Take Survey: All About Local Sports Fields

After many inputs from Montclarions and Piedmonters, we are finally launching a survey about local sports fields.  There has been a lot of heat generated on this subject, especially fueled by the potential development of Blair Park – and this survey attempts to quantify the different attitudes towards fields available at parks, schools and local colleges.

How should we handle the demand for local playing fields?  Are there fields that aren’t used to capacity?  Should we build new fields and where?  Let us know in the next few minutes – click here.

Survey Guy

Our city parks struggle to accommodate all the sports leagues.  Mark Zinns, recreation supervisor at Montclair Park, explained “there is a large demand by groups for exclusive use of fields to run their leagues.  Not only does this put a big physical impact on the fields’ health and resiliency, but also limits when the general public can use a field for family or pick-up games.”

Yet local Andy Kleiber said the Montclair Soccer Club is already challenged by the shortage of fields, and actually reduces its practice times.  NancyL, posting on our social network, added that “we have to struggle with field assignments for practices (if there are fields available) as well as deal with gopher holes, sprained ankles, constant trash pickup, etc. etc. on the fields in Oakland.”

We could turn to our community colleges and their facilities, claimed Nancy.  “We need to press our elected officials, the leadership at the Peralta Colleges who receive funding from our taxes, and our schools too – let us use the fields, let us help maintain the fields (even if we are not in the union) and increase the transparency of field assignment processes!”

How do you feel about the local parks and fields?  Are there specific arrangements you would suggest between the users and owners of sports fields?  Please let your voice be heard, whether you are an active soccer or baseball parent – or aren’t involved in the sports scene at all.  Thanks for your help!

Good To Be Back In Oak-Town

You truly appreciate Oakland by traveling a bit and seeing what else is out there.  This week, my business dealings took me to Troy, New York.  I was meeting people at a great school called RPI, and certainly can’t argue with the interesting things percolating there.  However I was so pleased to touch down at our airport tonight.

Troy NY

Now I feel compelled to share these “Top Ten Reasons” why I’m glad to return from upstate New York.  It didn’t exactly rock my world, at least in the dead of winter.  Drum roll, please…

  1. It’s ten degrees out, with sleet and snow – and you must be bundled up. (No problem here.)
  2. When you walk around the old city and buildings, everything’s for rent. (Well, it’s not the same.)
  3. The nearby Hudson River has PCB problems, scheduled for remediation. (The Bay is healthier.)
  4. The world is either white, gray, brown or black, with a couple red buildings. (We have color.)
  5. Everything feels unchanging and settled, in its post-industrial glory. (Hey, we’re much younger.)
  6. Did you ever read Richard Russo? (Folks from NY don’t sound like us.)
  7. There’s not a lot of restaurants in downtown Troy. (We do have places to eat.)
  8. There’s nothing much happening off-campus. (It’s really dead.)
  9. Troy’s countryside is plunged into mid-winter. (Winter, what’s that?)
  10. The downtown has no people during the day. (People are in DTO.)

When the urge strikes you to rant about Oakland, try to appreciate the things that we really have – bird in the hand and all.

Neighborhood Policing Lives On

Community-based policing in Oakland is, at best, a work-in-progress.  Among the 57 beats scattered through the city, there are great differences in whether neighbors get involved in crime prevention councils.  We understand that beat officers are not spending 100% of their time locally, either.

In Montclair, we have two active councils that communicate priorities to Beat 13Y and 13Z officers.  We let them know where to patrol and share other concerns on a regular basis, and we often complain about slow response times when calling for help.  Our crimes are mostly about burglaries and stolen cars, rather than murders.

Like all Oaklanders, we still wonder when community policing will hit its stride.  This combination of neighbors and local cops, working together, shows real promise but hasn’t been fully realized yet.

Tagami Interviews Tucker

Tucker Talked The Talk

Wayne Tucker, Oakland’s soon-to-be former police chief, has been chanting “the mantra” of geographic and local policing efforts for several years.  In this 2007 interview with Phil Tagami (part one, part two), he focused on filling 22 of the 57 problem-solving officer (PSOs) positions and reaching 803 officer positions overall.  Tucker also believed the force should add another 300 officers.

Chief Tucker will make his swan-song this Wednesday, at the Neighborhood Watch Steering Committee meeting.  Montclair’s Nick Vigilante said the Chief plans to “address the major achievements at OPD under his command, as well as what still needs to be done and what role the residents of Oakland can play in it.”

  • You’re invited to this presentation on Wednesday, from 6:30 – 8:30pm.  It takes place at City Hall, 1 Frank Ogawa Plaza, in Hearing Room 4 (map), and please RSVP to Felicia Verdin at fverdin-at-oaklandnet.com or 510-238-3128.

With Tucker’s retirement as well as the severe budget gap, we wonder about changing priorities within Oakland Police department.  Will some of the community efforts fall by the wayside?  Or will it be up to citizens to keep things going?

Community Policing Might Suffer

Just today, City Attorney John Russo jumped into the fray regarding policing priorities:  “We must confront the painful truth that too many good Oakland residents live as if under siege.  We need more officers, but we don’t need them doing desk jobs that a civilian could do. We need more officers investigating and solving violent crimes.  We must have a commitment to to effective crime fighting and continued, serious reform of the Oakland Police Department.”

