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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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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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Reactions to the Newtown school massacre

From House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, D-San Francisco:

“No words can console the parents of the children murdered at Sandy Hook Elementary School or describe the pain and shock of such an unspeakable tragedy. No words can comfort the loved ones of those brutally taken from us today. All Americans share our prayers and our grief over these horrifying events.

“We are all stunned, shocked, and distraught by this tragic shooting, by this violent act, and by the loss of so many young children. Our hearts go out to the families and friends of the students, teachers, and educators killed and wounded in Newtown, Connecticut. The entire nation will continue to stand as a source of support to this community in the days and weeks to come.”

From Rep. Mike Honda, D-Campbell:

“Earlier today, another horrific gun tragedy struck our nation as innocent men, women, and children were senselessly shot at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Connecticut. My prayers are with the victims, their families and friends, and the communities impacted by today’s terrifying events.

“As an educator for 30 years, I know firsthand the importance of making a school a safe place where children can grow and learn. Having that sense of safety ripped from us, again, is both shocking and jarring. It is difficult to imagine what it feels like to be a parent that has outlived their child or to be part of a family inexplicably left with a gaping hole in their hearts. While exact details still remain unclear, there is no doubt that today is a somber day. A close-knit community, like countless communities all around our country, was violently attacked, and we will continue to feel the shocks of this violence for some time.

“This event, much like the numerous other shootings earlier this year, will undoubtedly lead to difficult discussions about safety, public policy and emergency preparedness. This self-reflection is natural, and it is my hope that we can finally take action to address the root causes of these horrific tragedies together, as a nation.”

From state Sen. Leland Yee, D-San Francisco:

“My thoughts and prayers go out to the children and families of Newtown. In a year with so many appalling acts of gun violence, this is the most shocking of such tragedies. While we do not have all the details behind this senseless and unconscionable massacre, it is a sad and horrific reminder of what is possible when guns get into the wrong hands. We must limit access to weapons that can result in such catastrophe and mass murder.”

From U.S. Sen. Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif.:

“I am horrified and incensed by today’s tragedy in Connecticut. These massacres don’t seem to stop—they continue on and on.

“When senseless mass shootings reach into our kindergartens and elementary schools, one has to question what is happening to America. Gun violence took the lives of more than 8,000 Americans last year, and today claimed the lives of at least 18 children.

“As I have said many times before—and now repeat in the wake of yet another tragedy—weapons of war don’t belong on our streets or in our theaters, shopping malls and, most of all, our schools.

“I hope and trust that in the next session of Congress there will be sustained and thoughtful debate about America’s gun culture and our responsibility to prevent more loss of life.”

“But today we mourn for those who have been killed and the families that have been devastated.”

From U.S. Sen. Barbara Boxer, D-Calif.:

“My heart breaks over this senseless tragedy that took so many innocent lives. My prayers go out to their families and to all those who were injured.

“This touches us all so deeply, and it is long past time that we enacted sensible gun laws and school safety legislation.”

From Gov. Jerry Brown:

“We all mourn the heartbreaking loss of those killed at Sandy Hook Elementary. We pray for their families and loved ones.”

From Lt. Gov. Gavin Newsom:

“For those calling for the postponement of any discussion of gun and mental health policy in America – you are wrong.

“Just WRONG!

“We postponed after the President and his press secretary, James Brady were shot more than 30 years ago. We postponed after the tragedy in Columbine 13 years ago. We postponed after Virginia Tech five years ago. We postponed after Representative Gabriel Giffords was shot in 2011. We postponed in July when a mentally disturbed James Eagan Holmes opened fire in a crowded movie theatre. And earlier this week, people said it was too soon to talk about gun and mental health policy when a gunman opened fire at a crowded mall in Oregon.

“Today, President Barack Obama addressed the nation from the White House briefing room named for James Brady and now we turn to our political leaders to finally and decisively act.

“Prayers are important. We are a nation that always prays at times of great tragedy. But prayer is not enough as we learn in James 2 14-26, ‘What does it profit, my brethren, if someone says he has faith but does not have works…Faith without works is dead.’

