Friday, January 30, 2009

Tucker out = good. Lindheim in = ?

Mayor Ron Dellums appointed Dan Lindheim to the long-vacant city administrator post. The Oakland blogosphere is generally unhappy with it:
I don't know much about Lindheim, but there seem like some serious warning signs. The first being that Lindheim is a "longtime confidant". There was supposed to be a nationwide search to fill the post, with former city manager Robert Bobb being a favorite. When he opted to take a job with the Detroit school system, the job quickly went to a friend of Dellums. There's been no list of who else was considered or what the process for the search actually was.

Another warning sign is that "Lindheim also tried hard to keep outgoing police Chief Wayne Tucker on board". Tucker's classless departure erased any doubts that he wasn't the right man for the job, if the list of problems under his command wasn't enough.

Lindheim may be the most qualified person willing to take the job, but he doesn't meet the Mayor's listed qualifications ("12 to 15 years of senior level executive management experience preferably in a large sophisticated diverse urban governmental organization").

The charges of cronyism don't seem far off the mark given the lack of information and Lindheim's lack of qualifications.

Regardless of whether he is the best person for the job, there needs to be more transparency about how he was selected. If there's not, Dellums' already low approval ratings are likely to go even lower. And if he's not the best qualified, then the council shouldn't approve his appointment.

Tuesday, January 27, 2009

OPD Chief Tucker resigns before being fired

The Tribune is reporting that Chief Tucker has resigned. According to the Trib:

...the memo states in the past three months Tucker has met with the Mayor four times and discussed his desire to resign. But, Kozicki adds, "The mayor (and others in city government) on each occasion dissuaded him from resigning. The Mayor still maintains strong support for the Chief."

According to the email sent on behalf of Tucker, "the primary reason behind the chief's decision is his lack of faith in the City Council. The chief stated the council is unable/unwilling to properly staff, fund and equip OPD."

Hmm...they're properly funded, and according to Mayor Dellums' address last night, properly staffed, so it seems more likely this was a case of quitting before being fired. Given the list of problems associated with his tenure, he probably decided it was time to get out of Dodge.

In any event, I have high hopes that someone else can do a better job. If nothing else, they can find someone who the rank and file of the department actually trusts and has confidence in.

Monday, January 26, 2009

state of the city address tonight

Tonight is Mayor Dellums' state of the city address (it'll be on KTOP, starting at either 5:30 or 6:00pm). Will he acknowledge the problems, and implement the ideas in the Bobb report? Or will it degenerate into a list of "look what I accomplished (even if I didn't do it) in 2008" as V Smoothe suggests on A Better Oakland? It would be funny if it didn't have so much truth to it based on past addresses.

Meanwhile, the whole coutry (and world, for that matter) continues to settle into the recession, with more job cuts announced. Few, if any, of those listed are in Oakland, but I imagine the Home Depot Expo store in Emeryville employs some Oakland residents, and bad news for the world economy is bad news for all of us.

The economic upheaval will bring more changes to Oakland than just job changes. Oakland Streets has a nice write-up on Creative Reuse of buildings. When the economy begins to improve, it'd be nice to see some of these things happen.

Friday, January 23, 2009

something's rotten

Something's rotten in the Oakland PD, and it appears to be the leadership ("Oakland suspends chief of Internal Affairs amid FBI probe", from today's Tribune.) The vast majority of Oakland police are hard-working folks doing a job most of us never would except maybe in Mayberry. But the FBI probe suggests there are some serious problems, and those emanate from the top. There's a good post about the problems over at A Better Oakland. Will this finally cause Mayor Dellums to do something, and fire Chief Tucker? To be fair, the incident in the first article happened under the previous chief, but things don't seem to be getting any better, and the article has a long list of problems that have happened under Chief Tucker.

(For those of you from elsewhere, the Oakland PD had nothing to do with the Oscar Grant killing; that was the BART PD.)

Thursday, January 22, 2009

food: Pizza Plaza

The Oakland blogosphere seems to be on a food kick this week. Today in Montclair gives a rundown of food options on Thornhill. Living in the O has reviews of the various Thai restaurants in downtown (with the promise of more reviews to come!) And OaklandGoods has a preview of the Jack London Market, which sounds amazing, as well as a review of Ozumo.

