From March 2013

President Obama Appoints First Female Secret Service Director

Julia Pierson

By Evette Dionne

President Obama heard the “stop picking white men” criticism and is heeding the advice of diversity advocates. He’s appointed the first female Secret Service director.
Julia Pierson, 53, replaces former director Mark Sullivan, who’s facing criticism for “allowing a testosterone-fueled culture to erode discipline at the Secret Service,” according to the New York Daily News.
Pierson is a 30-year veteran of the Secret Service and currently serves as the agency’s chief of staff.
President Obama is satisfied with her record and said he believes she can lead the Secret Service in a new, positive direction.
“Julia is eminently qualified to lead the agency that not only safeguards Americans at major events and secures our financial system, but also protects our leaders and our first families, including my own,” President Obama said in a statement announcing her appointment. “Julia has had an exemplary career, and I know these experiences will guide her as she takes on this new challenge to lead the impressive men and women of this important agency.”
Her appointment does not require Senate confirmation, which some, including Sen. Charles Grassley (R-Iowa) disagrees with. He said the Secret Service “lost the trust of many Americans” following a prostitution scandal in Colombia. Grassley is optimistic, but thinks Pierson “has a lot of work ahead of her to create a culture that respects the important job the agency is tasked with.”
Former director Sullivan agrees, but also has faith in Pierson’s abilities.
“I have known and worked with Julie for close to thirty years. She was an excellent assistant director and chief of staff, demonstrating sound judgment, leadership, character, and commitment to our country, the men and women of the U.S. Secret Service and those we serve and protect,” he said. “This is a historic and exciting time for the Secret Service and I know Julie will do an outstanding job.”

San Leandro Celebrates Older Americans Month

“Unleash the Power of Age,” the theme for Older Americans Month 2013, will be commemorated at San Leandro’s Senior Community Center with a gala dinner dance and multicultural potluck lunch.
Every year since 1963, May has been a month to appreciate and celebrate the vitality and aspirations of older adults and their contributions.
The Senior Black and White Gala Dinner Dance, for seniors 50 and over, features the sounds of yesteryear music from the Treble Makers, dinner and a chance to participate in the selection of the 2013 Senior Gala King and Queen.
The gala will be held Friday, May 10, 4 p.m. to 7 p.m. at the San Leandro Senior Community Center, 13909 East 14th St. The fee is $15 for San Leandro residents and $20 for non-residents.
Seniors also will be able to sample foods from many countries and cultures at the Multi-Cultural Potluck.
Sign up to bring a sampling of your favorite dish (enough for at least 4 people). Come in the traditional dress/attire of your native country if you wish. Celebrate the many contributions of older people and get to know your neighbors while you enjoy a cultural feast.
The potluck will be held Friday, May 31, noon to 2 p.m. at the San Leandro Senior Community Center, 13909 East 14th St.  The fee is $3 for San Leandro residents and $5 for non-residents.
For more information, call (510) 577-3462. To register, visit the San Leandro Senior Community Center or Marina Community Center, or go online at www.sanleandrorec.org.

City Appoints New Department Heads

Pollart Debbie

San Leandro City Manager Chris Zapata has announced the promotion of staff members to lead the Community Development  and Public Works departments.
Cynthia Battenberg, who has worked on the billion-dollar Kaiser Medical Center project and the ultrafast fiber optic project, Lit San Leandro, has been appointed Community Development Director.
Debbie Pollart has been selected to lead the Public Works Department after stints in planning and managing San Leandro’s Marina and Shoreline areas.
Their selection follows the hiring of David Baum to head the Finance Department, LaTanya Bellow in Human Resources, Theresa Mallon as Library Director, and Deborah Acosta as the East Bay’s and San Leandro’s first Chief Innovation Officer.
In addition, Police Chief Sandra Spagnoli and Assistant City Manager Lianne Marshall committed to five-year contracts.

Cynthia Battenberg

“San Leandro has had a great deal of success landing major investment like the Kaiser hospital project and spent significant time planning for a once-in-a-generation opportunity at our Shoreline,” said Zapata.
“Cynthia and Debbie represent a commitment to community development and customer service as well as continuity. Their professionalism and service has been an asset to our residents.”
As the Public Works Director, Pollart will oversee a budget of $23 million, which includes the Water Pollution Control Plant that processes 5 million gallons of wastewater each day, 50 city facilities, 180 miles of streets, 200 vehicles/pieces of equipment, 315 acres of restored marsh habitat, 17 parks and 3 pools.
Battenberg will head the Community Development Department, which facilitates business development, housing services, planning services and building and safety services.
For more information, call Chris Zapata at (510) 577-3390.

