrust, fear and hatred of our most expensive department lies at the heart of distrust and disengagement with local democracy. Our residents need a safe space to tell their stories and finally be heard by those who injured them and by officials who have chosen not to believe them or to consider their concerns in their day-to-day governing of our city.

Many town halls have been held and many times few have come to testify to the truth of their experiences at the hands of those who are expected to “protect and serve.” That’s why it’s so important that these sessions be held where neighbors feel safe to share, including and especially, in our schools.

We await further description by APTP and other organizations working with them  and hope that city officials realize that this process cannot wait long to take shape. Hopelessness can easily defeat the impetus for change-we can’t afford that any longer.

Finally-Shine a Light on the California Legislature

Noted attorney Jim Chanin, who is one of the attorneys who brought suit against the Oakland Police Department over the Riders very serious violations of suspects’ rights (planting evidence and beating suspects, particularly Black men in West Oakland where these officers were assigned)that resulted in a Negotiated Settlement Agreement still in effectand unfinished 13 years later, told the general meeting of the Wellstone Democratic Club that California is the most conservative state in the country in regards to police transparency and accountability, behind place like Texas.

He reminded us that the revelations concerning the officer who shot a little boy, Tamir Rice, in Cleveland who, it was revealed in the press,  had been rejected by another department as unfit, would never see the light of day in California due to legislation and court decisions that our legislature still refuses to reverse.

Since the scandal of police corruption and abuse of a minor has erupted in Oakland, we have been reading that the mayor can’t reveal much about the offending officers due to state law-well, those laws do not exist in many other states.

Here’s a good review of how we got here, written by one of the reporters who has exposed many of the details of these on-going scandals, Ali Winston,  http://www.colorlines.com/articles/deadly-secrets-how-california-law-shields-oakland-police-violence in ColorLines, five years ago!

Recently State Senator Mark Leno tried to reverse the damage done to public accountability by the Copley Decision and the so-called Police Officers Bill of Rights. He was unsuccessful and you can read more in today’s East Bay Times, http://www.eastbaytimes.com/editorial/ci_30041070/police-winning-legislative-war-against-transparency-east-bay

We have yet to see support to overturn these rulings by our East Bay legislators. It’s important that we ask  Assembly Members Rob Bonta and Tony Thurmond where they stand on this-state senate candidates Swanson and Skinner have both said they would support overturning Copley and possibly reconsidering the Police Officers’ Bill of Rights, but so far only Senator Leno has been a reliable champion for transparency and accountability.

While police operate in Oakland as they do in the rest of California, with impunity and often disregard for the real safety of our citizens, we will continue to hide ugly corruption and ignore vicious behavior. In a democracy, we should should demand better. We know the next steps, do we have the will to see them through?

Press Advisory Independent Police Commission Ballot Measure

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Press Advisory

Independent Police Commission Ballot Measure-Sponsored by Oakland City Council Members Kalb and Gallo, Goes to Public Safety Committee on Tuesday

 

Oakland, CA– Oakland Council Members Dan Kalb and Noel Gallo will join the Coalition for Police Accountability [coalitionforpoliceaccountability.org] at a press event, Tuesday, June 14th, at 12:30 pm on the steps of Oakland City Hall. Council Member Kalb, a member of the Public Safety Committee where the measure will be unveiled at 4 pm, said, “We are bringing this community-vetted measure to the ballot to enhance the process for structural reform–reform that cannot come soon enough to OPD. We must assure the public that we are responding to the problems and challenges within OPD with a proposal that is not mere window dressing-setting up an independent Police Commission with real authority-along with effective reforms in the police discipline process to make it more just.”

Council Member Gallo, also a sponsor of the measure and member of the Public Safety Committee added, “My job is to listen to the community I represent and get them what they need. I’m proud of our work with the coalition.”

Berkeley City Council Member Jesse Arreguin will attend the press conference and noted that “We will be voting on a similar proposal Tuesday night at the Berkeley Council meeting.”

