Help Wanted: An Oakland Planning Director for Equitable Development

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“We write to reflect the concerns of those who have historically been marginalized and bear the burden of unjust planning decisions that have destroyed vibrant local economies and neighborhoods of working class communities of color for over a century in our town.”

Guest blog by Lailan Huen-edits from the original are mine-for brevity only.

Dear Mayor Libby Schaaf, City Administrator Sabrina Landreth, Assistant City Administrator Claudia Cappio, and Hawkins Company:

We represent eight community-based groups impacted by the Planning Department’s decisions and policies in Oakland, and we demand inclusion of community stakeholders in the hiring of the new Director of Planning and Building.

Specifically, we write to reflect the concerns of those who have historically been marginalized and bear the burden of unjust planning decisions that have destroyed vibrant local economies and neighborhoods of working class communities of color for over a century in our town.

It is these Oakland neighborhoods that are now being most impacted by new development, and the current planning processes are insufficient for protecting these neighborhoods at risk of displacement.  Additionally, we see that the lack of safe and affordable spaces for our arts and low-income communities, as exemplified by the GhostShip warehouse fire, is of life and death.

As residents and stakeholders who have been advocating for equity for decades, we have seen the disproportionate power held by developers looking to make more profit without much regard for the residents of Oakland in the political process.

We understand that many developers have been consulted in this process, but only a small handful of community-based stakeholders have been invited to participate.  The City of Oakland must include the voices of those who are most impacted and at risk to achieve its equity goals.

Therefore, we have gathered requests for candidate criteria and stipulated the process below:

  • A planner with a track record in community engagement and participatory processes for neighborhood planning that provides meaningful time for feedback beyond minimal-17 day-notices.
  • Prioritizes equity and understands how institutional racism and environmental injustice have caused harm to working class communities of color in Oakland, including tools to mitigate past harms and create targeted opportunities in these neighborhoods.
  • Has a balanced approach to considering residents and neighborhoods in decisions-in addition to developers.
  • Has a proven track record with preservation of vulnerable historic, cultural and arts districts in phases of gentrification and new development.
  • Recognizes that city staffers with traditional planning backgrounds are less likely to understand the impact of institutional racism, and will hire more representative staff.
  • Comprehends the challenges facing the arts community currently being displaced, and brings experience to support and create safe affordable spaces for Oakland’s vital creative culture.
  • Knowledge of finance in regards to affordable housing programs and a willingness to look at innovative and non-traditional approaches to fund it.
  • Commits to planning tools such as specific plans, zoning changes, density bonuses, and incentives to leverage developer contributions for community benefits to include affordable housing, community retail space, local hire, and public open space.
  •  And to using public land for affordable housing and community benefits and openness to working with Community Land Trusts to secure permanent affordable spaces.
  • Willingness to implement innovative models such as Planning Leader Institutes, Neighborhood Planning Liaisons, Registered Community Organizations, and an Equitable Development Scorecard to assess how projects will meet the city’s equity goals.

Building an Equitable Process

  • At least 3-4 community seats on a candidate review and interview committee, including from these areas of expertise: 1) affordable housing, 2) historic preservation, 3) environmental justice, and 4) arts and cultural district anti-displacement.
  • Inclusion of sample work, design guidelines, as part of the application review process.
  • An opportunity for the public to be invited to hear from potential candidates.
  • Consider recruiting applicants from cities with equitable processes such as: Seattle, Portland, Twin Cities, Philadelphia or a planning applicant familiar to Oakland and has the requisite experience to advance equity as stated above.

Oakland is at a crossroads. Our community desperately needs a Planning and Building Department that is at the forefront of innovative, equitable, sustainable and participatory policies, such as the above listed cities already have.

We are tired of being left out of the process, disregarded when we do participate, and given lip-service without follow-through.  We want real accountability from the next leader who will make bold decisions to protect what we love about Oakland: our cultural and economic diversity, our thriving creative arts life as a key to our local economy, and a democratic process that includes the voices of residents.

We support positive community development and truly smart growth for transit-oriented development which can provide needed housing that is equitable and involves long-time residents. In order to develop a planning regimen which can expedite the process, all stakeholders-including residents and workers- must be included in a meaningful way with public standards for equitable development.

Please share with us the timeline, process, and opportunities for input, and kindly provide a response to our requests within two weeks.  2016-03-25 22.08.15 (640x360)

Thank You,

Block by Block Organizing Network

Oakland Creative Neighborhoods Coalition (OCNC)

Oakland Chinatown Lodge of the Four Family Associations

Black Arts Movement Business District (BAMBD)

Asian Pacific Environmental Network (APEN)

The Dellums Institute for Social Justice

East Bay Asian Youth Center (EBAYC)

People of Color Sustainable Housing Network

The Wellstone Democratic Renewal Club

 

 

 

A Common Sense Primer for Candidates and Newly Electeds in Oakland and Beyond

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We’re in the midst of the silly season, the heartless fall festival of campaigns, consultants, pundits, endorsement battles and, oh yes, the candidates themselves, trying to find a way to survive it all. Someone recently said, a good campaign consultant should study marketing, not poli sci, so true. It’s the Gotcha Season!

Make friends with the media, that means reporters, editors, photographers and bloggers.

1)So here’s some basic advice from an old hand at local politics.Yeah, I know with 24 hour social media and in an atmosphere where a candidate for president gets excoriated for being off line for 90 minutes, it all seems local and there’s some truth to that. But, again, first off, make friends with the media, that means reporters, editors, photographers and bloggers.

If you suspect that they have already stereotyped you or taken a dislike based on your race, gender, political leaning or just your inability to smile for 2 or 3 hours straight, your instincts may be right.

In fact, they probably are-all the more reason to woo them. Pretend they are puppies or babies or your mother-in-law (okay maybe not that) just coo gently and share a not too intimate but just intimate enough anecdote so they know you’re human and that they’re in on the joke.

Do not make enemies of the press or ignore their importance now if you hope to have a political future. I have seen it happen again and again and so have you. Your grandmom was right about first impressions, you can’t make them later.

Having grown up with a mom in the biz, I happen to enjoy working with reporters. And remember, they’ve been downsized too and have to do the work of many nowadays. Make it easy for them and they will bless you.

And whatever you do once in office, don’t run complaining to a reporter you haven’t thanked twice or given at least one scoop to. Don’t demand a retraction, just give an appropriate reaction. You’ve developed a relationship so you might say-more in sorrow than in anger, why, my friend?

Do you have an  elevator pitch? Are you ready with a soundbite?

