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Oakland’s Mosswood Park Unhoused Residents Fenced In

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Operation Dignity has installed a fence around those living in approximately 60 tents at Mosswood Park and has a goal of connecting those living in the area with housing by Jan. 31. Pamela Gonzalez Wells (left) and William Wells live in the park and are skeptical about the project.

On Tuesday Dec. 4, workers for Security Contract Services installed a fence surrounding a community of unhoused residents who live in tents at Mosswood Park in Oakland, directly across from Kaiser Permanente’s medical center.

The fence is part of a project organized by Operation Dignity, a non-profit that regularly contracts with the city to offer services to unhoused people. They also inform communities of unhoused people about evictions and city run cleanings.

“The fence makes this place feel like a refugee camp,” said William Wells during an interview with The Oakland Post at Mosswood Park. He’s lived in the park with his wife, Pamela Gonzalez Wells, for the last 14 months.

The couple helps the community both by regularly cleaning the park and by maintaining a food table where residents can almost always find a meal. Most food they serve is donated by people who live outside the park.

The fence, which runs along almost an entire block of Broadway and surrounds approximately 60 tents, originally had green cloth attached to which made it impossible for those passing by to see those living in tents. Although this provided some privacy, Mosswood’s residents started tearing the green cloths down after four days as it prevented those who donated food from knowing residents were still living in the park.

“People from all over the park came and said they’re hungry,” said Pamela. “It was four days and there was no food. It’s because they didn’t know we were here.”

Unhoused residents in the park say representatives from Operation Dignity brought pizza and visited them on Wednesday Nov. 27 to inform them of the plan.

“They told us that their goal was to get everybody that’s in this fenced area some sort of housing by Jan. 31st” said Charice Jimenez, who’s lived in a tent at Mosswood Park for a year and a half. “My understanding is Kaiser just doesn’t want us here and so they’re willing to pay to get us gone.”

Residents claimed that Operation Dignity informed them they were working with Kaiser to find housing options for the residents and to make the community less visible.

“They said they were putting it up because Kaiser’s patients were scared,” said Jimenez. “I feel like we’re tigers. They’re scared of the tigers and so they put them in a cage to make sure everyone’s contained.”

In an email to The Oakland Post, Kaiser Permanente’s Northern California Director of Strategic Initiatives, Angela Jenkins, stated that “housing plays a critical role in supporting individual health” and confirmed that Kaiser was working with Operation Dignity to find housing for those living in Mosswood. She didn’t comment on the fence.

“We are working with Operation Dignity to provide the encamped residents at Mosswood Park with housing navigation support, one-on-one case management and housing problem solving services, funding for two 24-hour security guards, storage for belongings, and flexible and funding to help with move-in costs,” wrote Jenkins.

Mosswood Park’s residents regularly use Kaiser’s toilets and microwave before 8 pm, when the center closes down for all but emergency room services. Occasionally residents register to see a doctor in the ER even when they don’t have a pressing medical issue just so they can access the toilet. Jimenez claims she did this once, but would never have had to if the city of Oakland hadn’t locked the public toilets at the park.

Operation Dignity has also arranged for security guards to work on the site all day and night with the purpose of preventing additional people from setting up tents within the fenced off area. They usually stay in a vehicle by the fenced off area’s entrance and exit.

Residents within the park expressed skepticism that they would secure housing through Operation Dignity’s program. Pamela and William both claim they asked Operation Dignity’s representatives if they could sign a contract guaranteeing alternative housing options if they left the park by Jan. 31 but have been unable to get one. They also say Operation Dignity’s housing options posed during the Nov. 27 meeting included moving to Sacramento, Merced or Vallejo, utilizing the city’s Community Cabins site which houses residents in sheds, and organizing groups of six people together to live in houses, two to a room, so they’d have enough money to pay rent regularly by pooling money together.

Pamela was concerned that there seemed to be no plan for employment. Many residents at the park are unemployed and, although Pamela and William both make regular income by selling used clothes, they claim that it would be hard to convince a landlord to rent to them.

“What if all this is to get us out and then nothing happens?” said William Wells.

