208 thoughts on “
Open Thread

  1. V Smoothe Post author

    Lots of robust discussions happening on the old Open Thread, but the number of comments was getting a little unweildy. Seemed like time for a fresh start.

  2. len

    Russo’s idea of three boroughs plus an at large council, seems like his way of getting rid of district elections. the theory is that at large cc members would be less parochial but don’t see how the reality of making candidates come up with enough bucks to run a city wide election would improve the quality of our cc.

    But i’m not even sure that making cc members think more globally = thinking more deeply and several moves ahead.

    were recent at large cc members notably better than district members?

    anyone know the history of district voting in Oakland?

    -len raphael

  3. Max Allstadt


    your question about the quality of At-Large representation is a tough one to answer. Rebecca Kaplan is awesome, but she’s only been Round
    for a little while. Henry Chang, in many people’s opinions, didn’t do much at all.

  4. PRE

    Has anyone considered the fact that BART actually likes all of the consternation around the OAC because it keeps the focus off of all the other dubious projects that move merrily along under the radar?

    There’s the $500M 10 mile eBART extension to Antioch, the who-knows-how-much-it’ll-cost extension to Livermore, and most importantly for BART, nobody at all is talking about the $890M single station Warm Springs extension which makes no sense at all unless it continues down to San Jose.

    All of these continue apace without so much as a word in the local press.

  5. V Smoothe

    PRE –

    I seriously doubt BART enjoys having to spend months on end fighting to get their capital projects approved under any circumstances. As for the other two projects you mention, there’s really not much to say about them. Transit advocates did try to fight MTC’s reprogramming of money earmarked for Dumbarton Rail to the Warm Springs extension, and they lost. At this point, there’s nothing else to do. And eBART has been delayed basically indefinitely, so there’s not really anything to do about that either.

  6. Naomi Schiff

    History of at-large voting: When I first came to the east bay, there was no district voting in Oakland. Everyone was elected at-large until the mid-1970s, about 1976. That meant a council made up mostly of white businessmen, with Mayor John Reading presiding.

    No African-Americans, no Hispanics, no women. I believe the first woman was Mary Moore, District 2. I think the first black city councilperson was Carter Gilmore. Lionel Wilson was the first non-white mayor, 1977. Raymond Eng and Frank Ogawa were the first two Asian-Americans on the council, and each generally promoted the status quo in most votes.

    In my view, it would be backwards to return to all at-large council seats, which require more money and thus favor wealthy contributors. Until Rebecca Kaplan, about whom we don’t yet know, the at-large seat has basically been the chamber of commerce seat, in my view. Tends to support status quo because of the funding level required for election. I hope Rebecca will be more independent. Time will tell.

    The idea that Oakland would have a well-balanced council if it returned to at-large elections is a figment of Chip Johnson’s imagination, and seems to me ahistorical, likely to disenfranchise whole stretches of the city, and unlikely.

    Please note that our elections will change, though: we are about to find out how it works with instant-runoff voting, which I believe comes in on this next round of local elections. It will change the game plan somewhat: http://www.fairvote.org/oaklandirv/webarchive/

  7. Art

    Agreed with Naomi. We watched the “The Times of Harvey Milk” recently, and one of the big points I came away with was how critical district elections were to getting a diversity of voices on SF’s council. Essential here, too, in spite of the challenges that come along with districts.

    Incidentally, though, there will be mandated redrawing of council district borders in 2012 or thereabouts following the 2010 Census to balance population. I’d expect to see some rather significant changes in some areas of the city (specifically District 3, where there’s been a lot of housing development since 2000, but possibly other districts too). This might present an opportunity to shift council districts in other ways, too—there are three years to think about it, which is plenty of time to craft a vision and start a conversation around it.

  8. Ralph

    Is there something wrong when whole stretches of the city are disenfranchised? I’m not seeing a problem.

  9. Steve Lowe

    Several of us in West Oakland and down here on the Waterfront have been in favor of redistricting the baby for quite some time: four Districts and four At Larges. Brings more balance to the Council, makes it more democratic and eases the fiefdom quandary without doing away altogether with a dedicated champion for a specific area of town.

    Plus which, we wouldn’t have to set up a new system that runs the risk of becoming way too complicated and intrigue-riven. However, the real problem in Oakland is not so much its representatives (in any given time period you’re going to get as many clunkers as you are truly dedicated individuals) as it is the process by which they can be educated as to best practices in Oakland. Let’s face it, your speaker card has about as much worth as a splotch of gum on the sidewalk: it’s mostly an annoyance, and no one particularly wants to have anything to do with it. When was the last time a Councilmember, Commissioner or Mayor ever stopped you on the street to say how much they enjoyed your latest truncated oratory at this or that City, Port or Planning forum?

    What can work – as proved by the consistent success of certain lobbyists here in Oakland – is the creation of a better dialogue with our revered policymakers and their staff. And that is accomplished when you and members of your group are seated in some sort of non-confrontational, facilitated forum wherein real interchanges take place and accusations are kept to an absolute minimum (I’d advocate for none whatsoever, but who wants to give up all one’s options?).

    So instead of hearing an hour’s worth of one-minute rants which have no relevance with the VIP him-or-herself, his-or-her VIPness is pretty much on the spot to respond with something intelligent, as opposed to some of the truly bogus rationalizations that we’ve all been endlessly exposed to when the VIP’s have already had their minds made up long before you even got up to speak – sort of like the judge down at traffic court when you’re trying to explain why the Toyota’s seat belt can’t always be fastened when you’ve got coffee spilling all over the place: he or she is only impatient and just not at all sympathetic.

    Usually, the only place that kind of enhanced dialoguing can occur is at committee level or in chambers. The lobbyists get their interactive face time with the VIP’s, so when can there be equal time for the rest of us, time that is set aside as a matter of courteous public policy and interested outreach? Had that kind of open interchange been available to those who spoke so eloquently at the recent MTC hearing on the Airport Connector, would the Duh vote have been so inexplicably lopsided – as well as so pathetically unjustifiable?

    We’ve seen good illustrations of enhanced dialoguing, mostly in the Planning Commission committees where speakers cards are not needed, and the whole proceeding is more or less like a big Task Force. So the next rung on the ladder has to be getting our representatives to adopt best practices and engage in a better, more productive dialogue with the folks they ostensibly serve – the very folks, in fact, who were begged for money, volunteers and votes so that their bigwig wonderfulnesses could be installed in office.

  10. Becks

    Had that kind of open interchange been available to those who spoke so eloquently at the recent MTC hearing on the Airport Connector, would the Duh vote have been so inexplicably lopsided – as well as so pathetically unjustifiable?

    Steve – we did have that kind of interchange with many of the MTC commissioners (some were not worth approaching ahead of time, as they weren’t going to change their minds). And most of those whom we spoke with agreed with us in principal, but in the end, they weren’t willing to stand up against BART and voted for the OAC.

    Also, keep in mind that the MTC is not really accountable to anyone. Nobody’s going to vote against a mayor or a supervisor because of some vote on the MTC. Few even know that their local reps are on the MTC.

  11. Steve Lowe

    Well, maybe the Transportation Commission that the Mayor’s Task Forces recommended (or, just short of that, a Transportation Roundtable that Rebecca has been contemplating) can be put together soon enough to help MTC Commissioners (and JPC’s Smart Growth proponents) better understand the difference between thoughtful representation of healthy public transit and rubberstamping of More-Than-Craven staff infection.

    – S

    [Plus which, there's still no Duckie-Go-Round for the Boathouse: not exactly what most people think of when public transport is mentioned, but still...]

  12. Patrick

    There is nothing diverse about a black mayor choosing a black police chief in a city that is now less than 30% black.

  13. dto510

    Anthony Batts seems exceptionally well-qualified. Long Beach is similarly-sized to Oakland, and we have other things in common: incredible diversity, a Port-oriented economy, and a larger neighbor overshadowing us. Long Beach seems better-run and more successful than Oakland. Batts appears to be a very good choice.

  14. dto510

    I also agree with Naomi that district elections are a good thing. Steve, Becks’ example of how the MTC is unaccountable, and that’s why they approve bad and unpopular projects like the OAC, proves the point. With smallish districts (Oakland’s districts are the same size as SF’s, though SF has more voters per-capita), Councilmembers simply can’t avoid talking to and being responsible to constituents. Maybe we could add an additional at-large seat so there’s one every cycle.

  15. Patrick

    Unlike Los Angeles, San Francisco does not have a port to speak of; LB and LA are not separated by a 7 mile long bridge/bay, and Long Beach, futhermore, had a 2008 budget of $3.1 billion; a huge disparity when you consider our population difference is only 20%. I agree: Oakland made a good choice, the question is whether Batts did.

  16. David

    Because clearly Oakland’s improved as a city since the elimination of ‘at-large’ elections.

    I’ll wait while you find a metric that’s improved in the past 30 years. I think I’ll be waiting awhile.


  17. len

    diversity or adversity. i love dearly my rainbow hodge podge of neighbors, but i am not convinced that it’s an unmixed blessing to our city . i have this suspicion that a lot of people here figure they’ve fully discharged their civic duties by merely getting along with their neighbors.

    regardless, dellums was the one who touted new police chief’s urban diversity as a big plus.

    wb interested to learn what it took to make a change here to district representation. the change that jerry brown pushed for a strong mayor doesn’t seem anywhere as big a deal.

    -len raphael

  18. Robert

    For those who missed it, Oakland’s taco trucks got a shout out on the Travel Channel’s “Anthony Bourdain’s No Reservations” show on San Francisco this Monday.

  19. Mike d'Ocla

    Oakland’s public safety can’t improve simply with a new police chief, no matter how good a man Anthony Batts may be. It’s going to take an enormous increase in community involvement to improve things. There is, fortunately, a model, based on the experience in Cincinnati. A good description of police reform there is available at: http://www.cincinnatimonitor.org. The final report on reform (December ’08) is the first download listed at the url. There was also an article on Cincinnati police reform in the New Yorker magazine several weeks ago.

  20. Naomi Schiff

    One problem of the strong mayor charter revision is that it leaves us with an even no. of councilmembers. Thus they must achieve a supermajority (5 votes) to avoid going to the mayor for the deciding vote. Mysterious abstentions are sometimes part of a dance to avoid giving the mayor a vote. During the Measure X revision hearings necessitated by the incompetent drafting of the original measure, a couple of us committee members advocated either for getting rid of the at-large seat, or adding a second one. We were overruled by the majority of mayor appointees who wanted to keep power in mayoral hands. The current structure gave us the absurdity of having both a vice-mayor and a council president, a newly-invented position with no basis in the city charter, but which has achieved some level of power with control over agenda, rules, and presiding over meetings. Vice mayor is still useful in case mayor drops dead or there is a need for ceremonial representation at somebody else’s funeral. Also, Brown and Dellums rarely or never attend CC meetings. Formerly, the mayor presided over the council meetings as a sort of glorified councilmember–less powerful than mayors now, but more engaged in the public parts of governance, and required to work closely with the other councilmembers. Both Brown and Dellums have taken the opportunity to limit public interaction severely. It was so bad with JB that the Measure X revision included a requirement to meet with the public once in a while. Even the mayor’s appointees worried about the lack of access the public had to the mayor.

    Weirdly, neither Brown nor Dellums has fully exercised the office’s increased power. On the other hand, the city administrator position–formerly city manager–has lost a lot of clout and I believe that city staff is less protected from political interference now. And we have difficulty recruiting highest-level professional city management, because the job is subordinated to the mayor’s office. It also seems to me that the elected city attorney is less responsive to citizen access and procedural issues, and more involved in defending the electeds, than formerly. Maybe that is also influenced by city attorney’s ideas about mission. It is new territory for Mr. Russo, as he is the first elected city atty. I hope that the next election provides an opportunity to discuss what that role is and should be.

