Author Archives: V Smoothe

Celebrate 100 years of suffrage on Sunday

There is way too much crazy fun stuff going on in Oakland this weekend! Tonight, we’ve got grown-ups night at Fairyland plus The Coup is playing at the Oakland Museum. Saturday is the Black Cowboy Parade and Oaktoberfest.

But don’t party too much on Friday and Saturday, because the best weekend event is on Sunday!

The Oakland Suffrage Parade

October 10th marks the 100th anniversary of women’s suffrage in California. And we’re celebrating the centennial a week early with a parade!

I’m not sure how much you guys know about the suffrage movement, in general or in California specifically, I did a lot of reading about it this summer, and it is all a really interesting story.

The 1911 referendum was actually a second try for California women — there had been a vote on suffrage in 1896, but it lost pretty badly, largely due to extremely strong anti-suffrage turnouts in San Francisco, thanks to aggressive opposition from the liquor industry, and partly to a not-so-great campaign on the part of the suffragists.

For a while it looked like suffrage was a lost cause for the women of California. After suffrage got crushed at the ballot, the cause lost much of its support. Most people who had been active in the campaign just gave up. But a couple dozen women, mostly in the Bay Area, kept pushing. A glimmer of hope arrived in 1906, when a reform movement sprung up within the Republican party aimed at eliminating political corruption, and suffragists realized they had found themselves some natural allies.

With effort, they managed to get another referendum on suffrage through the State Assembly in 1907, but it failed in the Senate and the dream of women’s votes had once again, as the suffrage newsletter The Yellow Ribbon put it, been “trampled in the dust by our politicians at Sacramento.” Rather than giving up, California suffragists decided to look to the model of their English counterparts shift to more aggressive tactics.

The original Oakland parade

The next year, the California Republican party held their convention in downtown Oakland. Determined to show their strength, the suffragists organized a march to convention site, the first suffrage parade ever in California! They arrived to demand the party adopt suffrage as part of their platform. And they made quite the spectacle. The San Francisco Call reported that when the chair moved to thank them for their attendance, he was met with hissing and booing, and angry cries of “We don’t want thanks — give us the ballot.”

Once again, they lost. And once again, they didn’t give up. It only just increased their resolve. After the failure at the Republican convention, suffragist leader Lillian Coffin proclaimed:

From now on our tactics will change. We will make an open war for our rights. The women were passive before, they are aroused now, and the campaign will be renewed in January in spite of this.

Although the marchers failed to achieve their goal that day, the event really energized the movement and marked a shift towards more militant and aggressive tactics. Shortly afterwards, a similar stunt at the Democratic Convention in Stockton did convince that party to endorse.

The next couple of years continued to be full of frustration for the suffragists. Suffrage amendments got introduced in the legislature a couple of times, but didn’t go anywhere (or even come remotely close to passage).

Their tactics may not have helped them much with Assemblymembers, but it did help grow the movement’s visibility, and the list of organizations supporting the suffrage movement started growing.

The Referendum

Finally, in January 1911, the State Legislature agreed to place a Constitutional Amendment giving women the vote on an October ballot, but only after a rather vigorous debate. A couple of my favorite quotes from the floor:

A suffragette is a woman who wants to raise Hell, but no children – Senator Sanford of Ukiah

You will soon hear these women lecturing their husbands instead of cooking their meals. They will yell at them as they return from work at night. – Assemblyman W.A. McDonald, San Francisco

After years of effort, the suffragists were on the ballot again. The movement had to shift their efforts from lobbying to campaigning, something they hadn’t done such a great job of the last time around.

Reading about the campaign this summer, I was so impressed with how organized and clever the whole thing was. They studied the results of the 1896 referendum to figure out where they could and couldn’t expect support, and where they had opportunities to turn votes.

Seeing that they had lost virtually the entire immigrant vote in 1896, they printed pamphlets and other materials in multiple languages to do focused outreach. They knew the liquor industry was too powerful in the cities to hope to win those votes, so they organized a really strong campaign in rural areas.

One of my favorite parts of the campaign was that they got a car and drove it all around the rural areas and farm towns of the State. They would roll up to a town, park it on a corner, and of course all the men in the town, many of whom had never seen a car before, would all come to gawk and check out the cool toy. While the men stood around admiring the car, the suffragists use the opportunity to educate them about the importance of women having the vote. Don’t you just love that?

In the end, the suffragists lost the cities, as expected. Oakland and San Francisco voted against suffrage by a wide margin. The day after the vote, headlines in the San Francisco Chronicle and Examiner proclaimed suffrage defeated again. But all that outreach in the rural counties paid off. Once all the small-town votes came in, the women of California had won the vote by a 1% margin. The New York Times headline about the final outcome reads “California Farmers Give Vote to Women.”

Parade on Sunday!

So to celebrate the suffrage centennial, we’re having a parade!

It’s on Sunday, October 2nd, starting at 11am at the Lakeside Park Bandstand. It will start with brief remarks from Oakland Mayor Jean Quan and the women of the Oakland City Council, and then we’ll march (with the League of Women Voters leading the way, of course) a roughly 1 mile route up to the Pergola and then down Bellevue back to the bandstand, where the Montclair Women’s Big Band will be playing. Afterwards, we’ll head to the Veterans Memorial Building for an ice cream social.

The parade is being co-sponsored by the League of Women Voters of Oakland, American Association of University Women, National Women’s History Project, Coalition of Labor Union Women, American Civil Liberties Union, Girl Scouts of the USA, Cinnamon Girl, Emerge California, Piedmont Area Republican Women, Jean Quan, and all the women Councilmembers. Assemblymember Nancy Skinner is co-sponsoring the ice cream social afterwards, along with Fentons and Trader Joes.

At their last meeting, the City Council had a really nice ceremonial item celebrating the parade and the 100th anniversary of suffrage in California:

Costumes are not required for the parade, but they are encouraged. If you don’t feel like pulling together a costume, at least consider wearing the traditional suffragist colors: purple for courage and justice, white for purity of purpose, and yellow for hope.

Celebrating the suffragists

One of the things that happens when you’re involved in any kind of activism is that you lose a lot. You win sometimes too, and some people win more often than others. But no matter who you are, if you continue being involved with issues and elections for any real length of time, you’re going to lose eventually.

And the truth is that sometimes that can feel really discouraging, especially when you get a streak of losses, or you win on a lot of things but just keep hitting a wall when it comes to one particular issue you care a lot about.

I started reading about the California suffrage movement this summer in anticipation of the parade. And the more I read, the more inspired I felt by these women. Obviously, I am thankful I have the ability to vote, and I’m thrilled to celebrate Oakland’s place in the movement’s history, but it was all so long ago that I think a lot of people can’t really imagine women not having the vote or at least don’t attach much meaning to the specific date the vote was won, figuring it would have happened eventually.

But this parade isn’t just about being able to vote, at least for me. The long battle of the suffragists is a really wonderful testament what you can achieve through dedication and persistence. They fought for so long, and failed to get what they want over and over and over again, and they just kept going. And that’s what makes this for me more than just an interesting bit of history. Not just the outcome, but the relentless persistence of the suffragists is worth celebrating and remembering, and should be an inspiration for any modern activist.

You can get more information about the festivities on the suffrage parade website and also the parade Facebook page. If you want to learn more about the suffrage movement in California, a good starting point is the League of Women Voters California 100 Years of Voting page. The Bancroft Library has also put together a neat online exhibit featuring newspaper clippings and campaign materials from both sides of the 1911 campaign, which is pretty fun to look at.

So if you’re not booked on Sunday, I hope you’ll consider coming down to Lakeside Park for the parade and join me in saying “Well done, Sister Suffragette!”

Marathon headaches for bus riders during the Oakland Running Festival

At tonight’s meeting, the AC Transit Board of Directors will continue their ongoing discussions about hiring a permanent General Manager (PDF), adopt a timeline and plan for their redistricting process (PDF), and consider adopting a fueling hedging program (PDF) to help mitigate uncertainty in their budget process.

