Council Says Pay ‘Til 8pm

Last night, the Oakland City Council decided that we’ll have to continue paying for parking until 8pm.  The howls of protest weren’t enough to sway the Council, who had extended meter hours as a revenue-producing move earlier this year.

Parking Meter-Machines

We know from our parking suvey that Montclarions are quite ticked-off by the extended hours, with 59 percent giving the move a resounding thumbs-down and another 6 percent saying it wasn’t okay.  We’re accepting the rate increases and even the newfangled meters lately, but residents say that longer hours have changed the Village zeitgeist.

Last night, the City Council split over the matter of meter hours.  In the roll-back corner were District 4’s Rep Jean Quan, as well as Reps Jane Brunner, Pat Kernighan and Larry Reid.  The other council members abstained, including Desley Brooks, Rebecca Kaplan and Nancy Nadel.  Ignacio De La Fuentes wasn’t at the meeting.

It’s all about the city coffers.  The roll-back (to 6pm) contingent have come up with alternative ways to earn revenues, but not the full $1.3 million take from this extra two hours’ meter time nightly.  Other council members seem to be folding their arms until that entire amount can be delivered elsewhere.

According to the Tribune, the matter will return to the City Council in two weeks.  Local citizens and merchants have not been able to sway the group yet.  It will come down to showing the money…from where?

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Free Museum Admission Day, On Saturday

Don’t look this gift horse in the mouth.  There’s a free museum admission day this coming Saturday, and you may pick from 16 participating Bay Area museums – including Chabot Space & Science and the Exploratorium.

All you need to do is register online for an admissions card, and bring the printed admission with you on Saturday.  Each card is good for you and a guest, or else one per household.

Museum Day - Admission Form

Here are all the Bay Area museums where the free admission will be honored.  Just click on the museum websites below and decide which place would appeal to you most:

We like that the Smithsonian Magazine sponsors this freebie, all over the country.  It’s a great way to spend a few hours on a Saturday, soaking in a little curated culture.

Proof That Oakland Hills Don’t Exist

In case you wondered, Montclair and the Oakland Hills don’t really exist.  We live in a state of mind, at least from the perspective of mass transit.  BART recently revised their maps and removed curves a bit.  Then Burrito Justice created a hyperlinear version that vanquishes us, forever.

Take a look at the BART-produced map, where you can detect a slight angle south between Orinda and Rockridge.  We believe that tips the hat to Montclair, a bit.  Then notice the large curve as you head south from Rockridge to MacArthur, where there’s some space to fit the Oakland Hills.  While we don’t exist here, at least you see terra incognitas.

BART - New Linear Map

Now check out Burrito Justice, where they decided to remove all the curves from the BART transit lines entirely.  Their hyperlinear map sure looks graphically interesting, but creates big problems for us.

Yes, we have been wiped off the planet!  Note the straight line between Orinda and Rockridge, with no possibility for Montclair.  Then look at where MacArthur, 19th and City Center are placed, directly below Orinda and Rockridge.  There is literally no place for the Oakland Hills in a square world.

Burrito Justice - Hyperlinear BART

Everyone already gets confused about geo-political borders for the Montclair District and the Oakland Hills.  We describe them by the nearby highways, and that usually does the trick.  But now these BART map oversights are insulting at best and nefarious at worst.

Armed with our cheshire cat grins, we declare that “we live in an imaginary place.”  Though we swore there were people, homes, schools, parks and a downtown village around here…somewhere.

So Many Weekend Activities…

When we hit the weekend, there’s always too much to do.  We all know about catching up on errands, carting around the kids or going out for a bite to eat.  What gets lost in the noise…is Oakland!  We live in the horn of plenty, with so many weekend activities worth checking out.

Over the past season, Today in Montclair has curated events that sound interesting – whether they’re taking in culture, appreciating nature or supporting good works.  You can see them linked as “our social network” in the right-hand column.  You can also read summaries or else subscribe to a feed.

Today In Montclair's Picks

Why bother? After all, we enjoy the East Bay Express, OakBook and other online (and sometimes print) papers as much as the next guy for art, music, movies, festivals and many more listings.  Yet some activities are still missing, like stairway cleanings or neighborhood meetings.  Also the listings are endless, so we pluck events that catch our fancy.

We also hear from you, a lot.  Montclarions want to promote their gatherings and we’re happy to oblige.  Just send a message to your faithful blogger, and we’ll get your announcement live.  Or you can post ’em yourself at our social network as well.

Let’s get back to this weekend. Although we’re past Labor Day, this coming weekend is chock-a-block with activities that make Oakland the place we heart.  The range is kind of startling, when you step back:

After a while, have these goings-on turned into background noise for you?  We think so, and that’s why we feel duty bound to re-acquaint you with the simpler Oakland pleasures – just in case you can find a few hours here or there.

Testing Prism For Student Achievement

At least in the Oakland Hills, you need a many-faceted prism to measure student performance.  Success isn’t exactly defined by public school tests and rankings alone.

When you track the performance of our elementary schools in the hills, there are no surprises and they rank highly year after year.  By high school, these numbers decline precipitously and top performing students seem to vanish as well.  Let’s examine this a bit more.