So in that vein, I offer a brief review of Pizza Plaza. I tend away from restaurant reviews because I'm a vegetarian and most reviews don't cover that aspect. But Pizza Plaza was highly recommended by the owner of Micio Mambo (a vegan products store near the Grand Lake Theater), and has a 4-star rating on Yelp.

Pizza Plaza is at 6211 Shattuck, just south of Alcatraz. In short, I liked it. Not for the ambiance (limited), or the web site (weren't unwarranted sounds on websites outlawed along with the 'blink' tag?), but the vegan pizza we ordered was very good. Not Zachary's good (nothing else is), but a lot less guilt and not-so-good-for-you stuff as it was not only vegetarian but vegan (i.e., no animal products.) We had one of the menu combos, but you can also design your own, either vegetarian or fully vegan. They have limited beverage options, with no alcohol. In the future we'll probably just call ahead and pick one up to eat at home. I give it 3.5 out of 5 stars.

Monday, January 19, 2009

MLK Day of Service

I spent the day at Habitat for Humanity's building site on Edes Avenue, along with 25-30 other volunteers and the Habitat staff. It was a beautiful day to be outdoors and working with others. We got a lot done, and everybody I saw seemed to be having a good time. A lot of people were first-time volunteers, but hopefully not just one-time volunteers.

I enjoyed it, in part because we were doing mostly framing, and that's one of my favorite parts of construction. I'm a little stiff, so I imagine many of the first-time volunteers are really going to feel it.

What did you do for the MLK Day of Service?

morning orientation

a wall going up

Ben the Builder?

Friday, January 16, 2009

support vandalized businesses, part 2

17th Street

So besides patronizing businesses that were vandalized in general, you can support them and celebrate Oakland at the same time. Oakland merchants are sponsoring Celebrate 17th on 17th Street tomorrow from 2pm to 5pm. That's in addition to tonight's Night Out event. There's a nice writeup on it over at The DTO.

broken window

I was over to the building department today to get updated permits, so I had lunch at Henry's Gallery Cafe on the corner of 17th and Franklin. Fortunately there was a lot of activity on 17th. Unfortunately a lot of it was centered around repairing the broken windows. Henry's is still sporting plywood over broken windows, as are a number of other businesses. But the sun was shining, people were mostly smiling, and life seemed OK. Then I saw a small protest headed the other way on 18th. Fortunately it was very small, and appeared peaceful. Hopefully it stayed that way.

P.S. From the worth reading department: city councilmember Pat Kernighan's thoughts on the killing of Oscar Grant and the aftermath.


Martin Luther King, Jr.

Yesterday would have been Dr. King's 80th birthday. Oakland honored MLK's civil rights work beginning with a ceremony downtown. There are a wide variety of service events for the Day of Service to help celebrate MLK's legacy and celebrate the inauguration of our country's first black president, so get out there and volunteer!

And support the businesses that were vandalized by a few yahoos breaking off from the otherwise peaceful protests of the shooting of Oscar Grant.

Thank you, Dr. King. May your dream come fully true.

Thursday, January 15, 2009

not guilty plea

Oscar Grant

In an unsurprising move, Johannes Mehserle, the former BART cop, plead not guilty to murder charges of Oscar Grant. I don't know what was going through Mehserle's mind and therefore I don't know whether he's guilty of murder, I do know he f-d up big time, and is guilty at the very least of manslaughter. While the videos are shocking, I don't know that they prove a charge of murder. Manslaughter, definitely. Stupidity, beyond the shadow of a doubt. But murder? We'll see. My biggest fear is that people won't be patient for the slow wheels of justice to turn. And we'll have more yahoos vandalizing businesses, as if that will help do anything but sour people's opinions of Oakland even further. As Too $hort said:
"It would be so sad if this turned out to be violent," he said. "Let's do this one right - everyone is watching."
Indeed. Justice is needed. But so is patience. Let's do this one right.

downtown condos in trouble

901 Jefferson

The Oakland Tribune reports that those mod-looking condos at 901 Jefferson are in trouble. The condos are complete, but unsold. The combination of the real-estate downturn and the recession has lead to the developer defaulting on the construction loan. It's a shame with all the people in need of decent housing that these sit empty. One possibility to keep things afloat is to rent them until the condo market rebounds, so maybe they won't be empty for too long.

