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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.”

Business

Banning Menthol Cigarettes: California-Based Advocacy Group Joins Suit Against Federal Govt.

A California based non-governmental organization, The African American Tobacco Control Leadership Council (AATCLC), has joined two other public health advocacy groups in a second lawsuit against the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) for the agency’s inaction on issuing a final rule banning menthol cigarettes.

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“Menthol cigarettes have had a devastating and disproportionate impact on the health of Black Americans,” said Yolanda Lawson, President of the NMA. “Smoking related diseases are the number one cause of death in the Black community.”
“Menthol cigarettes have had a devastating and disproportionate impact on the health of Black Americans,” said Yolanda Lawson, President of the NMA. “Smoking related diseases are the number one cause of death in the Black community.”

By Edward Henderson, California Black Media  

A California based non-governmental organization, The African American Tobacco Control Leadership Council (AATCLC), has joined two other public health advocacy groups in a second lawsuit against the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) for the agency’s inaction on issuing a final rule banning menthol cigarettes.

The suit, filed by Christopher Leung of Leung Law, PLLC on behalf of the AATCLC, Action on Smoking and Health (ASH) and the National Medical Association (NMA) comes more than seven months after the FDA’s established date for finalizing a new rule against menthol cigarettes.

“We are a group of Californians, although we have expanded now. We were formed in 2008 to inform and direct the activities of commercial tobacco control and prevention as they affect African Americans and African immigrants in this country,” said Carol McGruder, co-chair of the AATCLC.

McGruder was speaking during a press briefing April 2 organized to announce the lawsuit. with representatives from the ASH, NMA and other organizations.

“Menthol cigarettes have had a devastating and disproportionate impact on the health of Black Americans,” said Yolanda Lawson, President of the NMA. “Smoking related diseases are the number one cause of death in the Black community.”

The lawsuit also follows the FDA’s 15-year delay in creating national policy that would ban cigarettes made with compound menthol, a minty substance that cigarette makers infuse into their tobacco products, making them more addictive and harmful.

Despite significant reductions in overall smoking rates in the US, smoking among poor, less educated and marginalized groups remains high. Every year, 45,000 Black Americans prematurely die from tobacco-caused diseases. An estimated 85% of them smoked menthol cigarettes.

“This disproportionate use of menthol cigarettes among Black Americans is not a coincidence,” Dr. Yerger continued. “I was one of the first tobacco documents researchers out of UCSF who exposed the tobacco industry’s systematic, predatory marketing schemes to dump highly concentrated menthol cigarette marketing into urban inner-city areas.”

In 2011, the FDA’s own scientific advisory committee concluded that the “Removal of menthol cigarettes from the marketplace would benefit public health in the United States.”

If the sale of menthol-flavored cigarettes is indeed banned, the FDA projects a 15.1% drop in smoking within 40 years, which would help save between 324,000 to 654,000 lives.

As a result of the Plaintiffs’ first lawsuit, the FDA made the landmark determination to add menthol to the list of banned characterizing flavors in cigarettes.

On the contrary, tobacco-aligned groups in the past have argued that banning menthol cigarettes would be impact federal and state budgets with the loss of nearly $6.6 billion in cigarette sales taxes. Menthol cigarettes account for over one-third of the U.S. cigarette market.

Other arguments from tobacco-backed groups include unintended consequences of a ban such as increased policing in Black and Brown communities due to contraband cigarettes. However, health advocates have dismissed this claim stating the ban would apply to companies that make or sell menthol cigarettes, not individual smokers.

By law, the United States has two months to respond to the lawsuit. The feds can respond to it or file a motion to dismiss.

If the suit is successful, the FDA would have 90 days to make a final ruling.

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Alameda County

District Attorney Pamela Price Will Face Recall Election on November General Election Ballot

The Alameda County Board of Supervisors scheduled the recall election against Alameda District Attorney Pamela Price for November 5, coinciding with the 2024 General Election. The decision comes after weeks of controversy and drawn-out discussions amongst county officials, recall proponents, and opponents, and legal advisors.

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Alameda District Attorney Pamela Price’s future will be determined on the November General Election ballot instead of a special recall election. On the left, DA Pamela Price. On the right, principal officer of the recall campaign Save Alameda For Everyone (SAFE). Collage by Magaly Muñoz
Alameda District Attorney Pamela Price’s future will be determined on the November General Election ballot instead of a special recall election. On the left, DA Pamela Price. On the right, principal officer of the recall campaign Save Alameda For Everyone (SAFE). Collage by Magaly Muñoz

By Magaly Muñoz

The Alameda County Board of Supervisors scheduled the recall election against Alameda District Attorney Pamela Price for November 5, coinciding with the 2024 General Election.

