KPFA’s Interim Managers Take the Station for a Joy Ride–How will it Affect You?

It’s hard to write much less think about all the problems which beset us these days. After all, it is the anniversary of the BP oil disaster and we are only now getting reports about the true devastation while President Obama’s government is busy giving out new permits to drill in deep water. Our entire social safety net from laws against child labor to the provision of social security and Medicare is under attack.

In Michigan, whole towns are being taken over and given to corporate ownership. Our own Robert Bobb has become one of the overlords and is busy shutting down democracy as I write. I’m really not too surprised at that. I always thought he had a strong authoritarian streak and was a very top-down manager who didn’t necessarily know what was going on beneath him-that’s why I never joined the Robert-Bobb-for-mayor movement.

Given all this, I have always turned to KPFA for real news local, national, and international. Of late, it’s been more difficult. The majority of us listen to radio in the morning or evening drive-times. For many years KPFA hosted the excellent “Morning Show” which encompassed local news stories, national and international interviews, and cultural events. One of the former hosts, Aimee Allison, has gone on to provide local news and culture in the “Oakland Seen”.

Everyone who relied on KPFA for information and as an organizing tool were saddened and shocked when the tradition that was the Morning Show was so abruptly removed (many listeners organized to raise additional funds to bring it back-see SaveKPFA.org for more info on that). The anchors were then laid off (a month later though not allowed on air during that time), but Brian Edwards Tiekert has been brought back based on the CWA contract.

In a few days Pacifica will enter arbitration over its treatment of Aimee Allison. Here is a letter from some of the KPFA staff who are concerned about the cost and effects of Pacifica refusing to return Ms. Allison to her position in favor of expensive arbitration at listener expense.

Dear KPFA Colleagues,

We’re writing to let you know about some very serious choices facing KPFA in the next week.

On April 28th, Morning Show co-host Aimee Allison’s grievance over her termination is scheduled to go to arbitration. Pacifica management has hired the $400/hour law firm Folger Levin to represent it. Pacifica will be charged $500/hour by the arbitrator just to hear the case. But the bills will be sent to KPFA.

We know that Pacifica already spent more that $32,000 of KPFA’s money on Folger Levin before it conceded Brian Edwards-Tiekert’s grievance and returned him to work. As nearly every union member at KPFA is part-time, this is more than most of us earn in a year.

Now, Pacifica is poised to do it again.

This is a lose-lose proposition. If our union wins at arbitration, Pacifica still will have wasted the equivalent of someone’s annual salary defending an action it never should have taken in the first place. If Pacifica wins, KPFA is stuck without its biggest fundraiser—and, soon enough, it will be laying off more of the staff who keep the station running.

Here’s the calculus: The Morning Show accounted for one out of every four dollars that came in to KPFA during pledge drives. In our most recent fund drive, every hour of KPFA’s schedule changed by Pacifica – 6 AM, 7 AM, and 8 AM – raised considerably less than before. In addition, fundraising dropped significantly during the 9 AM broadcast of Democracy Now! The drop in 9 AM fundraising was a predictable consequence of moving the first airing of Democracy Now! up to 7 AM, where it essentially depletes some of the 9 AM audience. In total, morning pledges dropped nearly $140,000 from the 2010 Winter fund drive.

If we extend that gap over a year’s worth of fundraising, translate it into cuts, and work up working from the bottom of KPFA’s seniority list, here’s what we could get: John Hamilton and Brian Edwards-Tiekert would be out (again). So would Laura Prives. Flashpoints would lose Eric Klein and Miguel Molina. Letters and Politics would come to an end:Mitch Jeserich would be out. (Since Mitch is currently KPFA’s biggest fundraiser, that could trigger still more cuts.) There’d be no-one updating KPFA’s website–Miguel Guerrero would be gone. So would Chris Stehlik – which means there would be no-one to actually bill KPFA’s subscribers for the pledges they make . . . If management decided keeping a website and a membership database were indispensable, Chris and Miguel might keep their jobs – but KPFA would lose its state capitol reporter, Christopher Martinez, and the only paid staffer left running its Apprenticeship program, Mickey Mayzes.

