Wednesday, January 4, 2017

Deadline Extended: Send Us Your 'Letters to Trump' Before the Bay Area Women's March on January 21

by Nick Miller
Wed, Jan 4, 2017 at 11:35 AM

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We've extended the deadline for our Express and KALW "Dear Donald Trump, From Women" project until January 11.

Send us your letters or essays now! (See the submission form, below.)

Here are the details:

"On January 21, the Women’s March on Washington is expected to draw tens of thousand people to the U.S. Capitol. Related rallies are scheduled in cities nationwide the day after Donald Trump's scheduled inauguration, including Oakland and San Francisco. Organizers say the goal of these actions is to send a message to the new administration that “women's rights are human rights.”

In response to these marches, KALW and the East Bay Express invite women from throughout the Bay Area to send us their “Letters to Trump.” We will broadcast and publish a selection of these short essays during the week of January 16.

Our hope is to celebrate the voices of local women of all backgrounds and beliefs — oh, and we’re going to deliver these letters to the White House, too.

Please submit your name, contact information, and your “Letter to Trump” using the submission form below.

There is a 400-word limit on letters. Deadline is January 11. Please email LettersToTrump@EastBayExpress.com with any questions."


Anne Kirkpatrick Picked to Lead Oakland Police. Here's What We Know About Her.

The former Spokane chief arrives after a more than half-year search.

by Darwin BondGraham
Wed, Jan 4, 2017 at 7:26 AM

Mayor Libby Schaaf is expected to announce today that Anne Kirkpatrick will become the Oakland Police Department's next police chief.

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Thursday, December 29, 2016

Oakland's Toxic Lead Contamination Isn't in the Water. It's in the Buildings and Dirt, and It's Bad.

by Darwin BondGraham
Thu, Dec 29, 2016 at 12:07 PM

According to a recently published Reuters report, Oakland's Fruitvale neighborhood is one of 3,000 U.S. communities with lead contamination worse than Flint, Michigan. But whereas Flint has been the subject of international media scrutiny, lead pollution in places like Fruitvale remains mostly unexamined.

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Thursday, December 22, 2016

Survivors, Close Friends of Ghost Ship Fire Victims Deliver Letter to Oakland Mayor, Demand Urgent Moratorium on Evictions

by Nick Miller
Thu, Dec 22, 2016 at 2:51 PM

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A group of survivors and close friends of the Ghost Ship fire victims delivered what they are calling an "Open Letter to Mayor Libby Schaaf" this afternoon. More than 1,000 community members also signed the letter, which demands that that mayor enact an "emergency eviction moratorium," in addition to to implementing housing-policy reform.

Organizers from the art and music community created a Google Worksheet, which includes more than 1,000 signatories to the letter, plus personal comments on the fire's impact.

The mayor has said that City Hall is reviewing its fire-inspection policies, and but that there is no intent to go on a "witch hunt" against Oaklanders living in non-conventional spaces and warehouses.

Meanwhile, those living in these spaces are experiencing an uptick in inspections, by both the city and landlords, since the December 2 tragedy.

Read the letter to the mayor in its entirety below:
Oakland Mayor Libby Schaaf,

We are survivors of the Friday, December 2nd Ghost Ship fire, as well as dear friends of the deceased and committed participants in the underground music scene represented by the event. We have suffered a shattering loss, and in order to avoid further devastation to our community in the long-term, we have the following demands:

(1) Announce an emergency eviction moratorium. Out of panic or opportunism, property owners are rashly ousting tenants throughout Oakland.

(2) Publicly pledge to offer a clear path forward for artists’ spaces to address safety concerns without risking expulsion.

(3) Reassess the housing policies that lead people to live in unsafe residences.

(4) Reassess permitting policies that exacerbate unsafe performance spaces. Do so with input from the music community that just lost so many of its pillars.

The importance of this last demand is illustrated well by the case of 21 Grand - a venue that did everything it could to legitimately host experimental music but was stymied at every point by an arduous city bureaucratic process. This is the context in which people adopt unsafe performance spaces. The vast majority of the victims of the Ghost Ship fire did not live at the residence, but were attendees of the event that was thrown there.

