Archive for April, 2018

Councilmembers Delay Vote on Proposal for Construction Job Opportunities for Oaklanders

Pre-apprenticeship building trades trainees from the Cypress Mandela Training Center, which was founded by the Oakland Private Industry Council, joined a rally recently in front of City Hall asking City Council members to fund programs like theirs and others that prepare people for well paying jobs in construction. Photo by Ken Epstein.


By Ken Epstein
Forty-six people signed up to speak at this week’s Community and Economic Development (CED) committee meeting, almost all of them arguing in favor of Councilmember Desley Brooks’ proposal to utilize city funds to support pre-apprentice training programs for construction workers and career centers that provide opportunities for low-income residents of East and West Oakland.

Despite the passion and enthusiasm of the speakers – community leaders, young job trainees, program staff, labor representatives and the formerly incarcerated – they were disappointed to learn that council members were not going to vote on the proposal but were postponing it until the May 22 CED committee meeting.

According to council members, they could not vote on the matter Tuesday because staff reports analyzing the proposal had not yet been submitted by the City Attorney’s office and the city administration, even though the issue had been discussed during last year’s budget deliberations, and Brooks had submitted her proposal over five months ago.

The matter was also on the CED agenda two weeks ago but was not be discussed because it lacked a cover memo.

This, week, City Attorney Barbara Parker sent a “confidential” opinion to the council but has not issued a public opinion on the proposal, according to council members.

Councilmember Noel Gallo, who co-sponsored Brooks’ resolution, said Parker’s opinion contains “legal recommendations” but “doesn’t close the door on us.”

Speaking to members of the CED committee, Councilmember Brooks said, “There is a crisis in this city, a crisis in terms of putting people to work, and we’d rather play games and look smug than carry out the business of the people.”

Though criticisms have been raised about how the measure would be funded, Brooks said she had patterned her proposal after the Percent for the Arts ordinance, which has utilized bond money to generate millions of dollars for public arts programs.

“I don’t know why the City Attorney is having difficulty figuring out if it is legal since we have been using the Percent for the Arts ordinance since 1989,” she said.

She pointed to the page on the city’s website, which talks about “exciting Public Art projects funded through local bonds and state grants (that) are underway throughout Oakland.”

According the web page, the money for public arts comes from “Measure DD: Lake Merritt – Estuary Channel, Lake Merritt Garden Gates, Lakeside Green Streets, Estuary Park,” “Measure WW: DeFremery Park,” and “Measure KK: Coming soon.”

“What we’re asking for right now that is that you think that the Black and Brown people of this city are important, that you think that it is important that they see a 15 percent decline in unemployment, that you see that it is important that they be able to continue to live in this city, that you think it is important that they be able to support their families,” Brooks said.

Brooks says her ordinance has a clause that excludes any funding proposal that cannot be utilized legally, and she challenged councilmembers to come up with their own ideas for funding job training if they do not like the ones she proposed.

“We are playing around trying to find reasons why we can’t do something, and none of you have come up with a proposal to figure out what we can do. What have you come up with? What are you doing to rectify this issue that is moving our residents out of this city.”

Many of the community speakers underscored the importance of the proposal, which would provide city support for the Cypress Mandela Training Center, the Men of Valor Academy, East and West Oakland Career Centers and other programs.

Richard de Jauregui, director of Planning for the Oakland Private Industry Council (PIC), said the city has been relying on federal dollars to supports its workforce development programs for the past 18 years but now has to figure out how to fund these programs itself.
“Federal funds are dwindling. They are talking about cutting as much as 40 percent under the current administration,” he said.

Sylvester Hodges, director of training at Cypress Mandela Training Center, urged council members to be creative.

“If this isn’t the source of money that you want to give… (you can) come up with ways you can help the people in the community.”

Speaking to Councilmember Campbell Washington, who has announced she is not running for reelection, Hodges said, “You don’t have to quit because we disagree with you. Don’t do that. We just want you to think and work together and compromise.”