There’s no way to continue down that path, and preserve KPFA as we know it.

But there is an alternative: Pacifica management could work with KPFA’s staff and listeners, instead of against us. When John Hamilton got a layoff notice, five union members and one manager willingly sacrificed some of their own pay to keep him funded – that’s problem-solving. When Pacifica announced it was cutting The Morning Show purely for financial reasons, SaveKPFA raised over $63,000 in pledges from people willing to give extra to KPFA to bring The Morning Show back. That money’s still on the table.

Pacifica management could concede Aimee’s case right now, and welcome her back to the air. The SaveKPFA pledges would pay her salary, and benefits, and then some. Pacifica would save the listener money that’s about to go to overpaid lawyers. And it could put The Morning Show back to work raising money for the rest of KPFA.

Between now and April 28th, we have to convince the powers that be that management should be working with KPFA’s staff and listeners to bring Aimee back, not fighting to keep her away. Please, talk to whomever you can in KPFA and Pacifica management, and ask them to work this out instead of fighting it out.

In solidarity,

Aileen Alfandary, News Dept. Co-Director

Phil Osegueda, Subscriptions Director

Chris Stehlik, Database Manager

Okay, that was bad enough. When I personally asked Ms. Englehardt, the Pacifica overlord, I mean, Executive Director, how much more of KPFA’s money would be spent on lawyers this year, she told me $5,000 to $10,000 and no more. That would be bad enough, given the station’s financial condition and the low pay of its programming staff, but now it looks to be much more.

Last night the station’s Interim General Manager and Interim Program Director, note the interim, sent out a letter announcing a complete overhaul of programming without any kind of input from anyone-at least that we know of-not the Community Advisory Board, not the Program Council, which doesn’t even exist yet, nor station department heads, nor any listener or staff input.

These changes will turn listener habits on their heads and completely eliminate local news programming from the morning drive-time while abolishing the traditional 9 AM slot for Democracy Now. If you missed it at 7 AM, you missed it.

They have determined that young adults will tune into Hard Knock Radio, cultural and political programming for the Hip Hop generation, at 9 AM and folks used to getting a full hour of Dennis Bernstein at 5 PM will want to hear national and international news, similar to that covered by Democracy Now, at 8 AM just following DN.

Here is there announcement. Note these changes will occur immediately following the next fund drive. By the way, just for fun, the Pacifica bureaucracy will be collecting an extra tithe on this fund drive just for them, subtracted from the funds donated for the station.

FROM: Carrie Core iPD, Andrew Leslie Phillips iGM.

A CHANGE IN OUR LINE-UP.

As you all know KPFA has been struggling to maintain itself over these
past years and months.

Since 2005, KPFA suffered a 27% drop in annual income, including a 30%
decline of more than $1.2 million in annual listener support.  There
has been a corresponding drop in membership. In the meantime the
overall economy is depressed and raising money is difficult.

The old model is not working. Programming is not the only reason but
is likely part of it. On going internal disputes have also drained our

resources.

We all know that a controversial program change was made by Pacifica’s Executive
Director Arlene Engelhardt when the KPFA Morning Show was removed from
the air. There were staff layoffs. Some paid staff agreed to resign
their positions and were offered compensation packages. And some staff
agreed to reductions in hours. Restoring the old Morning Show is not
the answer. We need to step into the future, not back to the past.

With this in mind and in an effort to get KPFA on a new track, it is necessary
to make program changes. It is one of a number of strategies new
management is working on with staff, to move the station and the
network forward.

We note that under the Union Contract; Section 2 – Management Rights –
management rights include: “…the right to hire, classify, assign,
promote…” and “…to locate or relocate work assignments.”

