By Josh Richman
Tuesday, November 1st, 2011 at 1:55 pm in Oakland.
The Port of Oakland’s leadership today released this open letter to the community:
These are challenging times, with high unemployment and tremendous uncertainty in the economy. In such times, open, respectful, honest, and informed communication is essential. That is why we are writing to you today.
We understand that Occupy Oakland has voted for a general strike in Oakland tomorrow, November 2, 2011, and further plans to march to the Port of Oakland at 5 PM. We also understand that there will be participation from people who do not live and work in the City of Oakland, which is understandable given the global nature of the Occupy movement. At the same time, this is our home, and it is our responsibility to respect it and ensure that others do too.
It is our privilege, indeed our right in this country, to peacefully assemble and freely express our grievances to government. And it is our responsibility as Oaklanders to ensure that our city is a safe and peaceful place to live and work. Oakland has a long, honorable, and innovative tradition of social justice action. So it is understandable that the citizens of Oakland want to show solidarity with the worldwide movement for economic and social justice. It is also imperative that any and all expressions of protest be effective without being violent. Every individual on all sides of this event must take personal responsibility to ensure peace. Each one of us at the Port is committed to a peaceful and safe march for all involved.
As you may be aware, there are multiple layers of security governing our nation’s ports, involving our local police department, regional, and federal agencies. Since becoming aware of the proposed march to the Port, we have been engaged with our public safety and security partners at the local, regional, state, and federal levels of government. We are all emphasizing the need for a peaceful and respectful assembly and expression of free speech.
We at the Port of Oakland understand the frustrations and issues at the heart of the Occupy movement:
We have over $1.4 billion in debt and annual debt service payments of over $100 million a year for the foreseeable future, constraining the jobs we can create and investments we can make.
Economic conditions at the Port have forced us to reduce our workforce by 40% over the last seven years.
Air passenger volume is down over 30% since 2008.
We are operating at just over 50% capacity at our seaport, while there is increasing competition from alternative shipping gateways around the country and the world.
Despite these challenges, Port activity generates over 73,000 jobs in the region, and every day we work to create more jobs. From our maintenance staff, to our custodial workers, our truckers, to office workers and dock workers, the Port is where the 99% work. It is essential for the economic development of the City and region that the perception and reality of Oakland is stability, safety, and inclusion.
Thank you for taking the time to read this letter. We hope it will contribute to the civic dialogue that the Occupy movement has initiated. For additional information about the Port, you can also find us on the Internet at www.portofoakland.com, on Twitter at portofoakland, or on Facebook.
Pamela S. Calloway, President
Omar R. Benjamin, Executive Director