Friday, January 30, 2009

More Fun Hyperlocal Rockridge Stuff: Pugs and Hummingbirds

I'm thrilled by all the readers who've dropped in and commented so early in my blog's history. I really want to make this more of a local casual blog instead of putting on my Serious Writing Face every time I post, and include more local Rockridge stuff. There's no point in my recycling political news, especially because I'm new to Oakland and I often don't have much to add to the conversation. When I do have something about local politics to say I'll say it here. In the meantime:

I've developed a hummingbird obsession. Fish are to Frank Gehry as hummingbirds are to me. Fascinating that something which today fills the same niche as insects and is occasionally eaten by them is descended from theropods (dinosaurs) and that the evolution of their speed and metabolism has a ceiling based on the limits of kidney filtration (though there's some argument that it's mitochondrial function too). They're a biochemical swiss watch. They're an evolutionary treasure - something I would be proud to show an alien if I met one, as proof of the awesomeness of my biosphere. I've often wondered how close we are to building an RC plane the size of a hummingbird. Put a little camera on it. Fly it down to the corner on Sunday morning before you go to see if there's a line at the breakfast place.

This time of year they don't have many flowers to drink from. The other day one was flying along the edge of my balcony, methodically searching every square inch for sugar. He got quite close to me in the process and seemed desperate. Given their metabolism, they can go from well-fed to death by starvation in literally an hour. So I made a little feeder for them and hung it in the courtyard of my building with some fake red flowers to draw them. I hope they find it.

Equally randomly, there are two pugs next door that, when they let themselves out through the dog door into their yard, scream and cry until they've been let back in. They sound for all the world like they're dying slow and agonizing deaths. Once you realize it's just these two dummies wallowing in their separation anxiety the performance becomes not only tolerable, but progressively more hilarious every time.

Decisive Dellums?

Am I the only one who found the Chip Johnson love fest for Ron Dellums to be a be of a non sequitur? It's certainly positive that the Mayor seems to have turned over a new leaf and is making decisions, but a more reserved attitude is still in order until we see that it's been sustained. I don't know enough about Lindheim to react strongly pro or con his appointment but this seems not to be the case for FutureOakland and others.

Wednesday, January 28, 2009

All the More Reason to Write Your City Council Member

Chip Johnson isn't crying "recall", but he does make a very useful observation about City Council. That is, they've shown they can "collar" Dellums when needed. Maybe we do have a decision-making body in Oakland after all. Whether you support a full recall (disruptive as it would be) or just increasing the role of the City Council in doing something for the city, now's the best time to write your Councilperson.

Incidentally, it's not as if I'm out looking for stories of Oakland corruption, but this one just popped up on the Chronicle. Note there was no background check, and note how Dellums met this intern - at a block party. Maybe that's how police chief candidates should be introduced to him.

Tuesday, January 27, 2009

Write your Oakland City Council Representative

...If you're dissatisfied with Dellums. There's a campaign underway to write our council members to get City Council to vote no-confidence for the mayor. If you don't know who your representative is, the district map is here. Don't know why I didn't think of this. After all, it worked to get rid of the Police Chief.

Taking Bets on When We'll Get a Police Chief

Oakland cops have a tough job, and we need them, which why I hope we get a good chief in there now. As Chuck Reed recently said of San Jose, the number one service a city provides is safety. And Ex-Chief Tucker says Council President Brunner and the Council aren't serious about public safety? Honestly? VSmooth says that the OPD got $208M last year and went over budget - how does that compare to other cities?

We can't afford another permanent temporary city-administrator situation like we've had with Edgerly. According to Zennie we at least have some explanation (i.e., it would have been Bobb were it not for Bobb's price tag), but as a clueless private sector hack I'm open to explanations of why it takes this long to hire a city administrator. There are rumors that Dan Lindheim's confirmation for the job is already quietly on the calendar for February 3rd; fine, but at this stage I'll believe a decision has been made once we see it.

So what's the story on recalling Dellums? We just had a riot for crying out loud, and then the head of the police department resigns for unrelated reasons. If we think the temporary disruption is better than 2 more years of this, and there's a mechanism, it's now or never.

Saturday, January 24, 2009

State of the City Address Monday Night January 26

Mayor Dellums is giving his state of the city address Monday night January 26. A list of satellite viewing locations is here. Will we be able to watch this at home on KTOP? Will this be posted on the web somewhere?

Saturday, January 17, 2009

Report from Downtown Oakland #1

I was at the packed Cafe van Kleef last night (Friday) along with it seemed about a thousand other souls, and I had the good fortune of being able to talk to Peter van Kleef, whose bravery and quick-thinking is featured in Zennie's video from the night of the first protest. Peter thought it was funny that I had seen him on screen but never in person. According to Peter, these jostled pictures I took represent a regular Friday night:

End result: got my greyhound, heard very original live music, talked to some interesting people and had a great time. I'm going to get back down to SOBO for the 17th on 17th festival this afternoon. See you down there.

Thursday, January 15, 2009

An Official Night Out?

Update: go here to see the people on Yelp who had this same idea. See you at Cafe van Kleef at 10pm.

I keep referring to Living in the O's post about patronizing Oakland businesses.

How about an official Night Out? Doesn't have to be anything fancy, just everybody pick a night and meet up somewhere, hit a restaurant, a couple bars, get to know your neighbors. Sounds like fun anyway. Being new to Oakland I'm open to suggestions about exactly where. Of course somebody else probably already thought of this, so please comment with the info so everyone knows where to go. We could wear a red dot on our shirts or something to identify us as Oakland-Night-Out folks.

Forward this to friends, neighbors, and coworkers!

Questions for Peaceful Protesters

1. Are there many people in Oakland who think what happened at Fruitvale Station New Years Day was acceptable? If so, will their opinions be changed by these protests?

