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November 2014 endorsements: Libby for Mayor, Abel & Annie for Council, and more

31 Oct

It’s been nearly two years since I’ve written anything here and nearly three years since I announced a “hiatus” for this blog, but as I was writing my endorsements to post on Facebook, I thought I should post them here as well. This will probably be my last blog post for a very long time, but if you’d like to keep up with my thoughts on Oakland, BART, transit, land use, and plenty of other issues, I tweet regularly and like to engage there. Follow me – @RebeccaForBART – or if you’re not on Twitter, follow me on Facebook.

Now, to the endorsements… You might have noticed that there are a LOT of competitive races and ballot measures on the ballot this year. So I have not endorsed in all of them, just those where I feel the most strongly. I’ve offered some resources below that cover many of the other races.


Libby with familyOakland Mayor – Libby Schaaf: I’m so excited that Councilmember Libby Schaaf is running for mayor. I’ve long supported her (and worked on her council campaign), and I’ve been incredibly impressed by her time on the council. I’m supporting Libby because she is the smart, creative, and effective leader that Oakland needs as mayor. In one term she’s accomplished so much, and many of her accomplishments have been hard fought and on controversial issues. One example of this is the compromise she led on tenant and rent protections earlier this year. Tenants advocates and landlords had been at odds over this, and Libby was able to get them to compromise on real reforms both sides could agree on. This is just one of many examples of Libby’s ability to listen to all sides, consider all opinions, and to find solutions to difficult policy problems. Libby recently released policy papers on all of her major priorities, which include what she’s done on these issues and what she plans to do if elected mayor. I highly recommend reading them, especially if you’re still undecided in the mayor’s race.

Continue reading

AC Transit & BART seek community input on redistricting

3 Oct

The state’s redistricting has been completed (pending legal challenges and ballot initiatives) and the City of Oakland’s redistricting won’t happen until next year, so right now anyone who’s interested in redistricting should have plenty of time to focus on AC Transit and BART’s processes. In the coming weeks, both agencies are holding community meetings about redistricting so there should be plenty of opportunity to weigh in.

AC Transit recently released its redistricting proposals (at the bottom of this page), and for Oakland, no matter which proposal the Board picks, not much will change. Oakland right now is represented by four directors – two at-large and two representing districts. The at-large seats are not effected by redistricting at all, and the two district seats – Ward 2 (Greg Harper) and Ward 3 (Elsa Ortiz) don’t appear to be changing much at all. The boundaries between Ward 2 and 3 will shift by a few blocks, and the same will happen between 3 and 4. So chances are that no matter which proposal is picked (and there may be a compromise between the two), your director will not change.

As for BART, even though they’re starting to hold community meetings this week, I could not find proposed maps on their website. What I did find was a map that shows population stats by current districts, which suggests some of the districts will be changing significantly. Oakland currently has three representatives on the BART Board. In District 3, Bob Franklin represents Rockridge, Temescal, and parts of the Oakland hills. In District 7, Lynette Sweet represents West Oakland. And in District 4, Robert Raburn represents the vast majority of Oakland, from Broadway all the way through East Oakland. Continue reading

Dreaming of an Oakland bus rapid transit line… in Vegas

19 Apr

A couple weeks ago I was in Las Vegas for a conference. Las Vegas brings plenty of images to mind for most people – gambling, bright lights, crowded streets, over the top architecture, drunken bachelor and bachelorette parties, and so much excess. But something you might not associate with Vegas is bus rapid transit (BRT), and even a transit wonk like me had never had that association until a couple weeks ago.

For the first time I stayed in downtown Las Vegas, which still has plenty of tourist-attracting hotels and casinos but also is filled with office buildings and some housing. It also has buses, lots and lots of buses. And on my second day in Vegas, as I was walking to an event, I was overjoyed to run into not one but two bus rapid transit lines!

Here are some of the photos I took: Continue reading

Just 2 days left to donate to the Alameda County Community Food Bank’s Frost Bite Fund

30 Mar frozen lettuce

Earlier this month I featured a guest post by the Alameda County Community Food Bank that asked for donations to their Frost Bite Fund. As the post explained:

While the Bay Area was abuzz about the snowfall that wasn’t a few weeks ago, the fresh produce that the Alameda County Community Food Bank relies on was freezing in the fields. We were two truckloads short of food last week (that’s 80,000 pounds), and the impact of the freeze on newly planted crops will be felt well into the summer months.

