Thursday, September 21, 2017

Oakland to Host Forum on Public Bank Plan

by Amyra Soriano
Thu, Sep 21, 2017 at 11:07 AM

Rebecca Kaplan.
  • Rebecca Kaplan.
Oakland Councilmembers Rebecca Kaplan, At-Large, and Dan Kalb, North Oakland, are scheduled to host a discussion on Monday about the city’s efforts to create a public bank. The proposal is designed to assist the region’s cannabis businesses, which struggle to find banking services, and to help grow renewable energy resources.

Earlier this week, the council approved a resolution, authorizing a feasibility study for public banking. Under the plan, Oakland will contribute $75,000 to the study, and the city of Berkeley will kick in $25,000.

“As distrust in big corporate banks and lack of oversight at the federal level are growing problems — this is how we can be part of the solution,” Kaplan said.

According to officials, a regional public bank would be able to provide community benefit lending. “We can fund needed projects, offer low interest loans to underserved populations and invest in accordance with our values,” Kaplan said.

The bank would have the ability to manage cannabis-related transactions. Currently, most banks will not serve medical cannabis businesses, even if they’re legal, because marijuana remains unlawful under federal law. As a result, those businesses have to deal in cash, which makes them vulnerable to crime. The public bank also could help develop renewable energy businesses. Oakland and Berkeley have already joined with other cities in the county to create a locally managed green energy program, known as Community Choice Energy.

“We can protect our cannabis community by taking them out of the cash economy,” Kaplan said. “And, like our recent successful efforts to create Community Choice Energy, we can harness local community support to take action that improves the environment, public health, and the local economy.”

On Monday, Sept. 25, Kaplan and Kalb will host a community forum called “Public Banking Local Renewables” to review how Germany developed local public banks. Wolfram Morales, chief economist of Sparkasse, a Germany-based association, will explain how they’ve successfully advanced their solar and wind resources. In addition, Bay Area analysts and activists, like Nicolas Chaset, Greg Rosen, Jessica Tovar, and Pennie Opal Plant, will share their knowledge on the subject. The meeting will be held at Oakland City Hall from 7-9 p.m.

Oakland Port Board Expected to Approve Ban-The-Box and Living Wage Agreements for Massive New Warehouse Project

by Darwin BondGraham
Thu, Sep 21, 2017 at 10:39 AM


The Port of Oakland's board of directors are expected to vote next month on a deal with CenterPoint Properties to build a massive 440,800-square-foot warehouse on the former Army Base. The warehouse will be a state-of-the-art logistics center connected to the port's maritime facilities, funneling cargo from ships to truck transportation networks. It's expected to generate hundreds of operations jobs.

And according to the port and a coalition of nonprofit and labor groups, those jobs will pay living wages. Priority will be made to hire local residents of the East Bay's flatlands neighborhoods that have been historically most affected by the port's environmental problems and deindustrialization of the waterfront.

Furthermore, CenterPoint is reportedly agreeing to a so-called ban-the-box policy that will ensure many of the positions at the warehouse are available to people with criminal records, ensuring formerly incarcerated community members can gain access to employment and benefit from the port's expansion.

Community groups are hailing the deal — which was negotiated over the past 18 months — as an example of win-win economic development that advances the port, the company, and the community.

"This is a system that will benefit the people of Oakland," said Sabir Lockett, an Oakland residents who was incarcerated for 22 years but now is an advocate for providing second chances for employment.

Lockett said many formerly incarcerated people face discrimination when they search for jobs, and that they're often locked out of the market, making it difficult to survive.

"This is about building trust in formerly incarcerated people as well as providing living wage and local hire so people can stay in Oakland," said Lockett. "It will help to integrate formerly incarnated people back into society."

Port spokesperson Mike Zampa declined to comment because the port's board has yet to finalize the deal. CenterPoint Properties also declined to comment. But in the port commissioners' agenda packet for their next meeting some of the basic parts of the jobs deal are confirmed.