A partial list of Oakland community leaders joining the elected officials to speak at the press conference is as follows: Linda Handy, Peralta Trustee, Ben McBride, Director of City Team Oakland and Clergy with PICO, CA, Gwen Hardy with PUEBLO, Carroll Fife, Oakland Alliance, Marilyn Lawson and Allene Warren, Block By Block Organizing Network, Sokhom Mao, former CPRB member, Anne Weills, the National Lawyers Guild, Pastor George Cummings, Imani Church, civil rights attorney Walter Riley, and Trish Gorham of the Oakland Education Association.

The next step in the Oakland process is to push the measure forward to a full council discussion in time to place the initiative on the November ballot. For more information and updates, see Coalitionforpoliceaccountability.org

Contact: Pamela Drake, 510-593-3721pamelaadrake@gmail.com

Rashidah Grinage, 510-306-0253rashidah@earthlink.net

 

 

 

We Want Real Police Reform, Not Faux Fixes

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The Coalition for Police Accountability, a group of community organizations, individuals, and unions [coalitionforpoliceaccountability.org] for police reform, has been working with Oakland City Council Members Dan Kalb, Noel Gallo, and Rebecca Kaplan for months on a measure developed by the coalition over two plus years through research with experts throughout the country, to set up a police commission that is truly independent of political influence while providing community engagement in police policies and transparency in police discipline.

The hard work of these council members has sharpened the work of the coalition and we are very grateful for their leadership.

More recently, Council Members Guillen, Campbell Washington and Reid wrote a separate initiative, and presented it to the coalition last week. Their measure would put the mayor squarely in charge of police accountability and reduce the role of a “commission” to a rubber stamp of the new “independent police monitor”, an additional city administrator hired directly by the mayor and responsible only to the mayor. This new “commission” would have a role similar to the existing Citizen Police Review Board, which despite its best intentions, can do little to discipline any “bad apples”, much less influence police policies.

The measure sponsored by Kalb, Gallo and Kaplan institutes a commission two steps removed from political influence with the power to discipline officers, hire and fire the chief, and research and develop policies on public safety issues and police operations.

In contrast the Guillen/Washington/Reid approach would have the mayor and council directly appoint the “commission” and stipulates that they come from certain professions such as human resources, and surprise, law enforcement. The Citizens’ Police Review Board, weak as it now is, is composed of Oaklanders from all walks of life. Of course, this new “commission” would have no power so perhaps its composition is irrelevant.

There are programmatic elements in the Guillen/Washington approach that the coalition would be willing to include in [enabling legislation for ]the charter change measure, and we are considering those in the lead up to next week’s committee meeting. We cannot, however, compromise the structure of an independent body, a position which has been reaffirmed by three council members.

After 13 years, $30 million in oversight, over $65 million more in lawsuits, it’s time for a serious attempt at reform. Every city that has experienced the kinds of problems Oakland has been through, is now looking to institute a less political, more citizen-oriented approach whereas some of our CMs seem to want to go backwards.

In fact the City of Berkeley has scheduled a review of our measure to consider whether it would work for them and San Francisco is also looking at ways to strengthen the independence of their existing commission. Our next Wellstone Democratic Club meeting on June 23rd, discussion starting about 7:15pm, will focus on these three efforts.

The Coalition for Police Accountability’s measure sponsored by CMs Kalb, Gallo, and Kaplan can be placed on the November ballot by the Oakland City Council. Please sign onto our letter if you would like to see that happen: you can send the letter yourself, call or email your council members to ask that they join the above progressive members on this vote, notify me that you wish to sign, or respond directly to this blog. Pamela Drake-pamelaadrake@gmail.com. But do it soon.

Both measures come before the Public Safety Committee at 4 pm on Tuesday, June 14th  where Chair Desley Brooks will give them a hearing and add her comments-press conference at 11:45 am in front of City Hall in advance of the meeting.

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Dear Council Member____________

Oakland has spent more than 30 million dollars monitoring the Negotiated Settlement Agreement over the Oakland Police Department since 2003 and over 65 million dollars on wrongful death and police brutality lawsuits. How many affordable housing units or police academies could those funds have provided for our city?

