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Baccalaureate Programs at Community College: A Wise Investment in Our Community, Our Economy, Our Future

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By Jowel C. Laguerre, Ph.D., Chancellor, Peralta Community College District

It is known that community colleges nationwide provide the most practical point of educational access for many students.  As the cost to attend California’s public universities rise, more students and their families rely on local community colleges to save tens of thousands of dollars. Compared to all higher education institutions, community colleges teach 46 percent of all postsecondary students.  There are about 1,200 such institutions in the country. Though a recent entry in higher education, (just about one hundred years ago) our community colleges have become an integral – and essential – part of affordable and accessible higher education.

If you study the history of higher education, you will see that over the years, our college curricula have evolved considerably.  Harvard is no longer the institution it was on September 8, 1636 when it was founded.  Nor is U.C. Berkeley, the University of Chicago, or the University of Kansas or California State Hayward the same institutions they were when they were founded.  Each institution has taken on greater responsibilities to meet the growing needs of society.

As with all segments of higher education, our community colleges are evolving.  Since the early 2000’s, community colleges in Florida started to offer bachelor’s degrees. Starting last year, some community colleges in California also started offering four-year degrees.  This new venture is not only following the trends of community colleges all over the country, but meeting critical workforce needs where access is lacking.  There are critical needs in the economy wherein four-year institutions are not prepared to offer certain degrees or training.  The community colleges are a perfect post-secondary fit to provide this opportunity.

As President of Solano Community College, I worked with faculty in the Biotechnology program to apply for one of fifteen slots to offer a Bachelor’s degree in Biomanufacturing.  Solano College was granted this bachelor’s degree function.  Students all across Northern California and beyond will have access to this program, thanks to community support, the ingenuity of the faculty and state-of-the-art facilities funded by the voter-approved Measure Q Bond.  These fifteen programs in the state were a pilot that is supposed to sunset in the next few years.

The fact that over thirty colleges applied for one of the fifteen slots indicated that offering bachelor degree programs would be promising.  The success of the fifteen colleges to develop non-duplicative bachelor’s degree programs from the CSUs and UCs speaks to the uniqueness of the California Community College’s academic character – and the need to keep evolving while maintaining community colleges as a critical safety net that saves students and their families thousands of dollars a year. It would be a sound move for the Legislature to lift the pilot and the sunset status and to allow community colleges to continue to work with the community, local businesses, and employers to implement four-year degree programs that fit their communities.

As I mentioned above, this California Community College (CCC) Bachelor’s degree reflects the evolution of higher education.  Local community colleges are already leading the way with essential job training and career preparation that invests in our local workforce and economy.  State universities and the university system ought to follow the example of William Rainey Harper when he helped start Joliet Junior College to facilitate the further development and evolution of the University of Chicago.  Furthering the CCC development of bachelor’s degrees will strengthen all higher education in our state as we evolve our curricula to better meet the needs of our communities.  Peralta Colleges stand ready to embrace this academic enrichment to continue to increase educational opportunities for our students.

Bay Area

Double-Double Legacies? Next Black Caucus Members Expected to Be Familiar Names

Last week, the CLBC also threw its support behind another woman of African descent who is also familiar with that body, Mia Bonta of Oakland. She could also join the group’s ranks in the next couple of months.

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Dr. Askilah Weber

Mia Bonta

Last week, the California Legislative Black Caucus (CLBC), a group comprised of African American elected officials serving in the state Legislature, was preparing to welcome its newest member, former La Mesa City Councilwoman Dr. Akilah Weber.

With a solid lead, the younger Weber, who is African American, declared victory in the 79th Assembly District race for the San Diego seat her mother, Dr. Shirley Weber, previously held for almost a decade, from 2012 to 2021.

After she is sworn in, Weber will be the newest member of the CLBC.

Weber won with 51.97% of the vote out of a pool of five candidates. Marco Contreras, the only Republican running for the position, trailed her with 33.4% of the votes.

Gov. Gavin Newsom nominated the elder Weber to serve as Secretary of State in December, succeeding Sen. Alex Padilla (D-CA), who is currently California’s junior Senator in the United States Congress.

“Can’t wait to have you in the CABlackCaucus,” Sen. Steven Bradford (D-Gardena), chair of the CLBC, said earlier this month when he heard Weber was leading the race in a special election held in April to replace her mother.