As important as all of these subjects are, the agenda item I’m most interested in sounds, at first glance, considerably less exciting — a report on the bus transit service impacts associated with the Oakland Running Festival (PDF).

Bus service disruptions during the Marathon

This report came to the Board as an informational item at their meeting two weeks ago (PDF), and I was really glad it did.

Habitual bus riders surely remember all the notices at the stops and on buses in the weeks leading up to this year’s Oakland Running Festival about the MAJOR SERVICE DISRUPTIONS they should expect on March 27th. For those of you who didn’t have the pleasure of trying to plan out trips on transit that day from the closures list, hopefully this map will give you a little sense of what it was like:

AC Transit Service Disruptions Oakland Marathon

I ended up taking a cab.

If that image isn’t enough to make the point, here’s the numbers breakdown:

  • For 11 hours, there were service shutdowns on 28 routes
  • Those routes represent 74% of Sunday ridership
  • That’s about 52,000 people impacted by the service disruption

You get the idea. It’s bad.

AC Directors unhappy

Director Elsa Ortiz was concerned about the District getting compensated by the City for the expenses incurred during the service shutdowns (overtime for extra staff on the day of the event, cost of running shuttles in areas totally cut off). Director Greg Harper said he was happy they were addressing the issue, and then made a joke about Rosie Ruiz.

Director Joe Wallace found the whole thing pretty outrageous, offering:

To me, I’m a bus rider. I’ve been a bus rider all my life. And this list lets me know if I lived in Oakland when they ran this marathon not only could they not get to church, not only could they not buy food, but they couldn’t even get to work. This is just totally unacceptable. I don’t know, they have to run around the buses or something because our buses have got to run.

Director Chris Peeples, who had originally requested the report, bemoaned the “extreme” nature of the shutdowns and suggested the Board direct AC Transit staff to start negotiating “aggressively” with Oakland about getting some cooperation, and further suggested that the Board Members themselves get a little more aggressive with Oakland decision-makers:

It’s up to policy makers to go up there and stand in front of the City Council and say “You can’t treat our customers this way.” [Our staff can't] go and yell at City Councilmembers, but we certainly can.

Why was it so bad?

So. Obviously, any time you have an event that requires many miles of street closures, that’s going to create some issues for transit service. Understood.

But service shutdowns to the point where most people basically cannot get anywhere on a bus, that can’t be normal for marathons, right?

I did spend some time (a kind of ridiculous amount of time, actually) trying to figure out how major the bus service disruptions in other cities are during their marathons. I probably shouldn’t even have bothered, because even once you manage to find the list of route reroutings, and then take it and try to compare them to a standard route map, you’re still left with the problem that when you don’t know a city’s geography, you really have no way to evaluate what the changes mean for the person who has to accomplish kind of everyday tasks or reach major destinations.

In general, I couldn’t find any marathon-related service disruptions that looked at all comparable to what happened with AC Transit in Oakland this year, but like I said, it really just is so hard to tell when you don’t know what you’re looking at. The only other city where I’m familiar enough with the bus system and the routes to make any kind of reliable judgement is Portland. And comparing their rerouting and delays to what happened in Oakland last spring, it is like night and day. They had delays on tons of routes, but the City let buses run on some roads that were otherwise closed to traffic, and in general, it looked like, yeah, maybe you would have farther to walk and it would take longer than usual, but you could get to where you needed to go.

So what made this year in Oakland so terrible for bus riders? Well, it was the route. As AC Transit Service Development and Planning Director Corey LaVigne gently put it:

The routing was set up from kind of a particular perspective but not necessarily from a transit perspective.

The staff report elaborates (PDF):

The marathon route encircled the entire city from downtown Oakland, to West Oakland, the Montclair District, Fruitvale District, and Jack London Square around Lake Merritt to the finish line at Oakland’s City Hall. The half marathon course circulated within Downtown Oakland. Both routes resulted in the closure of several major arterials including International Blvd. Broadway, College Ave., Lincoln Blvd., Martin Luther King Way and 19th Ave.

Both running events occurred simultaneously with an unyielding route that did not permit bus crossings over the 26 mile span for the planned 11 hour period. The overall effect was a nearly complete disruption of District lines operating within and between the City of Oakland and the rest of AC Transit service area that led to rider inconveniences.

Transit-last Oakland

I couldn’t even venture a guess about how many times I have pointed out over the years that Oakland is a “transit-first city” in name only.

I mean, when I learned that the City did not even involve AC Transit in the route-planning process, my first thought was basically “OMG that is so terrible! What could they have been thinking?” But pretty quickly that switched to “Oh, of course they didn’t. Why would they have? Oakland never thinks about transit. Why would the marathon be any different?”

I think part of it is also that the City of Oakland gets so excited anytime anything good happens here that there’s a tendency to kind of just focus on that one thing and just ignore everything else. So when it comes to something like the Running Festival, it’s all “Oh boy! Something cool is happening in Oakland! All sorts of people are going to be here. How can we best showcase the city?” And when that’s all you’re focused on, questions like “How are people who don’t care about the marathon supposed to go about their lives on this day” just don’t seem so important.

In the hopes of making things go a little more smoothly next year, staff is recommending (PDF):

  • AC Transit Board of Directors to advocate for continuity of the existing transit service during public events that result in service disruptions. This includes requiring event organizers to plan and coordinate with District staff, and provide compensation for additional staffing, marketing and impacts on service changes requiring additional buses.
  • Require the City of Oakland and the event organizers to include AC Transit as a key stakeholder in the process related to the planning of the marathon course.
  • A recommendation for the marathon course to allow bus routes to safely permeate the marathon route to continue to operate unimpeded to and from Downtown Oakland.
  • Require the event organizers to include AC Transit service changes in its marketing materials, website and social media.

Seems like a solid plan. Let’s hope the City is receptive!

Is Good Vibrations a good fit for Lakeshore?

Remember the fireworks last December when an application for an adult entertainment shop in Uptown came before the Oakland Planning Commission? KTOP viewers have a sequel in store tomorrow!

At their meeting tomorrow night, the Oakland Planning Commission will consider a conditional use permit to allow a Good Vibrations to open up on Lakeshore.

The store would have the same conditions of approval (PDF) as Feelmore510 received — adults-only entry, no massage, booths, or clothing-optional activities, and windows displays that do not contain explicitly sexual materials. You might think that, since the style and operations of Good Vibration stores are pretty well known, it would be less stress-provoking that Uptown’s Feelmore was, where all anyone had to go on was good faith in the owner’s intentions. (For the record, I live down the street, and Feelmore has proved to be a good neighbor and an excellent addition to the area.)

You might also think that a neighborhood that manages to produce so many children wouldn’t be particularly puritanical about sex. But you would be very wrong.

Staff has recommended approval of the permit (PDF):

In addition, the Lakeshore/Grand Lake Theater district has transformed into a specialty shopping and lifestyle area for educated singles and families. Thus it is not unreasonable to introduce a low-key retail establishment catering to adult items and sensuality, although restrained in presentation since more families use these sidewalks. The business model, along with conditions of approval as accepted by the applicant, this Adult retail activity should not have adverse impacts at this location.

Many Grand Lake residents, however, disagree.

What about the property values?

Objections generally seem to focus on the idea that Lakeshore is a family-oriented street, what with all the children’s clothing stores and yogurt shops and such, and therefore has no room for adult-oriented retail.

The City received a number of letters on the subject, mostly opposing the store. Here are some excerpts from the letters included in Wednesday’s Planning Commission report (PDF):

The sidewalk in front of the proposed location is very narrow and it’s impractical and wrong to expect parents to avoid this area or distract their children each time they walk by.

Furthermore, the addition of an adult bookstore changes the character of the neighborhood and I’m concerned about its effect on our community, property values and the image of Oakland.