Kimberley Hayes, New Head of African American Art and Cultural Complex

By Lee
Hubbard

Kimberly Hayes

With a broad smile, Kimberley Hayes greeted the guests coming into the reception area on the third floor at the African American Art and Cultural Complex in San Francisco.
Though she had already been working for two weeks as the new executive director at the complex, this was her introduction to San Francisco and the neighboring African American community.
“I want to make an impact and I want the complex to matter in and out of the community and in San Francisco,” said Hayes.
As jazz played from speakers, she chatted with those who attended the reception, including the complex’s former executive director London Breed, former Supervisor Ann Marie Conroy, Cheryl Davis from Mo Magic and Black community activist Ed Donaldson.
Breed left the position at the complex, where she worked for 10 years, after being elected to the Board of Supervisors for District 5, which encompasses the Western Addition, Hayes Valley, Haight, and Lower Pacific Heights areas.
The Cultural Complex is a hub for the African American community in San Francisco. It is the home of the Sergeant Johnson Art Gallery, the Burial Clay Performing Arts Theatre, a state of the art music-recording studio, two other art galleries, a dance studio and a multi-purpose room.
Programs for Western Addition youth are also run out of the complex.
“Kim Hayes came from the corporate world to work with us,” said Rev. Arnold Townsend, a board member at the Cultural Complex.  “She is dedicated to working with young people and in the community, and I am glad we have her.”
Hayes plans to initiative programs that will have a direct impact on people in the Western Addition and San Francisco’s African American community. A native of Virginia, she has a BA degree in political science from Hampton University and a MA in public administration from Farleigh Dickerson University in New Jersey.
A presidential intern in the Clinton administration, she worked as an organizer in the campaign to help elect Barack Obama in 2008. Hayes became familiar with the Cultural Complex after meeting Breed in 2008 in Washington DC at Obama’s inauguration.
“She was excited by what we were doing, and she would come out here and volunteer and helped fundraise,” said Breed. “Her hire is great for the cultural complex. Everything changes, and in this case, change is for the better.”
“For the past four years, I have seen her at least two times a year helping out in and around the African American Art Cultural complex,” said Melorra Green, visual arts coordinator and curator at the complex.
Hayes came to San Francisco from a job in sales and marketing for MTV in New York City. She said it was a hard choice to make, but she couldn’t pass up the opportunity to run the complex.
“I see the complex as a valuable commodity to the community,” said Hayes. “My goal is to take it to the next level.”

Public Health Expert to Speak on America’s Declining Health

Dr. Helene-Gayle

Dr. Helene Gayle, a leading world public health expert, will discuss the declining state of health in America, as part of the Barbara Lee and Elihu Harris Lecture Series, Saturday, April 20 at 7 p.m. at Parks Chapel A.M.E. Church, 476 34th St. in Oakland.
Dr. Gayle is president and CEO of CARE USA, a member of CARE International, a leading humanitarian aid organization fighting global poverty. She previoiusly directed the HIV, TB, and reproductive health program at the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation and spent 20 years at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), focusing primarily on HIV/AIDS.
Dr. Gayle also served as chair of the Obama administration’s Presidential Advisory Council on HIV/AIDS.
The event is sponsored by the Martin Luther King Jr. Freedom Center in Oakland and Merritt College. For more information and to RSVP, call (510) 434-3988.

Obama Visits Israel

Obama in Israel

Wrapping up a three- day visit to Israel last week, President Barack Obama paid respects to its heroes and to victims of the Holocaust, solemnly reaffirming the Jewish state’s right to exist.
Accompanied by Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and President Shimon Peres, Obama laid wreaths at the graves of Theodor Herzl, the founder of modern Zionism who died in 1904 before realizing his dream of a Jewish homeland, and former Israeli Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin, who was assassinated in 1995.
He also toured the Yad Vashem Holocaust memorial, declaring after that the memorial illustrates the depravity to which man can sink but also serves as a reminder of the “righteous among the nations who refused to be bystanders.”
Friday’s stop at Herzl’s grave, together with Thursday’s visit to see the Dead Sea Scrolls, the ancient Hebrew texts, were symbolic stops for Obama that acknowledged that the rationale for Israel’s existence rests with its historical ties to the region and with a vision that predated the Holocaust. Obama was criticized in Israel for his 2009 Cairo speech in which he gave only the example of the Holocaust as reason for justifying Israel’s existence.
“Here on your ancient land, let it be said for all the world to hear,” Obama said at Yad Vashem Friday, in a clear response to that criticism. “The state of Israel does not exist because of the Holocaust, but with the survival of a strong Jewish state of Israel, such a holocaust will never happen again.”

Kia Croom Advocates for Her Community

By Ashley `Chambers

Kia Croom

Writer Kia Croom has always been an advocate for those in need. As program director at the Greater Richmond Interfaith Program (GRIP), she has helped provide services to homeless individuals and families, including emergency shelter and transitional housing, a resource center and serving meals 365 days a year.
Holding a bachelors degree in journalism, a Masters of Science in Urban Studies and Masters of Public Administration (MPA) in Regional Planning and Community Development, she has also helped manage homeless services in Atlanta, Georgia establishing the first supportive housing program in the city for transgender people living with HIV/AIDS.
She says she has learned that she needs a community of support, resources and funding to bring projects such as these to fruition.
“It takes a regional collaboration on multiple levels-municipalities, state and federal government. There’s so many stakeholders involved,” she said. “It’s just about working with these different stakeholders to create a solution to social problems, to respond to low educational attainment in communities like Richmond.”
While the need for response to social issues such as unemployment, homelessness, and re-entry is vast, funding to provide services is scarce. Sympathetic to the plight of communities in need of these services and a seasoned grant writer for the past 10 years, Croom has helped agencies raise money and educated others with her grant writing workshops.
“Grant writing entails making a very succinct and compelling request for funding to support a project or service to benefit a nonprofit,” she said.
“(It requires) well-thought out project-getting measureable outcomes, tangible goals and objectives, and a request that can demonstrate some degree of impact. Its more than just putting words on paper, there’s a story to be told,” Croom said.
In Croom’s upcoming spring series, “Show Me the Money Grant Writing Workshop,” nonprofits and individuals seeking more information can learn how to effectively raise money to support their projects, she says.
“I see the saddest possible cases you could imagine every single day,” Croom said. “If it weren’t for the GRIP’s of society, there would be a lot of people in even more turmoil because they would have nowhere to turn for help. That keeps me going.”
A grant-writing workshop will take place Friday, April 19 from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. at the Homewood Suites Hilton hotel at 1103 Embarcadero in Oakland. For more information or to register, contact (510) 698-2728 or info@getmygrants.com

