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City Council Recognizes Gay Plair Cobb for 35 Years “As a Social Justice Advocate”

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The Oakland City Council and community members this week honored Gay Plair Cobb for her “tireless efforts” and passionate dedication as a so­cial justice advocate and leader for over 35 years.

More than 50 friends, family, council members, colleagues and appreciative Oakland resi­dents crowded into the space at the front of the council chamber to join the council’s recogni­tion of Cobb, who recently re­tired after decades as head of the Oakland Private Industry Council (PIC). The resolution honoring Cobb was authored by Councilmembers Noel Gal­lo and Lynette Gibson McEl­haney.

Gallo said he was pleased to be “recognizing an outstanding woman who has provided lead­ership in the City of Oakland, who has mentored many of us, including myself.”

Councilmember McElhaney emphasized Cobb’s support for other nonprofits and asso­ciations and her work to support the leadership of Black women through the Black Women Or­ganized for Political Action (BWOPA). McElhaney also mentioned that Cobb is co-publisher of the Oakland Post, which “lifts up the voices of the unheard and the marginalized.”

Council President Rebecca Kaplan thanked Cobb for her leadership of the Oakland Pri­vate Industry Council (PIC), which has provided job train­ing and employment for thou­sands of local residents.

“Getting people access to jobs is so essential to what it takes to build a vibrant and thriving community of equal­ity, justice and participation,” said Kaplan. “So much of your work has been in assur­ing that people get that access to a job, and that make such a difference in people’s lives.”

Referring to Isaiah in the Bible, Kaplan said, “Isaiah kicks open the door of the temple, interrupts the prayer service, and says to the peo­ple, ‘God is not impressed with your fasting and wailing if you’re not taking action to uplift those who ae struggling and to help the homeless and to help the poor.’”

Turning to Cobb, she said, “Not only by your words but by your actions you have modeled that.”

Councilmember Larry Reid said, “I want to apologize to you Gay for having to fight this institution to get us to do the right thing as it relates to putting people into (job) training and into jobs that are going to pay them a livable wage. You have always been a leader of those efforts.”

Cobb was also honored by School Board member Jumoke Hinton-Hodge and Council­members Nikki Fortunato Bas, Loren Taylor, Dan Kalb and Sheng Thao.

In her remarks, Cobb spoke about her years of struggle to secure city funding for em­ployment and job training for Oakland’s youth, unemployed, underemployed and marginal­ized.

“This has been a very inter­esting journey for me, (dealing with) city government and city politics. … It has not always been easy. It has sometimes been painful,” she said.

She gave a shout out to Oak­land’s nonprofit community, which fights for jobs, housing, health, environmental justice and criminal justice reform.

“We know that it is hard work,” she said. “We know that nonprofits labor under very dif­ficult conditions. They lack re­sources, they increasingly have to leave Oakland because they cannot afford the rising rents. But they continue to speak truth to power. And they do it at great risk, sometimes, to their own well-being, to their own ability to continue operating.”

Oakland City Clerk LaTon­da Simmons said her life was deeply impacted by the Private Industry Council.

“It was an amazing time for me to able to transform my life and to pick up on some op­portunities,” said Simmons. “It allowed me to go through a program … and go into the workforce and work produc­tively and pretty much started my career.”

PIC’s work “is tireless, and it is so essential to Oakland resi­dents,” she said.

In a summary of Cobb’s ac­complishments, the City Coun­cil mentioned that her social justice work goes back to her years as a college student who participated in the “historic freedom rides leading to the desegregation of lunch coun­ters and other public facilities” in the South.

As the Chief Executive Of­ficer of the PIC, Cobb has been at the “forefront of the fight to provide a livable wage and sus­tainable employment for Bay Area residents” since 1985. Through her leadership and partnership with community groups, the Cypress-Mandela/ Women in Skilled Trades Pre-apprenticeship Training Center was established in West Oak­land after the 1989 Loma Prieta earthquake.

She served as a member of the Alameda County Board of Education from 1982-2006, “working for system change, high educational achievement and equity for youth who are in the juvenile justice system.”

Cobb served on the board of the San Francisco Foundation from 1998 to 2008, focusing on “community and workforce development … and promot­ing diversity and inclusion in the foundation’s investment practices.”

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MAYOR LONDON BREED NOMINATES CITY ATTORNEY DENNIS HERRERA TO LEAD THE SAN FRANCISCO PUBLIC UTILITIES COMMISSION

As the new General Manager of the SFPUC, Herrera would bring decades of experience serving San Francisco residents and advancing the fight for significant environmental policies.