    As to the skeptical comments above about district elections: It is worth a great deal for all citizens to feel they have direct representation on the council, no matter whom they actually elect. The disempowerment related to at-large elections can be seen in the rise of the Black Panthers and other manifestations of unease during the 1960s. Without the modification of the city’s governance, Oakland might have been susceptible to much greater upheavals, as were experienced in many other cities around the country. We have had our share of commotion, but not major riots such as in LA and Newark.

    for example:

  21. David

    It’s worth a great deal? Interesting. Because the Black Panthers did so much to improve Oakland? Because Deep East Oakland dwellers feel so positively about their district?

    Sorry. not buying it. I don’t think district elections really contributed to the total mismanagement of Oakland over the past 30 years, but I also don’t think district elections made anything better, because clearly Oakland’s only gotten worse over the past 30 or 40 years.

  22. Naomi Schiff

    Maybe it is clear to you. How involved were you in this town thirty years ago? Some things have improved, and some things have gotten worse. But a strictly negative view says more to me about one’s outlook than it does about the city. Nostalgia is not always a clear lens.

    Thirty years ago. There was a lot of empty demolished space at city center. Painful attempt at redevelopment in Chinatown. A bubble of condo conversions was displacing enormous numbers of middle-class renters. There were parking complaints (okay, that one is about even steven). There was a crack-related epidemic of shotgun firings in my neighborhood, and several arsons; there were also at least seven abandoned buildings (now all in use and reasonably respectable). Downtown was emptying out. Liberty House (present day Rotunda) vacated in the early 1980s, to be followed by nothing for decades. I don’t have time to go into an extensive history but suffice it to say it has not “only gotten worse.” Some things are better, some worse.

    For myself, I choose optimism over gloom even when things are tough. You are welcome to be pessimistic, but does it help?

  23. Solace

    About Mike’s link above: I had no idea such oversight was in place. The Final Report’s opening paragraphs are so telling. Sounds like a lot of legal jargon, way over my head. But it does show how complicated the problem can be. I’ll have to take some time to digest it. Thanks. This is real good information. Also on today’s news is something interesting about CalPers. Looks like the stuff has hit the fan. This is interesting. Perhaps Cincinatti has set a precedent, along with the DOJ. There is at least the appearance of not promoting from within the ranks. Beyond that we have to wait and see.

    Still, it seems that everything is about the money. We see CalTrans being involved in the whole debacle here, and BART too. I wonder what Ronald Reagan would do?

  24. Ralph

    Naomi, can you HABO? You seem to grasp the ins and outs of this weak form, no form, strong form mayor, vice mayor and council president concept. How does one become vice mayor or council president? It seems very wrong to be both President and district rep. As CP, I would hope you have your eyes on the bigger picture. As a district scrapper, I imagine you are looking out for your own. What happens when the 2 collide?

    I am a simple man of simple means and back where I come from there is a citywide election for a mayor and council president. In the event that the mayor can not fulfill the r&r of the office, the CP, as the only citywide elected rule making official, steps in to complete the term. This makes sense to me.

  25. David

    30 years ago. “Don’t go below MacArthur”

    Today “Don’t go below MacArthur” (ok, I’ll give you China Hill is fine, and Maxwell Park is ok).

    Heck, you know what, 50 years ago, my grandmother told my father the same thing, “Don’t go below MacArthur.”

    Pretty much the same with the longer view; I’ll admit in the late ’90′s Oakland started getting noticeably better like most cities in the US, off of the nadir of the crack/crime wave of 1989-1993.

    My dad’s family’s lived in Oakland (and Berkeley) since, oh, around 1922, when my great-grandfather moved to take a job as a security guard at Mills College. I can show you the house on Lily St. where they grew up (just above MacArthur) if you like. My great-uncle can tell you about the days when the smart kids went to Oakland Tech (fun fact: Clint Eastwood graduated from there several years after him).

    It’s nice you’re optimistic. That doesn’t change that the city government, whether it’s district-wide elections or not, hasn’t been the paragon of efficiency for at least a generation, and probably more. Never mind the schools, etc etc.


  26. Max Allstadt

    Who still says “Don’t go below MacArthur”? And how far east and west does that apply? I spend most of my time below MacArthur, and I love it here.

  27. Rebecca Kaplan

    As you have heard by now, Oakland’s new police Chief, Anthony Batts, has been named. What I have learned about him seems like very good news for Oakland. ( I plan to meet with him one on one, and, from information so far and other references, I am optimistic that he has the experience and capabilities to strengthen public safety in Oakland).

    For a little more background about him, you can see:

  28. Naomi Schiff

    David, I have lived below MacArthur since 1978. My not-stupid younger daughter graduated from Tech two years ago. From her class, three girls went on to MIT. (They may be smarter than Clint, even. Other notable graduates: Curt Flood, Ricky Henderson and Ron Dellums) In New York City, where she will be a college junior, there is a tight-knit group of students from Oakland high schools who get together from time to time.

    Okay, I agree with you: Oakland’s municipal government is probably not the paragon of efficiency. (But them neither am I, either! Now, back to work.)

  29. Ralph

    Ron Dellums notable. Curt Flood, I wonder how many in Gen Pop know who he is. I wonder how many athletes know him.

  30. Max Allstadt


    I wonder how many of those crimes involve someone from above MacArthur getting jacked below MacArthur. I’ve lived in West Oakland for 5 years and the only person who’s ever presented even a minor threat was a drunk hipster from San Francisco.

  31. Robert

    Max, maybe not you personnaly being threatened, but from another thead,

    1. How many people do you know who’ve been mugged or attacked by Lake Merritt after dark?

    1: more than 5.

  32. Robert

    Dellums notable, in the sense that he has name recognition. But in the sense of actually producing anything of note?

  33. Mike Spencer

    It’s healthy that the new police chief is “an outsider.” When was the last time OPD had a chief from outside the ranks? He sounds like a great choice; hope he can challenge the POA and get some pride back in the job. A good first step would be for him to release findings on the investigations into the four deaths of the patrol officers and SWAT members.

  34. Patrick

    Uh, no? It is confusing because we say that “12am” = midnight. But, the American convention is that our days end at exactly midnight, and the next day begins immediately after.

    Either way, this strike is gonna suck.

  35. JB

    @Mike Spencer: The last time OPD had a chief from outside the ranks was the last chief. Hired in February 2005, Chief Tucker was from the Alameda County Sheriff’s Office. Violent crime spiked 60% during his four-year tenure. Let’s hope this outsider does better.

  36. Ralph

    Patrick, I disagree with your American convention. By your definition, a no parking 12am – 3am on Mon would translate to no parking on Sunday and Monday. This is why I use the 12:01 convention.

    I do agree the strike is going to sbmb. Just hope they resolve it before I get back into town.

  37. David

    Naomi. The exception that proves the rule.
    In your next trick, you’re going to argue that because there are a lot of smart people at Cal State Hayward (I refuse the “East Bay” nomenclature), the average caliber of student there is comparable to, oh, UC-Berkeley.

    Max, we can do argument by anecdote all day. I will say that there are parts of West Oakland that aren’t that bad. Before children, I used to play baseball at DeFremery all the time, and it was fine. I also earned the respect of the locals by defining “pot likker.” Going up to the 30′s and MacArthur, not so fine.

    What you can’t argue is the Oakland crime map. There are objectively many more crimes below Mac than above it. Period. And judging from my parents, grandparents and great-grandparents comments, it’s been that way for a long long time.

  38. len

    JB, yup. and Tucker was Jerry Brown’s pick.

    Mike, i tried and gave reading that Rand document. I need the Newyorker version or can you summarize and cf to Oakland’s Rider federal monitoring? If anyone can tell me anything good that has come out of our monitoring, please tell.

    -len raphael

  39. len

    Sol, that calpers article quotes the state’s actuary simply stating that calpers benefits are not “sustainable” and that a two tiered fix (new hires get the shaft) is too little too late. then the quote from another muckymuck that it has to be fixed before it hits the ballot.

    can’t cut benefits because of contracts, so have to layoff current employees so older employees can retire and get their promised benefits. politically unacceptable to make all new employees accept 401k type plans. enough to make one join a tea party.

    -len raphael

  40. David

    Contracts aren’t worth the paper they’re printed on if we simply can’t pay the pensions.

    Existing public employees are going to have take lower benefits, or take a number at the unemployment line.

    Speaking of which, are you ready to apply for a BART job. Cuz I sure am.

  41. Russell Spitzer

    Oh BART, For those of us who rely on your service, why must every single part of your organization (Mangement, Workers, Train Cars) be so dysfunctional.

  42. David

    Quick analysis of BART worker salaries finds that the bottom 20% make $60K/year.

    Break the union. Break it hard, break it now.

  43. Naomi Schiff

    David, there are denser neighborhoods below MacArthur than above it. I’m aware there is more crime below MacArthur, but some adjustment against population numbers by census tract might give a truer picture.

    Reading your posts one might conclude that you believe people in spacious single-family homes in the hills are good citizens, and everyone else is a jerk. But I know you probably don’t intend that. You seem a lot better informed and more thoughtful than that.

    Anyhow, I am not focussed on crime as my reason for going or not going someplace, perhaps a legacy from my New York roots.

    My grandmother used to say “Don’t cross Central Park after 4 pm!” My friend’s mother said “walk on the outside edge of the sidewalk! Air conditioners might fall down and kill you!” I crossed Central Park. I walked on the sidewalk’s inner edge. Life is too short for for living by one’s fears, which does not mean that I don’t have any, but that there are more important factors.

    As to Dellums’ career, no matter what you think of him as mayor, he did a pretty good job as congressman, chair of Armed Services Committee, and in leading the charge against apartheid in South Africa. And he brought a lot of federal funds to this district. He performed with courage and with integrity.

    As to Curt Flood, okay, if you want I’ll find you a few others. But he was illustrious in his prime.

    As to Oakland Tech, statistics don’t tell everything. I was responding to your comment that smart kids once sought out Oakland Tech for high school. They still do. (If you doubt this, ask around, or google Oakland Tech MIT or Oakland Tech Harvard). I agree that OUSD has some lousy stats (and did not benefit whatsoever from the hapless state takeover abetted by Messrs. Perata and O’Connell), but in the dreadful picture of California schools many things going on at Tech are impressive. They just got a six-year WASC accreditation. They are sending a lot of Oakland students (many from below MacArthur!) to excellent colleges.

    Out of the posts on this well-known involved-middle-class-parent site, two negative, all the rest pretty darn positive.


    General info:

  44. VivekB

    VS had some pretty good comments embedded in some thread about what the City auditor is NOT doing that she should be, esp as compared to her predecessor. But dang, I can’t find that thread.

    Anyone know or remember what thread that was?

  45. Solace

    Is it the case that BART, Caltrans, OPD, SEIU, OFD and every other publicly funded organization is part of the PERS system? When I worked as a public employee the union not only paid for my health care plan(at a nominal or very low cost to me) but I paid no social security either. That gave me something like 6.5% more on my paycheck than someone making a comparable base pay in the private sector. It adds up in a hurry. We should all remember that in the case of all PERS participants, that’s money which is not going back into circulation, ever, if those benefitting are not spending their income locally. It effectively makes cities like Oakland and others like privatized corporations that enjoy a tax-exempt status. IMHO. it seems the larger problem is endemic to the system itself.

    When all these agencies are getting lock-step guaranteed increases, and have been for so long, it’s no surprise about the difficulty in getting concessions. What fries me is the ginormous waste just to keep certain projects fully staffed with managers and consultants while delays and bad work(the ped. walkway) along the Dublin(?) route are decidedly a waste. Now, they pick this time to draw everyone into this extortive process. The bridge is slated to be closed in a couple of weeks. How much more is this going to cost?

  46. V Smoothe Post author

    Yeah, that was it. The post is here, and the auditor stuff starts pretty far down in the comments.

    I realize the search function on this site is very poor. That’s something I hope to remedy with some changes I’m working on right now, and hope to unveil in the next few weeks. Speaking of which – if anyone has something they’d like to see added to the site, now is a good time to suggest it.

  47. len

    Naomi, we’ll have to agree to disagree on Dellums congressional track record. My take is that he was all show. As far as delivering the pork to Oakland, in the end we got scrooged on mothballing the bases and losing hecka good paying jobs.

    So some time, we should really go off topic and discuss the record of his successor, Barbara Lee.