The Oakland Post emailed Tomika Perkins, Operation Dignity’s Operations/Outreach Director twice for comment, but has not heard back. We also emailed Maraskeshia Smith, The City of Oakland’s assistant city administrator, to ask about the city’s involvement at Mosswood but we haven’t heard back. We will update their comments into the online version of the story when and if they comment.

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Most Californians Worry Schools Won’t Reopen Fully Next Fall, Poll Says

The majority say they approve of how Newsom handled schools this year.

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More than 4 in 5 California adults, including public school parents, believe that the pandemic has caused children, especially low-income children and English learners, to fall behind academically.

  Six in 10 Californians are concerned that schools will not be open for full-time, in-person instruction in the fall, according to a survey by the Public Policy Institute of California (PPIC) released on April 28.

  The annual survey of Californians’ perspectives on education also found that a majority approved of the way Gov. Gavin Newsom has handled K-12 public schools, although opinions were split along partisan lines, with 22% of Republicans and 79% of Democrats supporting him on the issue.

  And perhaps in an indication of the erosion of support for public schools, 42% of parents say they would send their youngest child to a private school if cost and location were not at issue. This compares with 31% who would choose a traditional public school, 14% a charter school, and 13% a religious school. The preference for a private school increased from 35% last year and 31% two years ago.

  The survey of 1,602 adults over 18 was taken from April 1-14 and was offered in English or a choice of Spanish and three other languages. The margin of error was 3.4%, plus or minus, overall, and 7.4%, plus or minus, for the 295 respondents who are public school parents.

  Facing a recall election, Newsom can take solace in the poll’s finding that a majority of Californians (57% of adults, 64% of public-school parents) approve of how he has handled K-12 education.

  “Majorities of Californians approve of the way that Governor Newsom is handling the state’s K-12 public schools and school reopening, while they remain deeply divided along party lines,” said Mark Baldassare, president, and CEO of PPIC.

  However, a year ago, when the last survey was taken weeks after schools closed quickly in response to the first throes of the pandemic, his approval marks were higher, with 73% of adults and 78% of public school parents expressing approval.

  The poll, which focused on education, also found:

  Of those who said children were falling behind academically during the pandemic, 60% said that was happening by a lot and 22% by a little. The views were similar among ethnic and racial groups. Eight in 10 adults said they were concerned that low-income children were falling farther behind other children. More Blacks and Latinos were very concerned about this than whites;

  Amid continuing debates and lawsuits claiming that schools aren’t opening quickly enough, slightly more adults overall than public school parents said that schools should at least be partially open now (53% vs. 48%), while 28% of all adults and 27% of public school parents said that schools should be fully open now;

  Looking ahead to the fall, 61% of all adults said they were concerned that K-12 schools would not be open for full-time in-person instruction (24% very concerned, 37% somewhat concerned), and two-thirds of public school parents said they were concerned (25% very concerned, 41% somewhat concerned).

  When it comes to their own schools, two-thirds of adults said they approved of how their school district handled closures during the pandemic. Support was highest in the Los Angeles area (74%) and the Inland Empire (68%) and lowest in Orange County and San Diego (54%). Approval among public school parents was 72%.

  The clear majority of all adults said that teachers’ salaries in their communities are too low. About 1 in 3 said salaries are just about right while 7% said they are too high, and 3% said they didn’t know. Among racial and ethnic groups, 76% of Blacks said pay is too low, compared with 59% of whites, 61% of Asian Americans, and 62% of Latinos.

  Last month, the U.S. Department of Education ruled that California school districts could substitute local assessments for the state standardized test, the Smarter Balanced assessment, under some conditions. Many districts are expected to exercise that option.

  Asked whether they favor conducting year-end state testing this spring to measure the pandemic’s impact on student learning, 75% of all adults (and a similar proportion of public school parents) said they were in favor of continuing testing, with 23% opposed. Latinos were the most in favor (83%) and Blacks the least supportive (68%) with 70% of Asian Americans and whites in favor of continuing year-end testing.

