THE OBSERVER CORPS REPORT
Welcome to a new feature from the League of Women Voters of Oakland (LWVO), the Observer Corps Report (did you just pronounce it like the Colbert Report? Excellent :)).
The goal of the League of Women Voters Observer Corps is to monitor local government and report our findings to the Action Committee, which uses the information to develop advocacy positions and plan for direct action. Members of the Observer Corps attend public council, commission, and committee meetings and submit reports.
In each installment of the Corps Report, we’ll summarize the previous months’ reports from Observers to help keep you in the loop about local government activities that may affect and/or interest you. If you’d like to join the Observer Corps, contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Observer Report Summary, February 2018
The following summaries are my interpretation of reports filed by the cited Observers. Any errors or misrepresentations are my own.
Alameda County Transportation Commission
The Executive Director of the commission reported in particular that the Bay Area Toll Agency (BATA) voted to put Regional Measure 3 on the state ballot this June. This article includes the press release: https://eastcountytoday.net/bay-area-toll-authority-set-to-vote-to-place-regional-measure-3-on-june-ballot/
The Chair of the Planning, Legislation, and Policy subcommittee reported that there have been significant staffing changes at the state level, including a new President Pro Tempore of the Senate, which may result in new chairs for the state transportation-related committees.
All members of the commission strongly oppose another item on the state ballot this June: Proposition 69 aka the SB1 repeal. SB1 was signed into law in 2017 and taxes gasoline and diesel fuel retail sales, transport, and storage, using the funds to repair roads, invest in transportation infrastructure, and improve public transit solutions. Proposition 69 aims to disallow the state to divert sales tax from diesel gas or automobile registration fees toward road repair and transportation projects.
Thanks to J. Coleman for their report.
Oakland Privacy Advisory Committee
A representative of the Oakland Police Department presented a report (required annually by the city) on their usage of Cellular Site Simulation technology, also known as Stingray (more information available here: https://www.eff.org/pages/cell-site-simulatorsimsi-catchers). According to the report, OPD used this technology three times during 2017, each time with the goal of making an arrest in a murder or attempted murder case. In two of the three cases, the suspect was not located.
The OPD also presented information on a voluntary registry of private surveillance cameras. More information about this program is available here: http://www2.oaklandnet.com/government/o/OPD/s/cameraregistry
Thanks to G. Katz for their report.
Oakland Public Ethics Commission
The Executive Director’s office reported on recent prosecution of violations of campaign finance laws, including violations of the Sunshine Ordinance: legislation designed to provide the public with greater opportunities to access city government meetings and information.
Multiple commissioners questioned the report, in particular the length of time it takes to prosecute these violations (in this particular report, one case involving records requested from the Oakland Police Department by a reporter took over 3 years to complete). The staff member indicated the following information in the report:
“Staff continues to prioritize cases based on the following priority factors: 1) the extent of Commission authority to issue penalties, 2) the impact of a Commission decision, 3) public interest, timing, and relevancy, and 4) Commission resources. As a result, investigations into allegations of violations of the Government Ethics Act and the Campaign Reform Act, for which the Commission has its greatest penalty authority, are prioritized ahead of all others. Sunshine-related complaints, for which the Commission has no penalty authority, take last priority behind complaints related to the Oakland Campaign Reform Act, the Government Ethics Act, and the Lobbyist Registration Act.”
The Campaign Finance subcommittee reported that it is in the process of gathering public comment and sentiment around barriers to running for office, how Oakland feels about public financing of elections and how Oakland currently implements it. They are planning to release a report of their findings in Q3 and deliver draft legislation in September.
Thanks to me for my report ;).
Oakland Life Enrichment Committee
This meeting included several public speakers expressing frustration and anger at the slow and non-inclusive process toward implementation of the newly-approved Department of Violence Prevention, to be funded from Measure Z (http://www2.oaklandnet.com/OAK048054).
The public speakers noted that there is no community presence on the 9 member Public Safety and Services Oversight Commission that presently oversees Measure Z implementation, citing in particular the exclusion of the community coalition in appointing an interim director and strategic discussion. Another speaker objected to 60% of Measure Z funds allocated to police programs “when all they do is show up when murder is committed.”
The City Administrator is in the process of creating the RFP for Chief and Deputy Chief positions. Position classification and salary ordinance amendment due for approval end of March. Search, recruitment and hiring expected to take 6–9 months to include community and stakeholder input for job announcement and evaluation process. In addition, a resolution to execute a professional service agreement with a locally-based and nationally-recognized non-profit organization at a cost of $300,000 is delayed for 30 days until a report that updates and refines the consultant position is presented.
Thanks to K. McLennan for their report.
Oakland Police Commission
As part of the public comment segment of the meeting, citizen Paula Hawthorn presented a report on the Negotiated Settlement Agreement, a list of 51 tasks the OPD must come into compliance with in the judgement of a court-appointed Monitor as part of the settlement of the “Allen v. City of Oakland” civil rights lawsuit, also referred-to as the prosecution of the “Oakland Riders”, OPD officers who were alleged to have kidnapped, planted evidence, and beaten citizens.
Hawthorn’s report (http://www2.oaklandnet.com/oakca1/groups/cityadministrator/documents/agenda/oak069236.pdf) focuses on the inefficiencies and costs ($300M and climbing) of the ongoing review of compliance concerns, citing greed (and an associated lack of incentive to accelerate the process) on the part of the appointed monitoring group, their incompetence, and the difficulty of achieving a goal when it is not well-defined. Recommended reading for background and links to other resources.
Chief of Police Kirkpatrick presented and responded to commissioner questions about OPD’s involvement in recent ICE raids in Oakland, in particular a raid ostensibly to capture human traffickers during which an immigrant was arrested who was not involved in the trafficking operation.
OPD Deputy Director Gleason reported on improvements to the Performance Reporting Information Metrics Environment (PRIME), a technical solution intended to track officer misconduct (and make progress toward fulfilment of the Negotiated Settlement Agreement). The system is meant to track evidence of racial profiling, the frequency with which officers use weapons like tear gas and firearms, whether they get involved dangerous situations like high speed chases and auto accidents, and other factors. The commissioners asked questions about access to footage and other data, and whether the Community Police Review Agency (CPRA) has access to the data.
Much time was also spent on discussion of logistics (the meeting ran over 3.5 hours!) around whether the commission should change the night of the week that it meets in order to accommodate constituent desire for the public video stream (which is in use by the City Planning Commission’s meeting on the currently-scheduled night of the week). The constraint involved a temporary scheduling conflict for one of the commissioner alternates who is teaching a class on the proposed new night). The commission voted to move to a new night.
Thanks to T. G. for their report.
Check back next month for summaries of Observer reports from March.
Further Reading: Official agendas and minutes for all city government meetings are available on the relevant committee/commission/council page listed on the left at http://www2.oaklandnet.com/government/o/CityAdministration
Some meetings are broadcast via public access cable and the recordings are made available in the same location as the associated meeting documentation.