Tag Archives: Larry Reid

Port Shut Down Resolution: (Dis)respect for the City Council

20 Dec Grassless Frank Ogawa Plaza post-Occupy Oakland

The last couple weeks have been super busy for me so I haven’t found much time for blogging. But tonight the City Council will be voting on a resolution that’s created quite a bit of controversy, and it’s made me think a lot about how Oakland citizens feel about and interact with their City representatives.

The resolution, authored by Councilmembers Ignacio De La Fuente and Libby Schaaf, opposes any purposeful upcoming or future Port of Oakland shut downs and calls on the Mayor and City Administrator to use lawful tools to prevent future shut downs.

There are, unsurprisingly, strong opinions on both sides of this resolution. And voicing opinions is incredibly important in a democracy. But much of the opposition to this resolution I’ve heard and read in the past few days has been expressed as personal attacks against the councilmembers who authored the resolution.

Reading comments on Twitter about De La Fuente and Schaaf over the past few days reminded me of a blog post I wrote almost three years ago, which seems just as apt today. So here’s that blog post, in full:

(Dis)respect for the City Council

There’s been something on my mind for the past several months that I was reminded of on Tuesday night, as I watched the Public Safety Committee meeting. I often hear Oakland residents blaming all of Oakland’s problems on one council member (the council member varies based on the person), to the point where they accuse that council member of being corrupt or not really caring about Oakland. I try not to fall into that trap anymore, but I used to harbor such feelings towards one council member, Larry Reid. Continue reading

Demystifying Oakland City Council committees

8 Feb

When writing about the state of the Oakland Main Library I mentioned that most of the policy work the Council accomplishes happens in committee meetings. This makes it somewhat difficult for Oaklanders to shape policy unless we’re really engaged, partially because most committees meet during the day on Tuesdays, when most of us are at work, and partially because committees are a mystery to most residents. Sure, the engaged Oakland resident may have been to a Council meeting or two and has a sense of what they deal with, but most have not been to committee meetings and may not understand what they handle. I can’t fix the issue about meetings taking place during the workday (and believe me, I wish I could so I could attend more of these meetings), but I thought I’d attempt to shed some light on committees, what they do, when they meet, and who’s on them. Continue reading

Tweeting BRT

22 Apr

Tuesday night’s Council meeting was long and contentious. I’d love to blog about many things that were discussed, but sadly don’t have the time for it. Instead, I offer you tweets on the BRT discussion.

But before I do, I want to thank everyone who spoke in support of BRT at the Council meeting. There were 45 speakers total, and most were supportive of BRT. I especially want to thank TransForm, and particularly Joel Ramos, who did a kick ass job organizing folks to attend and providing talking points. It was so inspiring to see so many people speak at a Council meeting for the first time. You all did a great job!

Thanks also to everyone who tweeted. If you’re not on Twitter yet, join already! You don’t even have to tweet. Just follow Oaklanders and you’ll see how easy it is to keep up with meetings, events, and local breaking news. Some regulars are featured below – Vsmoothe, dto510, das88, lotormatic, and me. MaxAllstadt and jawnie also regularly tweet Oakland meetings.

I’ll post some video of the discussion next week because some of the comments need to be seen and heard, as Twitter can only capture so much.

OaklandBecks OMG – Reid trying to shift items around to have BRT heard before Central Estuary Plan! Prob hoped advocates wouldn’t have arrived.

lotormatic 45 speakers on BRT – why does this worry me.

OaklandBecks Was it really worth it for Council to take off a week when it lead to this mtg from hell? We’ll be here all night at this rate.

OaklandBecks I think I’ve heard the presentation on BRT so many times now that I could probably give it with help of slides.

Vsmoothe BRT up. Crazy northgate lady speaking now. Big surprise, she’s against it. BRT is redundant b/c she can already take BART to SF.

Vsmoothe Why are Oaklanders so hell-bent on opposing any change to anything ever? Our citizenry is united against all progress. Depressing.