  As for the perennial issue of school funding, 49% of all adults, 53% of likely voters, and 51% of public school parents said that the current level of state funding for their local public schools is not adequate — about the same level as a year ago.

  When it comes to school construction and renovation, 59% of all adults, 55% of likely voters, and 74% of public school parents said they would vote yes on a state bond measure to pay for school construction projects. Legislative leaders plan to place a bond on the state ballot in 2022.

 

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MAYOR LONDON BREED NOMINATES CITY ATTORNEY DENNIS HERRERA TO LEAD THE SAN FRANCISCO PUBLIC UTILITIES COMMISSION

As the new General Manager of the SFPUC, Herrera would bring decades of experience serving San Francisco residents and advancing the fight for significant environmental policies.

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San Francisco, CA — Today Mayor London N. Breed nominated City Attorney Dennis Herrera to serve as the next General Manager of the San Francisco Public Utilities Commission (SFPUC). Herrera was elected as City Attorney of San Francisco in 2001, and will bring decades of experience serving City residents and advancing environmental policies through his nationally-recognized office.
The SFPUC provides retail drinking water and wastewater services to the City of San Francisco, wholesale water to three Bay Area counties, green hydroelectric and solar power to Hetch Hetchy electricity customers, and power to the residents and businesses of San Francisco through the CleanPowerSF program.
“I am proud to nominate Dennis Herrera to serve as General Manager of the San Francisco Public Utilities Commission,” said Mayor Breed. “Dennis has been a great champion in San Francisco across a wide range of issues from civil rights to protecting our environment, and most importantly he has been someone who always puts the people of this City first. By bringing his experience in office and his commitment to public service to this new position, I am confident the SFPUC will be able to deliver the high-quality services our residents deserve while continuing to advance nationally-recognized programs like CleanPowerSF and pursue ambitious efforts like public power. Dennis is the right leader for the hard-working employees of the SFPUC and this City.”
“I will always cherish the groundbreaking work we have done in the City Attorney’s Office over these nearly 20 years,” Herrera said. “We advanced equality for all, pushed affordable housing at every turn, gave our children better opportunities to grow and thrive, and took innovative steps to protect the environment. We never shied from the hard fights. Above all, our approach to government has had an unwavering focus on equity, ethics and integrity.”
“It is that focus that drives me to this new challenge,” Herrera said. “Public service is an honor. When you see a need, you step up to serve. The test of our age is how we respond to climate change. San Francisco’s public utility needs clean, innovative and decisive leadership to meet that challenge. I am ready to take the lead in ensuring that all San Franciscans have sustainable and affordable public power, clean and reliable water, and, overall, a public utility that once again makes them proud. I want to thank Mayor Breed for this unique opportunity to stand up for ratepayers and usher in a new era of clean leadership at the top of the San Francisco Public Utilities Commission.”
The next step for the nomination is for the five-member commission that oversees the SFPUC to interview City Attorney Herrera and forward him as a formal recommendation to the Mayor. After this, and once a contract is finalized, City Attorney Herrera would be officially appointed by the Mayor and confirmed by the Commission. This process will take a number of weeks.
For nearly two decades, Herrera has been at the forefront of pivotal water, power and sewer issues. He worked to save state ratepayers $1 billion during PG&E’s first bankruptcy in the early 2000s and has been a leading advocate for San Francisco to adopt full public power for years. In 2009, he reached a key legal agreement with Mirant to permanently close the Potrero Power Plant, San Francisco’s last fossil fuel power plant. The deal also included Mirant paying $1 million to help address pediatric asthma in nearby communities. In 2017, Herrera sued the top five investor-owned fossil fuel companies in the world, including ExxonMobil and Royal Dutch Shell, seeking billions of dollars for infrastructure to protect San Francisco against sea-level rise caused by their products, including large portions of the SFPUC’s combined sewer and stormwater system.
In 2018, Herrera defeated an attempt to drain Hetch Hetchy Reservoir, the crown jewel of the SFPUC system, which provides emissions-free hydroelectric power and clean drinking water to 2.7 million Bay Area residents. He is also leading efforts before the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission and the courts to fight PG&E’s predatory tactics to grow its corporate monopoly by illegally overcharging public projects like schools, homeless shelters and affordable housing to connect to the energy grid.
Herrera was first elected City Attorney in December 2001, and went on to build what The American Lawyer magazine hailed as “one of the most aggressive and talented city law departments in the nation.”
Herrera’s office was involved in every phase of the legal war to achieve marriage equality, from early 2004 to the U.S. Supreme Court’s landmark rulings in June 2013. Herrera was also the first to challenge former President Trump’s attempts to deny federal funding to sanctuary cities. He repeatedly defeated the Trump administration in different cases as it sought to punish sanctuary cities, deny basic benefits like food stamps to legal immigrants, and discriminate in health care against women, the LGBTQ community and other vulnerable groups. He brought groundbreaking consumer protection cases against payday lenders, credit card arbitrators and others. He also brought pioneering legal cases to protect youth, including blocking an attempt to strip City College of San Francisco of its accreditation and getting e-cigarettes off San Francisco store shelves until they received required FDA approval.

