Saturday, June 30, 2018

Thousands Rally for Immigrant Rights at the Contra Costa Sheriff's Jail in Richmond

Speakers led chants of "abolish ICE."

by Darwin BondGraham
Sat, Jun 30, 2018 at 4:48 PM

Kara Hernandez's husband was detained by ICE in the Contra Costa Sheriff's jail for two months before he was transferred to a jail in Colorado. Next to her, Lourdes Barraza, fought for six months to free her husband from the Contra Costa jail.
  • Kara Hernandez's husband was detained by ICE in the Contra Costa Sheriff's jail for two months before he was transferred to a jail in Colorado. Next to her, Lourdes Barraza, fought for six months to free her husband from the Contra Costa jail.

Several thousand protesters converged on the West County Detention Facility in Richmond today to rally against the anti-immigrant policies of the Trump administration.

But protesters also connected the specific issue of family separation, which has unleashed a firestorm of criticism against the federal Immigration and Customs Enforcement agency, to broader criminal justice issues such as mass incarceration and cash bail.

ICE pays the Contra Costa Sheriff's Department about $6 million a year to detain immigrants in the West County Detention Facility.
  • ICE pays the Contra Costa Sheriff's Department about $6 million a year to detain immigrants in the West County Detention Facility.

Speakers led chants of "abolish ICE" and the crowd cheered for minutes at a time in hopes that detainees behind the jail's cinderblock walls might be able to hear their message of solidarity.

Meanwhile, deputies looked on from behind traffic barriers and atop the jail's roof while a drone piloted by the sheriff's department buzzed overhead.

The notion of eliminating the controversial federal Immigration and Customs Enforcement agency seemed radical just a couple months ago, but the idea has gained traction after the Trump administration began separating children from their parents who are detained at the border, and implementing other measures as deterrents to migration.

"We should be demanding that ICE be abolished and all its tentacles cut off," Juan Prieto, an organizer with the California Immigrant Youth Justice Alliance, said at today's rally.

A sheriff's drone observed the rally from above.
  • A sheriff's drone observed the rally from above.

Prieto said, however, that immigrants have been scapegoated for years, long before Donald Trump's election, and that local law enforcement has been complicit in targeting undocumented people for arrest and deportation.

Prieto singled out Contra Costa Sheriff David Livingston for the assistance he provides to ICE.

For example, ICE pays Livingston's agency about $6 million per year to incarcerate immigrants who are facing deportation in the San Francisco immigration court and who are ineligible for bail, or cannot afford bail.

The Contra Costa Sheriff's Office has also helped ICE set up ambushes to arrest undocumented immigrants.

And Livingston was also one of several sheriffs in California who, earlier this year, began publicly posting inmates' release dates, as was Alameda County Sheriff Gregory Ahern. Immigration rights advocates claim that this policy is a purposeful strategy to exploit a loophole in the state sanctuary law known as SB 54, which prohibits local and state police agencies from communicating with ICE for the purpose of civil immigration enforcement.

Several people who have had family members incarcerated in the West County Detention Facility also shared their stories today.

Lourdes Barazza's husband, Fernando Carillo, was arrested by ICE agents one morning last October after he dropped their daughter off at daycare in San Jose. ICE sought to deport him because he allegedly entered the country several times on a tourist visa and over-stayed. While Carillo was detained in the Richmond jail for six months, Barraza would come to visit him.

"At first, when I came, there were about 40 people outside," she said about several protest groups that have maintained a regular presence outside the jail in solidarity with immigrants. She said the thousands who attended today's rally shows that "people are understanding, they're mad, and they want to get involved."

Assemblymember Rob Bonta said he has been "shocked and dismayed" by the federal immigration enforcement policy of separating children from their parents.
  • Assemblymember Rob Bonta said he has been "shocked and dismayed" by the federal immigration enforcement policy of separating children from their parents.

Her husband was granted a withholding of removal earlier this year, a decision by an immigration judge that effectively allows Carillo to remain with his family in the United States. But Barazza told the Express after today's rally that ICE recently notified her family that the government plans to appeal the judge's decision and continue its effort to deport him.

Kara Hernandez shared a similar story of being painfully separated from her husband. Holding one of their children in her arms, she said that he was arrested and detained in the Richmond jail for two months until he was recently relocated to a detention facility that ICE operates in Colorado.

"He's been in this country since he was six months old," she said. "He was picked up on Mother's Day [by ICE]."

