Help Wanted: An Oakland Planning Director for Equitable Development

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“We write to reflect the concerns of those who have historically been marginalized and bear the burden of unjust planning decisions that have destroyed vibrant local economies and neighborhoods of working class communities of color for over a century in our town.”

Guest blog by Lailan Huen-edits from the original are mine-for brevity only.

Dear Mayor Libby Schaaf, City Administrator Sabrina Landreth, Assistant City Administrator Claudia Cappio, and Hawkins Company:

We represent eight community-based groups impacted by the Planning Department’s decisions and policies in Oakland, and we demand inclusion of community stakeholders in the hiring of the new Director of Planning and Building.

Specifically, we write to reflect the concerns of those who have historically been marginalized and bear the burden of unjust planning decisions that have destroyed vibrant local economies and neighborhoods of working class communities of color for over a century in our town.

It is these Oakland neighborhoods that are now being most impacted by new development, and the current planning processes are insufficient for protecting these neighborhoods at risk of displacement.  Additionally, we see that the lack of safe and affordable spaces for our arts and low-income communities, as exemplified by the GhostShip warehouse fire, is of life and death.

As residents and stakeholders who have been advocating for equity for decades, we have seen the disproportionate power held by developers looking to make more profit without much regard for the residents of Oakland in the political process.

We understand that many developers have been consulted in this process, but only a small handful of community-based stakeholders have been invited to participate.  The City of Oakland must include the voices of those who are most impacted and at risk to achieve its equity goals.

Therefore, we have gathered requests for candidate criteria and stipulated the process below:

  • A planner with a track record in community engagement and participatory processes for neighborhood planning that provides meaningful time for feedback beyond minimal-17 day-notices.
  • Prioritizes equity and understands how institutional racism and environmental injustice have caused harm to working class communities of color in Oakland, including tools to mitigate past harms and create targeted opportunities in these neighborhoods.
  • Has a balanced approach to considering residents and neighborhoods in decisions-in addition to developers.
  • Has a proven track record with preservation of vulnerable historic, cultural and arts districts in phases of gentrification and new development.
  • Recognizes that city staffers with traditional planning backgrounds are less likely to understand the impact of institutional racism, and will hire more representative staff.
  • Comprehends the challenges facing the arts community currently being displaced, and brings experience to support and create safe affordable spaces for Oakland’s vital creative culture.
  • Knowledge of finance in regards to affordable housing programs and a willingness to look at innovative and non-traditional approaches to fund it.
  • Commits to planning tools such as specific plans, zoning changes, density bonuses, and incentives to leverage developer contributions for community benefits to include affordable housing, community retail space, local hire, and public open space.
  •  And to using public land for affordable housing and community benefits and openness to working with Community Land Trusts to secure permanent affordable spaces.
  • Willingness to implement innovative models such as Planning Leader Institutes, Neighborhood Planning Liaisons, Registered Community Organizations, and an Equitable Development Scorecard to assess how projects will meet the city’s equity goals.

Building an Equitable Process

  • At least 3-4 community seats on a candidate review and interview committee, including from these areas of expertise: 1) affordable housing, 2) historic preservation, 3) environmental justice, and 4) arts and cultural district anti-displacement.
  • Inclusion of sample work, design guidelines, as part of the application review process.
  • An opportunity for the public to be invited to hear from potential candidates.
  • Consider recruiting applicants from cities with equitable processes such as: Seattle, Portland, Twin Cities, Philadelphia or a planning applicant familiar to Oakland and has the requisite experience to advance equity as stated above.

Oakland is at a crossroads. Our community desperately needs a Planning and Building Department that is at the forefront of innovative, equitable, sustainable and participatory policies, such as the above listed cities already have.

We are tired of being left out of the process, disregarded when we do participate, and given lip-service without follow-through.  We want real accountability from the next leader who will make bold decisions to protect what we love about Oakland: our cultural and economic diversity, our thriving creative arts life as a key to our local economy, and a democratic process that includes the voices of residents.

We support positive community development and truly smart growth for transit-oriented development which can provide needed housing that is equitable and involves long-time residents. In order to develop a planning regimen which can expedite the process, all stakeholders-including residents and workers- must be included in a meaningful way with public standards for equitable development.

Please share with us the timeline, process, and opportunities for input, and kindly provide a response to our requests within two weeks.  2016-03-25 22.08.15 (640x360)

Thank You,

Block by Block Organizing Network

Oakland Creative Neighborhoods Coalition (OCNC)

Oakland Chinatown Lodge of the Four Family Associations

Black Arts Movement Business District (BAMBD)

Asian Pacific Environmental Network (APEN)

The Dellums Institute for Social Justice

East Bay Asian Youth Center (EBAYC)

People of Color Sustainable Housing Network

The Wellstone Democratic Renewal Club

 

 

 

November 2016 Oakland Voters’ Guide

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The presidential election is still getting almost all of the coverage, but in our state, county and city lots of important issues are getting decided so please focus in for a bit. With Measures JJ, LL, HH and county Measure A1, we have some options that can make life a little easier-it’s only the start of meeting the needs of Oakland’s residents but it’s a good start.

