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OPINION: ​​Let the Voters Vote! Citizens Should Decide on Proposal to Build New Ballpark for Oakland A’s

When the Raiders asked the city to close a $400 million funding gap for additional renovations at the Coliseum in 2015, Mayor Libby Schaaf said no way. In 2015, she told SFGate “we could spend (that money) on police, parks and libraries.” Oakland’s need to address citywide problems is even more dire now than it was seven years ago. How then, can the city consider spending twice as much public money today than was unthinkable seven years ago?

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Councilmember Carroll Fife
Councilmember Carroll Fife

By Paul Cobb, Post Publisher

We applaud Councilmember Carroll Fife’s decision to honor the wishes of Oakland residents and let the voters determine whether it is appropriate to use public funds to support building the Oakland A’s privately owned baseball park and 3,000 luxury condominiums at Howard Terminal.

Oakland faces many challenges including school closures, an ever-increasing homelessness crisis, spiking crime, desperately needed infrastructure repairs of roads, and fire safety investment. Voters should be given the opportunity to decide whether this is the right time to spend hundreds of millions of dollars of public funds on billionaire John Fisher’s privately owned luxury project.

For the past several years, the Oakland A’s have pursued building a new stadium. A strong contingent of Oakland residents wants the stadium to be built at the existing Oakland Coliseum site. For decades, the Coliseum was home to the A’s, Raiders, and Warriors. Each of these teams had great success, sellout crowds, and championship seasons at the Coliseum site.

They also argue that the Coliseum site is shovel-ready, accessible by public transportation, and bordered by two major freeways. It does not have the huge infrastructure costs, estimated at over $800 million, that Howard Terminal requires. But the A’s reject the Coliseum site without good justification, prompting many residents to believe that their objection is really based on not wanting to have a baseball park in a Black neighborhood.

The A’s have set their sights on Howard Terminal, located in West Oakland’s industrial zone, and the heart of the Port of Oakland. Many critics complain that building at Howard Terminal would threaten the viability of the Port of Oakland, and good-paying union jobs.

These complaints were validated when the Seaport Planning Advisory Committee (SPAC) — a committee of the Bay Conservation and Development Commission (BCDC) — said that it was inappropriate to transition lands that are essential for maritime purposes to private use. To support their position, they stated that under the law, if maritime property is needed for current or future maritime use, it cannot be transferred to private non-maritime use.

As well, the International Longshoremen and Warehouse Union (ILWU), Oakland’s largely Black union at the port, convened a work stoppage to protest giving valuable port land to the A’s because it could lead to the loss of hundreds of union jobs, and disrupt port activities at a time where the entire nation is reeling from supply chain issues.

Nobody wants to lose the A’s, but Oakland taxpayers are still smarting from the $200 million debt they will be paying until 2026 for Oakland Coliseum renovations in the 1990s, when Oakland lured the Raiders back from Los Angeles.

When the Raiders asked the city to close a $400 million funding gap for additional renovations at the Coliseum in 2015, Mayor Libby Schaaf said no way. In 2015, she told SFGate “we could spend (that money) on police, parks and libraries.”

Oakland’s need to address citywide problems is even more dire now than it was seven years ago. How then, can the city consider spending twice as much public money today than was unthinkable seven years ago?

This is one of the most divisive issues Oakland will face. It puts the needs of the city against the desires of a wealthy businessman to build luxury housing and a baseball field at a location that will hurt workers and the Port.

Councilmember Noel Gallo is also concerned about the cost and impact of the proposed project to the city and its residents. On March 24, he introduced legislation to require the A’s to provide the City Council with a full and complete economic analysis of the benefits and risks associated with the project. He insisted that this analysis be presented at a public City Council meeting, so the information will be available to all Oakland residents.

We think that Councilmembers Fife’s and Gallo’s proposals are complementary. Every member of the Council should support Councilmember Fife’s call to let the voters decide whether to use public funds to help build the baseball stadium and luxury condominiums at Howard Terminal. They should also support Councilmember Gallo’s legislation requesting a full and complete publicly disclosed economic analysis.

Some opponents argue that this is too complex an issue for the voters to consider. That is wrong for many reasons, but the two most important are these.

Oakland voters have considered and voted on major financial issues in many elections. More importantly, if the voters are smart enough to elect a mayor and City Council members, they are smart enough to evaluate whether it is appropriate to spend public funds on a billionaire’s folly when the city has so many other needs.

