Guest Column: James Vann on City Funding for Landlord Evictions

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

My Primary Endorsements-Price, Kalb & a Surprise Write-In

The California Primary is still months away but for local activists, it’s been super heated since last fall. Many Democratic clubs and other activist organizations held their endorsement meetings weeks ago. But for most voters the difficulty of choosing from ten candidates for the state legislature’s 15th Assembly District-North Oakland, and the hills down through Joaquin Miller Park up to Berkeley and Richmond including Hercules- is expected to be a bit overwhelming.  21271272_2033593886872018_3753374795767531301_n

Two things make this primary on the local level exciting. One is that current Assembly Member Tony Thurmond has decided to run for State Superintendent of Schools (go Tony, yes, that is an endorsement) so it’s an open seat which always stirs the pot of local electeds and wannabes alike.

The DA’s Race-Pamela Price   Pamela_attorney-e1485730265186

No one can remember the last time the District Attorney of Alameda County, any district attorney, was in a contested race. Tom Orloff ran the DA’s office unopposed from 1994 to 2009 and Nancy O’Malley was appointed to fill out his term after which she has run unopposed until now.

Civil Rights attorney Pamela Price has stepped forward and is running a serious campaign. She has significant activist support but O’Malley has most of the establishment endorsements.

As the first woman DA in our county, Nancy O’Malley still gets high marks for being  proactive on domestic violence and human trafficking, but in every other way she has followed the traditional prosecutorial path.

O’Malley opposed the passage of Prop 47, an initiative that keeps petty criminals out of jail where they often become hardened criminals. Price favors looking at the effect the DA’s office has on those who are most often shuttled into the prison pipeline and kept there and how that can be changed.

Price also believes that police should be held accountable when they violate the law rather than honor the traditional prosecutor’s cosy relationship with law enforcement. This is especially important in Alameda County given the many layers of corruption which the Celeste Guap case (or law-enforcement-sexploitation syndrome) unearthed across Bay area police departments.

Price also opposes the DA’s traditional overcharging of defendants in order to wring a plea bargain out of those who have few resources and little understanding of the criminal justice system. As a result 95% of cases are settled this way and guilt or innocence had little to do with it. Here’s a description of that system from Price’s own blog including a look at how parts of the Guap case were handled. It’s a good read,  https://pamelaspage.com/tag/police-corruption/

If that weren’t enough to convince you that it’s time to elect a district attorney and one who will see the job in a new way, let me tell you about some of the answers the current DA gave at the Wellstone Club endorsement meeting. She said 1) she didn’t believe in charging youth as adults, and 2) she doesn’t charge demonstrators who engage in civil disobedience as criminals. Neither of those have been true although it’s possible she has rethought her past decisions.

Please check out this comprehensive article, particularly the last third.  You will probably remember something of this disturbing story. It taught me all I needed to know about this DA’s understanding of the other Oakland, the one where folks don’t get the choice of private schools, good jobs, and artisanal cooking oil.

 

 

And I’m sure you remember the Black Lives Matter demonstrators who stopped BART riders heading to SF for a couple of hours one Black Friday, to make a point about the “inconvenience” of dealing with a justice system that locks Black youth away as a matter of course or refuses to hold police accountable for any level of brutality. Ms. O’Malley wanted to charge these folks (who might’ve been called pranksters under different-colored circumstances) with serious crimes but was talked out of it by powerful community pressure.

So while we often focus on our Republican sheriff for his Trumpian policies, the DA’s office has more to do with implementing mass incarceration than the sheriff. If you want to staunch the flow of poor Black and Brown people into the prison pipeline, we need a DA who really stands behind that goal.

15th Assembly District-Dan Kalb  

The open seat vacated by Tony Thurmond has produced a plethora of progressive candidates, some with long track records of legislative achievement and some who’ve just begun their electoral climb but are hoping to jump ahead a few steps.

Rather than discuss them all, cause who has that kind of time, I’ll share my reasoning for endorsing District 1 Oakland City Council Member Dan Kalb.

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In 2016 Oaklanders overwhelmingly voted for Measure LL which is a charter change (something city administrators and some council members still haven’t wrapped their heads around, but that’s a subject for another time) that gives us an independent police commission with the power to implement discipline over officers.

