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Oakland bracing for Ferguson-inspired unrest

Oakland is bracing for what could be significant civic unrest following the decision of a grand jury in Missouri on whether to charge Ferguson Police Officer Darren Wilson in the shooting of Michael Brown.

Oakland Mayor Jean Quan issued an open letter to the community Tuesday morning, saying the recent events in Fergus “have touched us all” and “regardless of the verdict reached by the Missouri grand jury in the coming days or weeks, demonstrations could occur in Oakland.”

Various groups have called to gather at downtown’s Frank H. Ogawa Plaza beginning at 5:00 p.m. on whatever day the verdict is announced.

“The City of Oakland is committed to facilitating peaceful expressions and demonstrations,” wrote Quan, now a lame-duck mayor after losing her re-election bid to Councilwoman Libby Schaaf earlier this month. “Although we don’t anticipate problems to occur, keeping peace on our streets and protecting the safety of Oakland residents and businesses is our top priority and we will be prepared.”

Quan said the city is providing information “to raise awareness… not to alarm, and so that you may plan ahead.” Traffic likely will be disturbed, she said, advising residents, workers and employers to consult www.511.org or call 511 for up-to-date information.

The city is advising people and businesses to park cars in secure, off-street locations if possible; remove or secure trash cans; ensure businesses are well-lit and closed-circuit TV systems are working; lock and deadbolt all doors, with any gaps covered by steel plates; and leave cash drawers empty and open after business hours.

The city also is arranging for “Healing Centers … as safe alternative venues to engage in productive dialogue and healing around any emotions brought out by the Ferguson verdict,” to be open for two weekdays immediately after the grand jury’s decision. They’ll be at Youth Uprising, 8711 MacArthur Blvd.; the Youth Employment Partnership, 2300 International Blvd.; and at the Health Communities/Healthy Oakland sites at 2580 San Pablo Ave. and 1485 8th St.

Quan said the Oakland Police Department “has significantly improved the ways it handles demonstrations in our city,” with extensive re-training and improved practices since the Occupy unrest of 2011.

“At the same time the department has neared full compliance with our court-ordered reforms, dramatically reduced use-of-force incidents and required officers to wear chest-mounted body cameras on their uniforms,” Quan wrote. “We have successfully facilitated more than 70 demonstrations this year throughout Oakland, and we know that with continued cooperation from our community and the high level of professionalism of our officers, we will continue doing so.

“Our hearts are with Mike Brown’s family and with every Oakland family touched by violence,” Quan wrote. “I am grateful for the work we have done together to make Oakland a safer place and to heal our collective wounds. We still have much to do, but I am confident that we will continue making this important progress with compassion and peaceful determination.”

The statement falls far short of what an “Occupy Oakland Riot Prevention Working Group” demanded of Quan and Schaff. In a news release issued earlier Tuesday, that group had demanded that the mayor and mayor-elect issue the following statement:

The City of Oakland shares in the grief of the family of Michael Brown for his untimely death. We, elected representatives of the people ofOakland, empathize with those who fear that justice will not be served in this case. We know full-well that, without the respect of residents, law enforcement is not effective. And we know that, as leaders of our community, we must do all we can to assure our fellow-residents that the law is color-blind and that we will not shield those who overstep their prerogatives as law enforcement officers from accountability.

Therefore, I insist that the St. Louis County Prosecuting Attorney’s Office do all it can to bring about an indictment of Darren Wilson for the wrongful death of Michael Brown. Further, I call upon the Attorney General of the United States to indict Darren Wilson on federal civil rights charges. The course of justice must not be blocked by official policy that tolerates the use of excessive force against people of color by law enforcement or by a culture of racism infecting government. All those who seek protection in a democratic society must see the agents of justice working transparently and tirelessly to assure that law enforcement is even-handed. Indictments are not convictions. No harm can be the result of a fair trial of Darren Wilson, but, if Wilson is not tried, a tragic miscarriage of justice will have been perpetrated, the ramifications of which could be felt many years into the future for our country.

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Commerce Secretary attends Oakland forum

U.S. Commerce Secretary Penny Pritzker joined Rep. Barbara Lee and other officials Monday for a regional economic development forum at Oakland International Airport, focused on creating more jobs and growing businesses in the East Bay.

Penny Pritzker“The Department of Commerce has tremendous resources in place in this region and around the country that allow us to partner with your businesses and entrepreneurs so they can compete and succeed,” Pritzker said in a news release issued by Lee, D-Oakland, after the event.

