Monthly Archives: January 2008

What a letdown!

I apologize for not delivering my promised weekend AC Transit history lesson. But I had a good reason. Instead of going on the blog, it went on Novometro. And you can read it there right now. Many kudos to the folks at AC Transit, who provided us with awesome photos of vintage buses.

Part 2 of the East Bay Express Van Hool expose is up, and well, I guess I’m relieved that I don’t have to spend any time refuting false claims this week, but after such a fiery beginning, it feels somewhat anticlimactic.

What do we learn in this installment?

Well, it turns out that when public employees take business related trips, their trips are paid for with taxpayer money. Also, when they do that, people usually think they spend too much money.

I guess there’s a couple of minor issues here: Continue reading

Let’s play a game

You know, every time I think that I’ve witnessed a level of dimness that simply can’t be surpassed, something new manages to come out of City Hall and shock me even more. Check out Nancy Nadel staffer Marisa Arrona’s blog about the plastic bag ban:

However, even if our proposed ordinance were considered a “project” under CEQA, an EIR would be wholly speculative because they are asking us to essentially predict consumer behavior. In other words, the plastic bag industry is claiming that if we ban plastic bags, then consumers will use paper bags or compostable plastic bags instead, and that will have an adverse environmental impact. But, says who? Who says that’s what consumers will do?

My God. Is there something in the water at this office? Nancy Nadel told the Trib the same thing:

In Oakland’s case, Nadel said an EIR would be inconclusive anyway, because it would be impossible to predict whether shoppers would use paper bags or reusable bags if plastic were not an option.

I made the same argument as the evil plastic bag manufacturers are making repeatedly on this blog before the ban passed, so obviously I agree that the Council should engage in environmental review before they make stupid decisions like this. And while I consider myself rather clever, I don’t think I’m clever enough to sit here and come up with a good argument why the City shouldn’t have to do an EIR. Maybe if I was being paid I could. Or maybe not. But I like to hope that the City is employing people significantly more clever than me, so you’d assume that someone over there would be able to come up with a good argument in their defense. Instead, this is what we get: we shouldn’t have to study the environmental impacts of our decision because nobody can predict the future. I will give five Linden dollars to the first person who tells me the logical conclusion of that sentiment.

The Express is dead to me, part 2

I already wrote about some of the problems I have with Robert Gammon’s Van Hool screed (this week’s Express cover story). I thought I’d said my peace, but after rereading the story, and engaging in a short exchange with Robert Gammon in the comments section of the article (which he ended with the extremely mature “This is the last time I’m going to respond to you because you obviously have no idea what you’re talking about”), I realized that I have a lot more to say.

If you didn’t read it, here’s the link, but for those who don’t want to waste there time, here’s the deal. Gammon’s story is about the Van Hool buses, which I (and everyone I know) happen to like much better than the old buses, but have generated some very aggressive complaints from some riders. Although the anti-Van Hool movement, spearheaded by Oakland activist Joyce Roy, can be extremely loud, they haven’t demonstrated in the past that they can turn out much in the way of numbers.

Anyway, Gammon spends nearly 4000 words interweaving rider complaints about the Van Hools with (nearly always innaccurate) descriptions of AC Transit’s failings, inefficiences, and budget problems. By conflating the purchase of allegedly expensive, allegedly dangerous, and certainly (gasp!) foreign-made Van Hools and alleged ridership declines and service cuts, Gammon implies that AC Transit has placed the purchase of these buses over the interests of its riders.

What’s particularly sad about this story is that Gammon clearly doesn’t understand, well, the first thing about public transit or the history of AC Transit. The article is riddled with errors that might be forgivable from, I don’t know, a high school student? But from a full-time investigative reporter after a three month investigation, they’re beyond embarrassing.

So let’s get into just how misleading this story is, and also how little Gammon understands about transit. Continue reading

The weekly from hell

OMG! Soangrysoangrysoangrysoangry!

Since it became independently owned, the East Bay Express, a paper I used to look forward to reading every week, has lost all their good writers, gone from healthy to anorexic, and is increasingly becoming a vehicle for nothing more than the half-baked, ill-informed screeds of crazy people. I give it four more months before it has all the relevancy of the Berkeley Daily Planet. For the most part I just ignore it. But I cannot overlook or forgive this week’s insane cover story which appears to be an attempt to turn the whining of a handful of Van Hool haters into yet another bullshit excuse to bitch about BRT.

The essence of the story’s argument hinges on the assertion that AC transit ridership is has plunged under the leadership of BRT proponent Rick Fernandez. This is not true by any metric. Ridership is growing. Read through for the numbers. Continue reading

Incentive package to hold off police retirements – a good idea?

So one of the things Ron Dellums proposed to address the police staffing issue in his State of the City address last week was to put together an incentive package to keep senior officers eligible for retirement on as field trainers. I didn’t say much about it in my post on his speech, mostly because I wasn’t really sure what I thought of it. A week later, I’m still not sure.

First, I’m not even sure it will make much of a difference. Continue reading

Random Monday thoughts and links

I’m keeping things short today, on account of the holiday.

So what can we do about the police?

