Oakland Reparations Committee Wants $5 Million From Taxpayers—Just To Come Up With a Plan

Committee created in 2023 with a $51,000 budget

(Fibonacci Blue/Wikimedia Commons)
June 14, 2024

A California Bay Area committee appointed to design racism reparations for black residents wants two years and $5 million just to write a plan.

The reparations panel for Alameda County, whose largest city is Oakland, made this demand late last month, San Francisco’s NPR affiliate reported, ahead of its looming July deadline to outline how local taxpayers should make their amends. The committee, created in March 2023 with a $51,000 budget, did not meet until last November.

The committee’s chair is Debra Gore-Mann, the president of a left-wing Oakland-based group called the Greenlining Institute that lobbies the California legislature to subsidize utilities and low-carbon energy, and pushes for "race-aware" and "race-based" tech and banking policies.

The funding request comes months after California’s most ambitious reparations plans have crashed and burned amid state and local budget woes. San Francisco abandoned its effort, citing the city’s deficits, after reparations committee members called for $5 million cash payments for every eligible black resident. Instead, local lawmakers settled for an apology.

The California legislature has ignored the idea of direct cash payments altogether, opting instead for ideas like subsidized property taxes and expedited business licenses for black citizens that critics warn may be unconstitutional. Like San Francisco, California is facing massive deficits after Governor Gavin Newsom (D.) rapidly increased spending even as the tax base shrank and the state’s economy lagged.

Local Oakland activist Seneca Scott, who supports reparations, said, "$5 million and two years to research [reparations] is stupid and a grift." He added that reparations supporters by now should know what they should look like.

Alameda County has its own budget woes, with deficits predicted to reach as high as $100 million. Oakland by itself reported a $117 million shortfall this fiscal year and a likely $175 million shortfall for the next.

Gore-Mann, who collected more than $340,000 in 2022 for her role at the Greenlining Institute, did not respond to a request for comment. At the May 30 committee meeting where she sought a $5 million budget she told Oakland officials that "[w]ithout a sense of what resources might be available, it’s hard to keep commissioners engaged."

The Alameda County lawmaker who created the reparations committee noted the county’s woeful finances and that $5 million "is a hefty amount of funding," particularly in light of the budget shortfall.