2)Why are you running? Can you explain it to your teenage daughter? Ok, maybe that’s too hard but do you have an  elevator pitch, a sales talk that keeps the door from being slammed in your face? If not, why do I care?

And, if you’re running against an incumbent, why should I even bother to consider you if you can’t differentiate yourself from the guy or gal I already know, and though I may dislike her, I know what he cares about, what they can do for me. So practice that 30 second, 1 or 2 minute blurb in the mirror or use your phone to record it and get ready with a soundbite or two that a voter or a reporter can take away from any meeting with you.

3)How’s your voice? Don’t talk down in your chest, no froggy throat, don’t talk softly or engage in uptalk (mostly a woman thing-always questioning ourselves). It goes without saying-cut out the ums and yaknows-or does it?

Stand up and speak with authority but warmth. As we’ve learned, all this is double edged for women, be authoritative but not a know-it-all. Smile but don’t seem flirtatious, sigh.

You’re not writing a bureaucratic how-to manual, just make it punchy and easy to take in in say, 8 seconds.

You may have a lot of knowledge of the intricacies of say, the budget or the park department, but no one wants to see the engine, they just wanna know that you can drive the machine. And, for all you helpful friends, writing campaign pieces before the consultant gets hired. No, you’re not writing a bureaucratic how-to manual, just make it punchy and easy to take in in say, 8 seconds. Yeah, I said that.

What are you going to do for me and when are you going to do it?

Here’s the thing, voters may be wowed by your knowledge and some voters will be able to glean that you know something about what your are proposing to do–BTW, I’m not one to suggest pivoting away from tough questions because that’s dishonest and I hate that-a surprising number will not be able to tell. The bottom line for voters is always-what are you going to do for me and when are you going to do it. Make sure you’ve told them, and they can go home and tell their roommate, spouse or doggie pal (elevator pitch.)

Every teacher learns how to read her classroom, so read your audience-eyes glazing over, move on or punch it up a bit.

What’s your plan for the animal shelter/rescue/dog park?

3b) So yeah, everybody loves their kids and you’re here to make it better for the little ones but remember-between the cost of rent and the cost of college these days-lots of the little ones are dogs, cats, ferrets, whatever, what’s your plan for the animal shelter/rescue/dog park. Do you have a picture with your pet?

4)Learn to delegate BUT, the first calls for endorsements are yours to make. If it’s someone you really need, absolutely don’t delegate. I thought everyone knew this but, no, they don’t. Sorry to tell you, but even a great fundraiser will order you to make the big money calls and lots of the smaller ones (Yeah, they’re the boss on that.)

5)Oh, endorsements, they’re so important. Actually, not really. Now some are very useful. In these parts, it’s Barbara Lee’s. Get to know her Advisory Committee members, nuff said. And BTW, don’t make up any endorsements you don’t have.

Door-to-door is what can win it for you. It should be on the top of your list.

6)But, all the clubs and organizations out there can’t win it for you, they won’t probably give all the time, money or volunteers they sorta promised you. If a voter is in that organization, ok, that works for them. So make the rounds but don’t freak out about it. Door-to-door is what can win it for you. It should be on the top of your list. Wait let me say it again-Door-to-door is what can win it for you. It should be on the top of your list.

Ok, now you’ve won, you’ve got a pile of debt, you’re exhausted, your family is done with you and your neighbors are wondering what they should call you.

7)First, thank everyone by name who did anything you know about in your campaign. As soon as you’re done thanking them and not before, start asking them to help you pay off your debt OR ask them to volunteer to help set up your office depending on their skill set, wallet.

8)You’ll need an advisory committee and maybe a kitchen cabinet too. While it may sound like work, it’s like making preparations for a trip and this experience is just that-trippy. So while your volunteers are still happy that they got you in office (cause they did, without them you wouldn’t have made it) ask them to join your advisory group, transitional or permanent, whatever. Get someone to head up your office volunteers now. Ask her yourself and make sure he knows how much you rely on them, etc.

You will find that once you are in office, you will be loved by some, hated by some, avoided by others, but most of your constituents will NOT hang on your every decision. They will however, hone in on your every mistake, perceived mistake (perception is reality in politics, it’s a law of nature) or faux pas. Maybe I should have mentioned this item first but you knew this wasn’t for the faint of heart, the lazy or those lacking in ego.

You, of course, want to make bold decisions, take us in a new direction, invent the cure for cancer, uh, got carried away there but you will too. Then you find out that no one knows what the problem really is and why they should care or that the solution eludes you and the 200,000 people who came before you or it is made at the county, state, federal, or cosmic level.

If you didn’t have a kitchen cabinet, you need one now.

9)So now you learn that even bold decisions that can work, can have some effect and– those that can get another 4 or however many votes needed, may piss off a lot of folks. So here’s what you do-get your advisory committee to hold neighborhood hearings-of course you’re there but you’re listening. If you didn’t have a kitchen cabinet-your most trusted advisors who love you but won’t take your shit-you need one now. Cause they have your back but will also give it to you, right between the eyes when you least want to hear it.

You’ve made that decision, moved ahead on that project, you’ve even invited your harshest critic in the press into your office for a picnic lunch with you, just you,  to explain why you did it and why you need his/her/their help to get the word out there.

If you do good constituent work and your folks feel looked after, you can take practically any position you want.

10)Now, it’s time to remember that your constituent work is the most important work you can do. If you came into office as a policy wonk who was gonna reorganize the world or just your town, start with the problems in the neighborhoods that you can fix. If you do good constituent work and your folks feel looked after, you can take practically any position you want.

Here’s where your volunteer coordinator pays off as she wields the phones in your office with knowledgeable neighbors who can make sure everyone’s questions got answered, their problems got to the right person or the issues got reported to you and at least acknowledged-acknowledgement, it’s what everyone wants, what everyone needs.

If you got elected to an office with staff…

11)And one more thing. If you got elected to an office with staff, unlike, say, the school board (then see item 8) make sure to hire staff that complement you and each other. No, no, I don’t mean they say, “you must’ve lost weight, you look great,” nice though that is.

If you’re a wonky guy or gal, it’s tempting to hire a know-it-all just like you but don’t. Now you need that people person who remembers everyone’s name or at least is willing to chat folks up when you don’t feel like it. But if you’re a warm-hearted soul with no mind for details, then hire the wonky know-it-all to help you with complicated policy, don’t shy away from it because of your discomfort.

Remember not to make them mirror images of you.

Just make sure your office is well-rounded, yes the genders, ethnicities, and neighborhoods/districts should be considered first.Not only should your office reflect your constituents, it should reflect your potential constituents, but just remember not to make them mirror images of you. Too much of a good thing, etc..