“Here in the Bay Area, we are working with companies large and small to sell their goods and services to the 95 percent of global consumers who live outside the U.S., helping to create the conditions for innovators and entrepreneurs to thrive, and supporting minority-and women-owned businesses through our Minority Business Development Agency,” she said, adding her department “is committed to helping your companies grow and thrive so they can create jobs – that is our mission and a core objective for President Obama.”

Lee said small businesses “are fundamental to the East Bay’s economic growth, especially women and minority-owned businesses.

“These businesses create jobs, contribute to our community and create opportunities into the middle class,” she said. “In order to ensure continued economic growth, we need to investment in sharing the available resources with these businesses and businesses owners to help them succeed.”

Other attendees included regional Small Business Administration Administrator Donna Davis; Minority Business Development Agency Director Alejandra Castillo; Overseas Private Investment Corp. Director of Corporate Development Alison Germak; Port of Oakland Aviation Director Deborah Ale Flint; Alameda County Supervisor Keith Carson; and Oakland Mayor Jean Quan.

Earlier Monday, Lee had hosted a roundtable discussion with Pritzker and East Bay business leaders to discuss economic development, supplier diversity and the importance of gender and ethnic diversity in corporate leadership.

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Not much hubbub over veto of Oakland gun bill

Those who wanted Oakland to be able to pass its own, stricter gun laws seemed unwilling to criticize Gov. Jerry Brown for his veto Monday.

AB 180 would’ve let Oakland establish its own ordinances – stricter than state law – on registration or licensing of firearms.

“The State of California has among the strictest gun laws in the country. Allowing individual cities to enact their own more restrictive firearms regulations will sow confusion and uncertainty,” Brown, who was Oakland’s mayor from 1999 to 2007, wrote in his veto message issued Friday. “I am mindful of the challenges the City of Oakland faces in addressing gun violence, but this is not the right solution.”

Rob BontaThe bill’s author – Assemblyman Rob Bonta, D-Oakland – seemed to take it in stride.

“I will continue to fight for the people of Oakland to be free from the gun violence which plagues our community,” said Bonta, who as chair of the Select Committee on Gun Violence in the East Bay has held field hearings on the issue. “In his veto message, Governor Brown stated that he was ‘mindful of the challenges the City of Oakland faces in addressing gun violence. I look forward to continuing the conversation with the governor as to how the state can continue to assist Oakland in the future.”

Oakland City Council in May unanimously approved a resolution – introduced by council members Libby Schaaf and Rebecca Kaplan, as well as the city attorney’s office – supporting AB 180.

“Though we’re certainly disappointed that AB 180 was vetoed, it’s important that we recognize and celebrate the victories of our advocacy,” Kaplan spokesman Jason Overman said Monday. “Governor Brown signed an important bill authored by Assemblymember Skinner to create new common-sense gun laws that seek to reduce gun violence, both in Oakland and across California.”

The Skinner bill Overman referred to is AB 48, which makes it a crime to make, import, sell, give, lend, buy or receive any conversion kit that can convert a legal ammunition-feeding device into an illegal large-capacity magazine. The bill also makes it a crime to buy or receive a large-capacity magazine; manufacturing or selling such magazines already has been illegal in California for more than a decade.

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Oakland & Sac mayors met with Obama today

Oakland’s Jean Quan and Sacramento’s Kevin Johnson were among 18 U.S. mayors who met with President Barack Obama and U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder today at the White House to discuss strategies to reduce youth violence.

According to the White House’s readout of the meeting, Obama “reiterated that government alone can never fill the void that causes a child to turn to violence, but that we all have a responsibility to do our part to create safe communities and save lives.”

“The President applauded the mayors for their local efforts to combat violence, solicited their input about proven methods, and pledged his Administration’s partnership,” the White House reported. “He also vowed to continue doing everything in his power to combat gun violence through executive action and to press Congress to pass common-sense reforms like expanding the background check system and cracking down on gun trafficking.”

For the complete list of mayors at today’s meeting, follow after the jump.
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Bay Area-based gun control bills advance

As a bipartisan deal on increased background checks for gun sales appears to be headed for defeat in the U.S. Senate, some state lawmakers from the Bay Area are celebrating their own progress on gun-control measures yesterday in Sacramento.

The state Senate Public Safety Committee advanced a slew of gun bills on a series of party-line, 5-2 votes yesterday.

