Wednesday, November 30, 2016

Alameda Health System Leaders Say Hospitals Are 'Safe Spaces' for Undocumented Immigrants

by Darwin BondGraham
Wed, Nov 30, 2016 at 7:45 PM

At their board meeting this evening, trustees of the Alameda Health System, which operates the county's public hospitals, affirmed that they will continue to make healthcare services available to undocumented immigrants and other populations whose care might be imperiled by the incoming Trump administration.

"It's clear a lot of our providers, patients, and staff are feeling heightened concern," AHS CEO Delvecchio Finley told the system's trustees.

He noted that Oakland — where AHS' largest hospital is located — recently reaffirmed its status as a sanctuary city, meaning its police and other city employees won't inquire as to anyone's immigration status, nor cooperate with federal agents by enforcing immigration laws. "We'll try to be in lockstep," he said about such efforts.

AHS Trustee Kinkini Banerjee said the hospital system should spread the message that its services are available to all. She said AHS should make sure immigrants know it is a "safe space."

Graham Brant-Zawadzki and Erica Valdovinos.
  • Graham Brant-Zawadzki and Erica Valdovinos.
Last night at the Oakland city council meeting, two Highland Hospital emergency physicians, Graham Brant-Zawadzki and Erica Valdovinos, read an open letter from doctors in the hospital's emergency department.

They stated: "as doctors, we will continue to care for every patient that walks into our emergency department regardless of immigration status, ability to pay, race, religion, gender identity, or sexual orientation."

"We will actively resist and will not honor any legislation or efforts to discourage or limit people from accessing healthcare," they pledged.

As to what the Trump administration plans to do to the nation's healthcare system, Finley told the AHS trustees that portions of the Affordable Care Act, or Obamacare, are surely going to be repealed. But he said it's hard to tell what parts of the law will be eliminated, and how this might affect low-income people and those who rely on Medicaid and Medicare.

Regardless of how Trump and Republican majorities in the House and Senate act on healthcare, Finley said the mission of Alameda County's public health system will "be the same."

Monday, November 28, 2016

Town Business: Green Energy and Jobs; State of Refuge; Public Bank

by Darwin BondGraham
Mon, Nov 28, 2016 at 7:07 AM

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Donald Trump, perhaps the most conflicted, verbally abusive, narcissistic, misogynistic, unqualified man ever elected president of the United States, has a lot of Californians feeling like the end times are near. However, progressive ideas are gaining traction in state and local politics. This week, the Oakland City Council will discuss several.

State of Refuge: Since Trump declared victory, Bay Area sanctuary cities have repeatedly reassured their residents that they won't facilitate any federal efforts to punish undocumented immigrants solely because of their citizenship status. Oakland is going one step further. At tomorrow's city council meeting, the council will discuss a resolution that urges Governor Jerry Brown declare California as "state of refuge" and to use California's economic and political clout to push back against anti-immigrant policies.

Green Energy and Jobs: It's been over a decade in the making, but Alameda County is finally setting up a massive green energy program that could create thousands of high-wage jobs in the East Bay. The kicker is that electrical bills will be lower than what PG&E currently charges, according to a feasibility study completed by the county.

The program is called community choice aggregation. Under a CCA, participating cities will automatically opt-in their ratepayers, including homeowners and businesses. Then the CCA — a public authority called East Bay Clean Energy, which the county set up last October — will purchase energy on the open market, circumventing PG&E, but still using the utility company to bring electricity to people's homes and workplaces. The result is that East Bay Clean Energy can use ratepayer revenue to purchase cleaner energy, or to even fund local, clean energy projects like solar and wind, or efficiency upgrades. This could put Alameda County on track to source as much as 80 percent of its power from renewable sources by 2021.

Oakland's city council will discuss whether or not to join a county-wide CCA on Tuesday night. Looming over all this is Trump's promise to reinvigorate the fossil fuel industries, coal in particular, and reverse the Obama administration's efforts to slow climate change.

Public Bank: Earlier this year, after Wells Fargo's vast bogus account scam was uncovered, governments from the city of San Francisco to Pennsylvania's state treasurer announced their intention to stop doing business with the banking giant. Oakland doesn't currently bank with Wells Fargo (in 2014 the city gave its business to another giant lender also accused of breaking the law, Chase), so there's nothing to break off.

But Oakland councilmembers Rebecca Kaplan and Dan Kalb want to go a step further than just cutting business ties with big banks like Wells Fargo. They want Oakland to look into the feasibility of starting a public bank. A public bank could, among other things, fund affordable housing projects, invests in local and small businesses, and finance other economic activities that further public policy goals.