Now, go out and make us all proud and don’t forget where you came from or you’ll be back there sooner than you think.

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Policing Oakland, California, What Is to Be Done?

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Please come to the Wellstone Democratic Renewal Club on Thursday, June 23rd, 7pm, at Humanist Hall for a discussion on forming independent police commissions in Oakland and Berkeley.

It’s not a surprise that Oakland finds itself in the middle of a new police scandal-we’re becoming a bit jaded to the police-chief-musical-chairs situation. But, even those of us who’ve been working on police accountability for years, are shocked and chagrined by what is being revealed about our costly department. We had thought they were on the road to reform, albeit, a rocky, circuitous road filled with breakdowns but it turns out-the changes were only superficial.

http://www.cc.com/video-clips/tuipgo/the-nightly-show-with-larry-wilmore-police-crisis-in-oakland–ca

The Horror Story Unfolds

It was horrifying enough to find out about that a young woman had been trafficked as a teenager and then passed around by officers and commanders, but let us not forget the number of police killings that took place in Oakland last summer-death being so much more final.

And, it’s a measure of the low bar we hold police departments to in this country that so few Oaklanders took notice of this abrupt return to homicidal behavior. Still I had felt hopeful that Chief Whent was doing the best possible job in a department with a tradition of murder and brutality. He seemed to be turning it around and the change was noted by other government agencies. By all accounts, at some point he began to give up and things took many turns for the worse.

Now we find out that OPD was just another piece in the puzzle of Bay area police corruption. The fact that it seems to be the largest piece of a disgusting mess, is embarrassing not just to the mayor and council but to all of us. Now comes the reckoning and, even though I didn’t give Mayor Schaaf any of my votes, I appreciate her recent admission that civilian oversight is needed.

Next Steps

The first step is almost in place. If you read this space, you will already be aware that a coalition of organizations and individuals has been researching and designing a unique model of civilian oversight, an independent police commission unlike any others. The proposal has been reworked and tweaked by City Council Members Kalb and Gallo.

Then on June 14th the proposal passed through the Public Safety Committee led by Councilwoman Desley Brooks and is on its way to being heard by the full council where we must garner five votes to get it on the ballot. The full council hearing is set for July 5th and we believe it will be prepared for the ballot shortly afterwards. At that point we will mount a campaign for the fall and will need volunteers and funding. Keep checking coalitionforpoliceaccountability.org for more information and to donate after the 5th.

Truth and Reconciliation

In the wake of almost daily revelations, the Anti-Police Terror Project has proposed that Oakland establish a version of the South African Truth and Reconciliation Commission [https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Truth_and_Reconciliation_Commission_(South_Africa)] and this is a brilliant and quite necessary part of a change in how our community is policed. While APTP has yet to detail its proposal, nothing less than a full process of bearing witness by the entire Oakland community will begin to turn around the horrendous situation we find ourselves in.

It is tempting to throw up our hands and declare that nothing can be done but with Oakland’s history of innovation combined with its story of resistance, we can once again become the models in how change is accomplished.

My first thoughts about this process would include 1) community groups writing the rules, choosing the sites throughout the city, and being charged with how the process unfolds while, 2) the City would pay for any costs incurred by the commission including a large publicity campaign-while not attempting to take ownership of the process.

Oaklanders have spent years, indeed generations, dealing with police brutality, corruption and neglect and it has left a deep residue which damages every aspect of self-government. Indeed distrust, fear and hatred of our most expensive department lies at the heart of distrust and disengagement with local democracy. Our residents need a safe space to tell their stories and finally be heard by those who injured them and by officials who have chosen not to believe them or to consider their concerns in their day-to-day governing of our city.

Many town halls have been held and many times few have come to testify to the truth of their experiences at the hands of those who are expected to “protect and serve.” That’s why it’s so important that these sessions be held where neighbors feel safe to share, including and especially, in our schools.

We await further description by APTP and other organizations working with them  and hope that city officials realize that this process cannot wait long to take shape. Hopelessness can easily defeat the impetus for change-we can’t afford that any longer.

Finally-Shine a Light on the California Legislature

Noted attorney Jim Chanin, who is one of the attorneys who brought suit against the Oakland Police Department over the Riders very serious violations of suspects’ rights (planting evidence and beating suspects, particularly Black men in West Oakland where these officers were assigned)that resulted in a Negotiated Settlement Agreement still in effectand unfinished 13 years later, told the general meeting of the Wellstone Democratic Club that California is the most conservative state in the country in regards to police transparency and accountability, behind place like Texas.

He reminded us that the revelations concerning the officer who shot a little boy, Tamir Rice, in Cleveland who, it was revealed in the press,  had been rejected by another department as unfit, would never see the light of day in California due to legislation and court decisions that our legislature still refuses to reverse.

Since the scandal of police corruption and abuse of a minor has erupted in Oakland, we have been reading that the mayor can’t reveal much about the offending officers due to state law-well, those laws do not exist in many other states.

Here’s a good review of how we got here, written by one of the reporters who has exposed many of the details of these on-going scandals, Ali Winston,  http://www.colorlines.com/articles/deadly-secrets-how-california-law-shields-oakland-police-violence in ColorLines, five years ago!

Recently State Senator Mark Leno tried to reverse the damage done to public accountability by the Copley Decision and the so-called Police Officers Bill of Rights. He was unsuccessful and you can read more in today’s East Bay Times, http://www.eastbaytimes.com/editorial/ci_30041070/police-winning-legislative-war-against-transparency-east-bay

We have yet to see support to overturn these rulings by our East Bay legislators. It’s important that we ask  Assembly Members Rob Bonta and Tony Thurmond where they stand on this-state senate candidates Swanson and Skinner have both said they would support overturning Copley and possibly reconsidering the Police Officers’ Bill of Rights, but so far only Senator Leno has been a reliable champion for transparency and accountability.

While police operate in Oakland as they do in the rest of California, with impunity and often disregard for the real safety of our citizens, we will continue to hide ugly corruption and ignore vicious behavior. In a democracy, we should should demand better. We know the next steps, do we have the will to see them through?

We Want Real Police Reform, Not Faux Fixes

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The Coalition for Police Accountability, a group of community organizations, individuals, and unions [coalitionforpoliceaccountability.org] for police reform, has been working with Oakland City Council Members Dan Kalb, Noel Gallo, and Rebecca Kaplan for months on a measure developed by the coalition over two plus years through research with experts throughout the country, to set up a police commission that is truly independent of political influence while providing community engagement in police policies and transparency in police discipline.

