Oakland Police Commission and Mayor Fire Chief Without Cause

Plus, illegal mailers and charter school backers.

In a stunning development last week, the Oakland Police Commission wielded its power to dismiss a sitting police chief. Police commissioners unanimously voted to fire Oakland Police Chief Anne Kirkpatrick without cause. Oakland Mayor Libby Schaaf concurred with their decision. The dismissal came three years after Kirkpatrick was hired by Schaaf in January 2017.

“The police commission is the community’s voice in our system of checks and balances, and I respect its authority and its role,” Schaaf said in a statement. “Tonight, the commissioners exercised their power. As mayor, it is my duty to determine when the trust between the police commission and the police chief has become irrevocably lost and prevents Oakland from moving forward.”

Interim assistant Chief of Police Darren Allison is now interim chief of police.

Members of the citizen-led police commission said that the pace of police reforms under Kirkpatrick’s leadership were too slow. A loss of trust between Kirkpatrick and the commission also was a determining factor in their decision.

“Since the commission’s inception, the commissioners, along with the rest of the citizens of the City of Oakland, observed the Oakland Police Department’s failure to increase compliance with the court-ordered reforms required under the Negotiated Settlement Agreement,” commission Chair Regina Jackson said, in a statement Thursday night.

“The commission’s vote reflects our desire to see the City of Oakland move ahead under new leadership,” she said. “The commission looks forward to working with Mayor Schaaf to identify a chief of police who will build trust in the community and address racial and gender disparities that continue to exist in the department and in our city.”

The abrupt move set off confusion at City Hall. Some Oakland councilmembers expressed surprise by the sudden firing. Councilmember Noel Gallo, who represents District 5, told reporters Friday morning that he was unaware of the impending move by the commission and mayor. “It’s no longer City Hall, it’s Silly Hall,” Gallo griped. The Oakland Police Officers Association also disagreed with the firing of Kirkpatrick.

Back in 2016, Oakland residents approved Measure LL, giving the extraordinary power of dismissing a chief of police to the newly formed commission. Support from five of the seven police commissioners is all that is needed to remove a chief of police with cause. But in the case of Kirkpatrick, who was fired without cause, her dismissal required the support of the mayor.

Kirkpatrick told the media on Monday that she is considering legal action against the city.

Dirty Tricks Enter Alameda County Supervisors Race

An unknown number of voters received a letter recently that strongly discouraged them from voting for Alameda County District 1 Board of Supervisor candidate Bob Wieckowski. Who sent the letter is unknown, a potential violation of the state election code, which requires political mailers included a “paid for” disclosure printed somewhere on the piece.

“Do not vote for Wieckowski,” the one-page letter declares in a large, bold font. “We need proper representation and we won’t get it from him, he has proven that.”

Additional text described the group behind the letter as being comprised of “local minorities, immigrants, as well as a number of small and medium business owners from all walks of life that provide excellent jobs and excellent subcontract work and a huge amount of local purchases.”

Exactly who is behind the letter, which voters received in a post-marked envelope, is a topic of great discussion in the Fremont half of the District 1 campaign to replace retiring Alameda County Supervisor Scott Haggerty.

At some point, every other candidate in the race — which includes Fremont Councilmember Vinnie Bacon, Dublin Mayor David Haubert, and Dublin Vice Mayor Melissa Hernandez — have been accused, although without any evidence.

The move underscores just how tight the District 1 primary is believed to be with just one week before the votes are counted on Mar. 3. It’s a race in which any of the four candidates could win the primary, and almost every permutation of two candidates advancing to a November runoff is possible.

Charter School PAC Is Dominating Alameda County Board of Education Races

Each of the five total candidates in a pair of Alameda County Board of Educations races on the March primary ballot have small to non-existent campaigns of their own. But voters in Alameda’s Area 2 and in Hayward’s Area 5 are seeing these races being fought in their mailboxes by way of tens of thousands of dollars worth of mailers paid for primarily by out-of-state charter school interests, and less so by local public teachers unions.

The flood of outside money is revealing yet another battle in the ongoing proxy war between public school supporters and charter school proponents. Although the amount spent by independent expenditure committees and unions is not extremely large, it is notable in relation to how little the candidates have raised and spent.

The bulk of the charter school support is coming from Jim and Alice Walton, heirs to the Walmart fortune. Together, they recently increased funding for a nationwide independent expenditure committee named Charter Public School PAC.

