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Assemblymember Buffy Wicks Holds Public Hearing on Impact of Gun Violence on Youth Mental Health

Saskia Hatvany

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More than two dozen community leaders, advocates, academics and medical health experts recently convened a public hearing to discuss the issue of gun violence and how it affects youth’s mental health, during a meeting facilitated by California Assemblymember (AD 15) Buffy Wicks.

“The purpose of the hearing was to explore the rise in mental health issues in youth across the county, and the role gun violence play in this troubling epidemic,” said Wicks, chair of the Assembly’s Select Committee on Youth Mental Health. “If a child grows up in a community plagued by gun violence, the likelihood they’ll suffer from mental health issues skyrockets.

“The research on this is both troubling and extensive with more than 34 million U.S. children suffering from this kind of toxic stress nationwide,” added Wicks.  “We’ve identified gun violence as an underlying cause. Now is the time to start identifying solutions that will provide more resources and counseling to confront these issues.”

Wicks has a personal interest in eradicating gun violence. Her husband, Peter Ambler, was the legislative director for former U.S. Rep. Gabrielle Giffords when she was shot in the head on Jan. 8, 2011. The gunman shot 24 people, killing six and wounding 18 during a constituent meeting held in a supermarket parking lot in Casas Adobes, Ariz., in the Tucson metropolitan area.

During Giffords’ recovery, Ambler helped manage Giffords’ office while she was in the hospital. He later co-founded and became Executive Director of Giffords Law Center to Prevent Gun Violence, a gun-control advocacy organization.

Each speaker at the hearing talked about gun violence and how it affects victims and families, noting that whenever there’s a shooting, it is not only tragic, but the aftermath also impacts the community as a whole. Panel members echoed each other’s remarks discussing how Black and Brown communities across the nation, who are mostly affected and experience these issues on a regular basis, don’t get the attention they deserve.

“Looking at the equity rate of gun violence in our communities, it reveals that this problem is 10 times higher in minority neighborhoods than in white communities,” said Wicks. “This is unacceptable. There is no reason why children in urban communities should have to deal with these issues.

“We cannot let this be the case going forward. I will remain on the forefront of this issue and will push for more funding for programs to help alleviate the existing problems of gun violence and its effect on youth’s mental health.”

Currently, there are 3 million children and teens who witness shootings across the country,” said Wicks. “Fortunately, those numbers have slightly subsided, which is attributed to prevention and intervention programs.  In Oakland alone, there has been a 66 percent reduction of gun violence in the past year. However, we still need to continue to provide more mental health services for those adversely affected by gun violence.”

Wicks noted that the Assembly Select Committee on Youth Mental Health will continue to work closely with community-based programs that know the community well, as those programs are demonstrating successes.

Speakers on the panel included local and national representatives from Gifford’s Law Center to Prevent Gun Violence, Moms Demand Action for Gun Sense, Brady United Against Gun Violence and March for Our Lives.

Medical experts included representatives from the UC Firearm Violence Research Center, UCLA David Geffen School of Medicine, The Permanente Medical Group and UCSF Benioff Children’s Hospital Oakland.

Local advocates included representatives from the Children’s Defense Fund, CA, RYSE Youth Center, California Children’s Trust, Youth ALIVE!, Public Health Advocates, Californians for Safety and Justice.

Assemblymember Wicks represents California’s 15th District which includes all or portions of the cities of Oakland, Richmond, Berkeley, Emeryville, Albany, El Cerrito, San Pablo, Pinole, El Sobrante, Hercules, Kensington and Piedmont. To learn more about Assemblymember Wicks and her work, visit a15.asmde.org.

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Unanswered Questions Over Costs of Proposed Howard Terminal Ballpark

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There is growing public scrutiny of the deal the Oakland A’s are offering to the city in a proposal, released the end of April, to “privately fund” the building of a $1 billion ballpark and a massive $12 billon real estate development, almost a city within a city, on the waterfront at Howard Terminal and Jack London Square in downtown Oakland. 

 

     The Oakland A’s “term sheet,” released on April 23 and available at www.mlb.com/athletics/oakland-ballpark/community-report, proposes a construction project that, in addition to a 35,000-seat waterfront ballpark, would feature 3,000 units of mostly market rate housing, a hotel, an indoor performance center and 1.5 million square feet of offices and 270,000 square feet of retail space, as well as a gondola to transport fans over the I-880 freeway.

 

     Many of the details of the proposal are vague,  and there are many unanswered questions about how much this project will cost Oakland taxpayers and what benefits the city would ultimately see. 

 

     Among those who raised questions was Mike Jacob, vice president and general counsel of Pacific Merchant Shipping Association, an opponent of moving the A’s to Howard Terminal.

 

     “I think it’s hard to say what’s going on. They haven’t made it plain what they’re asking for and what they’re proposing,” Jacob said in an interview with the Oakland Post. 

 

    The A’s term sheet proposes a cost of $955 million for infrastructure and $450 million that will be utilized for community benefits, but that funding would be paid by taxpayers, presumably with a bond, he said. 

 

    “It is unclear whether (the funding) is underwritten by the bond, whether it is backed by general fund money and pretty unclear what the scope for the infrastructure really is,” said Jacob. 

 

   Do infrastructure costs include toxic waste cleanup at the site, which would be considerable, the cost of the gondola, multiple safe railway crossings for pedestrians and cars and any required construction if the Port of Oakland shipping is impacted? He asked.

 

    In addition, not only would taxpayers pay the millions of dollars in community benefits they would supposedly receive for various types of services and other projects, the money would be spread over a 45-year period. 

 

    To help fund the project, the A’s propose the city create a tax district for property owners along 1.5 miles near downtown Oakland to help pay for city services and infrastructure to serve the development. 

