Voting Tomorrow In The 94611

While you won’t be able to personally solve the State of California’s budgetary woes, at least you have a chance to be heard a little bit tomorrow.  You can decide whether to shuffle the state budget around…or not.

If you are registered and haven’t voted by mail, then this is your friendly push to vote on Tuesday, May 19th.  Now I’m not going to tell you what to do, but here are some handy links so you have no last minute excuses to forget your civic duty.

Not sure if you are eligible? There’s one way to find out, by checking your registration status.  If you are present and accounted for, then go ahead and identify your polling location for tomorrow.  We live in the modern era and you can do these things with your mouse-clicks.

Great Seal of California

Enter the no-spin zone. You probably have heard opinions about the six propositions already,  but we encourage you to enter the no-spin zone for a few minutes before heading to the polls.  Try out these video and text summaries of each proposition first:

To find out more about each proposition, read this Easy Voter Guide, prepared by the League of Women Voters.  Or else link to this Quick Reference Guide To Props, which was created by the State of California.

Want even more?   Dive into these Proposition Analyses or Full Voter Information Guide links.  Or worst case, check out  Google Search or Google News results and fend for yourself.

It will only take a few minutes at the polls tomorrow, and you have nothing to lose.  Have we created enough guilt and sense of responsibility for you to cast a ballot now?

Original Propaganda For East Bay Parks

Since the East Bay Regional Park District celebrates its 75th anniversary this year, various historical artifacts are getting dusted off.  Until today, we had not noticed this great piece of propaganda – which encourages locals to vote for the creation of the parks.

Regional Park Proposal

When you look at the boosterism, it makes the East Bay look positively serene.  Except for that guy declaring “a job,” the Depression ills have been sidelined here.

According to the Park District, California Governor James Rolph authorized the district’s formation in 1933 subject to the approval of district residents.   This cartoon and other efforts helped mobilize voters from San Leandro to Albany, and the parks were approved by a landslide – 2.5 to 1 – on November 4, 1934.

Did the Park District deliver what it promised?  This campaign promised easier access, fishing, hiking, swimming, camping and a deer sighting or two.  The district delivered on those scores for sure.  Our prescient conservation efforts are remarkable, even though many of you (us) quibble with tree-cutting and trail policies today.

Alameda and Contra Costa voters still gives thumbs-up when additional ballot measures appear to support the parks – most recently last year.  Something must have worked out well, after all.

Oakland’s Victory Siren Comes To Life

While there were a few hundred Chrysler Air Raid Sirens installed during the Cold War, only one has been actively used for performance art these days – and it’s from Oakland.

After Jack Schroll rescued this monster siren from Woodminster Amphitheater in 2007, it was first used in a Burning Man Festival project!  As part of Crude Awakening, created by Oaklanders Dan Das Mann and Karen Cusolito, the siren called people to worship at the oil derrick’s altar.

Crude Awakening - Air Siren

Click on the video and see the whole story unfold.  At first, the steel people are doing what comes naturally and actively worshipping their oil god.

Crude Awakening - Worshippers

Eventually their false god consumes its very last oil, as represented by the fireball.  Afterwards, the worshippers are able to return to and respect nature again.  (From attendees, we heard this felt like an apocalyptic scene.)

Crude Awakening - Explosion

Beyond Crude Awakening, the Oakland Victory Siren has been used in other performances.  There was another great Dan Das Mann show on the water – watch this Sausalito Burn Boat video complete with the siren, fire bursts, tesla coils and music.  For a front-row seat, here is the siren blasting away on the boat.  (Yes, it’s really that loud.)

The siren’s made appearances in the Bay Area each year.  It’s been down in Half Moon Bay, at the Pacific Coast Dream Machines show, and wheeled out for inspection at the Alameda County Fair as well.  What an interesting Cold War relic and legacy to see up close.

More info:   Learn all about the Chrysler Air Raid Sirens and how one devoted Oaklander rescued and refurbished this Oakland blaster – Oakland’s Victory Siren Gets Saved.

Oakland’s Victory Siren Gets Saved

In the Oakland Hills, we were sitting on a Cold War relic that had been ignored for decades – until it was rediscovered and used by Oakland performance artists.  The story begins with a Chrysler Air Raid Siren, which was dusted off and lovingly saved for posterity by Oaklander Jack Schroll.

“I could not let this piece of history go to the scrap pile,” Schroll explained.  “I have made a good living in Oakland for the last 33 years and I feel this is a small something to give back.  I will never sell the siren.”

Chrysler Air Raid Siren

Run For Cover

Remember fall out shelters?  After World War II, Americans were drilled in how they should respond to missiles and other enemy threats while at home, work or school.  You were supposed to duck and run for cover when you heard the dreaded siren.  (Don’t worry, it was before my time too.)

