Author Archives: Make Oakland Better Now!

The Fair Chance Housing Ordinance Goes Before Council Tonight

At tonight’s meeting, starting at 5:00 p.m., City Council will be considering the Fair Chance Housing Ordinance, supported last week unanimously at a Special Community and Economic Development Committee meeting, and on the Consent Calendar for tonight’s agenda. Make Oakland Better Now! long ago agreed to support this measure, modeled after the Fair Chance Act, which went into effect on January 1, 2018, a California law that generally prohibits employers with five or more employees from asking about a conviction history before making an offer.

This type of law, also known as a “Ban the Box” law, would be applied to housing, and remove some barriers for formerly incarcerated individuals to access housing.

Here, we share an in-depth interview published on the Chan Zuckerberg Initiative website from May 2019 with one of the leaders, Make Oakland Better Now! Committee of 50 member John Jones III.

Make Oakland Better Now! Endorses Measure Q

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On March 3, vote YES on Measure Q.
Join the
campaign at its kickoff event this Saturday.

Measure Q is a March 3 ballot tax measure, designed to generate revenue to be used for city parks improvement, homelessness services and clean water. The Make Oakland Better Now! board has voted to endorse it, and urges Oaklanders to support it. We join a wide coalition in support of this measure. Among other organizations, it is supported by the Oakland Chamber of Commerce, Sierra Club, SF Bay Chapter, League of Women Voters of Oakland, Outdoor Afro and Oakland Tenants Union. Continue reading

Oakland City Council’s Parcel Tax to Improve Funding for City Parks, Litter Reduction, and Homelessness Support

(image source: Oakland Homeless Response)

On November 14, Oakland’s City Council passed a resolution to submit a parcel tax to voters on the March 3, 2020 primary ballot.  The amount of the tax will vary depending on forms and usage of real property, but residential property would be taxed at rates of $148 per single-family residential parcel and $101.08 per residential unit for multiple residential parcels with a 50% reduction for affordable housing projects, and for non-residential units, a rate based on frontage, square footage and building area. (Read the Chronicle’s recent article on the parcel tax here, and East Bay Express’ coverage here.) Continue reading

Meet Guillermo Cespedes, Oakland’s New Chief of Violence Prevention


For several years now, Make Oakland Better Now! has urged elected officials to adopt and implement a comprehensive public safety plan, involving coordinated activities from every city department – from police to parks and recreation and more – playing a role in violent crime prevention.

In 2013 the City’s police consultant, Robert Wasserman, argued for this in a report titled, “Zeroing Out Crime.” Mr. Wasserman wrote, “Every agency must see itself as part of the crime solution and coordinate initiatives.” He urged regular meetings of heads of every department with any responsibility for crime reduction.

While some of Oakland’s elected officials have agreed, they have not been able to coordinate adoption or implementation of such a policy.

A new City leader is taking up the work of making this finally happen, and we are hopeful. In October, three of our board members were pleased to meet with Guillermo Cespedes, the first Chief of Oakland’s new Violence Prevention Department, who assumed that position on September 23. He said at the start of his tenure, “I am honored and very excited to return to Oakland to join professional colleagues, community advocates and elected officials in building a balanced comprehensive violence prevention strategy.” Continue reading

Ten Questions for Darlene Flynn, Oakland’s Director of Race & Equity

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In 2016, Oakland formed its Department of Race & Equity, and recruited Darlene Flynn as its Director. Last month, Carrie Crespo-Dixon, one of Make Oakland Better Now!’s board members, sat down with Ms. Flynn to talk about taking on the unprecedented role of leading this department. Continue reading

Visit Make Oakland Better Now! at the Art + Soul Festival

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The annual Art + Soul Festival is this Saturday and Sunday from noon to 6:00 p.m. in downtown Oakland. It’s a really exciting weekend featuring local organizations, artists, food and musicians. This year’s lineup includes Fantastic Negrito, Kev Choice, Jennifer Johns, Estelle, West Coast Blues Society, Oaktown Jazz Workshop, and a special tribute to the tragically departed drummer Victor McElhaney. The weekend is a don’t-miss event.

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Make Oakland Better Now! will have a table there all weekend. We’ll be at booth 267 (on Clay Street by City Center). Come visit us! Board members will be there ready to talk to people about our organization’s history, advocacy positions, and future. We’ll have hand-outs telling newcomers about MOBN!

We’ll also be doing some fundraising for the projects we have lined up, so we hope to see you there. If you can’t make it, you can still donate here by clicking the “Donate” button below. Thanks for your support and we’re so excited to celebrate with The Town.


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What’s in the New “Oakland Together” Budget?


(This is a post in our Budget Bits series, following Oakland’s mid-cycle budget policy and process. Read our previous updates: post one, two, three, and four.)

On June 24th, the City Council unanimously adopted its two-year, $3.29 billion budget. (The full budget document can be read here.) The final adoption reflected a combination of the Mayor’s Proposed Budget and augmented by $44.4 million in amendments proposed in the “Oakland Together Proposal,” which was a combination of amendments by numerous council Members. The Mayor’s Proposed Budget included the funding needed to continue many necessary city services and required funding for continuing obligations such as bond payments, retirement and healthcare. The Council amendments added increased services in a number of critical areas. 

Make Oakland Better Now! believes that many of the service issues presented in both the Mayor’s proposed budget and in the adopted budget are critical. However, in the Adopted Budget, the Council took little action to significantly pay down our City’s long-term unfunded liabilities of $2.7 billion nor did it significantly increase the protections in the Rainy-Day Fund. Oakland also has unfunded Capital projects of $2 billion.

We are now in longest positive economic surge since WWII. However, there have been numerous indications that economic conditions may change during the period of this two-year budget. How will Oakland respond? Continue reading