Continue reading

Countywide Transportation Plan survey shouldn’t force us to decide between senior bus riders and bicyclists

13 Mar

UPDATE: The Countywide Transportation Plan survey deadline has been extended – you now have until March 27th to fill it out.

Much of the discussion of transportation planning and funding on the national and local level is based on us vs. them dichotomies. Should we fund highways or high speed rail? Should we make space on our streets for car parking or bike lanes? The discussion even pits alternative modes of transportation against each other. Are buses or rail superior? Should local funds be spent on pedestrian infrastructure or bike lanes?

It’s a really unfortunate way of looking at transportation decisions, especially since most everyone in this country and city use multiple modes of transit. We are all pedestrians (yes, you are, even if you just walk 10 feet from car to destination), and nearly all of us use at least one more mode, be it buses, rail, biking, or driving. Infrastructure improvements can also benefit multiple modes. Fixing potholes benefits drivers, bicyclists, and bus riders, and reducing traffic through expansion of alternative modes of transportation helps speeds up the commute of drivers. Continue reading

Alameda County Community Food Bank: Frost Bite

8 Mar students sorting food bank apples

This guest post was written by the Alameda County Community Food Bank, which has been in business since 1985 … with a vision toward a day when we can go out of business. We are the hub of a vast collection and distribution network that provides food for 275 nonprofit agencies in Alameda County. In 2010, the Food Bank distributed 20.1 million pounds of food — 52% of it fresh fruits and vegetables.

While the Bay Area was abuzz about the snowfall that wasn’t a few weeks ago, the fresh produce that the Alameda County Community Food Bank relies on was freezing in the fields. We were two truckloads short of food last week (that’s 80,000 pounds), and the impact of the freeze on newly planted crops will be felt well into the summer months. Continue reading

Two ways to invest in our community on Thursday night

23 Feb

Some nights, it seems like there’s nothing to do in the East Bay, but not on Thursdays. This Thursday is no different as there are two great, low dollar benefits for causes worth supporting. If I could be in two places at once, I’d go to both, but since I can’t, I’m hopeful you will attend either the Alameda County Give 22 Kickoff or the Bridge the Bay Benefit. Continue reading

October 12-18 Oakland Political & Community Events

11 Oct

Tuesday, October 13th – Final Vote on EBMUD Water Supply Management Plan 2040

Via EBMUD Director Andy Katz: “The EBMUD Board of Directors will consider adopting the Water Supply Management Plan 2040 to meet our water needs over the next 30 years on Tuesday afternoon, October 13.  While the Plan includes increased water conservation programs, recycled water projects, rationing during worst-case droughts, securing water transfers and groundwater storage, it also includes desalination, and expanding Pardee reservoir with a new dam. The proposal to expand Pardee Reservior would flood 1200 acres, including nearly three miles of riparian and scenic stretch of the Mokelumne River that is used for whitewater recreation and fishing.  I support managing our water supply relying on groundwater storage, recycled water, rationing at 15% in severe worst-case droughts, and increased investment in conservation programs to avoid the environmental impacts of a new dam that would destroy our natural resources. Public involvement is essential to achieving an environmentally responsible water plan that reflects the values of our community.” The Board of Directors meeting will be held at 1:15pm on the 2nd floor of 375 11th St., Oakland. For additional info, visit EBMUD’s website.

POSTPONED – Tuesday, October 13th 20th – Taste of Temescal

This event has been postponed until next week due to expected heavy rain and wind.

Twenty-one of Temescal’s best restaurants are offering a taste from their menus. Visit Dona Tomas, Pizzaiolo, Barlata, Burma Superstar, Mixing Bowl, Bakesale Betty, Lanesplitters and many more all while supporting Good Cents for Oakland, Emerson Elementary School, Claremont Middle School and Women’s Cancer Resource Center. Tickets are $25 for adults and children 12 and over. The event will be held from 6-8:30pm on Telegraph between 40th and 51st Streets. For details and tickets, visit the Temescal District website.