The PAC has spent equally for its two supported candidates, Alameda County Area 2 Board of Education Trustee Amber Childress and Janevette Cole, a challenger for the open seat in Area 5. For example, a $15,000 expenditure for Childress on Jan. 17 was followed by a $15,000 expenditure days later for Cole. Same for support from the Champion of Education PAC, a separate group that also supports charter schools. It spent $10,000 separately in support of Childress and Cole within days of each other in late January. Childress and Cole also benefited from a $20,000 contribution from Stacy Schusterman, a charter school advocate based in Tulsa, Okla. The two contributions amount for roughly two-thirds of both candidates’ total campaign largesse, according to finance reports filed on Feb. 20.

In addition, the PAC’s mailers strongly suggest some level of coordination with the bare-bones campaigns of Childress and Cole. Independent expenditures committees and political action committees may spend unlimited amounts of money for and against candidates and ballot measures, but it is illegal to coordinate their efforts with the campaigns. Charter Public Schools PAC produced a mailer earlier this month in support of Childress that showed the candidate leaping in the air with elementary school students. Later, a mailer from the same group in favor of Cole featured the candidate posing outside with the same elementary school students shown in Childress’ mailer. The evidence strongly suggests coordination between the PAC and the campaigns.

Although illegal if proven, such coordination is common in East Bay politics. Conversely, Childress tweeted and commented two weeks ago while attending a City of Alameda Democratic Club that her opponent, Angela Normand, walked into an endorsement meeting last month for the Alameda County Democratic Party with members of the Oakland Education Association, suggesting coordination between her opponent and the teachers union.

The Oakland union and its Alameda and Hayward counterparts, meanwhile, have struggled to keep up with the Walton PAC’s spending. The Oakland union has spent almost $20,000 in support of Normand, according to finance reports. Normand is a member of the California Teachers Association executive board. Alameda teachers have pitched in $3,052 for a mailer sent to voters two weeks ago, and the San Lorenzo teachers union contributed $3,000 to Normand’s campaign, even though the unincorporated area is not part of Area 2.

Four years ago, both the Oakland and Alameda teachers unions suffered defeat at the hands of Childress, who upset the incumbent Marlon McWilson, a strong public school advocate. The unions were later criticized for failing to react quickly and strong enough to the prospects that McWilson was in danger of losing his seat on the Board of Education. Yet McWilson harbors no hard feelings against Childress. He has endorsed her re-election.

In Other News …

Oakland’s McClymonds High School was closed after a toxic chemical was found in the groundwater under the school, Bay City News reported. Trichloroethylene has not been found in the school’s drinking water, and the air around the school did not show any signs of the cancer-causing compound, but testing will continue, the San Francisco Chronicle reported. Meanwhile, students are being assigned to other sites within the school district. …

Gov. Gavin Newsom declared fighting homelessness as the state’s top priority during his State of the State address, the Associated Press reported. The issue was the only one mentioned in Newsom’s remarks. … Sen. Bernie Sanders has jumped to a large lead in the California presidential primary, according to the latest polling, Bloomberg reported (the news organization, not the candidate). Sanders polled at 32 percent, followed by Joe Biden, Sen. Elizabeth Warren, and Pete Buttigieg, all bunched between 12 and 14 percent. … Uninsured Californians have a second chance at purchasing health insurance and, thereby, avoiding being assessed a pricey penalty, the Los Angeles Times reported. Uninsured residents now have until Mar. 31. …

The California Energy Commission approved new policies to restrict the installation of natural gas in new homes for nine Bay Area cities, including Berkeley, the Chronicle reported. … Berkeley Mayor Jesse Arreguin introduced the Tenant Opportunity to Purchase Act on Thursday. The proposed ordinance would give renters the right of first refusal to buy their homes in the event the owner puts the property on the market, the Chronicle reported. … Glenn Yasuda, the co-founder of the iconic Berkeley Bowl grocery store, died, Berkeleyside reported. He was 85. …

A’s pitcher Mike Fiers received death threats after revealing that the Houston Astros, his former team, engaged in an elaborate sign-stealing scheme, the Chron reported. … Finally, in a blow to San Leandro’s downtown scene, The Englander sports bar is closing this weekend, the East Bay Times reported. The building’s landlord refused to extend the pub’s lease.

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