There are only a few existing public banks in the United States. The biggest is the Bank of North Dakota. The cities of Santa Fe and Philadelphia are also considering incorporating a public bank. The council will discuss public banking on Tuesday night.

Monday, November 21, 2016

Lawyers Guild Decries Oakland Police's 'Brutal' Tactics Against Trump Protesters

by Darwin BondGraham
Mon, Nov 21, 2016 at 12:58 PM

Legal observers who shadowed anti-Trump protesters in the days after the election claim that the Oakland police used “brutal” methods to “suppress” political dissent.

“We saw the use of tear gas and concussion grenades being shot in a manner that was indiscriminate into crowds that contained children, handicapped people, and elders,” said Carey Lamprecht, the co-chair National Lawyers Guild Bay Area Chapter, at a press conference this morning in Oakland.

Cat Brooks, the interim executive director of the of the NLG Bay Area Chapter, said the tactics the police used against anti-Trump protesters resembled controversial methods deployed against activists who took to the streets in the wake of Oscar Grant’s killing by a BART police officer in 2009. Brooks also compared the police department’s approach to what demonstrators experienced in May 2015, when Mayor Libby Schaaf briefly implemented a ban on nighttime street marches. That policy resulted in dozens of arrests after protesters were “kettled” — blocked from leaving an area after a dispersal order.

In response to the NLG's claims, OPD issued a statement today saying it takes all use of force incidents seriously and will investigate to see if any policy violations occurred during the anti-Trump protests.

More than 12,000 activists marched through Oakland the evening of November 9. - NICK MILLER
  • Nick Miller
  • More than 12,000 activists marched through Oakland the evening of November 9.
"Currently, the department is investigating and reviewing the use of force incidents that occurred during protests this month," the department's public information officers wrote. "Per departmental policy, we review all uses of force. Additionally, the Oakland Police Department’s Internal Affairs Division investigates all use of force complaints."

However, Brooks blamed Oakland’s current Assistant Police Chief David Downing for deploying less-lethal weapons on demonstrators. “It’s deputy chief Downing who from the Oscar Grant period to now is the one that’s the one in charge of making the calls that get protesters brutalized,” she alleged.

Downing took over as OPD’s de-facto chief after former Chief Sean Whent and two successors were forced out earlier this year as a result of the police sex crime scandal. He once told a group of officers that they might have to use water canons on protesters. Downing was criticized for the remark, but Mayor Schaaf’s office later claimed the “hoses” comment was rhetorical, and that Downing was simply explaining that if the department’s less-lethal weapons like pepper spray are taken away, they would have to resort to antiquated tactics.

Thousands of protesters marched in Oakland’s streets on November 9 and early into the morning hours of November 10 in response to Trump’s surprising victory. Small fires were set and many store windows were broken by so-called anarchists. Thousands more marched the next night and there were fewer reports of vandalism.

Schaaf and Council members Abel Guillen and Lynette Gibson McElhaney held a press conference on November 10 decrying property destruction during the protests.

The NLG, however, has sued the city multiple times for collectively punishing protesters for the acts of a few vandals.

This time, the NLG is saying that their own legal observers — who follow protesters and police to ensure compliance with department policy and adherence to civil rights — were targeted by Oakland cops. “The way in which our legal observers were treated in the streets was unacceptable. They were met with marked aggression and an uptick in brutality,” claimed Lamprecht.

As the Trump administration transitions into power, many expect the protests to continue. Lamprecht said the NLG is putting Oakland on notice that civil and political rights must be respected.

Friday, November 18, 2016

Oakland, Richmond, Berkeley Leaders Vow to Protect Immigrants Against Trump Administration

by Darwin BondGraham
Fri, Nov 18, 2016 at 3:16 PM

The leaders of three East Bay sanctuary cities are sending unambiguous signals that they will try to protect immigrants against xenophobic federal policies that the incoming Trump administration is expected to adopt.

In response to Trump's election, Richmond Mayor Tom Butt issued a statement today reaffirming that his city won't enforce federal immigration policies.

"Protecting our immigrant community is a foundation of community policing that makes Richmond a safer place for all our residents," Butt wrote.

Along with the mayors of over 100 other cities representing 55 million people, Butt co-signed an open letter Trump stating that the well-being of immigrants affects the well-being of all.

"Immigrants are integral members of our cities and counties, and immigrant families are crucial to our success," the letter states.

Richmond and Oakland are both cities of immigrants.

About 42,000 Richmond residents were born in another country, equal to 38 percent of the total population.