The Alameda County Court recently issued a tentative ruling in Marleen L. Sacks v. City of Oakland.  Judge Frank Roesch ruled that Measure Y funds were used improperly by the City.  In particular, he found that funds had been used for general police training and not specifically for community-policing functions.  Appeals have been filed by the City Attorney’s office at this point.  [Feb. 24th:  The City Attorney’s office expects to recommend an appeal filing, if the ruling is affirmed.]

Meanwhile, the budget continues to crash and burn, and the actual gap isn’t known yet.  The City Council’s Finance and Management Committee, headed by our City Rep Jean Quan, is looking at additional taxes to solve problems and is gamely trying to repeal the Measure OO which passed last year.  At some point, there have to be tougher calls which reduce headcount and salary levels – just like the private sector.

Power To the People, UNCO

Today the crime prevention councils function solely at the beat level, and citizens share safety concerns with their beat officers.  Perhaps by unifying and giving a larger voice to councils’ concerns, there could be more coordinated responses from their assigned PSOs or other cops on duty.

With this goal in mind, the first-ever United Neighborhood Councils of Oakland (UNCO) Congress is taking place tomorrow night.  The original drafters, including Montclarion Jim Dexter, believe this group will enable more direct communications to Oakland Police brass and other city officials.

  • Everyone’s welcome to participate in this first Congress on Tuesday, beginning 7:00 pm. It takes place at Patten University Activity Center, 2433 Coolidge Avenue (map), and no RSVP is required here.

By attending, you have opportunities to run for UNCO leadership roles as an Executive Committee officer or as a Public Safety Area (PSA) representative.  The meeting will also break into the six PSAs, so neighbors can begin identifying local issues as well.

Regardless of Oakland’s budgeting travails or police reforms, it’s heartening to see that citizen volunteers are trying to amplify their contributions anyway.  This kind of volunteerism should help keep community policing alive – even in the most troubled times.

Feb. 28th Update: It’s the last day for OPD Chief Wayne Tucker, with coverage by the Tribune, Chronicle, and NBC News.  Earlier this week, KTVU and Tribune reported about the Neighborhood Watch meeting.  Tucker said the city was “woefully inadequate in terms of responding to property crimes.  We just don’t have staff to do those kinds of things.”

Oakland Wants Billions, Now What?

President Barack Obama called Oakland Mayor Ron Dellums “an old friend” yesterday, but will this mean we get over $2.6 billion worth of federal assistance?  Maybe we deserve this much investment, but many requested items seem like they will get scratched from the list.

Mayor Visits DC

Like all cities, our requests were first submitted through the 2008 U.S. Conference of Mayors.  We made 75 requests for streets/roads (16), water (10), airport (5), community federal block grants (14), energy (7), housing (1), and public safety (22).

Without help from Uncle Sam, there are some breathtaking infrastructure projects that would never see the light of day.  Here are the largest ticket items, which each run more than $100 million and add up to $1.75 billion alone:

  • New police administration building –  $450 mm
  • New airport parking garage – $300 mm
  • Library upgrades – $270 mm
  • New municipal service center – $220 mm
  • Clean water, safe parks – $150 mm
  • Wharf reconstruction – $130 mm
  • Sanitary sewer system upgrades – $130 mm
  • Oakland army base upgrades – $100 mm

The project list also includes familiar, budget-gap items that Oaklanders have discussed over the past year.  Many deferred public works are shown, even sidewalk repairs.  The public safety wish list runs from new patrol cars to sophisticated surveillance, and goes far beyond the minor systems rejected in Measure NN.

Are all these projects actually eligible for Recovery Act funds?  See the complete list of Oakland requests below, and draw your own conclusions.

Continue reading

Doing the East Bay Parks Challenge

Here’s a 26.2-mile marathon that almost anyone should be able to race, because you have over nine months to complete the feat.  If you cover those miles through the East Bay Regional Parks, then you will be duly rewarded with swag.

We just received the East Bay Regional Park District activity guide today, wrapped neatly into the Montclarion.  After thumbing through all the activities, the Trails Challenge 2009 caught my eye and I decided to sign up.

Typically I head to the ridge trails right in our backyard, which means walking at Chabot, Redwood, Huckleberry, Sibley, Tilden or Wildcat.  However this Trails Challenge lures you to other places, by describing specific and seasonal routes throughout the East Bay.

Morgan Territory

Thus, I have decided to head East tomorrow and officially begin the challenge.  My first hike will be a 9.75 miler through the Morgan Territory (trail map, location).  This territory is in the hinterlands, technically in Livermore and looking west to Mt. Diablo.  While it will probably be quite muddy, I’m game for the exploration and postcard view.

The Trails Challenge doesn’t require you to slog that far, though.  Between now and December 1st, you only need to walk that marathon distance or tackle five hikes.  Actually you are free to hike, run, skate, bike or otherwise operate under your own horsepower.  The Parks District has provided a complete handbook (download here) which identifies 20 routes rated as easy, moderate or challenging.

What’s the real draw?  If you return your forms correctly, then the Parks District rewards you too – with a cool 75th anniversary commemorative pin and t-shirt.  Not a bad excuse to get moving and to breathe a little fresh air.