Guest Column: James Vann on City Funding for Landlord Evictions

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This guest blog by noted Tenants’ Rights activist, James Vann, is in reference to a proposed program loosely defined in Council Member Lynette McElhaney’s press release, the body of which is posted below the column. I have edited his piece for brevity and clarity.

Here’s some background on the origin of this funding [estimated at $300k] which will provide loans to landlords who evict long-term tenants. These are tenants who now have the right to relocation fees due to the hardship of displacement. I’ll leave it up to the reader as to what extent this funding redefines spin, irony and general what-the-heckism?!

http://www.oaklandpost.org/2018/05/31/oakland-allocated-2-2-million-prevent-evictions-mayors-staff-failed-spend-money/

City Council Member McElhaney Advances a Landlord-Written Tenant-Eviction Plan Funded by State Anti-displacement Grants

At the end of a 4-1/2 hour Community and Economic Development Committee meeting Tuesday afternoon, Council Member McElhaney rushed a plan to provide “no-interest” city loans (and/or grants) to small property owners by an exhausted 3-person committee.  The objectionable plan would enable and assist owners of duplexes and triplexes to evict longtime tenants from their homes of up to 20 or 30 years.  The hastily developed proposal — for which McElhaney somehow recruited Council Member Rebecca Kaplan as a co-sponsor — was framed by landlord advisers to McElhaney –with no opportunity for tenant advocates to review or comment on the proposal prior to its introduction at the Community and Economic Development Committee at its Tuesday meeting.
Oakland has a “Just Cause” ordinance that prohibits the eviction of tenants without cause except in the case of owner move-ins to include family members who displace existing tenants in duplexes and tri-plexes up to five units. In response to that loophole, the City also recently adopted an ordinance that requires these owners to pay significant relocation fees to tenants who may be evicted, due to no fault of their own. These evictions also result in removing these units from the Just Cause prohibition against no-fault eviction.  While the right of such owners and certain relatives to occupy their property is acknowledged, tenants, who have done nothing wrong but are inconvenienced and evicted by their owners and must search for a replacement home, must still be compensated by the occupying owners.
What CM McElhaney has proposed is actually “an incentive” for small property owners to get long-standing tenants out of their homes, and, in the process, have the city pay for the eviction.  Meanwhile, there is no monitoring by the city, so many of these evicting owners will only pretend to occupy, but may never actually live in the unit.  The owner is then able to re-rent the unit at exorbitant prices — a deception that the city will likely never discover.  Many of these no-interest “so-called loans” will actually become grants of public money because the owners will plead low-income, refuse to pay, resell their property, or even put their homes into reverse mortgages.  These evicting owners will not be required to make a down payment nor matching payments, they simply apply to the city and the full cost of the tenants’ eviction and relocation cost is paid for them — making the city the “Evictor-In-Chief.”
This flawed, ill-thought-out ordinance was advanced to City Council by the unanimous vote of Councilmembers Noel Gallo and Anne Campbell-Washington who joined with Lynette McElhaney.  As so often happens in committees and even at city council, despite the fact that obvious weaknesses in the proposed legislation were pointed out in detail,  not one of the council members bothered to even ask any questions.
James E Vann, Co-Founder
Oakland Tenants Union 
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Press Release: “Committee Strengthens Anti-Displacement Efforts”

“McElhaney and Kaplan Advance Amendment to Help Low-Income Owners Support Tenant Relocation

On Tuesday, June 26, 2018, Oakland’s Community and Economic Development Committee unanimously  approved the establishment of a city loan program to help distressed low-income homeowners advance required tenant relocation funds. Under the amendment advanced by Councilmembers Lynette Gibson McElhaney and Rebecca Kaplan, the City will make available no interest loans to fund required tenant relocation payments for cash-strapped  homeowners seeking to return to their homes. To qualify, owners must meet a strict set of criteria including:

  • Own 5 or fewer units
  • Be low-income or have less than 6 months of financial reserves
  • Be denied a cash-out refinance loan on their property, and
  • Certify that the relative moving in is also low or moderate income and does not own any other real estate

“This is common sense anti-displacement legislation that helps preserve the social and economic diversity of home ownership in our City, especially of African American and other low income legacy owners,” said Councilmember McElhaney. “This is about addressing all sides of the displacement issue and not creating pressure on legacy owners to sell the homes they want to return to.”

This past January, the City Council amended the Uniform Residential Tenant Ordinance requiring that tenants who are evicted for an owner or relative move in receive relocation  payments. Payments range from $6,500 for a studio or one-bedroom unit to $9,875 for a three or more bedrooms. These payments may pose a hardship for low income and low asset owners, especially those who need to recover possession of their homes to support themselves or relatives.

The Ordinance will be heard by the full City Council at its next meeting on July 10. ”

The Last Memorial Day, I’m Done

Okay, it was an interesting 242 years-if you’re using 1776 as a start date-or you could use 1607, the founding of Jamestown, and maybe that’s more fitting because according to https://www.nps.gov/jame/learn/historyculture/a-short-history-of-jamestown.htm “On July 30, 1619, newly appointed Governor Yeardley called for the first representative legislative assembly. This was the beginning of representative government in what is now the United States of America. In that same year, the first documented Africans were brought to Virginia.”

So there we are in a nutshell, a country founded not on freedom and democracy but on commerce and the allowance that some folks might have the right to a little bit of representation while others were here solely for the purposes of exploitation. Our sprawling country was seemingly founded by imperialists from Europe who sought to reproduce themselves. And now it seems time to call it a day….an exceptional day, but  a day nevertheless.

Ah, I know, we’re also a nation where in our little city of Oakland alone, 52 languages are spoken and one of the few countries where folks born here receive the rights of citizenship by birth (no and it didn’t happen just by passing the 14th amendment but through the struggle of the children of Chinese immigrants. See  https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/United_States_v._Wong_Kim_Ark.)

We have a Bill of Rights that was truly revolutionary at the time-setting out some important principles but we have to admit that the 4th and 6th amendments are on life support with the current government working hard to pull the plug (google search and seizure, prisoner rights, etc.) The First Amendment is now so contorted and confused-what with certain religionists forcing a new meaning in which their dogma is to be protected while corporations, with the aid of the Telecommunications Act of 1996, contain and control the media what we know about how business and government work.

Well, no conspiracy theories are necessary to see that our huge country of feudal like kingdoms no longer works very well. And I’m not just talking about the failure to prevent a Goebbels-like tinpot dictator from being “elected” president while his less than competent crime family steals our country’s resources in front of our eyes.

We don’t have a democracy. If we didn’t see that before, it’s all too clear now. Two party rule which can so easily devolve to 1 party rule in such a short time, puts the lie to the uses of representative government versus a parliamentary form with all its complex compromises and muddle now seems to offer a little more-at least if it was in bite size form. Our supersized system produces little more than diabetic offspring.

We don’t even have a national voting policy. Each state or municipality can determine (with a few restrictions) who will vote, when and how. More people have lost their rights to suffrage in the last decade than ever gained it after the Civil Rights laws were finally passed. Between voter suppression laws, reduced polling places and times, to say nothing of foreign interference and machine hacking, we have disenfranchised many more by virtue of our zeal to imprison more folks than, well, it looks like, anybody. Here’s a stat from 2013, https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/United_States_incarceration_rate.

“In October 2013, the incarceration rate of the United States of America was the highest in the world, at 716 per 100,000 of the national population. While the United States represents about 4.4 percent of the world’s population, it houses around 22 percent of the world’s prisoners.”

We can’t even agree with the rest of the world on how to measure stuff or note dates. For those few of us who will get a passport and leave the continent (actually it’s worse than that. Both Mexico and Canada use the metric system,) it’s damn hard to book your stay or apply for visas with our antiquated system. We can’t understand how far anything is or even what time our tour starts unless it’s translated to our so “exceptional” brains. I had to unlearn using my fork and knife in a natural way in favor of swapping them out every time I took a bite after spending a year in Germany at the tender age of 17.

Now we have a rich and powerful country with almost no allies, save Guatemala and Israel. No one much cares about what Guatemalans do-if we’re honest most of us have no idea where it is-and the world over is condemning current Israeli policies in their colonies. [I must assert-no Philistine I-that I have been to Guatemala twice and loved it.]

