Abel’s eNews: New lights for Madison Park, Junk Boat renovation, street improvements, housing on Nov. ballot

The Legacy of Ron Dellums - Ron Dellums was both an unwavering activist and a wise statesman on the global stage. For our community, he was the embodiment of Oakland’s best values and truest principles. Our Congressman and our Mayor, his example of public service will continue to inspire all of us in the struggle for social justice and equality for all.

The son of a longshoreman, Ronald Vernie Dellums (1935-2018) was a Marine-turned-antiwar activist, and served on the Berkeley City Council (1967-70) before being elected to Congress in 1971. After his military service ended in 1956, he had returned to college, and eventually earned his master’s degree in social welfare from UC Berkeley.

He founded the Congressional Black Caucus upon arriving in Washington, and despite his outspoken anti-war stance, was eventually tapped as chair of the powerful House Armed Services Committee. He was also a member of the Foreign Relations and Intelligence committees. He was a staunch defender of the poor, peace and social justice, workers’ rights (his uncle, C. L. Dellums, was a national leader in the porters union), women’s equality and environmental protections.

Dellums began a strident battle against apartheid in South Africa in 1972, with Congress eventually passing his legislation for South African trade limits and divestment by American corporations.

He was reelected 11 times, and retired from Congress in 1998, after nearly three decades of service to the East Bay, the nation and the world. He would return to local politics in 2006, when he was elected Mayor of Oakland.

Born in Oakland, Ron Dellums died on July 29 at the age of 82.


Repairs Underway for Lincoln Park’s Junk Boat
The historic Junk Boat play structure at Lincoln Square Park is closed for needed repairs. The participatory-budget process I initiated for our district’s Community Development Block Grant funding led to the community’s request that a portion of this grant money be used to repair the large wood-and-metal play structure permanently moored in the heart of Chinatown. Opened in 1969, the Junk Boat was last renovated about 15 years ago. Read more about its history, and the East Bay Times story about the repairs.

After years of heavy use at one of Oakland’s busiest recreation centers, the structure needs to be modernized to bring it back to its past glory for children and families of all ages. Public Works is currently repairing slides, ladders and activity panels, and will add safety flooring next week. The renovations will hopefully be completed later this month. Sorry for the temporary inconvenience.

Illuminating Madison Square Park
Happy to announce that Madison Square Park now has new solar-powered lights – the first in the City! I hope this small but significant addition will help improve safety in the neighborhood as we continue to revitalize our park. Thank you, Public Works/Building Services staff and Asian Health Services for their advocacy.


BRT Construction Update
You should start seeing more Bus Rapid Transit (BRT) construction work on International Blvd. and E. 12th St. in District 2 in the coming weeks. Engineers are currently “potholing” the pavement as a first step to check for electrical work that will be done. By the end of August, crews will begin upgrading existing curb corners with improved ADA-accessible ramps. This will be followed by more significant construction on BRT station platforms along E. 12th St. and International Blvd.

When construction is fully completed, the BRT project will deliver $33 million in benefits to Oakland. Crews will install nearly 10 miles of new blacktop on Oakland streets – curb-to-curb – that will last as long as 20 years, along with a dozen new traffic signals and 13 BRT station platforms in District 2.

Learn more about AC Transit’s BRT project at brt.actransit.org, or call the BRT information line at 510-891-5478 with any questions.

New Speed Bumps on Wesley Ave.
As part of the new smooth streets in the neighborhood, Public Works crews have installed new speed bumps on Wesley Ave. between Wayne Ave. and MacArthur Blvd.

Crosswalk Signal on Lakeshore Ave.
The improved countdown signal for the crosswalk on Lakeshore Ave. at the 3000 block (near Peet’s and Arizmendi) is now in place – a big help to let pedestrians get safely across this busy street (and know when not to start walking). Thank you to all the residents who helped me work to get this change made.

Process Starts for Community Workforce Agreement
At its meeting last week, the City Council passed my resolution to initiate a process to develop recommendations for a Community Workforce Agreement for City of Oakland Public Works Projects. The process will involve inclusive community engagement from racially and economically diverse stakeholder communities and an Equity Impact Analysis. Recommendations will then be presented to the Council for review, discussion and possible direction no later than January 2019.

The recommended policies for a Community Workforce Agreement will supplement the City’s current social-justice policies in its contracting processes that include, but are not limited to 50% Local and Small Local Business Enterprise Program, 50% Local Employment Program and 15% Oakland Resident Apprenticeship Program.

This resolution is a response to the need for better jobs for Oakanders. It is my hope that this Community Workforce Agreement will enhance efforts in City of Oakland construction employment and contracting and with our Local and Small Local Business Enterprise Program, and boost the local economy by generating more construction and related jobs and job training.


Council Puts Housing Measures on November Ballot
At its meeting last week, the City Council passed resolutions to give Oakland voters the opportunity to strengthen renters’ rights and fight displacement of long-time residents. The three measures that will be on the November 6 ballot include:

Just Cause: Extends eviction protections passed by Oakland voters in 2016 (Measure EE) to tenants living in owner-occupied duplexes and triplexes. There are nearly 8,000 housing units in 3,662 duplexes and triplexes in Oakland. This action seeks to address a recent jump in questionable owner-move-in evictions that are threaten to unfairly displace tenants.

Progressive Real Estate Tax: Increases tax on properties that sell for more than $2 million, while reducing the transfer tax by 0.5% for low- and moderate-income first-time homebuyers, adding an exemption for nonprofit affordable-housing providers to keep their rates at no higher than 1.5%, and providing an exemption of up to one-third of an owner’s expenses for seismic retrofits and solar-energy system installations.