That charter change would have never made it to the ballot without the courage and hours of hard work and analysis that Dan Kalb put into it. There were other CMs who stuck their necks out, notably Noel Gallo and also Rebecca Kaplan but without Dan’s shepherding it through a complex process, it would not have gotten there.

Dan also put all the resources of his office behind the fact finding that led the City  to  29oakland-master768 (1)reject trainload after trainload of coal chugging through Oakland. He has taken the right positions on renter protections and affordable housing and many other progressive issues although he doesn’t get the credit he deserves because he does sweat the small stuff and can appear as a bit of a know-it-all at times (yeah, I know that’s an understatement.)

I appreciate the progressive positions that Jovanka Beckles has taken as part of the Richmond Progressive Alliance and think she’s a very attractive candidate. But Dan has had to design strong positions on a council amid perpetually shifting alliances and no clear enemy. He has created a path through thoughtful if sometimes studious verging on prissy analysis, still when he gets there he sticks to it-he’s more of a legislator than he is a politician.When Dan says he supports a position he’s taken, it’s principled one and that character trait should garner the respect of many of the diverse voters of the 15th AD.

Dan will fight for our environment, constitutional policing, and housing for all-among some of the things he has learned to champion in Oakland-and I trust his ability to develop well-thought-out positions on the other problems that confront our troubled state.

Sheriff, Write-in N.O. Confidence 

Last fall a number of folks in various progressive organizations came together to find a candidate who could could run a serious campaign against long time Republican Sheriff Gregory Ahern, someone who embodies the Trump White House in deep blue Alameda County.  https://www.eastbayexpress.com/SevenDays/archives/2017/11/22/activists-call-for-audit-of-sheriff-ahern

We called it the New Sheriff in Town Coalition but we ran into problems finding a candidate who would run against a sheriff with a huge war chest and lots of name recognition; it’s the kind of campaign that would likely prove career ending to many a law enforcement professional.  https://www.facebook.com/NewSheriffAC/

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As of now Sheriff Ahern who invented the Urban Shield Law Enforcement Festival and Extravaganza that would put any military parade to shame and turned emergency preparedness into a celebration of militarized policing against domestic dissent, has no opponent.

Recently against a back drop of lawsuits by prisoner rights organizations and community forums led by the Interfaith Council of Alameda County in support of sanctuary for immigrants and refugees, I attended a hearing with Prisoners United. I heard too many harrowing stories of regular folks ensnared by an inhumane system that this sheriff gladly administers in as repressive a way as he can get away with. The final straw was hearing that persons awaiting trial may get their hour for their phone calls (to family or attorneys) granted in the middle of the night and that they are allowed a clean jumpsuit only once a week while 11% are regularly left in administrative segregation or solitary confinement for seemingly arbitrary reasons.

https://oaklandnorth.net/2018/02/09/activists-bring-concerns-about-jail-conditions-to-alameda-county-supervisors/

So some of us have come together to find a write-in candidate and found the perfect sort-of-person, the gender non-conforming negation of everything this Jefferson-Beauregard-Sessions-loving lawman stands for and to top it off, our candidate has recently immigrated to this county from another astral dimension, an actual alien if you will. Let me introduce Mx N.O. Confidence who is eminently qualified to be a write-in candidate.

They, Mx. NO Confidence, believe that ICE should not be able to hunt those who act on the supposed American creed, to offer refuge and opportunity for all who seek it, nor to deny basic human rights to people awaiting fair hearings in our jails while being forced to wear dirty underwear and languish in isolation for long periods. We are awaiting a word from the county registrar on how likely it will be that our friend from another dimension’s write-in vote will be counted but, whatever, it’s still a better choice than the alternative. download (1)

 

Tell the Oakland City Council Tonight–ReFund Oakland

Guest blog by Margaretta Lin, Executive Director of the Dellums Institute for Social Justice and  former Oakland Deputy City Administrator–includes specific asks of the City Council during its final budget talks. Please forward to your CMs and sign up to speak on Item 13!

PREVENT HOMELESSNESS BY FUNDING ANTI-DISPLACEMENT

On Monday, June 26th, the Oakland City Council will determine whether Oakland’s new homeless epidemic will continue to surge. The Mayor’s budget allocated no funds for anti-displacement and homeless prevention, other than for the City’s Rent Adjustment Program, which does not advocate on the behalf of individual tenants.  By allocating only a small housing pot for housing, the Council President’s proposed budget pits the needs of tenants facing evictions against the homeless.