Immediately following the May fund raiser and membership drive we will be

instituting the following program changes:

1) The Morning Mix and the 9am rebroadcast of Democracy Now will be
replaced by Flashpoints and Hard Knock Radio – Flashpoints at 8am and
Hard Knock at 9am. Both programs are lead by amongst our most experienced
broadcasters and award winning producer/hosts. As well as reaching out to our
current audience they will embrace a new, vibrant, multi-cultural audience.
We have plans to take our new morning line-up on the road reaching deeply
into our community.

We want to thank and praise those who pitched in on the Morning Mix
over these past months. Most were unpaid staff and they did a good job
under difficult circumstances.

2) Against the Grain and Living Room will be moved to 11am following
Letters and Politics.

3) The morning music line-up will move to noon and be given an
additional 30 minutes. This means our afternoon line-up will move
forward one half hour commencing on the half hour at 1:30pm – 4pm.

There will be no changes in this line-up other than the time.
4) Free Speech Radio News will run at 4pm followed by an updated
thirty minute newscast from Al Jazeera.

5) A proposed new program slated for 5-6pm called Talk Back will
run five days a week and will invite our audience to “talk back” to
the host. There will be five different hosts for Talk Back. Hosts are
currently under consideration.

As you probably know, we want to reinstate the program council and we

are moving forward in that regard. The program council will be invited
to review and evaluate these changes.
Finally, you will note that nobody has lost their program. Nobody has
lost their job. We believe these changes will strengthen and diversify our
lineup.

The above mentioned program changes will be shared with the
KPFA Community Advisory Board and LSB over the weekend. They will
be announced to our audience during the Morning Mix this Monday.

It’s probable that the evening drive-time will turn into the Afternoon Mix, with no cohesive programming. As one of the union staff put it-have they checked the Arbitron numbers, looked at the online listening statistics or pledge drive behavior-given that they turned down additional funding to bring back the Morning Show-that would also be a no.

Most importantly, have they attempted to gather listener input? As one wag said, “of course not, then they’d be managing the station instead of just taking it for a joy-ride!”

This is how interim managers operate at KPFA. They see the station as a giant jar full of pieces which they can upend and shake without causing any disturbance. They do not see the station and its evolution as anything they need to respect and the listeners are just those folks who pay their legal bills.

I don’t know how listeners will take this wholesale shift but I would like to hear from you, unlike the managers hand-picked by Pacifica, I still think this is our station. Go to SaveKPFA.org and let us know what you want to do about Pacifica’s takeover of programming, spending, staffing and our complete loss of local control. Do it now!

Follow the Easter Bunny Down Lakeshore this Saturday!

The 24th Annual Lakeshore Easter Parade & Derby Decorating Contest and the 3rd Annual Lakeshore Baptist Church Spring Children’s Fair
When: April 23rd at the Church- 10 AM last minute decorating,
Where: Parade starts at 11 AM at the Church, 3534 Lakeshore, continuing down the Avenue where the hats will be judged.
How: Buy plastic derbies for decorating at shops where they are displayed in the window. Children may use recycled household items to decorate a theme or any style you like.
What: Easter basket prizes from Lakeshore merchants will be awarded for best hats in age categories.
Then: Stay at the Church for Easter egg decorating, snacks, and fun!

The Lakeshore Avenue shopping district has been a favorite Oakland gathering spot for decades. I moved into the neighborhood around 1988 when I rented a house four doors down from the one I presently own. After living in the Glenview, Dimond, and San Antonio neighborhoods and experiencing the crack epidemic while living next to San Antonio Park, this area was quite a change for my family.

Somehow, my kids and I missed attending the annual Easter and Halloween parades (they were a little too old) although my children will never forget shopping at the old Lakeshore Variety Store when Hunter McCreary’s shop was the center of the Avenue. Halloween was huge there.

