Category Archives: City Council

Are you ready for the November 2012 Election?

By now, you have probably heard enough information about the November 2012 election to turn you blue in the face. I’ve heard some say they wish this election season was over and it’s only August!

However, this election season is crucial. Not only are we (re) electing the President of the United States, but there are important issues to decide upon locally as well.

What’s at stake?

In California, we have 10 new propositions including a re-evaluation of the 3 – strikes Law, getting rid of the Death Penalty, and deciding if we want to tax the wealthiest in order to help support education. We also need to elect new state legislators.. and decide whether or not a governing body can re-draw county boarders. This is not only important to Californian’s but the rest of the country, because what we do here is often modeled in other states.

In Alameda County, we need to vote for 2 Council members, an auditor and a treasurer.

In Oakland, we get to elect practically a whole new City Council – something that local policy nerds and a large portion of residents are really looking forward to. Districts 1 (North Oakland, Temescal, Rockridge), District 3 (West Oakland, Downtown Oakland and Adam’s Point), District 5 ( East Oakland like Fruitvale), District 7 ( Deeper East Oakland near San Leandro) and Oakland At-Large are up for grabs.  We also need to vote for a new City Attorney and School Board Directors for Districts 1, 3, 5, 7.

Phew!  A lot to decide about.

However you can’t decide on any of it unless you are registered to vote.

Why is it important to vote?

Some people feel that voting isn’t important and in the end your votes don’t count. It’s easy to feel that way, because often when you do take the time to vote, you may or may not get what you wish, causing you to walk away feeling that it was pointless. I would like to propose some reasons why voting is really important.

1. If you care about history and have any kind of reverence for your ancestors at all: you should vote. I’m not going to give you a history lesson behind voting and the trials and tribulations that people who have came before us (that includes males, females, races and ethnic groups of all kinds) to secure you the right to have a voice in how our society is run. Just know that people fought and died for your rights. Respect that.

2. If you care about social issues in your present life.. You should vote.  Do you care if your child gets an adequate education? Do you care if people can be sent to prison for life for being caught with marijuana 3 times? Do you care if your district is mainly Democratic or Republican? Are you concerned with the level of crime in the city of Oakland and whether or not you should be taxed yet again in order to supply the city with police protection? Want to make sure your vegetables are truly organic and come from local farms? If so, you should vote.

3. If you like to complain about things and want people to listen and take you seriously instead of rolling their eyes and telling you to be quiet, you should vote. Voting is the most official, and productive way to complain there is. REAL complainers vote..and if you have any pride in your complain game you should vote in every election there is.

Being a voter is great and the responsible thing to do. However, sometimes voting isn’t enough to create real change. Some cynical Sues and Sams out there already know this and remind folks about it every election season, so here is something else you might want to think about.

Why it is important to be an informed and informing voter, despite sketchy results..

Here is the thing. We live in a society where quite frankly, the majority rules. You might think that it’s money that rules and  money does have great potential to shape things, but imagine what a little bit of research and responsible decision making by the majority can accomplish? A lot.

Wealthy position holders can plaster tv and radio with ads sharing their opinions all day, but word of mouth can be just as powerful. A broad game of “Telephone” can sway an election like no other.

Some folks aren’t willing or have the time to do analysis of issues. That’s fine. But maybe you are. Maybe you will read your registrar packet. Maybe you will Google a measure that is confusing. Maybe you will do more than just listen to commercials you see or hear, but pay attention to who is paying for those commercials and what their agenda is. When you do so, tell a friend who can’t do that kind of research. Talk about it over coffee, while playing on your Wii, or jogging around the Lake.  Share what you have learned, be informed and be an informer. The more you talk about it, the more likely the listener is going to vote. Whether they agree with you or not! If everyone talks with just one other person about the issues..can you imagine how powerful that would be?

The more knowledgeable about your vote you are..the more democratic and fair the process is. Even if your vote doesn’t produce the results you are looking for, you will feel good about your decisions and you won’t be as frustrated about the process.  Also, if you do your part to educate your neighbor, you will know that decisions were made responsibly and not because an individual voter didn’t know which option to pick. People actually vote that way, and that’s a little scary if you think about it.

Plus, when you complain, folks will listen!

Who can vote?

