Monday, April 21st, 2014

Raising California’s minimum wage

April 17, 2014


Honorable Kevin De Leon, Chair
Senate Committee on Appropriations
State Capitol, Room 5108
Sacramento, CA  95814

Dear Senator De Leon:

I am writing to express my support for Senate Bill 935.

SB 935 would raise the minimum wage in California to $11 per hour beginning in January 2015, $12 per hour in 2016 and $13 per hour in 2017.  Beginning in January 2018, the statewide minimum wage would be increased annually based on the rate of inflation.

This bill is essential to lifting working families in California out of poverty.

According to the Congressional Research Service, the purchasing power of the federal minimum wage has decreased steadily since 1968, when it was equal to $10.77 in today’s dollars.  California’s minimum wage today is almost three dollars shy of that ceiling.

An individual with a full-time job should not have to rely on social services to meet their family’s basic needs.  Now is the time to take advantage of the growing consensus on this issue and push for a reasonable increase in the minimum wage that will be tied to the rate of inflation in the future.

Thank you for your time and thoughtful consideration on this important issue. Please do not hesitate to contact me at (510) 238-7008 to discuss the matter further.


RK signature

Council President Pro Tempore


Thursday, April 10th, 2014

SFGate: Oakland official calls for end to police layoffs

By Will Kane
San Francisco Chronicle

If Oakland voters agree to extend a tax to pay for police officers next fall, they should also be assured that the city won’t lay off any officers when times get tough, Oakland Councilwoman Rebecca Kaplan wrote Tuesday in a letter the city’s public safety committee.

Oakland laid off about 80 police officers in 2010 and has not replaced those who have left since then, leaving the crime-riddled city with roughly 650 officers. But Oakland is supposed to have 802, according to Measure Y, a tax measure passed in 2004 that pays for 63 officers.

City officials plan to ask voters to extend that tax in November. Now, Kaplan wants the no-layoff assurance to be part of that ballot measure.

“We must stabilize our public safety staffing and put a stop to the crazy roller coaster of deep police cuts,” Kaplan wrote in her letter. “We know that when Oakland had the voter-authorized number of police officers (with a high of 836), crime was declining. After the police cuts, crime increased.”

Many city leaders are worried that Oakland residents may refuse to renew Measure Y because they are fed up with the city asking them to pay for more officers, only to lay them off when the economy shrinks.

Kaplan’s suggestion that the council add the prohibition of police layoffs to the tax measure appears intended to address the public’s concerns.

But her suggestion is far from a done deal. If the tax measure reaches the November ballot with Kaplan’s plan, it would still require a hefty two-thirds voter approval.

Read the complete text of Kaplan’s letter here.


Tuesday, April 8th, 2014

Saving ShotSpotter

Friends –

I am fighting to continue – and expand – our city’s fight against gun violence.

ShotSpotter, for example, is a cutting-edge technology that provides police officers with the exact location of gunshots – when they occur.

Unlike 9-1-1 calls, ShotSpotter’s acoustic technology can help fight gun crime by ‘hearing’ what the human ear cannot.  It tells police, immediately, where a shooting has occurred.  And, when every minute counts, this can save lives – and help apprehend violent criminals.

ShotSpotter’s funding is at risk, however.

According to the San Francisco Chronicle, the Administration hasn’t committed to ShotSpotter:

“‘Although ShotSpotter is very valuable … a lot of times it is followed with phone calls from our community, so we’re not missing out on a whole lot,’ said … a police spokesman … [the police chief] recently told the City Council that ShotSpotter is not a priority. The council must decide whether to renew ShotSpotter.”

We face a crisis of gun violence.  Last year, ShotSpotter detected 16,557 gunshots in Oakland.  That’s why I co-authored a letter, along with Vice Mayor Reid, demanding that the Administration continue to fund this crime-fighting tool.

The truth is that, without ShotSpotter, we would miss out on a whole lot.  Though police ask people to call and report gunfire, many callers don’t know exactly where the sound came from. According to an analysis of police data, only 13.1% of confirmed gunshots had a “useable” 9-1-1 call. We simply cannot rely on 9-1-1 calls alone to fight gun violence.

In one area analyzed, there were 400 incidents of gunfire but only 65 calls to 9-1-1.

NPR, the San Francisco Chronicle and the Oakland Tribune covered our letter, in which we make clear that we’ll only support a budget that funds gunshot detection.

