From May 2009

EPA Grant to Oakland

Moses Mayne, Chair of the Board of the Oakland Housing  Authority speaks at the press conference to accept grants from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.  At right is Acting Regional Director Laura Yoshii of EPA Region 9. Photo by Gene Hazzard.

Moses Mayne, Chair of the Board of the Oakland Housing Authority speaks at the press conference to accept grants from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. At right is Acting Regional Director Laura Yoshii of EPA Region 9. Photo by Gene Hazzard.

The Oakland Housing Authority is receiving an $800,000 in “brownfield” grants from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency to evaluate potential contamination in targeted redevelopment areas. The grants are largely funded from the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009.
EPA awarded the City of Oakland $600,000 in grant funding to assess contamination throughout West Oakland and in the area surrounding the intersection of Foothill Boulevard and Seminary Avenue in East Oakland.
EPA announced the awards at a press conference held at Lion Creek Crossing, a new housing development in east Oakland for which the Oakland Housing Authority is receiving $200,000 to complete nearby cleanups previously subsidized with EPA grants.
“Our efforts to aggressively advocate for much-needed resources for our community are beginning to bear fruit,” said Mayor Ron Dellums. “In partnership with (federal) and local agencies like the Oakland Housing Authority … we are cleaning and greening Oakland, transforming previously contaminated areas into vibrant, dynamic, healthy communities where families and businesses can thrive.”
All work contracted under the grants will be performed by professional environmental consulting firms certified as local Oakland businesses, helping protect Oakland jobs and stimulate Oakland’s local economy.

Budget Revisions Will Devastate County

Susan Muranishi

Susan Muranishi

While struggling to close a projected $178 million budget gap for 2009-10, Alameda County officials last week warned about state budget cuts proposed by Governor Schwarzenegger that could deprive the county of up to another $40 million in local property taxes and strangle local safety net services.
County Administrator Susan S. Muranishi says she is deeply concerned about the state’s plan to borrow nearly $2 billion in property tax revenue from local government after voters rejected a slate of revenue-generating measures on May 19 ballot.
“The limited share of property tax revenue that we currently get is vital to supporting public safety and local programs for the elderly, the poor and others struggling to survive in our community,’’ Muranishi said.  “Remember, we have had an estimated $3.7 billion diverted from Alameda County by the state over the past 15 years.”
The plan, according to state estimates, would divert up to $40 million from Alameda County coffers.  Muranishi said the loss of these funds would devastate local programs at a time when the County already is working to bridge a large budget gap caused by a drop in local revenue and a steep rise in demand for services.

<p>Keith Carson</p>

Keith Carson

In addition, Muranishi and County Supervisor Keith Carson said they were shocked by plans to cut further into In-Home Support Services for elderly, frail and disabled residents.
“This plan addresses the state’s long-term, structural revenue problems with a short-term fix that saves money by gutting vital services to the community’s most vulnerable residents,’’ Carson said.  “Furthermore, we have 15,000 in-home care workers in Alameda County who already are struggling to survive.”
Schwarzenegger issued his budget proposals on Thursday in a revised budget that state officials say reflects a drastic fall-off in revenues from sales taxes and other sources.  The Governor’s “May Revise’’ includes two scenarios – one which presumed revenue-generating measures on Tuesday’s ballot win with voters, the other presuming the ballot measures fail.   Schwarzenegger says the state would face a $15 billion deficit even if the ballot measures passed but that the figure would swell to over $21 billion with the failure of the measures.
Both scenarios featured  elimination of programs serving vulnerable residents and deep cuts to others. Proposed cuts include: drastically reducing numbers of elderly, blind or disabled residents who are eligible for Supplemental Security Income; reductions in CalWorks job training programs; cutting the Medi-Cal program by restricting patient eligibility and cutting payments and benefits; and eliminating cash assistance for elderly, blind or disabled immigrants.
Schwarzenegger has also proposed changing sentencing options to shift thousands of felony and misdemeanor offenders from the state prison system to local jails.  Alameda County’s jails currently are at full or near capacity.

Alameda County Set to File Lawsuit Against Lehman Bros.