California State Assemblymember Rob Bonta was one of several elected officials at today's rally. He said that in addition to reforming immigration laws, it's necessary that broader changes be made to the nation's criminal justice system to address racial and economic disparities.

Bonta specifically mentioned SB 10, a bill he's co-sponsoring that would do away with California's current cash bail system for defendants who don't pose a danger to the public, as a positive reform.

Currently, the average bail amount is $50,000 for a range of offenses, many nonviolent, which translates into a requirement that an accused person pay $5,000 if they hope to gain their freedom before trial or hearings. As a result, two-thirds of California's jail population is incarcerated simply because they can't afford bail.

"We need to change that," Bonta told the rally. "We have a broken criminal justice system, a money bail system."

One of the organizers of today's protest, Sam Davis, said he was surprised by the number of people who showed up.

Rodrigo Torres, an organizer with the group Freedom for Immigrants, was also surprised by today's turnout.

"But the mood in the country has changed," he said.

Correction: the original version of this story misquoted Kara Hernandez regarding the age of her husband when he first came to the United States. He was six months old, not six years old.

Friday, June 29, 2018

Assemblymember Rob Bonta Calls Republican Challenger’s ‘Birther’ Claim ‘Racist Hatred’

“It is exactly what Trump did to the first person of color elected president of the United States.”

by Steven Tavares
Fri, Jun 29, 2018 at 6:13 PM

Assemblymember Rob Bonta
  • Assemblymember Rob Bonta

Assemblymember Rob Bonta, D-Alameda, is striking back at Republican challenger Steve Slauson, who questioned Bonta’s U.S. citizenship in a letter to the editor published yesterday in the Alameda Sun. In an email sent to supporters today, Bonta called the claim a “Baseless, Racist Trump-style Birther Attack,” referencing Donald Trump’s repeated “birther” claims against President Barack Obama.

Bonta was born in the Philippines and immigrated to the U.S. as a young child — a fact he has often referred to since entering politics as an Alameda councilmember in 2010. His immigrant story and parents’ work in the 1970s with labor leader Cesar Chavez and the United Farm Workers was one of his main talking points during his successful 2012 run for the state Assembly.

But Slauson said he heard rumors in Alameda’s Filipino American community recently that Bonta was not a citizen. “I’m just doing my due diligence on the guy,” said Slauson, who added, “I don’t like him and what he’s done.” Slauson reached out to Bonta’s Sacramento office and was told Bonta was indeed a U.S. citizen through his father. Bonta’s office confirmed having a conversation on the topic, but the caller did not identify himself as Bonta’s assembly opponent, they said.

Slauson, though, was not satisfied with the answer. “Show us and it goes away. It’s a major issue, if it’s true,” he said. “Show us the money, baby, and we’ll have a beer and drown our sorrows together.”

In an interview, Bonta responded with uncharacteristic anger toward Slauson’s claims. “He has revealed himself to be a racist, a bigot, xenophobic, and intolerant,” he said. “He likes to ask Brown people if they are American citizens. It is insidious. End of story.”

Bonta added that President Trump’s rhetoric toward minorities is fueling this type of discourse. “It is exactly what Trump did to the first person of color elected president of the United States,” he said. “It’s the same playbook. I am a Filipino American who has won elected office every time I have run and someone who trounced him in the primary, and he’s not taking it very well.”

Bonta, meanwhile, is using the episode to his advantage. In his email today blasting Slauson’s claims, he also asks supporters to donate $9, $22, or $71 — which is Bonta’s birthdate.

Bonta has represented Oakland, Alameda, and San Leandro in the Assembly since 2012 and faced Slauson in the recent June primary, winning 89 percent of the vote. A rematch is set for this November.

Unlike Bonta’s past Republican challengers, most of whom have assumed low-profile campaigns, Slauson appears to be taking a proactive approach to the fall race. He is also one of the main proponents behind a recall campaign, in its early stages, against Alameda Councilmember Malia Vella for, what Slauson characterizes as her “improperly handling” of the city manager scandal.

Bonta said he would not dignify Slauson’s request to see proof of citizenship with a response, but confirms he’s a citizen and has a valid U.S. Passport. According to the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services, a passport is the best proof of U.S. citizenship. Over the years, Bonta has traveled internationally many times, even documenting trips to the Philippines and China on various social media sites.

Slauson denies his demand to see Bonta’s birth certificate is in any way inspired by Trump’s infamous needling of President Obama to prove he was born in the U.S. “It’s a typical approach,” he said of Bonta tying him to Trump.