The windows would be full of fun and gory goods, like battery operated beating “hearts”, masks depicting the current president and other ghouls, and the usual devils and French maids. There really were a few things you could buy with a dime. Remember when we used to call them “five and dimes”?

Hunter would stand outside and regale passers-by with funny anecdotes and comment on the changes your kids were growing through. That store went through lots of changes too after Hunter retired, including housing an exotic bird shop full of squawking parrots.

Where did the inimitable Mr. McCreary go? Not far. He comes back to Lakeshore every year and joins Carla Betts, of the Betts Chevron stations, and local activist Arvi Dorsey to judge the “Derby Decorating Contest and Children’s Parade” that is in its 24th year. Mrs. Betts has been performing this gig with Mr. McCreary for more years than she would like to say while Mr. Dorsey is a more recent addition to the distinguished panel.

Lakeshore has gone through many changes since the long ago days of the first Halloween and Easter Parades. For one, what do we call these events since many parents whose children attend come from multiple religious and cultural backgrounds?

Rachel at Silver Lining Jewlery prepares the prize baskets. Thanks Rachel!

We have combined the tags associated with this time of year so that it is still the Easter Derby-another anachronism, a derby is a round-topped hat-Decorating Contest and Parade, but we call the fun event afterwards the Spring Festival. The kids’ fair that is held after the parade at the Lakeshore Baptist Church but is non-denominational. The folks at the church put that on for the children of Oakland, because they enjoy providing a fun family experience.

Bunny girl.

We could delve into the topic of how the strange customs of Easter got started- most of them seem to be carry-overs from the earth-loving pagan cultures of Europe, but maybe that’s a subject better left to a History Channel special. If you want to hear a hilarious rendering of how the American version of all these strange rites look to modern Europeans, get a copy of “Me Talk Pretty One Day” by David Sedaris and read it aloud to family and friends.

Kids in their decorated derbies.

Back to Lakeshore-we went from a sort of preppy street where an older generation of Piedmont families might shop to a much more international and multi-generational mix of boutiques, restaurants, pizzerias, and even a successful club or two. With the addition of Cana and the new version of KwikWay (another more upscale burger joint, the Flipside will also open soon), great Cuban food will join California-cuisine style comfort food and Cuban music. What a mix!

Chandeliers at Canas takeout store

Come on down this Saturday, April 23rd, starting around 10 AM, parade at 11, grab a neighborhood kid (prizes are awarded to kids in their age categories from toddler to 12), pick up a hat by Friday from a merchant displaying the colorful derbies in store windows, or find one at the church and do some last minute decorating to win a basket full of Lakeshore goodies or-just enjoy watching the children of Oakland enjoying themselves. The hats are $2 but the parade and fair are free!

See LakeshoreOakland.com for more info or join Lakeshore’s fan page on Facebook-the Lakeshore Business Improvement District-we need more fans to make our page official. You can email me, the Director of the Lakeshore Business Improvement District which sponsors the parade- Pamela@lakeshoreoakland.com.

Happy Tax Day General Electric!

As you can see from these pictures, my cat didn’t take tax day too seriously. For me it was not as bad as I had feared. As a partially self-employed person (partially employed, partially unemployed, and the other part freelancing, let’s not think too much about why it’s called that) I thought I might owe the government most of my very meager savings.

Turns out that the loss of my second job and the amount of other paid work, I was able to find, means I owe little. In fact, the feds owe me a tiny bit but I do owe the state  something.

Let’s see, what do I owe the state? Well, I owe them the loss of my second income and the fact that if I want to teach again, even as a sub, I have to pay for another kind of credential, because my first two are now pretty useless.

Teaching is one of the lovely professions where you have to constantly upgrade, go to classes on your own time, pay for them and then either pray or fight like hell (or all of that plus join a sit-in coming to you soon) in the hopes that you can use that credential to work with the youth who actually need what you trained and worked so hard and long for.

My last teaching job was as a government and economics teacher. In my class students learned a bit about the federal “guvmint”- no, not much time spent on the 3 branches of federal government. After all how important are those entities compared to party, ideology or who paid off whom?

