The Oakland We Knew and the Mayor’s Race

 

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Libby Schaaf’s Record

It’s hard to know how seriously Oakland folks will take this contest at a time when we are glued to twitter trying to understand the circus in Washington, but local politics are also a reflection of broader issues coming home to roost.

Libby Schaaf was a local apparatchik for a number of party politicians before she was elected to a single term on the council. She then ran what a pundit described as a “stealth campaign” for mayor. While everyone was busy blaming Jean Quan for all our ills and taking pot shots at Rebecca Kaplan, Libby Schaaf was tooling around town making goo goo eyes at reporters about her Oaklandish cred. [That was some ish alright.] After she released her secret weapon, an endorsement by Governor Jerry Brown, she turned out to be the top vote getter in that Ranked Choice Voting surprise.

Now almost 4 years later, we areexperiencing a human disaster like none we’ve seen in our 152 history. Thousands of Oaklanders are living in squalor on the streets and whole neighborhoods have been destabilized by gentrification. Of course, Ms. Schaaf cannot be blamed for the sudden rise in homelessness but the level of indifference she’s shown to these conditions, has been, until very recently, stunning.  920x1240

https://draketalkoakland.com/2017/07/10/oakland-city-council-must-heed-the-homeless-advocacy-working-group/

To add incompetence to neglect this administration managed to misplace $2.2 million  desperately needed  anti-displacement funds granted by the state. Eventually, they found them but still had trouble distributing them in a timely manner. Meanwhile tent cities continued to proliferate.  http://www.oaklandpost.org/2018/05/31/oakland-allocated-2-2-million-prevent-evictions-mayors-staff-failed-spend-money/  https://www.eastbayexpress.com/SevenDays/archives/2018/05/22/oakland-failed-to-spend-22-million-on-anti-displacement-and-homeless-assistance

Yes, she’s raised private funds for tough sheds, probably an improvement on tents, and that’s nice. But when activists of the Homeless Advocacy Working Group, HAWG, offered a list of solutions, I wouldn’t say they were shown the door but just left to sit in the waiting room.  Meanwhile, the mayor created another highly paid position in her office to deal with the problems hiring Darin Ranelletti, Policy Director for Housing Security, phew, I feel better already.

https://www.eastbaytimes.com/2018/03/15/oakland-creates-new-policy-director-position-to-deal-with-housing-crisis/

She spent her first day as mayor hanging out with police officers, because she felt their morale needed boosting and then was blindsided when it came out that they had been engaging in a sex trafficking operation. When it was also discovered that the department had been involved in cover-up after shameless cover-up, her administration did issue a loud slap on the wrist. Her next response to this crisis in confidence was to attempt to limit the independence of the proposed charter amendment that set up a Police Commission.

It turns out that her negotiation style is classic my-way-or-the-highway. When she demanded the power to appoint almost half of the commissioners, no compromise was brooked . I have to add that neither she nor her city administrator nor the city attorney have stopped trying to put obstacles in the path of a truly independent police commission even after the voters overwhelmingly supported it.

There have been a number of disasters and scandals during this administration’s first three years but little has stuck to Schaaf given the mostly positive press she garners locally and nationally–the Ghostship Fire, the cover-up of the new police chief’s images (7)complicity in an ICE raid in West Oakland, at least 4 police shootings in one summer, not to mention the accelerated exodus of native Oaklanders, especially Black Oaklanders from the Town. Additionally, this mayor has managed to look like a hero against the Jeff Sessions anti-immigrant onslaught while doing nothing to ensure our city’s sanctuary policy is upheld. She even told a group of immigrants fighting to maintain their Temporary Protected Status in the US who have started a nationwide bus tour to call attention to their plight that she was too busy to meet with them.  https://consortiumnews.com/2018/08/15/journey-for-justice-caravan-launches-cross-country-trek/

My Ranked Recommendations- 1) Cat Brooks, 2) Pamela Price, 3) Saied Karamooz.

