Oakland’s Crime Stats Only Tell Half the Story; 6,000 Businesses Stopped Paying Taxes | Chris Moore

Small businesses and residents in Oakland are struggling with rising crime and safety issues, according to Chris Moore, a board member of the Bay Rental Housing Association. In an interview, Moore cited statistics showing over 6000 small businesses stopped paying business taxes in 2023, and businesses like In-N-Out Burger and a popular restaurant called Snail Bar have closed or been damaged by theft.

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Moore criticized Oakland City Council policies around public safety, noting the council has proposed defunding the police by 50% while crime rates for offenses like armed robbery and car theft have increased sharply. A restaurant owner described being burglarized three times and receiving only duct tape from the city to board up the damaged windows.

Residents say the current city council downplays rising crime by only comparing murder rates to past decades, ignoring other crime trends. Communities of color in East and West Oakland face significant blight and violence that city leaders do not adequately address, according to Moore.

Click here to read the full article in California Insider

Oakland to get a CHP assist

Gov. Gavin Newsom will send 120 officers in a push to fight theft and violent crime.

Gov. Gavin Newsom announced Tuesday that he’s sending 120 Highway Patrol officers to Oakland under a new state law enforcement campaign targeting an uptick in violent crime and theft that has placed political pressure on politicians, divided Democrats and bolstered criticism of California’s criminal justice policies.

Newsom’s decision to boost police presence in Oakland comes amid a barrage of recent headlines on the city’s crime rates, business closures and campaigns to oust the city’s mayor and Alameda County’s chief prosecutor from office.

The problems in Oakland and blatant smash-and-grab retail crime in big cities across California have inspired debate about whether to reform Proposition 47, a ballot measure voters approved in 2014 that reduced some drug and theft felonies to misdemeanors as a way to lower incarceration rates and encourage people to seek treatment.

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“What’s happening in this beautiful city and surrounding area is alarming and unacceptable,” Newsom said in a statement. “I’m sending the California Highway Patrol to assist local efforts to restore a sense of safety that the hardworking people of Oakland and the East Bay demand and deserve.”

Violent crime increased 21% in 2023 from the year before, according to the Oakland Police Department’s end-of-year crime report. Homicides topped 100 for the fourth consecutive year. Robberies grew by 38% and burglaries by 23%. Motor vehicle theft surged 45% in 2023 from the prior year.

The number of people experiencing homelessness in Oakland also increased by nearly 1,000 from 2019 to 2022, to a total of 5,055 individuals sleeping in tents, cars, RVs, abandoned buildings or on the streets.

Newsom’s GOP critics have latched on to images of encampments and stories about In-N-Out Burger and other high-profile businesses closing due to crime as results of what they call lawlessness under his leadership. Both issues remain political vulnerabilities for Democrats and for the governor as he expands his national profile and eyes his next role in politics after he leaves office in 2027.

Despite growing concerns about crime, Newsom said early data suggest the increases are unique to Oakland, with violent crime rates down in Los Angeles and San Francisco in 2023.

The governor’s office said Newsom’s law enforcement campaign in Oakland will increase CHP presence in the city and the East Bay by nearly 900%. The state is also deploying license plate readers and specialized units with police dogs and air support to target auto theft, cargo theft, retail crime and violent crime.

Newsom is focusing on Oakland after the state sent a few officers there in August at the request of local leaders, resulting in the arrest of 100 suspected criminals and the recovery of 193 stolen vehicles, according to his office. Newsom received another request for help from a group of local business leaders and community advocates he met with in January.

“The surge of crime and violence that we are seeing in our streets is completely unacceptable,” Oakland Mayor Sheng Thao said in a statement.

Thao said Oakland has also taken its own measures to address the problem, such as increasing law enforcement investigations, increasing police recruitment and investing in community and violence intervention.

Anxieties over car break-ins and gun violence have had a ripple effect in the community, where Thao and Alameda County Dist. Atty. Pamela Price each face efforts to recall them from office.

