Taking the week off

Things feel, from where I sit at least, particularly grim in Oakland lately. Thinking and writing about it just makes me really sad. So I’m taking a break.

If the Council can have nine weeks of vacation, I deserve at least one, right?

23 thoughts on “Taking the week off

  1. Sue

    Yes — do take a break. But as an avid reader– let me start to count the ways you are making this a better oakland.

    You have placed in one spot alot of valuable research on the city.

    You force the citizens to look at the issues in front of us.

    Then you force the politicians to confront the issues since they know we are talking and giving thought to a problem.

    The blogging world will change the way we get service. Look at today’s article in the NY Times about Comcast and customer service and a blog. (Comcast call me– you really do have horrid service).

    I go back and reread your older posts and have “an oh my” — she told us about this months ago.

    Hopefully some one will do guest stints on your blog while you are away– to keep us focused on the facts; keep us thinking about what are the issues and choices, rather than just the public’s usual hyperventilating.

    Take a break– have a wonderful week.

    P.S. What’s the meaning of that picture of the ranch house?

  2. Colin

    Yes to breaks.

    And yes to everything Sue said. We have mediocre media here in Oakland – or did until you showed up. Your blog is a seemingly endless source of information and insight, and extremely valuable.

    And the ranch house is actually the Lake Merritt branch of the library.

  3. Jim Ratliff

    It’s not a ranch house. It’s the Lakeview Branch of the Oakland Public Library, near Lake Merritt. The street in front of it is one of the two branches of El Embarcadero. One of them will be closed; and the other striped for two-way traffic–as part of Measure DD projects around the lake.

    V., don’t burn out, do take a vacation, but then do come back!

  4. VivekB

    It’ll still be burning in a week, regardless of whether VS is here or not. Take the week, heck take two. Recharge so you can begin the battle anew upon your return.

    In your free time, you should check out Piedmont. I hear they use 100 dollar bills to wipe their noses and give everyone who lives there a new Ferrari every year :-)

    (i’m joking Max, don’t jump all over me)

  5. Joanna/OnTheGoJo

    V, we all know how you feel. We all hit our highs and lows with this City.

    How about a positive story?! I felt better about things yesterday for the first time in a long time, and then even more this morning. Why? Oh, alright, I’ll tell you…

    First, remember how angry I was about the poor voter turnout and how when I asked everyone I ran into if they voted or not? Well, yesterday we got approval from the Alameda County Registrar of Voters to use a location IN our neighborhood! Now the landlord just has to sign the document and it will be official. (They had already agreed to it.)

    Then, this morning I went with my neighbor to the Brown Sugar Kitchen and I was so happy to see it busy – thriving! And the diversity of customers was pretty awesome.

    Then I started thinking about Robert Bobb coming back, and got down for a few minutes, until I realized that as more and more people move to Oakland, the better chance we have for people getting involved and making this City better. You, yourself, have not lived here all that long, so see? You’re here and things are improving. Every step counts.

    Rather than looking at the immediate progress, you have to look at the long term progress. Okay, so not enough voters went with Sean Sullivan to change District 3, but I do think progress was made. More people showed up for our neighborhood candidate forum than have shown up for other neighborhood events.

    Sponsoring & organizing the local clean-up day for six years depressed me because it seemed that instead of improving numbers, we saw less. But we also had significantly less clean-up to do. And while people may not be physically showing up, I think more and more are getting info on-line, especially with blogs like yours, so that they do know more.

    I’m going to take my own mini-break today to go see the Chihuly exhibit in SF… time to take a step back and look at the big picture.


  6. Chuck

    Just wanted to de-lurk and echo the positive comments. This blog has almost singlehandedly brought me more in touch with what’s going on in this city. Thank you for helping to make me (a voter, by the by) more aware. Only by spreading the willingness to give a damn will we get A Better Oakland, and I have to say, you’re doing a splendid job of it!

    Enjoy the break, and looking forward to more when you feel up to it!

  7. Mike Hardy

    It’s pat-V.Smoothe-on-the-back day. :-)

    V, hopefully you take compliments gracefully, because you earn them

    Vacation is mandatory for the soul though, and blogging this well is real work.


    (and I hope you come back and it’s less grim, for all our sakes!)

  8. Surfways

    In recognition of the collective thoughts and voices in this blog, and our strong desire to make a better Oakland, I’d like to cite the shortest poem known in mankind, uttered by none other than Muhammad Ali…


  9. Deckin


    I’m sure you’ve thought of this and decided against it, but let me put my vote in for having a stable of bloggers at this site. dt510 is, of course, an obvious addition and others here seem up to it–you had Chris Kidd a while ago, right? That would take the pressure off of you, ensure more postings, comments, the whole thing. Constant updating is the key and I know the pressures of coming up with the time to write is a total pain.

  10. masb

    Breaks should be absolutely mandatory. We really need a fresh and rested V. Thank you so much for making this information available to all.
    PS. I’m currently “taking a break” in Tahoe but couldn’t stay away from your blog.

