Will Lowry: Don’t leave apartments out of Oakland Zero Waste plan

30 May compost

This guest post was written by Will Lowry, who was born in San Francisco, where he lives with his family. Will has worked in Oakland’s public schools and currently does online communication for the Sierra Club San Francisco Bay Chapter. He considers it part of his online mission to encourage you to leave your computer off, and to go outside.

Oakland is designing a new “Zero Waste” collection system to be implemented in 2015, which will last for 10 years or more. The proposal has many excellent points, but it still needs an essential improvement.

Under the current proposal, single-family residences would continue to put out separate carts for recyclables, compostables, and garbage. Multifamily buildings, however, would receive pick-ups just for recycling and garbage, with compostables mixed in the garbage. This mixed garbage would be processed at a mixed-materials processing facility, which would try to sort out the compostables (organic matter) from the items going to landfill.

This distinction between residential and multi-family buildings is wrong — both for the environment and for the people. Compost derived from mixed garbage is contaminated (sometimes by hazardous waste in the dumpsters), and can’t be used for farms and food crops. Further, treating apartment-dwellers as second-class residents, unable to learn to distinguish between compostables and trash, is insulting to them, and leaves them out of the city’s efforts to achieve Zero Waste. Continue reading

Ratna Amin: Open Data is SO Oakland

27 Apr oakland_crimespotting

This guest post was written by Ratna Amin  (@ratnaamin), an urban planner, former Oakland City Council staffer, and Government 2.0 explorer. She is organizing OakX (@Oak_X) – a collaborative effort to grow civic innovation (email: oakXinfo [at] gmail.com).

Should the City’s data be free? The Oakland City Council will decide this Monday night on an Open Data Resolution, which would liberate City data from paper and PDF and make it readable by civic web sites and smartphone apps. The resolution, first proposed by Council Member Libby Schaaf, has been watered down and delayed – yet Open Data is the key to unlocking incredible assets.

What is Open Data? It is government sharing data with the outside world, in a format that computers can read. Anyone can use that data to inform citizens, engage communities, and help government do its work. Open data is typically used on web sites or smartphone apps. What kinds of government data? All kinds: public facility locations, job listings, crime data, meeting schedules, street sweeping schedules, test scores, transit schedules, wastewater data, anything.

Earlier this month, at the 55-country Open Government Partnership meeting in Brazil, Hillary Clinton stated that she and President Obama “believe that countries with open governments, open economies, and open societies will increasingly flourish. They will become more prosperous, healthier, more secure, and more peaceful.” Oakland should comprehensively embrace open data, a City with a legacy of supporting citizen participation and openness. A few other reasons open data should thrive here:

Continue reading

I’m running for BART Board

21 Mar Logo for Facebook cover

Two months ago I abandoned this blog, and I apologize for that. Soon after BART Director Bob Franklin announced that he would not seek reelection and would instead run for Oakland City Council, I decided to run for the open District 3 BART seat. The campaign has taken up the vast majority of free time in my life, including the time in the early mornings and late evenings that I used to dedicate to blogging.

As has happened in the past when I got busy, I optimistically thought I’d find some time to write a blog post here and there, but clearly that has not happened. So today I wanted to let Living in the O readers know that I’m taking a blogging hiatus, and I of course wanted to share the news that I’m running for BART Board. Continue reading

Two great Oakland parties for two great causes

13 Jan Emerge Logo

In the next few days there are two fundraising events happening in Uptown for causes that I care deeply about. I hope you’ll consider joining me at one or both of these events.

Emerge California East Bay Reception
Saturday, January 14th from 6:30-8:30pm at Make Westing

I wrote about Emerge California when I graduated from the 2011 class back in June. Emerge California is the premier training program for Democratic women who want to run for office. The goal of Emerge is to increase the number of Democratic women in public office.

I learned so much through the seven month training program and met some amazing women leaders from throughout the Bay Area. I want to do everything I can to make sure women – particularly Oakland women – have the same opportunity as I did, which is why I’m on the host committee for this Saturday’s East Bay reception. Continue reading

Rediscovering Downtown Oakland: Cafes

2 Jan Farley's Tiles

Several weeks ago I promised to restart my Rediscovering Downtown Oakland series and asked for suggestions on what categories to cover. I’m starting off with Cathy’s request: “how about coffeeshops? with room to sit in?” I was a bit surprised, looking back at my 2009 series, that I had not covered cafes, especially since there are several fantastic places to sip coffee and tea downtown. It seemed like an appropriate place to start, since as many of us return from vacations to work this week we might need or benefit from some extra caffeine.

Here are a few of my favorites. (Note that besides being great cafes to enjoy with friends or colleagues, all of these places also offer free wi-fi so they’re great places to work too.) Continue reading

A cheap, car-free New Year’s Eve in downtown Oakland

30 Dec Broadway Shuttle Map

New Year’s Eve has never been one of my favorite nights to go out. Clubs and events are absurdly overpriced. Everywhere is at least twice as crowded as usual. It’s close to impossible to catch a cab. So many years I stay home or do something low-key with some friends.

But this year my wife and I decided we wanted to go out and when I found out that the Free Broadway Shuttle would be running its usual Saturday night schedule of 6pm-1am, I realized we could bar hop around downtown Oakland. Getting around will be super easy (and free), and if any of the places we go to are too crowded, we can move on.

I researched free or cheap bars and clubs in downtown and put together this list, which I figured I’d share here. Continue reading

Honoring Sanjiv Handa & Ron Bishop through civic engagement

28 Dec Sanjiv Handa

Updated with memorial service information for Sanjiv and Ron at the bottom of this post.

Yesterday I found out that Sanjiv Handa had passed away from this tweet from Chronicle reporter Matthai Kuruvila:

Larry Reid just told me that Sanjiv Handa, a fixture at Oakland Council meetings, passed away. Don’t know much more. #oakmtg

I was in complete shock for several minutes. I had heard that Sanjiv had looked sick at last week’s Council meeting, but I had a hard time grasping that he was gone. I had an even harder time imagining what City Council and other meetings would be like without him.

I was equally saddened and shocked a few weeks ago when I found out that Oakland bicycle advocate Ron Bishop had died. I hadn’t seen him at Oakland Bicycle and Pedestrian Advisory Committee (BPAC) meetings for a few months, which – now that I’m looking back – should have alerted me that something was wrong, as he had been a founding member of the BPAC, was chair for many years, and rarely missed a meeting. But reading the news on Facebook surprised me and brought tears to my eyes.

Oakland is so lucky to have benefited from the watch-dogging and advocacy of these two men. I could write pages about each of them, but I won’t, since others have already done that. I highly recommend reading Dave Campbell’s blog post about Ron Bishop on the East Bay Bicycle Coalition website. For more on Sanjiv Handa, read this 2006 East Bay Express in depth piece about him.

And if you’ve never seen Sanjiv in action at a Council meeting (though I have a hard time believing that’s possible), watch this video of him speaking for 8+ minutes at a Council meeting last year: Continue reading

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