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City Government

Violence Prevention Department Bogged Down in Debate Over $300,000 No-bid Contract

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The City Council’s Life Enrichment Committee this week discussed a proposed resolution—sponsored by Councilmembers Lynette Gibson McElhaney and Larry Reid—to kick start the city’s new Department of Violence Prevention with a $300,000 no-bid contract to hire an outside consultant who would provide policy advice for setting up the department.

In the face of serious doubts about the proposal expressed by council members, Councilmember McElhaney, who chairs the committee, recommended the resolution be held in committee for further discussion and voted upon at a future time.

The City Council voted in June 2017 to create the department with a mission to work with victims of violent crime and those who are most likely to be future victims or perpetrators of violent crime – to end the cycle of violence and trauma.

McElhaney and community members with whom she is working are upset about the slow pace of progress in establishing the department. They also don’t want to see the department submerged in city administrative bureaucracy and methods of implementing violence prevention that are academic and do not work.

According to McElhaney, the city should be implementing programs based on the experience and wisdom of members of impacted communities.

Under the terms of the proposal at Life Enrichment, the city would spend $300,000 on a no-bid professional services contract “with a locally based and nationally recognized nonprofit organization…to provide policy analysis and advice on the establishment of the Department of Violence Prevention.”
In addition, the consultant would “report directly to the city council president and the chairperson of the Life Enrichment Committee,” rather than the city administrator.

“I have a lot of concerns [about the proposal],” said Councilmember Annie Campbell Washington, noting that the funding source for the $300,000 is not mentioned.

She questioned why the council should waive competitive bidding for choosing the consultant and the reason for “having the [consultant] report to the city council” rather than the city administration.

“All of those things give me a lot of pause because that does not sound usual at all,” said Campbell Washington.

“I just have to be honest about that,” she continued. “It feels like—and maybe I’m wrong—that we want to choose somebody, and we already have somebody in mind. [But] we are here to set policy, and the administrator is there to establish the department and hire a director to run the department.”

The draft resolution also called for the council president to set up a process to select the consultant. However, that wording was removed from the resolution that went to Life Enrichment on Tuesday.

One name that has been mentioned for the consultant position is David Muhammad, a criminal justice reformer who has worked at the National Council on Crime and Delinquency, according to the East Bay Express.

Muhammad resigned in 2012 from his job as Alameda County’s chief probation officer following unsubstantiated allegations of sexual assault and harassment.

Councilmember Dan Kalb said he had concerns about requiring the consultant to report to council members. “This is a department of the city, which means it is under the City Administrator, and it seems like [the consultant] should report to the City Administrator.”

In response, McElhaney said the city should utilize an outside independent consultant and listen to and rely on “authentic” community voices.

The city often spends as much as $400,000 to develop plans that do not shift the city from its past practices, she said. “Doing more of the same and amplifying more of the same doesn’t mean that we’re going to get to dramatically different results.”

“Why is it taking so long?” Audrey Cornish asked at the meeting, explaining that she is part of the community coalition that has attended city meetings to fight for the Department of Violence Prevention.

“I and other people have the answers, but you won’t listen,” said Cornish, whose son Torian Hughes was murdered in West Oakland in 2016.

Assata Olugbala challenged McElhaney for sending the resolution from the Rules Committee to the committee she chairs, rather than the Public Safety Committee, which Desley Brooks chairs.

“Why is violence prevention in the Life Enrichment Committee?” she asked. “Violence prevention should be in public safety. You want to have something on the agenda that you can control, and it won’t be controlled in public safety the way you want.”

McElhaney replied:

“To give equal weight to the non-policing side, it would be best to be in Life Enrichment where human services are, where arts and culture [are]. It needs to be in a space where those people who are triggered by the presence of police because of their history [do not] need to walk into committee meetings where they have armed officers.”

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City Government

Mayor Breed Announces Privately Funded Rewards for Information Leading to Conviction of Auto Burglary Fencing Operators

New initiative will bolster the success of recent strategic deployments to high-traffic tourism, workplace, and retail destinations

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Car thief stealing a car./ iStock

Mayor London N. Breed announced a privately funded cash reward for information leading to the arrest and conviction of individuals involved in organized criminal fencing operations known to fuel vehicle smash-and-grabs. 

Announced Tuesday, this initiative builds on Breed’s recent expansion of community-based ambassadors and police patrols to high-traffic businesses, tourist, and retail destinations, which has resulted in a 37% drop in citywide auto burglaries from the year’s July 4 highpoint to the most recent reporting period.

The new initiative is a keystone element in a comprehensive auto burglary strategy that aims to educate motorists and visitors; deter, investigate and arrest active auto burglars; and shut down the upstream criminal enterprises that traffic in stolen goods, fueling street-level auto burglaries. 

