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Oakland Post

New Life for Oakland Henry J. Kaiser Convention Center

OAKLAND POST — The Henry J. Kaiser Convention Center (Auditorium) in downtown Oakland is being brought back to life by nationally renowned developer, Orton Development, Inc. (ODI). ODI specializes in structuring win-win public private partnerships and has redeveloped a diverse range of properties including factories, offices, warehouses, retail, medical, educational, and live-work spaces.

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Rendering by Heller Manus Architects (Photo by: Frank Deras Photography)
By Eddie Dillard

The Henry J. Kaiser Convention Center (Auditorium) in downtown Oakland is being brought back to life by nationally renowned developer, Orton Development, Inc. (ODI).

ODI specializes in structuring win-win public private partnerships and has redeveloped a diverse range of properties including factories, offices, warehouses, retail, medical, educational, and live-work spaces.

City of Oakland’s Mayor Libby Schaaf states: ‘The Kaiser Convention Center is the crown jewel of Lake Merritt. The renovation of this historic space will revitalize the immediate area and bring a new, vibrant energy, to the shores of oui’ lake and one of Oakland’s greatest landmarks.”

The Project

The Henry J Kaiser Convention Center, a historic, publicly owned, multi-purpose building, is located at 10 Tenth St. in downtown Oakland. The 215,000-square-foot building is three stories tall with a full basement and includes a 6,000- seat arena, a large theater, a large ballroom and 185 parking spaces. Built in 1914, it closed in 2005. For 14 years, the building has been vacant and remains in deep disrepair.

Rust}’ Jackson, a nationally- known concert promoter said “the Henry J. Kaiser has an outstanding history as a building that hosted African American cultural arts and entertainment. From concerts featuring James Brown, to the Temptations, to the ‘Trat Games” and stage plays in the theater, the Henry J. Kaiser building has hosted events of historical significance in the Black community.”

The Orton Development Team’s plans are to restore the arena foyer and him the arena portion into offices for local arts and non-profit organizations, add a restaurant with outdoor seating on the first floor, and create practice rooms, rehearsal spaces, shops and storage space for artists in the basement.

The Calvin Simmons Theater, (named after the first African American conductor of a major symphony), located on the west side of the building, will have new theater systems, an expanded orchestra pit, revised seating and renovated dressing rooms.

According to Project Manager David Dial the north facade of the building, which includes historic cornices, awnings and signage, will be preserved. The restoration will include new ADA accessible paths of travel at the building entrances, replacement of sidewalks surrounding the building, and loading and drop off zones along 10th street.

ODI Development Team’s vision for the project encompasses the following 6 core values: 1) History’ – honor the building’s illustrious history in fiction and design; 2) Energy – create a hub of activity that spans the building throughout the day; 3) Community’ – invite the public into the building and design space that builds community within it; 4) Arts – accommodate artists as tenants and value the arts throughout the building; 5) Education – provide spaces for people of all ages to learn from experts and one another, 6) Fairness – support uses that all Oakland visitors and residents can enjoy.

According to Arif Khatib, founder and president emeritus of the Multi-Ethnic Sports Hall of Fame, “the Henry J. Kaiser Convention Center has a rich history in Oakland, as the former Oakland Auditorium. This project will position Oakland for additional visibility as a city on the rise. It will enhance Oakland’s arts community’, its past and present performers, and has multiple uses that will make major contributions to the city and its citizens. It will add to Oakland’s reputation as a leader in advancing new and innovative ideas, themes and ventures of great social and cultural impact, and enhance the viability of the Bay Area, as a model region’

Project Benefits

The restoration of the Henry’ J Kaiser Convention Center, which will be renamed, Oakland Civic, creates substantial benefits for the City of Oakland, its residents and visitors. Bringing this premier concert venue back to life adds another first-class meeting place for major attractions and augments the Fox Theater and the Paramount Theater.