It’s also critical that we restore the size of the police force, which has been dramatically understaffed since the 2010 police layoffs (which I opposed).  Last year, I co-authored the City of Oakland’s FY 2013-15 budget, which funds an increase in officers this year.  We’re still below the authorized level – and I’ll keep urging the Administration to hire the needed officers.

I’ll continue to keep you informed about this issue and others.  Don’t hesitate to contact me with any suggestions.

And “like” my page on Facebook for more updates from City Hall.

Together in service,

President Pro Tempore


Kaplan, Reid Call on Mayor to Continue ShotSpotter
By Jack Detsch

Oakland council members defend ShotSpotter
By Matthew Artz
Oakland Tribune

Councilwoman Rebecca Kaplan…co-authored a sharply worded letter to the mayor Tuesday urging her not defund the city’s popular gunshot detection system.

The letter from Kaplan and Councilman Larry Reid warns Quan that they will vote against any revised budget plan this June that eliminates funding for ShotSpotter.

Quan’s spokesman, Sean Maher, said the council members had nothing to fear.

“The mayor is supportive of ShotSpotter and has no plans to cut funding to it,” he said.

While the city’s $348,000-a-year contract for the service expires at the end of August, Maher said interim Chief Sean Whent will seek to renew it.

Concern over the system’s future began earlier this month when Whent told the council that keeping it was “not at the top of my priority list.”

Police also would like money to restore their helicopter program, which costs more than $500,000 a year.

The council approved spending additional funds two years ago to expand ShotSpotter and ensure that it functions properly despite Police Department staffing shortages.

Kaplan and Reid wrote that in one section of town ShotSpotter recorded 400 incidents of gunfire in one year, while police received only 65 calls reporting gunfire in the same area.

They also noted that the city’s police force “is significantly smaller than the level funded and authorized by the Oakland City Council.”

The department is down to 612 officers — just three above a 20-year staffing low. However, 47 trainees are scheduled to graduate from Oakland’s police academy next week and join the force.


Oakland officials want ShotSpotter technology to stay
By Will Kane
San Francisco Chronicle

It appears unlikely that Oakland police will be able to quit using the city’s network of gunshot-detecting microphones after Mayor Jean Quan and two members of the council said they supported the technology.

Interim Police Chief Sean Whent told the City Council this month that renewing the $264,000-per-year service was not a high priority and that the money could instead be used for other police services, like a helicopter.

But a spokesman for Quan said Friday that the mayor “is supportive of ShotSpotter and has no plans to cut funding to it.”

ShotSpotter covers most of East and West Oakland with sensors that record gunshot audio, map the location and send an alert to patrol officers within 20 seconds.

The police department’s contract with SST, the company behind ShotSpotter, is set to expire in August, and the police department, through Quan’s budget proposal, would have to get council approval to eliminate ShotSpotter.

Two members of the City Council, Larry Reid, who represents East Oakland, and Rebecca Kaplan, who represents the entire city, said in a letter this week that they “could not vote to support any proposal that eliminates funding for ShotSpotter.”

“Our work with ShotSpotter is an excellent investment in public safety,” the pair wrote.

Two other members of the council, Desley Brooks and Noel Gallo, have already said they were unlikely to support cutting the popular service.

Officer Johnna Watson, a police spokeswoman, pointed to a statement from Whent.

“As a public safety agency, we are committed to identifying and utilizing technology to our crime-fighting advantage,” Whent said in the statement. “We also recognize our obligation to prioritize our fiscal commitments. We are currently under contract with Shot Spotter until August and we are assessing our ability to fund the program moving forward.”

You can read the entire letter from Kaplan and Reid here.


Monday, March 10th, 2014

Oakland to George Lucas: we want your museum

Oakland Makes Play for George Lucas Cultural Museum
By Jenna Lane
KGO Radio

Oakland to George Lucas: we want your museum
By Will Kane
San Francisco Chronicle

George Lucas should consider bringing his proposed Presidio art museum to Oakland, Councilwoman-at-large Rebecca Kaplan wrote the famous movie director.

Lucas, who has been trying to build a new museum on an 8-acre lot on San Francisco’s Crissy Field but has been rebuffed by the Presidio Trust, should consider the now-vacant Kaiser Convention Center on the western shore of Lake Merritt, Kaplan said.