One-quarter of Oakland's population, or 113,00 people, are immigrants, according to the U.S. Census. Approximately 62,000 of these people are non-U.S. citizens. One study found that as many as 15,000 undocumented immigrants live in East Oakland.

Earlier this week, Oakland Mayor Libby Schaaf wrote in an op-ed that her city will "proudly stand as a sanctuary city — protecting our residents from what we deem unjust federal immigration laws."

Oakland councilmembers Annie Campbell Washington, Larry Reid, Noel Gallo, and Abel Guillen are sponsoring a resolution opposing immigration raids and calling on the Obama administration to impose a moratorium to protect the civil rights of immigrants.

In Berkeley, staff in councilmember Jesse Arreguin's office told the Express that Arreguin is committed to protecting Berkeley's immigrant community and its status as a city of sanctuary. In fact, the sanctuary movement began in Berkeley in the 1970s as clergy worked to shield soldiers and immigrants from the federal government. Arreguin, who will take office as Mayor of Berkeley next year, plans to announce a more comprehensive response next week.

Responding to Trump's rhetoric and his election, Berkeley councilmember Kriss Worthington introduced a resolution to extend the city's existing "hate free zone."

"If President-elect Trump enacts policies or Presidential Orders to execute any of his hateful messages, millions of minorities in Americans will face unprecedented persecution, particularly people of Arabic decent, Muslim faith, Asian-American, AfricanAmerican, Women, Immigrants, Disabled, and LGTBQQIA," wrote Worthington.

Wednesday, November 16, 2016

Oaklanders: Next Police Chief Needs to 'Clear Out Bad Apples'

by Darwin BondGraham
Wed, Nov 16, 2016 at 12:52 PM

According to the results of a newly released city survey, Oakland residents want a "thick skinned" police chief who can "end corruption in the Department" and "display high moral standards and integrity."

Three Oakland police chiefs were forced out earlier this year when a scandal involving the sexual exploitation of a seventeen-year-old woman by multiple Oakland cops was unearthed. Since then, the department has been without a top cop.

Oakland Mayor Libby Schaaf and City Administrator Sabrina Landreth commissioned the survey as part of a larger effort to gain community input on who they should hire to lead OPD.

"It is essential that the public has a genuine opportunity to develop the roadmap for how they expect the Police Department to move forward under new leadership and that they are kept abreast of the process at each key step," Schaaf said in a press statement issued earlier today.

The survey was taken by 638 people, 92 percent of them Oakland residents, and 55 percent of them with jobs in Oakland.

The results, posted on the city's web site, show that Oakland residents want a more accountable department, but they also want increased police services.

Responds said they want to see more officers walking their beats, rather than cruising in patrol vehicles, and that the police should improve their response times to all types of reported crime.

They also said OPD should hire more officers, something the department says is necessary in order to improve response times. Respondents also want a chief who will prioritize deescalation tactics among officers, especially when they're responding to calls involving someone having a mental health crisis.

But by far the top response was that the new chief needs to be someone who can "lead cultural change" in the department.

Monday, November 14, 2016

Community Coalition and Wood Partners Strike Deal on Massive 13th Street  Housing and Retail Project

by Darwin BondGraham
Mon, Nov 14, 2016 at 10:19 PM

Oakland City Councilmember Abel Guillen announced tonight that a deal has been struck allowing a 262-unit apartment project to be built on the edge of Oakland's Chinatown.

"Thanks to all parties for helping us build much needed housing in Oakland," Guillen wrote in a statement.

"It took six months," said Ayodele Nzinga during tonight's city council meeting when the deal was announced. Nzinga is a member of the coalition that negotiated with the developer, Wood Partners, for a community benefits package. The deal includes funding for anti-displacement programs, arts and culture resources, job training funds, and affordable housing that will be built in the same neighborhood.

Lailan Huen, a member of the Chinatown coalition, said the deal with Wood Partners totaled about as much as the developer would have paid in impact fees. Guillen put the total dollar value of the developer's contributions at $1.8 million.

Wood Partners' 262-unit project will be built at 226 13th Street.
  • Wood Partners' 262-unit project will be built at 226 13th Street.
Because Wood Partners gained approval for the project before the implementation of impact fees, they are exempt from paying the $7,000 per apartment for affordable housing. But Wood Partners is agreeing to make a $675,000 contribution to help build 60 affordable housing units in the neighborhood.

Other parts of the agreement, according to Guillen, include affordable retail space for use by small businesses and artists as part of Oakland's new Black Arts Movement Business District; $100,000 to help the Cypress Mandela job center train Oakland residents for construction jobs; a 20 percent local hire goal for the project's labor; a $250,000 contribution to anti-displacement programs; and a one percent art fee that will be dedicated to the Malonga Center.

