Hearts are Heavy!

Marilyn Ezzy Ashcraft

Hearts are Heavy!

Every death is a tragedy that impacts many lives. On April 19, Mario Gonzalez, a 26 year-old Oakland resident died while in the custody of Alameda police officers.

This incident is being carefully examined by criminal investigations initiated by the Alameda County Sheriff’s Office and Alameda County District Attorney’s Office. An independent outside investigation, requested by City Manager Eric Levitt, is also being conducted by the Renne Public Law Group.

Audio recordings of the two calls that precipitated the police response and police body-worn camera footage have been released by the city. More information will be provided when the independent investigator’s report is completed and made public. But we know this much: a life was lost, a family was shattered, and our community is asking, How could this tragedy happen here? How can we prevent a similar occurrence in the future? Where do we go from here?

These questions are all the more poignant because, in March, the City Council adopted the findings and recommendations of the five police reform and racial justice subcommittees and directed the City Manager to propose funding and timing to implement these recommendations during budget hearings in May.

Recommendations included: creating a citizens’ police accountability board, shifting responsibility for mental health crises from the police department, and initiating a public education, “Who to Call” campaign.

At a Special City Council meeting called by Vice Mayor Malia Vella and myself, this Saturday, May 8 at 3 pm. The City Council will consider directing the City Manager to accelerate implementation of the subcommittees’ recommendations, and take other actions, including

1. Providing immediate crisis intervention training for all Alameda Police Department officers and dispatchers
2. Creating a mental health-oriented response model similar to CAHOOTS in Eugene, Ore., and MACRO in Oakland
3. Preparing a compendium of all mental health resources currently available
4. Establishing protocols for their use

These important next steps will help answer agonizing questions and define our commitment to meaningful reform. View the agenda and register for the Zoom meeting: www.alamedaca.gov/GOVERNMENT/Agendas-Minutes-Announcements

Hometown Heroes — Mayor’s Vaccine Task Force: In early February, I convened the first Mayor’s Vaccine Task Force meeting after hearing concerns from seniors who were eligible to receive the COVID-19 vaccine, and whose demographic was most likely to die from COVID-19, that complicated websites or lack of internet access were preventing them from scheduling their vaccinations.

For the past three months, 12 dedicated task force members and various City staff met weekly and virtually, to develop strategies for outreach to seniors and persons with disabilities, and to share information about vaccine availability. Volunteers approached this task as though they were securing vaccines for their own parents or grandparents, spending countless hours online and on the phone, finding and scheduling appointments.

As a result, to date, we have scheduled more than 600 COVID-19 vaccination appointments for seniors and persons with disabilities, at Mastick Senior Center or wherever in Alameda County volunteers could find an appointment that a senior or person with a disability could get to.

Huge thanks to task force members: Ruth Abbe, Dr. Cindy Acker, Josh Altieri, Marguerite Bachand, Peri Drake, Cindy Houts, Alice Lai-Bitker, Helen Lee, Becca Perata, Dr. Mini Swift, Jenn Williams, and Lauren Zimmerman Cook, and City staff Gerry Beaudin, Demetrius Cagampan, Jim Colburn, Sarah Henry, Carolyn Hogg, Jackie Krause and Elizabeth Mackenzie. You are truly hometown heroes!

One Thursday, May 6 from 2 to 6 pm, a Johnson & Johnson single-dose vaccine clinic will take place at Mastick Senior Center, 1155 Santa Clara Avenue for Alameda residents 18 years or older, by appointment only. To schedule your appointment, call (510) 747-7512.

Homebound individuals who are unable to leave their homes can call (510) 208-4VAX (4829) to schedule an in-home Johnson & Johnson vaccine.

Be a better bystander: Anti-Asian American/Pacific Islander and xenophobic harassment are on the rise across the US, including in the Bay Area. Learn how to intervene effectively without ever compromising your safety at this virtual Zoom workshop co-sponsored by Asian Americans Advancing Justice - Asian Law Caucus, and Hollaback!.

Join us at 1 p.m., Friday, May 7 for the Mayor’s Town Hall, www.alamedaca.gov/bystander.

We have work to do, Alameda, but we are equal to the task. We must challenge the way we think and how we treat one another. This is Alameda Strong.

Marilyn Ezzy Ashcraft is the Mayor of Alameda.