The City of Oakland, through the newsletter of Oakland Mayor Libby Schaaf, has announced that it gained the ban on the transport and handling of coal in and through Oakland. She posted this:
The fight against coal in Oakland has been won! Today, City Attorney Parker announced a settlement with the developers of the Oakland Army Base that prevents coal from being transported, stored, or handled in Oakland. Stay tuned to learn more about this tremendous victory for the health of West Oaklanders.Oakland Mayor Libby Schaaf’s Newsletter
While some, like Libby, will take a victory lap, this long time Oakland video-blogger’s not going to do so.
I am writing this to set the record straight because other local publications don’t have enough history with the Oakland Bulk and Oversized Terminal Project to do so. Moreover, some are prejudiced against Phil Tagami and don’t have the background in urban planning and public sector and development economics or employment with the City of Oakland to even begin to understand the real history of the project, including how Oakland city staff handled this.
To put it simply, the City of Oakland knew the Oakland Bulk and Oversized Terminal was to handle coal, and ignored that fact until Democratic hedge fund manager Tom Steyer came along, throwing his money around and toward Oakland elected officials. Then, rather than work with Phil on a financing plan that could have replaced lost projected coal revenue (it’s called an incentive), or form a process that went a step beyond Phil’s environmentally-focused plan, Libby, the Oakland City Attorney Barbara Parker, and some other Councilmembers, just brainlessly tossed a coal ban on his efforts, thinking that would be that. Mayor Schaaf was the ringleader of an effort against Phil, even to the point of calling him out in public. What she did is not what friends do, at least as I see friendship.
Also, No Coal In Oakland, the wildly predominantly white organization that consists of too many who don’t live in Oakland, yet claim to speak for it, will take it’s victory lap and do so with its common habit of stating untruths and issuing personal attacks. Since the one person they will poke at is my long time friend Phil Tagami, I will set the record true for him. Contrary to white racist reporters, I came to bat for Phil as my friend, and not for pay. This is me, no fee.
And so, with that, I will let loose.
Oakland Mayor Libby Schaaf Should Issue A True Apology To Phil Tagami For A Host Of Reasons
Oakland Mayor Libby Schaaf should issue a big, fat, true speech of apology to Phil Tagami, the managing partner of California Capital Investment Group. The reasons are many, starting with the fact that all of us, Libby, Phil, and myself, have known each other as a group since 1991, and for me the Oakland Sharing The Vision event.
But separately, we all have ties to Skyline High School and where Phil and Libby were 1983 grads, and I was Class of 1980. Libby became Mayor of Oakland on the backs of thousands of “Friends of Libby”, the vast majority representing Skyline. Phil, Libby and I became close: her parents basically proclaimed me their godson, and Libby and I got to know each other first via Don Smith, a friend of hers who ran for Oakland school board. At Libby’s behest, I went precinct walking with her for most of a Saturday and learned a lot about Oakland through her eyes, and formed a lot of love and respect for her that formed the basis for why I told her to run for Mayor in 2009. That was 1992. Her parents were known for their Christmas parties, which Phil and many others, including scores of elected officials, annually attended. Those were fun times, even the time Phil, Libby and I wound up recovering from a night of too much drink by sleeping at her place: she had the bed, I had the couch, and Phil had the floor. I can go on in major details of events but the point is were were all friends. I have a simple rule: you don’t screw over your friends. Period. From my view, that’s what Libby wound up doing with Phil regarding the Oakland Bulk and Oversized Terminal Project.
The Oakland Bulk and Oversized Terminal Project was one of the main economic development objectives that came out of the Oakland Sharing the Vision event. What Oakland Sharing the Vision was, was an organization formed to make a series of goals and objectives for the future of Oakland. The effort was expressed in a series of meetings held in 1991 at the Oakland Convention Center, and attended by 500 Oaklanders. It was beautiful and something that should be done, even in this Pandemic-governed time we’re in. (We have the tech to do it. But I digress.) Phil never forgot the idea of an Oakland Bulk and Oversized Terminal. Moreover, building it would solve a major transportation cargo problem long talked about in Port of Oakland circles. The economic benefits to Oakland, California, and the Western United States were many, if the Oakland Bulk and Oversized Terminal were ever built.
So, when the City of Oakland’s Redevelopment Agency focused on the long-needed redevelopment of the Oakland Army Base, and issued a request for proposals, Phil, who successfully rebuilt the Oakland Rotunda and the Oakland Fox Theater, found a development and financial partner, issued a kick-ass proposal, and won. Why? Because of all of the ideas, only Phil’s concept for the Oakland Bulk and Oversized Terminal held any promise of providing the low-skilled, yet high-paying jobs the closure of the Army Base took away, and are in very short supply in Oakland, today.
The original Oakland Bulk and Oversized Terminal was to be designed to haul sulphur, coal, and iron ore, and other minerals. Of all of them, hauling coal presented the best chance for the Oakland Bulk and Oversized Terminal to pay for itself. If Oakland were concerned about coal then, it would have said so. But many City staffers and elected officials (including Libby as Councilmember) said nothing, even as documents explaining the mix of what was to be hauled were presented. On top of that, Phil took great pains to form a project that made coal transport as clean as possible.
