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OPINION: MACRO Success Depends on Qualified Oaklanders Who Know Our Neighborhoods

We always knew that we would have to fight for good pay and benefits.

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Back view of rescue service team member holding a bag and standing next to the vehicle with rotating beacons

Jobs in Oakland Series

Oakland is finally nearing implementation of a model program that will provide a humane alternative model for low-level emergency calls that do not require a police response.

Faith in Action East Bay (FAIEB) and other members of the Coalition for Police Accountability were deeply involved in a year-long community process, especially in targeted neighborhoods, that included town halls, participatory research, and stakeholder meetings, to develop an appropriate program unique to Oakland.

Two significant concerns were emphasized. Oaklanders overwhelmingly believe that hiring and training diverse, qualified residents that reflect the community they serve is essential to building public trust.

We always knew that we would have to fight for good pay and benefits.

“If they’re hiring us, what kind of jobs will they be?” was the common question. In February 2019, FIAEB members prepared lunch for 70 unhoused neighbors testifying to the Oakland Police Commission.  We heard repeatedly: “when we have emergencies, we need someone to call — who is not the police.”

Out  of  that,  came  the  inspiration  for  the  Mobile  Assistance Community  Responders  of  Oakland  (MACRO),  focusing  on:

  1. A non-police response  to  appropriate  low-level  911  calls;
  2. Centering de-escalation, trauma-informed care, and connecting residents to local services;
  3. Well-trained community responders, who reflect the neighborhoods they serve;
  4. Excellent jobs that attract exceptional candidates and have low turn-over;
  5. A dedicated MACRO phone number for residents who don’t want to call  911;
  6. Community engagement in pilot development and implementation.

Despite the city administration’s attempt to undermine the design of MACRO, we can ensure that it succeeds by calling on our councilmembers to give clear direction to the city that:

  • MACRO job descriptions accurately reflect the complex, challenging nature of these emergency response jobs and remove unnecessary requirements that block otherwise qualified applicants who are from the neighborhoods they serve.
  • Ensure $70,000 salaries to fairly compensate MACRO responders and ensure a stable workforce.  This is work previously done by police officers who are paid almost double.  Impacted Oakland neighborhoods need and deserve good jobs.
  • Do not divert 42% of MACRO’s staff budget to unnecessary highly paid positions that do not meet the core mission of emergency response.

Black and Brown folk have long done similar, low-paid, devalued work in homeless outreach, violence interruption, and drug counseling. Alternative crisis response is a new, expanding job market. Other jurisdictions are already expanding initial pilots. This is the moment to make sure MACRO responders are properly compensated, can afford to live in Oakland, and can become long-term experts at serving our community.

This is the moment for our City Council to insist that MACRO be implemented for success.

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This opinion is part of Gay Plair Cobb’s Series on Jobs in Oakland. She is the Chief Executive Officer, Emerita, of the Oakland Private Industry Council, Inc., dba Oakland Partners in Careers. (Disclosure: She is married to Post News Group Publisher Paul Cobb.)

Activism

City Receives $3 Million Grant to Advance Violence Prevention Among School-Age Youth

Although the Department of Violence Prevention works to advance community outreach with life coaching, gender-based violence services, violence interruption, and community healing, this funding is focused on the family systems model, targeted specifically at Oakland Unified School District (OUSD) schools for school-site violence intervention and prevention teams.

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Guillermo Cespedes is the head of Oakland’s Dept. of Violence Prevention.
Guillermo Cespedes is the head of Oakland’s Dept. of Violence Prevention.

By Post Staff

The City of Oakland’s Department of Violence Prevention (DVP) has received a $3 million, three-year grant to support its violence interruption efforts.

In partnership with the Oakland Public Fund for Innovation, the Gilead Foundation awarded the grant to invest in health equity strategy, including a focus on prevention and intervention services to school-age youth, disrupting the pattern of violence.

“The Gilead Foundation is proud to support the Oakland Fund for Public Innovation and the City of Oakland’s Department of Violence Prevention,” said Kate Wilson, executive director of Gilead Foundation.