Vsmoothe Senior opposed to BRT: “Seniors don’t need BRT because we are not in a hurry to get anywhere.”

OaklandBecks Joel from TransForm refutes previous anti BRT arguments with map showing convenience of BRT to senior services.

Vsmoothe Joel Ramos of TransForm up now. Talks about extensive outreach, corrects inaccurate information about BRT. Great speech.

dto510 The head of the Slow Food Drive Fast association dramatically decried the possibility of putting people before cars!

lotormatic These commenters on BRT are making me reconsider a career in transportation planning

Vsmoothe Merchant: BRT will put us out of business. We blocked parking in front of our store for 30 minutes and store went completely empty.

Vsmoothe Terence Candell opposes BRT. Infringes on people’s right to walk across the street. Well, he won’t be getting my vote for Mayor.

dto510 CM Larry Reid is way pissed off about BRT and especially transit advocates. Something to do with the OAC perhaps?

Vsmoothe CM Reid repeatedly interrupts, insults, and attacks pro BRT speaker during his speech. Rudeness is shocking, even for Reid.

Vsmoothe CM Kaplan lists things she wants included in BRT project: repave entire street, pedestrian lighting, signalized crosswalks…

OaklandBecks Kaplan mentions that BRT will have service every 5 min. That is the kind of service I dream of.

Vsmoothe CM Kaplan, cont: emergency vehicle access, impact area hiring, preserve nice medians, new nice medians, etc.

Vsmoothe CM Reid: BRT will destroy East Oakland, ruin chance of retail in East Oakland ever.

OaklandBecks You know what else I dream of? Crossing Telegraph w/o fearing for my life. The BRT ped improvements will make that a reality.

OaklandBecks Reid – BRT will destoy East Oakland community. Oh, but the OAC will do no harm?

Vsmoothe CM Reid’s obnoxious self-righteousness is really off putting. Says transit advocates never take bus to his District. I do.

OaklandBecks Reid saying he wants vital retail in East Oakland. Um, BRT has increased retail vitality in every city.

dto510 I also take the bus to D7. i don’t think the enormous road capacity is good for the area.

lotormatic Reid says AC Transit should provide more frequent bus service instead of BRT. Um…

Vsmoothe Now CM Reid is just straight up making shit up. Claims AC Transit will eminent domain houses near BRT route.

OaklandBecks Reid says he’ll take us on tour of his district to prove us wrong. Strange, since he consistently refuses mtgs w transit advocates.

OaklandBecks De La Fuente thinks Oakland should look at all options, which is what staff and and advocates want.

das88 Why is CM Reid so upset? Is OAC on the agenda? Did he receive some secret tweets?

OaklandBecks Note – Reid has never attended the BRT interagency steering committee that he sits on.

OaklandBecks Staffer Bruce Williams explains that Oakland will get to weigh in again after EIR, AC Transit can’t move ahead w/o them.

Vsmoothe CM Kernighan to staff: Are you sure AC Transit does not have eminent domain power to take over our street? Answer is yes.

OaklandBecks Why does everything confuse Brunner? How does she not know what a locally preferred alternative is?

Vsmoothe Jesus. I know the Council doesn’t often deal w/transit, but it’s bizarre to watch them all be so flummoxed by the concept of an EIR.

Vsmoothe CM Kernighan: I don’t really think having buses on the main street is the same as building a freeway through your neighborhood.

Vsmoothe Jean Quan apparently did not bother to read or learn anything about BRT before the meeting. I suppose I should not be surprised.

Vsmoothe Staff tries to explain possible mitigations to CM Brunner, she talks like she didn’t hear one word.

OaklandBecks Kaplan proposed center boarding, which would save half the parking spots. Also, lost parking will be mitigated.

Vsmoothe CM Brunner: I support idea of transit, would like us to be like Portland. But transit seems to cause many problems.

OaklandBecks BRT locally preferred alternative passes unanimously. Yes, even Larry Reid voted for it.