Many people know Cat Brooks as a firebrand speaking at the city council and leading a march to the police department but she has a warm side that shows itself to friends and family and that includes all of the marginalized folks who are being ignored or actively pushed out of Oakland. She is an artist/performer besides being an activist on almost every issue and she has amassed a volunteer army who share her inclusive vision of Oakland. Her campaign is a positive force in Oakland politics. crowd+shothttps://www.catbrooksforoakland.com/  “That’s what this campaign is about. It’s about putting the people into the halls of power and collectively creating a new way of governance that is people driven and people-centered.”

Pamela Price, as many of you know, ran a tough campaign for district attorney. She did well in Oakland, although this race is a completely different one. I championed her  against Nancy O’Malley and think it’s a good thing that she has jumped into this race too. “We must fight injustice and income inequality in Oakland. We must house the homeless and ensure that we protect and enhance the safety and quality of life in our  Pamela_attorney-e1485730265186neighborhoods. We must reach deep inside ourselves and unite behind bold solutions while moving everyone in this City forward. We must “lift as we climb.”

https://www.pamelaprice4mayor.com/meetpamela

Saied Karamooz is a businessman who became active in Oakland politics a few years ago. At the time he seemed to me to be someone who took potshots at what others were doing but I see him differently now. He helped us get the Police Commission, Measure LL, on the ballot, helped pass it and has worked doggedly with the Coalition for Police Accountability [which cannot endorse in any campaign] to fight to maintain its independence. He is a member of  the otherwise ineffective Green Party but has worked with the Oakland Justice Coalition as well as other local advocates.  “I have been active in various progressive causes, such as Police Accountability, Fight for 15, Stop Urban Shield, Renter Protection, Public Bank, and No Coal in Oakland.” Saied-Headshot-e1517086595811

https://everyonesmayor.org/bio/

 

RCV–the Anti-gentrification Tool:

If the campaigns above work together in the Ranked Choice Voting system, there’s a chance we can beat the incumbent (that means ranking everyone but the incumbent in almost any order.) Why is that so important? No, I don’t think that Libby Schaaf is a terrible mayor. No, the potholes are not her fault or even the fault of her predecessor–but if you’re concerned about them–please don’t vote to repeal the gas tax since it’s our best chance to fund road repair and replacement.

Oakland is teetering on a precipice. It may even be too late to pull it back and while I don’t think Ms. Schaaf has done it on purpose, we could easily go the way of San Francisco. That city where I once lived, is no longer home to artists, working families or indeed families in general. In fact SF is a city with the fewest children of any metropolitan area in the US. It’s Black population which once mirrored that of the country and was significant in its cultural life-is now half of that and rapidly shrinking. San Francisco’s rep as a cauldron for activism, creativity and movements for progressive change exists only in nostalgia for the old city that once welcomed everyone in.

We all see where Oakland is going and we’re happy about new businesses opening up, an uptick in nightlife we haven’t seen since WWII, with cranes towering over the downtown and uptown. But it shouldn’t be necessary to harass and evict the people who have lived, worked and raised their families in this city and did so without grocery stores, restaurants or the availability of the capital to fund them.

Admittedly it’s a difficult task to find ways to provide it in a time of deregulation and soaring greed when the federal government long ago ceased funding any significant levels of housing affordable to the middle class much less the poor. It takes an administration that allocates available tax dollars wisely, monitors the funds carefully and actively seeks out creative urban planning ideas.

Contrast this with a city government in which neighborhood groups like the Chinatown Coalition must raise thousands of dollars to appeal planning decisions that give developers valuable height, density, and parking variances in exchange for next to no community benefits. The Chinatown Coalition fought for affordable housing within these giant projects in addition to space for small local businesses and indigenous art communities. But the Planning Department under this administration has still not recognized or utilized community benefits mandates in their process.

https://draketalkoakland.com/2016/12/14/help-wanted-an-oakland-planning-director-for-equitable-development/

With the leadership of this mayor and the current council members in Districts 2, 4, and 3, developers are actively discouraged from listening to community needs, the planning department ignores community demands and the budget is earmarked to fund everything but housing, services for the homeless, clean-up crews, recreation centers, and libraries especially in our economically struggling districts. They have been left to fend for themselves while public land is sold away to charter school corporations and elite programs.   http://www.oaklandpost.org/2018/07/13/council-delays-decision-selling-public-land-build-charter-school/