Pastor Kevin Hall Offers “Lesson to Live By” in Richmond

By Ashley
Chambers

Pastor Kevin Hall

At St. John Missionary Baptist Church, one of the largest African American Baptist churches in Richmond, Pastor Kevin B. Hall is taking the Gospel to the airwaves, broadcasting on KDYA 1190 AM station “The Light” every Sunday at 3 p.m.
This church is reaching the community through multiple channels with a mission to “evangelize the sinner and to equip the saints.”
“It is my job as Pastor of St. John to ensure that this mission becomes more than just words on paper, it must become reality and fulfilled in every aspect,” Hall said.
“It is my desire to reach the masses with the transforming message of Jesus Christ,” he said. “Our SWAT (Spreading the Word Across Town) Ministry canvass the neighborhoods seeking to connect with the un-churched and unbelievers by sharing the Plan of Salvation, a message tract, or simply offering a word of prayer to someone in need.”
Through Hall’s leadership serving as pastor since 1994, the church has added an expanded worship center and the Kevin B. Hall Education building, serving the Richmond community in two different locations.
They offer “Lessons to Live By” every Wednesday at 6:30 p.m. at their South Campus, located at 662 South 52nd St., and other educational opportunities at their North Campus, located at 29 8th St., through the Contextualize Leadership Development Center (CLD), an extension of the Golden Gate Theological Seminary in Marin.
A strong advocate of what he calls the “double C’s – Christ and the classroom,” Hall received his Bachelor of Arts degree from San Francisco State University and his Bachelor of Theology degree from Conroe Bible College.
He studied to receive his Masters of Divinity and Masters of Religious Education degrees from the Golden Gate Baptist Theological Seminary. He also holds a Doctorate of Ministry from the San Francisco Theological Seminary.
For more information, contact St. John Missionary Baptist Church at (510) 233-1779.

Black Elected Officials and Faith-Based Leaders Challenge Audit Report – Open Letter

The Black Elected Officials and Faith-Based Leaders of the East Bay have grave concerns regarding the authority, scope and jurisdiction of your recent performance audit issued on March 21, entitled Non-Interference in Administrative Affairs Audit FY 2009-10 – FY 2011-12.
The audit is deficient in that it fails to comply with the generally accepted government auditing standards (GAGAS) by asserting conclusions in the absence of sufficient appropriate evidence evaluated against established criteria.
The audit does not identify a compliance standard objectively applied to Oakland City Councilmembers uniformly, nor does it establish criteria for testing the competency of the evidence supposedly buttressing the conclusions stated therein.
The performance audit alleges violations in city contracting and operations by two Oakland Councilmembers and a Council Aide.  It also repeatedly cites, what we believe, is a likely misinterpretation of Oakland City Charter, Section 218: Non-Interference in Administrative Affairs.
The audit does not substantiate any of the “67 hotline and interview tips,” as stated in page 6 of the report, with material evidence to support the Key Findings outlined on page 1 of the audit.  In order to understand fully, the allegations outlined in the unsubstantiated audit, BEO&FBL requests that you clarify the following discrepancies within the audit report:
1)    Identify the criteria for testing the credibility of the evidence on which the audit findings are based.
2)    Identify the basis of the City Auditor’s authority to determine what constitutes actions rising to the level of a violation of Section 218 as opposed to actions constituting a “Culture of Interference in City Hall”?
3)    Presuming that the City Auditor is not in a position to determine what actions constitute a violation of law, please explain the authority supporting forfeiture of a City Councilperson’s liberty interest without due process. Section 218 reads, “Violation of the provisions of this section by a member of the Council shall be a misdemeanor, conviction of which shall immediately forfeit the office of the convicted member.”
A misdemeanor, or crime, is determined by a judge or jury.  Within the scope of the City Auditor’s office, where did the authority to address the alleged violations reside?  Common due process rights include: a) the right to a hearing, b) presumption of innocence until proven guilty, c) right to confront and cross-examine their accusers; and d) charges proved by sufficient showing of competent evidence.
4)    Per the scope and methodology, where is the material evidence (auditor notes, names and notes of those interviewed or other pertinent data) that supports the findings identified in the audit?
5)    Page 2 of the report states, Councilmembers should “not be involved in administrative actions such as negotiating, establishing terms, or drafting contracts or grants on behalf of the City.”  This work transpires regularly in committee and Council meetings between Councilmembers, City departments and staff and the public.  Based on your audit, where should this dialogue take place to ensure the appropriate use and oversight of taxpayer resources?
6)    Page 21 addresses “A Culture of Interference”, and states “audit found that the culture of interference appears to be felt across many City departments and is perceived to come from multiple Councilmembers.”  Please share the identity of the other Councilmembers that where identified by City departments and staff within the audit.  Only Councilmembers Brooks, Reid and Council Aide Iris Merriounius were specified.  This appeared contradictory to the statement that of “multiple Councilmembers.”
BEO&FBL awaits your expeditious response to the matters outlined above.  As stewards of the public trust, we understand the importance of having ALL of the facts without rushing to judgment.  We want to ensure that ALL Elected Officials and their staff are treated fairly, provided due process and not subjected to unfounded public or media scrutiny based on bias or personal opinions.
Thanks in advance, and we look forward to your response.
Black Elected Officials and Faith Based Leaders

