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Former Councilmember Riles’ Federal Discrimination Lawsuit Against City Moves Through Federal Court

According to the lawsuit, the Planning Commission finally ruled  in favor of the couple’s right to use the sweat lodge and hold religious ceremonies. However, the city’s zoning department came up with new obstacles.

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Gavel photo courtesy Bill Oxford via Unsplash

A federal lawsuit against the City of Oakland for discrimination and police brutality, filed  by community elder Wilson Riles Jr., is winding its way through court hearings and is scheduled for trial late next year.

Civil rights attorney Walter Riley, who represents Riles, told the Oakland Post that the case has been going through the legal process since the suit was filed last year. Most recently, the court held a case management conference to schedule future hearings.

The case is scheduled for trial on Oct. 31, 2022.

“The heart of the issue is the mistreatment of Wilson Riles Jr. and his wife, Patricia St. Onge, who is a Native American elder who engages in Native American religious practices,” including establishing a sweat lodge at their home in Oakland, said Riley.

Though the Planning Commission and the City of Council ultimately supported Riles’ application, some staff in the zoning department for years have been blocking the couple’s right to have the sweat lodge on their property, using zoning and planning procedures to deny the lodge and continuously throw  new obstacles in their way, he said.

“They have a constitutional right to engage in their religious practices,” said Riley.

The other part of the lawsuit is directed against the violent treatment and arrest that Riles experienced when he went to the zoning department to complain about the latest obstacles the city was using to block the sweat lodge..

According to the lawsuit, the Planning Commission finally ruled  in favor of the couple’s right to use the sweat lodge and hold religious ceremonies. However, the city’s zoning department came up with new obstacles.

Riles, 73, who served on the Oakland City Council from 1979 to 1992, had gone to the city zoning office a little after 8:00 a.m. on Oct. 17, 2019.  He was ending a conversation with a supervisor and was preparing to leave. Police approached him,  his legs were swept out from under him, he was knocked to the ground and injured, and he was handcuffed. He was arrested and taken to Santa Rita County Jail for battery on a police officer at about 9:00 a.m.

He was released at about 11:30 p.m. after posting a $20,000 bond, according to KPIX Channel 5.

Riles told the Post that he had received a call a few days after the arrest from then-OPD Chief Anne Kirkpatrick, who told him that she had talked to the District Attorney and that all charges against him were being dropped. The chief has ordered an internal affairs investigation into the incident, according to the City.

In a statement released by the City at the time of Riles’ arrest, spokesperson Karen Boyd said the City has to balance protecting Black residents and the need to protect employees against workplace violence.

“We recognize the arrest of former Councilmember Wilson Riles … raises deep community concerns.” Calling it an “unfortunate incident,” she said the city had to deal with “two disturbing national realities … the use of force by police against Black men as well as a heightened fear of workplace violence.”

Activism

East Oakland Community Clean-up

The office of Councilmember Treva Reid invites you to…

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Oakland Clean Up Flyer

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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City Government

The Next First 100 Days

Building a Healthier Future for Oakland

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Symbol of democracy this picture show a child and his mom voting for french presidential elections. Photo Courtesy of Arnaud Jaegers via Unsplash

In 2022, the voters of Oakland will have an opportunity to elect the next Mayor for our city.  The Mayor of Oakland is the head of the executive branch, in charge of implementing actions and laws that have been passed by City Council and community.

The Mayor also selects and hires the City Administrator, appoints members of key Boards and Commissions, and sets the direction for the Administrative branch of government, thus having a major impact on what actions get taken.

In recent years, the City Council has adopted numerous laws and funded positions and projects – many of which have not been implemented, such as providing gun tracing and cracking down on illegal guns, civilianizing special events, providing pro-active illegal dumping remediation, a public lands policy to prioritize affordable housing, direction to provide healthier alternative locations to respond to homelessness, and many more.

In order to ensure that we build a safer and healthier future for Oakland, is it vitally important to ensure that we elect leadership for the executive branch with the dedication and commitment to take the actions needed to fulfill the needs of our communities.

With serious struggles facing our communities, it is vital that the next mayor take immediate action in their first 100 days – and so, I am undertaking to provide proposals regarding what the next mayor can, and should, do in their first 100 days in office.

These efforts will need to include recruitment and retention for the workforce; effective relationships with County government and neighboring cities to solve common problems; working with stakeholders including to expand equitable economic development and housing for all income levels; presenting and passing proposals at Council and bringing in and properly stewarding the finances needed.

Even within the first 100 days, a mayor can accomplish a great deal – including taking action to implement vitally needed services that already have Council authorization, and thus, can be brought about more quickly.

This is the first installment, a listing of some of the first items that the next mayor can, and should, do to build a healthier Oakland, and which should be factors in our decision-making in the year ahead.