  48. David


    It’s amusing that in one paragraph you extol the 3 Oakland tech grads who went to MIT, and in another you point out that population density might be the cause for absolute higher crime rates below Mac. Yet, remind me again how many students go to Tech, oh yeah, about 1800.. Could those awesome 3 graduates be just the law of large numbers?

    Actual densities aren’t that different, maybe by a factor of +/- 30% at the most. Crime differences are an order of magnitude different at least. Even Adams Point isn’t 10 times as dense as Rockridge. And there are plenty of neighborhoods in East and West Oakland below Mac, that are the same density as hill ‘hoods, but with the typical East/West Oakland crime happenings.

    We can disagree on Dullums’s Congressional career (I actually didn’t comment on him being an example of a dumb Oakland tech graduate, although anyone who supports Castro and the ex-Communist gov’t of Grenada is clearly a fool). Reading your posts, one might conclude that you enjoy walking around 30th and San Pablo at 2 am in a short short skirt just for kicks. Give me a break. I don’t think, nor have ever stated that people living in the hills are “good citizens” and those in the flats are “jerks.”

    What I’m tired of is people making excuses for Oakland. Seriously. Huge swaths of the city are crap, by any objective measure–housing stock, crime, open air drug markets, mass transit access etc etc. I’m tired of people pretending that crime isn’t so bad. Again, by any objective measure, it’s terrible. Ditto for the schools. Sure, there are maybe a half dozen decent elementary schools, and that’s it. Gov’t officials are overpaid do-nothing gold brickers. And then the mindless “diversity” bleating worship.

    Yes, there are nice neighborhoods. Sure you like yours. That’s why you live there. But stop pretending Oakland overall is anything other than a more expensive version of a multitude of other crappy mid-size cities in the US (St. Louis/Philadelphia/Milwaukee/Newark/Jacksonville/Mobile etc) with nicer weather.

  49. Mike d'Ocla

    In response to Len (and others who want to reflect on violent crime issues):

    The New Yorker police reform article is from the June 22, 2009 issue, under “Annals of Crime” titled “Don’t Shoot.” Written by John Seabrook, it’s an easy and enjoyable read.

    Bottom line with regard to Oakland police reform: we have a lot of good elements already in play. We need much more community involvement and more institutional involvement. More cops are not the whole solution. We need much better communication between police and the community at large and especially the alienated community. Cincinnati police, for example, have the very unusual policy of publishing police policies and procedures. We need much greater transparency than we have now. Police need much more public support (and understanding) than now exists.

    Oakland is not the same as Cincinnati. From what I have heard from Oakland’s Street Violence program coordinator (Measure Y), Kevin Grant, youth violent gang culture is not drug-related, but is tied to power, reputation, personal-identity and personal-affront-retaliation issues. The shooters are getting younger (16 to 24 rather than 18 to 35). It’s a clear reflection of family dysfunction and community failure.

  50. Naomi Schiff

    David, there are many kids graduating from Oakland Tech who are doing well and becoming useful members of society. It was just an example because you said smart kids didn’t seek to enroll at Tech. You are incorrect about that. It is not an accident.

    I’ll disagree with your comment on Grenada just to say that it was one of the most cynical stupid invasions ever.

    I’m too old for short skirts. I walk all around Oakland, having achieved the level of invisibility that comes with anonymous middle age. I like and approve of diversity, which since we live in a diverse world we may as well appreciate. Don’t see what is wrong with it.

    I don’t think any whole city is crappy, and I am sorry that you suffer from a negative and dreary view of the world, which I do not share. Hey, I once lived in Akron, Ohio! Even that had its virtues. Though at the time it smelled of rubber.

  51. Patrick

    I find the oakblogoshere’s relative silence regarding the BART strike disquieting, if not downright peculiar. Yes, it’s been mentioned, but where is the analysis? No one has an opinion? Personally, I would gladly crab-walk over the Bay Bridge before I’d support giving in to the ATU’s demands.

  52. PRE

    Sitcheations like this get liberals all turned up in knots – BART unions or what my experience tells me riding BART? It’s too difficult to deal with. Better to ignore it and hope it goes away before Monday morning.

  53. David

    Said it before and I’ll say it again. Break the M’fing union. I’ll gladly take a scab job.

  54. The Boss

    On the Bart issue – either the union needs to cave or Bart needs to hire replacement workers, starting with enough to reopen the key Transbay tube link.

    Bay Area workers can’t afford this strike. The last one in 1997 was sort of tolerable because the economy was on the upswing. Not so today.

    More importantly, Bay Area workers will not tolerate this strike. I give it one or two weeks before people start demanding the union’s figurative head on a chopping block.

    One more thing — there really is little management can do here. They have to balance the budget. They’ve already raised fares. The tax situation is fairly static. Where else can they cut?

  55. navigator

    That’s what we get when a region decides that it’s better for the sake of image and business and political correctness, to place its large businesses and corporations in a city built on landfill, and connected to the mainland by bridges and an underwater tunnel here in earthquake country. The BART strike will be minuscule compared to what might happen when the “big one” hits. Meanwhile, Oakland with a more central business location located on the mainland, is mostly used as a thoroughfare to get to the almighty “City.”

    The BART strike may be a good thing for Oakland. Who cares about the economic affects to the “City.” Let’s see how those SF snobs do without the “bridge and tunnel crowd” they so often disparage.

  56. navigator

    But don’t worry, there is no way there will be a strike come Monday. The media is just doing what the media does best. The media is creating hysteria and not letting go of an issue which they perceive will generate higher circulations and ratings. This will be resolved. There is no way the politicians will allow the “City’s” economy to go in the toilet. It’s always all about going to, and coming from, the “City.” The rest of the Bay Area is just background noise for the SF centric media. This is why they always have their cameras fixated on the toll gates at the Bay Bridge.

  57. Patrick

    I disagree, nav. I don’t think the media is creating hysteria at all. I think they’re helping create resolve amongst taxpayers and riders. I don’t think many people anticipated the level of anger regarding the union position – politcians and union members included.

  58. navigator

    Patrick, I’m just saying that the media makes this out to be something that’s basically a done deal. There is plenty of time to resolve this. I’ll bet you a plate of crow that there will be no strike come Monday. This is all posturing.

  59. Patrick

    Hmmm….very interesting. If the union backs down now, it does not bode well for every other public employee union in the state. But if they don’t back down, the BART board has the support of the populace. Oh! what a tangled web we weave…

  60. dto510

    Patrick, one reason Oakland bloggers haven’t been digging into the BART contract dispute is because the details aren’t available. We don’t know exactly what the ATU wants, though it does seem they’re paid generously and enjoy inefficient work rules. However, BART management received bonuses earlier this year right before BART announced it was seeking labor savings, and of course the BART Board is determined to build money-losing extensions even when they’re completely unnecessary, like the Oakland Airport Connector. BART’s budget for years has shifted operating funds into capital projects, which is the exact opposite of what every other transit agency prioritizes (agencies usually transfer the maximum possible from capital to operating), and calls into question management’s assertion that substantial labor savings are necessary for the budget to be balanced.

    I think everyone should think a little bit more about what BART’s management has been doing to the budget before declaring they support the Board’s contract demands.

  61. Anca Mosoiu

    @dto510: Is there anything we, as citizens, can do to find out more about the details of the dispute? While I understand that these types of negotiations need to happen with a little bit of privacy, I’d like to know a little more about the details. For example, how many managers does BART have for every driver & station agent?

    And speaking of BART, what do you think about the new citizen’s oversight board that was proposed recently? (http://www.sfgate.com/cgi-bin/article.cgi?f=/c/a/2009/08/14/BAN31988FC.DTL)

  62. Mike Spencer

    Oops,. my bad JB. (I just never considered Tucker a permanent police chief because it seemed like he was just keeping the chair warm until retirement.)

    Worse to me than the parking situation is the City coming after my wallet for business tax each year. I know there is some sort of amnesty but it still amounts to an unfair tax. The City claims that the tax is because as a business, I use more City services. Most of these years I have worked from home. I don’t meet clients at my house and for 13 years have never had to call fire, 911, etc related to my business. It’s a sad state of affairs when it seems that there are more penatlies than breaks for trying to grow a business. It’s the small businesses that have the most potential for adding jobs (thinking of businesses with more than 5 or 10 employees.).

  63. dto510

    Anca, both BART management (bartlabor.org, now taken down) and BART labor (bartmanagement.org) had websites with their versions of negotiations. You can find the details of what management says is their best offer in the Board agenda, http://bart.gov/about/bod/meetings/agendas/08-13-09%20SPECIAL%20agenda%20packet2.pdf.

    Given BART management’s actions and the Board’s public statements about the shooting of Oscar Grant, I would not expect the Board’s police oversight policy to be meaningful or effective.

    I think what V would say in response to Patrick’s question, if she weren’t on blogging vacation, is that BART just isn’t her beat. While the BART strike is undeniably important and local, we metrobloggers take seriously our responsibility to be well-informed before publicly advocating a position, so we don’t want to jump into BART negotiations without knowing a lot about BART’s budget and their labor situation. Here’s something missing from the MSM, though – few articles have connected the labor dispute to the Oakland Airport Connector (which the ATU opposes), another major financial decision the board is making. I mean, BART management wants $100m in labor savings so they can take out a $70m loan to build a money-losing extension? That doesn’t seem right.

  64. Patrick

    Mmmm…no. Viewing the union’s demands within the context of what management has or has not done is nothing but pointing fingers – which is what children do. This dispute is not about management; it is about ridiculous work rules and unsustainable compensation. We will deal with management later. Now is the time for BART employees to remember who pays their salaries.

    I appreciate the desire for a holistic approach to solving the problems. But it is clear that such an approach = failure. One problem at a time. Asking the ATU to pay for the “employee portion” of their pension is not particularly remarkable, except for the fact that they did not pay it before.

  65. David

    You can review BART workers salaries (google it, and find the CoCo Times article). A quick slicing of the pay reveals that the BOTTOM 20% of workers makes $60,000/year, which is the average household salary in many Bay Area communities.

    Again. Break the union. Break it now. I’ll be first in line for a job. Any job.

  66. len

    agree w Patrick on this. dt’s reasoning extrapolated to Oakland govt, would mean opposing cuts in employee compnsation and benefits because the city officials fund ngo social programs that are the service equivalent of the bart connector.

    -len raphael

  67. dto510

    No Len, city-funded social programs (which are not a huge part of Oakland’s budget problems, unless you’re counting the library and park services), are not the equivalent of the airport connector. BART and other transit agencies have closed-loop funding and a clear mandate. And Oakland’s city employees did not accept a four-year contract with similar provisions to what the ATU is being asked to accept.

  68. Robert

    And Oakland’s city employees did not accept a four-year contract with similar provisions to what the ATU is being asked to accept.

    You’re right. Oakland workers agreed to a cut in compensation, a wage freeze and increased contribution to retirement. The terms were different, but I think it was pretty painful for Oakland employees also. And you have to remember that one of the major sticking points right now with ATU is in the work rules that allow extensive featherbedding.

  69. Rebecca Kaplan

    NEWS: Expanded Homebuyer’s Assistance in Oakland! I am pleased to announce that Oakland has approved an expansion of our “First Time Homebuyer’s Assistance Program” — which will now allow households earning up to 100% of Area Median Income to receive help, including Downpayment Assistance, to purchase a home in Oakland. My hope is both to help stabilize neighborhoods and prevent blight and crime (which tend to be attracted by vacant properties) while also helping people acquire homes.

    More info, and eligibility, and info about qualifying workshops for participation, and more, is available online at:

  70. ken o

    Here’s some crazy sh1t from the southland suburbs:

    High Desert Ghetto Birds Fly Over Neighborhoods and Announce Suspect Descriptions with Megaphones
    August 21st, 2009

    They never did this in Oakland as far as I could tell. It wouldn’t work! Haha.Plus our “ghetto bird” pilot is no longer getting any flight hours right?

    Separately, for OUSD fans…

    California spends $216,000 annually on each inmate in the juvenile justice system. It spends $8,000 on each child attending the Oakland public school system.

