OAKLAND CITY COUNCIL//FORECLOSURES | The Oakland City Council again squabbled and ultimately scheduled competing resolutions supporting Richmond’s out of the box anti-foreclosure proposal for later this month, but not before Councilmember Dan Kalb flashed anger for the first time and Larry Reid finally showed up for work.
A resolution first offered by Councilmember Desley Brooks in two separate Rules Committee meetings last month was rescheduled for Nov. 19 following a motion by Kalb who said he still needed time to understand the intricacies of Richmond’s controversial plan to aid owners of underwater mortgages.
Brooks said it was “disingenuous” for Kalb to say he needs more time to make a determination on the resolution. “When are you going to start to read and understand it?” she told him.
Kalb responded it was not his intention to shoot down Brooks’ resolution, although he noted the votes Tuesday evening for approval were not there. “I’m keeping this alive so it can pass. So, don’t call me disingenuous. You are mistaken,” he forcefully told Brooks.
While the impetus of the Oakland City Council’s infamous lack of comity is often personal and ideological, Tuesday’s arguments were rooted in a legal council procedure allowing a workaround by Brooks to finally get the Richmond foreclosure resolution on the council’s agenda. Council President Pat Kernighan referenced the maneuvering, saying, “The reason you are hearing discord because this item never went to committee.”
In fact, during a Rules Committee meeting last month, Brooks parried with Councilmember Libby Schaaf over the foreclosure issue and the presence of a similar resolution offered by Councilmember Rebecca Kaplan. Although Brooks decided to hold off on scheduling her resolution, the Rules Committee scheduled Kaplan’s version for a Community and Economic Development Committee on Nov. 12.
In the meantime, Brooks added Councilmembers Noel Gallo and Reid to her resolution in order to trigger Tuesday’s early special meeting of the council. Incidentally, Tuesday’s meeting was one of Reid’s first public appearances since the end of July. Reid’s office said a chronic back problem had caused the councilman to miss so many meetings recently. He was seen grimacing before Tuesday’s meeting and aided by a cane.
While Kaplan’s resolution seeks staff and legal opinions, Brooks maintained hers is intended to register the council’s support for Richmond’s effort in stemming foreclosure in its city and to seek information on Oakland’s own foreclosure situation. “Nothing less, nothing more,” said Brooks.
However, over 25 speakers repeatedly slashed away at the corporate malfeasance of banks over the past decade. Jose Vega, one of many speakers representing the Alliance of Californians for Community Empowerment (ACCE) said, “We would not be having this conversation if the banks would have been playing fair and square.”
Kevin Stein, an associate director of the California Reinvestment Coalition, which has worked closely with the Richmond City Council on its plan to help struggling mortgage holders said, “We’re here because too many people are losing their homes.” He added, as soon as Richmond broached the subject earlier this year, banks and their surrogates moved to punish the city’s treasury by effectively redlining the community. The pressure dissuaded Wall Street from purchasing some of Richmond’s municipal bonds.
Some council members also brandished fiery rhetoric against Wall Street. Kaplan, who used similar critical tones against the state and federal government in Oakland’s still-pending discussion over debarment of Goldman Sachs from city contracts, said Oakland was a leader a decade ago in fighting predatory lending practices by banks against its residents. The ordinance was later struck down by a court, which suggested it was states issue, said Kaplan, who added, the State Legislature then “did nothing.”
Councilmember Noel Gallo said his district centered in the Fruitvale District has been devastated by foreclosure, including neighbors all around his home. Some of the vacant homes in Oakland have become crack houses, dens of drug dealing or boarded up entirely, Gallo said. “Many of our citizens were misled and it was downright thievery.”
Too little, too late. Most of the marginal houses are already foreclosed upon and sold, although some are still fighting in court. Just like recent legislation from Congress and the state legislature, most of these proposals will only help the next round of foreclosures. Important for the future, but it doesn't address Gallo's concerns – those people have already lost their homes and many have nowhere to go.