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Alameda City Council Candidate Amos White Brings His Message to Voters

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A group of supporters convened at a press conference and rally for Alameda City Council hopeful Amos White in front of Alameda’s City Hall on Saturday, Oct. 10.

White, only the third Black in the city’s history to seek a seat on the Council, gave a rousing speech outlining his platform and qualifications for the position.  The late Al Dewitt, whose son Al Jr. spoke, was Alameda’s first Black City Council member. Elected in 1994, he became vice-mayor in 1998. Marie Gilmore was the first Black mayor in Alameda in 2012.

White is vying for one of the two open seats on the council.

White said the people’s vote makes him the best-qualified candidate for the job.  “My experience runs deep,” said White.  “I’ve been in democratic politics my whole life and I’ve always had a hankering and penchant for justice, for equality and what it really means to be an American.

“My father was an educator and my mother was an educator-turned-attorney, and there’s always been a sense of justice and civil rights running deep in my family.”

“I first got involved in campaigning in high school for a governor and upon graduating; my first job was with Senator John Glenn as his legislative aide.  I then moved over to the Democratic Caucus in Ohio and later started running campaigns.”

“Later, I came to California in 1991 as a CORO Fellow in Public Affairs; there I worked on Barbara Boxer’s first senatorial campaign as Southern California Volunteer Coordinator.  I have since gone on to work for Congresswoman Barbara Lee’s campaign and also in San Francisco for Terence Hallihan.  So I’m really excited about running my own race to bring justice, fairness and equity to Alameda.”

White noted that one of the first issues he hopes to address is equity.  “It’s a buzz word,” noted White, “but it also means the redistribution of policy decisions and of our budget towards our values as our priorities in protecting our most vulnerable.”

“I have a gentleman here today that is endorsing my campaign who just this summer, was arrested in front of his house for dancing.  Dancing while Black!  We’ve been working to support Mr. Mali Watkins in my capacity as a lead organizer for the ACLU People Power Alameda.”

Alameda’s City Council does not represent specific districts in the City, rather, all council members serve at-large.  White wants to change that.  “I would love to put that forward as a referral measure that we do create districts in Alameda so we can have better representation and surer representation throughout the entire City,” said White.

White is eager to jump into the role of city councilmember. He already has plans to put up a cell tower on the west side of the City.  He wants to do this so that emergency response can be more secure and people on and traveling through Alameda’s West End can have better communications in the city.

“It’s horrible on this side of town because of the lack of resources and attention from an equity standpoint,” said White.  “I really hope to remediate that issue.”

“I will also look into our police department budget and its funding processes and, if necessary, consider reallocating resources towards our public health and welfare departments so we can help support people who are on the streets that are unhoused and are having mental health crises and health care issues and nutritional issues.”

For more information on Amos White’s campaign, visit www.amoswhite4alameda.com.

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Oaklanders Celebrate May Day with Caravan, Vacant Home Art Installation

Hundreds of workers and a coalition of over 25 Bay Area groups celebrated May Day in Oakland with a car / bike caravan, block party, and an art installation that explored ways of opening and occupying vacant housing units.

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Cherri Murphy (center), of Gig Workers International, speaks to a crowd of protestors on a flatbed truck at the Lake Merritt Bart station in Oakland. Photo by Zack Haber on May 1st.

Makayla Walker waves a Black Lives Matter flag during a caravan to celebrate May Day, also known as International Workers Day, in Downtown Oakland. Photo by Zack Haber on May 1st.

Hundreds of workers and a coalition of over 25 Bay Area groups celebrated May Day in Oakland with a car / bike caravan, block party, and an art installation that explored ways of opening and occupying vacant housing units.