Councilmember-at-Large Rebecca Kaplan told council members, “I’d like to encourage us to imagine what would happen if we all decided to all be ‘all in’ on figuring out how to make sure the job training gets funded.”

“Understand why it matters,” she continued. “We have construction projects that can’t get built because they can’t get workers. We have a Black unemployment rate that is so much higher than the white unemployment rate that it would be considered a national crisis if white unemployment was at that level.”

Men of Valor Academy director Pastor Jerald K. Simpkins said, “This city has spent hundreds of millions of dollars, and all we ask is for a seed to go into some of the communities that rarely receive those kinds of investments. Sow a seed, and you’ll reap a harvest.”

Gregory McConnell, who frequently represents developers, also supported the proposal. “I don’t know if there are technical difficulties … but (I know) these programs are transforming lives.”

The three speakers opposed the proposal because they were against spending infrastructure bond funds, Measure KK, for pre-apprenticeship training. But they did not say if they would support the resolution if funding came from other sources. One woman suggested trainees raise money for their programs with a GoFundMe campaign.

Campbell Washington, who chaired the CED meeting, said the resolution would come back to the committee May 22 “either with the City Attorney’s analysis that we received confidentially, or whatever that can be put out to the public, and a city staff analysis.”

Councilmember Gallo praised Councilmember Brooks for taking the initiative on job training.
“I really applaud you, and I value what you’re doing,” he said. “For me employment and training are extremely important.”

Gallo said that a proposal to fund the Cypress Mandela Training Center was discussed when the budget was adopted last year, but “it didn’t happen because we didn’t have the majority of the votes.”

“The opportunity is here,” Gallo continued. “We did receive a communication from the City Attorney with some changes they are recommending in terms of how we may be able to get to the funding level to support training programs that we have and future training programs.”

He suggested council members give the City Administrator a directive to come back to the council with proposals on how to fund job training in Oakland.

Published April 29, 2018, courtesy of the Oakland Post

Veteran teacher Soraya Sajous-Brooks speaks at meeting at Prescott Elementary School. Photo by Ken Epstein.

By Ken Epstein

At a meeting this week with Oakland Unified School District (OUSD) Supt. Kyla Johnson-Trammell, parents and educators at Prescott Elementary School in West Oakland made clear they were determined to block the school district’s offer of three of their classrooms to a charter school.

“The Prescott Community is united in its opposition to the co-location of a charter school – especially the scandal-ridden American Indian Model School (AIMS), on our campus.  Prescott School is for Prescott families, and that includes any AIMS families that want to transfer to our school,” according to a flyer distributed at the school.

The meeting had just started when Toni Cook, a board director at American Indian Model Schools, announced the charter school had not requested space at Prescott and would reject the district’s offer for the classrooms, out of respect for the school and its historic legacy.

“We would not ask for and not accept space at Prescott. This is an institution in the Black community, and we would never take it,” said Cook, who is a former Oakland school board member.

“We would never have asked for Prescott, knowing the history of how much the district has disrupted the school,” she said.

Now an annual cycle, the district offers space to charters to “co-locate” on public school campuses each spring, and the charters must decide by May 1 whether to accept or reject the space.

Besides Prescott, the district has offered space to charters at 25 other Oakland school sites. The district says the offers are required by state law, Prop. 39.

The school community is relieved the issue is resolved this year, but they know charters will be coming back for their school next year, according to Stephanie Parrott, a parent at the school.

“We don’t want the district to hide behind Prop. 39 anymore,” said Parrott. “No other district offers up classrooms the way OUSD does. We beg the district to look at what happens.
“When you put a school on the Prop. 39 list, it is devastating. We’re in a tizzy, and we don’t get anything done. We’re tired,” she said.

Prescott Elementary, located at 920 Campbell St. in West Oakland, has been around for a long time – 149 years at the same site. It is one of the top scoring elementary schools in Oakland and has one of the highest rates of Black student achievement in the city.

Supt. Johnson-Trammell said she would work with the school to increase its enrollment, which is the way not to be on the charter school offer list each year.