Wednesday, October 14th – AC Transit Board Meeting on Service Cuts & BRT Funding Swap

Ugh, I really wish i could make it to this meeting because it’s incredibly important. The AC Transit Board will be discussing the delay of service cuts and will be receiving an update on discussions with MTC regarding potential the shift of capital BRT funds to operating funds. If you haven’t been following this issue, check out V Smoothe’s two thorough posts about it. The Board will also be voting on a resolution to buy American (I’m sure this will make Joyce Roy and the rest of the Van Hool haters happy) and a resolution approving a collective bargaining agreement with the Amalgamated Transit Union 192. This meeting will take place at 6pm in the 2nd floor board room, 1600 Franklin Street. You can read the agenda and see the relevant memos here. If you plan to attend and would like to write a guest post about the meeting, please contact me at oaklandbecks at gmail dot com.Wednesday, October 14th – East Bay Democracy for America Meetup

At their October meeting, Democracy for America will be focusing on water issues and update the group on the public option. From DFA: “Get an update on the status of the Delta’s water. While an effort to hand control over Governor Schwarzenegger and his cronies was thwarted, there is still a possibility of it happening while broader issues regarding the water in the state of California could be impacted during the on going budget crisis. Assemblyperson Nancy Skinner, chair of the Assembly Natural Resources Committee, will talk about how she views water resources in California and what role her committee should play in making decisions about those resources. We’ll also hear about EBMUD’s efforts to meet our water needs in increasingly dry years. There are dam issues, water allocations and conservation measures that face EBMUD this year.” The meeting will be held at 6:30 at the Rockridge Library, 5366 College Avenue. RSVP here.

Thursday, October 15th – Women of the Black Panther Party and Beyond

The Main Library will put on a one-day exhibit, Women of the Black Panther Party and Beyond. This exhibit will celebrate the women of the Black Panther Party with photos, art and a short film honoring their service to the community, leadership, and vision. Hear the experiences of women fighting to uplift the community. The exhibit will be up from 2 to 8 pm, with the program starting at 5:30 pm. The Main Library is at 125 14th St. The event will take place downstairs in the West Auditorium.

Thursday, October 15th – Oakland Sierra Club Mixer & Activist Social Event

Join local members of the Sierra Club’s Northern Alameda County (NAC) Group for a fun evening in the Fruitvale transit center. They will be socializing and introducing some of our priority campaigns. Connect with other folks in the environmental community, including CBE, Transform, and other organizations. Find out how you can get active in your community! The event will be held from 6:30-8:30 at Mar Y Tierra Restaurant at the Fruitvale Village, 3411 E. 12th St. (ground floor). Directions: Take BART to Fruitvale station, exit and walk into the Transit Village. The restaurant should be on your left (downtown Oakland side). Look for signs. Contact: Kent Lewandowski, (510) 625-5831, or kentlewan [at] yahoo [dot] com.

Thursday, October 15th – Oakland Bicycle and Pedestrian Advisory Committee Meeting

Oakland’s Bicycle and Pedestrian Advisory Committee (BPAC) meets monthly to discusses bicycle and pedestrian issues. This month’s agenda covers updated criteria for prioritizing stair and pathway remediation, the 38th & 40th Street bikeways, and new bicycle parking rack guidelines. The BPAC is extremely inclusive – any Oakland resident who attends three consecutive meetings becomes a voting member of the committee – so if you’re interested in bike and ped issues, you should consider attending. The BPAC will be meeting from 5:30-7:30pm in Hearing Room 4 of City Hall, 1 Frank Ogawa Plaza.

Friday, October 16th – Pacific Coast Brewery 21st Anniversary Block Party

Celebrate Pacific Coast Brewery’s 21st anniversary with beer and music in the street. This event takes place from 5-11pm on Washington Street between 9th and 10th in Old Oakland. Find out more info at Pacific Coast Brewery’s website.

Saturday, October 17 – Oakland Kidical Mass

Walk Oakland Bike Oakland invites you to participate in a social ride for anyone interested in a kid-friendly, mellow bike ride, where you’ll get to know others who move their families around Oakland by bike. Children under 18 should be accompanied by an adult to participate. Ride meets at Frog Park (Hardy St. & Claremont Ave) from 10-10:30am with expected departure about 10:45am. Destination is Lake Shore Park. Ride is about 3 miles – expect a leisurely pace and relaxed atmosphere.

Saturday, October 17th – Linden Street Brewery Brats & Beer

Via Oaklandish: “Join us at Linden Street Brewery for a great party that benefits the Rotary Club of Oakland and Bay Area Community Services (B.A.C.S.) Come through to eat and drink for a cause! This event is Saturday, October 17th, 12:00-5:00pm at Linden St. Brewery (#8 Linden St. @ 3rd St.). There is no cover charge, and this is a family-friendly event. There will be a free shuttle from West Oakland BART and valet bicycle parking.” For more information, visit Linden Street’s website.

