We’re Cutting Back Cops, As Expected

Finally, the City of Oakland reached the end of its 2009-2010 fiscal year.  At the City Council meeting tonight, which we watched on KTOP, things felt different because decisions simply had to be made.  A proposal actually passed!

As expected, Council members pretty much voted for the budget-balancing proposal on the floor.  The result was clear:  $11.7 million savings will come from the Oakland Police Department.

In essence, the police leadership has to cut positions or start contributing to pensions.  There were several options put forth, though we think some 80 positions will be eliminated soon.  It’s possible that police could get added back, depending on machinations over voter-approved Measure Y.

Meanwhile in Montclair, there have been rumbles about having private security arrangements – but no groundswell from what we can tell.  No one seems particularly panicked, yet.

Montclair Recreation Center, RIP?

Next on the budget chopping block is the historic Montclair Recreation Center.  While we’re philosophical about our city’s budget travails, the news about shuttering the Rec Center and all its programs feels like a sucker punch.

Admittedly, we’ve had time to adjust to Montclair Park’s staffing and facilities cutbacks over the past couple years, but are saddened about completely closing our park building too.  Read this note sent yesterday by Mark Zinns, Montclair Park’s recreation supervisor:

Hi Friends,

As you may know, there are some extreme cuts coming to Parks and Recreation because of the City’s budget shortfall.  No center is exempt including Montclair from complete closure.

If you can help, we need you to come to City Council this Thursday and speak on behalf of Parks and Recreation.  We will be having a rally around 4:00pm and council starts at 5:00pm.  You can register to speak on the City Council web site or fill out a card when you come.

Also, please spread the word to your friends and family about the dire circumstances.  Thank you.

Yes, every little drop of money matters now and the City of Oakland must remain solvent.  We aren’t sure that trying to save these remaining Parks and Recreation centers would even work out.  How depressing!

Well, we should do something. There are volunteers working on Montclair Park’s grounds today, and that same kind of local spirit might flow into the Rec Center itself.  We don’t know exactly how programs are organized without a director, but a couple classes soldier on:   the Montclair Hiking Club’s outings continue, right?

Perhaps another non-profit entity could ride in like a white knight.  There’s a modest model in place, with “Friends” groups who provide time and energy devoted to local resources.  While it took a while, the Shepherd Canyon Railroad Trail and Joaquin Miller Park groups are up and running now – and that’s due to efforts by local citizens who value our shared places.

We have to figure this out, and avoid saying:  Montclair Recreation Center, RIP.

Montclair In Name, Or More?

Are we Montclair in name only, or more?

Lately, a larger group of Montclarions are declaring independence from Mother Oakland.  Neighbors peer over to Piedmont, which shares our zip code, as historic inspiration for peaceful co-existence with Oakland.  Splitting from Oakland is hardly a new idea, but it’s picked up steam during the recession.

We are going to leave aside all the discussion about whether this is realistic or desired.  You may join a Facebook or Yahoo group for more discussions, and you should check out neighbor Tony Morosini’s original Montclarion piece as well as nascent presentation.

Whether we’re together or not, our zeitgeist is already established.  We are well-defined by our Village and shopping district, weekly newspaper, canine mayor and overall sense of hills identity.

Our borders are a little murky, extending slightly north beyond Highway 24 and west beyond Route 13.  We’re represented by two city council districts and two police beats.  The lines would need to be drawn more clearly.

Even this blog had to struggle to be known as a real place, often clashing with Montclair, NJ more than any other locale.  While Montclair, CA exists, we have experienced very few online clashes except in the directories.

Let’s consider the naming opportunities

Today denizens and visitors say they are in Montclair, Montclair District, Oakland Hills or just plain ‘ole Oakland.   Maybe we should mull over other candidates, presented for your worthy consideration:

  • District Montclair – Nice vibe, but a little hoity-toity.
  • Montclair Hills – Well, it’s really straightforward.
  • Montclair Canyons – How about the flip side of the coin?
  • Oakclair – Keeping the history intact, sort of.
  • Thornclair – Recalls the first big logger, Hiram Thorn.
  • Peralta – Honors our first Europeans appropriately.
  • Chabot Hills – Will the East Bay Park District object?
  • Feltre – Our Italian inspiration would be in the hills.
  • Tuscany – We hear this pedestrian name was proposed before.
  • Phoenix Hills – Perfect reference to our rising from the ashes.