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San Francisco, CA — Today Mayor London N. Breed nominated City Attorney Dennis Herrera to serve as the next General Manager of the San Francisco Public Utilities Commission (SFPUC). Herrera was elected as City Attorney of San Francisco in 2001, and will bring decades of experience serving City residents and advancing environmental policies through his nationally-recognized office.
The SFPUC provides retail drinking water and wastewater services to the City of San Francisco, wholesale water to three Bay Area counties, green hydroelectric and solar power to Hetch Hetchy electricity customers, and power to the residents and businesses of San Francisco through the CleanPowerSF program.
“I am proud to nominate Dennis Herrera to serve as General Manager of the San Francisco Public Utilities Commission,” said Mayor Breed. “Dennis has been a great champion in San Francisco across a wide range of issues from civil rights to protecting our environment, and most importantly he has been someone who always puts the people of this City first. By bringing his experience in office and his commitment to public service to this new position, I am confident the SFPUC will be able to deliver the high-quality services our residents deserve while continuing to advance nationally-recognized programs like CleanPowerSF and pursue ambitious efforts like public power. Dennis is the right leader for the hard-working employees of the SFPUC and this City.”
“I will always cherish the groundbreaking work we have done in the City Attorney’s Office over these nearly 20 years,” Herrera said. “We advanced equality for all, pushed affordable housing at every turn, gave our children better opportunities to grow and thrive, and took innovative steps to protect the environment. We never shied from the hard fights. Above all, our approach to government has had an unwavering focus on equity, ethics and integrity.”
“It is that focus that drives me to this new challenge,” Herrera said. “Public service is an honor. When you see a need, you step up to serve. The test of our age is how we respond to climate change. San Francisco’s public utility needs clean, innovative and decisive leadership to meet that challenge. I am ready to take the lead in ensuring that all San Franciscans have sustainable and affordable public power, clean and reliable water, and, overall, a public utility that once again makes them proud. I want to thank Mayor Breed for this unique opportunity to stand up for ratepayers and usher in a new era of clean leadership at the top of the San Francisco Public Utilities Commission.”
The next step for the nomination is for the five-member commission that oversees the SFPUC to interview City Attorney Herrera and forward him as a formal recommendation to the Mayor. After this, and once a contract is finalized, City Attorney Herrera would be officially appointed by the Mayor and confirmed by the Commission. This process will take a number of weeks.
For nearly two decades, Herrera has been at the forefront of pivotal water, power and sewer issues. He worked to save state ratepayers $1 billion during PG&E’s first bankruptcy in the early 2000s and has been a leading advocate for San Francisco to adopt full public power for years. In 2009, he reached a key legal agreement with Mirant to permanently close the Potrero Power Plant, San Francisco’s last fossil fuel power plant. The deal also included Mirant paying $1 million to help address pediatric asthma in nearby communities. In 2017, Herrera sued the top five investor-owned fossil fuel companies in the world, including ExxonMobil and Royal Dutch Shell, seeking billions of dollars for infrastructure to protect San Francisco against sea-level rise caused by their products, including large portions of the SFPUC’s combined sewer and stormwater system.
In 2018, Herrera defeated an attempt to drain Hetch Hetchy Reservoir, the crown jewel of the SFPUC system, which provides emissions-free hydroelectric power and clean drinking water to 2.7 million Bay Area residents. He is also leading efforts before the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission and the courts to fight PG&E’s predatory tactics to grow its corporate monopoly by illegally overcharging public projects like schools, homeless shelters and affordable housing to connect to the energy grid.
Herrera was first elected City Attorney in December 2001, and went on to build what The American Lawyer magazine hailed as “one of the most aggressive and talented city law departments in the nation.”
Herrera’s office was involved in every phase of the legal war to achieve marriage equality, from early 2004 to the U.S. Supreme Court’s landmark rulings in June 2013. Herrera was also the first to challenge former President Trump’s attempts to deny federal funding to sanctuary cities. He repeatedly defeated the Trump administration in different cases as it sought to punish sanctuary cities, deny basic benefits like food stamps to legal immigrants, and discriminate in health care against women, the LGBTQ community and other vulnerable groups. He brought groundbreaking consumer protection cases against payday lenders, credit card arbitrators and others. He also brought pioneering legal cases to protect youth, including blocking an attempt to strip City College of San Francisco of its accreditation and getting e-cigarettes off San Francisco store shelves until they received required FDA approval.

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Activism

Bay Area Officials and Leaders React to the George Floyd Verdict

Almost 11 months ago, the world watched as Officer Derek Chauvin kept his knee on the back of George Floyd’s neck. He kept it there for eight minutes and 46 seconds, but it felt like an eternity. The systemic injustice from hundreds of years of racism and mistreatment of Black Americans was put into plain view on video, and the country and the world erupted in protest.

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Photo Credit: Christy Price

San Francisco Mayor London Breed, the Oakland Police Department (OPD) and the Greenlining Institute President and CEO Debra Gore-Mann issued statements in reaction to Tuesday’s triple guilty verdict in the trial of Derek Chauvin, ex-Minneapolis police officer for killing George Floyd in May, 2020.

Mayor London Breed’s statement:

“This verdict does not bring back the life of George Floyd. It can’t replace the years of his life that were robbed from him, nor the life experiences and memories that would have been made with his friends and family. What this verdict does reflect is that the tide is turning in this country, although still too slowly, toward accountability and justice.

