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BART Settles Lawsuit with Oscar Grant’s Friends

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BART has paid $175,000 in damages to settle a federal lawsuit brought by five men who were detained with Oscar Grant, who was killed by BART police in 2009.

The men – brothers Nigel and Jack Bryson, Michael Greer, Carlos Reyes and Fernando “June” Anicete – said they were detained for no reason shooting. According to the lawsuit, they endured “several hours of being painfully handcuffed and/or mercilessly interrogated, all while mourning the demise of their childhood friend.”

Grant, 22, was fatally shot in the back by BART police Officer Johannes Mehserle, early on News Year’s Day, 2009 while unarmed and lying face-down.

“This settlement closes the case for a considerably smaller amount compared to what would have been a long and costly trial if allowed to move forward,” BART spokeswoman Alicia Trost told CNN.

Grant’s death became the subject of the award winning movie “Fruitvale Station,” named after the BART station, where he was shot.

 

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Activism

City Receives $3 Million Grant to Advance Violence Prevention Among School-Age Youth

Although the Department of Violence Prevention works to advance community outreach with life coaching, gender-based violence services, violence interruption, and community healing, this funding is focused on the family systems model, targeted specifically at Oakland Unified School District (OUSD) schools for school-site violence intervention and prevention teams.

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Guillermo Cespedes is the head of Oakland’s Dept. of Violence Prevention.
Guillermo Cespedes is the head of Oakland’s Dept. of Violence Prevention.

By Post Staff

The City of Oakland’s Department of Violence Prevention (DVP) has received a $3 million, three-year grant to support its violence interruption efforts.

In partnership with the Oakland Public Fund for Innovation, the Gilead Foundation awarded the grant to invest in health equity strategy, including a focus on prevention and intervention services to school-age youth, disrupting the pattern of violence.

“The Gilead Foundation is proud to support the Oakland Fund for Public Innovation and the City of Oakland’s Department of Violence Prevention,” said Kate Wilson, executive director of Gilead Foundation.

Chief of Violence Prevention with the City of Oakland Guillermo Cespedes said the grant will allow “DVP to strengthen families and protect its members from becoming involved in lifestyles associated with violence, while increasing educational outcomes and lifelong learning skills.”

Although the Department of Violence Prevention works to advance community outreach with life coaching, gender-based violence services, violence interruption, and community healing, this funding is focused on the family systems model, targeted specifically at Oakland Unified School District (OUSD) schools for school-site violence intervention and prevention teams.

Students who are routinely exposed to violence at home or in the community often experience toxic stress that leads to cognitive impairment, hyperactivity, and attention deficits that make it challenging to succeed in the classroom.

Exposure to violence also contributes to lower school attendance and a higher likelihood of suspension, which further promotes disengagement from school.

Using a public health approach, the DVP will strengthen family, school, and community contexts for OUSD school students living in neighborhoods with high rates of violence, to reduce their exposure to violence and increase their chances of succeeding academically.

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Activism

OPINION: Oakland Could Take More Innovative Steps to Help Solve Homelessness 

We must ensure that we are able to build sufficient housing, especially that which is affordable. Oakland is currently producing under 10% of our state Regional Housing Needs Assessment (RHNA) requirements for very low-income housing; in contrast, we have met our goals for market-rate housing.

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Janani Ramachandran is running for City Council seat for District 4. Photo courtesy of Janani Ramachandran 
Janani Ramachandran is running for City Council seat for District 4. Photo courtesy of Janani Ramachandran 

By Janani Ramachandran

First, we must conduct a comprehensive audit of where our homelessness dollars are being spent. The recent City Auditor’s report revealed $69 million was spent on homelessness services for 8,600 people over the past three years – yet at least half the participants are believed to have returned to homelessness. We must conduct a deep dive into the third-party entities receiving homelessness contracts and to what extent they use evidence-based models of homelessness reduction.

Second, we must establish a regional board across all neighboring East Bay towns because homelessness certainly crosses borders, and the financial costs of assisting our unhoused while building affordable housing should not exclusively fall on Oakland. We must develop a plan to build on land owned by cities, CalTrans, BART, EBMUD, and other public agencies. A regional strategy must also include better partnership with the Alameda County Board of Supervisors, which is primarily responsible for providing meaningful mental health and addiction services. Oakland must ensure that our residents in need are able to access the County’s supportive services, regardless of language or technological barriers, and not waste funds duplicating efforts.

Third, we must ensure that we prioritize homelessness prevention, whether tenants or homeowners, from losing their homes. The city should re-allocate some of its homelessness dollars to provide emergency vouchers to at-risk individuals, prioritizing households with children and elders.