One neighbor suggested some great alternatives, especially if we could loosen up and bestow a unique moniker on our place.  How about Redwoods-No-More?  Weather Perfection?  Gentle Green?  Or should we continue status quo, after all?

District 4 Seat: Daniel Swafford

We’re pleased to introduce District 4 candidate  Daniel Swafford.  He declared his candidacy in the spring and has responded to questions Today in Montclair posed to all candidates, below.

Q.  Why are you running for District 4?

I want to represent our District, to better advocate for the residents and merchants of our community.

I have lived my entire life in District 4 with the exception of my college years, studying Economics and Political Science.  I know the District’s people and neighborhoods intimately, and I have experience connecting with diverse populations.  I have been an active community leader in District 4 representing thousands of homes as elected Chair of local non-profit and community organizations.

I want to bring the sensibility of how we get things done as neighborhood leaders to City Hall.  I want to build community involvement in education and public safety, support neighborhood businesses and job creation, and implement long-term planning and effective resource management.  I enjoy public service and will bring inclusiveness and integrity as a full time Council member.

Q.  Why should people vote for you?

I have a strong record of involved leadership, accomplishments in the District, and professional experience in education and personnel management.

I help residents and merchants achieve community priorities, actively listening to concerns and new ideas.  I identify needs and then work with individuals, community organizations, city officials, and experts in the field to respond and get results.

Action speaks.  I brought together volunteers to establish the Neighborhood Crime Prevention Council (NCPC) for Beat 22X. During my time as three-term Chair, violent crime in Beat 22X has been reduced to almost zero.  I have led efforts to reform problem properties, to educate people on preventive strategies for burglaries and robberies, and to introduce long-term plans for public safety such as economic development and beautification.  I will continue to fight for full police staffing for our Beats and our City.

I have demonstrated the ability to facilitate projects and achieve results in District 4.  Whether addressing Municipal Code compliance, coordinating a public art installation, or producing a major street festival, I set ambitious goals and enjoy building involved neighborhoods.

I have helped cut costs and improve employee effectiveness for companies larger than the City of Oakland and will get the most from every dollar the City collects.  I can remove obstacles for hard working volunteers and business owners to achieve their vision.  Nineteen new businesses, including seven restaurants, opened in Dimond in the past five years.  All continue to operate today.  I have been hands-on in creating environments for business success.

My working relationships with District teachers and my background teaching at Laney College will help me best support our schools.  I will actively address the need to fund education programs and teacher training.  Advancing student empowered learning opportunities like Green Teams, or Safe School Ambassadors teaches students to transform their environment through peer level interaction.

I will work to find funding sources for community projects without depending on City money, and help initiate and sustain projects that meet our needs.  I established the Oaktoberfest non-profit street festival to raise funds for district projects, approving a portion of event revenue to go toward building the Dimond Park Tot Lot.  I garnered funding for public art through private solicitation, and as a YMCA branch board member helped launch the Pedal-to-the-Point annual fundraising event for environmental education scholarships.

You entrust the Council to be responsible, to manage your tax dollars effectively and serve the public by capturing our vision and moving the city forward.  As your representative I will bring an honest work ethic and set the highest standards for city government.

Q.  What do you hope to change for District 4 residents?

I must help address the city budget crisis, bring neighbors together, and build foundations for our District to thrive.

We’ll need to cut waste from city administration and find new revenue sources for vital programs.  I will bring neighborhood leaders together to work cooperatively and to share resources efficiently.  We will employ best practices and capture data for continuous improvement.

I will engage property owners, small businesses, and local corporate branches to be active in supporting the neighborhood vision and contribute in a way that aligns with the objectives of the community.

I will enhance public safety.  Expanding Neighborhood Watch and CORE is a proven way to enhance safety by organizing neighborhoods to take a proactive approach to disaster preparedness and crime reduction.  I will work closely with OPD to create visual deterrents to crime, including: foot patrols, cameras, traffic calming devices, suspect IDs, and people on the streets!

Our cost of living needs to come down; I will look at ways to increase City revenue without increasing property taxes.  I will develop policies that attract commercial and industrial business to Oakland.  We can provide Oakland residents with improved employment opportunities and increase sales and business tax revenue to support critical City services.  We will build on existing strengths in alternative energy, art and fashion while supporting basic industry and retail stores.

