Good on paper, maybe not so much in practice

So. Last weekend, relieved that the elections are finally over, I spent a bunch of time catching up on meetings I hadn’t had time to watch during campaign season and trying to decide what I should write about this week.

One of the things that always surprises me about watching City meetings is what issues catch my attention. I mean, you look at agendas, and you would think it would be obvious what is going to be interesting to write about. Take, for example, tonight’s Council meeting. There are several controversial topics on tonight’s agendacriteria for awarding the marijuana growing permits, doubling the number of dispensary permits in Oakland, and municipal ID cards.

319 Chester Street

But watching the Committee discussions from two weeks ago, those weren’t the things that I found I had the most to say about. Instead, my attention was grabbed by the conversation about a little vacant lot in West Oakland, at 319 Chester Street, which is on tonight’s consent calendar.

For the whole story, you can read the staff report (PDF), and watch the video of the whole discussion below.

Basically, the City owns this vacant lot near West Oakland BART. The want to give it — well, “sell” it for no cost to a company called the Alliance For West Oakland Development, who will then use City affordable housing funds to build a house on it, which they will then sell to an affordable housing buyer, and then give the money from the sale back to the City so that it can be used to fund more affordable housing construction. Additionally, there is a job training for youth aspect to the construction. From the the staff report (PDF):

The Alliance for West Oakland Development, Inc. is a 501(c)3 community development corporation, established in June, 1999. They were formed to address the issues of rebuilding the West Oakland community. Their mission is to initiate, promote and facilitate the development of blighted areas of West Oakland through a Green Building and Construction Training Program. The program provides training opportunities for West Oakland residents and is geared toward “at risk” young adults (18-25 years) and is also open to all persons interested in entering the construction field.

So this sounds like a good thing, right?

At the Community and Economic Development Committee

So when this item came up at Committee, District 5 Councilmember Ignacio De La Fuente is all “Um, so how does this make any sense when people can just buy houses for a fraction of that cost? Why don’t we just sell the damn lot?”

So staff responded that if we sold it, we wouldn’t have any guarantee that anyone would build on the lot, and also that the construction presents job training opportunities.

319 Chester Street

Now, I’m very sympathetic to the idea of doing it for the job training. But I found it very odd that there was like, no information about the specifics of this job training component in either the report or the presentation. I mean, if you’re going to invest all this money and the primary benefit is that it’s a job training program, wouldn’t you think there should be some more details about that program? Like, I don’t know, how many people it’s going to train? Even just a rough estimate? How people qualify to be part of it? Anything at all? It just seemed off to me.

So then, Igancio De La Fuente asked again about the cost. And staff was like “Well, we don’t actually know that it’s going to cost $375,000. Maybe it will cost less. And also, maybe property values in West Oakland will increase dramatically by the time we finish building this. So then it won’t be more expensive that everything else around.”

So then, Council President Jane Brunner is like “Okay. So we’re giving them $375,000 to build this place, plus $100,000 worth of land. So we’re talking about a $475,000 investment from the City?” And staff is like “Well, we’re going to sell it for at least as much as it costs us.” And Jane Brunner is like “You’re going to sell it for $475,000?” And staff is like “Well, we don’t know what we’re going to sell it for. If we sell it for $475,000, then yes, but if we don’t, then no.” And Jane Brunner is like “So you’re not going to sell it for as much as it costs us?” And staff is like “Yeah, sure. We’ll sell it for $475,000.” And Jane Brunner is like “Well, okay. That’s cool with me as long as all that money comes back to the City.”

So I don’t know if I’m just missing something entirely or what. But how is this house affordable if we’re going to sell it for nearly half a million dollars? I mean, nobody brought this up at the meeting, but it was the biggest question in my head when I was reading the staff report, which suggested that it was only going to be sold for $375,000. I mean, yes. I get that if we sell it to someone of a qualifying income level, then it technically qualifies as an affordable housing sale. But from a practical perspective, when you’re thinking about the actual goals of affordable housing production — well, I just don’t see how this fits with them.