So, let’s briefly discuss the presidential election. I believe Hillary will win in a landslide; and given the ugliness of the Trump campaign [and I wrote this prior to the Trump sex predator tapes], it’s the only thing that can keep me sane and not ashamed to be an American.

imagesI have to believe that we will reject an openly bigoted, hateful man if only because he’s such a liar and a bad businessman/conman more than that he courts neo-Nazis. I hope everyone will get out and vote for Hillary even as we prepare to organize against some of her policies as soon as January. But make no mistake, the ugly forces that the Trump campaign has unleashed will still be here. How those forces will manifest is too frightening to conjecture but they will and we have to be prepared.

Here in Oakland, gentrification is changing our city so rapidly it’s hard to keep up.
But given the reactionary mood of our country, I hope we don’t stop welcoming the folks who come here because they want to participate in our culture of diversity and resistance.

OAKLAND MEASURES

Measure JJ  Yes  Yes  Yes  protectoaklandrenters-jj-11x17

What we can do is protect those folks who are struggling to remain in this community by voting for Measure JJ. It’s the Renters’ Protection Act and though it doesn’t include everything that the Citywide Displacement Network had wanted, it does flip the script and puts the burden of justifying rent hikes above the cost of living onto the landlords who will be forced to keep a lid on exorbitant increases.

It doesn’t affect everyone, however as renter’s protections do not apply to newer buildings. While it expands “just cause” eviction rights to thousands, thousands will remain unprotected. Sadly, people are being evicted as I write this but come January, if we vote for JJ, some neighborhoods may be stabilized and many lives will be made measurably better.

Measure LL Yes  Yes  Yes   yesonll_gray

The Oakland Police Department has been under federal monitoring for 13 years and it was expected that under Chief Sean Whent, the Negotiated Settlement Agreement would have been completed by now. The federal monitoring has cost the city $30 million as of last year and lawsuits against OPD have cost another $70 million, at least. But due to the bombshell revelations of corruption-the sex trafficking of a minor and documented abuse of at least one underage female-the whole process of reform has been cast into doubt.

The Coalition for Police Accountability which put forth the independent Police Commission charter change, saw the ongoing problems as systemic and realized that reform would have to start in how the department was administered by city officials. The group, of which I’m a member, has been working on a fix for at least 2 years. In fact, we attempted to get this charter change on the ballot in 2014 but only Council Member Noel Gallo, then chair of Public Safety, would champion it.

The Measure which is now supported by the entire City Council and the Mayor will establish the strongest commission in the country, have the power to impose discipline on officers, determine some police policies, and direct the search for a police chief in the future. But beyond that, it opens up the workings of the most expensive department in the city to residents. Wouldn’t you like to know how half of your general fund monies are spent?

Measure HH   Yes   Yes  oaksodatax_logo

The soda tax is not a grocery tax. The fact that you’ve gotten so many glossy fliers full of these lies should tip you off to how much profit the sugar beverage industry expects to lose if more of these measures pass. But the explosion in diabetes among the young, not to mention obesity and tooth decay has become hard to ignore. This tax has been proven to work [http://www.npr.org/sections/thesalt/2016/08/23/491104093/berkeleys-soda-tax-appears-to-cut-consumption-of-sugary-drinks]. Now we just need some healthier options for folks in neighborhoods too often served only by corner stores.

Measure KK   Yes

This is a gigantic bond-$600 million-to fix lots of infrastructure ills that have been building up in Oakland since the Great Recession and before including the gas tax grab by the governor so that our road repairs and replacements are close to 100 years behind.

This measure is being billed as anti-displacement bond but that is a little misleading. One sixth of the bond-$100 million- would be used to rehabilitate housing and keep people on the verge of displacement in their homes, possibly building some new housing. The bulk of it-$350 million-would go to repairing and repaving our streets and sidewalks plus bike lanes, our wonderful public stairs, etc. Since the city is ignoring dangerous sidewalks on Lakeshore as I write this, they must expect that it will pass. I hope someone doesn’t break their neck before that [update-one of them was finally fixed.]

I haven’t personally decided if I can vote for it. It’s not that we don’t need it, but there are lots of things we need-employment programs, summer jobs for kids-but looking at the long term charges, gives me a little pause as I hope to retire some day. Whether you vote for this or not will largely be determined by your pocketbook . However, it may fairly be said that postponing these fixes will cost more in the long run. Check it out for yourself and decide http://www.spur.org/news/2016-09-13/taking-care-basic-needs-support-measure-kk-oakland-infrastructure-bond.

Measure II  Yes

This measure simply allows the city to lease its land long term, up to 99 years, rather than sell it to developers so that it remains in the public domain but also encourages developers to invest in a project a la 12th Street which, unfortunately, has been sold away, rather than leased.

County Measures

Measure A1   Yes  Yes  Yes  2016-10-09-01-13-05

This county bond will provide more affordable housing to Oaklanders than is contained in Measure KK & at a lower cost so it is very important that we all support it. It spreads the cost of building affordable housing around the county as it also provides housing throughout it. In addition to building rental housing, it will provide loans to seniors, etc, who may need adaptive improvements to stay in their homes, first time buyer programs for middle and low income families, and investment in future affordable development. http://acgov.org/cda/hcd/documents/AlCo-HousingBondFactSheet.pdf

It totals $580 million in bonds which may put it at odds with the city measure in some folks minds. I rank A1 as the most important bond proposal on the ballot but I ask you to consider also supporting KK, since they actually pay for different but very real needs. Both will require 2/3rds approval to pass.