As you know, a group of concerned citizens and [30] organizations, known as the Oakland Police Accountability Coalition including the Wellstone Democratic Renewal Club, the League of Women Voters, SEIU Local 1021, ACCE, the Oakland Alliance, and the Block by Block Organizing Network have discussed the need for a truly independent police commission that could be set up when the current federal oversight ends. The Coalition has researched existing versions, interviewed attorneys, police specialists and sitting commissioners in other cities and come up with a unique new model of police oversight.

Since an independent commission requires a charter change and a citywide election, we are requesting that you join with Council Members Kalb, Gallo, and Kaplan to put this carefully wrought measure on the November ballot rather than substituting a weaker ordinance that does not provide true citizen accountability. A measure that continues to give the mayor or a city administrator the option of declining to impose discipline, for instance, would restrict true police department reform and leave us open for more abuse and additional lawsuits in the future.

This is a good government measure that provides transparency and real community engagement with police operations for all Oakland residents. As progressives, we expect no less from our representatives. We hope you will join with progressive council colleagues to place it on the ballot.

Sincerely,

 

Oakland City Hall-Winchester Mystery House or Wonderland?

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Yesterday I attended a city council meeting-the Committee on Economic Development, CED-to discuss putting the renters’ protections initiative on the November ballot. The meeting lasted over 2 and half hours without seeming to come a conclusion. I signed up to speak online before I left home but didn’t get a chance to utter a word. The end “result” of that meeting was so byzantine, confused, and unwieldy that the city council members didn’t seem to understand it any more than I did.

images  City Hall has become the Winchester Mystery House of government-you enter not knowing when you’ll get out-but having wasted hours trying to find a door that leads to anywhere, you fall back out of its ornate gates, worn-out and discouraged if mildly entertained.

Maybe it’s more like Through the Looking Glass with Alice– whose face and name changes with the day, the committee meeting, the issue. That’s one of the most frustrating things about our “new” city council, they’re a bit like a side dish that doesn’t gel, a recipe missing an ingredient or two or a cake that falls flat just when you think it’s ready to be eaten. 7e86a1deb9fc267058115d3eaa3f5bd31book36

We’re 51 days into the 90 Day Moratorium-Sorry about all those silly analogies, because I just can’t figure out why all these smart, seemingly progressive, well-educated (the Goldman School of Public Policy got some splainin to do) relatively young folks can’t quite get anything done that really needs doing.

So yesterday both sides of the renters’ protection initiative spent most of their time in offering sad anecdotes to the their opposing narratives. But, at least the renters group had some heavy hitters like the woman from Tenants Together who explained that the City was wrong in calculating the cost of the initiative, should it pass. Since complaints will be reduced given the increased protections, there would be fewer hearings than now, thus lower expenses.

Margaretta Lin compared other cities with similar protections demonstrating how we lagged behind policy-wise, and James Vann said that the organizations involved in this measure are willing to negotiate with the council and mayor if they seek some changes before offering it on the ballot. The overall thrust was that the measure should shift the burden of proof from the tenants, many of whom are too scared too file, to the landlords for whom this is a business and filing is not as burdensome and-the measure actually states that landlords are to be guaranteed a fair return.

Poorly advised by EBRHA-But the small landlords, most of whom were women, thought that 1) the council was actually passing the initiative not merely offering it as a ballot measure which would then have to be voted on by the whole city and 2) they would not be able to obtain a needed increase/fair return for items like higher garbage and water costs. Since the East Bay Rental Housing Association, EBRHA, brought them there and fed them these lines, I suggest these small landlords get their money back since none of that is true.

2book5These landlords are able to not only recoup their expenses and charge the tenants for 70% (note 70% is more than half, a lot more) of the cost of any capital improvements they choose to make-not to mention the tax write-offs–but under the new measure, they would still be allowed to request increases if utilities or other costs go up significantly. To paraphrase James Vann, we all know that there are good landlords and good tenants, bad landlords and bad tenants, but right now, the bad seem to be changing our city radically and not all to the good.