Oakland scored 33.5% on a study called the Equity Indicator Report. For all this mayor’s focus on police, Oakland’s poorer communities rate the lowest in the city for public safety according to this report.  https://www.kqed.org/news/11680162/new-report-shows-oakland-scores-low-for-racial-equity

The question now is what is your vision of Oakland? Is it the watered down Jerry Brown version where tech bros rule downtown, the uptown all the way to Temescal-whatever that means-“Construction cranes dot the downtown skyline, and scaffolding-shrouded towers march down Broadway into Temescal”-not to mention the Lake, Fruitvale and beyond?  [https://extras.mercurynews.com/oaklandboom/ ]

Should Fruitvale and West Oakland be rebuilt as bedroom communities for one demographic, whose folks will definitely buy artisanal coffee and drink green smoothies a la Blindspotting, but where will the rest of us go who struggled through the days images (1)where the easternmost coffee shop was the Coffee Mill on Grand Avenue, crime was high and storefront churches kept kids fed in the summertime. Should we have to leave because the goodies of the “sharing culture” don’t accrue to us? Should our kids have to move to Sacramento, Oregon, or, I dunno, Ohio because we just don’t fit the new vision? This is our chance, maybe our last one, to select a more inclusive mayor, one who knows and even cares where Willie Wilkins Park in East Oakland is and how it serves our families. We can do this.   http://oaklandschaafted.com/#how%20long

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Tell the Oakland City Council-Time for a Fair Contract!

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Oakland City workers are headed into a 5th day of a strike for a fair contract; a contract that includes wages that keep up with the cost of living and working conditions that don’t threaten their health. The city acknowledges its revenues have gone up and that these workers gave back and lost considerable ground during the Great Recession but claims it can only afford small wage increases at this time. Where did the increased revenues go?

How did the Police Department Budget Grow so Fast?

Beyond three new departments with well paid directors under this mayor plus a plumped up staff in her office, last December the council voted, with the exception of Brooks and Kaplan, to accept a grant from the Obama led DOJ for a little less than $2 million which in turn required the city to commit more than $10 million in taxpayer funds-outside of the 2 year budget process. Add that to OPD’s unauthorized overtime costs and we can see how easily increased revenues disappear before the average city worker’s needs are even considered.

But there are more issues being discussed than just pay and in fact, the city and the unions had agreed to wage increases in the first year of the contract. However, the city made second year wages dependent on revenues, which may seem reasonable until you account for the administration’s, like all administrations, ability to hide revenues or to slide them under the table to the police department.

Beyond Wages

The unions have been in negotiations for 8 months without a serious contract offer, there’s been a spike since the Great Recession in maintaining employees permanently as temporary part time workers, and that working conditions have deteriorated in understaffed departments with massive new demands such as attending to homeless encampments and the health and safety risks involved. These all add up.

But the biggie is the attitude of this administration despite the face that Oakland “cheer leaders” show outside the negotiating room. When the mayor declares that your walkout is illegal, “She said the city would file a labor complaint if workers walk off the job. But leaders for Service Employees International Union Local 1021 dismissed Schaaf’s concerns.

“The mayor is incorrect,” said Rob Szykowny, Local 1021’s chief negotiator. “It’s an unfair labor practices strike, which is lawful, protected activity.”   http://www.sfgate.com/bayarea/article/Labor-negotiations-end-Oakland-workers-prepare-12404995.php

When the poorest workers like Head Start employees, many of whom have had to move out of Oakland to afford rent, were moved to strike weeks before Christmas in hopes of pushing the city to see the seriousness of the their situation, should the city response be to increase the distrust?

Negotiation in Good Faith?

Last Wednesday when the city council met in closed session to consider the union’s proposal, it was hoped that a settlement would be reached that day but the council was split and the strike entered a 3rd day.  When on Thursday afternoon the mayor offered her “last best final offer” which included a “slight tweak” from the previous offer, the unions had expected that negotiations would continue into the night as so often happens in these dire situations-but that’s not what happened.

According to Kimberly Veklerov at the Chronicle, “Union leaders said they were working on crafting a counteroffer late Thursday. They asked the city’s negotiators to stay on call through the evening.