OaklandBecks  OMG – Reid trying to shift items around to have BRT heard before Central Estuary Plan! Prob hoped advocates wouldn’t have arrived.

lotormatic 45 speakers on BRT – why does this worry me.

OaklandBecks  Was it really worth it for Council to take off a week when it lead to this mtg from hell? We’ll be here all night at this rate.

OaklandBecks  I think I’ve heard the presentation on BRT so many times now that I could probably give it with help of slides.

Vsmoothe BRT up. Crazy northgate lady speaking now. Big surprise, she’s against it. BRT is redundant b/c she can already take BART to SF.

Vsmoothe Why are Oaklanders so hell-bent on opposing any change to anything ever? Our citizenry is united against all progress. Depressing.

Vsmoothe Senior opposed to BRT: “Seniors don’t need BRT because we are not in a hurry to get anywhere.”

OaklandBecks  Joel from TransForm refutes previous anti BRT arguments with map showing convenience of BRT to senior services.

Vsmoothe Joel Ramos of TransForm up now. Talks about extensive outreach, corrects inaccurate information about BRT. Great speech.

dto510 The head of the Slow Food Drive Fast association dramatically decried the possibility of putting people before cars!

lotormatic These commenters on BRT are making me reconsider a career in transportation planning

Vsmoothe Merchant: BRT will put us out of business. We blocked parking in front of our store for 30 minutes and store went completely empty.

Vsmoothe Terence Candell opposes BRT. Infringes on people’s right to walk across the street. Well, he won’t be getting my vote for Mayor.

dto510 CM Larry Reid is way pissed off about BRT and especially transit advocates. Something to do with the OAC perhaps?

Vsmoothe CM Reid repeatedly interrupts, insults, and attacks pro BRT speaker during his speech. Rudeness is shocking, even for Reid.

Vsmoothe CM Kaplan lists things she wants included in BRT project: repave entire street, pedestrian lighting, signalized crosswalks…

OaklandBecks  Kaplan mentions that BRT will have service every 5 min. That is the kind of service I dream of.

Vsmoothe CM Kaplan, cont: emergency vehicle access, impact area hiring, preserve nice medians, new nice medians, etc.

Vsmoothe CM Reid: BRT will destroy East Oakland, ruin chance of retail in East Oakland ever.

OaklandBecks  You know what else I dream of? Crossing Telegraph w/o fearing for my life. The BRT ped improvements will make that a reality.

OaklandBecks  Reid – BRT will destoy East Oakland community. Oh, but the OAC will do no harm?

Vsmoothe CM Reid’s obnoxious self-righteousness is really off putting. Says transit advocates never take bus to his District. I do.

OaklandBecks  Reid saying he wants vital retail in East Oakland. Um, BRT has increased retail vitality in every city.

dto510 I also take the bus to D7. i don’t think the enormous road capacity is good for the area.

lotormatic Reid says AC Transit should provide more frequent bus service instead of BRT. Um…

Vsmoothe Now CM Reid is just straight up making shit up. Claims AC Transit will eminent domain houses near BRT route.

OaklandBecks  Reid says he’ll take us on tour of his district to prove us wrong. Strange, since he consistently refuses mtgs w transit advocates.

OaklandBecks  De La Fuente thinks Oakland should look at all options, which is what staff and and advocates want.

das88 Why is CM Reid so upset? Is OAC on the agenda? Did he receive some secret tweets?

OaklandBecks  Note – Reid has never attended the BRT interagency steering committee that he sits on.

OaklandBecks  Staffer Bruce Williams explains that Oakland will get to weigh in again after EIR, AC Transit can’t move ahead w/o them.

Vsmoothe CM Kernighan to staff: Are you sure AC Transit does not have eminent domain power to take over our street? Answer is yes.

OaklandBecks  Why does everything confuse Brunner? How does she not know what a locally preferred alternative is?