My unheard statement-Let’s continue to negotiate a measure that all can live with but that lightens the landlords’ thumbs on the scales of justice and provides some hope to Oakland’s long suffering renters, especially those who have raised their families here and live in fear of being torn from their homes like refugees after a natural disaster.

Another thing, how about them SRO’s-I would also have asked what is being done to stop the closing of all our SROs and where the additional tent cities can be sited that will be needed if the existing SROs are allowed to go the way of fresh water salmon, the whipsnake and corral reefs-come to think of it, those may be faring better than low-income renters these days.

CM Rebecca Kaplan tried to get the CED Committee to commit to allowing a discussion of the actual measure by the full council at some time in the near future. I think she may have succeeded in spite of Chair Larry Reid throwing up his hands in exhaustion after wasting time arguing with some affordable housing folk over who should get to speak when.

Chair Reid was attempting to be fair but it didn’t come out quite that way. Audience members got the shouties  after being shut down which is quite different from smashy-smashy but seems to have the same effect on CM Reid.

When I noticed that our young city attorney seemed to have sprouted a giant hat while he was busy explaining away any attempt at clarity the CMs were mumbling about, I figured I had probably eaten the wrong kind of cookie. I made my escape, and as you can see, the only thing I remember was that it was another Tuesday in Wonderland. Time to take a nap. Maybe I’ll wake up and it’ll all make sense.

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Actual photo of the city attorney on Tuesday

Pamela’s Primary Voter Guide for the 18th AD

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If you live in Assembly Member Rob Bonta‘s district (he’s on your ballot so you’ll know) then these recommendations apply to you and your particular choices. Many of these choices overlap the assembly district but since a few don’t, I’ll stick to this part of the Central and East Oakland/Alameda/San Leandro electoral district.

First, remember that you can still register or reregister if you want to vote in the Democratic Primary, that is, in order to vote for Bernie, you have to be a Dem or a Decline to State but not a member of another party such as the American Independent Party-which is a right wing creation-not the designation for a non-party voter. You have until May 23rd!

Yes vote for Bernie if you want to see a real change in the party, at least at the top.But, in my opinion fighting for good government on the local level is the way we truly build change. The Republicans learned this years ago, and despite rumors of their demise, the old Mark Twain phrase, that party controls many statehouses, state legislatures, and the Congress by working their way up-not down. This is no small thing! It is why voters’ rights and access to birth control  are disappearing in many states and, affordable housing and transportation budgets have been whittled to nothing while student debt bankrupts the young.

So please join me in learning about local elections and get active in local politics. There’s always more to do but it can get complicated. I’ll start with the California Senate race in Senate District 9. Here we have the choice of two good candidates, three actually, including the almost unknown Katherine Welch but with just enough of a difference in vision to be important in our day-to-day lives-which is where we live them, after all.

Vote for Sandre Swanson

Sandre Swanson, Oakland, Alameda, and San Leandro’s previous assembly member was termed out and replaced by Rob Bonta-Rob is running for reelection-who, along with Congresswoman Barbara Lee-she’s also on the ballot and the choice of over 80% of us-Assembly Member Tony Thurmond, and current State Senator Loni Hancock have endorsed him in his run for State Senate as Loni Hancock is now termed out.

Sandre bucked the established Democratic party and the governor who wanted to cut social programs like Healthy Children and eliminate Redevelopment-which the guv managed to do- and which has greatly exacerbated our housing crisis. Nancy has also done a lot of good work but we have to make a choice here–Skinner is well funded and has the support of Oakland Mayor Libby Schaaf which tells me something about their competing visions.

Sandre wrested local control back from the state for our school district, has fought to end the scourge of sexual slavery/trafficking of young girls in California, Oakland particularly, and established the Men and Boys of Color Commission which traveled the state gathering community info and putting it to use to create legislation to help these young men. There’s more-Sandre is principled, progressive and will not back down to the party establishment. I’m voting for him.