"This project predates impact fees, although the amount of the community benefits package approximates the value of the fees that would have been collected had the law been in effect when the project was first presented to the City," Guillen wrote.

Huen and Nzinga said they were pleased with the outcome, although it required filing an appeal against the project after it was approved by the Planning Commission. Their coalition also pressured Guillen and the council to pull the appeal item from the city council's agenda on several occasions in order to gain more time to negotiate with Wood Partners.

Huen said the coalition is engaged in similar talks with other real estate investors.

"We don't want to have to fight every developer," she told the council tonight, adding that many Oakland residents want a more comprehensive set of development policies implemented by the council, in addition to the recently passed housing and infrastructure impact fees.

Wood Partners could not be reached today for comment.

Chinese Shadow Banker and Blackhawk Luxury Developer Taking Control of East 12th Street Parcel

by Darwin BondGraham
Mon, Nov 14, 2016 at 7:18 AM

URBANCORE/EBALDC
  • UrbanCore/EBALDC
It was the most controversial real estate deal in recent Oakland history: a one-acre slice of city-owned land located next to Lake Merritt called the 12th Street Remainder Parcel. Last year, the Oakland City Council attempted to sell this land to the real estate developer UrbanCore for $4.6 million. UrbanCore was going to build a luxury apartment tower there. But neighbors and affordable housing advocates resisted. They called it a back-room deal to hand public land over to a politically-connected businessman. Later, when a leaked document revealed that the city council was violating a state law requiring affordable housing be built on surplus public land, the original deal with UrbanCore was scuttled.

UrbanCore eventually re-bid on the land and won the rights to develop it, but only after promising to bring in an affordable housing developer and build affordable units on site. The city council justified the second deal with UrbanCore, in part, because the company is locally owned and operated by Michael Johnson, an Oakland resident.

But now the city council is poised to hand over financial control of the project to billionaire out-of-town financiers — one of them a Chinese trust company, and the other, the billionaire Behring family that developed much of Blackhawk, the luxury community north of Danville.

According to city council records, it will cost as much as $160 million to build the market rate apartment tower proposed by UrbanCore, but Johnson's company doesn't have anything close to the capital necessary to carry out the project. So UrbanCore recruited the Zhongrong International Trust Company of Beijing and Behring Capital of Danville. The two companies will fund 95 percent of the project.

According to city records, "UrbanCore will not have a controlling interest in the developer of the market-rate building," but will continue to manage the project on a day-to-day basis. But UrbanCore won't be the ultimate shot caller anymore. Instead, the city is looking to sign a final development agreement with an LLC that will owned and controlled by Zhongrong and Behring.

According to a recent bond prospectus, Zhongrong is majority owned by several Chinese state-owned companies. Reuters and Bloomberg have described Zhongrong as a "shadow bank" because it performs bank-like activities, such as lending money across the global financial system, but it's not regulated as a bank.

Behring Capital was founded by Colin Behring, the grandson of real estate developer Kenneth Behring who is known for building the country club at Blackhawk. Ken Behring later bought and sold the Seattle Seahawks. He has appeared before on the Forbes list of the richest 400 Americans.

According to the city of Oakland, the affordable housing project that will be built on the 12th Street Remainder Parcel next to the luxury apartment tower will be separately financed and managed by EBALDC.

The city council's community and economic development committee votes Tuesday on the motion to give financial control of the project to Zhongrong and Behring.

Correction: The original version of this article misidentified Zhongrong International Trust Co. as a similarly-named private equity company also based in China. Behring Capital was also founded by Colin Behring, not his grandfather Kenneth.

Sunday, November 13, 2016

Protesters Join Hands Around Lake Merritt in Oakland to Protest Trump, Hate Crimes

Several thousands circumnavigated the 3.7 mile lake.

by Nick Miller and Darwin BondGraham
Sun, Nov 13, 2016 at 5:23 PM

PHOTO BY NICK MILLER
  • PHOTO BY NICK MILLER
After five days of nighttime Oakland protests, several thousand demonstrators peacefully linked hands and encircled Lake Merritt on Sunday afternoon to protest Donald Trump and a feared increase in hate crimes that his political ascendency portends.

The vibe of the protest belied the intense actions each night since Trump's election as president. Families overtook the lake and kids played tag on the grass. Old-guard activists sat in lawn chairs holding signs. Artists screen printed posters. Photographers took impromptu portraits. And, near Grand Avenue, some people even danced.
PHOTO BY NICK MILLER
  • PHOTO BY NICK MILLER
PHOTO BY DARWIN BONDGRAHAM
  • PHOTO BY DARWIN BONDGRAHAM
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A snarky post on Twitter likened the afternoon more as a Georges Seurat painting than a protest. And, for sure, law-enforcement presence was minimal.

