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Community Presses City Council to Call Housing State of Emergency

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Housing justice organizers are asking residents to attend the Tuesday, April 5 City Council meeting to push council members to pass a housing state of emergency in Oakland.

 

 

The organizers are encouraging Oaklanders—particularly the 60 percent who are renters—to come to the council meeting and to bring their family members and neighbors, saying this may be the best chance residents will have to respond to developers and speculators who are turning Oakland into a bedroom community for San Francisco.

 

 

Coordinating efforts to pass the housing state of emergency in Oakland have been activists and community members who have attended the past several Post Salons at Geoffrey’s Inner Circle.

 

 

How a Housing State of Emergency Works

 

 

The purpose of a housing state of emergency is to temporarily halt or slow down the city’s displacement crisis, giving officials and city staff several months to implement remedies for the damaging practices that continue to run out of control.

 

 

The declaration of a housing state of emergency also enables the city to utilize certain city funds and outside grants.

 

 

Under the city charter, a state of emergency must be passed by 75 percent of the council, or six of the eight council members.

 

 

“The 75 percent rule has been followed in declaring other states of emergency in the city – but we’re hoping all eight council members will do the right thing and respond to the present crisis,” said James Vann, housing activist and co-founder of the Oakland Tenants Union.

 

 

During the moratorium, rental property owners who have not taken a rent increase within the last 12 months can still raise rents based on the Consumer Price Index, which at present is 1.7 percent as determined by the city’s rent law – as opposed to exorbitant increases of 60 percent, 100 percent or 200 percent that are currently occurring.

 

 

In addition, tenants could only be evicted during the moratorium for just causes such as failure to pay rent or damaging their apartment or building.

 

 

If the declaration of emergency is violated by a property owner, tenants would have a right to go to court to stop the unlawful action. Owners also might be liable for damages for violating the state of emergency.

 

 

Organizing to Stay in Oakland

 

 

Activist Carroll Fife, who chaired the Post Salon’s organizing meeting last Sunday, said council members have ignored or minimized Oakland’s housing state of emergency for years.

 

 

“But now they seem prepared to act, and we need to be encouraged by that, and we should continue to organize,” said Fife.

 

 

Fife pointed out that more and more Oakland residents are living in their cars or in homeless encampments.

 

 

According to the city’s 2015 Rental Survey, Oakland’s average renter household can only afford to pay about $750 a month, far below the rents of the “affordable housing” that city officials approve for new non-profit projects.

 

 

Housing rights organizations estimate that about 1,000 Oakland residents are being displaced each month by exorbitant rent increases and unjust evictions.

 

 

Oakland’s housing crisis has been growing since 1970, but never has the council passed a state of emergency to address housing problems, according to activists.

 

 

However, almost every year, council members approve other states of emergencies for many other serious issues.

 

 

Speaking at Sunday’s Post Salon, Post Publisher Paul Cobb said people should organize outreach to Oakland’s Black churches, nonprofits, and flatland and Latino neighborhood organizations to urge them to bring their members to the April 5 council meeting.

 

 

“Everybody in their groups has to live somewhere,” said Cobb. “Everybody needs to get on board. We have to fill the council chambers and surround City Hall.”

 

 

Cobb continued, “We’re hopeful, but we have to operate on the working assumption we have no votes on the council.”

 

 

“The council members say they are sympathetic to renters’ plight, but that is not enough for renters to believe in them, he said. Faith without works is dead.”

 

 

Cobb added that he is working on a voter registration drive.

 

 

In addition to participants in the Post Salon, groups working on passing the state of emergency include the John George Democratic Club, Oakland Education Association, Wellstone Democratic Renewal Club, Oakland Alliance, Qilombo, Block by Block Organizing Network and Oakland Tenants Union.

 

Bay Area

Vice Mayor: Business Group Wants to Buy Coliseum, Attract WNBA Team

The group will provide additional details of its effort at a news conference at 11:00 a.m. Friday at a site to be determined.

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Oakland Vice Mayor Rebecca Kaplan.

Oakland Vice Mayor Rebecca Kaplan said a local business group has made serious inroads to buy the city’s 50% stake in the Oakland Coliseum complex and to bring a WNBA team to the city.
Kaplan’s office shared a news release Monday about the effort by the African American Sports and Entertainment Group.

