In our last newsletter of 2016, I provide some updates on major cases and express my gratitude to some of our valiant, indefatigable leaders, to long term employees in our Office who are retiring, and to you.
I also offer my reflections about 2016 and how we move forward in 2017 following the election of a candidate for president who ran a divisive, racist, misogynistic and bigoted campaign, and who has signaled his plan to abandon our country's bedrock principles of justice, equality, equity and a level playing field for all.
I wish you, your family, extended family and friends, i.e., your village, a fruitful and spiritually fulfilling new year.
As always, I look forward to your questions and/or feedback about the work we are doing on behalf of Oakland.
Barbara J. Parker
Oakland City Attorney
Major Case Updates
Outer Harbor Terminal, LLC, U.S. Bankruptcy Court Case No. 16-10283
I am pleased to report that our Office recently secured $850,000 for the City of Oakland in the U.S. bankruptcy court from the Outer Harbor Terminal, LLC, a company that leased Port of Oakland property and managed shipping and other operations.
The company, also known as Ports America Outer Harbor Terminal, filed for bankruptcy in February of this year. The company had a 50-year lease with the Port of Oakland to run Port operations.
The U.S. Bankruptcy Court for the District of Delaware approved the $850,000 settlement to resolve the City's claim to recover transfer tax the company owed the City. The City imposes a transfer tax when a party sells or conveys a property interest in real estate.
Securing large settlements like this in bankruptcy court is very challenging. I applaud our team for its skillful handling of the case and want to publically thank them for their work: Special Counsel Dianne Millner, Deputy City Attorney Kathleen Salem-Boyd and the City's outside counsel, Monique Jewett-Brewster of the Hopkins & Carley law firm.
Large corporations operating in our city must pay their fair share of taxes, just like everybody else. These dollars will be deposited in the City's general fund and will help to pay for police, firefighters, libraries, parks and other crucial services that Oaklanders rely upon.
Suprema Meats, Inc. vs. City of Oakland, Alameda County Superior Court Case No. RG16803756
This month Alameda County Superior Court Judge Kimberly Colwell ruled in the City's favor in an ongoing lawsuit that Suprema Meats, Inc. filed to challenge the City's $9,500 fine against the company for excessive noise created by loading and unloading at the company's building on 57th Street. The court's December 7th order upholds the City's fine against the restaurant wholesaler.
Last year, the City filed a separate lawsuit against Suprema for violating a 2014 Compliance Plan that prohibited unloading semi-trucks at the 57th Street facility and other activities that neighbors described as major nuisances. That lawsuit (Case No. RG15787127) is ongoing.
Expressions of Gratitude
Thank You, East Bay Asian Youth Center
Thank you, East Bay Asian Youth Center (EBAYC) for decades of work on behalf of Oakland's children of all races.
I was delighted to celebrate EBAYC's 40th anniversary in November at Yoshi's Oakland.
The Anniversary Gala on November 10 was a heartwarming and spectacular celebration, with a thoughtful keynote address from author Pedro Noguera, Distinguished Professor of Education at UCLA.
EBAYC has been at the forefront of the fight for quality education in Oakland, offering after-school and summer programs, mentoring, homework support and more to Oakland children.
If you are looking for a way to get involved and work for a better Oakland, check out
EBAYC and its important work on education, violence prevention and so much more.
Thank You, Congresswoman Barbara Lee
I am grateful for and extend my heartfelt thanks to our own Congresswoman Barbara Lee for tirelessly advocating for our rights in Washington, D.C. since she was elected in 1998. Congresswoman Lee and other progressive leaders like Senator Cory Booker (see photo) are carrying the hopes of so many Americans who are dismayed by the prospect of the President-elect's regressive and harmful policy proposals.
I am inspired and my spirits are buoyed by Congresswoman Lee and other smart, tough leaders who will galvanize support to defeat the agenda of fear, spite, racism, sexism and bigotry that were at the heart of the President-elect's campaign, and who will continue to lead our march toward a more perfect union.
