Saddest Intersection In Village

What’s the saddest intersection in Montclair Village?  That’s easy, it’s Mountain Boulevard and Medau Place.  When the long-lived Montclair Wines closed a while ago, we assumed this coveted spot would get snapped up.  Instead, the corner quickly took on a lovely, abandoned look.

Here’s the shuttered shop these days, flanked by holiday banners on the light poles.  A few weeks ago, the leftover shelves and contents were cleared out and blinds were mostly drawn closed.  Now it simply cries, “take care of me!”

What will the future tenant want or need here?  When you get up close, maybe things aren’t all that bad.  The empty building looks pretty decent, the sidewalk’s fixed up, and there’s even a little (very little) greenery.

The renter surely will get rid of this lovely graffiti-art that’s so prominent.  Come to think of it, why isn’t the defacement removed already?  It might help to market this location and space better.

We hope some retailer sees this location as a diamond in the rough, and makes it shine soon.  Maybe our fantasy picks, like a scrapbooking shop/studio or spa goods place, would fit the bill.  The place is so forlorn and lonely right now!

Evidence Of Holiday Cheer Now

Holiday cheer is emerging in Montclair Village, especially this past week.  Shopkeepers seem stocked for their post-Thanksgiving push, which starts on “Black Friday” and shifts into high gear during the Holiday Stroll on December 3rd.

On this cloudy Sunday, we walked around and captured some evidence now.  While we’re far from Park City’s Old Town or anything resembling the North Pole, you can see clues around the local shops and streets.

These snowflakes fell on the La Salle flagpole, located just above the garage.  They look nice against the trees, and may be the only large flakes spotted in the Village.

Holiday banners hang from many light poles, but we like this one best because it matches the red leaves behind it – and proves the decorations are up well before the coldest winter days.

In the stores, it’s easy to find holiday wrapping paper deals…like these five-buck rolls.  You have no reason to complain about waiting or paying extra for fancy wrapping services.

Need holiday tchotchkes?  There are plenty at Madison, Hallmark and many other places.  Get a couple of those red and green elf hats or animal slippers for the kids.  Again, everything’s sold for bupkas.

Every holiday season, Montclair Sporting Goods stocks high-style coats, jackets, sweaters and fleeces – and it’s like shopping at Tahoe or Colorado resort boutiques without the crush.  The buyer showed us very cool stuff and reported that items are selling well.

Merry whatever, and start gearing up…recession or not.

Uncool To Buy Things

The economy has changed how some people think about shopping.  At least based on local coffee shop chatter, it seems uncool to admit you are buying anything at all.  We have more than our share of residents who sound and act cautious because we’re in the recession.

Well, marketing mavens have labels for everyone, and so-called Pragmatic Spenders “cut back and are engaging in thrift like others but seem less troubled by the recession.”  We’re guessing there are plenty of them in the Montclair area.

According to Decitica, Americans fall into four post-recession segments:  Steadfast Frugalists (20%); Involuntary Penny-Pinchers (29%); Pragmatic Spenders (29%); and Apathetic Materialists (22%).

Yesterday, I overheard discussion between two Pragmatic Spenders, who were right next to me at a Mountain Avenue coffee shop. Here’s a quick paraphrasing of their exchange:

Woman X:  Carries in nice clothing catalog and sits down.
Woman Y:  Leans over from next table, “What is it?”
Woman X:  “I found this catalog outside.”
Woman Y:  “I just throw them out, so I don’t buy things.  Anything good?”
Woman X:  “Yes,” and flips through.
Woman Y:  “If you keep stuff long enough, it comes back into style.”
Together:   They discuss pants, and ways to mask old styles.
Woman X:  “I don’t need things, but it’s nice to look.”

While Montclarions likely fit in all four spending attitudes, it feels like the frugal mindset is everywhere. With the holidays arriving now, we wonder how much frugality is burnished versus pushed aside for seasonal largesse.

Does Community Policing Work?

Maybe we’ll never know, for sure, whether community policing works.  “The emperor has no clothes,” declared Montclarion Jim Dexter.  “There’s no information about what the PSOs are doing…no accounting as to what they are really doing.”

Jim Dexter was a public commenter appearing at the Measure Y Oversight Committee meeting, last Monday.  He appreciated the good work from local PSOs (problem solving officers), but was responding to the performance report presented that evening.

Latest Measure Y Report

It was interesting to hear Oakland’s consultants report on Measure Y performance, which was gauging whether “community policing adhered to the principles of Measure Y.”  The presenter pointed to police department accomplishments which included assigning officers to all beats, cooperating with neighborhood crime prevention councils, and improving geographic accountability.

The consultant discussed some failures as well.  First, PSO slots experience high turnover and that’s a barrier to success.  Additionally, current information systems limit the ability to analyze problems or manage expenditures.  There didn’t seem to be any shared vision or articulated approach in the department, either.

Even the consultants knew they were operating with incomplete information.  In a better world, the presenter articulated what should be measured:

  • Changes in type of problems reported by residents
  • Number and type of high priority problems integrated in beat plan
  • Number and type of high priority problems successfully addressed
  • Level or implementation of problem solving model/steps
  • Changes in resident perceptions of public safety
  • Changes in resident perceptions of police
  • Changes in crime levels

More Discovery And Questions

The review is underway, but clearly not done.  On Monday, various questions emerged to understand this performance report better, especially about its comprehensiveness and validity:  Who was surveyed?  What were they asked?  How does the PSO tracking software work?  What are the PSOs required to report here?  And so forth.

Marleen Sacks, an Oaklander who filed a suit about Measure Y compliance, stated the report wasn’t critical enough.  “Everybody in this room should share the same goal…oversight of Measure Y.  This report is evidence that not everyone in the room shares that goal.  Numerous aspects of Measure Y have still not been implemented.”

No one questions the underlying realities related to budgeting and staffing of the Oakland Police Department.  It’s a foregone conclusion they don’t have administrators who might collect, slice or dice performance data.  So much for Measure Y compliance, right?

Jazz Giving Oaklanders Hope

We weren’t sure what to expect at the “Celtic to Coltrane” performance yesterday, and left the Malonga Casquelourd Center filled with pride about the local jazz scene.  It was such an upper!

The hostess and organizer, Destiny, decided to celebrate her birthday in grand style.  During the concert, she invited a parade of musicians to the stage and encouraged them all.  Meanwhile, the audience bowed at the Church of Coltrane’s altar.

Oakland's Church Of Coltrane

The Players ranged from talented unknowns to old hands.  Destiny kicked things off with her harp and soulful singing, and was later joined by her Strings of a Nubian GrooveNona Brown, who’s backed Patti LaBelle, played piano and sang with Destiny.  D’Wayne Wiggins also played a little guitar – one day Alicia Keyes, the next in our ‘hood.

The Kids were the real stars yesterday, performing as part of Oaktown Jazz.  Under the tutelage of trumpeter Khalil Shaheed, we heard a 10-year-old crooning, a couple 12-year-olds on flute and piano, two saxophonists, a bass player and an amazing drummer.  The future brought big grins to everyone there.

The Church of Coltrane wrapped up the concert, with a little preaching and benediction by Pastor Wanika Stevens.  He gave thanks to John Will-I-Am Coltrane and the spirit of jazz, while we all chanted A Love Supreme together.  Just a typical, spiritual Sunday afternoon in Oakland!