Major companies operating in Oakland such as Clorox, Kaiser Permanente and Blue Shield have reportedly encouraged employees to be more cautious when they come to the office, citing worries over crime.

Meanwhile, businesses including In-N-Out near Oakland International Airport and Denny’s have announced closures due to employee safety concerns, though it’s unclear whether those are solely related to crime issues or whether undisclosed financial concerns contributed to their shuttering. In November, Major League Baseball owners unanimously approved relocating the Oakland A’s, the city’s last standing professional sports franchise, to Las Vegas, dealing yet another blow to the beleaguered city.

Frustrated voters and local activists have in recent months called on city officials to be more aggressive in their response to surging crime rates and for Thao to declare a state of emergency.

The Oakland branch of the NAACP issued a letter in July ridiculing what it called failed progressive policies that allowed street crime to flourish, and calling on politicians to act quickly to solve the problem.

“Oakland residents are sick and tired of our intolerable public safety crisis that overwhelmingly impacts minority communities,” the letter stated. “If there are no consequences for committing crime in Oakland, crime will continue to soar.”

James Burch, deputy director of the nonprofit Anti Police-Terror Project in Oakland, said he was disappointed to see the governor send more police to the city.

“If the goal of the mayor and the governor were to make headlines with this investment, they’ve succeeded,” he said. “If their goal, however, was to impact the rates of violence on the streets of the city of Oakland, we’ve seen no data or research that suggests that this investment will be successful.”

Burch called for investing in crime prevention strategies, such as supporting violence interrupters who go into communities and work with people at the center of cycles of violence.

“Having CHP control or patrol major thoroughfares is not a proven strategy to decrease the number of homicides and robberies on our city streets,” Burch said.

In May, Newsom similarly deployed the National Guard and California Highway Patrol to San Francisco to help fight drug trafficking and dealing. That effort had led to 460 arrests as of the end of January, and roughly 18,000 grams of fentanyl and 5,000 grams of methamphetamine have been seized, according to the governor’s office.

Newsom has continued to resist calls to reform Proposition 47, including from moderate Democrats at the state Capitol. Assembly Speaker Robert Rivas (D-Hollister) has made addressing property crime rates a top priority during his first full year in leadership, and several Democrats in recent years have introduced bills to dismantle portions of Proposition 47.

Click here to read the full article in the LA Times

Crime Shuts Down History

Denny’s shutters only location in Oakland after more than 54 years due to high crime

America’s diner may always be open, but it’s permanently closing a location that’s fed generations. 

Denny’s has closed its location in Oakland, California after 54 years due to high crime in the city. 

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The restaurant was located at 601 Hegenberg Road. In a company memo shared with local outlets, Denny’s said the decision was not one taken lightly. 

“However, the safety and well-being of Denny’s team members and value guests is our top priority,” the company said. “Weighing those factors, the decision has been made to close this location.” 

The company retains a Bay Area location at 1776 Powell St. in Emeryville, California. 

The closing comes after In-N-Out announced it would be closing its Oakland location in March due to rampant violent crime and theft.

It marked the first time in the chain’s 75-year-old history that it has been forced to close one of its restaurants.

Local leaders and civil rights activists have blamed the city’s policies for the closures. 

Click here to read the full article in the NY Post

Oakland, California, officer killed while answering burglary call; shooter being sought, police say

OAKLAND, Calif. (AP) — An Oakland, California, police officer was shot and killed Friday while answering a report of a burglary at a marijuana dispensary, authorities said.

Tuan Le, 36, was one of several who responded to a report of a burglary in progress at the cannabis business near Jack London Square at about 4:30 a.m., about 3 1/2 hours after an earlier burglary was reported at the same business, authorities said.

The arriving uniformed and plainclothes officers saw several people leaving the business and one opened fire several times, hitting the officer, who was in plainclothes and driving an unmarked car, interim Police Chief Darren Allison said at a news conference.

Other officers took the wounded officer to a hospital, where he was pronounced dead about four hours after the shooting.

“Officer Le was surrounded by his wife, mother, and members of his OPD family when he died,” a statement from the city said.