It is no coincidence that so many victims of the fire were queer, trans, and/or people of color. The media frequently seeks to mischaracterize our collective spaces as hedonistic playgrounds. This is a gross distortion. They are sacred spaces that allow us to survive, organize, and flourish in the face of a mainstream culture that often shuns our very existence. Shuttering the spaces that allow us to safely congregate is tantamount to extinguishing our livelihood.

In the aftermath of the fire, developers and landlords have ramped up the systematic displacement of individuals residing in warehouses and other such improvised homes. As artists, we have been greatly impacted by their actions; however, we understand that these recent threats to our housing are but a facet of the broader context of gentrification that has long displaced marginalized citizens of Oakland, including people of color, queer individuals, the disabled, the elderly and other low-income residents outside of our arts communities. Continuing to shutter and penalize collective spaces at this time will only exacerbate displacement; it teeters the housing-insecure towards the streets.

You have publicly expressed your desire to defend Oakland’s diverse artistic and musical community. You have the chance to prove your commitment to this goal by acting upon each of our aforementioned demands.

Wednesday, December 21, 2016

Burnt Ramen Pushes Back Against City of Richmond

by Darwin BondGraham
Wed, Dec 21, 2016 at 7:35 AM

There have been some ragers at Burnt Ramen, the storied punk/hardcore underground venue located in Richmond's Iron Triangle. But last night, the rager was brought to Richmond's city council meeting.

Dozens of supporters of the DIY music hall told the city's leaders they want help making Burnt Ramen and similar arts spaces safe. They don't want the city simply shutting them down.

Last Friday, Burnt Ramen was red-tagged by city inspectors who say the building is unsafe for habitation and events. But Burnt Ramen's many supporters feel the city is wrong to label the building dangerous. They claim that the Richmond warehouse is nothing like Oakland's Ghost Ship, which burned on December 2 in a fire that killed 36 people.

Last night, chanting "no more evictions," dozens of people marched to Richmond City Hall to address the council.


One speaker, Jennifer Autry, read a letter from the owner of the Burnt Ramen warehouse, Michael Malin. "Mayor Butt has made me homeless... as the mayor sleeps in his mansion I sleep in my van," she recited.

Shortly after the Oakland warehouse fire, Richmond Mayor Tom Butt outed Burnt Ramen in an essay posted on the Richmond Standard's website, calling it "our own Ghost Ship." He even published the warehouse's address. Butt told the Express this week that his goal is to "make sure the building is safe and code-conforming," not to shut it down.

But Burnt Ramen's many supporters say the city's red tagging feels more like an attack — not help.

"You seem to be embracing this pro-gentrification agenda," Kelly Jewitt told the mayor and council last night. "Don't sell us out to gentrification."

"My friends died in that fire," said another speaker, who asked to be identified by their first name, Morgan. "You cannot evict people in the name of my friends who died."

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Jason Storm told the city's leaders that Burnt Ramen has made Richmond a safer place because it provides young people with refuge and a place to play music. "Burnt Ramen saved my life," he said.

In response to the outpouring of support for Burnt Ramen, Richmond City Manager Bill Lindsay said the city intends to work "expeditiously and responsibly" to help Malin bring the warehouse up to code so that it can be reoccupied.

But some are skeptical of Richmond's intentions. John the Baker, who has been involved in Burnt Ramen since it's early days, said the city's red tagging feels like a "war on the arts."

Monday, December 19, 2016

Town Business: Abolish the Electoral College

by Darwin BondGraham
Mon, Dec 19, 2016 at 12:05 PM

American democracy: It's one person, one vote, right?

Wrong. At least when it comes to picking the president, the principle of one-vote for each person doesn't apply. That's because we use the electoral college to select our commander in chief.

A lot has been written about the numerous anti-democratic aspects of the electoral college, including: its origins in slavery; the way it allows candidates like Trump to overwhelmingly lose the popular vote but still win; the way it inflates the importance of swing states in campaigns and marginalizes the rest of the nation; etc.

Obama recently called the electoral college a "vestige." He didn't elaborate, but historians who have researched the institution's origins have pointed out time and again that the electoral college was set up to give slave owners inordinate power in national elections. The carryover to this day is that the nation's largest and most diverse population centers are disproportionately disadvantaged.

Last week, Oakland's city council voted to endorse several efforts aimed at getting rid of the electoral college.

One, a bill introduced in November by California Senators Barbara Boxer and Dianne Feinstein, would institute one-person, one vote by simply abolishing the electoral college.

