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Fight for Army Base Jobs Linked to Audit Issues

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Courtney Ruby

Phil Tagami

By J. Douglas Allen-Taylor

One of the key issues in Oakland City Auditor Courtney Ruby’s recent Non-Interference in Administrative Affairs Performance Audit involves a contract to demolish a structure known as Building 6 at the Oakland Army Base.
The contract was originally awarded by staff to Turner Construction of Oakland in 2009 following a competitive bid.
But according to The Oakland Post, the Turner contract was thrown out after intervention by Oakland developer Phil Tagami, who was negotiating to become the Master Developer of the Oakland Army Base project.
“(We) must insist that the bid soliciation be rejected and the process significantly revised with our direct involmvement before being re-started,” wrote Tagami in an email dated Oct. 15, 2009 to Walter Cohen, then director of Oakland’s Community and Economic Development Agency.
Following Tagami’s selection as Master Developer for the project, the Building 6 demolition contract was awarded to Top Grade Construction company of Livermore by city staff on a no-bid basis. Top Grade was reportedly Tagami’s choice for the job.
City staff has said that the dropping of the Turner contract and the reopening of the Building 6 demolition contract was required because the “scope” of the demolition changed following the contract award.
But asked by then-Councilmember Jane Brunner at a Council Community and Economic Development Committee meeting in mid-October of 2011 why the revised contract went out on a no-bid basis, Redevelopment Agency staff member Al Auletta admitted that “We were working on that on the spirit of working together with the Master Developer. We’ve been told and we now understand that this was an incorrect way to handle it.”
The no-bid Top Grade Building 6 demolition contract went to Council Rules Committee in the summer of 2011 to be scheduled for discussion at the CED Committee—the first step for possible full Council approval—but after a meeting between Reid and staff members of the city’s Community and Economic Development Agency (CEDA), the Top Grade contract was dropped by staff and never revived.
Instead, at that October 2011 CED meeting, Brooks and Reid introduced an ordinance to reopen the Building 6 contract to open bid, but with new rules that would mandate that only Oakland-based firms with an existing workforce that was 33 percent Oakland residents could bid, with the further stipulation that the winning firm would have to employ 50 percent Oakland residents to work on the actual Building 6 demolition.
That Oakland-firm/Oakland-hire Building 6 demolition contract ordinance was eventually passed by the full City Council in the fall of 2011 by unanimous vote. The contract went out to bid and three Oakland companies qualified—Turner Construction, JH Fitzmaurice, and Downrite Corporation—with staff eventually picking Downrite and the full Council approving.
The Non-Interference audit lists only two instances alleging that Councilmembers Reid and Brooks improperly interfered with city staff in the Building 6 demolition contract negotiations.
The first allegation is listed at an unspecified date or dates in the month of June, 2011, during the time the Council Rules Committee was putting off discussion of the Top Grade contract.
The audit alleges that Reid and Brooks told staff that the Top Grade contract would not clear Rules, and that Brooks said she was “negotiating a portion of the contract with Turner Construction.”

Barbara Tingary holds a copy of the Oakland Post, which featured Ruby’s flawed audit, at Tuesday night’s City Council meeting. Photo by Ken Epstein.

The second allegation is listed as taking place between July and September of 2011, after the Top Grade contract died, when Reid and Brooks are said to have directed city staff to work with Turner Construction “to establish a bid proposal for the project.”
The audit produces no documents to support the allegations, stating only that they occurred “according to” the Redevelopment Agency staff handling the contract.
No improper interference in favor of Turner Construction by Brooks or Reid in the Building 6 contract was alleged in the audit after mid-September, when the two Councilmembers first introduced the proposed new Oakland-firm/Oakland-hire procedures for the Building 6 demolition project.
Instead, when the full Council first considered the proposed new procedures in November of 2011,
Brooks introduced an amendment that would reopen the contract bidding to non-Oakland firms if no more than two Oakland firms qualified in the first round of bidding, thus making it more likely rather than less likely that Turner Construction would have sufficient competition in the bidding.

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Coronavirus

SEN. TIM SCOTT SOLVES ASIAN AMERICANS’ MODEL MINORITY PROBLEM

In the official GOP response to President Joe Biden’s Joint Speech to Congress last week, Scott offered up his childhood growing up with a single mother in a one-room apartment, and then looked America in the eye and said, unequivocally, “America is not a racist country.”

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Asian Americans have long been  hampered at times by the “Model Minority” stereotype. What’s that about? You know, how Asian Americans’ success has been used against them in that “look how good they are” way. It’s an excuse to ignore them.  Here’s the thinking: as model minorities, we can all  ignore them. They don’t need any government help, affirmative action, or any such handouts. They are model minorities, ergo, the subtext–Why can’t you all be like them! 

But not this year! 

Sen. Tim Scott (R-South Carolina) has made a gift to all Asian Americans.

We aren’t the model minority anymore.

He is.

In the official GOP response to President Joe Biden’s Joint Speech to Congress last week, Scott offered up his childhood growing up with a single mother in a one-room apartment, and then looked America in the eye and said, unequivocally, “America is not a racist country.”

He was taking away our crown of “model minority” and placing it on his own head. And tying it on with his own bootstraps. 

Got to hand it to Scott. He likes to brag: “I get called Uncle Tom and the N-word by progressives, liberals.” But honestly, to say America is not a racist country is possibly a bigger lie than “Trump won last November.”

A Biden margin of victory of nearly 7 million voters debunks that lie.

It would take just one chapter  of Asian American history—just the Filipino part– to refute Scott.

In an historical context, taking away Asian Americans’  “model minority” burden is quite significant. 