Dellums promised during his State of the City address that we would be at 803 officers by the end of the year. Whether we can do that is the question of the week, I guess. I explained on Novometro Wednesday why this is impossible, and wrote about again here yesterday. Apparently the plan is to take Measure Y money to pay for special Sheriff’s Academies, which really isn’t what that money is supposed to be for, but I suppose if it gets more police on the streets, most people will be willing to overlook that. Lenore Anderson, apparently confused as to what it means to add officers to the force, assured the Trib that it was possible, and that “getting civilians to do desk work [was] crucial.” Stephen Buel, editor of the more-anemic-by-the-week East Bay Express, wants to know what we would even do with 803 officers (I don’t know, Steve. Put a Problem Solving Officer in every beat like we’re supposed to and respond to calls for service in a more timely manner, maybe?). Disturbingly, the Mayor’s office apparently only began to put together their recruitment package on Tuesday, and now says that it “could go to the City Council for approval as soon as February.” A post from someone who recently went through the hiring process has been circulating on Oakland listservs, and his experience does not make him optimistic: Continue reading

Questioning Dellums’s promise

I wrote yesterday for Novometro about the feasibility of Ron Dellums’s promise to fully staff the police department by the end of 2008. CBS 5 had a report last night on the same topic.

In my story, I focused on the realities of the police hiring timeline, showing that even in a best-case recruiting scenario, there simply isn’t time to train any police who have not yet begun the hiring process and completed their POST exam by the end of 2008. The CBS 5 story didn’t really look into that aspect, but spoke with OPOA President Bob Valladon, who said “No, it’s not realistic, in fact it’s almost impossible. There’s not enough people that actually want to apply for this job and be able to go through the background and pass.” They also interviewed Oakland Police Chief Wayne Tucker, who said “It’s going to be difficult. It’s a real challenge for us, but it’s realistic.”

Um…it isn’t. Continue reading

Setting the record straight on Dellums’s State of the City address

I apologize in advance for the length of this post. I wanted to address the Ron Dellums’s State of the City address fairly and completely. Below I have noted (in order) every point the Mayor hit during his speech, followed by relevant supplementary information and/or my thoughts on the topic. I considered breaking it up into a few different posts, but then I decided that spreading it out would make it seem like I’m just beating up on Dellums non-stop, and that isn’t my intention.

Dellums managed to do one thing Monday night that I didn’t think possible – he made me feel genuinely sorry for him. He was so defensive and so clearly overwhelmed by his responsibilities, and so clearly searching desperately for something, anything he could point to as an accomplishment, that I seriously considered just giving him a break and ignoring the whole event. But facts are facts, and as the man said himself (repeatedly) on Monday night, we have to “set the record straight,” “separate fact from fiction, myth from reality.” And boy, oh boy, was there a whole lot of fiction flying around at the Marriott Monday night. So let’s get to it. Continue reading

Instant Feedback on State of the City

I’m working on a long post about the Mayor’s State of the City address last night, but I don’t think I’ll get it up before the end of the workday today. In the meantime, you can read about it in the Chronicle or the Trib. If any readers attended, I’d love to hear your thoughts.

We don’t have fancy online polling to rate local speeches, and the Trib no longer has comments on their articles, so there’s no obvious to way to gauge Oaklanders’ reaction to the address. Personally, I find that looking at the search engine terms that lead to this blog is often a good way to measure what’s on people’s minds. I just took this snapshot of today’s top ten searches.

Altamont or bust! High speed rail is dead to me.

I’ve been meaning to write about something about high speed rail forever now, and somehow I just haven’t found the time to get around to it. The subject popped back up near the top of my list after last week’s dumb Express story and its implicit endorsement of the dumb decision favoring the Pacheco Pass alignment. Luckily, I don’t have to worry about it anymore, because Eric at Transbay Blog wrote a great post about it that says pretty much everything I wanted to say, but way better than I would have written it. Go read it. And read the comments, too.

Well…not quite everything. Continue reading

Dellums, busy working hard for Oakland (in secret)

Ugh. Whatever:

Through it all, supporters say, Dellums was working diligently behind the scenes — no matter how it may have appeared to the public.

Assemblyman Sandre Swanson, D-Oakland, a longtime aide to Dellums when he was in Congress, said Dellums’ relation to the press may have helped create the impression that not much was being done.

“Because he doesn’t send out a press release every time he accomplishes something or works behind the scenes on something, it might go unnoticed,” he said.

I’m sorry, but I have to call bullshit on this. I get press releases from the Mayor’s office for every sad thing you could imagine, including things he had nothing to do with. The most useless examples aren’t posted on his website, but the sampling there should give you a decent idea of the sort of thing Dellums will alert the papers about. Call me cynical, but I have a really hard time imagining that Dellums is working behind the scenes, making all sorts of progress for Oakland that he won’t tell anyone about (because he’s just not that kind of guy), yet feels the need to issue media missives crowing that the City Council approved his appointments or that you can drop off donations for the Mayor’s toy drive at the Warriors game.

Of course, it isn’t particularly surprising to see a statement this out of touch coming from Sandre Swanson, the Oakland assemblyman who has said repeatedly that the “number one priority” for his constituents is local control of the school board and who was apparently unaware that the leaders of Your Black Muslim Bakery had any problems with the law as of last July.