We urge the voters of Oakland to demand that the City Council place the question of whether to spend public funds on baseball and luxury housing before the voters on the November 2022 ballot.

We also urge the City Council to schedule a public meeting for a full and complete economic analysis of the benefits and risks of the project to the city. If the City Council refuses to do so, the voters should assess whether people running for office, who refuse to let the voters vote, should be elected.

Thank you, Councilmembers Fife and Gallo, for bringing these issues to the attention of the voters.

Let the voter’s vote.

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#NNPA BlackPress

San Francisco Committee Recommends Massive Reparations Payout for Black Residents

A reparations task committee was established by the state of California last year, and its report from that year detailed the incalculable harm that slavery had caused to African Americans. After George Floyd was murdered, the District of Columbia City Council announced it would create a task team to investigate compensation.

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The San Francisco committee recommended that low-income African Americans get an annual payment equivalent to the region median for at least 250 years, on top of the $5 million payout.
The San Francisco committee recommended that low-income African Americans get an annual payment equivalent to the region median for at least 250 years, on top of the $5 million payout.

‘Centuries of devastation and destruction of Black lives, Black bodies, and Black communities should be met with centuries of restoration’

By Stacy M. Brown, NNPA Newswire Senior National Correspondent
@StacyBrownMedia

Each Black inhabitant of San Francisco, including those arrested during the racist war on drugs, should receive a one-time, lump-sum payment of $5 million from the African American Reparations Advisory Committee.

Assuming the city council approves the proposal, it would be the largest payment of reparations in American history.

In a study released this week, members of the San Francisco African American Reparations Advisory Committee noted, “We have ultimately established that the repercussions of numerous programmatic and policy actions by San Francisco’s administration have been generational and overlapping.”

Committee members asserted that most prominent period that illustrates how the city and county of San Francisco as an institution contributed to the depletion of Black wealth and the forced relocation of its Black inhabitants was the period of urban renewal.

Further, the committee concluded that “public and private entities facilitated and coddled the conditions that created near-exclusive Black communities within the city, limited political participation and representation, disinvested from academic and cultural institutions, and intentionally displaced Black communities from San Francisco through targeted, sometimes violent actions”

(San Francisco’s African American population grew rapidly between 1940 and 1963).

To address what the San Francisco Chronicle calls “a national racial reckoning,” the Board of Supervisors established the AARAC committee in December 2020.

According to the Chronicle, what happens next “will demonstrate whether San Francisco lawmakers are serious about tackling the city’s checkered past or are merely pretending to be.”

The committee’s investigation determined that segregation, structural oppression, and racial prejudice developed from the institution of slavery had a tremendous impact on the development of the city, even though California was never formally a slave state.

Throughout the 20th century, the Chronicle reported, “San Francisco was a Ku Klux Klan stronghold, prohibited Black people from residing in particular districts, kept them out of city employment, and bulldozed the Fillmore,” a historically Black neighborhood and commercial center.

AARAC chair Eric McDonnell told the newspaper, “Centuries of devastation and destruction of Black lives, Black bodies, and Black communities should be met with centuries of restoration.”

A tale of two cities emerges when one examines San Francisco, as one observer put it.

This committee’s actions are consistent with those of other jurisdictions, where similar bodies have advocated for reparations for African Americans.

Residents must have self-identified as Black or African American on public documents for a minimum of ten years and be at least 18 years old when the committee’s plan is approved to receive the compensation.

Additionally, individuals may be required to show that they were born in San Francisco between 1940 and 1996, have been residents of the city for at least 13 years, and are either a former inmate themselves or a direct descendant of a former inmate who served time during the war on drugs.

The Chronicle said that “to put that in context,” the state reparations task panel believes Black Californians may be awarded $569 billion for housing discrimination alone between 1933 and 1977.

Evanston, Illinois, voted to pay $400,000 to select African Americans as part of the city’s vow to spend $10 million over a decade on reparations payments shortly after the San Francisco committee was founded.

The government of St. Paul, Minnesota, has apologized for its role in institutional and structural racism and formed a committee to investigate reparations.

A report detailing the committee’s proposed financial compensation for African Americans was subsequently made public.

A reparations task committee was established by the state of California last year, and its report from that year detailed the incalculable harm that slavery had caused to African Americans.