The simplest answer is registered citizens. Things are rarely as simple as that, and there are currently real efforts to make sure some voters don’t make it to the polls. #sigh

In California, we don’t have such concentrated efforts,  YET, there are people who can register to vote but haven’t done so for some reason or another. Who are those people?

  • High School Seniors (aged 18)
  • College Freshman (aged 18)
  • People who have moved recently.
  • Recently married and changed your name? Re-register please!
  • Newly recognized citizens.
  • Released felons and parolees.. (say what? Served your time and parole is done? Peep this!)
  • Complainers who haven’t made it official. (shaking my head)

If you know someone who is in this situation, tap them on the shoulder and say “Hey? Have you registered to vote yet?” Get to it!

Send them to these websites. They don’t have computer access? You do..you are reading this blog right? Share it with them!

State Registrar: You can find information about state propositions, who is running for office and local rules and regulations about voting.

Voter Registration – Elections & Voter Information – California Secretary of State.

Alameda County Registrar: You can learn qualifications of voting, where your poling place is..and actually register online!

http://www.acgov.org/rov/registration.htm

Rock the Vote: help register young people and educate them about the importance of being heard this election cycle!

http://www.rockthevote.com/

GottaVote.org: Register to vote, get information on what you need to bring and sign up for important reminders.. (this is paid for by the Obama/Biden campaign btw).

http://gottavote.org/en/CA/

REGISTER TODAY: You have to have your registration post-marked by Oct. 22, 2012 to be eligible to vote in November!!

Check back here!

I am going to try to attend local candidate forums and write about the 10 CA propositions. So check back here for more details and share them with a friend! Let’s all do our part to make sure everyone is an informed voter this election season!

What’s your opinion? Why do you feel it’s important to vote? Any issues you are excited about? Got a crazy story? Share!

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Filed under Advocacy, City Council, Election 2012, Oakland, Politics

Similarities between Occupy Oakland and Stand for Oakland

Zenophan Abraham‘s Zenni62.com youtube channel posted a video of Boots Riley confronting  supporters of Stand for Oakland.

Boots Riley has a point. I think Stand for Oakland needs to come to a General Assembly and bring a proposal in support of non-violent action at future protests/demonstrations.

Like all other government institutions Occupy Oakland is organized democratically..

There are some in #OO who believe in non-violent protest but they are out voted. If there is enough people to support a non-violent proposal, enough people to speak up in support and refute those against, a proposal would pass and the organization would have to follow. Right?

There are other ironic similarities between both movements.

Can’t escape violence

The man in the video can’t seem to separate the violence that occurs at Occupy protests from Occupy Oakland movement in general. However, the anti #OO movement isn’t immune to the problems inherent to Occupy Oakland either. During the Oakland City Council Meeting last night, someone testified that Occupy Oakland was being threatened with violence by some who are against #oo, and showed a flyer that said “Kill the Occupiers”. Can we attribute violent behavior of a few anti #OO individuals to the Stand for Oakland group as a whole? I would hope not.

Conflict is newsworthy

Stand for Oakland took the time out of their day to protest in front of City Hall, disrupt the peace of Frank Ogawa plaza to protest Occupy Oakland’s protest. They had news coverage.. the irony is that the only coverage worth mentioning was when there was conflict. When I turned on MSM ( main stream media ..Channel 5 news specifically) about the Stand for Oakland event, it wasn’t all positive.  It was “Shouting match at Frank Ogawa plaza” ..etc. Was that what Stand for Oakland was looking for in the coverage of the protest?  If the MSM can so easily turn something that was supposed to be positive into a negative about Stand for Oakland..imagine what they can turn an Occupy Oakland event into?

Everyone uses free speech

It seems both groups are using the same tactics to influence law makers:  protesting in downtown Oakland to attract media, in order to influence the city government to take action.

  • Stand for Oakland and the Business community doesn’t thing the City is doing enough to protect residents from #Occupy Oakland.
  • #Occupy Oakland doesn’t think the city is doing enough to protect residents from big Business and OPD and helping those that need help.

Neither one of the groups seem to want to cooperate within each others system to make change. Stand for Oakland says they agree with Occupy Oakland’s movement in general. GREAT: then go to General Assembly and participate. Make your complaints there and work on solutions there!

