Happy New Year To You

Here’s to a happy and prosperous Lunar New Year to you, in the year of the tiger!  This weekend, we went to a special Chinese celebration of Oakland volunteers and it was so heartwarming.

Traditional lions danced to their large drum, with front and backseat drivers directing them through the audience and up to the stage.  The hungry felines expected an offering, and District 4 Council Rep Jean Quan presented a lettuce head to them.  Properly and fully satiated, our lions departed for other New Year’s celebrations throughout the city.

Then it was time for honoring an amazing volunteer line-up.  Rep Quan introduced some 45 individuals and groups who, in turn, described their motivations with the audience.  Generally, these volunteers improved their physical environments, focused on local kids, or brought together neighborhoods.

Several volunteers received small monetary awards, which go a very long way for people who really need them.  One winner, Tony Colman, runs a non-profit bike shop where city kids learn all about bikes and repairs.  Winner Cora Sue Anthony heads A Season of Change, which recruits youth to do home staging – and their floral decorations even made it to the White House!

Also we appreciated the long-term contributions of Eddie Dunbar, who oversees the Insect Sciences Museum of California, and Dale Hagen, who serves as Peralta Hacienda’s president.  And the Cleveland Cascades, near Lake Merritt, were nearly forgotten until Barbara Newcomb and Jim Ratliff began their reclamation work.

What hit me is that volunteers share a certain indescribable spirit.  It’s a marvel to see how many people are motivated to contribute for years and years, simply because they want to improve our city.

The Pothole Chronicles

In this episode of The Pothole Chronicles, you will learn whether the lowly potholes get ignored, pointed out, wait-listed, or emergency treatment.

Poor road conditions are a fact of life in Oaktown.  We know there aren’t sufficient Public Works resources to maintain the city thoroughfares, and certain stretches of the city get roundly ignored.

In Montclair, the roads regularly suffer due to rain, mud, stream culverts and shifting sands known as the Hayward Fault.  The arrival of potholes is a seasonal thing, and generally the biggest and baddest bullies get filled at some point.

With very-real budget cuts, neighbors are erupting over this year’s potholes lately.  There’s no true consensus on the Montclair SIC chat board, but the discussion’s lively and worth quoting:

Do It Yourself: Here is what I did! I found some dirt on the hill plus a few decent sized rocks and filled up the pot hole. The weight of the cars going over the hole have compacted the rocks and dirt and wahlaw, no more car damage!  In the one near my home, I filled it with some left over granite pieces from an art project.

Wait For Sunny Skies: The Call Center has been advising the public that the Agency is currently funded for pot hole repair only and that this service  will begin as soon as the weather conditions change (spring, summer & fall – pot hole blitz in addition to routine maintenance) .

Get ‘Em Marked: If we are going to appropriately wait until the weather conditions are good for asphalting, then the crews should be sent out right now to mark the big pot holes with orange paint.

Ask Council Rep For Help: Jean – If there’s anything you can do to get Telegraph Ave repaved between 45th and 55th St and the 2000 block of Mountain Blvd. in Montclair repaved (near Pet Food Express/Union 76), it would be appreciated. There are a lot of streets in Oakland that are extremely bumpy and these are just a few.  Thank you.

Give A Shout Out: Just a note to say thanks for all the noise about potholes.  I was coming up Mtn. to Ascot at 1:30 pm and the crew was out filling some of the HOLES.  So, thanks to all of you and to the crews!

Act Cynical, Always: We should all light our candles and do our part.  And stop cursing the dark.  I guess we get what we get and shouldn’t speak up or become frustrated.  I’m going to light my candle tonight and in the morning go out and spray paint all the pot holes pink, then [Do It Yourself] can go fill them in with granite.

Near my home, there’s a big hole with a lovely orange spray-painted marking.  Everyone slows down and passes by gingerly.  We all think that Public Works will make it there sometime, and ultimately fill the worst gashes.  Hang tight.

Flies And Showers Bring Flowers

Yesterday, our seasonal eruption of flies arrived inside the house.  We forget about these buzzers all year, and so are surprised when they re-emerge from…wherever.