Thank you and bless you, Congresswoman Lee, for your abiding faith in the American people and for articulating and realizing our hopes and dreams on behalf of Oakland and our entire country.
Thank You, Retiring Members of the City Attorney's Office
On December 13, the City Council recognized three members of the City Attorney's team who are retiring after collectively providing more than half of century of service to the City of Oakland.
Both La'Carolyn and Morrise grew up in Oakland, graduated from Castlemont High and served the people and the City of Oakland with distinction and integrity for many years (25 years
for La'Carolyn and 15 years for Morrise).
For the last 15 years, La'Carolyn supervised the Office's Legal Administrative Assistants, who perform the critical work necessary for the City Attorney's Office to function. Morrise worked as a Legal Administrative Assistant helping attorneys in the Litigation and Advisory divisions, and for six years provided support to the Neighborhood Law Corps, a unit in the City Attorney's Office that focuses on affirmative litigation, civil rights and community-impact projects.
Craig, our Office's former Director of Information Technology, retired in June after 19 years of service. Craig was responsible for managing and maintaining the Office's computer and technology systems, without which our work would come to a screeching halt. Craig literally worked around the clock to serve the needs of the City and keep systems running, handling everything from problems with attorneys' cell phones to catastrophic crashes.
I will miss La'Carolyn, Morrise and Craig both personally and professionally. The City Attorney's Office will miss their expertise, grace and equanimity under pressure. Thank you La'Carolyn, Morrise and Craig for your service, your friendship and your many contributions to the public good.
Thank you, NARAL Pro-Choice California
Thank you NARAL Pro-Choice California for your invaluable work protecting a woman's right to choose. And thank you from the bottom of my heart for honoring me and Vice Mayor Annie Campbell Washington as "2016 California Champions of Choice."
This December NARAL Pro-Choice California honored us with this award for our work on an ordinance that bans false and deceptive advertising by so-called "crisis pregnancy centers" run by anti-choice activists.
In July the City Council adopted the
Pregnancy Information Disclosure and Protection Ordinance
, which prevents these anti-choice facilities from misrepresenting themselves as medical providers or objective health care counselors.
In recent years, it has become common for anti-choice activists to establish facilities -- often called crisis pregnancy centers or limited services pregnancy centers -- that are advertised as reproductive health care clinics or objective health care counselors. Women seeking these services instead find themselves at a facility run by activists whose sole purpose is to delay and obstruct a woman's ability to exercise her constitutional right to abortion.
These deceptive tactics can be extremely harmful, as even slight delays can have serious impacts on a patient's health and options.
Given the inaccurate and extreme anti-choice rhetoric we have heard from the President-elect, and with the radical anti-choice background of the Vice President-elect, it is more important than ever for cities to establish strong laws protecting reproductive rights. And it is critical that we support the work of organizations like NARAL that will be on the front lines of the opposition to any rollback of our rights over the next four years.
I am truly honored to be recognized by
that does so much to protect women's rights. Thank you NARAL Pro-Choice California for the work you have done and will do over the next four years.
Finally, Many Thanks to You, Oakland's Voters
Thank you, Oakland voters for electing me to a second four-year term as City Attorney. It was affirming to run unopposed and receive 99.5% of the votes. This is a tribute to the hard work, dedication and integrity of the staff of the City Attorney's Office.
I want to express my gratitude and appreciation to my staff, who brought great energy and commitment to serving the City of Oakland throughout my first term. I will do my utmost during the next four years to serve, protect and advance all Oaklanders' rights with integrity and renewed energy.
2016 is ending on a somber note. This month's tragic Oakland warehouse fire was the deadliest U.S. fire in the last 13 years and one of the ten deadliest building fires in the USA in the last 50 years.