The project will create long-term and short-term employment opportunities for Oakland businesses and residents during the construction and operation phases. Fifty percent of all work will be performed by local. Oak- land-based small businesses, and will include union construction jobs and apprenticeship opportunities for Oakland residents. Commercial events in the Calvin Simmons Theater will provide work for the IATSE Local 107 stagehands. The project will also partner with local education institutions to create sustainable, hands-on training programs within the arts and trades.

The project will contribute $75,000 annually to support local arts organizations’ use of the Calvin Simmons Theater, the Gold Room and the Ballroom.

“The Oakland Civic represents a major opportunity to activate and operationalize the Mayor’s Task Force strategies for cultural preservation, as well as implement the Cultural Equity’ framework in the Cultural Plan” noted Eric Arnold, co-founder of the Community Coalition for Equitable Development and co-director of the Black Arts Movement Business District Community’ Development Corporation, ‘To do that requires some creative and visionary thinking — how can you balance permanent affordability, community inclusion, and economic feasibility, given the financial and logistical constraints? You have to not only apply an equity’ framework, but envision how community benefits can be realized over the duration of a 99-year lease.”

Next Steps

For the Project to move forward, the Oakland City Council must approve the Disposition and Development Agreement and approve the new markets tax credits, which stabilize the project’s funding. The Oakland City Council will hear this matter on July 9, 2009, 3:00 pm. at Oakland City Hall. Oakland residents and others interested in supporting this project are encouraged to inform the Council of their support and to attend the meeting.

Editor’s note: Eddie Dillard, the author of this article, is a supporter of the Orton project. A column written by opponents of the project has been published online at www.postnewsgroup.com

This article originally appeared the Oakland Post

Government

State Seeks to Boost Mental Health Counseling

OAKLAND POST — It’s 1 p.m. on a balmy Oak­land afternoon as residents of Great Expectations Residen­tial Care, a home for people with mental illness, gather in an activity room for a game of bingo. Lee Frierson, an unpaid vol­unteer, introduces himself as he and his team leader, Charlie Jones, unpack chips, soda, bat­teries and shampoo that they will hand out as prizes.

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Reach Out Program Manager Charlie Jones, right, and volunteer Lee Frierson, take a short break after leading a game of bingo with mental health patients at an Oakland, California, board-and-care home. (Photo by: Rob Waters)
By Rob Waters

It’s 1 p.m. on a balmy Oak­land afternoon as residents of Great Expectations Residen­tial Care, a home for people with mental illness, gather in an activity room for a game of bingo.

Lee Frierson, an unpaid vol­unteer, introduces himself as he and his team leader, Charlie Jones, unpack chips, soda, bat­teries and shampoo that they will hand out as prizes.

“I’m Lee with Reach Out,” Frierson says. “I’m a peer. I suffer from depression. It helps me to help you guys.”

“And I’m Charlie the angel,” Jones says. “We go to board-and-cares and psychiatric and wellness facilities to inspire hope and model recovery.”

A few rounds into the game, Frierson calls B-5, and a dark-haired man shouts, “Bingo!”

“Winner, winner, chicken dinner!” Frierson calls back, prompting chuckles.

What unfolds in this room is not exactly therapy, but it is something that mental health advocates and research suggest can be healing in its own right: people who have struggled with mental illness helping others who are experiencing similar struggles. Frierson and Jones are former mental health patients who now work with the Reach Out program, part of the nonprofit Alameda County Network of Mental Health Cli­ents, which provides what is called peer support.

The value of peer support is recognized by Medicaid, the health insurance program for people with low incomes, and it funds such services. That money is available for certified peer-support workers in states that have a formal certification process.

California does not, and that means it is “leaving money on the table,” said Keris Myrick, chief of peer services at the Los Angeles County Department of Mental Health. South Da­kota is the only other state with no peer certification program.