California Lawmaker Nicholas Petris, 90

By Rebecca Trounson,
Los Angeles Times

Nick Petris

Nicholas C. Petris, who was a leading liberal voice for nearly four decades as a California state senator and assemblyman representing his hometown of Oakland and other East Bay cities, has died. He was 90.
Petris, who retired in 1996 because of term limits, died last Wednesday at the Oakland retirement facility where he had lived in recent years.
A Greek American known for his eloquence from the floor of the state Senate, Petris was a graduate of McClymonds High School in Oakland who championed a host of liberal causes during his career, offering legislation on behalf of the poor, the sick and the elderly.
A Democrat, he also wrote laws that increased environmental protections and expanded the rights of farmworkers and tenants.
Legislation that bears Petris’ name, the 1967 Lanterman-Petris-Short Act, bars the involuntary commitment to psychiatric hospitals of most people with mental illness. He also wrote laws that required redevelopment agencies to build housing for low- and moderate-income residents, and prohibited smoking on airplanes, trains and buses in the state.
As an assemblyman, he was also the co-author of legislation that was credited with saving San Francisco Bay from overdevelopment.
Nicholas Christos Petris was born in Oakland on Feb. 25, 1923, the son of Chris and Mary Petris, who were both Greek immigrants. He spoke mainly Greek until he started school.
He earned a bachelor’s degree in journalism from UC Berkeley and a law degree from Stanford University. He served with the Office of Strategic Services during World War II, then worked as a lawyer before he was elected to the Assembly in 1959 and to the state Senate in 1967.
Petris was known for his oratory and for peppering his Senate speeches with quotations from Greek philosophers and politicians. “For Christ’s sake, Nicky, you’re doing Pericles,” Burton said he would tease Petris, a reference to the great statesman of ancient Athens.
In 1991, Petris was among the many who lost their homes in the Oakland Hills to a devastating wildfire that destroyed more than 2,700 residences. The blaze also claimed his beloved personal library, filled with volumes of Greek philosophy, Greek history and English literature.
Soon after, his colleagues in the Senate lined up and one by one presented him with books to help fill the bookshelves in his new library. “I was in tears the whole time,” he told the Modesto Bee several years later.

Fighting Crime Richmond-Style

By Lloyd Madden
BAPAC President

At 5 p.m. every Wednesday, they file into to the Richmond City Council Chamber for a one-hour gathering hosted by Vice Mayor Corky Boozé.
The first five minutes are devoted to communication with family members serving time in state prison.
And everybody chips in $2, not unlike the passing of the church basket.
“It goes to get a kid out to a game or other event, or we send it to prison for a relative without any money on account,” Boozé said of the weekly collection.
Welcome to crime-fighting Richmond-style.  During a period when homicide has been on a worrisome rise in Bay Area urban centers, Richmond—once ranked as one of California’s most dangerous cities—has been headed in the opposite direction.
Back in 2005, the city of about 100,000 people recorded 35 killings, about one every 10 days on average, with more than half those killed being African-American boys and men in their early 20s.
By last year, Richmond had cut the annual number to 18, still a lot for a city of its size, but a dramatic improvement.  Now, with the first quarter of 2013 at a close, there have been three killings, the latest the March 14 shooting death of a 34-year-old San Pablo man outside the Richmond BART station.
While nobody associated with the city’s response to violent crime is claiming victory, the Richmond approach is garnering more and more attention from the media, criminologists and others.
The Richmond way is aggressive community and neighborhood-focused outreach, both governmental and nongovernmental.  The common trait: engagement not just at the neighborhood level but with former perpetrators of gun violence themselves and those affiliated with them.
In 2006, the city hired a new police chief, Chris Magnus, from Fargo, N.D.  He revamped the Richmond Police Department from top to bottom, making officers and their supervisors accountable for reducing crime as well as blight in their geographic zones.
The city also added 50 more officers, while elsewhere in the Bay Area forces have been reduced.  And the chief made greater use of data and technology to sharpen deployment of scarce resources.
In 2007, Richmond launched the Office of Neighborhood Safety, a city department whose mission is to identify and work directly with young people known to be responsible for most of the gun violence.
Its most controversial program is a fellowship in which those enrolled earn up to $500 a month as incentive pay to steer clear of violence and attain goals, ranging from getting a GED, going through drug treatment, or participating in job training.
“We don’t focus on hot spots, we focus on hot people,” said DeVone Boggan, the Office of Neighborhood Safety Director.
But there also have been multiple community-based responses with organic beginnings.  Some have been faith-based, others not.
Operation Richmond is a faith-based, collaborative organization that seeks to unite communities across boundaries, and advocate for disenfranchised and economically challenged people.
It was founded in response to the high incidence of violent crimes in Richmond, notably the tragic shooting that took place during a worship service at New Gethsemane Church on Feb. 14, 2010.
Launched through the vision of Bishop J.W. Macklin of the Glad Tidings Church of God in Christ, it is now led by Pastor Henry Washington of The Garden of Peace Ministries in Richmond, who serves as its executive director.
Operation Richmond is moving forward to bring about a cease-fire and change in Richmond. “Much has been accomplished through collaborative efforts,” said Washington, “But we still have far to go.”
The latest addition to the landscape is One Richmond, the brainchild of Boozé and Pam Bilbo, president of Men and Women of Valor, established with the assistance of Lori Reese-Brown, of City Manager Bill Lindsay’s office.
“People doing the shooting are now part of the group,” said Boozé.  “They came in and now they are doing the work.”
One Richmond serves as a bridge for ex-cons and their families between prison and Richmond civil life.
“The message is nonviolence,” said Boozé.  “Stop shooting people when you get out.”
One Richmond’s other focus is heading off trouble before it starts and giving young people alternatives to turf battles.
“We go to all of the middle school and high school basketball and football games to diffuse rivalries,” said Boozé.
One of the group’s closest calls, the vice mayor remembered, was at a Richmond High School dance early this school year.  “A shot gun was taken and potential bloodshed avoided, without the involvement of Richmond PD.”
Boozé said One Richmond will soon start meeting and working out the old YMCA building in North Richmond.
“I’m going to get a building of their own built for them someday, a place to sit down and talk and have an employment center,” he said.