The uproar among the far-right fueled Trump’s early rise, but later, when Obama relented and posted his birth certificate, Trump demurred, acknowledging during a presidential debate that Obama was a citizen, but that Hillary Clinton’s campaign instead had created the birther movement.

Oakland City Council Candidate Chris Young Suspended by State Bar

Outgoing Councilmember Annie Campbell Washington has endorsed Young in the District 4 race, but Young hasn’t been eligible to practice law in the state since last September.

by Darwin BondGraham
Fri, Jun 29, 2018 at 4:51 PM

Annie Campbell Washington sent an email to voters this week announcing her endorsement of Chris Young.
  • Annie Campbell Washington sent an email to voters this week announcing her endorsement of Chris Young.

Within two months of Annie Campbell Washington’s announcement in April that she won’t run for reelection to represent District 4 on the Oakland City Council, nine candidates have already lined up to run. The campaign promises to be one of the mostly hotly contested in years due to the fact that incumbents almost always win re-election. But earlier this week, one of the candidates, Chris Young, got a major boost when Campbell Washington endorsed him.

In an email to voters, Campbell Washington cited Young’s “deep experience” working in federal, state, and local government on Barack Obama’s presidential campaigns, and later in the Department of Justice under President Obama, as one reason she’s backing him. She also wrote that Young is a parent, a perspective that she feels is needed on the city council.

And she pointed to Young’s current job as the in-house attorney for the online fundraising website GoFundMe as another reason why voters should support him.

“[A]s General Counsel for GoFundMe, Chris uses his legal training to create good in our world,” she wrote. “He will bring this same focus and perspective to the work of City Council.”

But Young hasn’t been authorized to practice law in California since last September, according to State Bar records. Under state law, it’s a misdemeanor for anyone to practice law, or to even hold themselves out as entitled to practice law, without being an active member of the State Bar.

While there isn’t a strict legal definition of what it means to “practice law” in the business and professions code, the Black’s Law Dictionary, the most widely used law dictionary in the United States, defines general counsel as “a senior partner in a law firm or the firm’s full time employee who is a senior lawyer representing a firm.” Merriam-Webster defines general counsel as “a lawyer at the head of a legal department (as of a corporation or government agency).”

According to State Bar records, Young was suspended on September 1, 2017 for failing to comply with mandatory continuing legal education requirements and for not paying bar member fees. His current status is “inactive,” and he’s been suspended by the bar on two previous occasions, once in 2010 for failing to pay bar fees, and again in 2016 for the same reason.

Currently, however, Young describes himself on his campaign website as the “general counsel” for GoFundMe.
Reached by phone last week, Young acknowledged that he failed to comply with the bar’s continuing legal education requirements. He said he has been in contact with the bar and hopes to turn in paperwork to reinstate his active status soon.

But Young denied any wrongdoing. He said that as general counsel for GoFundMe, he actually doesn’t provide any of the legal services a general counsel usually provides. He said he doesn’t represent GoFundMe in any courts or other adjudicative venues, and that he doesn’t even review or approve any internal legal documents, including contracts with employees or other companies.
“You don’t practice law as general counsel,” said Young. “You practice law when you’re admitted to practice in court.”

Young added that some of his colleagues at other tech companies who serve as general counsel also have an inactive status with the state bar and that this is legal and ethical because they work as executives — not as attorneys.

“That’s the reality of my job. I have a legal department. I have attorneys who render advice to executives. I’m one of six executives at the company.”

The Express could find no other examples of a general counsel for a California-based tech company who has an inactive status with the state bar and who claims to carry out no actual legal work for their employer.

There’s also some evidence that Young’s job duties at GoFundMe do, in fact, require him to work as an attorney. For example, Young’s LinkedIn bio describes his duties at GoFundMe as involving multiple kinds of duties as a practicing attorney.

“Chris heads legal at the venture-backed startup,” his LinkedIn profile explains. “As the company’s counsel, he is primarily responsible for advising on company policy, negotiating third-party contracts, and rendering advice on a multitude of legal issues.”
Other publicly available websites and documents describe Young’s work at GoFundMe in similar terms. For example, Ironclad, a legal software company that counts GoFundMe as one of its clients, featured Young on its blog last October, one month after he was suspended by the State Bar. In the blog post, Ironclad called Young the “head of legal” at GoFundMe and described his duties as those of an attorney.

“[E]very employment contract, content agreement, vendor agreement, and any other binding contract has to go through Chris,” the blog post explained.