Occupy Oakland ..I have to hand it to you, you went to City Council last night to protest the proposal to protect the Port of Oakland by increasing police enforcement of laws against blocking streets and assembling without a permit. The proposal did not pass. But it wasn’t a win for Occupy Oakland (IMO).  It was a win for freedom of speech and the right to assemble.  The shouting match that went on between #OO and some Council members was horrible (IMO). The counsel listened to you quietly as you gave your speeches.. but when it was their turn some of you would not let them speak.

It not only bugs me (personally because I am a quiet person and I don’t like yelling)..but it gives MSM and those against #OO credibility in their arguments against you. What if a bunch of roudy Stand for Oakland folks went to General Assembly and shouted YOU down? Would you like that?

There is something to be said about catching more bees with honey.

My point in all of this is that it seems that both organizations are working to have a better Oakland. I think everyone needs to take to the time to listen to each other, respectfully, and figure out a way to work together to make it happen.  Do your research. Don’t just listen to the inflammatory language of MSM, or the Police, the Mayor, Occupy Oakland (either side essentially) and let it mislead you.  Don’t let the violent actions of a few distract people from the point of your protest.

Further comments I would like to make and rant about:

To Anti Occupy Oakland:

  •  Occupy Oakland isn’t made up of only young white out of towners!
  •  Occupy Oakland didn’t bum rush YMCA.
  •  Occupy Oakland isn’t all violent.
  •  City of Oakland: Street protest and broken windows and graffiti isn’t violence. Murders and robbery is. I wish the city and OPD would redirect their priorities on their own. People are dying in the streets and you CHOOSE to focus your efforts on Occupy? REALLY?

To Occupy Oakland

  •       PLEASE .. choose sustainable winnable actions. Taking over the Kaiser building was not one of them. Make a clear distinction between symbolic actions and real change.
  •       Random acts of vandalism may express anger but it is pointless. You love Oakland..you hate the blight that is found in other areas of the city..contributing to it does not help. I liked it when after the Nov. 2 protests groups of people cleaned up after the vandalism. Continue doing that. That would bring goodwill and will help separate yourself from the ‘violence’
  •       Be thorough in your research -  the City Council does not control OUSD  or give them funding. The State of California gives funding to the school districts. Go to Sacramento and protest there.  (THAT would be FUN!)

TO EVERYONE: I hate cigarettes..QUIT SMOKING!!! <— wait..am I yelling here? ;)

 

EDIT: Davey D just posted a an article about Black Bloc and ‘diversity of tactics’ Check it out:

Are Black Bloc and diversity of tactics hurting or helping the Occupy Movement?

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Filed under Advocacy, City Council, Oakland

Sean is for Oakland, small business and local artists.

Inkwell Tatoo, Piercing and Gallery

It’s 2012, THE most important election year since the last election!

Tonight I was fortunate to be able to attend an event hosted by one of the many people running for office in Oakland.

Sean Sullivan (@seanforoakland) is hoping to be a member of the Oakland City Council, representing District 3 which includes West Oakland, Downtown, Adam’s Point and Lake Merritt.  In an effort to get to know potential voters, he had an informational session at Inkwell, while showcasing local artists and helping to support an upcoming event for black nurses.

Sean Sullivan and Leslie Silket at Inkwell

Sean has been an activist in Oakland for over 10 years.  He is a member of the Community Block Grant Board,  a board member of Khadafy Washington Foundation for non-violence, and Oakland’s Community Action Partnership an organization dedicated towards reducing poverty. He also worked as an environmental health activist, advocating for such things as getting rid of BPA in sippy cups. He is all about supporting small business, which he demonstrates by having tonight’s meet and greet at Inkwell.

Inkwell Studio is a local tattoo, piercing and art gallery, located on the corner of 24th and Broadway in Downtown Oakland. Not only do they offer custom tattoos and with exceptional customer service, they display art by local artists.

Tonight they showcased a father and son team: Buggsy  and Wade Malone.  Buggsy is a Marine veteran who served in Iraq and Afghanistan. On display were some beautiful wood work of  musical artists such as Tupac and Micheal Jackson. There even was a piece of work depicting Frida Khalo.

Tupac, by Buggsy Malone

His son Wade is a student at the Oakland School of the Arts. I didn’t see any wood art from him, but his drawings show great promise. I’m definitely thinking about buying the flowers, if someone else doesn’t snatch them up. (We need to support the kids, ya’ll!)

