Wellstone Democratic Club on the Laney Proposal for the A’s Stadium

This letter from the Wellstone Democratic Renewal Club was sent to the Peralta Trustees and the Oakland City Council and Mayor with serious concerns on the A’s choice of a parcel at the Laney College site for a new stadium.

October 6, 2017

To Peralta College Trustees and City Officials:

The Wellstone Democratic Renewal Club has been active in Oakland and Berkeley for many years, including endorsing many of the current Peralta trustees and members of the Oakland City Council. We are writing to express our concerns about the Oakland A’s proposal to build a stadium on a thirteen acre chunk of public land already well used by Laney College students and teachers.

Our first question is why alternative sites are not being considered. The Coliseum location has much of the necessary infrastructure in place including- a BART station, Cal train, numerous buses and freeway access. Additionally, the Coliseum site has parcels that can be assembled immediately for further projects such as entertainment and office venues. This can be done with very little impact on the surrounding community.

Next the Howard Terminal site has proximity to Jack London Square and public support. The Laney College site is the only one which has the potential to completely change the character and cultural fabric of the surrounding neighborhoods. We want a full study of all of these alternatives before any decisions are made.

The study on the Laney site should include impacts on: the student body for whom this campus is convenient and accessible, the small business community serving low income and recent immigrant Oaklanders, neighborhood housing stock, its price and availability and wildlife, particularly bird habitat which has been supported by the oldest wildlife preserve in the nation at nearby Lake Merritt.

Oakland tax payers through Measure DD have made investments in the Lake area that have resulted in nearby publicly owned parcels becoming much more attractive for development, but we believe that any transfer of this land to private ownership should be considered over a long deliberative community engagement process. Any changes in ownership or longterm usage would reverse the direction that taxpayers took when they funded these improvements.

The Wellstone Democratic Renewal Club calls for a deep study that starts and ends with extensive public comment, and includes a detailed examination of the possibilities of locating a stadium at other locations.


Pamela A Drake, Wellstone Club Local Politics Chair



Thank You Oakland City Government!


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

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

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

Time to Correct the Record-

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

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

Writing and Researching the Measure-

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

More thank yous

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Just the beginning

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

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

The City Council Struggles to Find Consensus-

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

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

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

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

Join the CoalitionforPoliceAccountability.org now!


Breaking:Oakland City Attorney Advises Gutting Police Commission



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


City Attorney Gives Commission Away to OPOA


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


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


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

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.”


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

State of Emergency- The Wellstone Club & BBBON Join Oakland Alliance & the John George Club

unnamedPress Advisory

Oakland, Ca: The Wellstone Democratic Renewal Club and the Block by Block Organizing Network are joining the Oakland Alliance and the John George Club to demand that the City of Oakland declare a Housing State of Emergency and pass a moratorium on evictions and rent increases until solutions are found to the ongoing displacement of wholesale sectors of our community. We will present our proposed legislation to the Rules and Legislation Committee of the City Council on Thursday, March 3rd at 10:45am.
Last fall we asked the Mayor in her State of the City address to take immediate action and make this declaration among other actions such as implementing the Housing Equity Roadmap, http://www.marinij.com/article/ZZ/20151109/NEWS/151105309.
Now we are asking the City Council to move ahead as the City of Alameda and other cities have done to protect its seniors, artists, and struggling working families who represent the backbone of our community and who live with the threat of imminent eviction and ever increasing rents disrupting their day-to-day lives and economic security.
The Block by Block Organizing Network designed a platform with these solutions in mind and submitted these well thought out suggestions to our city leaders which can be found at http://draketalkoakland.com/2015/12/01/time-for-a-declaration-of-housing-state-of-emergency/ or on our website at http://bbbon.net/2015/10/draft-demands-to-combat-the-affordable-housing-crisis-in-oakland/ but as yet, we have had no response.
Please join us, the John George Club and the Oakland Alliance tomorrow for this important action. This is emergency legislation and should be heard by the full City Council immediately.

