Archive for January, 2014

Educators Work to Overcome Obstacles to Student Success

Dr. Kimberly Mayfield

Dr. Kimberly Mayfield

By Ken A. Epstein

Oakland needs a “racially, ethnically and linguistically diverse teaching force that reflects” the students who attend the city’s schools, said Dr. Kimberly Mayfield Lynch, speaking on the “State of Education: Our Work to Increase Successful Outcomes” at Tuesday’s meeting of Black Elected Officials and Faith Based Leaders of the East Bay.

This is the goal – helping dedicated local college graduates overcome the obstacles to becoming teachers – that is being performed by Teach Tomorrow in Oakland, developed under Mayor Dellums’ administration by a number of community members and educators, including Dr. Mayfield, who is chair of the Education Department at Holy Names University.

Dr. José Ortiz

Dr. José Ortiz

Besides Dr. Mayfield, speakers at the community breakfast forum, held at Geoffrey’s Inner Circle in downtown Oakland, included Ben Wanzo, owner of TeachBar; Dr. Jose Ortiz, chancellor of the Peralta Community College District; and Robert Morris, education futurist.

Linda Handy, member of the Peralta College Board, moderated the panel.

According to Mayfield, Teach Tomorrow in Oakland is designed is to bring new teachers into Oakland schools who are from Oakland, understand local reality and local students – and make a five-year commitment to work in the city.

“This creates stability for students at their school sites, eliminating the revolving door at the schools,” where teachers typically change every two years, she said, adding the Oakland school district typically hires 2,000 teachers a year.

Dr. Ortiz of Peralta Colleges talked about the need to provide more support for students at community colleges.

Currently, three of 10 African American students and four out of 10 Latino students complete their community college studies. “This is a situation that is pervasive around the state,” he said.

The state and federal governments are stepping up the funding and requirements on “community colleges to supply more

Ben Wanzo

Ben Wanzo

support to our students, counseling and tutoring,” said Ortiz.

“We have to help our student t get into and out of the colleges,” he said.

In response to a question about online courses, Ortiz replied:  “Online education is not the panacea that people think it is. It has an 80 percent dropout rate,” he said.

“Online education has been struggling. It has a ways to go. It seems like with the challenges of today, our students need a personal touch,” said Ortiz.

“ We have a lot to do at Peralta, but we know the success of our students is in the classroom.”

Wanzo of TeachBar, who has a degree in mathematics from UC Berkeley and an MBA from Stanford, emphasized that his program helps students understand math and science, sometimes “going back and backfilling skills” they may have missed. “We help them fill in the gaps,” he said.

Morris, who describes himself as an education futurist, said this country is “addicted to a system of tenure, not performance.” We have to design an education system that business people help create, which will produce the creative talent that businesses need.

We must understand, he said, “The next product will come from something that a 16-year-old invented in his garage.”

Burris Educates Teachers on Race Bias that Youth Face in Criminal Justice System

By Ken A. Epstein

Well-known Oakland civil rights attorney John Burris, who has gained a national reputation for representing victims of police abuse, spoke recently to local students and educators about the persistent and systemic injustices that young Black men face nationwide at the hands of police and the criminal justice system.

John Burris

John Burris

“It’s a very difficult world that young African American men and people of color are facing, and the criminal justice system has had an extraordinarily negative impact,” said Burris, speaking Jan. 14 on “Oscar Grant and Trayvon Martin: The Intersection of Race and Criminal Justice,” as part of a speaker series presented by the Oakland Unified school District.

Explaining a little of his own background, Burris talked about how he was deeply affected by the national news in 1955 when Mississippi sheriffs were found innocent of killing 14-year-old Emmett Till.

“I was a young boy at the time,” he said. “It was traumatizing. I felt then, it could have happened to me.”

Later, as a young lawyer, he began to work directly with the police, as a special prosecutor, mainly prosecuting gangs “I got to see how police were treating young men, and that kind of benchmarked my whole life,” he said.

“My major life work has been as a civil rights lawyer, (dealing with) police brutality and police misconduct,” said Burris. “I’ve also spent a great deal of time looking at police departments in terms of reform.”

In major cases where race and the media are involved, he said, there is always a question whether there the criminal justice system will render a just verdict.

“The system itself doesn’t always render the kind of justice that is consistent with fairness” in the eyes of the “African American community and people of good will,” he said.

