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Teacher Strike Settlement Still Not Approved

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OUSD and State overseers focus on budget cuts, $72 Mil goes unspent

The Oakland Unified School District’s overseers—the Fiscal Crisis Management and Assistance Team (FCMAT) and the Alameda County Office of Education (ACOE), which for practical purposes  are running the district for the state – have not yet approved the contract that came out of the  teachers strike.

The strike was settled on Feb. 28 with a three-year contract that gives teachers an 11 percent wage increase. The agreement was reached after a seven-days strike with the active intervention of State Supt. of Public Instruction Tony Thurmond.

“This still isn’t a done deal. The school board cannot give final approval to the contract unless the (financial) oversight trustee, Christopher Learned, and Alameda County Superintendent of Schools Karen Monroe, determine the district can afford it—not just now but also in years to come,” according to a column in the Mercury News.

According to an OUSD spokesperson, “Financial information relating to the tentative agreement will be submitted to Alameda County Office of Education (ACOE) next week. We anticipate that the Board of Education will vote on the tentative agreement at its April 24 meeting after the county has reviewed the financial information.”

Michael Fine, CEO of FCMAT

The ACOE, FCMAT and district leaders are already gearing up to eliminate more educational programs and close schools, while blaming teachers for the budget cuts. Yet, they are silent about the finding in the latest interim budget report, which indicates that OUSD has left unspent $72 million in restricted funds though the school year is almost over.

Restricted funding—unlike general purpose funds—can only be spent in specific ways, such as educational support for low-income, special education and Native American students.

Meanwhile, outside financial control over Oakland Unified is solidifying as part of the district’s Fiscal Vitality Plan, according to OUSD Supt. Kyla Johnson Trammell in an email letter to principals and administrators, dated March 22.

The OUSD’s Intensive Assistance and Support Initiative “involves ACOE deploying a team of experienced school fiscal professionals to collaborate directly with OUSD staff, to provide training, monitoring, and implementation of processes and protocols in the following areas of OUSD fiscal operations: budget, accounts payable, payroll and purchasing,” according to the superintendent’s letter.

The implementation of this plan, which is already underway, means the reorganization of the district’s financial staff and integration of the district’s financial office with the county’s.

The position of OUSD Chief Business Officer Marcus Battle will be eliminated, effective April 5.

Ofelia Roxas, chief financial Officer, will be working part time at OUSD and part time at the county office. Her duties will include “working closely with the county at their office and serving as a liaison with OUSD to ensure accurate and timely financial reporting,” said Supt. Johnson Trammell.

Without a full-time top manager, the “day to day management of the OUSD fiscal team” will be run by Gina Murphy-Garrett, senior executive director, budget, according to the superintendent.

The controller’s position has also been eliminated.

At the same time, the positions of 11 OUSD financial analysts have been eliminated. Oakland’s State and Federal Office, which is responsible for monitoring spending in programs for low-income and special education students, is also being shut down.

While the state overseers are seen as saviors by some, others say they are in Oakland to enforce austerity, shutting down school programs and creating consultant positions and contracts for outside experts.

FCMAT and the county, working with State Receiver Randy Ward, directly ran the district without local control from 2003-2009. During that time, they spent a $100 million state loan that was forced on the district and neither produced the organizational efficiency nor the fiscal solvency they had promised.

After the end of state receivership in 2009, a state appointed trustee continued to oversee the district’s finances, along with the Alameda County Office of Education.

During the years 2014-2017 when pro-privatization Supt. Antwan Wilson ran the district, money was spent without regard for fiscal controls. The numbers of central office administrators and their salaries grew unchecked by budget limits.

During that time, the county and the state were silent. The state trustee had no complaints.

Supt. Wilson, a graduate of pro-charter billionaire Eli Broad’s superintendent training academy, was backed enthusiastically by GO Public Schools and other Oakland-based pro-charter organizations.

When a huge budget shortfall began to surface in late 2016, Wilson quickly found a new job and left the state. The district was left to clean up the wreckage, but the county and state overseers said nothing, never publicly accepting their failure to live up to their legal responsibility to hold Supt. Wilson’s administration accountable.

Asked for a response from the school district, Spokesperson Valerie Goode said, “Our central office is undergoing a substantial reorganization, requiring that existing departments and positions undergo evaluation for potential reorganization or elimination. These re-organizational efforts are taking place to improve efficiencies and reduce costs.”

At press time, the district had not responded to questions about the $72 million in unspent restricted funds.