The vast majority of Oakland residents identify anti-displacement and homelessness as their top priority.  Yet the Council President’s proposed budget only allocates $1.77 million over 2 years for anti-displacement—less than the budget proposal for the City of Berkeley, with ¼ of Oakland’s population!  None of Oakland’s $1.163 BILLION in General Funds is being proposed for anti-displacement or homeless services.

Contact Oakland Council Members NOW and ask them to represent Oakland residents’ valuesFUND ANTI-DISPLACEMENT AND HOMELESS PREVENTION!

 

Council President Larry Reid, District 7, 510.238.7529, lreid@oaklandnet.com CM Dan Kalb, District 1, 510.238.7001, dkalb@oaklandnet.com

@DanKalb

CM Abel Guillen, District 2, 510.238.7002, aguillen@oaklandnet.com

@abel_guillen

CM Lynette McElhaney, District 3, 510.238.7003, lmcelhaney@oaklandnet.com

@lynetteGM

CM Annie Campbell-Washington, District 4, 510.238.7004, acampbellwashington@oaklandnet.com

@annieforoakland

CM Noel Gallo, District 5, 510.238.7005, ngallo@oaklandnet.com

@NoelGallo5

CM Desley Brooks, District 6, 510.238.7006, dbrooks@oaklandnet.com

@desleyb

CM Rebecca Kaplan, At Large, 510.238.7308, rkaplan@oaklandnet.com

@Kaplan4Oakland

Oakland has lost over 36,000 African Americans—26%–since 2000, a bigger decline than major cities like San Francisco and DC.  The homeless rate has increased by 39% in 2 years as median rents increased by 54%.  70% of low-income tenants going through legal evictions have no lawyer and 3,000 tenants have limited access to housing counseling.

Oakland developed a model anti-displacement safety net with proven strategies of coordinated housing counseling, legal services, and emergency housing funds for low-income tenants and elderly homeowners.  City quarterly reports showed that INVESTING IN PREVENTION WORKS to keep people in their homes and out of homelessness.

The problem has been that the City provided limited funds since there are no dedicated funding sources for anti-displacement and homeless prevention strategies.

Let’s turn the tide on Oakland’s displacement and new homeless epidemic and invest in preventing more human suffering.  That’s how we’ll build an equitable and inclusive Oakland for All!  Please contact the Oakland City Council!!

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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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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,

 

Guest Post–We the Policed–by Jan Gilbrecht

Jan Gilbrecht is an Oakland activist who recently attended the Citizens’ Police Academy and worked with other activists to request that the Oakland City Council consider setting up a police commission, a request the  council failed to take action on. In this column, she explains the reasons that the creation of such a commission or body of public oversight has become ever more essential.

                                                                 We, the Policed

Declaration of Independence, United States of America, 1776

“We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness. That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just Powers from the Consent of the Governed…”

One of the fundamental premises of our political culture is the idea that government exists to secure the rights of the people and must be based on the consent of the governed.  In our system of representative democracy, our elected leaders stand in for us, there to insure that our government exercises its powers – especially police powers – fairly, justly, lawfully and in the interests of the citizenry.

Events of the past few weeks have shown again that that things work backward in Oakland. Our rights and interests are being subordinated to those of a well-organized, well financed (and well armed) group of Oakland city employees, the vast majority of whom don’t even live among us.  Our police department is out of control, and virtually running the city from the narrow perspective of their own group interest.

To me it’s clear:  The council must act now to address our current police and political crisis by putting operational authority in hands of a special interim civilian police commission.  This commission must be given sufficient resources and a strong mandate:  to get us on track to an effective law enforcement program that is equally committed to protecting the civil rights and liberties of Oakland residents.

I attended the Oakland City Council on September 18 to support the grieving family of a young man named Alan Blueford, shot to death last May just weeks before high school graduation by OPD Officer Miguel Masso as part of a “stop and frisk” gone bad.  His family members are pushing for answers in the face of a total stonewall by the Oakland Police Department and the Alameda County District Attorney’s office.