Vsmoothe Jesus. I know the Council doesn’t often deal w/transit, but it’s bizarre to watch them all be so flummoxed by the concept of an EIR.

Vsmoothe CM Kernighan: I don’t really think having buses on the main street is the same as building a freeway through your neighborhood.

Vsmoothe Jean Quan apparently did not bother to read or learn anything about BRT before the meeting. I suppose I should not be surprised.

Vsmoothe Staff tries to explain possible mitigations to CM Brunner, she talks like she didn’t hear one word.

OaklandBecks  Kaplan proposed center boarding, which would save half the parking spots. Also, lost parking will be mitigated.

Vsmoothe CM Brunner: I support idea of transit, would like us to be like Portland. But transit seems to cause many problems.

OaklandBecks  BRT locally preferred alternative passes unanimously. Yes, even Larry Reid voted for it.

September 7-13 Oakland Political & Community Events

7 Sep

Thursday, September 10th – Mix It Up East Bay

Join us for a monthly happy hour bringing together young activists, organizers and leaders in the East Bay. Climate change is no longer something that only the polar bears have to worry about – and it’s something we can all do something about. Come out and hear (brief) presentations on the range of work on the range of local work on climate change issues by:

  • Debra Berliner, The Ecology Center
  • Alex Cotton, Rising Sun Energy Center
  • Hilary Moore, Mobilization for Climate Justice

Mix It Up East Bay is held every 2nd Thursday of the month from 6-9pm at Shashamane at 2507 Broadway. It’s accessible by 19th Street BART station or by AC Transit lines 1/1R, 51, 59.

Thursday, September 10th – Oakland Community Economic Leadership Forum: “Oakland Bill of Rights”

This forum should be interesting. Hosted by D&N Institute with The East Bay Social Justice Center & East Bay Small Business Council, the forum is intended to “plan and discuss Oakland residents and small business participation on some Major Oakland Projects.” The list of projects to be discussed includes the Army Base, several hospitals, and… the Oakland Airport Connector. Because you know, BART has promised this will bring jobs to Oakland so we should just trust them and assume it will. Speakers will include Councilmembers Larry Reid and Rebecca Kaplan, BART Directors Carole Ward Allen and Lynette Sweet, and OUSD Board Members Chris Dobbins and Alice Spearman. The event takes place from 6-8pm at Lafayette School, 1700 Market Street.

Saturday, September 12th - Community Workshop on AC Transit’s Proposed Service Changes

AC Transit will hold a community workshop to present its proposed Service Adjustments Plan and gather feedback from the public. If you’re concerned about losing your bus line or just want to hear more about the extensive service adjustments, this will be an important meeting to attend. In October, the Board will likely make its final decision on the service adjustments, taking into consideration all public comments received. The Board could accept, modify, reject, or defer each of the proposed changes. If service adjustments are adopted, they likely would be implemented in January 2010. Take the bus: All lines serving downtown Oakland (also BART to 19th Street). The meeting will be held from 10:30am-12pm at the AC Transit offices, 1600 Franklin Street, 2nd Floor Board Room. Find further info at AC Transit’s website.

Sunday, September 13th - Bike Love Festival & Swap Meet

Need a new seatpost? Looking for a better set of handlebars? Considering a custom frame? Pick up sweet deals on gear, check out local handbuilt frames and enjoy the biketopia that is the first-annual Bike Love Festival. This “swap meet plus” features discounted and used gear from bike shops and bike geeks, free coffee and donuts, and a raffle. WOBO is the beneficiary of this first-time event, so they’ll be on hand to talk about their mission (or bikes and walking, if you like), hand out popular (free) WOBO-brand stickers and send out positive vibes. And if you’re not a WOBO member, the Bike Love Festival is the perfect time to join as WOBO will be offering an event-special annual membership for just $20! The event will take place from 8am-2pm at 2400 Valdez St. For more info and to RSVP, visit the Facebook page.