Bay Area

GETTING TO YES 

BAYSIDE BALL PARK OR WATERFRONT DEVELOPMENT

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Howard Terminal Courtesy Port of Oakland website

Arguably, development of Howard’s Terminal has been in the making for long time.  According to Councilmember Gallo, Oakland’s previous city officials Robert Bobb and Jerry Brown entertained development of Howard’s Terminal, for the Fishers and A’s, during their tenure as city manager and mayor respectively. 

Let’s be clear, the A’s initially pitched its development project at Howard’s Terminal as a Bayside Baseball Stadium, when in essence its project goal has always been a major condominium-housing and business development, along Oakland’s waterfront … the stadium was then and is now just the shinny thing.  Many argue the Coliseum site is more suited for a new stadium development, if that’s really what the A’s want. 

On Tuesday, July 20, 2021, Oakland City Council held a special meeting to consider the Oakland A’s proposal submitted in April 2021; the A’s pressed Council for this special meeting so as to give the A’s an up or down vote on their proposal.  Council voted 6-1, with one abstention, not to support the A’s proposal as submitted.  Council did agree, however, to support the A’s project proposal with certain City amendments.   

Oakland City Council considered their vote to be a big win for Oakland.  On the other hand, A’s President, Dave Kaval, called the City Council’s vote “a swing and a miss.” Based upon the complexity of the pending issues, it appears more time – extended ending – will be necessary for both sides to get to a mutually beneficial yes. 

According to the A’s Kaval, progress has been made in negotiations but, the plan Council voted for on Tuesday “is not a business partnership that works for [A’s] us.”   Moreover, Kaval claims the A’s had not seen some of the amendments Oakland city staff presented to the City Council Tuesday morning before the council’s vote. 

Council-member Rebecca Kaplan said the City Council’s amendments addressed the A’s biggest concern, having to pay for offsite transportation, and infrastructure improvements. However, the A’s still could not agree with the city’s overall offer.   

 Also, the A’s waterfront development project proposal includes some 3000 units of condominium-housing, but the A’s proposal ignored adequate provisions for affordable housing.  The A’s wants the City to waive the A’s legal requirement to provide for affordable housing.  Oakland’s City Council determined that fact to a major sticking point. 

Council President Nikki Fortunato Bas, who worked on the amendments with Vice Mayor Kaplan, said, “It’s (now) at the beginning of the eighth inning.”  As a matter of fact, Council advised the A’s to use Council’s just approved amended Term-Sheet as a road map for further negotiations. 

Following the City Council meeting, Oakland Mayor Libby Schaaf said the City and A’s are very close to an agreement, but Kaval said “in some ways it’s too early to say how close the two sides are.”  

Kaval expressed hope that the A’s can get the City Council vote on some terms his team could agree on before Council’s summer recess.  Council President Bas’, office said no council meetings are scheduled before the recess to further negotiate the A’s new waterfront proposal.  

 Negotiation between Oakland’s City Council and the Oakland A’s appears to be headed for extra innings.  The complexity of the issues and public reactions, after Tuesday’s Council vote, gives many citizens cause to pause and wonder if we are at the end of the seventh inning stretch or the bottom of the ninth; either way, getting to a mutually beneficial yes will require a walk-off hit. 

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Community

Walgreens Exiting East Oakland Because Medicare and Medicaid Customers Don’t Generate Enough ‘Green’ for $140 Billion Corporation

The councilmembers of District 7 and District 6 joined with more than 2,500 neighborhood petitioners to condemn the less than one month notice.

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Walgreens 8102 International Blvd, Oakland, Calif./Yellow Pages

Oakland City Councilmembers Treva Reid and Loren Taylor announced that they will press Walgreen’s to abandon their plans to close their pharmacy by July 29 at 8102 International Boulevard.

The councilmembers of District 7 and District 6 joined with more than 2,500 neighborhood petitioners to condemn the less than one month notice.

Taylor and Reid pointed out that Walgreens’ lease still has six month remaining before its expiration in January 2022.

They denounced the abandonment of seniors, especially those who reside at Allen Temple Arms across the street from the pharmacy.

“We are disheartened that in the midst of the pandemic, with many health disparities in diagnoses and with the next available pharmacy located miles away, they are furthering the health crisis,” said Reid. “With all the nurses and medical personnel that patronize this pharmacy they were disrespected to hear of the closing by way of second-hand social media postings. We will continue to pursue this issue at the local, regional and national levels to find other ways to solve this problem.”

Taylor said Walgreens exacerbated the pain of the closing by giving the reason that the high percentage of low-income Medicare and Medicaid patients who get their prescriptions filled results in a lower profit margin for the corporation worth $140 billion. He also pointed out how they were making a mockery of their mission statement which is to “Champion the health and well-being of every community in America.”