Measure C1 for AC Transit  Yes  Yes  Yes

This measure extends the existing parcel tax for AC Transit but does not raise your taxes. AC Transit is the only public transit we have that actually serves folks who have no other way to get to work, school and shopping. It has received less than its share of transit funding for too long. We must continue to fund this need.

AC Transit At-Large-Christian Peeples

No one knows transit, any kind, like Chris and he uses transit exclusively even with his cane. When Summit Bank removed a bus stop near the hospital, Chris came to the bank with the members of ACCE’s Riders for Tranist Justice to protest and challenge their assumptions about bus riders. Return Chris Peoples to the board.

Measure RR for BART upgrades  Yes  Yes

BART was a premier transit system for a couple of decades but that time is long gone-as a former train operator, I remember it well. This bond is needed to get us back up to speed or at least not slow the system down any more than we’ve seen or experienced, track upgrades and earthquake safety are among the items it will pay for.

I just have to say that one of the reasons that this bond has received less than positive responses should be laid at the feet of the BART board-no, not because they gave away too much to the unions–but because they drove the system to a devastating strike that brought us anti-working family legislators like Steve Glazer of Orinda who has made his bones by trashing union workers.

Now Rebecca Saltzman, who was completely clueless when the board doubled down on pressing the union to give up more wages and benefits than they had voluntarily given up during the Recession, and even more clueless towards Black Lives Matter demonstrators, is being opposed by a Glazer-type candidate from Orinda. We should support her against this onslaught of anti-working class folks from over the hills but let’s not forget she was one of the board members who gave us this situation and the backlash against BART in the first place.

If voting for Ms. Saltzman leaves a bad taste in your mouth, you can make up for it by also voting for Lateefah Simon for BART, District7 https://www.lateefahforbart.com/.  Correction: of course, you can only vote for one in whose district you live.

State Propositions

We all know the list is so long that many California voters may not make it through it but I have some favorites. Please vote to abolish the Death Penalty-Yes on Prop 62, extend the top tier income tax-Yes on Prop 55, fairness for non-violent felons and youth offenders-Yes on Prop 57, and to maintain the ban on plastic bags-Yes On Prop 67. There are many other worthy props but go to Wellstoneclub.org for more info on them.

US Congress-Barbara Lee

She speaks for me and the overwhelming majority of Congressional District 13. There is no one else like her even though lots of folks seem to be getting in line. But take it easy, she’s not going anywhere for a long time.

California State Senate-Sandre Swanson

Endorsed by Congresswoman Lee, Assembly Members Rob Bonta and Tony Thurmond, he is a fighter for Oakland and our particular needs. He doesn’t always do what party bosses say but he knows what is best for our district and would be the only Black Senator from Northern California. He stands for old-fashioned integrity-and is a no excuses legislator-vote for Sandre Swanson for Senate!

18th Assembly District-Rob Bonta

Running unopposed, Rob has worked hard for children and working families in our district and the state and will be reelected.

Oakland City Council Races

Now the choices narrow but the issues do not. The Oakland City Council is set up for possible turnover every 2 years with even and odd numbered districts running at opposite intervals. The At-Large seat is up along with the odd numbered districts, Disricts 1, 3, 5, and 7.

District 1-Dan Kalb

In District 1 the choice is easy. While Kevin Corbett comes from a well-known political family, he himself seems to be a throwback of some sort-he cannot bring himself to support innovative solutions to the crises in affordable housing or corrupt policing.

So Dan Kalb will win overwhelmingly and should. Despite some complaints about his style, deemed as arrogant and detached, he has engaged in the heaviest lifting on the city council. He led the way on the fight against coal trains rumbling through Oakland, hiring an expert himself to research the issue, he spent hours with our Coalition for Police Accountability going over our petition to establish a police commission with real power and came up with the measure now on the ballot, and was the first council member to recognize the crisis for renters, writing early ordinances to protect them. He proposed the first one while Mayor Schaaf was still on the council. Unfortunately, she successfully watered much of it down but it has still been able to protect tenants from the worst abuses.

Kalb’s work for tenants has been overshadowed by what Council Member At-Large Kaplan has managed to get on the ballot for this election, Measure JJ. But Kalb also successfully passed an ordinance to prevent landlords from gold-plating improvements in their buildings in order to jack up rents and ultimately push out tenants. As he has a strong moral center and a work ethic to match, this blogger just wishes he’d be more willing to rock the boat and push a critical agenda including challenging the mayor more often. But I admit that may be a bridge too far.

District 3-Noni Session

Lynette Gibson McElhaney came to the council in the last election in which she was, according to her own words, the “only adult in the room.” But she had no real base in Oakland as she had spent her career working in Richmond.

This blogger admits that she seems to have built a sufficient base to win this election. She manages to stay folksy and down home to the folks in West Oakland while courting developers and Chamber of Commerce types in the downtown. She straddles both worlds in an almost schizophrenic way, and for a long time I thought she just didn’t know where she stood herself.