After George Floyd was murdered, the District of Columbia City Council announced it would create a task team to investigate compensation.

Legislators in both Maryland and Virginia have expressed an interest in researching reparations.

Meanwhile, there has been no movement on a federal level on a bill by Texas Democrat Rep. Sheila Jackson Lee to establish a committee to investigate reparations.

The San Francisco committee recommended that low-income African Americans get an annual payment equivalent to the region median for at least 250 years, on top of the $5 million payout.

As an added measure, the city would establish a public bank framework and provide citizens with extensive financial education to ensure that those without bank accounts have access to equal opportunities, including increased access to credit, loans, financing, and other means of managing their money.

The committee also seeks to pay for a broad debt cancellation plan that wipes out all types of debt including student loans, personal loans, credit card debt, and payday loans.

“Given the history of financial institutions preying on underbanked communities — and especially given the vulnerability of subsets of this population such as seniors and youth — this body recommends putting legal parameters and structures in place to ensure access to funds and to mitigate speculative harm done by others,” the committee concluded.

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Activism

Call to Protect Geoffrey’s Inner Circle from Threatened High-Rise Development

Geoffrey’s, located at 410 14th St., is part of the city’s Black Arts Movement and Business District which was formed in 2016 by reso-lution of the Oakland City Council to protect Black-owned businesses and enhance a downtown district that would encourage the historic African American legacy and cul-ture of Oakland.

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By Ken Epstein

Geoffrey’s Inner Circle, a downtown Oakland Cultural Center that has featured live jazz and served music lovers and the Black community for decades, is now under threat from a proposed real estate development that could undermine the stability and future of the facility.

Geoffrey’s, located at 410 14th St., is part of the city’s Black Arts Movement and Business District which was formed in 2016 by resolution of the Oakland City Council to protect Black-owned businesses and enhance a downtown district that would encourage the historic African American legacy and culture of Oakland.

Now, the Oakland Planning Commission is considering a high-rise building proposed by out-of-town developers next to Geoffrey’s, which would jeopardize both the survival of the venue and the Black business district as a whole.

In addition to running a business that has been a crucial institution in the local community and the regional arts scene, Geoffrey Pete, founder, has utilized his business to offer meals for thousands of unsheltered individuals and hosted countless community events.

The following petition is being circulated in defense of Geoffrey’s and the Black Arts district (To add your name to the petition, email info@geoffreyslive.com):

“The African-American community in Oakland has been seriously damaged by developers and public offcials who are willing and sometimes eager to see African Americans disappear from the city. Black people comprised 47% of the population in 1980; now they make up only 20% of said population. In response to this crisis the 14th Street Corridor from Oak to the 880 Frontage Road was established as the Black Arts Movement and Business District by the City Council on Jan. 7, 2016, in Resolution 85958.

Tidewater, an out-of-town developer, is proposing to build a high-rise building at 1431 Franklin, which will damage the Black business district and the businesses in the area including the iconic business of Geoffrey’s Inner Circle at 410 – 14th St.

We demand that the Planning Commission and the City Council reject this predatory building proposal and proceed with plans to fund and enhance the Black Business District.”

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Activism

16th Annual MLK Day of Service on the Richmond Greenway

The 16th annual MLK Day of Service in Richmond honoring the legacy of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.  was held Jan. 16 with a day of service to the community and activities for families on the Richmond Greenway.

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“…Everybody can be great because everybody can serve.” – Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.

The 16th annual MLK Day of Service in Richmond honoring the legacy of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.  was held Jan. 16 with a day of service to the community and activities for families on the Richmond Greenway.

The event was hosted by Urban Tilth and the City of Richmond. Event partners were Groundwork Richmond, Rich City Rides, Moving Forward, Hope Worldwide, The Watershed Project, Contra Costa Resource Conservation District, Building Blocks for Kids, City of Richmond, Cal Cameron Institute, Friends of the Richmond Greenway; and Pogo Park.

The celebration made possible with the support of the Hellman Family Foundation, City of Richmond, and hundreds of individual donors.

The day’s schedule included volunteer projects along the Richmond Greenway and a Martin Luther King, Jr. memorial and community celebration at Unity Park.

Among the community service projects were opportunities to take part in projects to transform and beautify the Richmond Greenway Trail, like tending to the Greenway Gardens, trash pickup, and planting native plant and trees.

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