Phil insisted on the use of covered rail cars, and so much so that he fired the first transportation partner because it lied about its ability to provide covered rail cars for coal hauling use and hired Insight Terminal Solutions and John Siegel because John wanted to follow Phil’s rules. On this, I have to laugh at the arm-chair “No Coal” types, and reporters who played “gotcha” internet findings when they had no understanding of what they were studying. Anyone in the business knows that you find a contractor to build rail cars for your particular specifications; the media types and “No Coal” types acted like covered rail cars were something you bought on a shelf at Target. The fact is, covered rail cars are commonly used to move coal, even though the standard is an open air car. Phil did not want the use of open air cars.
Phil also insisted on a completely closed and sealed environment for transportation and did not want open coal pits as part of the Oakland Bulk and Oversized Terminal development. Phil was always aware of the environmental concerns that came with the transportation of coal via the Oakland Bulk and Oversized Terminal. But Phil was also aware that iron ore is even more “dirty” than coal. Which should make you wonder why the No-Coal types never mention that fact. Why is there not a No-Iron-Ore effort? I have an answer, which I present below.
But the real fact no one wants to deal with is that our climate change problem is not really due to coal, but to an over-populated planet. We have so many people in Earth, producing so many types of emissions, that we need to agree on and install controls on the growth of the world’s population. Some believe that the emergence of the Coronavisrus was done to cause a drop in the growth of the world’s population. Given that there are almost a half-billion people on a planet of 7 billion who are sick with some form of the Coronavisrus, it’s hard to argue against that claim.
Tom Steyer’s Money Buys Oakland Elected Officials
While the City of Oakland’s economic development efforts was directed by a number of staffers over the years, when Fred Blackwell left in 2013, gone with him was the institutional no-how to move the Oakland Bulk and Oversized Terminal forward. And, Blackwell’s departure just happened to occur at the same time a man named Tom Steyer emerged.
Tom Steyer, the hedge fund manager who was once a coal investor, spent millions to advance the idea that the thing that he made money from, coal, was bad. It never occurred to most media types that Tom Steyer was simply hedging against coal. In other words, playing both sides of the fence. In truth, with Tom Steyer, coal played a giant role in a different way: his coal money was used to create jobs with organizations, some focused on curbing its use, others the creation of politicians.
Tom was spending his money to make society accept a different energy future, and putting large sums of money in the pockets of elected officials and non-profits and media publishers was a key part of his strategy. Mayor Schaaf (a virtuouso fundraiser) herself benefitted from Tom and his wife Kat Taylor to the tune of several million in direct and indirect donations, mostly for Libby’s Oakland Promise organization. Oakland Councilmember Dan Kalb commonly holds Tom Steyer in high-praise, and also enjoys the political benefits of an association with him. Overall, theres a large set of California elected officials who have also benefitted from Tom Steyer’s money.
So, Phil’s project, the Oakland Bulk and Oversized Terminal that was to create jobs for low-skilled Oaklanders, was being killed by Oakland politicians who were all too happy to be swayed by Tom Steyer’s money, but did nothing to make sure the jobs lost by the closure of the West Oakland Army Base were replaced. Think about that when you drive through or walk through West Oakland and wonder why there’s such a large homeless population. Jerry Brown, former Oakland Mayor and then California Governor, skilled the very redevelopment law that would have assured far more affordable housing, then Mayor Schaaf, Councilmember Kalb, and others came along and stopped the one project that would help get jobs that homeless residents could fill. (And some of those same people are now at work trying to stop yet another job-creating development in Oakland.)
The reason the first Oakland Coal Ban failed under Phil’s lawsuits, and scored a 9 to 0 victory for Phil, was because the City of Oakland fully knew what it was getting into – that is, until Tom Steyer started throwing his coal-made-money around. As Johnny Guitar Watson would say, “Ain’t That a Bitch.” The reason why there’s a “No Coal” effort is because that reflects the organizations and people who got a taste of Tom Steyer’s “no coal” money. If there was “no iron ore” money, you can bet a “No Iron Ore” organization would emerge and a ban on it would have been made. In other words, there was no real concern for the truth, and a lot of interest in Tom’s money.
Libby owes Phil an apology for this. Oaklanders should not do to their friends what has been done to Phil. Phil has helped many people in Oakland, and arguably has been the main investor behind the growth of Uptown Oakland as a night-life destination. Then, and because of the involvement of a lot of people who are really just not good at all and are, in typical Oakland fashion, reading to pounce on anyone who achieves any success working with the City of Oakland, has had to suffer under the constant barrage of criticism and bad press from stupid and racist origins, and to the point, where he had a stroke.
I am glad that Phil was able to sell out of the ordeal, hang out in Beverly Hills or overseas when he can, and enjoy life. But I am equally sad that our Skyline High School friend Libby, who’s my godsister, for reasons best known to her, took actions against her friend, and here I’m referring to Phil. Libby should work to mend fences with Phil, not take public time to backhand him, yet again. Oakland is still, really, a small town with big city aspirations, and we’re all family within it.
Libby should never forget that.