So then District 2 Councilmember Pat Kernighan started asking about who is going to buy the house (participants in Oakland’s first-time homebuyer program) and what kind of affordability restrictions (45 years) there would be on it, and then was just like “Wait, how does this make sense? We’re going to sell this house for $475,000? Really?” And staff is like, “No, we’ll sell it for $375,000. Or however much it costs to build. Maybe it will cost $250,000. Who knows? The land is free!” And Pat Kernighan is all “But the land is worth money. And people don’t want to buy houses with resale restrictions when they can buy houses without them for cheaper. I do like the job training thing.”

And then staff was like “Yes! That’s why we’re doing it. Not for the money, for the job training. Also, it will revitalize the neighborhood.”

And then District 7 Councilmember Larry Reid was like “We’re going to do one of these in my District, too! It’s gonna be awesome!.” And then the Committee all voted for it except for Ignacio De La Fuente and now it’s on the consent calendar for tonight’s meeting.

Details seem to fall short

There are a lot of things about this that seem very admirable in concept. Affordable housing. Job training. Making productive use of vacant city-owned land. But you need more than a good concept. And the details on this thing — I just don’t see how they pencil out.

I mean, if we’re talking about selling a single-family home for almost $400,000, that doesn’t seem like a good affordable housing investment. Nor does it seem realistic to me in a neighborhood where comps are generally less than $300,000.

With no details on how many people we can even expect to be part of the job training, and what exactly they’re going to get out of it, I don’t see how we can evaluate if this is a good use of money for that purpose.

And of course, there’s the issue of money. The City is broke. We need money to provide services. So it seems like before we just go around giving property away, we should at least look into seeing whether we can sell it to someone who just wants to build a normal house on it, and maybe if we can get some much needed cash. Right?

It bothered me that the Committee was so cavalier about approving the whole thing. I mean, I guess they saw it differently, but when I was listening to the questions they were all asking, it really didn’t seem like they were getting very good answers from staff. There’s a tendency, on the part of the City Council, to act like if money isn’t coming from the General Fund, then we don’t have to think very much about spending it. But that’s a terrible way to approach running the City! And I can’t help but think that this attitude has a lot to do with the reason we’ve ended up in such a sucky situation with the budget.

40 thoughts on “Good on paper, maybe not so much in practice

  1. Gene

    Affordable housing at $400,000 in West Oakland? With no defined job-training? Sounds like a no-brainer (as in no brains were used in coming to this decision.)

  2. ralph

    I could be wrong but I do not think staff understands the affordable housing program. Staff certainly does not understand that $100K gift of land plus $375K of construction is $475K all in. I don’t get how they are going to make this affordable.

    If the city wants to make a statement, I wonder if it would make more sense to buy bank-owned properties in the neighborhood, to employ the jobs program to rehab houses as necessary and resell to the public at affordable prices. This would seem to achieve the goals of the programs, eliminate the holding period requirement, give people a place to live, and make a statement. Then maybe might want to buy the city owned lot and develop a business which would benefit the community.

  3. D. H. Pang

    You are providing a lot of great information. However, your unnecessary and incorrect use of the word “like” makes your blog seem unprofessional. Did someone like, say something, or did they actually say it? “And he said,” is much better than “And he was like,”

  4. livegreen

    I get the impression Redevelopment Funds are used without stringent, goal-oriented criteria. Instead they’re used for anything City Staff or Council comes up with, especially to supplement the General Fund where possible, or for feel good projects whether, whether they make sense or not (example cited).

    Or, as you say V, “There’s a tendency, on the part of the City Council, to act like if money isn’t coming from the General Fund, then we don’t have to think very much about spending it. ”

    On top of it because it doesn’t seem like much money to them. They don’t seem to realize this money adds up. & they also don’t seem to want to hold City Staff accountable for such hair brained ideas. & on it goes.

    Anybody from the City care for a rebuttal?

  5. Karen Bishop

    I agree this idea seems half-baked. One way to hold the nonprofit accountable is to insist on matching funds. Have them get other nonprofits or foundations to commit to dollars. These groups are pretty stringent and the City will find out if the idea is worth its while or not. I would also insist as a minimum to provide a detailed plan of the job training program.

  6. Brian

    This property is right behind my house. It’s still called the “Tot Lot” because it is city park land. The city never kept it up and vandals eventually burned down the play structure. Now the play structure is down by the AMCO Superfund site and the freeway on-ramp. The locals call that, “Toxic Park.”