By Chris Metinko,
Oakland Tribune

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Richard Winnie County Counsel

Alameda County is set to follow other counties in the state and file a lawsuit against former Lehman Bros. officers, claiming they deceived investors by covering up its exposure to the subprime mortgage market and shrinking assets before it finally filed for bankruptcy in September.
The county, which lost $5 million due to Lehman’s collapse, will file the suit in New York, after the county’s board of supervisors approved doing so earlier this week. The suit will be filed against the company’s former chief executive officer Richard Fuld, other Lehman officers, all of its outside directors and Lehman’s auditor Ernst & Young.
An Ernst & Young spokesman had no comment on the potential lawsuit.
The lawsuit will claim violations of the state’s corporation code, fraud and deceit, negligent misrepresentation, and be similar to the suit fled by Tuolumne County — which lost $2 million when Lehman collapsed.
Richard Winnie, county counsel, said the lawsuit will allege that Lehman’s financial statements for the fiscal years ending Nov. 30, 2005 through 2007 were materially false and misleading, with limited write-downs of mortgage assets and mortgage-backed securities.
As a result of these alleged misrepresented investments, investors lost millions of dollars. The lawsuit is expected be filed in New York later this month.
The county’s lawsuit will be filed against former Lehman officers since the company itself is protected from litigation since it filed for bankruptcy. Alameda County currently has a claim in the investment firm’s bankruptcy case, in an effort to recoup some of the $5 million loss.
Although Alameda County did lose $5 million due to Lehman’s fallout, it was not hit nearly as hard as some other counties in the state. San Mateo County lost a whopping $155 million due to the financial giant’s collapse, while Monterey County lost $30 million.

Groups Needed to Host Summer Lunch for Children

The City’s Department of Human Services is seeking organizations that provide activities for children to participate in the 2009 Summer Lunch program, which delivers free nutritious meals to children in Oakland neighborhoods during the months when school is out of session.
Last summer, over 55 community based-organizations, recreations centers and churches citywide participated the program, which distributed over 75,000 free lunches to children under the age of 18.
New sites are already signing up each day for this summer’s session. For information, contact Carmela Chase at (510) 238-7992.

Oakland Tech Students Present Projects

At a time when health and healthcare issues form an increasingly large part of the country’s public dialogue, students at Oakland Technical High School are tackling the problem head-on at a community forum.
The event takes place Wednesday, May 27, 6 p.m. in the library at Oakland Tech, 4351 Broadway, in Oakland, presenting the results of  yearlong research projects by students in the school’s Health Academy.
More than 50 Tech seniors will present visual displays of their senior projects. A Health Academy senior project is a holistic work encompassing research, community involvement, writing and analysis.
The seniors will field questions from fellow students, staff and guests, while explaining what motivated them to choose their senior project topic and the experiences they had while completing it.

Oscar Grant’s Family Seeks Justice

Oakland witnessed demonstrations and calls for justice this week as the community turned out for the preliminary hearing  at  Alameda County Superior Court for former BART police Officer Johannes Mehserle, accused of the Jan. 1 killing Oscar Grant III at the Fruitvale Bart station. The prosecution completed its case Tuesday, after which the defense began its presentation designed to show that charges should be reduced.  Pictured here are (above L to R) attorney John Burris, as he celebrates the fifth birthday of Tatiana Grant; a demonstration outside the courthouse; Daughter Tatiana with Grant’s fiancee Sophina Mesa. (Below left)  Oscar Grant’s mother Wanda Johnson; Oscar Grant III.  Post photos by Gene Hazzard.

Oakland witnessed demonstrations and calls for justice this week as the community turned out for the preliminary hearing at Alameda County Superior Court for former BART police Officer Johannes Mehserle, accused of the Jan. 1 killing Oscar Grant III at the Fruitvale Bart station. The prosecution completed its case Tuesday, after which the defense began its presentation designed to show that charges should be reduced. Pictured here are (above L to R) attorney John Burris, as he celebrates the fifth birthday of Tatiana Grant; a demonstration outside the courthouse; Daughter Tatiana with Grant’s fiancee Sophina Mesa. (Below left) Oscar Grant’s mother Wanda Johnson; Oscar Grant III. Post photos by Gene Hazzard.

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Oscar Grant

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Utah Governor Named As Ambassador to China

By Lisa Riley Roche
Deseret News

President Barack Obama announces the nomination of Utah Governor Jon Huntsman Jr., center, to U.S. Ambassador to China in the Diplomatic Room at the White House Saturday in Washington. At right is Huntsman’s wife Mary Kaye. Manuel Balce Ceneta, Associated Press

President Barack Obama announces the nomination of Utah Governor Jon Huntsman Jr., center, to U.S. Ambassador to China in the Diplomatic Room at the White House Saturday in Washington. At right is Huntsman’s wife Mary Kaye. Manuel Balce Ceneta, Associated Press