Contact: Pamela Drake, Wellstone Club Local Politics Coordinator and BBBON Political Action Chair pamelaadrake@gmail.com, 510-593-3721 or Sharon Rose, BBBON Co-Chair 510-915-6894.

The People’s Proposal Vs Urban Core but did it have to be that way?

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If you attended the Oakland City Council hearing on Monday evening, held to showcase the 3 housing proposals for the E 12th Street parcel, you would have thought it was greedy developers versus poor residents, but like anything in Oakland, it’s not that simple.

I’ve been following Oakland politics since the mid 80’s sometimes closely, sometimes peripherally, but in all those years, I have never seen Mike Pyatok or The East Bay Local Asian Development Corporation, known to all as EBALDC (eebaldtsee), decried as greedy corporate types.

The activists from the East Lake neighborhood, some of whom are long time, generational residents, but also including those who reached the shores of Lake Merritt more recently-drawn here by our reputation for creativity, diversity of not only ethnicy but ideas, and our storied culture of resistance-arrived in time to fall in love with the Town but then found that love to be unrequited-at least by our leaders.

They presented what seemed to be opposing proposals along with one from the Bridge Housing Corporation, which also has a good rep in the community, but apparently no dog in this race. In a nutshell, the folks from #SaveE12th or the People’s Proposal working with Satellite Housing proffered a small project of 132 units in a 7 story building and Urban Core working with EBALDC proposed two towers, one with 26 floors of mostly market rate units or possibly some in the upper limits of “affordability” with a smaller tower. This project would offer 108 units for lower income renters like those who are rapidly being displaced by the current volatile housing market.

I just have to say that “market rate” is a strange term, one that implies the folks who already live here aren’t part of the market but are just people in the way-whereas the new-money-people-no perjorative names here-will come whatever the price, just cause we’re such a great place to live (ironic, tell that to the city council and mayor who want to reduce the costs known as impact fees to developers cause maybe no one really wants to come?)

Anyways, there is a total of 24 units difference between these warring proposals. But there are two other very important differences to contend with beyond the number of affordable apartments. 1)the Urban Core/EBALDC folks have financed the deal mostly by building all those unaffordable units (laughingly called market rate) and they can recompense (like that fancy term?) the city to the tune of $4.7 million, a mere $400k less than their original proposal, cash the city could probably use. So here the People’s Proposal which I’ll call the #PP, no, maybe stick with #Save, which is offering to build a low rise complex with purportedly all the city’s current affordable housing funds, leaving nothing left for other projects, hmm, concerning maybe?

Here’s the other big difference, 2) when all those unaffordable units are built, towering over most of the neighborhood, except the existing 26 floors at 1200 Lakeshore, which admittedly looks pretty bizarre so close to the edge of the Lake, ok,ok, no more tangents. The other yuuge difference to the neighborhood is the way the Urban Core project will impact the current residents’ homes when spanking new, very expensive, luxury-type apartments are thrown into an area that previously nutured a  mix of people, cultures, and lifestyles. That mix will vanish like El Nino in February. God only knows where everyone will go, God or whoever’s in charge at the tent city now residing under the bridge by the new LM boulevard.

So what to do, who to choose? If I were on the CC, I’d be tempted to  give the #Save group all the housing funds and at least get something built to offer the neighborhood right now. But, of course, that won’t happen. What I’m really wondering is-why the brilliant, politically-oriented minds contained in the mayor’s or city council’s collective brain, couldn’t have gotten some of these guys together and said, “Is there a way to build a range of affordable units with some at “market rate,” some at middle management rates, some at upwardly-mobile-we-hope rates, and almost as many at lower-income, social-security-only rates as the #Save folks have proposed without using all the city’s housing fund??

In this way the parcel could be developed more densely than most of the neighborhood because up is the appropriate direction for cities to be going, but NOT so out of whack with the surrounding community that that existing culture is destroyed forever.

