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Economics

Community Groups Break Ground on Center for Job Training and Restorative Justice

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The Ella Baker Center for Human Rights and Restaurant Opportunities Center United (ROC United) held a groundbreaking rally and press conference Wednesday to announce the construction of Restore Oakland, a community advocacy and training center in the Fruitvale neighborhood of East Oakland.

Restore Oakland is designed to mobilize Bay Area community members to transform the current economic and justice systems and make a safe and secure future possible for themselves and for their families.

“We’re thrilled to break ground on a project born out of our dream for an Oakland where everyone belongs and thrives,” said Zachary Norris, executive director of Ella Baker Center.

“Restore Oakland will work toward one Oakland where zip codes no longer determine how we live and each resident can access dignity, hope, and opportunity,” he said.

“In a community where mass incarceration and economic injustice are harming our families, loved ones, and neighbors, Restore Oakland will be one central space where everyone can dream, organize, and act—together,” said Liam Chinn, executive director of Restore Oakland.

The center will offer:

  • Job training and placement – hands-on training through Colors Restaurant and placement services to help workers advance to livable-wage jobs;
  • Business incubation – support working people to incubate and launch their own worker-owned food enterprise;
  • Restorative justice – serve as a neighborhood space where community members can resolve and heal from conflict, offering an alternative to punishment and incarceration; and,
  • Community and economic power building – community organizing and community self-determination to drive investment in jobs, housing, and education.

Founding organizations Ella Baker Center and ROC United are working in partnership with Designing Justice + Designing Spaces, Community Works West, Causa Justa/Just Cause, Restorative Justice for Oakland Youth (RJOY), La Cocina, and many other local groups to establish the Restore Oakland center, located at the corner of International Boulevard and 34th Avenue.

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African American News & Issues

Reparations: How ‘Intentional’ Government Policy Denied Blacks Access to Wealth

Fifty years after the federal Fair Housing Act eliminated racial discrimination in lending, the Black community continues to be denied mortgage loans at rates much higher than their white counterparts.

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Stock photo of a vault with access denied written across it

When the Emancipation Proclamation was signed in 1863, the Black community owned less than 1% of the United States’ total wealth, the Task Force to Study and Develop Reparation Proposals for African Americans was told during its fourth meeting.

Mehrsa Baradaran, a professor at the University of California Irvine, School of Law, shared the statistics during the “Racism in Banking, Tax, and Labor” portion of the two-day meeting on October 13.

From her perspective, the power of wealth and personal income is still unequally distributed. And that inequality, in her view, has always been allowed, preserved and compounded by laws and government policy.

“More than 150 years later, that number has barely budged,” Baradaran told the Task Force, tracing the wealth gap from the period after the Civil War when President Lincoln granted formerly enslaved Blacks their freedom to the present day.

“The gap between average white wealth and Black wealth has actually increased over the last decades. Today, across every social-economic level, Black families have a fraction of the wealth that white families have,” she said.

Baradaran has written a range of entries and books about banking law, financial inclusion, inequality, and the racial wealth gap. Her scholarship includes the books “How the Other Half Banks” and “The Color of Money: Black Banks and the Racial Wealth Gap,” both published by the Harvard University Press.

Baradaran has also published several articles on race and economics, including “Jim Crow Credit” in the Irvine Law Review, “Regulation by Hypothetical” in the Vanderbilt Law Review, and “How the Poor Got Cut Out of Banking” in the Emory Law Journal.

Baradaran, a 43-year-old immigrant born in Iran, testified that her work on the wealth gap in America was conducted from a “research angle” and she respectfully “submitted” her testimony “in that light,” she said.

In her research, Baradaran explained that she discovered an intentional system of financial oppression.

“This wealth chasm doesn’t abate with income or with education. In other words, this is a wealth gap that is pretty much tied to a history of exclusion and exploitation and not to be remedied by higher education and higher income,” Baradaran said.

According to a January 2020 report, the Public Policy Institute of California said African American and Latino families make up 12% of those with incomes above the 90th percentile in the state, despite comprising 43% of all families in California.

In addition, PPIC reported that such disparities mirror the fact that African American and Latino adults are overrepresented in low-wage jobs and have higher unemployment rates, and African American adults are less likely to be in the labor force.

Many issues support these activities that range from disparities around education, local job opportunities, and incarceration to discrimination in the labor market, according to PPIC.

“While California’s economy outperforms the nation’s, its level of income inequality exceeds that of all but five states,” the report stated.

“Without target policies, it will continue to grow,” Baradaran said of the wealth gap. “And I want to be clear of how this wealth gap will continue to grow. It was created, maintained, and perpetuated through public policy at the federal, state, and local levels.

“Black men and women have been shut out of most avenues of middle-class creations. Black homes, farms, and savings were not given the full protection of the law. Especially as these properties were subjected to racial terrorism. The American middle-class was not created that way (to support Black communities),” Baradaran said.

A June 2018 working paper from the Opportunity and Inclusive Growth Institute written by economists familiar with moderate-to-weak Black wealth backs up Baradaran’s assessment.