The Bluefords were there with a large and diverse group of community and religious supporters. They told the council that the recently obtained Coroner’s report contradicted OPD’s changing versions of events. They also noted that Masso had been hired by Oakland while he was named in a federal civil rights action charging police brutality while he was an NYPD officer. Finally, they demanded that the city provide them with a copy of the police report in Alan’s shooting, which had been promised to them months ago.

With the family at the podium, Larry Reid (in whose District the shooting took place) and City Administrator Deanna Santana said that Chief Jordan was on his way over with a copy of the report. The meeting was adjourned to await Jordan’s arrival, but the break stretched on and on.  Council members circulated through the audience, speaking with the family and supporters, expressing empathy in this horrific situation.  Jordan never showed. The council meeting was re-convened briefly before jeers broke out when councilmember De La Fuente was unable or unwilling to explain why there was no report, no Chief Jordan. [For an account of the meeting and background on the case: http://www.counterpunch.org/2012/09/19/searching-for-answers-to-a-police-killing/]

I was astounded. What a snub by Jordan and Santana to the family, the community members who were present, and to the council members who had just publicly promised the report.  But then it got worse.

A few days later – still no report for the family – OPD leaked to the media a rumor that, improbable as it seems given the Coroner’s finding that there was no gun shot residue on his hands, Alan’s fingerprints were found on a gun located twenty feet from where his body lay. [http://www.sfgate.com/default/article/Oakland-police-Victim-s-prints-on-gun-3886366.php].  This after the mayor and council had promised the Bluefords that their son would not be slandered in the press.

Then, just when I thought that the OPD leaders couldn’t make themselves look any more like an arrogant, out of control gang of thugs, I read that members of the Oakland Police Officers Association (OPOA) are now publicly attacking a city council member currently running for re-election, over remarks she allegedly made that night to family members and supporters.  An OPD Sergeant and OPOA officer says he heard Rebecca Kaplan compare the hiring of Masso by Oakland after the incident in New York to the practice by the Catholic Church of transferring pedophile priests from one parish to another.

Actually, I find that to be a fair comparison. Masso’s actions and the horrible nature of the incident were well documented [http://www.eastbayexpress.com/ebx/oakland-police-officer-involved-shooting-of-alan-blueford-raises-questions/Content?oid=3295686] .  Whether or not he was acting lawfully when shot and killed Alan Blueford, the question remains: why would OPD would hire an officer who was involved in a case like that?

According to the head of the OPOA, Kaplan’s reported comments were “extremely offensive to all those who wear the blue uniform,” and that OPOA had withheld an endorsement of Kaplan as a result. Sadly, Kaplan is backpedaling and apologizing as fast as she can.  What does it mean that a councilmember can be so easily muzzled? Who will put their foot down when it comes to hiring practices like these?

What a travesty – police officers heavy handedly injecting themselves into our local election in a nasty attempt to shield a questionable cop and a possible murderer.  It’s one thing when a public sector union uses money or muscle to advance its members collective bargaining rights, it’s another thing entirely when they do it to shield an allegedly violent, abusive cop, or to obstruct an honest and open investigation into the police homicide of this young man, thereby increasing the rift between the community and the OPD.  [http://www.mercurynews.com/top-stories/ci_21630899/opd-accuses-rebecca-kaplan-smearing-officers]

Despite the constant cheerleading efforts on the part of the department and the city, public confidence in the OPD is at an all time low. Oakland is far from homogeneous, but there’s something there for everyone to dislike.  In the OPD we have one of the most highly compensated, poorly administered, and least effective police departments in California [http://www.eastbayexpress.com/ebx/the-high-costs-of-outsourcing-policeandnbsp/Content?oid=3306199] Contrary to OPD propaganda, the recent Frazier Report confirms it is far from the leanest staffed department in the area [http://www2.oaklandnet.com/oakca1/groups/cityadministrator/documents/webcontent/oak036236.pdf ; see page 113].  Yet OPD has one of the worst crime clearance rates for homicides and other violent crimes.  And you can forget about even getting an officer to respond to a property crime.

