Legally Speaking With Pamela Price

Pamela Y. Price, Attorney at Law

Tag: Libby Schaaf

The Political Power of Incumbency

The Political Power of Incumbency

Oakland Mayor Libby Schaaf

Why is it so difficult to defeat an incumbent politician? Because the incumbent:

(a)  has more money so she can buy a campaign,

(b) is automatically endorsed and supported by the party machine,

(c) is usually endorsed and supported by the mainstream media, and

(d) is usually able to convince people that she will do better in her next term fixing the things she ignored in her last term.

Oakland’s Women In Power

Of the 10 largest cities in California, Oakland has the highest percentage of women serving on the City Council.  Yet, Mayor Libby Schaaf clearly lacks a commitment to maintaining female leadership on the Council. In the 2018 general election, all of Mayor Schaaf’s first rank choices for City Council were men. Schaaf’s consistent vocal attacks on two of the strong women on the Council – Rebecca Kaplan and Desley Brooks – are legendary. With the defeat of Councilwoman Brooks by one of the three Schaaf-backed candidates, there is only one Black woman on the Council.

Fortunately, the defeat of  Mayor Schaaf’s major ally on the Council – Councilmember Abel Guillen – by community-backed challenger Nikki Fortunato Bas maintains the same number of women on the Council.

Desley Brooks Is the Exception to the Rule

Despite Desley Brooks’ defeat in this election, the power of incumbency generally rules the day. In 2016, despite a ballooning housing crisis and horrifying episodic accounts of police misconduct, all five (5) incumbent Councilmembers were re-elected.

Councilmember Larry Reid was first elected to the City Council in 1996. He has held the seat for 21 years.  He has served as the Chair of the Alameda County Transportation Commission and President of the Joint Powers Authority overseeing the Oakland Coliseum. Under his stewardship, East Oakland is facing an economic crisis fueled by the loss of both the Warriors and the Raiders. Indeed, East Oakland is trapped in a morass of potholes, illegal dumping and economic stagnation. The prolonged construction of the BRT line through the heart of East Oakland has accelerated displacement of longtime residents and destroyed small businesses.

Of course, Reid and District 4 Supervisor Nate Miley both endorsed and supported Mayor Schaaf’s re-election. Why not – look at how much she has done for East Oakland!

Incumbents Are the Rule

Sept. 9, 2016. (AP Photo/Terry Chea)

In 2018, all of the incumbent Board of Supervisors supported District Attorney Nancy O’Malley’s re-election. They helped her in spite of her horrible record of racial bias and unwavering support for police murders and misconduct.

O’Malley was also endorsed and aided by the Alameda County Democratic Party. Yet, her policies, practices and allegiances are clearly against our democratic values.

Look at our political structure in Alameda County.  Most of the Board of Supervisors are long-term incumbents:

Keith Carson    Elected 1992 – 26 years in position

Scott Haggerty Elected 1996 – 22 years in position

Nate Miley  Elected 2000 – 18 years in position

Wilma Chan  Elected 1994 – 2000, 2010 -present – 14 years in position

Richard Valle  Elected 2012 – 6 years in position

Women are the majority in Alameda County but we only have 1 woman on our Board of Supervisors. By comparison, both Contra Costa and San Francisco have a female majority on the County Board of Supervisors.

In Alameda County, as in most places, the power of incumbency “trumps” any commitment to your constituents. It often compels you to support the status quo without regard to the needs of the community. If you are in the boat, you do not want to be the one to rock the boat. So you sit silently by, even when the boat repeatedly crashes against the hard rocks of the shore.

Too many of our elected incumbents sit by silently while lives are lost, families are destroyed and communities are displaced. Because you see, their elections do not rest on the power of the people – their elections are assured by the power of incumbency.

Stop The Violence Now

A Department of Violence Prevention in Oakland

On Tuesday, May 16, 2017, starting at 5:30 p.m. the Oakland City Council will decide a question of urgent priority. The question is whether to establish a Department of Violence Prevention (DVP).