“Today is a clarion call to all leaders, regardless of political party, to act purposefully. Senseless gun violence is not simply about gun control. It must also include meaningful discussion of mental health policy in America. Political parties must be realistic – Democrats can’t draw the line in the sand at banning all guns and Republicans can’t dig in on the status quo.

“The NRA and the gun lobby are not supportive the President and now is the time for him to give them a real reason. The President must call the question. Put the gun lobby on the bench. Call on every member of congress to step out from behind the money and power of the gun lobby and act before we are lulled back into a false sense of security and forget to have the conversation again until the next tragedy. There are families in Connecticut, Oregon, Virginia, California, Arizona, Colorado, Wisconsin and every other state that have suffered loss due to gun violence and they do not want a postponement this debate any longer.

“How many more people have to die before we decide the time is right to have this debate and take action? Now is a time for prayer…and leadership.”

Lots more, after the jump…
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Jean Quan taking heat from Olbermann, MoveOn

Oakland Mayor Jean Quan is taking heat from liberal activists and commentators across the nation for the police crackdown on Occupy Oakland and resultant clashes that led to injuries including an Iraq war veteran’s cracked skull.

Current TV commentator Keith Olbermann castigated Quan on Wednesday night, demanding that she either fire Interim Police Chief Howard Jordan or resign her own office.

http://youtu.be/zXj-sbzglfw

And, in a rapid response ad released Thursday morning, MoveOn.org Civic Action urges people to demand that Quan take responsibility; the ad will run starting Friday in the Bay Area.

“A violent crackdown on peaceful protesters, like we saw in Oakland on Tuesday night, is something we expect to see under repressive regimes overseas–not here in America,” MoveOn.org Executive Director Justin Ruben said in a release announcing the ad. “Mayor Quan has not done enough to take responsibility for this violent overreaction, nor has she promised that the protesters will be able to continue to exercise their First Amendment rights. The Occupy Movement that has taken off across the country is giving voice to a majority of Americans who are being left behind in this economy. Mayor Quan, and the few other mayors who’ve begun really cracking down on Occupy protests, need to stop doing Wall Street’s dirty work for them.”

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Oakland Mayor Jean Quan touts Obama’s jobs plan

Adding to the barrage of American Jobs Act messaging from congressional Democrats, Cabinet members and the President himself, Oakland Mayor Jean Quan told reporters today that the bill is a must for her recession-ravaged city.

Quan, along with Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa and Arizona State Senator Kyrsten Sinema, was on a White House-orchestrated conference call touting what the bill will do for California and Arizona. Seeing as how I outlined the California impact here yesterday, I won’t do it again in detail today.

Quan said a lot of Oakland’s problems “are pretty typical of American cities” including budget woes affecting teachers and first responders, crumbling public infrastructure, joblessness, and street violence. “I think we we’re very lucky not to have had more violence this summer” even as homicides trended upward whiles summer jobs and other employment opportunities dwindled, she said.

The city’s minority neighborhoods are seeing unemployment rates of up to twice the state’s 14 percent rate, Quan said.

Oakland also has the nation’s fifth-largest port, and the only U.S. port that exports more than it imports, she said, so finishing its intermodal transportation modernization is vital to maintaining and growing the economy. And with Oakland hard-hit by the housing bubble’s burst, revitalizing neighborhoods and refinancing homes could prevent a second wave of foreclosures.

“It’s our job to put pressure on anyone who’s standing in the way of doing these common-sense things to make investments in America,” she said.

Villaraigosa, who also is president of the U.S. Conference of Mayors, noted that 89 percent of the nation’s gross domestic product is from 363 metro economies; New York, Los Angeles and Chicago alone have a combined economy about the size of France’s, and the nation’s top 10 cities would amount to the world’s third-largest economy.

“We like to say that as American cities go, so goes the nation,” he said. “Putting our unemployed in America’s cities back to work is the best way to put America back to work.”

He said Obama’s plan is comprised of proposals that have won bipartisan support in the past and should again now. “The time is now to put the nation’s priorities ahead of partisan interests.”