Utah Gov. Jon Huntsman Jr. was named Saturday by President Barack Obama to be U.S. ambassador to China.
“I wasn’t looking for a new job in life, but a call from the president changed that,” Huntsman said, standing beside Obama at a White House press conference.
Obama described the importance of the post and asked Utahns to forgive him for taking away a popular governor.
“There are few countries in the world with a past so rich or a future so full of possibilities as China, with a vast population, growing economy and far-reaching influence, China will have a crucial role in confronting all the major challenges that face Asia and the world in the years ahead,” the president said.
During the early morning announcement, President Obama noted the GOP governor had played a key role in the campaign of his rival for the White House, Arizona Sen. John McCain. “I know Jon is the kind of leader who always put country ahead of party,” the president said, noting he understood Huntsman’s decision to join a Democratic administration would not be easy to explain to some in the GOP.
The appointment of Huntsman means Lt. Gov. Gary Herbert will take over as the state’s chief executive.  Huntsman, a Republican, met late last year with representatives of the Democratic president’s administration about a possible appointment.
The governor, 49, has served as U.S. ambassador to Singapore, and was on a short list to fill the same role in China under President George W. Bush. He was also a U.S. trade ambassador to the region and has negotiated agreements with the Chinese government.
Huntsman speaks fluent Mandarin Chinese learned for an LDS Church mission to Taiwan. He and his wife, Mary Kaye, adopted a daughter from China.

Services for Mother Wright

Mary Ann Wright

Mary Ann Wright

Mary Ann Wright, 87, known in Oakland and around the world as Mother Wright, will lie in state May 27 at the Jewett Ballroom in the Oakland Marriott City Center at 1001 Broadway. The space holds up to 5,000 people.
A civic memorial service will be held in the adjacent Convention Center in the Marriott at 6 p.m. the same evening.
A formal service for Wright will be held at 10 a.m., May 28, at Acts Full Gospel Church at 1034 66th Ave. The church has seating for about 8,000 people.
Mother Wright died May 8 in a Berkeley hospital, after many years spent struggling with heart problems. She had gained fame for her decades of selfless dedication to feeding the poor and hungry.

Seniors Honored

Ruth Beckford

Ruth Beckford

The City’s Department of Human Services will host the seventh annual “Celebrate Aging – Making Oakland a Great Place to Grow Old” event on Friday, May 29,
This free celebration, to be held from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. in Frank Ogawa Plaza at City Hall, marks National Older Americans Month and will feature guest speaker Ruth Beckford, dancer, actress, author, and Oakland-born activist.
Entertainment will include performances by the Bay Area Blues Society, the Stovall Sisters, singer/songwriter Blanca, Stagebridge, Emeryville Taiko, roaming clowns and a senior art exhibit featuring more than 40 artists.  Also, there will be resource booths with over 65 community agencies participating.
Jerri Lange, a veteran broadcaster and the first African American woman to have a syndicated national talk show on PBS will serve as Mistress of Ceremonies.  Additionally, the City will recognize four individuals with Gold and Silver Awards, acknowledging the valued experience, wisdom and richness of our older residents and honoring their tremendous and lasting contributions toward making Oakland a great place to grow old.
“When you start to have as much gray hair as I do, Older Americans Month begins to hold a special place in your heart,” said Mayor Ron Dellums. “Whether they’ve stood on the sidelines or been on the frontlines fighting for equality or fighting for justice, older Americans have seen this country change era-after-era.
‘This event, which marks Older Americans Month in the city of Oakland, will allow us to reflect on historical moments and to pay tribute to our brothers and sisters who have brought us to where we are today,” he said.
The Gold and Silver Award recipients are:  Alameda County Supervisor Nate Miley; community activist Cathy Cade, a pioneer lesbian feminist; volunteer Robert Smith with the City’s  Senior Companion Program; and five Safe Walk to School program monitors (Norma Jean Cureaux, Marylou Rivera, Helen Bradford, Virginia Glosson, Pat Harris) who help keep Oakland children safe as they go to and from school.

Obama Names Oakland Director Rosa “Rosie” Gumataotao Rios as U.S. Treasurer

Rosa “Rosie”  Gumataotao Rios

Rosa “Rosie” Gumataotao Rios

President Barack Obama has nominated former City of Oakland Director Rosa “Rosie” Gumataotao Rios for United States Treasurer.
With more than 21 years of real estate and urban development experience, Rios served as the director of the Redevelopment and Economic Development departments for the City of Oakland. Rios has a long track record in California economic development with municipal governments in the cities of Fremont, San Leandro and Union City.
“I am so very pleased that my constituent,  … who I enthusiastically supported, has been chosen to serve as our new U.S. Treasurer,” said Congresswoman Barbara Lee.
“While working for the City of Oakland, she led the efforts to facilitate development and business opportunities within Oakland and revitalize the city’s downtown and neighborhood corridors,” Lee said.
Rios currently is Managing Director of Investments for MacFarlane Partners, one of the leading real estate investment management firms in the U.S. She serves as the primary liaison with the firms’ real estate and capital partners to facilitate investments located in urban and high-density suburban markets and recently closed on over $345 million worth of equity commitments.
She also serves as a Trustee of the Alameda County Employees’ Retirement Association and is a board member of the California Association of Local Economic Development and the Fruitvale Spanish-Speaking Unity Council. A graduate of Harvard University, she is a Fellow with the Royal Society of the Arts.