 

    The A’s also have said in their literature that the project would generate 6,000 jobs but are short of details about what that promise means. According to a letter to a state agency in August 2019, many of the estimated 6,667 would be jobs at offices in the development, in effect counting as new jobs any existing Oakland businesses that lease space in one of the new office buildings. 

 

    For their part, the A’s are pushing the City Council to approve their deal before the council recesses for its July break. 

 

    “We are really excited to get that (the term sheet) out there, and we are even more excited to get this to the City Council to vote this summer,” Dave Kaval, A’s president, told the San Francisco Chronicle. 

 

    While Oakland Mayor Libby Schaaf has thrown the weight of her office behind the deal, she is expressing some reservations after the term sheet was released and community opposition to the Howard Terminal project has continued to grow. 

 

    In a comment to the Chronicle, Schaaf spokesperson Justin Berton said: 

 

    “Our goals for the project are unchanged: We want to keep the A’s in Oakland – forever. We need a deal that’s good not just for the A’s, but for the City, one that provides specific, tangible, and equitable benefits to our residents and doesn’t leave Oakland’s taxpayers on the hook.”

 

    “The A’s contend that the growth in tax revenues attributed to their project will be sufficient to fully fund those investments and that they will benefit the entire community, (and) the city is critically examining these claims,” said Berton in the East Bay Times. 

 

    The impact of the decision on the A’s proposal could be huge for Oakland, noted Berton. “The commitments requested by the A’s would pre-determine the use of a substantial portion of tax revenue from this part of the city for years to come,” he told the East Bay Times.  

 

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Bay Area

Women’s Cancer Resource Center Celebrates 35th Anniversary

Founded in 1986, WCRC’s mission has been to improve the quality of life for women with cancer and advance equity in cancer support, especially for low-income persons, people of color, and members of the LGBTQIA+ community. Nearly 80% of WCRC’s clients live below the federal poverty level, and 70% of them identify as people of color.

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The Bay Area is full of “best-kept secrets.” The Women’s Cancer Resource Center is one of them. Tucked away in an unassuming building in a residential neighborhood in Berkeley, the Center serves more than 2,000 people with cancer and their loved ones every year.

They’ve been doing this for three and a half decades.

The Women’s Cancer Resource Center is celebrating its 35thanniversary at an online event on May 13. Visit www.wcrc.org/unite for more information and to register. If you or a loved one is facing cancer, please reach out to WCRC for assistance. 510-601-4040, www.wcrc.org or info@wcrc.org.

Founded in 1986, WCRC’s mission has been to improve the quality of life for women with cancer and advance equity in cancer support, especially for low-income persons, people of color, and members of the LGBTQIA+ community. Nearly 80% of WCRC’s clients live below the federal poverty level, and 70% of them identify as people of color.

WCRC staff have long observed that cancer often is not the greatest concern for the low-income and marginalized individuals in its client population. Limited access to primary health care, inadequate health services and financial resources, language and cultural barriers, racism, low literacy, fear, and mistrust of medical systems contribute to late diagnosis and earlier death, especially for African American, Latinx, and all other groups of low-income women diagnosed with cancer.

WCRC provides a set of comprehensive, coordinated services to mitigate these problems for people with limited access to essential, life-giving care. Free services include psychotherapy, support groups, art and wellness classes, community-based cancer patient navigation, and information and referral to community resources. These services increase adherence to cancer treatment and advance self-empowerment and care, improving quality of life and treatment outcomes.

But most of all, WCRC provides a place of refuge. Anyone who comes through the Center’s doors will feel safe, connected, and seen. The Center was able to extend this feeling of community even during the pandemic, transitioning its direct services to phone and Zoom.

One client for whom WCRC has made a huge difference is Ms. Arenoso.

She couldn’t trust anyone. Ms. Arenoso has been on her own since the age of sixteen. The trauma of her early life and experience of homelessness made it hard to trust others and feel safe.

She learned that self-reliance isn’t always the answer. In 2019, Ms. Arenoso was diagnosed with cancer. A few months into her treatment, which affected her ability to think clearly, she realized that she needed to be around other people who had cancer, andshe was referred to WCRC.

She was able to start to relax and receive support. Ms. Arenoso felt an instant connection with WCRC staff, who took the time to get to know her and tailor WCRC’s services to her needs. Her navigator helped her fill out housing and financial support paperwork and apply for emergency funding, which granted her enough money to cover three months of rent. WCRC also provides her with practical and emotional support, which she especially appreciates during the pandemic.

She found a home away from home, where she could truly be herself. Describing a visit to WCRC last year, Ms. Arenoso observed, “Your center was welcoming and beautiful. Everyone was so kind, and no one was rude. I felt that they loved me for me.”

As her heart healed, she was inspired to practice generosity. Ms. Arenoso wants to give back. “I used to be very angry,” she said. “WCRC helped me become more kind and compassionate.” She now collects toiletries to provide to people who are homeless and shares cancer resources with her neighbors to ensure that people understand the importance of cancer screenings. “I don’t know what I would have done without WCRC,” she said.

If you or a loved one is facing cancer, please reach out to the Women’s Cancer Resource Center for assistance. 510-601-4040, www.wcrc.org or info@wcrc.org.

 

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Good Day Cafe

Good Day Cafe is a black-owned business located in Vallejo,Ca

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 Good Day Cafe is a Black-owned cafe  located at 304 Georgia St. in Vallejo. Their hours are from 7:00 a.m.- 3:00 p.m., Tuesday through Sunday. Good Day Cafe serves Southern-style breakfast and lunch meals. They offer online orders, dine in, and delivery. Visit their website to learn more information https://gooddaycafevallejo.com/ and follow their instagram @gooddaycafevallejo

 

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