NovoMetro

Education in Oakland

Archive for the ‘Politics’ Category

Swanson’s New Bills

Posted by novometro on February 16, 2007

Sandre Swanson must have felt that he was falling behind his colleagues in terms of bills introduced. On Thursday, he proposed two pieces of legislation, bringing his total to three. The first would stiffen the penalties for child abduction. The second would establish the “Probation Youth Success Act, a 3-year pilot program to be conducted by the Los Angeles County Office of Education and the Alameda County Office of Education. The act would require those county offices of education, if they chose to participate, to provide comprehensive, integrated educational, vocational, and mental health services to selected wards in selected juvenile ranches, camps, and forestry camps. The bill would require participating counties to provide matching funds to any state funds received for the program.”

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

The Lies That Matter

Posted by novometro on February 9, 2007

Guest Blogger: Priyanka Sharma-Sindhar

Why is it that some lies are so much bigger than others? I’ve been watching the amount of media attention Gavin Newsom’s affair has been getting, and frankly, I’d much rather the same amount of attention was showered on something that actually affected the lives of more than 10 people. I understand why more people would care about this affair than just Newsom, Ruby Rippey-Tourk, and Alex Tourk. He is the mayor of one of this country’s loveliest cities, he is good looking and wealthy, and yes, he did have sex with his friend’s wife who also happened to work for him (that makes for a good story). That might be a lousy thing to do. But things happen.

If it is “an asshole thing to do,” as a friend put it, there are a lot of other things that qualify as “asshole things to do”.. and everybody’s doing asshole things. Besides, I’m a strong believer in seperating people’s personal and professional lives — and so long he didn’t fail at his job, it still isn’t affecting more than 10 people.

What, however is a big deal, in my opinion, is….. fake handicapped parking permits. Yes, I’m sure you’re saying ,”What?” But please, why does someone’s sex life matter more than the dozens of lies that I see hanging from the rear view mirrors of cars and SUVs that no handicapped person is driving. These cars block the best parking spaces in downtown Oakland for hours. So, if someone’s really handicapped, or if someone wants to park legally in the area– by actually feeding the meter coins every hour — they’re going to be very frustrated.

And towards the end of the day, I often see someone very healthy (they may have other health issues, but obviously none that impair their walk) walk to their car, get in without much effort, and zip away. And we’re talking about Mercs, BMWs, and other gorgeous auto creations. Surely, they can afford to park in the garages across from their office buildings? Or maybe that eats into the car payments?

And these fake placards, I promise you, affect more people than some politician’s sex life. Some cities have set up teams of volunteers who cite parking permit offenders. We need to do so. A walk down Broadway and/or Franklin will convince you.

When I was growing up, I often heard people say a white lie is better than a thousand truths. Now if you want to know what a white lie is — it’s one that does no one any harm, that preserves peace, and perhaps even helps someone. Maybe the doctor that issues these fake health certificates thinks he’s helping someone. But he’s hurting a lot more people than he’s helping.

Posted in Going Out, Mayor, NovoMetro, Oakland, Opinion, Politics, San Francisco, Traffic, Traffic Stuff | Leave a Comment »

Kernighan Campaigns

Posted by novometro on October 12, 2006


One Friday afternoon, I joined Patricia Kernighan for some door-to-door campaigning in the lower San Antonio. It was late afternoon, and dead quiet. The neighborhood kids were inside playing video games, or watching television. The parents were still at work. Ms. Kernighan and her team of about six middle-aged Vietnamese volunteers accounted for just about all of the action on the hilly streets tucked behind Highland Hospital.

The leader of the volunteers was Trung Nguyen, a former lieutenant in the South Vietnamese Navy who first came to Oakland in 1969 to train at the Navy Supply Base. He returned to Oakland for good in 1981. But not before spending a few years in a Vietnamese prison. Mr. Nguyen pointed to another volunteer and said that the man had been a captain in the South Vietnamese Navy. The man smiled. Mr. Nguyen said that Oakland’s Vietnamese love Ms. Kernighan. If that’s true, it might be because Ms. Kernighan was once the chief of staff to Danny Wan, who represented the district until he resigned in 2005. Mr Wan was known as a politician who built bridges to Oakland’s Vietnamese community.

In her tight race against Aimee Allison to keep her City Council seat representing Oakland’s District 2, Ms. Kernighan is wise not to take the support of any group for granted. Ms. Allison, a smooth-talking political newcomer with a Green Party membership and a Stanford B.A. has been winning over supporters since the runoff race began in June. Ms. Allison, 37, depicts Ms. Kernighan, 57, as a pillar of the establishment.

With a troop of former officers in South Vietnamese Navy acting as her street team this particular Friday, Ms. Kernighan doesn’t even try to shake the image as an establishment candidate — although she protested the Vietnam War when she was a student at the University of Washington, and she opposes the war in Iraq. Only in Oakland could she be considered a conservative. She says she agrees with much of what her opponent says about the state of crime, affordable housing, and job opportunities in Oakland. But she says the political and fiscal realities inside City Hall quickly take their toll on high ideals.