Dropping the stereotype is important as America, after the Atlanta mass murders , finally begins to understand that we Asian Americans are beyond stereotypes. All together, Asian Americans are  23 million strong and diverse, from more than 20 countries. And we’re growing, destined to overtake the Hispanic population as the No.1 ethnic minority by 2060, according to the Pew analysis of Census data.

It’s especially important as the government looks to engage with all of its people in a new inclusive way.

It is the New America many of us in the ethnic media have been talking about for the last 20 years.

And that’s what Scott and the GOP are trying to negate that positive uplifting message of President Biden’s national address to a new America. 

We’re getting a lot of history in the first hundred days of Joe Biden. In that speech, we got the precious first image of a U.S. president speaking to a joint session of Congress, flanked by a female speaker of the house, and a female vice president—a multi-racial woman of Black and Asian descent.

It’s the good history of an evolving democracy.

When Biden talked about “real opportunities in the lives of Americans,” he didn’t any of us leave us out.

“Black, white, Latino, Asian American, Native American,” Biden said, then he segued into a thank you. “Look, I also want to thank the United States Senate for voting 94-1 to pass the Covid-19 Hate Crimes Act to protect Asian American Pacific Islanders.”

Seven seconds of applause. And then to top it off, he transitioned to a mention of the Equality Act to protect transgender youth.

These were the specific and necessary moments when many of us could see ourselves. They were signs that government hasn’t forgotten who it’s governing—all Americans, of all stripes, collars, and colors. Biden’s all-encompassing economic plan covering infrastructure and families would cost anywhere up to $4 trillion.

Worth it? It is if we still want to be an America that’s of the people, by the people and for the people.

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Art

Student Work – Nayzeth Vargas

There is freedom with the Zentangle; there is no expected visual outcome and students are less prone to creative blocks and self-criticism. 

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This piece was created by Nayzeth Vargas, a senior at Oakland Technical High School. The Zentangle Method is a therapeutic technique which uses combinations of contrasting patterns and values to create an image. Students were introduced to the Zentangle Method to offset the mental stress they were experiencing due to the COVID-19 pandemic and social isolation.  

There is freedom with the Zentangle; there is no expected visual outcome and students are less prone to creative blocks and self-criticism. 

Nayzeth is enrolled in the West Oakland Legacy and Leadership Project, an integrated arts program that supports youth in developing thoughtful, educated voices for their communities. Though art, youth practice mindfulness and boundless creativity. Enrollment for the West Oakland Legacy and Leadership Project is open to youth ages 13-18 through AHC, for more information visit ahc-oakland.org/legacy.

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Community

Edna Lewis: Humanizing the Black Chef

In 1948, female chefs were few and far between; black female chefs were almost nonexistent. But that didn’t stop Lewis from partnering with John Nicholson, an “antique dealer and bohemian with a taste for high society,” to open her own restaurant. It was called Café Nicholson. Located on East 57th Street in Manhattan, the café quickly became legendary.

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For decades, chefs, food critics, and writers neglected Southern cooking. Stereotypes dehumanizing chefs remain an echo in black culture today, from Aunt Jemima, the so-called happy servant on the syrup bottle to the promise of black servitude flooding TV commercials targeted at white American travelers to the fictional character Uncle Ben, created to sell rice to those in black communities. But Edna Lewis (1916–2006) was real and a giant in the culinary world.
Lewis was born on her grandfather’s farm in the rural community of Freetown, Va., a town founded in the late 19th century by three formerly enslaved people. One was Lewis’ grandfather. He also started the first school in Freetown, holding classes in his living room.
Despite not having modern conveniences, Lewis learned to cook early on. Most of her cooking lessons were taught by her aunt, Jenny. The two would prepare food using a wood-fire stove. Without fancy spoons or scales, they used coins and measured seasonings the old-fashioned Southern way: piling baking powder on pennies, salt on dimes, and baking soda on nickels. It has been said that Lewis could tell when a cake was done “just by listening to the sound it was making.”
Lewis left home after the death of her father; she was 16 at the time. She first relocated to Washington, D.C. and later to New York City. There she took on jobs as a presser in a Laundromat and at the Daily Worker, a local newspaper. She took part in political demonstrations and campaigned for Franklin D. Roosevelt. But what Lewis didn’t know was that her cooking was about to make her a local legend in The Big Apple.
In 1948, female chefs were few and far between; black female chefs were almost nonexistent. But that didn’t stop Lewis from partnering with John Nicholson, an “antique dealer and bohemian with a taste for high society,” to open her own restaurant. It was called Café Nicholson. Located on East 57th Street in Manhattan, the café quickly became legendary.
Lewis did all the cooking. Her simple Southern dishes, the ones she learned to prepare on a wood-fire stove, attracted a crowd of famous faces: Tennessee Williams, Truman Capote, Richard Avedon, Gloria Vanderbilt, Marlene Dietrich, and Diana Vreeland. Business was great and Lewis was making a name in the culinary world.
Lewis stayed with the restaurant until 1954. Café Nicholson was sold years later to Chef Patrick Woodside.
In the late sixties, Lewis broke her leg and took a hiatus from cooking professionally. It was then that she began to compile some of her recipes. The result: the Edna Lewis Cookbook. In 1976 she wrote The Taste of Country Cooking, which became was one of the first cookbooks penned by an African-American woman to reach a nationwide audience.
Lewis’ teaching and cookbooks have influenced and inspired countless young chefs. She retired as a chef in 1992.

Source: https://www.thespruceeats.com/edna-lewis-1664995
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Edna_Lewis
https://www.womenshistory.org/education-resources/biographies/edna-lewis
Image: https://www.eater.com/2017/1/7/14200170/edna-lewis-cookbook-bestseller-top-chef

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