“We actually thought they were going to come in and we were going to talk all night if necessary to reach a compromise, and they just gave us the end,” Szykowny said. “It seems the city has just decided to be intransigent and try to beat the union down, and that is not going to happen.”

Mayor Libby Schaaf seemed to dismiss the union’s counteroffer, saying just before 10 p.m. the city would accept nothing less than a yes.” http://www.sfgate.com/bayarea/article/Negotiations-in-Oakland-worker-strike-end-without-12414230.php

As of today, Sunday, December 10th, ” City leaders said they expect the strike to continue Sunday, Monday and “until further notice.” http://sanfrancisco.cbslocal.com/2017/12/09/city-of-oakland-unions-agree-to-mediation-but-strike-continues/

The mayor declared an impasse on Friday morning and threw the city into a deeper divide and long term disaffection between the city and its workers. Although the strike may end sometime next week and a contract will eventually be signed, the attitude of city leadership, the mayor and the city council, shows an inability to bargain well and little interest in what the lowest level employees need to continue to live in and work for the city many grew up in.  20171206_172445

Some council members have been admittedly more interested in coming to agreement, In statements Rebecca Kaplan, Noel Gallo and Desley Brooks have made it clear they are willing to work on solving this fairly. All the other council members have been what one union rep called “squishy.” If you are represented by one of these other council members, call or email them today!

And here I have to get personal. I was one of the committee members who worked with the city council to put a proposal on last year’s ballot establishing a police commission, a body which, ironically, is set to meet for the first time [it was approved by 83% of the voters]on December 13th [if the strike is settled.]

Three of us sat in meeting after meeting with Council Members Dan Kalb and Noel Gallo thrashing out the details of what we all knew was going to be ground breaking legislation. We had almost reached agreement on most of the important items when we got word from the 2 CMs that Mayor Schaaf wanted to change the innovative structure the coalition designed of using a selection committee, picked from the community, to search out commissioners who would then be another step removed from political influence.

We had been warned that she would not agree to putting it on the ballot unless she had one or two direct appointments to the commission which will have the power to implement discipline over our officers. We argued and fought for a less political process and then we got the word, she would accept no less than 3 appointments out of 7 and it was non-negotiable. As you may know, ultimately we had to agree to this change but it left such a sour taste in my mouth, I could barely speak in favor of it at the time.

[Though our coalition victory was huge, we are setting up a committee to “oversee the oversight board” and make sure that the voters who demanded change get what they fought for.] Now, of course, the mayor doesn’t get to write legislation, that’s up to the council but we knew we wouldn’t have the votes we needed if she had objected and she was clear, her point of view was non-negotiable.

A mayor who does not understand that compromise is the essence of the political process is not only not a good politician, she is not really engaged in politics but in dictating terms which she believes are best for the rest of us.  Her demand that “yes,” is the only answer she’ll accept after which the administration discontinues talks is setting up for Armageddon.

We are in for tough times as it is when our federal government is opposed to the well-being of most Californians (and most Americans) but it seems under this administration our city has taken the same tack to its own workers and dirtied, possibly poisoned the waters we have to navigate in for many years to come. 20171206_172337

Oh and by the way, for all those who read this and say, city services are horrible so who cares, prove it to me! I have worked with our public union members as a council aide and as director of a retail district and almost always found them willing to help when presented with a reasonable request. I honor them as sister and brother Oaklanders who care about our city and do what they can to make it better despite being understaffed and disrespected.

Call Your Council Member, Call the Mayor!

Oaklanders, in the spirit of the season, demand that Mayor Schaaf and your council members-you have 2, a district rep and the at-large member-get this settled fairly and do it now! www2.oaklandnet.com

 

 

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?

My State of the City Address

Last week the Wellstone Democratic Renewal Club hosted a panel discussion called “Deconstructing Oakland Politics.” We talked a lot about the lack of leadership shown by the Oakland City Council, but one panelist noted that the new mayor was keeping a low profile and staying away from policy statements that she would ultimately be held accountable for.