One branch of government is the Tea Party, those friendly folks who send out racist cartoons while trying to eliminate anything that resembles modern civilized society. Don’t kid yourself that they don’t want to “close down the government” and not just for a few hours or days.

So can they really be considered a branch of government? Yeah, the same way that cancer cells can be considered a part of your body even though they are trying to eat (a technical biological term) the rest of it.

BTW, remember just last year, when it was all the rage to rail against the Senate as an outmoded institution that was preventing us from passing  progressive legislation? Do ya?

Now, lookee, that outmoded institution of rich guys is all that stands between us and the end of our national infrastructure, women’s rights, and some form of healthcare.

On that point, can we please stop calling it insurance? Although our healthcare system is still controlled by those guys, insurance and healthcare are not only unrelated, they don’t mix very well and can be dangerous to handle at the same time.

So, then the Democratic Party is another branch of government. Really, it is. The reason we don’t define it as such is that we don’t actually know what it represents or how to make it work in the way we imagine it worked in the old days.

Uh, which days, those times it barred the doors of city halls and statehouses to Black Americans or the days when FDR sent European Jewry back to the camps. Well, nobody’s perfect, least of all, presidents.

How about the Judicial Branch (so highlighted in our textbooks), specifically the Supreme Court? It was called “activist” when it asserted that all Americans should be able to vote, attend local schools, and, oh, have the right to control our most overwhelming biological function-childbirth.

Now that court, while no one even requested a settlement of this question, decided that corporations really are folks like us, just a whole lot richer. That apparently is not “activism.”

Well, no, I was thinking of lobbyists as the third branch. But now the state of Michigan, led by the wonderful Tea Party, has eliminated the need for lobbyists and gone straight to the source.

Rather than giveaway all of our largesse (back to the point of tax day) through roads to nowhere, oil company rebates, or deals for developers, they have cut out the middleman and the time wasted in lobbying. They’ve just given whole towns away directly to the corporate guys who they played golf, or shared prostitutes, or rode in private jets with the other day.

I only know about small time lobbying like they do here in the City of Oakland. We are really small-time because we still have elections that don’t always go to the highest bidder. Wow, we’re old- fashioned.

So, I taught my students about payday loans and income tax refund loans which generally fall into the 375% interest range in addition to who their government reps were- including introducing them to some of the local electeds. Guess they didn’t need to know that stuff, at least according to the people who work out the budget “deals”.

And here we are back to tax day. The state of California, in its Republican wisdom-actually that plan was hatched by Schwarzenegger and his Democratic accomplices- eliminated the funding stream for free basic adult education in 2008.

I am not sure but, I believe, the promise to adult students that California made some 160 years ago, is still on the books. It’s just that the money to make it happen was wiped out. Some cities and towns have decided to charge for these classes which is possibly illegal, but presents the only choice they have if they want to keep them open.

Oakland chose to shrink the program til it would fit in the proverbial Grover Norquist bathtub where it now languishes with the hope that no one comes by and flushes it completely away.

That brings me back to my tax return. I can be happy that I made so little that I owe even less, right? A friend of mine who worries about me, regularly asks-when I tell her about all my activities- how much I get paid to do this or that. I usually have to answer that I don’t receive pay for any of it.

Maybe I should apply for a write-off with a Schedule A, B, or whatever, for a charitable donation of my time and energy? Since I learned that the folks who make the most and the corporations they work for which pay them princely sums not seen since the Magna Carta, actually get the biggest refunds, oops, wait , gotta explain that better. You see, General Electric is technically correct in not calling them refunds since they didn’t pay in the first place, but “contributions” from our government.

So if you want the big corporations who now control all of the branches of government, to get their money, get your payment in today. With any luck (I mean any), some of it will trickle down on your head when they are finished with it.

Happy Tax Day!