Another route to ditching the electoral college doesn't require the Republican-controlled Congress to take action. If a group of states with 270 or more electoral college votes sign onto a compact agreeing to always award their electoral college votes to the winner of the national popular vote, then the system would effectively change to one in which the majority truly rules.

"If we want a functioning democracy that's fair, then we need to move forward on these reforms," said Councilmember Dan Kalb, a sponsor of the Oakland resolution. "Twice in the past sixteen years the person without the most votes ended up becoming president," he complained, referring to Trump, and George W. Bush's victory over Al Gore in 2000.

Oakland and California are perfect example of why the electoral college is unfair. Oakland is a big diverse city, and California is the biggest and most diverse state. But people who live here count for far less in presidential elections than people who live in smaller, less divers states.

Take Wyoming, for example. There are 584,000 people living in Wyoming, which is approximately 90 percent white. They get three votes in the electoral college, or about one electoral voter per every 195,000 people. This past election, all three of their votes went to Donald Trump.

Californian's, however, only get one electoral college vote for every 705,000 people because we have to divide 55 total electoral votes among our population of 38 million. If California had the same ratio of population to electoral college votes as Wyoming, it would get 195 electoral college votes.

Clearly the system isn't proportionate.

Here's another way to look at it: with a population of 406,000, the entire city of Oakland doesn't add up to a single electoral vote in our presidential elections scheme because its people live in California where individual votes count less. But the tiny state of Wyoming, which is just a little larger than the City of Oakland, in terms of population, gets three electoral college votes.

How's that for fair and democratic?

Sunday, December 18, 2016

Raiders Clinch First Playoff Berth Since 2002

by Nick Miller
Sun, Dec 18, 2016 at 4:46 PM

MIchael Crabtree with another tough grab in the first half. - COURTESY OF THE RAIDERS
  • Courtesy of the Raiders
  • MIchael Crabtree with another tough grab in the first half.

It's unclear whether the Oakland Raiders will be moving to Las Vegas — but the Silver and Black is definitely going to the playoffs for the first time in 13 seasons.

In true 2016 Raiders fashion, Oakland grinded-out a sloppy win in San Diego this afternoon, topping the Chargers by a late-game field goal, 16-13.

The Raiders now hold sole possession of first place in the AFC West. If they win their remaining two games, they would take the division and also earn a first-week bye in the playoffs — and host a postseason game at the Coliseum.

The game was by no means flawless. The Raiders struggled in the red zone again, including two turnovers inside the 20 yard line in the first half, and a botched first-and-goal effort in the second.

It' clear that running the pistol in the red zone isn't working for Derek Carr and Co., as this is the third-straight game where the offense didn't get things going when sniffing six.

Early on, it also looked like the Chargers came to win, especially after the Raiders were burned early, on a deep ball by Philip Rivers to Travis Benjamin for 47 yards. In general, though, Raiders D was locked in, including two sacks by Bruce Irvin. And the defense held San Diego to only four of 13 on third downs, and just 73 rushing yards.

The Raiders owned the line of scrimmage on offense and as a committee ran at-will for 146 yards.

Replay helped the Raiders twice, first reversing a Michael Crabtree touchdown reception, and later giving Carr a crucial first down on a scramble.

And, in the end, the Raiders showed poise, grit, and discipline (just two penalties for 15 yards all day).

Next up, Oakland will host the surging Indianapolis Colts on Christmas Eve.

Thursday, December 15, 2016

Oakland Musicians Unite For Ghost Ship Fire Benefit At Fox Theater

by Nick Miller
Thu, Dec 15, 2016 at 12:12 PM

Rogue Wave performs at Oakland United, a packed house benefit for Oakland fire victims and families last night at the Fox Theater.
  • Rogue Wave performs at Oakland United, a packed house benefit for Oakland fire victims and families last night at the Fox Theater.

Hieroglyphics. Primus. Tycho. The Coup. Tune-Yards. More than two-dozen local artists and speakers took to the Fox Theater's stage last night for a packed-house Ghost Ship fire benefit concert. The gathering, “Oakland United: A Benefit Supporting Oakland Fire Relief," is estimated to have raised north of a quarter-million dollars for the Gray Area Foundation for the Arts Oakland Fire Relief Fund.

