Social Justice Issues Briefing for Oakland Elected Officials

By Shanthi Gonzales, Leadership Development Director

On December 15th, 2016, Oakland Rising hosted our first ever Issues and Policy Briefing for all elected officials in the county whose districts touch Oakland. We had participation from most of the elected offices in Alameda County: Oakland City Council, the Alameda County Board of Supervisors, the Alameda County Sheriff's Office, Oakland Unified School District Board, East Bay Municipal Utilities District, AC Transit, BART, the Alameda County Office of Education, the East Bay Regional Parks District and the California State Senate.

We discussed priorities related to protecting the civil and human rights of immigrant, Muslim and other communities of Oakland as a result of the presidential election, and also our priorities for the coming year in the areas of immigration, housing, development and jobs, environmental justice, policing and criminal justice and education.

It was a great chance to talk with elected officials about what it looks like to work in true partnership on the issues facing Oakland, and to build new relationships with people we haven't worked closely with before.

There was a lively discussion between the Alameda County Sheriff's office and Mujeres Unidas y Activas (MUA) about the role of the Sheriff's office partnering with Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) to detain undocumented workers prior to deportation. Lourdes Martinez from MUA talked about the racial profiling that goes into decisions about who is targeted for stops by the Sheriff's office. While Central and South American immigrants are only 40% of the immigrants in Alameda County, they make up over 95% of those detained by the Sheriff's office, and immigrants do not have a right to representation the way that criminal defendants do in the US. The immigrants who get representation are 5x more likely to successfully challenge deportation than those who defend themselves, but 68% of immigrants are forced to defend themselves.

EBASE shared that Oakland rents are the 4th highest in the country, at $2400/month on average, and that someone earning the Oakland minimum wage of $12.86/hour would need to have three full-time jobs or work 130 hours/week in order to afford the median rent.

The presentation from Parent Voices' Executive Director, Clarissa Doutherd, brought to light the steep cost of child care in Alameda County - $12,700/year for infants and $10,400/year for preschool-aged children. It is no wonder that many families choose instead to have someone stay home with a child. One of the key problems with child care is that many families need affordable child care in order to be able to work, but if families on public assistance become employed, they often lose their child care subsidies because the allowable income threshold is so low.

The issue briefing provided an important step in ensuring that our elected officials are aware of the work and 2017 priorities of Oakland Rising and our collaborative partners. And it allowed us to convey what we expect from our elected officials in regards to actualizing these priorities. In the age of Donald Trump as President of the United States, it is going to be imperative that left-leaning cities like Oakland play a leading role in advancing progressive policy and pushing back on the federal government.

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