However, according to the parents and teachers, the district bureaucracy for years has undermined their efforts to recruit more families to come to the school.

They want the superintendent to do something about that, which she pledged to do.

Speakers give numerous examples of how the district has contributed to the school’s enrollment problems

The school has been renamed PLACE@Prescott Elementary School and is only called PLACE at the district’s enrollment office. Parents wanting to enroll at Prescott cannot find the name on the list.

The district removed the school’s two bilingual teachers, and the school has lost English Learner students.

In addition, staff at the enrollment office reportedly discourage families from attending Prescott. They try to persuade Asian and white parents they should not go to a predominately Black school, said veteran teacher Soraya Sajous-Brooks.

“What they’re doing is illegal. Segregation is illegal,” she said. “White families come to the enrollment office, and the staff says, ooh, that won’t work out for (you).”

Responding, Charles Wilson, executive director of Enrollment and Registration, said, “I take these allegations very seriously,” pledging to look into and resolve the issue.

Speakers asked Supt. Johnson-Trammell to support the school adding a sixth-grade at the K-5 school next year. They have 28 families that want to keep their fifth-graders at the school as part of transition to making Prescott a K-8 school.

The superintendent said it was too late to make the change for next year, but she would explore it for the following year.

Published April 27, 2018, courtesy of the Oakland Post

Opinion: Support Community Leadership on the Oakland Planning Commission

By Rev. Damita Davis-Howard 

We’re in a development boom in Oakland. Cranes and bulldozers clang downtown, building luxury condos, offices, and hotels. More and more people huddle in tents

Rev. Damita Davis-Howard

under overpasses, and more of us struggle to keep a roof over our heads.

Right now, we have an opportunity to influence whether the development boom creates an Oakland with clean air, affordable homes for all, and fair wages for the people who build them, or whether it makes us a gentrified city like San Francisco.

Few people know that the seven members of Oakland’s Planning Commission make critical decisions every week about our city’s future — about what is built, where, and for whom. In the next few weeks, the Mayor will nominate people for two seats to replace two Commissioners who are terming out.

We need more community voices on the Planning Commission. The Commission shapes and approves developments in Oakland, whether it’s market-rate luxury condos or development of publicly-owned land. These decision-makers could be our first line of defense against skyrocketing housing costs and homelessness. Oakland’s planning decisions should come from the real input of all of Oakland’s people – especially people of color, flatland communities, and people closest to development sites.

Oakland has something special and beautiful: our diversity. As longtime organizers, we know it’s crucial to represent all of our communities in the decisions that affect us. The Oaklanders hit hardest by poverty and racism are experts in the solutions our town needs.

However, as the East Bay Express reported last year, Mayor Schaaf has stacked the Commission with a supermajority of real estate industry representatives – developers, architects, or attorneys in the industry. Recently, the Commission has voted overwhelmingly to build thousands of market-rate luxury units, and only a handful of affordable ones, in the midst of Oakland’s biggest housing affordability crisis in decades.

Union researcher-campaigner Nischit Hegde is a great candidate for the Planning Commission; she has organized closely with impacted workers and East Bay communities for years.

Hegde has long supported the working people of Oakland, especially people of color, by speaking out against new hotels that would create more low-wage jobs in Oakland and strain the city’s housing shortage; and by advocating for local “sanctuary workplace” agreements that would protect immigrants on the job.

As a mom living in Bella Vista/Eastlake, Hegde also advocates for affordable housing on public land.

We need more leaders of color like Nischit Hegde and Jahmese Myres, a current Commissioner, who will practice the values that the majority of Oaklanders espouse.

During Commissioner Myres’ four years in office, she has spoken out for more affordable housing, for opportunities for local workers, and against policies and projects that push our neighbors out of their homes.

Oakland’s working people and communities of color cannot survive if the city is built only for the rich and hip. We need an Oakland for all, and that’s why we need the expertise of community leaders like Nischit Hegde and Jahmese Myres on our Planning Commission.