Strolling and Shopping the Lake

Walking the Lake today with a friend, we got our exercise while having a retail adventure. First off, we noticed a sandwich board on the path to the Lake Chalet Seafood Bar & Grill for a cute little shop, Bottega Veneziana.

This little boutique is part of Gondola Servizio’s business and is run by co-owner April Quinn. She and Angelo Sandri met on a Venetian gondola ride and are determined to share their romance with all things Venetian and Oakland with us.

The shop features both Italian specialties including foodstuffs and artisan items-jewelry, purses, etc- made in Oakland. They will also provide an Egg Hunt for the children on Easter Sunday, April 24th, at the Servizio.

We strolled some more and enjoyed the sun and fabulous folk walking and running along with us. My friend had never seen the inside of Oakland’s church by the Lake, Cathedral of Christ the Light, so we went in to check it out.

It is a soaring minimalist structure whose spare insides are warmed by the beauty of Douglas fir mullions, louvers, and benches that envelope you with their honey- colored curves. I had been there before and had visited the charming gift shop. Besides inspirational books and sacred art, there is a wide range of folk art from around the world.

I love nativity scenes and variations on the mother and child theme which you can find rendered in pottery, metals, and wood. They are made by crafts people from Haiti to El Salvador, Peru to Indonesia and Viet Nam. There are also many charming skeleton figurines from Mexico. You don’t have to be Catholic or even particularly religious to appreciate the variety of craftsmanship and culture they offer.

The volunteers who run it told us that they were participating in World Fair Trade Day events that will take place between May 1st and May 15th. If you want to know more about this event, visit FTRN.org which is “aiming to gather over 100,000 North American citizens, businesspeople, faith advocates, students, consumers, and activists to celebrate the people who grow our food and produce our goods.”

We met a family with their very tiny Chihuaha (I think) and her puppy before running into former Lakeshore business owner, entrepreneur, and nationally renowned musician,  D’Wayne Wiggin. He’ll have an exciting announcement for Oakland’s entertainment scene soon, can’t wait.

On our last leg around the Lake we couldn’t help but make one more stop at Sacred Well with its charming windows full of art, crystals and candlelight. It had been a floral shop before this Oakland boutique moved in a few years ago

Design by Rha Bowden, "Co-Exist"

.

There we met Rha Bowden who designed this wonderful motif of a city that represents the best of urban life to me. Rha started out studying engineering at the dual program that Morehouse College and Georgia Tech offer in Atlanta. (He had left Morehouse just as my son matriculated there.) We found out that he finished up at the Atlanta Art Institute after deciding to follow the path of an artist. Many of his ink drawings are available at the shop and well worth a visit.

I will definitely be returning to all of these Oakland businesses in search of the worldwide craftsmanship and locally made wares they feature, but especially to learn more about what inspired these entrepreneurs to bring their unique styles to our town.

By the way, we started our jaunt with an afternoon coffee and a scone at Arizmendi’s on Lakeshore which was bustling and has, thankfully, just expanded its Sunday hours to 6 PM. Hope to see you by the Lake soon.

National Day of Action in Oakland

Adult Ed teachers joined the demonstration.

Monday, April 4th, was truly a glorious day in Oakland. The weather was fabulous with sunny, blue skies, around 80 degrees. It was the National Day of Action in commemoration of the day that Martin Luther King was assassinated while defending the rights of working Americans to organize and demand respect and improved conditions.

It was reported that there were at least 1000 rallies around the country on that day-not including those in other countries. In Oakland hundreds of people, mostly union members gathered at Frank Ogawa Plaza together to send a message to the giant corporations who seem to be running our country at this moment in our history.

Even our president who ran on the platform of change, hope, and a promise to walk the picket lines with us, now spends his days trying to prove to the tea party that he is willing to compromise and uses up his political capital on “saving Libyans” while Americans are wondering who will save them.

