Relief for East Bay artists, mapping food security, and goodbye Stork Club (for now)

News and notes from our Oakland newsletter.

Education equity

Oakland teens are one step closer to voting in some local elections: Last week, the Oakland City Council unanimously decided to place a measure on November’s ballot that will allow 16- and 17-year-olds to vote in Oakland Unified School District elections. Our reporter Ashley McBride spoke with several of the teens behind this campaign. (Photo of Jermesha Hall, one of the student activists campaigning for the right to vote, by Pete Rosos)

Tech execs pledge millions to bridge the digital divide: Less than a week after OUSD launched a campaign to acquire more laptops and wifi hotspots for students to learn online, the district announced it had met its $12.5 million fundraising goal. Jack Dorsey, the co-founder and CEO of Twitter, committed $10 million on top of the $1.8 million already raised. Mark Pincus, the founder of online gaming company Zynga, donated the final $700,000 last week. But the campaign isn’t over. While the money allows OUSD to provide laptops and hotspots to its students for the 2020-2021 school year, the ongoing cost will be about $4 million a year.

Against back-to-school: An Oakland teacher argued against resuming in-person classes this fall in a recent essay. Skyline High School teacher Harley Litzelman said he felt inspired to write after hearing administrators and politicians bring up physical distancing and cleaning as conditions for returning to the classroom, measures he thinks fall short of what’s necessary. His fianceé has asthma, which raises the stakes if he were to contract coronavirus.

Congratulations Oakland seniors! Skyline High School Class of 1974 alumnus Tom Hanks gave a virtual graduation speech to Skyline’s Class of 2020.


Housing and homelessness

East Oakland Collective is serving over 1,000 hot meals a week: In a few short years, the East Oakland Collective has established itself as one of the most effective grassroots organizations serving the flatland neighborhoods east of High Street. Behind the group’s success is Candice Elder, who grew up in the community and founded the nonprofit in 2016. The organization relies heavily on volunteers, many of them young, and its programs focus on economic empowerment, civic engagement, and homelessness services. Contributor Iris Crawford interviewed Elder about the EOC’s work for us. (Photo: Pete Rosos)

Eviction moratorium extended: Oakland renters are protected against evictions until August 31 under a new extension of the existing moratorium. District 2 Councilmember Nikki Fortunato Bas sponsored the extension, along with District 1 Councilmember Dan Kalb and Oakland City Attorney Barbara Parker.

The eviction protections could be lifted sooner, however, if the city administrator determines there is no longer a local emergency due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Tenant groups have put together an info sheet explaining the moratorium.

Fraudulent eviction alleged: Oakland City Attorney Barbara Parker announced last Thursday that her office is suing two landlords who allegedly forged a city notice in an attempt to force seven renters from their home in Maxwell Park. The landlords, Afamefuna and Anwulika Odiwe, allegedly removed locks from the home and hired a local moving company to illegally remove the renter’s beds, furniture, and other belongings.


Health and Environment

Masks for the people: In the early days of the coronavirus pandemic, Pastor Mike McBride and comedian W. Kamau Bell set up a grassroots supply chain to bring masks and hand sanitizer to communities of color in Oakland, New Orleans, Chicago, and other cities. Contributor Jeannine Etter examined how the campaign came together and what it has accomplished to date. (Photo: Live Free FB page)

Food security, mapped: The city of Oakland has set up a website that lists and maps most of the free or subsidized food pickup and delivery services in Alameda County. Service providers include schools, churches, city and county departments, nonprofits, and others. You can also check out our guide to free-and low-cost food in the East Bay on Berkeleyside Nosh.

Oakland mayor arrested for not wearing a mask! In 1919, that is. Oakland’s then-mayor John Davie was arrested in Sacramento for violating a masking law during the Spanish Flu pandemic. Davie was hauled off to jail and had to bail himself out. Historical novelist Erika Mailman has an interesting story about Davie’s run-in with the cops on the Smithsonian Magazine‘s website.

Sewage spill in Lake Temescal: On Wednesday, an Oakland sewer main overflowed, causing 5,000 gallons of raw sewage to spill into a storm drain that empties into Lake Temescal. The East Bay Regional Park District has shut down any recreational activities occurring on or in the water, like fishing. Park district spokesperson Dave Mason told us that people should avoid any contact with the water if they’re hiking near the lake.

