A few thoughts on the Council’s disappointing decision about the Oakland Airport Connector

By now, you guys have probably all heard that the Oakland City Council voted last night to reaffirm their support for the Oakland Airport Connector (all present but Rebecca Kaplan and Nancy Nadel voted yes, Desley Brooks was absent). They attached a few conditions to their support, which would be good ones if there was even a remote reason to think BART would comply with them, but of course there isn’t. It was, to say the least, disappointing.

What’s that thing they say? You can’t fight City Hall? That’s wrong. You can totally fight City Hall. You just have to get used to losing a lot.

I’m pretty much accustomed to it at this point, and I wish I could say that it gets easier over time. So far, for me, it hasn’t. Losing sucks. Losing something you care deeply about and have worked incredibly hard for really sucks, end of story.

But here’s the thing. Sometimes, maybe not all the time, and maybe not even most of the time, but sometimes, you win. And when you do, it feels so unbelievably good.

I say all this because after last night’s vote, the first thing I thought about, even before I started feeling all crushed and depressed about the Airport Connector and about how little most of the Council appears to understand transportation or transportation funding, was all those people who I know are not in the regular habit of writing to the Council or certainly of making calls about things, who got up and did so for this. A significant number of readers either CCed me on their messages or wrote to me about sending messages to or calling the Council about this, and many mentioned that it was the first time they ever had done so, but that they just felt so strongly about this that they were compelled to speak up.

And much more than I’m disappointed about the Council’s decision on the Airport Connector (which is a great deal), I’m terrified that those people will be discouraged by the experience or think that their voice doesn’t matter and not want to do it again. Please do not feel that way. Your voices were heard. You took something that everyone thought was a done deal and made it a huge issue, made the other side fight with every ounce of strength and influence they could muster, and made this vote a very tough one for everyone on the Council. You should all be so proud of yourselves.

But sometimes, even when you do all that, you lose. That’s just how it goes. You do the best you can do, and sometimes, your best just isn’t good enough. And all you can do is resolve to do better the next time.

I know I have many readers who have been doing all this far longer than I have (in some cases, longer than I’ve been alive), and I am hoping that some of them will chime in and offer some words of encouragement as well. And in case they don’t, let me share with you what one of them wrote to me on Monday.

Sometimes I think my 9th grade Civics teacher would be proud, other days I claim I must have missed the class where he explained it is all a sham and the deals are done for completely corrupt reasons with no concern for the public.

We all have those days. But in the end, it is worth it. As frustrating as all this often is, the person who wrote that doesn’t stop, no matter how many of those bad days there are. And I don’t want any of you to either.

The entire reason I devote basically all my spare time to this blog is because I want people to understand and become engaged with their local government. If you are unsatisfied with how your City is run, you can and should do more than yell at the TV or the newspaper, or bitch about your frustrations to your neighbors. You can change things. It is not something that is going to get done overnight, or in a week, or in a month. It is hard and it takes persistence and fortitude and the willingness to keep trying in the face of often seemingly overwhelming obstacles and frequent disappointment.

But it is worth it. Oakland is a wonderful city full of amazing, generous people. It also, like everything and everyone, has many flaws. That’s not a reason to throw your hands in the air and give up hope. It’s a reason to work hard to make it better.

So I want to extend my deep appreciation to everyone who sent e-mails and made phone calls and came to speak at meeting after meeting demanding something better for Oakland over the last nine months. Particularly, John Knox White, Becks, dto510 and Councilmember Rebecca Kaplan, who have labored tirelessly on this issue, and done an almost unimaginably amazing job despite near-insurmountable odds and near-endless frustration. I encourage all who wanted a better project to send a note to them thanking them for their work.

And for all of you who dipped a toe into the waters of local government activism for the first time on this, I offer my sincerest gratitude to you. Please don’t be discouraged and let this turn you off from being involved in the future. It won’t be easy and it won’t be fast. But together, we can make a better Oakland. Because remember, sometimes, you win.

62 thoughts on “A few thoughts on the Council’s disappointing decision about the Oakland Airport Connector

  1. AustinOAK

    Thanks – this is just what I needed. I was feeling X-actly like you describe above.
    Better now… on to the next battle!

  2. markko

    hey, don’t be too quick to dismiss those conditions that oakland attached to their support resolution. the most significant one, probably, is the request for an intermediate Hegenberger stop. Okay, so BART is unlikely to put that in. But, in spite of the skepticism here, there is a very good chance that this project will cost less than estimated. Not because BART is so genius, but because the economy is so bad and construction companies are bidding like crazy for projects. BART’s Warm Springs project was 45% below estimate; the Caldecott tunnel was 25% below estimate. If OAC is only 10% below, that’s $50 million that will get returned to the funding agencies. So Oakland needs to be prepared to make an organized push to those funding agencies to ask them to direct some of the savings back to OAC to build the intermediate stop. But you can’t expect BART to make it happen; Oakland is going to have to do the work to get the money. (FWIW, Oakland also needs to be prepared to show those funding agencies that it has a real plan for transit oriented development at the location of that Hegenberger stop; so far Oakland has dropped the ball on that part of the deal.)