Ms. Kernighan won the council seat after Mr. Wan resigned. She didn’t have much of a political career before that. She was active in her children’s school, Crocker Highlands. She did “volunteer stuff.” She ran unsuccessfully for the school board in 1990 against Jean Quan, who now serves on City Council. “We were just a couple of unknown housewives,” she says. She has a law degree from Hastings, but she hasn’t practiced law in years.



A politcal ally of City Council President Ignacio De La Fuente, Ms. Kernighan did not endorse Mayor-elect Ron Dellums, who beat Mr. De La Fuente in June. I asked her what she thought of the new mayor.

Kernighan: I think it’s going to be interesting. I’m pretty excited to have someone who is going to be more present and engaged.

NovoMetro: What do you think is the cause of Oakland’s crime spike this year?

Kernighan: I don’t think anyone really has the answer to that. It’s kids hitting a certain age. There’s also a new drug. I don’t know the street name, but it makes the (users) crazy.

NovoMetro: What about negotiations with the police officer’s union that would change the hours police officers work?

Kernighan: I think the council is going to be tough on (the police union). Somehow the message needs to get to get to (the union) that people are not supportive of what they are asking for.

Walking down East 27th Street towards 14th Avenue, Ms. Kernighan points to a pothole and says Oakland’s roads are a disaster. (This was before a study was released, which found that they are indeed among the worst in the state.) “The streets are always what we don’t do,” she says.

Posted in Crime, Democrats, News, NovoMetro, Oakland, Politics, Ron Dellums | 14 Comments »

Teacher Union Protests

Posted by novometro on October 11, 2006

The Oakland teachers’ union will hold a rally Wednesday at 4 p.m. in front of OUSD HQ to protest “consolidation and layoffs in the district’s early childhood program,” the “complete negligence of the special education program,” OUSD hiring decisions that the Oakland Educators Association claims are tantamount to union busting.

The press conference/rally is the OEA’s response to a recent report, which credited the school district with small but steady progress while under state control.

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

Street Heat Isn’t Hot

Posted by novometro on October 10, 2006

I accidently stumbled into this rally for Phil Angelides Monday afternoon. The Oakland Tribune called it a “throng.” That might be overstating the case. Sandre Swanson’s description of the lunchtime crowd as “street heat,” is certainly an example of political license. I walked away thinking that the Democrats will never make the mistake of running a non-celebrity for governor again.

Posted in CA, Democrats, NovoMetro, Oakland, Opinion, Politics | 1 Comment »

Oakland’s Detroit Complex

Posted by novometro on October 9, 2006

As the Oakland Athletics take on the Detroit Tigers in the American League Championship Series that begins Tuesday, we can count on at least one offering from the sports commentariat that compares and contrasts the two cities. We already know the adjectives to expect: Gritty, working-class, overshadowed, etc. Race will be an unvoiced subtext. But apart from a black population above the national average, Oakland and Detroit have little in common. Detroit is at the epicenter of the American automobile industry’s slow-motion implosion and has lost 51,000 residents between 2000 and 2005. No one argues that. Oakland’s population is a matter of debate.

Fortunately, we have an alternative to the social commentary coming from the press box at the Coliseum this week. The American Studies Association hosts its annual conference in Oakland, October 12-15. With the title of “The United States from Inside and Out: Transnational American Studies,” race will not be under the surface.

On Saturday, just when the A’s will be (God willing) preparing to sweep the Tigers in Detroit in game four, the ASA will host a panel called “Visualizing Oakland and Bay Area Communities: Art, History, and New Immigration.” Here is the description from the ASA: The current demographics of the city of Oakland illuminate the wide range and complex racial and ethnic diversity of the United States in the new millennium. According to the U.S. Census 2000, whites comprise approximately 31% of Oakland’s population, African Americans 35%, Asians 15%, Latinos 21%, and Pacific Islanders 0.5%. This panel will provide an important visual corrective to the traditionally binary black and white ways race has been imagined in Oakland through an exhibit-format panel that brings together visual work on Chinese, Iranian, Latino, African, and Tongan American communities that have not shared a common space. In contrast to the traditional one-at-a-time group-by-group exhibit approach, this panel will provide a space for exploring the relation of these communities to one another.

Here’s another interesting panel to check out on Thursday. It looks at labor in the East Bay.

Posted in Education, Events, News, NovoMetro, Oakland, Politics, Race | 2 Comments »

Stockholm Syndrome

Posted by novometro on October 4, 2006

Heeding the warnings of the peak oil movement, which is sometimes described as “Left Behind” for lefties, City Councilwoman Nancy Nadel wants to create an 11-person task force aimed at making Oakland oil-independent by 2020. If the task force leads to official policy, Oakland would join Sweden in planning to be free of oil in 14 years. It makes sound business sense. The green economy is booming and Oakland is well-positioned to take more than its share of the profits.

Posted in Democrats, Development, Environment, News, NovoMetro, Oakland, Politics | 10 Comments »

Eat This Book

Posted by novometro on October 2, 2006

The person in charge of securing a victory for Oakland’s first library bond since the late-1940’s told me I’d begin seeing evidence of the campaign this week. Sure enough, a volunteer rang the bell Saturday afternoon with a handful of Yes on Measure N signs and a pamphlet detailing the many ways the bond would improve the Piedmont branch.