Ms. McElhaney initially opposed Measure FF, but to be fair, most of the CMs oppposed it at the time, since there were no carve-outs for small businesses or for summer jobs for youth. She did support it being placed on the ballot so I was mistaken in my original post which I am correcting here. As Council President she affirmed the city’s actions to restrict attendance at city council meetings which a judge had to overturn [I have no knowledge where the decision originated, city administrator, mayor’s office?]  On the other hand, she was responsible for a more progressive budget being passed than the one given to her by the Mayor.

So, even though I believe that some of the complaints against her are overblown or just wrong-there’s no evidence that she herself is a house flipper-Noni Session is the true innovator and progressive candidate for this seat.

Ms. Session is a West Oakland native with deep roots in the district. She is also a highly thoughtful person, an academic-which cuts both ways in politics-and is committed to protecting her neighbors against a corrupt police department and predatory developers who seek to make big bucks while ignoring community needs. If she had begun to campaign a year earlier, her chances would be much better than they look now. As it is, the very complaints made against the incumbent may propel her back to the council presidency or at least the D3 seat.

District 5-Noel Gallo

In the Fruitvale/Glenview district Noel Gallo is the clear choice. He came in as a long time school board member and a law’n order guy, but he has risen to the crises which surround Oaklanders and threaten to pick them off one family at a time. He has fought for affordable housing and shaken his support in the police union, OPOA, to the point that they, apparently along with the Mayor, are running a candidate against him.

If the city council is represented by the characters in the Wizard of OZ , which admittedly works only in a narrow comparison, Noel is the beating heart of Oakland. While he still download-4supports the police and many in his district need protection (real protection, including from sexual trafficking, sigh,) he heard the refrain from community groups that this department cannot work for its residents without real oversight and championed it [Measure LL.]

He has made points about how the affordable housing crisis affects our neighbors by noting how it affects his own family and therefore, the Oakland family. He fought for affordable housing on the 12th Street project and supported Measure JJ early on. He has joined with CM Brooks to support a proposal that marginalized Oaklanders receive a significant return from the growing marijuana business.

Viola Gonzales is a nice person who has worked in many non-profits. In some ways, she is the opposite of Mr. Gallo. She is a successful bureaucrat who is unwilling to take positions on the issues of the day–housing and policing. She has received funds from the police union, OPOA, and would probably be a dependable vote for the Mayor’s proposals.

It’s understandable that the Mayor would want CMs who are always willing to see things her way, but it makes for better “checks and balances”when a mayor has some thoughtful opposition on the council–and that leads us to the At-Large race.

At-large-Rebecca Kaplan

Rebecca Kaplan is running for a 3rd term for this city-wide office but this is the first time that her political career is in jeopardy. Her first two terms could have been characterized as seeking popularity rather than taking tough positions on the issues. But now as she faces a fight for her political life against a candidate with deep pockets-thanks to the Jerry Brown/Schaaf machine-she seems to have gathered her courage to take on the issues that are at the crux of Oakland’s crises-housing and policing. To be fair she undertook this work before Moore made her entrance into the race.

She’s also developed an interest in taking charge of neighborhood issues with citywide implications not resolved by the district CM. For instance, she shepherded the return of a bus stop in D3’s uptown that affected Summit Hospital patients, especially older and disabled riders, who depended on a stop that was removed by the mayor’s administration at the request of a local banker.

One of her opponents is Bruce (No Relation to Jean) Quan, a former civil rights attorney who recently moved back to California from China. He was instrumental in securing Chinese funding for the giant project that was languishing at the Brooklyn Basin and is close to Chinatown social justice organizations. He also walks weekly with neighbors in the Ceasefire program who are trying to secure their streets. But he is relatively unknown outside of those neighborhoods and has little chance for a good showing much less a win.

Ms. Kaplan‘s real challenge comes from the Brown/Schaaf machine in its effort to secure an influential seat more amenable to development and top down politics.The affable Peggy Moore seems an unlikely machine candidate and, indeed, she denies that she is, even going so far as to say that she wasn’t able to get much done working in the mayor’s office.

Moore‘s campaign is run by well-known operative, Ace Smith. He describes himself as a, “30-year veteran of state and national politics and has directed winning campaigns from district attorney to president. With deep experience on the West Coast, he specializes in high-stakes political, governmental and public affairs campaigns.”

His campaigns are expensive, and seemingly willing to use questionable tactics like sending out a push poll implying that Congresswoman Lee endorsed Moore. Lee’s office has now sent out at least 3 press advisories stating that they have not and will not. Ms. Moore, is someone I consider a personal friend, but not someone who has shown much in the way of policy chops, is calling herself a community organizer but a better description would be political operative.

Kaplan herself wrote Measure JJ, an important renter protection proposition, has supported Measure LL for an independent Police Commission and fought the mayor’s uncompromising position that she be granted as many appointments on that body as she demanded. We hope that Ms. Kaplan will stay in the fight for the soul of Oakland. She is an able competitor and we need her.

District 7-Nehanda Imara

Larry Reid will have been on the council for 20 years come January and while he has accomplishments to show, notably, the East Oakland Sports Complex and the new and improved Foothill Square-thank you also to Jean Quan and Sheryl Walton-he most often accedes to whoever is in the mayor’s office and often seems on the verge of retiring. In any case, at twenty years, it’s time for turnover-but realistically that probably won’t happen.