He cited case after case where young African American and Latino men were killed by police or vigilantes, and the perpetrator was found not guilty. One of the more recent was the case of Trayvon Martin, who was killed in 2012 in Sanford, Florida.

“ A young man was killed who was not doing anything wrong.  There was a sense of outrage by the African American community and all people of good will, and there was the bias of the criminal justice system, which did not reach a just conclusion.”

“It was a tragic outcome, but it was not inconsistent with the activity you see in the criminal justice system,” he said.  “There is an inherent racial bias you see in the criminal justice system.”

“There is implicit bias in incarceration rates,” he said. “All throughout the system, Black individuals are treated more harshly: arrests, bail, charges and disparate sentencing.”

Alameda Faces Ballot Initiative, Parks District Lawsuit Over Housing Development

By Post Staff

Friends of Crown Beach, which is working to preserve Neptune Point in Alameda for public use, says its concerns are being “soundly ignored” by the City Council and City Manager John Russo and in response is launching a ballot initiative to stop a housing development on government surplus lands adjacent to Crown Memorial State Beach.

Robert W. Crown Memorial State Beach

Robert W. Crown Memorial State Beach

The group hopes to place a measure on the November 2014 ballot that would rezone the Neptune Point site from residential use to open space.

In a letter to supporters, Friends of Crown Beach wrote: “Despite many emails to council members, letters to the editor, newspaper commentaries and even a recent editorial in the Chronicle, our plea to preserve Neptune Point for public use has been soundly ignored by our City Council and City Manager.

“Therefore, we believe it is paramount that Alameda voters voice their wishes in next November’s election,” the letter said. “At present, we’re awaiting our attorney’s final language on our ballot measure. Then, after the city signs off, we’ll order the petitions and begin collecting signatures.”

The group hopes a successful ballot measure would lay the groundwork for the East Bay Regional Park District to acquire the site.

The Post has been unable to talk to Alameda Mayor Marie Gilmore and City Manager John Russo despite repeated requests for an interview.

At issue is a short
 stretch of McKay Avenue, which provides
 access to the Crab Cove interpretive center that sits at the eastern edge of
the largest stretch of public beach on
the San Francisco Bay.

The federal General 
Services Administration (GSA) is threatening to use its eminent domain powers to assure utility services for
 the Roseville (Placer County) developer that outbid the East Bay Regional Park for the Neptune Pointe site.

State Attorney General Kamala Harris’ office recently sent a letter to the U.S. Department of Justice about GSA’s eminent domain threat to seize the street and sidewalks of McKay Avenue.

“We are extraordinarily troubled by GSA’s intent to take public land for a private developer’s benefit,” Deputy Attorney General John Devine wrote.

Friends of Crown Beach and the Alameda Citizens Task Force held a campaign kick-off meeting Wednesday at Alameda Hospital.

In addition, The East Bay Regional Parks District (EBRPD) has filed a lawsuit against the city for making the zoning change without an environmental impact report.

The parks district is challenging the rezoning of property that would permit up to 126 housing units at the entrance of Crown Beach.

EBRPD contends that such rezoning of the property located at the end of McKay Avenue was done without proper notice and without completion of an Environmental Impact Report (EIR), analyzing the impacts as required by CEQA (California Environmental Quality Act).

Parks district General Manager Robert Doyle said that the new zoning for a private development basically in the footprint of the state beach isn’t consistent or compatible with the recreational and natural resources operated by EBRPD in the immediate vicinity.

In response, City Manager Russo called the lawsuit “a bazooka on a fly” and a big waste of taxpayer dollars, according to the SF. Chronicle. He said the zoning change was made because the property was being acquired by a developer — and the growth-resistant suburb has been under pressure from the state for years to do more to meet demands for housing, the Chronicle said.

For more information, go to

Courtesy of the Oakland Post, January 17, 2014 (

Protest Over $1,000 Per Pill Price of New Hepatitis C Drug

Protestors (L to R): Post reporter Jesse Brooks; Orlando Chavez, activist group coordinator of Oasis Clinic, Oakland); Regina Dotson, Anita Schools; Bill Ladd; Jacynthia Givens, Sister Care group; Henry Banks; Daniel Bates; Peter Howe, Oasis Clinic: and Derrick Wallace.

Protestors (L to R): Post reporter Jesse Brooks; Orlando Chavez, activist group coordinator of Oasis Clinic, Oakland); Regina Dotson, Anita Schools; Bill Ladd; Jacynthia Givens, Sister Care group; Henry Banks; Daniel Bates; Peter Howe, Oasis Clinic: and Derrick Wallace.

