290 thoughts on “Open Thread

  1. livegreen

    Thanks Ralph. Chief Batts is both a breath of fresh air (after Tucker) & seems like a really smart guy. There are many questions still, but the start is good. The question is, will the politicians support his efforts? Or just line up for photo-opps while disregarding his recommendations?

    Remember, all a Bey or a Gang member has to do is start saying “racist” (the far-left alt for “baby killer”) and the CC will be tempted to back down.

  2. livegreen

    MJH, I don’t know, I have some of my best communication with CC members while they’re in chambers, attending to the people’s business…

  3. OaklandAdvocate

    I was thinking since Barnes and Noble will soon leave Jack London Square, would it be nice to have a bowling alley replacing it? From the street you have tall glass walls looking inside the alley seeing people bowl and have fun, and from the inside you can see the outside scene such as an AMTrak train rolling by while you sit down or whatever. You can have another cafe in the upper floor area that once was Starbucks.

    It would be nice to have more entertainment in Jack London Square especially near the Theater Complex with surrounding restaurants. Also Oakland doesn’t have a Bowling Alley as far as I know, while our neighbors do (Alameda, San Leandro, etc).

  4. SteveB

    When driving southwest (towards downtown) on Grand Avenue and trying to make a left turn at Embarcadero (near the north end of Lake Merritt in front of Gold’s Gym), there’s a left-turn arrow but ALSO a sign reading “left turn yield on green.”

    WTF? If the arrow is red but the light is green, can I turn? I admit I do (thankfully, OPD have not been around) because the sign says I can “yield on green.” Is that OK?

    OK, I probably wasted more time writing this than I will waste while waiting for a green arrow over the next few months, but it does drive me crazy.

  5. Hayden

    So there I was tonight after the Soweto Gospel Choir concert at the Paramount, getting some milk over at the Pak ‘n’ Sav near San Pablo and 40th. Except, wait, all but one of the doors are locked. And Emeryville has almost all of its few police cars zooming around the strip mall parking lot over by the Home Depot. Kids are running down the street over by Rudy’s Can’t Fail Cafe.

    Turns out 4 shots were fired over by the condos near Harlan Street. Just another night in Emeryville?

  6. Born in Oakland

    Question for all you in the know: three cars in my neighborhood have a “boot” on their rear tire and I wonder who and why? One of the cars has multiple parking tickets on it. Is it OPD? Is there activity to collect on parking/traffic tickets? Were these cars called in by neighbors or are the police seeking them out? Maybe repossession instead? Thanks.

  7. matt


    Area 1 Captain Anthony Toribio is investigating the blogger’s experience. Nancy Nadel asked me to put the blogger in contact with her so she can take the situation to the Citizens Police Review Board. Hopefully some sort of justice will be served.

    Also, last Christmas a very close friend of mine was carjacked at gun point on 33rd St just east of Telegraph. The description of the guys and their method was just the same except she didn’t run and fortunately they let her go. She moved immediately. I use to hear shoot outs at least once a month when I lived at 28th and Telegraph. Something in that area just ain’t right :-(

  8. Ralph

    Re the mugging: It seems like “refusing to take a report” is stretching the truth. Glad to hear about the follow-up.

    Bakesale Betty: There has been some activity of late.

    SteveB: drop a line to Noel Pinto and while you are at can you ask him to extend the time for crossing on the lake side of Grand & Harrison

  9. Ralph

    watched the 1st 10min clip; it is just not that interesting. there is nothing new.

    looks like betty has had workers on site daily for the past week plus

  10. Ken O

    Betty’s opens April 20! What an auspicious day. Will Hitler speech admirers and Oaksterdam wonks be joining me and y’all to get into the damn place?

    In other news… coming soon to a much beloved+hated city near us?

    11 quirky budget cuts
    From police horses to fireworks to wrangling stray chickens, these cash-strapped cities are eliminating all kinds of services.

    Chicken buster gets busted – Miami
    • Plus: Why cities aren’t hitting panic button — yet
    Annual savings: $20,000

    Some cities have dog catchers. Miami has a chicken catcher — or at least it did.
    [Oakland has OAS...and they busted some lady in Temescal two years ago, which I helped defuse.]

    Four years ago, Miami residents were overrun with loose chickens. So the city added a full-time Chicken Buster to the payroll with an annual salary of $13,000. Since then, the program has resulted in 15,000 hens and roosters being wrangled and sold to an area farm for a total of $10,000, which was donated to city charities.

    But when Miami started squawking about a $118 million budget deficit, civic leaders decided to cancel the program. On top of the Chicken Buster’s salary, Miami estimates it will save $7,000 a year in operational costs, including transportation and uniforms.

    Oh what fun…

  11. len raphael

    wsj article on proposed accounting changes to take effect soon to force cities and states to record more realistic numbers for all pension obligations in their financial statemennts. now the obligations are at most, shown in footnotes.


    “One thing GASB is looking at is how pension liabilities should be calculated. Governments normally don’t display their unfunded pension obligation as a liability on the balance sheet.

    Instead, they list only the shortfall in the annual required pension contribution. As a result, states and municipalities that pay the annual contribution report zero pension liabilities. The total unfunded liability is reported in the notes section of the balance sheet.

    Under tentative decisions by GASB’s board, the displayed number would be changed to the total unfunded pension liability, typically larger than the annual obligation.

    For example, New Jersey hasn’t paid its annual contribution of $2.5 billion for the current fiscal year, but its underfunded pension liability currently stands at $46 billion.

    Another issue: how to calculate the unfunded pension obligation. Currently, the total projected benefits obligation is lowered based on how much the fund is expected to reap in investments, commonly 8%.

    Critics argue that rate, which for accounting purposes is known as the discount rate, is inappropriately high. GASB has looked at several alternatives that are currently lower than 8%.

    The drop of one percentage point in the discount rate means a 10% to 20% increase in the total pension obligation, according to James Rizzo, senior consultant and actuary at Gabriel, Roeder, Smith & Co., a consulting firm for the public sector. For example, a pension system with a total liability of $100 billion would have an obligation of as much as $120 billion after a decline of one percentage point in the discount rate.

    The displayed amount of the unfunded pension liability could be increased even further if GASB lowers the so-called amortization period for unfunded liabilities, or the number of years funds can stretch the liability over. The longer the period, the smaller it looks.

    Currently the figure used is a maximum of 30 years. The GASB’s tentative decision is that pension liabilities should be amortized over the remaining employment years of the worker, which can be closer to 15 to 20 years for some employees. “

  12. Ralph

    What is the West Oakland underpass blight? What is the condition, how does it differ from the blightless areas? Pictures?

  13. Ralph

    Alameda County Assessor is a joke. According to news reports, the assessor’s office expects another decline in assessed value this year. A portion is by law, but the rest is undoubtedly due to his office failure to assess properly last year.

    A correct initial assessment would not have resulted in reassessments during the informal review period. Add to that some people did not file for a reassessment so when the assessor’s assesses the property this year, it is likely to be reassessed in accordance with similar properties.

    By not taking the big bath last year, the assessor has set us up to continue to a hit even while neighboring counties show improvement. Thank you Mr. Thomsen.

  14. Ken O

    Here is a review of recent news from around the USA and Europe regarding paved streets.

    Oakland’s streets will soon revert to being gravel roads, if that. The only question is “when?”


    I expect our downtown core and main thoroughfares to receive repaving services for the next 10-15 years. Not sure about residential areas in the flats.

    I’ve already seen really bad streets in Richmond… and unpaved paths in Cambodia. Just a matter of time. Parts of MLKJWay and Genoa Street in North O are really pot-holey too. Time to pull out the orange spray can?

  15. Ken O

    Speaking of streets, who “owns” International Blvd? Is it City of Oakland, or CalTrans (state agency)?

    All answers will be entertained.


  16. OaklandAdvocate

    Have our council approved a bid for the 12th St. Project yet? When can we start seeing the first shovels/construction happen?

  17. len raphael

    Why is “mixed use” of the ten commandments for oakland’s planning department?

    Sure having a coffee place or a restaurant on every other block cuts down on driving, but no way a bunch of 4,000 square foot little retail stores is going to create the big sales and biz tax bucks. all the trucks needed to bring supplies to all of them, and haul garbage away can’t do much for carbon reduction.

    More live work space wb a better mandate than retail mixed use in many neighborhoods.

  18. Max Allstadt

    Len, the more time I spend in Jingletown, the more I think we need to go beyond mixed use and go with a total free for all.

    Jingletown has been a mishmash of residential industrial and some commercial for over 100 years, and the people there seem to like it that way.

  19. len raphael

    Max, for once we agree on a planning goal. ok, twice, counting the need for the city to do 3d mapping depictions of zoning proposals.

    my sense is that planners in general or maybe it’s understaffed stressed planning depts, pick a few principles, set them in concrete and apply them cookie cutter to everything. to some extent, they’re just trying to be equitable.

    btw, how did we get from the general plan, that every major intersection had to have a castle like tall building?

  20. Naomi Schiff

    Thank you, Len. I feel that in twenty years we’ll ask, “Why is there a round or hexagonal tower on all these corners built between 2005 and 2015?” It is an over-used architectural cliché of the present. Reminds me of the “square windows” period (see Methodist Church on Lakeshore, among many others) or the “Large Honking Pseudo-Sculpture Signage at Barren Entry” moment, 1970s (cf: 20th and Broadway, Pleasant Valley & Broadway). Or the ridiculous “eyebrows,” useless sunshades high above the windows they supposedly shade. It is hard to recognize our overused elements while they are au courant.

    And Max, I heartily believe in the organic growth of the city, and note that we have quite a few interesting examples of the success of the “let it happen” approach. I have long felt that private development that works within the extant parcel lines is faster and more successful than most of our (usually overambitious and under-executed) redevelopment efforts.

  21. Max Allstadt

    “Let it happen” sometimes needs to be balanced with “make it happen”.

    While I’m thinking of planning, are there examples of development subsidy programs where a City just offers cash back for completed projects in a certain area?

    Instead of paying up front in the form of selling land to a large developer, couldn’t we just say, “we offer nothing up front, but if you get it together to build something here, we’ll refund x% of your fees once the building is occupied, and waive your property taxes for X years”. That would seem to incentivize realistic projects. Why pay anything before you get the product?

  22. livegreen

    Max’s idea sounds like a good one. Generally speaking the incentive based approach Cal-Trans used to get the 580/880 overpass (& others) fixed in record time. Incentives for timely project completion…

  23. Naomi Schiff

    Examples of what you describe are not always funded by the city. The following programs are ones that I’m aware of that have been used recently. Some are still in use. Tax credits can be “sold” to banks. For example, Fox Oakland Theater obtained a large percentage of construction cost in combined New Markets and Historic Pres. tax credits, which were then purchased by Bank of America. BofA provided financing for the project, and BofA then used the tax credits.

    Federal “New Markets” tax credits
    Federal Historic Preservation Tax credits
    Federal (and sometimes state) affordable housing tax credits
    Oakland’s Mills Act property tax abatement program for historic preservation.

    Of these, only the last is an ongoing property tax abatement program, and requires being expended on a historic property. However, they don’t have to be landmarks! There are still openings for this program in the 2010 year, by the way.
    Oakland’s facade improvement program

  24. len raphael

    NS, are there any other property tax abatements/deferrals which the city has to power to dispense?

    btw, was listening to kpfa (always entertaining to hear interviewers and their interviewees praise each others opinions) this morn re prop 13 change campaign.

    my take is that revoking prop 13 for commercial real estate will not help Oakland as hoped for:

    a. so much of oakland existing and coming development is residential not commercial

    b. a big hunk of oakland’s commercial real estate is owned by property tax exempt orgs such as Kaiser, Sutter, UCB, churches, State of CA etc.

    Interesting that change advocates protect residential rental property owners the same as owner occupied housing, but argue that protection for commercial tennants is not needed because raising taxes on commercial property won’t be passed thru to the business’ small and large that occupy commercial property.

    that is misleading, in that mechanically most commercial tennants’ leases pass thru all increases to tennants. Whether in the long run commercial rents drop and commercial tax assessments stabilize at high values would affect the overall economic activity effect here.

  25. Naomi Schiff

    So perhaps rather than a split roll approach, a Prop 13 revamp that simply provides some kind of gentle treatment for seniors who are homeowners do you think, Len?

    I believe the split roll proposal is out there because folks think it more likely to be possible to pass it, not because it is particularly just or sensible.

    My own feeling is that the worst aspect of Prop 13 is that penalizes young people who are buying for the first time–just the ones who will have a really uphill battle in the current situation. As I’ve said before, I think my young neighbors who bought when the market was fairly high, although we live in a modest neighborhood, are paying several times what I pay. Our homes are very similar. How does this make any sense?

    Plus, a modest property tax increase will be more modest and more effective if it covers everyone and spreads the load. We could still cap it. It just shouldn’t be so irrational as what we have now.

  26. Ralph

    NS, I always thought the worst aspect of Prop 13 is it provides huge benefits for long-term owners. I think that it is reasonable that the new owner pay taxes on the fair value of the asset purchased and reasonable appreciation over time. Maybe what should happen is every “x” years owners need to get a bump up in assessed value to bring it closer to market value.

    It does not make sense for anyone to purchase if under normal circumstances, one does not think he will be able to afford the monthly nut. One can easily model a 5 year plan and if one does not think it is doable, then one should not buy. Obviously, this recession is not normal so you can’t hold recent buyers to this because even if they had done all the modelling in the world, no one really factors a job loss into the model. Really, if you think you are going to lose the job, then why would you purchase?

  27. Zach Seal

    East Lake Biker: The free Broadway Shuttle will launch in mid-late June.

    Zach Seal
    City of Oakland

  28. David

    Let me tell you what happens in Chicago and what will happen here with a change in Prop 13.

    Chicago: Year 1) Buy your house. Pay prop taxes based on previous owner.
    Year 2) Get re-assessed, pay 20% more in prop taxes, unless you bribe your Alderman (who magically pays 80% less than you do, on the same kind of house).
    Year 3) Magically, prop taxes are lowered marginally. This also happens to be the election year for your Alderman (they are staggered throughout the city, so that what the Mayor does is lower the rates in wards which are having elections that year and moves the spending around).

    Rinse and repeat.

    One wonderful thing about Prop 13, is that there is little/no bribery or chance for corruption. Buy your house, you know what the taxes will be now, and a pretty good idea of what they will be 10 years from now if you stick around. In Chicago my taxes jumped more than 20% in a single year.

    You think the gov’t is corrupt, with special handouts for gov’t workers/politicians now, just wait till they can play with the assessed value & tax rolls/rates with a Prop 13 repeal.

    The real solution is to cut spending. As always.

  29. Naomi Schiff

    True, but you could still be feeling the regret of having over-invested in a house, unable to get your money out until years and years have passed, and have large tax bills to pay, compared with some fossil such as myself, with a paid-off mortgage and a stated house value that is maybe a fifth or sixth of what a reasonable assessment would be without prop 13. Plus having to borrow or find more cash when major repairs are needed (which sooner or later, they always are).

  30. Max Allstadt

    Wait. Naomi, you called yourself a “Poor Woman” at the last Landmarks Board meeting.

    I complained that the view corridors being discussed were inequitable to the poor neighborhoods in West Oakland which weren’t going to get their views protected. In your rebuttal, you called yourself a “poor woman”.

    Now you’re telling us that you own a house free and clear, (in HarriOak, right). Houses in the neighborhood you call “modest” are listing at $450,000 and up, even in this market.

    And you’re a “Poor Woman”? Bollocks.

  31. Ralph

    David, despite my proposal, I agree with you. I believe that the stability in knowing how much your taxes are going to increase year to year makes it easier to determine what one can reasonably afford.

    Naomi, there is the possibility of buyers remorse in any transaction. I think one of the mistakes people make is assuming that a house is an investment. The reality is people need to live somewhere. If one is renting and the combined rent and tax obligation is no different than what one would pay as an owner, then one should consider ownership. Further tax laws are such that if you need to borrow, you can borrow against the equity and deduct the interest, unlike a non-owner who does not have that option. Regard to the cash option, it is a matter of trade-offs. Maybe you take one less vacation that year eventually in time you take a few more vacations.

    Of course, long-term owners are not the only ones who benefit from the low assessments. If I recall correctly, if one is over 55, Prop 13 allows an intra-county transfer of assessed value to a new home (in the bay area I believe some counties also allow for an inter-county transfers). Parents and grandparents can also transfer the assessed value to a child or grandchild. (I note this out for Max who likes to point out how certain practices back in the day prevented minorities from acquiring land and creating wealth. Well now these minorities can acquire land but their cohorts in another neck of the woods have been given a bigger tool to help preserve wealth.)

  32. len raphael

    Max, people in the flats should get the same view protections that people in the hills get. that protection has been extended informally much lower down to the Mandanna area and the area just east of bway between 41th and 45th street.

    for that matter, why should a view of SF and the Bay be protected when a view of the beautiful Oakland hills as seen by flatlanders is not?

    -len raphael

  33. Max Allstadt

    Len, OHA and CALM’s attempt to impose view corridors of two buildings from the fancy side of the lake are an utterly transparent attempt to downzone downtown Oakland without proper outreach or process.

    It’s using historic preservation in the loosest possible sense in order to create height limits. The outreach done by staff consisted of three people going for a walk. That’s woefully insufficient for a proposal which would change the zoning and height limits of nearly 64 acres downtown.

    The hills have views of the bay and of the skyline. Naomi and friends want to protect views of two relatively short buildings within that skyline. When I brought up the inequity of protecting the East side of the lake’s views and not West Oakland’s views, Naomi decided to dissemble and say she was “poor” in order to counter my argument.

    Now she tells us she owns a home that could put her net worth at close to half a million. I’m offended, frankly, that someone would pretend to be poor in order to win an argument about inequity.

  34. livegreen

    If view corridor’s are to be determined based on social equity, we should consider those who are the least fortunate among us: the homeless. What about their views of DT, SF, and landmark buildings?

    To allow their views maintained all future buildings should be either built underground or 1 story high maximum, and at a height the homeless can see over.

  35. Naomi Schiff

    Max I think you may have mistaken what I said. I do not live in an elegant neighborhood, let me assure you. I have been working to support myself since I was 16, and I am still working, and grateful to be able to support myself, modestly. You needn’t be offended, and I don’t have to prove anything to you either.

    I think you are mischaracterizing the whole view corridor discussion and I am very sorry to discuss it on that basis. You have it entirely wrong. I can’t understand why you are so reluctant to have a reasonable discussion about it. It doesn’t seem hard to comprehend the issue.

    The view corridors under discussion have exactly nothing to do with views from the hills. The view corridors proposed have everything to do with views from a public park, Lakeside Park, one of the most intensely used parks in Oakland, a key public asset, and one which has been the subject of enormous taxpayer investment. I and others spent years working on the Lake Merritt Master Plan, the bond election, the oversight comittee, and related efforts.

    I agree and have agreed all along that views from the west should also be considered. In fact we photographed such views before you joined the discussion. However, the city council and planning department decided to work on the views from the east side of the lake first.

    View corridors are listed as an option in our general plan. I did not write the general plan. I would prefer not to be a straw man to some argument you are making that has some other agenda, and I will not take part in an angry exchange.

    There is no need to be uncivil, nor to make assumptions about other people’s lives, how their economics are shaping up during this perilous time, or how they live. I won’t make assumptions about you. Please return the favor.

  36. V Smoothe

    Naomi, Max is not mischaracterizing what you said, he is quoting you. He and other people spoke about the equity problem with your ridiculous proposal, and you responded by saying that there is no equity issue because you are also poor.

    Your constant dissembling about the view corridors and the many other ridiculous anti-development schemes you have cooked up has really become tiresome. The view corridors proposal has nothing whatsoever to do with public parks.

    It is just one more ridiculous attempt to hamper downtown development and Oakland’s economic growth even more than you have already succeeding at doing. There is no justification or precedent whatsoever in the General Plan for the view corridors as proposed, and the fact that you continue to repeat that lie after being contfronted categorical proof that what you’re claiming is untrue just convinces me even more than I already was that you truly have no interest in honest conversations or informed debate.

    I realize it might be unpleasant or surprising for you to all of a sudden have somebody calling you on your bullshit after getting away with it for so many years, but there’s nothing uncivil about what Max is doing. Being held accountable for your statements is part of participating in public discourse.

  37. Max Allstadt


    I will simply note that you just posted a very long response to me in which you did not deny calling yourself a “poor woman”, nor did you deny that your home equity makes your net worth rather substantial.

    I reject your accusation that I’m being uncivil. Believe me, I found your contradictory statements outrageous enough that I really wanted to use some of the language that V used above. But I bit my tongue, and didn’t go much farther than using the word “dissembling”. It may be an unpleasant thing for you to read, but it’s neither rude nor inaccurate.

