Obama Visit to Oakland Proves Expensive for City and Local Businesss
President Barack Obama’s recent fundraising visit to Oakland is something taxpayers and local business won't soon forget - it required a major security effort paid for by the city and resulted in lost commerce for local businesses.
“The primary costs were associated with police staffing and rental of barricades," city spokeswoman Karen Boyd, said via email. "The cost is assumed by the city; there is no reimbursement available.”
However, that exact cost is still unknown. After numerous requests, to date, the city has not disclosed the total costs incurred because of the visit.
A city of Oakland press release issued on July 20, the Friday before the presidential visit, announced street closures and general traffic disruptions due to Obama’s presence and the anticipated protests. The statement encouraged businesses not to close and assured that the Public Works Agency and other city service employees would work extended hours to provide community support.
Some businesses did close; others stayed open, but had no customers.
Lakeside Drive and Madison Street were closed between 14th and 17th streets for several hours on Monday in order to secure an afternoon fundraising event at the Oakland Scottish Rite Center that reportedly cost $35,800 per ticket. Though businesses within the cordoned-off area were not forced to close, pedestrian access was restricted.
“Over five hours no customers. I need the business, I pay a lot,” Mi-Suk Na, who co-owns Lake Food Center on Madison said, referring to her overhead costs.
Na estimated that she lost close to $700 because of the street closure. She said she didn’t receive any explanation from Oakland Police or U.S. Secret Service agents about the security measures, though officers used her restroom throughout the afternoon.
Next door, L&Z Cleaners owner Susan Zhang had a similar experience. Police asked her to close the door and stay inside, she said, and for more than five hours Zhang had no customers.
“It was a bad day … no customers,” she said.
Barricades also were used to create a secure perimeter around the Fox Theatre, the site of Obama's July 23 fundraiser.
Rocsil’s Women’s Footwear and Accessories, on the corner of Telegraph and 17th Street, suffered because of the limited access. Owner Fred Brown said Secret Service agents handled the situation professionally. They alerted him to the upcoming street closure and told him he could stay open, but would need to remain inside. Brown elected to leave once he saw the security apparatus – over a dozen officers manning the barricade near his store – that would eliminate the possibility of customers.
He estimated that he lost $300 to $400 in sales.
“No business, none, zero,” he said. “It was really a loss for the day.”
Brown said he understood the need to protect the president, but expressed regret that the leader did not engage with the community impacted by his presence.
“I wish he could have come out and spoken to the people,” Brown said.
Karrem Taplet, a barber at Badd Boyz Hair and Barber Salon, said employees heard conflicting reports prior to the President’s visit; he said they were told they could occupy the building only if they stayed inside until 10 p.m. The staff and customers left, including a woman who was in the process of having her hair colored.
“It’s a loss that we’re going to feel,” Taplet said.
Rudy’s Can’t Fail Café shares a building with the Fox Theatre. OPD gave the business advance notice that they would have to close at 1 p.m., according to managing partner Douglas Smith. The forewarning allowed the restaurant to re-schedule important deliveries.
“We wanted to be open for our customers,” Smith said. “But It’s not everyday the president visits Uptown ... we’re big supporters of the President.”
Nenna Joiner of Feelmore 510 expressed a similar sentiment. She stayed abreast of the situation by checking in with the Obama for America campaign office across the street from her store on Telegraph and following information distributed by the Lake Merritt/ Uptown Association.
“It’s one day, you gotta look at it that way,” she said. “Some egos may be bruised, but I’ll take one for the team.”
Tickets for the Fox Theatre event sold for $100, $250, $1,000 and $7,500. Obama For America did not provided fundraising figures for the Oakland events in time for publication, but according to Bob Kelly, a volunteer at the OFA Oakland office, by the Thursday before the function only $7,500 tickets were still available.
Source: Oakland Local [http://m.oaklandlocal.com/article/81-local-businesses-city-oakland-take-one-team-facilitate-obama-visit]