No officers returned fire, the chief said.

No arrests were immediately made, but Allison said investigators were following up on a lot of “actionable” evidence. He didn’t provide details.

“The dangers and demands of this profession are real, and come with significant sacrifice,” the chief said. “Sadly, today, one of our officers paid the ultimate sacrifice.”

Le was born in Saigon in Vietnam and later moved to Oakland, becoming a naturalized citizen in 2001, the city’s statement said.

He graduated from the police academy in 2020 and for the past two years served as community resource officer in West Oakland, the statement said.

“He will be remembered for his kindness, his smile, and the positive change he brought to the lives of those around him,” the statement said. “He is a true hero who dedicated his life to making our community safer.”

Mayor Sheng Thao called the killing a senseless act of violence and said she was devastated by the officer’s death.

“I know the entire Oakland community feels the profound impact of this loss,” she said in a statement.

“I am proud of the officers who responded this morning and carried their brother to the hospital on their shoulders,” Barry Donelan, president of the Oakland Police Officers’ Association, said in a statement. “Their actions personified what it means to be an Oakland police officer. As we mourn, rest assured that we are also determined to bring this cop killer to justice.”

Click here to read the full article in AP News

Judge Robbed at Gunpoint Near Oakland Courthouse, Deputies Say

An Alameda Superior Court judge was robbed at gunpoint in a parking lot near an Oakland courthouse Thursday morning, the county Sheriff’s Office confirmed.

The incident took place around 8:50 a.m. in a parking garage near 13th and Madison streets in Oakland, just a block from the Superior Court courthouse. The assailants were described as three males wearing masks, the Sheriff’s Office said.

The judge, whom law enforcement officials did not identify, was uninjured, the Sheriff’s Office said.

Click here to read the full article in the SF Chronicle

Oakland Teachers Gear Up for a Third Day of Strikes

Oakland teachers will strike again on Monday – the third day of walkouts affecting 34,000 children across the city.

“Please prepare for the strike to continue Monday,” the teachers’ union, the Oakland Education Association, posted on Facebook Sunday afternoon. “Our bargaining team is working hard. We will let you know as soon as possible if the district makes the movement necessary to reach an agreement.”

Oakland Unified School District officials postponed a press conference Sunday evening before issuing a statement acknowledging the strike would continue Monday, with schools expected to continue operating the way they did Thursday and Friday – with office staff instructed to “educate and supervise” students who showed up.

“The District’s negotiating team continues to talk with the team from the Oakland Education Association (OEA), and we are hopeful that we are making progress towards a deal that will end the strike,” the district’s statement said in part. “We continue to focus on finding common ground with OEA to get this deal done.”

“I hope they resolve this soon,” said Tunisia Harris, whose youngest daughter attends the Oakland Academy of Knowledge. “It’s been several rough years for our children, and they’re all still trying to catch up.”

On Sunday afternoon, union representatives were still reviewing the latest package from the school district, which includes pay bumps for teachers and staff, one-time bonuses of $5,000, and responses to some of the union’s demands, such as training staff to de-escalate mental health crises.

The two sides appeared closest on compensation changes, as the district was offering to boost salaries from 13% to 22% for the next school year.

Monday’s strike comes after days of negotiation between the district and the union – on top of mediation efforts led by the state superintendent of education, Tony Thurmond. The impasse was largely due to the union’s focus on “common good” demands, which aim to address broader societal issues facing students across the city — like homelessness, racial justice, and environmental concerns.

“We miss our students like crazy. But we’re doing this for them,” Carrie Anderson, a second-grade teacher at Oakland’s Manzanita Community School, said Thursday afternoon.

The union’s common good demands included smaller class sizes, free student transportation, housing for homeless students, and creating school-site committees to share decision-making among administrators, faculty, and families. The union was also asking for school safety improvements that include more staff trained to de-escalate mental health crises and school time dedicated to fostering a positive social climate.

But Lakisha Young, the founder of parent-run organization Oakland Reach, said a strike won’t solve these issues – it will just make things worse by keeping children out of the classroom.

