Oakland, Sacramento Unite Against Gun Violence
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
OAKLAND, CA May 17, 2013 – Oakland City Council President Pro Tem Rebecca D. Kaplan (At Large) issued the following statement Friday following the first public hearing of the California State Assembly Select Committee on Gun Violence, which was held in Oakland and chaired by Assemblymember Rob Bonta (D-Oakland):
“Thank you to Assemblymember Rob Bonta for convening this critical hearing to address ways we can stop gun violence – both in Oakland and across California.
Today’s meeting demonstrated the commitment of elected leaders at all levels of government to stop the deadly flow of illegal guns.
In City Hall, we are increasing the size of our police force so we’ll have the resources to prevent, investigate and solve gun crimes. In addition to adding police academies, we’re especially grateful to the California Highway Patrol for putting boots on the ground now as we train new officers.
The Legislature has been a critical partner in making violence reduction a top priority in the Capitol:
- SB 140 (Leno) will give $24 million to law enforcement for seizing illegal guns
- AB 187 (Bonta) would tax ammunition to provide resources to high-violence areas
- AB 48 (Skinner) would monitor and regulate ammunition sales
City Hall and the State Capitol have teamed up – in the face of well-funded opposition to responsible gun legislation.
We’re putting more cops on the beat and getting new laws on the books.
And our message is simple: if you take a shot, you will get caught.
Oakland has no gun stores and no gun manufacturers – all guns used to commit crimes in Oakland are brought from elsewhere – so our partnerships with agencies, at all levels, will be instrumental in our success.
Though senators in Washington failed our nation on universal background checks – leaders in Oakland and Sacramento stand united in our commitment and courage to enact common-sense reforms that prevent firearms and ammunition from falling into the wrong hands.”
Rebecca Kaplan represents the entire City of Oakland as its Councilmember At-Large and serves as Council President Pro Tempore. She was elected in November 2008 and re-elected in 2012. Council President Pro Tem Kaplan works to improve quality of life by restoring public safety, expanding economic opportunity and rebuilding trust in government. She holds a B.S. from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, a M.A. from Tufts University and a J.D. from Stanford Law School
By Rebecca Kaplan
In a moment when it truly mattered, the United States Senate failed the people of this country.
Despite support from 92 percent of the American people, political cowardice killed the most basic tool available to reduce gun violence – universal background checks.
But political cowardice in Washington doesn’t reflect the commitment of our city to stop gun violence.
The same week as that disappointing vote in the U.S. Capitol, the Oakland City Council unanimously endorsed legislation proposed in Sacramento to fight gun violence.
Assembly Bill 187, authored by Assemblymember Rob Bonta of Oakland, would create a ten percent tax on bullets sold in California to help fund law enforcement efforts in cities most affected by gun violence.
This smart proposal would tax bullets to fund anti-violence efforts, just as we’ve long taxed cigarettes to support public health programs.
Though Washington lawmakers may fear political retribution, leaders in Oakland City Hall and the California State Capitol, stand courageous and united in our work to make streets safer.
Oakland is working with Sacramento to do what Washington won’t.
In fact, Assemblymember Bonta’s “bullet tax” bill comes on the heels of a legislative proposal introduced by another of Oakland’s dedicated legislators. In January, Assemblymember Nancy Skinner introduced Assembly Bill 48, which would require buyers of ammunition to show identification – similar to requirements for buying some over-the-counter cold medicines.
At the press conference announcing the bill, I proudly stood with a coalition of faith leaders, public safety personnel, community groups, state officials and other Oakland city councilmembers, calling for real action to stop the spread of gun violence.
A recent “Field Poll” found that 75 percent of Californians support permit requirements and background checks to buy ammunition, and 61 percent support higher taxes on ammunition.
The U.S. Senate’s failure of leadership, which President Obama aptly called “shameful,” is especially frustrating when considering the tremendous popularity of a law that would have only affected ownership rights of people with a criminal record or a history of serious mental illness.
But here in Oakland, we know that we must act – in close concert with our representatives in Sacramento – to enact common-sense reforms that prevent firearms and ammunition from falling into the wrong hands.