Everyone gets exercised over national politics but few can do anything at all about them. Do you believe you had any say in who was nominated for president other than feeling personally slighted when your chosen candidate did not get the nod?

But, ok, our local form of democracy has its problems. For instance, in my city when a politician colors outside of the box [by working to get local folks trained for local jobs that local taxes paid for,] she is called a criminal and compared to Trump. She has a predictable reaction to criticism that forces people to chose sides with her or “agin” her (not useful) but when our police chief is caught in a mistake, instead of apologizing, she then lies with charts and drawings (glossies,) she is not compared to GOP characters who do that stuff even better.

Remember Arlo Guthrie (probably not since you’re all 20 years younger than me at least) “Cause Obie came to the realization that it was a typical case of American
Blind justice, and there wasn’t nothing he could do about it, and the
Judge wasn’t going to look at the twenty seven eight-by-ten colour glossy
Pictures with the circles and arrows and a paragraph on the back of each
One explaining what each one was to be used as evidence against us. ” from Alice’s Restaurant Massacree, https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=m57gzA2JCcM

Anyway, since that song is about illegal dumping, I better not mention it since in our city, dumping garbage has become a more serious crime than allowing people to live in tents surrounded by their own filth.

Back to the problem, the United States of America. The number of crises we are confronting since the inauguration of 45, widely understood now to be an illegally elected POTUS, have grown so rapidly, the level of cruelty casual and deliberate has grown beyond what your average soccer mom can comprehend. Some of us were already painfully aware of many of them before this stolen or just bungled election and now, what..uh,yeah…what??

in some countries when they get fed up enough like Poland or Romania, it is possible to take to the streets or go on strike where your capital city, like Paris, is also the most important city. You can make things so inconvenient that governments fold or flee or just shoot down enough people to hold off change for another decade or so. But in the US, places like Washington DC, Harrisburg and Sacramento are the seats of government but otherwise, who cares?

Hardly anyone even in little Oakland knows how the government works or why PG&E, a private company, is in charge of our most important utility, doing it poorly. Just read Nextdoor for an hour or so, low information voters also live in the enclaves of the well-educated and well compensated.

So my modest proposal is that we devolve into regional entities. California is large enough and its residents confused enough to immediately become a country of its own. We grow our own avocadoes and weed, almonds, all on gluten-free trees. Really, we could be two or even three states. One for the folks who think like Alabamans, another for the vegans and the rest for those of us moderate meat eaters who like their edibles on the side.

We could conceivably have our own healthcare system once we are done arguing over how to do it with the purest of motives. Ok, so maybe not. But as Californians we know that thinking will just make it so, not to worry your little botoxed head.

Now that Georgia and Texas have real progressive female candidates, they could get elected and ship their Trump voters to Mexico which could turn out to be the biggest joke on us all once they see they how much they like it-beautiful culture, great food and plenty of holidays plus a very top down government.

Yeah, I know, there’s a blue wave a’comin. And there might be. There are lots of exciting and interesting candidates and the soccer moms are furious. Throw in the rest of us who have been pissed off for a long time, things can change. But Trump and his damage won’t go away soon. The Judiciary is being overhauled top to bottom. We might end up waxing nostalgic for the days when we could lambaste Justice Scalia instead of his younger paler technocratic replacement. The blandness of evil, eh, Neil Gorsuch?

That’s it for me. I need a new country. One in which I have some agency and in which there are national programs for healthcare, education through grad school, real public utilities including use of a modernized internet, no prison industrial complex but a renewable energy complex and housing is a right. Oh yeah, and we play the same national sports the rest of the world gives a dam about but not until the Oakland Warriors win another championship.

Yeah, you know I’m a dreamer, but I’m not the only one…https://www.google.com/search?q=imagine+youtube&oq=imagine%2C+youbu&aqs=chrome.1.69i57j0l5.5924j0j7&sourceid=chrome&ie=UTF-8

My 2018 Primary Recommendations & a Look Foward to November

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Vote Dan Kalb AD 15, Pamela Price DA, & Write-in N.O. Confidence for Sheriff

You got your ballot in the mail and your handbook before that and wow, this is another fine mess we’ve gotten ourselves into. With an open seat in Berkeley/Oakland/Richmond for state assembly and our current governor being termed out from his last incarnation, we have lots of folks to study and TV ads to avoid.

So let’s tackle the governor’s race first. Like most Californians, or most voters, I don’t know any of these guys and gals too well. At least the current governator was once our mayor and though I didn’t much like him, I had some idea what he’d do. Scratch that, with Jerry you’re never sure of anything.

The once flamboyant Governor Moonbeam has turned into Gov Scrooge and it’s well known by all our legislators that if we want more money for programs for kids and housing for the bottom, say, 75% of us, we’ll have to wait for the next boss in Sacramento.

Governor-Delaine Eastin

Gavin Newsom had sucked all the air out of the room until two billionaire charter school proponents, Eli Broad and Reed Hastings, started pumping billions into the race for Antonio Villaraigosa. Having met him once and found him to be a bit sleezy and a lot opportunistic, I would take Gavin over him if those were the only choices.

However, despite Newsom’s image as the brave guy who promoted marriage equality, I remember when San Francisco was on the brink of total gentrification from a wonderful pastiche of cultures and revolutionary instincts to the stultifying center of finance and tech bros it seems to be today, and Newsom presided over that change, encouraging it all the way. Oakland is there now and woe to us if we don’t heed the warning signs.

So my choice was between State Treasurer John Chiang and former Schools Superintendent Delaine Eastin.  Delaine has all the right instincts and when I saw her at Oakland’s rally to repeal Costa Hawkins law which prohibits many municipalities from passing renter protections,  I gave her my vote. You should too.

Lieutenant Governor-Gayle McLaughlin

I am not excited about this race but most voters never are. The only obvious reason to run is to be the next in line for governor. I had thought to endorse Ed Hernandez and then looked at his list of supporters-I was very impressed that he has all the union support but then noticed that that included all the police unions and that worries me. It’s already very difficult to get police reform bills passed, and I doubt he would oppose anything police unions support.

Gayle McLaughlin has operated in the tiny crucible that is Richmond politics where Chevron is the obvious villain to be opposed and most who do, come out looking like heroes. I find her naive and not as grounded as I would like but I will vote for her in lieu of the establishment candidates. BTW, if you notice the inundation of your airwaves with Kounalakis ads, look her up. She is a developer who is the daughter of a developer who has spent her life being appointed to high profile commissions. Don’t let the Obama imprimatur cloud your weepy eyes.

US Senator-Kevin De Leon

State Senator De Leon is responsible for most of the progressive legislation which got through the legislature this year as he was the Senator Pro Tem who pushed and organized the resistance including defining us as a sanctuary state. Now that Senator Feinstein has managed to portray herself as a staunch supporter of the Resistance and, given her millions in campaign cash, Kevin may have little chance but we should look for him to lead our state in some other capacity soon.

Congress-Barbara Lee Speaks for Me-as always

CA Secretary of State-?

I’m sure there are folks who can tell you why or why not to continue to support the incumbent, Alex Padilla, but I could find little or no information on that race. It looks like Padilla is guaranteed a return to that office.

Also, the Wellstone Voting Rights Task Force, for complicated reasons, is voting no endorsement in this race.

Betty Yee for Controller and Malia Cohen for State Board of Equalization.

Attorney General-Xavier Becerra

Ok, so I changed horses in mid-season. My club, the Wellstone Democratic Renewal Club, had heartily endorsed Dave Jones for Insurance Commissioner and feted him with a celebratory dinner. I got many calls from him and finally decided to endorse him before the California Democratic Convention back in February.

But then I got more info from someone who worked as an attorney in that department under both Garamendi and Jones. Describing Jones as insurance commissioner,”Jones could have pursued a pro-consumer agenda, like John Garamendi. But instead he was as passive as he could possibly be. He didn’t even bother to replace people who were in positions subject to his appointment. He just left the Republican holdovers to keep doing whatever they were doing (he didn’t seem to know or care).”

