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Brooks Faces Censure for Building East Oakland Teen Center

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Based on a recommendation of the Alameda County Grand Jury, the Oakland City Council is considering a motion to censure Councilmember Desley Brooks for building a teen center that serves East Oakland neighborhoods that face levels of unemployment, poverty and violence that are among the worst in the country.

Council President Pat Kernighan placed the motion, which amounts to a formal reprimand, on the City Council’s agenda after the Grand Jury recently issued its Final Report for 2012-2013, finding that Brooks “inappropriately made administrative decisions throughout the process” of building the teen center between 2007 and 2011.

Putting pressure on council members, the Grand Jury also cited the council’s “inability to self-police,” calling on the council to censure Councilmember Brooks.

Before looking at the Grand Jury’s findings, it is important to recognize what a grand jury report is and is not.

The civil grand jury is a “watch-dog” panel that once a year issues a final report, which details its investigations and makes “recommendations to local and county government agencies.”

The jury does not make criminal findings and does not bring charges. What it does is make recommendations.

Further, the report does not allege that Brooks gained personally in any way in the building of the teen center. She did not enrich herself or her friends, she did not hire friends or relatives. And she did not make sweetheart deals with contractors.

What the report says is that she “circumvented” city contracting, purchasing and hiring rule to ensure that the project was completed.

Brooks was able to have the teen center built at the corner of 58th Avenue and International Boulevard at a time when “other parks and recreation programs were being cut and projects with higher priorities went unfunded,” the grand jury said in its report entitled “Misgoverning the City of Oakland.

In other words, it could be said that the Grand Jury is blaming her for successfully representing her constituents to build a teen center when other councilmembers failed or had no interest in doing so.

In fact, the city had allocated $500,000 to each councilmember to build a teen center in their district, except councilmember Reid, who was having a different project built

But none of the councilmembers except Brooks built and opened a teen center. While Councilmember Nancy Nadel built one in West Oakland, it sat empty for years due to lack of funding. Recently Councilmember Lynette McElhaney has secured new funding to open the West Oakland center in the coming year.

How was Brooks able to accomplish such a feat? She is after all only one of eight members of the council and has no direct authority or hire or write checks on the city’s account.

She built the center, the Grand Jury report said, “often with full knowledge and complicity of city staff.” Brooks said that she completed the project working with three successive City Administrators.

Though the report almost exclusively focuses on Brooks, does it allege she was the only member who worked to “influence administrative decisions?” Not at all.

“The Grand Jury learned that some council members would often put pressure on city staff to get their own issues prioritized above other city matters.”

The report even partially acknowledged the reality of the City of Oakland, where city staff has regularly been accused by community members of mismanaging funds and ignoring and thwarting the decisions of the City Council.

There has existed a “culture of interference” in Oakland government, the report said, in part due to “the fact that large government bureaucracies operate using polices and procedures that can cause change or improvements to occur slowly.”

While citing interference by former Ignacio de la Fuente in the building of the Fruitvale Transit Village, it says the conduct “may appear to be insignificant and even well-meaning in many circumstances.”

“The Grand Jury heard testimony that the Fruitvale Transit Village (near Fruitvale BART)… may never have been completed without the pressure exerted by a former member of the City Council.

“The interference included causing a public library to be uprooted from its established neighborhood location, and relocated to a second floor space to serve as an anchor tenant and revenue stream for the project.”

What the Grand Jury report and certain councilmembers are calling interference is common practice on the council and what members must do if they wish to represent the residents of Oakland, according to de la Fuente in an interview with the Post.

“All of us have done something when it comes to pushing to solve our constituents needs,” he said. “All councilmembers get calls from their constituents demanding actions on their needs and problems and concerns.”

 

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Community

Oakland Native Serves in Navy’s ‘Silent Service’ of Submarine Technology

A major component of that maritime security is homeported at Naval Submarine Base Kings Bay, Ga., where Zeigler is stationed.