    Building a $400K “spec house” in this market seems like another bit of bad judgement. Houses in the neighborhood of South Prescott have lost half their value in two years, according to the County Tax Collector. How many people could the construction trades training program serve if the city just gave it the $375K grant straight out.

    I agree with the writer who talked about all of the vacant and foreclosed properties in WO. We should be using redevelopment money to acquire, repair and resell those homes to first-time buyers. One house will not “revitalize” my neighborhood. Cleaning up vacant properties across the community would.

  7. V Smoothe Post author

    Perhaps I should publish an ABO style guide so as to avoid similar confusion in the future. I use “was like” or “was all” to indicate I am paraphrasing someone’s comments. “Said” or “says” is reserved for indicating a direct quote.

  8. livegreen

    Especially as HUD has ALREADY given Oakland grants to fix-up & resell forclosed homes to 1st time buyers…

  9. len raphael

    apart from the wisdom of training anyone for a general construction job, doing that one house at a tiime is wasteful compared to what the “old” Merrit/Grove St College used to do. it had a vocational carpentry program complete with partially built house.

    teaching construction one on one on the job to newbies, is like teaching someone to be an auto mechanic by rebuilding an engine and transmission. It will workb but very expensive way to train.

    different construction trade topic: a buddy of mine who lives in east o was telling me that most of his fellow latino’s who came to oakland during the real estate boom have moved back to their home countries. quite a few had bought homes here, and either sold or lost them. the ones who didn’t buy often came out better because they sent money back home to buy land/small business’.

    -len raphael

  10. suep


    DHang is right here. Trying to convey an actual conversation by means of “and he’s like this” and “she goes that” and “I’m all the other” sounds like listening to a couple of valley girls debating last night’s catfight.

    If you are not exactly quoting someone, then you can simply state “Person A said words to the effect that . . .” or “Person B indicated a belief along the lines of . . . ” and so on.

    You can attribute what your best recollection of what someone said without resorting to adolescent speak. I found it quite distracting as well.

  11. nickolai

    Only V can say if criticism of her writing style on this blog is helpful to her or not.

    But writing takes a ton of time and work. If sounding more “professional” and not like a “valley girl” makes that this blog a chore for her, then I hope she ignores your style preferences. I welcome V’s take in whatever form it comes.

  12. V Smoothe Post author

    The conversational writing style of the blog is intentional. If people don’t like it, well, I don’t have much to say to that. I mean, sorry. You don’t have to read it if you don’t want to. But I have no intention of altering it.

  13. Patrick M. Mitchell

    It wasn’t that long ago that I used the term “valley-speak” in reference to V.’s writing style. It was meant as an observation rather than an indictment. Wake up people! V. gives us insight worth more than all local mainstream media combined. Let me be the first to say: WEV!

  14. We Fight Blight

    This is exactly why the City of Oakland is so messed up and we are in a major financial crisis. You gotta be kidding us? The City is gonna waste time and effort on a jobs program to build one house and use it for affordable housing when the staff do not even understand or articulate who benefits from the jobs program and who will be qualified to participate, the time frame to build the house, what the cost of building the house will be, what the fair market value of the house will be once built, what the subsidy to make it affordable will be, and what the total cost to the City will be in terms of administering the program (support costs and soft costs), providing the land, and the capital costs of building the house. This is worse than sending City staff to Alaska to learn about Eskimo Yo Yo making–an absolute waste of money fueled by feel good City Councilmembers.

  15. Carl

    V, I really appreciate your use of the word “like” and other humorous terms, because I watched this same meeting, and you convey my sentiments exactly. IT WAS just as you say. I thought I was the only one who got that from it all. I laughed many times reading your piece, and I know where you’re coming from, and you are right on. Sorry if the tightwads, (or should I say “tight sphincters”), can’t get it. Continue to do you, because I got it.

  16. V Smoothe Post author

    FYI, the Council pulled this item from the consent calendar tonight. It will return on December 7th. I found the discussion fairly interesting, and will do my best to post about it and put up the video later this week.

    Also, with respect to the purchase and rehab of vacant properties that has been brought up — the City does have such a program. It has its own set of issues. It’s worth writing a post about on its own. I’ll put that on the list. But the issue, of course, like everything, it is complicated. So it will probably take me some time to get it together.