Young also appeared on a speaking panel at the California Association of Black Lawyers Conference in April to discuss what it’s like to work as the in-house attorney for a corporation. Also on the panel was the general counsel of Google, and senior counsels for Chevron and Gap. Each of these three other corporate attorneys are currently licensed by the state bar.

GoFundMe concurred with Young’s description of his duties at the company, however. Bobby Whithorne, the director of North America communications for GoFundMe, wrote in an email to the Express that Young is an “executive” at the company and that “As General Counsel, Chris manages outside counsel. He does not practice law for or on behalf of the company.”

Asked about Young’s LinkedIn profile and other publicly available descriptions of his work as an attorney for GoFundMe, Whitmore didn’t respond.

Zoe Kleinfeld, a representative of Young’s campaign, sent the Express the same statement as GoFundMe. “Chris Young is an executive at GoFundMe,” Kleinfeld wrote in an email on behalf of the campaign. “As General Counsel, Chris manages outside counsel. He does not practice law for or on behalf of the company.”

She added that “Chris is committed to solving the real issues facing District 4 and Oakland at-large — homelessness, housing affordability, transparent local government, and infrastructure that works.”

Councilmember Campbell Washington didn’t respond to a phone call from the Express.

OP-ED: Big Soda Is the New Big Tobacco

by Shaniece Alexander and Anna Lappé
Fri, Jun 29, 2018 at 1:02 PM

istock-835842060.jpg
Extortion. That’s what people called it—and that’s certainly what it was. Coca-Cola, Pepsi, and other beverage giants just held California hostage and won.

The American Beverage Association, whose largest contributors include those two companies, raised most of the $8 million dollars
backing a November ballot measure that would have required a two-thirds majority vote to pass any local tax increase, including those for public services from parks to firefighters—you name it. As a threat, the backers of the ballot measure said they would
pull it only if legislators signed a bill to ban all local sugary drink taxes in the state until 2031. The pressure was on. One legislator characterized voting for a soda tax ban as a “Sophie’s choice.” Another said he and his colleagues were voting for it “with a gun to our head.”

This all happened fast, but industry deploying a preemption policy, like this one, to thwart democracy is nothing new. Around
the state, organizers who had been working on possible sugary drink tax initiatives woke up Sunday morning, June 24th, to the news of the impending deal. Legislators had until Thursday to vote. By Thursday evening, statewide ballot initiatives would be finalized.

At the legislative hearing on Thursday morning, more than two dozen expressed outrage at Big Soda’s attempt to bully legislators. But the testimony by young people from Stockton, California—a city of more than 300,000 people, 50 miles away from the Capitol—was particularly moving. (The foundation where one of us works had supported some of this organizing work).

“I come to you heartbroken,” said one organizer. Just one of the more than two dozen—including many high school students—who had been working for more than a year and a half to get a soda tax on the ballot in Stockton. They were weeks away from doing so.

“Our goal was to educate our community in order to make a difference,” another said. She described seeing kids—young
kids—affected by sugary drinks, including her own sister who had to have all her teeth pulled at age four because her parents hadn’t known how harmful sugary drinks were.

Like the communities the youth organizers live in, overwhelmingly, communities of color around the country are directly targeted
as consumers by soda companies. Because of this, people of color and low-income communities experience preventable health disparities at a largely disproportionate rate. The soda companies have a strategy. This is not simply an issue of individual choice or
miseducation, it is an issue of predatory marketing and an abundance of access to products that cause harm.

As Big Soda has done with similar preemption policies around the country, the industry spun this bill as a ban on “grocery taxes,” the same tactic used to oppose the passing of sugary beverage taxes on Oakland’s 2016 ballot. Said one young person, “Sodas are not groceries. Groceries are foods you need. You do not need soda.” Another organizer made it clear: “People want to change; they want to be better. We were giving them solutions. The American Beverage Association is taking away our right to offer these solutions. They’re taking away our voices and our right to vote.”

This backroom dealing can sound like a far-fetched political scandal until you hear young people whose lives have been directly
affected by the target marketing of Big Soda and the misinformation spread by it.

Several years ago, Kyle Pfister, a public health advocate, wrote about internal Coca-Cola documents leaked to DCLeaks that revealed the company’s global political strategies to kill what the company
had identified as a major threat: Soda taxes.