And we must act swiftly to secure resources, like those that would be generated through AB 187, to put more police patrols on our streets.
Earlier this year, the Oakland City Council authorized an additional police academy – and in our upcoming budget process, we’ll act to add even more.
Already, city hall’s collaboration with the State Capitol has been critical for our community.
The California Highway Patrol has stepped up to put more “boots on the ground” as the Oakland Police Department trains more officers – and our partnership with this statewide law enforcement agency is invaluable in our commitment to fight crime.
An adequately-staffed police force is an essential part of how we’ll get illegal guns off the streets.
On May 6, the Assembly Committee on Revenue and Taxation will consider AB 187 – and I urge you to call Committee Chairman Raul Bocanegra at (916) 319-2039 and ask him to vote “yes” on this important legislation.
Tell him that Oakland is united with Sacramento to stop gun violence across California.
Let’s ask our leaders in the State Capitol to show the leadership – and the courage – that politicians in Washington did not.
Rebecca Kaplan represents the entire City of Oakland as its Councilmember At-Large and serves as Council President Pro Tempore. She was elected in November 2008 and re-elected in 2012. Council President Pro Tem Kaplan works to improve quality of life by restoring public safety, expanding economic opportunity and rebuilding trust in government. She holds a B.S. from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, a M.A. from Tufts University and a J.D. from Stanford Law School.
By Tammerlin Drummond
The Interstate 580 overpass named for Sgt. Mark Dunakin, Sgt. Ervin Romans, Sgt. Daniel Sakai and Officer John Hege honors the four Oakland officers who were shot and killed by a parolee in 2009. It is a grim reminder of how dangerous it can be to be a police officer in Oakland.
Last July, criminal suspects shot out the windows of a California Highway Patrol cruiser with the patrolman inside — he was, thankfully, not injured — while an accomplice in another vehicle tried to ram the same patrolman’s car. In late January, an Oakland police officer confronted a man with a gun who shot him in the leg.
It shouldn’t be news to anyone that policing in Oakland can be dangerous business. Officers get wounded, sometimes fatally. Cruisers are damaged.
You would think the issue of who has to cover the costs associated with officer injuries or equipment damage would have come up when Oakland city officials negotiated a three-month contract with the Alameda County Sheriff’s Office to conduct weekend patrols in East and West Oakland.
Yet for some reason, the question of who would pay — the county or the city — in the event of an officer injury only became an issue after a deputy was shot in the foot last month during a traffic stop. The driver was fatally wounded.
The county is paying workers’ compensation and other costs resulting from the shooting but had informed Oakland it would have to pay for those expenses in the future.
Oakland officials refused. So the Alameda County sheriff pulled the plug and let the contract expire. Those 11 sheriff’s deputies who were patrolling weekends in East and West Oakland assisting the Oakland Police Department’s thin force in some of the city’s highest crime areas? Gone. Many people — including Councilwoman Libby Schaaf, who first got the ball rolling with the sheriff’s department patrols, were not happy to find out about the deal-killing impasse in the newspaper. Saturday was the last day of the sheriff’s patrols.
It looked as though bureaucracy would once again trump public safety in Oakland.
But then a mad scramble. Late Monday, Oakland officials announced that they had struck a deal with the CHP to up their current patrols in Oakland from two days to four — making up for the loss of the Alameda County deputies. The proposal will go before the City Council for a vote May 7. The CHP is not requiring Oakland to foot the costs for officer injuries.
The current CHP deal was set to expire Friday. According to a statement released by Mayor Jean Quan’s office Monday, the CHP has agreed to expand its patrols to four days a week while Oakland officials finalize the new deal.
The 10 CHP officers for an extra two days a week — plus two supervisors — averted the disaster of the sheriff’s pullout. Oakland police officials had called the CHP and county patrols “urgent” to provide high visibility patrols and traffic enforcement that OPD with its depleted patrol ranks can’t provide.
It’s unclear what effect these recent developments will have on the city’s separate pending request before Alameda County supervisors to fund two additional days of sheriff’s patrols.
Yet none of these crisis measures is a long-term solution to Oakland’s public safety problem.