  17. ralph

    I, too, must confess that I am a fan of the coversational tone of the blog. I find it amazing that people don’t like, ‘like’, yet are willing to let Chip Johnson’s improper usage of less slide. People we have real problems here. Stay focused.

    Just my $0.11

  18. Dax

    Looking at what was written, its seems this project make little sense from a financial point.

    It also seems to make little sense from the point of affordable housing.

    So that leaves the part everyone seems to agree is good, the “job training”.
    I guess this means “job training” for those who are trained to then be qualified for jobs in residential construction right?

    Well I have a question about that.

    From 2001 to 2008, my main source of exercise was to ride bikes.
    Much of that riding was done in the Oakland hills, all during the construction boom.
    80 to 120 miles a week. Lots of time riding through the same residential neighborhoods on my daily routes.
    I woulds see and pass homes dozens and dozens of times, from the empty lot, to the foundation, to the framing, to the siding and roofing. This would take place over many months and in some cases, a couple years.
    For example, Jerry Browns house from lot to finished home. ( I didn’t know it was going to be his)

    I would stop, look, listen, talk to builders, ask questions, sometimes try to ask a worker a question about this house or that one.
    This repeated passing of these construction was not like just driving by in a car. I was on a bike, slow and stopping from time to time.
    Observing, even talking to contractors about a particular feature or interesting challenge.

    So, the reason why I bring this up is that I made a rather confirmed observation over all those years of passing hundreds of residential construction sites in the Oakland hills.

    That observation it that less than 2% of the construction workers hired there were young men raised in Oakland.
    Indeed, I can’t remember a single site where I saw a young African American male working on the job site.
    I’m sure there must have been one, but if so, it was indeed rare.

    NO, nearly all the construction work, especially all the work done by sub-contractors, was done by other than young men raised in Oakland.

    Talking, listening, speaking to contractors, and just plain and simple using observation and common sense, I would think I was safe in saying that 80% or more of the labor on those sites was done by “undocumented labor”. Also while riding my bike and speaking to several other riders who are in the construction business, including those building in the hills, they concurred with my estimates.

    So my question is… and I’m sure it would never be mentioned in a Oakland council meeting or staff meeting..
    Why are we gonna train Oakland youth for jobs that they won’t be hired to do, even if qualified and available?

    Has something changed in the construction business over the past couple years that would indicate a willingness of contractors to hire subs who use mostly legal workers raised in Oakland?

    Now, obviously there are many areas of Oakland where I didn’t ride my bike to observe residential construction.

    Perhaps others here know of residential construction sites where 50% or more of the work was done, or is done by young men or workers raised or trained in Oakland.

    It just hasn’t been my experience in seeing such.

    So, for this city project, who did they have in mind to train? Once trained, who did they think would hire them.

    Any thoughts?

  19. Karen Bishop

    I was thinking that we should follow the money to understand this a little bit better. Below is a link that shows The City of Oakland paid (at least authorized) $100,000 in 2008 to this organization. There is some more detailed information about the organization, it’s purpose and the outline of the job training program. It would be important to find out if they kept statistics on their training programs to see if they are meeting their stated goals.

    Also one of the board members is a Peralta College Trustee and the President of this organization owns a construction Company doing business in Oakland.

    A couple of interesting tidbits: their website isn’t functional and the last time they filed a Form 990 was in 2008. There were no grants or contributions to the organization in that year. However they receive income, approx. $300,000 a year from parking lots.

  20. len raphael

    Dax, you’re overlooking the tens of thousands of construction jobs created by the bark airport connector and the central valley bullet train.

    Over the last ten years there was an astonishingly fast transformation of the ethnic make up of the CA construction industry workforce that feels permanent. By the time the boom ended, it seems there was a similar change in the ownership distribution of some of the small to small mid sized construction business: hard to find a smaller concrete or stucco firm that isn’t latino owned.

    Smaller plumbing and electrical contractors seemed to stay as pre boom, mostly white, some black owners. But the employee racial composition changed dramatically but not as much as in the more manual labor intensive trades.

    Seems like the last few months there has been a significant pickup in construction and rehab activity in residential areas here, single family residence. Six months ago it was dead.

