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Community Members Call for “Sustainable” Police Reforms

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A coalition of police accountability activists is considering its next steps, while still smarting from city council members’ refusal to place a community-backed measure on the November ballot to create a police oversight commission.

gallo

Noel Gallo

The ballot measure was supported by a cross section of community groups but never made it to the City Council, failing to receive more than one vote at the Council’s Public Safety Committee meeting at the end of June.

Only District 5 Councilmember Noel Gallo was willing to back the initiative.

“It is the lack of political will on the part of city leaders that has kept Oakland under federal oversight for 12 years when it was supposed to take five,” said Rashidah Grinage, executive director of People United for a Better Life in Oakland (PUEBLO).

“It was lack of political will that kept the City Council from endorsing our police accountability ballot measure over the opposition of the Oakland Police Officers’ Association (OPOA).”

“And it is an ongoing lack of political will that means the city’s police disciplinary process almost never results in discipline, which is now being addressed by Judge Henderson,” she said.

Judge Thelton Henderson issued a ruling Aug. 14 instructing Compliance Director Robert Warshaw to investigate OPD’s internal disciplinary procedure after an arbitrator recently overturned the termination of an officer for misconduct during an Occupy Oakland protest in 2011.

“Imposition of discipline is meaningless if not final,” Judge Henderson wrote on Aug. 14. “The city’s promises to correct deficiencies …have fallen short, and further intervention by this court is now required.”

“The court questions whether the defendants are adequately preparing cases for arbitration such that consistency of discipline can be assured to the greatest extent possible.”

Agreeing with Henderson’s ruling, Anthony Finnell the newly hired executive director of theanthony finnell Citizens’ Police Review Board, told the Oakland Post that his observations and conversations with authorities underscore what the judge said.

“I have spoken to members of OPD IAD (Internal Affairs) as well as the president of the OPOA (Barry Donelan of the Oakland Police Officers Association) and learned the arbitration process is so successful that when discipline is handed down to an officer the officer doesn’t even worry about it,” Finnell said in an email to the Post.

On Tuesday, Aug. 12, community members met with Federal Monitor/Compliance Director Warshaw in one of his rare public meetings with local residents.

“Our primary responsibility to make sure the OPD is in compliance with the NSA,” said Warshaw. He explained, however, that compliance does not simply mean gaining a passing score on all the tasks – it also requires that reforms achieve “sustainability.”

He said that Judge Henderson is committed to continuing court oversight of OPD until the city and the police department demonstrate that reforms are sustainable.

At present, Warshaw said he is working with police to evaluate the stop data the department

Robert Warshaw

Robert Warshaw

collects to determine whether OPD is conducting racial profiling.

On Monday this week, community members met with Finnell, the new executive director of the Citizens’ Police Review Board.

For the past five years, the CPRB has lacked city support and funding. It did not have a director or investigators. Its findings were routinely ignored, and police often did not send representatives to the meetings.

There is cautious optimism now among police accountability activists that the CRPB can have more impact after the hiring of Finnell and a city decision to hire two investigators next month.

Finnell, a former homicide inspector in Indianapolis, said he is committed to seeking justice for Oakland residents and working with police to make sure they follow the law.

“I can make the changes” that people want to see, said Finnell. “We’ll keep trying until we get it right.”

 

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Business

Oakland City Council Considers Proposal to Limit City’s Highest Annual Rent Hike in History

In Oakland, landlords can raise rents up to 100% of the inflation rate. So, a 6.7% increase in inflation this year means that landlords can raise rents the same percentage. For an apartment rented for $2,000 a month, the 6.7% rent increase would mean that a tenant’s rent would increase more than $100 to $2,134 a month.

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District 3 Councilmember Carroll Fife introduced a bill to bring Oakland’s calculator more in line with other cities. The law is scheduled for a vote on May 31. If it passes before the current allowable rent hike goes into effect on July 1, then the lower allowable increase will take effect instead.

By Brandon Patterson

Last month, Oakland housing regulators announced that starting in July, landlords would be permitted to raise rents by up to 6.7% — the highest annual increase in the city’s history. The announcement prompted an outcry from renters at City Council meetings and hearings in recent weeks – and calls to local councilmembers.

Now, City Council is considering a proposal to limit the rent increase and give renters, many of whom are already struggling, some needed relief.

In many Bay Area cities, where housing has been an issue for decades, the amount landlords are allowed to raise rents every year is tied to inflation. This stabilizes rents by limiting increases, ensuring more security for renters’ households.

In Oakland, landlords can raise rents up to 100% of the inflation rate. So, a 6.7% increase in inflation this year means that landlords can raise rents the same percentage. For an apartment rented for $2,000 a month, the 6.7% rent increase would mean that a tenant’s rent would increase more than $100 to $2,134 a month.

This deviates from other cities like Berkeley and San Francisco, however, where the annual allowable rent increase is capped at 65% and 60% of inflation, respectively, according to Oaklandside. That means that for the same $2,000 apartment, rents would increase to about $2,087 in Berkeley or $2084 in San Francisco — about $50 less.

Housing justice and tenants’ rights groups have long criticized how differently Oakland calculates its rent hikes from other cities, and earlier this month, District 3 Councilmember Carroll Fife introduced a bill to bring Oakland’s calculator more in line with other cities. The bill would reduce the allowable annual rent increase to just 60% of inflation. It would also cap the allowable rent increase to 3% of the current rent, even if the inflation rate would allow for a higher one.

“I do want to create some security for renters,” Fife told NBC Bay Area in a recent interview. “Oakland is a majority renter city: Over 60% of the residents of the city of Oakland are renters, and it doesn’t make sense to put them in this type of jeopardy.”