  38. Max Allstadt


    I note that your long response neither denies that you called yourself a “poor woman” nor does it deny that your home equity amounts to substantial net worth.

    I also disagree that I’ve been uncivil. I found it outrageous that you called yourself “poor” to win an argument about inequity. I wanted to use some of the words V used above, but I didn’t.

    The strongest language I used was the word “dissembling”. Based on your non-denial rebuttal, I stand by it.

    Implying that we hurt your feelings because we caught you being deceitful and called you on it is unfair. If you feel wounded, it’s self inflicted.

  39. Max Allstadt

    Oh wait. I said “Bollocks”. Sorry. That was meaner than “dissembling”. Never mind the “Bollocks”.

  40. livegreen

    On a Positive Note, the link on the left to the OUSD Board meeting advises they’re recognizing several Oakland teachers, including 2009 CA History Teacher of the Year.

    It is positive that this teacher is right here in Oakland.

  41. Daniel Schulman

    I’m glad view corridors are nolonger in front of the Landmarks Board – I’ve already gotten enough fallout from the discussion and it seems like things are heating up more. I hope friends on both sides of the discussion can take a deep breath.

    In the interests of returning the discussion to impersonal facts, I do have a question or two. Naomi, when you say “View corridors are listed as an option in our general plan,” what does that mean? I admit I am not as familiar with the general plan as a lot of people, but I put the PDF’s of the LUTE and HPE though distiller, so I could keyword search. I don’t think view corridors are discussed in either of those documents, but I could have screwed up my conversion or something. Can someone supply page numbers or at least indicate the appropriate section of the document I should refer to?

    I know there is that one mitigation measure in the LUTE EIR that discussed view corridors. Is an EIR considered part of the document it is responding to? Maybe someone with some planning expertise can respond to this question.

    I think this discussion would be more fruitful if we can all get on the same page.

  42. David

    Oh my, arguments between limousine liberals over who’s more “authentic.” Wait, let me get some popcorn and watch with amusement. Now THIS is why I moved to the Bay Area.

  43. len raphael

    Nav, where the heck are you when i need you to jump in and attest that views of oakland are just as valuable as views of SF ? or maybe neither sb protected.

    city staff is overwhelmed by the rezoning in that there is no way they have the staff to compare their maps to reality, let alone do accurate 3d mappings.


  44. Naomi Schiff

    Happy to discuss on some reasonable basis, but not like this. Have no need to discuss my finances, being so wealthy and all. I don’t understand the vendetta against view corridors and I continue to maintain that it is misguided.

  45. Mike Spencer

    When I am at airports I read the Wall Street Journal front to back. Interesting article today on the front about budget problems in Colorado Springs, a very conservative city of 400,000. This is the link http://tinyurl.com/y5dmpgt

    The article mentions neighborhoods organizing to cut the grass in local parks and empty the garbage. The selfish bastard part of me thinks, “I’ll be effed if I am going to pay $10K per year in property taxes and empty the trash on weekends at the local park.” However, I think it’s stuff like this that we are all going to have to do since our City is so poor when it comes to managing money, personnel, etc. Has anyone seen a survey lately on what percentages are of City work force out on leave, workers’ comp, etc. It’s a valid question.

  46. Ralph

    You gotta love the Springs. Funny you should bring up that article as a similar question came up at the Perata4Mayor Adams Point Mtg tonight. People in Oakland (at least the one who asked the Q) actually want to volunteer and from what I understand the union people have made this difficult to do in some cases. I think it is time for some union busting. People also want to see more public private partnerships but DP was rather silent on that point.

  47. Max Allstadt


    I didn’t bring up your finances. You did. Twice. All I brought up was the huge discrepancy between the two times you brought it up.

    And I didn’t say you were rich either. I said that calling yourself “poor” was bogus. There’s a big difference between calling someone “rich” and calling someone “not poor.” There’s a rather large space in between that you could very well fall under.

    Now if you’ll excuse me, my limo awaits.

  48. Naomi Schiff

    About volunteering: I have not found it difficult at all, and city adopt-a-spot staff have been very helpful. We are maintaining a neighborhood walkway, a very large road median area, two smaller ones, and when we get around to it, a freeway offramp and overpass area that caltrans allows to be in terrible condition.

  49. Navigator


    I agree with you, views of Oakland are at LEAST as valuable as views of SF.
    Speaking of views of Oakland, I took a little ride around town this afternoon and here are some observations.

    The new landscaping and improvements at Lake Merritt on Lake Shore look awesome. The grass and landscaping look beautiful and lush after all the rain this season. The trees are beginning to bloom, the lake waters were shimmering, there were people enjoying the beautiful new benches strategically placed at former Embarcadero right of way as well as on the view bulb cut outs along the perimeter of the Lake. It was absolutely gorgeous and definitely should make all Oaklanders proud of their beautiful city.

    I also took a ride to Uptown, Downtown, and Jack London Square. The city is looking very clean and very well maintained in these areas. The guys in the orange shirts are doing a great job keeping downtown looking great. It was great to see that the storefront which will house Bakesale Betty at Broadway and Grand is no longer covered with paper and looks ready to go.

    I then passed by the Oakland Museum and noticed many workers scrambling to put the finishing touches on the massive renovation. Unfortunately, as I drove through the Kaiser Convention Center parking lot adjacent to the Museum, I noticed that this beautiful architectural landmark has turned into a homeless encampment. I don’t want to seem harsh, and I realize that people need places to sleep, but please, not on the doorways of this prominent and magnificent building. Everyone of the ornate entrances were covered with tarps, mattresses, and plastic sheeting, while the parking lot was strewn with litter. I saw a boarded up window and the place looked like it was in total disrepair. Do we really want a homeless encampment on that prominent property adjacent to the Oakland Museum and Lake Merritt? Do we want to risk a possible fire set by a squatter trying to stay warm? There are some very serious issuer here.

  50. Mike Spencer

    Indulge me in some nostalgia: Wither investigative journalism? We have more outlets than ever but all with less teeth. I think there is an appetite for reading about more than hot restaurants Chauncey Bailey Project came about after an horrific event, did a great job and has now tapered off. Every now and then a select outlet will bite off a little piece, East Bay Express on Don Perata, Oakbook on police brutality but nothing ever systemic or city-wide in scope. Chronicle is not going to do much and nor Tribune outside of CBP. It would be cool to see the bloggers come together for a big look at Oakland City government, the judicial system or how money really gets spent, decisions made or not made, etc. What ideas do any of you have for an investigative journalism project? I don’t think the nepotism problem was fully explored. Or, in my work I come across criminal cases against minority youth that would never be brought against white kids.

  51. David

    How about a journalist actually detailing our pending bankrupt pension & public employee retiree benefit plans? How the pensions are run by corrupt political appointees making foolish investment decisions? how gov’t spending in total (fed/state/local) has quadrupled in real terms over the past 30 years, but personal income has gone up less than 50% in real terms? how we’re spending more and more on teachers & schools over 30 years with no benefits accrued to students?


  52. Ralph

    Livegreen, in case you are interested JQ for Mayor is hosting an Education in Oakland Forum on 4/19 from 7 – 9 at Redwood Heights Elementary. I have conflicting plans so I won’t be able to attend.

  53. Livegreen

    Ralph, Thanks. I just had an operation so am taking it easy. I’ll look it up on her news list to see if it looks worthwhile.

    Interesting they’re having it at Redwood Heights, a school which works hard to deter any special needs children from applying (in district or out of district). This pushes those students into other schools which are then saddled with a more demanding job…

  54. len raphael

    MS, at least in the short run the effect of the looming massive city layoffs, and overall financial is likely to both lead to the higher workers comp claims, sick leave, disablity claims. i think it already has eroded the modest pockets of city employees who actually treated residents like customers/clients.

    the city govt is getting starved and it will make it very clear to its employees that when in doubt, levy that fine, raise that fee, approve developments that can quickly bring in fees even if they cost more in city services down the road, or degrade exiting neighborhoods. even when that’s not the city’s intent, since the budgets are rapidly evaporating, city employees have neither the time nor motivation to pay more than lip service to their customers unless those customers are paying fees.

    the recent temescal general plan rezoning community meeting was blatant case of the staff getting told to wrap it up, didn’t even give them the hours and resources to present info adequately or give notice to owners and residents of the planned rezoning. basically, go thru the legally required motions of asking for community input, but blow it off.

    -len raphael

  55. len raphael

    To beat this topic to death, just don’t see how one can blame Piedmont and Emeryville for skimming off the muni fiscal cream from Oakland. on the residential property value revenue side, Oaklad has very large sections of homes in Upper Rockridge, Crocker Highlands, Trestle Glenn etc. that would have been assessed at 50 to 200% more if they were in Piedmont or even Berkeley. If Oakland ever figured out how to annex Piedmont or Emeryville, or got merged with them, it would drag them down to our level.

    Our residential housing values (and affordability) would be hugely different if we just had the school system of Berkeley, let alone Piedmont. If we also had the security of Piedmont (no, they are not a gated community) we’d be right up there.

  56. Robert

    The price differential is closer to 20%. You also need to remember that a main reason for the price differential is the far superior perception of the schools, for which Piedmont pays a humongous parcel tax.

    Piedmont had the wisdom to see that Oakland government at the time was corrupt, and found a way to keep from being taken over when Oakland vastly expanded its borders. If I recall, nobody really wanted Emeryville until recently. Sometimes you just have to live with the mistakes of previous generations and get over it.

  57. len raphael

    Robert, yeah, i exaggerated the price difference. But not as much for smaller homes. What goes now for 800 in baja rockridge, probably sells for 1.3Mill in baja piedmont. i’m bluffing, so ask someone who knows and post the answer.


  58. Robert

    len, I don’t know the prices in Rockridge, only those in Lakewood Park and Crocker Highlands compared to P. And I could see it getting close to 50% since the price collapse in Oakland (Piedmont did not fall very much). It has been too depressing recently to keep close tabs.

  59. len raphael

    Keep learning of new hoods in this city. Where is Lakewood Park and how did it get it’s name?

    Price difference between Piedmont and abutting neighborhoods used to be a flat dollar amount. Now it’s a flat fat percentage.

  60. David

    It’s easy. The difference between Piedmont and house prices directly over the border is the cost to send 2 kids to private schools.

    A house that’s $800K on the Oakland side of Grand Ave is about $1.2M on the Piedmont side. $20K/year*2*12 years, with some fudging due to tax deductible mortgage costs vs. discount rates vs. tuition.

  61. Robert

    len, Lakewood Park is the development starting where Lakeshore, Harvard and Winsor meet. Most of the development is in what became Piedmont. What is left in Oakland is usually considered the Lakeshore neighborhood.

    If you send your email address to me at rvh5049 at aol dot com I can send you a photo of my house under construction behind the development office.

  62. len raphael

    David, so throw in an extra 100k for prestige of living in Piedmont. But no premium for better city services especially cops?

    What is the difference in pricing in the 2.5to 3.5 Mill house category?


  63. Oakland parent

    I don’t know whether anyone out there is aware of the proposed artificial turf at the Chinatown Lincoln Square recreational corridor. I am trying to stop the city from installing this lead particle shedding plastic carpet in our Chinatown neighborhood, and hopefully save a little piece of green space for our children. So far, it has been an uphill battle for just me and another parent at the school. I even met w/ Pat Kernighan’s staff last week. Are there people in the City who cares about how the City staff is destroying our City environment? I need advice and hopefully more help/support from residents. Thanks.

  64. livegreen

    OP, Is it green there now, or is it the black tarmacs by the Lincoln Rec Center? If so, what green would you be saving? If not, where’s the location?

    There are different types of Artificial Turf. You’re sure it’s one that sheds lead, and if so, would the City consider an alternative?

    Just asking to better understand…

    As far as who to speak with PK’s office is your best bet for trying to get change from the City. Of course she also has to balance concerns (eg. environmentally friendly vs. nothing, IF those are the only options).

  65. David

    Len, eh, I think the cop/services on the other side of Grand are decent enough, but sure, throw in another premium on that. I don’t hunt R.E. much in that area, and only glance at the prices in passing. My investment property ain’t anywhere near those hoods, and not only do I not have enough capital to buy rental R.E. in those hoods, but it’s not cash flow positive anyway which is the barest minimum criterion for my investment.

  66. Oakland parent

    Livegreen, It is black asphalt right now for Lincoln Elementary school staff parking. We are not trying to save green, but hoping to create a green space for the Chinatown concrete jungle. I have been talking to Kevin at PK’s office. Unfortunately, the City has been set on just paving over the area based on maintenance concerns, instead of creating a natural turf area for kids to play. It seems like I am going nowhere pushing for a natural alternative. Even though the turf blade has acceptable lead level, the rubber crumb infill will still have its own heavy metal problems. Who can help? Who would care? Please advise.

  67. livegreen

    OP, Sometimes you have to pick your battles. This is going to come down to a cost issue, both product and maintenance. Keep in mind natural turf has it’s own health issues, especially if the City uses herbicides and pesticides.

    Since you’ll have to do the work for them to show if there’s any viable alternatives, here’s for your further reading:


    Here are two links from Piedmont’s experience looking for an environmentally friendly artificial turf (one of them has links at the bottom). Keep in mind they have just a LITTLE more money than Oakland:



  68. Naomi Schiff

    I support your idea for considering natural turf! I heard the presentation given at landmarks board, and I didn’t realize they were talking about artificial turf (not sure whether it was mentioned or if I just didn’t notice) . I’d suggest that you could organize an “adopt-a-spot” committee and promise to help mow and maintain. Rebecca Kaplan is at-large city councilperson so in addition to Kernighan’s office I’d suggest speaking to Kaplan aide Ada Chan. I don’t know whether Friends of Oakland Parks and Rec. would be any use, but you could speak with one of their boardmembers, Zach Seal, who lives in the downtown area.

    Parks and Rec is under horrible pressure economically, but at the same time the injury rates on artif. turf are reputedly very high, and it certainly doesn’t seem environmentally responsible to use paving when one has the choice to do something else. A lot of people don’t realize that that is a public park, not part of the school, and should remain usable by everyone. There’s a lot of fencing. Good luck!

  69. Livegreen

    Naomi, Did u read the links I provided? Injuries depend on which of the artificial products are used. Also, do u know if Oakland uses herbicides in maintaining natural grass fields? There is more & more info coming out about herbicides and pesticides being endocrine disrupters which negatively impact the development of youh and especially boys. Especially as youth will b the ones using these fields.

    So before advocating for natural turf, and realizing that heavy metals are an issue with some artificial turfs, one needs to also study how the “natural” is treated and cared for. Especially IF unnatural is applied after-the-fact, it could b just as bad or possibly worse.

  70. Naomi Schiff

    True. I believe Oakland is supposed to use an IPM strategy, but in practice I don’t know if they consistently do so. I did have to talk public works out of squirting roundup on an area that I maintain. Plastics are not environmentally benign either, though. I hope someone will study the whole pros and cons, but alas, it can’t be me as I am spread too thin to take it on.

  71. Oakland parent

    I happened to be a landscape architect. I have done extensive research on sports fields over the years. There’s really no safe alternative to the real grass field. The entire artificial turf industry is pretty much self-regulated without much oversight from our government. The artificial turf products out there that claim to be with lead-free turf blade and toxin-free in-fill are not proven by any government agency. See attached link http://plasticfieldsfornever.org for another community fighting the installation of artificial turf. From my professional experience, sports fields with natural grass are way superior to artificial turf in terms of maintenance ease and safety to the players. There are plenty of safe natural pesticides/herbicides out there that i specified regularly for all of my projects. As a professional landscape architect, I strongly believe that the users of the field and the larger community will be much happier with a durable, non-toxic, well-maintained natural turf field.

    However my time and resources are limited. If people are not interested in chiming in asking the City for a natural turf playffield, maintained w/ IMP methods, for our children. We are pretty destined to end up with a piece of plastic carpet in our public park, and yet another piece of plastic garbage that will never decompose in our landfill 10, 20 years from now when it is spent.

  72. livegreen

    OaklandParent, Thanks. –Is maintenance of grass really cheaper?
    –Does the City use IMP methods? (They might, I just don’t know. I recall Jean Quan getting something passed avoiding Pesticides but I don’t know if that covers Herbicides and I see them regularly spraying something in a nearby park. Come to think of it, you might speak to JQ).
    –In one of the links I mentioned is another link to a natural turf alternative to artificial turfs. EcoTurf, I think it’s called. You might check it out.

  73. david vartanoff

    Next AC Transit shoe to drop
    So Wed 28 Apr AC will start the process for the next round of service cuts. For those dreaming of BRT with the “five minute headway” page 17 of this pdf
    should be a wake up call. While we wait for the concrete to set up, service for the foreseeable future will be slashed again with the cutback of the 1R to East Oakland only and no more Saturday service.
    Headways on Telegraph will at best be 15 minutes with all buses reverting to the local service pattern of the 90s.

  74. David

    So, if AC Transit etc are reverting back to the service patterns of the ’90′s, can our property and sales tax and fares revert back to the rates in the ’90′s?

    And they (and other gov’t agencies) wonder why people get mad. gee, paying more for less is what I want to do every day.

  75. Patrick M. Mitchell

    The service is reverting to what we had in the 90′s because employee compensation has progressed to what shouldn’t have been expected until 2025 – or later.

  76. david vartanoff

    Sure, and your salary reverts too. I am not thrilled paying more for less either. Noticed banks reduce fees recently? Increase service and friendliness?

  77. Ralph

    Paying more for less is what we do. A few years ago, an ~14oz bag of M&Ms retailed for $3.99. In 2009, MARS stopped selling that size. Today, your same $3.99 only buys you ~12oz.. Bumble Bee reduced the 6oz can of tuna to 5oz, but they didn’t change the price. Paying more for less is what we do well.

  78. David

    At least no one forces you to buy M&Ms at the threat of imprisonment or forfeiture of your property.

    Vartanoff–Yeah, actually a lot of people’s salaries have reverted to the late ’90′s, at least in the private sector. In fact, the inflation-adjusted wage scale for the median private sector worker has barely budged the past dozen years. Yet sales tax rates and property revenues have far outstripped inflation, along with public sector salaries and benefits. (Total Fed/State/Local spending has gone from $3.2T in 2000 to $4.9T in 2007, a 50% increase during a time when inflation was around 20% total)

    Obviously, private incomes cannot stay flat and support an ever-increasing tax burden, and it’s ever more galling that this tax burden is basically going into a bunch of retiree benefits and not to actually government services.

  79. Naomi Schiff

    Mary, I take AC Transit. It is pretty good, actually, and I am saving a bundle on car insurance, parking, fuel, and maintenance expenses. I had a car, and got rid of it, and am the happy owner of half a car now, which seems to be plenty. I’m a business owner and I work downtown.

    I can’t understand how this town is constantly talking about transit corridors and transit-oriented development at the same time that we are letting our bus service get worse. In order to have TOD, we need transit that works. BART does not reach most of our town. The way to encourage TOD would be to improve that T!

  80. Ralph

    Some might say that the way to have TOD is to have D. If there is no D, then why do I need T. For T to work, it has to be where the people are. If I am AC Transit why would I run a bus service to a place where poople aren’t and don’t want to go. If you really want to make transit work start plopping bodies in those neighborhoods which we have identified for TOD. Of course, this may mean a density that some groups adamantly oppose. But you can not have it both ways.

  81. David

    One caveat Ralph is that more density doesn’t mean more efficient service. Muni serves SF, which is about twice as dense as Oakland, yet costs about twice as much per passenger mile of service as transit services in, say, Chicago. With our current crop of “leaders”/parasites, I fear we’re more likely just to get more costs with higher density.

  82. Ralph

    True. I did not mean to imply it would be more efficient. I agree with “leaders”/ parasites comment. All I do know (or believe) is if you put more people in a place that is designated as TOD, you have a better chance of finding people who like and will utilize the T. Right now, Oakland’s TOD is nothing more than POP (plans on paper). But I bet the bus service on paper is real and spectacular.

  83. david vartanoff

    @ David, the tax system in this country has been moving the wrong direction for most of three decades. We should IMHO be on the Fed scale which was the standard in Eisenhower’s time. The overly rich have done a masterful job of fooling the voters into cutting taxes on them while raising them on everyone else. The net result is the working class who THINK they are middle class are paying for most of government expenditures. Meanwhile they and the poor argue over the crumbs while the rich buy better security gates.

    @ Mary Hollis, I don’t go to ball games. That does not mean I am unconcerned about spending public money on sports venues.

  84. david vartanoff

    I imply that any hourly is working class, because in my view the issue is both actual hourly wage and how they are perceived by society in general. In the case of Muni drivers/mechanics, I certainly think THEY believe they are treated as working class and they return the favor.