And more specifically as a reference to Jones’ environmental platform, “But where he has real power to help consumers–by making insurance companies treat policyholders fairly–he’s pathetically timid.
Here’s an example I {former employee} know about:  the insurance commissioner has the authority to disapprove all health insurance contracts (policies). There are department lawyers who review every word to make sure it complies with the law.
There was a huge backlog of these policies (the insurers could use them until and unless they were disapproved).  While literally thousands of these policies were sitting without review the laws changed and included more consumer protections. I tried to get those policies disapproved, since they clearly no longer were valid.
But the policies were being used by insurance companies and Dave Jones didn’t want to upset them. So he ordered that they all be approved, even though they all violated the law.”
I’ve heard that Jones was weak on money bail reform while Becerra was not. So I am now endorsing AG Becerra. Maybe Jerry managed to do something right.
Tony Thurmond for Superintendent of Schools-very important!
Now to the fun down ballot stuff. It often seems like throwing darts at your handbook would work just fine which leads me to believe that some of these positions should be appointed rather than elected as they are based on professional credentials that few have and even fewer may desire. But here we go:
Assessor-James Johnson
I can’t say I know a lot about this office though I suspect it’s one that shouldn’t be based on political expertise. I have a recommendation from a progressive friend who has worked with him that Johnson does indeed know the work of this office and is highly competent to carry it on. She is concerned about that the next assessor see the job as important and not just as a political stepping stone so I’m going with that.
Auditor-Controller-Irella Blackwood
Ok, I’ll admit to knowing little about what this office does too but it seems very important. One of the reasons I chose Irella was that during a forum she mentioned why she would present more transparent reports than her opponent Melissa Wilk, who already works in the county auditor’s office, is currently doing. Of course, promises are cheap and we’ll have to see but it is a concept her opponent did not push.
They both have great endorsements but Blackwood’s includes Ann-Marie Hogan while Wilk’s includes Sheriff Ahern who is being targeted by civil rights groups demanding his department be audited for why spending is going up for county jails while prisoner numbers are falling.
I’m sure they would both be fine auditor’s but I want to see this office removed from the sheriff’s influence.
County Board of Supervisors- Wilma Chan-this incumbent has quietly led the fight against the worst of the Trump crimes here in Alameda County.
District Attorney-Pamela Price
I’m happy to note that since I endorsed her, George Soros has followed my lead, LOL and pumped some money into mailers to elect her and other progressives into the office most responsible for mass incarceration of Black and Brown youth.
I’ve written more extensively about this endorsement here – https://draketalkoakland.com/tag/pamela-price/

And I will just add that while Nancy O’Malley has accomplished good things in the past, she is a traditional DA and the times call for innovation and a focus on dismantling mass incarceration. Whatever happens we should be grateful to Candidate Price for taking this on.

Sheriff-Write-In–N.O. Confidence

As I detailed in the blog above, there was a search for someone to run against this sheriff with the necessary law enforcement background but no one took that on despite our coalition’s effort. Since then, some of us have been beating the bushes to find a write-in candidate who would not be required to have the law enforcement certification but would be the antithesis of what most California sheriffs have become,  gung-ho supporters of the Trump anti-immigration policies and purveyors of the abuses of the mass incarceration state. Because they are elected independently, they act with impunity and little can be done to restrain their most negative impulses.

We still have until May 22nd to find a write-in candidate who embodies what real public safety would look like, a California where everyone is encouraged to watch out for each other without imposing their biases on them and where all feel free to come forward and ask for help in times of need. That person must be a registered voter in the county and be willing to obtain 20 signatures to prove it. That’s it, sign up!

But if as likely, no one steps forward-ideally a POC who works in the re-entry, anti-violence or public health field-then we will promote a campaign for everyone to write in the well known anti-sheriff candidate (gluten free of course) N.O. Confidence, who uses the pronoun “they.

State Assembly AD 18-Rob Bonta

Assembly Member Bonta is running unopposed probably because he is one of the hardest working folks in that body and is one of our reps who ushered in the resistance against the regime in DC while also fighting for affordable housing, renter protections, and money bail reform. That’s just a sliver of the issues he is taking on. Show him your support.

State Assembly AD 15-Dan Kalb

This is an open seat in a wide-open race. We have a well-heeled candidate, Buffy Wicks, whom almost no one knows and who has’t lived here for long but due to the Obama nostalgia and piles of cash, has a good chance of getting in the top 2 of our weird primary system.

Wicks is also not a supporter of the repeal of Costa Hawkins which would allow municipalities to enact renter protections on some of the units not now affected by any protections, and she is quite willing to take contributions from the charter school industry. Outside of those pivotal issues, she might be a fine rep but I have nothing to base that on. She worked in the Obama administration but I have no way to know what her real contribution was.

My candidate, Dan Kalb, is widely acknowledged to be the most likely to write successful legislative initiatives in the legislature. His expertise ranges from environmental experience to fighting for affordable housing through knowledge of and a willingness to enact police reform. He is a principled politician who will not make promises he can’t keep.

So now I have to add that I like Jovanka Beckles and Cheryl Sudduth. I keep scratching my head wondering why CNA, the nurses’s union, declined to support Beckles in favor of a political neophyte when they might have put Jovanka over the top. Maybe it’ll still happen, we’ll see. In terms of Cheryl, I am really impressed by the number of issues she is involved in, particularly the layers of sanctuary she reps, and the passion with which she addresses them.

Judge Superior Court-Karen Katz

When Tara Flanagan ran she made a big splash and was a very visible and able politician. But since then she has disappointed those who closely watch trials as more law and order, especially for Black defendants, than was hoped for when elected.

Karen Katz has spent her life as a public defender and is running because she says, “we are all safer when justice is administered fairly.” I have no idea if she has a chance to beat a sitting judge, actually that is probably unlikely, but given some of what I have heard about Judge Flanagan’s court, it’s worth a try.

Propositions-County & Regional

RM3-NO

This measure raises the tolls on the Bay Bridge over the next few years to fund a hodgepodge of projects which claim to be public transit oriented but list to the side of ferry boats while stalling out on your daily AC Transit route leaving you stranded as you bike, albeit in better lanes, to the BART where your wait might be a couple of minutes shorter or not, depending on where you live. As one wag said, these are projects inspired by a transit agency that recently moved to the west bay at great expense but wants East Bay drivers to fund far flung transit and highway improvements to traffic nightmares wrought by Silicon Valley. Why must we continue to pay for all their sins?

The worst part about this mishegoss of a measure is that once these tolls are implemented, there will be no place left to go for funding by transit agencies which are still cleaning up the crumbs left by this mess.

As Jack Kurzweil, one of the founders of the Wellstone Club says, “The projects are not presented as part of a grand plan to address the future transportation needs of the Bay Area.  That’s because there is no such grand plan.  Consequently, there is little basis upon which to evaluate the choice of projects.  They are parts without a whole.  The Bay Area needs a transportation vision that makes sense.”

County Measure A-Childcare-Yes

Although it’s a small increase to the sales tax, the type of tax I rarely favor, we can handle this to fund something as desperately needed as good childcare. I recently bought shoes in Santa Monica and their sales tax is higher-yet I saw lots of shoppers there so go ahead and vote for this.

City of Oakland Measure D-Libraries-Yes

This is a relatively small increase in property tax, $75, but it will have a big impact especially for children for whom their local library branch is a sanctuary and the 30% whose school libraries have been shuttered. With this tax, library hours can be increased as well as the services they supply.

By the way, as some of you may know, adult education was wiped out in Oakland over the last decade and the library is one of the remaining spaces which provides adult literacy classes. And if, like me, you’re a kindle user, the library is a great place to get your ebooks too and the librarians are quite helpful in getting you signed up.

Prop 68-Yes-Park bonds

Prop 69-Yes-funds for Transportation to be spent on Transportation-Duh

Prop 70-NO, no,no-Don’t hobble the Legislature waiting on Republican votes for these projects

A Word about the Upcoming Mayoral & Council Contests

As many of Oaklanders look forward to the fall 2018 elections to remove some of the Trump stain, we also have to take stock of our city. We see the cranes all over the downtown and the crowds at the Lake. We have a plethora of renowned restaurants to choose from when we go out–and all this is good.

