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CalTrans Enforces Clearance in Oakland, Protestors Help Some Residents Stay

“They posted signs saying everyone had to get off the property”

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Four protestors crouch behind and hold shields on a tract of CalTrans owned land next to Mosswood Park in North Oakland on January 28. Another protestor, Annmarie Bustamante (right), stands next to the shield holders. A homeless resident (back center right) gathers his belongings during a clearance. Photo by Zack Haber.

While facing intense rain and protests on January 27 and 28, California Highway Patrol officers and California Dept. of Transportation (CalTrans) workers cleared tents, trash, broken branches, and homeless people from a tract of CalTrans-owned land that sits between Mosswood Park and the 580 Freeway in North Oakland.

CalTrans referred to the operation as a cleaning. Activists, local civil rights lawyers, and the site’s residents called it an eviction. Two residents successfully resisted being removed from the site and stayed on the tract of land.

“They posted signs saying everybody has to get off the property,” said Osha Neumann, a lawyer with the East Bay Community Law Center who was at the tract on January 27. “To me, that’s an eviction. There’s no question the intent was to displace people.”

CalTrans posted a NO TRESPASSING notice on January 25. Printed words stated the site was scheduled for cleaning on January 27. The date “1/28/21” was also added in blue pen ink.

In an e-mail to Oakland resident Charlotte Ashlock, who inquired about the operation, CalTrans Deputy District Administrator Cheryl Chambers claimed a resident was tapping into a CalTrans electrical panel, which affected 30 streetlights in the area and initiated the clearance.

“During the pandemic, CalTrans is only moving people…if there is an emergency to life or infrastructure as happened with the electrical tap at Mosswood” she wrote.

Caltrans public information officer Janis Mara told The Oakland Post that the cleaning was done because “illegally compromising electrical components poses a fire hazard to those in the area and threatens the integrity of the infrastructure.”

Neumann believes, despite the illegal tapping, CalTran’s actions were not fair to the residents.  “Making everybody leave because somebody tapped into electricity is like requiring everybody in an apartment complex to vacate because one tenant is running an illegal extension cord out the window to a socket in the basement,” he said.

By January 29, the vast majority of the tract’s residents moved about 40-60 feet away into Mosswood Park.  Mara reported that “Caltrans requested assistance from the City of Oakland to provide social services and outreach in advance of this removal,” but no residents reported being offered alternative shelter.

Two residents, who lived in a small home they had made mostly out of recycled wood and plastic, remained in their home and on the site despite the order to leave. John, who lives in the home, thinks it is not a threat to CalTrans or public health.

The Caltrans-owned tract of land where John’s home sits is smaller than the tennis court it rests behind and is forested with pine and acacia trees. John said he has been on the site on and off for five years because it’s “out of the way.” During the warmer months, thick foliage often makes the area invisible to those outside of it.

On January 27, John and his roommate told CalTrans workers and CHP Offices that they did not plan on leaving. About a half dozen protestors supported them that day.

“I’ve just had them move me around enough,” John told The Oakland Post. “They play musical chairs with everybody, give 5% of the people housing, then take it away a few months later.”

John had been cleared from the area before, but he and his roommate stood firm during this operation and protestors aided them. On January 28, about 20 protestors showed up despite heavy rain. Ten of them held colorful wooden shields. Six of the shield holders stood outside John and his roommate’s home while four others stood outside another resident’s red tent as he gathered his belongings. About a dozen and a half CalTrans workers gathered and cleared trash and tree branches from the area. Occasionally, workers fell in the slippery mud. A few CHP officers monitored.

The resident who lived in the red tent, who asked not to be named for fear of police retaliation, did not resist the clearance. But the protestor’s presence allowed him extra time to clear his possessions. In the past, CalTrans had destroyed possessions he wished to keep in similar operations.

“This has been one of the best times in terms of being able to salvage my possessions because of the help of the volunteers,” he said. “It was nice to have advocates have our back.”

“They’re clearing debris but also some belongings,” said a protestor while holding a shield January 28. They also asked not to be named due to fear of police retaliation.

“We just want to be sure they don’t touch people’s structures. Threatening people’s ability to shelter themselves at a time like this is appalling.”