Also on hand was a bay area nurse named Leslie Silket, RN, BSN. She was there to share information about the 2nd Annual Black Nurses Event. This is a special occasion to celebrate ‘unsung heroes’. Nurses, for little pay and sometimes no benefits, dedicate their lives towards taking care of patients. It’s not an easy job, and it’s sadly unappreciated. Silket says that this is a opportunity for local African-American nurses to get together and share their stories,  celebrate triumphs and get a good meal!

The Black Nurses event will be Z Cafe Feb. 16 at 5 pm. Tickets are $40, but if you are a student nurse you can get in for free. Email Leslie Silket, nuselove67@aol.com for more information.

Flower Art by Wade Malone

Sean Sullivan says that it is important to support local businesses because they provide employment to Oakland residents, and bring revenues back to the city. He is a huge supporter of risk takers and dream makers, and feels that small businesses like Inkwell and artists like Buggsy and Wade Malone are “hella cool!”.

I agree.

Visit Inkwell Studio all this month to see more work from Buggsy Malone and his son Wade.

Support small business, local artists ..and don’t forget to vote!

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Filed under Advocacy, City Council, Election 2012, Healthcare, Oakland

Should #OccupyOakland Campers Stay? I don’t know.

Occupy Oakland General Strike (135 photos)

In my previous blog post, I enthusiastically gave #OccupyOakland my support.

On Wednesday, I participated in the awesome march to the Port of Oakland during the General Strike. (see photo album above)

Thursday, I attended the City Council meeting to discuss a draft resolution from CM Nancy Nadel, Rep for District 3 which includes downtown Oakland, that would allow camp to stay at Frank Ogawa Plaza. I tweeted throughout the meeting (see @tdlove5). If you want some riveting and juicy details (CM Brooks literally embarrassed the heck out of CM Kaplan), check out my tweets or read through tweets dated Nov. 3rd in this hashtag: #oakmtg.

Anyway, at the meeting I learned some things that have left me with mixed feelings on the whole issue. I will share what I learned at the meeting, pro and con, and explain my thoughts at the end.

Warning this post is long, but I wanted to be thoughtful and as thorough as I could be in my ‘reporting’ and subsequent thoughts. So get out your coffee, put your feet on the table and join me.

Again, let me reiterate that these are arguments that I learned from those who testified at the City Council meeting. Let me start this by saying that I truly admire those that take the time to show up to these meetings and speak. Especially the young children. It’s not an easy thing to do (people heckle others they don’t agree with).

I have attended meetings, and so far I have not been brave enough to say something. Yet. Someday, I will be ticked off enough about something to speak my mind. Or maybe even happy enough to say something nice.

Arguments for why Occupy Oakland campers should stay.

Occupy campers are providing a service to the community that the city of Oakland can’t/won’t.

Many speakers testified that there are homeless, disabled (mentally and physically), and jobless who are camping with Occupy. They are being fed, and treated (at nurses tent) and mentored on site. Something that the city of Oakland hasn’t been doing a job good of.

It’s their right. The Constitution does not preclude time or place or amount of time allowed to protest on public property.

The First Amendment of the Constitution does not explicitly place limits to freedom of expression. City Administrator Santana mentioned (and it’s my basic understanding) that you must apply for permits to have events at public parks and spaces..

(However, IMO (not Santana’s) many sit-ins and protests in the past that were successful, broke the rules and laws.)

Please note: Dorothy Jones, owner of Everett and Jones and supporter of Occupy Oakland, applied for permits so that Occupy could serve food and have events at Frank Ogawa during Wed. Nov 2 strike and provided a bbq for thousands of participants that evening.

You (the public and city) only have a problem with the trash because it is downtown.

CM Nadel and other speakers pointed out that there are homeless, trash, and violence in all parts of the city that people don’t seem to care much about. One resident said she has to live amongst violence and crime in her neighborhood in East Oakland everyday. Why does the city care about it now? Because it’s on their front door step. (and I would say because it is National news)

Occupy inspires young people towards civil protest.

A couple of young people attended the City Council meeting and testified before the council. They expressed admiration for those speaking out for their rights and trying to make a difference in the community. One young teen was a camper herself and asked that the police remember that there are young children in the camp. The police should not bring tear gas or shoot pellets at them. She also admonished them to take off their shoes upon entering the campsite.