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

making Oakland better

One organization that is working to make Oakland better is Habitat for Humanity East Bay. I've volunteered with them for coming up on 14 years. They've built decent, affordable housing to give families a hand up for 20 years, and have built over 200 homes around Alameda and Contra Costa counties. There have been homes in Fruitvale, West Oakland and the two large developments south of the Oakland coliseum on 105th Avenue and Edes Avenue. These are good, solid homes, and the more recent ones are built using various green building techniques and include solar panels from PG&E. The partner families work hard, along side staff and volunteers, to complete 500 hours of sweat equity and to help build their homes, and pay a mortgage like other home owners, so these people are invested in their homes and in Oakland. You can read about the dedication of the more recent group of homes here (PDF of the story from

Habitat East Bay also runs a ReStore, selling new and nearly-new construction materials. If you're doing some remodeling, or just repainting a room, check it out for some low-cost materials. There's a nice piece about the Habitat ReStore on Channel 7 news.

One of the great parts about volunteering with Habitat for Humanity is that you don't need any experience. When I started volunteering with Habitat, I barely knew how to swing a hammer. Over the years, various people have taught me a ton about construction (enough that I designed, permitted and built an addition to our house myself). And yes, Habitat is having a Day of Service event for MLK Day prior to Obama's inauguration.

What organizations do you work with that are making Oakland better?

about the banner

Oakland Federal Building

The background photo for the Our Oakland blog is from Wikipedia, attributed to Mboy1231. It's a lovely night shot of downtown Oakland taken from across I-880. They were kind enough to distribute the photo under the Free Art license, so it's OK to use the image for things like this. The photo shows both K's favorite Oakland building, the Federal Building towers near the left, and my favorite, the Tribune Tower. What's your favorite architecture in Oakland?

Tuesday, January 13, 2009

support vandalized businesses

Oakland blog Living in the O has compiled a list of businesses that were damaged by rioters following the protest about Oscar Grant's killing. A great way to support our community is to patronize those businesses. The lousy economy is bad enough, but add this type of stuff to it, and these businesses can really use our help.

Our Oakland

originally published on my home improvement blog, DIY Insanity. The post on City Homestead inspired me to write this, and then inspired me to create this blog.

Oakland - many parts, one whole

There's a great post over at City Homestead about Oakland in the aftermath of the shooting of Oscar Grant by a BART police officer. My Oakland is different their Oakland, and was different than Oscar Grant's Oakland, but it's all Our Oakland. It's a large, diverse, beautiful city, and I love it. I'll be the first to admit that I might feel differently if I lived in some other parts of Oakland, but it's a wonderful city.

Yesterday I worked out at Habitat for Humanity, south of the Oakland Coliseum. I've been volunteering in that neighborhood for almost 14 years, but I don't really know it, and the only people I know who live there are Habitat homeowners. But slowly but surely the neighborhood is improving. Besides two large Habitat developments, there are a number of commercial developments along 98th, and just the other side of the BART tracks is a large development of Pulte Homes.

Today K and I went to some other Oaklands. A fawn died under our carport, and animal control warns on their website that living animals come first so it could be a long wait, and I didn't want to dig the requisite 4'-deep hole to bury it. So we carefully slid it into a heavy bag and took it to Oakland's animal shelter. The drive took us from Montclair, through Glenview, to the Dimond District where Oscar Grant worked, down Fruitvale Avenue to the Fruitvale District where he died. There were no signs of the protests there (the vandalism didn't start until they got closer to downtown) -- it was the same Fruitvale I've gotten to know over the last couple of years. Edis and his family live there, and I've made frequent trips to the nearby Home Depot and to Economy Lumber. It was a beautiful day, with food cooking, people shopping, the sun shining.

After the animal shelter, we went to a small shoreline park to shift gears from our grim task. Union Point Park is a little park along the Oakland estuary near Coast Guard Island, squeezed between the estuary and an industrial area. (I'd been there before because the Alameda County household hazardous waste facility is nearby.) It's home to a playground, picnic area, marina, and a distinctive viewing platform. The viewing platform is all the more interesting viewed from above, when its spiral shape becomes apparent. The park also contains the statue pictured above, Sigame/Follow Me, which reflects the diversity of Oakland by honoring various Oakland women of note. Like Oakland and her people, it's made of many disparate parts, but is one whole. Sometimes we forget that. But it's all Our Oakland.