  3. V Smoothe

    Actually, BART has been very explicit that if the project costs less than estimated (which, BTW, has never happened in the history of the system), no money will be returned and they will just not take the TIFIA loan. BART GM Dorthy Dugger, when questioned about the conditions last night, basically told the City Council straight up that they had no intention of doing any of them. They’re meaningless.

  4. markko

    ah. bummer. I wonder if that’s just BART’s take on it, or if the funding agencies see it the same way.

  5. Patrick

    Rather than quash my desire to fight city hall, this vote reinvigorated it. It was with much pleasure that I wrote IDLF (and cc’d all the others) that his no vote on the resolution = no vote from me when he comes up for re-election.

    I have always been firmly against term limits, it just makes government like a depressing game of musical chairs – except that everyone gets a seat when the music stops. But I now see the value. It is time that most of this Council moves on.

  6. Frank

    V, you won because the passion you demonstrated convinced me that I need to take a more involved role in my community. You are truly inspiring and I know that you made the same favorable impression on many more Oakland residents. You’re right, you can’t win all the time but the times you do are sweet. On to the next battle – doing something about replacing those entrenched City Council members who haven’t got a clue! Thanks for all of your hard work!

  7. MarleenLee

    V – I never told you, but you were my original source of information and inspiration. I fought City Hall and won. It can be done. Now, onto round 2 – the City authorized an appeal of my suit last night. Good thing I like fighting.

  8. AustinOAK

    The Crap E-mail Good OLD Ron just sent out.

    Oakland Mayor Ron Dellums > “I am pleased council supported the Airport Connector. Working w/ BART to ensure it will benefit community & provide jobs for our residents.

    This is what I wrote back before I unsubscribed just now. The Mayoy’s office drive me bat shit crazy (how bad it is). I could kick myself every time I think about how hard I worked to get Ron Dellums to run > blame me – ok?

    Ron – I wish you would do your homework. Please. This is NOT the best way to handle this project. Rebecca Kaplan’s stellar analysis on this is a MUST READ.
    Glad you are on your way to retirement.
    Sorry I encouraged you to run. Truly I am.
    Your Mayor-ship is a failure all the way around. This is just the icing on the cake.
    Best, AUSTIN

  9. Ken O

    I love fighting. And without losing you can’t win. Nobody wins all the time. If you don’t lose, you’ll never win.

    Most of current city council should be tossed out on their asses.

    Especially Jane, Pat, and Jean.

    I like at least half of what Rebecca is doing. I don’t think Delsey is doing her job since she is so often absent from VOTING on issues. Larry Reid may be doing a passable job. Nancy? Ignacio?

    We need:

    – AC Transit’s Bus Rapid Transit to go forward. Otherwise they’ll lose ever more money. It makes no sense NOT to have a bus-only lane!!

    – City Hall to trim its budget, especially with respect to CALPERS 90% for life pensions. Those are dodo birds and should be treated as such. Sorry. Civilization comes at a high cost, and now that we’re on the backside of the bell curve with respect to energy, money and resources, that’s how it has to play out.

    —-x example: OPD: change from V8 engines to V6 or I4 engine cars + hybrids. save money on gas $$$ to pay more officers, instead
    —-x example: make sure new OPD Chief brings back true community policing, officers on the ground meeting neighbors good n bad, not chasing radio
    —-x example: lower pension promises to new hires.
    —-x example: ensure that the city has LONG-TERM priorities in place with investment to back these up, (good example: Jerry Brown, downtown real estate redevelopment; we are the central city in the whole Bay Area and deserve to build up to our full potential.)
    —-x example: start community gardens on carefully selected city property without asking perrmission; ask for forgiveness later. (and make sure to do native crops, composting, crop rotation, etc!) — there’s already a lovely demo garden of this at Lake Merritt in the garden center there but we could use more.

    – Elites including city leaders don’t always do the right thing. You all know this by now I hope. So let’s work with them when we can (build rapport, goodwill) and fight the city hall “machine” of lobbyist and developer backed city hall electeds when we must. They are not leaders. They have to place too many. VSmoothe by calling out a specific vision and countering the city hall status quo, is a leader. Each of you by fighting for and leading improvements in your neighborhoods, you are a leader.

    Politicians are followers. They follow polls and money. That’s it. That’s the system.

    CEOs are perhaps as useful–they follow money only and are paid PR flacks who lie to the public. No personal responsibility because it’s corporate, which is why the main mechanism someone has to fight a corporation is to fight its brand. A brand is a corporation’s conscience. The C-suite has no personal obligation to the public.

  10. Barry K.

    MarleenLee- Let us know when you setup a paypal account so we can make donations, and, get notices so we know how we can help your efforts. And, those of us on neighborhood groups can get the word out too!


    AustinOak- “Ron sent out.” ?? By who? Wife or his driver? Does he even know where he is, or, what OAC stands for?