But a bill pending in Sac­ramento, SB-10, would direct the State Department of Health Care Services to create a pro­cess for certifying peer sup­port workers and establish a set of core aptitudes and ethics guidelines for the job. The leg­islation passed the state Senate unanimously in May and will move to the Assembly Health Committee on Tuesday.

More than 6,000 peer sup­port specialists already work in wellness programs, hospitals and clinics across California, according to SB-10’s sponsor, Sen. Jim Beall (D-San Jose). They help mental health pa­tients navigate bureaucracies, find housing or locate services.

“They’re sharing their expe­riences: ‘Been there, done that, now I’m going to help another person,’” said Myrick, who has been diagnosed with schizoaf­fective disorder, was hospitalized several times and spent 10 years running a peer support program in Los Angeles.

Last year, the legislature unanimously passed a bill to certify peer support workers, but then-Gov. Jerry Brown ve­toed it, saying it was costly and unnecessary.

Legislative analysts esti­mate the state would spend hundreds of thousands of dol­lars to set up a certification pro­cess and millions more a year to implement it. Advocates say the new federal money would help offset those costs. And, they say, the legislation would cement the bona fides of peer mentoring as an occupation.

Gov. Gavin Newsom has not declared his position on the current bill, but he has said that addressing the state’s mental health crisis is a top priority for his administration. During his campaign for governor, he endorsed “expanded roles for nurse practitioners and peer providers.”

Dr. Thomas Insel, a former director of the National Insti­tute of Mental Health whom Newsom named in May as a key mental health adviser, told California Healthline he sup­ports the peer certification bill.

“For many people, hav­ing a connection to someone else who’s had this experi­ence proves vital,” Insel said. “There may be nothing more healing than giving people an opportunity to help others.”

Peer programs grew out of a movement in the 1970s op­posing coercive psychiatric treatment, led by people who’d been treated against their will and felt they would receive better care from those who personally identified with their experiences.

This article originally appeared in the Oakland Post
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Law

Boudin Runs for District Attorney

OAKLAND POST — Running for San Francisco District Attorney to challenge the system of mass incar­ceration, SF Deputy Public Defender Chesa Boudin has gained the backing of civil rights attorney Pamela Price and other East Bay progres­sives.

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East Bay Civil Rights attorney Pamela Price introduces Chesa Boudin, who is running for district attorney of San Francisco, at a fundraiser in Oakland June 23. Photo by Ken Epstein.
By Ken Epstien

Running for San Francisco District Attorney to challenge the system of mass incar­ceration, SF Deputy Public Defender Chesa Boudin has gained the backing of civil rights attorney Pamela Price and other East Bay progres­sives.

“The system is broken,” Boudin said, speaking at a fun­draiser in Oakland on Sunday, June 23. ” If we can’t do bet­ter in San Francisco, in the Bay Area, where can we do better?”

Hosting the fundraiser were Price; civil rights icon Howard Moore Jr; Fania Davis, a lead­ing national voice on restor­ative justice; Allyssa Victory, Shirley Golub, Royl Roberts and Sheryl Walton. Boudin’s San Francisco endorsements include former Assemblyman Tom Ammiano, Democratic Party Chair David Cam­pos and Supervisors Hillary Ronen, Aaron Peskin and San­dra Fewer.

Boudin has served as Depu­ty Public Defender since 2015, handling over 300 felony cas­es. He is running against Suzy Loftus, Nancy Tung, and Leif Dautch – who hope to suc­ceed eight-year incumbent DA George Gascón, who is not running for reelection. The election takes place on Nov. 5.

A graduate of Yale Law School, Boudin earned a mas­ters’ degree in public policy and is a Rhodes Scholar. His campaign emphasizes that he knows “firsthand the de­structive impacts of mass in­carceration.” He was only 14 months old when his parents were incarcerated for driving the getaway car “in a robbery that tragically took the lives of three men.” His mother served 22 years, and his father may never get out.