Chief of Violence Prevention with the City of Oakland Guillermo Cespedes said the grant will allow “DVP to strengthen families and protect its members from becoming involved in lifestyles associated with violence, while increasing educational outcomes and lifelong learning skills.”

Although the Department of Violence Prevention works to advance community outreach with life coaching, gender-based violence services, violence interruption, and community healing, this funding is focused on the family systems model, targeted specifically at Oakland Unified School District (OUSD) schools for school-site violence intervention and prevention teams.

Students who are routinely exposed to violence at home or in the community often experience toxic stress that leads to cognitive impairment, hyperactivity, and attention deficits that make it challenging to succeed in the classroom.

Exposure to violence also contributes to lower school attendance and a higher likelihood of suspension, which further promotes disengagement from school.

Using a public health approach, the DVP will strengthen family, school, and community contexts for OUSD school students living in neighborhoods with high rates of violence, to reduce their exposure to violence and increase their chances of succeeding academically.

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Bay Area

Comcast RISE Seeks Applicants from Small Businesses Owned by Women, People of Color for $10,000 Grant

Comcast RISE is part of a larger $100 million Diversity, Equity and Inclusion initiative that Comcast launched last summer. In June 2020, Comcast NBCUniversal announced the development of a comprehensive, multi-year plan to allocate $75 million in cash and $25 million in media over the next three years to fight injustice and inequality against any race, ethnicity, gender identity, sexual orientation or ability.

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Judi Townsend, owner of Mannequin Madness and Tamika Miller, owner of Cuticles Nails Spa. Both businesses are located in Oakland and have received multiple awards from the Comcast RISE program.
Judi Townsend, owner of Mannequin Madness and Tamika Miller, owner of Cuticles Nails Spa. Both businesses are located in Oakland and have received multiple awards from the Comcast RISE program.

By Adriana Arvizo

Women, regardless of their race and ethnicity, and Black, Indigenous, Hispanic and Asian American small business owners in Oakland will have the opportunity to apply for a $10,000 grant from the Comcast RISE Investment Fund, which will issue grants totaling $1 million.

Eligible businesses can apply online at www.ComcastRISE.com from Oct. 3 through Oct.16, 2022, for one of the 100 $10,000 grants.

To be eligible for the grant, businesses must:

  • Have established business operations for three or more years
  • Have one to 25 employees
  • Be based within Oakland, California city limits

The Investment Fund is coming to Oakland for the second year in a row and is an extension of Comcast RISE (Representation, Investment, Strength, and Empowerment), the multi-year, multi-faceted initiative launched in 2020 to provide small businesses owned by people of color the opportunity to apply for marketing and technology services from Comcast Business and Effectv, the advertising sales division of Comcast Cable.

If a business is not eligible for the Comcast RISE Investment Fund, applications are also open for marketing and technology services. In fact, 160 businesses in Oakland have already been selected as Comcast RISE recipients.

“The advertising campaign and technology services have allowed me to reach and service new audiences,” said Oakland resident Judi Townsend, owner of Mannequin Madness. She has benefited from the program three times, with the production and placement of a TV commercial, a technology makeover and a $10,000 grant. “The application process was easy, and I encourage my fellow eligible business owners to apply for the grant or the other benefits.”

“When we launched Comcast RISE, we knew a profound need existed in many of the communities we serve,” said John Gauder, regional senior vice president of Comcast California. “We have now seen firsthand how the program’s marketing and technology resources benefit small business owners who continue to work hard and rise above 2020’s impact.

“Today, with Oakland receiving additional funding as a Comcast RISE Investment Fund grant city, we are excited to see how this infusion of funding will continue to propel businesses to thrive,” Gauder said. “We know the impacts will be fruitful and far reaching, especially with this year’s program expansion for women-owned businesses.”