Saturday, October 17th – The Black Panther Film Fest

The West Oakland Branch of the library and It’s about Time presents the Black Panther Film Fest. Three films will be screened: Legacy of Torture: The War Against The Black Liberation Movement; Merritt College: Home of the Black Panthers; and Lord of the Revolution. Films screen from 1 to 5 pm at the West Oakland Branch, 1801 Adeline Street.

Saturday, October 17th – Reflect. Honor. Prepare – Commemorating the 20th Anniversary of the Loma Prieta Earthquake

Via Jean Quan’s newsletter: “Our office will be joining many other organizations at an emergency preparedness fair and commemoration of the Loma Prieta Earthquake in 1989. Free raffle for 100 earthquake preparedness kits. Free blood pressure checks. Remembrance ceremony at 5:04 pm honoring those who lost their lives in the collapse of the Cypress Freeway during the Loma Prieta earthquake on October 17, 1989.” This event will be held from 3-5:30 pm at Cypress Freeway Memorial Park, Mandela Parkway at 14th Street.

Sunday, October 18th – Reviving Oakland’s Main Street: Greenbelt Alliance and Sierra Club Urban Walk

Stroll along Broadway with members of Greenbelt Alliance and the Northern Alameda County Group of the Sierra Club. They’ll look at the area along Broadway St. between 23rd Street and I-580. The city hopes to attract more retail here, creating a thriving new shopping district for Oakland residents and others. During the event, they’ll discuss the opportunities and constraints in welcoming sustainable development to the area, share news about the Project Alternatives, and provide ways to get involved. The walk will take place from 1-3pm – meet at 27th & Broadway, near the First Presbyterian Church (meet in front of the church). Contact: Joanna Winchester, (202) 725-6513, or joannawinchester [at] gmail [dot] com.

Scott Haggerty, Democrat?!

10 Sep

Yesterday, I was speaking to a colleague about the resignation of the District Attorney and the appointment process when he mentioned Alameda County Supervisor Scott Haggerty switching parties to become a Democrat.

“What?!,” I responded, sure that I must have misheard him

But I had not. At the annual Labor Day picnic that the Alameda Labor Council hosts, Haggerty turned over his Democratic registration to Robin Torrello, Chair of the Alameda County Democratic Central Committee. Haggerty has been a longtime supporter of labor so it’s no surprise he chose this venue to switch parties.

But why, why would he switch parties? Alameda Supervisors are essentially unbeatable, and Haggerty is popular in his South County district. He had no opponent in 2008 and won with 98.45% of the vote.

The only good explanation for his party switch is that he’s eyeing higher office, and he knows that in Alameda County, it’s incredibly difficult to get elected as a Republican. My initial reaction was that he must be looking towards a state assembly run, though I have no real evidence of that. His term ends in 2012 at the same time that Assemblywoman Mary Hayashi’s term ends, and that’s the district he lives in. If he’s looking to run sooner, he could easily move to the nearby 20th district, where Alberto Torrico is leaving his seat and running for Attorney General. With the support of labor and potentially the support of the Democratic Party, Haggerty would have a fair shot at one of those seats.

While I don’t think Haggerty would make a very good Assemblymember, he wouldn’t be terrible (no worse than many of the centrist Democrats there now), and we’d be rid of him at the local level. Not only would we get a new Supervisor, but we’d get new representation on several important regional transit boards. According to his website, he has his hands in just about every transit related decision making body:

Supervisor Haggerty has extensive experience with regional transportation and infrastructure policy of the Bay Area. He is a founding member of the Inter-Regional Partnership (IRP), comprised of 15 elected officials representing counties and cities from two regions; and he is a member and former chair of the Altamont Rail Express Joint Powers Authority (ACE). Scott is a member and former chair of the Alameda County Transportation Authority (ACTA) and the Alameda County Transportation Improvement Authority (ACTIA), which was formed to oversee projects funded through Measure B dollars. Scott also serves on numerous regional transportation boards including: chair of the Metropolitan Transportation Commission (MTC), which is responsible for allocating state and federal funds to regional transportation projects; member and former chair of the Alameda County Congestion Management Authority; Chair of the Alameda County Congestion Management Authority (CMA) and a member of the Livermore-Amador Valley Transit Authority (LAVTA). Supervisor Haggerty is a member and former chair of the Bay Area Air Quality Management District (BAAQMD); and the Board of Supervisors’ Transportation & Planning Committee.