So, now I’m wondering why didn’t they do that? Why didn’t Mayor Schaaf, no. 1 city cheerleader, apply some of her secret sauce to this mix and bake an Oakland flavored cookie out of it, or a papusa, something?? Now we will probably get a much better project from Urban Core than we had initially-although I have it on good authority that they had early on offered to put significant affordable units in the project, then backed off-because that’s what it always looked like we’d get. In the end we’ve achieved lots of bad feelings, ill will, and distrust in government process for something we could have had last year with albeit, some leadership.

On the other hand we now have an informed, activated citizenry working together-young and old, a grand Oakland mix of cultures who have learned to be skeptical and organized and tenacious. So watch out, more to come very soon from all the corners of our city, our beloved Town, bit by bit we are organizing. We’re going to take on the bureaucracy and the political class and we’re going to energize our collective creativity.We might even serve as a model to our “leadership.”

We’re coming from old political clubs, neighbohood-organized associations, and new alliances. We demanded a Declaration for a Housing Emergency last fall (check this blog) and it’s way past time for that to have happened. Those being ousted now come from all sectors-the poor, oldtimey residents, teachers and students, artists and middle management professionals-our representatives have shown that they are better at pitting us against one another than bringing us together so-looks like we’ll have to do it ourselves. Stay tuned.


The Obama Years-Change, Backlash & Contradiction


President Barack Obama hugs Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg on Capitol Hill in Washington, Tuesday, Jan. 25, 2011, prior to delivering his State of the Union address. (Photo credit should read PABLO MARTINEZ MONSIVAIS/AFP/Getty Images)

In case we’ve forgotten in the breathless cable news coverage of #horserace2016, Barack Obama is still our president. Perhaps this is why I haven’t got religion yet for the next campaign, I still have feelings for the current icon of our dysfunction and I need to figure them out before I move on.

I had already begun to miss that brilliant, sensible man, Mr. Obama, by the time he gave his last State of the Union address. But no one expresses that sentiment better than the Nightly Show’s Larry Wilmore who does a segment called, The UnBlackening, on the politics of the 2016 campaign. It’s undoubtedly the beginning and possibly the end of an era. Over the last year Barack Obama had just begun to do what pundits called “showing his Black side,” while giving no damns for his critics.

We had all hoped that he would grasp early on that he could not count on any friends or allies on the other side of the aisle. But being the kind of even tempered, conciliatory and eminently rational, constitutional lawyer that he is, he wanted to bring people together while attempting to neuter their adherence to ideologies, but the Republicans declared war on him and everything he tried to do from the start. When Obama worked to put the Republican plan for healthcare insurance, otherwise known as Romneycare, in place they set out to kill it and the Republican-led Congress was last seen wandering off into legislative oblivion trying to do just that.

Let’s back up, way back. I’m old enough to remember when I chanted and marched against LBJ and reviled his war mongering away of young lives. Even though Johnson brought public service jobs to my friends with the War on Poverty-right there as Tavis Smiley says, “who even dares to use the “p” word now”- we hated him and declared a kind of victory when he vowed not to run again-after which he faded from the scene and then from life itself.

Johnson brought about voting rights for Black people still living under Jim Crow, Medicare and Medicaid , the free lunch program modeled in no small way on that of the Black Panthers and more we can’t even dredge up without using google [http://us-presidents.insidegov.com/q/43/9699/What-were-President-Lyndon-Johnson-s-accomplishments]. How long did it take for my generation to recognize his contributions? Oh, I’d say till the 2010’s at least.

LBJ himself said that his civil rights legislation would give the Republican Party to the South for a generation. But even he did not foresee the Grand Old Party’s terrifying free-fall  into intolerance and xenophobia. He might not have been able to imagine a high court which has embraced and expanded the Second Amendment while it continues to nullify the Fourth Amendment. Voting rights which we took for granted and which were in the process of turning the South around, are now seemingly lost to another generation.