“It’s not like we’re coming out of COVID—it’s all around us,” Mark Dias, co-chair of the Oakland Tenants Union, told Oaklandside. “If tenants weren’t able to financially recover from that period of time, they’re also going to be hit with an increase that is legal,” adding that he was “astonished” by the pending rent hike this year.

But some property owners are pushing back, arguing that increases in the cost of operating housing necessitates the higher rent hike. “There has also been an extraordinary increase in everything: water, gas, electric, sewer, repair services, equipment, appliances, plumbing,” Derek Barnes, CEO of the East Bay Rental Housing Association, told NBC Bay Area. “You also have a housing stock that’s older, that really needs a lot of maintenance.”

The law is scheduled for a vote on May 31. If it passes before the current allowable rent hike goes into effect on July 1, then the lower allowable increase will take effect instead.

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Bay Area

Bay Area Health Officers Urge Public to Take Precautions as COVID-19 Levels Rise

The Bay Area now has California’s highest COVID-19 infection rates, fueled by highly contagious Omicron subvariants. Bay Area counties are seeing increases in reported cases, levels of virus in wastewater, and hospitalizations. Actual case rates are higher than those reported because of widespread use of home tests.

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Dr. Matt Willis, Marin County Public Health Officer.
Dr. Matt Willis, Marin County Public Health Officer.

Courtesy of Marin County

Twelve Bay Area health officers are emphasizing the importance of taking safety precautions, including continued masking indoors, as the region experiences a new swell of COVID-19 cases and hospitalizations.

The Bay Area now has California’s highest COVID-19 infection rates, fueled by highly contagious Omicron subvariants. Bay Area counties are seeing increases in reported cases, levels of virus in wastewater, and hospitalizations. Actual case rates are higher than those reported because of widespread use of home tests.

The health officers reiterate their continued, strong support for people to mask up indoors, keep tests handy, and ensure they are up to date on vaccinations by getting boosters when eligible.

“As cases rise around us, it’s important to understand that more people around you are likely infected or have been exposed,” said Marin County Public Health Officer Dr. Matt Willis. “Masks are an easy tool you can use to protect yourself and lower your risk of infection.”

The grim milestone of 1 million deaths from COVID-19 in the United States, reached earlier this week, underscores the need for continued vigilance against the virus.

Although not required, masking is strongly recommended by the California Department of Public Health for most public indoor settings, and health officials say wearing higher-quality masks (N95/KN95 or snug-fitting surgical masks) indoors is a wise choice. Vaccines remain the best protection against severe disease and death from COVID-19.

Health officials say people should also stay home and get tested right away if they feel sick. Officials also encourage getting tested after potential exposure and limiting large gatherings to well ventilated spaces or outdoors. For those more likely to get very sick from COVID-19 infection, medications are available that can reduce chances of severe illness and death. Talk with a health care provider right away if a test comes back positive.

This statement has been endorsed by health officers from the counties of Alameda, Contra Costa, Marin, Monterey, Napa, San Benito, San Francisco, San Mateo, Santa Clara, Santa Cruz, and Sonoma as well as the City of Berkeley.

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Bay Area

Multiple Services Offered at June 1 County Event

Clean Slate is a new community-minded collaboration of the County’s justice-oriented departments plus key support from Health and Human Services. The motivation was to bring services from the Civic Center to the people who might need them the most. The program helps ensure that every resident can succeed following a criminal conviction by informing them about job training, government benefits, and basic health care needs.

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Clean Slate program supporters at Civic Center include (from left) Assistant DA Otis Bruce Jr., Health and Human Services Director Benita McLarin, Probation Chief Marlon Washington, Health and Human Services Division Director D’Angelo Paillet, DA Lori Frugoli, and Public Defender David Joseph Sutton.
Clean Slate program supporters at Civic Center include (from left) Assistant DA Otis Bruce Jr., Health and Human Services Director Benita McLarin, Probation Chief Marlon Washington, Health and Human Services Division Director D’Angelo Paillet, DA Lori Frugoli, and Public Defender David Joseph Sutton.

Clean Slate program to address justice-related & health needs in San Rafael

Courtesy of Marin County

Bringing assistance directly to Marin County residents in their own neighborhood is the idea behind the Clean Slate program, which made a successful debut in February in Marin City. This time, an array of services from four County of Marin departments will be available Wednesday, June 1, at the Multicultural Center of Marin in San Rafael.

The Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) will be on hand for assistance with public benefits such as Medi-Cal, CalFresh food assistance, CalWORKS services, employment training, and general financial relief for families. COVID-19 vaccinations and booster shots will be available as well.

People in need of help with justice-related tasks such as clearing one’s record, terminating one’s probation, or dismissing a conviction will be able to walk in with documentation and receive help from the Public Defender’s Office, the District Attorney’s Office, or the Probation Department.

The walk-in event will be set up from 4-7 p.m. at the Multicultural Center of Marin, 709 5th Avenue, in San Rafael.

Clean Slate is a new community-minded collaboration of the County’s justice-oriented departments plus key support from Health and Human Services. The motivation was to bring services from the Civic Center to the people who might need them the most. The program helps ensure that every resident can succeed following a criminal conviction by informing them about job training, government benefits, and basic health care needs.

“I believe that this collaboration really shows the commitment of each of the departments to help remove barriers to self-sufficiency and have a presence in the community,” said D’Angelo Paillet, HHS Social Services Director.

Those seeking law-related help are asked to bring all relevant documents with them, including past correspondences and state Department of Justice records. Each participating department will have Spanish translators on hand to help with health or immigration-related relief.

For questions about the event related to legal services, contact the Public Defender’s Office at (473) 473-6321. For health-related questions, contact Health and Human Services at (415) 473-3350.

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