City Councilwoman Rebecca Kaplan noted that Oakland must expand its own police force, which can only be accomplished by holding multiple police academies and lowering the pay of new recruits so Oakland — which has one of the nation’s highest-paid police forces — can afford more officers.
“The fact is you can’t expect a police department to be so dramatically understaffed and expect it to work effectively,” Kaplan said.
Now if only everyone in Oakland felt that way.
By Josh Richman
In other Bay Area-based gun policy news, Oakland City Council on Tuesday night unanimously approved a resolution asking the state Legislature to pass a bill creating a bullet tax.
AB 187 by Assemblyman Rob Bonta, D-Oakland, would impose a 10 percent tax on ammunition to fund crime prevention efforts in the state’s most crime-ridden areas. Bonta had said last month that his bill might merge with another lawmaker’s proposed nickel-per-round tax to fund mental-health screening for children. He also said his tax is mostly about generating money to “combat the gun violence in our communities,” but could have the “secondary benefit” of stemming “rampant sales.”
Oakland Councilwoman Rebecca Kaplan, who introduced the resolution along with City Attorney Barbara Parker, issued a statement saying that the bill’s endorsement is part of an effort to work with state officials to stop gun violence.
“This bill would significantly improve our ability to make communities safer,” Kaplan said. “I’m committed to working with leaders at all levels of government to stop gun violence.”
AB 187 is scheduled to be heard Monday, May 6 by the Assembly Revenue and Taxation Committee.
By Kevin Roose
New York Magazine
In a fluorescent-lit hearing room in Oakland, California, this week, gathered around a crescent-moon table in front of two dozen onlookers, a group of local politicians was locking horns over a question that has baffled this city for more than a year: What’s the best way to punish Goldman Sachs?
“I am not a fan of Goldman Sachs,” councilmember Pat Kernighan said. “They are a very greedy business that operates without regard to anything other than their bottom lines. But I am frustrated with the amount of time and effort being put into this.”
The “this” councilmember Kernighan spoke of is the city of Oakland’s long-running feud with Goldman. It’s a scrappy fight that dates back fifteen years, involves millions of dollars and a soured bond deal, and has galvanized activist groups and ordinary citizens in opposition to what many of them feel is a glaring example of financial corruption hurting a struggling city. And it has resulted in one of the odder situations in American municipal politics — namely, one in which a midsize city is trying to run Wall Street’s most powerful investment bank out of town, but can’t quite figure out how.
The trouble started in 1998, when the city of Oakland entered into an interest-rate swap with Goldman. Under the terms of the swap, Oakland exchanged $187 million in floating-rate bonds for bonds with a fixed interest rate of 5.7 percent, in order to hedge against the possibility that interest rates would rise to 8 or 9 percent. But when rates fell to nearly zero instead, Oakland was stuck paying an above-market interest rate on its debt, at a cost of roughly $4 million a year, at a time when the city’s finances were in shambles.
In some ways, Oakland’s problems are a reflection of the fights between lenders and municipalities taking place all over the country, as cities try to recover from a recession that created crippling budget shortfalls and delayed infrastructure projects. Budget problems are especially bad in California, where one city — Stockton, an hour to the east — became the largest U.S. city to go bankrupt earlier this month. Oakland faces a deficit of between $19 million and $26 million for fiscal year 2013, and shortfalls in previous years have resulted in layoffs and furloughs of public employees.
Oakland’s interest rate swap, which expires in the year 2021, was a classic wrong-way bet, and a less proud municipality might have sucked it up and moved on. But Oakland decided it wanted out. Last year, city leaders and activists led protests outside Goldman’s San Francisco offices, and harangued Goldman CEO Lloyd Blankfein at the firm’s annual shareholder meeting, asking Goldman to unwind the swap deal without charging Oakland the $16 million termination fee specified in its contract. The city’s position was, essentially: You guys got bailed out of your bad investment decisions. Why can’t we, too?
But Goldman refused to back down. “That’s not how the financial system could work,” Blankfein said last year, in response to an Oakland representative’s plea for a get-out-of-swap-free card. “Were we to [cancel the swap at no cost] … we would be frankly paring the interests of our shareholders and the operations of the company. I don’t think it’s a fair thing to ask.”