Vote Bonta

I’m voting for Rob while pushing him to support tougher laws on police transparency and accountability, because I appreciate his hard work fighting for programs for children who need services that were rolled back by the governor. Both Rob and Tony Thurmond are working to bring benefits to marginalized communities but are often stymied by business Dems and a very frugal governor.

The big state race seems to be a foregone conclusion. Senator Barbara Boxer is retiring and despite the long list of candidates for US Senate, Kamala Harris is the favorite. She has all the right stuff, good connections, extensive credentials, a career as a top law enforcement officer and movie star looks-which we know count even if they shouldn’t. I just have a little trouble consistently electing prosecutors who use the right lingo about criminal justice reform with very few specifics. I need specifics so I’m treading water on this race hoping to get some specific info thrown my way before proceeding to her anointment.

Vote for Carson and Miley

Keith Carson and Nate Miley are running for their supervisorial districts as incumbents. Both should get reelected. Carson is a prince among politicians who works quietly for the various constituencies in his district, listens to their needs and responds accordingly. Miley has his faults, one of them being his inability to deal with criticism. I have had my differences with him in the past but recognize the amount of time he puts in for his constituents and his penchant toward innovative solutions. His opponent has no experience relative to his ambition, believing he should start at the top without grappling with the contentious issues a supervisor faces.

Judicial Races

Now to the judges. There are three judicial races which is an unusual number for one election. I can only suggest you follow the endorsements on their web pages if you have not attended any endorsement meetings. Since I have attended a few, I have a set of suggestions rather than recommended candidates.

Jennifer Madden who’s running for Superior Court has been actively campaigning which cannot be said for Jonathon Van Ee. Jennifer has been endorsed by the Alameda Labor Council, the County Democratic Party and the  John George Democratic Club, among others. It’s true she is a prosecutor but she heads the Human Exploitation and Trafficking Unit (H.E.A.T.) and supervises H.E.A.T Watch, a 5 point strategy to combat Human Trafficking. I attended a panel discussion that BBBON, the Block by Block Organizing Network held a couple of years ago on how girls in Oakland are affected by this modern day slave trade and was impressed by her work. So I’m endorsing her. See  https://maddenforjudge2016.com/ for more info. Vote Madden.

In the other contested Superior Court case, there seem to be some good candidates: Scott Jackson, David Lim and Barbara Thomas. I’ve seen Scott Jackson at three endorsement meetings and Lim and Thomas at one each.

The Alameda Labor Council has endorsed Lim, who as a council member in San Mateo helped google bus drivers unionize, while Supervisors Carson and Miley have endorsed Jackson. Both have been prosecutors so that’s a wash. However, Jackson trumpets his social justice beliefs and given how few Black judges there are in a system bent on incarcerating young Black people,that is something. Bottom line, there are 2 good candidates to choose from.

Democratic Central Committee for the 18th AD

I am running on a slate of candidates for these positions. We are all volunteers who represent the local Democratic Party. If you are not registered as a Democrat, you will not see this ballot though you may still vote in the presidential primary. You have until May 23rd to register as a Dem for this primary and can do so online http://www.acgov.org/rov/registration.htm .http://www.acgov.org/rov/registration.htm

As Central Committee members, we promote voter registration, we endorse both candidates and issues, and pass our policy ideas along to the state party in the form of resolutions. If a local candidate has been endorsed by the state party, that is us.

Given that Alameda County is one of the most progressive counties in the country, we should have an activist party that pushes the state toward more progressive solutions but that is not always so. Please consider joining, or visiting or running for one of these offices in the future.

I am a member of this body and am running again. As the local politics coordinator for the Wellstone Democratic Renewal Club and the political action chair for the Block by Block Organizing Network, BBBON, I have been very active in the struggle for affordable housing and the fight to bring an independent police commission to the City of Oakland.

Besides working for tougher renter protections (please sign the petition for the initiative proposed by the Oakland Tenants Union and ACCE, ) my next project will be working to repeal the Costa Hawkins Act which restricts any kind of renter protections on units built in the last couple of decades and into the future.