The Express estimates anywhere from 5,000 to 10,000 people converged on the lake, which is 3.7 miles round. Could have been more, easily.

On the wall of a building next to the Trader Joe's on Lakeshore Avenue someone started a post-it-note response to Trump. Hundreds of people wrote messages both deeply personal and political.
PHOTO BY DARWIN BONDGRAHAM
  • PHOTO BY DARWIN BONDGRAHAM
PHOTO BY DARWIN BONDGRAHAM
  • PHOTO BY DARWIN BONDGRAHAM
PHOTO BY NICK MILLER
  • PHOTO BY NICK MILLER
PHOTO BY NICK MILLER
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PHOTO BY NICK MILLER
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PHOTO BY NICK MILLER
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PHOTO BY NICK MILLER
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PHOTO BY NICK MILLER
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Saturday, November 12, 2016

Thousands Plan To Join Hands Around Oakland's Lake Merritt In Protest of Trump on Sunday

Demonstration begins at 3 p.m.

by Nick Miller
Sat, Nov 12, 2016 at 1:57 PM

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Since Election Day, protests have overtaken Oakland. But on Sunday, the demonstrations will move out of downtown and into the afternoon. Thousands plan to join-hands at Lake Merritt, beginning at 3 p.m., in a peaceful show of solidarity against president-elect Donald Trump.

Organizer Allison White told the San Francisco Chronicle that she thought only a few friends would attend when she created the Facebook page earlier this week.

As of Saturday afternoon, the event page had been shared more than 36,000 times, and nearly 15,000 have expressed interest in attending.

Update: A noteworthy bit of Lake Merritt history is that "Hands around the lake" has been done before, on August 8, 1982, in the name of world peace:


Look for more coverage of Oakland's anti-Trump protests at EastBayExpress.com.

Friday, November 11, 2016

Empowering Speeches Highlight Third Night of Anti-Trump Demonstrations in Oakland

'For the past few days I’ve been afraid to leave my house.'

by Nick Miller
Fri, Nov 11, 2016 at 12:41 PM

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Many national media outlets are zeroing in on the destruction and "riots" related to anti-Donald Trump protests across the United States.

But last night in Oakland, a gathering of more than 1,500 activists was highlighted by empowering and heart-on-sleeve speeches from individuals worried that Trump administration policy will put them in the crosshairs.

At City Hall just after 7 p.m., speakers to to a mic and addressed the crowd. A young Black woman reminded the activists why they were here out in the streets for the third night in a row. "We're not out here because this is fun," she said. "We're not out here disrupting. Some of you all might think it's cute. But we're out here for our lives."

Emily, a young Arabic woman, told the crowd that she was “afraid of walking down the street after Trump's win. "I’m going to start crying right now, but for the past few days I’ve been afraid to leave my house, because this country has told me that my family is not OK. … Even though my grandparents fought for this country,” she said, nearly in tears.

A young Black man from East Oakland told the crowed how tired he was of seeing cops killing people in the streets — and was worried there would be more violence.

An undocumented Latino who lives in Oakland was defiant. “I’m staying right here!” he yelled, then asked the crowd. “Where am I staying?”

“Right here!” the crowd yelled back.

One woman urged straight white men in the crowd to take a step back for a few days. "If you are a straight white man, shut the fuck up for a minute," she said, to much applause.

A young woman born-and-raised in Nicaragua yelled ferociously into the mic: “I’m not scared, are you scared?1” she asked. The crowd shouted back: "We're not scared!"

And a young woman named Aisha, who attends UC Berkeley, said her younger sister called her yesterday morning and told her that, if she feels afraid, she could take off her hijab. “I just want to say this is not the America that I want to live in, I don’t want my little sister to think that’s OK, that she has to hide her religion because some orange monster is president.”
Oakland police disallowed the large flat-bed truck, which toted a soundsystem, to park on City Hall grounds last night. So, activists improvised: A man stood near the flag pole at "Oscar Grant" plaza and held a held a small guitar amplifier over his head so people could hear the speakers.

After the speakers, a march zigzagged through downtown and north Oakland for nearly five miles, according to reports. There were attempts to shut down Interstate 580. Oakland police also reported two vandalized business, but there was significantly less damage than on Wednesday night.

OPD arrested 11 individuals on Thursday, which brings the total number of Oakland arrests since Trump's election to 41.
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