The decision comes after weeks of controversy and drawn-out discussions amongst county officials, recall proponents, and opponents, and legal advisors.

Recall proponents submitted 123,374 signatures before the March 5 deadline, which resulted in 74,757 valid signatures counted by the Registrar of Voters (ROV).

The recall election will cost Alameda County $4 million and will require them to hire hundreds of new election workers to manage the demand of keeping up with the federal, state and local elections and measures.

Save Alameda For Everyone (SAFE), one of the two recall campaigns against Price, held a press conference minutes before the Board’s special meeting asking for the Supervisors to schedule the election in August instead of consolidating with the November election.

Supporters of the recall have said they were not concerned with the $20 million price tag the special election would’ve cost the county if they had put it on the ballot in the summer. Many have stated that the lives of their loved ones are worth more than that number.

“What is the cost of a life?” recall supporters have asked time and time again.

Opponents of the recall election have been vehemently against a special date to vote, stating it would cost taxpayers too much money that could be reinvested into social programs to help struggling residents.

A special election could’ve cost the county’s budget to exceed its current deficit of $68 million, which was a driving factor in the three supervisors who voted for a consolidated election.

“Bottom line is, I can’t in good conscience support a special election that is going to cost the county $20 million,” Board President Nate Miley said.

Many speakers asked Miley and Keith Carson to recuse themselves from the vote, claiming that they have had improper involvement with either the recall proponents or Price herself.

Both supervisors addressed the concerns stating that regardless of who they associate themselves with or what their political beliefs are, they have to do their jobs, no matter the outcome.

Carson noted that although he’s neither supporting nor opposing Price as district attorney, he believes that whoever is elected next to take that position should have a reasonable amount of time to adjust to the job before recalls are considered.

Reports of recall attempts started as soon as April 2023 when Price had only been in office three months.

Price and her campaign team Protect the Win have been adamant that the voters who elected her to office will not fall for the “undemocratic” practices from the recall campaign and they are prepared to put all efforts forward to guarantee she stays in office.

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Bay Area

Radical Proposal to Limit the Power of Oakland’s Police Commission

Since February 2023, several stakeholders, including the Coalition for Police Accountability, began to work on amending the Enabling Ordinance of Section 604, Article VI of the Oakland City Charter. The Enabling Ordinance was approved by 83.19% of Oakland voters and established the civilian membered Police Commission (the Commission), the Community Police Review Agency (CPRA) and the Office of the Inspector General (OIG). The recent process to amend was focused on addressing some of the inefficiencies and disruptions that have occurred with the Police Commission and to establish guard rails and procedures to mitigate such issues in the future.

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Cathy Leonard, President Coalition for Police Accountability. Courtesy photo. Coalition for Police Accountability logo.
Cathy Leonard, President Coalition for Police Accountability. Courtesy photo. Coalition for Police Accountability logo.

By Coalition for Police Accountability

Since February 2023, several stakeholders, including the Coalition for Police Accountability, began to work on amending the Enabling Ordinance of Section 604, Article VI of the Oakland City Charter. The Enabling Ordinance was approved by 83.19% of Oakland voters and established the civilian membered Police Commission (the Commission), the Community Police Review Agency (CPRA) and the Office of the Inspector General (OIG). The recent process to amend was focused on addressing some of the inefficiencies and disruptions that have occurred with the Police Commission and to establish guard rails and procedures to mitigate such issues in the future. Councilmembers Dan Kalb and Kevin Jenkins are the authors of this legislation which is still in process.

A counter proposal was presented by Councilmember Jenkins to drastically amend Article VI, Section 604 of the City Charter. The proposal would remove the selection process of the police chief from the Commission and give that power solely to the mayor.  Currently, the Commission selects the candidates from which the mayor chooses the chief and presents them to the mayor who selects the final candidate. The proposal also moves the OIG to the Auditor’s Office. These proposals would rob the Commission and the OIG of independence from City Hall which 83.19% of Oakland voters sought in voting for Measure LL in 2016 and Measure S1 in 2018.

Our position is that the issues that have been raised about the hiring of the Chief, the appointment authority of Commissioners, and the scope of CPRA can all be incorporated into the ongoing collaboration of all the stakeholders working on the Enabling Ordinance. Those stakeholders are the two authors, the Coalition of Police Accountability, the Police Commission and the community members who have participated in this extensive work which has yet to be completed and approved by the City Council.  The Charter is very clear that the Commission hires the IG and that the IG is supervised by the Commission. The ordinance cannot override that provision of the Charter.

Amending the Charter is not the vehicle that should be used to make amendments. The proposed Enabling Ordinance should be given a chance to effect positive change before making radical and undemocratic revisions.

For further information, please contact the Coalition for Police Accountability by reaching out to Mariano Contreras at puralata1@gmail.com.

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