The hard work of these council members has sharpened the work of the coalition and we are very grateful for their leadership.

More recently, Council Members Guillen, Campbell Washington and Reid wrote a separate initiative, and presented it to the coalition last week. Their measure would put the mayor squarely in charge of police accountability and reduce the role of a “commission” to a rubber stamp of the new “independent police monitor”, an additional city administrator hired directly by the mayor and responsible only to the mayor. This new “commission” would have a role similar to the existing Citizen Police Review Board, which despite its best intentions, can do little to discipline any “bad apples”, much less influence police policies.

The measure sponsored by Kalb, Gallo and Kaplan institutes a commission two steps removed from political influence with the power to discipline officers, hire and fire the chief, and research and develop policies on public safety issues and police operations.

In contrast the Guillen/Washington/Reid approach would have the mayor and council directly appoint the “commission” and stipulates that they come from certain professions such as human resources, and surprise, law enforcement. The Citizens’ Police Review Board, weak as it now is, is composed of Oaklanders from all walks of life. Of course, this new “commission” would have no power so perhaps its composition is irrelevant.

There are programmatic elements in the Guillen/Washington approach that the coalition would be willing to include in [enabling legislation for ]the charter change measure, and we are considering those in the lead up to next week’s committee meeting. We cannot, however, compromise the structure of an independent body, a position which has been reaffirmed by three council members.

After 13 years, $30 million in oversight, over $65 million more in lawsuits, it’s time for a serious attempt at reform. Every city that has experienced the kinds of problems Oakland has been through, is now looking to institute a less political, more citizen-oriented approach whereas some of our CMs seem to want to go backwards.

In fact the City of Berkeley has scheduled a review of our measure to consider whether it would work for them and San Francisco is also looking at ways to strengthen the independence of their existing commission. Our next Wellstone Democratic Club meeting on June 23rd, discussion starting about 7:15pm, will focus on these three efforts.

The Coalition for Police Accountability’s measure sponsored by CMs Kalb, Gallo, and Kaplan can be placed on the November ballot by the Oakland City Council. Please sign onto our letter if you would like to see that happen: you can send the letter yourself, call or email your council members to ask that they join the above progressive members on this vote, notify me that you wish to sign, or respond directly to this blog. Pamela Drake-pamelaadrake@gmail.com. But do it soon.

Both measures come before the Public Safety Committee at 4 pm on Tuesday, June 14th  where Chair Desley Brooks will give them a hearing and add her comments-press conference at 11:45 am in front of City Hall in advance of the meeting.

_________________________________________________________________

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Dear Council Member____________

Oakland has spent more than 30 million dollars monitoring the Negotiated Settlement Agreement over the Oakland Police Department since 2003 and over 65 million dollars on wrongful death and police brutality lawsuits. How many affordable housing units or police academies could those funds have provided for our city?

As you know, a group of concerned citizens and [30] organizations, known as the Oakland Police Accountability Coalition including the Wellstone Democratic Renewal Club, the League of Women Voters, SEIU Local 1021, ACCE, the Oakland Alliance, and the Block by Block Organizing Network have discussed the need for a truly independent police commission that could be set up when the current federal oversight ends. The Coalition has researched existing versions, interviewed attorneys, police specialists and sitting commissioners in other cities and come up with a unique new model of police oversight.

Since an independent commission requires a charter change and a citywide election, we are requesting that you join with Council Members Kalb, Gallo, and Kaplan to put this carefully wrought measure on the November ballot rather than substituting a weaker ordinance that does not provide true citizen accountability. A measure that continues to give the mayor or a city administrator the option of declining to impose discipline, for instance, would restrict true police department reform and leave us open for more abuse and additional lawsuits in the future.

This is a good government measure that provides transparency and real community engagement with police operations for all Oakland residents. As progressives, we expect no less from our representatives. We hope you will join with progressive council colleagues to place it on the ballot.

Sincerely,

 

Pamela’s Primary Voter Guide for the 18th AD

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If you live in Assembly Member Rob Bonta‘s district (he’s on your ballot so you’ll know) then these recommendations apply to you and your particular choices. Many of these choices overlap the assembly district but since a few don’t, I’ll stick to this part of the Central and East Oakland/Alameda/San Leandro electoral district.

First, remember that you can still register or reregister if you want to vote in the Democratic Primary, that is, in order to vote for Bernie, you have to be a Dem or a Decline to State but not a member of another party such as the American Independent Party-which is a right wing creation-not the designation for a non-party voter. You have until May 23rd!

Yes vote for Bernie if you want to see a real change in the party, at least at the top.But, in my opinion fighting for good government on the local level is the way we truly build change. The Republicans learned this years ago, and despite rumors of their demise, the old Mark Twain phrase, that party controls many statehouses, state legislatures, and the Congress by working their way up-not down. This is no small thing! It is why voters’ rights and access to birth control  are disappearing in many states and, affordable housing and transportation budgets have been whittled to nothing while student debt bankrupts the young.

So please join me in learning about local elections and get active in local politics. There’s always more to do but it can get complicated. I’ll start with the California Senate race in Senate District 9. Here we have the choice of two good candidates, three actually, including the almost unknown Katherine Welch but with just enough of a difference in vision to be important in our day-to-day lives-which is where we live them, after all.

Vote for Sandre Swanson

Sandre Swanson, Oakland, Alameda, and San Leandro’s previous assembly member was termed out and replaced by Rob Bonta-Rob is running for reelection-who, along with Congresswoman Barbara Lee-she’s also on the ballot and the choice of over 80% of us-Assembly Member Tony Thurmond, and current State Senator Loni Hancock have endorsed him in his run for State Senate as Loni Hancock is now termed out.

Sandre bucked the established Democratic party and the governor who wanted to cut social programs like Healthy Children and eliminate Redevelopment-which the guv managed to do- and which has greatly exacerbated our housing crisis. Nancy has also done a lot of good work but we have to make a choice here–Skinner is well funded and has the support of Oakland Mayor Libby Schaaf which tells me something about their competing visions.

Sandre wrested local control back from the state for our school district, has fought to end the scourge of sexual slavery/trafficking of young girls in California, Oakland particularly, and established the Men and Boys of Color Commission which traveled the state gathering community info and putting it to use to create legislation to help these young men. There’s more-Sandre is principled, progressive and will not back down to the party establishment. I’m voting for him.