Q.  How would you balance needs of different neighborhoods?

Create a City-wide summit of neighborhood and community leaders to help those working on issues at the block and neighborhood levels share best practices, build relationships and support actions.

We can look at neighborhood achievements as ways to grow District and Citywide successes.  Excellent examples of what has worked and should be expanded include:

  • Community and school partnerships, like those in Maxwell Park
  • Disaster preparedness and green space stewardship in Montclair
  • Urban beautification and litter reduction in Dimond
  • Merchant organizing in Woodminster
  • Community events, and local business support in Laurel and Redwood Heights

It is important to bring neighbors together, to work collaboratively, to share experiences and address common needs.  With assistance at the City level, quality of life will continue to improve – even in tough economic times.

Q.  How would you balance needs of District 4 and all Oakland?

I will be a staunch advocate for the District, with the objective of improving life in the District by improving the City as a whole.

All seven City Council Districts need to work with schools and police to address the over 4,000 truancy days each year.  Only 67% of our students graduate, and less than half of African-American males receive a high school diploma.  We must respond to the call of Police Chief Batts and OUSD Superintendent Smith to give our time as mentors to our youth in need.  I will look at ways to strengthen after school programs and work with our school district to make facilities a community resource.

We can bring down violent and property crime by working closely with at risk youth and preventing first time offenders from becoming career criminals.  Public service and counseling for misdemeanor offenses will help instill good values and create opportunities for positive choices at a lower cost then the alternative.

The unique character of Oakland lies in the many vibrant neighborhoods throughout the City and District 4.  We cannot afford to focus all of the City’s development funds on one or two massive projects.  Our streets and city services need to be maintained.  Planned street-scape developments need to be examined to ensure they safely accommodate all modes of transportation and conform to the neighborhood vision.

Q.  What will be different when you are seated versus Jean Quan?

I will facilitate meetings for residents and merchants to look at area strategies and share best practices.

I feel we could better use technology to build communities, making it easier for schools, organizations, or individuals to be engaged with each other.  This would help make local news and the many incredible programs, projects, and people of the District conveniently accessible.

I think we could take a fresh look at after-school activities, channeling youthful energy into community involved projects, finding more age appropriate ways to keep young people engaged.  I would like to see school facilities remain open after classroom hours or ensure that park and library facilities can accommodate all ages.

Similarly, you will find me to be a supportive and hands-on representative.

Q.  How does District 4 connect with other districts now?

The people in District 4 are diverse, active, and connected to what is happening in Oakland.  I believe the rest of Oakland could be better connected to our District.

I see the people of District 4 as a microcosm of the City’s diversity.  We have set an example for the City on how neighborhoods get things done.  Showcasing our achievements and vision could help other districts engage community members to find ways to close gaps in City services.

Our cultural events are an excellent example of how we connect to Oakland and highlight the unique character of our varied neighborhoods.  As chair of the Oaktoberfest planning committee, we branded a regional, family-friendly, craft beer festival that showcases the area’s German history – attracting over 10,000 last year.  Similar successes with the Montclair Festival and the Laurel Summer Solstice and World Music festivals help put our District on the map, while bringing revenue to local business owners and employees.

We can put a spotlight on the shopping, dining, and recreation, helping to spark year-round activity.

Q.  How would District 4 connect if you’re in the council seat?

I will be active in every Oakland district representing District 4.

Our district will be distinguished as the gateway to an urban forest, and world-class science center.  The district’s smaller parks will attract guests to enjoy public art and community gardens.  Our commercial corridors will offer dining and shopping experiences all Oaklanders will want to enjoy.  Our unique features will be highlighted throughout our City.  When people talk about Oakland at the convention center or the waterfront, District 4 will be in the discussion.

We will have well developed access to the many wonderful features in our community.  Examples of existing designs that need a strong advocate are, opening up the historic Mills College campus through the LAMMPS Project, connecting Montclair and Dimond Canyon/Sausal Creek through the Park Blvd. Trail, and safe routes to schools, parks, and our commercial destinations.

Q.  What are your top three priorities, after becoming council rep?

I have stayed connected to our District and have a good understanding of our neighborhood priorities.

1.  Work aggressively to ensure public safety and crime reduction.  I intend to work closely with OPD, OUSD, and the DA’s Office – along with residents and merchants – to create safe streets and develop long-term strategies to ending cycles of violence, abuse, addiction, and neglect.  I have organized parts of our community and brought down crime rates.  I have initiated projects that will decrease the likelihood of future crimes.  Public safety and organized neighborhoods will continue to be my top priority.