So, in December, after an eight-hour deliberation, the city council voted to go ahead with a so-called debarment process, which would involve an investigation, a hearing, and an eventual decision that could ban the bank from doing business with the city for up to five years. But the effort got stuck in the mud. For months, councilmembers have been quarreling with the city administrator’s office, which is in control of the debarment process, and at least one has accused it of dragging its feet on purpose.
On Tuesday, the Oakland city council’s finance and budget committee met to hear a progress report on the debarment process. The news wasn’t good: A representative for the city administrator told the council members that a full investigation by a hired outsider would take a minimum of three months, followed by another several months to weigh the evidence and conduct a hearing. And some city council members are getting sick of waiting.
“The problem is much bigger than Oakland,” said councilmember Rebecca Kaplan at Tuesday’s hearing. “There still hasn’t yet been an adequate response at the federal level, and I am proud for Oakland to be in the lead on that. It’s important for us to continue to send a message.”
BEST OF THE EAST BAY
Bay Area Reporter
Rebecca Kaplan, the out lesbian Oakland City Councilwoman and council president pro tem, has been a rising star in the East Bay since her decisive election to the at-large seat in 2008. She easily won re-election last November despite being challenged by a fellow council member. Oakland has its share of issues, especially around public safety as the police force has been cut to around 625 officers. Last month the City Council unanimously approved a resolution, co-authored by Kaplan, that divests the city from making investments in the manufacturers of firearms or ammunition.
Kaplan also touts the positive aspects of Oakland, including its vibrant food and culture scene, as well as a large LGBT population.
“Oakland is home to our nation’s highest concentration of artists, religious congregations – and lesbian couples,” Kaplan, 42, said in an email. “By naming me as best East Bay politician and Oakland Pride as best East Bay fair or festival, the Bay Area Reporter honors and acknowledges Oakland for being a truly diverse and inclusive place.
“I’m thrilled by this special distinction as we work to expand economic opportunity in our community and stop gun violence on our streets. These awards are an incredibly positive reflection of an Oakland on the rise.”
Oakland City Hall, 1 Frank Ogawa Plaza, Oakland, 94612. firstname.lastname@example.org.
Best Fair or Festival
Since its rebirth in 2010, Oakland Pride has added pizazz to the city’s Uptown district every Labor Day weekend. A Pride festival had been around starting in the late 1990s but that ended in 2003. Seven years later, led in part by out City Councilwoman Rebecca Kaplan and with help from San Francisco Pride and the East Bay’s Bench and Bar gay club, Oakland’s daylong festival has been a hit with families, older LGBTs, and young people.
Oakland Pride. http://www.oaklandpride.org.
By Randy Shandobil
San Jose Mercury News
It seems ironic. At a time major league baseball executives say they’re worried that the number of African Americans playing in the big leagues continues to drop, commissioner Bud Selig is considering allowing the Oakland Athletics to move to San Jose.
Back in the 1970s, 27 percent of those playing in the majors were black. Now it’s down to about eight percent. That’s less than half the 17 percent in 1959, when the Boston Red Sox became the last team to integrate.
There are many possible explanations for the decline. The globalization of the game, with more players from Japan, the Caribbean, and Central and South America, squeezes roster space. For inner city youth, organized baseball is prohibitively expensive when compared to basketball. College scholarships for football and basketball players are far more generous than they are for baseball. And other sports are gaining popularity.
In recent years, baseball has tried to reverse the trend through its RBI program (Reviving Baseball in Inner cities). Still, it’s gotten so bad that the World Champions, the San Francisco Giants, formerly led by players such as Willie Mays, Willie McCovey and Barry Bonds, have no African Americans on their roster. Not one.
Certainly keeping the A’s in Oakland won’t, in and of itself, prevent a further drop in the number of African American players. But just as certainly, on a symbolic level at least, moving the A’s to San Jose sends the wrong message.
Of all the big cities in California, Oakland by far has the highest percentage of blacks: 28 percent. San Jose’s black population is 3.2 percent.