But  we may be becoming inured to the ever growing empire of tents, the daily displacement of families & couch surfing youth; at the same time as many of our 1920’s cottages turn into million dollar homes, more and more of us live in unspeakable and highly visible squalor on our streets. And others band together in older homes and apartments hoping that when they go out to work, they don’t get attacked and deported by agents of a xenophobic and lawless regime in Washington.

Our neighbor San Francisco now has the lowest percentages of families of any city in the country. Are we on the verge of becoming the same kind of city as that, cleansed of  its Black leaders, its Latino entrepreneurs, its artists and writers, its Bohemian youth, those who struggle and yearn for justice and new ways of living?

We are in the last moments when the way out of that reductionist and ultimately bleak future is clear–reelecting the folks who have tinkered with small solutions and toyed with our fears while so many go quietly away from us, is not the answer. Just as we’re doing on the national scene, we must allow our creative and compassionate ideas to flow and design the Oakland we have always dreamed of. That means we must stop looking for someone to blame and start proposing bold even outlandish solutions, then join with others to make them happen. Si se puede.

PS. Don’t be fooled by those who denounce the regime in Washington while doing little for the least of these in our hometown. Watch what they do, not what they say.

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Oakland City Council Tonight-Housing, Sanctuary, Police Commission and so much more

 

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Sorry this is so late and since it will be quick and dirty, please excuse typos. If you  are concerned about almost any issue, it’s on the Oakland City Council Agenda for discussion tonight. Well, maybe not net neutrality and the fate of former FBI Director Andrew McCabe’s pension.

So here we go-

A number of issues will be resolved and some will be discussed, resolution still to come. If you don’t want to stay for a couple hours and listen to the discussions on other proposals, sign up now for open forum (or submit and ecomment) and try and race through your points in the 1 minute allotted or sign up for all the items and ask for another minute, sometimes this works. However, you must be there for the 5:30 opening in order to speak at the Open Forum part of the meeting.51y2efayiLL

Famous local woman, Betty Reid Soskin, the oldest park ranger at the Rosie the Riveter exhibit at the National Historical Park in Richmond, and author of Sign My Name to Freedom and so much more will be honored. That alone is worth the price of admission- if there were one.

Open Forum OnlySign up to speak–Tenants rights folks will be  announcing the launch of their petition campaign to “Close the Loopholes” in Oakland’s rent laws for an ordinance on the November ballot to permanently remove “Substantial Rehabilitation” from the Rent Law (SR was removed from Just Cause but not the rent law by Meas JJ in 2016), and to remove the current exemption for “Owner-Occupied 2 & 3 Unit Buildings” from both Just Cause and the rent law.

Substantial rehabilitation means that landlords who have long term tenants, have found that they can evict folks in order to update their flats with fancy new kitchens and baths and then charge whatever the market will bear. Remodeling may sound good but it has become an effective tool of displacement where the existing units were habitable but not updated.

Item 7.9-Tenant Move Out Agreement Ordinance– Long discussions with all concerned groups seem to have resulted in an ordinance that requires certain payments to certain tenants when tenants are legally evicted for no cause, as we stated earlier, there are lots of reasons that can still happen. This is expected to pass under consent but worth watching.

Item 7.10_Support of  Temporary Protected StatusSign up to speak–This is only a resolution but it’s symbolism is very important in a sanctuary city. TPS was granted to groups of immigrants due to dangerous situations in their home countries including acts of nature but also civil wars and in many of these countries, the political and domestic situation remains almost as perilous as the original event that led to their seeking refuge. And many of them have settled and raised families here by now.  https://immigrationforum.org/blog/fact-sheet-temporary-protected-status/

In Oakland many Salvadorans, Haitians and Yemenis would face an uncertain future if the federal government were allowed to follow through with their edict to begin removing protections. This should be a slam dunk for our council but it’s important that we show up and speak in favor so that the issue stays at the forefront of voters’ minds and they understand the terrifying ramifications of this type of change.

S7.27 and S7.28-Cannabis Record ExpungementWatch and learn–one is in support of Assembly Member Rob Bonta’s bill AB 1793 which is a follow-up measure to Prop 64, to legalize pot use and to ask the DA to remove or dismiss such sentences (she has to be asked?) don’t foresee any trouble passing these but thought you oughta know. And S7.3 supports the change to the commercial loophole in Prop 13 which also exempts small businesses and will provide much needed funding to our schools and other local community needs-

https://www.evolve-ca.org/press-release/

http://www.latimes.com/politics/essential/la-pol-ca-essential-politics-updates-california-lawmaker-proposes-easier-1515529046-htmlstory.html

S7.31-Support of a State Bank for cannabis businesses-Speak or watch— There are lots of reasons to set up a state bank, a bank that would hold California’s best interests at heart by funding affordable housing, non predatory home loans, small local businesses, and generally use our tremendous financial resources to invest in our state rather than wealthy shareholders and bonuses for ridiculously rich CEOs. But this bill looks to focus on making it safe to run a cannabis industry which is a necessary function since federally chartered banks are prohibited from doing that.  http://sd18.senate.ca.gov/news/1252018-hertzberg-introduces-legislation-establish-framework-cannabis-banking

Item 11 is a biggie-The Enabiling Ordinance for the Oakland Police CommissionSign up and speak--This new commission was supported by 83% of the voters. They long for an independent body which can make policy and impose discipline when necessary on the officers of our very troubled police department. Despite this, the city administration has made it as difficult a process as possible for the commission to get up and running-the charter change was passed over a year ago but this ordinance is still aborning, sigh.  yesonll_gray

And, the city has allowed the police union, OPOA, to take months to try and negotiate away, under an overly broad understanding of what “meet and confer” means, to weaken the new law which amended the city charter’s oversight of the department. This is a longer discussion for another time. The point of passing this measure was to remove the question of oversight as much as possible from city politics and give it to the citizens affected by this department’s failure to resolve issues in the NSA, etc.

Unfortunately, the new ordinance under which the commission would be guided to operate “misunderstands” the core of the measure and tries to return  some of the rights and responsibilities of the Commission and the agency, which conducts the investigations, to city administrators.

For instance, the original ordinance-not the measure but the ordinance which outlines additional details on how it is implemented, so call it the “implementation ordinance”-changes some terms such as “directs the chief to notify” or “provide” the commission and the agency with up-to-date information to “requests” that the information be provided. If you’re a parent, you will probably notice the huge difference between the power of those words. I have also heard that city officials are being advised that the ordinance has to comply with the city charter. Of course it does, but remember that this measure changed the city charter in this area.

Item 13-Moratorium Extension On Substantial Rehabilitation Exemption– Back to the previous argument against the exemption for substantial rehabilitation as a tool for gentrification and displacement. The city has been studying the issue and we want to support the continued study for another 180 days in hopes of some actual legislation. During this period, this exemption to tenant protections on certain units is suspended and those affected renters are safe while the city considers what needs to be done.

That’s all folks, something for everyone—please sign up to speak or register an e-comment on any of the above based on your interest, comprehension and tolerance for BS in our progressive city by the Oakland Estuary.

https://solar.oaklandnet.com/Speaker/form

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Oprah & My Endorsement for the 15th AD Primary

download (8)

There are nine candidates running to replace Tony Thurmond, current Assemblyman of the North Oakland/Berkeley/Richmond District in the state assembly since he has decided to run for State Superintendent of Schools rather than continue in the Assembly.

Most of these candidates are not household names, although it may be argued that most assembly reps are fairly unknown even to their constituents. Go on–ask the next 4 people you meet who their state rep is, either assembly or state senate. I’ll bet if 1 in 4 can name them, your friends can be classified as political activists.

#Oprah2020

Most folks can tell you that Oprah may (or may not) be considering a run against Trump or Pence or Ryan or Hatch or Tillerson or the monster from the Upside Down… Liberal women and many men are excited at the prospect of an actual self-made billionaire who is also a Black woman that white women might actually switch racist allegiances for while my lefty friends are freaking out over another celebrity presidency. Lighten up folks, it was just one speech, one heart melting, tear inducing vision of justice and compassion and a way forward out of despair…sigh. Anyway, I only brought it up to trick you into reading this blog.