    Hooray for the prison guard union, and publicly-traded corporate prisons! And Joe Biden and all them in DC/NY for enabling this crap such as with unequal sentencing laws for crack vs cocaine powder.

    Cheers!! :)

  71. ken o

    So for the FirstTime homebuyer program Rebecka Kaplan is promoting, you can’t have income above 100% of median area income. The max price of a house is $503k which means Temescal and Rockridge — nicer areas — are effectively off limits to young couples and other first time buyers without rich parents. The purpose of this program then is to GENTRIFY poor Oakland neighborhoods as in West, East and South Oakland. Not that I’m against that. (there will still be plenty of public housing at $99/mo rents for people lounging at home, getting in trouble, etc. I’ve seen ‘em and some of them throw stuff at me as I bike past.)

    So in West Oakland if a house costs 300k and you make 100k combined (a respectable 3:1 income to house price ratio) that isn’t allowed, since the median area income in West Oakland is… 30k? 50k? 70k? For Oakland, the median income is 47k. I don’t have a figure for West O.

    You’d have to earn 47k then, for your entire household, which translates to an income to house ratio of over 6:1. Unsustainable right? But the banks will love you! They get money at 0% from the Federal Reserve to loan it out at 5-6% to you! (or more if you have a debt, er, credit card.)

    So this FTHB program enables people to engage in mortgages (debt purchases at 5-6% APR) that they realistically cannot afford and should never be allowed to step into.

    Owners take better care of property than renters though, that is for damn sure. So despite the problems I encourage this attempt at fostering more Home OWNERSHIP in Oakland. And of course I haven’t checked out the whole FTHB program–maybe there is a significant down payment required, which would make it legitimate.

    * median HH incomes: which is more accurate, the city website or the 2007 American FactFinder/Census estimate?



  72. Art

    Like V. said. “Area Median Income” is a formally defined figure used for housing purposes that’s updated every year. It’s established by HUD for an entire metropolitan area using a fairly complex formula—doesn’t vary from neighborhood to neighborhood (or even city to city within the area).

  73. Rebecca Kaplan

    Hi there folks, I wanted to clear up a couple questions about the Homebuyers Program. First, in order to participate, people have to attend a workshop/training with information about financial viability and more, and participants have to qualify in terms of demonstrated ability to pay their mortgage.

    (The next workshop will be in mid-September, so folks who are interested are encouraged to follow the link to check out the qualification criteria, follow the links for the program brochure, and then call to RSVP for the workshop if interested).

    Info online at:

    Second, as has already been explained, the “area median income” for a 2-person household is $71,450 (the numbers are at the page I had linked to), and there are right now in Oakland many homes available that such households could afford to buy. And, many middle-income households, with downpayment assistance, (which is allowed for up to 20% of the purchase price) can qualify for a loan for the rest of the purchase price, and then can afford to pay the loan, and obtain the benefits of homeownership.

    The program will not work for every household, and not every household will qualify. But, for the people in “the middle” who can afford homeownership with the downpayment assistance, this can be very helpful.

    In addition, Oakland communities benefit by reducing the stock of vacant properties because vacant homes are often magnets for blight and crime. The Oakland budget benefits by stabilizing real estate tax revenue.

    Best wishes,
    -R Kaplan

  74. ken o

    @V: to your point, it doesn’t matter if the city uses higher numbers than the census, since the program goes by the city’s numbers. so the city can make up whatever it wants.

    The most financially sensical house purchase would then be for a pair of DINKS making combined $71,450 per year buying a House for $213k in East/West O.

    That is closer to the house price to income ratios in San Antonio, El Paso or Fort Worth. And that assumes a very low down-payment or even a (screwy) $0 down buy.

    So the cost of the house could be even higher than 213 which affords said couple a nicer ‘hood. Maybe they put $70k down for a 300k house.

    “Coming in on top at number one for housing affordability is San Antonio, with an average home price of $89,800, an average annual income of $40,186, and a living wage ordinance.”

    In San Antonio, a normal household can buy a house for just a handful of loose change over a 2:1 house-to-income ratio. No wonder streams of “reverse Oakies” are going back to the dustbowl and to Texas!

    I hear it costs almost NOTHING to rent a uHaul to move from Austin to California.

    This all ignores the probability of house prices cratering further, though.

    google “doctor housing bubble”

  75. Art

    Ken, the city cannot “make up whatever it wants” as far as the numbers go. These numbers are federally defined. I’m not sure how to make that clearer. The HUD website has the formula they use. The money to pay for these programs typically comes from federal allocations to the city or county. And the point of affordable housing programs is not to make homes as affordable as they are in the least expensive parts of the country (nice as that might be). The point is to make home ownership more accessible to people who would otherwise be renting in the same area of the country. As I’m sure you know, rents and other costs of living in Oakland are much higher than rents in El Paso or San Antonio, too. It’s pretty basic supply and demand. If cheap housing and low cost of living is your primary goal, California is definitely not the place to be living.

  76. Ralph

    Actually, our DINKS could easily afford a $300K SFH. They might be able to afford a condo but they would need to do the analysis for the HOA . They can possibly buy into JLS if they can find a foreclosed or other similarly priced condo. Hopefully, this program will take some of the excess housing off the market.

  77. MEL

    “There is nothing diverse about a black mayor choosing a black police chief in a city that is now less than 30% black.”

    Hmm, I wonder if this same comment was made back in 2005 when a white mayor chose a white police chief in a city that was/is less than 30% white.

    By the way, the latest Census estimates (2007) show Oakland at 32.6% Black and 24.7% White (Non-Hisp). What source was used as basis for the “less than 30% black” assertion?

  78. Patrick

    One of my sources is here: http://findarticles.com/p/articles/mi_qn4176/is_20060818/ai_n16643551/
    I use the below 30% figure because virtually all black residents in the city are legal and many hispanics are not. Therefore, I am assuming that hispanics are undercounted due to fear.

    My comment on diversity was a direct result of len suggesting that I stated that it was due to “diversity” that the choice was shrewd. It was not. I believe Batts was a shrewd choice because, other than tales of womanizing, the man appears to be exactly what Oakland needs and his resumé pushes all the right buttons.

  79. David

    The most financially sensible choice for any putative homebuyer is to compare the cost of renting vs. buying, using REAL buying costs, which include maintenance and opportunity cost for your down payment that could otherwise be invested.

    Let’s say a putative buyer is renting a house for $2100/month. Assuming minimal appreciation (2ish%), minimal rent increases (rent control) of 2ish%, the putative buyer could buy a house for around $430K (+/- 10-20K, depending on interest rates that day etc etc), with a break-even point of 7ish years, and a tax-free rate of return on the down payment of ~6%. Your PITI payments would be around $2400, which means you need a pre-tax monthly income of about $8000 with current guidelines…or a solid $100K annually, still well over the median income. And $430Kish isn’t going to get you much in Oakland, certainly nothing as nice as you can get of course just about anywhere else in the USA. Or heck, in San Leandro.

    Finally, just FYI, over the past 30 years, the median price/income ratio in the Oakland/Fremont/Hayward MSA has been right around 5-6X. Price/rent has averaged around 18. Lows for the former is around 4X and latter around 14-15X. And yes, Dorothy, real estate in California does go down. Up and down. For decades.

  80. Patrick

    Your comment completely ignores the tax advantages of owning and, perhaps more importantly, the real-world advantages. Who wants a landlord criticizing/commenting on their lifestyle? “You can’t do this…your dog is too big/loud… your bathtub, though moldy, is serviceable…” Ugh. No. Furthermore, I own a beautiful home in Oakland: 3/2, garage, yard, basement…completely renovated by me from pipes to paint. And my mortgage is less than half of your putative buyer’s. I live in a great neighborhood.

    If you have an investment plan for the 3% of mortgage value I put into my FHA down payment that will give me a decent rate of return, please post it. Otherwise, I’ll happily remain in my personal castle, secure in the fact that I can paint zebra stripes on the ceiling if I feel like it.

  81. James Robinson

    What about those of us who didn’t pay down payments? It cost me less to move into the townhouse than to pay a deposit on a rental. Of course, the cost of rent has since gone down substantially (along with the value of my home), but in the long run, I hope buying will work out better for me.

  82. Patrick

    The only determinant of value is what you are willing to pay. I value ownership over renting for many reasons. Reasons I can’t even express.

  83. Ralph

    i actually meant that in regard to my own piece of the rock. of the many reasons i value ownership over renting the ability to do whatever i please to my walls. sadly i am regretting not doing anything with the ceiling. i believe in an ownership society. huge psychic income.

  84. ken o

    since many of us no longer have the ability to have financial capital and buy a house, we’re going to see even more efforts at obtaining symbolic or social capital.

    you know-
    old lexus cars with a big “L” logo painted on the doors with big wheels.
    fancy web capable phones, blueberries and ipods.
    elaborate facebook/myspace profiles.
    twittering madly

    and so it goes.

    not all bad, but largely unnecessary.

  85. Max Allstadt


    You’re right, today, there are plenty of nice houses in Oakland for under $300k. Unfortunately, there’s a disturbing trend I see in West Oakland, where houses are available sometimes in good shape, sometimes needing lots of work, for far less than $300k.

    The trend I’m seeing (anecdotally, I admit) is that with prices falling and credit still somewhat hard to come by, the people who are buying the lower priced houses seem to be speculators or people in the business of landlording.

    Now I’m not against people making money in the real estate business. Some of the business owners I respect most in this town do exactly that.

    What disturbs me is this: the fall in prices, combined with the lack of available credit, looks like it is transferring wealth upwards.

    We already have a wealth gap problem in this country, and the Bay Area is a concentrated example of that problem. I have no idea of what to do about it. The first time homebuyer program seems to be a start. But there’s more to be done.

    I fear that the collapse of prices in East and West Oakland is at risk of creating a bigger landbanking problem than we already have today. I’m at a loss as to how to prevent it, but I’d love to hear ideas.

  86. V Smoothe Post author

    Obviously I’m hardly an expert in these things, but my equally anecdotal take on it based on a number of conversations with realtor friends is that the trend you’re seeing of foreclosed houses being bought by investors rather than people who plan to live in the home is far more common in West Oakland than the rest of the city because of the nature of the housing stock there. While the houses may be cheap to buy, most of them require large amounts of work to make livable, which adds significant costs in both time and money, and is something that a lot of new homebuyers just don’t want to deal with.

  87. Max Allstadt

    Either way, the net result is that West O is potentially about to get more absentee landlords than it already has. Let’s hope that the speculators I’m seeing just fix the houses and sell them, rather than slumlording in a place that already has quite enough of that.

  88. len raphael

    outside of the newer areas of east oakland hills, and the high end rebuilt fire areas, most of oakland’s single family housing stock is worn out and needs to be torn down or rehabbed. a city first time home owners program would mostly help owners or people with family in the construction trades or straw men for such.

    short of a volunteer habitat for humanity program, i don’t see modestly rehabbing even a 2/1 for <150k if you use licensed contractors with legit employees, workers comp, health insur, payroll taxes, liability insur etc.. add a bathroom, redo kitchen etc. and you're looking at 200k +

    houses in bad shape don't qualify for most loans, and especially not the 3% down loans.

    so speculators and wannebee landlords are much better suited to buying typical foreclosed east or west o house, hire illegals, manage the project themselves, and get it to rental standards for 100k or less. in a few years, they'll probably get tired of the hassle of renting single fam homes, and sell them to people who will occupy them.

  89. David

    Patrick, actually, I don’t ignore the tax benefit. I didn’t explicitly put it in my post. If you’d like the spreadsheet, I can send it to you. I take into account tax benefits, property taxes, average repairs, insurance, opportunity cost, and of course interest rates, duration of ownership and rents. Roughly speaking, the numbers work out that if you can get a place where your P&I payment equals your rent, you’re fine (property taxes are canceled by the tax deduction at least for the first 5-7 years), assuming again, normal maintenance (i.e. not putting in $50K for a new foundation).