Oakland Team Heads for International Children’s Games

<p></p>Team Oakland: Front Row : Gabriella Cantrell, Ibrahima Mobley, Austin Carrington-Scott, Javion Robinson. Aaliyah Douglas, Amanda Warhuus, Keionna Devereaux, Niesha Pierce, Taylor Wheeler, Samiyah Shabazz, Donald Glover, Gabriel Richard, Michael Nguyen; Back Row: Coaches Bernard White, Phyllis Hall, Nola Turnage; Team Delegate Dr. Mark Alexander, City Representative Coach Margaret Dixon. Photo by Troy Dotson.

Team Oakland: Front Row : Gabriella Cantrell, Ibrahima Mobley, Austin Carrington-Scott, Javion Robinson. Aaliyah Douglas, Amanda Warhuus, Keionna Devereaux, Niesha Pierce, Taylor Wheeler, Samiyah Shabazz, Donald Glover, Gabriel Richard, Michael Nguyen; Back Row: Coaches Bernard White, Phyllis Hall, Nola Turnage; Team Delegate Dr. Mark Alexander, City Representative Coach Margaret Dixon. Photo by Troy Dotson.

The Oakland City Council this week acknowledged Team Oakland, the all-star track team coached by Olympic Gold Medalist Tommie Smith in the International Children’s Games, a four-day athletic event that will be held in Athens, Greece this June.
The city was invited to participate in this year’s games, and will be one of 80 cities from six continents competing in Athens this summer. Team Oakland is sponsored by the 100 Black Men of the Bay Area and the Oakland Police Athletic League (P.A.L).
The young athletes that comprise Team Oakland represent Oakland P.A.L., 100 Black Wings, C.A. Track Club, and Oakland Parks & Recreation. In preparation for the trip to Greece the team has attend weekly workouts and evening workshops to learn about the Greek and French cultures.
“I think participating in the International Games is a once in a lifetime opportunity.
It will help me because we’re not going just for sports, but we’ll meet kids from other countries and we’ll learn about their cultures,” said Austin Carrington-Scott, a seventh grader at Oakland School For The Arts, who is part of Team Oakland.
The International Children’s Games were created over 40 years with the mission to promote friendship and peace to the entire world through athletics. Every participant becomes an ambassador of great values, as they represent not just themselves, but also their country.
More than 1,500 athletes from around the world take part in the events each year.
“So often, the young people of our community are portrayed in such a negative light, it is wonderful to have our city’s leadership recognize the youth who are being positive role models for their peers, “ said Coach Margaret Dixon, who is part of the delegation and a retired 25-year veteran Oakland police officer.

Schools Prepare to Survive the Worst

By Chinyere Tutashinda

David Kakishiba

David Kakishiba

Local public schools are preparing for unprecedented cuts as they come to grips with the grim news contained in the governor’s May budget revision and the failure of a package of taxes increases rejected by voters on Tuesday.
The governor is proposing a $5.4 billion cut to education in addition to the already $5 billion cut earlier this year. The cuts could mean shortening the school year by more than seven days, laying off more teachers and increasing class sizes, according to the governor.
In a district already struggling with a budget deficit, Oakland schools are getting ready for a hard school year ahead, said Betty Olson-Jones, President of the Oakland Education Association, the teachers’ union
“We were informed today that counselors are being cut, and we were told to anticipate Aug. 15 layoffs. This is all new, this has never been done before,” she said.
“Cuts that are happening in the state are just all wrong. The priorities are all wrong when your cutting education, healthcare and senior services, it shows a lack of commitment to the most vulnerable population.  It is just unconscionable that we live in the 8th largest economy in the world and we can’t afford to educate our children,” said Olson Jones.
Oakland Unified faces an estimated $23 million less in state revenue next year, according to David Kakishiba, school board member and chair of the board’s Finance and Human Resources Committee.
In the short term, the district may be able balance next year’s budget by redirecting funds from the central office to school sites and by using federal stimulus money to avoid the worst of the cuts, he said, but that  “will only delay the pain for one year.”
“We don’t know that we have hit bottom. At this rate, the next two years should be pretty grim as well,” he said.
One the positive side, said Kakishiba, hard times may bring school officials, parents, unions and businesses together to “talk real talk, to face reality and tone down the rhetoric.”
“People may not want to hear it,” he said, “but we have to see if we can get increased local taxation of our schools. We have to contribute more – everybody – not just homeowners.”