  1. Ensure implementation of the directive to prioritize stopping the flow of illegal guns and stopping gun violence, including implementing gun tracing, tracking and shutting down sources of illegal guns, and providing immediate response to shooting notifications.
  2. Remove blight and illegal dumping, implement pro-active removal of blight rather than waiting for complaints, incorporate blight removal throughout city efforts (rewards program, summer jobs program, etc), to clear up backlog and establish a new normal that it is not OK to dump in Oakland.
  3. Provide healthier alternatives for homeless solutions, including safe parking/managed RV sites, and sanitation/dump sites, to reduce public health risks, including by partnering with the County and others.
  4. Implement previously approved Council direction to switch to the use of civilians (rather than sworn police) to manage parades and special events.  Help ensure community and cultural events can go forward without excess costs undermining them, strengthen the arts and economy and equity of event permitting system, and ensure that expensive police resources are directed where they are needed, rather than wasted on watching parades.
  5. Implement previously approved public lands policy to ensure using public lands for public needs, with a priority for affordable housing.
  6. Make it easier for local residents and small businesses to grow, build, and expand by providing coherent and simplified permitting, and by implementing the Council-funded direction to provide evening and weekend hours and easy online access to allow people to do projects like adding Accessory Dwelling Units (ADUs) and make other renovations and construction projects more timely.
  7. Work with stakeholders and community to advance effective and equitable revitalization of the large public properties at and around the Oakland Coliseum, including with housing for all income levels, jobs and business development, sports and entertainment, convention and hotels and more.
  8. Work to speed up vacancies in needed city staff positions, and improve recruitment and retention, and local hiring, to help provide vitally needed services, including for cleanup, parks upkeep, gun tracing, and other community needs.
  9. Fire prevention and climate resiliency.  Our region is facing growing dangers from climate change and fire risk, and we must take action to reduce and remedy risk and protect our communities with a more resilient future, including by planning for and starting fire prevention and brush remediation activities earlier in the year, improving brush removal on public land as well as private, fully staffing the fire department, and improving public infrastructure to protect cleaner air and reduce risks.
  10. Job training and pathways.  Some industries face challenges finding enough prepared workers while many in our community also need access to quality jobs. Support and connect job training programs and quality job policies with growing sectors, and ensure that Oaklanders are prepared for vital openings in needed jobs while allowing our community to thrive.

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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City Government

S.F. Mayor London Breed Announces $50 Million in Tax Credits to Support San Francisco Non-Profits, Businesses in Disadvantaged Communities

The New Markets Tax Credit program creates a pathway for local businesses and non-profits to activate underutilized buildings in San Francisco’s most high-need neighborhoods, create local jobs, and provide lasting community services.

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Two Men Brainstorming Over Papers ; Photo courtesy of Scott Graham via Unsplash

Mayor London N. Breed announced on September 7 that the United States Treasury has awarded $50 million in tax credits to support local non-profit organizations and projects in historically underserved neighborhoods.

This allocation will help move forward critical investments in San Francisco while also creating new economic activity and jobs as San Francisco continues its economic recovery from the pandemic.

The New Market Tax Credits are distributed from the United States Treasury to the San Francisco Community Investment Fund (SFCIF), a non-profit that is tasked with helping to fund projects with substantial and sustainable community benefits in low-income San Francisco neighborhoods.

Previous credits helped fund the construction of projects such as the Meals on Wheels San Francisco food distribution center in the Bayview, SF Jazz and the Boys & Girls Club San Francisco in the Western Addition, and the ACT Strand Theatre on Central Market, the Manufacturing Foundry located at 150 Hooper Street sponsored by PlaceMade, and the renovation of the Geneva Car Barn located in the Excelsior district.

“The neighborhoods that were hit hardest by the pandemic were the same neighborhoods that had lacked access to resources and investment for generations—that is not a coincidence.

“That’s why it’s so important that our economic recovery focus on investing in these communities and creating new jobs in these communities, so we can create a more equitable city.

“The investments that these tax credits have helped advance in the past have had a meaningful impact on our city and I’m excited that this new allocation, the largest that San Francisco has ever received, will continue that progress,” Breed said.

In 2010, the City’s former Redevelopment Agency established the San Francisco Community Investment Fund to make qualified low-income community investments in the City. This program targets construction and capital improvement projects in low-income neighborhoods that deliver strong community outcomes, including job creation for low-income people, commercial and community services, healthy foods, environment sustainability, and flexible lease rates.

The New Markets Tax Credit program creates a pathway for local businesses and non-profits to activate underutilized buildings in San Francisco’s most high-need neighborhoods, create local jobs, and provide lasting community services.

Since 2010, the SFCIF has supported 12 projects across five neighborhoods that created over 1,000 construction jobs, and deployed $163.6 million in New Markets Tax Credit allocations.

“Investing in jobs and supporting opportunities for our underserved communities is critical, especially as we begin emerging from of this pandemic,” said City Administrator Carmen Chu, who serves on the SFCIF Board of Directors. “This allocation of New Market Tax Credits is significant because it means extra dollars in our hands to fully fund and bring so many worthy neighborhood projects to completion.”

“Meals on Wheels San Francisco opened a new $41 million state of the art kitchen in the Bayview neighborhood in November of 2020. Our project could not have moved forward on time and received full financing without the support of the San Francisco Community Investment Fund’s New Markets Tax Credit program,” said Ashley McCumber, CEO and executive director of Meals on Wheels San Francisco.

“Their lead investment attracted additional partners like Community Vision, Community Impact Partners, and Chase Bank to deliver a net of $8.1 million to our project. With this new facility, we have created more than 30 new jobs and expanded our production capabilities from 8,000 meals per day to as much as 30,000 meals per day when needed.”

Applications are received and reviewed on a rolling basis. For more information on the San Francisco Community Investment Fund, visit SFCIF.org.

     This story comes from the San Francisco Mayor’s Office of Communication.

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