The Nameless Faceless Masses…

For the 15th AD are in no particular order, really, none:

 

Among these I’d give Buffy, Dan, Jovanka and Judy top mentions as the candidates most likely to succeed– and I bet you never heard of Buffy but that’s how big time endorsements and piles of cash work. Two of these hopefuls have to get through the June primary after which they will run against each other in November for the spot in Sacramento.

I have my faves but I still need to see a little more from these folks to make my decision, as much as my decision matters, unless it can help  you make yours. But first you have to know my criteria. Here some of them are—

Costa Hawkins Repeal or will you support cities being able to protect renters?

That’s the gist of a 1995 law that outlawed local municipalities being able to enact renter protections on single family homes and units built since at least 1995 which also allows vacancy decontrol-where the landlord pushes you out so they can raise the rent. A huge percentage of renters in Oakland are threatened with displacement daily based on this law.

Assembly Members Bonta [hint:many of my readers may live in his district https://a18.asmdc.org/district-map] and Chiu are sponsoring the repeal of this regressive law. It doesn’t mean protections will then be enacted but it no longer prevents them from becoming law.

Hearing in Sac on Thursday

So if you want my undying love and maybe even my endorsement-which translates to a vote in the local Democratic Party-show up for the hearing, this Thursday, January 11th, 9 am at the State Capitol, maybe even speak in favor but the least you can do is endorse it, AB 1506.

Beyond renter protections what additional ways/revenues will you propose to increase all levels of affordable housing? This is an issue of desperate importance to most Bay Area folks and probably to most Californians. so be prepared with solutions.

Make it Fair California/ Close the Corporate Loophole, etc

These have been the names/branding of the movement to reform Prop 13 which ended up benefiting corporations more than homeowners and shrinking the budget for schools and roads, etc, permanently.

“Make It Fair closes the $9 billion commercial property tax loophole by assessing under-valued commercial properties at their actual value. This creates a level playing field among businesses and ends the unfair advantage given to big corporations. Make It Fair guarantees Prop 13 remains in effect with no changes for homeowners, residential renters and farmers. This is only about changing the commercial property tax loophole.”

http://makeitfairca.com

You gotta support it and tell me how you’re going to help it pass-requiring  a ballot measure-since it could result in at least $9 billion added to the state treasury. Given the new GOP tax law that will really hurt California, this is more important than ever.

Criminal Justice Reform-Who’s watching the “Protect & Serve” Crowd

It’s time to repeal the Copley Decision in which “the court ruled that police disciplinary hearings are closed — and the public has no right to learn about allegations of police misconduct, even when they are aired in a civil service commission.” Rather than lead as we have done in other policy areas, California has lagged behind most other states since 2006 in our ability to police the police.

http://www.sandiegouniontribune.com/news/politics/sdut-sweeping-impact-copley-decision-significance-2015may30-story.html

The Copley Decision has not even gotten a fair hearing by legislators as they are afraid to challenge police unions on the basic rights of the policed, especially the overpoliced. Will you stand up to this special interest group?

Ferguson Report & California

I have seen a willingness of the current legislature to reform the kind of punitive measures that the DOJ’s Ferguson Report documents, “The city’s practices are shaped by revenue rather than by public safety needs.” 

https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/post-nation/wp/2015/03/04/the-12-key-highlights-from-the-dojs-scathing-ferguson-report/?utm_term=.6cba763c5086

But we still use revenue enhancement to guide criminal justice laws in our state and local governments rather than making the criminal code less punitive to poor people where the infraction is less a public safety threat than a bureaucratic means to filling government coffers. And that reminds me, will you vote to end money bail as proposed in SB 10, https://www.aclunc.org/article/california-money-bail-reform-act-2017. It didn’t make it through the last legislative session so may come back with a new number designation but please tell me you can vote for it or campaign for it right now?

Healthcare for All is more than voting for SB 562

If you’ve read the controversy on the stalled California healthcare overhaul, you might agree that it’s a multi step process and may have to be carried out in increments rather than one fell swoop. Our system is a hodgepodge, some of which works for a segment of the population, much of which leaves large swaths out. But we know from the first years of Obamacare that confusion breeds fear and we need as smooth a transition to full coverage as we can get.

So tell me how you will attack that need and what steps might see us through to our ultimate goal of healthcare for all? I really don’t want to hear simplistic notions of an easy answer to please the crowd. I wanna know you understand some of the complexities of switching out of private, federal and state coverage without leaving folks behind. It is doable so how will you do it?

https://www.thenation.com/article/medicare-for-all-isnt-the-solution-for-universal-health-care/

https://draketalkoakland.com/2017/07/04/has-sb-562-actually-moved-universal-healthcare-forward/

You may be tired of reading cause you are running a campaign, dialing for dollars, hiring consultants, filling out lengthy questionnaires, and finding someone to go out for your dry cleaning so I’ll list some of my other “demands” just in case you care:

Full support for SB 100 and a return to local control in regulating air pollution from refineries, transparency for charter schools with a goal of ending the privatization of our public school system, a return to the Higher Ed Master Plan, a way to end any kind of support for private prisons, a bill of rights for immigration detainees, sigh, so much more. Now tell me your priorities…

Yours,

Pamela A Drake, local Democrat  download (9)

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This is Recy Taylor, if you don’t know who she was, google her.

 

This Week in Resistance from Oakland to Sacramento

Starting with Friday, January 5th, we have a very busy activist week coming up–important stuff from sanctuary to rent control, coal to electoral organizing, it’s all happening from the Bay Area to Sacramento. Get your walking shoes on, hop on BART or Amtrak, you are needed.  images

Friday, the 5th [from the East Bay Sanctuary Covenant]3 pm at the San Francisco Federal Building, 90 – 7th Street

Rally to Save Temporary Protected Status for Immigrants

“The Trump administration is threatening to remove Temporary Protected Status (TPS) from Salvadorans, Hondurans, Nicaraguans, Syrians, and Haitians and send them back to situations of life-threatening violence.  Many came to the United States because of former wars and natural disasters and have been here for years, and for some, even decades. Removing Temporary Protected Status will put hundreds of thousands of people at risk of deportation. Sending them back to countries where there are ongoing conflicts or economic instability is a human rights disaster.” haitians

Bay Area Coalition to Save TPS-
For further information, contact CISPES at 415-503-0789 or bayarea@cispes.org   

Saturday, January 6th, OJC, 10 am, at the ACCE Office, 2501 International Blvd, Oakland Electoral Organizing for 2018-

The Oakland Justice Coalition is calling progressives together to strategize for the upcoming elections this fall when the mayor’s office in addition to city council and school board seats in Districts 2, 4 and 6 will be up and some challengers are already running. “Our elected officials do not deserve a free ride in 2018. Who is ready to step up?”    25594003_10159734810420150_3593693008047131124_n

 

Tuesday, January 9th, Oakland City Hall, Council Chambers, 6 to 9 pm

Deport Ice– The Public Safety Committee of the Oakland City Council will consider a Resolution by CMs Kaplan and Brooks to prevent OPD from assisting ICE in deportation raids such as happened on August 16th 2017.  images (8)

The resolution had been postponed during the December Workers’ Strike and after the City Council prevented the Public Safety Committee from hearing the issue in November.

https://www.facebook.com/events/758631214332796/

Wednesday, January 10, SF Federal Building, 450 Golden Gate, 8:30 am

“Join No Coal in Oakland on January 10 at a crucial hearing that could put an end to developer Phil Tagami’s lawsuit against the City of Oakland. NCIO-150x150

Rally outside the courtroom at 8:30 am (but come even earlier to make sure you can get a seat inside the courtroom if you want to attend).”

Wednesday evening, 6:30 pm in City Council Chambers, 3rd meeting of the Oakland Police Commission

The new police commission is still getting its sea legs and is not yet staffed. Members of the Coalition for Police Accountability have been present at each meeting and the commissioners claim to have learned more about their mission and its implementation from them, audience members, than the city administration. We’re all beginning to wonder if the current administration is up to working with citizen groups like this and others like the Soda Tax Advisory Board.

 https://www.eastbayexpress.com/oakland/oakland-has-yet-to-spend-soda-tax-funds/Content?oid=11372565

Check https://www.coallitionforpoliceaccountability.com for more info on police commision meetings.

