This month, I was honored and humbled to begin serving all Oaklanders as your elected City Attorney. (click here to watch my inauguration speech!)
In my campaign, I emphasized the importance of transparency, honesty, fairness, justice and professionalism in our City government. My commitment to these values will continue to be the cornerstone of our work in the City Attorney's Office.
I also pledged to use all available resources in my Office to address Oakland's public safety crisis. During its first meeting of the new year, the City Council passed several public safety measures, including two that my Office co-sponsored:
Banning assault weapons & reducing gun violence
For too many years, Oakland has been plagued by gun violence. In 2012, 131 people were murdered in our city, almost all by firearms. According to the Police Department, there also were about 840 non-fatal shootings in Oakland last year. That's 12 percent higher than the previous year.
Deaths and injuries caused by firearms and the threat of such violence have created a health and safety crisis in our community. Clearly, we need federal and state assistance to address this crisis, including stronger and more comprehensive regulation of firearms and ammunition.
During its first meeting in 2013, the City Council passed a resolution (sponsored by me, Councilmember Rebecca Kaplan, Councilmember Larry Reid and Mayor Jean Quan) calling on the U.S. Congress and the California legislature to immediately enact regulations including universal background checks for gun sales and a renewal of the federal Assault Weapons Ban which President Obama and Senator Feinstein have proposed.
This is not just about reducing the number of horrific mass shootings that have shattered communities like Newtown, Aurora and Oakland. I believe these measures also will help cities like Oakland address the crisis of gun violence on our streets. At the same time, we must address the root causes of violence -- the poverty, despair and hopelessness consuming too many of our young people -- by providing more mentors, more jobs, solid education and better support systems.
Read the legislation & staff report
Graffiti Enforcement Ordinance
The City Council also adopted an ordinance that I co-sponsored with City Councilmember Nancy Nadel in response to a very costly and pervasive problem in our neighborhoods: graffiti vandalism.
I applaud former Councilmember Nadel for her work on this ordinance, and for her many years of service to Oakland.
Graffiti is a serious public nuisance in a number of areas of Oakland. Left unchecked, it can encourage more serious blight and crime. Surprisingly, before the passage of this ordinance, our Municipal Code did not include penalties against vandals and other remedies available under state law. The Graffiti Enforcement Ordinance adopted this week will update Oakland's law and give the City more tools to deal with graffiti vandalism. It provides enhanced penalties for vandals and holds parents responsible for vandalism by minors. The ordinance does not change the responsibility of property owners to clean up graffiti, but it does clarify timelines for removing graffiti, and it encourages the Council to establish a fund to help property owners who are repeatedly victimized by this crime. The ordinance also includes a restorative justice component.
To be clear, this ordinance does not apply in any way to murals or graffiti-style art that is authorized by the property owner. It applies only to vandalism.
Read the legislation & staff report
Lawsuit to stop federal shutdown of permitted medical cannabis dispensaries
We will keep you posted on our lawsuit to prevent the federal government from shutting down Oakland's medical cannabis distribution program.
The City of Oakland sued the federal government after the U.S. Attorney's Office attempted to seize a property renting space to a medical cannabis dispensary. The dispensary had been operating for years with a permit from the City of Oakland -- and with the full knowledge and tacit permission of the U.S. Attorney's Office.
The federal court recently refused to order the dispensary in question to cease its distribution of medicine. This week, the court will hear the federal government's motion to dismiss the City's lawsuit.
As always, I look forward to hearing your comments, thoughts, questions and feedback about how we are conducting the City's business.
Very truly yours,
Oakland City Attorney