Published by the Federal Reserve Bank of Minneapolis, the authors of the report wrote that strategies to deny Blacks access to wealth started at the beginning of the Reconstruction era, picked up around the civil rights movement, and resurfaced around the financial crisis of the late 2000s.

Authored by Moritz Kuhn, Moritz Schularick, and Ulrike I. Steins, the “Income and Wealth Inequality in America, 1949-2016” explains a close analysis of racial inequality, pre-and post-civil rights eras.

The economists wrote that the median Black household has less than 11% of the wealth of the median white household, which is about $15,000 versus $140,000 in 2016 prices.

“The overall summary is bleak,” the report states. “The historical data also reveal that no progress has been made in reducing income and wealth inequalities between black and white households over the past 70 years.”

Baradaran recently participated in the virtual symposium, “Racism and the Economy: Focus on the Wealth Divide” hosted by 12 District Banks of the Federal Reserve System, which includes the Federal Reserve Bank of Minneapolis.

There are some positives that are not typically included in discussions about the challenges Blacks have experienced historically in efforts to obtain wealth, Baradaran said. Many African Americans, specifically in California, were able to subvert the systems that discriminated against them.

“Black institutions have been creative and innovative serving their communities in a hostile climate,” Baradaran said. “I’ve written a book about the long history of entrepreneurship, self-help, and mutual uplift. Historically Black Colleges and Universities have provided stellar education and Black banks have supported Black businesses, churches, and families.”

California’s Assembly Bill (AB) 3121, titled “The Task Force to Study and Develop Reparation Proposals for African Americans,” created a nine-member commission to investigate inequity in education, labor, wealth, housing, tax, and environmental justice.

All of these areas were covered with expert testimony during the two-day meeting held on October 12 and October 13. The task force is charged with exploring California’s involvement in slavery, segregation, and the historic denial of Black citizens’ constitutional rights.

Fifty years after the federal Fair Housing Act eliminated racial discrimination in lending, the Black community continues to be denied mortgage loans at rates much higher than their white counterparts.

“Banks and corporations have engaged in lending and hiring practices that helped to solidify patterns of racial inequality,” Jacqueline Jones, a history professor from the University of Texas told the Task Force.

The Racism in Banking, Tax and Labor segment also featured testimonies by Williams Spriggs (former chair of the Department of Economics at Howard University. Spriggs now serves as chief economist to the AFL-CIO), Thomas Craemer (public policy professor at the University of Connecticut), and Lawrence Lucas (U.S. Department of Agriculture Coalition of Minority Employees).

The Task Force to Study and Develop Reparation Proposals for African Americans will conduct its fifth and final meeting of 2021 on December 6 and December 7.

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City Government

Mayor Breed Announces Privately Funded Rewards for Information Leading to Conviction of Auto Burglary Fencing Operators

New initiative will bolster the success of recent strategic deployments to high-traffic tourism, workplace, and retail destinations

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Car thief stealing a car./ iStock

Mayor London N. Breed announced a privately funded cash reward for information leading to the arrest and conviction of individuals involved in organized criminal fencing operations known to fuel vehicle smash-and-grabs. 

Announced Tuesday, this initiative builds on Breed’s recent expansion of community-based ambassadors and police patrols to high-traffic businesses, tourist, and retail destinations, which has resulted in a 37% drop in citywide auto burglaries from the year’s July 4 highpoint to the most recent reporting period.

The new initiative is a keystone element in a comprehensive auto burglary strategy that aims to educate motorists and visitors; deter, investigate and arrest active auto burglars; and shut down the upstream criminal enterprises that traffic in stolen goods, fueling street-level auto burglaries. 

Investigators within the San Francisco Police Department and among regional law enforcement partner agencies in Northern California estimate that fewer than a dozen regular auto burglary crews are responsible for the large majority of auto burglaries that have plagued Bay Area cities in recent years.

“The frequent auto burglaries in San Francisco are not victimless crimes, they have real financial and emotional consequences for the victims and we’re continuing to work to hold people who commit these crimes accountable,” said Breed. “These break-ins hurt our residents, especially working families who do not have the time or money to deal with the effects, as well as visitors to our City whose experiences are too often tarnished after an otherwise positive experience.

“We’ve made good progress in recent months since announcing our Tourism Deployment Plan, but there’s still more work to do to ensure that everyone feels safe on our streets. I want to thank our partners in the private sector who understand the urgency of this issue, and we want to be very clear to the organized groups who are responsible for the vast majority of these crimes that we are committing the resources and the manpower to hold you accountable.”

The new cash reward system, which is being fully funded by private donors in the hospitality and tourism industry, will provide monetary incentives in exchange for information regarding high-level leaders of organized auto burglary fencing operations. 

Individuals that provide accurate and transparent information will be compensated up to $100,000 pending the arrest and conviction of individuals involved. In total, funds raised are in excess of $225,000 so far.

“Organized crime has been driving a lot of the theft in this city. The people at the top have been raking in huge sums of money by paying street-level criminals to do all their stealing for them, making working families miserable in the process. This initiative is going to help us take these rings apart,” said Sharky Laguana, president of the Small Business Commission.