    For myself, I don’t see any point in owning until one has a family, if you want a family. True, there are decent 2/1 houses available for $300K, plus or minus. I have 2 kids, so a 2/1 is not really my preferred size. If you don’t have a family, don’t plan on one, or are young enough that you figure you’ll move into your next house by the time you have one, then, yeah, knock yourself out on the smaller digs. Of course, the calculations change, as there are 2/1 houses for rent that are less than $2000/month. Hell, there are O.K. houses in East Oakland for sale that are the same price as they were 20 years ago. I wouldn’t call it a “decent” neighborhood, but again between 98th and San Leandro isn’t truly awful (thanks SLPD!).

    As for investing your down payment. One reason I use 6% tax free as a benchmark is that right now you can get relatively safe California muni bonds yielding around 6% tax-free. There are plenty of investment opportunities that are likely to yield you at least that after taxes at this point (preferred shares, corporate bonds, even stocks). If you’d like to invest, my account minimum is $100,000. I can also provide hourly advice, fee-only.

    As for landlording, well, hate to say it but obviously those who “owned” the houses previously weren’t really cut out to be homeowners. As for repairs, that represents an upfront capital cost that you can’t really finance (anymore). Therefore, of course ‘fixers’ command an even steeper discount than ‘normal’ times, and with the upfront cash requirement, you will not get your ‘traditional’ homebuyer, as they simply don’t have the capital to make the 20% down AND repair costs.

    I happen to know a fair amount about R.E. Right now, I actually think we’re at the bottom for the lower third of housing. The middle third probably has another 10-15% to drop, depending on location, and the upper third has about 20-25% to drop, again depending on the location. Yes, the lower-third is being snapped up by investors and first-time homebuyers. So what? Investors, from what I’ve seen at the SL border put in a lot of improvements and that’s good for the area.

    Finally, it’s fine if you really want to buy a house or own versus renting. There are pluses & minuses to both (owning=repairs and lack of mobility if you must sell/relocate, renting=landlord issues…i’m not saying rent increases because we have rent control). Just realize them and enjoy your abode.

  90. OnTheGoJo/Joanna

    I’m just curious about how others feel about their NSC’s -

    Do you think it’s too much to ask that the NSC monitor the Yahoo Group for their NCPC?

    I don’t, but I’m not sure if I’m in the minority on this….


  91. MEL

    Patrick, I don’t see where that article states that blacks are less than 30% of Oakland. Either way, I don’t suggest relying on journalists for facts when they so often use data simply to support their own premises. This is especially unnecessary when the raw data is available straight from the source.

    Also I don’t suggest using anecdote to alter given population stats. I worked for the Census Bureau in the past and there is a large problem with undercounting black population. Main reasons are: lack of participation because of suspicion of why census information is needed or what it will be used for; the more poor and transitory people there are in a given population the less likely we are to get an accurate count of those people; because many blacks live in less safe areas, sometimes Census takers – out of concern for their own safety – aren’t as anxious to spend the time to get accurate counts in those areas and cut corners in gathering data.

    Point being, there is as much of a problem with undercounting blacks as there is with Latinos, but we don’t know the true extent of undercounting for either group. Also, Asians/As-Amers are similarly prone to be undercounted based on the “fear” factor you raised. I don’t think we should go around personally adjusting numbers based on what we think is going on the most.

    The allusion to Brown/Tucker in my post was more of a general comment not meant to point any finger at you (hence me not calling you by name and using passive language). The reality is that there are people (not saying you) who state, imply, or feel that a diverse community necessitates the marginalization or limitation of black political influence instead of looking at black presence and participation as part of and indication of that diversity. Oftentimes people who subscribe to this perspective cite low-balled population numbers as a justification for lowered expectations. And oftentimes that same “logic” is not applied to other groups with similar or lower population numbers or trends. (Oakland is about a third black, just over a quarter Latino, about a quarter white, and under 20% AAPI)

    I understand the context in which you made your statement, so that if someone referred to Tucker’s appointment as merely a nod to diversity, you would in fact say there’s nothing diverse about a white mayor choosing a white police chief in a city that’s less than 30% white. But I’m sure you and I can also agree that there are people who, met with the news of Brown’s appointment of Tucker, welcomed it as a solid, merit-based decision yet might see Dellums’ appointment of Watts as simply racially/politically-motivated affirmative action. I’ve come across people who think like that. My comment was for the benefit of those and others to see and perhaps ponder the basis for their outlook differential.

  92. Ralph

    2000 census estimates Oakland black pop at just over 35% and a 2007 est pegs it a 30.8%. it was something like 50% in 1980. Underreporting aside the OBP is shrinking.

    That said, subjectively adjusting figures is not a good practice – shame on you Patrick.

    Subjectively, I don’t think the situation in West Oakland will be as dire as you predict. My hunch, investors recognize the value of the land they are snatching up. They will not let the property fall into disarray. It may not however be affordable to be the people on the low end of the economic spectrum. But that is true for huge chunks of the Bay Area.

  93. MEL

    Ralph, you are using a “Black alone” figure which is not only useless for historical comparison, it is holds little practical meaning. The 2000 census (and subsequent surveys and estimates) allows people to be classified as more than one race, whereas this wasn’t the case in previous recent decades. Hence someone who identified as black/white in 1990 would have been classified as simply black, whereas in 2000 they could be classified as black/white. The way to maintain an apples to apples comparison, you use the “Black alone or in combination” figures.

    In other words, if Barack Obama and Halle Berry lived in Oakland, would you suggest they not be included in the black population count? Even more specifically, would you say they were “black” in 1990, but “not black” in 2007?

    Therefore, the most recent figures show Oakland has 32.6% black population which is about a third of the city, as I previously stated, and which is also still a plurality population-wise. Any changes since 2000 or 2007 will have to be documented in next year’s decennial count, and with the recent changes in real estate, the economy, politics, immigration, etc., I wouldn’t make too many assumptions.

    I’m not trying to be picky or split hairs, but if people keep citing population numbers or trends as a basis, rationale, or justification of political viewpoints or civic expectations, at least start off the conversation with accurate, non-biased, holistic numbers and analysis.

  94. Born in Oakland

    Nothing like armchair disussions about race and statistics to make my eyes glaze over, as well as many of my neighbors here in the East Oakland flats. “Rational” or “holistic” numbers produce X amount of dollars for the City from government funded programs – has since Johnson’s War on Poverty. We see the results in our slum housing, bleak streets and desparate and lonely people. Guess the numbers were not rational or holistic enough. That will get fixed now and everything will change.

  95. Ralph

    MEL, you are splitting hairs. I don’t care how you cut it. the black population of Oakland is drying up. it is a shadow of its former self. i have no idea why it was brought up. i don’t really care. i am not sure why i entered the fray. all i know is this oakland has fewer black people whether you count them alone or in combination than they did yesterday. this trend is likely to continue because “purebreds” are leaving faster than the “combo” kids who replace them.

  96. Patrick

    I don’t think I was subjective at all. Ralph, you are in time out for that comment. The article uses actual census-provided figures (albeit estimates). If blacks comprised 36% of Oaklanders in the 2000 census, and the drop in Oakland’s black population is estimated somewhere between 13% and 24% of that figure, that leaves us with an estimate of 31.32% on the high side and 27.36% on the low end. Using these figures, it is statistically more likely that the OBP is <30%, even when you do not count the proportional increase in other races (which assumes that Oakland's total population has remained relatively constant). In addition, this is just a continuation of a trend that has been in evidence since the mid-1980s, and these figures are from 2 years ago. Even if the most conservative estimate of 13% was the actual figure two years ago, certainly that has increased by now. It only takes a drop in the OBP of 16.67% from 2000 to yield a current population of 29.99% Furthermore, blacks appear to be among the hardest hit by the foreclosure/economic crisis. Again, anecdotal evidence based on what I see in my little square mile of Oakland I call my neighborhood. Do these people stay? Or do they move to places where opportunities are better and prices are lower?

  97. Patrick

    @David I don’t quite understand your “property taxes cancel out the tax deduction, at least for the first 5-7 years” comment. Everyone pays property taxes, but only some pay them directly.

    I also would like to point out that a mortgage is something that you can pay off – rent is forever. Yes, there are repairs – but my house was built in 1925 – the majority of the replacement cost of my home is not likely going anywhere (*looks towards Hayward fault*). Renters are not fully shielded against rent increases when there are expensive repairs to be made, even under rent-control schemes. And, rents increase yearly, P +I does not (unless you got some stupid ARM).

    In an era of declining incomes, it is gratifying to know that 30 years from now, my P+I payment will be exactly the same as it is today. And then it will be gone. Let’s pretend for a moment that we lived in a country with an 11 Trillion $ debt , a long-term sinking economy, engaging in senseless, costly wars and a currency who’s value is based on the “full faith and credit” of government. And let’s just say that, like every other country that found themselves in a similar situation (Weimar-era Germany, Argentina, Zimbabwe, Russia), we see an alarming drop in the value of our currency and high inflation. When the allowable rent increase goes to 27% or 257%, I’ll be thankful for my fixed rate mortgage.

    Again, I am happy to pay a premium for the ability to decide when I should replace a refrigerator and with what brand/model I will replace it. I am thrilled that I have 2 more bedrooms, an extra bathroom, hardwood flooring, a dishwasher, a garage, a basement, a yard, etc., etc. in a completely renovated home with a yard in which I grow almost all of my yearly produce needs. And at a premium of less than $200 over the 1 bedroom 60s era rat-trap I left in San Francisco, it is worth it. At least to me.

  98. len raphael

    i didn’t think i was saying that dellums picked batts because batts was black. what i meant by dellums chosing batts for the “diversity angle” was that batts was chosen because he has justifiable cred for dealing with situations in a city as racially diverse as oakland.

    it also seemed based strictly on one or two of the long beach articles from one small newspaper, that batts has at least one clay foot and dellums might have rushed to select him without in depth vetting.


  99. Ralph

    len, i will admit to being confused by the “diversity comment.” i also think some people got prejudice against police just because it is either the cool thing to do or they have been brainwashed into thinking they must. sadly whether real or not these factors need to be considered when selecting a chief.

  100. David

    Patrick, what I mean is that for rough calculations your INCOME tax deduction for mortgage interest roughly cancels out the PROPERTY tax portion of the PITI payment. For example, a $400K loan on a $500K house. Property taxes=roughly $7500. Mortgage interest deduction = roughly $20,000 with a 5% loan, times your tax bracket (Fed & state combined) of about 35% (since to afford that $500K house, you’re probably in close to the top bracket depending on kids, etc)…INCOME tax deduction=$7,000. Understand? Therefore your net cost to own is around $2200/month, plus insurance, so around $2300, plus maintenance (let’s say around $3600/year averaged out–no it probably won’t be that every year, but say in 10 years when you need a new roof etc etc), and your net cost of owning is between $2300 and $2600/month. Of course, the tax deduction lessens as the mortgage ages, as your payments are more principal (not deductible) than interest. Generally, if that amount approximates your rent, you’re probably not overpaying for your abode.

    It’s great you like owning. Yes, having a FRM is a decent inflation hedge. You could also put your down payment money into gold or TIPs as an inflation hedge. Yes you pay off your mortgage eventually (well, fewer older people are, but assume you do)…But if owning was much more expensive than renting (as it was from at least 2003-2007), the “annuity” (i.e. the monthly rent you don’t have to pay, calculated as a lump sum you’d have to invest to get that same rent payment) could well be less than what you’d get by investing your down payment. Get it?
    Also, unless someone is really secure in their job or know that they really must live here (i.e. tech/biotech/gov’t worker/teacher), don’t underestimate the flexibility of renting. I moved across the country– 2 round trips in 12 years–that’s not that bad, but selling a house is an added hassle on top of a huge move (trust me, I know).

    It sounds like you got a decent deal. i don’t know, haven’t run the numbers. I agree there are plenty of decent deals in the East Bay, compared to 2004-2007 (actually probably 2002-2007). But it’s not a truly compelling case yet to buy for most (the upper 2/3 of houses). If you want to buy, it’s probably a break-even situation compared to renting for most people, so the buying urge wins. But don’t kid yourself that it’s a no-brainer investment. You might get lucky and cash out at the next boom, you might not. In the meantime, enjoy the house, and enjoy that you probably got a decent deal.