(I have a picture as proof, but something doesn’t seem right about posting it here. shrug).

Furthermore, this is an “opportunity” for Oakland to be an example of progressiveness. To show the world that we care about equity and want to do something about it!

The police have committed unfair brutal attacks against the campers and protesters in violation of the city’s crowd control policy.

I am not sure if this is an effective argument of why they should stay, but it is a legitimate complaint. There are the examples of veterans Scott Olsen, and now Kayvan Sabehgi being injured by police action. Another resident talked about how her daughter had a tear gas canister explode on her ankle. Local reporter resident, Max Allstadt, was arrested for ‘being in the wrong place at wrong time’. And there are probably many more examples that I am missing..

Attorney Michael Siegel tweeted me a copy of the Oakland’s crowd control court order which you can download here.

Occupy Oakland does not condone violence, they are a work in progress that could use the city’s help instead of it’s condemnation. Don’t punish the whole group over a few bad apples.

Over the past couple of days you have probably heard statements from Occupy Oakland decrying the random acts of violence that occurred during the General Strike and on several other occasions. There seems to be a small sector of the community, who dress in all black and are labeled anarchists, that like to cause destruction. Even the Oakland Police Department, in public statements, identified the trouble makers as a separate group.

Occupy Oakland has apologized to the city and have organized efforts for clean-up. Last night they held a General Assembly to come up with ways to stop the violence. You can watch live streaming of GA meetings by following @OakFoSho’s live stream.

At the meeting Occupy Oakland asked the Council several times for help figuring out their electricity issues and invited them more than once to attend the General Assembly meetings.

Arguments for why Occupy Oakland should leave.

The campers are causing the city of Oakland to lose business.

The President of Oakland’s Metropolitan Chamber of Commerce testified to the city council that two businesses have left Oakland’s downtown’s office space and another business declined to make a deal to move to Oakland. Mayor Quan says that another business owner is concerned for the safety of the employees and warned that if he leaves, he will be taking 500 jobs with him.

Occupy Oakland is costing the City money and resources that the city can not afford.

Recently the city reported that the cost to the city from Occupy Oakland as of Oct. 28th has been a little over a million dollars. This does not include the costs from the General Strike or the loss of business from the shut down of the Port of Oakland.

Mayor Quan also testified that the city has limited resources..when the city directs those resources to Occupy Oakland, they are being taken away from areas of the city that really need it. Cops being used to police Occupy are being taken away from East Oakland. She pleaded with Occupy Oakland to help her, help East Oakland.

The camp has trash, public safety and violence issues. One of reasons for eviction on Tuesday, 25th was lack of communication from the campers, and not allowing the police or ambulance to answer calls of distress.

City Administrator Santana presented a thorough power point presentation listing the problems with trash and instances of violence. She said there was a report of a man being beaten over the head with a 2 x 4. A reporter being bit by a dog. The kitchen using illegal extension cords and propane tanks and various other bio-hazards that you can look at in the picture at left.

She says that the city tried various avenues of communication. She sent a staff member to GA meetings, who was not allowed to participate. They used social media, following tweets and reading Facebook posts, in order to find out what is going inside the camp. They even sent written notices that were ignored. The city were looking for a willingness to comply with the laws and to cooperate. CM Brooks even admonished Occupy in her speech saying “This was a Council that was willing to work with you”.

The downtown residents not involved in Occupy, feel their rights are not being fairly taken into consideration.

The Occupy movement had a lot of supporters at this meeting. However, there were a few brave souls who came and spoke in opposition to CM Nadel’s resolution. Residents testified that they don’t feel safe downtown anymore. That the national coverage sheds a negative light on the city. Via ear hustle, I heard one woman complain that she feels like she is being held ‘hostage’ in her own neighborhood.

When I tweeted this comment, I got some flack from a couple who were following my tweets. However, in her (and my defense), the word may be an exaggeration, but the constant drone of helicopters and the constant police action taken towards Occupy Oakland does leave one feeling trapped in a “war-like” atmosphere. (Another inflammatory phrase for you).