Introducing Boudin at the fundraiser, Price said, “When I heard about this young man, I did my research. I was blown away immediately. We have a real warrior among us. We have someone who has over­come obstacles, whose life, profession and whose spirit epitomizes what we need in our district attorney.”

“We know that our criminal justice system has been com­pletely corrupted by injustice and racism,” she continued. “(The system) is upheld and sustained by people who prac­tice it and are committed to its perpetuation… Chesa is in so many ways our greatest hope.”

In his remarks, Boudin called for an end to criminal justice practices that are insti­tutionalized but have clearly failed.

“We know that we have 25 percent of the world’s prison population in the U.S., and 2.2 million people are behind bars on any single day,” he said.

“We’re promised equal jus­tice under the law, but instead we have discriminatory money bail,” he said. “We believe in treating the mentally ill and the drug addicted, but instead this system puts them in solitary confinement.”

Boudin’s program includes creation of a “Wrongful Con­viction Unit,” would decide whether to reopen the investi­gation of certain cases, elimi­nating cash bail, effectively prosecuting police misconduct and refocusing resources to work on serious and violent felonies.

“(Change) has to start with people who understand how profoundly broken the system is, not just because they read it in a book but because they ex­perienced it,” he said.

For more information about Chesa Boudin’s campaign, go to www.chesaboudin.com/

This article originally appeared in the Oakland Post
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Media

New Mixed Media Art Exhibition

OAKLAND POST — From now through Sept. 30, a new mixed media art show is donning the walls of the Linda Lee Calvan Drake Gallery at El Sol Restaurant, 101 Park Place in Point Richmond.

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The works of six members from the Arts of Point Richmond Exhibition Committee are featured at El Sol Restaurant. (Photo courtesy of the Arts of Point Richmond).

By Oakland Post

El Sol Restaurant is not just about good food and vibes. But also good local art.

What else would you expect from a Point Richmond restau­rant?

From now through Sept. 30, a new mixed media art show is donning the walls of the Linda Lee Calvan Drake Gallery at El Sol Restaurant, 101 Park Place in Point Richmond.

The exhibition features the works of six members from the Arts of Point Richmond Exhibition Committee: Bob Colin (pho­tography), Rita Gardner (digital images), Virginia Rigney (oil painting), Sharon Taylor-Ward (photography), George Tomber­lin (iPhoneography), and John Warhus (Conte crayon and pastel).

For more information about the volunteer-run Arts of Point Richmond, visit its website or Facebook page.

This article originally appeared in the Oakland Post.  

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Community

MLK Freedom Center Receives State Funding

OAKLAND POST — The California statewide Youth And Family Civic En­gagement Initiative, a joint program of the Dolores Huerta Foundation in Bakersfield and the Martin Luther King Jr. Freedom Center in Oakland, has received a three-year al­location in the California State budget, approved by both houses of the California Leg­islature and Governor Gavin Newsom.

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Participants in the statewide Youth and Civic Engagement Initiative learn how to organize community and encourage voter engagement. Photo courtesy of MLK Freedom Center.
By The Oakland Post

The California statewide Youth And Family Civic En­gagement Initiative, a joint program of the Dolores Huerta Foundation in Bakersfield and the Martin Luther King Jr. Freedom Center in Oakland, has received a three-year al­location in the California State budget, approved by both houses of the California Leg­islature and Governor Gavin Newsom.

The Initiative and its pro­grams are designed to in­crease civic engagement, par­ticipation and civics education among youth, their families and communities in 12 Califor­nia counties–Alameda, Contra Costa, Fresno, Kern, Los An­geles, Sacramento, San Diego, San Francisco, San Joaquin, Santa Clara, Tulare and Yolo. The organizations will receive $2 million per year over three years.

The Youth and Family Civic Engagement Initiative increases understanding of govern­ment and civic institutions and increases civic participation among low-income, disenfran­chised youth and their families in targeted regions throughout the state for the purpose of re­ducing racial and socio-eco­nomic disparities.

