Kaplan Wants Clarification on Who Can Investigate Police Commission

Plus, council president floats idea to house homeless on cruise ship. The United States Supreme Court prefers sidewalks.

Oakland City Council President Rebecca Kaplan said she will offer an ordinance after the holiday recess seeking to clarify whether the city administration, mayor, or even police chief can initiate investigations against sitting members of the citizen-led Oakland Police Commission.

The announcement made a during a council public safety committee meeting earlier this month follows a news report that Oakland Police Chief Anne Kirkpatrick had notified several people at City Hall, including Mayor Libby Schaaf, that Oakland Police Commissioner Ginale Harris had been involved in a private dispute at her child’s school in San Francisco.

A police report on the incident was later leaked to the Oakland Internal Affairs Division, according to the San Francisco Chronicle. Kirkpatrick then passed on the information to Schaaf, the city administration, and Police Commissioner Regina Jackson.

Kaplan will bring the issue back to the Public Safety Committee during its first meeting in January to clarify the process for oversight of the Police Commission. Kaplan, however, contends “there is not power of the police chief or the administrator to investigate police commissioners.”

In the past, Harris has been a vocal critic of the Oakland Police Department. During the Public Safety meeting on Dec. 3, Harris told councilmembers that her criticism has made her a target of OPD and City Hall.

She described being “viciously attacked” by Oakland’s elected leaders and police department “for standing up for what is right. For bringing things to light. They’re uncomfortable — yes — but that’s my job as a police commissioner,” Harris said. “This leadership body has created a hostile environment for me and I don’t even get paid to do this job.”

Jackson, who chairs the Police Commission, believes Harris is the victim of smear campaign by some city officials to discredit her criticism against OPD. “This treatment is because she’s a whistleblower,” Jackson said. “She just says it out loud. She’s not going to stop. We’re not going to stop. But this is an effort to smear her, to embarrass her, to put her business in the street.”

Maureen Benson, a former member of the Police Commission, who resigned last February in protest of City Hall and OPD’s meddling in the formation of the oversight group, said the council needs to better protect commissioners. “The citizens of Oakland are not going to believe this a safe commission to serve on if we don’t put protections in place for different citizens,” Benson said.

Not Everyone on Board
With Homeless Cruise Ship

Oakland City Council President Rebecca Kaplan made national news this week after several media outlets reported on her idea to temporarily house the city’s homeless on a cruise ship. “It is a human catastrophe,” Kaplan told USA Today. “It has to be all hands on deck.”

The homeless crisis continues to be the Bay Area’s most pressing problem. The number of homeless individuals continues to increase in Oakland where encampments on city streets are commonplace.

Kaplan said several cruise ship companies quickly offered to help with her proposal — some offering ships that could house about 1,000 people.

The Port of Oakland, which would have oversight for such cruise ship docked within its jurisdiction, however, is cool to Kaplan’s idea. Suitable infrastructure for a cruise ship does not exist at the port. In addition, residential housing would be prohibitive at the port due to safety and security reasons.

In Other News …

Oakland apartment rents are now the second-priciest in the Bay Area, after San Francisco, The Mercury News reported. Rents for a unit in Oakland increased by 5.1 percent this year. … The Berkeley City Council approved a Memorandum of Understanding with BART for the construction of housing at the North Berkeley and Ashby stations, Berkeleyside reported. …

An audit by the California Public Utilities Commission found that PG&E redirected $123 million over a nearly a decade from a program to move power lines underground to other projects, the San Francisco Chronicle reported. … Gov. Gavin Newsom rejected PG&E’s $13.5 billion settlement with wildfire victims on Friday. … A number of Bay Area Fortune 500 companies paid no federal income taxes in 2018, according to a report issued by the Institute on Taxation and Economic Policy, SFGate reported. …

The U.S. Supreme Court let stand a lower court’s ruling that allows homeless individuals to sleep on sidewalks if shelter space is unavailable, NPR reported. … An express lane is coming to a large portion of Interstate 880 in the East Bay, NBC Bay Area reported. The lanes may open by the end of next summer and stretch southbound from Hegenberger Road in Oakland to Milpitas, and northbound from Milpitas to Lewelling Boulevard in San Leandro. … The California Air Resources Board may require that a small percentage of new truck sales be electric or zero-emission vehicles, the Associated Press reported. …

Kaiser Permanente named Greg Adams as its next chairman and chief executive officer, the San Francisco Chronicle reported. Adams served previous as the interim after the unexpected death last month of CEO Bernard Tyson. … Covered California, the state’s health insurance exchange, is experiencing a 16 percent increase in the number of people purchasing health plans, the Associated Press reported. Part of the reason is the state is helping to further subsidize lower income residents, but also because those who don’t have insurance will be taxed starting next year. … Berkeleyside, the Berkeley local news website, is making a foray into Oakland. Through grants from the Google News Initiative and the American Journalism Project, its founders said they will launch a news site for Oakland next spring. … After a one-month delay, crab season opened on Sunday, SFGate reported. …

Raiders fans reacted angrily, booing quarterback Derek Carr and throwing food in the endzone, after the team lost its last-ever game at Oakland Coliseum. Of course, they did this once before. … Club BNB, the LGBTQ dance club on Franklin Street in Oakland, is closing next month, SFGate reported. Shared tech offices will reportedly replace the club.

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