Education in Oakland

Archive for August, 2006

Will Oakland Get the Bronze?

Posted by novometro on August 28, 2006

If all goes according to Mario Chiodo’s plan tonight, Oakland will take a step closer to becoming the home of the largest bronze sculpture west of the Mississippi.

The city’s Cultural Affairs Commission is expected to vote Monday evening on Mr. Chiodo’s massive artwork, “Remember Them,” a $3.5-million, 52-feet tall, bronze tribute to 25 “champions for humanity,” including Nelson Mandela, Franklin Roosevelt, and Gandhi.

No matter what you think of the statue, which is heavy and imposing, you have to hand it to Mr. Chiodo, a forty-five year old Oakland artist who made a fortune designing Halloween masks and casino art, for building consensus around a controversial piece of public art in a fractious town that takes its champions of humanity seriously.  “What do you mean Upton Sinclair isn’t there?” “Where’s Huey?”

He also managed to craft a rather unique private financing method that means the city won’t pay for the sculpture or its maintenance at its location in the new Uptown development between Telegraph and San Pablo next to the Fox Theater.  Kaiser and other corporate donors have agreed to pony up for the monument.  And Mr. Chiodo reckons that proceeds from “Remember Them” merchandise will be more than enough to pay the estimated annual $11,900 cleaning bill.

If the CAC votes to accept Mr. Chiodo’s gift, the matter will move to City Council.  Who among those “champions of humanity” will cast a vote against Maya Angelou and Chief Joseph?  See a model of the sculpture in Fox Park Square here.


Posted in Art, Development, NovoMetro, Oakland, Politics | 1 Comment »

Fast Links for Friday

Posted by novometro on August 25, 2006

Oakland Finally Gets a Comic Book Superhero

And the Theatre Wants A Higher Profile

Oakland Vice?

Posted in Art, Crime, Going Out, NovoMetro, Oakland, Politics | Leave a Comment »

Oakland Obscura

Posted by novometro on August 24, 2006

Three Things To Do This Weekend That You Don’t Know About – But Should.

Friday Evening
Art: Art Collective Rock Paper Scissors on Telegraph holds a closing for its photography exhibit “Don’t Fail Me Now” on Friday evening. The show is “a photographic tribute to the things that carry us through the day.” In addition to pics and writings from more than 20 photographers, someone will be on hand to play records. “We’ll just be hanging out listening to music,” says RPS’ Mark.

Where: Rock Paper Scissors, 2278 Telegraph Avenue, 510-238-9171
When: Friday, August 25, 6 p.m.
How Much: Free

Saturday Night
Comedy: So what if you missed the first two rounds and the semi-finals? It’s not too late to see the grand finale of the First Annual East Bay Urban Comedy Competition Saturday night at Connolly’s Lounge on Telegraph. To record companies and Madison Avenue, urban means black, but to Nelson Martini, the stand-up comedian who organized the competition, urban means “you can relate to everyone.” Or at least make fun of them.

Where: Connolly’s Lounge, 4822 Telegraph Avenue, 510-654-1423
When: Saturday, August 26, 8 p.m.
How Much: $5

Sunday Morning
Food/Music: Even if all the profits didn’t go to the coolest youth center in the Bay Area, it would still be a good deal. For $16 you can feast on an all-you-can-eat spread of soul food and breakfast fixings Sunday at Youth UpRising on MacArthur Boulevard in East Oakland.

Where: Youth UpRising, 8711 MacArthur Boulevard, 510-777-9909
When: Sunday, August 27, 10 a.m. to 4 p.m.
How Much: $16 for adults, $8.50 for kids 12 and under

Posted in Going Out, NovoMetro, Oakland, Politics | 2 Comments »

Fast Links for Tuesday

Posted by novometro on August 22, 2006

You don’t have time to read the papers: we read them for you.