    Before Ron takes his next tax-payer trip to DC, let him take BART from downtown Oakland and head to OAK airport; if he’s healthy enough.

  11. Ralph

    I think it is possible to fight city hall but if you convinced they are headed down the wrong path but you lack a viable alternate, then you are probably bound to be frustrated. Politics is the ultimate in the art of compromise.

    I don’t like that RK sold out D3 for a few shekels, but if at the end of the day there is a net loss of BB in D3 then I can get on board. I am happy that NN was principled in her opposition to this.

    As to the OAC, the writing was on the wall. We are Oakland, but we are also part of a bigger region and the region does need a better airport. Can I see myself using this airport connector – not unless there is an annual 20% increase in the AirBart fee structure. I am guessing it will be cheaper for me to have someone drop me off at the airport.

    I am hopeful that we can obtain the additional stops for Oakland. I understand that as a result of yesterday’s vote, there are some developers who would like to dig dirt on Hegenberger. If so, then that is cool.

    All I ask is that when council has to vote for the region, council make sure Oakland benefits as well.

  12. Andy K

    I was encouraged by RK stand on this issue. I’ll be honest in saying I was skeptical about her prior to the election – mainly because I did not know much about her having not followed the AC Transit board.

    I’m not discourage – well not totally. In fact, I plan on calling JQ and telling her how disapointed I am – not in her vote, but in her complete lack of understanding this important issue.

    As I write, I think I will also call RK and thank her for her strong leadership on this. Got to stay positive.

  13. AustinOAK

    Ken O

    Obama – I was neutral on that one. Late 2 da party. I do dig Barack. Helped get him elected – hell helped run the Oak Dem Hdqtrs. Mostly tthere though for Rebecca.

    I do think Obama has loaded his Administration wih a TON of Clintonista 90′s Democrat Corporatist Losers. I mean wasn’t the whole nasty primary about getting rid of these hacks? Collectively Hill/Bill and Company have wrecked the Party Brand. Yet they are EVERWHERE. If I hear James Carville unload his crap one more time my head will explode. He is the biggest Clintonista Hack of all.

    Now I am not so sure how to feel anymore about “Yes We Can”….
    One year later pretty deflated I must admit. This OAC didn’t help and knowing that local hacks like Kerry Hammel that surround Oakland also make me crazed. More so cause the city council treats her like their Buddy. Which she used to decieve them in June. It suprises me NOT that Kerry works for BART. Now that we spent the whole summer learning how amazingly dysfunctional the Management and Union are. Kerry there is PERFECT. We need to see that her “Free Pass” is revoked around City Hall. For one. and more…

    Oakland Politics makes me want to wave the White Flag!

    And this that is why for next year I am NOT working on the Govenors Race, NOT working on the Mayors Race and AM working for TaxCannabis2010. Now that is the race to be on the inside. Richard Lee is the BEST. This campaign is going to go SOOOoo mainstream (hell everyone will be coming out of the Cannibis Closet) (all of Hollywood etc…) (it will B the ThANG 2 do) (you watch) It is going to be very very fun and THE place to B. And will WIN.

    Green Day and Oaksterdam(ers) are the only Oaklanders ya can trust these days….

  14. dto510

    Re: the intermediate stops, it may be better for Oakland if BART didn’t take the TIFIA loan and didn’t build an intermediate stop, because that would keep the fare down and not make the OAC as much of a loss to the core system. Of course, the ship has pretty much sailed on keeping the core system solvent.

  15. David

    Again, hilarious. It’s like talking to a bunch of wide-eyed 12 year olds.

    Government waste? Oh my, impossible. Log-rolling? Not “standing up” to BART etc because some cushy “commission” is where they’re planning to land after this rigorous politician’s career is over (joke).

    Barry Obama? A Chicago machine politician, promoted through the rigged chicago and Illinois political systems (remember, he “won” his first election by disqualifying his opponents by challenging voter signatures, and “won” the US Senate by getting Axelrod to get the Trib-his former employer- to snoop around Ryan’s ‘sealed’ divorce records), a ‘typical’ loser politician who hasn’t kept a single promise (from closing down Gitmo for you liberals, to not raising taxes on anyone making less than $250K for you ‘independents’)…a shocker? You mean he’s just gonna be the same warmed over pile of crap nearly all politicians are?

    Never coulda guessed that.

    Austin. Let me enlighten you, my child. The only goal of the political class from any party is to take your money and increase their power, which they do by handing your money out to their friends. Period. The only politicians I can think of who don’t do this are: Calvin Coolidge (unfortunately, dead), Tom McClintock and Chuck DeVore.

    How do you avoid getting taken? Two ways…one: you can become part of the political class, i.e. get connected and get on the public teat, or get small government. Again, no tax increases, no fee increases, restrict spending on everything.

  16. Max Allstadt

    I think that the next step for the council is to use the fact that BART is in breech of contract with the City as leverage. If they won’t change the local jobs goals to binding requirements, the city should obstruct the project until BART capitulates on that.

  17. Daniel Schulman (das88)

    To the list of people to thank, I would also add Nancy Nadel. I sent her a thank you note this morning.