Flies and showers bring spring flowers, so we took a quick spin around the garden this morning.  Sure enough, the flowers had started to burst forth and here’s a little picture proof.  First, we snapped the pretty blue buds alongside the garden steps.

Then we noticed the calla lilies.  While most of the lilies stayed all curled up, a handful of these architectural beauties had begun strutting their stuff.

We thought the entire garden was starting to look quite sweet, with a profusion of colors from flowers, bushes and trees.  Here’s a nice garden mix of spring whites and pinks.

Anyway, we’re more than willing to put up with the flies to get our just rewards.  For carpetbaggers who grew up elsewhere, the East Bay spring will never, ever get old.

And those flies?  At least the indoor visitors all bit the dust after inhaling our carcinogenic sprays.  We’ll keep this up for a day or two and they should be vanquished – or at least cavorting with the flowers instead.

North Hills Not Patrolled Much Lately

Did you know that we’re not even patrolled by beat-level police much anymore?  Apparently assignments and shifts have been adjusted, and the North Hills are getting less attention and love.  We learned this exciting news last night, while tuned to KTOP (Channel 10) for the Oakland City Council’s marathon proceedings.

Among the parade of public speakers, our neighbor Jim Dexter came up to the podium to speak his mind.  In his more official volunteer duties, he chairs the North Hills Neighborhood Council (Beat 13Y).  Everyone who lives north of Thornhill, up to the Berkeley border, falls within this group’s purview.

Anyway, Dexter was discussing overall city priorities regarding public safety and was hardly alone.  He also mentioned the current Problem Solving Officer (PSO) assigned to his beat no longer put in full-time hours.  Jim reported recent changes in assignments with, as we understood him, an officer patrolling only one out of four days here.  Yes, that’s 25 percent of the time!

Measure Y is something Oakland voters approved years ago, to increase community police officers.  Compliance seems to be a tricky deal and, without assigned officers full-time, we are effectively violating the terms.  Dexter reminded the Council reps that funds can neither be collected nor used when the force falls below 770 officers.

In the meantime, John Haney serves as the Beat 13Y officer and knows the lay of the land well.  Come meet him at the North Hills steering meeting tonight, from 7-9 pm.  All neighbors are invited to share their safety questions and concerns – at Fire Station 7, 1006 Amito Drive (map).

More info:  We suggest visiting the North Hills Neighborhood Council’s blog here, as well as signing up for their email here.

Feb 26th update:  Correction here, as we learned Officer Haney “had been assigned one day a week (out of his four-day work week) to be on patrol.”  This reassignment translates to a 25 percent loss.  Please read Jim Dexter’s comments below.

Bay Area Facebookers Are Provincial

Facebook has reached a critical mass where you can dive into profiles and see who collectively connects out there.  Now it’s possible to uncover the most frequent geographical ties, including some eye-openers.  And you can track what people “fan” the most, which provides a cultural zeitgeist.

In the Bay Area, President Obama makes the top-10 fan lists and San Franciscans still place him in the very top slot.  Starbucks has the most social clout in the East Bay and Silicon Valley, and drops down a couple notches for San Francisco and Santa Cruz.  And everyone wants more sleep, except for the already laid-back Santa Cruzans.

Bay Area friends also stick around their neighbors online, and seldom venture from California!  East Bay and San Francisco friends are the closest, reciprocal connectors.  Silicon Valleyites associate with San Franciscans most often, while Santa Cruzans bridge to Silicon Valleyites first and foremost.

When Bay Area Facebookers venture beyond California, they primarily reach their New York buddies.  East Bay and San Francisco friends have some Washington, D.C. ties.  Silicon Valley clearly works with their Seattle colleagues too.  And we’re not sure why San Franciscans forge special ties with Chicagoans.

How does this work? When you sign up for Facebook, you can identify with a geographic area.  It’s not a perfect measure, we know.  Some Montclarions have told me they attached the San Francisco label to represent the Bay Area, rather than pick the more precise East Bay moniker.  In any case, millions of Facebookers drive regional and metro distinctions that make sense here.