The celebration started as about 80 vehicles and about 40 people on bicycles gathered at Lake Merritt’s Bart Station. Standing on a flatbed truck behind a red and white sign that read “MAY DAY WORKERS OF THE WORLD UNITE,” Minister Cherri Murphy, with Gig Workers Rising, was the first to address the crowd.
“Welcome to May Day 2021…as we unite low wage workers, fight against police violence and killings, and demand housing for all!” she said.
The flatbed truck then led the caravan on about a five and a half mile route through Chinatown, Downtown Oakland, then stopped outside Oakland’s Whole Foods Market, stopped again by Lake Merritt, then returned to downtown. Vehicles and bikes had signs attached to them in support of workers, Black life, housing for all, and against police violence.
Some bikers had signs which read “EVERY WORKER NEEDS A UNION.” An activist named Makayla Walker stood up putting her body outside of a car’s sunroof while waving a large flag that read BLACK LIVES MATTER. A UHAUL truck had a large orange sign attached to it which read “from OAKLAND to KABUL, DOWN WITH CAPITALISM.”
Drivers in the caravan honked their horns loudly. The honks were at their loudest when the caravan stopped outside of Whole Foods Market. As vehicles blocked a road to access the market, Nell Myhand, co-chair of the California chapter of The Poor People’s Campaign, stood in the flatbed truck and addressed the caravan and grocery shoppers.
“We’re here outside of Whole Foods…to say that we’re in solidarity with Amazon workers in Bessemer and Amazon workers around the globe because 15 dollars an hour and a union is a modest demand,” said Myhand. “What we really need is a living wage, which here in the Bay Area is 30 dollars.”
Organizers of the caravan chose the site because Jeff Bezos, currently the world’s richest person, founded and is the CEO of Amazon, which owns Whole Foods Market. Workers in an Amazon warehouse in Bessemer, Alabama recently lost their vote to unionize, but those that led the unionization effort say Amazon illegally interfered with the process. In her speech, Myhand also said that all workers, including those who do unpaid care work, deserve a living wage, safe work environment, and dignity.
Hashid Kasama, a worker from Fresno and member of Rideshare Drivers United who makes ends meet by doing gig work delivering groceries for the app based Instacart company, spoke outside of Whole Foods in support of The Protect the Right to Organize Act. The proposed legislation, widely known as The PRO act, would expand the right to unionize to many app based gig workers. Such rights were limited in California after the state passed Proposition 22.
“I am boldly requesting all of you in the audience to please tell your co-workers, friends and family to support The PRO-Act by any means necessary,” Kasama said. “My son needs to eat and I, as his father, need flexibility. But that doesn’t mean I have to lose my rights as an employee.”
After speeches ended outside of Whole Foods Market, the caravan stopped on Lake Merritt Blvd just east of Oakland’s central branch library and next to a patch of grass that serves as a popular hang out location for the city’s residents. Rachel Jackson of The People’s Strike Bay Area spoke out against police killings there.
“In the devastation of COVID,” she said, “one thing that never stopped is murders by police concentrated in communities of color and the neighborhoods where so-called essential workers live.”
Jackson specifically mentioned Breonna Taylor, Dante Wright, Tyrell Wilson, Miles Hall, and Mario Gonzales, who all died during interactions with police.
After stopping by Lake Merritt, organizers encouraged caravan participants to independently move to a vacant home in the Lower Bottoms neighborhood of West Oakland as the last stop for the May Day celebration. At that location, participants ate food and listened to speeches and DJs in front of the vacant home. House the Bay, an organization that works to get people off the the streets and into empty housing, helped organize the event. A purple and white sign draped out of the home’s window read “LIBERATE HOUSING.” The front door was unlocked and people entered and exited.
The home is owned by Sullivan Management Company (SMC) East Bay, a company owned by Neill Sullivan, who organizers said they consciously targeted. The anti-eviction mapping project has shared data showing Sullivan purchased over 350 properties after the 2008 foreclosure crisis and served over 350 eviction notices in a six year period ending in 2016.
A small plaque outside the home explained that the project was an art installation called “what you’ll need to get in and stay” that aimed to “take a closer look at tools and symbols of vacancy and squatting to deconstruct our fears around attaining homefulness.” Literature was given out for free to share information about extralegal methods of entering, occupying and securing vacant homes.
Inside the house, activists had written messages on walls against profiting off of housing by keeping homes empty. One section of wall writing near the home’s entrance described the home’s history, claiming it was owned by a Black family from 1978-2011 until Sullivan purchased it for $100,000, then repeatedly took out reverse mortgages on the home and profited off of the interest while leaving it empty.
“Organizing around housing is very much part of what makes working class lives livable” said a person involved with opening the art exhibit in the vacant home. They asked not to be named out of fear of retaliation.
“This action was to demonstrate we could do it and to share skills with people,” they said. “The goal is to get to the point where it’s not outside activists but it’s everybody cracking houses on their blocks.”