  101. ken o

    i had to look this up.

    feet of clay

    Use feet of clay in a Sentence
    See web results for feet of clay
    See images of feet of clay
    1. a weakness or hidden flaw in the character of a greatly admired or respected person: He was disillusioned to find that even Lincoln had feet of clay.
    2. any unexpected or critical fault.

  102. len raphael

    David and Patrick, at the height of the housing bubble i’d come across people who were trying to convince themselves they could afford getting over their heads each month by calculating the tax benefits of home ownership. between alternative minimum tax limiting the deduction of blue state taxes (including real estate tax), and income tax rates for many normal people being relatively low, the tax deductions were vastly overrated. then as your model correctly handles it, as the loan is paid down, the interest expense drops.

    the big tax benefit of home ownership, which partially fueled the bubble, was Clinton’s granting a flat forgiveness of the first 500k of profit on sale of your home. that kindled the real estate flames nicely.

  103. James Robinson

    Presidents cannot forgive taxes or levy taxes. Blame Congress. Also, it was ultimately “creative” mortgages that inflated the bubble.

  104. Ralph

    David, something I am not getting in your analysis, first a small nit, isn’t the $7K Income tax deduction a tax benefit not a tax deduction. Second, since the RE tax is deductible shouldn’t a tax benefit be calculated for the deduction. Wouldn’t that make the nut closer to $2K/mo

  105. Izzy Ort

    Ken O – your source is defective. “Feet of clay” goes back way further than 1860.

    Daniel 2:31-33 (New King James Version)
    31 “You, O king, were watching; and behold, a great image! This great image, whose splendor was excellent, stood before you; and its form was awesome. 32 This image’s head was of fine gold, its chest and arms of silver, its belly and thighs[a] of bronze, 33 its legs of iron, its feet partly of iron and partly of clay.[b]

  106. Patrick

    @David: yes, I understand perfectly. However, I also think that to the average person, the guaranteed benefits of a fixed-rate mortgage (assuming you have not paid too much) are probably more endearing, and useful, than the need to time the market or to invest in gold. Treasury Inflation Protection Securities rid you of inflationary risk, but you can’t live in them. And, “the world’s safest investment” is a sham. The dollar is backed by nothing but people’s belief that it is worth something. Remember the Chinese students who laughed at Tim Geithner? There’s a couple hundred million people right there that don’t think the full faith and credit of Uncle Sam is worth much. My house is tangible and will always be worth something, if only for the shelter and comfort it provides. Therefore, it provides value that cannot be measured by calculations on a spreadsheet.

  107. Ralph

    Patrick, you hit the nail on the head. House provides shelter. It is not an investment. If at the end of the day it is worth more than you put into it. Fine. But at the end of the day my butt needs four walls and a roof to be safe and warm and my little piece of the rock does just that. Of course, if I were renting I wouldn’t still have the HD window treatment specials.

  108. David

    Ralph, yes, it’s the net tax benefit. Throw in 33% of $7500 in R.E. taxes and yes, you’re right. For me, owning is likely enough to be better than renting when again, P&I approximates rent (say, within 5%).

    Patrick, there are also foreign currency TIP equivalents. You’re right, most middle-class people don’t understand the varieties of investment alternatives out there, and a house is likely a very good inflation hedge (and eventual rent annuity) for them. Additionally it’s also a forced savings account (which again feeds into the rent annuity idea), and since most people have no self-control for saving, that’s a good thing for them.

    You have a emotional attachment to owning a house. Nothing wrong with that. I’ve moved enough times where any emotions attached to a house have been eliminated. Again, your house is likely a reasonable investment, providing what I would guess is 6%ish tax free annualized returns. Like I wrote, just don’t kid yourself it’s the world’s best investment vehicle. You like owning, so enjoy it.


  109. MEL

    Ralph, I never said Oakland’s black population wasn’t dropping. It is. So is non-hispanic white population and Asian population. Whether you want to call it “drying up” or whatever else is subject to your own tendency for hyperbole. You could say white Oakland is also only a shadow of what is used to be, as Oakland is nowhere near 70+% white as it was before. Cities change. I don’t believe in attaching value to ethnic groups based on some in-the-moment proportionality – especially guesstimated ones. Asians likely remain under 20% of Oakland’s population. Big deal. They are no less a part of the fabric of or importance to city because of their lower numbers, and it wouldn’t be odd to simultaneously have an Asian mayor, Asian police chief, 4 Asian councilmembers, etc. in a “diverse” city.

    All I said was that latest Census figures show a black population of 32.6%. You then – as you put it – “jumped into the fray” and said that it’s actually 30.8% (which by the way is splitting hairs). I merely explained why that is an inaccurate figure to cite. Simple. Don’t know why there was a need for reply in the first place. By the way, the “combos” (as you put it) are leaving just as much as the “purebreds” (as you put it).

  110. David

    Patrick. Bet you could buy a whole ‘nother house with the money you spent on loan/broker/moving costs.


  111. Patrick

    Maybe. Fortunately, the government entititiesT/companies I’ve worked for have paid for all of that. Those days are over, I suppose.

    Kind of funny, I always tell my mother something similar: if she’d do a little more investigation, she’d probably make twice as much on her investments by cutting out the shyster investment banker.

  112. PRE

    What is up with the “Harvest Hall?” Will it EVER open? They’ve missed out on the best season to open.

  113. OnTheGoJo/Joanna

    PRE – they’re looking for tenants. You interested? In this economy? It’s not an easy sell at the moment. Maybe “someday”. It’s sad. I’d love to see it open after all this effort.

    In the meantime, the Eat Real Festival will be there this weekend with LOTS of vendors. They’re even going to temporarily open the new parking garage – but just temporarily. It should be great to see the Square come alive again like it used to be pre-2000.


  114. James Robinson

    About the census. So let’s assume they are undercounting blacks and Latinos. Aren’t they undercounting whites, albeit to a lesser extent? Wouldn’t a white American have similar concerns about census takers as black Americans? There are white folks who have fear or hatred of the government, too.

    The black population in Oakland is definitely shrinking. However, I think there might be a new influx of white people in Oakland. It might not be a large enough number to make a dramatic difference, but I’m guessing that there is an increase.

    Finally, I read that Jack London Market (formerly Harvest Hall) is set to open next spring.

  115. len raphael

    In the prior thread about Claremont Middle School, was Kenya Crockett the person described as promising new principal, or was there a change in assignments?

  116. livegreen

    The last Open OUSD thread from May (where Californio brought up Claremont) or a different one? V. has this one bookmarked under Institutions then OUSD.

    I was happy the Montclarion even bothered covering the new Principals at Brewer & Claremont. Remains to be seen if they’re any good. I know that when principals change it’s one of the most challenging times for schools. The PTA at Brewer seems involved enough to keep on top of their Principal whatever happens and help provide any backsliding. With the progress they’ve made over the past few years he better keep it going or there will be hell to pay…

    BTW a lot of talk if Oakland High will be a viable alternative for Brewer Students in the future…

  117. VivekB

    We need a foodie to do a guest post on the restaurant scene in/around Oakland so people realize what awesome food we have. I went to Burma Superstar last night in Temescal, and it was freakin awesome. Temescal has quite the restaurant row there (Dona Tomas, Pizzaiolo, etc).

    I also had a coworker take me to this awesome vegetarian (vegan?) restaurant somewhere near City Center BART, we walked perhaps 2 blocks off 12th and went on one of the horizontal streets, but they quit before I could get the name of it.

  118. Andrew

    The Eat Real festival was awesome, even though my wife and I had only a plate of pickles because we had a table waiting at Bocanova (also awesome). It had some of the energy of the late lamented Festival at the Lake.

    But I came here to ask for you to lend me your votes in the “Blog Your Way to Antarctica” contest. One, I’m a science blogger who can do the subject justice, not just boggle at penguins. Two, I’m an Oakland blogger. Three, I’m shameless for once, and that ought to be rewarded when it’s right, don’t you think?

    My entry is at http://www.blogyourwaytoantarctica.com/blogs/view/590 . Read it and vote for me please, before September 30 but preferably today. And let me be shameless one more time and beg you to pass the word on.

  119. Patrick

    Dellums’ new Chief of Staff was the former sales manager for “Hello Kitty” in Central America? I mean, seriously.

  120. SF2OAK

    From a letter today in Montclarion:

    AC transit measure BB expires in 2015 “for maintaining service levels” since they are going to be reducing service will you get a refund?

    Violence Prevention Tax for “more officers.” since they are going to be reducing officers will you get a refund? and how much violence did this prevent?

    Rockridge Library CFD expires in 30 yrs. purpose, ” to expand the libraries.” Are they being expanded? I believe hours just got reduced :(

    Where is the EBMUD wetweather that you paid for and are still paying for can someone comment on this?

    Landscap & lighting tax- “There are signs all over in street medians “There is no money to maintain this median.” Why are we paying this tax?

  121. Art

    Well, on the last one, at least—we aren’t (or won’t be), since the new LLAD didn’t pass in the end!

    But on some (albeit not all!) of those counts, the fault lies as much with the state as with the agency–e.g., AC Transit, which has both Measure BB and Measure VV that were supposed to protect service and fares, but neither of those accounted for the state pulling $22 million in funding that was supposed to go to the agency and “borrowing” an additional $7 million. Other public agencies rely in part on sales tax revenue, which is plummeting. And while you can flag all sorts of issues with the City’s fiscal situation, there’s also been a huge net drop in revenue from property taxes as values fall, which wasn’t anticipated in the fiscal scenarios used for the bond measures.

    It’s just good to remember that the agencies are getting screwed just as much as the residents served by them are—it’s not like AC Transit and the libraries are building up big stashes in the back as they milk riders or toddlers at story hour. They’re just trying desperately to stay solvent.

  122. len raphael

    the term “boondoggle” originated in similar circumstances, the mid 1930′s depression era, possibly from a nyt’s article about a 3 million dollar government training program teaching unemployed make “boon toggles”. since i don’t have online access to the oed, i’ll have to trust wikipedia (gulp).

    “It also refers to government or corporate projects involving large numbers of people and usually heavy expenditure; at some point, the key operators have realized that the project is never going to work, but are reluctant to bring this to the attention of their superiors. Generally there is an aspect of “going through the motions” – for example, continuing research and development – as long as funds are available to keep paying the researchers’ and executives’ salaries. The situation can be allowed to continue for what seems like unreasonably long periods, as senior management are often reluctant to admit that they allowed a failed project to go on for so long. In many cases, the actual device itself may eventually work, but not well enough to ever recoup its development costs.”

  123. ken0

    why are there a jillion wierd hippies in uptown and why are they up partying until 3am outside my window? inconsiderate people… shouldn’t they have gone to burning man?

  124. SF2OAK

    Just saw that a new exhibit opened at the Oakland Zoo – a Baboon habitat. I wonder when they will close the other baboon habitat at City Hall?

  125. Charles Pine

    Latest hypocrisy from City Hall: councilmember Quan congratulates herself for allegedly being the one who cracked down on travel expenditures. Yet at the next council meeting she asks the City to pay all expenses for a junket to New York.

  126. Barry K

    SF2OAK- Speaking of the “Zoo”, did you know former Council Member-At-Large Chang, gave over $500,000 of his Pay-Go Funds to buy new signage at the Zoo?

  127. SF2OAK

    They just don’t get it. I hope we the citizens do get it but I am very afraid after all we are the ones who put them in office and continue to reward the incumbents and they are the ones who steered us into this mess, certainly did nothing to avert it.

    Thanks for the above 2 posts- very interesting.

  128. Max Allstadt

    Happy Birthday to Rebecca!

    But guess who else?

    Happy Birthday to V
    Happy Birthday to V
    Happy Biiiiiiirth-daaaaaay dear V – eeeeeeeee!
    Happy Birthday tooooooo V!

  129. tagami

    We have all been working hard and its time for a little R&R
    Why deal with the weekend amatuer hour parties in SF for Halloween when we can do it right in Oakland.