  85. David


    There are two huge issues for working/middle class taxes.

    One is that Social Security/Medicare taxes are an enormous burden and one that really hurts the ability of people born without capital to accumulate it (what happens to say, a “typical” black man who works his whole life, but dies at 70 -lower life expectancy-after just a few years of collecting Soc. Sec.–his heirs sure don’t get a dime of inheritance, that all went to longer-lived white folks’ social security payments).

    Two is that the single largest increased expenditure for families over the past 40 years has been….TAXES (not mortgages, not health care, not even child care or education). This is for the typical middle class family. Eisenhower rates won’t solve that–middle class income tax rates are in theory lower than they were (Social Sec. etc combine to make it higher though)–it’s because two-income families are pushed into higher brackets.

    Raising taxes isn’t the solution. For anyone. Cutting spending is the answer. Again, how do you account for the 50% rise in gov’t expenditures in just 7 years?? You can’t raise taxes enough on the “rich.” Period.

    That’s a telling comment about bus drivers though–they think they’re working class. As do cops and firemen around here when they make $135K (median pay for the SF fire department is $135K–just wages, not benefits). Unfortunately, much of the public think they are working class too (because they were 40 years ago, and still are in many of the places where residents are from–NYC cops start at $50K, not $80K like in Oakland, firemen in Chicago start around $50K also), and blindly support all kinds of tax increase to fund them.

    The whole cost structure has to come down. Period.

  86. david vartanoff

    @ David and all
    So, let’s see, no Fed giveaways to the nuclear power crooks, canceling unneeded DOD projects like Osprey, no new highway work, liquidate DEA, legalise the immigrants and get rid of most of ICE, free the possesion only felons — we all have our lists of someone else’s pet projects which we think are a waste of money. And after big pharma is forced to sell drugs as cheaply here as Canada, Medicare will be sound for a couple extra decades. After ALL of the waste fraud and abuse which supports the lobbyist/bribing clique are eliminated,. we still need to change the tax structure. While you are correct that the absolute Eisenhower era income ## are too low, adjusting them for inflation and abolishing the limit on income subhect to FICA would shape up the Federal budget in a hurry. Its called a progressive income tax. On the state level, the severance tax on natural resource extraction, taxing the GHG outputs from the huge dairy farms for a start. Once we have a decent single payer/Medicare for all, the fastest rising component of worker benefit cost vaporises.
    Enough, somehow I suspect everyone else has differing lists of what to abolish/decrease, but you get my drift.
    BTW, bus drivers think they are working class because like unto the UAW folk at the Fremont plant pre NUMMI, they are angry, sullen, think they are put upon because they are expected to put up with a job they hate and assume EVERYONE in management is ipso facto arrogant, ignorant and anti worker. Its the classically dysfunctional labor-management c0-dependent mess.

  87. David

    Well, DV, as always we have to disagree on some of your agenda and agree on others. Getting to the fundamentals:

    You can’t have free immigration and a welfare state.
    The Feds should get out of a lot of things. Subsidies for nuke plants? Sure get out. Also get out of farm subsidies, education subsidies, mass transit subsidies, health insurance subsidies (employer tax deduction for health insurance AND the Obambi plan) and drug subsidies (Medicare Part D). You could make pharmaceuticals FREE, and it wouldn’t make a dent in medical spending (drugs are less than 10% of medical costs, even if you argue there are no benefits), so destroying the pharma industry here doesn’t make a lot of fiscal sense. Nor does single payer do a damn thing for the budget except increase costs (especially with free immigration). But, outside of the folly of single-payer health care, we can all agree the government should do less. Glad for that.

    Eliminating caps on FICA doesn’t make them solvent (and aren’t they supposed to fund Soc. Sec. and Medicare, not the fed budget? Where’s Gore’s lockbox?). Nor does it solve the problem of workers accumulating heritable capital. And, yes, we do have a progressive income tax. If only we could be as progressive as Sweden, where they have privatized the Social Security system. Or Chile for that matter.

    I don’t care why bus drivers think they’re working class. The fact that they do, and same with $135K/year firemen just shows how disconnected from reality the government at all levels is.

  88. Dax

    David, you have to be careful what statistics you accept.

    You stated the following

    “what happens to say, a “typical” black man who works his whole life, but dies at 70 -lower life expectancy-after just a few years of collecting Soc. Sec.”

    An average white male has a life expectancy of 16.3 years at age 65.

    The average black male has a life expectancy of 14.5 more years at age 65. At age 65, the difference in life expectancy between white and black males is less than two (1.8) years.

    So, there is a difference, but hardly that which is often thrown about in discussions of such matters.
    Some of the myths surrounding this issue are similar to those thrown about by members of police and fire unions, claiming they live a much shorter life in retirement.
    PERS completely disagrees with that suggestion and shows firemen and policemen live just as long as other workers.

  89. len raphael

    all these years, including Felix Mitchell’s infamous east o funeral, and never any gunfire at Oakland funerals till now? Oaklanders really are quite civil, considering.

    The funeral home in this instance, last time i checked several years ago, is a local family run chain that has a lock on East O violent death funerals. If there had been a need for metal detectors, i would think this outfit would have provided.

  90. David

    Dax, you’re right. However, there are plenty of black men who die in their 40′s and 50′s and never get to collect Social Security that they paid into up until their death.

    According to the CDC, death rates/years lost of life per 100,000 before 75 for heart disease are twice as high for blacks, 50% higher for cancer, 6 times higher for homicide, and overall, nearly twice as many years are lost per 100,000 before age 75 for blacks than whites.

    Overall, 1/3 of black men die between ages 50 and 70, compared to 1/5 of white men. Now, you’ll argue that more survivors benefit from Soc. Sec.’s widows’ benefits etc. My retort is that those benefits (which only last until the survivor takes her/his own retirement) are the most expensive life insurance you can imagine. It costs me $130/month to get a $1M policy good through 65 (less than 1/2 the total social security taxes on a $40K salary). A typical survivor’s benefit is $800-$1200/month. You can do the math.

    Social Security is a bad deal.

  91. Dax


    “Social security is a bad deal”

    So, are you suggesting that all people, or just black people or perhaps just black males, should opt out of Social Security if they were given the choice?

    Now, since we both know Social Security is not going to end and black males are not going to be given the choice to opt out, then it would seem the focus should be on those issues which reduce longevity.
    In fact everyone ought to focus on those issues if they want to make Social Security pay off.

    In fact, relating this to Oakland’s lucrative pension system, city workers really should be concentrating on keeping their health optimal to collect 20, 30 and even 40 years of 70% to 90% of their highest years pay.
    God help PERS if retirees ever go on a health kick.

    BTW, one of my personal dreams/ideas of how a progressive Oakland could help those in lower income areas, would be to establish about 20 small produce stores. All these government programs, dialysis centers, food stamps, and on and on, yet its almost impossible for so many Oakland residents to get inexpensive fresh vegetables.
    That scarcity has to lead to all manner of health problems from heart attacks to diabetes.
    In all of East Oakland, south of High Street, I think there is one produce store.

    That lack of fresh produce is really scary. Probably prematurely ends as many lives as the violence does. Diabetes is almost epidemic in some communities, costing us more than it would to supply free veggies.
    Subsidize veggies, not corn based products.
    East Oakland needs subsidized Veggi Vans rolling around the neighborhoods.

    Like I’ve said before, you can go along MacArthur Blvd. from Estudillo in San Leandro, to High Street in the Laurel District and not encounter a nice supply of fresh vegetables and fruits. That is a public health disgrace that you would never find in even the poorest nations. That is akin to not having running water or flush toilets.
    No wonder life expectancy is lower for certain people.

  92. David

    Dax, Social Security is a bad deal in general, but in particular for shorter-lived, middle class and lower income folks. For longer-lived, middle class and lower income, it’s an ok deal. (of course it’s the worst deal for higher income, shorter-lived folks, and then higher income, longer-lived folks). Given my racial, family history and income, I of course will likely get the worst deal.

    relating to the pension system, one of the reforms to help it be solvent would be to raise the age a worker could collect (i.e. 67 instead of 55).

    As for fresh produce, maybe you can drive on MacArthur, but just over on Estudillo & Mac, there’s an organic grocery. On International & 109th, there’s FoodMaxx, which has way better produce for less money than Safeway. Not sure about the 70′s and 80′s, but I’m close to the FoodMaxx and it’s fine. never mind the Mercados.

    I have a feeling that genetic backgrounds have more to do with life expectancy than diet, but that’s not “proven.” in any case, there is access to produce in East Oakland.

  93. Mike Spencer

    Thanks to the Parks and Rec people who repaired the pull-up bar at Lake Merritt across from Gold’s gym. The pull-up bar had fallen into disrepair, not level and rickety. They made it level and put in new support posts.

    If Oakland had more pull-up/chin-up bars and stands for dips we would be more buff and feel better about ourselves. We would have the right kind of big guns!

  94. len raphael

    for comic relief from discussing the budget and ousd problems, you gotta read blight’s posting at (http://wefightblight.blogspot.com/) re a liquor store in North Oakland.

    if the council supports the planning commission majority on using “historical relevance” as a basis for granting major conditional use permits, we’ll have another Oakland trophy to put on the shelf next to Ebonics.

    Come to think of it, the “phrase” relevance was quite in vogue among my fellow lefties of the late sixties.

    -len raphael

  95. Ralph

    for more comic relief trying listening to the owner and lawyer defend NicNak before council

    Mr. Spencer, I think the people at Gold’s Gym are destroying the free bars in the park :)

  96. Naomi Schiff

    At last, the groundbreaking for the 12th Street Lake Merritt project!

    Thursday May 6, 2 pm, 12th and Lakeshore

    $35 million dollars, 2 acres of new park at the lake’s edge, a completed pedestrian-bicycle route across the channel, room for BRT, 12 deteriorating (1950) lanes of confusing merges and dark slimy tunnels reconfigured as a calmer 6-lane boulevard with at-grade signalized crosswalks, an enlarged bird marsh, and a path connecting to the outlet channel.
    Funded by Measure DD, with help from State Coastal Conservancy, and federal funds.


  97. Patrick M. Mitchell

    V. would you please update the link for Future Oakland? I always come to your blog first and then after shaking my head at posts like the most recent, I click through to the others :)

  98. Dax

    David, For those born after 1950 I believe Social Security is already at 67 for full benefits.

    As to the veggies in East Oakland..

    I have not been to food max at 109th and E. 14th (Intl)….but one store is hardly sufficient for about 75,000 to 100,000 people.

    I don’t know what you are talking about at Estudillo and Mac in SL…
    There is a produce store but its really not all that organic.
    It also has a much lower (less fresh) selection of produce compared to Farmer Joes etc. . And more expensive.

    From my location, I can drive 3.7 miles to the Estudillo location or 6.0 miles to the Farmer Joes on 35th. I drive the extra miles, get better veggies, and still save money despite the extra travel..

    Bottom Line, from High Street South to SL, one source of good veggies is a prescription for illness. Obesity, diabetes, heart disease…..etc.
    The rate of diabetes in East Oakland is huge.
    Far more death and injury from lack of veggies than from excess violence.

    How many limbs lost, how many people blinded, how many strokes, and how many premature deaths.
    I’ll bet, the money spent at Foothill Square for dialysis, could easily buy veggies for all of East Oakland.
    Huge government funds spent on the results of bad diet, yet no particular programs to make veggies available to those who will eventually get diabetes.

    Rates of diabetes for some sub groups is over 25%… That is huge.
    (That would be African American women over age 55, and that includes all the women in that category, not just those who are overweight)
    Imagine if 25% of a group had a particular cancer. Everyone would be screaming, yet diabetes can be almost as deadly in causing a early demise.

  99. livegreen

    I’m not impressed by RK’s support last night of Nic Nak liquors, esp. given the City Attorney’s Office issued an opinion that the major variance for alcoholic sales would not stand up in court based on an Historical Relevance argument.

    Here’s a detailed recap from somebody who attended:

    Colleagues and friends: we performed well last night and won the
    debate, and almost won the prize. 78 speakers signed up to address
    the Nic Nak Appeal issue, the great majority of them supporters of
    the Appeal. I estimate that we had 50-60 supporters in the City
    Council Chambers last night. Especially gratifying was the attendance
    and support from community activists from other beats in the city,
    notably: Colleen Brown from Desley Brooks District, Jose Dorado,
    ditto, from Maxwell Park, Ronile Lahti and Valerie Winemiller from
    Beat 9 (Piedmont Ave), and Len Raphael from 12X (Temescal) who
    appeared with his foot in a cast and then gamely referred to the city
    shooting itself in the foot if it did not uphold the Appeal. One
    other who attended but had to leave before speaking because of an
    illness that sent her home from work earlier in the day, 59 year
    resident of 53rd St, Jimme James Smith, a community activist in Beat
    11. It was a persuasive, diverse group of citizens from the beat and
    around the city that made a strong case for the Appeal being upheld.

    Our neighbors showed up in impressive numbers, many of them at
    Council for the first time, and supported the effort courageously and
    courteously. We were professional, focused, and on message throughout
    the hearing, In the end, 4 of the Council Members and the City
    Attorney’s Office agreed with us.

    It was not upheld last night, but probably will be in the weeks
    ahead. On a motion by Desley Brooks to deny the Appeal, there was a
    vote in favor by Brooks, Kaplan, and Reid, with Kaplan and Reid
    voting affirmative without explaining their reasons. The 4 who voted
    No on the Brooks motion, Brunner, Nadel, Quan, and Kernighan, voted
    yes on Kernighan’s motion to uphold the Appeal. This came after Jane
    Brunner introduced information from the City Attorney’s Office that
    if the Appeal were to go to court, the City would probably lose the
    case because of the Planning Commission’s reliance on the Historical
    Relevance argument (as a “physical circumstance”) as its
    justification for a Major Variance for alcohol sales. It was
    appropriate that Mark Wald, of the City Attorney’s Office delivered
    this opinion, because he is assigned to the Planning Commission to
    provide legal advice and sat through the hearings that approved this
    egregious reasoning without murmuring a word of caution. Last night,
    he had to eat crow, as it were, by delivering this opinion to the
    Council, an opinion about something that occurred on his watch.

    Because there were not 5 votes–the majority for the 8 Council seats–
    the Appeal was not upheld and was not denied either. Ignacio De La
    Fuente was not there to provide the 5th vote which we believe he
    would have. Jane Brunner said that the Rules Committee would decide
    how the matter could be brought back to the full Council for a
    resolution, and that is where the matter rested at the end of the night.

    We will follow up with her office and determine what we need to do to
    see this issue through to resolution. If we need to appear again in
    numbers, we will put out the word, but I do not think that that will
    be necessary. The law and the majority of the Council support our
    position. Our struggle is 90% complete. More to follow when it is

    Like others, disappointed that we did not receive our victory last
    night, I feel that Oakland’s system worked last night. The law was
    not ignored by the 4 members voting to uphold, and the City
    Attorney’s Office provided sound legal advice on the matter. One
    Member’s absence prevented the resolution we sought.

    In my opinion, Rebecca Kaplan’s performance last night raises some
    doubts about her leadership qualities and legal acumen. She is an
    attorney who ignored the law and the City Attorney’s legal opinion.
    Brooks, also an attorney, came out and stated that the city bends the
    rules all of the time and should in this case because of the
    historical relevance of the Nic Nak. Kaplan simply voted yes to deny the
    Appeal. The fact that Geoffrey Pete, a power broker for the black
    political machine in Oakland, has stated that he will support Kaplan
    for Mayor if she runs (and Dellums does not), and also backed the Nic
    Nak, is probably her motivation. Raw political ambition, in my
    opinion. At any rate, she demonstrated that she is not a friend of
    Oakland’s struggling neighborhoods and the people working to make
    them better. A powerful message, in my opinion.

  100. Ralph

    LG, I would say that I was sorely disappointed in Ms. Kaplan. She can at times be so right such as in the case of Immoral Dress, but we also need to be honest. Immoral Dress and Historical Relevance are not in the same ballpark. They aren’t even in the same league.

    Her vote was political pandering. It was disgusting and shows a complete lack of leadership in a city desperate for it. She may want to spend a little less time focusing on race and more time focusing on issues.

  101. Come On Now

    Livegreen you and your friend We Fight Blight on that blog are misrepresenting the positions of council members who disagree with you. You can create all the paranoid reasons for Kaplan to vote the way she did but it’s pure fantasy. Of course, nothing will dissuade you from your little fantasies.

    The City Attorney is not God. The City Attorney offers an opinion. Two of the Four lawyer council members disagreed with that opinion.

    Council member Brooks was very easy to follow on her opinion. Your council member does not even understand the rules or basically, what is going on in the meeting she is running. This was her issue in her district. It didn’t pass. Blame her.

    Come On Now

  102. matt

    Totally unrelated, but it says Open Thread…

    Bar Dogwood is coming to 1644 Telegraph at 17th. Sounds snooty, but it will be awesome to see that space filled with life again. What really surprised me is 1644 Telegraph, is classified “Potential Designated Historic Property, minor importance, potentially secondary importance, Survey Rating Dc3″. It’s no palace, but Dc3?

  103. Livegreen

    CON, I don’t know why you’re name calling, but maybe u can explain the reasons for your position, or the reasons why you disagree with the one I cut & pasted from a 3rd party. Oh, & BTW, I don’t know why u presume to know who I am or who my CCM is.

  104. Born in Oakland

    Is this a joke?

    News from Mayor Ron Dellums

    For Immediate Release CONTACT: Karen Boyd

    May 5, 2010 (510) 238-6365

    Email: kboyd@oaklandnet.com

    City of Oakland Receives Prestigious Budget Award

    Government Finance Officers Association of the United States and Canada Commends Oakland for “meeting the highest principles of governmental budgeting”

    Oakland, CA – The City of Oakland has received the Distinguished Budget Presentation Award from the Government Finance Officers Association of the United States and Canada (GFOA). The GFOA’s Distinguished Budget Presentation Awards Program is the only national awards program in governmental budgeting.

    The award represents a significant achievement for the City. GFOA’s letter to the City commends the City Council and staff for “meeting the highest principles of governmental budgeting.”

    In order to receive the budget award, the City had to satisfy nationally recognized guidelines for effective budget presentation. These guidelines are designed to assess how well an entity’s budget serves as a policy document; a financial plan; an operations guide; and a communications device. Budget documents must be rated “proficient” in all four categories, and the fourteen mandatory criteria within those categories, to receive the award.

    The Award has been made possible due to efforts of multiple City staff, led by the Budget Office and the City Administrator’s Office.

  105. North Oaklander

    What a disappointment Rebecca Kaplan is. Not an ounce of integrity. Nothing but naked, soulless ambition and a vote for sale to anyone willing to feed it.

  106. Ralph

    BiO, I am going out on a limb and say someone is going to have egg on their face when they realize this was meant for Oakland, Michigan.

  107. Livegreen

    You’ve got to b kidding me. Note the award is for “Bidget Presentation” not Budget. & note the effort consumed “efforts of multiple staff”. Who were busy working on awards rather than, apparently, working on other things like the budget itself or getting he CC answers on budget related items like free employee parking…

  108. Ralph

    Correction, BiO, these awards are given out like candy on Halloween. Oakland, MI and Oakland, CA have been multiple award recipients.

    I believe GFOA applies the everyone is a winner criteria.

    LG, I, too, noted that “presentation” part. Screw substance.

  109. Ralph

    N.O., something tells me, come next week, we can start calling RK Lucy ’cause she has a lot of ‘splainin’ to do.

  110. len raphael

    The Nic Nak is located in Brunner’s district (mine), North Oakland. The reposting by LG was originally posted and signed by Don Link, a long time North Oakland resident active thru NCPC to reduce crime in all of Oakland.

    More important issues here than to speculate on RK’s decision to keep silent on the North Oakland Gang Injunction (on which i think all the CC’s have studiously avoided taking a public stance), or even on the Nic Nak where she was in the minority of the members voting.

    Last evening I talked to several residents of different generations, white and black, about the history of the store. Also talked to relatives and friends of the owner.

    Brook’s defense of the Nic Nak right to reopen their liquor convenience store was inspired but disingenuous except for the part that the owner and his family are decent people. They would be my first choice to responsibly running a liquor store near me if their location met the legal requirements that we all have to satisfy to get major exceptions to zoning rules.

    Brooks to her credit didn’t rely on the “historical relevance” doctrine for this being the first black owned liquor store to sell alcohol to blacks in North Oakland, which is both bad precedent and _____ (fill in the blank).

    Part of the reality that Brooks sidestepped, is that it would be very difficult for anyone to make a reasonable profit at that location without selling booze. And I would say impossible for a future buyer to pay the rent or mtge payments/property taxes, when the 90 year old owner or his family eventually decided to get out of the business as no business lasts forever.