    I certainly do not always agree with her, and I wish she was more effective on issues that I did agree with. However, she was the only Councilmember who voted against the parking rollback and the OAC.

    Acknowledging the stand against all that pressure is certainly worth the effort of an email.

  18. Barry K.

    Casino Hegenberger? Don’t be surprised if an interim stop on Hegenberger leads to the front door of newly designated tribal lands(George Miller was so good at that). Maybe it’s there allready under the Hilton?
    Hegenberger, the new strip. Our new travel destination where meters run 24/7.
    Of course, tribal lands would be exempt from oversight and auditing and unions.

  19. Naomi Schiff

    Hang in there, people. I have lost more battles than won, but just once in a while, the good guys actually win a round, and it bucks you up for the next thing.

    More often one loses, but wins some little condition or tradeoff or concession. I think this is one of those wins-a-little ones. Let’s try to get ten percent. Let’s seek a 10% improvement in this project. It could be better bus service, or more local jobs, or better design, or assurance that the overall BART system will not have to compensate in higher fares for this crazy scheme. Or a funded cooperative agreement of some kind with AC Transit to better serve Hegenberger and airport terminals during off-hours?

    It is hard to go up against big contributors to campaigns past and future, and that is what we have been doing. No more money from the construction unions OR the chamber OR the Chinatown Chamber? Well, that takes out a couple of city councilmembers right there. The threat to the future campaign kitty was evident.

    But on the facts, and being rational–we opponents of the world’s shortest railway that doesn’t reach its destination were correct, right? So we shouldn’t just go away. In regrouping, figure out what could reasonably be gotten out of the situation.

    I couldn’t stand to stick around and listen to all the pieties and posturing last night, but I am absolutely sure they occurred. Let’s make the city council stand behind their pieties, and hold them a little more accountable on this.

    So: are any commitments to be obtained?

    -For sure, local hire bears very close watching. Some of those same construction unions who plead for work have located their training facilities way east of us, and are not doing nearly enough on local training and hiring.

    -Can we get BART to listen to us about the horrid design and stupid stoplessness and see whether anything can be improved? Maybe. It would start with going to their infernal (daytime!) meetings, not much attended (except when they have inadvertently shot somebody) by the public, and with letting them know that we might be able to sway some votes in an election.

    -We should look into running candidates for BART board. It is an obscure yet powerful office, and the incumbents rarely are seriously challenged. And yet they are the ones spending our money. I am sure they did not much like having to defend their project. Now is the time to strategize carefully, and keep pushing. We should go back to each of these boardmembers, and assure them that we won’t disappear.

    Maybe we should all get airport taxi licenses, too?

  20. len raphael

    agree w Naomi on aiming at relatively obscure elected boards. But we need to do more “lessons learned” work on how we could have fought more effectively even though it was a long shot at best because of the interests and momentum propeling the oac, and even though most oakland residents would have skipped that channel automatically.

    i want to say the vote was already decided before the meeting, but judging by the scripted turnout of the pro oac side, they were not taking that for granted. my gosh, that unemployeed construction single mom with 4 kid! I was ready to agree with was it JQ or PK’s comment to the effect “if they wanted to pay us to hire unemployeed workers to pile and unpile rocks, we’d do it”

    i missed the first half hour of the oac portion. great to see all the ordinary residents energized against it. (btw, what/who is genesis?)

    thought many good debating points and some emotional points were made by our side, including RK’s comments on the cynical employment play, if the rare oakland undecided voter had been watching, I think the cc members would have won their support with their “if we don’t waste their money, someone else will” argument.

    Maybe we should have exagerated at points, just to offset the other sides half truths.


  21. Max Allstadt


    I sent Nancy Nadel a thank-you too. I try to do that anytime she and I are in agreement.

    Her reply was “you can lead a horse to water, but you can’t make him drink”
    My quick reply to that was “unfortunately the other guys led the horse to turpentine and convinced him it was a martini”


    You better believe that BART Board is going to have a hell of an election fight.

    8 billion in debt,
    an innocent black father shot in the back,
    and a botched response to that tragedy caused a riot in downtown Oakland.

    Multi-term incumbents get complacent, but this is obscene. Out with all of them.
    (Except Tom Radulovich, he’s a very nice man)

  22. len raphael

    to hear NN criticize wasteful govt spending was perfect. every cc member should be required to start a chocolate business.

    -len raphael

  23. Brian T

    I spoke for the second time in front of council last night. The first was against that tree lawsuit on Measure DD work at Lake Merritt. I hoped that I was able to balance out the unions, construction firms, and Sanjiv Honda. I’m still a newcomer to civic involvement, but my hope is that the constituents still have a say.

    V, thank you for reaffirming that we still have a voice.

    My first taste of civic involvement felt good. I’m hooked now.

    …and no, I haven’t a clue what Genesis is or what they do.

