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 – – (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.

Same Water Main Breaks Again

There’s something unnerving about a water main break.  And when it happens again, almost a year later, you do have to wonder about repairs around here.  This morning, Shelterwood residents experienced their second break!

Montclarion Jennifer Rich provided her eyewitness report:

Just wanted to let neighbors know of the water main break (again!) on Shelterwood Drive and of the road closed until massive hole is repaired (again).  Use alternate route.

Luckily this time neighbors were able to show responders where to shut the line down before emptying out the water tank as they did last year (3 hours worth of rushing water because they couldn’t find the shut down location), so this side of the hill should be fine for water (other than the two homes impacted by the main closure).

At least this go-around, the Shelterwood break resulted in fewer downstream problems.  Residents were more knowledgeable and coordinated with Oakland Public Works, who got things under control more quickly.  Our emergency workers responded and resolved the crisis at hand.

However this repeat break feels vaguely familiar.  Do you remember the annual road flooding in Shepherd Canyon, until the old stream culverts were eventually replaced?  This time, we’re sure that our city can’t afford to investigate or fix any “root causes” of the Shelterwood break.

We live with an aged infrastructure, and will use emergency band-aids for a while.

Two More Sundays: Vote For Montclair Mayor

The elections are here!  You have only two more Farmer’s Market opportunities to meet the final nine candidates for Montclair Mayor.  We expect many of the would-be leaders to campaign at the La Salle voting booth tomorrow and next Sunday.

Our primary season featured some 20 candidates who all brought unique and relevant platforms to the voters.  The final slate shows nine candidates – rather than the expected eight – because the bottom two were only a single vote apart.  Your votes really do matter!

Montclarion remain open-minded, supporting mainstream as well as fringe candidates.  There are different species running to the finish, but we’re not convinced that our neighbors are ready for anything other than a wagging-happy canine.  Go ahead and influence the outcome by paying for your votes.

Our local Pet and Wildlife Fund does a great job of saving wildlife, and relies on this semi-democratic process to raise funds.  If you would like to support the cause in other ways, then visit Fenton’s Creamery this month for a S’more (A Great Cause) and 25 percent will also be donated to the Fund.  That’s pretty sweet!

New Shoes In The Village

News from the street:   Madison is turning into a full-service shoe store, while McCaulou’s shoe department is shutting down.  This news is connected because both locations are owned by long-time retailer David McCaulou.

Madison’s new shoes can be found at 2020 Mountain Avenue, replacing the women’s clothing there.  Soon you’ll find complete lines for men, women and children, along with nice handbags and wallets.  We watched McCaulou racing around the store and directing the transformation yesterday.  Assuming no snafus, he said the store should open this Saturday.

For years, Montclarions could buy shoes at McCaulou’s on Medau Place.  Their shoe department has been staffed by knowledgeable and attentive sales people, who even special order for you.  However the downstairs location always seems busy and cramped – and both problems are getting addressed now.

In Montclair, McCaulou’s and Madison offer essentials so you don’t have to traipse elsewhere.  There are nine McCaulou’s stores scattered throughout the North and East Bay, which keep the old-timey department store tradition alive and well.  Private owner David McCaulou also operates Madison, Hollyhock and David M. Brian shops.

At Today in Montclair. we’re unabashed Montclair Village boosters.  So remember to check out the newest entry as you make your local rounds.  We have a feeling that a good shoe store will be eagerly welcomed by villagers.

District 4 Seat: Jason Gillen

We’re pleased to introduce District 4 candidate Jason Gillen.  He’s a recent entrant into the race, and provided responses to questions Today in Montclair posed to all candidates, below.

Q.  Why are you running for District 4?

I am running for District 4 because I believe that everyone is entitled to the best quality of life.  I will work with the residents and business owners of District 4 to ensure that the City of Oakland can successfully provide this.  I want to help rebuild relationships between the citizens of Oakland, businesses, city government, faith-based organizations, community based organizations, and the Oakland Unified School District.  All of these groups individually and collectively need to work together to support and attract businesses that can improve job growth and revenue streams to the city of Oakland.

Q.  Why should people vote for you?

I want people to vote for me, because District 4 needs someone with a fresh view on issues and someone who will put the residents and business owners’ needs ahead before their own political gain.  I am dedicated to generating long term revenue streams for Oakland, including the development of retail, green and cultural related businesses.  If we don’t have consistent long term revenue coming into our city, then it will be impossible to pay for core services and programs.  These include Oakland’s infrastructure, youth services and public safety.

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

District 4 residents deserve a City Councilperson that listens and helps resolve issues and concerns in a prompt and professional way.  I believe that I can provide this type of atmosphere for them, as I understand their frustrations with how the bureaucratic processes have become in the City of Oakland.  I will have an open door policy and will deal directly with constituents.

Q.  How would you balance needs of different neighborhoods?

I want to change the way each community within District 4 communicates and interacts with each other.  I believe in encouraging neighbors to collaborate on vital and shared issues such as public safety, education, job development, and beautification.  Each neighborhood in District 4 is unique, but they all share the same concerns.  I plan to balance the needs of the different neighborhoods by establishing a task force comprised residents and business owners meeting monthly to discuss and implement ways to share ideas.  They should then take back to their own neighborhoods through their listserves, blogs, NCPCs, business improvement districts and faith-based groups.

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

Each part of Oakland is unique.  What is good in one part of Oakland is not always wonderful in another.  Parking tickets come to mind.  I believe in fairness.  I believe in listening to all sides of the matter before making an informed decision.  I believe in informing my District 4 constituents of upcoming nonconsent issues when they come before council, so that I can get their opinion before making a choice.

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

I will not abstain from any vote.  I will be punctual and attentive at City Council meetings, while being brief and informative in responding to issues and questions.  I will listen and be empathetic to everyone equally regarding concerns that they might have and act upon them.

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

While each district is separated by boundaries, they all need to be part of the solution and work together on major issues of concern.  Unfortunately, District 4 lacks the positive and direct leadership to work well with other districts.  This District must also utilize the Councilmember-at-Large and Mayor positions to help bridge gaps that arise between the districts.

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

I envision District 4 connecting with other districts by working with all city government and council members to solve problems.  Communication between districts starts with city council members discussing issues, providing solutions and encouraging residents to get involved.  It is the responsibility of elected city council members to engage in meaningful dialogue that will help the city of Oakland grow together.

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

My top three priorities will be Budget, Public Safety, and Economic Growth/Job Creation.  I also believe that education and arts are vital aspects to the success of Oakland.

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

One year after becoming City Councilperson, I would have a District 4 task force established to meet monthly to address shared issues.  I would introduce new policies regarding business development to make it easier for businesses to open and succeed in Oakland.  I would encourage my fellow City Council Members to address major budget concerns including pension funds and public safety.  I would also like to see a comprehensive review of the effectiveness of previous ballot measures and any options in regards to updating them.

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

I would like Montclarions to know that I understand that their village is important to District 4 and to the city of Oakland.  Upon attending the Montclair Village Association and the Montclair Safety and Improvement Council meetings, I know that addressing the budget, public safety, and economic issues are important to Montclarions.  I look forward to listening to more of your concerns and working together with all of you to come to a successful resolution.  I appreciate this opportunity to communicate with everyone.  If you want to learn more about me or to contact me, please email me at or via cell phone at 510-967-6324.