2.  Address the inefficiencies and exclusivity in Oakland City government and help bring City departments and staff to the table for the best outcomes and efficient use of City resources.  I will put our resources to work.  Underutilized property can be made available for community use, empty lots turned into community gardens, and vacant retail space can be improved by a non-profit in exchange for short-term use.  I will put redevelopment funds back into neighborhood commercial districts, emphasizing neighborhood projects prioritized by members of each community.

3.  Connect young people to mentors in the community.  I agree with Chief Batts and Superintendent Smith, who emphasize that we embrace our children, especially those at risk.  We have incredible role models throughout the District.  Through ongoing volunteer projects, engaged businesses and community groups, we must support opportunities for young people to invest time in, and take ownership of, their City.  I have the tools to design formal, objective-based programs that can be evaluated on a quantifiable basis.

Q.  What have you accomplished, one year after becoming council rep?

In 2012 you can look forward to having a closer and more supportive relationship with your neighbors.  We will see more active community organizations and block groups celebrating successful events and project milestones.

I will have had the opportunity to sit down with individuals and organizations within each neighborhood and will have begun implementing priorities to build toward the community’s long-term vision.  I will use a formalized process that is detailed and accessible, to outline projects and track progress, maintaining accountability, and keeping us moving toward our goals.

I will have fought to achieve the recommended number of police officers and appropriate staff.  We will expand the effectiveness of community policing to implement long-term solutions to crime.

Improved attendance and graduation rates at our schools will allow students to receive measurable results from a formalized mentoring and internship program.  Partnering young people with area entrepreneurs and businesses, art projects, and political or education professionals will create opportunities for youth to develop skills and experience.

The District’s attractive commercial areas and facilities, made accessible by a choice of transportation modes, will meet your shopping, dining, and recreational needs.  I will work closely with each neighborhood to achieve your community vision by filling commercial vacancies, enhancing the aesthetic, and maintaining public space.

Q.  What else would you like to share with Montclarions and other readers?

This election is an opportunity to rethink our approach to community leadership and city governance.  City Hall needs a lesson in results driven neighborhood leadership with proven, practical techniques.

For people to grow, for our neighborhoods to improve, for Oakland to come together, people need to take action and embrace hard working, open, honest leaders, committed to the best interests of the people of Oakland.

The District 4 Neighborhood Endorsement Committee, a panel of 11 community leaders, recommended Daniel Swafford as “…most qualified to represent District 4.”

I look forward to expanding the strong working relationships I have in District 4 and I welcome the opportunity to offer any additional information, answer your questions, or to help you achieve your community vision.

Please contact me at anytime:   Daniel Swafford – DanielSwafford@VoteDaniel.org – (510) 452-7392 – www.VoteDaniel.orgVoteDaniel on Facebook – 2317 Mastlands Drive, Suite D, Oakland, CA 94611 – Fair Political Practices Committee # 1327693

How Oaklanders Feel About Cop Reductions

We aren’t going to pretend to have a magic wind that wipes out Oakland’s $31 million-plus budget gap, and so are focused on what decisions will be made by the City Council.  Like many of you, we hope our police department doesn’t get completely eviscerated.

At this stage, Council members Jean Quan, Jane Brunner and Ignacio De La Fuente have identified tough-love cuts.  Before meeting in chambers, the Council has sponsored a few budget forums, encouraging a little bit of citizen participation and feedback.

The Oakland Budget Challenge also was updated, which enables you to work with budgeting levers.  What interested us most were  quantified responses to this question:  Should the City reduce the number of sworn police officers by July 1st?

  • 31.4% – Do not cut Oakland police officers
  • 22.2% – Reduce by having police contribute to their pensions
  • 15.1% – Cut officers and restore if parcel tax passes in November
  • 20.7% – Cut 2x number of officers if parcel tax doesn’t pass
  • 10.7% – Modify Measure Y to keep 63 officers, if below 739 officers

So a third of Oaklanders who took this challenge want to keep the police officers, and another 15 percent said to cut officers now but restore headcount if a special parcel tax passes.  (From everything we have read, that parcel tax isn’t exactly popular.)

Now the City Council must close the deficit, whether their choices are politically popular or not.  After the death-by-a-thousand-cuts process, we wonder how the job will get done.