Now she is ready to enter the fray and give us her take on how we’re doing and, I hope, some solutions for our problems. Here’s what I would say if I were mayor:

The first thing to do is declare a State of Emergency over the Affordable Housing Crisis. Oakland is staring over the abyss, the cliff that San Francisco fell off of. That city is now officially a museum of their former selves, the tough union waterfront town with a cutting edge culture that accepted artists, poets, musicians, and worldly misfits who made it a living breathing human laboratory of creativity and social change.

I remember. I lived there from 1966 to 1973, first in the Sunset, then the Fillmore and the Haight Ashbury to the Mission and outer Mission, downtown and finally, home to Oakland. I spent a few days in the 7th floor jail at the Hall of Justice during the Strike at San Francisco State and later drove tourists in my Yellow Cab up and down those scenic hills before I found the sunshine on the other side of the Bay.

I have to admit-Oakland was never an easy place for a single mom to survive either, especially when most of us are renters and renters “don’t get no respect” in Oakland. So what would I do in the first 90 days after declaring a state of emergency

  1. Immediately finish the Nexus study that will undoubtedly sanction impact fees on developers. Pick the highest dollar amount and insist that no projects get city approval until the fees are imposed. We need that money to begin to climb out of the deficit in affordable housing we’ve been racking up for years.
  2. Declare a moratorium on rent increases beyond the CPI. Immediately provide an adequate fund to help people stay in their rental units if they are in danger of losing them, lower the return landlords can demand on capital improvements (after all CM Schaaf  was the one who obtained the 70% cap when the CC was willing to lower it) and require landlords to go to the rent board when they need an increase. Meet with the Oakland Tenants’ Union for more ideas.
  3. Begin writing a comprehensive inclusionary zoning ordinance, which will pass state muster, to be ready to pass before the 90 days are up.
  4. Raise the percentage of Boomerang funds from 25% to 50% towards building affordable housing and rather than put all first time homeowner funds towards single family homes, dedicate some of it towards limited equity coops and other non-speculative home ownership models.
  5. Reform and tighten the condo conversion rules.
  6. Dedicate 60% of increases in revenue to building and rehabbing units in transportation hubs, include bike shares and please remember to build family-sized units.
  7. Legalize in-law units and encourage them and other infill housing in the priciest neighborhoods so more residents can share in the fun.

There’s more that can be done on housing and it will take years to catch up-better get started quickly. But public safety is still a big issue in Oakland. We recognize that our young people are still dying in gunfire at significantly high rates. So far eleven more people were murdered in Oakland this year than last.

For instance, my young friend who started the Scraper Bike Movement, Tyrone Stevenson, recently lost his closest friend to gunfire. He is heartbroken and doesn’t know if he can continue to give all the youth who work with and follow him inspiration. He has loved this town but it hasn’t loved him back. Can we show him and the Scraper Bikes Kids some love? Let’s get a city administrator and park and rec leader to work with him and provide resources into helping him and others like him in their efforts. Invent a new position and call it Homegrown Youth Initiatives Czar. Then give him or her the salary of the (former) hearing administrator who threatened to fine the churches and Humanist Hall for being nuisances with this new position.

Then I’d tell my friend, Jerry Brown, (if I were Libby) to bring back adult education. Edward Shands in East Oakland was an important institution in our city, it offered second chances for those in need of a high school education and first chances for English learners.

The next step may seem like less of an emergency to some. The Oakland Police Department under Chief Sean Whent has begun the process of reform but it’s still on shaky ground as evidenced by the shooting deaths of four Oaklanders this summer by police. Yes, we know the police are wearing cameras but they don’t seem to believe those videos belong to the public. We still don’t really know what happened to the comatose man who was shot upon awakening on the Lakeshore offramp.

We need a transparency policy on police videos, and we need a police commission before the federal oversight of Judge Thelton Henderson goes away. After $60 million dollars in lawsuits and decimated community trust, we can’t afford not to. Get it on the 2016 ballot, ferkrissakes.

Well, Oaklanders, it’s only a start. Even the mayor and city council can’t prevent the kind of ugly incident that happened on the Lake recently although they can help make rules reasonable and encourage honoring who we are. One thing they can do is make city hall welcoming. Open House for Oaklanders should be an every day event, not a special window when we are able to speak freely and even be heard.

What’s your state of the city and what would you do to make it a better place for all of us?