    Selling candy, milk, ice cream, baby formula probably wouldn’t cover the overhead when residents can easily go to Safeway, Pic and Pac, Costco, Trader Joe’s, or the Farmer’s Markets. To say it would just be a few square feet out of 1,200 is making a statement that the applicant himself did not make.

    I’m not a land use attorney, but none of parties, staff, or council members disagreed that an exception to the zoning rules granted to the current owner would have to be granted to future owners. So even if it were possible to have some kind of square footage, or percentage of total sales restriction on liquor sales (isn’t there something like that on Walmart re grocery sales?), we would have to live with it when the property inevitably changes ownership.

    Unless you believe in muni miracles, OPD staffing levels will get much worse for several years before they improve.

    We have to be pre-emptive in preventing new crime hotspots that divert diminishing OPD resources from timely responding to emergencies and investigations.

    Of all the liquor store owners in Oakland, it is a shame that this particular owner got caught by the law, but that’s not enough reason to make a very special exception for him.

    -len raphael

  111. len raphael

    Muni accounting mutual admiration society.

    Goes to show that Oakland’s policy of not accounting for unfunded retirement costs is the generally accepted bad accounting practice of most other cities, counties, (and state) governments.

    except for NYC and hick Hercules.


  112. livegreen

    It is not an uncommon complaint to hear from inner city & african american residents about how there are too many liquor stores in their communities. & I totally get that. So it is interesting that the 2 AfAm CCM support the owner of Nic Nak because he is AfAm (I guess that’s better than being Yemini?). Now he might be a fine citizen, but he is still opening a Liquor Store in a very diverse area which includes both many AfAm citizens and two other liquor stores.

    Now there are many outstanding AfAm business owners, contractors, etc. But pressuring the CC (& the CC approving), or the CC supporting the business based on the color of the business owners skin seems potentially prejudice (it certainly would b if the owner were white) & dangerous if there are other criteria that make it so but are not considered (like multiple liquor stores in one area).

    Which got me thinking about another recent episode where businesses were approved because of their owner’s race. Here is a link showing how a prominent Oakland AfAm family used accusations of racism to push our elected CCM to get approvals and loans:


    The CC & CCM should allow businesses for the right reasons, not based on the color of the owner’s or their lobbyist’s skin.

  113. len raphael

    I’m not so sure it was the NN owner or family who first played the race card. I havent’ read the transcript of the planning commission hearing. My impression was talking to NN friends and family, and them speaking at the CC the other night, is that
    they mostly saw this as a hardship exception for an old guy who was didn’t understand the fine points of land use law, and who either never received or was too out of it to understand a plain postmarked notification letter he got a few years ago.

    I’m speculating that one of the owner’s advisor/family friends etc had enough political juice to to get traction behind the “historical relevance”. That’s too tricky for any of us normal people to concoct. other than reading transcripts of the Planning Commission proceedings (let me know if you find anything useful), how would we ever find out who pulled in which favor?

    Yes there are some racial undercurrents around gentrification mostly that surfaced at the CC. The anti NN people have support from quite a few AM’s, most of the vocal anti NN people are not AM.

    The city overruling staff because of “historical relevancy” was pouring gasolene on the situation.

    -len raphael

  114. Ralph

    D.C. TY!

    Is it too much to ask for people to spell out words?

    LG, It has always disturbed me that Oakland has never been able to capitalize on Berkeley. We should be a hotbed for incubation. Yet, we remain the redheaded stepchild. I lay blame with the city trying to offer too much in the way of social services without developing new business.

    I don’t think it is the crime that prevents businesses relocating from SF to Oakland. I think you just need to offer them a similar space at lower rate with fewer taxes and businesses will come. But keep in mind moving is awfully expensive and disruptive.

  115. Dave C.

    Ralph: There’s a nice scene in Anna Karenina where Kitty and Levin acknowledge their love for each other by carrying on an extended conversation with a piece of chalk, writing nothing but the first letter of each word. Miraculously, they manage to understand each other—Tolstoy’s way of letting us know that the couple are in perfect harmony. Unfortunately, such perfect understanding is more difficult.here, where we aren’t all on the same wavelength, and can’t gaze hopefully into each other’s eyes seeking guidance.

    Based on the context, I am guessing that “AM” is supposed to stand for “African American,” but that makes about as much sense to me as “FDL” for “Free and Reduced-price Lunch,” so I thought I might as well ask. I know that NN is Nik Nak in this thread, but it’s Nancy Nadel in most other contexts here, so they’re keeping us on our toes. Maybe these little puzzles are good for our brains, and we should be thanking everyone for the mental stimulation!

  116. David

    LG, it’s not just crime, I’m tellin’ y’all, it’s the schools.

    Start-ups that don’t require a lot of space incubate in Berkeley because that’s where the profs are. When they grow up a little, they move to Alameda so that the management can live there and send their kids to Alameda schools. When the start-up needs even more space, it moves to San Leandro, Hayward (with management still living in Alameda), Fremont or out to Pleasonton (again, schools).

  117. livegreen

    David, Well said. I do not, however, the VC in this article is in the Rotunda Building here in Oakland.

    Maybe Phil Tagami can encourage them to have their companies locate here & point out the many good public & private schools we do have. BTW, there are other VC’s in the Rotunda building. & there are good & growing companies located here.

    Besides the large established companies, there are many newer smaller fast-growing companies that have chosen to locate here.

  118. Born in Oakland

    I am having issues with the census. I carefully filled out the census form (printed legibly, gave correct information, etc) and mailed it in. About a month ago we received a phonecall that lasted 45 minutes (!) questioning my information. We just had a visit from two people (7:30 in the evening) saying they had not received my census information. This is about the third census we have filled out from this address in 30 years using the same name/address/info. What is the deal? I read that Oakland has a low return rate and they are spending all their money/resources contacting and re-contacting me?

  119. Brad

    Wow. Some of these schools improved so much that I am extremely suspicious. Look at Learning Without Limits, an elementary school near my neighborhood. In 2008, it had an API of 622. In 2009, it had an API of 718. A jump of nearly 100 points, that’s really hard to believe.

  120. Dax

    Learning Without Limits is still only ranked a “2″ overall and only a “2″ with other similar schools. That is a “2″ out of 10 possible.

    In other words, nearly at the bottom rank. So I would think they could make a 96 point rise from such a low point. Perhaps a couple new teachers were brought in.

  121. David

    I prefer to ignore API. Totally gamed measurement, especially in ‘border’ schools, where, say, by the luck of the class distribution that year or whatever, the school doesn’t have a “significant” portion of some class of student etc etc. And I don’t care about “improvement,” I want to know if the kids can actually read and do something resembling arithmetic. Even learning a little history and science might be useful.

    For that, use the national scores. And find the schools are still abysmal, although those scores are released later.

  122. livegreen

    The decrease in scores is most noticeable at opt out points (drop off, jump out, however one phrases it). So there are different ages families start to pull their kids to move to a better school area, go private, etc.

    From what I’ve gathered it starts at 3rd Grad, then 5th, then 8th. This also creates more peer pressure for other families of higher achieving kids to jump too.

    Edna Brewer has been able to make progress by a) retaining kids all the way through 8th; b) attracting kids from other neighborhoods who otherwise would have gone to other schools or dropped out earlier; c) been able to also help their lower income kids improve.

    So it takes a number of factors to retain kids, improve schools, & improve learning for lower income kids who might or might not receive support at home.

  123. livegreen

    Lake Merritt Bakery a good investment for more Redevelopment Funds?:

    I especially find this part interesting:

    “City Auditor Courtney Ruby addressed the committee, raising issues that were highlighted in an accounting report on Merritt, but were not included in the packet of information Dellums’ office provided the committee members. The Oakland-based Iryna Accountancy Corp. found a number of accounting problems at Merritt in a December 2009 report, including bank statements that were not reconciled, mixed use of personal and corporate funds, inadequate segregation of cash handling duties and untimely documentation of payroll data.

    The committee advanced the $150,000 loan proposal on the condition that the accounting problems would be addressed. Griffis promised they would be, but it remains to be seen whether that will be enough to convince the City Council to provide the loan.”

    Promises, promises…I wonder if more money will help segregate “mixed use of personal and corporate funds”. If the IRS sees this it’s not going to make the business more viable.

  124. Patrick

    I found this article by Mort Zuckerman re: Public Employee Unions to be most interesting. I especially like the idea that union contracts be negotiated by an independent entity rather than the elected officials over whom they hold so much influence.

    How many signatures would be required to get a Proposition on the ballot to amend our City Charter to require this? Our City Council is obviously incapable of working in the best interest of the Oakland taxpayer.


  125. Ralph

    I honestly wonder about Councilmembers. They kill Larry Reid’s curfew proposal in committee; yet, they manage to send to the full council a measure to give $150K to a business that is still going to fail. I guess the only real question is will RK continue to pander for votes.

  126. Livegreen

    Why didn’t they spend some of those redevelopment funds on the Parkway Theatre, around the corner, when they had a stable movie company ready to take it over? Doesn’t the City consider finacial viability when funding a project? Or is it more insider politics?

  127. len raphael

    Merritt Bakery $150k expenditure will share the agenda on May 18th with the revote of the Nic Nak north oakland liquor store zoning appeal. That’s fortunate for the alleged ferrari driving owner of the Merritt. cc members can vote to deny the liquor store but show their support for historically relevant fried chicken.

    Is the RDA really awash in money even after the state hits them up? Seems to have turned into the IMF for Oakland.

    full disclosure: I prefer the Merrit’s chicken (made to order) to B Betty’s even though I have to drive to the Merritt. A few years ago me and the sunday church ladies had a good laugh when i asked the managerl if they used trans fatty free oil. manager was very pleasant but clueless.

  128. livegreen

    Len, He owns a Ferrari? I wonder if that’s a “company car”. If so how to prevent RD funds from going to it’s upkeep?

  129. Sussu

    Hi A Better Oakland readers, I’m stopping by to post a Call for Artists for our microfunding event. If this is not an appropriate way to use this thread, I apologize and hope that V deletes this.

    Artist, Writers, Musicians, Performers: Need a way to bankroll your great idea?

    Come to Sugar Mama!
    We provide wholesome, hearty, home-baked, all-natural microfinancing for artists, and we put the fun back in funding.

    What it is
    Sugar Mama is a fun-hearted, unpretentious microfinancing event for visual and performing artists.

    How it works
    We host a cool party at the Myrtle Street Review Headquarters in West Oakland. We sell the tickets. You − and 5 other finalists − give a 10-minute proposal to show the audience your project. The party guests eat soup, drink beer, and vote on which project to fund. The winner takes the proceeds to fund a project. (Tickets sell for $25-35, and we expect to sell 40-50 tickets.)

    What you get (if you’re a finalist)
    If you win the vote, you’ll receive the evening’s proceeds to fund your project.

    If you don’t win, you’ll still get to meet 40-50 really cool people who want to support artists, may be artists themselves, and are interested in getting to know you and your work.

    How to enter
    Send a brief proposal to sugarmamaparty@gmail.com. Please cover all these bases:

    1. Your name
    2. Your contact info
    3. Tell us what you’ll do with your Sugar Mama grant (Include a general description of the project you’d like to fund and a list of items/supplies/services you’ll spend the money on and their estimated costs.)
    4. Give us a little background information about what you’ve been working on that led you to this project and how your idea unfolded.
    Include images, audio, video or a url that will give us a good sense of your general style and/or a project you’ve completed in the recent past.
    5. Paste or attach your artist’s resume/bio. (Your resume will not weigh heavily in the selection process. We’ll use it mainly to cull a few highlights so we can better introduce you to our guests.)

    Entry deadline: June 3
    Act now! The first 10 submissions will enjoy slightly higher priority.

    What we’ll ask for later
    We’ll ask the grand-prize winner to keep us posted with news and photos/video/web site of your project in progress and upon completion.

    What’s the deal?
    We’re not a public agency. We’re not a non-profit organization. We’re two well-connected individuals, Sussu Laaksonen and Kris Vagner, combining our resources. We heard about Sloup on NPR and promptly decided to copy the excellent concept.

    Sugar Mama’s mission is to make being an arts patron fun, easy and accessible to everyone and to fund cool projects quickly, easily, directly and democratically.

    Sussu Laaksonen is a script writer with hundreds of hours of Finnish television programming and two screenplays to her credit. Currently she’s working on a Finnish feature film called “Like There’s No Tomorrow” (Kuin viimeistä päivää) for Helsinki-Filmi, a TV series concept, and a feature project that’s still a secret. Sussu’s IMDB credits are listed under Susanna Laaksonen, her legal name. You can reach her at sussubot at gmail dot com.

    Kris Vagner is the former Co-owner and Programs Director of Fireplace Gallery in Reno. She specializes in connecting artists with new audiences and illuminating the inner-workings of artists, exhibits and arts institutions for a general readership. She covers San Francisco art and culture for the SF Examiner and has written for Oats Park Art Center, Johansson Projects Gallery, East Bay Express, The Oakbook, Reno News & Review, Neon, Ceramics Monthly and other publications. For links to recent articles, please visit http://www.krisvagner.blogspot.com. You can reach her at kris at vagner dot net.

    Why do we do it?

    Brooklyn has FEAST. Portland has Stock. St. Louis has Sloup. We heard about Sloup on NPR’s Marketplace, drank some wine on Sussu’s roof and cooked up our own version of the party-as-arts-funding plan. Now Oakland has Sugar Mama.

    We’ve been in the position of needing just a little funding to do something we believe in. We’ve also been patrons of the arts when we can afford it. We believe in supporting other artists and creating enthusiastic community. Sugar Mama is a way of bringing together the things we love to do, and some of the cool people we like to do them with.

    We’d love to hear from you. Contact us at sugarmamaparty@gmail.com

  130. len raphael

    LG, the ferrari allegation was in an oak trib web site post. who knows if it’s true or false, but that’s not the point. the trib article did mention that the cpa’s report on the bakery found commingling of business and personal expenses.

    commingling, nice cars, quite normal for prosperous small businesses and we shouldn’t care but the city has turned us into the Merrit’s silent partner so now we have to care. as if we didn’t have enough financial mismanagement within city govt, now they spread it around town.

    is there a list of all such loans outstanding made by the city or RDA?

  131. Dax


    Thanks for posting the link to the article regarding public employees and their salary/benefit/pension costs and what it is doing to local and state governments.


    While there has been some debate of those issues on this forum, the full impact of this issue is only now beginning to rear its head.
    The past 12 to 18 months have seen a huge portion of the federal stimulus money paper over the real problem.
    The stimulus money did not get spread to the general public. Instead it went largely to state and local governments or their pet projects.
    Very little went towards job creating in the private sector where most of us live.

    Now that money is running out and the local governments along with the state, is facing the reality.
    Its going to be much worse than expected and the “mindset” has not yet caught up with the reality.

    We have the “Mikes” of the world still making believe like its 2005 and that they “deserve” all of their compensation because city x, y, and z are still paying such and such. Of course, the public employees in city x, y, and z, are turning around and pointing at Oakland and San Francisco…
    This merry-go-round of comparisons is going to be crushed by the real world reality of NO MONEY to pay for such claims of “we deserve it”…. any more than the home owner who still thinks their home is worth what it got a few years ago.

    The crushing reality is only this year beginning to be brought to the surface.

    A true fair sense of reality would place Oakland city and other local employees, including police and fire, at compensation packages 20% less than the now receive. Compensation to mean, total cost to keep that employee on the job.
    Pensions, health care, dental, holidays, vacations, salary, overtime, special shift differentials, and all the other hidden work rules that run up costs.

    At a very minimum, pensions for police and fire should go back to 2.5% from 3.0% for each year worked. Regular Oakland employees should go back to their old rate of 2.0% instead of the current 2.7%.
    Those two “returns” to sanity would eventually cut pension cost by over 20%..
    Add in pay freezes, work rule changes, and benefit cost sharing (medical etc) and that group could also be cut 20%…

    Even after doing that 20% cut in total compensation packages, your typical public employee would still be getting higher total compensation than a similar person in the private sector. Study after study has documented this in recent years.

    This shift in mind set has not yet arrived in the consciousness of either the public employees, the city leaders, or the general public, but it is coming.

    We, the voters, will NOT vote for more taxes or parcel taxes in November.
    City worker solidarity will be tested when they are asked to take 10 or 20 percent pay cuts, OR face having 10 or 20% of their fellow workers eliminated.

    The city and state deficits are real, and there is no more papering them over.
    This year and next will be crunch years.

    The new normal is coming, and it does not include the unrealistic pay levels public employees have gotten use to.

    Go look at the city salary data base. Then add to that about 50% to cover the costs of pensions, benefits, and the like.
    Take a look at that figure. Try to find the lowest 5% of city workers.
    You see a (full time) figure of about $38,000 to $40,000…….plus the 50%

    Ending up with those on the very low end getting (full time) compensation packages of around $57,000 to $60,000 for the most basic skills.
    Divide that by less than 1,950 hours per year, and you end up with the most basic employee costing $30+ per hour. And that includes paying them for numerous holidays and vacation well beyond what they receive in the private sector.
    Similar work in the private sector recieves 20% to 40% less per hour (total compensation)..
    Not nice, we’d like everyone to get more, but that is the reality.
    And as you go up the public scale to the more typical employees, the excess over the private sector goes up even more.

    I see in Oakland, a base pay for a “traffic line painter” is $71,500 plus over a 50% benefit package, giving a total compensation of $107,000 per year for a “traffic line painter”. That is $55 a hour.
    Nice, sure, but can a city afford such largess? The reality is no, they cannot.
    Not in these times, nor in the near future.

    I see two custodians. Base pay, $42,000 plus another $21,000 or more in benefits. $63,000 compensation package. Simply put, can the city afford to pay that level when they are tens of millions in the hole, and when the private sector pay is 25% to 40% below that?

    Storekeeper II….whatever that is…. $59,000 a year plus another $30,000 in benefits and pension. Essentially $90,000 a year to keep a person in that kind of clerking duty. I can almost assure you the private sector pay for that is, at best, only 2/3s of that rate.

    It goes on and on and we, the city and the public, are now facing reality for the first time in decades.
    There is no more money to pay for such excess relative to the real world.
    The voters will not pay to keep such excess in place when they are almost all getting by on 10% to 40% less than in the past.

    Time to wake up and NOT smell the coffee, because we can’t afford coffee any more.

  132. Ralph

    Agree. Just one observation, you do not mention the annual 4% COLA which is well in excess of the index. I’ve worked for employees who try to hold the line at 2%. Some may get a little more. Some get a little less but if you conduct a y/y comparison the overall line is a 2% increase. But our elected officials are cool with 4% and if you are an A player what incentive do you have to do superior work if that C player beside you is also going to pick up 4%. Reduce the salaries and get rid of this annual unsustainable escalation.

  133. Dax

    Yes, that 4% is yet another of so many little extras thrown in to the boosting of salaries and compensation.
    At best, the public sees the salary, but they seldom see all the other perks and items.
    90% of the public is unaware that most Oakland public employees only work a 37.5 hour week. That is full pay for a work week that is 6.25% shorter, even before you count in the 14 or so holidays and liberal sick leave.
    Then add in OT, shift work, and God knows what else.

    I seriously doubt the typical member of the public knows the base pay for a street line painter is $71,500 plus a benefit package of over $36,000.

    Many Oakland public employees get more in “benefit” compensation than regular citizens get in their full pay.
    Imagine a “street line painter” getting $3,000 per month in benefits before even counting his regular pay. That is $20 per hour just in benefits, which are non-taxable for the most part.

    If anyone questions that hourly rate for benefits, then learn what the overall “benefit” package is for the average city employee.
    It runs over 50% of base pay. I’m not sure of the exact percentage, but most Bay Area agencies and cities run from 50% to 67% of base pay.
    For example, the Golden Gate Bridge District runs a full 67% of base pay as benefits.
    Heck, most working for that agency make $25 per hour in untaxed benefits before you even count their actual salary.

    This whole system is going to be tested in the next couple years.
    What drive is going to bear the burden of a another dollar increase to keep that kind of gravy train in place.

    I was downtown yesterday. I got off on Lakeshore, went straight, passed the old Quickway and grabbed a open spot right in front of the Bank of America.
    I looked around and only saw a parking sign way down the street passed the next red zone in front of the post office.
    I looked right and left and was about to enter the bank. Felt a funny feeling so I looked around, and walked back up the street, only to see a nearly non visible sign indicating that I was in a non-metered pay for parking zone.
    Nothing near my car indicated such unless I walked back up the street and made a effort to see the sign.
    So I circled the block and parked in the lot to use the ATM.
    While there, another unsuspecting driver pulls in and enters the bank.
    Two minutes later she is given a $55 parking fine.
    As she come out I ask if she saw the sign I had initially missed.
    She shakes her head.
    BOOM, another $55 for the city.
    They are relentless. They will do anything to keep such compensation largess in place even if they crush the common folks trying to live through these difficult times.
    Noting the car this poor woman was driving, that $55 was going to be harsh.
    Try telling the judge the signage was poor.
    I’m just thanking my lucky stars I caught the sign at the last moment.