Investigators within the San Francisco Police Department and among regional law enforcement partner agencies in Northern California estimate that fewer than a dozen regular auto burglary crews are responsible for the large majority of auto burglaries that have plagued Bay Area cities in recent years.

“The frequent auto burglaries in San Francisco are not victimless crimes, they have real financial and emotional consequences for the victims and we’re continuing to work to hold people who commit these crimes accountable,” said Breed. “These break-ins hurt our residents, especially working families who do not have the time or money to deal with the effects, as well as visitors to our City whose experiences are too often tarnished after an otherwise positive experience.

“We’ve made good progress in recent months since announcing our Tourism Deployment Plan, but there’s still more work to do to ensure that everyone feels safe on our streets. I want to thank our partners in the private sector who understand the urgency of this issue, and we want to be very clear to the organized groups who are responsible for the vast majority of these crimes that we are committing the resources and the manpower to hold you accountable.”

The new cash reward system, which is being fully funded by private donors in the hospitality and tourism industry, will provide monetary incentives in exchange for information regarding high-level leaders of organized auto burglary fencing operations. 

Individuals that provide accurate and transparent information will be compensated up to $100,000 pending the arrest and conviction of individuals involved. In total, funds raised are in excess of $225,000 so far.

“Organized crime has been driving a lot of the theft in this city. The people at the top have been raking in huge sums of money by paying street-level criminals to do all their stealing for them, making working families miserable in the process. This initiative is going to help us take these rings apart,” said Sharky Laguana, president of the Small Business Commission.

Recent initiatives helping to reduce auto burglaries

In recent months, Breed has announced the strategic deployments of police and community-based ambassadors to support San Francisco’s reemergence from COVID-19 restrictions and deter property crimes likely to accompany renewed economic activity — including auto burglaries.

Breed’s Tourism Deployment Plan, announced in July, assigned 26 additional police officers on bicycle and foot patrols to an array of high-traffic and highly sought-after travel destinations citywide. 

Public safety deployments of police officers and community-based partners were also key elements of the Mayor’s Mid-Market Vibrancy and Safety Plan launched in May and the Organized Retail Crime Initiative, which Breed announced last month. 

The combined emphasis on high-visibility patrols in areas long targeted by auto burglars has been instrumental in reducing auto burglary rates — even as tourism and economic activity begin returning to pre-pandemic levels.

The San Francisco Police Department has also stepped up its “Park Smart” public awareness campaign in recent months. Park Smart is a collaboration among SFPD, the San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency, the Department of Emergency Management, SF SAFE, the Fisherman’s Wharf Community Benefit District, and local tourism and travel partners. 

Educating motorists and visitors on how to help prevent vehicle burglaries by taking common-sense precautions, Park Smart’s recommended strategies when parking vehicles in San Francisco include placing items in trunks; never leaving valuables in view; and parking in lots staffed with attendants whenever possible.

2021 CompStat numbers on auto burglaries in San Francisco

According to San Francisco Police Department CompStat data, the 2021 highpoint for auto burglaries came just two weeks after California began to emerge from its COVID-19 lockdown, with 566 auto burglaries reported citywide for the week ending July 4, 2021.

Deployments of police and community-based patrols launched the following week under Mayor Breed’s Tourism Deployment Plan have since led to a sustained drop in auto burglaries — even with Fleet Week, San Francisco Giants post-season games, the return of Golden State Warriors’ games to Chase Center and other attractions ushering in a comeback in visitors to the City.

SFPD CompStat data for the most recently reported period, for the week ending Oct. 17, 2021, show that a total of 358 auto break-ins were committed in San Francisco — a drop of 37 percent from the July 4 holiday.

Auto burglary incident counts by year have generally trended down since 2017, when San Francisco recorded 31,409 such incidents. Although 2021 has predictably trended higher than the COVID-19 lockdown year of 2020, it remains well below pre-pandemic rates that reached 25,886 reported auto burglaries for the 2019 calendar year.

“Today’s announcement adds a promising new tool to the coordinated efforts of public and private sector partners to fight auto burglaries in San Francisco,” said Chief of Police Bill Scott. “We know the profit motives of a few upstream fencing operations are fueling thousands of auto burglaries and other kinds of thefts. This generously funded cash reward enables us to flip the script on profit motives — creating an incentive that can help us bring these criminal enterprises to justice.

“On behalf of all of us in the San Francisco Police Department, we’re grateful to the funders of this generous partnership with our City. We thank Mayor Breed for her leadership, and we’re pleased to see strategic deployments of our officers and our community partners making progress to keep auto burglaries down. We’re very hopeful that this new initiative will help make San Francisco’s so-far successful efforts on auto burglaries even more successful moving forward.”

Staff reductions due to unvaccinated officers won’t affect patrol functions

Given the San Francisco Police Department’s emphasis on adequately staffing such core police functions as patrol and investigations, reductions in force owing to unvaccinated SFPD members will have no effect on existing high-visibility deployments. 