Nehanda Imara is the East Oakland organizer for Communities for a Better Environment and  teaches an Environmental Justice course at Merritt College [which she designed], where she trains the next generation of environmental advocates and activists, hence her endorsement by the Sierra Club. Check out  http://www.cbecal.org/wp-content/uploads/2012/09/Nehanda-Imara-Oaklands-mother-of-environmental-justice.pdf  “Nehanda has been an environmentalist and powerful advocate for environmental justice for more than thirty years.” Regardless of the winner of this particular race, we hope Ms. Imara‘s influence will continue to build in District 7.

School District 1-Don MaCleay

Jody London has all the right answers and once vowed to stop the proliferation of charter schools but seems to have become another who has learned to follow the superintendent’s lead whoever he is and wherever he leads. I have serious reservations about Don MaCleay’s campaign but I’m glad to see a Green running to build the party locally and not from the top down, that is, like Jill Stein’s nonsensical run for the White House. Now, if only the Greens would have the good sense to support Measure LL, a necessary first step to police reform.

School District 5-1)Roseann Torres, 2) Mike Hutchinson

This district has been targeted by the folks at GO, Great Oakland Schools, which promotes charters over public schools. There are whole books on that subject but the bottom line is that at this point, there are almost no measures of accountability for how charters recruit or expel students, how they spend their funds, and more-but their proliferation does reduce funding to public schools and creams the best students out of neighborhood schools.

Rosie was once naive about charters but she has learned and taken some tough votes. As a result, she is now targeted by a well-funded campaign from the pro-charter folks. She has built a good rapport with the parents in her district and developed a sense of the power of the board vs. acquiescing to the administration on every issue.

Mike Hutchinson has been a lifelong student of how OUSD functions (or doesn’t function.) He is a leader in the field of public schools vs. charters and deserves a vote for his dedication to the Oakland school community.  However, the incumbent has a better chance of holding her seat vs the GO folks onslaught. Vote Rosie no. 1 and Mike no. 2. Don’t let the GO folks split the ticket and win.

School District 7-Chris Jackson

Chris is a long time organizer for ACCE and now works with the Private Industry Council helping young people find employment. He has been endorsed by almost everyone-the local Democratic Party, The Wellstone Club, Block by Block (BBBON,) The Labor Council, the Oakland Justice Coalition, and OEA for starters. He still faces a well-funded incumbent-however-he has a chance to win and he has been walking the district for many months.

School District 3-1) Kharyshi Wiginton 2) Ben Lang

Incumbent Jumoke Hinton-Hodge has never met a charter school she didn’t like. Additionally, she has been an uncritical champion year after year of whoever the current superintendent is and everything his administration is attempting to foist on parents, teachers and students in this district. It’s time for her to be replaced.

Kharyshi Wiginton is a dancer and educator who runs a program for West Oakland youth. She knows the importance of full services for children who may come to school with few of their needs met and she knows what it takes to meet them. She has been endorsed by the local Democratic Party, the Oakland Justice Coalition, OEA, and the Labor Council. Ben Lang, a former teacher, who also has a good grasp of the problems in OUSD should get the no. 2 spot.

Peralta Board-Karen Weinstein

Ms. Weinstein has long worked for women and the needs of marginalized people. She will be a good representative for the student body at our community colleges.

Superior Court Judge-Scott Jackson

During the primaries I recommended Scott Jackson as one of the choices for this post. He is now running against Barbara Thomas. He has been endorsed by most of the local Democratic clubs, the local party and well-respected judges like Gordon Baranco. He is the best candidate for the job.

East Bay Regional Park District 2-Dee Rosario

It’s going to be difficult to fill the shoes of anyone like John Sutter, an icon in the Open Space movement and a board member since 1996. but Dee Rosario has the background and knowledge to follow John when he retires this year. He was a park ranger and then supervisor for 37 years and has been endorsed by the Sierra Club in addition to other important endorsements. He’s got the kind of experience our park district needs.

If you didn’t find a race in this guide, it’s probably because the incumbent has little opposition. However, for more info, check these sites-wellstoneclub.org, the League of Women Voters’ site-votersedge.org/ca, the John George Democratic Club  http://jgdc.org/

Vote like your life depends on it and then make sure your representatives hear from you early and often. Thanks for all you do!

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A Common Sense Primer for Candidates and Newly Electeds in Oakland and Beyond

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We’re in the midst of the silly season, the heartless fall festival of campaigns, consultants, pundits, endorsement battles and, oh yes, the candidates themselves, trying to find a way to survive it all. Someone recently said, a good campaign consultant should study marketing, not poli sci, so true. It’s the Gotcha Season!

Make friends with the media, that means reporters, editors, photographers and bloggers.

1)So here’s some basic advice from an old hand at local politics.Yeah, I know with 24 hour social media and in an atmosphere where a candidate for president gets excoriated for being off line for 90 minutes, it all seems local and there’s some truth to that. But, again, first off, make friends with the media, that means reporters, editors, photographers and bloggers.

If you suspect that they have already stereotyped you or taken a dislike based on your race, gender, political leaning or just your inability to smile for 2 or 3 hours straight, your instincts may be right.

In fact, they probably are-all the more reason to woo them. Pretend they are puppies or babies or your mother-in-law (okay maybe not that) just coo gently and share a not too intimate but just intimate enough anecdote so they know you’re human and that they’re in on the joke.