    20% cuts across the board for the next few years is the only thing that will bring the budget into balance. That option or massive layoffs.

    Lets see how everyone feels about their fellow workers when that is offered.

    Mean while, Oakland employs policies that crush the job environment for its lower skilled, lesser educated workers.

  134. Ralph

    Can’t really judged much by a beater. I drove a hooptie for years. One good hit and I am pretty sure it would have gone up in smoke. But I am CAB and really could find no good reason to purchase a new car.

    I find that the city does a number of things wrong, but can you really fault the city when a driver fails to notice a parking sign. Sometimes, logic should tell a person that the space isn’t free.

  135. Patrick M. Mitchell

    And again I ask: How do we go about getting a propostion on the ballot for a City Charter amendment? I’m dead serious about this and will work tirelessly to get the necessary signatures. The only real option is selling my house and moving. I refuse to keep paying sky-high taxes so that city employees can be outlandishly overcompensated. And I don’t care how many city/public safety employees have to be laid off; NO MORE TAXES!

  136. len raphael

    Dax, cruel humor that JQ sent out an email reminder about Oakland’s Greek Festival while mentioning the proposed CA cutbacks.

    But seriously, the surprising thing to me is how long we’ve managed to balance the books while paying that rich compensation, let alone not fully funding the retirement costs. Just think of how much infrastructure we could have rebuilt or A’s stadiums etc. We really were riding high.

    Do we have two more fiscal years or is less than one before the oakland fiscal comet hits, just after the mayoral election.

    All along we figured that most of oakland’s pension costs oru known and fixed because Calpers has the big pool of retirees and investments.

    Is calpers still talking about “smoothing” the premiums they charge the govt employers so that they recover their investment hard losses from taxpayers over many years?

  137. Dax

    Regardless of what Calpers does, Oakland is still going to be contributing more and more.

    Think about the following. All the regular employees who retired from that date in 2004, were given pensions based on 2.7 percent for each year worked, when all during their career of 10, 20, or 35 years, Oakland only put in enough money for 2.0 percent pensions.
    Now, when they made the change and did the unthinkable of making it retroactive for all prior years, where do you think the money was suppose to come from?
    Thin air.. All those folks who have retired, and a couple thousand still working, are credited with 5 to 40 years at 2.7% when the system was based on 2.0.

    Essentially Oakland gave out Golden Parachutes ranging from $50,000 to $500,000 in size and they are on the hook for that giveaway.
    The public was never told and it would seem, will never be told about “parting gifts” that were given to public employees.

    Everyone in on the decision process was also in on the bonus system, so it was all kept hush hush of course, anything with math is well beyond the scope of the Tribune, given the staff cuts.

    So bottom line, is you can’t give a 30 year retiring employee a unexpected, unfinanced, and undeserved $400.000 bonus and not expect to pay for it down the road.
    Smoothing or no smoothing, the bill is coming due.

    BTW, there are lots of very responsible people who think Calpers overall expected rate of return will not happen into the future.
    That will further complicate Oakland’s shortfall.

    De La Fuente is nearly frantic as he now sees the results of their blunder back in 2004.
    He has proposed going back to the orginal 2.0% but as you know, that would only be for new hires. The horrible damage is done and only truly savage cutting of the general fund can create enough space for future pension shortfalls.

    Jean Quan will handle this issue just like she handled the Oakland Public schools when it went off the cliff. She’ll switch the subject and go dedicate a creek or something.

  138. len raphael

    Dax, as bad as it will be, as phantasmagorical as the actuarial assumptions were, i would still think Calpers made Oakland increase it’s contributions soon after our leaders pulled the retro rocket booster lever.

    not much consolation considering the massive underfunding.

    Greek Festival supposed to have very good food.


  139. len raphael

    dax, if you start speaking at cc meetings, you’ll remind me of the cpa i knew years ago who fought really hard to persuade the city council and residents that the Raiders deal was really stupid.

    at the time i marveled at how he could get so worked up about oakland. i assume he moved or burnt out but maybe he’s still active.

    seems like the only people who last long term trying to change oakland, are those who accept incremental changes in limited areas such as preservation, libraries, arts.

    too soon to predict if this round will be different though as marx might have said, the internal contradictions are showing serious strains.

  140. Patrick M. Mitchell

    I am not familiar enough with the retroactive pension payouts so I must ask a stupid question: as these people are no longer employees, why can’t we just change it back to 2.0%? Is it a union issue? Certainly the union realizes that their pension is based on the City of Oakland’s ability to pay it – which it can’t. Why wouldn’t they agree to alter the pension of people who are no longer working and who were given an unexpected gift?

    The Greek Festival is AWESOME! It is another reason to love Oakland even though any truly rational person would hate it.

  141. len raphael

    PM, many of the employees who got the retro pension raise are still employees, because it only occurred, what 2003?

    but your point is probably that anything can be renegotiated if you’re still an employee? yes in the sense that the city can lay you off but still has to pay your promised pension when due.

    Legally impossible for any employer to unilaterally reduce existing retiree and employee vested pension benefits short of bankruptcy. Since Calpers is not bankrupt, even if it’s liabilities probably exceed its assets, because it has the power to raise premiums charged to member cities and counties, i’d think it’s on the hook and in turn we’re on the hook for all past promises re calpers pensions.

    hmm, the medical retirement obligations might be a different legal animal.

    my impression is that it would be very tough even in bankruptcy to break the pension obligations. might have more leverage over the non calpers pension, and likely over the retirement medical benefits.

    the muni bankruptcy rules haven’t been pushed to their limits yet by the few cities/counties that have used them. so we don’t know.

  142. Ralph

    Len, I could kill you re: cruel humor.

    Patrick, would you give back a generous gift? As much as I hate the union, I have a hard time blaming them for the gift city council gave them. If you are negotiating with a pinhead, it would almost seem foolish not to take advantage of their stupidity. We should take it from council pay, retirement, and other personal assets.

    All that being said, we still need reform.

    Len, you are correct on the breaking the pension obligation via bankruptcy. It is near impossible which is why SD has not pursued it.

  143. 94610BizMan

    Len, Dax and Ralph: It’s just not Oakland and the overall financial context makes solving Oakland’s financial problems with “normal reform” measures impossible in my opinion.

    Depending on whose projections you believe, the aggregated pension plans of all the states cover their pension obligations at no more than between 60% and 85%.

    A few weeks ago, a public company run pretty much by one 70+ year old guy, Warren Buffet, floated a medium term bond issue at a rate BETTER than the US treasury so the bond market seems to think Buffet is a better credit risk than the USA.

    The price of credit default swaps for IRAQ debt is very close (within about 10% depending on the day) to the same price as credit default swaps for the State of California (quoted on Bloomberg).

    By the end of this year Social Security will be paying out more than it will take in which is 10 years earlier than forecast just two years ago

    The US Treasury’s monthly financial reports shows monthly deficits of about what used to be considered unsustainable annual deficits (dig up Clinton’s ‘terrible deficit’ speeches from ’93-94 when the projected deficit was about 5% of this year’s). That is, the monthly USA deficit is now about the same as the annual “unsustainable” deficit of just two years ago. US tax receipts (depending on how you slice them) are down 25% to 35% from there peak (depends on whose official numbers are used) and have yet to show a clear recovery.

    The GAO 2009 Financial Report of the United States (page xiii) shows 45 or so Trillion in future unfunded liabilities on top of the current deficit even before the new health care bill.

    Roughly the top 10% of American wage earners pay 70%+ of the income tax receipts and the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development evaluated the household taxes — income taxes plus social security levies — of developed countries in 2008. It found that the United States “has the most progressive tax system and collects the largest share of taxes from the richest 10 percent of the population.”

    Greece is just the first over the cliff with CA close behind. It is time to study a little Argentine history.

  144. len raphael

    PM, didn’t think it was that hard to get a charter amendment establishing an independent board to decide compensation on the ballot if you collected enough signatures. legal costs could be what, 40k unless you found lawyers familiar with muni law willing to do pro bono. that might not be that hard. since it is non partisan, might be something MOBN could get behind.

    Tricky, because compensation is the biggest piece of the general fund budget. if you can’t trust your council members and mayor to make good compensation decisions, and the electorate to kick them out of office when they don’t, not sure what good a (presumedly) elected compensation board a la the ousd school board would be.

    Or would it be an appointed board, like the Planning Commission?

    My tendency is to start with a charter amendment requiring more transparency for in kind contributions of labor from non residents to council member and mayoral campaigns, and some of the other transparency suggestions for all government communications made here.

    Maybe term limits for cc would help. But that could make cc candidates even more dependent on winning the love of unions and well heeled private industry groups who are now protected by free speech court ruling to spend unlimited in support of favored candidates.

    i’d prefer starting with a modified version of what NYS Lt governor Richard Ravitch proposed for NYS, would require the city’s accounting to include the costs of unfunded retirement obligations (and at least footnote the costs of unfunded infrastructure repair costs).

    That would make the future costs of cc decisions more transparent.

    Could outlaw the one shot accounting gimmicks and selling city assets to the RDA. Probably require a gradual build up of rainy day reserve buildup (which Brunner proposed and then gave up).


    -len raphael

  145. len raphael

    94610Biz, what’s the link to the OECD quote about us having most progressive tax system. it definitely doesn’t have the most steeply graduated income tax rates. so maybe its the lack of a national VAT that makes our system more progressive than europe?

    is there a market for credit default swaps for municipalities?

    btw, what interest rate is oakland paying on those short term refi’s goldman? put on us into a few years ago? any info on how those work?

  146. len raphael


    for sure, oakland’s deficit is a moving target in one direction as California’s problem grows, and the Feds cut spending to reduce Fed deficit. Not obvious to me what happens on a very local level if the feds and the state eventually raise taxes enough to send some back to the local governments. depressant effect from higher taxes offsetting some of the revenue avail for restoring some city cutbacks.

    That would be funny if our cc members were waiting for that to happen. Could be 3 years away.

  147. 94610BizMan

    Len, Oakland is going to be WAY down the list a few years from now when every profligate government unit is looking for “free” money from the feds and T-Bills can’t be sold without Banana Republic rates.

    Running the numbers on current and future deficits make it close to wishful thinking that there is any other alternative without drastic spending cuts in addition to drastic tax increases.

    I haven’t looked at the GS instruments and probably won’t have time this week. if there are quoted default swaps for municipalities they are far down the screens. There are likely completely private placement swaps

    “lack of a national VAT that makes our system more progressive than Europe?”=Yes plus with tax credits, the bottom 50% or so do not pay any Federal Income Taxes (FIT as opposed to FICA).

  148. Dax

    Legally, you can’t go back and remove the “Golden Parachutes” that were handed out.
    That move, by the city, to raise the 2.0 to 2.7 percent, was the largest fiscal decision ever made by a Oakland City Council. It was like dozens of bad Oakland Coliseum deals rolled into one.
    The final cost of the “retroactive” feature, may amount to from $500,000,000 to a billion dollars over time.
    Important to remember, NOT all cities included the retroactive feature.
    You could have made it so, only future years were placed at 2.7%….
    Or if you had half a brain, you could have made only future years counted, and also NOT raised it a full 35% to 2.7%…
    Nothing precluded the council from only boosting the pensions 10% or 15% or even a full 25% to 2.5%…. Any of those could have been chosen.
    Instead of 2.7 it could have been 2.2 or 2.4 or 2.5 without any retroactive years counted.
    Hundreds of millions of dollars were at stake from each of those, seemingly tiny, changes. HUNDREDS OF MILLIONS…. So city council members could get a bit more support. How expensive was that political move?
    Ghastly blunders.

    Thus, in that instance, without retroactivity, a employee with 28years at 2.0 might then add on 2 years at 2.7%, for a 30 year pension of 61.4% instead of 81%.
    Now if she retired at 60 and if her highest years salary was similar to a “traffic line painter” at $71,500 base, and her life expectancy was as PERS projects, 83.53, then the person pensions differences because of the “retroactive” feature would be as follows..

    The person without the retroactive feature would get $43,901 for 23.53 years.

    The person with the retroactive feature would get $57,915 for 23.53 years.

    The difference between the two individuals over the 23.53 years would be
    $14,014 x 23.53 years, or a total Golden Parachute of $329,749.

    Now, how many members of the general public were aware that the vote in 2004 gave a “traffic line painter” a $329,749 “parting gift” above and beyond what they had contractually agreed to in their working arrangement.
    Above and beyond what had ever been paid into the system in the first 28 of the 30 years. A G-I-F-T……..

    A “Golden Parachute” the Oakland City Council was NOT required to give.

    Some got their gift by just staying on for a few more months in a career of 30 or more years. For a period of months back then, as word got around, no one retired. You would have to have been insane to retire in the months leading up to this bonus give-away enactment.

    Go back and try to find coverage of this in the Tribune.
    HUSH, HUSH….since everyone involved, fiscal staff, employees, city council, mayor, were all in line to also get the BONUS themselves.

    Only 6 years later do I hear council member De La Fuente issuing dire warnings on KGO radio about the consequences of their earlier actions.
    Although he never mentions that he was part of the group allowing this to happen.
    His much to late solution to stem the bloodbath, is to make place all future employees back at the old rate. Not even retroactive to current employees future years. Thus, even if switched back to 2.0, any current employee could work the next 25 years at the 2.7% rate.
    Plus all those retiring will continue to get 2.7 credit for all the years they worked under the old 2.0 system.
    Thus the “Golden Parachutes” continue every week as more 15, 20 and 30 year employees walk away with bonus gifts of $200,000 to $500,000 more than originally agreed to. All their service years leading up to 2004 are part of their hundreds of thousands of dollars in “parting gifts”.

    Imagine what the gift was for former city manager Deborah Edgerly.

    Now, she only had 18 years with Oakland, unless she transferred years over from another agency.
    But assuming she only had those 18 years. 14 of the 18 years would have gotten swept in under the 2.0 to 2.7 retroactive feature put in place in 2004.

    Thus Ms Edgerly would have gotten a 14 year x .7% boost on here pension.
    Doesn’t sound like all that much, huh?

    Well, that boosted her Oakland pension (assuming she doesn’t also have other agency additions transferred in) from 36% to 45.8% per year on here highest years salary of $260,000.

    So at a very minimum Edgerly will get a extra $25,480 per year due to the bonus system enacted in 2004.
    That would be a minimum of $25,480 a year for her 27 “expected” longevity according to PERS statistics. (age 56 to 83 for a woman)

    So, the fabled Ms. Edgerly would get a “Golden Parachute” via this giveaway of $687,960.

    Perhaps much more if her pension is as great as noted in the SF Chronicle.
    You see, I only used 18 years of Oakland service with 14 of those under the old 2.0 plan and 4 under the 2.7 plan. Thus 14 of them got the boost.
    However under those minimal calculations her pension would only have been on retirement $126,000 where as it was reported in the Chronicle at $148,000.

    Thus, her $687,960 “Golden Parachute” is minimum figure. It may be over $800,000 in reality.
    But hey, who is counting, its only money… Funny money, taxpayers money.
    $55 parking ticket money. $55 tree cutting permit money (any tree over 8 inch diameter needs a permit)….and on and on.

    Actually Matier and Ross reported her pension at $148,000 so I am thinking she has some earlier years that were transferred into the Oakland pension or come from some other agency.
    Oh, by the way, according to Matier and Ross, she also got to take away $90,000 in accrued benefits she had built up.

    And some come here disputing Oakland has been running a gravy train.

    You could reduce total compensation (salary+benefits+pensions+vacations) 20% across the board in Oakland and ONLY come up with something close to fair compared to the private sector. It is that far out of whack.

    Just a question.
    What percent of the people in Oakland are aware of the items mentioned above.
    Or know anything about the “Golden Parachute” bonus system that was put in place?
    1 in 100 ? (excluding Oakland city employees)

    Is there even anyone at the whole Oakland Tribune that is aware of this hidden mess? Was anyone ever aware of it?
    Hundreds of millions……..given away…..and the public totally ignorant.

    $200,000 to $700,000 free gifts.
    Not a gold chain for retirement, instead a free house.

  149. len raphael

    Dax, you have start talking to a wider audience. Most bang for the buck: get on the November mayoral ballot. How much time till the deadline for that?

    Keep it simple, single issue. Sort of a William Jennings Bryan “cross of gold” platform.

    if nothing else, the League of W Voters will give you speaking time and voters wil read your platform.

    Since you’re not trying to win, should be able to get a half dozen volunteers to hand out your material and raise a couple of thou for printing flyers.

    -len raphael

  150. David

    2 simple comments:

    1) it’s against the law to go back on pensions? Companies do it all the time; Social Security’s been changed repeatedly for us common folk, just CHANGE THE LAW.

    2) Quick way to bring salaries down–get rid of public unions and just open the positions up. I bet there will be literally hundreds, if not thousands of tree trimmers, clerks etc willing to work for literally one-half what the current employees make.

    #2 is the simplest proof that public sector folks are overpaid. It’s backed up by the “quit rate” in the public sector is around 1/3 that of of the private sector.

  151. David

    Oh, PS. Mish is a financial advisor/writer for Sitka Pacific. He’s a doom & gloom guy, with a main thesis that deflation is coming and will destroy the world in a second Great(er) Depression. Curiously, he also thinks that deflation will mean that gold will do well, which is counter to most economic thought that I know of (in deflation, cash does the best). We have occasionally argued that point, with my thesis being that all this government spending, coupled with the US dollar’s status as a global reserve currency will cause inflation as the “least painful” way for the US out of this mess is just to run the printing presses, as Ben Bernanke has alluded to many times.

  152. len raphael

    In a non government employer defined benefit situation the employer is required by the Federal ERISA law to pay the employer contribution amount as calculated by an actuary into a separate brokerage account, with an independent administrator.

    the amounts calculated are very sensitive to the investment assumptions used by the actuary.

    ERISA sanctions against both actuaries and employers are scary intense for underfunding due to negligently optimistic investment assumptions or investment decisions. plus the employees can sue everyone.

    David, correct me on this: in the case of GM, for many years the contributions were fine but when the various stock market had some big run ups, the retirement accounts were actually over funded, and the Govt allowed GM and a bunch of other companies permission to stop funding their plans which were heavily invested in equities. Subsequently, the stock market tanked at the same time as GM became unable to make catch up contributions (the way Calpers is making Oakland) to the retirement accounts.

    Fed bankruptcy court discharged GM’s obligation to make the catchups in cash (or was that just for retiree medical) and the Federal PBGC (pension benefit guarranty corp) took over the role of GM. PBGC is like the FDIC in that they have maximum annual payouts per retiree. Something like 54k/year at age 65.

    There is no PBGC for muni pension funds because cities can be trusted to act in the best interests of their employees.

    This is where I’m assuming that because cities are in effect their sole guardians of their employee’s vested pension benefits, the bankruptcy law can’t discharge that liability but only limit it by forcing the insolvent city to cut back all services to the barest minimums. Don’t know if dedicated debt service can be diverted by bankruptcy court to cover pension funding shortfalls, but probably not.

    Look on the bright side. In another year, DTO could experience a boom in hiring and office space by law and accounting firms specializing in muni bankruptcies.

    -len raphael

  153. David

    Either the pensions are cut voluntarily or involuntarily, but they shall be cut. Either the law changes, or bankruptcy deals with it or both or the cops etc. see that the game is up. Because it is.

    Can’t get blood from a stone or turnip or whatever.

  154. len raphael

    Very expensive fried chicken washed down with booze will be served at the next cc meeting this tuesday. (Did that chicken merit 800k of RDA money or was it something less?)

    The Nic Nak liquor store is NIMBY and probably not yours, but if we’re going to pro-actively reduce crime hotspots without spending a nickle, we have to support fellow residents stop the additon of more crime hotspots.

    The Nic Nak (Alcatraz and Shattuck) liquor store situation was a straightforward application of the zoning rules and the city’s long standing policy of reducing liquor stores. Then it was turned into yet another Oakland political football supposedly pitting gentrifying newcomers against long time african american community business. Total inflamatory nonsense.

    Before this coming Tues May 18th, your help is requested. All that’s asked is that you fill in a non-speaking, “speaker’s card” on city website no later than Tuesd 6pm.

    http://www.oaklandnet.com/councilinfo/default.htm Requests for Speaker�s The Item no. is 9.1-1133-1. You are in Favor (of the Appeal) and probably Do Not wish to speak.

