Why Not Vote Early, This Weekend?

Here’s something to do while the storms rage outside:  vote early.

Alameda County Registrar Dave Macdonald announced new weekend hours today, due to the increasing demand over the past week.  When early voting opened last weekend, the registrar reported about 1,000 citizens showed up each day.  This increased to 1,400 on Thursday and 5,000 by Friday afternoon.

The Alameda County Registrar enables Oaklanders to vote early and avoid the Election Day throngs.  The Registrar will stay open every day through November 4th.  As noted above, you can vote on Saturday or Sunday, between 10:00am – 5:00pm.  The office will also be open on Monday from 8:30am – 5:00pm.

On Election Day, you may also drive down to their office between 7:00am – 8:00pm but it will be easier to stop by your local polling place instead.  If you want to confirm where to vote, then click here and enter your address.  I’m sure every neighborhood place will be jammed, so plan ahead to wait in line on the big day.

The Registrar has reported some impressive voter stats, and it will interesting to see how many residents ultimately cast their ballots next week.  For this election, there were 803,009 registered voters in Alameda County.  Some 370,000 vote-by-mail ballots have been distributed and 185,000 were returned as of today.

More info:   The Registrar’s Office is located at 1225 Fallon Street (map).  If you have questions, then please call (510) 272-6973.  Read more about California propositions and local measures here.

Fire Near Grizzly Peak, Just Reported

A fire near Grizzly Peak Boulevard and Lomas Cantadas was reported and snuffed out on Thursday.

Despite the clouds and  rain, the fire blackened over 10 acres beyond Tilden Regional Park.  Park workers were doing a prescribed burn to clear brush near the steam trains, and the fire spread too far.  Check out KTVU’s video of our smoking hills.

The Contra Costa Times shared that “firefighters from East Bay Regional Parks, Cal Fire, Orinda, Berkeley and Oakland responded to the scene, as well as one helicopter and two air tankers.”  In the photo below, you can see the ‘copter in action – dropping water on the hills.

Here’s the initial news blogged on Thursday afternoon, only an hour after the report was called into authorities.  The power of online news sharing in all its glory!

A fire near Grizzly Peak Boulevard and Lomas Cantadas was just reported.  We’re not able to check this out, can anyone confirm?  Of course, the rainstorms have arrived, so Mother Nature may be taking care of the matter soon.

Firefighters responding to controlled burn near Tilden Park
By Robert Salonga, Contra Costa Times – 10/30/2008 01:30:33 PM PDT

ORINDA — Firefighters are responding to reports this afternoon that a controlled burn near Tilden Park may have jumped fire lines, the East Bay Regional Parks District said.

The report was called in about 12:30 p.m. near Grizzly Peak Boulevard and Lomas Cantadas just outside the southeastern corner of the park. Further details were not immediately available.

Oakland Park Rangers Nearly Extinct

It’s true that the Oakland Park Rangers are on the endangered species list.  There are three rangers now, who can’t possibly roam around the 120+ parks and rec centers throughout the city.

Ranger Mark Oliver is one of the endangered rangers, who’s been keeping Oakland parks safe for the past 21 years.  “That’s our primary responsibility” explained Oliver, “so that moms, kids, daddies and senior citizens, when they go out to use the parks, they can feel safe.”

The park ranger unit was founded back in 1946, and staffed at least 20 rangers just seven years ago.  Most recently, the unit had eight ranger positions and one records specialist.  With the latest budget travails, there are now three lone rangers.

According to an e-mail sent to “supporters of safe parks” this afternoon, these rangers will do the best they can with their remaining 15 shifts.  They will be working weekdays but not on Saturdays, Sundays, Holidays or night-time shifts.  If rangers are sick or on vacation, there won’t be back-ups.

Last week, I took a quick hike at Joaquin Miller Park and visited the Ranger Station.  It’s like visiting a neglected attic there, with old exhibits about Miller, and a sign saying the ranger’s office is closed.  Very sad vibe, even though I understand that staffing field offices is a luxury.

At least for Joaquin Miller Park and other heavily-used destinations, I wonder if we should develop even stronger volunteer efforts.  The Ranger Unit says they are looking for volunteers for these duties:  Citizens on Patrol, Bicycle Patrol, Mounted Patrol, Field Office Representative, and Special Events.

Is there a ranger left to organize volunteer efforts?  Try visiting the Ranger Station (map) or else calling 510-482-7888 weekdays.  We often clean up parks but don’t think much about helping with safety matters.

Happy Halloween Means A Parade

2009 Parade Update:  This year’s Parade was a great success!  It took place on October 30th, through the streets of Montclair. Please see coverage, including snapshots, of the award-winners and VIP paraders.


In Montclair Village, Halloween means it’s time for a parade plus a pumpkin or two.

Parade Details: Remember to dress up your kids and parade them through town on Friday, during the Lions Club event.  Paraders should meet at the Bank of America office, next to Lucky’s Market, at 3:30pm.

Unfortunately, there’s a 70% chance of rain.  So come prepared for the worst, because everyone will be lined up and waiting to see your cute kids.

Besides the parade itself, take time to stroll around downtown.  There will be balloons and treats everywhere.  A Great Good Place for Books (map) will host some characters and welcome trick-or-treaters.

Make sure to stop by Sarber’s Cameras (map) before the parade, too.  The proprietors take free professional pictures of your costumed kids, as part of their Halloween costume contest.  Who can resist this offer?

Pumpkins Proliferating: Of course, the pumpkins have arrived and been placed on many doorsteps.  For the first time, we’re seeing a few political pumpkins showing up.  Have you seen any “Yes We Carve” pumpkins around here?  How many gourds are appearing for Obama versus McCain?