CalTrans has a documented history of destroying homeless residents’ belongings during clearances. They agreed to pay $5.5 million in February 2020 to settle a lawsuit that Neumann worked on, Sanchez V CalTrans, which accused the department of illegally destroying homeless people’s property during sweeps in Oakland, Berkeley and Emeryville between December 2014 and October 2019. At least 1,200 people in Oakland, Emeryville and Berkeley said CalTrans destroyed their possessions and have filed claims.

According to John, there had been 20 people living on the CalTrans tract, but most left on January 27 due to feeling intimidated. A protestor, Annmarie Baustamente, who was on the track during both days of the clearance said that some residents were absent during the clearance. She saw CalTrans bag and store people’s items that appeared to be worth more than $50 but worried about residents losing other items that had sentimental value. Bustamante, along with several residents, also expressed worry about a resident who uprooted herself and all her belongings due to the clearance days after her partner died. Neumann said he talked to a resident who lost personal artworks and art supplies that were important to him.

Andrea Henson, a lawyer with the Oakland’s Eviction Defense Center who was on the tract on January 28, said she was appalled to see CalTrans throw away a hand-washing station. “If they were doing a cleaning, then shouldn’t the handwashing station have been moved aside or replaced?” she asked.

Caltrans Public Information Officer Janis Mara’s claimed the wash station was “inoperable and beyond repair.” In her e-mail, CalTrans Deputy District Director Cheryl Chambers said the department allowed one resident “to remain onsite due to his health concerns.” Both lawyers who were onsite, Henson and Neumann, said they thought the reason John’s home was not torn down was the protestors’ presence and John and his roommate’s determination to stay.

“The only reason that the house wasn’t torn down was the protest,” said Henson.

During the clearance, Neumann spoke to the commanding officer on-site and tried to persuade him that tearing down John’s home during the storm and under COVID would look bad for CalTrans and harm the residents. Neumann asked for time to work out solutions to problems CalTrans had with the encampment.

“He listened,” said Neumann, “but I didn’t change his mind. What changed his mind was the presence of eviction defenders.”

By February 2, at least three residents had moved back unto the CalTrans owned land.

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Bay Area

Ida Times-Green Running for State Assembly District 12

Ida Times-Green became a voice for Marin City schoolchildren over the segregation in their school. She was appointed as a Sausalito Marin City School Board Trustee in 2014 and subsequently won election as the top vote-getter in 2018.

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California State Assembly District 12 after 2020 redistricting cycle (From ballotpedia.org). Lower left of map: Ida Times-Green.
California State Assembly District 12 after 2020 redistricting cycle (From ballotpedia.org). Lower left of map: Ida Times-Green.

By Godfrey Lee

Ida Times-Green, a resident of Marin City, is running for California State Assembly District 12 of California in the upcoming June 7 election.

Times-Green promises to fight for affordable housing, single-payer healthcare, living wages and union workers, resilience to wildfires, climate justice policies, reforming law enforcement, public education and student debt relief.

“There are numerous issues facing our state that I believe are critical — single-payer healthcare, affordable housing, homelessness, wildfire resiliency — with the climate crisis being an existential threat and dealing with that must underlie everything we do.

It’s about more than just this district — it’s about the future of California,” Times-Green wrote on her Facebook page.

Times-Green is also concerned with women’s reproductive rights, wildfire resiliency, and post-COVID revitalization. Her position on these issues can be found at Idatimesgreenforassembly.com

Times-Green showed her concern for the community when she and her late husband, Edward Lee “Boone” Green. Boone Green, the founder of the Marin City Boxing Club, founded One Kid at a Time, a nonprofit dedicated to mentor at-risk children and young adults in 2013. The couple believed that with support, these young people could be steered in the right direction despite prior risky behavior. It was a belief that led them to help many young adults find homes and graduate from high school.

Times-Green became a voice for Marin City schoolchildren over the segregation in their school. She was appointed as a Sausalito Marin City School Board Trustee in 2014 and subsequently won election as the top vote-getter in 2018.

Today, Times-Green is in her eighth year as a board trustee with the Sausalito Marin City School District (SMCUSD). She is fulfilling the desegregation mandate handed down by former California Attorney General Xavier Becerra in August 2019 and creating a multicultural learning environment for all children in the district. She also helps the community every day through her full-time job as a social worker for the County of Marin.

She is an active member of the faith community at the Cornerstone Community Church of God in Christ in Marin City. She was previously a member of Village Baptist Church in Petaluma. Times-Green’s heart for her community is large, with a strong desire to serve for many years to come.