“These things need to be handled in a different way,” Young said Sunday. “The list of things folks want to be right in the district is so long that they’ll never go back to school if striking is the mechanism.”

Young said that on Sunday, her youngest son – a 13-year-old who goes to school in Oakland Unified – asked her whether he was going to school tomorrow.

“I just had to say: ‘I don’t know. I have no idea,’” Young said.

Young’s frustration echoed that of other parents scrambling to find a place for their kids to learn, especially with only 14 days left in the school year. Katya Caballero, who has one child at a school affected by the strikes, said she felt backed into a wall: she wants to support the teachers, but she doesn’t feel they fully understand what parents go through when a strike occurs.

“It’s the end of the year, and it’s a very important time for students,” said Caballero, speaking in Spanish through a translator. “I’ve seen the data, and if children are out of school for two days – that’s a lot.”

In a recent press release, the district said it understands the importance of the common good proposals, but feels it should be working with “all labor partners and city, county, state, and federal government leaders to address them.”

The district also has claimed many of the common good demands are outside the purview of a school district, and that Oakland Unified isn’t authorized by the school board to address them.

Click here to read the full article in the Mercury News

Conservative Group Files Suit Over Oakland Measure Allowing Noncitizen Voting in School Board Races

Opponents of a measure approved by Oakland voters to allow noncitizen parents to vote in school board elections filed suit Thursday, claiming it violates voting restrictions in the California Constitution, an argument endorsed earlier this year by a judge considering a similar measure in San Francisco.

Measure S, backed by 62% of Oakland’s voters on Nov. 8, authorizes the City Council to pass a law allowing non-U.S. citizens who are parents or guardians of school-age children to vote in the next local school elections. Council members, who voted to place the measure on the ballot, said noncitizens, including undocumented immigrants as well as legal residents, make up about 14% of Oakland’s population, about 13,000 are parents or guardians of children younger than 18, and they lack “representation in key decisions that impact their education and their lives.”

The lawsuit, filed by the conservative United States Justice Foundation and its president, James V. Lacy, cites a long-standing provision of the state Constitution that says, “A United States citizen 18 years of age and resident in this State may vote.” That means, they argued, that only U.S. citizens can vote in a state or local election in California.

“Voter qualifications is an issue of statewide concern, not subject to local regulation by a charter city,” attorney Chad Morgan wrote in the suit, filed in Alameda County Superior Court.

“If noncitizens are allowed to vote, the voting rights of all citizens are unconstitutionally deprived, diluted and devalued,” Lacy said in an accompanying statement.

The same plaintiffs filed a similar suit to try to remove Measure S from the ballot, but Superior Court Judge Michael Markman refused, saying it was too early to consider the arguments. He noted that the measure would merely authorize the City Council to act, and that courts generally wait until after an election to decide the validity of ballot measures. He also said the issue was likely to be decided by higher state courts.

But Lacy and his organization have made more headway in San Francisco, whose voters approved the state’s first such ordinance. It took effect in 2018 and was extended by city supervisors in 2021.

The San Francisco city attorney’s office argued that the constitutional language saying citizens “may vote” was permissive and did not prohibit local governments from allowing others to vote. Self-governing charter cities like San Francisco can serve as “laboratories of democracy demonstrating the benefits of noncitizen voting in local contests,” Deputy City Attorney James Emery wrote in a court filing.

Superior Court Judge James Ulmer disagreed in July. “Transcendent law of California, the Constitution… reserves the right to vote to a United States citizen, contrary to (the) San Francisco ordinance,” Ulmer wrote in a ruling that would prohibit the city from enforcing the ordinance or counting noncitizens’ votes. Based on the logic of the city’s argument, he said, “children under 18 and residents of other states ‘may also’ vote in California elections, which our Constitution does not allow.”

Click here to read the full article in the SF Chronicle

Oakland Sued Over Ballot Measure to Allow Noncitizen Voting

Lawsuit says judge struck down similar San Francisco law

A judge’s recent ruling that a San Francisco law allowing noncitizens to vote in school board elections is unconstitutional threatens a similar plan in Oakland, as well as efforts in other cities like San Jose.