Vote Bonta

I’m voting for Rob while pushing him to support tougher laws on police transparency and accountability, because I appreciate his hard work fighting for programs for children who need services that were rolled back by the governor. Both Rob and Tony Thurmond are working to bring benefits to marginalized communities but are often stymied by business Dems and a very frugal governor.

The big state race seems to be a foregone conclusion. Senator Barbara Boxer is retiring and despite the long list of candidates for US Senate, Kamala Harris is the favorite. She has all the right stuff, good connections, extensive credentials, a career as a top law enforcement officer and movie star looks-which we know count even if they shouldn’t. I just have a little trouble consistently electing prosecutors who use the right lingo about criminal justice reform with very few specifics. I need specifics so I’m treading water on this race hoping to get some specific info thrown my way before proceeding to her anointment.

Vote for Carson and Miley

Keith Carson and Nate Miley are running for their supervisorial districts as incumbents. Both should get reelected. Carson is a prince among politicians who works quietly for the various constituencies in his district, listens to their needs and responds accordingly. Miley has his faults, one of them being his inability to deal with criticism. I have had my differences with him in the past but recognize the amount of time he puts in for his constituents and his penchant toward innovative solutions. His opponent has no experience relative to his ambition, believing he should start at the top without grappling with the contentious issues a supervisor faces.

Judicial Races

Now to the judges. There are three judicial races which is an unusual number for one election. I can only suggest you follow the endorsements on their web pages if you have not attended any endorsement meetings. Since I have attended a few, I have a set of suggestions rather than recommended candidates.

Jennifer Madden who’s running for Superior Court has been actively campaigning which cannot be said for Jonathon Van Ee. Jennifer has been endorsed by the Alameda Labor Council, the County Democratic Party and the  John George Democratic Club, among others. It’s true she is a prosecutor but she heads the Human Exploitation and Trafficking Unit (H.E.A.T.) and supervises H.E.A.T Watch, a 5 point strategy to combat Human Trafficking. I attended a panel discussion that BBBON, the Block by Block Organizing Network held a couple of years ago on how girls in Oakland are affected by this modern day slave trade and was impressed by her work. So I’m endorsing her. See  https://maddenforjudge2016.com/ for more info. Vote Madden.

In the other contested Superior Court case, there seem to be some good candidates: Scott Jackson, David Lim and Barbara Thomas. I’ve seen Scott Jackson at three endorsement meetings and Lim and Thomas at one each.

The Alameda Labor Council has endorsed Lim, who as a council member in San Mateo helped google bus drivers unionize, while Supervisors Carson and Miley have endorsed Jackson. Both have been prosecutors so that’s a wash. However, Jackson trumpets his social justice beliefs and given how few Black judges there are in a system bent on incarcerating young Black people,that is something. Bottom line, there are 2 good candidates to choose from.

Democratic Central Committee for the 18th AD

I am running on a slate of candidates for these positions. We are all volunteers who represent the local Democratic Party. If you are not registered as a Democrat, you will not see this ballot though you may still vote in the presidential primary. You have until May 23rd to register as a Dem for this primary and can do so online http://www.acgov.org/rov/registration.htm .http://www.acgov.org/rov/registration.htm

As Central Committee members, we promote voter registration, we endorse both candidates and issues, and pass our policy ideas along to the state party in the form of resolutions. If a local candidate has been endorsed by the state party, that is us.

Given that Alameda County is one of the most progressive counties in the country, we should have an activist party that pushes the state toward more progressive solutions but that is not always so. Please consider joining, or visiting or running for one of these offices in the future.

I am a member of this body and am running again. As the local politics coordinator for the Wellstone Democratic Renewal Club and the political action chair for the Block by Block Organizing Network, BBBON, I have been very active in the struggle for affordable housing and the fight to bring an independent police commission to the City of Oakland.

Besides working for tougher renter protections (please sign the petition for the initiative proposed by the Oakland Tenants Union and ACCE, ) my next project will be working to repeal the Costa Hawkins Act which restricts any kind of renter protections on units built in the last couple of decades and into the future.

You will hear more about this next push (repeal of Costa Hawkins) in the near future. If we do not build more affordable housing while protecting those who live and work in California now, we will ultimately damage the long term economic viability of our state.

These folks are also on the slate that Rob Bonta has endorsed (also Nate Miley, Keith Carson and Abel Guillen) and while we may differ in some areas, overall we are working together to strengthen the progressive direction of our state-Robin Torello, Jim Oddie, Howard Egerman, Malcolm Amado Uno, Linda Perry, Diana Prola, Marlon McWilson (also running for County Board of Ed,) and Corina Lopez. Our entire slate has also been endorsed by the Alameda Labor Council, ALC.

My personal endorsements include-the East Bay Women’s Political Caucus, Black Women Organized for Political Action, the Asian Pacific American Democratic Caucus, the John George Democratic Club, and of course, the Wellstone Democratic Renewal Club.

Measures

Yes on Measure AA-our bay needs us and wetlands are not only important to the critters who live there but as a buttress against sea level rise. It’s $12 a year, folks, so while it may not be a perfect measure, it’s damn good.

Prop 50

No.This was written after some high profile cases of corruption involving state legislators surfaced. It will do little if anything to prevent that while it damages the almost forgotten tenet that you are innocent until proven guilty. It will win but I’m not voting for it.

I’ll be happy to hear your suggestion, differences, additions. Please feel free to comment!

One more thing, if someone darkens your door promoting their candidate or issue, or, heaven forfend, t calls you on your own little phone, please thank them for volunteering to promote democracy, don’t yell at them for violating your privacy or interrupting the game. You might even join them next time.

 

 

 

 

 

Oakland City Council Declares Emergency Over

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The Oakland City Council heard from housing rights/housing security activists tonight including some who demanded more city assistance for those who need it less. One council member was moved to declare that he wouldn’t be “appeasing the activists.” Since a tenant had suggested that war had been declared on those who can no longer afford the new rents, appeasement was avoided at all costs by the majority of the council.

Many poor beleaguered developers showed up toting back packs and looking distressed saying that they couldn’t possibly build in one of the most popular spots of the country if they were called on to donate a fraction of a percentage of their profits to mitigating the the wholesale removal of ordinary Oaklanders.

Gary Winkin-Bottom of upper Blackhawk said, “Who’s going to pay the move-out fees”…that the council might someday-possibly-impose, on-a-sliding-scale-to-a-few, long-deceased, drawn by lottery, suffering landowners-or at least their great grandchildren who may be reimbursed under certain circumstances to be detailed in rules to be determined at some undisclosed time and place  in closed session.[Yeah, they really almost said all this. If you don’t believe me, order a tape from KTOP and watch it, I dare you.]