The Revive Oakland coalition, a group of over 30 nonprofits and labor unions that negotiated with CenterPoint and the port over the jobs deal, also shared some details of the agreement in a press release yesterday. According to the coalition, workers at the new facility, including subcontractors, will be paid, at minimum, a "living wage" of $13.32 per hour with benefits, or $15.31 without benefits. Half of the jobs will be set aside for local area residents, with a hiring priority for people from Oakland's flatlands zip codes closest to the port.

And the group said the ban-the-box policy is "one of the strongest" yet negotiated on any project in the nation because it substantially limits the types of criminal convictions records that can disqualify someone from a job and provides greater transparency for job applicants and the employer as to what might be a disqualifying record.

The deal also limits the amount of work that can be carried about by part-time employees.

Jahmese Myres, director of Revive Oakland, said the deal is important because it's a model for fair economic development in an era when technology is transforming work.

Increasingly, the economy is becoming organized around online retail that operates through logistics systems made up of warehouses fed by shipping, rail, and truck transportation. So far, warehouse jobs fulfilling Amazon orders or moving goods to big box stores with automated checkout, have been relatively low-paying and precarious. And these jobs have also been difficult to obtain for people who have criminal records.

What: A 66-year ground lease of port land to CenterPoint Properties for construction of a 440,800 square foot warehouse.

Cost: CenterPoint will lease the land for $1.3 million per year rising to $6.4 million in year 66.

Who: CenterPoint is owned by the California Public Employees Retirement System, the state's largest public employee pension.

Where: On 27 acres of the former Oakland Army Base land that was handed over to the Port of Oakland for redevelopment.

Correction: the original version of this story stated that wages at the warehouse will start at $14.44 per hour. The correct beginning wage level under the agreement is $13.32 per hour with benefits. This story was also updated after the Port of Oakland moved consideration of the agreement from a September 28 board meeting to October 12.

Thursday’s Briefing: Oakland's Temple Sinai Hit by Anti-Semitism; Oakland and SF Sue Big Oil Over Climate Change

by Robert Gammon
Thu, Sep 21, 2017 at 10:14 AM

Temple Sinai
  • Temple Sinai

Stories you shouldn’t miss for Sept. 21, 2017:

1. Bigots scrawled anti-Semitic graffiti on the walls of Temple Sinai in Oakland early today, just hours before congregants began to assemble for Rosh Hashanah, the Jewish New Year, KRON reports. Officials at the city’s largest Jewish synagogue, located near Uptown, quickly covered the hate speech with paper. Oakland police are investigating the incident as a hate crime.

2. The cities of Oakland and San Francisco sued Chevron and other major oil companies, alleging that they knowingly caused climate change, reports Kurtis Alexander of the San Francisco Chronicle. The cities are demanding that Big Oil “pay billions in compensation for past and future flooding, coastal erosion, and property damage” resulting from the emission of greenhouse gases that cause global warming.

3. University of California President Janet Napolitano pledged that the UC system would contribute $300,000 for security costs related to next week’s planned right-wing events at Cal, but she warned that such huge expenses “may not be sustainable,” reports Teresa Watanabe of the LA Times$. A speech last week by conservative Ben Shapiro cost $600,000 alone.

4. About 65 percent of Bay Area residents say the cost of housing in the region is an “extremely serious” problem, reports Riley McDermid of the San Francisco Business Times$, citing a new UC Berkeley survey. In addition, 63 percent of residents said they support rent control.

5. The death toll from the 7.1 quake in central Mexico has reached at least 250 people, including dozens of children who were crushed to death by collapsed school buildings, the LA Times$ reports. The number of people killed by the quake is expected to rise as emergency crews continue to dig through the rubble.

6. The entire island of Puerto Rico could be without power for four to six months because of the devastation wrought by Hurricane Maria, The New York Times$ reports. The Category 4 storm also caused severe flooding on the island.

7. Unusual September snowfall closed Tioga Pass in Yosemite National Park and Sonora Pass on State Route 108, reports Amy Graff of SF Gate.

8. Alameda Fire Chief Doug Long, who has been with the fire department for 22 years, is retiring, effective Friday, reports Peter Hegarty of the East Bay Times$.

9. And undefeated world champion boxer Andre Ward of Oakland announced his retirement, saying he no longer has a desire to fight, the AP reports.

$ = news stories that may require payment to read.

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