The same organizations and law firm that won their case against San Francisco’s 2016 law sued Oakland officials Aug. 16 to keep their proposed measure off the November ballot.

“Oakland’s noncitizen voting measure should be removed from the ballot because it will be a waste of public resources to spend money … to submit a measure to voters that can never be enacted,” the complaint said. “Allowing a vote on an unconstitutional measure will undermine the integrity of the initiative process.”

Oakland City Attorney Barbara J. Parker said the city has yet to be served with the complaint and could not comment.

Oakland City Councilman Dan Kalb, who is leading the effort to get the measure on the ballot, believes it is legally sound because it would not directly extend voting rights to noncitizens, but allow the city to do so if it is not prohibited by state law.

“There’s no legal basis for their lawsuit,” Kalb said.

In January, the San Jose City Council voted to study the possibility of letting noncitizens vote in municipal elections, but they weren’t pressing to get a measure on the November 8 ballot.

San Francisco voters extended voting rights to noncitizens – both legal and unauthorized residents – to cast ballots in school board elections in 2016, and the Board of Supervisors extended the law indefinitely in 2021.

The conservative nonprofits United States Justice Foundation, based in Phoenix, and the California Public Policy Foundation in Laguna Niguel filed suit, arguing the provision was unconstitutional.

In a July 29 ruling, San Francisco Superior Court Judge Richard B. Ulmer, Jr. agreed, citing the California Constitution stating that only “A United States citizen 18 years of age and resident in this state may vote.” Ulmer also noted that several sections of the Elections Code say voters must be U.S. citizens.

Ulmer rejected the city’s argument that the state constitution’s “may vote” language isn’t restrictive.

“By the same logic, children under 18 and residents of other states ‘may also’ vote in California elections, which our constitution does not allow,” Ulmer wrote, adding that had the constitution said “shall vote,” it would have made voting mandatory in the state.

Ulmer’s ruling came just days after the New York Supreme Court justice struck down a New York City law passed in November that would have let 800,000 noncitizens who are permanent legal residents or authorized to work vote in municipal elections, citing similar barriers in the state constitution.

On Aug. 12, Ulmer also rejected San Francisco’s request to stay his ruling while the city appeals, saying he disagreed with the city’s contention that the case presented “difficult questions of law.”

“This is not a difficult or close question,” Ulmer wrote.

The Oakland lawsuit argues that the city’s voters have “a constitutional right in avoiding the vote dilution that flows from extending voting privileges to those not authorized to vote in the state.”

James V. Lacy, the lawyer representing the organizations that sued over the measure, argued it would benefit Asians, Hispanics and Whites who have larger shares of noncitizens among them at the expense of Oakland’s nearly one in four Black residents. But Kalb said the city is home to a large number of noncitizen African immigrants as well.

There is a history of noncitizen voting in the United States. New York allowed it for school elections until 2000. Advocates for the Oakland measure said noncitizens could vote in the United States until 1926. Sin Yen, spokeswoman for Chinese for Affirmative Action, which led the coalition that campaigned for San Francisco’s law, said noncitizen voting efforts are also afoot in Santa Ana, New York, Boston and Chicago.

Advocates argue that immigrant parents of kids in city schools shouldn’t be denied a voice in their governance just because they aren’t citizens. Oakland estimates that 13,000 of 230,000 voting-age residents are noncitizens of various ethnic backgrounds, including Hispanic, African and Asian.

“If you’re a parent or legal guardian of children under 18, you should be able to decide who runs the schools,” Kalb said. “It seems so obvious, like such a no-brainer. It’s sad there are some people who don’t want that to happen.”

Critics say they’re not anti-immigrant but that extending the vote to noncitizens unfairly benefits foreigners at the expense of the country’s own citizens.

“The purpose of our lawsuit is not to denigrate noncitizen rights in the state – noncitizens have all kinds of rights,” Lacy said. “But the idea of voting is something completely different. If you talk to a general person in the state about what is the qualification for voting, the general feeling is, well, you have to be a citizen.”