“We are grateful that the leg­islature and the Governor have made it possible to expand the Dolores Huerta Founda­tion and Martin Luther King Jr. Freedom Center’s Youth and Family Civic Engagement Initiative to reach more under­served youth throughout Cali­fornia, with a focus on youth engagement, youth empower­ment and leadership develop­ment using the philosophies of active non-violent movement building,” said Dolores Huerta. “The leadership training that the youth receive will be mag­nified tenfold as the youth take the lessons learned to address and resolve the many issues that they are confronted with in their respective communities”. Said Dr. Roy D.

Wilson, executive director of the Martin Luther King Jr. Freedom Center, “Thousands of young people throughout the state are searching for path­ways that will lead them into meaningful public service.

They know they have some­thing to learn, and they know they have much to contribute. The Initiative provides the skills and knowledge by which young people can navigate themselves onto the road of civic engagement where they can play an important role in developing programs of social uplift, and a stronger democ­racy.”

This article originally appeared in the Oakland Post
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Government

We have a Crisis Says Gov Newsom

OAKLAND POST — Gov. Gavin Newsom signed a $214.8 billion state spending plan last week that he and leg­islative leaders are calling “the Affordability Budget” for the 2019-20 fiscal year.
Taking effect July 1 after the governor hashed out differenc­es with the Assembly and Sen­ate, the budget includes $1.7 billion to fight homelessness, a problem that is affecting more African Americans per capita than any other group in the state. Of that money, $650 mil­lion will go to support county and city governments as well as regional homeless preven­tion agencies in their local ef­forts to decrease homelessness and increase their stock of af­fordable housing.

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Homeless encampments have spread across the state. (Photo courtesy Santa Rosa Press Democrat.)
Manny Otiko and Tanu Henry

Gov. Gavin Newsom signed a $214.8 billion state spending plan last week that he and leg­islative leaders are calling “the Affordability Budget” for the 2019-20 fiscal year.

Taking effect July 1 after the governor hashed out differenc­es with the Assembly and Sen­ate, the budget includes $1.7 billion to fight homelessness, a problem that is affecting more African Americans per capita than any other group in the state. Of that money, $650 mil­lion will go to support county and city governments as well as regional homeless preven­tion agencies in their local ef­forts to decrease homelessness and increase their stock of af­fordable housing.

“Homelessness. What the hell is going on in our state?” Asked Gov Newsom at an event at the Capitol organized to mark the beginning of the new fiscal year.

“I agree with the critics. I agree with all of you,” said Gov. Newsom. “We have a cri­sis.”

The new funding represents the largest budget investment in affordable housing, home­less shelters and homelessness support services in the history of the state.

“We have come to agree­ment on a package of hous­ing measures,” said a joint statement from the governor, Senate pro Tem Toni Atkins (D- San Diego) and Assembly Speaker Anthony Rendon (D-Lakewood).

“One that creates incen­tives,” their statement contin­ued, “both sticks and carrots – to help spur housing produc­tion across this state.”

Large cities will receive a total of $275 million in grants, $190 million will go to counties and an additional $90 million is allocated to fund support and prevention programs.

The budget also provides $167 million for supportive housing primarily for mentally ill people and substance abus­ers.

Another $52 million is dedi­cated to fighting homelessness among college students. About 19 percent of Community Col­lege students in the state are homeless, according to a Tem­ple University study.

“This homelessness issue is out of control,” Newsom said when he presented his budget last month. “Californians are outraged. They are disgusted.”

With fines that could run as high as $600,000, the governor also plans to begin stronger en­forcement of state laws that re­quire county and city govern­ments to plan for new growth.

California, with its Gross Domestic Product of $2.7 tril­lion, boasts the largest econ­omy in the United States. But the state’s 130,000 homeless population is the largest in the country, too, accounting for nearly 25 percent of all people without a permanent residence in the United States.