…a good portion, if not a majority, of the foot traffic at this location is families walking with their children. I, as a local home owner and the Father of two young children, will be more hesitant to walk this street knowing that an adult-only sexual accessories shop is at this location.

In short, our neighborhood is not a good fit for Good Vibrations. They should consider Telegraph Avenue in Berkeley, near the piercing and tattoo shops abuzz with college students. But a family-centric neighborhood is not a good idea…I am already cringing at the questions I will get from my daughter about what they sell at the store.

This is to register total OPPOSITION to Good Vibrations on Lakeshore — are you kidding me??

I know we’re all supposed to be as sexually liberated as those good people at GV but the fact is who wants to bump into their neighbor inside a sex shop let alone be seen by hundreds of other locals.

Not everyone objects

For my part, I don’t particularly care much either way. I think the Grand Lake neighborhood in general is a little ridiculous about rejecting businesses that don’t meet their narrow ideas of what belongs in a neighborhood retail district. (The rejection of Out of the Closet springs to mind, as does the successful effort to block a proposal to put a upscale quick service burger and fries restaurant in the shuttered Kwik Way, only to have the spot sit hideously blighted for several years until everyone rejoiced when a upscale quick service burger and fries restaurant eventually opened.)

I also think the people objecting could stand to take a deep breath and chill out a little over the whole “what about the children” thing. Kids aren’t idiots, and if you’re letting them watch basically any TV or movies, they understand already that adults sometimes do things that they don’t, stuff that involves touching and removing clothing. In the town we lived when I was younger, where the zoning codes were less restrictive/non-existent, we had a adult store right next door to a restaurant our family frequented, and not a classy one like Good Vibrations either. Somehow, my sisters and I survived.

Still, I don’t live in the neighborhood, and picking and choosing the stores they want seems to be a Grand Lake thing. If they’d prefer empty storefronts, well — that’s really their decision.

Comments on the question over at the Grand Lake Neighbors website are more evenly divided — plenty of people in favor of Good Vibrations and plenty against. (And pretty much nobody in favor of a potential new Wingstop, which is apparently some sort of chain that sells lots of different flavors of chicken wings?)

Comments on the website in opposition to the store overall are a little less restrained than the letters submitted to the City:

Not to mention, how many of us want to be seen frequenting the store in our own’hood only to bump into your neighbor, vibrating dildo in one hand, frozen yogurt in the other!

Good Vibrations on Lakeshore? How tacky! Ummmm…”upscale sex shop” is an oxymoron. I think their presence would really downgrade our neighborhood. They are located “across from Bloomingdales” on the Mission Street side on the wrong side of Mission, which is where they belong. I think another neighborhood would be more appropriate — perhaps International Blvd? West MacArthur?

Of course, those in favor of Good Vibrations opening aren’t holding back either:

Yes to both! As a father of a four year old who freqeunts the farmers market, Yogafina, the baby clothes store, Arizmendi and Monkey Shala. I am completely for GV moving in. Welcome. A great store, with wonderful products that enhance peoples lives beautifully. If you’re worried that people may think you’re sexual than don’t go in. If you happen to see someone go in who you know and you feel embarrassed than I’m afraid you probably have a few problems needing attention.

…I am a firm supporter of Good Vibrations erecting their store on Lakeshore. We already have other stores that cause children to ask questions about sex, “Daddy, where do the children that wear Baby Gap clothes come from?” Personally, I am still shocked that there is a store selling bedding on Lakeshore without covering up their windows. I blush every time I walk by and see the clean sheets on display.

As for the other businesses, Lakeshore BID Director Pamela Drake chimed in to note that the neighborhood merchants are “for the most part” in favor, and later indicated in a message to the City that the BID had voted to support Good Vibrations but had some concerns about the specifics of the exterior design.

What will the Planning Commission say?

We’ll find out tomorrow. The Good Vibrations permit is on the Planning Commission agenda for Wednesday, September 21st (PDF). The meeting starts at 6pm in Sgnt. Mark Dunakin Hearing Room 1 at Oakland City Hall. If you’re not going in person but want to see the excitement, tune in to KTOP, Comcast Channel 10, U-verse Channel 99, and also available streaming online.

Rethinking Parking this week in Oakland

So, as I mentioned yesterday, the most interesting item on the City Council Committee agendas was the Community and Economic Development Committee’s discussion of the City’s follow-up to the aggressively unflattering Alameda County Grand Jury report about Oakland’s Building Services division.

I wasn’t able to attend the meeting in person, but I rushed to download the video the second I got home last night because I had heard a rumor that some reporter had tried to attack Jane Brunner during the meeting and had to be dragged out in handcuffs or something. Not often you see that kind of excitement in City Council meetings!

I have to confess that I was a tiny bit disappointed when I got to watch the video, since it turned out that I had gotten a somewhat exaggerated account of the event, and the fireworks weren’t quite as dramatic as I had been led to believe. Still, I’m sure that if you were in the room, it would have felt pretty intense.

Other than that, the discussion was…well, for now I’ll just leave it at unsatisfying. I’ll write more later in the week, but for those who just can’t wait, you can view all the video from the Building Services item at yesterday’s meeting here.

In other news, as you may have read on Living in the O yesterday, this is an exciting week for Oaklanders interested in parking issues. Which is everyone, right?

Parking! Workshop on Thursday

If you are on any kind of City email list or neighborhood listserv, you have probably gotten like six thousand copies of this message in the last month:

The City of Oakland is updating its off-street parking regulations. The City’s off-street parking regulations have not been comprehensively updated since 1965 and need to be updated to be consistent with current City policies. This introductory workshop is the first step in the process of updating the City’s off-street parking regulations.

Come and learn about off-street parking and provide feedback on what should be considered during the parking update process. The City will not be presenting any new regulations at this community workshop. Proposed new regulations will be presented at future public meetings.

What will be discussed?

  • Overview of off-street parking update project
  • Parking in Oakland
  • Break out stations to discuss and get feedback on specific issues
  • Open question and comment period at the end of the meeting

The Community Workshop will focus on parking that is located on private or public property off City streets. Parking that is on public streets will not be the focus of this process.

Here’s the flyer for the meeting (PDF).

And if you’re anything like most of the people who’ve asked me about this message, you don’t have the faintest idea what it means, why it is happening, or if this is some evil conspiracy on the part of the Planning Department to stick parking lots on every available surface in the city.

You might have looked for information on the City’s website, which does offer a page on devoted to the parking regulations update, but if you did that, you were most likely disappointed, since the page doesn’t actually contain any information. Presumably that will be remedied at some point in the future.

And if you pay even a little bit of attention to planning issues in Oakland, you might have thought “Wait, didn’t we just update our zoning code? Wouldn’t it have made more sense to deal with parking requirements during that process?” A cynical person might answer that yes, it would have made sense to do it then and by dragging it out into a whole separate process staff is just creating make-work to justify the continued existence of their jobs.

Off-Street Parking

So, what is off-street parking? Basically, it’s parking that isn’t on the street. So, not the metered spaces you pull into in front of a store or whatever. It’s surface lots and garages.

The City’s off-street parking requirements are the portion of the Planning Code that tells you how many parking spaces you need to provide for any specific use. This is where you would look to learn that you need to provide, for example, one parking space for every 300 square feet of floor area at your fast food restaurant in one zone, or one space for every 450 square feet in some other zone. Or that you need one parking space for every three employees at your car dealership, or one parking space per unit in your new condo building.

You can read the city’s current off-street parking regulations here (PDF).

The off-street parking portion of the Planning Code also explains things like how big off-street parking spaces need to be, where they can be located, how you know when the parking requirements apply to your building or business, and how to know when your parking requirements change. Well, “explains” might be a little generous:

If any facility, or portion thereof, which is in existence on the effective date of the zoning regulations, or of a subsequent rezoning or other amendment thereto establishing or increasing parking or loading requirements for an activity therein, is altered or changed in occupancy so as to result in an increase in the number of residential living units therein, new off-street parking as prescribed hereafter shall be provided for the added units. However, such new parking need be provided only in the amount by which the requirement prescribed hereafter for the facility after said alteration or change exceeds the requirement prescribed hereafter for the facility as it existed prior to such alteration or change; and such new parking need not be provided to the extent that existing parking exceeds the latter requirement.