Living His Dream

By Malaika Bobino Oakland, CA– Boxing hasn’t been to the Oakland Arena in years.  That changed last night as one boxer was finally able to live his dream.  Boxer Andre Ward fought for the first time in front of his hometown and beat Edison Miranda in twelve rounds.

Though he was unable to knock him out, Ward was more focused and had better opportunities in landing punches.  Miranda holds a 32-4 record, and was the more feared world-class fighter.  The victory for Ward has now given him the respect of boxing’s elite. Read more

Faith Leaders Back Workers Rights

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More than a dozen East Bay religious leaders gathered in front of the Oakland Federal Building this week to call on Senator Dianne Feinstein to exercise “moral leadership” by supporting the Employee Free Choice Act.
Citing Oakland’s staggering unemployment rate of nearly 16 percent, and on the heels of government massive bailout of failing banks, the local faith leaders joined hundreds of clergy statewide, to support the passage of the Free Choice bill, which would strengthen the economic security of U.S. workers by reducing obstacles to union organizing.
“Our struggling communities are not asking for a hand out, like corporate CEO’s, but a hand up,” said Rev. Carol Been of Clergy and Laity United for Economic Justice.
The clergy members are pressuring Feinstein to change her position on the legislation, which some have called “the most important piece of legislation since the Civil Rights Act.”  The Act seeks to curtail, what a number of commentators see as severe violations of workers’ basic human rights that  corporations frequently carry out when workers seek to form unions to improve their pay and conditions.
It is estimated that one out of every five worker leaders is fired during the quest to organize a union. The current broken system in effect allows corporations, not workers, to choose how to form unions, labor activists say.
“Our community has faced a gross abuse of the 23rd article of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, which is the right to join or form a union for the protection of one’s interests. When workers in our communities seek to exercise this right they experience harassment, coercion, threats, and termination from their jobs,” said Pastor Clarence Johnson of Oakland’s Mills Grove Christian Church.
“For Congress to address only the needs of bankers and not working families reveals the moral bankruptcy of our economic system at the root of this crisis. We call for a radical transformation of our values and priorities as a nation,” said Pastor Eric Gabourel of the Interfaith Committee for Worker Justice.

Over 50 Newark Teachers Laid Off

By Ben Aguirre Jr.,
The Argus

More than 50 teachers learned this week that their jobs are being eliminated due to budget woes within the Newark Unified School District.
Final layoff notices were issued this week after school trustees finalized Tuesday night a resolution to cut 54 total jobs and reduce the amount of work for three people. The majority of those who will receive notices — 54 of the 57 — are teachers.
Facing the task of cutting more than $5 million from its budget, the district originally issued 131 pink slips — layoff warning notices — to teachers and other employees who by law had to be notified by mid-March that their jobs may be in danger.
Those who receive the final notices must be notified of their layoff by May 15.

Program Offers Music Classes in S.F. Schools

The Urban Entertainment Institute (UEI) of Los Angeles has expanded its program into the San Francisco Unified School District, through the generosity of the TomKat Foundation. The San Francisco program is now serving Civic Center Secondary School, Ida B. Wells and as an after school program at Mission High School, which will be open to the entire district. The institute’s work in the schools had its beginning in November, 2007, when a team from UEI went to do a pilot program at CCSS, an alternative Los Angeles high school, considered a “last chance” school, where most of its students are on probation or on the verge of being kicked out of the entire district. The institute offered classes in Vocals, Dance, ProTools, Guitar and Drums for one week. The experience was best summed up in two statements. A teacher said, “This was the first time in three years that the students stayed in school the entire day.” And a student with tears in her eyes, said,” This was the first time someone came into our live and did what they said they were going to do.” The Urban Entertainment Institute is a non-profit organization headquartered in South Central Los Angeles, California that gives teens and young adults practical and working knowledge and training in all areas of the entertainment industry — from the arts to business management. For additional information please contact Syreeta Singleton at (323) 565-4004 or visit www.urbanent.org

Council to Discuss Community Action Plan

By Yalanda Birdsong,
Deputy Director EOC

EOC Executive Director Nathaniel Mason invites the community to have input on Community Action Plan.

EOC Executive Director Nathaniel Mason invites the community to have input on Community Action Plan.

