At last Tuesday’s Community and Economic Development (CED) meeting, CEDA staff member Eric Angstadt told the committee that Oakland had been awarded a grant from Caltrans to do a study on transit-oriented development (TOD) along International Boulevard. The grant will reimburse Oakland for $245,000 worth of work on this project.
During a time when the Mayor and the Council are considering slashing just about every department’s budget, grants like this are a very, very good thing because it’s clear that the City does not have funds to cover any non-essential work. And it gets even better for Oakland. TransForm, an Oakland based transportation advocacy group, has offered to do the public outreach for the project, for free. This will save Oakland tens of thousands of dollars in staff time.
You might guess that CED committee members would have been jumping for joy at the sound of this. Well, most of them were, except for Larry Reid. Take a look at this video from the hearing (thanks to V Smoothe):
I can’t tell you how upset I was when I saw this. Not only was Larry Reid turning down free work, but he was turning down free work from an organization that has significant expertise on TOD and community outreach. I get it that Reid is pissed because TransForm, and many other organizations and advocates, disagreed with him on the Oakland Airport Connector, but it is entirely innapropriate for him to say that they have done nothing else in his community when he hasn’t done his research.
TransForm has been a leader on bus rapid transit, which will create faster, more reliable bus service from San Leandro, through East Oakland, to Berkeley. The highest ridership on this line right now is in East Oakland, much of it in Reid’s district. TransForm also does regional advocacy that has benefited East Oakland, like helping pass Measure VV and advocating for more transit funding from the MTC.
Besides, if he had bothered to look at TransForm’s project page for this grant, he would have seen that they intend to work with several community groups in the area. He also might have seen that the lead staff member on this project is Joel Ramos, who has deep roots in East Oakland. Before he worked at TransForm, Joel worked for the Unity Council. And my favorite part of his bio is this line: “Joel’s family referred to AC Transit as “Aunt Claire” when he was growing up, because they depended on “her” so much to get around.” I’ve worked with Joel on BRT for the past year, and I can’t think of anyone more qualified to take a lead role in outreach for this grant.
Ultimately, Ignacio De La Fuente encouraged the committee to vote by consensus to move the grant forward to the full Council, saying that issues with TransForm could be worked out later, and this item is on the consent calendar for tomorrow’s agenda. Hopefully Reid won’t pull it off the consent calendar and will realize that no other group in the area is going to do this work for free.
This project sounds pretty amazing (read the staff report for detailed info), and it would be a shame if a grudge prevented it from moving forward.