Thursday, January 11th, Rally Against Costa Hawkins, in Sacramento [from Tenants Together] http://wellstoneclub.org/rent-control-for-all-repeal-costa-hawkins/

“A first vote on the bill to to repeal the state restriction on rent control – the Costa Hawkins Rental Housing Act – AB1506 – is scheduled! This was hard fought. Housing justice groups across the state have been pressuring Housing committee chair Assemblymember Chiu, lead author Assemblymember Bloom, and Assembly Speaker Rendon to bring this to a vote.

Meet us in Sacramento at the state capitol on Wednesday January 11th at 8:30am in State Capitol, Room 4202 at the Assembly Housing and Community Development Committee meeting. It’s important to get their before early so we can get seats in the hearing room. Stay tuned for lobby days prior to the vote!”

https://www.facebook.com/events/161315931153430/

Women’s March Redux, , Saturday, January 20th in Oakland and other cities around the country-

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https://www.facebook.com/womensmarchoak/

Stop circling the Firing Squad!  

All this great stuff, progressive change and signs of resistance should energize us but we have more enemies than Trump and the GOP or the moderate Dems, we have ourselves as Pogo once said, and we’re a tough audience.  images

We are losing KPFA–the only listener sponsored radio, no Kochs, no commercials a la NPR–founded in 1949, then developed into a network called Pacifica which now has 5 stations including our successful one in Berkeley. But the wolf is at the door of WBAI in New York due to their own incompetence masquerading as ultra left purity, and because they are clueless and see conspiracies where there is actual failure, they have led the wolf directly to the door of KPFA too. It is probably too late for us to rectify this situation and because so many listeners have heard the cry of the wolf too many times, they may no longer care but this is a grave loss. And it is ours to own, not the Right’s, more’s the horror and the pity.

Then on a smaller scale, a brilliant and witty progressive senator has been taken down by our own Democratic women andd many of us are left wondering which of the charges brought against former Senator Al Franken were actually valid and how serious were they anyway?? His name is now mentioned in the same sentence as accused pedophile Roy Moore and serial abuser Harvey Weinstein!

How did we let that happen without any type of investigation of the incidents or analysis of how to handle them? And BTW, let’s retire the term zero tolerance or let’s admit that it also means zero nuance, zero thought and no tolerance at all for mistakes.

Ok, enough criticism-self-criticism, onto the fights at hand but don’t forget how easily we become our own enemies, no more nose spiting or cutting off or whatever, we can’t spare the blood-we no longer have the bandages. We’ve got a civilization to save and hopefully improve.

Let us know what you are willing to help, drive a carpool, sign up to speak at a meeting, make a phone call, carry a sign in the next march or all of the above?

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The Upside Down, Welcome to Oakland

Nancy_enters_the_Upside_Down

If you haven’t heard of the series, Stranger Things, you’re missing out but you can attend Oakland City Council meetings, no subscription required, and find yourself in another dimension – The Upside Down- in which one thing may mean its opposite but not always…..there often is no logical explanation for how our city plays fast and loose with their stated goals and even their lawful resolutions. But don’t worry, unlike the evil critters in Stranger Things, they don’t mean anything by it.

Item 7.13 Oak Knoll final Vote

On the agenda tonight are some interesting discussions/votes. The City Council will finally dispense with the Oak Knoll property, a large parcel of formerly publicly owned land that the city managed to lose long ago. They had one final chance to make it work for more than the 2% of Oaklanders (that’s a generous estimate) who got their way. But no, with a vote of 5 to 3-Kalb, Guillen, and Gallo voting no- they are sending it to the cheerful world of wealthy Nimbiism. Never forget-not one unit of affordable housing will be built in this project.

Item 17–Stop ICE Complicity

Please sign up to speak or just listen to the mind boggling excuses our Chief of Police, Anne Kirkpatrick, has given that allowed OPD to assist ICE and Homeland Security Investigations while they arrested a Guatemalan refugee last August. He awaits deportation hearings now as a result of this activity.

Here’s an op-ed Seven Days” Robert Gammon in the East Bay Express:

https://www.eastbayexpress.com/oakland/why-oakland-should-cut-off-ice/Content?oid=11028169

In the agenda packet for tonight, you can view this report from the city administrator which contains a copy of one of the council’s resolutions against assisting ICE in civil investigations or apprehensions. Civil in this case means, immigration laws rather than criminal, which means the person or persons may be engaged in criminal activities that have nothing to do with immigration violations-got it?

“Further Resolved: That, in accordance with state and federal laws, City employees
including members of the Oakland Police Department shall not enforce federal civil
immigration laws and shall not use city monies, resources, or personnel to investigate, question, detect or apprehend persons whose only violation is or may be a civil violation of immigration law; and be it
Further Resolved: That, in accordance with state and federal laws, the Oakland Police
Department will continue to cooperate with federal immigration agencies in matters involving criminal activity and the protection of public safety:”   

Also from the city administrator’s report:
OPD has fully complied with all City of Oakland resolutions concerning the status of Oakland as a sanctuary city in immigration actions. Two of the three relevant resolutions prohibit city departments and employees from assisting or cooperating with ICE (formerly INS, Immigration and Naturalization Service) in relation to civil provisions of immigration law. The two more recent relevant resolutions both specifically state that OPD “will continue to cooperate with federal immigration agencies in matters involving criminal activity and the protection of public safety.”

Since the city can aid in the investigation of criminal activity, did ICE and/or HSI lie to the police chief  and if so, why would she not admit she had made a mistake in believing them or had not read the charge or did she go ahead anyway because…well.. the language of sanctuary is riddled with loopholes and she used one. However, the majority of Oaklanders have been pretty clear that they don’t want to be complicit in criminalizing refugees or terrorizing our hard working immigrant communities.

This is What OPD is offering as a Fix:

In order to provide greater transparency in operations with ICE, OPD will modify its
immigration policy to include the following language:
As a follow up to all cooperation OPD provides to ICE in criminal investigations,
the Department will publish an after-action report on its website within 15 days of
the operation. The public report will include:
• The date, time, and unit-block location of the operation
• The number and cost of OPD personnel involved”

It’s pretty easy to pass ordinances that say we won’t hire firms who help build the border wall but, it turns out to be much harder to really provide sanctuary to our otherwise law-abiding immigrant community. That doesn’t mean that socially conscious Oaklanders won’t continue to push the envelope and demand accountability on this and other forms of tangible resistance to our rogue government in Washingtion DC.

Come out tonight and again on December 5th to the Public Safety Committee Meeting if you want to continue closing those loopholes or, as they say in Stranger Things, closing the gate to the Upside Downimages (9)

Oakland Goes Through the Looking Glass Again-the Oak Knoll Decision

“’Twas brillig, and the slithy toves   Did gyre and gimble in the wabe:

All mimsy were the borogoves,  And the mome raths outgrabe.”

Vintage Alice In Wonderland Clip Art 29

The Mad Hatter’s Tea Party reconvened at the Oakland City Council last Tuesday, the 7th, where the non binary Queen of Hearts magically made a huge swath of our city [187 acres] disappear, the Oak Knoll project, an exclusive community near Toler Heights in the East Oakland hills. [“the Oakland City Council on Tuesday evening ended the long wait over the site’s fate by voting to approve the construction of 918 townhomes and houses at the former military hospital above Interstate 580. The project will represent one of the largest developments in the city recent years, in terms of acreage.” http://www.eastbaytimes.com/2017/11/08/after-long-wait-massive-oak-knoll-housing-project-approved/ ]

Oak Knoll which started out as the “original community benefits” project as designated by the federal government-a mix of housing, expanded retail, and open space available to all-has been redesigned into Neverland, a dystopian version of Glocca Morra—from the musical Finian’s Rainbow, a place where time stands still and folks do things the old fashioned way and where, of course, there are no tent cities, troubled youth or parks in which  families of many colors picnic together. [“You’ll never grow old and you’ll never grow poor if you look to the rainbow beyond the next moor.”]