Or whether to accept Mayor Libby Schaaf‘s goal to reduce violent crime by a mere 10% using the same old failed methods. A coalition of community groups along with Councilmembers Lynette McElhaney, Larry Reid and Rebecca Kaplan are calling for people to show up at the Oakland City Council meeting. If you cannot make the meeting, you should contact Councilmembers Dan Kalb, Abel Guillen, Annie Campbell, Noel Gallo and Desley Brooks.

Why This, Why Now?

It’s 1999.  I’m standing in front of City Hall with my two young grandsons. Both of them are still in elementary school. We are part of the Acts Full Gospel Church‘s weekly rallies against gun violence in Oakland. The faith community wants the killings in Oakland to stop. We want City Hall to take action to stop the violence in Oakland.

In 2001-2002, there is a rash of killings of young Black men in a part of Oakland known as “Ghost Town.” I sue the City on behalf of the family of 21-year-old Chance Grundy. A man murdered Chance because Chance witnessed a murder and cooperated with the police. The police let it be known that Chance was a cooperating witness. The murderer let it be known that he wanted Chance to “sleep with the fishes.” We lose the case. It turns out that (in real life, not like in the movies) the police have no duty to protect witnesses even when they know the witness is in danger.

Fast forward to January 11, 2013.  My friend Brenda Harbin‘s beloved grandson, Ken Harbin, Jr. is shot and killed. Four people are killed that day in Oakland. In the wake of Ken’s murder, we stand on street corners with Soldiers Against Violence Everywhere (S.A.V.E.). Once again, we ask the City to take action to stop the violence in Oakland.

Every grandmother and mother’s nightmare, the loss of a beloved child.  A dream struck down and unfulfilled by a senseless act of violence.

America’s Gun Violence Problem

America’s “gun culture” is totally unique. We own way more guns privately than other countries, and we have the highest gun ownership per capita rate in the world. Gun violence has long been deemed a public health crisis. A March 2016 study in the American Journal of Medicine found that 90% of all women, 91% of children under 14 , 92% of youth aged 15 to 24 years, and 82% of all people killed by firearms in the world were from the United States.

In 2010, the number of homicides by guns in the U.S. was at least 9,960. The Centers for Disease Control reported 11,078 firearm-related homicides that year. By comparison, there were only 173 gun homicides in Canada, 155 in the United Kingdom, 158 in Germany and 142 in France. Sweden had only 30 homicides by gun. Japan had only 11 people killed with guns.

Credit: Ma’ayan Rosenzweig/ABC News

Currently, the U.S. is ranked 4th out of 34 developed nations for the incidence of homicides committed with a firearm.  A young man here aged 15–24 is 70 times more likely to be killed with a gun than his counterpart in the eight largest industrialized nations in the world. These include the United Kingdom, France, Germany, Japan, Canada, Italy and Russia.

In 2015, there were 372 mass shootings and 33,636 deaths due to firearms in the U.S. That same year, guns were used to kill only about 50 people in the U.K. More people are killed with guns in the U.S. in a day (about 85) than in the U.K. in a year.

The Race-Based Rationale for Guns

Efforts to control guns in America have stumbled on the “right to bear arms” clause in the Second Amendment to the Constitution. What is often overlooked is the history of the Second Amendment. It was added as a compromise to protect the slave patrols in the South. The Founders knew the militias were necessary to keep the slaves under control. The Supreme Court has interpreted and protected the Second Amendment regardless of the consequences.

In 2002, Michael Moore wrote, produced, directed and narrated Bowling for Columbine.  The film highlighted the racist underpinnings of the Second Amendment. However, the Film’s main point, that our violent crime rate is substantially higher than other nations, seems to have been lost over time.

Support the Department of Violence Prevention

Gun violence in Oakland has remained steady.  In 1999, the County Board of Supervisors passed a strong gun control law. The Board reacted to a “rash of gun-related violence” in Alameda County. The Board found that “gunshot fatalities are of epidemic proportions in Alameda County.” That law was immediately attacked based on Supreme Court decisions. While the case was pending, the County retreated and announced that gun shows would be allowed on County property.