So now you might be thinking that this all sounds really boring. But I’m promise it isn’t! It is actually really important. Reductions in the required number of parking spaces in multi-unit development can help lower the cost of construction, and encouraging more (and also more transit-oriented) development. Off-street parking regulations also specify requirements for things like screening and lighting off-street parking lots, both of which have public safety implications.

It’s really easy to forget sometimes just how much space parking spaces take up. And every space used for storing cars is space that is not being used for housing or for recreation or for a patio or for open space or for a water fountain or a shop or any of all the things in the world you can do with a space besides sometimes putting a car there. For a pretty striking example of other ways some of this space might be used, take a trip over to The Trappist in Old Oakland and check out their awesome outdoor patio. Three parking spaces had to be removed to make it. Was it worth it?

Sensible parking requirements don’t mandate the creation of any more spaces than are necessary. You want enough not to cause terrible problems, but not so many that you’re wasting space on parking spots that sit perpetually empty. Sometimes, parking requirements will include a maximum number of spaces you can build for any specific use. Rules like these help to encourage more transit-sensitive development and also encourages us to use the limited amount space we have in more productive ways.

So if you weren’t planning on attending because you didn’t really understand what it was about, or because you thought it sounding boring or whatever, I hope you’ll reconsider. The meeting will take place tomorrow, Thursday, September 15th at the Oakland Main Library in the Bradley Walters Community Room (downstairs in the basement) from 6 to 8 pm.

I look forward to seeing a good crowd there! And hey, since you’ll be at the library anyway, why not arrive a little early and head upstairs to the Oakland History Room, where they will be holding a reception from 5:30 to 7:30 highlighting the new History Room exhibit, Remembering and Rebuilding: A Commemoration of the Oakland-Berkeley Firestorm.

Park(ing) Day on Friday

So even if you aren’t going to the meeting, I hope you’ve at least started thinking about how much space we devote to parking. Conveniently, this Friday offers another opportunity to consider the subject.

On Park(ing) Day, held once a year, people rent on-street parking spaces, but instead of using them to store cars all day, they use them for more pleasant and inviting activities. For some examples, check out these photos Becks posted on Living in the O on Park(ing) Day a few years ago.

I was thrilled when I heard how many different locations will be participating in Park(ing) Day in Oakland this year. WOBO has a map of all of them on their website, and you can hit six of them with just a quick stroll downtown. Start at Farley’s on Grand, just off Broadway, then head straight down Broadway where there will be another one at 21st. Take a little detour onto Telegraph to hit the Marquee Lofts at 18th St, then once you hit 17th, go back to Broadway where PGA Design will be offering s’mores! Walk down Broadway a couple block more to see parklet in front of the new Oaklandish store, and then finish your tour at the Transform parklet, on 14th just off Broadway.

Oakland City Council returns from summer break

Wow. I can’t believe how fast summer went by! It feels like recess just started a week ago.

Alas, in reality, it’s been quite a bit more than one week. Recess is over, and starting today, the Oakland City Council is back to their normal business of infuriating any resident misguided enough to watch them in action.

So I hope everybody had lots of fun this summer! I had a great time. I rode the BRT in Cleveland, hiked beautiful mountains in Colorado, and relaxed along the shore of Lake Champlain in Vermont. I was actually kind of sad last week to have to come back to Oakland. It didn’t help that my regular weekend morning coffee-and-a-good-book park has been ruined by a horrifying monument to the inflated egos over at the Chamber of Commerce.

Remember Them

I did try visiting the other morning, hoping I’d be able to tune out the statue and just concentrate on my book. No dice. My poor neighborhood park is just totally ruined. But hey, it’s going to bring us tourism, right?

There were a handful other people in the park with me the other morning. A couple of the faces were familiar. As smokers living in non-smoking buildings, they’re in the park a lot. I noticed they were all sitting kind of towards the far edge of the park, whereas normally people tend to be pretty evenly distributed. I rarely talk to them, since they’re obviously not going to the park for socializing, and well, neither am I.

Photo of Remember Them monument

But I couldn’t help but wonder how they felt about the “largest cast bronze representational sculpture West of the Mississippi” (hint: if you need that many modifiers to make something sound special, that means it isn’t that special). So I asked. I was met with grimaces and exaggerated eye rolls. I suppose that’s to be expected, though, since the monument isn’t there for residents.

I haven’t seen any droves of tourists around the monument yet, although there were a few visitors when I was there the other morning. Two older gentlemen spent a long time standing in front of the monument and talking about it. I couldn’t hear what they were saying, but they seemed enthusiastic, so I’m guessing they didn’t find it anywhere near as off-putting as I do.

Photo of Remember Them Monument

And then there was a couple with two small children. It was one of those moments, like riding on an airplane with a screaming child, that makes you never want kids. This poor couple was clearly trying to impress their children with the monument, maybe use it as an education opportunity, which I think is sweet, even if I personally do not like the sculpture. But the kids of course were having none of it.

The little boy had somehow procured a handful of small rocks and kept throwing them at the statues every time his parents took their eyes off him for even a moment. This happened quite a few times, since the little girl kept crying and wailing hysterically. I couldn’t help but think she was crying because she was terrified of the sculptures (I think they’re scary), but of course maybe she was upset because her parents had refused to buy her ice cream for breakfast or whatever it is that kids flip out about it. Who knows. In any case, it didn’t seem like a particularly successful outing.

It’s not all bad news in my neighborhood, though. At least we have the long awaited sculpture garden at 19th and Telegraph to look forward to!

Photo of coming soon sign for Uptown Art Space

Just think. It could have been a parking lot!

Council Committee Meetings

I had actually been planning on using my return from summer post to write a little roundup of the items coming up at today’s Committee meetings. Unfortunately, the agendas are kind of a snoozefest.

The issues of selling golf courses (PDF) and municipal IDs (PDF) are back at Finance & Management Committee (which starts at noon), for what seems like the five thousandth time in the past three years. I’m sure the actual number is probably in the single digits, but these discussions always just seem to be a repeat of what happened the last time around, and never go anywhere. If it turns out it’s more interesting this time, I’ll write about it later in the week.

The big item at the Community and Economic Development Committee (2pm) is a report on the City’s follow-up to the Grand Jury report (PDF) blasting Oakland’s Building Services division, which was released back in June. That one isn’t actually boring, but frankly, I am reluctant to write about it in spite of its importance because of the bad behavior the subject seems to prompt in the comments. Still, I’m sure that’s going to be an interesting discussion. So if you’re interested, you can either head over to City Hall this afternoon or catch it on KTOP — Comcast Channel 10, Uverse Channel 99 (I think, someone correct me if that’s wrong), or of course, streaming online.

Still no decision on the budget

The Council didn’t pass a budget last night, but hopefully will do so at their meeting on Thursday. There isn’t really much to say beyond that. There was a suggested compromise budget, and of course tons of great tweets, though. Read on for the highlights.

LWV Statement requesting the Council to preserve transparency

For a couple minutes last night, I stepped out of my blogger role and put on my League of Women Voters of Oakland pin. I read to the Council a statement from the League objecting to the proposed cuts to open government and transparency functions. Many thanks to LWVO member Rebecca Saltzman for leaving a party that I’m sure was much more fun than the budget meeting in order to come cede me time!

A number of people asked me about it afterwards, so I thought it might be of interest to you guys too. Here it is:

The League understands very well the overwhelming financial difficulties facing the city. We also understand that in a time of budget crisis, transparency, sunshine, and the public’s ability to scrutinize the actions of city government become more essential than ever.

