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Exclusive: Interview with CA Senator Kamala Harris

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At the Women’s March on Washington, Senator Kamala Harris told constituents, she “had our backs,” and since she has been in office Senator Harris been a vocal and active participant in standing up for the constitutional rights for her constituents in California against presidential legislation that undermine core human rights and values.

She is well known for her work defending exploited children, especially sexually trafficked minor, and for her opposition to capital punishment and defense of the rights of the undocumented.

The daughter of immigrants from India and Jamaica, Senator Harris is the first Indian American woman and second Black woman in the US Senate.  She was born in Oakland, graduated from Howard University, and Hastings College of Law.

Wanda Sabir:  Reflect first on the 91st anniversary of Carter G. Woodson’s Negro History Week, now Black History Month, and your position as senator. You have moved through the ranks steadily increasing the control you have over the menu at the table.  What were your goals and objectives when you decided to take on that responsibility?

Senator Kamala Harris:
  I stand on the shoulders of great people, some names you would recognize and some names you would not recognize. I was raised in an environment with a sense of responsibility to serve and to be a voice for those things that needed to be spoken and heard. That is what led me to run for DA of San Francisco (2003). That is what led me to run for Attorney General of California (2010), and now to be in the United States Senate (2016).

When I look at where we are in the year 2017, I know, as we all do, that the challenges are still great. There is still a real need to fight and speak very loudly about the issues we care about. That’s what propelled me to run for senate and is certainly my reason for being here— from my participation in the Women’s March on Washington, DC, one day after this president was inaugurated to being a part of a protest in front of the White House against the Muslim Ban, to just speaking against two of the presidential nominees to the cabinet, Senator Sessions for Attorney General and Betsy DeVos for Education Secretary.”

It is the reason I have been working on why law enforcement needs to be trained on implicit bias. Now that we have Black History Month, as far as I am concerned it is all year round, we rededicate ourselves and remember where we come from, our reason for being and responsibilities we have going forward.

WS: I was reading about your committee assignments, you have a lot to do – Homeland Security & Governmental Affairs; U.S. Select Committee on Intelligence; U.S. Senate Committee on Environmental and Public Works; United States Senate Committee on the Budget, five committees. Is there anything happening now we can support you on?
Senator Harris: When we look at the marches that have been happening, it is important for people to speak out, show up, not just in Washington but all over the country. I encourage people to stay involved and support folks like Rep. Barbara Lee and others in the Bay Area. It is important to talk with all our friends and relatives and encourage them to pay attention to what is going on.

Pay attention when we are talking about Russian hacking of our country’s electoral system. Pay attention when the President of the United States says we are going to shut our borders to people because of their faith. What I need people to do to help me is to educate themselves and each other about what’s going on and to know we have to fight for our country and fight for our ideals.
These things that are happening right now are contrary to our ideal.

WS:
As the second Black woman senator, and only one of 10 Black senators, how do you do the work in the face of hostility?

Senator Harris: It is about working with the Latina US Senator Catherine Cortez Masto, from Nevada on issues like immigration [and] fighting the Muslim ban. [It is about] working with Corey Booker (D-NJ) on Criminal Justice Reform.

It is definitely working across the aisle where we can, but building bridges among people who have more in common with us than differences. People like Lindsey Graham (R-SC) on immigration reform. It is about working with a lot of folks around our collective need to focus on the economy, so people have jobs, a place to live.

Another big issue, which is a coalition building piece, is to work with all sorts of people around the need to maintain the Affordable Care Act, known as Obamacare. Another thing people can do is reach out to their representatives to make sure they fight to keep the Affordable Care Act from being repealed.”

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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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Events

Bust of BPP Co-Founder Huey P. Newton to be Unveiled at West Oakland Block Party on Oct. 24

The Dr. Huey P.  Newton Foundation is hosting a block party celebration for the unveiling on Sunday, Oct. 24, 2021, from 11:00 a.m. to 3:00 p.m. that will feature local artists, politicians and businesses and the community is invited. The event will be MC’d by Ms. Gina Belafonte.

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Rendering of the Huey P. Newton memorial bust that will be unveiled in Oakland, CA on Oct 24, 2021./ Artist rendering provided by Karin Unger

Installed on a granite base with a seating area for people to reflect on the legacy of Black Panther Party Co-Founder Huey Newton, the memorial bust of his image is the first permanent art installation honoring the BPP in the City of Oakland.

The Dr. Huey P.  Newton Foundation is hosting a block party celebration for the unveiling on Sunday, Oct. 24, 2021, from 11:00 a.m. to 3:00 p.m. that will feature local artists, politicians and businesses and the community is invited. The event will be MC’d by Ms. Gina Belafonte.

The Foundation collaborated with world-renowned and local artist Dana King on the creation, which will be placed on Dr. Huey P. Newton Way (formerly 9th Street) and Mandela Parkway, the same street where Huey took his last breath more than 32 years ago.

The Black Panther Party was co-founded by Newton and Bobby Seale in 1966. As the foundation and others commemorate the 55th anniversary of the BPP’s beginnings, the Party is remembered as both a small grassroots organization in Oakland and the international organization it grew into.

From legal self-defense from abusive police officers to survival programs that provided essential services, like free food, medical clinics, and education to the communities they served, the BPP was an exemplary organization of the Black Power era and continues to have rippling effects to this day.

Despite the FBI’s counterintelligence program, known as COINTELPRO, the Black Panther Party was the most influential revolutionary movement of the 20th century.

Newton’s widow, Fredrika Newton, founded The Dr. Huey P. Newton Foundation to preserve and promulgate the important history, legacy and contributions of the BPP. The Foundation is proud to gift the Huey Newton Memorial Bust to the City of Oakland as a permanent fixture in their landscape.

 

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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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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