Taylor and Reid presented the following fact sheet that answers the questions asked of Walgreens:

So why is Walgreens closing?…

  • The first reason they gave was the rent… After speaking with the property owner I learned that Walgreens asked for close to a 50% reduction of rent and to lock that in for double-digit years, something that the property owner couldn’t afford. In addition, I learned that Walgreens still has six months left on their lease during which they will continue paying their rent.  If Walgreens is obligated to pay its lease through January (even if it chooses not to renew that lease) why close six months early?
  • The second reason they gave was the ‘shrinkage’ – a portion of which is due to theft.  We know this is a problem across the state. The representatives from Walgreens that we talked to this morning admitted that the shrinkage rates due to theft are not as high as in San Francisco where they are closing stores.  This is a problem across the state – even to the point that Gov. (Gavin) Newsom just yesterday (July 22) signed into law a bill extending a program that allows the California Highway Patrol to operate regional task forces to fight organized retail theft with other law enforcement agencies.
  • The third reason that they gave is that the high percentage of Medicaid/ Medicare patients leads to lower profit margins because the state reimbursement is not as high as private insurance.  This reason squarely places low-income residents of California in the crosshairs of any corporate decision to close stores and reduce services.  I reject this rationale for a store closure – especially from a healthcare company where we know in a managed care environment, we must balance the higher profit services with the lower-profit services so that in aggregate we support all residents/ patients.
  • Taylor said, “I stand here today with my fellow Councilmember, Treva Reid, in whose district we stand and she and I represent districts and a population of residents who are often cast aside and marginalized. Districts that still suffer from the effects of institutionalized racism, redlining, white flight and the war on drugs. A true partnership to champion the health and well-being of every community does not occur when a unilateral decision is made to close a store without more than a few weeks’ notice through a sign being posted on a window alerting customers to the closure.

My office was not proactively engaged by Walgreens, and in fact I found out about this based on a Facebook post by a resident who took a picture of the sign.  The communication that came to me through a Walgreens District Manager was that the property owner was being unreasonable.”

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Business

City of Oakland’s Historic Sports Doubleheader: Black Group to Buy Coliseum Complex While Also Urging the A’s to Negotiate to Bring Community Benefits to City Through Howard Terminal

Hours of engaging discourse, bolstered by a throng of community supporters who packed the virtual council meeting with back-to-back appeals, got their wish in a 6-0-2 vote, on Monday, July 20. 

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Oakland Coliseum and Arena/Wikimedia Commons

The African American Sports & Entertainment Group (AASEG, www.aasegoakland.com), received a resounding vote from Oakland City Council members to pursue terms of ownership of the fabled, multiplex sporting venue, the Coliseum Complex.

Hours of engaging discourse, bolstered by a throng of community supporters who packed the virtual council meeting with back-to-back appeals, got their wish in a 6-0-2 vote, on Monday, July 20.  Oakland City Councilmembers approved the resolution brought forward by Vice Mayor Rebecca Kaplan to begin negotiations with the AASEG to acquire the City’s 50% interest of the Coliseum Complex.

The Oakland A’s bought Alameda County’s half of the Coliseum for $85 million in 2020.

This critical vote came just three days after the Alameda County Joint Powers Authority unanimously approved a resolution to begin negotiating with the AASEG to bring a WNBA team to Oakland.  With these successive actions, the AASEG can formalize negotiations with City staff toward a Purchase and Sell Agreement for the Coliseum Complex.

“This is very important,” said 96-year-old Gladys Green, chair of the Elmhurst Board in Oakland’s 7th District, where the Coliseum sits. “These Black men and women are coming back into this community at a time when we’ve lost so much. It is critical that you move forward with the AASEG proposal.”

Desmond Gumbs is the athletic director of Oakland’s century-old Lincoln University. “This is a strong group,” he said. “We are really excited about their community engagement. Let’s do this. It’s great for our community.”

Councilmembers complimented the AASEG’s impactful community outreach, citing receipt of scores of support letters, in addition to the group’s top priority to maintain a “community first” development approach.

“The historic footprint of this effort is unprecedented,” said AASEG founder Ray Bobbitt.  “It would be the largest award of public land to an African American group in the City’s 169-year history.”

The AASEG proposal includes commitments to revitalize the local community through affordable housing, job creation, public services, hospitality, life sciences, education, retail, public space, sports and entertainment activities.  Voices from the community expressed their hope for much needed infrastructure and quality of life improvements within the East Oakland community.

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