  21. We Fight Blight

    What I also found interesting in this whole discussion from the City staff was that they kept referring to the City-owned lot as being blighted and that this proposal would remedy a blighted lot. A properly maintained vacant lot with no improvements does not constitute blight. A vacant lot with overgrown weeds, abandoned vehicles, and debris or garbage piled up constitutes blight.

    So are we to understand that the City is maintaining (or not maintaining) a blighted property inconsistent with the blight ordinance or does CEDA staff simply not understand the definition of blight per their own ordinance?

    Either way there seems to be a problem here. Glad to here this thing got pulled from the consent calendar.

  22. janet somers

    Quote: If you are not exactly quoting someone, then you can simply state “Person A said words to the effect that . . .” or “Person B indicated a belief along the lines of . . . ” and so on.

    “Said words to the effect that”? “Indicated a belief along the lines of”? You gotta be kidding! That is TERRIBLE writing! That is writing by the (unfortunately, typical) amateur writer who thinks big words are better. I, like, HATE that!

    V is guilty of only two things IMO: (1) Having her own style, which anyone is free to like or dislike; and (2) not fixing the comments so you can always link to them.

    I personally would like to indicate a belief to the effect that V is an excellent writer. She gets her point across, she does it succinctly and often entertainingly and sans any glaring errors, and she’s clearly enjoying herself. What more can one ask for?

  23. janet somers

    WeFightBlight: In my experience, the City and CEDA define “blight” however they damn please. Blight is simply what they want to be blight at any given time – whatever happens to suit their purposes, nefarious or otherwise.

  24. MarleenLee

    This is a perfect example of how dysfunctional our City government is and why it is broke. $475,000 so that one family can buy an “affordable” house? (more than I paid for mine!) The whole idea of subsidizing housing for homeowners is ridiculous. If you can’t afford to buy, then your rent! Isn’t this, like, what most of us did before we had enough for a down payment? What am I missing?

    The City is still in a financial crisis that is so horrendous that they are approving a police force that is 300 officers below what the police chief says he needs. Murders and other violent crimes are continuing at an alarming rate. And this is the crap that the council wastes its time and money on? It makes me sick.

  25. Dax


    “Dax, you’re overlooking the tens of thousands of construction jobs created by the bark airport connector and the central valley bullet train.”

    No, I’m not overlooking those. Those projects funded by taxpayer money, normally have a work force paid union wages, with union benefits, workmans comp.
    In short, the contractors and subs follow the law regarding labor practices.

    However, the percentage of the construction workers on those jobs is only a fraction of what is in the residential arena.
    These young Oakland men, that would be “trained” on this tiny single house project would be learning mostly carpentry skills.

    Those jobs, in Oakland’s private sector would almost completely exclude these young men, trained or not.

    The unstated reality is there is a pervasive exclusion process in private residential construction.
    I do realize that many of the contractors are now Latino, but there “job site” work force is largely undocumented

    I know, I know, we’re not suppose to notice or raise the specter that in Oakland residential construction, you almost never see a young black man hired.
    The city council turns it head, avoids looking, acts like the Emperor is actually wearing clothes.

    Imagine if Safeway, or PG&E, or Home Depot, or any other well known outfit had the same hiring policies we clearly see in action at nearly every residential construction work site.

    No one wants to talk about it. No one wants to address a issue that might upset these supposed coalitions.

    Then when the next kid is shot in East or West Oakland, all the ministers will have their vigil and march at the murder site and end the news bit saying “WE NEED JOBS”…

    What, don’t tell me you don’t see this procedure repeated 20 times a year.

    The contractors hire exactly who we see working.
    Go to the job sites. You tell me who is working and who is not working.

    But here in Oakland we don’t speak of such.
    We don’t admit that long time residents are not even considered for such jobs.
    That the workforce on these jobs sites is 60% to 90% undocumented.

    I suppose they are doing “jobs Americans won’t do”…
    So why train young Oakland men for “jobs Americans won’t do….unless paid for with public funds”

    Just tell me what I am saying isn’t true.
    Just tell me that way way over 50% of all the workers on Oakland residential construction sites are undocumented.
    Just tell me these are jobs other Oakland workers are unwilling to do.
    Just tell me we should train men for jobs they are excluded from getting.

    I have seen ONE article in the Tribune (chain of papers)… in the past 10 years even willing to address this situation.
    And that only because of the recent recession. Yet this practice has been going on for way over 10 years.