    It would also help if you emailed Rebecca Kaplan to ask her why she voted to support the liquor store at the last cc session without giving any explanation. (atlarge@oaklandnet.com)

    -len raphael

    Repost from NOVA of Don Link

    Colleagues in community policing: we need your help once again to deal with the issue of alcohol outlets in Oakland�s neighborhoods.

    The Nic Nak convenience store at the corner of Shattuck and Alcatraz Avenues (6400 Shattuck) has come back to City Council because the vote on the Appeal to prohibit alcohol sales got only 4 yes votes, short 1 vote of the 5 needed to pass at the May 4 meeting. Ignacio De La Fuente had a family emergency and was not able to attend that meeting and cast the fifth vote, which we believe he would have had he been able to be there.

    The issue will be heard again next Tuesday, May 18 at 6:30 pm in City Council for another vote, probably the final vote on the matter. We ask that people in the area sign up to speak (so that their opinion on the matter is known), and attend the meeting to provide physical proof that the neighborhood and the city are passionate about this matter. We will ask supporters of the Appeal to stand to show their support. If you do not wish to speak, you can simply not step forward when your name is called, and that will be the end of it. Or you can donate your time to another speaker so that the 1-2 minute sound-bite allowances are expanded for speakers in favor of the Appeal. We also ask that supporters from other parts of the city speak to the issue and identify their NCPC and Beat and interest in this matter.

    The Nic Nak Appeal outcome will affect the immediate neighborhood as all convenience store alcohol outlets do. People in other neighborhoods of Oakland will be affected, too, because the justifications made for the alcohol variance will apply to all legal non-conforming (i.e. grandfathered in) land uses in Oakland. Any and all of them, whether related to alcohol or not, could use this decision of the Planning Commission to justify their applications for alcohol or any other types of business activities. The Nic Nak decision was pernicious, and the City Attorney�s Office affirmed at City Council on May 4 that if this decision were to be challenged in Court, the city would probably lose the case. Civil Court is not the place to settle this issue; City Council is.

    The Planning Commission erred (polite), screwed up big time (less polite), with this decision. If it stands, Oakland citizens can expect to see alcohol sales variance applications granted in contradiction to Oakland planning and zoning regulations that have been in force since the 1970s, and likely end up in court to defend the lawsuits that will follow.

    The issue boils down to the question of whether Oakland citizens want to see more convenience store alcohol outlets, bars, or other no-longer-legal business operations in their city; or the gradual attrition of these �deemed approved�, grandfathered in land uses that the city set out to limit and gradually eliminate 40 years ago

    Do we want a new better future for our neighborhoods, or to restore businesses identified as not desirable for the city�s future decades ago?

    These issues are on the line on Tues. May 18 at City Council. Your neighborhoods will be affected by the outcome, wherever you are in Oakland. An e-mail for a Speaker�s Card, and an hour of your time is not a lot to ask for an issue of this consequence.

    The Nic Nak Appeal is the first and only item on the Non-Consent Calendar for the evening, scheduled to start at 6:31 pm

    For Speaker�s Cards e-mail: http://www.oaklandnet.com/councilinfo/default.htm Requests for Speaker�s Cards will be accepted from noon Friday 5/14 to 6 p.m. Tuesday 5/18. The Item no. is 9.1-1133-1. You are in Favor (of the Appeal) and Do or Do Not wish to speak.

    We need your help. The future of the neighborhood will be affected by the outcome (an alcohol sales variance stays with the property potentially forever). The future of the city will also be affected because of the broad justification��historical relevance�, or longevity�that the Planning Commission used to justify its decision.

    We are almost there,

    Don Link, Beat 11

  155. len raphael

    correction: currently there’s 208k of direct city redevelopment loans to the bakery. in addition the city is the guarantor of a 13k loan from OneCal bank per Ruby’s report. owner is requesting 150k additional now. i’d have to reread it, but there’s a discussion in the docs that the owner or their consultant’s say the city promised them substantially more money, but city officals say not correct.

  156. Ralph

    Len, it it truly amazing that this could come to the full council. MB has made absolutely no attempt to improve their business – product, pricing and management and blame all their woes on the lack of parking. Now they want the good people of Oakland to fork over $150K which we all know is going to get flushed down the toilet. I pray that council does the right thing, but our council has not been known for being fiscally responsible.

    If you pick up the chicken, I’ll get the watermelon. We can meet in the balcony to watch Tuesday’s fireworks.

  157. Dax

    Len, I appreciate your encouragement to run for mayor. Perhaps you feel my ideas and opinions make some sense and contain some logic that is not currently found in the council, city hall or in the newspapers.

    However wonderful it would be to gain that esteemed position, I’ll tell you what I really need right now. A job of any type at all, so that I can remain in Oakland, paying my property taxes, and continuing to exchange views on the important issues we see here.

    I don’t know you, but if you know of any going concern, or anyone who might want a fairly bright and articulate employee for any position at all, I would appreciate you passing that info on to me. Surely there must be one employer who needs to hire a reasonably intelligent, productive, and imaginative person , or needs to replace a existing worker who is not serving the company properly.
    After decades of living here, I may be gone very soon if I don’t find something.

    I would not dismiss any idea at all that you may have on the issue.
    If the city had jobs, which it does not, I would take any position at all.
    Heck I’ve already donated over 500 hours in the past year, doing physical city work for free.
    Perhaps you can understand my frustration when I see the Mike’s of the city complaining and demanding NO cuts in pay, benefits, or pension.
    Some of us out here would take a a third or even a quarter of their pay and do so gladly.
    Its about survival right now, not the whether we keep the final layer of frosting on the top of some grand compensation cake.
    Sorry to go on, but I am really nearing the end of the line as to my ability to remain here, in the city I love.

    Can’t run for mayor if I can’t even stay in the city through November.

    BTW, two articles in today’s Chronicle regarding public employee pension related issues
    One about San Francisco’s Prop D, and one about a primary opponent in Barbara Boxers race…
    Both reflect the precise issues that we are discussing here.
    Issues which Oakland faces and will face even if no one wants to admit it.



    The crunch which cities are facing this year is really just the postponement of what was happening last year, except the federal government spent most of the hundreds of billions in stimulus propping up public employee jobs all over the nation, instead of using the money to help the general public and overall economy. After a year of doing that, they have little to show for their efforts except a squeal-a-thon by city, state, and county employees as they face “draconian” 10% to 15% cuts.
    Heck, I’d gladly take ANY position in any of those agencies even with the 15% haircut in pay and zero pension.
    If they choose to not accept those 10% pay cut offers, then the thousand let go are going to see reality very quickly. If they can find any job to replace their government job, they will be taking a 50% cut in compensation.
    Let us see how public employee union solidarity stands up when they consider the fate of their union brothers and sisters who will be getting the axe.
    As a person who worked my way through school doing union jobs, from janitor to teamster, I appreciate unions very much, but some of the public employee unions have become detached from the reality of the times and their relationship to the general public.

  158. Dax

    Ralph, I am interested in almost anything at this point, but I must say, that typically those kinds of fields don’t yield much if any income in the first few months.
    I have a couple friends who have been in that business for the past 20 years and have done quite well.

    I am really in a position where I have much shorter term needs to meet.
    I don’t need large income, but I do need it sooner rather than later.
    That is why I am open to pretty much anything over the next few months.
    I may even need to do a couple part time jobs.
    Some things people have counted upon suddenly vanish in this economy as a chain reaction of events ends up on their doorstep.

    I do appreciate your thoughts and any ideas that might come to mind.

    You know, just this morning, I got 3 calls from companies trying to sell products to Medicare patients. I am not of that age so I assume they are random calls.
    Anyway, the people calling are so poor in language skills, that you have to wonder who is paying them and how much. Most were from South Carolina and Florida. Seems like a verbally skilled person could create double or triple the leads for a company such as those by just speaking in a articulate manner.
    Often those calls are generated from outside the USA, but these were not.
    One caller was so poor that I inquired as to whether English was his second language. Such was not the case, it was his only language.

  159. Brad

    After reading this interview with Rebecca Kaplan, I remain unconvinced she is fit to lead as mayor. As others have noted in the past, she seems to zero in on rather trivial problems, and while her proposed solutions seem workable, it’s hardly as if she is communicating a grand vision for reform. Therefore, I have returned to my prior state of glum resignation that the abysmal leadership in this city will remain.

    Our choices now seem to be between a disengaged, deceitful, sponge (Dellums), a corruption-tainted, favor-owing crook (Perata), a rabid ideologue with no clue as to how to balance a check book, let along a budget (Quan), and the aforementioned newbie without political chops and no grand vision (Kaplan).


  160. Ralph

    Brad, she is just barely the best in a bunch of completely indistinguishable and unremarkable candidates.

    Things is RK should be the clear leader but her interviews always leave me asking the same question, “Could I actually be facing the first election where I vote none of the above?”

  161. Max Allstadt

    I think we’ll see a broader and grander vision from Kaplan when she actually declares her candidacy. The whole concept of an exploratory committee is to take in money and take input from the community, rather than just jumping out there and saying “I know exactly what to do!” without listening first.

    As for political chops, I gotta say, she’s gotten a lot done in a short time, and she really hasn’t developed an army of people who want her head on a plate. That’s not an easy feet politically, not at all.

  162. Ralph

    Max, what are these accomplishments of RK of which ye speak?

    Personally, I am cool with someone finding out the issues, but there is something in her interviews and presentation that I want her to change.

  163. Max Allstadt

    1. Leading the campaign for the 4 ballot measures which saved the ’09 budget without raising any taxes on homeowners. Remember the “Yes 4 Oakland” lawn signs? Kaplan did that. All 4 measures passed by huge margins.

    2. Writing a vacant building registry law which holds absentee landlords and banks accountable for nuisance properties. Before Kaplan was elected, the council couldn’t agree on an earlier version and it died. She revived it, rewrote it from scratch and it passed.

    3. Securing federal funds for a downtown shuttle which opens next month and runs from Jack London Square to Broadway and Grand. For free.

    4. Reforming our ancient cabaret law. The new version was endorsed by the Chief of Police and cuts red tape which made it incredibly difficult to open a live entertainment venue in Oakland.

    5. Reforming more red tape that required a lengthy and expensive process for people wanting to open small businesses downtown. Restaurants, bike shops, and even yoga studios were subject to a mandatory $2000+ fee and potentially a hearing at the planning commission.

    In summation:

    She lead the charge to fix the budget through smart taxes which didn’t affect homeowners or retail consumers.

    She tackled the urgent issue of property vacancies in the middle of a foreclosure crisis, and did so successfully after her peers had failed.

    She got us federal money for a new transit service.

    She cut red tape for small businesses.

    She created a pro-fun nightlife policy that the Police agreed was safe and sane.

    In short, anybody who says she doesn’t have a record to run on has no idea what they’re talking about.

  164. Born in Oakland

    Pat K. was very reasonable, very rationale and, I feel, correctly made the argument why she could not support the loan to the Merritt Bakery about five minutes ago. Thanks Pat, very sad for the Bakery, I feel that you are right. It will be interesting to see what the vote finally is.

  165. Ralph

    BiO, you are so correct re Pat. I really thought that with the Bakery being in her district would sway some of the uncommitteds. That doesn’t seem to be the case.

    This clown from the mayor’s office should be shot. Every time he opens his mouth he lies. Heck, even JQ understands why the vendor wants COD, why can’t he get it.

  166. Ralph

    Yet, another vote before council where RK has shown a total lack of financial leadership. When JQ understands the financial matter, then the smartest person in the room should at least have a basic comprehesion. LMB is going under. Is it sad? Yes. But the business has problems and this $150K is not going to solve the problem.

  167. Born in Oakland

    Whew….Pat K. is the smartest and most rationale member of the entire council and am I happy she is MY council person….you betcha. We, the tax payers, clearly just lost another $150K on this decision. We have just upped the debt for LMB from $800K to $1 million and no coffee shop/bakery can deal with that kind of debt.

  168. len raphael

    RK interview shows definite signs of improvement and moving away from some of her earlier positions.

    i don’t see her inexperience as weakness considering how years of incumbency haven’t improved any of our cc’s except for DLF.

    The achievements Max listed are pitiful compared to the problems here, but if politics is the art of the possible, maybe her achievements are signs of greatness in a town where the cc members spend an hour back slapping each other for their agreement to boycott AZ and have never proposed ways to radically restructure the city’s personnel costs.

    she reiterates her position that bringing retail back to oakland will make a serious dent in the unemployment here.

    More retail would certainly increase city tax revenue.

    Retail wages certainly better than starving or selling drugs but mostly substitutes underemployment for unemployment in jobs that pay a fraction of what city of oakland muni jobs pay. Retail is a dead end job.

    Similarly can the food industry jobs pay above min wage and health insurance for most of their employees?

    Good to see she’s dropped the dope growing and bike repair shop industry development push.

    All of which is why i’m encouraged to see her borrow a page from Perata on the health care jobs.

    Her transit village utopia. Sure worth a try until she pushes to do it smack against my backyard and my neighbors’ in one of many highly functional medium density neighborhoods. Try the experiment first in areas where there are already higher density and dysfunctional.

    Her crime platform is so bland it can’t be evaluated based on what she says but what she doesn’t say. As MS commented RK evades the hard problems about Measure Y.

    RK’s comment about reducing opd ot and finishing the fed oversight, even the cc started to chant that mantra a year ago.

    I don’t know if/what RK voted tonight re the Nic Nack liquor store appeal. The facts on that are unambiguous and she supported the liquor store at the first vote.

    I don’t see that as pandering but her principled disagreement with using zoning and law enforcement to reduce crime even if it comes at some cost to civil liberties and the economic well being of historically discriminated against african americans.

    Until she comes out in support of trying the gang injunction, denying the Nic Nak, and figuring out ways to get us back to 800 cops she wouldn’t get any of my IRV choices.

    Until I see her change on crime, i see her as a highly intelligent version of Dellums.

    -len raphael
    temescal nimby

  169. Ralph

    Len, weird that you should call RK “a highly intelligent version of Dellums;” I had that same thought earlier tonight.

    Nic Nak got paddy whacked until next council mtg.

  170. Ralph

    Len, is bringing retail about creating jobs or is it about bringing in tax dollars? I argue it is more about the latter. It is certainly not going to improve the employment prospects of a certain underemployed group of people. When presentation counts, we are doing very little to make our youth presentation ready. In fact, many of the social programs probably cripple them.

    A downtown/Uptown transit village will be great as long as the OHA doesn’t start densityblocking it.

  171. We Fight Blight

    Rebecca did not show any leadership qualities tonight re: Nic Nak. She voted in favor of allowing yet another time extension to the Pannell’s so they can get their third attorney acquainted with the issues. Even though the public hearing has closed. Yes, the Nic Nak has hired and fired two attorney’s already and think the third is the charm. She also made a bizarre apology to the audience for the City’s dysfunctional process. However, it seemed more like she wanted to apologize for not stepping up as a leader. Bizarre to say the least. Now the Nic Nak requires a vote by Dellums to break a 4-4 tie to allow a 30-day time extension to the Pannell’s even though the public hearing is closed and City regulations require the matter be voted on. If Rebecca cannot grasp the legal issues and the nuances of making legal findings for something as simple as a land use decision for a non-conforming liquor store, how can we trust she can lead the City? This is a slam dunk and she is being confused by the smoke and mirrors. The City Planning Staff see through the smoke and the City Attorney sees through the mirrors, yet Rebecca with her degrees from Standford and Tufts cannot find her way to the correct legal conclusion. If she is a highly intelligent version of Dellums we should all be worried because the bar has not been set very high…

  172. len raphael

    Ralph, yup great minds think alike.

    RK intelligence and energy is very appealing. If one thinks that improving public transportation and reducing car usage is going to go a long way to overcoming Oakland’s problems, she should be voted queen of oakland.

    Those are very worthwhile goals, but the payoff to Oakland residents from them is 20 years away.

    She could win with an alliance of the Dellums/Lee machine, the not cop muni and construction trade unions, some smaller developers thrown in the mix, the chiodo chamber of commerce, plus the volunteer energy and intelligence of public transit greenies. I’m probably wrong, but i don’t see LGBT’s voting as a block based on my LGBT friends and neighbors, but still a factor.

    Support from transit greenies and LGBT allies won’t be enough to get her to move the council, the bureaucracy, the ngo’s that are pure pork, and the unions into overhaul mode until we’ve run out of RDA money, new fees, and Federal subsidies

    At that point if she had the desire and legal support to break the union seniority rules and alienate most of her supporters that would be great. but she’d probably never get to higher office either.

    There won’t be the funds she needs to do the social programming she wants or the mass transit transformation that all cities need. She wouldn’t mind cutting cops but the cops will do that to themselves without any mayoral help.

    That’s my rational for supporting her.

    Four years from november a new mayor will have to deal with the crime. Till then I’ll just trade in my beloved pit for a mastiff.

    -len raphael

  173. len raphael

    regardless of opinion, abo participants try to be data driven. is the data on the economic benefits of stadiums insufficient to guide a discussion about costs and benefits of a new stadium here?

  174. len raphael

    watching the cc meeting online tonight two things are clear.

    1. the council devotes more time to how to run restaurants and liquor stores then it does to how to pay its Billion dollar retirement obligations.

    2. if RK were put in charge of the Merritt Bakery, that place would be a huge success.

  175. Born in Oakland

    Since liquor and convenience stores are the dominant features in Ms Brooks’ neighborhoods, it is no wonder she plays to her favorite lobby while admonishing anyone who opposes same as, hmmmmm, lacking in diversity training. This is an old feature in these discussions of liquor stores and has been a difficult burden for the neighborhoods to bear.

  176. V Smoothe

    Oh come on, Len. You’re criticizing the “platform” of someone who isn’t even running for office, now? Of course you’re not impressed with her crime platform — she doesn’t have one — because she isn’t even a candidate!

    With respect to Nik Nak, I think it’s a tough issue, and if it were me voting, I think I would probably end up siding with the appellants. But both sides have very compelling arguments in their favor, and if you honestly think that the facts are “unambiguous,” then I can only conclude you don’t have all the facts, and took a position based only on listening to the strident cries of the people opposed to the store. Because that’s a preposterous statement.

  177. Naomi Schiff

    Ralph, it is funny to me to think that downtown might be a “transit village” when it is a city downtown already, with a couple of bart stations and lots of sizable buildings. I’m not sure what you mean–surely not to reduce its density to village-like proportions? If in referring to OHA you are attempting to paint Oakland Heritage Alliance as knee-jerk antidevelopment, you are absolutely incorrect. We prepared a pretty exhaustive map of development opportunity sites in the downtown area. We supported some new tax incentives for rehab projects. We have many members who are developers, architects, engineers, and planners. What we don’t support, and I think for well-proven good reason, is knocking down valuable historic structures in the hopes something new will appear.Many people realize that this has not worked out too well as a method of redevelopment. (Let me know if you want examples.)

    Let’s agree to build on our surface parking lots and empty lots, to replace insignificant underutilized structures, and to preserve our unique historic buildings and excellent architecture where we are lucky enough to have them. I was there when the owner of the old Milen’s Jewelers hollered that we should tear down the Fox Oakland because it was a blight. We need an overview that includes structures new and old, with flexible uses. In practice I suspect we might find a lot of agreement about what a truly feasible plan might look like.

  178. len raphael

    V, it’s RK who choose to be the non candidate candidate. so she’s fair game for being criticized for her non platform platform.

    Maybe the 3rd attorney for the NN willl come up with a better legal argument for granting a zoning exception than the “historical relevance” which the city planning dept came up with under orders from the planning commission to reverse previous staff support of the appeal. Last night for the first time there was a reference by the NN owner’s daughter to a couple of cases supporting the NN.

    the zoning rules and the city’s long standing policy to reduce the number of liquor convenience stores is not ambiguous. when he voluntarily stopped selling liquor the city found out and sent him a notice that he had 90 days to resume or lose his grandfathered right to sell liquor there. He didn’t respond for several years until after he tried to sell the property and couldn’t get his asking price.