Finally, we must ensure that we are able to build sufficient housing, especially that which is affordable. Oakland is currently producing under 10% of our state Regional Housing Needs Assessment (RHNA) requirements for very low-income housing; in contrast, we have met our goals for market-rate housing.

There’s little doubt as to why – it’s expensive. Each unit of permanent housing may cost up to $500,000 to build. The elimination of redevelopment agencies under Governor Jerry Brown was a severe blow to Oakland’s ability to build affordable housing, and we must compensate for that by ensuring developers pay their fair share.

This involves drafting an inclusionary zoning ordinance (moving away from the current tiered “in-lieu fee” system) to ensure that developers either include a percentage of affordable units in new buildings, or pay an impact fee, up front and at the start of construction, that directly funds other affordable housing projects.

But the private sector should not shoulder this burden alone – we must be more proactive in applying for competitive state and federal funds. This will require our city to streamline internal processes to help nonprofit or private developers secure local funding (which is generally the first step in applying for state and federal grants) with predictable deadlines.

Underlying all of these priorities, our policymakers must shift their perspective and recognize that those who are housing-insecure or unhoused are not a monolith. There’s no one-size-fits-all solution, but my stated priorities will hopefully begin to move us forward in the right direction.

Janani Ramachandran is a public interest attorney and former Oakland Public Ethics Commissioner running for Oakland City Council District 4.  For more informationJananiForOakland.com

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Activism

Why Sarah Syed Is My Choice for AC Transit Board of Directors, Ward 3.

As the AC Transit board president, a challenge I am confronted with is that traditional transit planning practice has ignored the pervasive issues of segregation, displacement, and exclusion from opportunity. Although the impacts of redlining can be felt in almost every aspect of life: from access to high quality education, to job opportunities and even healthy food options, our region doesn’t invest in transit service to repair past harms.  

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Elsa Ortiz is the AC Transit board president and the retiring Ward 3 director, which includes Oakland, San Leandro, and Alameda.
Elsa Ortiz is the AC Transit board president and the retiring Ward 3 director, which includes Oakland, San Leandro, and Alameda.

By Elsa Ortiz, President of AC Transit Board

The challenge of inequitable transportation access is felt by tens of thousands of residents in inner East Oakland and communities of color across the Bay Area.

These challenges are compounded by the legacy of redlining, which systematically denied Black and Brown residents access to homeownership and lending programs. Ultimately, the American dream of homeownership, investment in communities and building generational wealth was blocked.

As the AC Transit board president, a challenge I am confronted with is that traditional transit planning practice has ignored the pervasive issues of segregation, displacement, and exclusion from opportunity. Although the impacts of redlining can be felt in almost every aspect of life: from access to high quality education, to job opportunities and even healthy food options, our region doesn’t invest in transit service to repair past harms.

Last week, aboard an AC Transit bus, U.S. Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg toured Oakland as part of his new effort to repair the damage done by large federal transportation projects, like freeways, which divided neighborhoods where people of color were the majority of the population.

Residents of underserved communities are the experts in understanding what they need. Unfortunately, the number of local political leaders who are ready to invest in transportation equity are few and far in between. Therefore, we have important ballot choices on Tuesday, Nov. 8.

Sarah Syed, a candidate for AC Transit Board Ward 3, is the leader our region needs to turbocharge equitable cities. As a mixed-race woman, Sarah understands that access to transit is a question of equity. Through her work with the Bay Area Rapid Transit, the Valley Transportation Authority, and the Los Angeles County Metropolitan Transportation Authority, as a transportation planner and engineer of 20 years, Syed worked to help underserved communities.

In Los Angeles, where 88% of riders are people of color, Sarah took on a heavily bureaucratic system and planned enhancements to the routes disadvantaged riders were already using, including improving service frequency to every 10 minutes on two lines, new bus shelters at nearly 400 locations, and improvements along six different streets to extend the sidewalk and improve street safety and accessibility to bring better bus service.

Through her work with UC-Berkeley’s Othering and Belonging Institute, Syed is helping community-based organizations and local government agencies in eight communities across the state of California so that local equity leadership can drive the agenda of transportation planning to meet the priority concerns of underserved residents

As your next AC Transit Director for Ward 3, Syed will champion policy-based interventions to close equity gaps, equitable hiring and personnel practices.

She will work to build broad, ethnically inclusive coalitions to stand up for bus transit and communicate its value in ways that inspire members of the public and potential political allies.

When we improve bus service, we make our cities better places to live and help address some of America’s deepest problems.

Please join me, State Senator Nancy Skinner, Supervisor Nate Miley, the Alameda County Democratic Party, the three Mayors in Ward 3, and three BART Directors in supporting Sarah Syed for AC Transit Ward 3.

Elsa Ortiz is the AC Transit board president and the retiring Ward 3 director, which includes Oakland, San Leandro, and Alameda.

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