Last week, the CLBC also threw its support behind another woman of African descent who is also familiar with that body, Mia Bonta of Oakland. She could also join the group’s ranks in the next couple of months.

Bonta, who is currently Alameda Unified School District president, announced her candidacy on April 12 for the state Assembly seat in District 18 that her husband, Rob Bonta (D-Oakland), currently occupies. The district covers an East Bay area that includes the cities of San Leandro, Alameda, and Oakland.

In March, Newsom appointed her husband, who is Filipino-American, as the next California attorney general, pending Senate confirmation.

“The California Legislative Black Caucus proudly endorses Mia Bonta for Assembly,” said Bradford. “Diversity in leadership is critical to ensuring equity in policymaking, and as an Afro-Latina woman, Mia offers a perspective that has long been underrepresented in Sacramento. Her experience advocating for children and families in her community and deep understanding of today’s policy issues would make Mia a valuable addition to the state Legislature. I and the Caucus will be working to make her success a reality.”

Weber says she wants to continue her mother’s legacy as she works to ensure that “we build a better tomorrow that improves the future for all Californians.”

In her victory statement, Weber said “Tonight’s win and these results are staggering; I am deeply honored and humbled by the faith that the voters have placed in me. My campaign is focused on one mission: creating healthier communities for everyone who lives and works in the 79th district.”

Weber, a practicing obstetrician-gynecologist, is expected to be sworn into the Assembly this month.

Weber leads the Pediatric and Adolescent Gynecology Division at Rady Children’s Hospital-San Diego and has health care high up on her list of priorities.

Weber thanked her team and the voters for her victory.

“Hundreds of people worked hard to earn this victory, and I am so grateful for their friendship, commitment, and trust. I want to thank my family, without whom none of this would be possible, all of the volunteers and supporters who fueled our campaign, and most of all the voters for their trust and confidence,” Weber said.

Bonta says, if she wins, she will focus on education and housing affordability, which are “personal issues” for her.

“I grew up and my family moved 13 times in 16 years,” she told local East Bay television station KQED. “I have built into me the experience of feeling that housing insecurity – and I know the impact that has on one’s ability to be able to get to work, to keep work, to be focused on an education pathway.”

Another special election for the 54th Assembly seat in the Los Angeles area is coming up.

State Sen. Sydney Kamlager (D-Los Angeles) vacated that Assembly seat when she won a special election in March for the 30th Senate District seat previously held by Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors member Holly J.  Mitchell.

Six Democrats have thrown their hats into the highly contentious race: Financial adviser Samuel Robert Morales; attorney and State Commissioner Cheryl C. Turner; grocery worker Bernard Senter; businesswoman and non-profit executive Dallas Fowler; community organizer and educator Isaac Bryan; and Heather Hutt, former state director for Kamala Harris when she was a senator.

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Bay Area

East Oakland Stadium Alliance Update

When asked about railroad safety, given the active railroad lines that run along the front of the entire Howard Terminal site, Jacobs said, “We know the importance of rail to the port and we know the importance of rail safety. It’s reckless to ask people to cross the tracks to get to a baseball game without providing fully grade separate crossings at all intersections.”

 

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The East Oakland Stadium Alliance (EOSA) hosted a community meeting on Wednesday to educate and engage West Oakland residents on the impacts of the Oakland Athletics’ proposed ballpark stadium and luxury condo and office development at Howard Terminal on Market Street, in the heart of the industrial working port.  

 

After over a year-long delay, the City issued a Draft Environmental Impact Report (DEIR) for the project at the end of February. The DEIR identifies a number of significant and unavoidable impacts that the project will have on the local environment, such as air quality, noise, and transportation hazards. With only 60 days to review a very technical and complex, 6,000-page document, West Oakland stakeholders and industry leaders came together during an open forum to discuss the project, review the DEIR process, and answer community members’ questions. 

 

West Oakland Resident Mercedes Rodriguez said the project would result in a “real big impact” on the community. She expressed concerns about the impacts on local residents due to increased traffic on game days and for special events. 

 

“We will have to pay for residential parking permits and that’s not fair,” said Rodriguez. “The A’s have not adequately addressed this concern.”