Do not make enemies of the press or ignore their importance now if you hope to have a political future. I have seen it happen again and again and so have you. Your grandmom was right about first impressions, you can’t make them later.

Having grown up with a mom in the biz, I happen to enjoy working with reporters. And remember, they’ve been downsized too and have to do the work of many nowadays. Make it easy for them and they will bless you.

And whatever you do once in office, don’t run complaining to a reporter you haven’t thanked twice or given at least one scoop to. Don’t demand a retraction, just give an appropriate reaction. You’ve developed a relationship so you might say-more in sorrow than in anger, why, my friend?

Do you have an  elevator pitch? Are you ready with a soundbite?

2)Why are you running? Can you explain it to your teenage daughter? Ok, maybe that’s too hard but do you have an  elevator pitch, a sales talk that keeps the door from being slammed in your face? If not, why do I care?

And, if you’re running against an incumbent, why should I even bother to consider you if you can’t differentiate yourself from the guy or gal I already know, and though I may dislike her, I know what he cares about, what they can do for me. So practice that 30 second, 1 or 2 minute blurb in the mirror or use your phone to record it and get ready with a soundbite or two that a voter or a reporter can take away from any meeting with you.

3)How’s your voice? Don’t talk down in your chest, no froggy throat, don’t talk softly or engage in uptalk (mostly a woman thing-always questioning ourselves). It goes without saying-cut out the ums and yaknows-or does it?

Stand up and speak with authority but warmth. As we’ve learned, all this is double edged for women, be authoritative but not a know-it-all. Smile but don’t seem flirtatious, sigh.

You’re not writing a bureaucratic how-to manual, just make it punchy and easy to take in in say, 8 seconds.

You may have a lot of knowledge of the intricacies of say, the budget or the park department, but no one wants to see the engine, they just wanna know that you can drive the machine. And, for all you helpful friends, writing campaign pieces before the consultant gets hired. No, you’re not writing a bureaucratic how-to manual, just make it punchy and easy to take in in say, 8 seconds. Yeah, I said that.

What are you going to do for me and when are you going to do it?

Here’s the thing, voters may be wowed by your knowledge and some voters will be able to glean that you know something about what your are proposing to do–BTW, I’m not one to suggest pivoting away from tough questions because that’s dishonest and I hate that-a surprising number will not be able to tell. The bottom line for voters is always-what are you going to do for me and when are you going to do it. Make sure you’ve told them, and they can go home and tell their roommate, spouse or doggie pal (elevator pitch.)

Every teacher learns how to read her classroom, so read your audience-eyes glazing over, move on or punch it up a bit.

What’s your plan for the animal shelter/rescue/dog park?

3b) So yeah, everybody loves their kids and you’re here to make it better for the little ones but remember-between the cost of rent and the cost of college these days-lots of the little ones are dogs, cats, ferrets, whatever, what’s your plan for the animal shelter/rescue/dog park. Do you have a picture with your pet?

4)Learn to delegate BUT, the first calls for endorsements are yours to make. If it’s someone you really need, absolutely don’t delegate. I thought everyone knew this but, no, they don’t. Sorry to tell you, but even a great fundraiser will order you to make the big money calls and lots of the smaller ones (Yeah, they’re the boss on that.)

5)Oh, endorsements, they’re so important. Actually, not really. Now some are very useful. In these parts, it’s Barbara Lee’s. Get to know her Advisory Committee members, nuff said. And BTW, don’t make up any endorsements you don’t have.

Door-to-door is what can win it for you. It should be on the top of your list.

6)But, all the clubs and organizations out there can’t win it for you, they won’t probably give all the time, money or volunteers they sorta promised you. If a voter is in that organization, ok, that works for them. So make the rounds but don’t freak out about it. Door-to-door is what can win it for you. It should be on the top of your list. Wait let me say it again-Door-to-door is what can win it for you. It should be on the top of your list.

Ok, now you’ve won, you’ve got a pile of debt, you’re exhausted, your family is done with you and your neighbors are wondering what they should call you.

7)First, thank everyone by name who did anything you know about in your campaign. As soon as you’re done thanking them and not before, start asking them to help you pay off your debt OR ask them to volunteer to help set up your office depending on their skill set, wallet.

8)You’ll need an advisory committee and maybe a kitchen cabinet too. While it may sound like work, it’s like making preparations for a trip and this experience is just that-trippy. So while your volunteers are still happy that they got you in office (cause they did, without them you wouldn’t have made it) ask them to join your advisory group, transitional or permanent, whatever. Get someone to head up your office volunteers now. Ask her yourself and make sure he knows how much you rely on them, etc.

You will find that once you are in office, you will be loved by some, hated by some, avoided by others, but most of your constituents will NOT hang on your every decision. They will however, hone in on your every mistake, perceived mistake (perception is reality in politics, it’s a law of nature) or faux pas. Maybe I should have mentioned this item first but you knew this wasn’t for the faint of heart, the lazy or those lacking in ego.

You, of course, want to make bold decisions, take us in a new direction, invent the cure for cancer, uh, got carried away there but you will too. Then you find out that no one knows what the problem really is and why they should care or that the solution eludes you and the 200,000 people who came before you or it is made at the county, state, federal, or cosmic level.

