I wrote a story about the Oak to Ninth project for Novometro this week. The history of the project is long, although fairly straightforward once you lay it all out, certainly much more so than opponents would have you believe. While researching the story, I spent an inhuman amount of time pouring over the Oak to Ninth referendum committee’s complaints, most of which completely misrepresent the project and paint an alternate-reality picture of the planning process it went through.
And the whole time I was doing it, I just couldn’t stop thinking about Mark Trail. I like Mark Trail, partly because I enjoy nature, but mostly because I think Mark’s job as a writer who gets to beat people up a lot sounds kind of fun. For the most part, the fact that the plotlines are often outlandish and nonsensical doesn’t bother me. (Example: the current storyline. I really just don’t understand why they can’t just move the damn duck and her nest to somewhere else that isn’t scheduled to be turned into a shopping mall.)
But occasionally Jack Elrod’s storylines cross the line into such absurdism that I couldn’t possibly hope to suspend my disbelief. Such was the case with one recent saga involving a pair of corrupt county commissioners and their elaborate scheme to deceive their constituents into voting for a new airport on property they own by hiring their hunting guide to release birds around the existing airport. Seriously. Look:
It was too much for even the Comics Curmudgeon, who charcterized the storyline as what would happen “if you managed to convince Karl Rove to drop acid and write a comic strip.” Commenters on the site were equally quick to dismiss the story as ludicrous beyond any realm of possibility. But since I was knee deep in the claims of the Oak to Ninth referendum drive, it occurred to me that some people think this is actually how things work.
Case in point: The East Bay Express’s own Robert Gammon, who seems convinced that every single thing he doesn’t like is part of some incredibly elaborate plot originating from the source of all evil on earth – State Senator Don Perata. One only needs to look at any of the increasingly paranoid ramblings in one of his incessant odes to Stuart Flashman. If Gammon’s stories were your only source of information (and I certainly pray that isn’t the case for, well, anyone), you would think that the invalidation of the petitions was some kind of crazy scheme to deny the will of Oakland’s voters for the benefit of campaign contributors. But the truth is much simpler: the referendum committee failed to follow the law. There are clear regulations about how to conduct a referendum campaign and they blatantly ignored them. (And this doesn’t even address the fact that the petitioners lied like O’Reilly to get people to sign.)
I know that most people hate developers and politicians (and honestly, I’m not a huge fan of either), but they are a fact of life. In the case of Oak to Ninth, the planning process was clear, transparent, and logical. At some point, anti-development types are going to have to accept the reality that just because they don’t like things that are happening does not mean that all of City Hall is corrupt. It just means that most people don’t agree with them.