We strongly object to the proposed reduction of the Public Ethics Executive Director position and the proposed elimination of the Public Ethics executive assistant. Since its creation in 1997, the Public Ethics Commission has been severely understaffed, operating with only two employees, a fraction of the support staff afforded to similar commissions in neighboring cities.

Any further reduction of Public Ethics staff would render it impossible for the Commission to fulfill its charter mandated duties, which include administration and enforcement of the Sunshine Ordinance, the Campaign Reform Act, the Lobbyist Registration Act, and campaign public financing, among others.

Additionally, the League strongly objects to the proposed reduction of the number of public meetings broadcast by KTOP. These recordings play a critical role in ensuring transparent government, as they are often the only opportunity for citizens to witness the public decision-making process. Meeting minutes are not an adequate substitute, as they record votes only, and provide no information about the substance of discussions.

Again, we appreciate the difficulty of the choices before you. But reducing transparency and obliterating enforcement of open government laws is unacceptable. Limitations on the city budget do not eliminate the public’s right to know.

A budget compromise

Noting the many common elements between all budget proposals, District 4 Councilmember Libby Schaaf suggested a compromise that incorporated some elements of all the different plans.


Here’s what it looked like. Remember, all of this is changes to the Mayor’s Scenario A. This document (PDF) lists all the proposed cuts and additional revenue measures in the Mayor’s Scenarios A, B, and C. This document (PDF) compares the three different proposals from Councilmembers (thanks to Matthai Kuruvila from the Chronicle for sharing).

Additional Expenditures versus Mayor’s Scenario A

The total cost of these add backs is $12,439,756 in FY11-12 and $13,898,150 in FY12-13.

  • Transfer 2 FTEs from Council offices to redevelopment (would count towards already budgeted 15% reduction)
  • Do not delay opening of East Oakland Sports Center
  • Maintain library services
  • Keep Main Library open during Winter Break
  • Preserve 9 Neighborhood Service Coordinators, eliminate 1 vacant NSC position
  • Maintain 85% of cultural arts grants funding
  • Preserve 2 Information Technology FTEs by moving them to the Library and funding them with Measure Q surplus
  • Preserve 1 FTE Oakland Film Office
  • Maintain 85% subsidies to Oakland Zoo, Vietnamese Senior Centers, Symphony in schools program, AIDs initiative, Women’s Business Initiative, Chabot Space & Science Center, Oakland Asian Cultural Center & Peralta Hacienda
  • Maintain 100% of Eden I&R 211 Information & Referral funding and move to Library GPF budget
  • Keep all fire stations open
  • Preserve programming at Manzanita, San Antonio and Poplar Rec Centers
  • Civilianize police internal affairs
  • Hire back 44 laid off officers immediately (increasing sworn strength by 22 officers)
  • Preserve 3 gardener II positions
  • Retain one tree trimming crew, move that and three gardener positions and one gardener crew supervisor position to LLAD
  • Freeze 5 FTE Information Technology positions previously proposed to be restored for one year, all positions are currently vacant
  • Preserve 1 HR & 2 Accounting positions
  • Restore Principal Financial Analyst and Payroll Personnel Clerk III in treasury division
  • Downgrade one Principal Financial Analyst to Senior Human Resources Systems Analyst
  • Downgrade one Payroll Personnel Clerk III to Payroll Personnel Clerk II
  • Contribute whatever savings we have at the end of the day to reserve
  • Restore hazmat pay to firefighters

Additional Savings

The total amount in additional savings and new revenue (again, compared to the Mayor’s Scenario A) is $14,576,227 in FY11-12 and $21,897,000 in FY12-13.

  • Cost Savings from Labor agreements
  • Move some money from Kaiser Arena sales proceeds away from accelerated negative fund payment and put it in general fund reserve
  • Shift some Kaiser Center sales proceeds from 2nd to 1st year
  • Adjust OPD attrition assumption rate from 3.3 to 4 per month

New Revenue

  • Convert 580 Underpass Lot to 169 meters

The tweets!

I was delighted last night to see a number of new people tweeting the Council meeting! Below, I’ve collected some of the highlights of the Twitter coverage. If you want to see all of it, just search #oakmtg on Twitter.

matthai: hundreds have poured into Oakland CC budget meetings, but tonight is relatively tame. No pitchforks or chainsaws tonight. #oakmtg

dto510: Current speaker helped me file my taxes two years ago. I agree that revenue-generating positions should’t be cut. #oakmtg

Vsmoothe: Former Ethics Commissioner Barbara Newcombe speaking, objects to cuts to Public Ethics dept., KTOP programming. #oakmtg

dto510: West #Oakland er says new youth services agency isn’t doing a good job, CM Nadel no longer represents area, to applause. #oakmtg

matthai: can we take an #oakmtg poll? What % chance do you think the council will actually vote on the budget tonight rather than push it off?

dto510: @matthai 25%. It’s not yet the last minute. #oakmtg

dto510: Library worker tells a touching family story “through the library, the internet and Google.” #oakmtg

matthai: @vsmoothe, on behalf of LWV, criticizes council proposals to cut Ethics Commission & KTOP broadcasts. #oakmtg

matthai: … @vsmoothe: “limitations on the city budget do not eliminate the public’s right to know.” #oakmtg

anca: Thank you League of Women Voters for standing up for transparency. #oakmtg

dto510: Next speaker expounds on idea of “creative taxes,” says Council should focus on national issues like bank bailouts. #oakmtg

dto510: IFPTE 21 rep decries sorry state of City technology infrastructure, wants preservation of Oaklanders’ Assistance Center. #oakmtg

mcplanner: Fun Sanjay Facts: 20% of Oakland hotel rentals are prostitution. Ticket cyclists as revenue source #oakmtg

dto510: “Pat Kernighan loves bicyclists… & stops Oakland from holding (them) accountable.” – Sanjiv Handa. Not the advocates’ perspective. #oakmtg

dto510: Handa calls out Mayor Quan for sending fundraising plea to email addresses gleaned from non-political events. #oakmtg

Vsmoothe: Speaker now objecting to police use of mind control technology. Um… #oakmtg

dto510: While #Oakland City Council listens to the public b/c of that pesky Brown Act, State Legislature blows thru budget bills. #oakmtg

matthai: A 360 degree view of council chambers tonight. Wish I’d done this when we had pitchforks. http://bit.ly/iQkgqe #oakmtg

Vsmoothe: Speaker: Our librarian doesn’t deserve to lose her job, she deserves an Oscar. #oakmtg And that’s it for public comment!

oaklandscene: Between the call for an investigation of CIA mind control and speaker talking & also breast feeding at things are a bit surreal. #oakmtg

eastbaycitizen: Reading my Twitter timeline is quite riveting with tweets from #CAbudget, #oakmtg and #CARedistricting happening all at once.

Vsmoothe: CM Brooks now presenting her team’s budget. If you haven’t seen the budgets, they’re all available on http://t.co/hAIdtdA #oakmtg

Vsmoothe: CM Brooks: Council offices + Neighborhood Service Coordinators can handle job of Oaklanders Assistance Center. Already take calls. #oakmtg

Vsmoothe: I have an idea! If they do the same thing, how about we keep the Oaklanders Assistance Center and cut Council staff to pay for it? #oakmtg

dto510: CM Brooks says despite new funds, still need for cuts and new revenues for the next budget process. #oakmtg

MarleenLee: Oh. So part of the police proposal is to give them a raise in 2014? Interesting. #oakmtg

dto510: CM De La Fuente says OPOA contract makes problem worse b/c trades 9% pension contribution for a 4% raise, 2x sick days. #oakmtg

dto510: CM DLF: We’re ignoring $138m debt on funds, half-billion-dollar PFRS liability, $43m payment next month. #oakmtg

MarleenLee: Pat Kernighan admits that the budget proposals are nothing more than band-aids. #oakmtg

Vsmoothe: CM Kernighan: “In two years when this budget is up, we will again be in difficult straits.” #oakmtg