And what’s wrong with his involvement in all of these transit planning boards? Again, from his website:

With traffic traveling through Alameda County projected to double by 2030, his goals include making long-needed improvements in major travel corridors including I-580 in the Tri-Valley, one of the most congested roads in the Bay Area; and expanding and enhancing transit service. Scott is currently working to ensure the BART (Bay Area Rapid Transit) extension to Livermore is completed, and also has a key role in an ongoing effort to extend BART to San Jose.

Haggerty believes that by expanding highways and roads and building expensive BART extensions that bankrupt the core system, traffic problems will all be solved. We don’t need someone with these attitudes representing Alameda County, or in the case of MTC, quasi-representing Oakland (Oakland has no direct representation on MTC).

So I’m all for Haggerty moving on in search of higher office. Let’s just make sure he doesn’t get on any state level transportation committees or boards.

Replay 10/18/07: Los Angeles/Oakland Reflections: Privatization of Urban Public Space

2 Sep

My trip to LA last week made me reflect a lot on the differences of urban planning and living in Los Angeles and Oakland. Part of my thoughts reflect on my experience growing up in LA, and other thoughts might be influenced by a book I’m in the middle of reading, City of Quartz: Excavating the Future in Los Angeles, by Mike Davis. So I thought I’d write a series of posts about my Oakland and Los Angeles inspired reflections on urban space.

Growing up in LA, my concepts of public space were limited to parks and beaches. The closest I ever got to an urban public center was an indoor mall in the San Fernando Valley.

One of the things that struck me and ultimately drew me to the East Bay was the amount of public space here and how effectively this space was used. I remember my first trip to Berkeley, which happened to be during the Telegraph holiday street fair. I was enthralled by the vendors lining the streets, the cars being held back, and the people crowding the pavement.

I soon learned that Telegraph wasn’t always such an expansive, car-free street, but it didn’t matter. There were other public spaces and events to enjoy: a jazz band playing near the downtown Berkeley BART stop, a rally at Sproul Plaza on the UC Berkeley campus, the San Francisco Mime Troup performing in Cedar-Rose park, a picnic in the Berkeley or Oakland rose gardens, or a stroll around Lake Merritt.

I’ve come to take this public space for granted, but I was jolted out of this complacency in LA last weekend. Unfortunately, the conference I was attending was at the Sheraton in Universal City. I could write several posts about the ridiculousness of Universal City being a separate city from Los Angeles, but I won’t. Suffice it to say that I think it’s even more useless and disruptive than Emeryville is to Oakland.

After days of hotel food and deliveries from Vegan Express, some of my friends and I decided we wanted to go out to eat but didn’t want to hop in a car. So our only option was hopping on the shuttle to City Walk. In my many years of Los Angeles living, I had managed never to step foot into City Walk, and I quickly learned that I hadn’t missed a thing.

As you walk “inside”, you are immediately surrounded by lights and sounds. There are stores and restaurants everywhere, everyone brighter and louder than the next. Music plays, but it changes as you enter into different “zones.” Water spurts from the ground in the most inelegant arches I’ve ever seen.

But wait – this isn’t Hollywood, or Times Square. There are no homeless people. There’s no litter on the ground. Cars don’t zoom buy and practically run you over as you cross the street. There’s no smell of urine in the air.

I guess the absence of these urban features must relieve the average City Walk goer, but it really freaked me out. Needless to say, after we ate our sushi, we got out of there as quickly as we could.

City Walk was clearly created for tourists, but not just for tourists from other countries and states. It’s aimed at pleasing suburban tourists. It’s aimed to make them feel like they’re having an urban Hollywood experience, without all the annoyances of a real city.

Yesterday, I walked through the Oakland City Center to get some soup, and I realized that the City Center is not nearly as bad as I had thought it was. It’s more open and less intrusive than a mall or City Walk. If that’s the worst Oakland can do with privatizing public space, I can live with that.

Mike Davis (and others) often write about Los Angeles as being the model city of the future, for better or worse, but I’m more hopeful than that. If he’s right though, I hope Oakland never follows LA in privatizing public space.