Auditor Ruby Violated Professional Ethics

By Joe
Debro

Like President Clinton in his first run for President, the city auditor developed her creds in the conservative community by creating a Sista Soldier moment.
She publicly spanked two Black City Council members. These council members were trying desperately to level the economic playing field in Oakland. T hey were trying to integrate the money.
These council members may have violated a provision of the city charter. The auditor surely violated a provision of her contract with the taxpayer.
She pledged to be fair.
The city auditor, without a doubt, violated a cardinal rule of the audit profession. She is required by law to write a management letter to her client when she finds a possible violation in her client’s organization.
The City Council must then respond to her letter and either admit or rebut the allegation before the audit is published.
The city auditor published her findings, without giving the councilmembers an opportunity to defend against her findings.
These two council members were then ambushed by the auditor’s selected press preferences.
The auditor did a disservice to the councilmembers, the city council and the taxpayers. She should have been defending the public first against the Livermore general contractor who was about to be awarded a no bid contract.
All too often our public officials protect outsiders who are taking our money and or our jobs. We continue to export money and import workers.
The Fox Texas contractor violated state law when he withheld $6 million from Oakland small contractors for more than a year. The auditor’s findings did not sanction that contractor.
She did not perform an audit when this same contractor received $60 million  worth of change orders for a $40 million contract.
The auditor could not find a violation when the city forgave a $17 million loan to a Hong Kong developer. Yet she managed to vilify two city councilmembers who were trying to build capacity in the Oakland community and retain tax dollars.
The Raiders violated state law when their $63.9 million loan grew to more than a $100 million debt to the City of Oakland, and they did not report an adverse court action.
A proper audit may have recovered more than a $198 million. Our auditor was too busy investigating two council members who were trying to do their job.
These council members have been damaged. They are due a public apology. They were not given due process.
The auditor served them up to public ridicule by ambush.
I do not know if these two council members violated the charter. I should be able to read their side of the story in the same audit that presented what are called facts, collected by what has proven to be inept professionals.
Joseph Debro is president of Bay Area Black Builders.

Black Elected Officials, Clergy Challenge Auditor’s Report

The Black Elected Officials and Faith-Based Leaders of the East Bay have grave concerns regarding the authority, scope and jurisdiction of your recent performance audit issued on March 21, entitled Non-Interference in Administrative Affairs Audit FY 2009-10 – FY 2011-12.
The audit is deficient in that it fails to comply with the generally accepted government auditing standards (GAGAS) by asserting conclusions in the absence of sufficient appropriate evidence evaluated against established criteria.
The audit does not identify a compliance standard objectively applied to Oakland City Councilmembers uniformly, nor does it establish criteria for testing the competency of the evidence supposedly buttressing the conclusions stated therein.
The performance audit alleges violations in city contracting and operations by two Oakland Councilmembers and a Council Aide.  It also repeatedly cites, what we believe, is a likely misinterpretation of Oakland City Charter, Section 218: Non-Interference in Administrative Affairs.
The audit does not substantiate any of the “67 hotline and interview tips,” as stated in page 6 of the report, with material evidence to support the Key Findings outlined on page 1 of the audit.  In order to understand fully, the allegations outlined in the unsubstantiated audit, BEO&FBL requests that you clarify the following discrepancies within the audit report:
1)    Identify the criteria for testing the credibility of the evidence on which the audit findings are based.
2)    Identify the basis of the City Auditor’s authority to determine what constitutes actions rising to the level of a violation of Section 218 as opposed to actions constituting a “Culture of Interference in City Hall”?
3)    Presuming that the City Auditor is not in a position to determine what actions constitute a violation of law, please explain the authority supporting forfeiture of a City Councilperson’s liberty interest without due process. Section 218 reads, “Violation of the provisions of this section by a member of the Council shall be a misdemeanor, conviction of which shall immediately forfeit the office of the convicted member.”
A misdemeanor, or crime, is determined by a judge or jury.  Within the scope of the City Auditor’s office, where did the authority to address the alleged violations reside?  Common due process rights include: a) the right to a hearing, b) presumption of innocence until proven guilty, c) right to confront and cross-examine their accusers; and d) charges proved by sufficient showing of competent evidence.
4)    Per the scope and methodology, where is the material evidence (auditor notes, names and notes of those interviewed or other pertinent data) that supports the findings identified in the audit?
5)    Page 2 of the report states, Councilmembers should “not be involved in administrative actions such as negotiating, establishing terms, or drafting contracts or grants on behalf of the City.”  This work transpires regularly in committee and Council meetings between Councilmembers, City departments and staff and the public.  Based on your audit, where should this dialogue take place to ensure the appropriate use and oversight of taxpayer resources?
6)    Page 21 addresses “A Culture of Interference”, and states “audit found that the culture of interference appears to be felt across many City departments and is perceived to come from multiple Councilmembers.”  Please share the identity of the other Councilmembers that where identified by City departments and staff within the audit.  Only Councilmembers Brooks, Reid and Council Aide Iris Merriounius were specified.  This appeared contradictory to the statement that of “multiple Councilmembers.”
BEO&FBL awaits your expeditious response to the matters outlined above.  As stewards of the public trust, we understand the importance of having ALL of the facts without rushing to judgment.  We want to ensure that ALL Elected Officials and their staff are treated fairly, provided due process and not subjected to unfounded public or media scrutiny based on bias or personal opinions.
Thanks in advance, and we look forward to your response.
Black Elected Officials and Faith Based Leaders

Inez Lumpkins, 10, Competes for Miss Pre-Teen Oakland

Inez Miss

Inez Lumpkins of Oakland was recently selected to participate in the 2013 Miss Pre-Teen Oakland pageant competition that will take place on Saturday, April 6.
She will participate in the Miss Pre-Teen division, one of four divisions that will have young ladies ages 7 to 19 competing in modeling routines, which include casual wear and formal wear.  During all phases of the competition, the contestants will be judged most on personality.
The winner of the title will represent Oakland and the surrounding communities at the National Competition that will take place in Orlando, Florida.
Inez is asking individuals and businesses to help sponsor her. Through sponsorship, each contestant receives the training, rehearsals, and financial support that will allow them to become confident and well-prepared contestants.
Inez’s sponsors include: Hart2Hart Medical; TaylorJoynt Boutique; Davella’s Child Care; Discover Your Illusions, Hair Restoration & Replacement; Mahogany Roots, All Natural Hair & Skin Care Products; A New Skin, Care and Treatment Services; Bloom, Educational Therapy & Learning
To sponsor Inez, contact the Miss Pre-Teen Oakland Pageant Coordinator at (877) 403-6678.