Most SFPD employees, including all sworn members, were required to be fully vaccinated by Oct. 13, 2021, under the City’s COVID-19 vaccination policy and the San Francisco County Health Officer’s “Safer Return Together” health order. 

Following the October 13 deadline last Thursday, 76 SFPD officers — or 3.5% of the Department’s sworn members — remained unvaccinated and are ineligible to perform policing functions.

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City Government

Policy Pathways Honors Former Mayor Elihu Harris and Six Youth Leaders

The recipients of the 2021 Youth Public Service Award are students from Virginia high schools.

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Policy Pathways Logo courtesy of Organization's Facebook

Policy Pathways has announced former Oakland Mayor Elihu Harris as its 2021 Policy Leadership Award recipient, along with six youth who will receive 2021 Youth Public Service Awards.

The award winners will be recognized Thursday, Oct. 21, 2021, at the Policy Pathways Third Annual Fall Celebration from 6:00 p.m. – 8:00 p.m. The event will take place online and is open to the public.

Elihu Harris

Kayla Patrick

The keynote speaker will be Kayla Patrick, senior data  and policy analyst at the Education Trust. She has conducted several major reports on policy and data analysis on the education of girls, particularly those of color. She has been featured in The New York Times, MSNBC, and 2020 presidential candidate Sen. Elizabeth Warren’s education platform.

She will be receiving the Excellence in Public Policy and Administration Award.

Elihu Harris’s career in public service has spanned five decades. He is a former California assemblyman, executive director of the National Bar Association, mayor of Oakland, and chancellor of Peralta Community College District. Today, he is a private attorney and owner of the Harris Funeral Home in Berkeley.

Dr. Lenneal Henderson, visiting instructor at the College of William and Mary, Williamsburg, VA, and board member and fellow of numerous humanitarian and cultural institutions, will introduce Harris.

The recipients of the 2021 Youth Public Service Award are students from Virginia high schools.

University students being honored include Virginia students who have proven themselves to be leaders in public service in academics, community involvement and vision of the future.

“During our Third Annual Fall Celebration, we celebrate the accomplishments of policy leaders and public servants who have inspired us through their work, courage, dedication, and sheer will to overcome the barriers they faced that could have easily derailed their dreams,” said Policy Pathways President and CEO, Dr. D. Pulane Lucas.

The Fall Celebration supports the operations and programs of Policy Pathways. To purchase tickets and sponsorships, go to https://policypathways.org/event/fall-celebration/. Contributions are tax-deductible. For more information about the event, contact info@policypathways.org or call (866)-465-6671.

Policy Pathways, Inc. is a nonprofit organization based in Richmond, Va., providing education, training, and leadership development to high school students, recent high school graduates, and community college and undergraduates students who desire to become leaders in the fields of public policy, public administration, and public service.

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Business

City Must Pay Contractors, Businesses, Non-Profits Promptly

By restoring the Prompt Payment Ordinance, local organizations working for Oaklanders will be compensated in a timely manner and can do more work for Oakland as a result.

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Sheng Thao

I have introduced legislation to restore the City of Oakland’s Prompt Payment Ordinance and it will be heard at 1:30 p.m. by the City Council on October 19 because local contractors and local businesses need to be compensated in a timely manner for work they do on behalf of the City.

It’s unacceptable that the city is using the COVID-19 pandemic to delay payment to these local non-profit organizations.  By restoring the Prompt Payment Ordinance, local organizations working for Oaklanders will be compensated in a timely manner and can do more work for Oakland as a result.

In March 2020, at the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic, then-Interim City Administrator, Steven Falk issued an Emergency Order suspending parts of the City’s codes to give the City the flexibility to navigate the uncertain times.  Few would have guessed then that the world would still be navigating the COVID-19 Pandemic nearly 18 months later. One of the ordinances suspended by the Emergency Order was the Prompt Payment Ordinance.

Oakland’s Prompt Payment Ordinance requires the City to compensate local businesses and contractors executing City grants or contracts within 20 days of receiving an invoice.  This allows local organizations providing services on behalf of the City of Oakland to be compensated in a timely manner and builds trust between these organizations and the city.  Local contractors and businesses provide a diverse set of services to the City, covering areas ranging from trash removal and paving to public safety.

Almost 18 months since the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic, Oakland’s Prompt Payment Ordinance is still suspended.  Even as City staff have adjusted to working remotely and the City has adjusted to operating during the pandemic, there is no requirement that the City compensate its contractors or local businesses in a timely manner.

Oaklanders can comment at the meeting by joining the Zoom meeting via this link https://us02web.zoom.us/j/88527652491 or calling 1-669-900-6833 and using the Meeting ID 885 2765 2491 and raising their hand during the public comment period at the beginning of the Council meeting.

 

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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