Vsmoothe: Is that a joke? I will be FLOORED if they make it through December without having to open up the budget and do this all over again. #oakmtg

oaklandscene: Fiinal budget vote looks remote especially when council members are still questioning city staff about proposed budget components. #oakmtg

dto510: Consultant defends changing revenue collection, says model data-mining program exceeded revenue targets by $3.2m. #oakmtg

Vsmoothe: Staff spending ridiculous amnt of time explaining to the Council they’re using computers now instead of people with pens and paper. #oakmtg

anca: Hmm, some councilpeeps seem awfully ignorant about the Revenue Dept’s IT improvements, which replace antiquated manual processes #oakmtg

Vsmoothe: Or is it me? Am I missing something here? This whole discussion seems ridiculously stupid. #oakmtg

DIYGene: @Vsmoothe “so explain these computer things…” #oakmtg

Vsmoothe: I really wish they would stop talking about this. This discussion is boring and repetitive. #oakmtg

MarleenLee: I think this discussion on the revenue collection is an excellent way to cut down on public speakers-new way around Brown Act. #oakmtg

DIYGene: #oakmtg let’s talk about the budget proposals, shall we? #facepalm

Vsmoothe: I think Council is trying to drive everyone away w/this inane discussion so nobody sees what they say about the rest of the budget. #oakmtg

Vsmoothe: OMG Thank goodness! It’s over! Now CM Brunner asking about rehiring officers. “Where is this money coming from?” #oakmtg

OaklandBecks: CM Brunner – We need consensus. We can keep giving speeches, but that’s not going to bring us to consensus. Agreed. #oakmtg

anca: I can’t believe that we are counting on selling off city property (which does not have a buyer) as a way to solve budget problems. #oakmtg

matthai: Gang of 4 budget assumes cops cost $149k/yr. Avg cop in Oakland previously stated at $188k/yr. #oakmtg

OaklandBecks: Budgeting by magic! RT @matthai Gang of 4 budget assumes cops cost $149k/yr. Avg cop in Oakland previously started at $188k/yr. #oakmtg

chuklessmith@OaklandBecks I didn’t read the 7th Harry Potter book, but I expect it ended with him slaying Voldemort, not balancing the Oakland budget.

Vsmoothe: CM Nadel: We wanted to wait for negotiations before having a proposal so it wouldn’t get out that libraries might be closed. #oakmtg

Vsmoothe: WTF? Has she been living in the same city as I have for the last two months? #oakmtg

matthai: Nadel says budget proposals delayed so advocates wouldn’t be pit against each other. But that’s exactly what happened for 2 months. #oakmtg

Vsmoothe: CM Schaaf: We’ll have no new information on budget Thurs that we don’t have tonight. Delaying costs money! Must pass budget tonight! #oakmtg

Vsmoothe: I am curious where this sudden sense of urgency is coming from, when the Council went 2 months without saying a word! #oakmtg

dto510: They’re getting down to brass tacks. CM Schaaf says her team will accept parking meters under 580 but not in Eastlake. #oakmtg

Vsmoothe: CM Schaaf moves adoption of a combination of her team’s budget and the other budgets, CM Nadel seconds. #oakmtg

Vsmoothe: CM Reid asks @jeanquan to respect Council and let them discuss budget w/o interruption. She interrupts: “I’m not a typical Mayor.” #oakmtg

Vsmoothe: CM Brunner: This is not a real compromise, I would need to see something in writing. #oakmtg

Vsmoothe: CM Brunner: I am not comfortable with spending one time money on ongoing operations. CM Brooks also wants to see it in writing. #oakmtg

OaklandBecks: Looks like we might have a #cabudget vote tonight, but clearly there will be no Oakland budget passed tonight. #oakmtg

Vsmoothe: #oakmtg isn’t over, but I’ve had enough! Goodnight!

matthai: Council will vote on budget on Thursday — last day of fiscal year. Council proposals might be posted online tomorrow #oakmtg

Gcrime: I should have gone to #oakmtg instead of obsessing over gamer serial killers on British television

Vsmoothe: Now for the best part of #oakmtg. The glass of wine afterwards!

matthai: Oakland Council turns down their salary increases. #oakmtg

DIYGene: given pushing everything to Thursday #oakmtg i wonder if anyone will show up for the opening of the EO sports center

DIYGene #oakmtg votes 8-0 to accept contract for EO sports center as-is, rather than do 6 months and re-evaluate. made CM reid happy

amymartincomics: Reid is cranky, and he just said “my sugar is up.” #oakmtg

amymartincomics: CM Brooks thinks fees are “way too high” for E. Oakland Sports Ctr?.. erm, kind of late to bring that up, isn’t it? #oakmtg

Zac Unger: Details on the firefighter union concessions

Last night, zac left a very helpful comment in the Open Thread detailing the agreement reached between the firefighters union and the City. To make it easier for people to find, and also to avoid overburdening the Open Thread with conversation on one topic, I’m putting up the comment as its own post here, and moving the comments that were already left in response over here as well. Thanks again for filling us in, zac! – V

OK folks–here it is. It’s time to let you all in on the contract that Local 55 (fire) has negotiated with the city. Ready? Go!

As you know (hopefully) Local 55 is already paying 13% of our salary towards PERS. This is far over and above any other bargaining unit in the city. And we’ve been doing it for years, saving the city lots of money. We also reduced the amount the city paid for our medical coverage two years ago. Next, two years ago we agreed to work four hours per week for free. We’re still doing that. This was effectively a 7% cut in pay. I’ve heard a lot of people say that that isn’t a cut to work four hours per week for free. But imagine if you are a 40-hour per week employee and your boss told you that you had to come to work every other Saturday, all day long. For free. It would probably feel like a cut.

Anyhow, that’s what we did before. Here’s what we’re proposing now:

  • Three year contract
  • 8.85% pay cut
  • Give up 2 Vacation days per year
  • Freeze the city’s contribution to our dental plan
  • New hires go to 3% at 55 for pension

An 8.85% cut plus a loss of two vacation days is equivalent to 10% of our total compensation, or 9.57 million dollars. Two vacation days might not seem like a lot, but we work 24-hour days. Most folks in the dept get either 7 or 9 days, so a loss of two days is a significant chunk.

So there you have it (for the first part at least; there’s more). Ten percent. Boom. In the form of a 9-ish percent cut and two vacation days. This is on top of the 13% contribution to PERS and all that other stuff. It saves the city 30 million over the life of the contract, and the change in retirement calculation saves millions more down the road.

But wait, there’s more…In the second year of the contract we give the city the option of browning out two companies. The city is quite eager to close/brownout firehouses. We insisted that each neighborhood share the pain. So to that end the brownouts will roll through the entire city. We have 32 rigs and 2 will brown out each day, beginning July 2012. Essentially, each company will be closed one sixteenth of the time. This saves the city 4.4 million dollars per year.

So there you have it. A 10% cut directly out of the firefighter’s pocket. Ten million bucks a year. And two years of brownouts. It’s not anybody’s dream, but it’s a solid concession and we’re proud to do our part to help the city through this rough patch. I also feel compelled to point out that this concession far exceeds what any of the council members asked us for in their budgets. Going off of V Smoothe’s analysis, IDLF wanted 3.7 million from us; the Kaplan team wanted 12 million from ALL UNIONS COMBINED; and the Reid group didn’t really seem to be asking for any concessions at all. At any rate, we tripled the concessions that IDLF asked us for, and his seemed to be the most concessions-based budget.

Bottom line is that it’s a solid deal in a shaky time. We hope all of the other bargaining units will make similar concessions so that we can get this city moving again. It’s a pleasure working for/with all you fellow Oaklanders and I hope you feel OK about this deal.

And now: fire away! I’ll take your questions.

Grand Jury blasts Oakland building services

Arnie Fields must be feeling vindicated. The Alameda County Civil Grand Jury released its 2010-11 final report (PDF) today, and it is none too favorable towards the City of Oakland.