Unlike some of my friends, I don’t hold it against him personally. He had to buy into a corrupt system to run successfully; and since then, the Supremes have declared that the rich shall have as much right to determine who gets elected as their money can buy them (Citizens United).

Crowds gather in front of City Hall for the rally.

That leaves only unions left to counter the power of multinational corporations. So all of our new Republican governors are taking the position that breaking the unions’ power to fund raise and organize is Job One.

Here in California our Democratic governor, facing the loss of at least 25% of our state budget is moving to strip union workers of their pensions or at least the pensions of future workers. That means California’s working people will be even less able to sustain a decent lifestyle much less pay their taxes.

But at least the Republican governors of Wisconsin, Michigan, Ohio, and Florida are making it clear that it has nothing to do with budgets and everything to do with making sure President Obama is not reelected, not to mention wiping out the only countervailing force to the giant corporations.

Many folks, even in liberal Oakland, think that public workers receive pensions that are unsustainable. Maybe that’s true but then our police and fire forces, our tree-lined potholes, I mean, streets, our libraries, our businesses, our recreation centers, even our small businesses are unsustainable. We can’t have any of these without the infrastructure of a modern society which includes well-paid, well-prepared and educated public workers, at all levels. But maybe we have decided that we can’t afford to run a modern civilization.

We all know that there is plenty of money in California but now we are expected to beg the folks who have more and more of it to do their duty and consider help us regular folks fund a modern  society. Well now I’m getting off this soap box to let some of the rank and file union folks who spoke so eloquently on Monday, tell you about it themselves in these short video clips.

It was a great day to catch up with friends, some of whom have been laid off, some of whom are waiting to be laid off, some retired, and some out on a quick lunch break between doing the job of two or more workers. I had brought an old friend with me who has difficulty getting out on her own as she is 81 and recently injured her knee.

She had asked for a ride since she didn’t want to miss this event, but there was one fly in the ointment of all this togetherness. We had parked in the city-owned garage on Clay Street. I had parked on the top floor to avoid driving around searching for a space on the lower floors. When I got back up there with my friend Margaret’s folding chair, I found a long, unmoving line waiting to get out of the garage.

During the next one and a half hours, I ran down the stairs two or three times to tell Margaret that it was going to take awhile for me to pick her up for the ride home. We even grabbed a bit of lunch. Many other attendees had seen the line and done the same thing so the line kept getting longer and did not seem to move or dissipate. One man was watching over the rooftop of the garage as the cars crept slowly out onto the street.

I had left my friend waiting on a bench but there was precious little shade for her to sit in, and it had been a long sunny afternoon already. As I sat blocked in by the car behind me (I hadn’t pulled out yet) and since that car was not moving, I made some calls. I called Rebecca Kaplan’s office as she is the Council Member whose jurisdiction is the whole city. I had seen her chief of staff at the rally.

I was told by the young staff person who answered the phone that no one was available to speak to me, and they couldn’t help anyway. Next I called a staff person in the Mayor’s office. I got him but he said he doubted he could do anything. He did offer to try and see if the line could be sped up.

I went downstairs again and asked the poor fellow working by himself if it would be possible to open the gate and let everyone out (collect some money or whatever. They had made quite a bit by then). He suggested I call the management which I did and talked to one of the owners of Douglas Parking.

In every case I reported that it had been 45 minutes then one hour and on and on since we had been waiting (at least on the top floor) and that I had left an 81-year-old woman waiting in the sun.

Of course, most spent the afternoon idling in the garage spewing very expensive gas into the garage and their lungs during this protracted period.  A few minor arguments broke out as drivers tried to determine when to let another car enter the line they had been waiting in for so long. But all-in-all people were very patient.

Finally, after one and a half hours, I got released. Perhaps the owner finally elected to switch to a flat rate to get folks out faster, but not much faster. I paid only a couple of dollars more than I should have- had I gotten out when I wanted to. We were all expecting to pay the topped-out rate by then ($14), but we got off with $10. As for me, I will think long and hard before I let Douglas Parking hold me hostage again.