Our Mayor opposes the proposal to create a Department of Violence Prevention (DVP). We need to support the goal to reduce homicides by 80% and achieve an 80% clearance rate within 3 years. The Mayor wants to increase funding for law enforcement,  but “budgets are statements of priorities.” Our priority has to be to reduce gun violence, domestic violence and commercial sexual exploitation of our children.

We need the DVP. Let’s make 2017 the year that we cure the disease of preventable violence and death in Oakland. We cannot expect different results by doing the same thing over and over again.

A Few Good Men

A Few Good Men

few-good-men-movie

One of my favorite movies is “A Few Good Men.” I love the iconic scene where Jack Nicholson screams at young lawyer Tom Cruisecolonel-jessup-quote

 

 

The Truth About the Oakland Police Department

This past week, Oakland was rocked with details of two “cover-up” claims by OPD supervisors and City officials.  Homicide Detective Sgt. Mike Gantt alleges that top police officials and city leaders, including Mayor Libby Schaff, retaliated against him because he tried to investigate the death of Irma Huerta-Lopez.  Gantt believes, along with many others, that OPD Officer Brendan O’Brien murdered Huerta-Lopez.

Irma Huerta-Lopez was the wife of disgraced OPD officer Brendan O’Brien.  She was found dead in their home in June 2014 under suspicious circumstances. Her family alleges that O’Brien killed her and OPD covered it up.  O’Brien killed himself in September 2015.  He left a note about his sexual exploitation of a minor (my former client Jasmine).  OPD covered up the note and the police sexual abuse ring for 9 months.  KRON 4’s Haaziq Madyun blew the case open in May 2016.  O’Brien was never arrested or charged for his wife’s death.

The second case filed in federal court this week details OPD’s cover up of criminal conduct by another officer.  Olga and Nemesio Cortez are suing the City because they were attacked by a drunken OPD officer in their home in December 2015.

The rookie officer, Cullen Faeth, is the son of OPD Sgt. David Faeth.  The lawsuit alleges that hours after the attack OPD officers and supervisors paid 2 midnight visits to the Cortez family trying to confuse and dissuade them from filing charges.  The lawsuit alleges that OPD officers tried to manipulate an eyewitness to the attack to misidentify a second suspect who flashed a gun at Mrs. Cortez.  The Cortez believe the second suspect was actually Sgt. Joseph Turner pictured here.opd-sgt-turner

The lawsuit alleges that the Cortez family found out that their assailants were OPD officers weeks after the attack.  Neither OPD or the District Attorney’s office shared that information with them initially.  Ironically, Mrs. Cortez is an Alameda County probation officer.

The Code of Silence

Every organization has a culture, a set of informal rules and understandings.  Not written down.  Not discussed openly often.  Particularly police.  Like the code of silence, for instance.  It is not written anywhere that you should look the other way when you see a fellow officer engaging in a crime, but we know that it happens.  It is not written anywhere that you should withhold evidence of a crime when the perpetrator is a law enforcement officer, but we know that it happens.

It is not written anywhere that you should l-i-e in a deposition and say “I don’t recall” when you saw and heard a fellow officer break the law, but we know that it happens.  It is not written anywhere that every person who flunks “the attitude test” when dealing with the police should be charged with “resisting arrest” and “assaulting a police officer” but we know that it happens.

Every police department is vulnerable to the abuse of power.  Police exploiting women for sex and law enforcement officials covering it up is not new in the Bay Area.  Police and public officials covering up criminal conduct by police officers is not new in Oakland.  We  know that “the only thing necessary for the triumph of evil is for good men to do nothing.” (Edmund Burke)

A citizen asked me recently, if the police are doing the crime, who should we call to come protect and serve us?  I told her, in Oakland, you have to protect yourself.

einstein-evil

The question for OPD is do you have “a few good men?”  The question for us as a community is “can we handle the truth?”  I hope we pass Measure LL on Tuesday.  It’s a good step in the right direction of our search for truth.

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