Even before Oakland got a major league team 45 years ago, the East Bay had a rich history of placing blacks in the game. A surprisingly large number of black baseball greats and Hall of Famers were either born or raised in Oakland and neighboring Alameda: Joe Morgan, Frank Robinson, Willie Stargell, Vada Pinson, Rickey Henderson, Dave Stewart, Jimmy Rollins, Dontrelle Willis and Jermaine Dye among others…Oakland is where the history is.
Baseball should think long and hard before selling it out.
One year after federal agents raided Oaksterdam, what’s changed?
By Madeleine Thomas
One year ago, federal agents raided Oaksterdam University, a move that sent ripples throughout Oakland’s well-established cannabis industry and raised questions about the complex and often conflicting web of state and federal regulations surrounding medical marijuana use and patient rights. In this four-part series, Oakland North will examine what’s changed since last year’s raid, who was affected the most, and what may lie in store for medical marijuana use here in Oakland.
Oaksterdam University was once a 30,000 square foot campus in the heart of downtown Oakland on 1600 Broadway. It was hard to miss: A three-story mural on the campus’ façade — which has since been painted over – depicted iconic Oakland landmarks, including the Fox Theater, the Port of Oakland and the words “Oaksterdam University” with a marijuana leaf in the middle of the “O” in “Oaksterdam.”
Opened in 2007, Oaksterdam became the country’s first trade school focusing entirely on the cannabis industry, with classes on the legalities and politics of medical marijuana, horticulture, “cannabusiness” and cooking with cannabis. In fact, said Dale Gieringer, state coordinator of California NORML (National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws), “Oaksterdam University, to my knowledge, was the first university attempting to educate people in the cannabis industry anywhere.”
At the time of the raid, business was booming. Over 15,000 students have passed through Oaksterdam’s doors since Richard Lee — one of the country’s most well-known marijuana activists — established the school. By last April, Oaksterdam was employing more than 100 instructors, and several business entities were operating under the school’s umbrella, including a cannabis museum and Coffeeshop Blue Sky, a licensed dispensary.
Agents from the U.S. Marshals Service, Drug Enforcement Agency and the Internal Revenue Service raided Oaksterdam on April 2, 2012. Hundreds of protestors immediately took to the streets of downtown Oakland, many openly smoking weed as agents stripped the university of most of its property. Five locations affiliated with Oaksterdam were targeted, including Lee’s own home, Coffeeshop Blue Sky, the museum, and a storage unit.
“It was one of the most damaging things that could happen to a business,” said Dale Sky Jones, then Oaksterdam’s executive chancellor, who later took over as head of the university. “Almost like a fire or a flood. Except this was an act of the federal government, not an act of God or of nature.”
A year later, the school is still running, although as a much smaller operation. It’s still unclear what motivated the raid or whether the agencies plan to file any charges related to it; neither U.S. Attorney Melinda Haag nor representatives for the DEA returned interview requests for this article. So far, no legal action has been taken against Oaksterdam or Lee, Jones says.
Meanwhile, news of the raid and the message that federal eyes were watching Oakland reverberated quickly throughout the city’s close-knit network of dispensaries. Steve D’Angelo, founder and director of Harborside Health Center — the country’s largest cannabis dispensary with locations in Oakland and in San Jose — remembers the morning of the raid well. “My immediate thought was, ‘This is absolutely outrageous and I need to get down to Oaksterdam and do something,’” he said. “How dare they attack such a beloved institution that’s done so much good for the city of Oakland?”
Medical marijuana has been largely supported by Oakland’s city government, which currently allows up to eight permitted dispensaries to operate within the city.
“The City of Oakland has consistently taken a strong position in support of patients and dispensaries that act properly and in accordance with state and local laws,” said Jason Overman, spokesman for at-large city councilmember Rebecca Kaplan. (During the protest surrounding the Oaksterdam raid, Kaplan famously rode up on her bike and criticized the federal government for prioritizing a medical marijuana crackdowns over policing illegal gun ownership.) “It’s essential that available law enforcement resources be used to stop the epidemic of illegal gun trafficking and gun violence, rather than wasting those resources going after medical cannabis,” Overman said.
