Elaine Brown, Alameda County Supervisor
Keith Carson and Oakland Councilmember
Desley Brooks in an undated photo.

Apparently, Oakland Councilmember Desley Brooks and former Black Panther and Oakland activist Elaine Brown have no limits on being in the same room. On Tuesday, the Oakland City Council approved a land disposition agreement for the property at Seventh and Campbell Streets where Brown’s non-profit Oakland & the World Enterprises operates an urban garden and envisions building affordable housing for the recently incarcerated. Brooks, nonetheless attempted to land a number of straight-arm jabs at Brown’s project.

In fact, the dust-up between the two women that occurred in October 2015 at a barbecue restaurant in Downtown Oakland and included allegations that Brooks knocked Brown to the ground was precipitated by an argument over this same project. Brooks reportedly threatened to not support the project and Brown allegedly accused her of “being in the hands of developers.”

On Tuesday, Brooks repeatedly questioned city staff as to why a pro forma on the project, one that apparently exists, was not given to the council. “I believe the goals of this project are laudable,” Brooks prefaced. “My concern here is that we haven’t seen the normal things we see in a project.”

“Who’s the development team? What is the financing?” continued Brooks. “It’s wonderful to talk about things as we hope they would be.”

Assistant City Administrator Claudia Cappio told Brooks a pro forma is “not really relevant” to the project since its aims for 100 percent affordable housing funded through subsidies and grants. It also should not be viewed within the context of a typical market-oriented project, said Cappio.

Brooks was nonplussed before adding, “I simply would like to see it. That’s part of our due diligence.”

Meanwhile, there was very little mention of the Alameda County grand jury report released last week that focused, in part, on Brown, her Oakland & the World non-profit and questionable funding from the office of Alameda County Supervisor Keith Carson. Brown is also a paid county staffer in Carson’s office.
According to the grand jury report, Brown was hired by Carson expressly to start her non-profit. Through Carson’s discretionary account, his office gave Oakland & the World $710,000 in funding since its founding in 2015. The grand jury questioned the overall use of millions of dollars in county funds that are being allocated by county supervisors, such as Oakland & the World, without any limits or contractual obligations.
Councilmember Noel Gallo, though, asked Brown about an East Bay Express article that hinted Brown may being paid not only by taxpayers as a county staffer, but also drawing a salary from her non-profit.

Brown, though, sidestepped the question and blasted the article for being a “slanderous lie,” although she probably meant libelous. However, Brown focused on an issue of missing tax returns, an allegation not made in the story. Brown added she wanted to sue the paper for the article.

The compendium of events swirling around Brown and Oakland & the World could pose problems for the city down the line. Questions persists whether the city is using Tuesday’s council action to appease Brown and her lawsuit against it. The Disposition and Development Agreement (DDA) approved by the City Council Tuesday night is not a sale of the city-owned property to Oakland & the World, but is likely down the line. Furthermore, the fallout from the grand jury report is not yet discernible and Carson has not publicly commented on the allegations in the report.