Oakland Building Services

The report includes a lengthy and extremely harsh indictment of Oakland’s Building Services division (PDF):

Building Services’ code enforcement inspectors have aggressively pursued blight and sub-standard properties throughout Oakland as determined by their individual interpretations of the applicable city code. This has led to an inconsistent enforcement program backed by inspectors’ threats of filing large liens on the offering properties. This creates an institutional reluctance to lend on these properties and reluctance by property owners to improve their properties.

The Grand Jury found that property owners complained that it is extremely difficult to understand the process for appealing a citation, or to resolve issues with Building Services inspectors. Testimony confirmed there are no standard operating manuals or guidelines for Building Services inspectors. Property owners were frustrated by their inability to speak with inspectors who are only available for short periods of time on an irregular schedule.

The Grand Jury found an atmosphere of hostility and intimidation toward property owners within the Building Services division. When property owners complained, they were sometimes threatened with more fines or, in one case, even loss of their home. Some inspectors inappropriately used their law enforcement authority and their city-issued badges to intimidate property owners. Therefore, the Grand Jury believes that the city of Oakland should reevaluate its policy of granting law enforcement authority and related badges to building inspectors.

The Grand Jury is appalled by the actions of the city of Oakland’s Building Services Division and its impact on property owners of Oakland. The significant contradictions between the testimony of Building Services employees and the testimony of property owners and contractors are disturbing. The division’s practices and its treatment of property owners appear to be a direct reflection of poor management, lack of leadership, and ambiguous policies and procedures.

Their examples make Oakland look pretty bad. Here’s one they give as an illustration of excessive fees. The property was cited for trash and debris:

“Trash and debris, blight” turned out to be children’s toys in the yard. This resulted in fees/fines of over $18k and having to demolish a garage converted to an indoor/outdoor recreation room that had been approved more than 20 years earlier.

Another example, which they cite as “egregious abuse of authority”:

Building inspectors had a warrant for entry to premises for inspection only (not to remove items); they removed and disposed of EVERYTHING in the house and had animal control take the property owner’s dog. Subsequently the city recorded a lien for $30k.

Radio Interoperability

A study of regional emergency communications (PDF), focused mostly on the East Bay Regional Communications System Authority (EBRCSA), a joint powers authority whose goal it is to provide interoperability of radio systems throughout Alameda County and Contra Costa County, in order to allow for coordinated response during disasters, raised some serious concerns about Oakland’s ongoing radio issues:

Focusing on the question of why the city of Oakland has not joined EBRSCA, the current Grand Jury interviewed public safety officials from Oakland and EBRSCA.

Unfortunately, based on our research, the current Grand Jury concludes that the goals of cooperation and interoperability are far from being achieved, and progress towards regional interoperability between the city of Oakland and EBRSCA is at a standstill. The delay in finding a joint solution for this issue leaves the lives of officers and the public in continued jeopardy.

and

While investigating interoperability, the Grand Jury became aware of persistent radio communication problems within the city of Oakland (internal operability problems). The Grand Jury requested and received copies of reports of radio problems submitted by police personnel over the past year including reports of dead spots and radio failures. The sheer volume of reported problems from these reports, the CTA study, and from witness testimony can only be described as shocking.

Parking citation system

Not all the news about Oakland was bad. The Grand Jury appeared pleased with the results of an investigation of Oakland’s new parking citation system (PDF), although they had a few recommendations for improvements:

While the new system may not solve all parking citation problems, the Grand Jury is pleased that the city of Oakland’s Parking Bureau is keeping up with new technology. To make the system more effective, it would be valuable to have 100% of those issuing tickets use this electronic system. The Parking Bureau should track performance of the new system carefully to document strengths and weaknesses, continue to train staff on its use, and make adjustments as necessary.

Download the full report here (PDF). It makes for some pretty interesting reading.

Finally, Council silence on the budget ends

In the nearly two months since the Mayor released her three proposed budget scenarios, Oakland residents concerned about service cuts have waited and waited and waited to hear how the Council will react. Today, we finally got some information about alternatives the Council will be discussing at the special Council meetings being held on Tuesday and Thursday of next week.

In case you’ve forgotten, here’s a comparison of the budget changes in the Mayor’s three budget scenarios (PDF).

Proposal from Ignacio De La Fuente

And here’s the budget proposal from Councilmember Ignacio De La Fuente (PDF). It maintains library services, as well as cultural arts funding and Neighborhood Service Coordinators. In the accompanying memo (PDF), he notes:

Of particular significance is my proposal to impose 20 furlough days for police. I differ from my colleagues and the Mayor and City Administration in that my proposal does not use gimmicks or revenue projections that are not real. This proposal lives up to the expectation that every sector of the City provides their fair share to balance this budget.

So here’s what it looks like.

Added back to Mayor’s Scenario A, totaling $10,532,406

  • No fire station closures: $310,000
  • No reduction in library staffing: $5,447,340
  • Film office staffing, add back 1 FTE
  • No Rec Center reduction programming at Manzanita and San Antonio: $184,963
  • Council Offices: move 2 FTE from General Fund to Redevelopment: $252,182 (plus other “alternative reduction”, for total savings of $378,856)
  • Opening of East Oakland Sports Center: $500,000
  • Maintain minimal funding at Zoo: $150,000
  • Neighborhood Service Coordinators: $1,000,000
  • No Parking Division Reorganization: $617,237
  • No Reduction in Accounting, Treasury, and Admin Positions: $1,000,000
  • Cultural Arts Grants Funding: $730,000
  • Peralta Hacienda: $54,000
  • Asian Cultural Center: $60,000

New revenue, totaling: $8,266,340

  • Additional 5 days of Mandatory Leave without Pay for police, bringing total to 20: $2,300,000
  • Firefighter union concessions: $3,700,000
  • Convert 580 underpass lot to 169 meters: $483,340
  • Reinstall 200 meters at East Lake: $660,000
  • Transfer Tax from sale of The Landing at Jack London Square: $973,000
  • Sell former Champion Street Fire Station: $150,000

New savings, totaling $2,299,336

  • Eliminate City Attorney legal communications officer: $164,448
  • Eliminate Neighborhood Law Corps Director position: $161,451
  • Eliminate Misdemeanor Prosecution Program: $297,662
  • Eliminate Half-Time Executive Assistant to the Public Ethics Director: $51,240
  • Reduce Public Ethics Director Position to Half Time: $75,862
  • 12 Yearly Closure Dates and PWA Savings at the East Oakland Sports Center: $500,000
  • Administrative Assistant to Mayor: $82,184 (NSD)
  • Eliminate Program Analyst III (NSD): $134,134
  • Eliminate Police Service Technician II (NSD): $87,002
  • Eliminate Administrative Services Manager II (Parking Division): $178,494
  • Eliminate Administrative Assistant I (Parking Division): $76,261
  • Reduce Parking Enforcement Supervisor II to Parking Enforcement Supervisor 1: $33,136
  • Reduce Accountant III to Accountant II (Parking Division): $19,436
  • Parking: Reduce Accountant Clerk III to Accountant II (vacant): $37,470
  • Freeze Parking Meter Repair Worker (vacant): $76,806
  • Freeze Parking Meter Collector (vacant): $71,568
  • 1 FTE Film Office from General Fund to Redevelopment: $100,000
  • For Public Works: Add back 3 FTE Tree Trimmers ($333,199), 1 FTE Tree Supervisor ($132,844), 2 FTE Gardeners II ($177,794), Eliminate $350,000 newly proposed Emergency Tree Contract, Eliminate newly proposed Program Analyst II ($102,950), Eliminate Management Intern Facilities and Environment Division ($83,000), Eliminate Account III – Fiscal Services ($128,000), Utilize LLAD Operating Surplus ($44,439)

I’ll update this post with other two Council budget proposals when they appear.

