MOBN Announces 90-Day Plan And General Assembly

We’re pleased to publish a guest post from Bruce Nye, our concerned neighbor who initiated Make Oakland Better Now!   This grassroots, city-wide effort seeks to “shine a light on mayoral and city council candidates’ positions” in the coming year.  Take it away, Bruce…

Make Oakland Better Now! Announces Its 90-Day Plan And February 21, 2010 General Assembly

by Bruce Nye

Last August, more than 100 Oaklanders met at St. Theresa’s Church to form Make Oakland Better Now!, a grassroots issues and advocacy organization devoted to improving public safety, public works, transparency and accountability in the City of Oakland.

Make Oakland Better Now! was formed by Oakland residents, many of whom hadn’t been activists for a long time and many of whom admitted they hadn’t paid as much attention to Oakland politics as they should have.  But they believed Oakland was a wonderful city that urgently needed to change.  And they were determined to build an organization that would be a force in these three critical areas in the 2010 mayor’s race and beyond.  More specifically, Make Oakland Better Now! is determined to shine a light on mayoral and city council candidates’ positions in these three areas and to monitor improvement after the election.

At our kick-off meeting and in the months afterward, Make Oakland Better Now! assembled a leadership group determined to move this city forward.  This group has been asking questions, listening, reading and developing a sense of Oakland’s recent political history.  They’ve met with this city’s opinion leaders, city officials and knowledgeable people outside of government, trying to cast as wide a net as they can.  The process isn’t over yet, and will, we anticipate, be an ongoing one.  But we are finally ready to move.

The most important thing for you to know right now is this:  our next general assembly will be on Sunday, February 21, 2010 at 3:00 p.m. Please mark your calendars now, and do everything you can to hold the date.  This will be the meeting when our membership adopts positions and sets priorities in the three areas most important to Oakland:  public safety; government transparency/accountability; and public works.  We are working on selecting a centrally located, easily accessible venue, and will be announcing the “where” information very soon.

The leaders of the three committees are in the process of finishing a list of proposed MOBNow! positions and priorities in their areas of interest. That process will be finished by December 28th.  In January, each committee will hold a study group meeting and a committee meeting; we’ll also be announcing the dates, times and places for those meetings before year’s end.  At the study group meetings, we’ll have experts prepared to answer the committee’s questions.  At the committee meeting, we’ll make the final decision on the positions and priorities to recommend to the general assembly.

The next ninety days are going to be important, busy and exciting.  We need as many folks as possible to pitch in and help.  If you’d like to be more involved in any of the three areas (public safety, government transparency/accountability or public works), or in support (events, outreach, publicity, etc.), then e-mail:  And there’s always more information available at  Please join us – Oakland needs you.

This guest post from Bruce Nye, one of the founders of Make Oakland Better Now! has been cross-posted at A Better Oakland, our city’s government and politics blog of record.

December 4th Update:  Positions are now getting posted at MOBN! and Oakland Local, and your comments are most welcome there.  (To commune with Montclarions, you may join our social network anytime.)

It Can Happen Anywhere

Another four cops, from Lakewood WA, were gunned down a few hours ago.

Because we’re hearing news from Washington State, this ambush occurred at a local coffee shop!  Apparently the shooter ambushed and killed three men and one woman, as they were doing “paperwork” on their laptops.

We feel instant empathy, hearing about the tragedy.  Ed Troyer, from the Pierce County Sheriff’s department, said it was definitely a targeted attack, or “walk in with the specific mindset to shoot police officers.”  The shooter ran away and is still at-large.

Back in Oakland, we’re shaking our heads.  We know, first hand, how it feels when four city officers are gunned down needlessly.  We should definitely reach out and commiserate with folks from the Tacoma area, as their news unfolds.

There’s not much more to share, at this point, than our utter disgust here.  Our society’s become so uncivilized and violent, and this ambush makes no sense.

December 1st Update:  The suspect was shot and killed, by Seattle police.

Keeping The Montclair Booksellers Alive

We’re hopeful about the fates of Montclair Village booksellers, A Great Good Place for Books and The Book Tree.  They are settled in our village, ready to support the reading fixes of a degree-laden populous.  Montclarions are lucky to browse and buy so many interesting titles, right here.

Yet retail booksellers are hurting generally, and our local indies must be feeling a little pain too.