Almost 11 months ago, the world watched as Officer Derek Chauvin kept his knee on the back of George Floyd’s neck. He kept it there for eight minutes and 46 seconds, but it felt like an eternity. The systemic injustice from hundreds of years of racism and mistreatment of Black Americans was put into plain view on video, and the country and the world erupted in protest.

While we’re now months removed from the height of those protests, the need for action is as critical as ever. This is about more than prosecuting the officer who killed George Floyd, though that is an important step. It’s about fundamentally restructuring how policing is done to move away from the use of excessive force. It’s about shifting responses to non-violent calls away from an automatic police response to something better equipped to handle the situation. It’s about reinvesting in communities in which years of systematic disinvestment has made it nearly impossible for people to thrive. It’s about changing who we are as a country.

That’s what we’re trying to do in San Francisco. Our Street Crisis Response Teams, consisting of paramedics and behavioral health specialists, are now often the first responders to non-violent 911 calls relating to mental health and substance use. 

Our Dream Keeper Initiative is redirecting $120 million to improve the lives of Black youth and their families through investments in everything from housing, to healthcare, to workforce training and guaranteed income. And our sustained, multi-year efforts to reform our police department has resulted in a 57% reduction in instances of use of force and a 45% decrease in officer-involved shootings since 2016.

While this tragedy can never be undone, what we can do is finally make real change in the name of George Floyd. Nothing we can do will bring him back, but we can do the work to prevent others from facing his fate in the future. That is the work we need to do. It’s ongoing, it’s challenging, but if we are committed, we can make a real and lasting difference in this country.”

OPD Statement 

We all must recognize that this moment is about accountability, justice, and reform. We must be compassionate, empathic, and forgiving, the Oakland Police Department declared in a statement released on Tuesday. 

All sides must unite as one community to effectively communicate. Together we will work towards rethinking policing in America. 

In unity, we will move towards finding solutions for the safety of all people, notwithstanding your age, race, religion, gender, ethnicity, sexual orientation, or disability. 

We stand as one community grieving and healing as we move towards finding real solutions to effect change as we seek to strengthen police and community relations. 

We extend our deepest condolences to George Floyd’s family and all communities. 

Greenlining Institute President and CEO Debra Gore-Mann:

“Today, we experienced a small measure of justice as Derek Chauvin was convicted and the killing of George Floyd was recognized as the criminal act it was. But we shouldn’t fool ourselves into thinking that one conviction of one cop for a killing the whole world witnessed on video will change a fundamentally racist and dysfunctional system. The whole law enforcement system must be rethought and rebuilt from the ground up so that there are no more George Floyds, Daunte Wrights and Adam Toledos. But even that is just a start.

“Policing doesn’t operate in a vacuum. Systemic racism exists in policing because systemic racism exists in America. We must fundamentally uproot the disease of racism in our society and create a transformative path forward.” 

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City Government

Council Unanimously Approves Local Business Empowerment Ordinance

The Oakland African American Chamber of Commerce (OAACC) and Post News Group joined with District 6 Councilmember Loren Taylor to host a town hall to discuss ways to mitigate local contracting disparities.

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District 6 Councilmember Loren Taylor

The Oakland African American Chamber of Commerce (OAACC) and Post News Group joined with District 6 Councilmember Loren Taylor to host a town hall to discuss ways to mitigate local contracting disparities.

Vice Mayor Rebecca Kaplan, and the staff of District 3 Councilmember Carroll Fife also joined the town hall meeting to add their support for full implementation of the plan to bring a more equitable distribution of the city’s contracting dollars.

A direct response to the city’s 2017 Disparities Study, conducted by Mason Tillman Associates, showed more than $56M in lost contract dollars for the Black community during the five-year study period. The purpose of the town hall was to receive community input on potential solutions, including Taylor’s Local Business Empowerment Through Contracting (LBETC) Resolution & Ordinance.

While the resolution was passed unanimously during the Council’s meeting on January 12, questions of financial and operational impact delayed the ordinance’s second reading to this week’s council meeting. Co-sponsored by District 7 Councilmember Treva Reid, the ordinance was also unanimously approved by the councilmembers present in a 7-0 vote, following immense public support mobilized by OAACC President Cathy Adams prior to and during the council meeting.

Taylor thanked the OAACC and the many groups and individuals who urged transparent and regular public reporting of all contracts, even those that are awarded at staff’s discretion for amounts less than $50,000 without council approval.

Taylor said quick action is required because, “Our local diverse business owners are currently missing out on millions of dollars in city contracting opportunities. There is still much work to do moving forward.”

Paul Cobb, publisher of the Post, said “We will regularly publish the names and amounts of  all contracts awarded to companies and individuals. With diligent monitoring we can reverse the drain of Oakland’s tax dollars and reverse the cashflow characteristics to help create jobs for Oakland residents.”

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