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Barbara Lee

California to Receive $3.8 Billion in Federal Cash to Help Childcare Providers

“The COVID-19 pandemic has created a childcare crisis on top of a public health crisis. Child-care providers are almost entirely women and 40% are people of color. Providing relief to help keep childcare centers and schools open is critical for our students, parents, educators, and care providers, and is essential to support our country’s economic recovery and build back better.”

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Help is on the way for childcare providers in California — an industry rocked by widespread closures with surviving operators burdened by the weight of sharp increases in their operating costs due to the COVID-19 pandemic. But those companies offering babysitting and other related services will soon receive an infusion of much-needed monetary aid from the federal government. 

On April 15, the Biden Administration announced the release of $39 billion in direct funding allocated for childcare providers in the American Rescue Plan, which was signed into law on March 11. California U.S. Congress-member Rep. Barbara Lee (D-CA-13) welcomed the President’s announcement. 

“The COVID-19 pandemic has created a childcare crisis on top of a public health crisis. Child-care providers are almost entirely women and 40% are people of color. Providing relief to help keep childcare centers and schools open is critical for our students, parents, educators, and care providers, and is essential to support our country’s economic recovery and build back better.”

According to a September 2020 report compiled by the Center for American Progress, the cost of center-based childcare increased by 47% due to enhanced health and safety requirements during the COVID-19 pandemic. The cost of home-based family childcare increased by 70%. The report found that these increased costs were driven by the need for more staff and more sanitation supplies to meet COVID-19 protocols.

In this latest round of federal funding for childcare providers, about $25 billion will go toward funding grants through a childcare stabilization fund. Childcare providers can use these grants to help cover fixed costs like rent, make payroll and purchase sanitizing supplies. Another amount, around $15 billion, will be available as emergency funding through the Child Care and Development Fund, to provide childcare to essential workers. Lawmakers are also requiring that childcare providers who receive these funds make financial relief available for families struggling to pay tuition.

Combined with the $10 billion allocated in the December 2020 COVID-19 relief package, and $3.5 billion allocated in the March 2020 CARES Act, the child-care industry has now received more than $50 billion in federal support.

The Biden Administration’s announcement also highlighted the effects that the increased need for childcare during the COVID-19 pandemic have had on women and families of color. As of December 2020, about 1 in 4 early childhood and child-care providers that were open at the start of the pandemic have been closed. 

The affected centers are disproportionately owned by people of color, and their closures have both put women of color out of work, and left families of color without childcare. Also, since the start of the pandemic, roughly 2 million women have left the workforce due to caregiving needs.

On April 20, Lee released an announcement detailing the specific amount of funds available for California’s childcare providers. 

Over $2.3 billion will be given to the Golden State from the child-care stabilization fund, her statement said. Another $1.4 billion is available through flexible funding to make childcare across California more affordable for families, increase access to care for families receiving subsidies and increase compensation for childcare workers.

“I’m pleased to see this funding come through for families and child-care providers in the East Bay and across our state,” said Lee.

In total, California will receive nearly $3.8 billion for providers and families.

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