Oakland City Hall
Oakland City Hall Credit: Amir Aziz

The City Council has a packed agenda for its meeting tomorrow at noon, which includes approving contracts with all of the city’s labor groups. Here are some of the items before council: 

MACRO rollout: The council will hear a report on the progress of the city’s pilot community response program, known as the Mobile Assistance Community Responders of Oakland or MACRO. Designed to have civilian workers respond to non-violent, non-emergency 911 calls instead of Oakland police, MACRO staff have responded to more than 2,000 calls since the start of the program on April 16, according to a city report. Most of those calls have been wellness checks, which are usually conducted at people’s homes, and requests to check on individuals found sleeping or unconscious in public areas. But other call categories include behavior health concerns, panhandling, and indecent exposure. With a staff of 18 responders, MACRO is expanding its coverage area and hours of operation to include a swing shift beginning this month. The city is also finalizing the training of dispatchers in anticipation of soon transferring non-violent 911 calls from police to MACRO and the fire department.  

Police staffing: Because of higher-than-normal attrition and retirement rates, the number of sworn police officers in Oakland has teetered on and, at times, dropped below 678 officers. That number is important because if there are fewer than 678 officers, the city is at risk of no longer collecting tax money from a 2014 ballot measure that helps fund police, fire, and other public safety programs. One way to avoid losing those tax dollars is for the city to come up with an OPD hiring plan, which council is set to discuss and possibly approve on Tuesday. 

Mills College merger: Councilmembers Rebecca Kaplan and Sheng Thao are calling for an independent investigation of the merger between Oakland’s Mills College and Northeastern University. Citing financial problems and declining enrollment, the 170-year-old private women’s university announced in 2021 the college would stop enrolling new undergraduate students by the fall of that year, which drew outcries from students and community members. The last degrees were to be awarded in 2023. But then the university announced it would be merging with Northeastern to allow Mills to continue educating students on its Oakland campus, as a co-ed university. Kaplan and Thao want the state Bureau of Private and Post-secondary Education and the U.S. Department of Education to open an investigation into the circumstances of the merger. 

East 12th Street project: After dropping plans for a market-rate housing tower, a city-owned plot of land on E. 12th Street near Lake Merritt is set to become two low-income apartment buildings. The council will vote on two resolutions to provide 100% affordable housing with East Bay Asian Local Development Corporation and Satellite Affordable Housing Associates. 

Redlining: Councilmembers will receive a report on how formerly redlined neighborhoods in West Oakland’s District 3 were impacted by the building the old Cypress Freeway, the 7th Street post office, and West Oakland BART station, as well as an analysis of displacement through eminent domain and depreciated property value and gentrification. 

Settlement with former councilmember: The council is expected to approve paying $360,000 to former councilmember Wilson Riles Jr. to settle a lawsuit Riles filed against the city and Oakland police officers. Riles, who served on the City Council from 1979 to 1992, was at City Hall in 2019 pleading his case to set up a sweat lodge at his 39th Avenue property for religious reasons when city planning staff called police. According to the lawsuit, Riles suffered injuries after officers threw him facedown on the floor during the incident. He also alleged two planning staff members directed “racist and inflammatory remarks” at him. Riles was arrested on suspicion of battering a police officer but prosecutors never filed charges. 

Zoo tax: The council is voting to place a parcel tax on the Nov. 8 general election ballot to help fund operations at the Oakland Zoo. The initiative is subject to the county certifying that enough signatures were gathered to qualify for the ballot. The annual parcel tax rate would be $68 per residential unit. 

Dr. Huey P. Newton Foundation lease agreement: Under a resolution before the council, the foundation would enter into a month-to-month lease agreement to occupy space at the city-owned Lionel J. Wilson Building near City Hall. The foundation would pay up to $4,167 a month in rent and serve as a community hub dedicated to preserving history and advancing culture, according to a summary of the agenda item. 

The agenda for the noon meeting can be found here. And here’s a helpful guide to watching and speaking at council meetings

David DeBolt reported on City Hall and policing for The Oaklandside. He spent 12 years working for daily newspapers in the Bay Area, including on the Peninsula and Solano County. He joined the Bay Area News Group in 2012 where he covered a variety of beats, most recently as a senior breaking news reporter. During his time at BANG, DeBolt covered Oakland City Hall, the Raiders stadium saga and the A’s search for a new ballpark, as well as the Oakland Police Department and police reform efforts. He was part of the East Bay Times staff honored with the Pulitzer Prize in Breaking News for coverage of the Ghost Ship warehouse fire.