You will hear more about this next push (repeal of Costa Hawkins) in the near future. If we do not build more affordable housing while protecting those who live and work in California now, we will ultimately damage the long term economic viability of our state.

These folks are also on the slate that Rob Bonta has endorsed (also Nate Miley, Keith Carson and Abel Guillen) and while we may differ in some areas, overall we are working together to strengthen the progressive direction of our state-Robin Torello, Jim Oddie, Howard Egerman, Malcolm Amado Uno, Linda Perry, Diana Prola, Marlon McWilson (also running for County Board of Ed,) and Corina Lopez. Our entire slate has also been endorsed by the Alameda Labor Council, ALC.

My personal endorsements include-the East Bay Women’s Political Caucus, Black Women Organized for Political Action, the Asian Pacific American Democratic Caucus, the John George Democratic Club, and of course, the Wellstone Democratic Renewal Club.

Measures

Yes on Measure AA-our bay needs us and wetlands are not only important to the critters who live there but as a buttress against sea level rise. It’s $12 a year, folks, so while it may not be a perfect measure, it’s damn good.

Prop 50

No.This was written after some high profile cases of corruption involving state legislators surfaced. It will do little if anything to prevent that while it damages the almost forgotten tenet that you are innocent until proven guilty. It will win but I’m not voting for it.

I’ll be happy to hear your suggestion, differences, additions. Please feel free to comment!

One more thing, if someone darkens your door promoting their candidate or issue, or, heaven forfend, t calls you on your own little phone, please thank them for volunteering to promote democracy, don’t yell at them for violating your privacy or interrupting the game. You might even join them next time.

 

 

 

 

 

Open Letter to Hillary Re College for All

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And Hope over Nope

“Now personally, I don’t want to be paying for Donald Trump to send his kids and grandkids to college,” she said. “I want to pay to send your kids and grandkids to college.”

Yes, Hillary, I would be willing to pay for Donald Trump to send his kids and grandkids  to college-through my taxes and yours-albeit yours should be at a considerably higher percentage than mine! 2016-05-07 12.22.25 (640x360)

Yesterday Hillary came to the Town, Oakland that is, and I dropped by outside to see what was going on. One friend was standing outside with a handmade sign containing a list of complaints against our presumptive nominee and a few young folk were chanting “Bernie,”and I mean a few, five or six. I heard someone got thrown out for some kind of heckling but altogether, judging from the selfies, a good time was had by most. 2016-05-06 15.10.37 (387x640)

Local reporter and father of the darling Silas-who was featured in a photo in the pages of our paper formerly known as last week-Matt Artz covered her comments. She took a hit at Bernie once again since he has a viable campaign operation for the California primary-when and where I will cast my vote for him for the last time.

Now, let me state again to the chagrin of my most purest of friends, that I will vote for the woman when November comes (but not in the June primary–Bernie !) I may even find myself campaigning for her but I wish she would stop making it so damn hard!

Ok, here I won’t go into her hawkish bona fides, perhaps the most horrendous part of her record, most recently in Honduras, murder capital of the world, in no small part thanks to us, the US. I admit that I try to not read all the lurid details of her dealings with corporations, I don’t blame her for husband’s love of mass incarceration, etc, because I believe all the Republicans, not just Trump, are evil and promote cruelty towards anyone who hasn’t been lucky or  who doesn’t look like them-I need to be able to vote for her.

I’m honestly so frustrated with these tirades against the so-called far left ideas of Bernie’s that I’m reduced to sputtering. But I’ll give it a try.

Dear Hillary,

I’m a single mom whose kids attended public school all their lives. They struggled with a barely funded system where everyone tries to get into the right elementary school, you know what I mean, the ones in the white neighborhoods whose parents can afford amenities like a school counselor or librarian (now even having a school library is a privilege not a right.)

