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BART to Require All Employees Get COVID-19 Vaccinations by December 13

All Bay Area Rapid Transit employees and contractors will be required to get vaccinated against COVID-19 or prove their full vaccination status by mid-December under a policy the agency’s board adopted on October 14.

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COVID-19 mask requirements poster at the Pleasant Hill/Contra Costa Centre BART (Bay Area Rapid Transit) station at 1365 Treat Boulevard in Walnut Creek, Calif. on March 5, 2021. (Samantha Laurey/Bay City News)

All Bay Area Rapid Transit employees and contractors will be required to get vaccinated against COVID-19 or prove their full vaccination status by mid-December under a policy the agency’s board adopted on October 14.
The policy — drafted by Board Directors Rebecca Saltzman, Lateefah Simon, Bevan Dufty and Janice Li — will require the full vaccination of BART’s employees and board members by December 13, save for those who have a valid medical or religious exemption.
The board also voted as part of the vaccination policy to direct BART General Manager Bob Powers to implement a vaccination requirement for the agency’s contractors and bargain with the agency’s labor unions to determine how employees who decline to get vaccinated will be handled.
“By adopting this policy today, nobody is getting fired tomorrow,” Li said. “No one is being forced to get the vaccine, but this policy states that being vaccinated is a condition of employment.”
Several board members framed the policy as a necessity to keep both the transit agency’s employees and its riders, particularly children under 12 who are not yet eligible for vaccination, protected against the virus.
BART officials estimated that around 20 to 25% of BART’s nearly 4,000 employees remain unvaccinated, which Board Director Mark Foley argued could lead to further outbreaks and potential service disruptions.
Foley also said that he is acutely empathetic to those hesitant to get vaccinated, noting that he opposed vaccination for “more than a decade” after his then-1-year-old daughter was diagnosed with autism.
Foley and his daughter are now fully vaccinated against COVID-19, he said Thursday, and his daughter ultimately received her scheduled vaccinations when she entered high school after Foley said he “allowed science to lead” him and his wife.
“I can see where people come from,” he said. “I understand. Coming from that perspective, I had doubts, I had concerns. But I also allowed myself to be guided by experts. And I was not the expert, Google was not the expert, fake news was not the expert.”
The policy, as written and approved on October 14, does not include an option for frequent testing for those who decline to get vaccinated.
Board Director Debora Allen, the only board member to vote against adopting the policy, took issue with that and argued that the agency should not infringe on its employees’ medical decisions.
Allen added that she got fully vaccinated this summer after initially being skeptical that the vaccine’s protection would be more robust than the antibodies she acquired from contracting the virus.
“I think each person should have the right to research and make their own medical decisions as I did without threats from their employer of losing their job,” she said. “So, I come down on the side of every person making their own choice as to these medical treatments.”
Foley noted that while the policy adopted October 14 does not include a testing component, it does not prevent the addition of such a component during bargaining discussions between Powers and BART’s labor unions.
“This policy allows for labor to negotiate over how to protect their members … It puts the power in the labor leaders’ hands and the general manager to craft a document that helps us move forward,” he said. “So, I’m going to put my faith in their hands that they can come up with something that meets their needs.”
Under federal health guidelines, all BART riders and employees will still be required to wear a face covering when in a BART station or on a BART train, regardless of their vaccination status.

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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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Bay Area

Comcast RISE Seeks Applicants from Small Businesses Owned by Women, People of Color for $10,000 Grant

Comcast RISE is part of a larger $100 million Diversity, Equity and Inclusion initiative that Comcast launched last summer. In June 2020, Comcast NBCUniversal announced the development of a comprehensive, multi-year plan to allocate $75 million in cash and $25 million in media over the next three years to fight injustice and inequality against any race, ethnicity, gender identity, sexual orientation or ability.

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Judi Townsend, owner of Mannequin Madness and Tamika Miller, owner of Cuticles Nails Spa. Both businesses are located in Oakland and have received multiple awards from the Comcast RISE program.
Judi Townsend, owner of Mannequin Madness and Tamika Miller, owner of Cuticles Nails Spa. Both businesses are located in Oakland and have received multiple awards from the Comcast RISE program.

By Adriana Arvizo

Women, regardless of their race and ethnicity, and Black, Indigenous, Hispanic and Asian American small business owners in Oakland will have the opportunity to apply for a $10,000 grant from the Comcast RISE Investment Fund, which will issue grants totaling $1 million.

Eligible businesses can apply online at www.ComcastRISE.com from Oct. 3 through Oct.16, 2022, for one of the 100 $10,000 grants.

To be eligible for the grant, businesses must:

  • Have established business operations for three or more years
  • Have one to 25 employees
  • Be based within Oakland, California city limits

The Investment Fund is coming to Oakland for the second year in a row and is an extension of Comcast RISE (Representation, Investment, Strength, and Empowerment), the multi-year, multi-faceted initiative launched in 2020 to provide small businesses owned by people of color the opportunity to apply for marketing and technology services from Comcast Business and Effectv, the advertising sales division of Comcast Cable.

If a business is not eligible for the Comcast RISE Investment Fund, applications are also open for marketing and technology services. In fact, 160 businesses in Oakland have already been selected as Comcast RISE recipients.

“The advertising campaign and technology services have allowed me to reach and service new audiences,” said Oakland resident Judi Townsend, owner of Mannequin Madness. She has benefited from the program three times, with the production and placement of a TV commercial, a technology makeover and a $10,000 grant. “The application process was easy, and I encourage my fellow eligible business owners to apply for the grant or the other benefits.”

“When we launched Comcast RISE, we knew a profound need existed in many of the communities we serve,” said John Gauder, regional senior vice president of Comcast California. “We have now seen firsthand how the program’s marketing and technology resources benefit small business owners who continue to work hard and rise above 2020’s impact.

“Today, with Oakland receiving additional funding as a Comcast RISE Investment Fund grant city, we are excited to see how this infusion of funding will continue to propel businesses to thrive,” Gauder said. “We know the impacts will be fruitful and far reaching, especially with this year’s program expansion for women-owned businesses.”

To help drive outreach and awareness about Comcast RISE and provide additional support, training and mentorship, Comcast has also awarded $50,000 to six chambers of commerce in the Oakland area. The organizations are:

  • The Oakland African American Chamber of Commerce Foundation
  • The Oakland Metropolitan Chamber of Commerce Foundation
  • The Chinatown Chamber of Commerce
  • The Latino Chamber of Commerce
  • The Vietnamese Chamber of Commerce
  • The Unity Council

Comcast RISE is part of a larger $100 million Diversity, Equity and Inclusion initiative that Comcast launched last summer. In June 2020, Comcast NBCUniversal announced the development of a comprehensive, multi-year plan to allocate $75 million in cash and $25 million in media over the next three years to fight injustice and inequality against any race, ethnicity, gender identity, sexual orientation or ability.

Grant recipients will also receive a complimentary 12-month membership to the coaching program from Ureeka, an online platform for entrepreneurs, to help them build skills, gain more customers and become financially stable.

More information and the applications to apply for either the grant program or the marketing and technology services are available at www.ComcastRISE.com.

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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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