 

Melvin McKay, Vice President of ILWU Local 10, which employees represent Longshoremen at the Port of Oakland, emphasized the significant disruption the development would cause for the port and the jobs that would be threatened because of it.  

 

Aaron Wright, another ILWU leader, displayed life live footage for attendees to see the Port in action and explained how the loss of Howard Terminal would delay trucks coming in and out and lead current port customers to seek other, more reliable options. 

 

“We know what it is to make a good living and I know for a fact this will be bad for our industry,” said Wright.

 

“We have been at the Port for a long time and we know what it takes to move containers, and we know once the hotels and condominiums are built, the residents will go back to the City and complain about the noise and try to limit our hours or shut us down,” McKay added.

 

When asked about the purpose of Howard Terminal, McKay explained the Terminal has helped to get idling trucks waiting to pick up a container off West Oakland streets. Taking away this space will once again create congestion In West Oakland that residents have fought to minimize.

 

Mike Jacob, Vice President & General Counsel for Pacific Merchant Shipping Association, noted air quality is a major concern. Given the changes Port businesses have made to become more environmentally sustainable, a ballpark at Howard Terminal would create a “new emission source” and undermine investments businesses have made.

 

When asked about railroad safety, given the active railroad lines that run along the front of the entire Howard Terminal site, Jacobs said, “We know the importance of rail to the port and we know the importance of rail safety. It’s reckless to ask people to cross the tracks to get to a baseball game without providing fully grade separate crossings at all intersections.”

 

“It’s pretty shameful,” he added.

 

The City of Oakland Planning Commission will conduct a public hearing on the DEIR for the Oakland Waterfront Ballpark District Project on Wednesday, April 21 at 3:00 p.m. The hearing will be held online via Zoom and meeting information can be accessed on the following website: https://www.oaklandca.gov/boards-commissions/planning-commission

 

The final day to comment on the DEIR is April 27th. Comments can be submitted electronically at https://comment-tracker.esassoc.com/oaklandsportseir/index.html.

 

For more information about EOSA or to submit a petition opposing the Howard Terminal ballpark, go to www.eastoaklandstadiumalliance.com.

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Community

Post Salon Investigates School District’s State Overseers

Cobb said he hopes the discussion at the Post Salon will stir action to end the control of Oakland by state overseers –  a  state-imposed trustee and the  Fiscal Crisis Management and Assistance Team (FCMAT), a semi-public, state-funded agency.

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Paul Cobb, Publisher, Post News Group

The Oakland Post Salon Community Assembly will hold a Zoom meeting this Sunday, April 18 to investigate the Oakland Unified School District’s state-imposed overseers and call for a return – after 20 years –  of local voters’ control over their public schools.

Speakers at the Post Salon will include Jackie Goldberg, member of the Los Angeles Unified School   District Board of Education and former State  Assemblymember; Oakland school board members VanCedric Williams and Mike Hutchinson; Kampala Taiz-Rancifer, OUSD parent and teacher; Dr. Nirali Jani, education professor at Holy Names University and a former Oakland teacher; Frankie Ramos, doctoral candidate at UC Berkeley and OUSD parent; and Paul Cobb, publisher of the Oakland Post.

Cobb said he hopes the discussion at the Post Salon will stir action to end the control of Oakland by state overseers –  a  state-imposed trustee and the  Fiscal Crisis Management and Assistance Team (FCMAT), a semi-public, state-funded agency.

“I hope we can inspire the candidates for Rob Bonta’s soon-to-be-vacated Assembly seat and the rest of our state legislative delegation to work to let the district have control of its resources and forgive the rest of the state loan, which Oakland never wanted in the first place,” he said.

“The state needs to stop trying to penalize the district and instead to support it,” he said. “Our legislators need to ask the governor to recall and audit FCMAT,  a quasi-public body that takes no responsibility for its management of public funds.

“Their decision-making has not proved to be any better than local decision-makers. After 20 years, they can’t show any measurable improvement.  We’ve paid them millions of dollars, and they had set us up to be  characterized and to sell off district real estate.”

Ken Epstein is inviting you to a scheduled Zoom meeting.

Join  the April 18 Zoom Meeting AT 2pm PT:

https://us02web.zoom.us/j/88651834204?pwd=YWUvSWlqOHJVckdQTUlHcjJZQW5ldz09

 

Meeting ID: 886 5183 4204; Passcode: 848752

 

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