An Evening with Julian Bond

Julian BobdContra Costa College (CCC) and Single Stop Program are hosting  An Evening with Julian Bond,  accompanied by members of the Freedom Singers on Friday, April 12 from 7 p.m. to 9 p.m. at the college’s John & Jean Knox Center for the Performing Arts,  2600 Mission Bell Drive in San Pablo.
Tickets are $50 per person and can be purchased online at www.contracosta.edu
Bond has played an important role in fighting for civil and human rights for over 50 years. A leader of the Civil Rights Movement of the 1960s, he is one of the original student leaders that established the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee (SNCC) and later chaired the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP).
Bond was the highly profiled president of the Southern Poverty Law Center and is known for his contributions to the global documentary, “Eyes on the Prize.”
CCC is seeking financial support to help make this event an educational opportunity for high school students of West Contra Costa County. To sponsor a student to attend, contact the Office of the President at (510) 235-7800 ext. 4206 or mhanson@contracosta.edu.
For information, contact Michele Jackson at (510) 235-7800 ext. 4341 or mjackson@contracosta.edu.

Yoruba Propitiation/offering

Nigerian Egungun

I received a lot of feedback from those who read this column and would like to reassure non-traditionalists that no proselytizing was intended. The Yoruba tradition does not approve of proselytizing. When I started the series on the Yoruba traditions, I clearly stated that “faith or spirituality is a personal journey.” The Yoruba proverbs, “esin Baba ko gba omo la” (father’s belief may not save the child) and or “konko jabele kaluku loun se tie” (inalienable power of choice), speak to these issues.
The start of the Egungun festival is preceded by a reading from the Babalawo (priest of Ifa) and usually involves propitiating( offering)  to Esu, the deity of immortality or  indeterminacy, divine trickster, the short man of Oke Igeti, disguise artist challenger of authority or orthodoxy which probably informed Edward and Mason, 1985 to sum up the Yoruba Religion as “the art of allowing God to flow through you.” Esu is regarded as the gatekeeper and neutral force who controls benevolent and malevolent Irunmoles (spirits which dwell under the earth) and the sole authority who shares the offering between the Irunmole on the right and the left (a total of 401 irunmole).
Esu keeps the divine ase (decree or power) and observes every reading of Babalawo on the divination tray keeping Orunmila(Grand Priest) in check. It is common practice to give Esu food or drink first before serving to any Orisa or devotee.
After the reading, youth would get whips for flogging contest/exercises, proving their powers with their peers.
The Egungun abode (shrine) symbol of egungun  (Atori) whips carved in spiral design called Isan would be placed at a corner of the wall and referred to as Opaiku (Opa ti a fi le iku lo ni oje) the whip used to drive death away.
An offering consisting of 6 wraps of Eko, (corn porridge) 6 wraps of moinmoin (bean porridge) and 6 Akara (fried bean cake), is presented at the foot of the Opaiku. Devotees pray and sing to banish death from Oje. The ceremony includes the sacrifice of a male goat and/or rooster to signify the release of the vital force that is transferred to the ancestor spirit in the sky home and dwellers of the underground for their rejuvenation. The power of blood is the reality of the menstrual cycle in women. It serves a dual role and is indicative of life giving and also spiritual endowment of women.
According the historian Richards, Afro Bachians have uniquely combined modern styles and traditional beliefs. The mother who takes her new born to the nurse at the hospital clinic for a regular check up, finds no contradiction in using her charms to guard against the evil eye by calling on her diviner to ascertain the “guardian spirit” of the infant to watch over that child throughout its life.
(Next: Master Drummer and Ifa Priest, Yagbe Onilu, Agba Awo of Ife)

Lee and Community Groups Back Immigration Reform

Barbara Lee

Congresswoman Barbara Lee (D-CA) this week hosted a comprehensive immigration reform forum at St. Elizabeth’s High School in Oakland, pledging “to fight for a plan that strengthens families, builds the American workforce, and includes a clear roadmap to citizenship.”
“We are a nation of immigrants whose contributions are a proud part of our heritage,” Lee said. “Unfortunately, undocumented immigrants have lived in the shadows for far too long, and we have a moral obligation to our DREAMers, the LGBT community, and families waiting in perceptual visa backlogs to fix this system.”
The congresswoman was joined at the Tuesday evening meeting by Oakland Councilmember Noel Gallo and representatives from Oakland Community Organizations (OCO), Asian Law Caucus, Spanish Speaking Citizens Foundation, Centro Legal de la Raza, Oakland Chinatown Chamber, Priority Africa Network, and the Alameda Labor Council.