The Economic Opportunity Council of San Francisco (EOCSF), the oldest poverty program in the city, is holding a public hearing to discuss ongoing social, economic and poverty-related issues in the city.
The hearing will take place on Wednesday, May 20, from 1 p.m. to 4 p.m. on the first floor of the West Bay Community Center at 1290 Fillmore St.
The meeting is required by state law as a part of the EOCSF’s 2010-2011 Community Action Plan, a document submitted to the State Department of Community Services and Development. A Community Service block grant provides 85 percent of the group’s funding, which is administered through Community Services and Development.
At the hearing, members of the public are invited to speak about ongoing issues and trends occurring in their communities. Topics such as poverty, unemployment, educational attainment, health and wellness and crime rates will be addressed, as well as any other issues that residents consider important.
With the American economy remaining stagnant and many people facing joblessness and other poverty related problems, the services provided by the EOCSF have become more important than ever, according to members of the group. Also, with California facing a multi-billion deficit for the fiscal year, spending on non-profits and other organizations that aid the poor is being cut.
A nearly $600 million deficit for the City and County of San Francisco is also leading to a reduction in spending on non-profits. At a time when funding is being cut, the EOCSF considers it crucial to compile as much detailed information as possible about the ongoing community issues.
The EOCSF is a non-profit organization that operates 12 government subsidized childcare centers in San Francisco. The group also operates a community resource center in Potrero Hill, as well as a weatherization program and programs that help San Franciscans with the rising cost of energy.
For more information contact Yalanda Birdsong at (415) 749-3796.

Mayor and Board President Back $368 Million Bond to Repair City Streets

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Mayor Gavin Newsom

Mayor Gavin Newsom and President of the Board of Supervisors David Chiu this week introduced a $368 million Safe Streets and Road Repair General Obligation Bond for the November 2009 ballot at Tuesday’s Board of Supervisors meeting.
The Safe Streets and Road Repair Bond would provide funding to repave streets, repair stairways and sidewalks, construct curb ramps, and improve and modernize streetscapes. The bond addresses infrastructure repairs, improves public safety, and create an estimated 2,650 jobs in San Francisco.
“During tough economic times, infrastructure projects help with the recovery of our local economy,” said Mayor Newsom. “The Safe Streets and Road Repair Bond will stimulate our economy by creating jobs while providing needed repairs to our aging streets and fixing the infrastructure which our economy depends on.”

Supervisors David Chiu

Supervisors David Chiu

The bond is recommended under the citywide Ten-year Capital Plan. This plan identifies, analyzes, and prioritizes infrastructure needs and establishes financing strategies to meet the City’s short and long term capital investments.
“The Safe Streets and Road Repair Bond is an investment that will help to preserve and repair the City’s most important assets for years to come,” said Supervisor David Chiu, President of the Board of Supervisors.

Former Richmond Mayor James Kenny, 96

By Todd Perlman
West County Times

James P. Kenny, a Richmond councilman and mayor in the 1950s and a former 20-year member of the Contra Costa Board of Supervisors, died Wednesday. He was 96.
Born Feb. 13, 1913, in the rooming house above his family’s saloon and pool hall in Point Richmond, Kenny was the youngest child of Irish immigrant John Kenny, who helped found Richmond in 1905.
Kenny, known as “Big Jim,” worked in real estate and entered politics in the 1940s, winning a seat on the Richmond City Council as a progressive. That first race in 1948 was a squeaker, Kenny coming out on top by 11 votes after a recount, according to his son, Jack Kenny, of Albany.

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James P. Kenny

He was elected mayor in 1956, then won the District 1 seat on the Board of Supervisors in 1958 with a platform of “a full-time supervisor for a full-time job.” During that campaign, his son said, the question was: Would whoever was elected devote himself fully to county government?
“He made a pledge to that, and put his real estate license on hold, and didn’t work in real estate again until he retired,” Jack Kenny said Monday.
In those days, supervisors met twice a week, and they were planning commissioners and road commissioners. Kenny was appointed to several committees, including the former Air Pollution board, his son said. He was a big proponent of BART as a means of reducing smog, but he regretted that he voted to support the mass transit system in only three counties.
“When it came to a vote of supervisors, he had supported a nine-county BART system,” Jack Kenny said. “There was a lot of pressure when it got reduced to three counties; he thought he should have held out to make it a more region wide transit system.”

Richmond Skate Park on Track for Summer

By Katherine Tam
West County Times

The more than 10-year push for a skate park in Richmond is on track to culminate this summer with the construction of a skateboarding venue at one of the city’s largest parks.
The skate plaza-style facility, which will be as large as 12,000 square feet, will be built in a section of Nicholl Park facing Macdonald Avenue, a major traffic artery.
Plans from the designer are expected to be submitted by the end of the month, with construction beginning in July, said Sharon West, assistant to the parks superintendent. The plaza would open this year, possibly in the fall.
Richmond’s venue won’t feature the 5- or 6-foot-deep bowls commonly found at skate parks, including those in Berkeley and Alameda. Instead, it will more closely mimic an urban street setting and be designed like a street plaza dotted with rails, ledges and ramps of varying difficulty.
The Parks and Recreation Commission approved the design last week, while noting more public input is needed on such projects.