Sometime around 11pm the city council got around to discussing all this in ever decreasing levels of arcane minutiae and vigorously disagreeing with each other.

But at the conclusion of this hard fought discussion for the withering soul of the city formerly known as Oakland, the council thanked the staff for vigorously misleading them and applauded each other for their courage in the face of activists who openly prayed for them. A good time was had by all except for one local advocate who missed an appointment emptying her cat’s litter box. Oh, the horror!

The People’s Proposal Vs Urban Core but did it have to be that way?

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If you attended the Oakland City Council hearing on Monday evening, held to showcase the 3 housing proposals for the E 12th Street parcel, you would have thought it was greedy developers versus poor residents, but like anything in Oakland, it’s not that simple.

I’ve been following Oakland politics since the mid 80’s sometimes closely, sometimes peripherally, but in all those years, I have never seen Mike Pyatok or The East Bay Local Asian Development Corporation, known to all as EBALDC (eebaldtsee), decried as greedy corporate types.

The activists from the East Lake neighborhood, some of whom are long time, generational residents, but also including those who reached the shores of Lake Merritt more recently-drawn here by our reputation for creativity, diversity of not only ethnicy but ideas, and our storied culture of resistance-arrived in time to fall in love with the Town but then found that love to be unrequited-at least by our leaders.

They presented what seemed to be opposing proposals along with one from the Bridge Housing Corporation, which also has a good rep in the community, but apparently no dog in this race. In a nutshell, the folks from #SaveE12th or the People’s Proposal working with Satellite Housing proffered a small project of 132 units in a 7 story building and Urban Core working with EBALDC proposed two towers, one with 26 floors of mostly market rate units or possibly some in the upper limits of “affordability” with a smaller tower. This project would offer 108 units for lower income renters like those who are rapidly being displaced by the current volatile housing market.

I just have to say that “market rate” is a strange term, one that implies the folks who already live here aren’t part of the market but are just people in the way-whereas the new-money-people-no perjorative names here-will come whatever the price, just cause we’re such a great place to live (ironic, tell that to the city council and mayor who want to reduce the costs known as impact fees to developers cause maybe no one really wants to come?)

Anyways, there is a total of 24 units difference between these warring proposals. But there are two other very important differences to contend with beyond the number of affordable apartments. 1)the Urban Core/EBALDC folks have financed the deal mostly by building all those unaffordable units (laughingly called market rate) and they can recompense (like that fancy term?) the city to the tune of $4.7 million, a mere $400k less than their original proposal, cash the city could probably use. So here the People’s Proposal which I’ll call the #PP, no, maybe stick with #Save, which is offering to build a low rise complex with purportedly all the city’s current affordable housing funds, leaving nothing left for other projects, hmm, concerning maybe?

Here’s the other big difference, 2) when all those unaffordable units are built, towering over most of the neighborhood, except the existing 26 floors at 1200 Lakeshore, which admittedly looks pretty bizarre so close to the edge of the Lake, ok,ok, no more tangents. The other yuuge difference to the neighborhood is the way the Urban Core project will impact the current residents’ homes when spanking new, very expensive, luxury-type apartments are thrown into an area that previously nutured a  mix of people, cultures, and lifestyles. That mix will vanish like El Nino in February. God only knows where everyone will go, God or whoever’s in charge at the tent city now residing under the bridge by the new LM boulevard.

So what to do, who to choose? If I were on the CC, I’d be tempted to  give the #Save group all the housing funds and at least get something built to offer the neighborhood right now. But, of course, that won’t happen. What I’m really wondering is-why the brilliant, politically-oriented minds contained in the mayor’s or city council’s collective brain, couldn’t have gotten some of these guys together and said, “Is there a way to build a range of affordable units with some at “market rate,” some at middle management rates, some at upwardly-mobile-we-hope rates, and almost as many at lower-income, social-security-only rates as the #Save folks have proposed without using all the city’s housing fund??

In this way the parcel could be developed more densely than most of the neighborhood because up is the appropriate direction for cities to be going, but NOT so out of whack with the surrounding community that that existing culture is destroyed forever.

So, now I’m wondering why didn’t they do that? Why didn’t Mayor Schaaf, no. 1 city cheerleader, apply some of her secret sauce to this mix and bake an Oakland flavored cookie out of it, or a papusa, something?? Now we will probably get a much better project from Urban Core than we had initially-although I have it on good authority that they had early on offered to put significant affordable units in the project, then backed off-because that’s what it always looked like we’d get. In the end we’ve achieved lots of bad feelings, ill will, and distrust in government process for something we could have had last year with albeit, some leadership.

On the other hand we now have an informed, activated citizenry working together-young and old, a grand Oakland mix of cultures who have learned to be skeptical and organized and tenacious. So watch out, more to come very soon from all the corners of our city, our beloved Town, bit by bit we are organizing. We’re going to take on the bureaucracy and the political class and we’re going to energize our collective creativity.We might even serve as a model to our “leadership.”

We’re coming from old political clubs, neighbohood-organized associations, and new alliances. We demanded a Declaration for a Housing Emergency last fall (check this blog) and it’s way past time for that to have happened. Those being ousted now come from all sectors-the poor, oldtimey residents, teachers and students, artists and middle management professionals-our representatives have shown that they are better at pitting us against one another than bringing us together so-looks like we’ll have to do it ourselves. Stay tuned.

 

My State of the City Address

Last week the Wellstone Democratic Renewal Club hosted a panel discussion called “Deconstructing Oakland Politics.” We talked a lot about the lack of leadership shown by the Oakland City Council, but one panelist noted that the new mayor was keeping a low profile and staying away from policy statements that she would ultimately be held accountable for.

Now she is ready to enter the fray and give us her take on how we’re doing and, I hope, some solutions for our problems. Here’s what I would say if I were mayor:

The first thing to do is declare a State of Emergency over the Affordable Housing Crisis. Oakland is staring over the abyss, the cliff that San Francisco fell off of. That city is now officially a museum of their former selves, the tough union waterfront town with a cutting edge culture that accepted artists, poets, musicians, and worldly misfits who made it a living breathing human laboratory of creativity and social change.

I remember. I lived there from 1966 to 1973, first in the Sunset, then the Fillmore and the Haight Ashbury to the Mission and outer Mission, downtown and finally, home to Oakland. I spent a few days in the 7th floor jail at the Hall of Justice during the Strike at San Francisco State and later drove tourists in my Yellow Cab up and down those scenic hills before I found the sunshine on the other side of the Bay.