It’s time for the City Council to weigh in on the Oakland Airport Connector

29 Jun

Disclosure: I was recently hired to work part time on a short term basis for TransForm on the Oakland Airport Connector campaign. However, the thoughts expressed in my posts on this subject are my own and should not be construed to be those of TransForm.

The campaign for a better connector is really heating up. The Oakland Port Commission directed their staff to work with BART to look at alternatives to the Oakland Airport Connector (OAC). Don Perata sent a hard-hitting letter to MTC arguing that the OAC is “too much money for too little transit and economic value.” And just last Thursday, several Alameda County Transportation Improvement Authority (ACTIA) members strongly questioned the project and asked staff about alternatives.

Doesn’t it seem like it’s time for the Oakland City Council to weigh in? Larry Reid and BART don’t think so.

Last Thursday, Councilmember Nancy Nadel asked the Council Rules Committee to put a review of the OAC on the agenda for the July 14th Public Works Committee meeting, which she chairs. Specifically, she asked to agendize the “Discussion And Possible Action On The Bay Area Rapid Transit’s (BART) Design And Construction Proposal, Funding Status, Local Job Projections, And Projected Ridership For The Oakland Airport Connector Project.”

It seems commonplace for the Chair of the Public Works Committee to ask to review a half billion dollar public works project that the Council hasn’t reviewed in many years and which has changed substantially over time. So when the item came to Rules Committee, it was largely expected that they’d put it on the agenda.

BART and Larry Reid didn’t want that to happen though. Kerry Hamill, from BART, spoke to the committee and urged them to hold off hearings until after recess, in September. Her stated reasoning was that the RFP was just released and that BART wouldn’t have solid numbers until then. The problem with that argument is that BART has been approaching agency after agency for funding, so although the final financial numbers may change a bit when proposals return, the numbers are solid enough to present to MTC, the Port, and ACTIA, which means they should be ready to present to Oakland.

Councilmember Larry Reid backed up Hamill and pleaded with the other committee members to hold off until after recess. Councilmember Rebecca Kaplan presented the reasons why the committee should immediately agendize the item – costs have skyrocketed, ridership projections have plummeted, the fare has increased from $2 to $6, and the local community stops have been eliminated. She made it clear that if the Council waits until September to review the project, it would be too late for them to impact the OAC project.

Kaplan is right, and it was apparent that besides Reid, the rest of the committee members were convinced by her arguments. Ultimately though, they didn’t take any action and pushed the issue to this week’s Rules Committee meeting. This July 2nd meeting will be the last chance to agendize the issue before the Council goes on recess.

That’s why it’s so important for any Oaklander who cares about public transit and economic development to contact the Rules Committee members and ask them to immediately agendize a review of the OAC. Please take 2 minutes and send an email via TransForm’s action page.

Or if you’d prefer, email or call the committee members directly:

Council President Jane Brunner, District 1
JBrunner@oaklandnet.com or 510-238-7001

Jean Quan, District 4
JQuan@oaklandnet.com or 510-238-7004

Ignacio De La Fuente, District 5
IDeLaFuente@oaklandnet.com or 510-238-7005

When you contact them, know that you’re not alone in asking for the City Council to weigh in on this project. Last Thursday afternoon, a few hours after the Rules Committee meeting, ACTIA heard an informational report on the OAC. Many ACTIA board members raised questions about the project and alternatives, and some specifically wanted to know whether Oakland really wants this project or not. Alameda County Supervisor Scott Haggerty said, “I need some direction out of Oakland….that says either you want this, or you don’t want this.”

So please contact the Rules Committee and echo the words of Haggerty. It is time for Oakland to give some direction on the OAC, and the July 14th Public Works Committee meeting is the time and place for that to happen.

For background information and ongoing updates about the OAC, please visit www.OaklandAirportConnector.com.

Previous posts on the Oakland Airport Connector:

A grudge shouldn’t delay Oakland’s TOD grant

18 May

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.