Further comments made by residents at the meeting (in summary): Oakland has had it’s fair share of protests and strife in the city. It’s not fair to continue to subject the city to abuse, when all we (residents of Oakland) are trying to do is survive this economic crisis and take care of our own. Why does Oakland have to be the example? Why not LA or New York?

The 1% is not here in Oakland.

CM Patricia Kernighan reminded the audience that the 1%, who Occupy is complaining against, does not reside in Oakland. Goldman Sachs is not in Oakland. Bank of America is not based in Oakland. Even the really wealthy do not live in Oakland. Why not go to Piedmont..or Marin? Or Wall Street?

The 1% don’t care about what is happening in Oakland. They are watching, sitting back in their comfortable homes and neighborhoods, and laughing at our expense.

SF Chronicle recently published an article on Bay Area companies that are targeted by the Occupy Movement (like Wells Fargo) and addresses the issue of their tax contributions.

What is the point of Occupy Oakland? Who is the leader? What are the plans? What are the goals? Why should we (city of Oakland and residents) support something without a clear agenda?

CM Brooks in her speech showed how she clearly supported Occupy Oakland. She camped out with them for the first couple of days. Yet, Brooks expressed disappointment in the fact they have yet to tell even her, a supporter, what their goals are.

In the end, the council did not make a decision. CM Nadel did not think she would have enough votes for her resolution that night so she decided not to bring it up. After a long meeting which heard over a 100 speakers, CM Reid called for another meeting at a later date to discuss specific policy solutions.

MY personal thoughts:

I actually agree with all of the points here. Pro and Con. This is why I have mixed feelings on Occupy Oakland campers staying at Frank Ogawa.

On one hand, I am in total agreement with the movement, for reasons I stated previously. On the other hand, I loathe the negative affects the occupation has had on the city of Oakland in particular.

I’m not really bothered by the fact that #Occupy Oakland has no real concrete position. I feel that this is a movement that is a work in progress. As well planned as the Civil Rights Movement has reportedly been, I find it hard to believe that there were no instances where a protest didn’t achieve a specific goal. I think that maybe there were instances in the past where people engaged in civil disobedience and protested because they were merely upset over what was happening and had no real goal in mind except to just register their complaint. Yet we don’t know about those, because there was no internet or media to broadcast those not-so-successful demonstrations for the whole world to judge and condemn. However, from those sporadic protests in the beginning, over time a thought out, goal-oriented and well-organized movement emerged that was able to achieve some success which is now being recognized and celebrated.

For some reason we aren’t allowing Occupy Oakland the chance to grow and learn. I don’t think it’s very fair. Especially if all some people are doing are being an armchair critics and not helping the situation at all.

If you are one of those feel that Occupy Oakland needs direction, guidance and focus: (my suggestion) go to their General Assembly and help them. You got concrete ideas and plans?..Share them at the GA. I have gone to the General Assembly meetings and you would be surprised at how organized and democratic they actually are. It’s pretty awesome actually. They meet in the afternoons. I don’t know what specific time but if you go to Occupy Oakland’s Facebook page you can find out.

I believe there have been successes within the Occupy Movement. Occupy Oakland shut down the Port of Oakland- the 5th largest Port in the US. Hit international and national corporations in their pocket books. If we know nothing about the ‘clear intentions, goals or expected outcomes’ of the Occupy Movement, we do know that they are tired of big corporations taking money from the 99%, and that attacking corporate pocketbooks is the preferred method to register a complaint. That’s what Occupy wanted to do and that’s what we (myself and thousands of supporters) did.

Other instances of success include Occupy Walnut Creek, and their success in getting residents to leave their banks. And today..the movement to get people to switch to credit unions. This may not directly be attributed to Occupy Oakland, but the conversation has changed. People are listening and not liking what they are seeing. Change is happening, slowly but surely.

Yes, this is costing the city (and country for the national movement) money and inconvenience. Unfortunately that’s the nature of protest. I can imagine, and it is probably documented in books that I haven’t read, the loss and suffering endured by innocent bystanders to the Civil Rights movement. However, the end did justify the means, right? We don’t like it while it’s happening..but there is potential. And in the future, when we look back we can marvel at the great change that occurred and it would be celebrated. We don’t know that yet.. but isn’t it worth it to see what happens?