Times-Green’s many endorsements include the Health Care for All (HCA), California State Superintendent of Public Education Tony Thurmond, Marin County Supervisors Susan Adams (ret.) and Kate Sears (ret.), Marin County Office of Education Deputy Superintendent Terena Mares, San Anselmo Vice Mayor Steve Burdo, Tiburon Councilmember Noah Griffin, Sausalito Marin City School District Superintendent Dr. Itoco Garcia, and SMCSD boardmembers Lisa Bennett and Bonnie Hough, Esq., California Democratic Party Senior Caucus Chair Ruth Carter and 1W Regional Director Pat Johnstone. Ida Times-Green can be reached at idaforassembly@gmail.com or call (415)231-8807.

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Activism

OPINION: Why Every Californian Should Support the Prescription Drug Pricing Bill

For 30 years CHCs have used those savings to provide free medications to patients experiencing homelessness, free transportation vouchers, free nutrition classes, and hire provider types (like community health workers) who are not billable within Medi-Cal. Today, there are over 1,300 health centers in California that provide care to 7.2 million people — that’s 1 in every 5 Californians and 1 in 3 Medi-Cal patients.

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Dr. Oliver Brooks is chief medical officer and past chief of Pediatric and Adolescent Medicine at Watts Healthcare Corporation in Los Angeles.
Dr. Oliver Brooks is chief medical officer and past chief of Pediatric and Adolescent Medicine at Watts Healthcare Corporation in Los Angeles.

By Dr. Oliver Brooks, Special to California Black Media

In 1992, the federal government enacted the 340B Drug Discount Program. It afforded community health centers (CHCs) the ability to provide pharmacy services to their patients, a service that many CHCs did not have the resources to provide otherwise.

The program protects safety-net providers, including CHCs, from escalating drug prices, allowing us to purchase drugs at a discounted rate from manufacturers and pass those discounts directly to the patient. This program is presently under threat.

That is why I support Dr. Richard Pan’s Senate Bill (SB) 939. This bill, currently being reviewed by the Senate Committee on Health, would prohibit discriminatory actions by drug manufacturers and administrators when providing 340B drugs to health centers and the patients they serve.

It provides important consumer protections that are necessary to protect 340B savings and ensure that the savings remain with health centers and their communities, creating greater access to health care and equity for all.

The 340B Program also allows safety-net providers the ability to accrue savings that must be reinvested directly into patient care and services. Thus, the program enables covered entities to stretch scarce federal resources as far as possible, reaching more eligible patients and providing more comprehensive services.

For 30 years CHCs have used those savings to provide free medications to patients experiencing homelessness, free transportation vouchers, free nutrition classes, and hire provider types (like community health workers) who are not billable within Medi-Cal.

Today, there are over 1,300 health centers in California that provide care to 7.2 million people — that’s 1 in every 5 Californians and 1 in 3 Medi-Cal patients.

Additionally, 68% of CHC patients are from BIPOC communities. CHCs are often the only source of primary and preventative care for California’s most diverse communities, including those experiencing homelessness, immigrants, and agricultural workers.

Anyone who walks into our health centers today can access a variety of services from primary care to dental to behavioral health care and a variety of wraparound services, regardless of whether they have health insurance, or an ability to pay for care. A large part of why we’re able to offer those services is thanks to savings we receive from the 340B program.

In recent years the 340B program has been under assault by pharmacy benefit managers (PBMs), drug manufacturers, and others within Big Pharma.

Through the expansion of the Affordable Care Act & Medi-Cal, more low-income patients can access healthcare in California, meaning more are also able to access medications, causing the 340B program to expand. Given this fact, manufacturers have put practices in place that limit patient access to 340B priced drugs while PBMs focus on trying to take 340B savings away from CHCs, and out of the local communities that need them, threatening patient access to critical medicines made available through the program.

Health centers were born out of the Civil Rights Movement to ensure that all communities, particularly communities of color, would have access to high-quality care that is provided in a culturally and linguistically appropriate manner. This program has allowed covered entities, including CHCs, to contract with local pharmacies so that our patients can access low-cost medications in a convenient manner. The continual acts of greed by pharmaceutical companies and PBMs threatens equity and access that CHCs were designed to create.

