Oakland City Council approves new requirements for Army Base redevelopment project
on November 16, 2011
The Oakland City Council approved new requirements Tuesday night that would grant local businesses exclusive rights to demolition and remediation contracts for the Oakland Army Base redevelopent project.
Under the approved ordinance, businesses participating in contract bids must also prove that at least 33 percent of their workforce are Oakland residents.
“For me, this is the first step of the Army Base project,” said Councilmember Desley Brooks (District 6), who has pushed for the proposal in council meetings for the past three months. “Even when the project is finished we should use full capacity of our workforce and our own businesses.”
Demolition and remediation projects are part of the first phase of a $478 million plan to create a business and trade center on 1,800 acres located in the Port of Oakland, which served as a military facility from 1941 to 1999. The total cost of the project will be covered by a combination of private investments, federal grants and state and local funding, according to a press release by the office of Mayor Jean Quan issued last week.
In the release, Quan and the Port of Oakland administration announced they had applied for a $40 million federal grant to fund part of the first phase of the redevelopment project, which includes the construction of a new rail terminal to reduce truck traffic, the restoration of Oakland’s only deep water break-bulk terminals that are used for shipping products from water to ground transportation, and improvements to the base’s main streets.
In previous council meetings, Brooks has argued that the city council must assure that the multi-million dollar redevelopment project benefits Oakland residents and businesses, and not only out-of-city companies and investors.
With a unanimous vote, the city council added demolition and remediation contracts at the Army Base to the city’s Local Business Enterprise program. That program awards benefits and preferences for city contracts to businesses certified as “local and small local enterprises” by the city’s Department of Contracting and Purchasing. To be eligible for certification, businesses must be established in Oakland for at least 12 months and have a valid tax business certificate issued by the city.
“We will not be hiring companies that hire people from Oakland for a certain project or a small job, but companies that already have Oakland residents working for them,” said Councilmember Jane Brunner (District 1). “I think it’s brilliant.”
Oakland residents who attended the meeting also praised Brooks’ proposal. “People are out there talking about the 99 percent who wants something to be done,” said Oakland resident Kitty Kelly Epstein, an author and education professor at Holy Names University . “We need to find some better ways to represent the 99 percent of the communities that we’re in. This motion is one of them.”
Margaret Gordon, a former Port of Oakland Commisioner who is seeking reappoint to the position, also spoke in favor of the ordinance. “Equity is the keyword, when you have equity, you have hope,” she said. “The equity issue was adressed tonight and I’m thankful for it.”
Some meeting attendees also celebrated the city council’s decision to amend the appointment of new port comissioners, as it failed to comply with city rules and procedures for its election.
During the October 18 council meeting, the city council seconded Quan’s decision to appoint Victor Uno and Jakada Imani as port commissioners, and shortly afterward they were sworn in by Quan. The council elects the members of the Board of Port Commissioners, who control and manage the Port of Oakland, and the candidates are recommended by the mayor.
However, at the following council meeting on November 1, councilmembers backtracked on the vote after residents complained the appointment of Uno and Imani was made without hearing from the 63 people who signed up to speak on the issue. At Tuesday’s meeting, the council concluded it had violated the city’s Sunshine Ordinance, which requires the council listen to every registered speaker before voting on an issue.
“It was my fault, please accept my apologies,” said Council President Larry Reid (District 7) after councilmembers agreed to vote again. “I’ll make sure it won’t happen again.” Applause and cheers from atendees followed.
Despite the decision, the council once again postponed voting on the port commissioners’ appointment, following a request by Quan after Imani announced in a statement issued Tuesday he would withdraw his nomination.
The port commissioner vote was rescheduled for the next council meeting on December 6. Although Gordon was present at the meeting, she didn’t approach the council to speak and left chambers shortly after the decision to delay the appointment.
Councilmembers also agreed unanimously on an urgent suspension of issuing city licenses for second-hand dealers of jewlery and other articles made out of precious metals such as gold, silver and platinum.
Councilmember Ignacio de La Fuente (District 5), who proposed the action, said he was concerned about a recent peak of jewlery robbery cases reported by police in the Fruitvale District in recent years. The increase in robberies coincides with an increase in the request for second-hand jewlery dealership licenses in the past three years, according to a report issued by De La Fuente’s office.
“This problem is affecting the working class people of Oakland, especially women,” De La Fuente said. “It is imperative for us to figure out some new criteria on how to control and manage the proliferation of this kind of establishment.”
Roman Milgram, owner of EZ Money Pawn Shop, located in Fruitvale, said that after hiring a private investigator, he discovered several people in the area were selling jewlery and gold items without a license.
“I reported this to the Oakland Police, but they said they were short in staff and they couldn’t do anything about it,” Milgram said. “These people can later request for their license and nobody would know they were selling second-hand jewlery illegally.”
De La Fuente will propose a new set of rules and regulations for second-hand jewlery dealership licenses in about 45 days, after his office reviews current regulations with the city administrator’s office and the police department, he said.
After the meeting was adjourned, Councilmember Libby Schaaf (District 4) asked the other councilmembers wether they would discuss the results of the special election on Measures H, I and J. Measure H would have changed the city attorney’s position to be appointed by the city council instead of being elected by the public; Measure I would have imposed an $80 dollar parcel tax on single family homes; Measure J would have allowed the city to extend its deadline for funding pensions for the Police and Fire Departments beyond 2026.
“The results are out, aren’t we going to address them?” she said. The councilmembers remained silent. Shortly afterward, the city clerk, LaTonda Simmons, read the election results: 73.4 percent voted “no” on Measure H, 62.3 percent voted “no” on Measure I, and 53.2 percent voted “no” on Measure J.
Typically council meetings are adjourned with a dedicateion to an Oakland citizen who recently died. On this ocassion, Councilemember Nancy Nadel (District 3) decided to honor the failing ballot measures.
“In loving memory of Measures H, J, and I,” she said, as some ateendees burst into laughter. A few minutes later, all the councilmembers left the chambers without commenting on the election results.
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