Bottom line, my friend was worried but okay and told me that she had been so inspired by the event that it had been worth it. That was enough for me.

photo from the rooftop of the Clay Street garage

Join Us to Support Literacy in Oakland

Second Start tutor and student study together.

By some estimates one in four Oaklanders is hampered by a serious lack of English literacy skills; but Oakland Library’s Second Start Program has been tackling that problem since 1984 and you can help. On Saturday April 16th,   the Second Start crew will be holding a neighborhood outreach event at the beautiful new 81st Avenue Library with a day of tutor and student recruitment.

Why is this program, funded by Measure Q, so important now?  A recent study just released by Central Connecticut State University (CCSU) compares literacy rates by state. California, once a state with a renowned K-12 and public university system, now has no city which can be ranked in the top ten most literate cities in the country.

San Francisco was close, coming in at No. 12 but down from its former ranking as No. 5. Oakland ranked No. 35, far down the list but light years ahead of Bakersfield which was close to the bottom.

What does being literate mean? The definitions change over time. According to the Oakland Library’s Second Start Coordinator, Amy Prevedel, in the 1940’s, being able to sign your name to a document would rate you as passing literate. Now even those ranked as literate would have trouble deciphering the average newspaper op-ed.

We’re talking about being able to read the instructions on your medications bottle or comprehending updated instructions on the job much less helping your child with her homework. As we all know, work and civic life is becoming more and more specialized; and, as Amy Prevedel says, “the hoops get smaller and smaller and higher and higher to jump through” to succeed on any but the lowest socioeconomic level.

It’s been reported that 40% of those who enter Oakland’s public schools do not graduate from them. That may even be an underestimate. In previous years many former drop-outs were able to return and receive either a diploma, a GED, or just increase their basic skills-for free.

Last year Oakland Unified School District closed down most of its Adult Ed program and, where 14,000 students once attended, a few hundred are now served. Many of the previous attendees were in English as a Second Language classes. Those classes have been completely eliminated while some “credit recovery” classes for independent high school study and a number of GED programs are limping along waiting for the next budget axe to fall.

As more and more basic adult education programs shrink or disappear, Second Start prevails by using volunteer tutors and operating with individualized learning plans.  The program prepares volunteers to teacher through a one-on-one relationship with any willing adult with sufficient English speaking skills who has access to a local library.

The program is free and the classes are offered in confidentiality. One of the factors that may prevent adults from obtaining help is the shame that sometimes accompanies their lack of skills in reading, writing, and basic arithmetic. Many adults learn coping mechanisms to prevent employers, neighbors, and even family members from discovering their deficiencies; but even with these coping skills, they find their opportunities severely limited.

Second Start, guaranteed by 2004’s Measure Q- about $75 a homeowner- has a part-time coordinator and is located at the West Oakland branch library at 1801 Adeline Street. It is slated to move into the Main Library downtown this year. Regardless of where the program is housed, it remains mobile and adaptable.

A prospective student or volunteer tutor need only call (510) 238-3432 to sign up for a student orientation or tutor training schedule. The program will try and partner the student with a tutor at his or her branch library and bring the intake process to them.

Tutors are required to complete an eighteen-hour training with classes taking place over four successive Saturdays. This training will give tutors the skills they need to work with students who are just beginning their learning careers-whatever their age.

The Saturday, April 16th event will start at 10 AM with coffee, donuts, and introductions. Then the group will head outside where they will hold up signs and banners designed to attract neighborhood curiosity about the program before going door-to-door to leaflet the community with information. Back in the library, new volunteer tutors will-hopefully-be signed up for the next training which begins on the last Saturday of April.

Call Amy Prevedel at (510) 238-3432 or visit the 2nd Start website, http://www.oaklandlibrary.org/services/secondstart/index.html for more information on Second Start.

4-16 outreach sign-up