“I am excited to inform you that your dream could be a reality in Oakland,” Kaplan wrote. “Our city has sites that could meet you needs for space, style and location.”

“One of these sites,” Kaplan continued, “is the attractive and available Oakland Kaiser Convention Center. Conveniently located near Lake Merritt and BART, with easy transportation access, I believe this site has enough space to accommodate your proposal.”

Built in 1914, The Kaiser Convention  Center, which once hosted roller-derby matches, the Grateful Dead and Martin Luther King, Jr.,  has been vacant since the city closed it in 2006.

Kaplan hopes to change that and invited Lucas to come tour the center, or any other site he might like in the city.

And Kaplan isn’t the only person pushing Lucas to consider leaving San Francisco. Oakland native MC Hammer told the Presidio Trust in January that if they didn’t want Lucas’ museum, Oakland would be happy to help.

“I support George Lucas in every aspect,” Hammer said. “But if there’s any way you don’t want it, Oakland — we’ll take it. We’ll take the check, we’ll take George Lucas. We’ll put them right there at Jack London Square.”

David Perry, a spokesman for Lucas, said the director has not yet received Kaplan’s March 5 letter. But Perry said he would certainly take Kaplan up on her offer, even if Lucas had his heart set on other locations.

“I am quite sure I will go over and take a look but it is not an indication of anything other than that we are so humbled by everyone that has contacted us,” Perry said. “I would say that at the moment our plate is full with other options. … I don’t want to lead anyone on, we are looking at current options on the table.”

MC Hammer speaks in support of the Lucas Cultural Museum:


Monday, March 10th, 2014

Smartphone Kill Switch Legislation Moves Forward in Sacramento

By Elly Schmidt-Hopper
East Bay Express

During the next several weeks, the California Senate Committee on Energy, Utilities and Communications will consider legislation requiring all handheld mobile devices sold in the state to include a “kill switch.” Senate Bill 962 (SB 962), co-authored by State Senator Mark Leno (D-San Francisco) and Assemblymember Nancy Skinner (D-Berkeley), would require all “advanced mobile communications devices” to include software or hardware technology that could remotely render a stolen device inoperable.

Oakland elected officials are also beginning to rally behind the kill switch legislation. City Council President Pro Tempore Rebecca Kaplan sent a letter of support for SB 962 to the Committee on Energy, Utilities and Communications chair, Senator Alex Padilla (D-Pacoima).

In the letter, Kaplan states, “The theft of mobile communications devices now account for one-third of all robberies in the United States, making it the leading property crime in America. This bill is an important step to improve public safety and protect our constituents from violent crime.”

Smartphones and tablets are targeted by thieves because of their high resale value. In Oakland, an estimated 75 percent of all street robberies include a cellphone. Kill switches, if they’re adopted universally, would eliminate the financial incentive to steal by greatly reducing a device’s value on the black market.

Kill switch technology already exists, but smartphone manufacturers and wireless service providers have been slow to include it in their products.

Over the last two years, San Francisco District Attorney George Gascón and New York state Attorney General Eric Schneiderman have led a public campaign to encourage leaders in the mobile device business, including Apple, Google, Samsung, Verizon, AT&T and T-Mobile to independently develop kill switches.

Results have been underwhelming. There is currently no default, universal kill switch on the market.

Law enforcement officials, including Gascón, believe that tens of billions in profit from repurchased mobile devices and smartphone insurance policies are to blame. A 2012 report by Lookout, a smartphone security company, estimated the industry made $30 billion off or replacements for lost and stolen cell phones. The four largest carriers are estimated to have made $7.8 billion off of insurance policies.

These companies wield enough money and power to potentially sway legislation in their favor. Senator Padilla is running for California Secretary of State this year. According to Padilla’s campaign finance filings, he has already received $23,900 from companies associated with the smartphone industry, including Comcast, Verizon and AT&T.

If it passes, the SB 962 would go into effect on January 1, 2015. Starting next year, all handheld mobile devices sold in California would be required to have a default kill switch that could withstand all operating system resets. Violations of the law would result in a penalty of no less than $500, no more than $2,500 for each infraction.