Supporters also say the dispensaries, many of which are located along the Broadway corridor, helped revitalize downtown Oakland by generating business and much-needed foot traffic. Before the dispensaries took off, the neighborhoods surrounding Harborside and Oaksterdam were lackluster and downtrodden, D’Angelo said. Now, he said, “Not only do we have world-class restaurants, we have two world-class theaters. You go downtown on weekends now and there’s people, there’s activity, and none of that was happening before medical cannabis was licensed in the city of Oakland.”
Office of Council President Pro Tem Rebecca D. Kaplan
Kaplan Optimistic about Marriage Equality
Support from President, American Public Promising as Prop. 8 Reaches Supreme Court
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Jason Overman email@example.com
OAKLAND, CA Mar 26, 2013 – Oakland City Council President Pro Tem Rebecca D. Kaplan (At Large), the city’s first openly lesbian councilmember, issued the following statement Tuesday as the United States Supreme Court heard oral arguments on Proposition 8:
“Today, the City of Oakland proudly raises a rainbow flag over City Hall.
We celebrate our city today for long being a place of diversity and inclusion – and we reaffirm our deep commitment to equality for all.
As the Supreme Court this week hears oral arguments in two key cases on equal rights for the LGBT community, this flag represents also our sincere optimism that progress will continue for a future in which all of our community is recognized – including equal rights in marriage.
We celebrate several recent and important steps forward towards equality.
President Obama’s support for full equality for same-sex couples is an historic step for justice. His Administration’s amicus brief in the landmark Proposition 8 case shows just how far we’ve come.
And new polling data released last week by the Washington Post and ABC News – showing record support for marriage equality – demonstrates a growing sea change across our entire nation.
The timing of the Court’s review is fitting as many this week observe the Passover festival of liberation.
As we look to our nation’s top jurists with hope, let us remember and recognize that Oakland voters rejected Proposition 8 overwhelmingly – choosing, instead, to speak up and vote to support equality for all.
I am proud of this great city for being a leader in supporting justice and equality – and I know that the people of Oakland will continue to be part of the progress that we’ll make for generations to come.”
Rebecca Kaplan represents the entire City of Oakland as its Councilmember At-Large and serves as Council President Pro Tempore. She was elected in November 2008 and re-elected in 2012. Council President Pro Tem Kaplan serves as Oakland’s first openly-lesbian councilmember and successfully worked to make Oakland Pride an annual, family-friendly festival that draws thousands to Oakland. She holds a B.S. from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, a M.A. from Tufts University and a J.D. from Stanford Law School.
By Josh Richman
Oakland City Council unanimously passed a resolution Tuesday night to prohibit the city from holding investments in firearms or ammunition manufacturers.
Council President Pro Tem Rebecca Kaplan, City Attorney Barbara Parker and Vice Mayor Larry Reid had co-authored the measure, which they say is part of the city’s ongoing effort to reduce gun violence. Councilman Dan Kalb requested that the resolution, which originally covered only firearms manufacturers, be expanded to include ammunition companies as well.
“There is a well-funded corporate effort pushing against our work to stop gun violence,” Kaplan said in a news release. “And Oakland is now formally part of a national movement that includes cities like Chicago and Los Angeles – communities committed to stopping so many tragedies that take place at the hands of a gun.”
The resolution declares a city policy prohibiting the Oakland from holding any investment or ownership stake in any manufacturer of firearms or ammunition; directs the city administrator to examine the city’s holdings and future investments to assure that the city complies with this policy; urges the Police And Fire Retirement System Board and the Oakland Municipal Employees Retirement System Board to adopt similar policies; and urges other state and local jurisdictions to prohibit investment of their public funds in manufacturers of firearms or ammunition.
The city also recently has moved to enlarge its police force, and has endorsed the reenactment of a federal assault-weapons ban as well as a state bill to regulate ammunition sales.
“By taking action here to send a message to weapons manufacturers, Oakland is showing its commitment to big-picture efforts to reduce gun violence here and in communities across America,” Kaplan said.