The state also has the highest rate of unsheltered homeless people (about 75 percent) and it has seen the sharpest increase in homelessness in the country over the last 4 years.

In the Los Angeles area, the homelessness problem is dire. There are about 59,000 home­less people in Los Angeles County. That number repre­sents a spike of about 16 per­cent over last year’s total.

For African Americans, the numbers are worse. Although the total Black population is only about 9 percent, African Americans make up about 36 percent of L.A.’s homeless people.

In other Census tracts of the state where there are clusters of African-American residents – Alameda County and San Ber­nardino County, for example – the rates of homelessness for Blacks is also disproportion­ate. Take Alameda County, where Oakland is the largest city, African Americans make up about 28 percent of the population, but they account for nearly 70 percent of the county’s homeless people. And down south in San Bernardino County, African Americans make up about 9 percent of the county’s residents and com­prise about 15 percent of the homeless population.

In San Francisco, where Blacks only make up about 7 percent of the population, they account for about 36 percent of the city’s homeless.

A number of factors con­tribute to the high numbers of homeless Blacks in California. According to the Los Angeles Housing Services Authority (LAHSA), they include failing schools, a broken foster care system, high rents, the scarcity of available rental properties, criminal records, racial dis­crimination and more.

Personal setbacks like the loss of a job, a divorce, illness, etc., may drive families or indi­viduals into homelessness. In fact, less than 50 percent of Cal­ifornia’s homeless population are mentally ill or substance abusers. The majority, dubbed the “economically homeless,” fell upon hard times, missed a series of rent or mortgage pay­ments and lost their housing.

Also, more than half of Cal­ifornia’s renters are considered “rent burdened,” meaning they spend more than 30 percent of their income to keep a roof over their heads, according to a UC Berkeley report.

This article originally appeared in the Oakland Post
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Law

PRESS ROOM: Law Students Help End Fees in Nevada for Youth

OAKLAND POST — Heavy lifting done by two Berkeley Law students from Nevada — Savannah Reid and Dagen Downard — has led to a new law that, starting today July 1, prevents families in Nevada from being billed thousands of dollars in fees when their children under age 18 wind up in the state’s juve­nile delinquency system.

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By Gretchen Kell

Heavy lifting done by two Berkeley Law students from Nevada — Savannah Reid and Dagen Downard — has led to a new law that, starting today July 1, prevents families in Nevada from being billed thousands of dollars in fees when their children under age 18 wind up in the state’s juve­nile delinquency system.

Until now, parents and guardians in Nevada were charged hourly rates for a pub­lic defender, as much as $30 a day for their children’s food, clothing and medical care and up to $200 a month for super­vision when they’re on proba­tion.

In June, Nevada Gov. Steve Sisolak signed Assembly Bill 439 after it was unanimously passed by both houses of the Nevada Legislature. Nevada is the second state nationwide, after California, to repeal these fees.

“It’s very rare for students in law school to be so instrumen­tal in making a new law that impacts so many people. They identified the problem, con­sulted widely with key people in Nevada, and wrote that bill from start to finish,” said attor­ney Stephanie Campos-Bui in a Berkeley Law story by Sarah Weld. Campos-Bui, a Berkeley Law alumna, is a supervising attorney for the law school’s Policy Advocacy Clinic.

In the clinic, Reid, Downard and other students pursue non-litigation strategies to address systemic racial, economic and social injustice. The clinic’s extensive research in states and counties nationwide has found that these juvenile de­linquency system fees dis­proportionately harm poor families and families of color, and that collecting them is not cost-effective.

Interdisciplinary teams of law and public policy stu­dents learn valuable skills at the clinic that include public speaking, legal writing and research, drafting legislation, quickly adapting to changing situations and learning how to talk to people with different views.

Reid, who is from Las Vegas, says her experience working on the bill was invaluable, adding that “being able to testify in front of the legislature as a law student will forever be one of the highlights of my law school career.”

This article originally appeared in the Oakland Post
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