I have to admit-Oakland was never an easy place for a single mom to survive either, especially when most of us are renters and renters “don’t get no respect” in Oakland. So what would I do in the first 90 days after declaring a state of emergency

  1. Immediately finish the Nexus study that will undoubtedly sanction impact fees on developers. Pick the highest dollar amount and insist that no projects get city approval until the fees are imposed. We need that money to begin to climb out of the deficit in affordable housing we’ve been racking up for years.
  2. Declare a moratorium on rent increases beyond the CPI. Immediately provide an adequate fund to help people stay in their rental units if they are in danger of losing them, lower the return landlords can demand on capital improvements (after all CM Schaaf  was the one who obtained the 70% cap when the CC was willing to lower it) and require landlords to go to the rent board when they need an increase. Meet with the Oakland Tenants’ Union for more ideas.
  3. Begin writing a comprehensive inclusionary zoning ordinance, which will pass state muster, to be ready to pass before the 90 days are up.
  4. Raise the percentage of Boomerang funds from 25% to 50% towards building affordable housing and rather than put all first time homeowner funds towards single family homes, dedicate some of it towards limited equity coops and other non-speculative home ownership models.
  5. Reform and tighten the condo conversion rules.
  6. Dedicate 60% of increases in revenue to building and rehabbing units in transportation hubs, include bike shares and please remember to build family-sized units.
  7. Legalize in-law units and encourage them and other infill housing in the priciest neighborhoods so more residents can share in the fun.

There’s more that can be done on housing and it will take years to catch up-better get started quickly. But public safety is still a big issue in Oakland. We recognize that our young people are still dying in gunfire at significantly high rates. So far eleven more people were murdered in Oakland this year than last.

For instance, my young friend who started the Scraper Bike Movement, Tyrone Stevenson, recently lost his closest friend to gunfire. He is heartbroken and doesn’t know if he can continue to give all the youth who work with and follow him inspiration. He has loved this town but it hasn’t loved him back. Can we show him and the Scraper Bikes Kids some love? Let’s get a city administrator and park and rec leader to work with him and provide resources into helping him and others like him in their efforts. Invent a new position and call it Homegrown Youth Initiatives Czar. Then give him or her the salary of the (former) hearing administrator who threatened to fine the churches and Humanist Hall for being nuisances with this new position.

Then I’d tell my friend, Jerry Brown, (if I were Libby) to bring back adult education. Edward Shands in East Oakland was an important institution in our city, it offered second chances for those in need of a high school education and first chances for English learners.

The next step may seem like less of an emergency to some. The Oakland Police Department under Chief Sean Whent has begun the process of reform but it’s still on shaky ground as evidenced by the shooting deaths of four Oaklanders this summer by police. Yes, we know the police are wearing cameras but they don’t seem to believe those videos belong to the public. We still don’t really know what happened to the comatose man who was shot upon awakening on the Lakeshore offramp.

We need a transparency policy on police videos, and we need a police commission before the federal oversight of Judge Thelton Henderson goes away. After $60 million dollars in lawsuits and decimated community trust, we can’t afford not to. Get it on the 2016 ballot, ferkrissakes.

Well, Oaklanders, it’s only a start. Even the mayor and city council can’t prevent the kind of ugly incident that happened on the Lake recently although they can help make rules reasonable and encourage honoring who we are. One thing they can do is make city hall welcoming. Open House for Oaklanders should be an every day event, not a special window when we are able to speak freely and even be heard.

What’s your state of the city and what would you do to make it a better place for all of us?

Wellstone Democratic Club to Host “Deconstructing Oakland Politics”

On Thursday, October 22nd, at Humanist Hall, 370 27th Street (wheelchair access from the 28th Street entrance,) the Wellstone Democratic Club will host a panel discussion on the current and historical political trends in Oakland, especially as they affect the Oakland City Council and Mayor’s office with a brief overview of the situation at the Oakland Unified School District.

Panelists will include long time housing activist James Vann, blogger and former council staffer, Pamela Drake, and Tribune Columnist Matt Artz and we’ll hear from the Chair of the Education Committee of the Block by Block Organizing Network, Sharon Rose.

Oaklanders often despair of their elected officials who seem to morph from progressive community leaders into bureaucrats unable to respond quickly to the needs of their constituents after taking office. They don’t seem willing to form coalitions to bring their progressive promises for affordable housing and police accountability to fruition no matter how loud and persistent the demands. What’s going on here?

It is necessary to understand the historical direction and the forces that bombard inexperienced politicians if political activists are to move them to act. Some of these forces will be outlined along with suggestions of how to move the city to recognize and act in a crisis such as this.

Oakland is in the midst of what some are calling a state of emergency in terms of the desperate need to prevent families, artists, and long-time residents, predominantly people of color from being displaced. If city officials and their administrative staff cannot recognize and act during this housing emergency, Oakland will become another enclave for the rich, white, and childless like San Francisco. In the process our city could see its historic reputation for social justice and its diverse culture disappear. Additionally, the climate for small business and entrepreneurialism is deteriorating leaving corporate chains to fill the gap.

But Oakland’s powerful tradition of political activism is fighting back. What are the next steps? Is there a unifying vision for a changing Oakland or will reaction thwart an inclusive movement-this is only one of many conversations going on all over Oakland during these troubled times. You do not have to be a Wellstone member or a Democrat to join the conversation and you are welcome to attend the potluck dinner (please bring a dish) at 6pm-the panel will start by 7:30pm.

For more information, contact Local Politics Coordinator Pamela Drake-pamelaadrake@gmail.com, @bethpikegirl on twitter

Today’s All in One Rant-Oakland City Council Continues to Flail, CPUC Raises our Rates, and Traffic on Grand Avenue

Today’s blog is a compilation of rants/lectures on various community/political topics happening in the Bay Area or beyond this week, including the city council becoming known as the-gang-that-couldn’t-shoot-straight, the CPUC raising our electricity rates while restricting public attendance, and the proposed Grand Avenue Road Diet. I’m leaving out the process for a decision on renewing use of the Kaiser Auditorium and the possible “Grexit” topics which interest me but are beyond my unpaid-grade to comment on.

1st up-My Advice to the gang-that-doesn’t-want-to-be-known-as-the-gang-that-couldn’t-shoot-straight.

This city council, which is full of human beings, (before you denounce them be sure you are willing to look each one in the eye and say mean or hyperbolic things. This is a small town in many ways.) many of them new to the job, has made itself look very untrustworthy recently by 1)ignoring the advice it got from the city attorney on the 12th Street parcel and 2) forcing the courts to open the meetings to the public again, not to mention silence on the mayor’s nightime demonstration crackdown which I have to mention because you won’t!