Ah well, my daughter who like her brother is bi-racial (their dad is Black while I am white or if you like, African-American while I am a WASP) believes that since the election of Obama, racism has flared and it has become more dangerous than ever before in her lifetime. That may be true or it may be just more obvious but it’s undeniably a factor in Obama’s administration. After all many white people had to vote for Obama in order for him to be elected but the backlash has been vicious and touched almost every Black person in some way.

So what about Obama himself, could fiction have invented a more contradictory character?

His critics hit him hardest as a wimp, a closet Muslim. Yes, he is the first president in our history and in our immediate future, to have lived in a Muslim country, to understand and appreciate the many diverse cultures in which Muslims live-THIS IS NO SMALL THING.

Yet he has probably killed more Muslims than George Bush. He had Bin laden assassinated, as he likes to brag, has regularly droned to death civilians attending weddings or whatever and has 3 or 4 wars going on in the Middle East and Africa at any given time.

He embraced the young “Dreamers” of the Latino community then he became the “deporter-in-chief.” He won the Nobel Peace Prize while jailing anyone who pointed out the American penchant for war crimes. Is he more contradictory than any president of an imperialist power?  One answer comes from Joy Reid of MSNBC who said that the next president will likely be more hawkish than Obama and it seems undoubtedly so. Yet this commander-in-chief has also spent more of his political capital and reputation on negotiating treaties and deals, the one with Iran being the most notable, than any president I can remember.

Has Obama done much for Black Folks, sadly not much, but that’s not actually surprising while still disappointing. However, his administration has aided struggling Black families which are disproportionately poor by limiting the everyday way that banks rip people off, creating more avenues to healthcare and pushing to make student loans more equitable. He had to be forced by a movement to talk about reducing the reach of the criminal justice system [#Blacklivesmatter!]. But just the mention of him and Trayvon together in a sentence tugged hard on my heart and made many people see the world in a different way-more as it is.

Beyond his experience in other countries and awareness of other cultures, being a person who was raised white yet is Black gives him a unique and penetrating vision of the dual hearts that beat on either side of the American street, a knowledge which is invaluable to us as the troubled people we are.

And, in a country where the scorn for African-American families runs so deep, it is embedded in almost every social interaction or cultural conversation, the Obama family in its near perfection, two brilliant, highly educated-bootstrapping style-parents, two beautiful and seemingly normal girls growing up in the public glare, is amazing and important. What’s more, their father, Barrack Hussein Obama, is clearly a man in love with his wife and an adored by his children, an American dad who can be teased like any other beloved but real father. As everybody knows who’s ever been around a “firstie”-it must always be so.

But the most amazing thing about this man and this admirable family of his, is that no matter how reviled he has been, no matter how disrespected he and his family, particularly his smart and gracious wife have been, he has come out the other side, still hopeful, still living as if what we do as individuals and as a nation can and shall make a difference, brings tears to my eyes over and over again.

When he’s gone from the national scene, I fear that our conversation about the importance of our American heart of darkness, white supremacy, will go back into the shadows where it has operated so successfully. While I hate that his family has had to suffer in the spotlight of our national disease, I believe the sweeping away of this ugliness can only happen in confrontation.

Beyond the mean-spiritedness, Obama still provides hope and a vision that I realized I share with him-a desire to live my life in a world where “unarmed truth and unconditional love” will overcome, which is why I feel a kinship with our soon-to-be ex-president. Ah, Barry, Barack Hussein Obama, I’m gonna miss you, please don’t be a stranger.