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Justin Ziegler

An Oakland native is serving aboard USS Florida, one of the world’s most advanced nuclear-powered submarines.

Fireman Justin Zeigler, a 2008 Life Academy High School graduate and 2017 University of California, Los Angeles graduate, joined the Navy one year ago.

“I joined the Navy to be a part of something new and completely outside of what I had been exposed to,” said Zeigler. “I really wanted to challenge myself. and I feel the core values of the Navy represent what I strive for.”

Today, Zeigler serves as a machinist’s mate whose responsibilities include working on nuclear propulsion machinery.
According to Zeigler, the values required to succeed in the military are similar to those found in Oakland.

“I learned resilience from my hometown,” said Zeigler. “I think that’s been a part of my life and childhood. It’s what’s keeping me going while serving in the Navy.”

Known as America’s “Silent Service,” the Navy’s submarine force operates a large fleet of technically advanced vessels. These submarines are capable of conducting rapid defensive and offensive operations around the world, in furtherance of U.S. national security.

There are three basic types of submarines: fast-attack submarines (SSN), ballistic-missile submarines (SSBN) and guided-missile submarines (SSGN).

As a member of the submarine force, Zeigler is part of a rich 121-year history of the U.S. Navy’s most versatile weapons platform, capable of taking the fight to the enemy in the defense of America and its allies.
Serving in the Navy means Zeigler is part of a team that is taking on new importance in America’s focus on rebuilding military readiness, strengthening alliances and reforming business practices in support of the National Defense Strategy.

“The submarine force is always out there ready to strike,” said Zeigler.

With more than 90% of all trade traveling by sea, and 95% of the world’s international phone and internet traffic carried through underwater fiber optic, Navy officials continue to emphasize that the prosperity and security of the United States is directly linked to a strong and ready Navy.

A major component of that maritime security is homeported at Naval Submarine Base Kings Bay, Ga., where Zeigler is stationed.

As Zeigler and other sailors continue to train and perform the missions they are tasked with, they take pride in serving their country in the United States Navy.

“Serving in the Navy means being a part of something more than myself,” added Zeigler. “I’m committing to my team, always striving to be better and bringing more to the table.”

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East Bay Area Section of NCNW: 70th Anniversary

Knowledge is Power

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East Bay Area Section of NCNW: 70th Anniversary Flyer

The Oakland Post’s coverage of local news in Alameda County is supported by the Ethnic Media Sustainability Initiative, a program created by California Black Media and Ethnic Media Services to support community newspapers across California.

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Events

Ella Baker Center Turns 25

Community members will have the opportunity to join the celebration virtually or in person at Restore Oakland at 1419 34th Ave, Oakland, CA 94601.

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Michelle Alexander/Photo via pbs.org

Alicia Garza

Co-founder of Black Lives Matter (BLM) Alicia Garza and Michelle Alexander, acclaimed author of “The New Jim Crow,” will join youth justice leader Xochtil Larios to discuss a collective vision for liberation at the Ella Baker Center’s 25th Anniversary Celebration, 6:00 p.m. on Wednesday, October 27.

After 25 years of working to empower Black and Brown communities and fighting for a world without prisons and policing, the event will seek to inspire organizers, community members and changemakers to reflect on past victories in the movement for social justice and imagine how to continue moving toward a world based on justice.

The event will include entertainment by musicians, poets as well as comments by founders of the Ella Baker Center, Dianna Frappier and Van Jones. Community members will have the opportunity to join the celebration virtually or in person at Restore Oakland at 1419 34th Ave, Oakland, CA 94601.

The in-person event will be held outdoors and available to vaccinated guests only. 

To RSVP for the virtual event, please email ashley@ellabakercenter.org by Oct. 14 

The Oakland Post’s coverage of local news in Alameda County is supported by the Ethnic Media Sustainability Initiative, a program created by California Black Media and Ethnic Media Services to support community newspapers across California.

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