If you didn’t have a kitchen cabinet, you need one now.

9)So now you learn that even bold decisions that can work, can have some effect and– those that can get another 4 or however many votes needed, may piss off a lot of folks. So here’s what you do-get your advisory committee to hold neighborhood hearings-of course you’re there but you’re listening. If you didn’t have a kitchen cabinet-your most trusted advisors who love you but won’t take your shit-you need one now. Cause they have your back but will also give it to you, right between the eyes when you least want to hear it.

You’ve made that decision, moved ahead on that project, you’ve even invited your harshest critic in the press into your office for a picnic lunch with you, just you,  to explain why you did it and why you need his/her/their help to get the word out there.

If you do good constituent work and your folks feel looked after, you can take practically any position you want.

10)Now, it’s time to remember that your constituent work is the most important work you can do. If you came into office as a policy wonk who was gonna reorganize the world or just your town, start with the problems in the neighborhoods that you can fix. If you do good constituent work and your folks feel looked after, you can take practically any position you want.

Here’s where your volunteer coordinator pays off as she wields the phones in your office with knowledgeable neighbors who can make sure everyone’s questions got answered, their problems got to the right person or the issues got reported to you and at least acknowledged-acknowledgement, it’s what everyone wants, what everyone needs.

If you got elected to an office with staff…

11)And one more thing. If you got elected to an office with staff, unlike, say, the school board (then see item 8) make sure to hire staff that complement you and each other. No, no, I don’t mean they say, “you must’ve lost weight, you look great,” nice though that is.

If you’re a wonky guy or gal, it’s tempting to hire a know-it-all just like you but don’t. Now you need that people person who remembers everyone’s name or at least is willing to chat folks up when you don’t feel like it. But if you’re a warm-hearted soul with no mind for details, then hire the wonky know-it-all to help you with complicated policy, don’t shy away from it because of your discomfort.

Remember not to make them mirror images of you.

Just make sure your office is well-rounded, yes the genders, ethnicities, and neighborhoods/districts should be considered first.Not only should your office reflect your constituents, it should reflect your potential constituents, but just remember not to make them mirror images of you. Too much of a good thing, etc..

Now, go out and make us all proud and don’t forget where you came from or you’ll be back there sooner than you think.

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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

April 5th, Oakland’s Housing Emergency Declared

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Lots is happening in the fight against displacement in Oakland. Let’s get to it:

First Friday-Come out to this week’s First Friday and join Oakland Against Displacement and Oakland Awake. Rooted Oakland: Holding onto Home meet-up starts at 8pm, Grand and Broadway, “A festive, mobile happening with art, giant projections, drumming and more!” Mobilize while having some fun and meeting your neighbors who are working to stop the wholesale displacement of Black and Brown families, artists, small business people and all who have made Oakland the creative, diverse place it is.

4c707ae2776cb3113781c55aaa8d7476 Tuesday, April 5th at City Council-The City Council has agendized our demand to declare a State of Housing Emergency and consider a moratorium on rent increases above the CPI in our existing law AND a temporary stay on no cause evictions while they work on ways to stanch the wholesale removal of people from their homes, neighborhoods and businesses.

The Block By block Organizing Network along with the Wellstone Democratic Renewal Club had called for a rally but given the early start of the meeting, we are asking people2016-03-01 23.49.29 just to show up and get seated-no rally. We will be providing some small sustenance to folks as they arrive and invite others to help us. We need to honor and nurture community members who regularly come to meetings where they rarely feel heard.

What Libby Schaaf says– According to her recent newsletter, “The impacts of displacement have already been real and devastating. Understandably, they’ve led many to call for sweeping measures. But as attractive as ideas like blanket moratoriums on rent increases and evictions may sound to many – two ideas that are being discussed and may be presented at the April 5th City Council meeting – such sweeping controls are legally dubious under present law.”

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Evicted cat

We are asking for temporary relief since the solutions we’ve been seeking had not been contemplated until very recently. We’ll be watching to see which council members use these excuses not to take emergency measures. If there were a devastating fire or earthquake, would they not act? For some life long Oaklanders, it is no less an emergency.

Renters’ Protection Ordinance-Last week the Citywide Displacement Network came to the Rules Committee to demand the City Council agendize this ballot initiative. It puts the onus on landlords to show why rents should be increased above the CPI instead of expecting the tenants, most of whom don’t know of the law’s existence much less how to use it, to file a timely objection to the increase and gives tenants a fighting chance to protect themselves against illegal increases and evictions. It should also come to back to the council this month.

The City Council could place this initiative directly on the ballot or consider its provisions and pass it as a city ordinance without waiting for the November election. In fact, the measure came out of the Renters’ Working Group in the Mayor’s Housing Cabinet where it was ignored or downplayed.

Appeal of the Bay Development Project at Alice and 14th Street- Last winter the city approved a project on the corner where the beautiful mural depicting Oakland’s history of art and its unique culture of resistance was recently completed. The city planning department requested no concessions from the developer toward replacing the mural or providing any level of affordable housing. It also provides no parking for programs at the Malonga Casquelord Center which may doom the center.

A group called Keep Oakland Creative appealed that planning decision and their appeal will also be heard later this month. The group says that the appeal is about the broader issues of an unresponsive planning department as much as this particular building application. So stayed tuned, you will hear more from these folks about the need for community benefits and engagement as part of our planning process.