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Bay Area

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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COVID-19

$6.2 Billion State Fund Will Shield Small Businesses from COVID-Related Taxes

The tax relief bill comes at a critical moment in Newsom’s time in office as state officials prepare for recall efforts his Republican opponents initiated.

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California lawmakers have approved Assembly Bill (AB) 80 legislation spearheaded by Assemblymember Autumn Burke (D-Inglewood). The legislation will give a $6.2 billion tax cut to small businesses across the state that received loans under the federal government’s Paycheck Protection Program (PPP).  

      California lawmakers approved the bill, they say, to safeguard the financial future of small businesses as a supplement to the American Families Plan proposed by President Joe Biden in March this year.  AB 80, signed by Gov. Gavin Newsom protects small businesses that received PPP loans from the federal government by ensuring that the loans will not count as taxable income. Expenses covered by the federal funds are also tax-deductible under this legislation.

      State legislators passed a unanimous vote on the tax, “marking it as one of largest tax cuts in state history,” Burke said on Facebook.  

      “My bill will provide assistance to businesses who were financially harmed during the COVID-19 pandemic by allowing them to deduct all expenses paid for using forgiven PPP loans,” she said.  

      Small businesses play a key role in the economic recovery of the state especially since the state plans to reopen on June 15 this year. 

      “California’s small businesses have been hampered and hammered by this pandemic, and we are using every tool at our disposal to help them stay afloat,” Newsom said. 

      Also, “This small business tax relief is exactly what is needed to keep businesses open so they can continue paying their employees,” he said.  

      Maria Salinas, the president of the Los Angeles Chamber of Commerce, supported the state’s efforts to allow major tax cuts for small businesses that employ people from Black and Brown communities.  

      “We know that small businesses are what fuels the economy not only in Los Angeles but across the state of California and across this country,” said Salinas.  

   Despite small businesses receiving PPP loans to soften the financial blow of the pandemic, the tax bill also aims to remedy, “the tax burden that we saw in the differences between the federal and the state,” said Salinas.  

      According to state officials, in addition to the tax bill, California also legislated $2.5 billion in relief funds to support small businesses across the state earlier this year. Eligible businesses can receive grants up to $25,000 to make up for the financial loss incurred during the COVID-19 pandemic.  

     The tax relief bill comes at a critical moment in Newsom’s time in office as state officials prepare for recall efforts his Republican opponents initiated.  

     But the governor remained optimistic. 

     “We’re going to defeat the recall,” he said.   

      Despite the optimism, the state has validated over 1.6 million signatures exceeding the number of signatures required for California to move forward with re-election.  

      “We’re going to focus on getting people back to work,” said Newsom.  

      According to the California Association of Clerks and Elections Officials, a bipartisan government agency, re-election could cost the state $400 million based on previous election data and the current economic factors.  

      “We’re going to get this economy moving again and more important than anything else, we’re going to get vaccines in people’s arms so we can do all of that faster,” said Newsom. 

      Dr. Shirley Weber, the California Secretary of State, is leading efforts to prevent the projected fiscal setback expected to be triggered by the prospective re-election. According to the Secretary of State’s office, there is an allocated time period for people to withdraw their signatures from recall petitions in their respective counties.  

State economic strategy for American Families Plan   

     State officials are combining federal and state initiatives to boost efforts to reopen by mid-June this year. The state is initiating programs to provide relief funds for individuals – some of the grants — for small businesses and organizations, including $600 stimulus checks for Californians who have low incomes. 

     “Right here in California, our stimulus programs have provided tax relief for small businesses and money in pockets for struggling families, and we’ve expanded childcare and made community college free,” said Newsom. 

      According to state officials, relief programs have helped more than 40,000 small businesses and nonprofits across California so far.

     “These strategic investments, which are complemented by President Biden’s American Families Plan, will bolster California’s equitable economic recovery and bring us roaring back,” he said.  

      State officials are set on achieving their goal to reopen and restore job losses for small businesses and academic setbacks for schools across California.     

California Black Media’s coverage of COVID-19 is supported by the California Health Care Foundation.

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