CED Committee approves surface parking lot, but changes overall outlook on parking and transit

29 Apr

Yesterday, after hearing from nine advocates who opposed the surface parking lot and two business owners that supported it, the Community and Economic Development (CED) Committee voted 3-0 (with Ignacio De La Fuente absent) to approve the surface parking lot in Uptown. The meeting was a bit maddening, but our efforts were not a failure, and there will still be at least two more opportunities to amend this project.

Before jumping into the frustrating comments from the committee members and business owners, I want to thank everyone who emailed them about the surface parking lot. Your emails were mentioned several times during the meeting. And I want to especially thank those who spoke so eloquently at the meeting – we came together as a community, and it was inspiring to see the blogoaksphere speak out with a unified voice. So thanks.

Unfortunately, we were no match for the Uptown business interests. They wanted a parking lot, and that’s what they got (for now). During the hearing, Melissa Fitzgerald from the Oakland Ice Center and Greg Perloff from Another Planet Entertainment (which operates the Fox), spoke out in support of the lot. Normally I can respectfully disagree with opponents on issues, but their arguments were absurd!

Fitzgerald claimed that on nights that the Fox had shows, admission at the Ice Center was way down because people couldn’t find street parking. She made the argument that if people didn’t find a spot immediately, they’d just leave. You know, because there are tons of other places in the East Bay to go ice skating that have ample parking. Really, this argument makes little sense – there are tons of lots in the area and it’s the Ice Center’s job to educate its patrons about parking and transit options.

Perloff made even less sense. He complained that the Fox’s patrons were having a hard time finding parking and that the Fox feared that for new patrons, “if you blow it the first time, you blow it forever.” When pressed by Larry Reid though, Perloff joyfully stated that attendance is “better than we’ve ever imagined” and that 80-90% of the shows have sold out. So yeah, clearly people are so fed up with parking that they’ll never come back to the Fox. And yet neither Perloff nor the committee members seemed to realize how absurd his argument was.

The statements by Fitzgeral and Perloff were not the most maddening of the afternoon because we expected as much from them. After all, the only reason they want this lot is for employee parking (with 120 spaces at most, those are the only people this lot will serve) so they’re going to say what they need to to get it approved. The statements made by the committee members, who are supposed to be looking out for all Oaklanders and not just business owners, were what made me so frustrated.

Jane Brunner spoke first, proposing a “compromise” that is really no compromise at all. She started talking about how the farmers market at the Claremont DMV parking lot is so great (and I agree because I go there nearly every Sunday) and how we should replicate that in Uptown. Brunner said she supports the lot but would vote for it only if they reserved a day for a market. “That’s a solution,” she said. Um, really? That is not a solution. First, that only covers up the blight of the parking lot for a partial day per week and only mitigates the traffic impacts during those few hours. Second, the area is already saturated with farmers markets – Friday in Old Oakland, Saturday at Lake Merritt, and Sunday in Jack London Square. A farmers market in Uptown right now would either fail or significantly hurt the other markets in the area. Further, as Brunner admitted, it took two years for the Temescal farmers market to really catch on and become a vibrant market. Great, so by the time this Uptown market becomes popular, it will have to be shut down or moved so Forest City can build condos.

Pat Kernighan followed. She said that she had given this a lot of thought and had read the blogs, comments, and emails that claimed this was a step backwards. But she hadn’t seen any viable use that would be better than a parking lot. Wow. This comment made me want to explode. What Kernighan was suggesting is that it is our (bloggers and blog readers) responsibility to come up with detailed proposals for alternatives for this lot! Yet she didn’t seem to be concerned that the committee had directed Redevelopment Agency (RDA) staff to come up with alternative proposals and they came back with nothing. Yeah, you read that correctly. Paid staff comes up with no alternatives, so it’s up to us to develop alternatives. If one of us had come up with a business plan for a mini-golf course (which she mentioned) or a sculpture garden, then maybe we’d be having a different discussion. I cannot tell you how ridiculous I think this expectation is, though I suspect that it was just an excuse to vote for the lot and that even if we had developed detailed proposals, they would have been shot down.