Mark DeSaulnierAmong them were two bills by state Sen. Mark DeSaulnier, D-Concord.

SB 293 would require all newly made or imported handguns in California be “owner-authorized,” or “smart guns” personalized in a way that would allow them to be fired only by authorized persons. This requirement would take effect eighteen months after the state California Attorney General makes a finding that owner-authorized handguns are available for retail sale and meet stringent performance criteria specified in the bill.

And DeSaulnier’s SB 299 would require that every person whose firearm is lost or stolen must notify local law enforcement within 48 hours of the time they knew, or reasonably should have known, of the loss or theft. If the firearm is subsequently recovered, the local law enforcement agency would have to be notified within 48 hours as well.

“It is critical that we promote safe and responsible gun ownership,” DeSaulnier said in a news release. “These bills will help us prevent guns from falling into the wrong hands, and ensure they are only operated by their lawful owners.”

Leland YeeAlso passed by the committee were two bills by state Sen. Leland Yee, D-San Francisco.

SB 47 would prohibit the use of “bullet buttons” or other devices that allow for easily changeable magazines on firearms deemed assault weapons by state law. Such firearms would only be allowed to have ammunition magazines holding up to 10 rounds, which could not be changed without dissembling the weapon; essentially, bullets would have to be loaded one-by-one from the top of the gun.

And Yee’s SB 108 would require all guns to be properly stored when an adult isn’t home. Current law requires that gun owners own a trigger lock or safety lock box for their weapon, but doesn’t require such a device be used on an idle firearm; Yee’s bill would specifically require that any firearm be stored with a trigger lock or in a lock box at a residence when the owner isn’t there.

“The horrors of Newtown and countless other mass shootings are still with us,” Yee said in his own news release. “With this in mind, it is our responsibility to make sure our laws protect the innocent from the threat of gun violence.”

In other Bay Area-based gun policy news, Oakland City Council on Tuesday night unanimously approved a resolution asking the state Legislature to pass a bill creating a bullet tax.

AB 187 by Assemblyman Rob Bonta, D-Oakland, would impose a 10 percent tax on ammunition to fund crime prevention efforts in the state’s most crime-ridden areas. Bonta had said last month that his bill might merge with another lawmaker’s proposed nickel-per-round tax to fund mental-health screening for children. He also said his tax is mostly about generating money to “combat the gun violence in our communities,” but could have the “secondary benefit” of stemming “rampant sales.”

Oakland Councilwoman Rebecca Kaplan, who introduced the resolution along with City Attorney Barbara Parker, issued a statement saying that the bill’s endorsement is part of an effort to work with state officials to stop gun violence.

“This bill would significantly improve our ability to make communities safer,” Kaplan said. “I’m committed to working with leaders at all levels of government to stop gun violence.”

AB 187 is scheduled to be heard Monday, May 6 by the Assembly Revenue and Taxation Committee.

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Oakland divests from firearms & ammo makers

Oakland City Council unanimously passed a resolution Tuesday night to prohibit the city from holding investments in firearms or ammunition manufacturers.

Council President Rebecca Kaplan, City Attorney Barbara Parker and Vice Mayor Larry Reid had co-authored the measure, which they say is part of the city’s ongoing effort to reduce gun violence. Councilman Dan Kalb requested that the resolution, which originally covered only firearms manufacturers, be expanded to include ammunition companies as well.

“There is a well-funded corporate effort pushing against our work to stop gun violence,” Kaplan said in a news release. “And Oakland is now formally part of a national movement that includes cities like Chicago and Los Angeles – communities committed to stopping so many tragedies that take place at the hands of a gun.”

The resolution declares a city policy prohibiting the Oakland from holding any investment or ownership stake in any manufacturer of firearms or ammunition; directs the city administrator to examine the city’s holdings and future investments to assure that the city complies with this policy; urges the Police And Fire Retirement System Board and the Oakland Municipal Employees Retirement System Board to adopt similar policies; and urges other state and local jurisdictions to prohibit investment of their public funds in manufacturers of firearms or ammunition.

The city also recently has moved to enlarge its police force, and has endorsed the reenactment of a federal assault-weapons ban as well as a state bill to regulate ammunition sales.

“By taking action here to send a message to weapons manufacturers, Oakland is showing its commitment to big-picture efforts to reduce gun violence here and in communities across America,” Kaplan said.