Wednesday, March 5th, 2014

Supporting Cell Phone “Kill Switch” Legislation


March 4, 2014


Honorable Alex Padilla, Chair
Senate Committee on Energy, Utilities and Communications
State Capitol, Room 4038
Sacramento, CA  95814

Dear Senator Padilla:

I write to respectfully request your support for Senate Bill 962 (Leno/Skinner), which will require that smartphones and tablets sold in California include theft-deterring technology commonly known as “kill switches.”

As City Council President Pro Tem for the City of Oakland, I am concerned with the dramatic rate at which smartphone-related armed robberies occur in Oakland and throughout the state. This bill would significantly reduce violent crime in urban areas throughout California.

Smartphone theft is so common because the devices are re-sold for profit on the underground market.  If stolen smartphones had “kill switches” to stop devices from working after being stolen, we would eliminate the financial motive for this kind of violent crime.

The theft of mobile communications devices now account for one-third of all robberies in the United States, making it the leading property crime in America.  This bill is an important step to improve public safety and protect our constituents from violent crime.  Further, reducing the theft of smartphones would free up law enforcement to focus on other crime reduction efforts.

Thank you for your time and thoughtful consideration of SB 962.  I hope you will also ask your colleagues in the Legislature to join in supporting this important legislation.  Finally, please don’t hesitate to contact me at (510) 238-7008 to discuss the matter further.


RK signature

Council President Pro Tempore


cc: Honorable Members of the Senate Committee on Energy, Utilities and Communications

Tuesday, March 4th, 2014

RELEASE: Oakland City Council Votes to Support Proposition 13 Reform


Oakland City Council Votes to Support Proposition 13 Reform

March 5, 2014

Jason Overman

OAKLAND, CA – With its unanimous vote Tuesday evening, the Oakland City Council formally calls on the California Legislature this week to close the corporate loophole in Proposition 13, California’s property tax law.

President Pro Tem Rebecca Kaplan (At Large) authored a resolution, along with Councilmembers Dan Kalb, Libby Schaaf and Lynette Gibson McElhaney, supporting the reform.

“I’m so pleased that the Oakland City Council has seized this opportunity to improve economic vitality in our city and across the state,” Kaplan said. “Tax fairness will help communities like ours improve public safety and create new jobs.”

The resolution requests the California Legislature to prepare a statewide ballot measure in 2016 that would modify Proposition 13 by splitting the tax roll between residential and commercial properties.

Oakland is the latest municipality – and the largest city – to join a growing statewide coalition of cities, school districts and civic leaders calling for reforms to the law, which passed originally in 1978 to protect homeowners – who would remain protected under a change in the law.

Kaplan said the law has unfairly and unintentionally protected large corporations from being required to pay a fair share of property taxes, and has caused homeowners to bear a disproportionate share of the state’s tax burden.

According to forecasts prepared by the California Legislative Analyst’s Office, the change to the law could yield at least $5 billion in additional revenue for the State of California.


Friday, February 28th, 2014

Oakland Post: The Unfinished Work for Jobs & Freedom

The Unfinished Work for Jobs & Freedom
Rebecca Kaplan, elected citywide with more votes than any official pledges to continue her leadership for jobs for Oakland residents.

Rk at  Revive Rally 2

By Rebecca Kaplan
Special Contributor to the Oakland Post

From porters to postal carriers, teachers to truck drivers, Oakland is a city built by hardworking men and women who have fought – not only for their own success – but also for the respectful and equitable treatment of our brothers and sisters everywhere.

As we celebrated black history month, we renewed our faith and commitment to movements for positive social change and justice. We remembered the teachings of James 2:26, that “faith is dead without good works.”

I think often of the Prophet Isaiah (Chapter 58), who interrupted a prayer service to tell the people that God is impressed not by fasting and wailing, but by their actions to house the homeless and clothe the shivering.

When the late Rev. Martin Luther King, Jr. lost his life, he was working for human rights of all kinds, racial justice and fair access to quality jobs.

During the Civil Rights Movement, the famous ‘March on Washington’ was actually called the ‘March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom.’

“We refuse to believe there are insufficient funds in the great vaults of opportunity of this nation,” Dr. King told us as he organized the ‘Poor Person’s Campaign.’ He proposed the ‘The Freedom Budget’ to support public works, public health and job training – and other priorities to level the playing field.

When I served on AC Transit’s elected board of directors, I attended a conference of transit officials from throughout the country. I visited the Civil Rights Museum in Memphis and got to meet Rev. Samuel “Billy” Kyles – who worked closely with Dr. King.