    No one wants to talk about it.
    Its not a subject to be discussed in polite company.
    But go around your neighborhood, ask people in private. They know. The see it.
    The don’t like it.

    City council members, mayors, legislators, religious leaders, …..Oh NO, they won’t talk about it.

    I don’t expect much response here, but I won’t just allow everyone to make believe like it doesn’t exist.

    Current practices do indeed harm the economic environment of many long time Oakland residents.
    Were we harming the Red Tailed Garter Snail’s habitat, to a similar degree, we’d have the Sierra Club, Friends of the Earth, and half the city council passing resolutions and new rules.

    But nameless, powerless, residents can have their ability to gain employment, decimated and we act like it isn’t happening.

    Imagine the same thing was happening to nurses, lawyers, or public employee union

  26. len raphael

    dax, you know that i’ll blame anything i can on the the city council including the recent cold weather, but i’ll have to pull a Jean Quan here and blame the near total absence of african americans in the Bay Area residential constructiion force the product of economic forces outside of the council’s and residents’ control.

    the only thing they have some influence on would be local hiring quotas on big union construction jobs. but even there, i suspect but have no stats, that oakland latinos have made significant inroads into unions, as well they should.

    one of the other theories, call it rascist or not, is that non native latinos were willing to do hard physical labor compared to american raised/born african americans and latinos (or whites or asians for that matter).

    immigrant latinos had 0 expectation of white collar or light physical service jobs.

    also some of them had skills of tile laying, plastering etc. that were lost in the mass production of tract homes and buildings here over the past 50 years.

    during the residential bubble in cities here, those skills were in high demand.

  27. Dax


    “blame the near total absence of african americans in the Bay Area residential constructiion force the product of economic forces outside of the council’s and residents’ control. ”

    You don’t think that if nurses (CNA), lawyers (CTLA), police (OPOA), teachers (CTA), etc, etc. were faced with a huge influx of undocumented labor, under cutting their pay, lowering their benefits, taking their jobs…etc.
    You don’t think the city council, the county board of supes, the California State Legislature, and everyone else in the political process would be involved in new regulations, new licensing, new permits, and a host of other legal actions to prevent undocumented workers from harming the economic situation of those above mentioned groups?

    I’m sorry, but because we’re talking about a powerless group of people, that neither the city council nor others in political power have done anything to slow or stop the overall damage to those in the construction trades.

    Instead, profits, made by hiring cheaper illegal workers has driven the entire process.
    To the point now, that native born workers aren’t even considered for employment regardless of training and REGARDLESS of their work ethic.

    Barely hidden is exactly what you said.

    They assume…. they believe..
    “But you know, they really work hard”

    And you know,,, Those **others** are really lazy…
    And gosh, they even expect, OT, and workmans comp, and that we follow OSHA rules, and all the other necessities that most middle class Americans accept as part of written law..

    What has happened with city council acceptance and even help, is a wholesale substitution of labor finally ending in complete acceptance of the situation.

    BTW, this not limited of young African American men. I only mention them because I suppose many of those in the suggested “training” project would indeed be African American.

    Bottom line is that the American system, including Oakland’s, and its political elite, have sold out their native born and legal residents, in name of profits and political correctness.
    In a hundred ways they have done so, often to build “coalitions”.

    I swear, they care more about the 2015 job prospects of some 15 year old kid in a rural Latin American village, then they do about some 15 year old East Oakland kid going to Frick Jr. HS.
    Because both those 15 year old kids are gonna be in Oakland in 2015.
    Guess who is gonna get that construction job?

    I ask you, who is more important? To which kid do we have a higher duty.

    Do you think the cheaper wages we pay to undocumented construction workers in Oakland come without additional costs to take care of the unemployed man in East Oakland. Does anyone ever add on those costs for public services and or incarceration when joblessness leads to crime?

    No, the dimwits on Council never raise a question about policy affecting such.
    Sanctuary City…. makes Oakland all the more inviting. Come here,work, I surely can’t blame them for doing so.

    But we’d never ever allow the same thing to happen to nurses, lawyers, or the “professions”…
    Our lower skilled working people are treated like second class citizens in that regard.