Proposal from Councilmembers Nancy Nadel, Pat Kernighan, Rebecca Kaplan, and Libby Schaaf

And here’s the budget proposal from Councilmembers Nadel, Kernighan, Kaplan, and Schaaf (PDF). Strangely, although it continues to rely on the sale of the Kaiser Convention Center for an absurd price, it conditions the sale on “modified purchase sources” and the immediate issuance of an RFQ. It’s unclear what these purchase sources are — a different Redevelopment Area (as proposed by Brooks, Brunner, and Reid)? Or a private party, which is what the reference to an RFQ seems to imply? If that’s the case, it does not seem realistic to me at all. Selling it to ourselves for so much money was bad, but the idea that anyone else would buy it for the amount budgeted is just laughable.

Additional Expenditures versus Mayor’s Scenario A, totaling $20,131,037

  • Maintain library services: $5,450,000
  • Keep Main Library open during Winter Break: $50,000
  • Preserve all 9 Community Policing Neighborhood Service Coords: $829,929
  • Maintain 85% of cultural arts grants funding: $620,602
  • Preserve 2 Information Technology FTEs by moving them to the Library and funding them with Measure Q surplus: $240,000
  • Preserve 1 FTE Oakland Film Office: $98,543
  • Maintain 85% subsidies to Oakland Zoo, Vietnamese Senior Centers, Symphony in schools program, AIDs initiative, Women’s Business Initiative, Chabot Space & Science Center, Oakland Asian Cultural Center & Peralta Hacienda: $799,615
  • Maintain 100% of Eden I&R 211 Information & Referral funding and move to Library GPF budget: $100,000
  • Keep all fire stations open: $320,000
  • Preserve programming at Manzanita, San Antonio and Poplar Rec Centers: $299,393
  • Civilianize police internal affairs ($1,340,000 in savings in FY12/13, none in FY11-12)
  • Hire back 44 laid off officers immediately (increasing sworn strength by 22 officers): $3,271,478
  • Preserve 3 gardener II positions: $257,000
  • Preserve 5 Tree Trimmers + 2 Tree Supervisor 1s: $705,174
  • Preserve 5 Information technology FTEs: $705,174
  • Preserve 1 HR & 2 Accounting positions: $325,000
  • Contribution to Reserve: $6,050,000

Additional Savings, totaling $20,140,000

  • Cost Savings Goal from Labor Agreements: $12,200,000
  • Move $1.3 of Kaiser Arena sales proceeds from accelerated negative fund payment to general fund reserve: $1,300,000
  • Shift Henry Kaiser Center sales proceeds from 2nd to 1st year: $5,100,000
  • Adjust OPD attrition assumption rate from 3.3 to 4 per month: $1,200,000
  • Draw Measure Q surplus to preserve library services and dedicated Library Technology staff: $340,000
  • Total savings: $20,140,000

Cost Neutral Proposals

  • Reject current reorganization proposal of parking division. Direct staff to return with a new cost-neutral proposal that maintains Parking Director position.
  • Adopt City Attorney’s proposal to add 6 Attorney and 3 Support Staff positions funded by Self Liability Insurance fund 1100 in Non-Dept. and reduce liability costs by same amount. Require study 9 months after implementation to evaluate promised cost savings.
  • Support 5 day reduced hours at Senior Centers.
  • Condition sale of Henry J. Kaiser Center on modified purchase sources and issuance of RFQ asap.
  • Restore as many Gardener II’s as possible through savings in LLAD realized by labor agreements

Future Revenue Ideas

  • Lease Miller Library
  • Sell Chabot Golf Course
  • Seek WIB funding for Second Start Literacy Program
  • Seek Redevelopment funding for Tool Lending Library
  • Explore revenue generation through fees or membership program at AAMLO Museum

Proposal from Councilmembers Larry Reid, Desley Brooks, and Jane Brunner

Here is the budget proposal from Councilmember Reid, Brooks, and Brunner (PDF). It’s extremely similar to De La Fuente’s budget, except with fewer sources of new revenue and it does not restore the proposed cuts of gardeners and tree trimmers or the cultural arts grant funding. It also eliminates the Oaklanders Assistance Center. Both this budget and De La Fuente’s budget gut the Public Ethics Office, eliminating the part-time assistant entirely and reducing the Executive Director (the only other Public Ethics staff member) to half-time.

Added back to Mayor’s Scenario A, totaling $10,448,405

  • No fire station closures: $310,000
  • No reduction in library staffing: $5,797,340
  • Film office staffing, add back 1 FTE: $100,000
  • No Rec Center reduction programming at Manzanita: $400,000
  • Council Offices: move 2 FTE from General Fund to Redevelopment: $378,856
  • Opening of East Oakland Sports Center: $500,000
  • Maintain minimal funding at Zoo: $400,000
  • Neighborhood Service Coordinators: $1,000,000
  • No Parking Division Reorganization: $562,199
  • No Reduction in Accounting, Treasury, and Admin Positions: $1,000,010
  • No elimination of 0.50 FTE Revenue Assistant or 4.80 FTEs Tax Enforcement Officer II positions: $562,199

Alternative to Mayor’s proposal

  • “Alternative funding of Kaiser from other Redevelopment Sources”: $15,000,000.
  • New revenue, totaling: $2,140,000

    • Convert 580 underpass lot to 169 meters: $483,340
    • Reinstall 200 meters at East Lake: $660,000
    • Transfer Tax from sale of The Landing at Jack London Square: $973,000

    New savings, totaling $2,299,336

    • Eliminate City Attorney legal communications officer: $164,448
    • Eliminate Misdemeanor Prosecution Program: $297,662
    • Elimination Oakland Assistance Center: $251,151
    • Eliminate Half-Time Executive Assistant to the Public Ethics Director: $51,240
    • Reduce Public Ethics Director Position to Half Time: $75,862
    • 12 Yearly Closure Dates and PWA Savings at the East Oakland Sports Center: $500,000
    • Eliminate Neighborhood Service Director (Administrative Assistant to Mayor: $82,184 (NSD)
    • Eliminate Program Analyst III (NSD): $134,134
    • Eliminate Police Service Technician II (NSD): $87,002
    • Eliminate Administrative Services Manager II (Parking Division): $178,494
    • Eliminate Administrative Assistant I (Parking Division): $76,261
    • Downgrade Parking Enforcement Supervisor II to Parking Enforcement Supervisor 1: $24,514
    • Downgrade Accountant III to Accountant II (Parking Division): $27,597
    • Freeze Assistant Controller: $105,386
    • Eliminate Administrator Analyst (new proposed budget position): $95,627
    • Transfer 1 FTE from Film Office from General Fund to Redevelopment: $100,000

    Mark your calendar for the Oakland Service Festival on August 13th

    If you had four hours and a whole bunch of helping hands, what would you do in your neighborhood?

    The Ella Baker Center for Human Rights wants to know. They might just be able to provide those helping hands for you.

    Throw Down for the Town

    Through their Soul of the City initiative, the Ella Baker Center is organizing a city-wide day of service on Saturday, August 13th. From 10-2, they’ll have volunteer service projects (neighborhood clean-ups, tree plantings, stuff like that) throughout the City. Some projects are already confirmed, but they’re also still soliciting suggestions:

    We are leading Oakland in a City-Wide Day of Service and we hope that you will join us! We’ve confirmed 15+ service projects throughout Oakland. However, it’s not too late to submit your proposal to host a project and help Oakland thrive.

    You lead a service project and we’ll help turn out volunteers.

    Your project can be anything from working on a community garden to cleaning up a neighborhood, to painting a school. Please click Host a Project and we’ll contact you to get all the details.

    And after the work is over? Time to party!

    After four hours of people-powered community service, we’re hosting a celebration at Mosswood Park. There will be food, dance, and a solar paneled hip-hop concert. This will be a family friendly event and an opportunity to build community after a hard days work.

    So if you have an idea for a project you’d like to host, fill out the form. And if you don’t feel up to organizing something and just want to help out, mark your calendar for August 13th, so you can volunteer for whichever project speaks to you.