Reverend Damita Davis-Howard is the Political Director at Oakland Rising, a voter organizing collaborative of nine grassroots organizations in Oakland. Gary Jimenez is the East Bay Vice President of SEIU 1021, which represents over 54,000 employees in local governments, non-profit agencies, health care programs, and schools throughout Northern California.

Published April 23, 2018, courtesy of

Tim White Rehired to Lead Facilities Dept. at Oakland Unified School District

Tim White

By Post Staff


The Oakland Unified School District has rehired widely respected administrator Tim White as Deputy Chief of Facilities to oversee construction and renovation projects on numerous major facilities projects that are underway.

“I am excited to come back to the place where I spent 14 years, supporting young people with outstanding educational facilities,” said White.

White worked for OUSD from 2001 to 2015 as Assistant Superintendent of Facilities and later as Deputy Chief of Facilities before being forced out his position in 2015 during the administration of former Supt. Antwan Wilson.

After leaving Oakland, White served as Executive Director of Facilities for Berkeley schools, working closely with the superintendent, Construction Bond Oversight Committee, and school board to determine long-term planning for the expenditure of facility construction bonds approved by voters.

He was also responsible for the expenditure of the district’s school maintenance tax ($5 million annually) used to keep schools safe and well-maintained. White previously worked in the Compton Unified School District.

“Tim brings extensive experience, an accomplished track record and a deep commitment to Oakland and communities. We are excited about Tim’s leadership and the new team that will be assembled in our Business and Operations division,” said OUSD Supt. Kyla Johnson-Trammell.

“My previous time in OUSD will help me transition into this new role, enabling me to hit the ground running. There are many exciting projects well underway, including the rebuilding of Glenview Elementary and the new school building at Madison Park Academy, plus many in the early stages such as the new Central Kitchen,” said White.

“I look forward to completing all of them as soon as possible, while ensuring that we are effective stewards of taxpayer dollars for the voters of Oakland.”

Published April 21, 2018, courtesy of the Oakland Post


Open Letter: Oakland Mayor Should Reject Job Policies That Increase Discrimination Against Black Workers

Black Americans have twice as much unemployment as white workers.

You can see one of the causes if you walk by any construction site and count up the number of Black workers you can find.

In Oakland, Black workers get only nine percent of the work on city-funded construction projects even though they are 25 percent of the population.

Nationally, 90 percent or more of electricians, painters, construction supervisors, tool and die makers, cement masons and others are white.

Yet Mayor Libby Schaaf is considering a policy that will increase that discrimination by giving all the work on city-funded projects to members of organizations that have few African-American members.

In order to inform herself about the consequences of the policy she is considering, the Mayor should:

  • Ask the Oakland construction unions to release statistics on their membership by trade and ethnicity, so that the public knows exactly what it would mean in terms of ethnic representation to award almost all the construction work in the city to members of their organizations;
  • Wait for completion of the disparity study, which is being paid for by the city should be completed, so that we can see the extent to which there is current discrimination against minority and women-owned businesses.
  • The Department of Race and Equity should do an assessment of the impact of Project Labor Agreements on various segments of the population.
  • There should be public discussion in neighborhoods on both jobs policy and public lands policy.

Otherwise, the displacement of African-Amerians and the gentrification of the city will be increased.

In Oakland we need to do what is fair and just.


Kitty Kelly Epstein, PhD, Professor of Education and Urban Affairs; member of OaklandWORKS, author of “Organizing to Change a City” (2012);

Paul Cobb, Publisher, Post News Group;

Margaret Gordon, Co-Director, West Oakland Environmental Indicators Project (WOEIP), former Port Commissioner

Brian Beveridge, co-director, West Oakland Environmental Indicators Project (WOEIP), OaklandWORKS Alliance;

Robyn Hodges, OaklandWORKS Alliance;

Pastor Anthony L. Jenkins Sr., Taylor Memorial United Methodist Church;

Kimberly Mayfield Lynch, EdD, dean of the School of Education, Holy Names University, member of Black Women Organized for Political Action (BWOPA).

Published April 1, 2018, courtesy of the Oakland Post