Test Takers Soon Appear

Hills Kids Swimming Together

The State of California just released their Academic Performance Index (APIs), and our three schools scored well as usual:  Montclair at 957, up 35 points from last year; Thornhill at 944, up 20 points; and Joaquin Miller at 886, up 18 points.

Oakland’s average score is 695, which includes all elementary, middle and high schools city-wide.  That number gets driven down by economically disadvantaged students who scored 668 on average.  As a proxy, racial breakouts also show APIs of 902 for Whites and 630 for African-Americans overall.

For the Oakland Hills schools, the paler and richer kids living here perform better as a group – and are more highly represented in the elementary schools.  Thus we expect our local schools to score well on standardized tests, and are satisfied when they achieve mid-900 APIs.

Kids Swim In Different Pools

Among Oakland’s middle schools or high schools, things change quickly.  There are no standout API score performers except for a few charter schools, and none around here.  We believe that reflects shifts in school populations, as kids are sent beyond their neighborhood enclaves to public or even private schools.

By middle school, you see the average scores reflect these changes and begin to drop.  For example, Montera registers an 814 API that includes 928 for White and 912 for Asian students.  Likewise, Claremont reports a 701 API, including 915 for White kids there.

Kids Jump Into Biggest Pool

Skyline High doesn’t do well period, with a 667 API that’s below the overall Oakland average score!  Again there’s a mixed bag with White and Asian kids delivering around 790, while African Americans and Hispanics hover near the 600 mark.  Disadvantaged students of all races deliver a 641 API.

Since Skyline is a very large high school, with well over 2,000 students, it’s difficult to raise the API averages with smaller high-achiever contributions.  Yet the drop is so substantial that you have to wonder what is happening with students, as they hit the high school years.  Are things really that bad, or do the number hide success stories?

One way to find out is through standard college-admissions tests like ACTs or SATs.   The 2010 news isn’t pretty, as there are ZERO National Merit Semifinalists from either Skyline or any Oakland public high school.  This award recognizes the top PSAT test-takers from junior year.

Where have all the smartest kids gone, all to private schools, every one?  We know there must be successful students around, but it’s so hard to isolate them as a group.  The testing prism is all about ensuring the minimums, and not really peering into what’s happening with our children as they grow up in the public schools.

More info:   Check out the State of California API reports, including Oakland’s school details and Oakland’s race segmentations.  Also see the California’s National Merit Semifinalists. The Tribune’s Katy Murphy has written all about API inequities and Merit awardees in Oakland too.

Oakland Tour Da Signs

One of the best things about Oakland is…the signage!  We happen to adore Our Oakland, because Gene Anderson discovers signs that might otherwise get lost in the fray.

There’s a critical mass of signs at this point, covering all the quotidian needs of city slickers.  Many signs are historical artifacts and highly stylized.  Some signs are spit-shined, while others have seen better days.

Our Oakland's Signage

Where to find signs: Our Oakland’s signs are scattered throughout the city, but blogger Gene has made them easy to locate.  Just click on a pin below, to see what a sign looks like and get directions to that sign.  For example, click on the yellow pin between highways 24/13 and you will see the Village Market.

Yellow pins are what you’re after, as they represent signs already covered on the blog.  The other blue colors indicate signs identified or already snapped for future coverage.  (Note:  After you click on a pin, you sometimes have to refresh this page to bring back the pin-covered map again.)

We love all the signs: Picking favorite signs is like choosing a favorite child, so we won’t go there.  However I enjoy ones that are more subtle and add to the overall fabric of neighborhoods.  The ones that still light up at night are also interesting to me, but that’s a personal thing.

Altogether, the current collection pays homage to bygone days.  We hope these cultural touchstones don’t get ripped down in the name of progress.  Heck, can you imagine the Fox or Paramount without them?

Get Yer Ticket For Restaurant Walk

We suggest you get your ticket book now for the Montclair Restaurant Walk, scheduled on October 6th.  The first-ever walk last spring was a sold-out affair, and it’s possible to miss this great grazing opportunity if you delay.

With book in hand, you’ll be able to sample offerings from restaurants and stores scattered throughout the village – in 2.5 hours or less!  The Lions Club has added this fundraiser to their long-standing Easter and Halloween events, and it’s nice that adults can have some gluttonous fun for a good cause.  All proceeds go to charity, of course.

Montclair Restaurant Walk - Oct 2009

To get your mouth watering, the confirmed participants include:

A. G. Ferrari Foods – Crogan’s Montclair – El Agavero Mexican Cuisine & Bar – Farmstead Cheeses and Wines – Flavors India Bistro – Flipper’s Gourmet Burgers – Il Porcellino – Italian Colors Ristorante – La Salsa Fresh Mexican Grill – Le Bon Bon – Metro Cafe & Bar – Montclair Baking – Montclair Bistro – Pararung Thai Cuisine – Silver Palace Restaurant – Taqueria Las Comadres – The Full Plate – Toshi Sushi

So what’s next? Until the ticket books run out, you may stop in the Village and buy them at Montclair Book Tree, Pacific National Bank, Raimondi’s Paint & Wallpaper or Viewpoint Optometric. These books cost $25/person, and are filled with coupons for tastings. Remember to pencil in the Restaurant Walk date, which is October 6th, from 6:00 – 8:30 pm.