City Reduces Affordable Housing for Low-Income Residents– For more information on these city decisions, check the Oakland Post News Group: http://postnewsgroup.com/blog/2016/03/25/city-guts-affordable-housing-funds-low-income-oaklanders/.

Don’t forget-First Friday, then Tuesday, then check your local listings on the city clerk’s agenda for more: http://www2.oaklandnet.com/Government/o/CityClerk/s/AgendaManagement/index.htm

Time for Declaration of Housing State of Emergency

The letter below which was written by the Block by Block Organizing Network’s housing committee was sent to all the council members and the mayor of Oakland in hopes of pushing them to take bold action during this housing emergency. While we await a response from our various leaders, we are considering our next steps if they do not respond with urgency. We urge you to join us!

BBBON

Block By Block Organizing Network

Volunteers Working Together for One Oakland

2624 Fruitvale Ave. Oakland CA 94601 (510) 479-1237

 

The Council Has Passed the “Housing Roadmap” – Now What?

We applaud the City Council’s passage of the “Housing Equity Roadmap” on September 30, and urge rapid implementation of its strategies and more, in response to the housing crisis that is displacing many long-time Oaklanders right now.

Oakland is made up of over sixty percent renters, and in order for the Housing Cabinet to come to solutions that will benefit all of Oakland, we challenge our elected officials to create a Cabinet that is representative of the population of this diverse city. It should consist of members who are proportional to the population of Oakland, that is, over 60% renters and a majority of people of color. At least one seat should be reserved for a representative from the Oakland Tenants Union.

We call on the Oakland City Council to act now to implement the Housing Equity Roadmap strategies the 2017-2019 Budget:

Declare Housing State of Emergency and Immediate Moratorium on Approval of New Projects
To meet the crisis that is upon us and to stabilize the housing market in this moment, we call on city government to declare a Housing State of Emergency and a moratorium on approval of new projects until significant developer impact fees are implemented, along with a timeline to implement the Housing Equity Roadmap, including an inclusionary zoning ordinance.

Developer Impact Fees
Complete the study which will allow the City to impose impact fees on developers that will go toward affordable and low income housing (and other impacts, like better roads). Impose the highest amount suggested by the study and dedicate the majority of it to affordable housing. Do not approve new projects until the impact fees are in place.

Inclusionary Zoning
We call on our elected officials to demand that Governor Jerry Brown sign an amendment to Costa Hawkins to allow for inclusionary zoning in all California cities, and to pass immediate substantial Developer Impact fees that can produce the equivalent of at least 30% affordable housing in new developments. To ensure that the cultural and economic diversity we all love about Oakland can stay here, we advocate that at least 15% of new units are accessible to 40% and below AMI, and that at least 15% of new units are accessible to 40%-80% AMI.

Use 50% of Boomerang Funds for Affordable Housing
The City should increase the percent of proceeds received from former redevelopment funds from 25% to 50% to increase the number of affordable units that can be built.

Mandate At Least 50% New Development Around Transit Be Affordable
As studies have shown, low-income residents use public transit more and market-rate developments around transit increase car usage. Therefore, at least 50% of new development around BART and AC Transit hubs should be held for affordable housing at 80% AMI or below. Oakland’s Fruitvale Village is a national model for equitable transit-oriented development without displacement, and Oakland should continue leading this important work.

Public Land for Public Good
Allocate un-used lands and properties currently supported by public tax dollars to affordable housing or mixed-usage for public good. This includes working with the Oakland Housing Authority to ensure that the 2530 9th Avenue property currently for sale and all properties purchased with public tax dollars remain affordable housing units.

Fund the Down Payment Assistance and First Time Homebuyer Programs
Ensure that down payment assistance programs targeted to long-time Oakland residents to be able to purchase their homes are funded at levels that actually enable low-income and middle-income residents to buy homes in the Oakland market.

Protect Tenants Rights
We call on city government to implement a comprehensive rent control ordinance. Oakland’s Rent Adjustment law was written by landlords to preference landlords in the majority of cases. We call for a revisiting of the Rent Adjustment process to ensure that tenants rights are protected, including more than two seats of the Rent Board held for tenants (as homeowners often side with landlords) and the burden of proof put on the landlord rather than the tenant.

We also call for the implementation of the Tenant Protection Ordinance to be funded through public attorney assistance for tenants, because the majority of tenants cannot afford lawyers to file cases in Superior Court. All landlords should be required to provide a copy of Tenant Rights laws with all tenants, or be charged fines that go to funding the Tenant Protection Ordinance.

Pass an Anti-Speculation Tax
To prevent further displacement of residents resulting from the flipping of houses and properties for profit, the City should implement a higher tax on for-profit corporations that buy foreclosed properties or buyout current residents to make a profit. This should include any companies using services like AirBnB to take large numbers of rental units permanently off the market.

Revise Accessory Dwelling Unit Policy
Cities across the nation are revising policies to allow for more smart density as the country re-urbanizes. The City Council should pass an ordinance that allows homeowners to add accessory units on their open land, including allowing tiny homes and easing parking restrictions with the understanding that more and more residents are biking and taking public transit.
November, 2015

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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