Recent initiatives helping to reduce auto burglaries

In recent months, Breed has announced the strategic deployments of police and community-based ambassadors to support San Francisco’s reemergence from COVID-19 restrictions and deter property crimes likely to accompany renewed economic activity — including auto burglaries.

Breed’s Tourism Deployment Plan, announced in July, assigned 26 additional police officers on bicycle and foot patrols to an array of high-traffic and highly sought-after travel destinations citywide. 

Public safety deployments of police officers and community-based partners were also key elements of the Mayor’s Mid-Market Vibrancy and Safety Plan launched in May and the Organized Retail Crime Initiative, which Breed announced last month. 

The combined emphasis on high-visibility patrols in areas long targeted by auto burglars has been instrumental in reducing auto burglary rates — even as tourism and economic activity begin returning to pre-pandemic levels.

The San Francisco Police Department has also stepped up its “Park Smart” public awareness campaign in recent months. Park Smart is a collaboration among SFPD, the San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency, the Department of Emergency Management, SF SAFE, the Fisherman’s Wharf Community Benefit District, and local tourism and travel partners. 

Educating motorists and visitors on how to help prevent vehicle burglaries by taking common-sense precautions, Park Smart’s recommended strategies when parking vehicles in San Francisco include placing items in trunks; never leaving valuables in view; and parking in lots staffed with attendants whenever possible.

2021 CompStat numbers on auto burglaries in San Francisco

According to San Francisco Police Department CompStat data, the 2021 highpoint for auto burglaries came just two weeks after California began to emerge from its COVID-19 lockdown, with 566 auto burglaries reported citywide for the week ending July 4, 2021.

Deployments of police and community-based patrols launched the following week under Mayor Breed’s Tourism Deployment Plan have since led to a sustained drop in auto burglaries — even with Fleet Week, San Francisco Giants post-season games, the return of Golden State Warriors’ games to Chase Center and other attractions ushering in a comeback in visitors to the City.

SFPD CompStat data for the most recently reported period, for the week ending Oct. 17, 2021, show that a total of 358 auto break-ins were committed in San Francisco — a drop of 37 percent from the July 4 holiday.

Auto burglary incident counts by year have generally trended down since 2017, when San Francisco recorded 31,409 such incidents. Although 2021 has predictably trended higher than the COVID-19 lockdown year of 2020, it remains well below pre-pandemic rates that reached 25,886 reported auto burglaries for the 2019 calendar year.

“Today’s announcement adds a promising new tool to the coordinated efforts of public and private sector partners to fight auto burglaries in San Francisco,” said Chief of Police Bill Scott. “We know the profit motives of a few upstream fencing operations are fueling thousands of auto burglaries and other kinds of thefts. This generously funded cash reward enables us to flip the script on profit motives — creating an incentive that can help us bring these criminal enterprises to justice.

“On behalf of all of us in the San Francisco Police Department, we’re grateful to the funders of this generous partnership with our City. We thank Mayor Breed for her leadership, and we’re pleased to see strategic deployments of our officers and our community partners making progress to keep auto burglaries down. We’re very hopeful that this new initiative will help make San Francisco’s so-far successful efforts on auto burglaries even more successful moving forward.”

Staff reductions due to unvaccinated officers won’t affect patrol functions

Given the San Francisco Police Department’s emphasis on adequately staffing such core police functions as patrol and investigations, reductions in force owing to unvaccinated SFPD members will have no effect on existing high-visibility deployments. 

Most SFPD employees, including all sworn members, were required to be fully vaccinated by Oct. 13, 2021, under the City’s COVID-19 vaccination policy and the San Francisco County Health Officer’s “Safer Return Together” health order. 

Following the October 13 deadline last Thursday, 76 SFPD officers — or 3.5% of the Department’s sworn members — remained unvaccinated and are ineligible to perform policing functions.

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Activism

Ask County Supervisors Not to Spend Millions in Tax Dollars on Oakland A’s Real Estate Deal

Please attend the meeting Tuesday, October 26 and express your opinion; call or e-mail your supervisor and Keith Carson, president of the Board of Supervisors, through his chief of staff Amy Shrago at (510) 272-6685 or Amy.Shrago@acgov.org

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A rendering of the proposed new A’s ballpark at the Howard Terminal site, surrounded by port cranes and warehouses. Image courtesy of MANICA Architecture.

The East Oakland Stadium Alliance (EOSA) and other groups are asking local residents to attend and speak at next week’s Alameda County Board of Supervisors meeting to oppose a proposal to spend county residents’ tax dollars to pay for the Oakland A’s massive multi-billion-dollar real estate deal at Howard Terminal at the Port of Oakland. 

Please attend the meeting Tuesday, October 26 and express your opinion; call or e-mail your supervisor and Keith Carson, president of the Board of Supervisors, through his chief of staff Amy Shrago at (510) 272-6685 or Amy.Shrago@acgov.org

The Stadium Alliance urges community members to “let (the supervisors) know that Alameda County residents don’t want our tax dollars to pay for a private luxury development. This proposal does not include privately funded community benefits and would harm our region’s economic engine – the port- putting tens of thousands of good-paying jobs at risk.”

 

“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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