  24. Pamela Drake

    I have been fighting city hall as long as I can remember. I love to win but I do it because it’s my government and my duty as an engaged citizen. Naomi’s right. Pick out some demands to fight for (or hope for a good lawsuit) AND run some candidates against an important system that is very ostentatiously flawed. When some of us fought for public power during the “energy crisis”, we noticed how pathetic the EBMUD board was. Peralta’s in trouble, too. Lots of stuff to do folks. Let’s get started.

  25. AustinOAK

    (reponse) David

    child? wish I was – 50yrs here and veteran of politics of all kinds…getting more a tase of Cali and local politics these days – only been in-state 8-9 yrs. Helped run Howard (DEAN) campaign in SF. Now that was as fun as RK’s last Fall.

    Thanks for your comment. I am see how you feel this way. I am such a Progressive (DemoGreen) that I hold those I help elect to a different stand than what you & I see as Oakland Political Establishment get away with. I feel very deflated these days about my Oakland. It is same-shit different day at it’s finest.

    I am absolutely DO NOT subscribe to the American Conservative principal (GOP basically) that “Government is Bad”. The Republican Party of the United States is the only Party in the Western World that truely subscribes blindly to this mantra. It hurts all. It’s a lie.

    And if your heard Meg Whitman’s radio ads – first thing out of her mouth is “cutting taxes” “MORE” (last time I checked Cali has not issues a brand new tax on ANYTING in the last 25 years) (look it up – none) which wins elections (some times) (this time? ) (again) easy to say – just who’s vote are you trying to get? What does she propose to cut? It seems to me we are already at the threat of many basic programs being cut due to low State revenues already. Hardly a winning campaign issue for many Californians.

    So very much. I do see how corrupt the American Sytem is Top-2-Bottom. I as a Progressive Dem work to elect “better” Democrats to replace those that are not.
    Oakland is loaded to the GILLS with it.

    That is the biggest BUMMER for me since getting my first taste of local politics last Fall. Makes me hesitant to every wander down dat path again. There are a few Oaklanders out there when the run (or up for re-election) I will help like I did for RK.

  26. Rebecca Kaplan

    Thanks so much to everyone who worked on this, including those who came to city hall and spoke. And thanks V for a great post — we need not to lose hope from this experience, and to know that we can change things. For example, for projects that are at earlier stages of development, it will be easier to mobilize for improvements.

    This is not to say that I don’t still feel we could have done much better than the OAC, or that I am not frustrated about the level of deception used to push the project. I am most troubled by the cynical manipulation of the fears of unemployed residents with false promises about inflated job numbers — I wonder who will be held responsible to give those people the promised jobs?

    But I also know that our work is not in vain. In part because every time we practice using the muscles of democracy, those muscles get stronger.

    I was taught as a kid, to “leave things better than you found them.” Before there was public discussion about concerns about the OAC, it had no hiring rules. Now, hiring rules are being added, and the Oakland City Council has publicly insisted on real, enforceable, Oakland hiring standards. (Of course, whether BART implements this remains to be seen, but now, many more people are paying attention, and insisting on it). If more people here get jobs, then this effort will have, at least, resulted in some improvement for people in Oakland and our local economy….

    And, many more people are beginning to learn about transportation policy and funding, and it has become clear to all that Oakland needs to have some sort of coherent transportation planning and transportation policy decision-making system — looking forward to working with all of you on next steps.

    Best wishes,
    -Rebecca Kaplan

  27. jackbdazzle

    Obviously, this is a very bad project, and very wasteful one. It is especially upsetting given the high cost of a bart ride. I think we are all in agreement on this.

    What I don’t understand why everyone on this board seem to thinks this is the worst thing that has ever happened to Oakland? This is the most depressed I think I have ever seen this board. It is not all bad.

    There is an upside. Money is coming into Oakland. Mostly someone else’s money, There may well be some jobs and additional economic activity in a city that really needs it. Our unemployment rate is a disaster. I would assume this is one of the reasons why Larry Reid was in favor of the project. I would guess his district has over a 20% unemployment rate. That is just unacceptable.

    All of these stimulus plans are a waste of money. At least they are wasting it in Oakland, and in a depressed area of Oakland. If the port did not piss away the money with this project, I am sure that they would have found some other way to waste it. At least the trains don’t pollute.

    How many of these types of projects do we need to make up for the lost parking revenue?

  28. Chris Kidd

    I think part of what people are pissed about is that money ISN’T coming to Oakland. Something’s being built in Oakland, and money’s being spent to build it, but the likelihood that a fraction of it stays in Oakland isn’t very probable.

    Meanwhile, the effect of a flyover concrete monstrosity on Hegenberger is likely to depress our local economy and job market, not stimulate it.

  29. navigator

    I have to agree with Jack on this one. I feel bad for the people who genuinely were against this. I don’t doubt your sincerity for a second. I apologize for posting AFTER the decision had already been made. I didn’t know that the Oakland city Council had already voted.

    There’s still hope to make this a better project by insisting on a seamless connection, insisting on a stop on Hegenberger, and mitigating the aesthetic issues with more palm trees and perhaps growing ivy on the cement structure. This could be a good project IF BART listens to the concerns in Oakland. Jobs will come out of this, and if done correctly it will be a big help for Oakland International and Oakland’s economy.