Adrienne Harris

Adrienne Harris

The push for a skateboarding venue goes back at least a decade, Commissioner Adrienne Harris said.
“Skateboarding isn’t exactly avant-garde. It’s been around for a long time,” said Harris, who saw skate parks in England decades ago and attended a local meeting with youth skateboarders in the 1990s. “It’s been a long time that this particular culture of kids has not had anywhere to safely congregate and do their sport.”
Funds will come from a $275,000 state grant and $34,000 in city money.
Richmond’s would be the only skate park in West Contra Costa, at least for now.
Hercules opened one in Woodfield Park in 2002 and closed it two years later, citing vandalism, graffiti and accusations of drug use. Some blame the location, saying the park is secluded, away from the street and drew non-skateboarders who committed crimes.
Before Hercules’ attempt, residents and officials in the region had long discussed creating a place where skateboarders could practice without using benches, railings and ledges on public and private properties. Finding the right location has been tricky
In Richmond, commissioners hoped to avoid the pitfalls other cities have faced by suggesting the skate park be built on land facing Macdonald Avenue, where the facility won’t abut homes and where it would be visible from a major street to help ward off crime.

Berkeley Posters of the Sixties and Seventies on Display

By Kristin Bender
Oakland Tribune

If you didn’t live through the 1960s and ‘70s, but want a glimpse into free love, psychedelic rock ‘n’ roll and the civil rights movement, there are more than three dozen political, music and culture posters on display at the Berkeley Historical Society ready to take you back in time.
When Michael Rossman, an activist in the Free Speech Movement, died last May, he left behind about 25,000 vibrant posters that promoted concerts and rallies, advertised political campaigns, and gave ink to social causes, such as the women’s movement, gay liberation and marijuana legalization.
Rossman collected the posters starting in about 1977, carefully untacking them from light posts once an event was over, scanning eBay for them and scouring flea markets and thrift stores for a find.
Librarian archivist Lincoln Cushing, who was a longtime friend of Rossman’s, has had the posters in his Berkeley hills home since Rossman’s death, and, for the first time, has put 39 of them on display at the Berkeley Historical Society.
“The hard thing was figuring out what not to include,” Cushing said. “It had to be by (someone in Berkeley) or about Berkeley to be in the show.”
Posters span from 1965 to 1974 and cover a range of subjects.
“They are really taking a risk on this show,” Cushing said. “This is not what people think of when they think of history.”
The Berkeley Historical Society, like many such places, does have its share of musty catalogs and books, volunteers who have a sense of history because they actually lived through it, stacks of old photos and yellowing newspapers, and what some may consider dry exhibits.
But recently it has been hosting edgier shows with wide appeal.
Last month, it was home to “Berkeley, A City of Firsts,” an exhibit about how the city has been a leader in innovations: The fire department pioneered the use of smoke blowers, the school district was the first to voluntarily integrate students and the city was the first to ban Styrofoam.
“It’s usually old history (here),” said society volunteer John Aronovici. “This is medium history. Everything that happens today is new history.”
The show will run through Sept. 26. Cushing is trying to find a permanent home for the posters and is in discussions with the Oakland Museum and the Bancroft Library in Berkeley, officials from both venues said.

Berkeley Group Opposes Prop. 1A

At its recent membership meeting, Berkeley Citizens Action (BCA) took a position opposing Proposition 1A in the May 19th Special Election.
The organization urges all progressive voters to oppose what it calls a  “dangerous spending cap that will permanently affect the state’s ability to fund necessary social service programs and infrastructure needs even when the economy improves.”
According to BCA, Prop 1A is a result of California’s dysfunctional budgeting process and should not be supported.

President Signs Law to Preserve Civil Rights History

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President Barack Obama

President Barack Obama signed into law a bill that will catalogue and preserve stories and experiences of Americans who were involved with the Civil Rights Movement.
The bill, H. R. 586, the Civil Rights Oral History Project, will create a joint effort between the National Museum of African American History and Culture and the Library of Congress to collect oral histories of the people who were involved in the movement and preserve their stories for future generations.
“Because of the hundreds and thousands of ordinary people with extraordinary vision who participated in the Civil Rights Movement, we witnessed a non-violent revolution under the rule of law, a revolution of values and ideas that changed this nation forever,” said Rep. John Lewis.
“It is fitting and appropriate that President Obama signed a bill … designed to preserve and protect the story of this great movement and this great people for future generations to learn about and understand,” said Lewis, a co-sponsor of the bill.
The goal of the Civil Rights Oral History Project is to collect video and audio recordings of those who participated in the civil rights movement, providing a historic catalogue of this historic period.