To help drive outreach and awareness about Comcast RISE and provide additional support, training and mentorship, Comcast has also awarded $50,000 to six chambers of commerce in the Oakland area. The organizations are:

  • The Oakland African American Chamber of Commerce Foundation
  • The Oakland Metropolitan Chamber of Commerce Foundation
  • The Chinatown Chamber of Commerce
  • The Latino Chamber of Commerce
  • The Vietnamese Chamber of Commerce
  • The Unity Council

Comcast RISE is part of a larger $100 million Diversity, Equity and Inclusion initiative that Comcast launched last summer. In June 2020, Comcast NBCUniversal announced the development of a comprehensive, multi-year plan to allocate $75 million in cash and $25 million in media over the next three years to fight injustice and inequality against any race, ethnicity, gender identity, sexual orientation or ability.

Grant recipients will also receive a complimentary 12-month membership to the coaching program from Ureeka, an online platform for entrepreneurs, to help them build skills, gain more customers and become financially stable.

More information and the applications to apply for either the grant program or the marketing and technology services are available at www.ComcastRISE.com.

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Activism

OPINION: Oakland Could Take More Innovative Steps to Help Solve Homelessness 

We must ensure that we are able to build sufficient housing, especially that which is affordable. Oakland is currently producing under 10% of our state Regional Housing Needs Assessment (RHNA) requirements for very low-income housing; in contrast, we have met our goals for market-rate housing.

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Janani Ramachandran is running for City Council seat for District 4. Photo courtesy of Janani Ramachandran 
Janani Ramachandran is running for City Council seat for District 4. Photo courtesy of Janani Ramachandran 

By Janani Ramachandran

First, we must conduct a comprehensive audit of where our homelessness dollars are being spent. The recent City Auditor’s report revealed $69 million was spent on homelessness services for 8,600 people over the past three years – yet at least half the participants are believed to have returned to homelessness. We must conduct a deep dive into the third-party entities receiving homelessness contracts and to what extent they use evidence-based models of homelessness reduction.

Second, we must establish a regional board across all neighboring East Bay towns because homelessness certainly crosses borders, and the financial costs of assisting our unhoused while building affordable housing should not exclusively fall on Oakland. We must develop a plan to build on land owned by cities, CalTrans, BART, EBMUD, and other public agencies. A regional strategy must also include better partnership with the Alameda County Board of Supervisors, which is primarily responsible for providing meaningful mental health and addiction services. Oakland must ensure that our residents in need are able to access the County’s supportive services, regardless of language or technological barriers, and not waste funds duplicating efforts.

Third, we must ensure that we prioritize homelessness prevention, whether tenants or homeowners, from losing their homes. The city should re-allocate some of its homelessness dollars to provide emergency vouchers to at-risk individuals, prioritizing households with children and elders.

Finally, we must ensure that we are able to build sufficient housing, especially that which is affordable. Oakland is currently producing under 10% of our state Regional Housing Needs Assessment (RHNA) requirements for very low-income housing; in contrast, we have met our goals for market-rate housing.

There’s little doubt as to why – it’s expensive. Each unit of permanent housing may cost up to $500,000 to build. The elimination of redevelopment agencies under Governor Jerry Brown was a severe blow to Oakland’s ability to build affordable housing, and we must compensate for that by ensuring developers pay their fair share.

This involves drafting an inclusionary zoning ordinance (moving away from the current tiered “in-lieu fee” system) to ensure that developers either include a percentage of affordable units in new buildings, or pay an impact fee, up front and at the start of construction, that directly funds other affordable housing projects.

But the private sector should not shoulder this burden alone – we must be more proactive in applying for competitive state and federal funds. This will require our city to streamline internal processes to help nonprofit or private developers secure local funding (which is generally the first step in applying for state and federal grants) with predictable deadlines.

Underlying all of these priorities, our policymakers must shift their perspective and recognize that those who are housing-insecure or unhoused are not a monolith. There’s no one-size-fits-all solution, but my stated priorities will hopefully begin to move us forward in the right direction.

Janani Ramachandran is a public interest attorney and former Oakland Public Ethics Commissioner running for Oakland City Council District 4.  For more informationJananiForOakland.com

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