Football Player Mourned

Chip Johnson on Gangsta Rap Becoming Reality in Oakland

Posted in Crime, Oakland | 1 Comment »

Moscow on Lake Merritt

Posted by novometro on August 17, 2006

If Kim Jong Il ever visited Oakland, he could go to OUSD headquarters when he felt homesick. It’s not just the Stalin-Eisenhower-era décor that would warm the heart of North Korea’s dictator. It’s the financial reports that never seem to add up. It’s the endless belief in the power of a committee to conceal the truth and placate foes. And most of all, it’s the singular capacity to slowly crush the aspirations of sincere idealists.

And that’s when then school district is under local control with a functioning school board. When a member of the public took the microphone at last night’s hearing on the possible sale of school district property to an East Coast developer to praise the OUSD-meeting as a sterling example of democracy in action, one could only assume that she meant democracy as practiced in Pyongyang.

The hearing was many things, but it was not democratic. The school district presented a plan put forward by TerraMark, the developer in Connecticut that wants to build residential skyscrapers where OUSD’s district office and three schools now sit. The plan calls for two schools to share one acre of the property, and for the third school to look for new digs. OUSD’s facilities chief said the deal would net the district somewhere between $30 million and $50 million, depending on the cost of various relocation options. But who brokered this deal, and negotiated on behalf of the Oakland citizens who own this valuable acreage, remained unclear.

While Kimberley Statham, the new interim state administrator, sat mostly mum for the meeting, a district public information officer circulated a FAQ sheet on OUSD letterhead that spoke for her.

Question: Is this a good deal for Oakland Schools? Answer: Yes.

Question: Is this a good deal for the Eastlake Neighborhood? Answer: Yes.

With those important questions answered I almost feel bad asking for more information. But is it really just the state superintendent in Sacramento talking to the developers? What is Ms. Statham’s role? Why is our representative in Sacramento, Don Perata (who is also the boss of the Senate), reportedly remaining neutral on the sale?

This property is too valuable to be sold without having these questions answered. It is hard to remember while sitting in OUSD headquarters, but those acres represent some of the most valuable in the United States. Despite the One-Party feeling in last night’s hearing, we don’t live in a socialist state. That means that nearly 10-acres in the middle of a metro region that includes two of the world’s best universities, Silicon Valley, and San Francisco, all knitted together by an excellent transportation network will never decrease in value. We need to know who among our Dear Leaders is selling this property before we agree to it.

Posted in Development, Education, Oakland, Politics | 2 Comments »

Evolution of a Deal

Posted by novometro on August 15, 2006

David Kakishiba, a member of Oakland Unified’s powerless school board, said he was briefed Friday on a revised plan to sell nearly 10 acres of school district property near Lake Merritt to an East Coast developer. Here’s part of the plan, according to Kakishiba: La Escuelita, a K-5 school, and MetWest, an alternative high school, will be rebuilt in a multi-story building on the property, which the developer will lease to the school district for something like $1 a year, says Mr. Kakishiba. Dewey, the continuation high school, will look for a new home.

That sounds like the solution Paul Bucha, the CEO of TerraMark – the Connecticut developer looking to develop the property – says he put forward after last month’s hearing uncorked a well-spring of parental anxiety over the fate of La Escuelita and MetWest. Mr. Kakishiba says school district officials will present the plan to the public at a hearing planned for Wednesday at the school district headquarters.

New schools not far from the old ones may appease some parents and teachers, but TerraMark will still have to secure the approval of City Hall if it will build the complex of residential high rises it has blueprints for. Mr. Kakishiba said no officials from City Hall were in on Friday’s briefing. Of course, buying some of the most valuable urban acreage  in the country is rarely a bad idea. And with developers all over the country halting new construction as they wait to see where the housing market bottoms out, TerraMark may be only in a hurry to buy, not to build.

