Sources are concerned Mayor Schaaf advocated for rules change to remove Kaplan.
The Alameda County Mayors’ Conference will decide on March 14 whether it will reappoint Oakland City Councilmember Rebecca Kaplan as the county’s representative on the powerful board of the Bay Area Air Quality Management District (BAAQMD).
Sources have told the Oakland Post that Mayor Libby Schaaf was instrumental in advocating for the rule change that would remove Kaplan.
Kaplan has served on the board for the past one-and-a-half years, appointed by the county Mayor’s Conference. Her position is one of two that are reserved for representatives of cities in Alameda County on the 24-member board, whose members come from cities and counties from Napa to Palo Alto.
Kaplan’s supporters say she has helped secure money for major projects to improve air quality for Oakland and other East Bay cities, including for the Broadway Shuttle, replacing a diesel locomotive engine to clean the air around the Port/Army base and setting up a fund to replace old, high polluting diesel trucks.
According to Steven Bocian, executive director of the Mayors’ Conference, the organization “has always had a priority of mayors being the first priority for appointments.”
The amendment that was passed by the mayors in October “clarifies a number of issues,” he said.
One of the changes stipulates, “If a council member applies for a position, the councilmember (must) receive the approval of the mayor,” he said. “That’s the one that is a concern.”
However, he said, Kaplan “is not precluded” from reapplying.
A number of statements have been submitted to the Mayors’ Conference supporting Kaplan for doing important work on the board promoting and winning significant air quality projects for Oakland, something that had been lacking for a number of years before she was appointed.
“Rebecca is doing a very good job representing Oakland and Alameda County on the board,” said Esther Goolsby of Communities for a Better Environment (CBE).
Goolsby said she went to the meeting of the Alameda County Mayors Conference in December and plans to attend again with others in February.
“We’ve tried to get some answers” from the Mayors’ Conference, she said. “We have to keep them accountable for our health. Losing our representation would be devastating to Oakland.”
“We saw a map of air quality in the Bay Area. It has improved everywhere except in certain areas, such as Oakland,” she said.
“Rebecca has stood up and made a difference on the board. Who is it that doesn’t want her on the board? Is it oil or gas (interests)?”
County Supervisor Nate Miley sent a letter to the Conference of Mayors expressing “strong support” for Kaplan’s reappointment to the board.
“Together, Rebecca and I serve as a voice for underserved communities such as Oakland, which suffer from extremely disproportionately high air pollution, and need strong representation in our region’s air quality decision-making,” said Miley.
Miley pointed out that Kaplan worked successfully to win “Spare the Air” funds for the Oakland Broadway Shuttle, which connect “last mile” locations to transit, and key destinations.
She also obtained over $600,000 to replace an old, polluting diesel locomotive engine operating near hard-hit West Oakland communities, with a new, cleaner engine, he said.
According to Michael Hunt from the mayor’s office, “The rule that may cause Councilmember Kaplan to lose her seat existed long before Mayor Schaaf took office.”
He said the mayor wants to add additional seats to the board for Oakland and other heavily impacted cities.