Click here to read that the full article at the Mercury News

Oakland Now Also Sued On Noncitizen Voting Measure

Judge overturned San Francisco law allowing noncitizens to vote in July

In July, San Francisco Superior Court Judge Richard Ulmer overturned a San Francisco law allowing noncitizen parents to vote in local school board elections in Lacy et. al. The judge said the California Constitution permits only citizens to vote,” the San Francisco Chronicle reported.

The Globe spoke with Attorney James Lacy who said the local law violates the California Constitution and Elections Code.

Lacy has just filed a second lawsuit in Superior Court in Alameda County against the City of Oakland and the County Registrar of Voters seeking a Court Order to remove from the November ballot a measure that if approved, would allow for the counting of noncitizen votes in Oakland school board elections.

“The City of Oakland proposes a ballot measure that would allow noncitizens to vote in elections for the Oakland Unified School District (OUSD). This measure is plainly unconstitutional because it violates a constitutional mandate allowing only United States citizens to vote in California elections. This requirement applies to every election in the state, even those conducted by charter cities,” the lawsuit alleges.”

“Oakland’s noncitizen voting measure should be removed from the ballot because it will be a waste of public resources to spend money to consider to submit a measure to voters that can never be enacted, and allowing a vote on an unconstitutional measure will undermine the integrity of the initiative process.”

Lacy said the lawsuit is necessary because “Oakland’s ballot measure violates the fundamental rule that in an election, only citizens vote, and if noncitizens are allowed to vote, the voting rights of all citizens are unconstitutionally deprived, diluted and devalued.” Other plaintiffs in the case include two nonprofit organizations of which Lacy is an officer: the California Public Policy Foundation and the United States Justice Foundation; and Oakland voter Jim Eyer.”

The Oakland lawsuit explains “These interests extend to everyone in the state because integrity of elections is a matter of statewide concern. Additionally, school districts are funded with the taxes paid by each of the state’s taxpayers into the state’s general fund. When OUSD spends taxpayer funds, it is not spending local taxpayer funds; it is spending state taxpayer funds. In this regard, everyone in the state has an interest in OUSD. From that interest, everyone in the state also has an interest in ensuring that OUSD’s governing board is elected in accordance with state law.”

The California Constitution establishes who may vote in the state:

“A United States citizen 18 years of age and resident in this State may vote.” The plain language of this provision does not allow the Legislature, any charter city, or any other body to establish voting rights for anyone who is not a United States citizen, 18 years of age, or resident of the state.

Pew reports that this part of a trend across the country that is drawing legal challenges. Supporters claim that because non-citizens pay local taxes they should be able to vote in local elections, arguing they deserve a say in who represents them. However, Pew acknowledges “no state explicitly allows noncitizens to vote in statewide elections such as for governor—nor have there been serious proposals to legalize statewide voting by noncitizens.”

In the San Francisco case, the judge told a lawyer for the city that the power of charter cities such as San Francisco to regulate municipal affairs “does not override the Constitution,” the Chronicle reported. “A permanent injunction has been issued to stop San Francisco from processing noncitizen voting and the Court has invited Lacy and the plaintiffs to file a motion to claim attorneys fees against the City for the action.”

“When noncitizens vote in an election, the voting rights of citizens are wrongly diluted,” Lacy said.

It also appears that this issue is divided along party ideology, with Democrats introducing most if not all city proposals seeking to allow non-citizens to vote.

“When California and Illinois implemented laws in recent years that automatically register people to vote when they visit departments of motor vehicles, hundreds of noncitizens were accidentally registered to vote due to technical glitches,” Pew reported.

Click here to read the full article at the California Globe

Oakland Sued Over Ballot Measure to Allow Noncitizen Voting

Lawsuit says judge struck down similar San Francisco law

A judge’s recent ruling that a San Francisco law allowing noncitizens to vote in school board elections is unconstitutional threatens a similar plan in Oakland, as well as efforts in other cities like San Jose.

