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.

Montclair Equals Measure WW

The November 4th election is really important, at least in our beloved East Bay backyard.  Yes there’s a presidential race and all, but Measure WW matters directly – because it improves local parks by extending the “existing East Bay Regional Park District bond with no increase in tax rate.”

You can’t avoid the wilderness/urban interface living in Montclair, and Measure WW helps preserve more non-renewable, open spaces throughout the East Bay.  Check out this interactive map, where you can insert any address and see what projects are planned nearby.

We’re lucky to live in a bucolic outpost, with the parks right up the hill.  As quick inspiration, here are some familiar Redwood and Briones scenes by local artist David Miller.

We’re unabashedly pro-WW at Today in Montclair, aligning with all the arguments for the measure and supporting the range of land acquisition and other benefits for East Bay residents.  After all,  we’re blessed with Redwood, Sibley and Huckleberry nearby, and see them as gems.

What about the folks who say no on WWW in November?  They just received an unintended boost when the ballots forgot to print the Measure WW title and description, which is a shame.  Generally, they believe trails are mismanaged, feel they are overly grazed, and want more places to bike as well.

While some of the Park District’s trail practices or fire suppression activities might raise valid concerns, it seems like we should all agree that establishing conservation funds is a common good.  Plus it costs $10 max per $100k home value, nothing different than rates that are expiring now.

We don’t literally live in the wilderness, and are lucky to have open spaces at all.  When you fly over the hills, there’s a noticeable difference in the Bay Area versus any other major urban area – so let’s try to save the open spaces, however imperfect.

Flipper’s Works For Us

Normally we rely on readers to judge food places, but we just have to comment on Flipper’s Gourmet Hamburgers.  It sits in a can’t-miss location (map), which lures you with their pricey burgers and beer.

Most of the time, I tend to go down-market for burgers and hit In-N-Out near the Oakland Airport, Wendy’s on Broadway, or even Nation’s Giant Burger in Orinda.  All these hot spots fulfill carnivorous cravings beyond Mickey D’s and Burger King.

Yesterday, I decided to take my out-of-town guest for a real hamburger and gave Flipper’s another shot.  Even though I pass by countless times while running errands in the Village, I hadn’t eaten there in a long time.  It was a pleasant surprise that puts it in big-burger leagues with Barney’s (Yelp).

Of course, you can get all kinds of hamburger variants at Flipper’s.  The burgers use Niman Ranch beef, which means better underpinnings than in years gone by.  The veggie sandwiches and other options are pretty darn tasty too, and we had a tomato, mozza, eggplant and pesto combo that worked well.

As expected, Flipper’s serves huge portions.  There’s nothing quaint about your plate filled with a big greasy main item, toppings, fries and a little side salad mix.  I think about Flipper’s as a local diner, a sibling and alternative to the Montclair Egg Shop (Yelp) if you want to feed yourself plus your kids.

The Yelp reviews for Flipper’s are pretty mixed but that hasn’t been my experience, at least recently.  Full disclosure is that I have no friends here or conflicts of interest.  Like other Montclarions, I often ignored the place and now realize those big-burger and big-breakfast urges can be satiated right here.

Do you agree?  Are you thumbs up, sideways or down?

Pulled Asunder By Community Meetings

It’s a tough decision.  We’re pulled asunder by the two community meetings tomorrow, and frankly wondering which one to attend.

Option One:  Neighborhood Watch Steering Committee Meeting

Hear from Jeff Israel, who serves as Deputy Chief of the Oakland Police department (OPD).  He will address Oaklanders who are active with community safety groups, and provide guidance about recent burglaries and crime.

According to Montclair’s Nick Vigilante, the deputy will cover “how OPD is responding to the increases via investigation, patrol, outreach, and enforcement activities; how Neighborhood Watch and NCPC Groups can help OPD; and what you and your neighbors can do to make your neighborhoods safer from such crimes.”

Details:  Wednesday, 6:30-8:30 pm – City Hall, 1 Frank Ogawa Plaza, in Hearing Room 4 – Validated parking at Clay Street Garage (14th/Clay) – You’ll need to RSVP to Felicia Verdin at or 510-238-3128.

Option Two:  Neighbor-to-Neighbor Community Town Hall Meeting

See Vice Mayor Larry Reid and special guest Mayor Ron Dellums in action, in a town-hall meeting tomorrow.  This event is open to all, and is interesting timing after the Oakland budget meeting today.

The invitation says it’s “your opportunity to share issues you care about.  Join your neighbors in an informal and insightful exchange of ideas,” with focus on the budget, economic development, public safety, etc.

Details:  Wednesday, 6:00-8:00 pm – Castlemont Community of Small Schools cafeteria – 8601 Macarthur Blvd – Any questions, please call 510-444-CITY.

Even if you aren’t able to make these events, I’m sure there will be plenty of reports and opinions – and we’ll pass them along if interesting for Montclarions.