Peralta Board Adds Opposition to OUSD Land Sale

By J. Douglas Allen-Taylor
Friday September 15, 2006

The Peralta Community College Board of Trustees and the presumed incoming California assemblymember representing Oakland have joined the growing chorus of public officials calling for a halt to the proposed sale of the Oakland Unified School District downtown properties. 

California Superintendent for Public Instruction Jack O’Connell is currently negotiating with the East Coast development team of TerraMark/UrbanAmerica for the proposed sale of 8.25 acres of OUSD property bordering the Lake Merritt Channel. 

The property contains the district administration building, three schools and two early education institutions. O’Connell has authority to sell the property under the 2003 state legislation that authorized the state takeover of the Oakland Unified School District. 

On Tuesday night, Peralta trustees voted 6-0, with one abstention, to support trustee Nicky Gonzalez Yuen’s resolution condemning the sale until local control is restored to the Oakland schools. 

Among other things, the resolution indicated that “the proposed development will likely have considerable negative impacts on the quality of life at Laney College and the surrounding greenbelt spaces being improved by Measure DD funds.” 

Laney College, which is administered by the Peralta district, borders on the proposed OUSD sale lands. Measure DD was the 2002 bond measure passed by Oakland voters that will, in part, fund the opening up of the public land bordering the Lake Merritt Channel. 

The Peralta resolution said that “as long as the OUSD is governed by a temporary state administrator, there is no consistent and reliable system of governance that can take long-term responsibility for the project, … nor is there a way to create the systems of feedback and accountability that will insure that this project does not become [a] boondoggle that benefits private interests and leaves the public stripped of even more resources than it started with.” 

In addition, the resolution said that “when OUSD went into receivership, the goal was not that the people of Oakland would be stripped of their democratic rights inherent to them as citizens of the United States.” 

Trustee Alona Clifton abstained on the resolution, stating afterwards that “there is some disagreement over this issue on the Oakland Unified School District Board.” 

Clifton added that she only received a revised version of the resolution shortly before Tuesday’s trustee meeting and said she would have wanted to check the language with OUSD Board members—particularly Greg Hodge—before voting on it. 

Meanwhile, interviewed at a downtown political event later in the week, District 16 California Assembly nominee Sandré Swanson said, “I’m going with the school board on this one. The sale ought not to go through until there is a return to local control.” 

Swanson also said that the district should not spend the remainder of the $100 million state line-of-credit until the school board resumes its full powers. In his last days in office earlier this summer, former OUSD state administrator Randy Ward transferred the final $35 million of that $100 million line-of-credit to OUSD’s account. 

Swanson, who won the Democratic primary in June for the heavily-Democratic 16th Assembly District seat, has only token opposition in the November general election. 

Meanwhile, state politics could play a factor in state Superintendent O’Connell’s decision on the proposed land sale, with a Southern California political columnist reporting this week that the politically ambitious O’Connell is already making plans for a run for the California governor’s office in 2010 should current Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger win re-election in November for his second and final term. 

“Jack O’Connell intends to be a candidate for governor in 2010,” if Democratic challenger Phil Angelides loses to Schwarzenegger, Ventura County Star Timm Herdt wrote on Wednesday of this week. “‘That’s where my interest is,’ O’Connell told me. ‘There’s still a lot of things I want to do, and the best way to do them is as governor.’” 

O’Connell’s long term gubernatorial ambitions have come under attack in recent week by Oakland activists opposed to the land sale. At last week’s hearing in which the OUSD board went on record opposing the sale, Henry Hitz, one of the leaders of the Ad Hoc Committee seeking to restore local control to the Oakland schools, reminded O’Connell, “If you want to be governor, you need to listen to Oakland. We are saying no to any development of school district property without input from the citizens of Oakland. The road to the governor’s office does not lead through a rebellion in Oakland.” 

School Board trustee Greg Hodge, said flatly that O’Connell would not get Oakland votes “if the superintendent goes through with the sale.” O’Connell was not present at the school board hearing.