  11. PaulineZ

    Dear V, Enjoy your break. Come back soon. I already miss you. You’re work and insight have made me feel less hopeless about Oakland City politics and I deeply appreciate you and everyone who is contributing to the information on this site.

  12. oaklandhappenings

    Hey, if I had council members names engraved in my mind, such as Nancy Nadel and Jean Quan every day, I would take MONTHS off; I do NOT intend to make that sound sexist, but they both really need to go more than the other 5….oh yeah, and the (sarcasm here) “genius” Ron Dellums; forgot about that– my bad.
    Then again, I guess I really couldn’t take THAT much time off; the stupidity of their words would make me have to bash them for talking s***.

  13. Joanna/OnTheGoJo

    m30 – yes, things have been grim for a while, but seem especially grim at the moment with the recent upswing in killings and all the latest in-fighting and finger pointing at City Hall. Even the “adults” at City Hall can’t speak nicely to one another. Not only are every day citizens being yelled at by their Council Staff (hate is a strong word, but the only one I can associate with Marisa Arrona for yelling at me without even giving me a chance to speak, much less answer a question) but now Council Members are even throwing temper tantrums in public meetings. Who ARE the adults?! What message are we sending to Oakland youth?

    The budget is for sure worse than expected instead of just suspect and I think there’s a morale issue by not knowing for sure that the FBI is investigating City Hall. DamagingDellums has actually gotten worse from the DoNothing days. The economy continues to tank and even buildings under construction are being abandoned.

    We should all regroup and figure out a way to join together to make ONE thing change. Were it be a major effort to recall Dellums or a single Council Member or even something smaller like making a dog park happen (okay, you can’t have this one because I’m doing it in my neighborhood) – well, you get the idea. What are the top 10 things we would like to see changed in Oakland. Is one of the items Charter Reform? Then let’s get organized and make something happen and use all this energy and knowledge for positive.

    We’ve all done things, some of us together, some not. But the numbers here are growing and as we grown and organize it can make a difference. I’ve seen it with my local neighborhood association. They’re too slow imho, but they’re plodding away. I’m a NOW person. ;)

    Another idea is to make Max’s community garden (?) a reality.

  14. V Smoothe Post author

    Thanks so much to all of you for your extremely kind words. I really appreciate it. And don’t worry – it’s only a week. I will post something here daily, although it will likely be just a link to an article I found interesting or something, to provide an open thread and forum for discussion. I’m also hoping to have a couple guest posts to fill the void.

  15. Max Allstadt


    I’ll talk about my project a little later, but in the mean time, I like your suggestion that we come up with 10 things we want changed. I prefer the word “done” to changed, but that’s really kind of hair splitting.

    Hey V- Help us out! Crowdsource a couple of posts this week. Ask us for lists like Joanna’s top ten. Better yet, day one: ask for top tens or top fives. Day two, we pick our top five items out of everybody else’s top fives…

    Top five things to get done.
    Top five things to get gone.
    Top five places to find a moment of peace.
    Top five people you want to run for office.

    There are a lot of possibilities.

    -who threw the tantrum in the public meeting, btw?

  16. Max Allstadt

    You know what, Joanna, I just realized I had about 18 ideas tucked away in the “Giant Pile of Theses” folder in my computer. I added two for an even 20. Enjoy.

    What this town needs:

    1. A way of facilitating conversion of small vacant lots to community gardens. Perhaps a simple, city sanctioned contract that limits liability to the owner and provides a clear timeline for departure by the garden should the owner decide to develop the property. Tax breaks for the land owner. Holding land should be cheaper if you share it with the community while you hold it.

    2. New rules for street musicians in Oakland. Cambridge, MA has the best, simplest, and most common sense rules in the nation. We should adopt these and promote street music in Jack London Square and City Hall Plaza. The current rules, particularly in Jack London, are a recipe for banality. I think you might have to audition and get insurance to perform in Jack London. In SF, at the ferry building, the requirements appear to be that you have to show up and play.

    3. Extension of tenants rights to include residential tenants in properties without residential occupancy permits. Measure EE extended to artists in warehouses, and migrants living in Fruitvale garages.

    4. A public art program focused on the principle of crowdsourcing. Emeryville’s electric boxes were decorated by one artist, but did they need to be? Perhaps a master color palette for a citywide decorative arts scheme could be created, followed by a competition for designs using that palette.

    5. Allow responsible consumption of beer and wine in Oakland’s parks. Every cop car already has a breathalyzer, doesn’t it? The only people who should be punished for drinking in public are the ones who misbehave. In texas, they used to call it “Drunk and Disorderly”. This would be a pretty easy way to attract daytrippers from all over the bay area.

    6. A transparency ordinance that mandates any project receiving city money must open it’s books from the moment they receive that money. Their accounts should be publicly viewable.