Vacant Property Tax: Establishes an annual parcel tax for owners of vacant lots and empty buildings to generate revenue for homeless services and efforts to combat illegal dumping. The proposal includes 10 exemption criteria and revenue uses to help ensure its fairness for owners and spending accountability.

Cannabis Amendments Also Slated for Ballot
Beyond its commitment to equity, Oakland’s local government should further help foster an economic environment to help cannabis businesses thrive and conduct business operations in much the same fashion as those in other industries under the new city and state regulations. I voted last month to put on the November 2018 ballot important changes to the local cannabis tax rate and amend the business tax on non-medical cannabis.

If passed by Oakland voters, the measure will allow the City Council to change the cannabis tax rate without future voter approval – which helps tailor the businesses to local needs and avoid unnecessary regulatory delays that hamper business viability. It would also allow cannabis businesses to make tax deductions similar to manufacturing businesses and remit businesses taxes on a quarterly basis. I will vote to make these changes as soon as possible after the election.


Sunday, August 19 | Chinatown Community Cleanup
10:00 am-1:00pm | meet at Pacific Renaissance Plaza fountain, 388 9th St.
Getting ready to celebrate Chinatown Street Fest (August 25-26), Councilmember Guillén and OCA are hosting a Chinatown PickItUp street-cleaning event. Bring your family and friends to help beautify Oakland’s historic Chinatown and welcome the upcoming festival. Bring your water bottle. Water and light refreshments will be provided. For more info: Chinatown Liaison Jessica Chen, 510-238-7022, clchen@oaklandnet.com

August 25-26 | StreetFest Volunteers Needed
Oakland is celebrating its 30th annual Chinatown StreetFest on August 25-26. Be part of this special event by volunteering to help direct traffic, check IDs, or sell wine or beer. Volunteers will receive a souvenir StreetFest T-shirt. A light lunch will be provided for morning-shift volunteers. To pick a volunteer shift: StreetFest Volunteer

Help with Permit Parking for Lakeshore Ave. Cul-de-sac and 1st Ave Area
In response to concerns about parking availability for residents, I’ve been working with City’s transportation department and neighbors to start the Residential Parking Permit process for the Lakeshore Ave. cul-de-sac and 1st Ave area at the south end of Lake Merritt. As part of the process, a petition signed by residents is required. If you’re interested in helping with collecting petition signatures: Victor Flores, vflores@oaklandca.gov, 510-238-7021 Read more

Alameda County Citizens Academy | Apply by August 5
The Alameda County Citizens Academy is a free 6-session program that provides insight to County services and operations and offers opportunities for civic engagement. An excellent, behind-the-scenes opportunity for the community to increase their knowledge of county government and its impact, the program includes tours of key facilities, demonstrations of specialized equipment, hands-on exercises that illustrate the community impact of County services. 

Applications are due by Sunday, August 5, with 50 participants selected on a first-come, first-served basis. Apply online

Bike and Pedestrian Commission Seeks Members | Apply by August 31
The City of Oakland is accepting applications to fill three seats on the Oakland Bicyclist and Pedestrian Advisory Commission for three-year terms starting in January 2019. Commissioner duties are described on the commission’s website. Candidates must live in Oakland and have a demonstrated history of professional and/or community involvement with bicyclist and/or pedestrian issues. In selecting commissioners, the mayor will strive for equity and geographic representation of Oakland’s neighborhoods. Download the form if you’re interested in applying.


Honoring Chinese American Veterans
Last week, the City Council adopted the resolution I cosponsored (with Annie Campbell Washington) urging Congress to quickly pass HR 2358/SB 1050 – the Chinese American World War II Veterans Congressional Gold Medal Act that seeks to honor the selfless patriotism, bravery and sacrifice of these soldiers.

More than 13,000 Chinese Americans served in the U.S. military by the end of World War II, a period when the total Chinese American population was less than 120,000. These soldiers made significant contributions to the war effort, despite the institutional racism and prejudice that the Chinese American community experienced under the Chinese Exclusion Act of 1882, which wasn’t repealed until 1943. These soldiers served in all theaters in combat and support roles, including in New Guinea, Iwo Jima, Philippines, North Africa, Italy, the Normandy D-Day invasion and the Battle of the Bulge.

Approximately 40% of Chinese American soldiers were not native-born citizens of the United States and were unable to naturalize until after 1943, when the Chinese Exclusion Act was finally repealed.

The need for urgent Congressional action is critical, as many of these veterans are no longer alive to witness this recognition. Other historically overlooked military units, such as Filipino WWII veterans, Navajo Code Talkers and Monument Men, have already been honored with the Congressional Gold Medal, the highest civilian honor awarded by Congress.

Lincoln Square Park Summer Nights
5:00-8:00 pm | First Fridays: Aug. 3, Sep. 7, Oct. 5
Lincoln Square Park, Oakland Chinatown
Free fun and food for all ages. Enjoy outdoor activities, music and dancing, sports and exercise, cultural performances, games and great food. For more info


Race and Equity Report
The City of Oakland recently released its Race and Equity Indicators Report. Last year, Oakland was selected to be among a group of five cities to develop local Equity Indicators tools in partnership with the City University of New York’s Institute for State and Local Governance and funding from the Rockefeller Foundation.

The project began as a joint effort between the Resilient Oakland Office and the Department of Race and Equity. The result is a tool that will be useful in my office and across City departments as we strive to advance equity in our community by using strategies determined through a focus on racial and ethnic disparities and their root causes. Read the report