Around the country, there were a series of alert systems set up to communicate with citizens.  You probably know about the “emergency alert” tests conducted by TV and radio stations.  In addition, extremely loud air raid sirens were installed to let everyone know something was, well, very wrong.

History Of Victory Sirens

Chrysler manufactured many of these long-distance horns, including one model that put out 138 decibels and produced 30,000 watts of power.  They only delivered a few hundred of these monsters, between 1952 to 1957.  Of course, the sirens were tested regularly and maybe helped deflect Americans’ fears.

One siren could be heard four to five miles away.  The siren operator also could be remote, since he was able to turn it on or off by “high tech” telephone.  According to Victory Siren, “the loudness of this siren is unmatched by any other warning device ever sold, ever.  It’s also considerably louder than the largest steam whistle or horn.”

Our Woodminster Siren

Our local Chrysler had been perched atop the Woodminster Amphitheater, in Joaquin Miller Park.  After years of neglect, Oaklander Jack Schroll decided it was worth saving.  Schroll had to battle the City of Oakland, but his mission was a roaring success.

There were actually five documented sirens in Oakland, including two that still existed on Lafayette School and Woodminster Amphitheater roofs.  The Woodminster siren seemed to be in very good shape, in a protected spot for decades.  Years of summer theater-goers had no clue it was there, but Jack knew otherwise.

Schroll first submitted approvals for restoring both sirens and spent nearly two years wrestling his request through the Landmarks Preservation Advisory Board.  In April 2007, the Preservation Board granted their unanimous approval  (see PDF).  The Oakland Unified School District and City of Oakland later gave their thumbs-up, since the sirens were owned by those entities.

Siren Extrication Begins

Now that Jack had the rights, extrication and refurbishment presented the next hurdles.  I was able to reach him a while back, and asked about the steps involved:

It was a matter of preparing the proper documents.  I had to send a copy of the crane operators license to the City Attorney’s office along with proof of insurance.  This was a little tricky as everything really had to happen at the same time.  The City issued a permit to remove property on a given date.  I had to coordinate with the Public Works Dept and the City Attorney’s office.  There were a few snags and I must give credit to the City Attorney.  They actually stayed late on a Friday night so we could proceed on Saturday.  This was done mid May.

Once we had the [Landmark Approval] letter in hand, we contacted Skyscraper Cranes of SF.  They did a site survey and gave me an estimate.  I approved the estimate and we set a date.  Although the Siren weighs only 6000 pounds, it took a 75 ton crane to remove it.  This was due to the fact we had to reach over some tall trees to hook on to it.  It took myself and my crew about three hours to remove the wiring and unbolt it from the roof.

We set it down on a trailer and took it to my shop.  Like a kid with a new toy, we began that day inspecting it.  On eBay, I found an original owners manual for the siren.  What are the chances of that?  We found the siren was intact, but the engine had serious damage due to the freeze in the Oakland Hills in the early 70’s.  We had to repair the block and replace the cylinder heads.  We then found a replacement fluid drive as the existing unit was not serviceable.

The Siren Works

In just two short months, Jack Schroll did his very first “run up” of the siren on July 4, 2007.   The siren debuted later that summer to a huge audience, and has been part of the performance art scene ever since.

Schroll continues to make sure all the mechanical aspects of the siren work well, and has plans to work on the outside cosmetics too.  But it’s all about that sound, that remarkable siren blast.

More info:   Find out where the Oakland Victory Siren has appeared, it will surprise you –  Oakland’s Victory Siren Comes To Life.

Budget Matter: Keep Park Rangers Alive

Another budget head-shaker?  It sure looks like the Oakland Park Rangers will die, following their slow fade over the past few years.

The Friends of Oakland Rangers have been keeping up with the budgeting travails of the proud lone rangers.  There are three positions and two are currently filled.  According to Mayor Ron Dellums’ budget plan, all the positions will vanish and the Oakland Police pick up the slack.

Friends of Oakland Park Rangers

From now through July 1st, the two rangers are supposed to cover West and East Oakland.  Oddly enough, they are not supposed to focus on the central part of the city – where the largest parks are located like Dimond, Lakeside and Joaquin Miller.  The ranger station at Joaquin Miller is officially closed as well.

The Friends of Oakland Rangers are strongly advocating the City Council to keep the ranger station, fund the three ranger positions, and shift the group to Parks and Recreation.  (The rangers used to be part of the Parks department until 1992, when the Police department took ’em over.)

We’re gonna have a serious mess on our hands and will settle for something.  Even scaled back, the current rangers have been responsive and aware of what’s happening in the parks.  Now the full range of park problems will go unnoticed.  Care for an out-of-control bonfire, on a windy day?