2. Will the outcome of the trial be changed by these protests?

3. Is it possible that people who are sympathetic to the cause are now so disgusted with the behavior of some of the protesters that they don't want to hear about the case any more?

4. Is it in your interest as peaceful protesters to issue the most strident condemnations of the rioters?

Everyone understands that the crimes are being committed by a small subset of the people who show up for the protests. That doesn't mitigate their impact on the people whose lives are being derailed. Some of the rioters I saw in the footage of the January 14th riot were smiling and laughing. Grieving for Oscar Grant? Angry at The System? There is no indication that they were doing anything but finding an excuse to break windows.

Our right to protest is predicated on our ability to assemble peaceably. After two protests with rioting, you've established a pattern. As with any killing, I demand that justice be done in the case of Johannes Mehserle. And at this point, as a citizen of Oakland, I also support police efforts to stop further demonstrations. The people of Oakland have experienced three tragedies so far - a police shooting, and two spates of property destruction. We don't need more.

If you want to help Oakland, get involved in city affairs and volunteer at times other than when your face will be on TV - and patronize businesses in the riot zone.

Tuesday, January 13, 2009

Support Downtown Oakland Businesses

Especially if they were vandalized. Just throwing my support behind this post over at Living in the O.

Monday, January 12, 2009

Mayor Dellums, We Still Need More From You

I haven't been a big fan of Ron Dellums, but I left the door open in this blog's inaugural post to my optimism for a renaissance in the Dellums administration. The Chinese character for "crisis" is a compound of "danger" and "opportunity", and this is exactly that for a mayor that seems to most residents of Oakland to be using his office as a retirement perk.

Yes, Dellums turned up to calm the crowd the night of the riot (let's call it that; a protest doesn't involve setting things on fire). So far so good; one point for Ron. And his administration has stepped up with funds to help those business owners hurt by the riot. Good! Two points for Ron.

But we need more, much more. While justice is slowly enacted in the investigationof Johannes Mehserle, along with the now-incarcerated losers who used Oscar Grant's death as an excuse to burn their neighbors' cars, Dellums must keep very, very visible. The window for action is sliding shut. Obama is building confidence by appearing constantly on television in the days leading up to the transition of power; Dellums can do much the same thing by appearing daily, shaking hands around the city, and giving a transparent plan of attack for how we can keep this from ever happening again - not only the tragedy on BART, but the public reaction to it (driven apparently by outsiders) as well as the violent crime that has plagued Oakland for years, somehow without sparking the same outrage. I haven't seen nearly enough of Dellums on the news to convince me that he's putting forth enough effort. In contrast, regardless what you think of Gavin Newsom's handling of the Olympic Torch visit - I personally disagreed with it - Newsom is about as hands-on a mayor as there is, and I grudgingly admired how involved he was with the execution of the relay that day. After the drubbing that Oakland's reputation has taken, business owners will take some more convincing that Oakland is a good place to grow a business. Broadway and Telegraph downtown really have the potential to be a great entertainment district, but restauranteurs looking for a new location are going to be understandably nervous at this point. The mayor can do something about that.

There are two things that are not helping. The first and most disgusting is the airtime given to the goons from the Nation of Islam to speak for the people of Oakland. To put a fine point on it, Nation of Islam is on thin ice to act outraged over the killing of a black man. I'm also disillusioned that at a time like this Dellums is talking about a position with the Obama administration. Not only does this break an unwritten rule of cabinet picks (if you want the job, you don't talk about it) but it shows that the mayor's focus is not where it must be: on Oakland. My fondest wish is that with the next blog post I'll have to eat my words.

Thursday, January 8, 2009

A Riot in 2008? Are You Kidding?

If you thought the election of a black president would erase America's racial tensions, you didn't have to wait long to test your theory. Here is the Tribune article and the Chronicle article. I'm sick of explaining to people in the Bay Area that Oakland isn't one big continuous riot or gang war. Now, it's going to be more difficult to make that claim. Oakland has long been preoccupied with the elusive Dellums. The BART shooting that sparked the riot wasn't the mayor's fault, but he now has a golden opportunity to lead in a crisis. Time to show us what you're made of, Ron.

I've been planning to put up an Oakland blog since I moved here in June of 2008. It's a great city that isn't nearly living up to its potential, and as a new immigrant to it, I'd like to do my part to make it better. I hoped my inaugural post would be positive, but there's no time like the present.

A problem that Oakland faces, like many American cities, is that people behave as if we're all not residents of the same city. We don't behave as if we are in charge of it. Whether or not you realize it, we are. The worst manifestation of this is the urge to smash cars and businesses in our own neighborhoods when there's been a tragedy. If someone is breaking into cars in your neighborhood, the solution isn't to join in with him!Where's the sense of community and ownership and responsibility? This is our city.

Which is exactly why it's a huge problem that thrillseekers were coming in from outside Oakland:

"'I feel like the night is going great,' said Nia Sykes, 24, of San Francisco, one of the demonstrators. 'I feel like Oakland should make some noise. This is how we need to fight back...[she] had little sympathy for the owner of Creative African Braids. 'She should be glad she just lost her business and not her life.'"

That's great Nia! I'm glad you're coming into Oakland to incite the destruction of black-owned businesses in my city! The next time there's a tragedy in San Francisco, can we come over and set your car on fire?

There is an ongoing criminal investigation into the BART shooting, and justice will be done. The proceeding will no doubt be tainted by this event. As the Tribune reported: "The protesters were 'calling attention to something that is a systematic problem, which won't go away with an apology,' said a 29-year-old who identified himself only as B. Rex. He was arrested and taken by police in a squad car soon after." Guess what B. Rex? It won't go away by setting your own city on fire either.