The fire highlighted and brought national and international attention to Oakland's ongoing housing crisis that has increased the number of homeless individuals and families who are struggling to survive in their cars, on our streets or in our parks during this unusually frigid winter cold. We also continued to lose many young people to gun violence in our city, the overwhelming majority of whom are Black and Brown. Indeed, Oakland is a tale of two cities: one prosperous, bustling renaissance and the other struggling to survive and remain here with the skyrocketing housing costs and jobs that no longer provide wages and benefits required to live in our great city.
Diversity is so central to Oakland's history and to our character as a community -- diversity of race, religion, sexual orientation -- a place where artists and creativity thrive, and where teachers, gardeners, families with children and folks of all walks of life can afford to live. I support reforming Oakland and California laws so we can extend rent control and eviction protections to our entire city. Every day we delay decisive action, Oakland loses a part of its soul and inches toward becoming just another gentrified, hyper-expensive suburb of San Francisco. Perhaps the most recent catastrophe will galvanize action. I plan to work hard to make these reforms reality.
And many Oaklanders, including me, are experiencing a great deal of trepidation and deep-seated disbelief in the aftermath of last month's election. Frankly, it is surreal.
With regard to the elections, it has taken a while for me to collect my thoughts as I still am wrestling with dueling emotions. I have had and continue to have conversations with many who also are wrestling with their emotions.
It has been difficult to celebrate our victories given the outcome of the Presidential race. But we must and we deserve to celebrate the good news.
Oakland & California
There is much to celebrate on the state and local levels. But I am saddened that the California electorate did not repeal the death penalty, and instead passed a deeply flawed and idiotic proposition to expedite executions, this in the face of incontrovertible evidence of the racial disparities in arrests, convictions, sentencing and the imposition of the death penalty, and the numerous court decisions overturning convictions of innocent African American and Latino men.
On the national level this is a very troubling and sad time. Many of us are heartbroken, in shock and experiencing much trepidation as we reckon with the aftermath of the presidential election. The message we are receiving is one of divisiveness.
Oaklanders overwhelmingly rejected the President-elect's message of divisiveness and his promises to turn back the clock on health care as a right; to revisit the horrors of the internment of Japanese American citizens by establishing a Muslim registry; to abandon the U.S. Attorney General's mission to ensure justice for all by nominating a fierce and open opponent of civil rights and voting rights for African Americans as the next Attorney General; to pull federal funding from sanctuary cities like Oakland and hunt down our undocumented neighbors and family members; to ignore the catastrophic danger posed by climate change; and to appoint a U.S. Supreme Court Justice who will overturn Roe v. Wade and many other milestones.
This is the time for us to rededicate ourselves to fight for and champion the America that we all cherish. This country belongs to all of us, regardless of our race, ethnicity, religion, sexual orientation, gender or whether we have a disability. It is this very diversity that has created and enriched our culture and is America's best hope.
History teaches us the hard lesson that we must be ever vigilant and relentless in our quest for a more perfect union. We always will have setbacks as well as victories in the fight to secure justice and preserve our freedoms. Examples include Proposition 209 (1996 California constitutional amendment prohibiting consideration of race, sex or ethnicity in public employment, public contracting and public education), Proposition 8 (2008 California constitutional amendment providing that only marriage between a man and a woman is valid or recognized in California), and Proposition 227 (English Language in Public Schools statute). Tragically, Proposition 209 is still on the books. But today marriage equality is the law of the land and in November the voters passed Proposition 58 authorizing school districts to establish dual-language immersion programs for both native and non-native English speakers.
As Coretta Scott King observed: "Struggle is a never-ending process. Freedom is never really won, you earn it and win it in every generation."
At moments like these, I remind myself that my parents, grandparents and ancestors fought against what appeared to be insurmountable odds to abolish slavery, to end legalized segregation and Jim Crow and to secure voting rights, sacrificing their lives for the causes of freedom and justice. Our challenges today frankly pale in comparison. As we usher in a new term and a new era as a nation, let's take the time to reflect, rejuvenate ourselves and join together to continue the fight to preserve our freedoms and secure justice. I am confident that we will rise to the challenge.