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Oakland officials face more criticism from community over lost crime-fighting funds; "This is the mayor's fault"

Backlash grows over Oakland's failure to apply for organized retail theft grant
Backlash grows over Oakland's failure to apply for organized retail theft grant 02:14

OAKLAND -- Frustrated Oakland community leaders rallied Monday to demand answers after the city botching the application process for millions of dollars in state crime fighting funds.

Members of the Oakland chapter of the NAACP, Oakland Chinatown community leaders and church activists were among those attending the meeting calling out city officials for the recent failure to apply for funds from the Organized Retail Theft Grant Program.

ALSO READ: Former Oakland Police Chief Armstrong claims vindication after judge's report on his firing 

The Oakland City Adminstrator said the application for the organized retail theft grant funds was submitted to the state, but it was incomplete.

Community members voiced their frustration over the news, saying this was a missed opportunity for Oakland with local businesses and residents facing an uptick in property crime. 

ALSO READOakland residents blast city snafu over application for anti-crime funds

"'Missed the deadline' sounds like negligence. Sounds like somebody was not focused on what was needed; what was necessary to do," said McConnell Group CEO and Oakland NAACP Member Greg McConnell. 

"What is going on in Oakland is a civil rights issue," added Oakland NAACP President Cynthia Adams. "The buck stops with the mayor. This is the mayor's fault. It stops with the mayor. We need to hear from the mayor." 

A range of issues were addressed at the event, including recent shootings, the missed funding opportunity, the search for a new police chief, a possible business strike and the call for a state of emergency by the Oakland NAACP. In addition to representatives from the church and the NAACP, speakers included Chinatown community leader Carl Chan and District 5 City Councilmember Noel Gallo.

Emotions were high after this weekend's shootings that killed a 42-year-old mother of two who was hit by a stray bullet in the Laurel district and a 25-year-old mother of four, who is in critical condition.

Carl Chan, longtime community advocate and former president of the Chinatown Business Association, said that he will be announcing a business strike Wednesday. 

"Because right now we are under siege under all the attacks, and not only the people, but small businesses are suffering," he said. "We want to send a strong message to our city. Enough is enough. Things got to be done. So, stay tuned for this business strike."

In the Monday meeting at Acts Full Gospel Church, when the topic turned to the mayor's firing of Oakland police chief LeRonne Armstrong, community members clapped in support of Armstrong. Community member Ronald Muhammad asked if there were any legal obstacles to bringing him back. 

"Because he's from my ground," he said, "he's my little brother, he would come back because of a crisis. He would, he would come back." Panelists didn't have an answer for reversing the process, but Gallo replied that the timeline for the search has been shortened to conclude before the end of the year.

When former Oakland Police Chief LeRonne Armstrong on Monday afternoon claimed he was vindicated with the release of a new report he said clears his name after being fired by Mayor Sheng Thao earlier this year, the Oakland Police Commission issued a statement that agreed with Armstrong's assessment. The statement said the report recommended that Oakland reverse Armstrong's dismissal and remove it from his personnel record due to "problematic" and "unreliable" analysis.  

Monday night, there will be a special meeting of the Oakland police commission and the agenda includes an update on the search for a new police commissioner.  The proposed timeline includes a six-week candidate search that will end Sept. 30, followed by on-site interviews and final selection by Oct. 23.

Last week, the Oakland branch of the NAACP ripped city officials over the failed application process in a letter.

"This was an epic failure. We desperately needed these funds, but we got nothing," the letter read. "We need strong, effective leadership. Shame on all who failed to get desperately needed funding when all they had to do was submit the application on time."

On Friday morning, multiple Oakland retailers were hit by thieves, underlining the challenges faced by small business owners amid rising crime rates and the loss of state funds to fight the very problems plaguing them. 

ALSO READOakland officials missed deadline for grant funds to combat organized retail theft

"It's sad. It makes you sad. You wonder what's going on," said Reza Aryan, co-owner of Jewel Box in Montclair that lost in the neighborhood of $15,000 to $20,000 in the incident. 

Mayor Sheng Thao was asked about the city missing the deadline at her Town Talk event Sunday. She directed questions about the state grant money application to City Administrator Jestin Johnson. He called the outcome unacceptable.

"We certainly accept responsibility – I accept responsibility – for what was lost," Johnson said Sunday. "Quite frankly, we just missed it. We failed in that space. There really isn't an excuse. All I can say is we will certainly look at this as an opportunity to improve and move forward."

Thao was asked about the city missing the deadline following a Port of Oakland event Monday. 

"I'm infuriated and frustrated that city staff missed the deadline, but to assume and put out false information we didn't want to apply for it, that's utter bs," said the mayor. "We are putting in parameters to ensure something like this never happens again."

While Oakland missed out on the over $267 million in funds the state made available, several jurisdictions across the Bay Area got a share of the grant money, including $2 million that went to the Alameda County District Attorney.

Across the Bay in San Francisco, the police department got $15 million to support the fight against retail crime. San Mateo County and Santa Clara County and Bay Area cities including Campbell, Daly City, Fremont, Modesto, Newark, Palo Alto, San Bruno, San Jose, San Ramon, Santa Rosa, and Vacaville all qualified for funding through the grant application process.  

Both the local NAACP branch and the Oakland Chinatown Chamber of Commerce plan to reach out to Governor Newsom's office to see if there's any chance the city can still get some of that grant money.

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