African Novelist Chinua Achebe, 82

By Alison Flood,
The Guardian

Dr. Chinua Achebe

Chinua Achebe, the Nigerian novelist seen by millions as the father of African literature, has died at the age of 82.
He died March 21 following an illness and hospital stay in Boston.
In a statement, Achebe’s family requested privacy, and paid tribute to “one of the great literary voices of all time. He was also a beloved husband, father, uncle and grandfather, whose wisdom and courage are an inspiration to all who knew him.”
A novelist, poet and essayist, Achebe was perhaps best known for his first novel “Things Fall Apart,” which was published in 1958. The story of the Igbo warrior Okonkwo and the colonial era, it has sold more than 10 million copies around the world and has been published in 50 languages. Achebe depicts an Igbo village as the white men arrive at the end of the 19th century, taking its title from the WB Yeats poem, which continues: “Things fall apart; the centre cannot hold.”
“The white man is very clever. He came quietly and peaceably with his religion. We were amused at his foolishness and allowed him to stay. Now he has won our brothers and our clan can no longer act like one,” says Okonkwo’s friend, Obierika, in the novel.
The poet Jackie Kay hailed Achebe as “the grandfather of African fiction” who “lit up a path for many others”, adding that she had reread Things Fall Apart “countless times”.
“It is a book that keeps changing with the times, as he did,” she said.
Achebe won the Commonwealth poetry prize for his collection Christmas in Biafra, was a finalist for the 1987 Booker prize for his novel Anthills of the Savannah, and in 2007 won the Man Booker international prize.
Nelson Mandela, meanwhile, has said that Achebe “brought Africa to the rest of the world” and called him “the writer in whose company the prison walls came down”.
The author is also known for the influential essay An Image of Africa: Racism in Conrad’s Heart of Darkness (1975), a hard-hitting critique of Conrad in which he says the author turned the African continent into “a metaphysical battlefield devoid of all recognizable humanity, into which the wandering European enters at his peril”, asking: “Can nobody see the preposterous and perverse arrogance in thus reducing Africa to the role of props for the break-up of one petty European mind?”
Born in 1930 in Ogidi, in the southeast of Nigeria, the author won a scholarship to the University of Ibadan, and later worked as a scriptwriter for the Nigeria Broadcasting Service. He chose to write “Things Fall Apart” in English – something for which he has received criticism from authors including Ngugi wa Thiong’o – but Achebe said he felt “that the English language will be able to carry the weight of my African experience. But it will have to be a new English, still in full communion with its ancestral home but altered to suit its new African surroundings”.
His most recent work was last year’s mix of memoir and history There Was a Country, an account of the Nigerian civil war of 1967 to 1970.
In 1990 a car accident in Nigeria left him paralyzed from the waist down, and forced his move to the US. “I miss Nigeria very much. My injury means I need to know I am near a good hospital and close to my doctor. I need to know that if I went to a pharmacist, the medicine there would be the drug that the bottle says it is,” he said in 2007.

Kathryn Lee, 77, Publisher of Sacramento Observer

 

She was a contestant in the Miss Amigos pageant in Sacramento in 1954, but those who knew her said her true beauty lie in her ability to help provide opportunities for other African Americans in the region.
Kathryn C. Lee, co-publisher of the Sacramento Observer Newspaper, passed away peacefully at her home on Monday, March 25. She was 77.
Lee was born in New Orleans, Louisiana on Nov.19, 1935. She moved to Sacramento when she was eight years old. Her family settled in the Oak Park area.
After high school, she attended San Francisco State College. She married local real estate broker William H. Lee in 1961. In 1962, the couple and several other area leaders pooled their finances and bought a local religious paper, The Sacramento Outlook.

Ruby Responds to Post Questions

Courtney Ruby, City of Oakland Auditor.

In response to questions from the Post, City Auditor Courtney Ruby  disputed criticisms raised by a Post reporter and community leaders on the quality of her “Performance Audit”  that targets interference with city staff by Councilmembers Desley Brooks and Larry Reid.
Ruby, speaking in a phone interview,  said that the two council members’ vote for the lowest bidder,  Downrite Construction, in June 2012 did not contradict the auditor’s finding that they were trying to steer business to Turner Group Construction.
“To interfere and coerce staff, a councilmember does have to be successful,” she said. “It is the act of coercing or interfering.”
She disagreed that the audit’s finding were undermined by the  failure to include evidence of wrongdoing.  None of the witnesses were quoted, and none of the 10,000 emails and many phone records reviewed were specifically cited.
“We go by government standards,” Ruby said. “Everything that is in the audit report has been independently reviewed and substantiated ” by an outside and independent reviewer.
She was asked why she did not go back to 2009 to examine Phil Tagami’s involvement in derailing an open bidding process and attempt to give a sole source contract to Top Grade Construction, which was part of  Tagami’s team.
At that time, pressure on staff did not come from councilmembers but from Tagami, who was negotiating to become master developer of the Army Base project, in an email dated Oct. 15, 2009.
“(We) must insist that the bid solicitation be rejected and the process significantly revised with our direct involvement before being re-started,” Tagami said in the email to Walter Cohen, then director of Oakland’s Community and Economic Development Agency.
But Ruby’s focus was on interference by two council members – not what was happening or why.
“The object of the report was to look at interference,” she said. “Where we have documented findings is  related to interference.  It is not about  the (Army Base) contract. This is not an audit of the (open bidding) process.”
According to the two council members, what  they were doing at the time was saying in public meetings that they would not vote for the  a no bid contract, and they were insistent on following the city’s open bidding policy.
“The instances identified in the audit are clear interference,” she said. “Whatever their  motivations and reasonings are, these are clearly instances  of interference.”

.

Ruby’s Flawed Audit Fails to Make Case

By Ken A. Epstein

Desley Brooks

If you read the city auditor’s new report like it’s the gospel truth, then Courtney Ruby’s 64-page “performance review” cites damning evidence against two members of the Oakland City Council who are accused of interfering with staff in awarding a multi-million dollar contract for part of the city’s Oakland Army Base development project.
But to a critical reader who expects an audit to back up its claims with evidence, the allegations against City Councilmembers Desley Brooks and Larry Reid quickly begin to fall apart.
According to Ruby, Reid and Brooks in 2011 interfered with city staff, attempting to steer a contact worth at least $2 million to Turner Group Construction, a local minority –owned construction company.
But the facts do not line up with Ruby’s account. The contract ultimately went out to bid, and the City Council, including Brooks and Reid, voted 7-0 (with Jane Brunner abstaining), June 19, 2012 to give the contract to the lowest bidder, Downrite Construction.
Strange behavior for public officials who were allegedly directing business to Turner Construction. Their vote does not square with Ruby’s statement: “Both the councilmembers involvement and interference in the contracting process appears to inappropriately favor Turner.”
Ruby’s Army Base allegations are a key part of her “Non-Interference in Administrative Affairs Performance Audit” for 2009 through mid-2012, released March 21, and widely reported uncritically in the media.
The audit never claims the two councilmembers stood to gain financially from the alleged behavior or tries to explain the reasons for the councilmembers’ actions.