Posted in Development, Education, Oakland, Politics | 1 Comment »

Developing Optimism

Posted by novometro on August 11, 2006

Paul Bucha knows he made some missteps last month when he first presented his company’s plans for nearly 10 acres of school district property. The president of TerraMark, the Connecticut company angling to erect residential skyscrapers near Lake Merritt, says if he could redo his July presentation, he’d make his pitch in Spanish.

It’s true. From the standpoint of the developers and the moneymen behind them, the hearing was not a huge public relations success. Parents–many of whom were Spanish-speaking–teachers, and school board members expressed outrage and confusion over the sale of school property without first resolving the fate of schools now sitting on the land. In the following weeks, the Oakland City Council came out nearly unanimously against the deal.

Mr. Bucha says that the next meeting scheduled for Wednesday, August 16, will be smoother if the school district and its master in Sacramento can tell parents what will happen to schools now on the property. That list includes La Escuelita, a successful K-5 neighborhood school. For Mr. Bucha, the equation is simple: “No schools, no transaction. No transaction, no project.”

The developer says he has thrown out a number of ideas that would result in schools staying on the site. Mr. Bucha says he doesn’t know what the state administrator will tell parents at next week’s hearing. Still, whoever is tasked with making the case for the deal next week will need more than fluent Spanish to succeed.

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Fast Links

Posted by novometro on August 9, 2006

You know times are tough when

Who speaks for the trees?

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Hustle and Grow

Posted by novometro on August 8, 2006

The San Francisco Chronicle’s Chip Johnson reminded his readers Tuesday that “younger individuals” in Oakland are forming “large mobs,” and then “attacking individuals.” This information was part of a larger story about the rising rate of robberies and felony assaults that is accompanying Oakland’s mounting body count.

The article brought to mind the mob of young black males I saw gathered on a street corner in downtown Oakland Monday afternoon. Tony Fontaine and about five of his friends had clustered at the intersection of 19th and Webster to peddle his new CD at five dollars a pop. Selling rap CDs on street corners as a prelude to one’s own line of fragrances and a spot on Cribs is part of hip-hop lore. It’s the music industry’s version of that Lower East Side pushcart that becomes a grand department store.

I don’t know where Tony Fontaine’s career is headed. I’m no connoisseur of rap. But I do know that his entrepreneurial spirit ought to be encouraged rather than stifled. People don’t need another reason to be afraid of large groups of young men standing on street corners.

I didn’t feel like paying five bucks for the CD, and Mr. Fontaine, 22, wouldn’t give me one as a “media demo.” He suggested we check out his music online. His MySpace page makes it clear that he is no saint. He and his partner, who together form the Full Tyme Hustlers declare a love of “weed and panties.” The music I heard isn’t much deeper. But Mr. Fontaine and the “Hustlers” were hustling, and not in the bad way.

As anyone who has ever tried to sell anything knows, it’s painful. You have to steel yourself to the indifference of strangers. If Mr. Fontaine can bring himself to endure the cold shoulders of lunchtime office workers to reach his goal, he will probably find his way in the world even if his music career goes nowhere.

And yes, I know that not every group of kids hanging out in front of the liquor store is a lemonade stand. Some young people are committing armed robbery and making Oakland worse. But we already know that. For most people, the sight of young people huddled on the sidewalk is a sign that its time to cross the street. Raising the specter of attack mobs is not performing a public service.
–Alex Gronke

Posted in Crime, Oakland, Opinion | 1 Comment »

OUSD’s New Interim Chief

Posted by novometro on August 7, 2006

Jack O’Connell, the state superintendent of public schools, will make it official today when he announces Kimberly Statham as the interim replacement for Randolph Ward. Mr. Ward leaves this week for his new post as Supe for the San Diego County Office of Education. The Oakland Tribune reports that Ms. Statham, Oakland Unified’s chief academic officer, steps into the job without the full support of OUSD’s administrative staff.

Download Ward’s Memo.

Posted in Education, Oakland, Politics | Leave a Comment »