From now and very far into the future, folks who don’t even care about these 2 things will think of these guys as the gang that couldn’t shoot straight or worse, as a corrupt body of self-interested purveyors of bullshit.

I don’t believe either of the above but I would advise that each council member, recent or longstanding, who is remotely concerned about this, pull together an advisory group of diverse (not just gender or ethnicity but socio-ecnomic and political) constituents now and listen! You need realistic, down-to-earth advice from folks who will back your decisions in the future. You need to solicit new views and ideas, views of the young and radical as well as the old-and-get-off-my-lawn folks and those who don’t know the name of their council members-maybe those people are the most important because they will ONLY remember your mistakes.

I need my city to work and that doesn’t mean fantasizing that their are magical people out there raring to run who will do it all differently. We elected you all and you need to find your way fast-get some breadcrumbs from your neighbors and use them-otherwise—the woods are deep and perilous.

CPUC Strikes Again Or Watch Your Electricity Rates Rise and Wonder Why!

Last Friday I trekked into San Francisco to attend the California Public Utilities Commission and speak against PG&E’s proposal to increase electricity rates for the lowest consuming users while lowering rates for the most profligate users and imposing a flat fee on everyone which hurts the same folks who always get hurt the most but you knew that, sigh, teeth grinding…..

Initially the CPUC proposed a flat rate for everyone which like a flat tax penalizes the lower echelons and favors the wealthier classes. In other words, it’s the opposite of progressive. 350.org was really concerned that conservation would be discouraged and that people who were considering signing up for solar would be similarly affected. Part of the reasoning given by the CPUC was that conserving users were being subsidized by wasteful users-gasp-from each according to his need, etc-and that PG&E is being hurt by solar power (I don’t think they actually admitted that one.)

When I got there, I discovered something I’m growing tiresomely used to-I was told that the meeting was being held in a small room, due to some BS about construction, and I would have to wait in a holding pen, I mean, room, and then returned to said pen to listen to the remainder of the meeting. However, there were too few attendees to force us out and we sat together in the little room and listened to each other.

Some of the speakers, organized by TURN, 350 Bay Area, and other organizations like an East Oakland church (didn’t catch the name)spoke on the effects of the flat use proposal and how it would hurt seniors and others who could barely pay their bills now not to mention (which they did) that it was counterproductive to conservation of our resources! My old school chum (who didn’t seem to remember me from SDS and SF State) Paul Kangas suggested that climate change was the number 1 peril that we face and I suggested that wealth inequality was right up there with it.

Just that morning progressive Commissioner Mike Florio had proposed an alternate structure that while still flattening the rates somewhat took it back to 2 tiers (I think we have had a 4 tier system til now) and cut the flat fee in half. This is the proposal which passed-it’s better but will cause an increase in most of our bills.

While we can’t be sure of this, many noted that PG&E looked like it was just trying to recoup its losses after blowing up an entire San Bruno neighborhood and finally being fined something close to the cost of that little mishap in which several people lost their LIVES. Also, PG&E is not happy that so many folks are conserving and/or having the nerve to go solar. It’s hurting their bottom line. Please remember that while PG&E is known as a public utility because the public relies on them, they are in fact a private monopoly which is driven by profits for their shareholders, not the public good.

Back to the meeting, I was surprised by the paltry number of speakers and the limited response from a few groups who knew about this meeting and its far reaching power to affect our lives. But the pastor from Oakland set us straight on some of the reasons for this. He mentioned how interesting it was that the meeting had been changed to take place on the day before a national holiday, July 4th, and in the midst of the summer vacation season.

If you don’t know, electric power does not have to come from a giant corporation, like the one which laughingly can’t seem to keep the lights on on a sunny day, if the wind blows. Some cities and states have real public utilities, generally resulting in lower rates with greater reliability-our own East Bay Municipal Utility District could take over the job.

I learned all of this as chair of a group we formed during the Enron-induced California “energy crisis” which nearly bankrupted our golden state-we called it the Oakland Alliance for Community Energy, or ACE but it faded as 1) the faux energy crisis faded with Enron 2) our state legislators resisted real change in how we make, consume and pay for the energy we use.

At least we now will have some choice through the Community Choice Aggregation policy that allows us to band together in regions in order to purchase energy from renewable and reliable sources. But this a complex topic and I don’t pretend to know as much about it as I once did. Please go to the Utility Reform Network, turn.org, for much more info and ways to organize against future egregious increases.

Grand Avenue Road Diet-Meeting tonight at the Lakeshore Baptist Church, 7pm

As a former Grand Avenue merchant and a one-time president of GABA, I applaud the road diet proposal.It comes in various versions, only one of which includes the car-backing-into parking proposal. Another one offers a protected bike lane which would really encourage bike ridership. I might even chance it. When I had my shop on Grand, I bought a bike to ride to work so I didn’t have to take up my customers’ parking spaces or accrue tickets (you’d be surprised how many merchants do both.) But I got scared of riding around drivers and found it easier to walk up and down the steep hills in our area so I gave up.

As a Grand Avenue merchant, I tried to find out why Lakeshore was so much more successful than Grand (not as true anymore.) I consulted a retail specialist and among other things, she explained that a street that is very broad with fast traffic discourages walking and breaks up the retail frontage experience.

Broad expanses of concrete are also not attractive or conducive to folks who want to hang out with friends and family in the area. I noted with dismay that drivers seemed to think of Grand Avenue as one big freeway on-ramp. It felt dangerous to even think of crossing the Avenue.

So first we tried adding planters to break up the concrete experience, then when Danny Wan was briefly our council member I asked him to get us the sidewalk bulbouts that pedestrians now use successfully. At the time the lights only turned red when you electronically requested them to.

All of that combined to slow traffic a bit and make the neighborhood appear more friendly and cozy (the German term geműtlich describes it better) but it’s still too fast. The upper end has fewer shops than service businesses with many buildings which appear cold and forbidding. This is where traffic picks up speed, and one is inclined to utter prayers prior to stepping off the curb.

Hopefully, we have come a long way from the days when we tore up the streetcar tracks and widened highways in every neighborhood to make it safe for cars but not for people. Grand Avenue feels a little less like a river pounding through the district now; but it’s still a fast flowing stream where a meandering creek would better suit a pedestrian/bicycle/business friendly neighborhood.

I’m grateful for WOBO and the city’s interest in this issue. See you tonight.
Pamela Drake
Director of the Lakeshore BID