They both went away to HBCUs, you know, historically Black universities and colleges, but you knew that acronym right? I paid for housing and living much as I could though I’ve never even made what is now considered median wage-still working at 69 btw–but they took out loans and I took out loans. My son went to law school, looks like he’ll be paying them back the rest of his life.

I came to California when it had truly free higher ed which has been gone since Reagan, of course, but unlike many countries that didn’t include rent and food and living in California was never cheap.

So let me explain something-In case you’ve noticed California still has a rep as a place of innovation and forward thinking due in no small part to our once free higher education guarantees. There was no means test for those guarantees. And why would there be?

Do we have a means test, in other words, a sliding scale of charges for our K-12 program? Our public libraries? Well do we? When  you drive on the highway, have we instituted a sliding scale cause Donald Trump can afford to pay?

How about social security? Many have argued that it should include a means test and that wealthier people don’t deserve it? Do you think for one minute that social security would have survived if it were just for the poor?

So here’s the first problem I see with your plan. In our country where white supremacy informs all our decisions, including who is the deserving poor and that resentment trickles down to all in need-college assistance for the poor would be ill-funded and subject to immediate defunding at the first sign of distress. Americans would resent it because someone they didn’t like might get it. They would resent it because they got it and it would be seen as a handout, charity, a dirty word in our society since its founding.

Of course, a college funding program would also preclude free egalitarian universities where everyone is on a equal footing which would look something like our public schools are supposed to look. So that’s truly utopian, I guess, though some countries seem to have those kinds of schools where no matter your color or parents’ level of income, you get a k through 12 school that’s clean and safe and all decked out with the latest books, computers, and unleaded paint, etc. But that’s the subject of a whole other column, er, letter.

That leads me to another little thing, why would you seek to lead the Democratic Party, a party you claim is against all that Trump and those other nasty little men the Republicans put in office, promote a mean-spirited plan that pits us against Trump’s grandchildren? How Trumpian is that?! What if Trumps’ kids decided not to pay for their children’s education, should we punish them for that?  Once again , how-trickle-down-resentment, how Trumpian is that?

It’s quite one thing to use the anger many of us (including me) have against the 1% to attack their plans to make all our lives harder. And it’s another thing to assert that free higher ed is some far out idea that only silly people believe in despite the fact that many countries, even those not overly wealthy, provide it and healthcare and childcare-when you know how doable it is!! As Secretary of State, you did travel a bit, am I right?

Is it because you don’t think you can convince Americans that paying taxes for something you can see and use instead of weaponry and bank bailouts is just too much work.? Or is it a cynical ploy to make Bernie appear less pragmatic than you? But free public university and college education is the best way to build a future for our kids, it’s a viable economic plan. You, who have details on the tips of your fingers, can certainly make a case for higher ed for all.

Maybe the problem is that your class doesn’t want its taxes raised so that my class of folks can attend college without bankrupting our future, maybe they want us indebted and servile forever. I hope that’s not it, but I have to consider that. It’s also true that poor people are more generous than the rich-watch them tip and give to panhandlers if you don’t believe it.

Bottom line, Hillary, you won’t inspire the young or their parents by telling us we can’t do what we want for our children because someone elses children might benefit too. Just stop it. That’s not the kind of world we want.

We want a larger vision, not a shrunken one. We want a better world, not a slightly improved one. As someone else put it, we want Hope not Nope.I know I need to vote for you in the fall—so stop making it so damn hard!

Oh,by the way, Happy Mother’s Day!

Yours,

Pamela,

Another Mother for Hope

 

 

 

East Bay Housing Emergency at the Wellstone Club-April 28th

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Wellstone Club Schedules Round Table on Affordable Housing-Thursday, April 28th

The club meets this Thursday, Humanist Hall, 390 27th Street, wheelchair access on 28th St. Discussion to start at 7pm, potluck precedes. All are welcome.

Anyone who reads the paper or has checked their twitter account lately, will know that the hot topic throughout Northern California-Oakland, Berkeley, Richmond, Alameda, San Jose, and even Lafayette, Healdsburg and Santa Rosa-is runaway rents. As city councils are inundated by demands to provide more affordable housing, they are also being implored to offer immediate relief from rent gouging and wholesale evictions.