New Center for Elders’ Independence Opens in East Bay

By Sally Douglas Arce

Pictured here are Center for Elders’ Independence CEO Peter Szutu with (left to right): Rejoyce Moss,  Nettie Stovall and Lillian Jackson.  Stovall and Jackson work at CEI Eastmont and Moss is a volunteer there.  A few years ago, they were inducted into the East Bay Blues Hall of Fame.  Photo by  Jim Dennis.

Pictured here are Center for Elders’ Independence CEO Peter Szutu with (left to right): Rejoyce Moss, Nettie Stovall and Lillian Jackson. Stovall and Jackson work at CEI Eastmont and Moss is a volunteer there. A few years ago, they were inducted into the East Bay Blues Hall of Fame. Photo by Jim Dennis.

To meet the growing demand for geriatric health care, the Center for Elders’ Independence will open its fourth center in May at the Eastmont Town Center mall, which will increase organization’s ability to serve frail seniors in the East Bay.
For 17 years, the Program of All-inclusive Care for the Elderly (PACE) has provided comprehensive health care and social services that enable people over age 55 with multiple medical problems to remain in their own homes rather than enter nursing homes.  The program serves seniors, who are residents of the East Bay between El Sobrante and Hayward.
“An ‘age wave’ is coming and we want to be sure the most vulnerable members of our community aren’t caught in the undertow,” says Peter Szutu, CEO and President of the program. It is estimated that California’s over-65 population will more than double in the next 25 years.
To celebrate the new center and help pay for its equipment, the program will hold a gala fundraiser at the Dunsmuir Historic Estate in Oakland Thursday, May 21, 5:30 p.m., at Dunsmuir Historic Estate, 2960 Peralta Oaks Court in Oakland. Guests will enjoy dim sum from Tin’s Tea House and the music of the Royal Jazz Society Orchestra and East Bay Blues Hall of Famers The Stovall Sisters.

Center for Elders’ Independence (CEI) participants Debbie Porter, Ethyl Carter and Gloria Solomon talk about the sock dolls they made at the Eastmont PACE Center and donated to a shelter for abused children in South Africa. Photo by Elinor Davis.

Center for Elders’ Independence (CEI) participants Debbie Porter, Ethyl Carter and Gloria Solomon talk about the sock dolls they made at the Eastmont PACE Center and donated to a shelter for abused children in South Africa. Photo by Elinor Davis.

The new center features a fully staffed medical and dental clinic, an activity center for therapeutic recreation and hot lunch, transportation to and from the center and outside medical appointments, rehab services and all medications. It also covers all specialties and diagnostic services, hospitalization, surgery, home health care and medical equipment.
For information about the May 21 event or about Center for Elders Independence, call (510) 433-1150 or visit www.cei.elders.org.

Charles Robinson, A Man of Many Hats

By Barbara Fluhrer

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Charles Robinson

Charles Robinson has worn many hats in his lifetime, over the years, taking on positions as manager, counselor,board member, journalist   photographer and teacher, to name a few.
Robinson was  employment program manager for the State of California, managing offices in Oakland, Richmond and San Francisco  from 1969 to 1993 and before that was a rehabilitation counselor and supervisor for the state.
Active in the community, he has been a member of Kappa Alpha Psi and Black Advocates in State Service, on the board of the Oakland Private Industry Council and the Co-op Federal Credit Union and a Lector at St. Joseph the Workers Church in Berkeley.
Robinson wrote a column for the Sun Reporter and  the Golden Gater.
“Ralph Gleason, then columnist with the (San Francisco) Chronicle,  realized there were no Blacks on the photography staff at the Monterey Jazz Festival and recommended me, and I officially worked for them for two years, though I had been attending and photographing there for 10 years” he said.
Robinson and his wife Sarah reside in Berkeley, where he moves around  with more difficulty now but remains busy. “I was born with a dislocated hip and, at 5, contracted polio in the same limb, so there is no hip socket and the leg has gotten shorter. All of this is now complicated by arthritis in what was my good hip,” says Robinson.
His only daughter Sybil just turned 50; and he has two stepdaughters.
Jazz plays in the background at the Robinson home, perhaps reminding him of the greats he befriended in his lifetime such as Charles Mingus, Earl “Father” Hines, Jimmy Rushing, Milt Jackson and Dizzy Gillespie.
He has recently produced a book of his photography,”Jazz Idiom, Blue Prints, Stills and Frames,” which features Robinson’s jazz photography and poetic takes and riffs by Al Young.