The same organizations and law firm that won their case against San Francisco’s 2016 law sued Oakland officials Aug. 16 to keep their proposed measure off the November ballot.

“Oakland’s noncitizen voting measure should be removed from the ballot because it will be a waste of public resources to spend money … to submit a measure to voters that can never be enacted,” the complaint said. “Allowing a vote on an unconstitutional measure will undermine the integrity of the initiative process.”

Oakland City Attorney Barbara J. Parker said the city has yet to be served with the complaint and could not comment.

Oakland City Councilman Dan Kalb, who is leading the effort to get the measure on the ballot, believes it is legally sound because it would not directly extend voting rights to noncitizens, but allow the city to do so if it is not prohibited by state law.

“There’s no legal basis for their lawsuit,” Kalb said.

In January, the San Jose City Council voted to study the possibility of letting noncitizens vote in municipal elections, but they weren’t pressing to get a measure on the November 8 ballot.

San Francisco voters extended voting rights to noncitizens – both legal and unauthorized residents – to cast ballots in school board elections in 2016, and the Board of Supervisors extended the law indefinitely in 2021.

The conservative nonprofits United States Justice Foundation, based in Phoenix, and the California Public Policy Foundation in Laguna Niguel filed suit, arguing the provision was unconstitutional.

In a July 29 ruling, San Francisco Superior Court Judge Richard B. Ulmer, Jr. agreed, citing the California Constitution stating that only “A United States citizen 18 years of age and resident in this state may vote.” Ulmer also noted that several sections of the Elections Code say voters must be U.S. citizens.

Ulmer rejected the city’s argument that the state constitution’s “may vote” language isn’t restrictive.

“By the same logic, children under 18 and residents of other states ‘may also’ vote in California elections, which our constitution does not allow,” Ulmer wrote, adding that had the constitution said “shall vote,” it would have made voting mandatory in the state.

Ulmer’s ruling came just days after the New York Supreme Court justice struck down a New York City law passed in November that would have let 800,000 noncitizens who are permanent legal residents or authorized to work vote in municipal elections, citing similar barriers in the state constitution.

On Aug. 12, Ulmer also rejected San Francisco’s request to stay his ruling while the city appeals, saying he disagreed with the city’s contention that the case presented “difficult questions of law.”

“This is not a difficult or close question,” Ulmer wrote.

The Oakland lawsuit argues that the city’s voters have “a constitutional right in avoiding the vote dilution that flows from extending voting privileges to those not authorized to vote in the state.”

James V. Lacy, the lawyer representing the organizations that sued over the measure, argued it would benefit Asians, Hispanics and Whites who have larger shares of noncitizens among them at the expense of Oakland’s nearly one in four Black residents. But Kalb said the city is home to a large number of noncitizen African immigrants as well.

There is a history of noncitizen voting in the United States. New York allowed it for school elections until 2000. Advocates for the Oakland measure said noncitizens could vote in the United States until 1926. Sin Yen, spokeswoman for Chinese for Affirmative Action, which led the coalition that campaigned for San Francisco’s law, said noncitizen voting efforts are also afoot in Santa Ana, New York, Boston and Chicago.

Advocates argue that immigrant parents of kids in city schools shouldn’t be denied a voice in their governance just because they aren’t citizens. Oakland estimates that 13,000 of 230,000 voting-age residents are noncitizens of various ethnic backgrounds, including Hispanic, African and Asian.

“If you’re a parent or legal guardian of children under 18, you should be able to decide who runs the schools,” Kalb said. “It seems so obvious, like such a no-brainer. It’s sad there are some people who don’t want that to happen.”

Critics say they’re not anti-immigrant but that extending the vote to noncitizens unfairly benefits foreigners at the expense of the country’s own citizens.

“The purpose of our lawsuit is not to denigrate noncitizen rights in the state – noncitizens have all kinds of rights,” Lacy said. “But the idea of voting is something completely different. If you talk to a general person in the state about what is the qualification for voting, the general feeling is, well, you have to be a citizen.”

Click here to read the full article at The Mercury News

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