    I’m glad the money will be spent on an Oakland project , but we have to make sure that it’s done correctly. Don’t give up hope.

  30. Ken O

    Who pushed for the OAC Airtrain-to-Nowhere?

    * Local Unions (guys who work for $20-30/hr?)
    * Local Chamber of Commerce (looks good for Oakland to have a train go almost straight to the AP like SFO)
    * Local Pols (pressure from the 2 parties above)

    Perhaps some banker or concrete maker will benefit too.

    It is time to rip out the BART Czars who do not seem to care about Oaklanders’ needs.

    They cater to those in Fremont, Dublin, Walnut Creek, Lafayette/Orinda/RR and of course SF more than to us.

    Now, not to complain: we do have the most BART stations of any Bay Area city: about 8 I think. And we do cause BART problems with our riots and such, although… that’s another can of worms.

    I think BART should redevelop all its Oakland (and outlying) BART stations to become multi-use hubs. A mix of commercial (shopping malls, offices), residential (apts), and productive space (light industrial). Right now commercial and residential are not so hot. Industrial uses would be enticing. I’d love to see our BART stations crammed with little restaurants and bars and a few shops of useful things. I guess that won’t happen anytime soon because we Americans are SPENT and IN DEBT. Oh well.

    My thinking may be behind the times though. Although more people are moving closer to BART stations (I moved near 19th St station, have friends who live at Avalon 200 ft away from Union City station) and this will help with Transit-Oriented Development (TOD) projects, we’re just plain running out of energy long-term.

    Energy (oil, coal, nat gas) underpins money not the other way around. Without energy, money is useless.

    So no matter what BART builds, it may become useless in the end anyway.

    Instead of pining for BRT and streetcars which Oakland may never get, we might concentrate on making it a Bicycle City and Pedestrian City. Maybe a Good Eats City and Beer Brewery City too.

    Then much later after we have built up some capital we can apply it to local TOD.

    I hope that someday we have streetcars (muni f-line style) on Broadway and International, but until that pipe dream happens, let’s work with what tools we can afford.

    Oakland cannot afford anything more than bicycles and shoes.

    Long-term, we should be pushing for streetcars though… Phoenix-Mesa-Tempe did it. Charlotte, NC did it. Minneapolis, MN did it. Denver did it with a one cent or so tax. These are mostly light rail, not streetcars, but still. They’re all kicking butt because they all did it the right way and both RE development and ridership have exploded around the iron rails.

    Oakland should do it too, but it won’t be right away. Elites usually do the wrong thing. We have been letting our leaders pull the wrong lever so long it will take decades to get better. By then the USA won’t exist anymore in present form.

  31. David

    I’m sorry Austin that you’re so old and haven’t realized a few simple truths about American politics, especially city politics.

    You’ve been in this state long enough to have seen state spending DOUBLE. The ratio of state worker to resident is up over 10% in a decade. What do we get for all that? A fat political class. Municipality spending is up huge over the past decade. Are schools any better? no. Streets? no. Traffic? no. etc etc.

    You “progressive Dem” types have gotten all the money you could squeeze out of us middle class workers/earners, and then some, and you still did jack squat with it except jack up public worker pensions. Before you spout that Arnold is a Republican and Gray Davis was a ‘moderate’ or ‘conservative’ Democrat, I’ll respond with the 60% of state legislature seats held by Dems, and of course ALL the major cities of Cali are run by dems, top to bottom. And what?

    San Francisco–Seriously…do you get any more ‘progressive’ than that? The joint’s a dump, has a budget the size of Chicago’s (which has 4 times as many people), yet the police force is incompetent, Muni is a travesty, businesses are fleeing, etc etc.

    These are your monuments to ‘progressive’ governance. You must be proud.

    Starve the beast.

    You don’t seem to understand that the government is made up of people. People who aren’t any smarter than the general population, aren’t any ‘better’ or more motivated by noble altruism. It will NEVER get better. NEVER. Unless you find some way to magically make bureaucrats smarter, harder working and more competent than the rest of us. The only way to reduce the harm these fools do to us is to reduce their power and money. Period.

  32. Daniel Schulman (das88)

    Naomi don’t you live in BART’s District 4? I would certainly support you over CWA in 2010.

  33. navigator

    Ken, I think BART is the one that causes Oakland problems. Oakland didn’t ask that BART cop to shoot someone to death in an Oakland BART station.

  34. gem s

    “You don’t seem to understand that the government is made up of people. People who aren’t any smarter than the general population, aren’t any ‘better’ or more motivated by noble altruism. It will NEVER get better.”

    That’s ridiculous. If people believed stuff like that we’d still have the policies of 1956.

  35. Carlos Plazola

    V and All: Everyone’s efforts made a difference. As someone who has organized for the last 18 years, it’s important to recognize and trumpet the victories that come from the actions of organizing, because all pressure leads to change–it’s as true as physics. It’s just about noticing the impact you’ve made.