Thousands of us walking to Port of Oakland- from http://www.sfbayview.com

I do not regret my part in the General Strike. It may have meant nothing in the end, but words can not accurately express what it feels like to speak out and be heard. When I was marching with the city..and we came to the overpass that takes you to the Port (as pictured above).. and we were able to witness the thousands who were marching with us…tears came to my eyes. I was so proud. It was amazing.

But does that mean that Occupy should camp out in front of Frank Ogawa plaza? I am starting to think not. CM Brooks stated (and I paraphrase) “This movement is bigger than a park. The movement won’t die just because you can’t camp out front.” This I agree with.

I also agree that the negative consequences of camping is unfair to the people who live in downtown Oakland and just want a safe place to be when they get home. The helicopters are annoying. And when I saw what (the small group of anarchists) did to Whole Foods..it broke my heart. On the other hand, it’s hard to control those who are bound and determined to make trouble. They were also bound and determined to make trouble before Occupy Oakland ever arrived. Is it fair to punish Occupy Oakland for this..or should the police do a better job of making sure this group does not have the opportunity to act again?

So what should happen? I don’t know. But, I do hope that the city and the Occupy Oakland team comes to some sort of peaceful agreement. I hope that both parties continue to communicate. I hope that members of the City Council and the Mayor attend General Assembly meetings and I hope that Occupy Oakland will allow them to speak. I really hope that the OPD can root out the small group of ‘anarchists’ and do something about them once and for all. Finally, I hope that Oakland residents can feel safe in their own city, while allowing other residents the opportunity to engage in peaceful and civil protest.

I will participate in the movement the best I can given my already hectic schedule. But, like I said, I believe in this movement. I can be patient and see what happens. I am optimistic.

What do you think?

Did I forget something that you think should be included? Let me know. Share your thoughts, complaints and solutions. I may not have all the answers, or any that satisfy you, but I love hearing different points of view.

So speak out!

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Filed under Advocacy, City Council, Oakland, Politics

Library supporters pack Council budget meeting | A Better Oakland

VSmoothe goes into deep detail about the impact of library closures. She also has video of Oakland residents who testify on behalf of saving Oakland Libraries.

The two hours of public comment at last night’s budget meeting was dominated by library supporters, testifying about the importance of libraries in Oakland and protesting the possibility of cuts.

via Library supporters pack Council budget meeting | A Better Oakland.

UPDATE 05/29/11 : Great conversation in the comments section of the “A Better Oakland” article concerning employee contributions vs parcel tax.

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Filed under City Council, Oakland, Politics

Oakland’s Proposed Budget: not as simple as A, B, C

De La Fuente addresses the audience at District 2, 4, 5 Oakland Community Budget Forum

This afternoon I was fortunate to attend a budget hearing sponsored by city Councilmembers Pat Kernighan (District 2), Libby Schaaf (District 4), and Ignacio De La Fuente (District 5) and attended by  interim city administrator Lamont Ewell and someone from the budget office named Sabrina. (I didn’t get her last name..sorry). Former candidate for Mayor Joe Tuman was there.  Sanjeev Handa, the Oakland Fire Chief and representatives from Oakland Rising, Make Better Oakland Now, APEN and more.

This meeting was an open forum that allowed members of the public to ask questions and give suggestions on the direction the Councilmembers should take in figuring out a budget by June 30th, the last day to balance the budget.

In case you weren’t aware, Oakland is projected to lose $58 million for the year 2011-12 and another $76 million for 2012-2013. Ewell said that this shortfall is not unique to Oakland. The nation, the state and other local cities are dealing with a shortfall this year.

There are three budget proposals under consideration. Click here to download description of the budget (2.4 MB) by Jean Quan’s office, and a simple one page scenario (45 KB) of possible cuts from each budget scenario.

Quickly:

Budget A, cuts to the budget across the board resulting in reduced services in areas such as Senior Centers, Police, Fire, Libraries (leaving only 4 branches open), Parks and Rec (closing afterschool rec programs, swimming pools) Public Works, and arts. (Shaving $58 million)

Budget B, pending contributions from city employees such as Police, Fire (which command 64% of our General Fund) we will have a small amount of cuts. (Shaving $28 million).  Please note, according to the Councilmembers, all the unions and city reps are at the table ready to negotiate contributions, so this option is plausible.