This play by Big Soda is a sign they were leaving nothing to chance—certainly not leaving the choice for soda taxes to us voters. Soda corporations are throwing millions of dollars at these preemption policies with two more pending in Oregon and Washington, to protect their bottom line. They, too, see the data: Sugary drink taxes are proving to work. In the places where they have passed, soda consumption has dropped, water consumption is up, and revenue dollars are flowing toward valuable health and education programs particularly to communities most affected by sugary drinks. In Philadelphia, the soda tax is underwriting universal pre-K. In Oakland, the city has collected more than $8 million dollars in tax revenue since July 2017. Here, soda taxes will fund clean water in public schools and parks, support year-round meal service in the City’s head start programming, and support community led activities to educate and create healthy alternatives for those who are impacted by diet-related diseases connected to the overconsumption of sugar.

Preemption policies, like the one just pushed by the American Beverage Association and signed by Governor Brown on Thursday, are a time-tested corporate strategy to make a run-around democracy, prioritizing profits over people’s health. Big Tobacco has used them, so has the gun lobby. With millions of people’s
lives impacted around the country by diabetes, heart disease, and other illnesses linked to sugary drink consumption, it’s time we see Big Soda as we have come to see Big Tobacco: As a major threat to public health and—as we saw this week in California—to democracy as well.

Shaniece Alexander lives in Oakland and is the Executive Director of the Oakland Food Policy Council. Anna Lappé lives in Berkeley and is a writer, advocate, and founder of Real Food Media.

Friday’s Briefing: Oakland Mayor Libby Schaaf ‘Preparing for the Worst’ in Fed Probe; Bay Area Residents to March Against Family Separation Tomorrow

by Kathleen Richards
Fri, Jun 29, 2018 at 11:02 AM

libby_schaaf-staff-2017-17_copy.jpg
Oakland Mayor Libby Schaaf says she’s “preparing for the worst” in the Department of Justice’s reported investigation into her February warning about an impending federal immigration sweep. Schaaf said she expects investigators to use “all the means they have” to track down how she found out about the four-day Northern California Immigration and Customs Enforcement operation ahead of time. Her remarks came after CBS News aired an interview with former ICE spokesman James Schwab that was interrupted by investigators with the Department of Homeland Security. (San Francisco Chronicle)

Hundreds of thousands of Americans are expected to march across the country tomorrow in protest of the Trump administration’s separation of immigrant families at the U.S.-Mexico border, and to call for the reunification of the more than 2,000 children who’ve been taken from their parents. In the Bay Area, 20 “Families Belong Together” rallies are planned, including in Oakland, San Francisco, Alameda, San Leandro, and Concord. (East Bay Times)

Blake Griggs — the developer that has been trying to build housing in West Berkeley at a site that Chochenyo Ohlone people and their supporters say is sacred and one of the oldest sites of human habitation along San Francisco Bay — told the city that it expects the project to be approved by Sept. 4 or may consider legal options. The developer accused the city of going against a new state law that allows affordable housing projects to be fast-tracked when city planners said the project does not meet the criteria for fast-tracking because it is within Berkeley’s shellmound historic site and therefore requires demolition of a historic structure. (San Francisco Chronicle)

[Read related: “Living on Ohlone Land”]

Alison Ettel, aka #PermitPatty, lied when she said she was only pretending to call the police on an 8-year-old girl selling bottled water. The 911 call audio shows Ettel saying, “I have someone who does not have a vendor permit that’s selling water across from the ballpark.” (KTVU)

Berkeley and Oakland are considering ballot measures to increase the real estate transfer tax — the tax people pay when selling properties — on expensive properties. Oakland’s proposed ballot measure would increase the rate from 1.5 percent to 1.75 percent for properties over $2 million and to 2.5 percent for properties over $5 million, while Berkeley would increase the rate from 1.5 percent to 2.5 percent for properties over $1 million. (East Bay Times)

[Read related: “Uber Tax and Mansion Tax Take One Step Closer Toward Oakland's November Ballot”]

A new map from the Metropolitan Transportation Commission projects it may take centuries for the Bay Area to meet its housing goals. It will take until 2295 before enough housing is built in Oakland for its projected 2040 population. (East Bay Times)

Derick Almena, the man at the center of the Ghost Ship fire criminal trial, said he may accept a new plea deal. The attorneys representing Almena and co-defendant Max Harris have been meeting with prosecutors behind closed doors to discuss a possible deal before the trial begins in July. Both men are facing 36 counts of manslaughter for the deaths of 36 people killed in a fire that broke out during a party in December 2016. (KTVU)