    I’ve talked to very articulate NN supporters. Read the city planning report cover to cover. The only valid reason to give the NN this zoning exception is that the 80 year old owner was a true pillar of his north oakland neighborhood for many years, mentoring kids, providing some jobs where there were none etc. his familiy states that up to the period ending 5 years ago, when he was selling liquor, that he was very careful to stop on site drinking and loitering. that he was not an attractive nuisance in the strict legal sense. I believe them.

    to say that the crime stats of the past several years prove that the NN would not increase crime is n/a because no liquor has been sold there for almost 5 years.

    officially the NN location is not a crime hot spot because it’s crime stats don’t exceed a certain percentage over that beat’s total crime rate. i didn’t see a comparison of that beats total crime rate to other beats. considering how many liquor convenience stores are in that beat the overall crime rate might already be elevated. i don’t know.

    having a bunch of liquor convvenience stores doesn’t increase the overall public drunkeness, petty crime, and littering in surrounding blocks was not addressed by the city staff.

    there’s resentment among NN supporters that allegedly a white owned cafe got a liquor sales exception to the zoning rules which enabled the cafe to increase sales or be sold (all i know about that is what the NN supporter described)

    there’s also resentment that gentrifiers (seemingly defined as anyone who hasn’t lived in that area for more than 30 years) think they have the right to do a makeover on a neigborhood that functioned for years after white flight. i can appreciate that sentiment totally when it comes to urban removal or ramming high density into long standing lower density residential areas, but preserving liquor convenience stores?

    -len raphael

  179. len raphael

    As long as we’re handing out Redevelopment money to bakeries, does Neldams Bakery get a 150k loan also?

    What struck me in the cc discussions, was how analytical and quantitative JQ, PK, and NN (?), were in their review of the Merritt request. If they would only apply the same abilities to the city’s short and long term budget situation.


  180. V Smoothe

    Len, if you want to criticize someone for publicly saying they are considering running, but haven’t made a decision yet, go ahead. Perhaps you would prefer politicians not give the public an opportunity to weigh in on such decisions. But I find it completely bizarre, and think you will have a very hard time finding others who think your complaint is anything short of ridiculous. Personally, I find Rebecca’s openness about the fact that she’s still weighing her options refreshing.

    As for Nik Nak, it is clear from your statements that you either have not taken the time to learn all the facts or you are willfully ignoring them. The fact is, this location does not meet the City’s criteria for overconcentration, either for crime-related reasons or density of alcohol outlets, nor does it contribute to a net increase in the number of alcohol outlets, as opponents of the store pretend, since the owner is using an already existing license from the neighborhood. Furthermore, it is not clear the owner ever received a letter from the City saying the deemed approved status was being taken away. Like I said before, my sympathies in this case lean towards siding with the appellants, but the strident tone they take and their skewed presentation of the facts in the case are really kind of disturbing.

    I am not interested in getting into some big debate about Nik Nak on this blog – you can go over to We Fight Blight if you want to keep talking about it, but I think it’s important that people who are reading these comments without knowing the background understand that they are not getting the full picture.

  181. Dax

    What more needs to be said?

    From the Trib…

    “The Merritt was losing as much as $50,000 a month, but is now losing $12,000 to $13,000 a month, Griffis said.”

    Still losing $400+ per day? I don’t know who owns the building or what the lease payments are, but it appears that this $150,000 is just a subsidy for the landlord.
    Oakland’s version of the stimulus program. A pass through of dollars.

    The other question to ask, is where would all those diners go if the restaurant closed. Might they just go to another restaurant and increase business there?
    I don’t think they’d drive to Alameda, San Leandro, or Berkeley.

    Or might another restaurant open up in the same location? One that could run the business at a profit.

    How they voted. “Councilmember Jean Quan (Montclair-Laurel) abstained.”
    Way to go Jean! More “deer in the headlights” thinking from Jean Quan.
    No doubt about the kind of leadership she would provide as Mayor.

  182. len raphael

    The city zoning notification process was and still is mediocre. up until very recently, extremely important notifications were sent by regular mail without proof of mailing etc.

    i’m curious, has anyone beaten Oakland on an inadequate notification defense?

    the rezoning technical meetings that were held for temescal an example of meetings that were crucial in the rezoning process but only activist groups and developer related groups heard knew about them. not a conspiracy by the planning dept, just a combo of limited resources and lack of training in public information. while legally, those were only “technical sessions” with public hearings to follow, in practice once the staff makes up it’s collective mind, developers and residents face the Nik Nac process with a couple of added steps.

    V, at the first meeting, the city attorney’s office opined that the city would likely lose a lawsuit brought by the appealants.

    -len raphael

  183. Born in Oakland

    When the Planning Commission goes fuzzy on sticking to the letter of the law and makes their meetings a a “dog and pony show”, and they have no vision for a better Oakland, then their deliberations become an adversarial process. People then start stretching the facts and covertly sling mud because the Commission wants to appear it is an open hearing. But usually, the “fix” is already on and in this case I think it is Dellums. The appeal then goes to Council where the whole drama gets replayed. It’s a political decision and the losers are usually the neighborhoods. Meanwhile, many liquor stores in my neighborhood are armed and the owners shoot pretty straight . Heck of a way to run a business. Heck of a liability for the community.

  184. Brad

    Neldam’s Bakery and the Nordic House shop are an important cultural institution for the Scandinavian community, a community with a long and rich history in Oakland and the Bay Area.

  185. len raphael

    if the cc believes that the MB is an important source of jobs and a valuable “icon”, they should lend it the 800k amount recommended in the bakery’s consultant’s report, after requiring safeguards to make sure the money doesn’t go into the alleged ferarri’s alleged gas tank. as several of the cc members pointed out, 150k is nowhere close to capitalizing the MB adequately.

    then i can continue to get my fix for their unsalted fried to order not wet please chicken..

    I was also a regular at a certain other government financed food vendor that made very good split pea soup and fried fish sandwiches.

    Oakland cc does not have a great track record as a restaurant vc.


  186. We Fight Blight

    V. the opponents of liquor sales at Nic Nak have been saying there are too many liquor stores and liquor outlets in North Oakland/South Berkeley. By various accounts there are 19 liquor stores/convenience stores within one mile of Nic Nak and there are 18 liquor outlets (off and on sale including bars and restaurants) within 1/2 mile of Nic Nak. It is true that according to the Oakland Planning Code that this does not meet the definition of overconcentration. However, it begs the question of whether the current definition adequately captures and addresses the cumulative negative public health and nuisance effects of what is arguably a large number of liquor outlets surrounding Nic Nak.

    However, that is not even the central legal issue. It is simply a way for residents to quantify in an effective soundbite what is a qualitative nuisance issue. Additionally, cleanliness or past operational practices are not even remotely the legal issue.

    Under the Oakland Planning Code you can terminate the deemed-approved status of a non-conforming liquor store if it is a nuisance or if it ceases to sell alcohol for greater than 90 days. Appellants are not arguing it is a nuisance. In this case, Nic Nak stopped selling liquor for 5 years. The City has a record of sending a letter to the applicant revoking their deemed approved status and giving him the option of appealing. It was not a certified letter, but was not required to be certified. Mr. Pannell never appealed. At the first Planning Commission meeting, Mr. Pannell stated he did not get that first notice and then he claimed he did not understand the notice. When he tried to reopen as Jo Jo’s the City informed him he could not sell liquor and that he could appeal or file a major conditional use permit and variance. He chose not to appeal that decision and chose to file for permits.

    Since his deemed-approved status has been revoked and has been given constructive notice twice, he is treated as a new land use. He is within 1,000 feet of another liquor outlet. The central legal question then is whether he meets the threshold for a variance–not whether he has clean operation free of litter, graffiti and crime or whether there is an overconcentration of liquor stores. The Planning Staff and the City Attorney have both evaluated the facts, the existing regulations and the appeal and agree with the appellants. You cannot make the necessary legal findings to approve liquor sales.

    Not sure what you intend when you make comments about the appellants taking a strident tone and skewing facts in a manner that is disturbing. That charge can easily be applied to the applicants and their supporters. Also, it seems a little unfair to drop some serious criticism with little factual support yourself and then suggest the matter not be debated on your blog. But hey that’s why we each have blogs. You make the rules right?

    So V what is the full picture that you believe everyone is missing?

  187. Born in Oakland

    In Oakland, the neighborhoods always have to fight building codes and liquor store proliferation on a case by case basis. This despite municipal codes and procedures which clearly define the City’s obligation to uphold the same. Politics always enters into the process and provides the exceptions, which then divides the community and leads to hoplessness and flight from Oakland. Not only do neighbors have to document and make the legal case for the police to be proactive in shutting down wholesale drug dealing or street prostitution, but one has to be a lawyer or obsessive compulsive layman to shut down a liquour store and to spend a good portion of ones little free time to organize a loyal opposition. The case against proliferation of liquor stores in Oakland does not need to be debated. Just watch for the next t horrific shooting or crime in the papers and google the location.

  188. Brad

    Srsly, why does this city need hundreds of liquor stores? I really don’t understand why they all get approved, because a lot of then must have required variances. My only conclusion is that there is a lot of back room politicking going on, including money changing hands.

  189. livegreen

    A couple years ago at an NCPC meeting it was mentioned Larry Reid had supported a Liquor Store against the will of his own constituents. Somebody mentioned that he’d received a Political Contribution. It would be interesting to go to the City Clerk & see if NN has done anything similar. The challenge would be it would probably not be direct. But it would still be interesting if someone were to make the inquiry…

  190. len raphael

    in case you only read the trib or the chron after the last cc meeting. Our appeal against the Nic Nak ruling was affirmed by a vote of 5 cc members to 3. The nays were LR, DB, and RK.

    I replayed RK’s explanation of her rather nuanced position, and I still don’t understand why the city erroneously allowing and later correctly forbidding liquor sales was the kind of grevious inequity justifying overruling fundamental zoning law. after listening to RK’s on the one hand, and on the other hand, I’d have thought she’d abstain. but then she’s the one considering running for mayor.

    DB was a disappointment. The new third attorney for the NN was only a little better than the first two. No new legal angle, no surprising case citation. So once again DB had to take on the role of NN attorney. Unlike last session when she was effective appealing to our hearts for Mr Parnell’s situation, this time she started quoting land use legal definitions she found with google. Then she kept saying zoning laws had no basis for interfering with something that went on within a building.

    -len raphael

  191. len raphael

    ever notice how our cc members often acknowledge what they should do but then vote otherwise or table the matter? Merritt Bakery loan was good example but trivial.

    back in 2003, the city council went to the trouble of passing a resolution to require the city staff to produce a 5 year financial projection and update it annually. but they omitted a start date.

    in 2008 it was brought up again:

    that meeting was rescheduled to later in June 2008.

    All the cc members affirmed how important updating a 5 year plan would be, but they end unanimously voting to make it a 5 year plan that only gets updated every 2 years starting on October ? I assume 2010?


    To: Finance & Management Committee
    From: Sabrina Landreth, Legislative Analyst
    Date: June 10,2008
    Re: Resolution Amending Resolution No. 77923 C.M.S. Regarding The City of
    Oakland Long-Term Financial Planning Policy To Add A Specific Date
    When The Five-Year Financial Plan Is To Be Provided to the City Council”

    Does that mean city staff are now working on a 5 year financial plan to be delivered this coming October or will it get postponed?

  192. livegreen

    It’s good to see the Oakland Tribune reporting such news-worthy Headlines as this:

    “Maine man finds lost class ring 27 years later”

    This is interesting news anywhere, especially here in Oakland. Go journalists! Go media management! This article shows how you’re positively responding to the tech challenges of the 21st Century! As you would probably say, the proof is I’m reading it, and my link to it on a blog proves it’s going “viral”.

    & they wonder why their ratings are slipping…Pitiful.

  193. len raphael

    When MOBN first announced itself, someone posted that MOBN was just a front for Perata. I defended MOBN saying they were simply a group of good govt people.

    Color me naive.

    It appears that they are a front for Oakland incumbents and their chosen, but not for Perata.


  194. Ralph

    At Thursday council mtg, I was sitting behind someone who attended the June 19 MOBN mtg, I could tell from his notes that he took some exception to what MOBN was saying at the mtg.

    I found it curious that MOBN’s first speaker did not realize that the city already prepares a 5 year forecast. Or at least, his prepared remarks gave the impression that he was shocked / astonished to see the 5 year forecast on the city website.

    Of course, with only 1.5 minutes to speak, one could flub a point here and there. But wait, individuals ceded time to him. No soup for him!

  195. matt

    Please check out the proposed development for the lot adjacent to the Oakland Ice Center.


    My first thoughts were: They can’t be serious? Uptown needs more parking? Like hell it does!

    Uptown needs a grocery store, services and jobs. There are dozens of bus lines and 19th Street BART nearby. I need advice in getting opposition organized to this project before it gets any farther along.


  196. Ralph

    So the parking is just one aspect of this development. From what I have read, the developer is looking to add substantial community needs stuff including some type of grocer, bowling (Ken, Ken??), a sports bar – etc.

    Generally speaking, I do not see an immediate need for downtown parking. However, over time, some of the current parking hotspots will be replaced with new construction.

  197. matt

    Parking is the vast majority of the project’s square footage. Sunfield is promoting the project as a parking garage with some retail. Yes, the proposal mentions a sports bar but there’s no guarantee of it and absolutely no mention of a grocery store. The renderings are totally optimistic but do a good job of showing just how substantial the structure will feel on San Pablo. This is the wrong solution for this parcel.

    Long term the area will have to focus on transit to keep people moving, not private cars. With increased density the car not transit will get pushed out. This is a project for a growing suburb circa 1995 and not this neighborhood.

    Also the garage will only bring a few low paying attendant jobs to the neighborhood where 100′s could have worked in an office/retail type development. There are so many viable and better uses for this parcel. How about a boutique hotel? 100′s of jobs not dozens!

    I’m looking for support in opposition to Sunfield’s proposal.

  198. Ralph

    The SF Business Times story makes reference to a 301 space garage and additional uses. I am not against parking if it allows us to pull some of the parking outside of the downtown core. I would like to see dedicated bike parking included in the structure. Depite everyone’s best wishes, we will continue to need parking. I am neither totally for nor totally against the project as my gut tells me that this parking will come in handy when new office structures are built and some of the existing parking is going to be torn down for more productive uses.

    I would welcome a boutique hotel. At last check, there is another parcel for which the city has been looking to plop down a boutique hotel.

    Beyond a boutique hotel, what are you proposing? I am inclined to believe that some type of entertainment use will work there.

  199. livegreen

    Len, Re. MOBN being a front for Oakland incumbents, you mean Libby Schaaf, ex-IDLF staffer (& CC candidate)? & who else?…

  200. Naomi Schiff

    How about smaller parking, focus on bicycles, and with recharging station for electric vehicles?

  201. Ralph

    And in addition to the electric cars, all new parking structures should have spaces dedicated to Car Share/ZipCar. Currently, these businesses use the multiple surface lots in the area. They need to be publicly accessible so most residential bldgs do not have them.

    Furthermore, there are no shortage of downtown residents who have 2 cars but probably have a 1.5 usage factor. The 2nd car is parked on some lot, but most people I talk to would give up the 2nd car if they had easy access to a car share.

  202. len raphael

    MOBN went 90 to 0 from advocating complete financial overhaul to docile acceptance of the CC5 proposal. Maybe w a twist on measure Y.

    Remember how they did sort of a teaser, grandiously announcing that they’d be announcing a comprehensive plan?

  203. len raphael

    btw, according to Sanjiv, the “10%” non safety employee cuts consisted of 5% employee pension contrib and 5% unpaid furloughs. Can someone tell me how to convert the furloughs into equivalent pay cuts? have to assume something about value of leisure time or ability to get alternive employment? seems to be a screw for the residents as cf to a full 10% pay cut.

    Ralph, email me. no, it’s not to persuade you to picket cc meeting or sell amway :)

  204. Naomi Schiff

    I was pretty underwhelmed by the MOBN presentation. The second guy was better than the first, but overall, seemed like a lengthy way to say very little. Nothing new here.

  205. Ralph

    I don’t have key emailing info. And what are you asking here, “Can someone tell me how to convert the furloughs into equivalent pay cuts?”

  206. livegreen

    Len, re. MOBN, well you know the answer to that one: maybe they write a comprehensive plan. The City’s plan. :)

  207. livegreen

    V, I know you’re busy. I’d like to 2nd (or 3rd?) the edit section. I occasionally fire something off too quickly and only discover the type o after. There’s a lesson in there for me, &, while I’m trying to perfect myself, might there be a possibility of getting this feature back? (If you’re able to find the time ?)

    Thank you.

  208. len raphael

    Grand Jury report on Peralta Community School District and OPD

    looks like our ex Mayor Elihu Harris administration managed to pillage anything left after the Terminator’s cuts.

    Multiple trips by staff overseas to recruit foreign students. 0 review of credit cards. nauseating.

    If the Peralta waste and inappropriate expenditures under our ex Mayor Elihu is what he learned from running Oakland, there just might be a hecka more waste and corruption in our City govt than I thought.

    the last part reserved for review of OPD:
    “Two years ago, the grand jury investigated the Oakland Police Department’s ability to adequately police Oakland. The grand jury concluded that a 50% increase in the number of police officers was required to meet minimum modern-day standards for police staffing. The city of Oakland agreed with the grand jury’s recommendation but said it lacked sufficient resources to recruit, hire, train and equip the 400 additional officers.
    This year the grand jury re-examined the police department’s ability to deliver minimum police services for Oakland and found the problem has, indeed, worsened. Staffing levels for detectives responsible for investigating crimes have substantially diminished. Investigators have been reassigned to patrol duty, and at present, there are only two detectives assigned to investigate all residential burglaries in Oakland, a city of 400,000 population. In one area, the Oakland Police Department reports a backlog of over 2,400 domestic violence cases and investigators of all other serious crimes are also equally overwhelmed.”

    Part on the Coliseum is just funny. summary: no planning has been done for departure of major teams.

    Only bright spot was that Alameda County Family Justice Center for people in the court system.


  209. Ralph

    Was it Harris or some other guy who was a somewhat shady mayor? I seem to recall news stories from the the mid to late 90s about an Oakland mayor who lacked financial discipline and was making all sorts of shady deals. I do not recall if it were the mayor at the time or someone else.

  210. Ralph

    Candell was lively. I have no idea what he intends to achieve with the commuter tax. First, you actually need to have people flooding the city to make it work. Second, it tends to drive business to the ‘burbs. Then again maybe it is a sneaky plan to recover money from Oakland civil servants who tend to live outside of Oakland. :) Smart man!!!

    The crime line was funny. Of course, if you keep the rec centers open until 7 crime will start picking up at 8.

  211. len raphael

    my recollection is the Elihu was a boring guy palitable to both the white and black establishments. No whiff of scandal

    the mayor before him, first black mayor, Lionel Wilson, was charismatic and smart. i had a false memory that he beat Bobby Seale, black panther, but no it was the white mayor before him, Readding.

    Last scandal was in early 60′s when the mayor was convicted in office of embezzling from a law client.

    thought a mayor in the 50′s was a suicide, but seem to wrong on that too.


  212. Naomi Schiff

    Re: suicide–You were probably thinking of William F. Knowland.


    In my opinion, Elihu Harris, though now in trouble at Peralta, was a good mayor, distinguished by strong appointments to commissions and staff. He had to preside over city council meetings and vote as a councilperson, remember, in the days before “strong” mayor Measure X (which I see as mostly a failure). One thing about that system was you saw the mayor in action, and the mayor was forced to participate in group decision-making with the council. City manager had more power, but we had Henry Gardner in there and he was very competent. Perhaps we got better candidates for city manager when it was a position with greater oomph. It wasn’t all perfect, not at all, but I think it was one of the better mayoral regimes.

  213. len raphael

    NS, so you don’t think it just coincidence that when we had a weak mayor system, the mayors were more than empty suits? brown wasn’t MIA like Dellums, but in retrospect he was a delegate and depart kinda mayor.

    Yes Knowland suicide. Seems a much more complex civic and public figure than the cariacture of a right wing republican i had in mind.

  214. Ralph

    I am of the mindset that Oakland has some type of hybrid mayor. It is neither weak nor strong form.

  215. Naomi Schiff

    Brown was MIA on anything that didn’t interest him, and all too present on anything that did. However, these things changed abruptly from time to time, so you never knew what would engage his fancy at any particular moment.

    The strong mayor provision was badly written and has led to a bunch of problems. Having an even no. of city council people gives mayor veto power, but council gets around that through abstentions. The mayor doesn’t often have to engage directly with the council or the citizens. There were so few opportunities for public to engage with mayor during the JB regime that when Meas. X came up for review (I was on the committee, although frequently outvoted) and a revamp on the ballot, one of the requirements we added was that the mayor meet with the public once in a while. Shouldn’t have had to be in the legislation, but we made it mandatory because it was not happening. For example, JB presented a city budget to the chamber of commerce one year, instead of in public.

  216. Ralph

    See Naomi, you would think that the mayor meeting with the public would just be common sense, but the thing about common sense…In my review of random charters, I’ve noticed that meeting with the public seems to be a common requirement. (On a different note, it seems like the pages for other mayors are more welcoming).

    I did note that the Mayor’s web page indicates that the mayor is the Chief Executive Officer, which is not what is written in the charter.