Oakland Public Works spokesperson Sean Maher wrote in an email that the overflow was likely caused by people flushing disposable wipes. The city is urging people not to flush anything besides toilet paper.

Sewage spills in Lake Temescal happen frequently due to faulty city infrastructure. In 2018, at least 19,000 gallons of waste leaked into the lake.


Arts and community

Watch artists paint a new six-story mural: Over the next few weeks, artists with the Community Rejuvenation Project will paint an ambitious mural on the side of the Greenlining Institute’s downtown Oakland headquarters. Our photographer Pete Rosos stopped by the building last week and took some amazing photos of Desi Mundo and Marina Perez-Wong dangling in a swing stage 90 feet off the ground while they prepped the wall. (Photo: Pete Rosos)

East Bay Arts relief fund: Artists in Alameda and Contra Costa counties are invited to apply for grants from a new relief fund supported by the city of Oakland and multiple foundations. The East Bay/Oakland Relief Fund for Individuals in the Arts has $625,000 and is accepting both applications for support and donations.

Finding new ways to work: Bay Area cities and counties began relaxing the rules last week for certain non-essential businesses like warehouses and large retailers. But for many small businesses, the economic shutdown continues. Contributor Anna Mindess profiled three Oaklanders — a therapist, photographer and hairstylist — who are staying afloat by reinventing how they do business.

Stork Club closed: The Stork Club was one of Oakland’s mainstay music venues, but it has fallen victim to the coronavirus shutdown. The club’s management made the announcement on Facebook on May 19: “well folks…that’s IT…end of an era & another nail in the coffin of Rock ‘n Roll.” The bar’s owners had tried to avoid this with a fundraiser to pay rent and other bills, but they were only able to reach $7,000 of their $70,000 goal. Club manager Tom Chittock said there is hope the establishment will be able to reopen someday.

Youth perspectives from quarantine: Youth Beat, a local nonprofit that teaches video production and employable media-arts skills to Oakland teens, is hosting an online screening and fundraiser over Zoom on Thursday, May 28, from 6-7 p.m. The event, Creating in Place, will feature short videos, animations, and photo stories that youth have created while sheltering-in-place. Viewers will also be treated to a 15-minute youth-produced documentary, DISPLACED, which examines gentrification in Oakland through the lens of young people whose families have been pushed out.


City Hall and policing

OPD is more likely to discipline Black police officers: In a previous newsletter, we described a report that the Oakland Police Department withheld from the public for two months. In the report, outside experts examined whether an OPD officer’s race or ethnicity impacts how they get disciplined for misconduct.

Last Friday afternoon, OPD posted the report on its website. It shows that Black police officers—even after controlling for factors like age, rank, and years of service—are 37% more likely to have allegations against them of misconduct sustained, a strong indication of possible racial bias.

The report offers other disturbing findings. Of the 303 police officers who responded to the survey—around half the department—58% said they don’t feel that they’re treated with dignity and respect during internal investigations. When asked if they think the department’s disciplinary process is fair, an overwhelming 81% said no.

Although the researchers found evidence that race plays a role in the outcome of investigations, a majority of officers who participated in the survey said they don’t feel race is a factor. Instead, most said that rank is more influential, and that higher-ranking members of the department are more likely to get away with breaking rules. Officers also said that “cliques” or “favored groups” in the department—members of the SWAT team and street cops known to make numerous arrests—are more likely to escape punishment.

New city administrator: Ed Reiskin, who spent the last nine years leading the San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency, was sworn in as Oakland’s city administrator. Reiskin takes over from interim administrator Steven Falk, who took the job in March. On his last day, Falk tweeted that while running Oakland, he “watched councilmembers rise fiercely and use their powers to protect the least fortunate in the community,” and that he “saw a tenacious mayor beat down doors to gather supplies and raise funds for pandemic relief, and saw her welcome the passenger ship that no other city would greet.”

“It wasn’t what I expected,” Falk reflected about the experience. “It was better than that.”

Tasneem Raja is editor-in-chief of The Oaklandside. Email: tasneem@berkeleyside.com. Twitter: tasneemraja.