Jahi McMath, the teenager who was declared brain-dead after undergoing throat surgery at UCSF Benioff Children’s Hospital Oakland, has died, according to her family’s attorney. McMath’s family has kept her on life support for more than four years, and said she died last Friday from bleeding due to liver failure and a brain injury caused by a lack of oxygen. (San Francisco Chronicle)

Laurel Book Store in downtown Oakland will close its doors this summer. In a post on Facebook, owner Luan Stauss cited the challenge of retail in the downtown area. Stauss said she won’t renew the store’s lease when it expires at the end of August. (San Francisco Chronicle)

Thursday, June 28, 2018

Eviction Protections Could Be Extended to Thousands More Oakland Homes Through Proposed Ballot Measure

by Darwin BondGraham
Thu, Jun 28, 2018 at 3:13 PM

Josephine Hardy said she's threatened with being displaced from her home of 47 years.
  • Josephine Hardy said she's threatened with being displaced from her home of 47 years.

Oakland Councilmembers Dan Kalb and Noel Gallo want to dramatically expand the number of rental housing units in Oakland that are covered by the city's eviction protection law.

At today's meeting of the city council's Rules and Legislation Committee, Kalb and Gallo introduced a ballot measure that would eliminate what tenant activists call a major "loophole" in the protections known as the Just Cause Ordinance. Currently, a landlord must have a cause to evict a tenant. This can include not paying rent or continued violations of a lease's written terms after a warning.

But tenants residing in duplexes and triplexes are not protected by these just cause rules if their landlord occupies one of the units in the building.

Kalb and Gallo's ballot measure, if adopted by voters, would do away with this exemption.

Tenant attorney Leah Simon-Weisberg of Centro Legal de la Raza called the exemption the "biggest piece" of Oakland's housing laws that need to be reformed in order to stop displacement. She said that as many as 8,000 more apartments could be protected against no-fault evictions.

Several tenants shared stories at today's committee hearing about how they've been harmed by the current law. Josephine Hardy said that she's been living in a triplex since 1971. It's where she raised her kids and grandkids. But a new owner moved into one of the units and is now seeking to evict her family, she said. She believes her landlord's motivation is to make a higher profit off the building.

Landlord organizations have said during previous hearings that the rule is necessary in order to protect smaller "mom and pop" property owners who don't have as many resources as larger corporate landlords. These smaller owners need greater flexibility to manage their properties.

But tenant attorneys say the rule is more likely to be used by property owners to displace renters solely to earn higher profits. A recent KPIX investigation found some evidence of this: Realtors in Oakland have advertised duplexes and triplexes based on the strategy of using the owner-occupancy exemption to push out tenants purely so that rents can be substantially increased.

Shallyn Wells, an attorney with the East Bay Community Law Center, shared the story of her client, Samantha Lao, at today's committee hearing. Lao lives in the upper unit of a duplex. Her downstairs neighbor left after a new owner purchased the building and evicted them. The new owner now claims to be living in the bottom unit, but Wells claims that this isn't true, and that instead the landlord is simply using the exemption to get rid of Lao and increase the rent.

Salvador Sotelo's landlord also tried to use the owner-occupancy rule to fraudulently evict him. Sotelo, a West Oakland resident, won his case against the landlord by proving he didn't reside in the building. But now there's nothing to stop his landlord from actually moving into the duplex and proceeding with another eviction.

In addition to getting rid of the duplex and triplex owner-occupancy exemption, the proposed ballot measure would also give the Oakland City Council the power to add additional eviction defenses to the Just Cause Ordinance. Currently, only voters can add defenses through ballot measures. Existing defenses against eviction include failure by landlords to notify the rent board when they evict a tenant, and improperly informing the tenant why they are being evicted.

The rules committee voted to advance the ballot measure to the Community and Economic Development Committee meeting on July 17, where it will be debated.

The full city council will have to approve the measure in order to place it on the ballot.

Thursday’s Briefing: Kenzie Smith Is Running for Oakland City Council; Cannabis Retailers Offer Steep Discounts Ahead of July 1 Deadline

by Kathleen Richards
Thu, Jun 28, 2018 at 10:09 AM

Kenzie Smith (left) and Onsayo Abram were targeted by #BBQBecky at Lake Merritt. - PHOTO COURTESY OF KENZIE SMITH
  • Photo courtesy of Kenzie Smith
  • Kenzie Smith (left) and Onsayo Abram were targeted by #BBQBecky at Lake Merritt.

