Oakland 2013: A year of change
on December 31, 2013
Another year in Oakland showed how much the city can change and come together, demonstrating its vibrant, diverse character. 2013 was a year of controversy and celebration, as the community adjusted to new police and school leadership, celebrated its growing arts community, and came together for a 13-year-old girl who was declared brain dead after a tonsil surgery at Children’s Hospital.
Growing Arts Community
Organizers of the monthly downtown art festival searched for ways to make the event safer after a shooting in February left 18-year-old Kiante Campbell dead and three others wounded.
The popular event became smaller and now ends an hour earlier, at 9 p.m. People from throughout the Bay Area continue to convene at the eclectic festival to visit the art galleries, check out the street vendors, enjoy the live music and eat at popular local restaurants.
Oakland’s reputation as a growing arts hub solidified this year. The Museum of Children’s Art (MOCHA) opened its downtown location and Oakland artists received 10 out of the 16 grants awarded by Southern Exposure, a San Francisco-based non-profit.
Oakland workers come together to negotiate new contracts.
2013 was a big year for labor in Oakland. City employees protested budget cuts, Port of Oakland truckers shut down the port twice and BART contract negotiations have dragged on.
The nine-month long contract negotiation between BART workers and the BART board brought Bay Area commuters to a standstill after several midnight deadlines passed without resolution. After two strikes that lasted several days each, both sides announced they had finally reached an agreement. Days later the BART board announced they would not approve the new contract; a family leave clause that gave workers more days off was initially rejected. A new tentative agreement was reached in December.
City unions argued that Oakland PD was receiving too much money and not enough funds were going towards city workers who provide vital services. City union leaders also complained about salary cuts and an increase in furlough days. A one-day strike over the summer shut down services for many.
Truckers at the Port of Oakland complained about congestion and dangerous work conditions and asked for a congestion fee that would help compensate for the time they spent waiting. Air pollution regulations were also a major concern for drivers since a new rig would cost up to $80,000.
The city faces criticism for brining in a safety consultant group and Urban Shield
Strategic Policy Partnership, a group that included former New York and Los Angeles Police Chief William Bratton, was brought in by the city to provide security advice to Oakland Police. The controversial $250,000 contract led to a report that revealed a number of problems in the department. The final recommendation called for the city to be divided into five areas, each lead by a captain.
The report was released a day after Police Chief Howard Jordan announced he would resign and seek medical leave. Assistant Chief Anthony Toribio became the acting chief for only two days before he stepped down and was replaced by Sean Whent, who is still the interim police chief. The Oakland Tribune reports that the search for a new police chief is now delayed since Bob Murray and Associates, the firm in charge of finding a replacement, has backed out after learning that someone in Mayor Jean Quan’s office “had spoken to applicants during the hiring process.”
Police training and surveillance have become big issues in Oakland as residents protested the Urban Shield training in October, Operation Ceasefire and the creation of the Domain Awareness Center, a city-wide surveillance system that might be the largest in the state.
Critics oppose what they call the violation of civil liberties and militarization of police, claiming it would lead to police brutality. Supporters cite the rising number of robberies in Oakland, the highest in the county according to an FBI report.
New leadership at OUSD
The Oakland schools after went through their own change in leadership with Superintendent Tony Smith resigning in early April. He was replaced by Oakland School Board director Gary Yee, who has been with OUSD since 1973.
Jahi McMath at Children’s Hospital
The case of Jahi McMath, a 13-year-old who was declared brain dead by at Children’s Hospital after a tonsillectomy, has captured the attention of the city. Believing that the girl could still wake up, the family hired a lawyer to stop the hospital from taking Jahi off the ventilator. A court order has now declared that Jahi will be kept on a ventilator until Jan. 7. The family is looking for a facility that will accept Jahi
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