    The Council added conditions to their resolution, which if implemented, will make for a better project. Everyone should congratulate themselves on that. If you’re thinking “yah, but BART may not implement the demands”, remember, BART never had to implement anything the council said. Even if the “No on the Connector” had won at council, BART could have ignored that too. Which brings me to the more important victory.

    Organization and mobilization: I heard from one council member: “I don’t know if I’ve ever received this many emails and letters”. That’s power. You all did that.

    You all want to talk about how to hold BART accountable for what Council demanded? Keep the awakened giant awake, and targeted at BART to make sure they implement the council’s wishes. This would not only help achieve victory, it will keep the citizenry that was activated in this process engaged, and more importantly, show our regulatory agencies in the region that it’s a new day in Oakland and we’re more demanding and more involved than ever.

    How about as part of this effort, we push to get the Coliseum Transit Village built?

  36. Barry K

    “We hang the petty thieves and appoint the great ones to public office.” -Aesop
    “You don’t seem to understand that the government is made up of people. People who aren’t any smarter than the general population, aren’t any ‘better’ or more motivated by noble altruism. It will NEVER get better.”

    That’s ridiculous. If people believed stuff like that we’d still have the policies of 1956.



    Public corruption is one of the FBI’s top investigative priorities—behind only terrorism, espionage, and cyber crimes. Why? Because of its impact on our democracy and national security. Public corruption can affect everything from how well our borders are secured and our neighborhoods protected…to verdicts handed down in courts…to the quality of our roads and schools. And it takes a significant toll on our pocketbooks, too, siphoning off tax dollars.

  37. Carlos Plazola

    Thanks, Ralph. But to be honest, I had no idea what I was going to say. I convened with the board members of the Oakland Builders Alliance in the room just before they called our names, and they helped me craft the statement at the last minute. I serve with some pretty amazing people on the OBA board who love Oakland enough to take on personal risk to themselves in these circumstances. While I admit I’m probably a pretty good organizer, they’re way smarter than me. Shout out to them: Matt Novak, Joe DeCredico, Joe Sarapachillo, Mona Hansen, Adam Howard, and OBA staff person Laura Blair.

  38. Ralph

    CP, I was listening in on your mtg with LR. I thought you and your board came to the same conclusion I did, if it is going to happen, then how do we make the best of it. Sadly, I deviated from my prepared remarks which actually included a line to support what you said.

  39. Becks

    Thanks V for this uplifting post. And thanks to everyone who got involved. Though I was incredibly disappointed after Tuesday’s meeting, I was also very proud of the coalition we had formed and of how many Oaklanders had spoken out on the OAC.

    A few of you have asked about Genesis, a group that fought with us since February to stop the OAC. Via their web page: “GENESIS is an interfaith regional and inclusive community organization. Members are congregations, associations, union locals, seminaries, and universities. GENESIS unites thousands of people to work together and create a unified voice for social justice and public policy reform. GENESIS generates excitement, challenge, support and opportunity that inspire ordinary people to do extraordinary things.”

    Genesis has been focusing on transit issues for the past year but recently have taken on health care locally. They’re working on opening several health clinics in Alameda County.

  40. John Klein

    I want to support V’s general proposition for staying involved and engaged in local government.

    One thing that is clear is that often the battles aren’t between various citizens and actors about proposals, regardless of whether the actors are individuals, businesses, or an organized group of businesses or volunteers. The battles often have little to do with the relationship between actors and many times are strictly with the City of Oakland, period. We get involved to ensure the City makes the best decisions. This may be stating the obvious but it’s worth repeating.

    The task (or fight) is with City Hall – the elected officials, the executive managers, and staff. The fights are over money and spending that money or policies and enforcing those policies. In the CBD rezoning, it wasn’t about OBA vs CALM vs Chinatown Chamber vs Oakland Heritage Alliance vs anybody else with an opinion, even though it felt that way at times. Each constituency did what it thought necessary to ensure the City adopted its position. It’s the same at the Ethic Commission and this is what BART did, also. It’s about the City.

    All of this puts the City of Oakland in a tough spot, of course. This is how we end up compromises that nobody is happy with. Sometimes, as V said, you flat-out lose. Take heart, though, because elected officials, the managers, and City staff made the decision and commitment to work for local government. They know and expect to ‘take some heat’ from the public as part of the job.

    Soldier on.

  41. david vartanoff

    I often refer to my efforts as using balsa wood lances against stainless steel windmills. I also say I must have missed the day in 9th grade Civics when the teacher explained it was all a sham and that the fix was in from the get go. Occasionally I am proved wrong–or the crooks decide to lose one for show. However, much like my view of life in general, what makes us humans is giving the gods the finger as we pick up the rock and start back up the hill. When we concede that there is no point in struggle it IS all over.

  42. Steve Lowe

    John, One of the reasons OAC won out was that the amount of informed dialogue that could have been available to everyone concerned (or should have been concerned) was, as frequently happens in this top-down town, covert, collegial, colluding and, often, flat out cuckoo.