Don’t fret, as it’s not too late for you to politicize your pumpkins.  Just download stencils for Obama, McCain, Biden or Palin at the Better Homes and Gardens site – and follow the instructions there.

Better Homes ran a pumpkin election which allowed visitors to vote for presidential and veep candidates equally.  As of Tuesday evening, Obama came in first and was closely followed by Palin and then McCain.  Biden was a distant fourth in the running.

Official Greetings: Finally, we cannot resist sharing this Happy Halloween sentiment from a holiday-laden rabbit.  The creature seems to be making the e-mail rounds, and I received him from a friend living outside California.

What a classic piece of kitsch, don’t you agree?  The rabbit provides enough good cheer, since he covers us through Halloween, T-Giving and X-Mas.  He doesn’t reflect every holiday, but will do the trick for now.

Soft Landing For Montclarions

In this recession, we can only hope that Montclarions have a “soft landing” economically.

Montclarions and all 94611 zip code residents start with a strong foundation.  We’re quite blessed with educational and professional advantages, as compared to other Californians and Americans.

Courtesy of the U.S. Census, the chart above shows the score.  More than a third of us have graduated from college (35%) or grad school (32%) respectively.  We’re about double the college grads and triple the post-grads of everywhere else.

What are we doing with that education?  On the occupational front, nearly two-thirds are managers or professionals (64%) and that’s around double the state and country averages.  A sizable number hold sales positions (21%) as well.

Certainly the correlation between education and employment should be obvious, except that we live in interesting times!  If you’re in financial services or venture-backed companies, it’s already a cold and desolate winter.

I’m hoping that we won’t get hit too hard but haven’t learned much from coffee house chatter.  We discuss the economy, the city budget, gas prices, real estate, and some investments that have gone bust.

However, I’m wondering exactly where and when the recessionary fallout hits us even harder and becomes truly life-changing – or if most of us will experience a soft landing.

Skulls And Altars Today

Who needs to travel to Mexico?  There’s a huge Day of the Dead celebration today in Fruitvale, from 10am-5pm.  Founded in 1996, this annual event runs down International Blvd, between 33-39th Avenues (festival map).

At Dia de los Muertos, you will be able to check out more than 20 different altars to the dead.  These altars are filled with interesting Mexican folk art and ofrendas, or offerings for the departed.  Typically there are flowers, special sugar or paper-mache skulls, breads baked for the dead, and other artistic flourishes.

Besides the altars, there are arts & crafts, three stages with entertainment, a kids section and, of course, all kinds of great Mexican food.  This is no ordinary street festival, as it represents a long-standing tradition where Mexicans honor their dead.

The Unity Council, which supports many different community services, is hosting the event.  While not verified, our Fruitvale Day of the Dead celebration is one of the largest nationally – it will be packed but worth battling the crowds.

More info:  Dia de los Muertos SiteDay of Dead BlogWikipediaFruitvale OverviewFruitvale Glossary of TermsCorrazon del Pueblo Store

What Oakland Cops Can Do

The recent spate of highly professional burglaries have awakened Montclarions from their comfort zones, to say the least.  Meanwhile Oakland cops are paying more attention lately too, but haven’t arrested the perps yet.

There was a special meeting at City Hall earlier this week, among community leaders and top city cops including Deputy Chief Jeff Israel,  Captain Anthony Toribio, and Sergeant Oliver Cunningham.  Topic A was Montclair’s crime wave, as seen in this three-month mapping of all area crimes.

Montclair Crime Response:

At City Hall, we definitely learned more about the cops, suspects and wheels of justice.  Montclarion Sandra Pohutsky attended the meeting and took copious notes.  Here are some interesting tidbits:

  • Our beat cops who cover the Oakland Hills (13X, 13Y, 13Z) were described as “very sharp, well organized, high-caliber officers.”  PSO Maureen Vergara, who covers core Montclair (13Z) was called “awesome.”
  • Sgt. Cunningham investigates burglaries and has data showing 70 residential burglaries in the last two and half months in the Oakland Hills.
  • In Montclair, there are four burglar teams that mostly show up during the day.  They drive different cars to avoid detection by us.  The teams include two white males, two black males in late 30s, two Asian males in early 30s and some younger black males.
  • “Burglary is now an enterprise” and the courts are less lenient then in prior years.  Loot get sold online, at pawnshops, flea markets, and “fences” who are people who sell stolen goods.
  • The District Attorney can pursue cases when there’s solid and real data.  Apparently burglars get 10 years if they are repeat offenders.

The cops move slowly through their investigations, but some of this pace is out of their control.  Sgt. Cunningham, who oversees all the burglaries, receives reports within 24-48 hours.  Fingerprinting and DNA evidence can be taken quickly too – and then it takes up to three months to get back fingerprinting and up to ten months for DNA results!

More Funds For Cops:

Although 65% of Oakland’s budget is allocated for cops plus firefighters, it’s not enough for the cops to do their work.  That’s part of the motivation for Measure NN, which would increase the police count and also hire technicians who handle paperwork.

With the recent Oakland budget cuts, our City Rep Jean Quan is strongly advocating for its passage.  So is Mayor Ron Dellums, who sponsored the measure and just attended a Castlemont town-hall meeting to encourage support from citizens.

There are mixed reactions to the measure, due to prior cop funding and how the city handles its finances.  In a survey conducted last summer, some 60% of Oaklanders support this ballot measure.  We’ll see what happens on Election Day.