New rule change for Alameda County representatives was proposed by
former Piedmont mayor who resigned for anti-LGBT and racist comments
City Councilmember-at-Large Rebecca Kaplan – who serves on the Bay Air Quality Management District (BAAQMD)board and is its first Oakland representative in 25 years –could be removed after a rule change that affects only Alameda County representation on the regional body.
“Oakland stands to lose millions of dollars to improve air quality for its residents,” said Kaplan.
“We can’t afford to lose a representative who will work for our city,” she said. “Parts of East and West Oakland, along with some other East Bay cities, are some of the areas struggling with excess pollution and the related harms to human health.”
Like many regional boards, BAAQMD is not widely known by the public but can have a large impact – by passing [rules] and access to millions of dollars in grants.
Kaplan has served on the board for the past one-and-half years appointed by the Alameda 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, who members come from cities and counties from Napa to Palo Alto.
Kaplan says that while she has served on the board, she has helped secure money for major projects to improve 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.
All that is now is jeopardy after the Alameda County Mayors’ Conference recently passed a new rule saying that only mayors can serve as representatives on regional boards. The change had been proposed by former Piedmont Mayor Jeff Wieler before he resigned from office in a scandal for posting anti-LGBT and racist comments online, according to Kaplan.
A member of the Mayor’s Conference told the Post it is the normal procedure to replace representatives to regional boards when their terms expire and that first preference always goes to a mayor who applies.
But Kaplan, whose term expires in March, says that is not true.
“The last Oakland representative on the board was Councilmember Frank Ogawa, 25 years ago,” said Kaplan. “Lots of counties have city council members serving on this board. No other county is making this change.
“Alameda County would be putting itself at a disadvantage.”
Local and regional leaders sent letters to the Mayors’ Conference in support of Kaplan.
The California Nurses Association (CNA) wrote:
“Before Kaplan was appointed, the hardest-hit areas in terms of air pollution had no voice on the BAAQMD board. As Oakland City Councilmember at-large, Kaplan represents a large constituency (400,000 people), including a community that has been disproportionately hard-hit by pollution, and needs strong representation in our region’s air quality decision-making.
“Through her leadership and commitment, our communities have gained access to funding needed for projects that will ensure that the health of our communities are a priority consideration in devising plans and rules.”
Communities for a Better Environment (CBE) focused on the rule change that the Mayors’ Conference passed.
“CBE is concerned about this rule change and the potential negative impact it could have on the success of Alameda County in winning funding and policies we need on regional boards.”
Said Gregory McConnell, a local business advocate and leader, “I appreciate her effective work on the BAAQMD Board, which has successfully landed funding for needed projects in our area, and improved communication and coordination amongst stakeholders on projects that are vital to our region’s economy.”
Elihu Harris, former mayor and assemblyman, wrote, “I am concerned about the needs and health of our communities and making sure everyone, including those most struggling, have a voice in important decisions.
“Rebecca Kaplan has been a great positive addition to the BAAQMD board (and) is successfully winning improvements and projects for Alameda County while also advancing our region as a whole.”
Contra Costa County Supervisor John Gioia also sent a letter of support.
Oakland Mayor Libby Schaaf, who is a member of the Mayors’ Conference, did not reply to the Oakland Post’s questions.