OK, done with that rant and on to the positive aspects of the meeting. Even though the CED committee unanimously voted to approve the parking lot, our emails and comments had an incredible effect on their thinking and discussions about Uptown parking and transit. All three committee members had questions about keeping the surrounding lots open later, creating better signage for parking lots and BART, and providing more lighting. So they’ve directed staff to look into this and hopefully will make some improvements to wayfinding in Uptown. This in itself is a huge win because the big problem on Fox show nights is not lack of parking but cars circling in attempts to find parking because out of towners don’t know where to look.

And there’s more good news – we still have at least two more chances to amend this project. The full City Council will be hearing this item, likely next Tuesday. And after that, the parking lot needs to get a conditional use permit from the planning commission. I’ll be sure to post the meeting information here and will ask you to send just a few more emails (you can resend the ones you’ve already written) and to appear just a couple more times. This fight is not over, and advocate are not willing to concede defeat. Thanks again to everyone who’s helped so far, and please look out for future alerts.

Check out Future Oakland for another take on the hearing and the structural causes of the committee’s decision.

(Dis)respect for the City Council

12 Feb

There’s been something on my mind for the past several months that I was reminded of on Tuesday night, as I watched the Public Safety Committee meeting. I often hear Oakland residents blaming all of Oakland’s problems on one council member (the council member varies based on the person), to the point where they accuse that council member of being corrupt or not really caring about Oakland. I try not to fall into that trap anymore, but I used to harbor such feelings towards one council member, Larry Reid.

My first exposure to Reid was back in 2004, when I attended the Public Safety Committee hearing on regulating medical marijuana dispensaries. At that time, there were a dozen dispensaries, all clustered in downtown Oakland, and the City was the first municipality in the state to see the need for regulations of this industry. I remember that meeting and subsequent meetings fairly clearly, and what I remember most was how Larry Reid seemed to dismiss the needs of medical marijuana patients and sometimes sounded very rude in his comments. To our community, it felt that he just didn’t care and would rather patients go to the illicit market.

Very quickly, Reid became my least favorite council member. I knew little about the Council and how the city functioned, but I knew that I did not like Larry Reid. All the negative medical marijuana regulations that came from the council, I blamed on Reid.

Looking back, I realize just how absurd and unfair that judgement was. Reid had legitimate, though misplaced, concerns about dispensaries. He had seen rampant drug use in his district and witnessed Oaklanders who spent their lives selling drugs. So Reid equated dispensaries with the black market and felt like this land use was being pushed onto Oakland, while other neighboring cities were not doing their part to accomodate dispensaries (which is true, especially South of Oakland). And the medical marijuana dispensaries had not fully done their part in educating Reid. I doubt patients from his district or dispensary employees from his district met with him to explain how dispensaries were a vital part of Oakland.

On Tuesday night, as I watched Reid and the other Public Safety Committee members discuss Reid’s proposed curfew for juveniles, I was reminded of this. I am entirely opposed to the curfew but could see that Reid truly meant well. He sounded saddened that the curfew had not passed and explained that he was not trying to victimize youth, but to ensure young people could live in a safe environment. He called on the community to reach out to him and other council members to help develop a solution and to address the problem of youth violence.

Look, I know we’re not always going to agree with the decisions of particular council members (or sometimes a terrible unanimous decision by the Council), but to me it’s clear that all of the council members mean well. Everyone of them cares deeply about Oakland. If they didn’t care, why do you think they’d be on the Council? It doesn’t pay well, it’s an incredibly difficult job, and their motives are constantly questioned. But we all have different policy ideas for making Oakland a better place, and sometimes those policy proposals are going to piss us off. That doesn’t mean it’s necessary to hate a council member or to think of a member as evil. Instead, it might be more productive to turn that negative energy into action and to try to work with the Council to make the changes you’d like to see in Oakland.

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