Hardcovers At Risk

Yesterday, the New York Times published an article about the price and cultural wars related to hardcover books.  The story starts by featuring our place, A Great Good Place in Montclair Village, where proprietor Kathleen Caldwell says that fully a third of her sales come from hardcovers.

The newspaper of record makes important points about hardcovers and how their distribution is pretty limited.  Apparently a small handful of conservatively-minded, mass titles are discounted heavily and available through places like Walmart these days.  So the Times wonders if independent sellers, like Caldwell, will be able to soldier on.

Oakland Booksellers Hurting

We don’t know whether Oakland indies are hurting a little or a lot, but a major chain is definitely suffering here.  Barnes and Noble, the largest U.S. chain, may close their Jack London Square location by year-end.  The rumored reason is no surprise:  business lost to online discounters like Amazon.

Outside Montclair Village, there seem to be Oakland indies bucking the trend.  Both Diesel and Walden Pond come to mind quickly, since they have interesting titles and deep inventory.  They have many fans and are doing pretty well, right?

We proudly say “no problem” for Montclair’s shops too, as long as we patronize our book gulch on La Salle Avenue.  While these indie booksellers have noticeable challenges from big retailers and online sources, they depend on our reliable business.  And it’s hard to resist stopping by these places and walking out with some find.

Montclair Offers Options

We have two options on La Salle, starting with A Great Good Place. This literary shop is great for more voracious readers, since they host many fascinating authors on their book tours as well as stock up for all the local book clubs.  When asked, Kathleen or her staff suggests titles for you, your family or friends.  Also they offer discounts cards and knock 15% off when you buy online.

Our mass market shop, The Book Tree, is located within the old-timer Montclair Pharmacy.  This bookseller is great for best sellers, and frequently displays discounted “must haves” on their sidewalk table.  They also stock chart-toppers from earlier times, travel guides of every stripe, and all those unmentionable trade/genre paperbacks that are guilty pleasures.

So Montclair Village’s bookstores might be an anachronism.  With two sellers actively competing for our business, there should be critical mass for destination book buyers.  Foot traffic around town is also a key factor, and needs to be continuously boosted by all Montclair merchants.

You probably buy books in many places, but this is a clarion call to help keep our booksellers alive too.  Remember to drop a few dollars in book gulch during the holidays – long live the indies!

Don’t Use Your Fireplaces Today

Here’s fair warning:  don’t use your fireplaces or wood stoves today!  Although it may be tempting to create some ambiance for Thanksgiving, we are also celebrating the very first Spare The Air Day for Winter 2009-2010.

The Coast and Central Bay, where Oakland’s located, is hitting 102 today. That level is considered “unhealthy for sensitive groups,” and all active kids or adults with respiratory problems like asthma are advised to limit outdoor exertion.

At least our air quality improves quickly, and we’re in the clear from Friday through Sunday.  According to the Five-Day Forecast, we’re back to good quality again – so there’s no excuse to get out and move around after today’s gluttony.

In the meantime, have a mellow T-Bird Day.

How We Mapped In 1953

Since Thanksgiving is a time to look back and honor our collective roots, we decided this 1953 map might trigger a few shared memories.  Cartographer H.M. Gousha produced street maps like this one for good ‘ole Esso, which handed them out free (!) at their gas stations.

Over a half-century ago, Oakland looked quite different than today.  This map shows Route 50 rather than Interstate 80!  And most of the freeways weren’t even built yet, including Routes 13, 580, 880 and 980.

The Caldecott Tunnel sported fewer tubes as well, since the third tube was added in 1964.  Imagine what commuting was like back then, as you traveled along local roads like Route 24 and Broadway.  We can’t complain there.

This map also depicts green-colored parks in our hills.  Redwood Regional Park’s been correctly labeled, while Sibley Volcanic Preserve is still called Round Top.  Huckleberry and Leona Canyon Parks are missing, as the East Bay Regional Park District hadn’t planted flags yet.

The City of Oakland’s parks are virtually ignored here, and we think that’s due to the map scale.  There’s one notable exception:  Joaquin Miller Park is given an appropriate position of honor.

Were you or your families living in Oakland in the 1950s?  Maybe things were a little slower and kinder, though we won’t pass judgment about whether they were the good old days.