Oakland and Richmond, once seen as the step children in Bay Area development, find themselves fighting for the “soul” of their cities where once blue-collar and white-collar workers rubbed elbows with artists, entrepreneurs and the new T-shirt-collar-tech workers. Sedate Alameda which rarely saw any kind of demonstration, now has rowdy council meetings and an organized, irate citizenry.

All of these cities struggle with housing budgets which were hollowed out by our governor’s destruction of redevelopment and the feds refusal to build anything that’s not a weapon of mass-or at least small scale-destruction. The available funds are not close to the need for safe, affordable housing in almost any NorCal city, [SoCal is also in a bind but that’s a whole other discussion] and low to middle income residents are not ready to move en masse to Bakersfield yet-though they may have to at some point.safe_image.php

The Wellstone Club and its partner the Block By Block Organizing Network, BBBON, joined with the Oakland Alliance and the John George Democratic Club under the The Post Newsgroup Salon this spring  to demand that the City Council of Oakland declare a State of Emergency and Moratorium on rent increases for 90 days while the city looked at specific solutions, noted here:http://postnewsgroup.com/blog/2016/04/04/suggested-actions-protect-tenants-oakland/

At the same time the Citywide Displacement Network led by the Oakland Tenants’ Union demanded the city place the Renters’ Protection Upgrade measure on the ballot but without success but the Network is pushing on with a signature campaign to place it there in November.

Richmond, Alameda, and Berkeley are all working on numerous solutions, notably renters’ protection ordinances, bond measures to provide funds for new housing, condo conversion ordinances, public land for public good policies, and a push to repeal state laws that deny protections to tenants in newer buildings, among others. 2016-03-01 23.47.02 (448x640)

Representatives of these organizing efforts will come together-the East Bay Housing Organizations, the Oakland Tenants’ Union, the Richmond Progressive Alliance, The Berkeley Progressive Alliance, The Alameda Renters’ Coalition and the Oakland Alliance to brief the club and all interested parties on their efforts-how to join, support each other, learn from each other, and to organize region-wide towards long term, state solutions.

Please plan to attend, bring your friends, your organization, if not represented here, such as-small business and artist advocates who currently have few protections against the corporate gentrification of the neighborhoods they have invested in-and get ready to organize with the power of the not-so-silent majority in your cities, towns, counties and at the state house with us.

For more information, contact-Pamela Drake-pamleaadrake@gmail.com, 510-593-3721

 

Oakland City Council Declares Emergency Over

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The Oakland City Council heard from housing rights/housing security activists tonight including some who demanded more city assistance for those who need it less. One council member was moved to declare that he wouldn’t be “appeasing the activists.” Since a tenant had suggested that war had been declared on those who can no longer afford the new rents, appeasement was avoided at all costs by the majority of the council.

Many poor beleaguered developers showed up toting back packs and looking distressed saying that they couldn’t possibly build in one of the most popular spots of the country if they were called on to donate a fraction of a percentage of their profits to mitigating the the wholesale removal of ordinary Oaklanders.

Gary Winkin-Bottom of upper Blackhawk said, “Who’s going to pay the move-out fees”…that the council might someday-possibly-impose, on-a-sliding-scale-to-a-few, long-deceased, drawn by lottery, suffering landowners-or at least their great grandchildren who may be reimbursed under certain circumstances to be detailed in rules to be determined at some undisclosed time and place  in closed session.[Yeah, they really almost said all this. If you don’t believe me, order a tape from KTOP and watch it, I dare you.]

Sometime around 11pm the city council got around to discussing all this in ever decreasing levels of arcane minutiae and vigorously disagreeing with each other.

But at the conclusion of this hard fought discussion for the withering soul of the city formerly known as Oakland, the council thanked the staff for vigorously misleading them and applauded each other for their courage in the face of activists who openly prayed for them. A good time was had by all except for one local advocate who missed an appointment emptying her cat’s litter box. Oh, the horror!