    FREINDS OF THE FOX and Bank of America is sponsoring the Uptown Masquerade Bash at the Fox October 29th. Tickets are on sale with ticketmaster
    Proceeds benefit Friends of the Fox and the Eastbay Emergency Relief Fund

    It is gonna be one hell of a party… I tell ya

  130. Patrick

    I just got my 2009-2010 property tax bill and it’s OFFICIAL! Homeowners in the city of Oakland now have an effective property tax rate over 1.8%! It’s heartwarming to know that I pay some of the highest property taxes in the state and in return get – easily – some of the worst services in the state. I’m sure the surrounding communities are happy, because our unionized public “servants” all live elsewhere, spending our tax money in their own cities!

    Engaging the City Council is a charade. What was the biggest victory in recent memory? Oh, yes, the sculpture garden next to the Fox. Little did we know it would be the Emperor’s sculpture garden.

    I can see why so many people leave. This town is like a costly toxic waste dump, but more dangerous and with roads in greater disrepair.

  131. livegreen

    Patrick, How do you know our “public servants” live a majority outside of Oakland?
    I’ve heard that mentioned before & am just curious…

  132. Ralph

    Yeah, I am not exactly happy about my ptb either. You can bet your bottom dollar unless someone takes care of us hardworking people, you will not see me voting for a tax increase. Granted, I have never voted for a tax increase. But until the city proves it can do the basics in terms of public safety and street repair, it will be a cold day in heck before I hand the city another dime.

  133. Patrick

    livegreen, I have to admit I cannot point you to a verifiable source. Was it here, on abetteroakland.com, or perhaps oaklandtribune.com?? Supposedly, only 6-8 of the police officers on our force (of 792-805 strong depending on who you ask, day of the week, and direction of the wind) live in Oakland. Now, I can’t say you can extrapolate a 1% citizenship rate of 1/6 of our city employees across all public employees. However, it would be hard to think that the remaining 5/6 live primarily in Oakland, especially when they are equally overpaid.

    Let’s not forget that Deborah Edgerley’s lovely $70,000 a year parking meter repairman/gang-snitch nephew lived in Concord.

  134. len raphael

    Oscar Grant change of venue

    Why is it that jurors in Alameda County downtown Oakland courthouse criminal cases have to mingle with the public spectators? My spouse recently finished serving as a juror and had to ride the elevator with the accused kidnapper’s family and friends every day.

    Heck no would i want to be a local juror on that trial.

    btw, i could swear that either the sfgate or the trib article referred to John Burris as a “civil rights attorney”, but when i went back to each article, no such label was attached. was this a situation where the online article was changed or did i just misread?

    -len raphael

  135. Robert

    len, in 3 different Alameda county courthouses, as well as federal and county courthouses in other states, the general public and jurors always shared the same entrance, elevators, etc. And at some point, they are going to have to leave the courthouse every day, and there is no way that the jurors faces aren’t going to be known to the protesters.

  136. len raphael

    Robert, it’s awful to say, but that’s one more reason to try to avoid jury service. Besides the fact that normal people who work at smaller businesses don’t get paid by their employer while on jury duty.

  137. Ralph

    len, i read the the sfgate article; it did not refer to JB as a civil rights atty. rather, the article indicated he is proceeding with a civil rights case.

  138. Patrick

    Ralph, I have no idea. Sometime during 2008 – and I certainly don’t remember voting for it. I’m calling the Tax assesor on Monday.

  139. Robert

    Patrick, go ahead and call, but everything on there above the 1% represents a voter approved bond issue. The Oakland share includes the Lake Merritt improvements I think. It just keeps creeping up with every approved bond issue.

  140. Naomi Schiff

    Those additional bond measures and other voted assessment items are listed separately on the bill. It is fairly straightforward to figure out what they are. Sometimes one actually drops off, upon expiration. Some of them are really critical to city services. The libraries’ budget is now almost half from the library measure, just over 50% from general fund.

    The assessor is willing to reassess properties that have declined in value since purchase, by the way, which may be worth looking into, if you are among the recent buyers.

  141. len raphael

    alameda county assessor made a big deal about announcing automatic reassessements, without taxpayer appeals, but seem to have lagged one fiscal year behind contra costa county in doing so. might be part of the reason cc county is making bigger cuts sooner than alameda county. i’m hearing of 40% automatic cuts in ok parts of east o. reminds me of dellums’ line in his prior budget report to the effect that he wasn’t expecting any big drops in property tax revenue.

    -len raphael

  142. Ralph

    It is the ad valorem rate which is the problem!!! The rate increased and there is absolutely ne explanation for it anywhere.

    Patrick, I think we just need to gather all the homeowners and march on the assessor. I am hoping it is a typo. Except in Oakland, owners all around the Bay Area people are paying less in real estate taxes. Tell me why are we so lucky to be paying more.

    What I really want to know is if those pinheads who complaine about paying for parking until 8pm realize that they are getting royally screwed?

  143. len raphael

    sideshows. are they so difficult to stop because of their viral nature, or just shortage of cops? are they unique to oakland or do places like longbeach, richmond, and stockton get them too?

  144. Robert

    Ralph, Patrick,

    2008-2009 was 1.33%
    2009-2010 is 1.41%

    City of Oakland, OUSD, Community College, BART, Parks, all increased their %. All were on the ballot. They had all increased the year before also.

  145. livegreen

    Community College increases go to the students, better learning at school, or
    Elihu Harris & his board’s pockets?

  146. Patrick

    No, the % increase was due to “voter mandated indebtedness”. In other words, Measure DD, etc. They are using the language of those Measures to fund profligate spending elsewhere. They are doing exactly what BART is doing with RM1 and RM2 funds.

    On a funny/sad note: I just sent an e-mail to all City Councilmembers, Dum-Dum and Lindheim. It seems that Fluffy, Lindheim, Rebecca Kaplan, Nancy Nadel, Larry Reid and Desley Brooks have all added me to their SPAM lists. Nice. What a bunch of useless tools.

  147. Patrick

    Here is the link to the city documents approving the rate increase (brazenly stolen from commenter Tim at EBConservative). As a result of voter-approved bond indebtedness, and the reduction of housing values, the ad valorem tax was increased to maintain funding levels necessary to service the debt. It is interesting to note that the amount necessary to service police/fire pension debt (.1575%), is nearly twice the amount of this year’s increase, and fully 38.4% of the portion of our property tax over the 1% threshold. Someone in a modest $250,000 abode is funding a PORTION of the police/fire pension fund to the tune of $393.75 a year. There is no question that bankruptcy is in our future. Ain’t no way these pensions will ever be paid.


  148. Naomi Schiff

    Peter Mates is an example of the excellent teaching and inspiring efforts that do happen in Oakland.


    Re: Measure DD. Measure DD funds, which I have been keeping an eye on, are not going to other expenditures in Oakland. They are being spent on the bond measure items for which we voted. The 12th St. project will be generating quite a few construction jobs at a time when they are welcome. We will benefit from this expenditure in several different ways.

    Patrick, if you want to have people take you seriously, is it useful to call people names? Over the years, there have been plenty of government officials that I have held in pretty low regard, but they have not refused to listen to comments and receive emails, calls, letters (not that they have voted my way). I think a little politeness might help. While it may be fun to call someone “Fluffy” I don’t think you’d be that receptive either, if we started calling you Pattycake or something.

    It’s important to make a distinction between thinking someone is a useless tool, and treating them that way or posting about them that way. You may be undercutting your own effectiveness. A little civility goes a long way.

  149. Patrick

    They can’t be “receptive” if they’ve blocked a voting citizen’s e-mail, now can they? That elected (and appointed) officials feel it it OK to stifle my right to free speech and deny my access to them, regardless of the opinion expressed, manner or tone in which it is offered, is unconscionable. Our elected officials need to be reminded that they serve at OUR pleasure. I have never been threatening or rude in my e-mails, but I do tell them what this tax-paying voter thinks. And I certainly wouldn’t send an e-mail to our Mayor in which I adressed him as Dum-Dum. But this forum isn’t e-mail. It is a blog provided by V in which people can express their opinions, just as you have expressed yours.

    Fluffy is a perfectly suitable and well-earned descriptor. It is not as if I really care, or does it really matter to any of us, what our Mayor thinks. Do you really believe he reads the e-mails his office does not block anyway? My guess is that his office would block e-mails from anyone who is critical of his performance. They must receive very few e-mails.

  150. Mike Spencer

    Just got my property tax bill last week–talk about a kick in the nuts. Bought the place at the height of the market, summer 2005. I don’t know why it always comes as such a shock but the special assessments I really hate are: city landscape/light (aren’t cities supposed to take care of this stuff anyway?); school Measure E; etc. And so it goes. There is no way anyone can say that there is not massive waste in our City government.

  151. Ralph

    Thanks. When I purchased the agent informed that the Oakland RE tax rate was about 1.3% so I modelled 1.3% into my budget. For whatever reason my bill from l/y does not show the breakdown of the 1.3%, but as it was about what i was expecting I didn’t think about it. This year the assessor displayed every little item.

    So, piecing 2 post together, I assume that some time before I moved to Oakland, city residents voted for multiple bond measures to be repaid through tax receipts. The city having an obligation to service the debt reset the rates to cover the amount of the obligation.

    Would it have been to much to ask for the city to communicate this to property owners? Communication. I am noticing a pattern.

    I wonder if I would be less livid if I actually saw some improvement in OUSD performance.

  152. Robert

    Ralph, yes communication is a problem. And all of the city of Oakland bond issues are lumped into a single line item on the tax bill, which makes it very hard to tell what anything is for.

    2002-2003 1.30%
    2004-2005 1.31%

    The BART tax was added in 2007, all the others existed going back to 2002.

    Now this year the city is saying that it has to boost the % because the assessment roles have dropped, but earlier in this decade when property assessments were going up, the tax rate did not go down. And there would lie a basis for investigating where the property taxes were going.

    Parcel taxes were $401 in 2002, and are $740 now – almost double. School parcel tax up 50%, entirely new taxes for libraries, measure Y and AC Transit. All voter approved.

    My model when I bought 10 years ago was 1.25%

  153. Robert

    And for something entirely different…

    I was walking down 3rd st. in the JLD the other day, and noticed that all those new condo buildings on the East side were essentially the same height, making for a rather boring streetscape (well, combined with some uninspired architecture). But on the old West side, the buildings were different heights, making it much more interesting to look at. I started thinking that this could be an unintended consequesnce of either de facto or de jure height limits on buildings in teh commercial districts. And just curious about whether the planners on this blog had any thoughts about this? Is this something Oakland risks with the 55 foot height limits, and would you get more variety using a maximum FAR, with no fixed height limit?

  154. len raphael

    Naomi, where are Measure DD expenditures reported?

    Patrick, not ok that elected officials don’t even bother to delete your emails but just bounce them. if elected officials can’t stand the heat, they should find another part time job that has life time benefits as good as theirs.

    They would never return paper letters unopened.

    Probably not illegal for them to bounce your emails, but it seems borderline in that your opinion would not get into the public record unless you showed up in person with paper document.

    perhaps a question to submit (in writing) to the Ethics Commission to find out what the rules are for written communication vs electronic.

    -len raphael

  155. Naomi Schiff

    Len, go to

    Download Project Status Summary, now updated through 9/28/09. This is a general overview but gives a feel for the phasing through the three tranches of bond issuance, and where each project falls. What is not entirely detailed there is that some of the projects combine Measure DD with other funds: for example, the feds are supplying 13 million towards the 12th Street project; several of the other projects have multiple sources of funding. Coastal Conservancy is providing some funding for a marsh area on the Lake Merritt channel.

    There is some flexibility within categories, but the DD projects were spelled out in the legislation and the staff has generally been careful to stay within those areas and projects.

    Patrick, I am curious as to when your emails bounced, because I find that on weekends the whole city network sometimes gets clogged and starts kicking stuff back. (Especially when there is a furlough day or holiday.) Are you sure you are blacklisted, and not the victim of an overloaded server? Not that there is so much excuse for an overloaded server, but I do wonder. Of course they should not be bouncing your emails, and I do think inquiring is the right thing to do.

    If you want your views to stand out, you might also try letters or faxes, which are rarer and thus more prominent.