    Paper accounting is dying. Google spreadsheets can be publicly viewable, privately editable, and update in real time, for free. The city auditor could create mandatory templates for accounting for using Google spreadsheet to document publicly provided funds.

    7. A centralized volunteer labor pool for Parks and Recreation projects. Use the interweb! Get this labor pool accredited for institutions and organizations that require volunteering hours for their members. Does this already exist? Why not? Does the City of Oakland make any attempt to solicit volunteerism on facebook or myspace? Why not?

    8. A crime spotters photosharing page. Is somebody dealing crack on your corner every day? Take his picture discreetly as often as you can. Post it. Help the cops collect intelligence. These pages could be set up for each NCPC, by a member of the NCPC, for free. Urls just get passed on to the beat’s Problem Solving Officer. Easy.

    9. A crime spotters video streaming page. If the city council won’t allow us to spend city dollars on video surveillance, let’s do it ourselves. Step one: set up a webcam outside your home or business. Step two: stream it to an site where it can be cross referenced with a google map. Step three: Coordinate with the police to let them know about this resource. Have police dispatch cross reference URLs for streams with phone numbers near them.

    Are there legal issues here? Is it legal to surveil public right of way within a reasonable distance of one’s own home or property?

    10. Festivals at Middle Harbor Shoreline Park. The kite festival would be better there, wouldn’t it? That damn park is empty all the time. I like it that way, but I also thing it’s a horrendous waste.

    11. A festival expanding upon the success of the Great Wall of Oakland. There are dozens of vacant lots in downtown Oakland that face large blank walls. A coordinated video projection event would be awesome.

    12. Five words: City Council Charity Dunk Tank. Two more words: 1920′s swimsuits to preserve their dignity and ours.

    13. KTOP should upload everything to youtube, all the time, and create a system to tag videos to make them very searchable. Plan for transition to web only, it’s inevitable.

    14. Hot-seat ordinance: A version of prime-minister’s question time for Oakland. Make the Mayor do his town hall meeting in council chambers. Make it a quarterly event, on a saturday, with other attractions in city hall plaza to attract attention. Make council members do the same annually. Strict rules of conduct, set up to give the citizen the last word on every question. The people are the boss. Elected officials are our employees. An organization can’t expect to do well if the boss can’t have a little chat with the staff every once in a while.

    15. The Cultural Affairs office should also create a volunteer labor pool. Artists will often work for free if the visibility is good enough.

    16. A free bus program that helps the homeless get exercise. The busses would transport people after lunch at local soup kitchens. It would bring them to parks in Piedmont, Berkeley, Emeryville and Alameda. It would pick them up and return them to Oakland in time for dinner. Homeless people need exercise, and Piedmont has very lovely parks to exercise in.

    17. Annual high school art contest to draw the oakland city council as cartoon animals. I will now suggest 8 animals that I believe would work for our current council. This in no particular order, using gender neutral terms so that “Lioness” or “Bull” don’t give you any clues.

    Wild Boar. Penguin. Giraffe. Great Dane. Lion(ess?). Stork. Badger. Panda.

    18. A ferry/restaurant from SF to Oakland airport for business travelers. Prime time only. Serve breakfast with great coffee and dinner with great booze.

    19. Bring capture the flag back to City Hall park. Allow charity gambling for this and other amateur sports contests.

    20. Drop an enormous boulder on the Jack London Square Waterfront hotel. Carve a more attractive hotel out of the boulder.


  17. VivekB

    Oooh, violently in favor of #6 (A transparency ordinance that mandates any project receiving city money must open it’s books from the moment they receive that money. Their accounts should be publicly viewable.)

    What I like about it is that it’s also very easily deployable. To provide one HELL of a stick, the money payout is limited to 10% of whatever the grant is until the books are opened. That way there’s lessened risk of someone not doing it.

  18. len raphael

    your ktop suggestion is right on.

    don’t understand your hard on against piedmont. my only problem w piedmont is that their cops stopping people in older cars driving on grand ave to pleasant valley road late at night.

    public google spreadsheets for grant receiving entities. a good start.

  19. Max Allstadt

    For the record, Items 12, 16, 17, and 20 are not meant to be taken entirely seriously.

    Google Spreadsheets: That’s just one possibility for taking webware and using it to do something big for cheap. The very nature of a city lends itself to crowdsourcing and scalability as solutions. On that note, I’d really like to see other possibilities like this suggested by some of the more tech-savvy of you out there.

  20. Patrick

    It’s not a ranch house. It’s the Lakeview Branch of the Oakland Public Library, near Lake Merritt. The street in front of it is one of the two branches of El Embarcadero. One of them will be closed; and the other striped for two-way traffic–as part of Measure DD projects around the lake.

    Personally, I think this little bit of change is one positive thing that’s happening in Oakland right now – turning a strip of needless road into parkland. I’m not a big fan of Dellums, and I realize that he had nothing to do with Measure DD, but in his favor, I have seen more street paving going on over the last 8 months than the previous eight years of the Brown Administration.