Kaplan said the group is in negotiations with the Oakland-Alameda Joint Powers Authority, has submitted a formal proposal to WNBA officials, and has submitted a term sheet to the city, which the City Council’s rules committee recently voted to advance to the full council for a vote.

The group will provide additional details of its effort at a news conference at 11:00 a.m. Friday at a site to be determined.

“I am pleased that there is such great interest in doing an important development at the Oakland Coliseum that will provide jobs, revenue and community positivity,” Kaplan said. “My goal is to help this process move forward before the summer recess.”

Kaplan said the group has the backing of more than 30 community groups of faith-based institutions, labor organizations, civic leaders, and job development organizations. She did not name the groups

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Art

City Selects Ayodele Nzinga as Inaugural Poet Laureate

As poet laureate, Nzinga will make an inaugural address, partner with the city’s youth poet laureate Myra Estrada on a reading series, deliver four readings in Oakland, and write a poem that commemorates the city.

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Oakland first poet laureate Ayodele Nzinga, author of “SorrowLand Oracle” and “The Horse Eaters,” in an undated photo. (Photo courtesy City of Oakland).

Poet, playwright, and community activist Ayodele Nzinga was selected as Oakland’s inaugural poet laureate, city officials announced on June 11.

Nzinga is the founding producer and director of the West Oakland theater company Lower Bottom Playaz, established in 1999. She’s also the founding director of Black Arts Movement Business District Community Development Corporation, which produces BAMBDFEST, an international arts and cultural festival celebrating the arts in the Black community.

“Her decades-long commitment to Oakland’s art scene will feed the richness of her storytelling as she nurtures creativity in others,” Oakland Mayor Libby Schaaf said in a statement.

Nzinga is the author of at least two books of poetry: “SorrowLand Oracle,” a collection of spells, incantations, prayers, and “The Horse Eaters,” which is described as an origin tale, a reclamation of memory and a movement toward wholeness in thought.

Nzinga said she is “overjoyed” with her selection as Oakland’s first poet laureate.

“I look forward to representing ‘The Town’ and the honor of bringing poetry to the people!” she said in a statement.

As poet laureate, Nzinga will make an inaugural address, partner with the city’s youth poet laureate Myra Estrada on a reading series, deliver four readings in Oakland, and write a poem that commemorates the city.

“Whether in the visual performing arts, music or literature, the talents of the Town’s artists are world-renowned and deserve recognition and financial support,” J. K. Fowler, cultural affairs commissioner and chair of the poet laureate selection team, said in a statement.

City officials closed nominations on May 19 for Oakland’s inaugural poet laureate and five members of the city’s literary community selected Nzinga from other nominees based on five criteria.

That included their poetic work, and among other things, their understanding of civic stories around belonging, culture, and equity.

Nzinga will serve a two-year term until May 2023. Her selection comes with a $5,000 honorarium.

The date for the inaugural address by Nzinga has not been set.

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Business

Go Fund Geoffrey’s

Whether it was Paul Mooney, Faye Carroll, Sugar Pie or Jay-Z performing or whether it was Congresswoman Barbara Lee, Mayor Elihu Harris, or Kamala Harris along with many of the Bay area’s elected officials they too have come to bask in the limelight of Geoffrey’s Inner Circle.

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Geoffrey's Inner Circle

For more than 30 years Geoffrey Pete ‘s business, Geoffrey’s Inner Circle, has been a cultural hub because of its full-service restaurant, live entertainment, nightclub parties, jazz music and community special occasion events. Faith-based organizations have also rented the spacious facilities for services and concerts. Their full-service restaurant, bar and live entertainment business along with their tenants and multilevel event rental spaces have been severely interrupted and devastated by the COVID 19 lockdowns and restrictions.

Whether it was Paul Mooney, Faye Carroll, Sugar Pie or Jay-Z performing or whether it was Congresswoman Barbara Lee, Mayor Elihu Harris, or Kamala Harris along with many of the Bay area’s elected officials they too have come to bask in the limelight of Geoffrey’s Inner Circle. Now those lights are dimmed due to the economic conditions that have descended on high intensity people-contact businesses.

Thanks to a group of customers and supporters a Go Fund Me page has been opened for the public to contribute to support Geoffrey’s Inner Circle https://gofund.me/b2541419.

The Post newspaper has notified the Oakland African American Chamber of Commerce that regular articles concerning the needs of Geoffrey’s and other Black-owned Businesses will be published weekly.

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