Kenzie Smith, one of the men targeted by #BBQBecky and who Councilmember Rebecca Kaplan nominated to the city’s Park and Recreation Advisory Commission, has entered Oakland’s District 2 City Council race. On Monday, Smith filed an intent to run in the November election. He faces incumbent Abel Guillén and housing activist Nikki Bas Fortunato. (East Bay Citizen)

Cannabis retailers are offering steep discounts on products as new testing and packaging regulations take effect July 1. After Sunday, all cannabis products in California must be tested in state-approved laboratories and sealed in child-resistant packages. To get rid of their current supply, retailers are selling non-compliant products for as much as half off. (San Francisco Chronicle)

Contra Costa County Sheriff David Livingston says there are no plans “at this time” to use the former Concord Naval Weapons Station to house as many as 47,000 immigrant detainees. Livingston also says there are no plans for relocation camps anywhere in California, according to officials at the California Office of Emergency Services. The news came hours before a special Concord City Council meeting to discuss how to deal with the issue. (East Bay Times)

Jesse Arreguín violated campaign finance laws 18 times when he ran for Berkeley mayor in 2016, according to Berkeley’s Fair Campaign Practices Commission, which recommended that his campaign committee be fined from $1,000 to $3,388. The violations happened when Arreguín’s campaign manager and treasurer, Jacquelyn McCormick, used her personal credit card 18 times to pay a total of $3,339.66 for various campaign expenses. She was not reimbursed within 45 days, as state law requires. (Berkeleyside)

A venture capital firm focused on investing in cannabis startups wants to turn an office complex on Edgewater Drive in Oakland into a huge cannabis center for manufacturing, marketing, and production. (San Francisco Business Times)

Editor's note: A previous version of this story erroneously stated that Jesse Arreguín violated 18 campaign finance laws when he ran for Berkeley mayor in 2016; in fact, he violated one law 18 times. This version has been corrected.

Help Us Understand How You Engage with the East Bay Express

by Express Staff
Thu, Jun 28, 2018 at 9:51 AM

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Dear East Bay Express reader,

We have a small favor to ask:

Would you participate in a quick survey?

It doesn't matter if you're a casual reader or an Express regular.

If you could take this survey, you'd help us gain a critical insight into what you expect (and want) from the East Bay Express.

Will you do it?

Yes, I'll take the survey!

Sincerely,
East Bay Express staff

Wednesday, June 27, 2018

Top Oakland Schools Financial Officer Who Resigned During Budget Crisis Still Collecting Monthly $19,100 Paycheck

In total, the district stands to pay Hal at least $267,400 for not working for six months.

by Darwin BondGraham
Wed, Jun 27, 2018 at 2:59 PM

Former OUSD Senior Business Officer Vernon Hal. - STEPHEN LOEWINSOHN
  • Stephen Loewinsohn
  • Former OUSD Senior Business Officer Vernon Hal.

Oakland Unified School District senior business officer Vernon Hal stepped down from his post last February amid a multimillion-dollar budget crisis that forced mid-year cuts and layoffs across the school system. While the district’s superintendent and board of directors didn’t blame Hal for these financial problems, many parents and teachers did. And a recent state report and Alameda County Grand Jury investigation also both identified “highly questionable” fiscal practices at the district that were undertaken while Hal was in charge.

But despite having left the district in a condition of fiscal distress five months ago, Hal is still being paid, according to public records obtained by the Express.

Since January, the district has been paying Hal $19,100 per month, plus all of the health and welfare benefits he was receiving while he was an employee. Furthermore, in July, the district is obligated to pay Hal a lump sum of $152,000. And through the end of this month, he’s also accruing vacation days, which the district will have to buy back from him by January 2019 at the latest.

In total, the district stands to pay Hal at least $267,400 for not working for six months, or about six times more than a starting teacher makes in an entire year. After the end of this month, the district is no longer obligated to pay Hal his salary.

This substantial severance package is the result of OUSD’s original employment contract with Hal. That deal required that, unless he was terminated for cause, the district would have to pay him a minimum of six months of his normal salary. The employment agreement was originally signed in August 2014, and in 2016 the school board extended these terms until June 30, 2019 while also raising Hal’s salary to $209,000 per year.

Had the district terminated Hal’s employment for cause, he would receive none of this extra pay.

According to his employment contract, Hal’s responsibilities included “ensuring fiscal solvency and establishing robust prioritization process to ensure adequate and sustainable funding for District priorities.” But the separation agreement that Hal signed in February didn’t assign him any responsibility for the district’s poor financial condition or otherwise find that he violated the requirements of his employment contract.

Two independently conducted investigations have found evidence of purposeful manipulation of OUSD’s financial systems, however.