Rev. Kyles shared the story of his experience with the bus boycotts in the 1960s, and told me that many people haven’t fully understood the boycotts: they weren’t just about the mistreatment of black bus riders – they were also about jobs, he said. Back then, transit agencies weren’t hiring African Americans.

As an elected leader representing all of Oakland, I believe fair access to local jobs is one of our most critical issues. Eliminating poverty and empowering people to achieve economic success is vital to our community’s long-term health. These are goals I’ve committed my career to advancing.

I’ve worked for the right of minority-owned businesses to access the city’s many job-generating projects. We’ve succeeded, not only in passing that legislation, but also in creating thousands of jobs in Oakland.

I’m working to help build Coliseum City, which will support our sports arenas and expand jobs in East Oakland. And it’s why I co-authored Measure BB, a transportation plan that’ll provide quality jobs while improving public transit and pedestrian safety.

Dr. King’s focus on economic justice was right on.

Last June, I proudly co-authored Oakland’s budget – the “All In” budget – with Councilmembers McElhaney and Kalb. Our budget succeeded in funded critical improvements – not just for police, parks and potholes – to stop illegal dumping, blight and graffiti. Our constituents – in every corner of our city – deserve clean streets and safe neighborhoods. They deserve fully-funded libraries, senior centers and Head Start child care centers.

During the Great Recession, officials in Sacramento in Washington cut services – a convenient but shortsighted way to address budget deficits. The cuts hurt some of our poorest – and that was a travesty. Whether you’re a government official or a grassroots organizer, a member of the clergy or the owner of a small business – economic justice is something we can create.

In Oakland and everywhere – today and every day – we must work for equality in everything we do. By organizing effectively, leading with conscience and creating jobs – we’ll forge new progress on racial equality, economic equity and human rights. And we’ll do it together.


Monday, February 24th, 2014

ABC: Raiders fan honored for saving woman’s life


By Eric Thomas

Football season is over, but a football fan was honored this morning for what he did at an Oakland Raiders game that helped save a woman’s life.

The Stockton man is a season ticket holder who was catching some of the action on his camera last November. Before he knew it, he literally had someone’s life in his hands and today the Coliseum’s owner thanked him for it.

Donnie Navidad, 61, says he wasn’t expecting to be honored for just attending a Raiders game. But, people who were at the Coliseum for the November 24 game against Tennessee know better.

“Where some of us might hesitate and be fearful and kind of wonder what should we do, and why should we do it, or can we do it. I think his training helped him step forward and do the right thing,” said Nate Miley, Coliseum Authority.

Navidad said his Marine Corps training led him to do the right thing when a distraught South Bay woman tried to commit suicide at the game by jumping from the upper deck. Navidad suffered deep arm and chest bruises trying to catch her.

“You don’t have time to react you just do what you got to do without regard for your life,” said Navidad.

The woman fell 50 feet and ended up in critical condition, but survived. Navidad is the father of three and grandfather of eight, who spent 17 years in the Marines, and 42 years working for the federal government. In the East Bay they’re calling him a hero.

“This is an act, not only of heroism, but of caring for another person is something we can all take inspiration from,” said Rebecca Kaplan, Coliseum Authority. “It’s a human life I would do it again,” said Navidad.

Today Navidad got a proclamation and other honors from the city and county Joint Powers Authority – which runs the Coliseum. Previously, he was honored by the Raiders team and some of the hall of famers he watched for years including Willie Brown and Fred Biletnikoff.


Thursday, February 20th, 2014

Tribune: Council members seek Prop 13 reform

By Matthew Artz
Oakland Tribune

A ballot drive to reform Prop. 13′s cap on annual property tax increases is still two years away, but the Oakland City Council might jump on board the effort as early as next month.

Four council members are asking the city to endorse a statewide ballot measure in 2016 that would end restrictions on property tax increases for commercial property. Residential property owners would still be covered by the landmark 1978 initiative.

The revision could generate an additional $5 billion in tax proceeds, according to the Legislative Analyst’s office.

“We have an incredible opportunity to improve the economic vitality of our communities, our cities and our entire state,” Councilmember Rebecca Kaplan said. “This kind of tax fairness can help cities like ours improve public safety and create new jobs.”

Joining Kaplan in support of the measure are Councilmembers Dan Kalb, Lynette Gibson McElhaney and Libby Schaaf.



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