Performers and speakers delivered powerful messages on the vitality of the Bay Area music and arts scene  — and how important it is to protect spaces safe for this often vulnerable community.

"This is the longer-term impact from this tragedy and I doubt any of the people that we lost want this to be happening right now," Josette Melchor, emcee for the evening and executive director of the Gray Area Foundation for the Arts, told the Express. "It's really important that, in their memory, we work to keep these places safe so that this doesn't happen again."

Oakland artist Xavier Dphrepaulezz, who performs as Fantastic Negrito, explained how his latest album, The Last Days of Oakland, goes to the heart of this message. "If you are from the cities of Oakland or San Francisco, if you grew up there, you may not be able to live there," he told the Express. He said that the city needs to do more to protect artists. "That's who made this city cool. This shit wasn't cool by default."

Dan Deacon, the only non-local artists on last night's bill, was emotional backstage after his set: "As someone who doesn't live in Oakland, but who is par of the DIY community ... people are feeling this all over the world. There's solidarity there for your loss. ... It's hard to talk about, I can't imagine what people are going through."
Dan Deacon spoke to the crowd about the importance of safe spaces last night at Oakland United.
  • Dan Deacon spoke to the crowd about the importance of safe spaces last night at Oakland United.
Deacon, who hails from Baltimore, also played a set at Starline Social Club after the concert.

The benefit was put together in a matter of days by Noise Pop, Another Planet Entertainment, and Paradigm Talent Agency. Other performers included Rogue Wave, Conspiracy of Beards, Beats Antique, Geographer, Thao Nguyen. There were speakers in between the performers two-to-three song sets, including Express contributor Sam Lefebvre; you can watch his message here.

Tuesday, December 13, 2016

Class Action Lawsuit Alleges Caltrans Is Violating Homeless People's Constitutional Rights

by Darwin BondGraham
Tue, Dec 13, 2016 at 3:53 PM

A complaint filed today in state court alleges that the California Department of Transportation is systematically violating the constitutional rights of homeless people in the cities of Oakland, Berkeley, and Emeryville by destroying personal property during "sweeps." According to the attorneys who filed the suit, Caltrans' actions amount to a violation of the California and U.S. constitutions.

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Monday, December 12, 2016

Town Business: Oakland vs. ICE

by Darwin BondGraham
Mon, Dec 12, 2016 at 7:38 AM

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Oakland vs. ICE: Obama was hardly a friend to immigrants. His administration deported millions over eight years, mostly people without a criminal conviction. But come January 20, the federal government's law enforcement agencies will be led by Donald Trump, a man who slandered Mexicans as "rapists," and "criminals," announced his intent to create a "registry" of Muslims, and promised to triple the size of the Immigration and Custom Enforcement agency (ICE).

We should expect Trump to deliver on his promises by attacking immigrant communities with even more surveillance and deportations.

The City of Oakland expects no less, and is therefore preparing to fight back. Along with Alameda County's Public Defender and several nonprofits, the city is working to create and fund a rapid response network of five full-time attorneys to represent immigrants swept up by immigration authorities.

The network will also operate a hotline staffed by five outreach workers who can take calls from people seeking assistance, or even receive tips about ICE raids in real time. According to a city staff report, the same team of community responders will also document immigration enforcement activity, cop watch-style.

Proactively, the network will conduct know your rights trainings in schools, places of worship, clinics, and other safe spaces to help Oaklanders defend themselves against the Trump administration and law federal enforcement.

Oakland's contribution to the network would be $300,000 over the next two years.

Saving Oakland's SROs: From 1985 to 2015 Oakland lost 799 residential hotel units – rooms that serve as the housing of last resort for many low-income, elderly, disabled, and fixed-income people. The city is at risk of losing even more of this type of important affordable housing as developers zero in on SROs to convert them into boutique hotels, apartments, and even offices.

To prevent the loss of more, the Oakland City Council is considering a temporary 45-day ban on the conversion of SROs.

The text of the ordinance has several exceptions, including if the SRO is being converted into apartments by an affordable housing developer. Another exception is if the landlord uses the Ellis Act to withdraw the SRO units from the rental housing market and turn it into a condo, or offices.

The point of the moratorium is to give city staff more time to think up ways of permanently protecting Oakland's SRO housing from demolition or conversion. That, however, might take changes to state law.

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