The literature emphasized the local benefits and soft-pedaled the $148-million bond’s chief element: A new main library in the shell of the shuttered Henry J. Kaiser auditorium. The woman who came to my door said the new library and the adjacent Oakland Museum of California would form a kind of “cultural district” on the south shore of Lake Merritt. If the bond passes, the quarter-mile stretch between Oak Street and Peralta Park may one day brim with culture, but it will be empty of people. I’ve been to the museum on a Sunday afternoon. And I’ve been to the library on a Sunday afternoon. There are usually more people eating dim sum a few blocks away in one Chinatown restaurant than in both cultural institutions combined.

Chinatown’s Sunday bustle ought to provide inspiration for the city as it decides what to do with the Kaiser should the bond fail to win the necessary two-thirds of the vote. The library option emerged after the City Council scotched a last-minute push from the port to install a permanent world trade expo in the Kaiser. But why are we forced to choose between a library and an ill-conceived world trade center? At the moment, there is really no place to enjoy a good meal and a view of Lake Merritt at the same time. A creative remodeling of the Kaiser could remedy that. Think San Francisco’s Ferry Building meets International Boulevard.

Oakland’s best taquerias, pho parlors, dim sum spots, injera makers, and sandwich shops could share space with upscale patisseries, cheese mongers, and wine sellers. At last, Oakland’s two greatest assets – natural beauty and delicious food from all over the world – would be brought together in one place.

But what about the library? What about the future of literacy in Oakland? Perhaps the Measure N campaign spokesperson was mindful of a Public Policy Institute of California study released in September that showed the majority of voters in California are over 45. She said it’s important that the paramedics who respond to 911 calls are able to read. I don’t care if the paramedic can read so long as he can drive fast and knows how to restart a stopped heart. Either way, a new library in the Kaiser won’t do much for the state of literacy in Oakland.

Measure N supporters will tell you that it would cost more to renovate the current main library than to erect a swank new flagship in the Kaiser. That’s true, if the renovation includes a $13 million parking garage and other features whose absence would not be missed in a perfectly adequate main library. But we don’t need a fancy library. We just need a library that serves downtown, houses the historical archives, and maintains the bulk of the library’s reference materials (a section of increasing irrelevance thanks to the Internet). The excess books that circulate to other branches can be kept in inexpensive warehouses.

If the library does move to the Kaiser, don’t expect great things to relocate to the current site. A library employee told me that one tentative plan calls for turning the site into a youth center since it resides in “neutral turf.” Even if the library doesn’t become a place for the Sharks and the Jets to put aside their differences, history has shown it will be hard to raze it and erect something the city actually needs, like more housing. I would be surprised if the application isn’t already filed to designate it a landmark.

The measure N campaign plans to spend $150,000 between now and November convincing us we should spend $40 a year for every $100,000 of assessed property value to support this plan. Like any bond measure, the proposal includes funding for some much-needed projects. Laurel needs a library. So does East Oakland. Improvements and expansions throughout the system are long overdue. But we can do it for less money and in a way that doesn’t waste the Kaiser’s potential.

Posted in Development, Education, Going Out, Housing, NovoMetro, Oakland, Opinion, Politics | 19 Comments »

California Home Sales Drop 30 Percent in August

Posted by novometro on September 25, 2006

The California Association of Realtors reports that sellers are “clinging to price expectations that are no longer valid.”

Posted in Development, Housing, NovoMetro, Oakland, Politics | Leave a Comment »

Loving Las Vegas

Posted by novometro on September 25, 2006

In an article published this month in Democracy Journal, Joel Kotkin takes another swipe at the “condo and coffeehouse” school of urban planning. Mr. Kotkin blasts Boston, San Francisco, and Seattle for promoting “boutique” downtowns that cater to the cultural whims of well-heeled elites, but quash the aspirations of the middle class. He’s right. Cities do need to encourage and promote the strivings of the middle class (such as we still exist).

But Phoenix, Las Vegas, and Houston, three cities Mr. Kotkin points to as examples of places where newcomers can flourish largely because of affordable housing and good business conditions, grow on unsustainable models. Both Houston and Phoenix sprawl across more square miles than Oakland, San Francisco, and San Jose combined. In Phoenix and Las Vegas, water is a problem. Houston struggles with pollution and traffic congestion.

In Oakland’s case, its long-term prosperity hinges more on its ability to lure and keep immigrants than on its selling points as a temperate, reasonably cosmopolitan place to dwell without children. The ongoing debate in the Oakland City Council about the possible rezoning of certain quarters from industrial to a housing/business mix goes to the heart of this question. Should land that might incubate businesses that could create wealth for hundreds be turned into homes for hundreds of the wealthy?

Oakland Native offers his/her take Monday on what inclusionary zoning would mean for the future of Oakland’s middle class at Oakland’s Future: An Optimistic Perspective.

Posted in Development, Housing, NovoMetro, Oakland, Opinion, Politics | 5 Comments »