The project was signed, sealed and delivered to Suncal, a giant developer who had already left a bad taste in another local community’s mouth but has a clear view of the pot of gold in the Oakland hills.

Back in 1992 when I was a staffer to an Oakland Council Member and Larry Reid was chief of staff to Elihu Harris, the Navy which owned the land and used it for a military hospital and officers’ club, decided to unload it. The city of Oakland got first dibs but almost blew it, in fact did just that for a number of years, because the federal government had stipulated conditions for its conveyance to local jurisdictions that included a variety of community uses that would benefit not just those who lived in the surrounding area but some less fortunate neighbors in other parts of our city.

But the folks who live in those lovely, isolated hills were not about to let the hoi polloi, the more proletarian segments of our community, know what a good thing they had. And so began the fight to prevent every possible usage that would benefit anyone beyond their imaginary gates.

They fought against allowing any level of subsidized housing including at the top level of affordability so that a family with an income of $120k will not be qualified for one of the 918 homes being built there. They killed a day center serving traumatized foster kids and expanded retail and a park that bordered 580. However, the new homeowners can count on holding their meetings in part of the old officers’ club, we’re happy to note.

And they won-through lawsuits, a cowardly city council [“Why, they’re only a pack of cards, after all. I needn’t be afraid of them!”, said Alice] the collapse of Lehman Brothers and the resurgence of predatory capital. They persisted in pursuit of the narrowest definition of community.

On Tuesday night amid a packed agenda, city council chambers, and competitive signs– different segments of the labor movement were successfully pitted against one another–while the Mad Hatter bounced from council seat to council seat, they won. There will be no labor agreement for the building trades, prompting one East Oakland resident to note that this will be an exclusive project built for the wealthy by workers making $16 an hour.

The Chesire Cat from District 3 smiled and explained away everyone’s pain while voting  to turn over the keys of the kingdom to the white knights of Glocca Mora. CMs Guillen and Gallo tried to postpone the giving of the gifts til a later tea party, but the Queen, once again portrayed ably by Larry Reid, shouted “Off with their heads” at less senior colleagues Guillen and Gallo. Dan Kalb declared the whole project “not ready for prime time,” a phrase that leaves anyone under 50 scratching their heads and nearly drove the Queen to apoplexy as he tried to come up with ever more ridiculous insults.

Finally the Queen, I mean the Council President, realized he had won by garnering the alice_tenn_croquetqueen_100votes of the two most progressive CMs, leaving the rest of us scratching our heads….who declared the scheme agreeable to all after promising to disappear along with all the gifts stacked around the council’s table. Most of the partiers made sure to pay homage to the Council Queen and his years long struggle to protect the denizens of the original Glocca Morra from….the rest of us.

There were some heroes who organized and fought the good fight and may find relief elsewhere should anyone decide to take it to the courts. Just a few of them, with my apologies to the scores of able speakers, Karolyn Wong of the East Oakland Collective, Angie Tam of the Congress of Neighborhoods, members of the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers http://www.ibew595.org/  and other reps of the Building Trades Council, and of course, James Vann, the conscience of our community.

I’ll leave you with some choice tweets and a few old newspaper column inches (remember them?) on the sordid history of this huge parcel of once public land. Don’t blink or you’ll miss the chance to find this special place but I’ve been assured that the Mad Hatter, the White Rabbit, the Knaves, and of course, the Queen of Hearts will perform in this space again soon. [With many thanks to Lewis Carroll and Broadway, ever relevant.]

Keep your eyes open for this project, no promises made though-

1book36

http://www.oakknollcommunity.com/news/oak-knoll-to-include-low-income-homes/

http://www.eastbaytimes.com/2005/07/11/military-sets-ex-base-land-up-for-sale/

http://www.eastbaytimes.com/2008/02/08/seneca-center-can-stay-at-present-site/

http://www.eastbaytimes.com/2017/05/20/developer-ready-to-move-oak-knoll-clubhouse/

A Sunday Afternoon in Berkeley

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Photo by Sheraz Sadiq, KQED

Yesterday we held a No Hate Rally in Berkeley and the haters didn’t come–or did they? I went and I’ll admit that I have hate in my heart toward the whole Trump Clan, the hideous Trump cabinet and the Republican leadership.

So what was the story yesterday in Berkeley? Was it a violent riot as most media portrayed it, a beautiful peaceful gathering for the whole family, a staunch defense of the city or… a mixture of all of that? So far I’ve read about a dozen versions and each is colored with its own bias, of course. I’ll share some of them leaving out the names of those who described their personal experiences unless they have been published them.

One friend who has mobilized as security for demonstrations over the years and engaged in self defense at times said, “I saw a large group of Black Bloc young people congregating on the corner.  There were 30 – 50 of them there…. As I walked down Allston toward McKinley, this group of Black Bloc people started to chase down one person who was running from them toward McKinley.  I have no idea who this person was.  The Black Bloc people caught him, threw him to the ground, and started to beat him with a stick, kick him and beat him with fists.”

This stands in contrast to another report, “others rallied and then started marching toward MLK park. After a few blocks we were joined by about 100 antifa activists dressed in black to create an inspiring demonstration of unity and determination to make Berkeley and the entire East Bay a fascist-free zone.

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Photo by Sheraz Sadiq/KQED

Once at MLK park people prepared to defend themselves against the kind of attack that left at least seven people suffering from knife wounds in Sacramento last June. Instead, the handful of fascists stayed behind the police barriers, some literally kneeling at the cops’ feet as they hurled racist jibes and gave the finger to the anti-fascist protestors. People became predictably angry…..Remarkably, and contrary to some of the media narratives, the fascists escaped with their lives and without serious injury.”

This is a little of what I saw and posted on facebook, since corroborated by some reporters who were there, “Ok there is one guy here that the crowd was chasing as he left the park. Apparently he had his hat and glasses knocked off and then was surrounded while he was still arguing that Trump had created jobs. A couple of BPD had to come and rescue him, sending him on his way.
I expected to go to Civic Center Park to be angry at these guys but then I started to feel afraid for him. I still don’t like mobs nor the idea of picking on the weak, which he was at the time.” He was eventually led away by a Berkeley cop.

Other friends testified to peaceful crowds and heartening speeches even at Civic Center. There were certainly many folks, thousands at the alternate rally, lots of good signs and happy faces with the Berkeley/Oakland Stands United Against Hate posters that were produced by the hundreds.

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Photo by Dan Brekke/KQED

Further facebook topics for discussion:

One lively discussion as to whether Antifa  and especially the masked black clad crowd (Black Bloc) were useful/positive/ protective demonstrators and necessary or a truly violent faction of the Left. After the events in Charolottesville and the role that Antifa is said to have played in protecting peaceful church going folk, mostly Black, by the way, some of us, me included, have felt the need to-if not embrace them-then not reject them for their “bravery” or others for their dedication if not their tactics.

The other isue that has been raging is whether the media or was it the “fake news” -please note I mean this ironically-over played the violence of the day in Berkeley given all the folks carrying signs with young and old family members, large groups in Groucho masks, they were the “Marxists,” and speeches about love and inclusivity.  Still I can’t blame reporters who saw some attacks and at least one beating and were themselves threatened. One reporter even jumped between the black clad counter protestors and the right winger they were beating.  https://www.revealnews.org/blog/reveal-host-al-letson-shields-man-from-beating-at-anti-hate-rally/

Our own Darwin BondGraham of the East Bay Express filed this report, tweeting it in real time, https://www.eastbayexpress.com/SevenDays/archives/2017/08/27/liveblog-east-bay-demonstrators-protest-against-hate . “Update at 2:10 p.m.: Antifa members badly beat up an alt-right demonstrator on a downtown street.”

Here’s another account that seems a little bipolar but it was that kinda day, “Anyone who was on the ground in Berkeley yesterday will tell you how beautiful a demonstration it was: thousands of people, old and young and in between, socialists, anarchists, liberals, unionists, brass bands, religious groups, students, you name it. There was tactical cooperation between very different groups. A large Antifa contingent played a vital role in defending the community from the 30 or so white supremacists who showed up armed and looking to fight. There were a handful of scuffles, and a few Nazi’s got mildly beat up and removed from the park by Antifa folks. But the day was overwhelmingly celebratory and peaceful.”