Budget C, pending the passing of a $80 per year parcel tax (which would require a 2/3 vote via a special public election that would cost $800-900, 000), as well as contributions from city employees, there will be a small amount of cuts. (+ 11 m).

These simple scenarios don’t mention the other liabilities that Oakland has to pay for, including a $138 million debt that we borrowed to cover the salaries of city employees to keep police, fire and libraries open and a $1. 6 million deferred payment of city maintenance (ie street maintenance, park clean-ups etc). Finally, we need to make a huge payment to Police and Fire Pensions ($483 million I believe).

Yet there are limited ideas in how to generate new revenue.  There is  a proposal to sell the Henry J Kaiser Center to the redevelopment agency which will add $29 million in revenues, and a vague proposal to reduce the city attorney office by 15%.

Each Councilmember gave their opinion on the situation:

Schaaf apparently in support of Budget Scenario B, talked about how minimal the cuts would be in this scenario.  The most painful cut in Scenario B is the elimination of 25 workers in Public Works. Libraries would not be closed and we would keep all our fire stations, although some employees would work flexible and part-time positions.

De La Fuente, who mentioned twice that he was pro union, was disappointed that there seems to be no other options. There is no changes in this budget scenario, and no guarantee that anything will get better. De La Fuente wonders why other groups like business associations or the Chamber of Commerce has not submitted budget proposals. (I didn’t know that they could..interesting) De La Fuente also suggested that the city go back to the basics: we need to cut things that are not essential but cost too much to maintain, such as the Montclair and Chabot Golf Courses.

Kernighan didn’t really give much of an opinion on either except to say that she was glad to be able to hear from the city of Oakland and looked forward to answering our questions.

So what did Oakland Residents Say? Some highlights: (each Councilmember had a chance to answer the questions)

  • Q: Why can’t the city workers contribute more? Does the City Council make contributions? Can we force the Police to make contributions, since they have not already (the Fire Department has started contributing) A: City workers already have started making cutbacks with furlough days, and yes the City Council has started making employee contributions. Yes, we can force Police to take furlough days if they do not negotiate.
  • Q: Does the city have to choose one budget scenario over another? Can we plan for B but shoot for C? A: No, they don’t have to choose just one budget scenario, they can mix and match as to what is best for the city.
  • Q: If we shut down city services like the libraries, police and fire department, animal shelters, and Children’s Fairyland will that not make the city less attractive to newcomers? Who would want to live here?A. Kernighan- yes. We are in a Catch 22, and it is something that the board must consider when going forward.

    Joe Tuman listens as the Council responds to his questions.

  • Joe Tuman: Q: Of the FTE’s to be cut, how many are going to be transferred, or just plain lost? How did the Mayor reach the $80 flat tax rate? Is the selling of the Kaiser Center legal? A: Yes some of them are transfers, but don’t know how many yet. Apparently there was a poll by Quan, (Joe mentioned that no one has seen this poll even the city administrator– interesting), but apparently this was an amount acceptable to poll respondents. Yes, the City Attorney did say that selling of the Kaiser Center is legal.

Oakland Rising Suggestions:
- instead of a flat parcel tax, adjust tax rate in accordance with personal income
- allocate future resources fairly
- come up with long-term and sustainable ideas, instead of making cuts in order to balance the budget
- Maintain the city attorney staff
- come up with alternative revenue ideas
- enforce existing laws and collect full taxes owed to the city- such as business taxes on renters and foreclosure fees.

Schaaf mentioned that:  some other alternative sustainable revenue sources would be to open up labor contracts for renegotiation. Also to change our commitment to paying Police and Fire pensions. Finally to create a rainy day fund for Oakland, similar to the one San Francisco has.

Pamela Drake representing the Wellstone Democratic Renewal Club mentioned that the group is for the parcel taxes because 1. It is better to spread the pain around instead of cutting key city jobs, 2. Better than increasing parking fees, 3. It’s cheaper than a month’s worth of Netflix.

What do you think?

Participate in the budget process!

Attend more City Council Budget Meetings:

  • Thursday, May 26th, 5:30 pm
  • Tuesday, May 31, 5:30 pm (tentative)
  • Thursday, June 2, 5:30 pm (General City Council Meeting)
  • Tuesday, June 21, 5:30 pm (General City Council Meeting- anticipated final passage of budget)

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