Larry Reid

If one looks to the audit for reasons, they will not be found. Ruby did not ask Brooks and Reid for interviews until after the audit was completed. Nor did the auditor’s office talk to a representative of Turner Construction, which has earned a record in the city as a responsible builder that seeks to hire and train the formerly incarcerated.
Unlike most audit reports, Ruby’s findings lack evidence. Of course, she cannot identify whistleblowers, but she does not quote or paraphrase any of those she interviewed.
Her report says she reviewed telephone records and “all the councilmembers’ and all council aides´ email accounts for evidence of interference,” including “tens of thousands of emails.”
None of this evidence was quoted or cited in the report.
The report said “27 hotline tips were received” and the auditors’ staff talked to “more than 40 individuals, which included interviewing specific employees in areas likely to have instances of interference.”
This sounds like a lot, but these numbers are connected to multiple allegations spread over three years. . How many tips did the auditor receive, and how many people did she talk to specifically about the Army Base contract? She does not say.
Just as important as the councilmembers’ unexplained vote to the lowest bidder and lack of documented evidence, the auditor fails to go back to the beginning of the council discussion in 2009
It’s hard to understand a story when you come in at the middle.
Ruby starts her timeline on May 20, 2011 and concludes it with the City Council vote on June 19, 2012.
But she leaves out the most important part of what happened, which goes back to Au

Lincecum struggles against A's

By: Malaika Bobino

San Francisco, CA – It’s that time of the year, the end of Spring Training nears and the Bay Bridge series begins.  It’s like a mini World Series that brings two teams across the bridge to play for bragging rights.  Right now, the Giants own that by winning the World Series last year.

The Oakland A’s can certainly make an argument after winning the American League Division Series.  But more importantly for beating San Francisco 7-3 in an exhibition game at AT&T Park tonight.  The Giants had every reason to celebrate, earlier they signed General Manager Brain Sabean and Manager Bruce Bochy through 2016.  Two of the key pieces behind this ball club’s success were rewarded for their hard work.

“Four more years,” said President and CEO Larry Baer.  “Sounds like political campaign or a political announcement.  But the goos news is that there are no term limits around here for our people.”

San Francisco got off to good start behind Hunter Pence’s double and Buster Posey RBI single to give the Giants a 1-0 lead in the third frame.  However, one of two bad pitches by Tim Lincecum turned into a two-run homer by Yoenis Cespedes.

“The ball had some good movement on it,” Lincecum said.  “I missed some spots there, you know, Cespedes.  But all in all, things were coming out of the hand well.  A little bit of tough luck there but hopefully that’ll change in the season.”

This is Yoenis second home run off Tim this spring and has hit five home runs and 10 RBI’s over his last nine games.  Oakland didn’t stop there, Josh Reddick took over in the fifth when he blasted a three-run homer to right field.  The A’s 6-2 lead was unattainable at that point of the ball game.

That was also the end of Lincecum’s night.  He hurled four innings, allowing five runs on five hits and one walk with six strikeouts.  His counterpart Tommy Milone was the victor as he lasted 4.2  frames allowing two runs on five hits and two walks while striking out five.

“It’s definitely a better feeling, a night game, you’ve got a lot of fans here in a big league ball park,” said Milone.  “It didn’t feel like a spring training game.  It’s definitely a better feeling.”

But luckily for the Giants it’s an exhibition game that doesn’t count.  However, all eyes were on Tim as he finished spring training with an ERA 10.57.  The former two-time CY Young winner hopes to regain his form he once had.  He is slated to start the season in the third spot behind right-handed pitcher Matt Cain and lefty Madison Bumgarner.

“You want to take something (spring), but you don’t want to take everything just because we were down in Arizona most of the time, and it’s a different game,” explained Lincecum.  “Guys are trying different things.  But you still have to compete.  You still want to show better numbers.”

Velma Ewing, 88, Widow of Tuskegee Airman

Velma Ewing in mid 1980s.

Velma Ewing on Mother’s Day last year..

By Janice Ewing
and Lateefa Ali

The Tuskegee Airmen earned their place in history as they bravely defied convention and fought for what they loved.  We remember these men. But we seem to forget their wives who have also earned their place in history, defying convention and fighting for what, and who they loved.
One such courageous woman was Velma Jean Brown Ewing, wife of Tuskegee Airman Major James Ewing  Jr. She was born to the union of George and Annie LaNair Brown on Sept. 10, 1924, in Minter City, Mississippi.
She passed away on Dec. 20, 2012.
At 16 years old, Velma and Mr. Ewing secretly eloped in 1940. She graduated as valedictorian from Eliza Miller High School in 1942 and attended Philander Smith College in Little Rock, Arkansas and Henderson Business College of Memphis, Tennessee, where she received her business credentials.
She lived a life of taking chances and ensuring that everyone she came in contact with had the opportunity to be loved and have an education despite their race, sex or age.
As a devoted military wife and mother, she made sure her family was taken care of throughout her husband’s military career.  In 1951, Velma single-handedly traveled to France on an ocean liner with their four children to join her husband for his French assignments.
Velma was a devoted advocate for education and received recognition for her service during her husband’s assignments across the world. She was awarded a Certificate of Appreciation by the Officer’s Wives’ Club of Yokota, Japan for her volunteer services in the local Japanese School assisting with the conversational English program.
After her husband was permanently assigned to the Travis Air Force Base in Fairfield, CA in 1964, she became the first African American school board member of the Travis Unified School District, serving from 1967 to 1983.
In her 16 years as a school board member, she served as president, vice president and clerk. Velma served as a member of the Travis School District PTA board, first vice president of the Protestant Women of the Chapel and was a member of the Travis Officer’s Wives’ Club and the Delegate Assembly of the California School Boards’ Association.
She was the first African American to be hired by the Solano County Office of Education, working as a secretary for Solano Superintendent Wendall Kuykendall for 28 years, retiring at the age of 70.