And yes, I also saw a report from a “No Hate Rally” organizer who was at least momentarily glad that some Antifa were there when faced with the White Supremacists at the park.

But here’s a divergent point of view from someone I respect as a very thoughtful human being though I know her only a little, “#1: If you live in Berkeley, Oakland, Emeryville, Albany, San Leandro, San Lorenzo, El Cerrito or Richmond, in other words, the inner East Bay, you knew this would happen. You knew 200 or so self-righteous, BAMN/BlackBloc/Antifa, or whatever the hell our masked avengers call themselves this week, would show up with aggression and hostility in their hearts and make sure they push a small number of extremists around, punch them, and dominate the news cycle. You knew this would happen no matter how many thousands of peaceful people showed up. We need to stand up to these people. They are harming our community. They distract the media from what we are fighting. What we are fighting here is white supremacy. Comment #2: I’m not all that excited that 4,000 mostly white people showed up in Berkeley to protest what in our community amounts to an extremely small fringe group who have zero impact on how we live day to day, and congratulated themselves about how they’re fighting Nazis and KKK types. Look at our community and you will see that how we live day to day supports institutionalized white supremacy. Start with R-1 zoning which protects white privilege in housing, move on to the underfunded AC Transit system which many people of color depend on because car ownership is too expensive, look at all the laws and regulations, starting with the U.S Constitution and moving on down to our regional transit and air pollution agencies that prioritize property and profit over people’s health and well being. I love living in Berkeley. Relative to the rest of the nation, we are a deeply progressive community. However, relative to reality, we have a very long way to go to address privilege and build our commons.”

20170828_182727And lastly, my friend who witnessed the beating suggested, ” My view, deeply held, is that massive unity and nonviolence (with appropriate defensive security) is the way toward social progress.  The difference between our side and theirs is that they rely on violence; we need to rely on politics and unity.  If we become the mirror image of them, we lose.”

We can blame the media, we can certainly blame the fascists, the president and his followers who knowingly opened a Pandora’s box of evil and keep it open–but then–we’ll have to decide. We may have a romantic notion that if the communists, free thinkers, and artists who thrived in Germany in the 1920’s had only had more sticks, more street fights or even arms, the Nazis would’ve been beaten back, but I doubt that. I think we’ll find that the fight was already lost by the time those streets fights had begun to take over the life of that country.

I’ll admit I have lots of hate in my little formerly-Quaker heart. I really want to hurt some of those folks that I can never even reach and I think they deserve it. I would attack someone who attacked my own but I just can’t be a bully for other side. Punching down will always be something I feel in my gut is wrong.

I don’t think we are on the verge of  a Brown shirt nation either. So many folks have come out all over the country to stand against hate and white supremacy, In fact I didn’t even think I’d live to see the day that that term is acknowledged as an American problem. 34,000 people signed up to be a on a coalition call that I was on recently to fight white supremacy. Thousands rallied to the airports with almost no warning. We are not that country even though a hateful percentage has been unleashed-our young folks have lived differently than the Trump generation, my generation, they will not accept it and neither will we.

So maybe we need to go home and call our neighbors to do some radical activities like my friend above suggested-fight for local transit and push back when NIMBYS refuse to let low income housing into our neighborhoods, put our kids in public schools and demand they be funded-there’s so much else, much less heroic.  Don’t get me wrong (though I know many will), we should confront this evil and I’m always ready to take to the streets, it’s in my DNA. But I need to know I’m fighting evil not becoming one with it.

                                                                     Addendum

My simple rules for tumultuous times or how not to become a reactionary:

*don’t react with violence towards people with little to no power.
*don’t react with generalizations against the media when they report things you didn’t want them to see.
*don’t react with new (or existing) laws that criminalize people based on association.
*don’t be ready to restrict others speech just because it’s hateful unless they attach actions or the imminent threat of actions to speech.

Or to paraphrase Miranda Rights and any NCIS show you’ve ever seen-no matter who you are, all of the above can and will be used against you.

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To Do List, Last Week in June

Please squeeze in one or more of these opportunities for activism this week!

It’s been a hectic week even for diehard activists. And if you’re freaked out about losing your healthcare now or very soon, you’ve been frenztiedly calling Washington, DC. But some Americans unlucky enough to be represented by Republican senators, have been filling the hallways of Congress this week even if you don’t see it on tv-sitting in at their senators’ offices and going out in plastic ties, otherwise known as handcuffs.

Here in California voters for Single Payer Healthcare traveled by bus to Sacramento today to protest the sidelining of a bill which would guarantee free healthcare to every Californian. More on that in another blog.

On Monday-Oaklanders for a People’s Budget shut down the Oakland City Council meeting when it became clear that council members were going to vote on a budget which did not prioritize the funds need to help the homeless nor to prevent the imminent displacement of many more renters. There were other necessities being demanded like funding for the arts. See ReFund Oakland or https://www.facebook.com/DefundOPD/  18839239_307755119662088_2859169411652791691_n

Tuesday-Last night the same city council came to an impasse/tie over the implementation ordinance that would set the final rules for the new police commission.

And tonight-Wednesday- the Oakland School Board expects to remain in session until they are able to pass a contentious budget for the upcoming year at OUSD. According to Mike Hutchinson, they’re still at it as I write this at 11 pm  six hours in.

So, phew, not much left to do for the remainder of this week, right? Please read on..

Thursday-The Public Defenders Office led by Brendon Woods and their allies will be holding a press conference and rally tomorrow at the iconic Oakland courthouse at noon which hopes to forestall the removal of Oakland and Berkeley arraignment hearings all the way to…Dublin. Here’s more info-unnamed (3)

I’ll be there because the fight for justice still begins at home.

Then at 4 pm the City Council will make another try at passing a budget which needs to be done by Friday, June 30th, by law. Please see ReFund Oakland on 19399573_1326252544156296_7554708531302223629_nFacebook https://www.facebook.com/Refund-Oakland-388201741294719/ or my recent guest blog from Margaretta Lin, https://draketalkoakland.com/2017/06/26/tell-the-oakland-city-council-tonight-refund-oakland/

 

But wait, did you forget that the Supreme Court temporarily let stand parts of the Orange Moron’s travel ban? As a result a coalition of refugee and immigrant groups are asking you to start showing up at airports, SFO for us, after 2 pm. If you’re not at the Oakland City Council meeting, catch lunch after the Public Defender’s rally, then jump on BART and head out there.

Here’s more info from Zahra Biloo at the Council on American Islamic Relations_

Community advisory from CAIR-SFBA and Advancing Justice-Asian Law https-cdn.evbuc.comimages305773251144539292471originalCaucus: http://bit.ly/2sKmVVv

Media statement from CAIR National: http://bit.ly/2sKiaeW  

Facebook live video explaining all of it: http://bit.ly/2sKE9lN

Also on Thursday– in the morning…from the California Immigrant Youth Jusice Allianc

Join us this Thursday to demand the release of Maguiber, an Alameda father of 3 US-citizen children, who is currently in deportation proceedings because of local law enforcement’s collaboration with ICE.

Help us continue sharing his story as we demand the Field Director Jennings us his unnamed-11prosecutorial discretion to release Maguiber.

 
#FreeMaguiber
Thursday, June 29
10:30 am 
1401 Lakeside Dr # 1200, Oakland, CA 94612        

 

Friday evening-

The ACLU led group People Power has managed to arrange a community meeting with our local Republican and Jeff Sessions supporter, Sheriff Ahern, to talk about our sanctuary laws and how he does/or does not implement them. It’s important we have a good turnout. Here is the info-

Freedom Cities Action • City/Town Council Meeting- starts at 5 pm
Location:

Hayward Adult School, 22100 Princeton Street, Hayward, CA 94541

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Rabi’a Keeble, founder of Qal’bu Maryam Women’s Mosque holds Teach-in on Islamophobia in Oakland’s City Hall