    The cure, at least insofar as transportation is concerned, is to follow the official Recommendation of the Mayor’s Transportation Task Force and establish a Transportation Commission, a rather commonsense forum for what is touted by the City as the Bay Area’s Transportation Hub, no?

    Sure, that does imply that mere commoners might have some limited say via interactions with whomever might be chosen to serve on such a Commission, but the excruciatingly, meandering, overlong opining of our variously esteemed policymakers will always surface to counter anything that sounds as if it might provide real relief for transit users, after all Oakland needs to uphold its nationwide reputation as the town that invariably opts for the worst project in the worst place at the worst possible time: OAC QED (and some others that we’ll forego mentioning for the moment).

    If we can’t have such a new, needed Commission right away, then we ought to be able to have at least a new Transportation Planning Review Committee of the Planning Commission so that full disclosure of inconvenient truths, facta and logistics can be brought to light. The abysmal representation by MTC that OAC would provide a “seamless connection” from BART to the Airport was an inspired permutation in bullocratese, but most on Council bought into it wholeheartedly, their mouths moving in unison like kindergarteners learning their ABC’s.

    Had a more clearheaded recommendation been presented to Council by staff, following on a majority vote of the Planning Commissioners in response to a more constructive, less flimflam-filled dialogue, maybe we’d at least have the chance today of being able to modify OAC to the point of where it would have a modicum of functionality, as opposed to its appallingly difficult means of transfer (stairwise, moneywise and luggagewise from one train to the other.

    So, who’s ready to advocate for the new Transportation Commission, as already called for by the Mayor’s Transportation Task Force?


    – S

  43. PRE

    Out here inDC right now and it’s so sad when I compare BART to the DC Metro system which is almost exactly the same track mileage, but twice the number of stations and three times the number of riders (and cleaner, and quieter, and cheaper). Their extension to Dulles will also have 4 stations spaced about a half mile apart. It’s a real transportation sytem that would actually let you leave your car at home (or not have one at all) while BART continues to fantisize about less than optimum extensions to OAC, Warm Springs and Livermore (with 60 thousand people) and ignores meaningful improvements on the core system. The only way this will change is with a wholesale revamping of the entire BART board.

  44. John Klein

    I don’t know about anyone else, but I am still in complete and utter awe of the visual provided by david v., as in, “…giving the gods the finger as we pick up the rock and start back up the hill….”

    It stunningly captures a great ideal worth keeping alive. I may be having a religious experience here.

  45. Naomi Schiff

    John, you are right: David’s post is an impressive achievement. Imagine getting Sisyphus and Quixote into the same post!

  46. david vartanoff

    @ PRE you got that right. WMATA is far more useful than BART despite rush hour surcharges and inadequate trains. Sadly, though as overly expensive as BART the stations only accommodate 8 car trains and they don’t stop reliably. They have a market for full 8 car trains on all lines in rush but several hundred too few in the fleet.

  47. Daniel Schulman (das88)

    I was just in Atlanta. MARTA to the airport was great.

    1) There was no connector – no airtrain – no in one pay system than into another. The train came into the terminal and then it went right next to my hotel in downtown.

    2) It was fast.

    3) It cost only $2 each way

    Unfortunately Oakland’s proposed airport-rail connector has none of these advantages. I would have been happy with 2 out of 3.

  48. Naomi Schiff

    Well, we seem to be getting 0 out of 3! As my brother says, the quality may be lousy, but at least it’s expensive.

  49. Patrick

    Atlanta is what it is today – the economic engine of the entire South – because of visionary leaders. Leaders who realized that the ability to move things and people seamlessly benefits everyone, as opposed to overpriced inertia projects that benefit the undeserving at the expense of everyone else.

    Unfortunately, Atlanta also provides an alternate lesson. MARTA is a fixed system. The areas that MARTA serves are increasingly gentrifying; the demographics of the MARTA service area are tipping towards those who do not utilize public transit, save for the occasional trip to the airport. That is why BRT is the better option.

  50. Chris Kidd

    Well, let’s not fall all over ourselves praising Atlanta. A year back or so they almost ran out of water to supply their residents because they had encouraged such rapid population growth.

  51. Jack B. Nimble

    Atlanta? Visionary leaders? Yeah, like their traffic and urban planning. yeah. whatever you’re smoking, please send some over.

  52. Patrick

    Uh, yeah, visionary leaders. Which is why Atlanta, with a metro population smaller than the Bay Area’s, has the busiest airport in the world. And a mass-transit system that connects directly to the airport. Yes, their traffic is bad – but where isn’t it bad? Please point out that halcyon metro area where people just hop on the freeway and do not have heavy traffic. That the US Government decided to start spending money on wars as opposed to infrastructure isn’t Atlanta’s – or any other city’s – fault.

    The population of the city of Atlanta has been fairly constant since 1960. Again, it is not Atlanta’s fault that other municipalities did not limit their growth. The city of Atlanta owns Hartfield-Jackson airport. The metro area grew as a result of its success – but Atlanta, the city, did not.