By Post Staff

Outraged over the price of Solvaldi, Gilead Sciences’ new Hepatitis C drug, approved Jan. 10 by the FDA, the AIDS Health Foundation (AHF), the nation’s largest HIV/AIDS non-profit medical provider, staged a protest outside the St. Francis Hotel in San Francisco, where the pharmaceutical company’s president was making a presentation at the 32ndAnnual JP Morgan Health Care Conference. Gilead set the price of the new drug at $84,000 wholesale for a 12-week supply of the drug — $1,000 per pill.

AHF is calling on officials who purchase drugs for government programs like Medicaid, Medicare and the AIDS Drug Assistance Programs, to act decisively to rein in pricing and protect patient access to these lifesaving medications.

The drug is one component of a two-drug, 12-week combination treatment for Hepatitis C that can cure over 90 percent of patients and is more tolerable than previous harsh treatments.

Hepatitis C affects an estimated 3.2 million people in the U.S.

Courtesy of the Post News Group, January 17, 2014 (



Dan Siegel Joins Mayoral Campaign

Dan Siegel holds a rally Thursday, Jan. 9 to announce that he is running for mayor of Oakland.

Dan Siegel holds a rally Thursday, Jan. 9 to announce that he is running for mayor of Oakland.

 By Post Staff

Oakland attorney Dan Siegel kicked off his mayoral campaign Thursday, Jan. 9, staking out a progressive campaign that pledges to translate local development into jobs, keep gentrification from driving residents out of the city and enhance public safety while ending police abuse.

“Oakland is the most progressive, diverse and wonderful city in the U.S.,” said Siegel, flanked by his wife, attorney Anne Weills, speaking to a crowd of nearly 200 supporters at 14th and Broadway, near Oakland City Hall.

He is opposed to the Domain Awareness Center (DAC), a surveillance hub approved by the City Council to be built in Oakland.  If he is elected, Siegel said, “The DAC is closing the next day.”

His supporters include Pastor Hold Mayberry of First African Methodist Church, who spoke at the campaign rally.

Courtesy of the Oakland Post, January 10, 2014 (

Half of Black Males, 40 Percent of White Males Arrested by Age 23

By Spencer Whitney

Nearly half of black males and almost 40 percent of white males in the U.S. are arrested by age 23, according to a new report.arrests

The study released in the journal Crime & Delinquency analyzed information on how the risk of arrest varies across race and gender, looking at national survey data from 1997 to 2008 of young adults and their arrest histories.

The arrests include everything from truancy and underage drinking to more serious and violent offenses.

“In particular, the research points to a higher prevalence of arrest among Black males and little race variation in arrest rates among females,” said Robert Brame, a criminology professor at the University of South Carolina and lead author of the study. “A problem is that many males – especially Black males – are navigating the transition from youth to adulthood with the baggage and difficulties from contact with the criminal justice system.”

Brame says the negative impacts can be great, with arrest records affecting young adults abilities to find work, access to housing, going to school and volunteer activities in the community. The study found that by age 18, 30 percent of Black males, 26 percent of Hispanic males and 22 percent of white males have been arrested.

By age 23, 49 percent of Black males, 44 percent of Hispanic males and 38 percent of white males have been arrested.

The study, a representative sample of the larger population, builds on previous research by the team that was released in January 2012 in the journal Pediatrics.

That study garnered national attention for providing the first look since the 1960s at arrest prevalence and for its key finding that one in three people are arrested by age 23.

Rachel Herzing, co-director of the national advocacy organization Critical Resistance, says that the results of the study are not surprising to her, especially when communities of color are the primary targets for these types of arrests.

“The justice system is set up to control particular segments of the population and continue the prison industrial complex with the belief that caging young people makes us safer,” said Herzing, who is based in the Bay Area.

“Black men in particular have been the primary target of that system in various situations. The City of Oakland invests more in policing than they do in programs that employ restorative justice practices and mediation.”

Herzing says there are a variety of constructive programs in the Bay Area that engage, youth, such as Eastside Arts Alliance and Cultural Centers’ after school and summer programs, which encourage teens to express themselves through art, dance, and theater classes.  “We should be investing in our youth instead of looking for more ways to lock them up, because that will not solve the problem,” said Herzing.

Courtesy of the Post News Group, January 9, 2014 (