Community health centers around the country are sounding the alarm over Rx drugs manufacturers’ attacks on the federal 340B program. Since 2019, 21 states have passed laws addressing PBM discrimination against 340B covered entities.

It’s time for California, the policy trendsetter, to become the next state to protect the 340B program so it can operate as intended.

That is why Dr. Richard Pan’s SB 939 is so important and why I so fervently speak in favor of this legislation.

Dr. Oliver Brooks is chief medical officer and past chief of Pediatric and Adolescent Medicine at Watts Healthcare Corporation in Los Angeles.

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Bay Area

As San Francisco’s Newest D.A. Faces Recall Threat, Black Activists Speak Out

A former public defender whose parents were incarcerated for years, San Francisco D.A. Chesa Boudin was seen as someone who would reduce incarceration and deal with racial bias and racism in the criminal justice system.

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San Francisco D.A. Chesa Boudin. Votersedge.org photo.
San Francisco D.A. Chesa Boudin. Votersedge.org photo.

By Lee Hubbard

San Francisco District Attorney Chesa Boudin is in trouble and his job is on the political ropes as he faces a recall election on June 7 to remove him from office.

Elected in 2019, as a progressive reformer who would apply justice to the office and fight crime by bringing a different approach to law and order.

A former public defender whose parents were incarcerated for years, Boudin was seen as someone who would reduce incarceration and deal with racial bias and racism in the criminal justice system.

But things have gone sideways for him. Elected just before the COVID-19 epidemic, crime went down for a while, then it skyrocketed with car break-ins, store robberies and quality-of-life issues, such as open drug dealing and drug usage and people camping out and loitering on the streets.

Seeing that petty crimes were not stopping, in 2021 there were two efforts to recall Boudin. One led by Rich Greenberg, a member of the Republican Party, failed, falling short on votes. The second effort to recall Boudin was led by Mary Jung and Andrea Shorter.

Jung is a former chairwoman of the San Francisco Democratic Central Committee, and this effort, as polling data suggests, may be successful.

The recall has split San Francisco’s Black community.

“I think that people need to sit down eyeball-to-eyeball and come to common ground on political issues,” said the Rev. Amos Brown of Third Baptist Church and head of the San Francisco NAACP. “I have never supported recalls, unless it’s a situation of malfeasance or a violent act.”

On the other hand, Mayor London Breed has been very critical of Boudin. Though she has expressed her disfavor with Boudin in the press, she has not publicly stated whether or not she supports the recall.

The move to recall Boudin grew during the crime spree of Troy McAlister. McAlister was on state parole when he stole a car with a gun from another city and came to San Francisco where he hit and killed two women with the car in downtown San Francisco as he was trying to avoid the police.

The San Francisco Police Officers Association then called out Boudin, saying he was soft on crime. McAlister had previous arrests, but he had not been charged with those crimes, and was, instead, referred to the Parole Division.

Black activists, however, like Boudin’s emphasis on restorative justice and they believe he is fighting against bias in the criminal justice system. In his election for District Attorney, Boudin got 35.6% of the first-place votes. To defeat the recall, Boudin needs 50% plus one vote to avoid the recall.

“I think this recall is unnecessarily expensive and an attempt to undermine voters,” said San Francisco Board of Supervisors President Shamann Walton, who represents District 10. “Recalls cost millions of dollars and take away the voice of the people (unless there was a crime committed or incompetence).”

But Boudin’s chances of staying in office do not look good. Public Policy Polling revealed recently that 48% of San Franciscans plan on voting ‘yes’ on the recall and 38% ‘no,’ with 14% undecided.

San Francisco’s recall effort is one of three nationally to overturn progressive district attorneys who have made fighting racial bias in the criminal justice system an issue.

Former San Francisco District Attorney George Gascon is facing a recall for his new job as the Los Angeles district attorney. In Illinois, a state representative introduced a bill to authorize a recall against Kim Foxx, a Black state’s attorney for Cook County.

National figures including Rev. Jessie Jackson, Angela Davis, John Legend and Danny Glover, support Boudin. These and other national voices, see Boudin as a trendsetter in criminal justice and a person who can enact policies that can be copied in other cities across the country.

“I also believe this recall is an attack on criminal justice reform and the right for the voters to choose their representatives,” continued Walton. “There will be an election for district attorney next year. That is the time to vote on that office.”

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