Wellstone Club To Host Panel on the TPP Dec 15th

The Wellstone Democratic Renewal Club has scheduled an emergency meeting this Tuesday, December 157:00 to 9:00pm-doors open at 6:45pm at Humanist Hall, 390 27th Street, Oakland. The panel includes  Xiomara Castro of Citizens Trade Campaign[www.citizenstrade.org] and Suzanne York of the Sierra Club.  There will be time for questions and a discussion of effective responses. Refreshments  will be provided, but there will be no potluck at this meeting. You do not have to be a member or a Democrat to attend.
The Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) is the latest “free trade” deal that has just been finalized between the U.S. and 11 other countries that border the Pacific.  It has been termed “NAFTA on steroids” because it is so much worse than NAFTA in the effects it will have on the ordinary U.S. citizen.
“The TPP, along with the WTO [World Trade Organization] and NAFTA [North American Free Trade Agreement], is the most brazen corporate power grab in American history,” according to Ralph Nader; “It allows corporations to bypass our three branches of government to impose enforceable sanctions by secret tribunals. These tribunals can declare our labor, consumer and environmental protections [to be] unlawful, non-tariff barriers subject to fines for noncompliance.”
The text of the TPP was released a few weeks ago.  This means that the clock is ticking for Congressional action to vote it up or down, and the Wellstone Club is committed to working to defeat the TPP.
We urge our members and all those who value environmental, labor, and consumer laws to communicate with the Greater Bay Area Congressional delegation-giving support to those who have opposed the TPP in the past and urging those who have supported the TPP to consider the final document in hopes they will change their votes.
An introduction to the Wellstone Club’s recently adopted Economic Justice program will aslo be on the agenda. See wellstoneclub.org or contact Pamela Drake-510-593-3721, pamelaadrake@gmail.com for more info.


Tis the Season or Was It?

I would like to propose a new holiday for this wintertime solstice period we are about to enter. It would involve cheery singing, wonderful gatherings full of fattening food, charitable giving, small but thoughtful gifts for those of us with already bulging closets, and time off to share with far flung family and friends.

Some of us are very tired, broke, and a little gassy after this current holiday they call Christmas is over on or about December 12th. What, you say, Christmas is on December 25th? The evidence is all around you that that old holiday was long ago abandoned.

No, I’m not talking about the commercialism. After all as the director of a retail district, many of our shops, little and large make their livings and hirings, staying open cause we all shop for the months leading up to this early December holiday.

But if you have noticed, and I know you have, that the ads on TV show an SUV or other shiny new car-depending on the cost of gas-driving through the snow to Grandma’s house starting in October or arriving at your grandiose circular driveway with a bow on the top by All Saints Day . Not sure what that bow signifies on the day after Halloween but there you have it…..As the commercials jam the airwaves with lists of expensive stuff that no one needs, so do the paper ads line our sidewalks full of tales of super discounts that can’t be beat.

So now, people who still buy semi-live trees, which as you know, are cut down in September, drive home with them the day after Thanksgiving and put them up in November. Those same trees will litter the sidewalks by December 26th or maybe sooner since they are are already a pathetic and parched gray green by the second week in December.

If you, like me, love to watch the “holiday” films even the real cheesy ones in which, say the perky blonde with cheating-husband-karma finds true love in the elevator of the building where she just lost her job as she clutches her divorce papers in one pale hand and the list of gifts she can’t buy for her asthmatic kid in the other, and he turns out to have a wealthy family who thinks she’s great, so down-to-earth-you-know. Phew, sorry for that run-on paragraph.

Anyway, those films-including the ones which are well made like the original Miracle on 34th Street and It’s a Wonderful Life-are all over by the 12th and replaced with low grade horror films by mid December.

[As an aside, check out the two classics I mentioned if you haven’t seen them since you were 21, they are not just sentimental romps, but contain layers of darkness and important social commentary within them-themes like how the mentally ill are treated, bouts of cynical political maneuvering, the predations of our banking system, and great character actors. The stylized acting, which was typical of the era, is what gives them the stain of melodrama, but still very moving.]

All the “holiday” parties are going on now and will be over by next weekend. Even my own district, Lakeshore, will hold its celebrations on the 11th and 12th this year. By Monday the 14th it’s all over, but the thing is, most of our family members won’t get here till the 22nd or the 24 or even gasp, the 25th.

So let’s just call it Solstice Gathering Time since Christmas is already taken.

Mayor Libby Schaaf Takes a Wrong Turn

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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