  217. Livegreen

    Here’s some good reading from a Grand Jury on the Peralta School District, the Colliseum Authority, and staffing at OPD. Simply amazing how poorly run our local governments can b and still keep functioning. It takes constant management & oversight which, if not built in, seems minimal.


    How to make civic engagement more participatory, instead of passive, media driven?

  218. len raphael

    Watching Dellums today reminds me that the only thing i expected him to do as mayor was to frequently visit schools and rec centers and neighborhoods and give motivational talks. he is very good at that.

    but no, that was too much to hope for.

  219. len raphael

    maybe i’m easily impressed by oratory done without telepromters. years ago i attended a funeral for an old white guy who was a buddy of retired mayor Wilson. the eulogy was done by the chief rabbi of Allen Baptist Temple.

    He started off with an esoteric reference to Herbert Marcuse, switched over to the New Testament, and about half hour later neatly circled back to Marcuse. Spellbinding.

    I mentioned that to a black acquaintance who laughed and told me that any good black preacher can do that stuff with their eyes closed.

  220. Ralph

    No, I am easily annoyed by speakers who use firstly, secondly, etc., um, ah and like.

  221. len raphael

    You have to laugh to keep from crying when you see the effort an intelligent guy like Wilson Riles Jr puts into this alternative currency/id card project.

    Greg Harland led off by declaring the idea was silly when we needed more retail consumer friendly shopping including parking and security.

    Jean Quan must have learned something from her last creative idea, aka Ebonics, when she was president of the OUSD Board years ago, because she avoided the entire topic of the meeting, and simply criticized Perata’s campaign tactics.

    This will give people outside of Oakland something to talk about besides our crime.

  222. Barry K

    Len & Naomi- I read about the “Big Three”
    being related to each other: Sanctuary City + Municipal ID Cards + Acorns (currency).

    One of Quan’s aides was quoted that the program in SF for ID cards could cost $500k-$2M. But most of the costs would be during the first year for startup. Unless Oakland can use (lease) equip from SF. Hah.

    I have several oak trees in my yard. Would my fair-trade, organic, home-skooled acorns have a greater value when I run out of cash to pay for more parcel taxes?

  223. len raphael

    The only way the ACORN project might work is if the city council mandates the ACORN as the only legal tender for marijuana medical dispensaries and the industrial marijuana grow factories.

  224. ralph

    How do you plan to use acorns to spur local retail? I am sure the squirrels will get to them first and then they will probably start hoarding them. Bad idea.

    Ithaca Hours predates berkshares.

  225. len raphael

    What are the links to the ballot proposals and mayoral candidate statements?

    While searching for Measure Y -II, i visited the

    where despite Marleen Sack’s lawsuit, they still declare:

    “Masure Y Frequently Asked Questions

    What does Measure Y pay for?

    The measure will add 63 sworn police officers for community policing, crime reduction, and targeted focus on truancy and school safety; domestic violence and child abuse, bringing the total strength of the department to 802 sworn officers.

    It will provide after-school and in-school programs and outreach for at-risk youth; offender and parolee employment training and incentives; and counselors for victims of domestic violence and child abuse.

    It will restore two fire engine companies, add paramedic services and organize firefighters serving as youth mentors”

    Anyone have the stomach to wade thru the “independent” performance audit of Mesaure Y?



  226. Anita

    Here is the link to the Measure Y fix http://clerkwebsvr1.oaklandnet.com/attachments/25714.pdf

    The big changes are there are no longer any minimum police staffing requirements and they added “up to” in the number of engine companies and truck companies the fire department must maintain.

    Here is the link to the proposed public safety parcel tax http://clerkwebsvr1.oaklandnet.com/attachments/25715.pdf

    The measure lists what this new tax revenue can be used for. Nothing in the measure says the new money can’t be used for existing services and the money that was paying for those existing services can’t be used for other services.

  227. len raphael

    Ralph is correct about those Oaklandish squirrels. Either that or there are still some Ohlone around town.

    Had to search the ground under the big Oaks at Oakland Tech to find just a few acorn caps/hats.


  228. Barry K

    Anita- Also the MY Castration has a 20% allocation for “youth outreach” services; that’s $4M. Ironically, the same payout to OFD.

    Does this mean a new parcel tax for Fire next year? Keep the pensions open, err, rather, keep the stations open.

    A couple of years ago, the Auditors office found the Council was wrong to pass an annual increase (each year for 8 years) on the paramedic tax because their account was underutilized; they also had Fed Funds coming in. But, they continued to approve increases in the tax even though it wasn’t warranted. That, and, there was no spending plan (budget) on how to use the funds.

  229. Barry K

    Dax says: May 15, 2010 at 7:01 pm
    Regardless of what Calpers does, Oakland is still going to be contributing more and more. (a few paragraphs removed)

    Jean Quan will handle this issue just like she handled the Oakland Public schools when it went off the cliff. She’ll switch the subject and go dedicate a creek or something.

    Dax, you are right on the mark!!!

    Legislative File ID 09-1527
    Passed: 06/15/2010 Enactment No.:82817

    Subject: Courtland Creek Park – Quan’s Pay-Go Funds From: Vice Mayor Quan Recommendation: Adopt A Resolution Authorizing A Grant $10,035.65 From Councilmember Jean Quan’s Pay-Go Funds To The Friends Of Oakland Parks And Recreation, Fiscal Agent For ACE Arts, For Rejuvination Work For Courtland Creek Park

    I guess this means the work will get done in time for a newsletter, website and campaign materials.

  230. livegreen

    I thought the Pay-Go funds were frozen during the budget crisis? When did they thaw them back out?

  231. Barry K

    Livegreen- the previous FY budget froze the annual payouts ($300,000) to each Council Member and the Mayor. That was okay, because each one of them had “banked” nearly $1M in funds in the CC accounts.
    That was until last years’ report found they spent about $4.5M in pork projects and had about $4.5M left to spend.

    The Pork-Go funds were never transferred back to the General Fund. They were never frozen.
    And, despite the Alameda Grand Jury’s report that the CC and Mayor should NOT have Pay-Go, and return the funds to the General Budget, they didn’t. (The AC Grand Jury felt the funds spent could be used for political gain.)

    Many on the CC have been busy spending on pork because it’s an election year.

  232. len raphael

    Barry K, kinda disgusting about PayGo isn’t it. No way to stop it because every cc member has a vested interest in it, and when you describe it to residents, their response is “good, at least my district will get something”

    To me it’s another reason to put in term limits.

  233. CitizenX

    Pay-go funds are one really bad idea. Probably Robert Bobb’s biggest blunder. Over the years, they have gone from bad to worse. The Council has passed resolutions to make it easier to spend their funds as they see fit, without going through standard competitive public procurement processes.

    Two major issues with pay-go funds really annoy me. First and foremost, they serve as a reelection slush fund. By sprinkling funding around to various groups, Councilmembers constantly improve their reelection chances. We call it buying votes.

    Second, why is it that the soooo much of the pay-go money gets plowed into the schools, when the City has so many needs for the money? The schools continue to sit on voter approved/voter funded bond proceeds, whch can be used for these sorts of capital projects, while the Councilmembers plow City funds into the schools. Why? See point #1. Lots of happy PTA members. Lots of happy voters.

  234. Barry K

    Council Members have funds from multiple sources: Office Funds, Car Allowances, Pay-Go, Credit Cards, Travel, and, Priority Project Funds. Priority Projects approved by the CC:

    Type: City Resolution 81950 Status: Passed 05/05/2009

    Subject: Priority Project Funds – District 6 From: Councilmember Desley Brooks Recommendation: Adopt A Resolution Authorizing A Grant Of $60,000.00 From Councilmember Desley Brooks’ Priority Project Funds To Oakland Fund For Co-Sponsorship Of The Annual Concert At Arroyo Park Series, Sponsorship Of A 3 On 3 Basketball Tournament, And Operating Expenses

    Type: City Resolution 81951 Status: Passed 05/05/2009

    Subject: Priority Project Funds – District 6 From: Councilmember Desley Brooks Recommendation: Adopt A Resolution Authorizing A Grant Of $7,623.00 From Councilmember Desley Brooks’ Priority Project Funds To Urban Services YMCA For Expenses Associated With The Dare To Dream Program

    Type: City Resolution 82113 Status: Passed 07/07/2009

    Subject: Priority Project Funds – District Five From: Vice Mayor De La Fuente Recommendation: Adopt A Resolution Authorizing A Grant From Councilmember De La Fuente’s Priority Project Funds To The Unity Council In The Amount Of $10,000 To Fund Expenses Related To The Dia De Los Muertos 2009 Festival

    Type: City Resolution 82665 Status: Passed 04/20/2010

    Subject: Intensive Arts Education Programs From: Councilmember De La Fuente Recommendation: Adopt A Resolution Authorizing A Grant From Councilmember De La Fuente’s Priority Project Funds To The Museum Of Children’s Art In The Amount Of $18,900 To Fund Intensive Arts Education Programs Serving 1,132 Children In Oakland’s Fruitvale Neighborhood

  235. len raphael

    Effect of Prop 13 on Oakland’s financial situation.

    I need another set of eyes and brains on this. I also can’t find one of those pie charts for dummies, “where your property taxes go”.

    The short answer is that prop 13 has undoubtedly reduced the growth of tax money flowing to k-9 education, but has had much less dramatic effect on our City’s general fund revenue.

    Total real estate taxes (excluding transfer taxes) are projected to contribute 29% or 130 Mill out of the 433 Mill total revenue of the General Fund (ie. not restricted by bond covenants, federal and state grant terms, etc).


    That tax revenue is about 1.5Mill less than fiscal year 07/08. (anyone have the comparable numbers for pre real estate bust years)

    My understanding is that the bulk of the ad volorem (not the parcel taxes)go to the State supposedly for k-12 education.

    Another factor is that there was a massive taxable change of ownership of CA property in the years 1998 – 2007. Though we all know neighbors paying a fraction of what their neighbors pay, overall most of the assessed roll is fairly close to what current valuations would be.

    Ie. much of Oakland’s property is not affected by the Prop 13 limits because it was purchased within the last few years.

    Look at http://www.acgov.org/assessor/annual_report.pdf page 16 and maybe you’ll reach different conclusion.

    Another factor that reduces the effect of prop 13 is that a very large chunk of Oakland’s commercial real estate is owned by entities that are 100% exempt from property taxes:

    Churches, Hospitals, Schools, Non Profits, Government. Unfortunately for our tax base, much of the growth in jobs in Oakland has been from such tax exempt entities.

    My hunch is that the decline in real estate values over the last three years has hurt Oakland and the revenue going to k-9 much more than prop 13.

    -len raphael

  236. len raphael

    V, how about starting a thread dedicated to fact checking candidate’s statements.

    Misleading statements that are technically true, can be as bad as outright misstatements.

    example of completely true but misleading:
    “For the last eight years I have had the tremendous honor of representing all Oaklanders on the Oakland City Council and the AC Transit Board of Directors.”

    then there’s bombast such on my candidat’s site. Greg Harland:








    Full employment, LOL.

  237. ralph

    I show a total property tax haul of $268.7MM FYE 06/06 and $317.7 FYE 06/07. Absent additional info, I would say allocate on the same basis as future years. (Yes, I am actually spending my Sat night analyzing financial stmts from Oakland and other cities)

    I would like to add that the statiscal and trend information found in the Balto, Denver, and Portland financials is like manna from heaven

  238. ralph

    re: RK’s sentence, I am betting because one can interpret her sentence many ways – 8 on each, 8 on both, 4 on each, 2 on one 6 on another. Some may place more importance on one and not the other.

  239. MarleenLee

    I agree with Len that factchecking the candidates’ claims would be enlightening.

    I had the same reaction to Rebecca’s website when I looked at it. The first part of sentence reads: “Ten years ago I ran for Oakland City Council’s at-large seat as a twenty-nine-year-old civil rights lawyer burning to serve my city.”

    Okay, she ran, but she lost….She is clearly trying to get voters to think she’s been on the Council for a lot longer than she has. Also, “civil rights lawyer” is a bit of stretch. Looks like she worked part time for around a year for some landlord-tenant solo practitioner.

    Then there’s the bit about her working for the City Attorney’s office, which I have reason to doubt. According to her on-line resume, which she appears to have created when she was running for the at-large seat in 2008, there is no mention of her ever working at the City Attorney’s office. Once she was elected to the Council, she coulnd’t have worked there, so when exactly did she work there and what did she do? Inquiring minds want to know.

  240. len raphael

    V, when i first read that sentence to myself in RK’s bio I had same impression as you.

    I then asked two other people to read it who very little of RK’s background and knew only that RK was on the city council. Their reaction was that they hadn’t realized that she’d been a council member for so long.

    It’s like one of those tests for color blindness or binocular vision.


  241. L.Reese

    Tuesday, September 21st. United Nations International Day of Peace. Free events in Oakland!

    The International Day of Peace is this Tuesday, the 21st of September.

    Peace Day provides an opportunity for individuals, organizations and nations to create practical acts of peace on a shared date. This is a global call for peace that the people of Oakland and the Bay Area can participate in!

    Local non-profit organization Listen for Life has put together a series of free concerts and events on Peace Day for the community to take part in. These events have over 100 musicians performing at seven venues and represents many of the cultures and traditions from Oakland and the Bay Area.

    This promises to be a great day for peace, for Oakland, and for Peace in Oakland!

    Event Listing for Oakland, California

    Peace Day (September 21st, 2010)

    12:00 noon to 1:00 pm (outdoor concert)
    In front of Oakland City Hall
    1 Frank H. Ogawa Plaza, Oakland, CA 94612
    - between 14th and 15th St, at Clay St near Broadway, next to Oakland 12th St BART station

    Diana Rowan – Harp
    Rick Flores – Classical guitar
    other acts To Be Announced

    11:00 am to 12:00 noon
    St Mary’s Senior Center
    925 Brockhurst St, Oakland CA 94608 (near San Pablo Ave)

    James “J.B.” Brooks – vocals

    5:00 pm to 7:00 pm (outdoor concert)
    Bandstand at Preservation Park
    13th St at Martin Luther King Jr Way, Oakland CA 94612

    Rafael Manriquez & Ingrid Rubis – Latin American Songs
    The Gasmen – Irish band
    Aaron Ableman – Communitree; rapping for peace and ecology
    Evelie Posch & Friends
    Orkestar Sali – Rumen ‘Sali’ Shopov’s lively Balkan Band

    6:00 pm to 10:00 pm
    St Paul’s Episcopal Church
    114 Montecito Ave, Oakland, CA 94610

    Pacific Boychoir
    Kitka – world-renowned Eastern European women’s vocal group
    Winnie Wong – Guzheng master
    Pulama – Hawaiian duo
    Carlitos Sermeno – Paraguayan harp
    Sarah Klauer (soprano) and Ralph Lewis (piano)
    David McLean – Flamenco guitar
    Charith Premawardhana and Classical Revolution
    Connie Doolan Quartet – Celtic Folk

    7:00 pm to 10:00 pm
    St Augustine Catholic Church
    400 Alcatraz Ave, Oakland CA 94609 (between Telegraph and College)

    The Gasmen – Irish band
    Oakland Interfaith Gospel Choir
    Malvika Sriram – Carnatic Singing from India
    Patrick Landeza – master of the Hawaiian slack-key guitar
    Ricky Garcia – 18-year-old operatic phenomenon
    Spiritual Image – Filipino Choir
    Vanessa Van-Anh Vo – Emmy-winning Vietnamese musician

    7:05 pm to 10:00 pm (admission ticket required)
    Oakland Coliseum
    7000 Coliseum Way, Oakland, CA 94621
    Oakland A’s vs. Chicago White Sox game dedicated to Peace Day
    Ricky Garcia (Listen for Life affiliated singer) will be performing the National Anthem!

    Other local events in support of Peace Day:

    Mercy Retirement & Care Center
    3431 Foothill Blvd, Oakland CA 94601
    Tuesday September 21: Special events in honor of Peace Day

    Sunday September 26, 3pm, in Hertz Hall on the UC Berkeley campus
    Pacific Mozart Ensemble Concert (dedicated to Peace Day)

    Temple Sinai, 2808 Summit Street, Oakland CA 94609 (near 28th & Broadway)
    Friday September 24 7:30 pm Shabbat Shalom (dedicated to Peace Day)

  242. len raphael

    And in today’s Temescal’s crime news there was an attempted takeover at 51st and Tele check cashing place.

    according to an eyewitness i spoke to, a guy tried to crowbar his way thru the security doors. police arrived almost 1 hour later.

    bad guys must be reading abo and figured out there are fewer cops.

  243. len raphael

    a neighbor was telling me something about AC Transit getting hurt in an old sales/leaseback transaction? something about 30mill? penalty for getting out of a cdo type transaction.

    only thing i could find online was a reference back in 2008 re list of transit agencies that did complex sales/leaseback deals. only listed a 100mill transaction for ACT.

    Was this how they financed the H buses?

  244. len raphael

    Restorative justice and mediation:

    What does that phrase mean in practice in Oakland?

    Kaplan lists it as a major part of her public safety platform.

    Quan and Macleay talk about it also.

    No links please, but specific examples of how it would work, costs and benefits.

    -len raphael

  245. len raphael

    Where’s the beef in Kaplan’s 4 page 17×11 newsprint mailer that i just found in my mail?

    I’m trying to keep an open mind here, so i read every line from front to back expecting to find evidence of Kaplan’s vaunted command of policy, in what she calls a “blueprint for our future.”.

    A hodgepodge that ranges from her micro detailed “overhauling organizational structures” by “putting permit applications online” and “revamping the city web site” to her vague “attracting jobs for local residents by retaining and expanding businesses”

    The only detailed economic development part of her platform is TOD at the Coliseum.

    My pit really liked her proposal to increase dog runs and play areas in public parks because as people with young kids continue to flee Oakland’s awful school system, dog owners become more important than families with kids.

    She does make it clear that her plans to support local business are dependent on the same ideas Dellums had to get more Fed and State grant money, tax incentives, and local hiring regulations.

    She threw in a few zingers that surprised me:

    free transit passes for students and eco-passes for employees; and reversing “cuts to recreation, library, arts, and senior services”.

    Absolutely nothing to say how she’s going to pay for that, let alone fixing the “structural deficit” which she deftly blames on other elected officials.

    To her credit, she doesn’t blame “the historic recession” for our financial crisis the way Quan does.

    The funny part is that as much of a waste of trees Kaplan’s mailer is, compared to Quan and Perata, at least she discusses policy, no matter how superficially.

    -len raphael

    that’s just two not
    ches above Perata’s 0 detailed platform.

  246. len raphael

    Why does Kaplan and Quan say we need to implement Compstat when OPD thinks they started applying it over a year ago?

    “Oakland (Ca) – CompState is a multidimensional approach to crime reduction and resource management. This technique is intended to map crime and identify problems in weekly meetings. CompStat gives police commanders the opportunity to devise strategies and tactics to solve problems and improve the quality of life in their assigned area. The strategies to address emerging (real-time) crime trends throughout the City’s neighborhoods are discussed and reviewed by the Chief and Deputy Chiefs. The Oakland Police Department has been using CompStat for the last year and Oakland is currently experiencing a 14% reduction in violent crimes.

    The next Oakland Police Department CompStat meeting is scheduled for Wednesday, October 27th, at 10:00 a.m. This meeting will be held in the James Moore Theater, Oakland Museum , 1000 Oak Street and is open to the public. “

  247. len raphael

    All of you concerned about a Perata victory should be voting for Michael Kilian as Auditor.

    If you’re convinced Evil Don is going to give the city away to Prison Guards and Big Developers, then you need an auditor’s auditor who has a working relationship with Perata’s opponent Quan.

    One of the only smart financial decisions Quan made, was to appoint Kilian to the Citizen’s Budget Advisory Committee a few months ago. He’s the only cpa on that Committee.

    Ruby specializes in finding minor problems and avoiding antagonizing the power centers of Oakland govt.

    It makes her look like she’s doing her job but doesn’t make her enemies.

    We need an auditor willing to piss off politicians and city officials.

    We need someone who is an experienced auditor, not someone like Ruby who just met the minimum auditing experience requirements to get her cpa license.

    Kilian worked for several years under Ruby’s predecessor, Roland Smith.

    Kilian never did agree with the way Smith ran the department. And I say that as a supporter of Smith’s output, not how he ran the audits.

    Telling me that Ruby’s dept has won awards doesn’t impress me in the least. The one I saw looked like the kind of award elected public auditor groups give each other so they look at next election time.

    Kinda like those huge trophies I used to get for my kids’ soccer teams. We gave them out at the end of every losing season.

    len raphael
    Perata and Kilian supporter