Ten years into a Federal Court monitored negotiated settlement agreement stemming from the horrific systematic police abuses perpetrated over the course of years in West Oakland and brought to light by the Riders lawsuit, the OPD has cost the taxpayers more than $58 million in judgments and settlements because of gross and repeated civil rights violations against members of our own community. Depending on the outcome of a December hearing before Federal District Court Judge Henderson, Oakland could become the first city in the country with a police department placed in federal receivership, even after the millions that have been spent on a raft of outside police consultants and contractors.  The legacy of this is with us now: lawless disregard for our citizenry by the police only breeds disregard for the law among our young people.

Instead of taking seriously the fiscal responsibility that should come with using up 40% of our collective resources, the police budget is wasted on inadequately researched, ineffective technology boondoggles, through-the-roof workers compensation costs, featherbedding that is rampant in Internal Affairs and elsewhere, selected officers who are raking in the highest overtime payments in the state, positions which could be better performed by lower paid civilians that are filled by sworn officers. Instead of siding with the community and making police effectiveness a priority, OPD and OPOA petulantly demand unquestioning support, full control and are constantly lobbying for even more resources. History makes it clear – the OPD cannot reform itself.

That brings us to the subject of City Administrator Deanna Santana, who currently has full authority over the OPD.  Her role has been highlighted recently, both by revelations in the press [http://www.eastbayexpress.com/ebx/deanna-santana-tried-to-alter-damning-report/Content?oid=3341245] , and by her efforts to have federal monitor Robert Warshaw removed by the court based on charges of sexual harassment.  The bottom line is this: whatever the merits of her harassment allegations against Warshaw, Judge Henderson refused to replace him.  This alone should have lead Santana to step down from her role with OPD, given the obvious conflict of interest. In spite of the devastating financial burden it would impose, it appears that no one in city government is making an effort to avoid trusteeship through compliance.

The Police Commission I envision would deal with far more than issues related to complaints against officers and individual discipline, supposedly the purview of our current, badly broken, ineffective Citizens Police Review Board-overhaul of which should also be on the agenda.  We need and have a right to meaningful oversight and input into a whole host of issues, like: curriculum content for the police academy and other training; policing policies and directives, such as crowd control, use of force, stop and frisk and community policing; terms of agreements between OPD and other police agencies; conditions of federal and other grants and their obligations; decisions on major equipment and systems purchases; efforts to cut costs by civilianizing positions, and other means; effective human resources management, including contract negotiations to keep compensation, progressive discipline and working conditions at but not above area standards and intelligence gathering and surveillance activities within our community.  These are the range and types of issues that are addressed by civilian police commissions in Berkeley, San Francisco and a host of other cities.

According to the Oakland City Charter, Section 601. Boards and Commissions: “The Council may create by ordinance such operational, advisory, appellate or rule-making boards and commissions as may be required for the proper operation of any function or agency of the City and prescribe their function, duties, powers, jurisdiction …”  Some may say that the timing is bad given the upcoming elections.  Some on the Council may just be sitting on their hands and hoping that Judge Henderson will take the problem away through trusteeship.  How about members stepping forward to demonstrate that they aren’t the captives of the OPOA they sometimes appear to be?

It’s not that hard.  Draft an ordinance creating a special commission.  Give it four missions: to increase police effectiveness and maximize resource utilization; to create a culture in which the respect and protection of the civil rights of all our citizens is central to the OPD mission; to develop a permanent model for effective civilian oversight and control of policing in Oakland and to aggressively attempt to find alternatives to the institution of federal receivership over the OPD.

Dive in and recruit five to seven well qualified and committed citizens who can bring expertise in constitutional law, public administration, technology and communications, labor relations or other areas, and who are willing to roll up their sleeves and work hard for this city – they are out there.  Empower them to hire a civilian Inspector General to oversee, audit and inspect any aspect of the department’s operations and report back to the commission.  Bring the community to the table by holding hearings and soliciting input. Cities like Los Angeles and Detroit have emerged from situations as bad as ours by taking similar paths.

The Blueford family is headed back to City Council on Tuesday, October 2, once again looking for answers.  I’ll be there too, ready to ask our democratically elected council members to take a real stand for change, for Alan and his family, for the crime victims in the hills and the flatlands, for the plaintiffs in the Riders case, for all of us in Oakland, to put our interests first.  I hope that everyone else who cares about the future of Oakland will be there as well.