  156. Patrick

    Yes, Naomi, I suppose that is possible. But when your server responds with: DAEMON PERMANENT FAILURE the server has attempted to deliver your e-mail to the expected recipient and has given up permanently -[SPAM] targeted spam. No further attempts will be made. Well, I kind of got the hint.

    Furthermore, why would the server reject e-mails to some recipients but not others? Servers queue activity and repeatedly attempt to deliver – sometimes over several days, depending on settings. My e-mails were returned as undeliverable due to SPAM filters within seconds. The oaklandnet.com server is not overloaded, it’s rigged. Remember: ложь сказала часто достаточно будет правдой!

  157. Patrick

    BTW Naomi, thank you. I truly appreciate your advice as I believe it was given with the best of intentions. But I am not interested in my views “standing out”: I am interested in my views being heard (and possibly taken seriously).

    Sometimes I feel like all of the blogging and organizing and contemplating and volunteering and meeting and shouting and teeth-gnashing and e-mailing has led to a bunch of nothing. You know who’s made a real impression? Marleen Sacks. I believe our current Tsarist class voted for appeal for no other reason than to put off the day of reckoning until such time as they are safely out of office and collecting a pension (which will be wired to Arizona and/or Nevada, as they will probably be able to afford both). Max claims to gravitate towards anarchy. Why should we act like a pack of submissive cocker spaniels around people we employ? They need to hear our voices because they are elected to represent ALL of us, not just their current downtrodden pet of the day. They are doing nothing but ensuring that we all become the downtrodden.

    Welcome to the web, Dum-Dum and Dumerettes. There are a million ways to get our message out. It is time that you learn to be a little bit more receptive.

  158. len raphael

    Not to belittle many small victories to influence Oakland muni govt decisions by residents activated by community newsgroups and the local blogs. Yet, i have a suspicion that the same venues serve as release valves for energy that could go into physical action such as going door to door for cc challengers, demonstrating in front of city hall, raising money for other lawsuits. Maybe not, maybe there’s just a long incubation time for people to coalesce into an effective reform movement, for leaders to emerge etc. Meanwhile, thought I’d dig into Oakland political history of the 1930′s to 1975 period to look for lessons to be learned/perspective because there was at least one and maybe more reform movements ranging from good government types to radical left movements of the war and post war periods.

  159. ken o.

    want to know what’s happening in us cities?

    cities are criminalizing poverty…


    “Exactly what is the difference between racking up $1,000 in fines off an innocuous violation and being imprisoned for lack of payment and a 19th century-era Debtors prison?

    Isn’t this part of the reason why the Parisian mobs tore down the Bastille?

    Does this make any sense at all, arresting people who can’t pay their nonsensically stupendous fines and penalties just so government employees don’t have to take a cut in pay and benefits? When did a ticket go from $50 to $300 and up? And why? Does anyone think the cost leaped up “for the public good”?

    Is getting nailed for a ticket you can’t pay really a deterrent to being too poor to keep your auto insurance current?”

  160. Barry K.

    Oaklands’ Hiring Practices: Audit Finds Lack of Leadership, Weak Systems and Nepotism

    October 21, 2009
    (Oakland, CA) Today, a performance audit of the City of Oakland’s hiring practices was released by Oakland City Auditor Courtney Ruby. The audit identifies unfair hiring practices, favoritism, improper promotions and mismanagement of records. The audit names instances in which individuals were given positions because of personal connections even though they were not eligible to be hired, did not meet minimum qualifications or had not participated in competitive examinations.


    No wonder Oakland has the highest paid municipal workforce in the US.
    Call in the FBI. Break the City Charter with the State. File Bankruptcy. Start over!

  161. Ralph

    If John Q Citizen, can not afford his auto insurance, then maybe JQC should not drive. If JQC can not afford a speeding ticket, then maybe JQC should not speed. Don’t do the crime if you can’t do the time.

  162. Patrick

    Right. And if John Q. Bus-riding Citizen can’t afford to bear the full cost of public transportation , then public transportation should be eliminated. Currently, AC Transit riders fares cover less than 20% of operating costs. So, we should raise the price of a ticket to $10. And if you can’t afford it, you can walk. And if they jaywalk, we can ticket them.

  163. Barry K


    Oakland is broken, and the leadership is corrupt. Why isn’t the FBI moving in on Oakland. Street crime is a distraction and a wedge issue so us simple folk don’t see beyond the smoke and mirrors.

    Now, regarding the “address deficiencies found by the auditor”
    There are 85 recommendations in the audit. Where to start?


    “The audit finds that while most appointments of personnel in the last five years were made in accordance with the City’s civil service rules, the exceptions themselves, and the faulty systems that allowed for exceptions to occur place Oakland at risk by allowing unqualified people to perform city jobs.”

    **Creation of ‘ghost employees’ – fictitious or real individuals who do not work for the City but receive a paycheck.

    **Inappropriately appointing individuals to positions who are added to the City’s payroll.

    **Changing employee pay rates without checks and balances.

    **Maintaining terminated employees on the payroll.

  164. John Klein

    I am twitter live from special PEC mtg regarding Sunshine Ordinance on sign-in sheets and electronic calendars for mayor, council, and city administrator.
    At #oakmtg

  165. livegreen

    On Channel 2 local news Wed. evening City Admin. Dan Lindheim said the Audit is irrelevant since he’s already corrected all the flaws in the Audit.

    Following BK’s quote above, does this mean changes in the system (that allowed the exceptions to happen) were changes in the Civil Service Rules, or changes made by the stroke of an internal memo?

    If the former (since any changes would be major) why weren’t they included in the Auditor’s report? If the changes were done by internal memos, how do we know this was done & they’re being implemented internally?

    This is what the City Counsel needs to check. Barring that, yet another audit to confirm changes are ACTUALLY being implemented? (How do we know otherwise, when trust has slipped so much?)

    Note: THis is how things get buried & nothing changes. Or when things do change the secretive nature of our City govt. & poor press coverage doesn’t tell us even when that is happening.

    Lack of information makes it hard to tell invalid concerns from valid cynicism.
    It clouds & hurts the whole entire process of local governing…

  166. Barry K.

    City Administrator Dan Lindheim, speaking for Dellums’ administration, said in a written response to the audit that, “The city is not in agreement with many of the comments, conclusions and recommendations in the report.”

    City Council President Jane Brunner said she hasn’t seen the report yet but said the council “will take it very seriously” because it asked for the audit.

    Councilman Ignacio De La Fuente said the report “gives us a picture of how this city functions or malfunctions.” De La Fuente said he hopes it will prompt city leaders to take action but he’s afraid that it will be swept under the rug and no meaningful changes will be made to the city’s policies.

    “It seems to me that things don’t change because there aren’t any consequences for abusing the system,” De La Fuente said.



    Scathing Report on Oakland’s Hiring Practices

    OAKLAND, Calif. (KCBS) — A new performance audit has found that the city of Oakland’s hiring practices are full of corruption, with the city auditor recommending dozens of changes.
    City Auditor Courtney Ruby said employees and managers were hiring their friends and relatives, awarding undeserved raises and promotions.
    Ruby said it is now up to Mayor Ron Dellums and the Oakland City Council to make the changes identified in the audit report.

    (Lindheim says the audit is irrelevant? “Speaking for Dellums Administration”, that says a lot more! I didn’t know Dellums’ arm could reach that far up Lindheim.)

  167. CitizenX

    I found it interesting that the audit made no mention that the City Auditor’s first hire, after she took office, was the woman who was her campaign manager. Hmmm. Then, Ms. Ruby decided she wanted to create new (Performance Auditor) classifications in her office. The creation of new classifications requires approval of the Civil Service Board and City Council and she ultimately obtained that approval. But, not before she performed her own recruitment for these positions (on Craigs List), which cut the City’s personnel function (OPRM) out of the process.

    The Auditor also appears to be shoveling quite a bit of City money towards the firm that performed the audit. As a matter of fact, she previously had to go to City Council for approval, because she had not followed City purchasing regulations and conducted a competitive procurement process.

    The City Council likewise seem to enjoy breaking the very rules they dictate for City Management — special rules for spending pay-go dollars, because “the City process takes too long”, multiple trips to League of Cities conferences, after cutting City travel to the bone, because “I learn so much there”, purchase of land for a park without a Charter-mandated, Council-approved ordinance, blah, blah, blah.

    I have little respect for politicians who feel no need to live by the rules they demand City management live by.

  168. CitizenX

    Funny, that the auditors fault management for bending or outright ignoring Civil Service Rules, then, in recommendation #41, recommend the rules be changed. It appears in their little auditor minds that the Civil Service Rules circumvent the Civil Service Rules. Color me confused.

  169. Barry K.

    The audit covers fiscal years 2003 though 2008.
    Lindheim said the report “produced sensationalized findings reflecting actions of the prior administration” of former Mayor Jerry Brown.

    Dellums took office in January 2007.

    Lindheim needs a dated org chart and a calculator. The audit also falls within the Dellums administration.

  170. Born in Oakland

    Watch a sexual harassment or other bogus charge surround our City Auditor as was the case with the previous auditor. City pols and clipboard jockeys do not take kindly to rocking the boat. They have a good thing going and it has been that way for 30 years.

  171. Barry K.

    Born in Oakland- You are right on mark with this. (As the saying goes, those that forget history are doomed to repeat it.)

    Just a reminder, Quan led the effort to cut 1 staff person from the Auditor’s office last July; one month prior to the release of the Measure Y Grant Audit.

    Last month, at a Council meeting, Quan requested the Auditors’ Whistle Blower Program be moved to the Finance & Management Agency Com. Quan is the chair of this committee.

    Jan 23, 2006 -Heather McDonald

    Some officials at City Hall, who declined to be identified because of the ongoing investigation, said they are concerned Smith is being “railroaded” because his aggressive audits and difficult personality made him an easy target, and the city’s financial resources an inviting one.

    The first indication of trouble in the city auditor’s office surfaced late last year when Smith released an audit of the city’s credit card program, designed to allow certain employees – and two council members – to make authorized purchases without wading through piles of paperwork.

    Anyone care to guess which two Council Members?
    This was well covered in the East Bay Express.

  172. Born in Oakland

    Thanks for the history lesson, Barry. I am glad not to be the only one on this blog who is going “nuts”. Anyone else?

  173. Ralph

    Citizen X, I am going to color you confused. Had the hiring managers complied with the rules, the overall internal controls of the system would have still been lacking and the system would still need to be scraped.

    This really should not come as a surprise. The GJ investigation in T&E highlighted that there are serious i.c. issues within the city governement.

    As for Dan L., he needs to make like Marvin K. Mooney. First, I assume that the auditors used some type of sampling technique to select the individuals to test, so stating that the recommendations are based on a few high profile cases in just wrong. Second, whether it happened on Brown’s watch is irrelevant. It happened and it needs to be addressed. There is no way that Dellums has done anything to change these practices. Any mayor worth his weight would have been in front of the camera bank shouting to the rafters of the changes implemented. Thus, I conclude Dellums has done nothing to change the documentated practices.

  174. SF2OAK

    Ralph said: “f John Q Citizen, can not afford his auto insurance, then maybe JQC should not drive. If JQC can not afford a speeding ticket, then maybe JQC should not speed. Don’t do the crime if you can’t do the time.”

    We could afford these things Before OAK gov’t (and all gov’t) started putting its hands in my till. It is a myth that V wants to perpetuate that by not raising the parking rates that we will have to eliminate X programs. When one reads a story or just evidences it for him /herself about the bloat, waste, fraud, corruption at OAK City Hall one realizes that the solution is to clean house at city hall, reduce salaries and benefits and get the monkey (gov’t) off the public’s back.

    I think that Ralph you should replace JQC with OAK CC because Oakland cannot afford what it “wants” in terms of social services, although it really could if it was willing to run an efficient city government getting value for $ every step of the way.

    It is so frustrating to read a story such as this, get a tax bill the same week that puts OAK at the top of Bay Area tax rates (1.4% property tax) and realize that services are piss poor, and many are just fradulent (like misspending bond money, OAK public schools taken over by state, Edgerly, etc) and this seems to be the rule not the exception.