Oakland’s City Council approves point system, businesses can earn city contracts
on December 7, 2011
In a lengthy meeting Tuesday, the Oakland City Council approved a pilot program that gives more of a preference for city contracts to local and small local businesses, and another one to establish mobile food pod sites.
The council also appointed Victor Uno to the Board of Port Commissioners after appearing to delay the appointment earlier in the meeting.
A few minutes before midnight, the city council passed an amendment to Oakland’s Local and Small Local Business Enterprise program that requires at least 50 percent of companies participating in city contracts to be certified as local or small local businesses.
Under the new policy, companies could obtain additional preference in contract biddings for operating for five or more years in Oakland or having a workforce conformed only or mostly of Oakland residents. These preferences would be awarded in points. For example, a business earns 2.5 point for operating in Oakland for 25 years. The more points the business has, the greater chance it would have to acquire city contracts.
The point system prompted a two-hour discussion among the council members. Jane Brunner (District 1), Patricia Kernighan (District 2) and Libby Schaaf (District 4) each were concerned that the points might undermine the criteria of a bid, as a company earning a lot of points may not necessarily be the most qualified to do the job.
“It’s in the interest of Oakland residents to hire the best professional services,” Schaff said. “It could cost a lot of money from tax payers if we don’t.”
Kernighan and Brunner went back and forth with proposals to make the point system more balanced by subtracting and adding points for every business characteristic. An exasperated Desley Brooks (District 6) then said the proposal didn’t have to be perfect because it’s part of a pilot program.
“We have the opportunity to fix these things within in a year,” she said.
In the end, the council approved a proposal by Brunner and Kernighan of limiting the total possible awarded points to 12.5.
Earlier in the night, the council approved another pilot program that will allow food trucks to operate in specific areas in Oakland Districts 1,2, 3 and 4 for certain hours. A map of the areas will be available on the city’s website.
The proposal was championed by councilmembers Brunner and Rebecca Kaplan (At Large). Brunner said she came up with the idea for the program after visiting food-pod sites in San Francisco, and eating at Bites off Broadway this summer.
“I realized here in Oakland eating food in the streets was illegal,” she said, “we need to make eating food a legal action.”
The fees aren’t cheap — food vendors would have to pay a $421.66 application fee plus a $200 for the city to notify property owners of the establishment of their pods.
Although most of the speakers celebrated the proposal, some criticized the fees. “They are way too high, mainly for small food pods,” said Karen Hester, the founder of Bites off Broadway, a food pod that was set in front of Studio One Art Center on 45th Street every Friday from June to October 2011.
Mayor Jean Quan agreed with Hester. “I’ve seen food trucks as big as houses and vey small food carts that only sell one item,” she said. “I think there should be a criteria for fees depending on the size of the food truck.”
Tina Ramos, owner of Tina Tamale pop-up stand set on 7th Street in Old Oakland, said the new program would help the mobile food industry grow in Oakland. “It’s important to give people options of mobile food, not only to provide a healthy option but to build up the spirits of the community,” she said.
Brunner and Kaplan made changes to their original proposal before submitting it to vote, such as requiring the pods set up at least 100 feet from existing restaurants, including convenience stores and fast food chain restaurants, and limit operation hours to four hours a day.
Some of the speakers also argued the time period alotted was too short. “Four hours is not enough time if you include the time it takes to set up,” said Shelley Garza, manager of Entrepreneur LI Rising Sun, a Fruitvale company that provides kitchen equipment to food vendors. “I would ask the council to add two more hours.”
Kaplan said she would discuss the possibility of reducing the fees and increasing the hours of operation with Brunner and city Community and Economic Development Agency officials.
Some of the items on the meeting agenda were less well-received by both attendees and councilmembers. At the beginning of the meeting, Quan proposed the council confirm her appointment of Victo Uno as a Port of Oakland Commissioner, which was met with vehement opposition.
Gene Hazzard, member of the Oakland Black Caucus and supporter of former port commissioner Margaret Gordon, questioned Quan’s decision to leave Gordon’s name out of the proposal.
“Don’t go there, there’s no rush,” he said. “Wait two weeks and make your vote for both.”
Council President Larry Reid (District 7) said Quan didn’t add Gordon for consideration for the job as she had promised. “You always accuse me of being easy on the mayor,” Reid said to the councilmembers. “I’m pushing back on the mayor’s proposal until she does the right thing.”
However, Uno was appointed with the vote of six council members. Reid and Nancy Nadel (District 3) abstained.
A few minutes after midnight, the city council approved a report from the City Administrator’s office on the progress of reforms to the CEDA’s building services division.
In a meeting in September, the council approved a series of reforms to the building services rules and procedures after an Alameda County Grand Jury report detailed a series of deficiencies in the division’s operations, including excessive fees, corruption, and a biased appeal system.
Although the Community and Economic Development Committee discussed and criticized the lack of progress on the reforms presented in the report, the city council did not discuss its content during the Tuesday meeting.
The City Administrator’s office and the city council will continue reviewing CEDA building service’s progress in adopting the reforms.
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