In May, the state Fiscal Crisis and Management Assistance Team (FCMAT) examined OUSD’s budget practices and found that under Hal’s leadership the district’s finances were trending in a “not sustainable” direction, and specifically that OUSD is in “fiscal distress” due to “intentional manipulation” of the general fund balance in order to make it appear that the system had more cash on hand than it really did. FCMAT’s team called these practices “highly unusual” and “suspicious,” and called for further investigation.

The Alameda County Grand Jury conducted its own investigation of OUSD’s finances and released its findings yesterday. The Grand Jury concluded that under Hal’s oversight, OUSD departments were able to hire for positions that weren’t budgeted, major errors in projecting enrollment led to deficits of several million dollars, and the district also improperly underfunded its self-insurance by as much as $30 million.

The Express was unable to reach Hal for comment. But his separation agreement provides one possible hint as to why OUSD’s board didn’t fire him. The agreement notes that Hal “asserted potential claims against the district relating to his employment, which if litigated, include damage claims for emotional distress.”

OUSD’s general counsel Marion McWilliams didn’t respond to an email from the Express seeking more information about Hal’s potential legal claims against the district.

But the agreement states plainly that Hal threatened possible legal action against OUSD if he were to be fired, and the district determined it was in its best interest to sign the $267,400 separation agreement.

Wednesday's Briefing: Concord Officials Call for Emergency Meeting to Discuss Proposed Detention Center; #PermitPatty Resigns from Cannabis Company

by Kathleen Richards
Wed, Jun 27, 2018 at 9:47 AM

California Attorney General Xavier Becerra sued the Trump administration yesterday over its separation of undocumented immigrant children from their parents.
  • California Attorney General Xavier Becerra sued the Trump administration yesterday over its separation of undocumented immigrant children from their parents.
Concord officials have called for an emergency special meeting at 1 p.m. today to discuss a proposed detention center, which could hold up to 47,000 immigrant detainees, that the Navy is reportedly considering at the former Concord Naval Weapons Station base. The meeting will include “community input, coordination with other elected officials, and possible formulation and implementation of council response and city action plan,” according to the meeting posting. (East Bay Times)

A federal judge in California issued a nationwide injunction yesterday temporarily stopping the Trump administration from separating children from their parents at the border and ordered that all families already separated be reunited within 30 days. The judge also ruled that children younger than 5 must be reunified with their parents within 14 days of the order. (The New York Times)

California Attorney General Xavier Becerra sued the Trump administration yesterday over its separation of undocumented immigrant children from their parents. About 50 separated children, including two in Pleasant Hill, live in state-licensed care homes. (San Francisco Chronicle)

Activists held a “day of action” yesterday, protesting “Trump’s cruel immigration policies” and “racial disparities in our justice system that contribute to mass incarceration of people of color,” outside the West County Detention Facility in Richmond. (SFGate)

Following days of criticism, as well as the news that cannabis dispensaries will no longer carry her products, Alison Ettel, aka #PermitPatty, has resigned from TreatWell. (SFGate)

Richmond and Contra Costa County officials are asking residents of North Richmond to decide whether the 1.5-square-mile unincorporated area should be annexed into the city. Annexation would mean access to city services but also higher property taxes. (East Bay Times)

[Read related: “A New Richmond Neighborhood”]

Oakland city workers cleared out homeless camps in Mosswood Park yesterday, saying the permanent closure of the camps was needed to ensure safety for about 150 disabled youth who will join a program there beginning in July. (East Bay Times)

Berkeley opened the doors of its new $2.44 million homeless shelter yesterday. The STAIR center on Second Street (between Cedar and Virginia) will house 45 “chronically homeless” residents and feature portable trailers, showers, laundry facilities, a place to eat and gather, a welcome center, and more. (Berkeleyside)

The city of Oakland will soon see more street murals. Throughout 2018, the Oakland Department of Transportation-sponsored Paint the Town program will help artists and residents beautify neighborhoods with street murals. Three murals have already been installed, with one each in East Oakland, Fruitvale, and Temescal. Another four are planned for July, three of which will be in West Oakland. The fourth will be on 25th Street between Telegraph and Northgate Avenues. (Hoodline)

On Sunday, Richmond rapper Lil Buzz was fatally shot in his car in Richmond. Richard Doss, 21, was an aspiring hip-hop artist who had dreams of stardom and whose lyrics explored the struggles he faced making ends meet growing up in Richmond. (San Francisco Chronicle)

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