    Oh, I don’t expect anything to be done.
    But I can’t help but point out the hypocrisy of the situation.
    Especially every time I see the vigils with everyone crying out for JOBS, JOBS, JOBS..

    Go to the construction sites.. Look at the JOBs, JOBS, JOBS,
    They aren’t for you… get it.

    In my mind, you begin with family, helping them. If you have more, then you can help others.
    Why do we allow economic damage to be done to lower skilled, lesser educated, less powerful members of ours society.
    Things that those in power would never allow to happen to themselves.

    I don’t buy or accept the politically correct policy of not mentioning this gross distortion I see right in front of my nose.

  28. len raphael

    Karen, regardless of whether many of the ngo’s are effectively and efficiently using the millions we give them, there is the sub issue of who decides which ngo gets funded.

    there are connected, favored ngo’s and then there are everyone else. what little i’ve heard from people in the “out group” is that if you’re not a favorite of at least one city council member you’re chopped liver.

    That’s not news, but when our city budget gets down to seeds and stems, it’s time to reduce the role of patronage on funding. That includes PayGo.

  29. Dax

    Janet, That article says “Oakland Rising” not “Youth Uprising”…

    Still, I don’t know why that organization would be giving/spending money to get Quan elected, except so they could get more funding in the future.

    Seems rather inappropriate.

    I wonder how exactly they spent their $16,000 to $17,000 on Quan.

    And how they spent their $25,000 on educating Oakland residents about RCV.

    Lets see for example, “well, if you don’t like someone, say the first guy on the ballot, Don Perata, then you leave him off entirely”….

    “So thats how it works, everyone understand?”

  30. janet somers

    Youth Uprising…hmmm…perhaps this explains Quan’s little hip-hop video…

    How does $25 K go to “educate” people on the election? I’m recalling now that I got a “have you voted” call from an ebonics-speaking kid at one point and wondered about it. But $25 K???? When the City is nearing bankruptcy?

    Someone should really look into this. Who pushed for the Youth Uprising grant? Was Quan behind it? Is there a way to find out?

  31. janet somers

    Dax, “Oakland Rising,” OK, my mistake. I’m going to check them out. The whole thing smells.

  32. janet somers

    Is an organization like Oakland Rising allowed to contribute to a campaign? Are they a 501C3? Or did Citizens United do away with that restriction as well?

    Youth Uprising’s website ( just says “new website under construction.” I wonder (innocently) whether there’s a connection between the two organizations.

  33. livegreen

    I agree entirely with Len’s statement above about “favored NGO’s” in Oakland. Furthermore this is a fundamental part of the behind-the-scenes political activity. It’s encapsulated in this description of Oakland Rising from their own website:

    “Oakland Rising, an up and coming alliance of social justice organizations employing electoral strategies to move the issues and agendas of low-income communities of color to the center of city government.”

    Google OCASA, to see another similar association of favored NGO’s grouped around OFCY & M-Y NGO’s.

    The issue isn’t that these groups are all good or all bad. It’s that they exert much of their influence behind the scenes, they form their opinions in silos, and are convinced of their own validity. Without having to convince or share their info with the broader public.

    Made even more important with a public that is disengaged.

    Very much the opposite of the IDLF-Brown-Perata group of behind-the-scenes supporters which is very much business based.

    This is the political battle ground that plays itself out in Oakland without (for the most part) the knowledge of the Oakland electorate.

  34. woody

    This deal is horrible. Watch the tape. The sales price went from $375 to $475 after the council caught on to $100K land give away and the guys boss rolled her eyes at her poor subordinate up at the mic. Homes in Maxwell Park, Redwood Heights and even Crocker aren’t going for $475K. So at the end of the day the staff changed story from making money to a loss leader with some flimsy notion of job training. Take the $200K they will lose on this deal and send some kids to college and get out of the RE business please. The only guy who made sense was De La Fuente. Kernighan and Bruner asked good questions but the wheels of this dysfunctional car went forward with the motion like lemmings to their death.

  35. lovica

    V – thanks for posting the original video and also the follow-up with the full council. The second video was more reassuring – I was glad to see PK and RK taking CEDA to task for not doing any real analysis on whether their proposal could even work at its stated goals. I liked what PK said about innovative approaches requiring scrutiny and metrics to determine if they are actually successful.