Public Safety Forum Thursday Night

Did we really just lose 80 cops after years of clamoring for a bigger police force? Do we really have to report a burglary online now? Sadly, yes and yes. Unlike San Jose, which at just about the same time talks were collapsing here in Oakland, struck a deal that postponed for a year laying off at least 70 cops in that city, Oakland City Hall and the cops’ union failed to find common ground. Hopes for getting the cashiered cops back in uniform hinge on a parcel tax in November. City Councilwoman Pat Kernighan writes that five separate polls show that such a measure would fail to garner the needed two-thirds to pass.

If this alarming state of affairs is leaving you a bit baffled, then you might want to consider attending a public safety forum for the mayoral candidates at the Lakeshore Baptist Church Thursday evening. You won’t be surprised to learn that all of the candidates are making public safety key planks in their respective platforms. The question is this: If elected, how would they maintain a functioning police department with budget deficits projected to be $48 million next year, $54 million the following, and $60 million the year after that. What else should we be asking the would-be mayors?

One More in the Race

The Oakland mayor race increased by one Wednesday morning, after Trestle Glen resident Joe Tuman announced that he wanted the top job at City Hall.

For those of you that haven’t seen or heard Tuman talking politics on various TV and radio stations, he’s a political and legal communications professor at San Francisco State University. As a candidate, he’ll have an opportunity to apply some of the rhetorical techniques he wrote about in his 2007 book “Political Communications in American Campaigns.”

Tuman is a Cal grad and has lived in Oakland for 25 years. He says he was “pushed off his perch” and into the race by frustration at the lack of leadership in the city for the past eight years. You can read more about his positions here. It has absolutely no bearing on his potential performance as Oakland’s chief executive, but Tuman’s students at SF State give him pretty high marks on the anonymous Rate My Professor website.

We’ll be talking to Tuman and the other candidates in more depth in coming months, meantime you can see Tuman and the other candidates at a public safety forum Thursday night at the Lakeshore Baptist Church

Remember the Oaks

With the Oakland Athletics lingering in the bottom third of the American League, and the ball club’s owners hankering to leave town, it can be difficult to muster much enthusiasm for professional baseball in the East Bay. Allow us to suggest a journey back to a happier era.

You have two weeks left to see The Oakland Oaks: Pro Baseball in Emeryville, 1913-1955 at the History Room in the Oakland Public Library. Many people know that there was once a Pacific Coast League ballpark where Pixar now stands, but the details of the Oakland Oaks’ glory years have been largely forgotten. Casey Stengel, Mel Ott, and Lefty O’Doul all managed the team. The Oaks’ great rival were the San Francisco Seals. General admission was $1.25. The team won pennants in 1948, 1950, and 1954, the year before they moved to Vancouver and became the Mounties.

The exhibit at the library has a great collection of photos and memorabilia. Here’s a Today in Montclair Trivia Question: The Pacific Coast is still going strong as a Triple-A league. What is the current team name and hometown of the old Oakland Oaks?

Problem Solving Officers Are Gone (For Now)

In case you haven’t heard, the Oakland Police Department is scrapping its problem-solving units to cope with the 80 officer layoffs planned for today. That means Maureen Vergara leaves beat 13z less than two years after she became the village’s problem solving officer. Captain Anthony Toribio said Monday morning that Vergara’s departure will “place a greater burden on the police department to track crime trends” in 94611.

Captain Anthony Toribio (Photo by M. Gribi)

Officer Vergara isn’t the only PSO to be leaving the hills. As of Monday, Randall Chew (13x), and John Haney (13y) are no longer PSOs for their respective beats. Jim Dexter, the chair of the Beat 13y Neighborhood Council, said (as an individual) that the trio made an especially effective crime-fighting team in the hills, “literally changing and redefining the role of the PSO.” While Dexter said that PSOs were not adequately evaluated by OPD, a dynamic PSO matched with an active council could yield good results. Dexter said that was the case in beats 13x, y, and z. Until today, that is.

Of course, there’s still a chance that the negotiations between the city and the police officer’s union will prevent the planned layoff of 80 cops. If the two parties do reach a deal, the PSOs will stay. Is it possible ditching the PSOs was aimed at drawing attention to the layoffs?

Don’t Tread On Me

There’s something a-slithering in Redwood Regional Park. Park Ranger Dee Rosario said that he spotted a rattlesnake near the Girl’s Camp off of Skyline Boulevard.

Rosario said that in 30 years of walking the park, he’s never seen a rattlesnake. Keep your eyes peeled when hiking, especially when it’s sunny and the snakes are basking.

Libby Schaaf Raises $72,000

The candidates running for seats in City Hall have until the end of this month to report how much money they raised during the first six months of the year, but one candidate is already making her war chest public. Libby Schaaf, who is running to replace Jean Quan here in District 4, announced that 344 donors gave her $72,000. The limit is $116,000, so Schaaf is already well past the halfway mark. Would the other District 4 candidates like to tell us how much they raised? We’re curious.

The campaign reports that more than half of the contributions were for $100 or less. Read our Q&A with Schaaf.

Neighbors and Cops Nab Burglars

When we first heard about the big burglar bust in the 5500 block of Harbord Drive on Friday, we called the Oakland Police Department to see what they could tell us. The cops said that neighbors and police had thwarted a break in at a marijuana grow house. That didn’t sound right to the neighbors, and so we held off writing anything until we could get the police report. It turns out that there was no marijuana growing in the house.

Here’s what went down according to the cops and eagle-eyed neighbors. At 2:47 pm, a neighbor called OPD to report a suspected burglary. Within minutes cops had arrived on the scene. One neighbor working in his home office looked out the window and saw three officers coming up his neighbor’s driveway with guns drawn. As he was hustling his wife and two girls upstairs, his daughter saw three people dash across the backyard deck. The man went back downstairs and saw three men crouched behind a bush across the street. He signaled their location to the police as the suspects dashed to the back of the house. Then he grabbed a baseball bat and went outside. He wasn’t the only one with that idea.

A number of residents were outside serving as extra eyes for the police. At least two men carried baseball bats. Neighbors report at least a dozen cop cars in the area. The police report doesn’t mention how many officers were there. Overkill or not, the sworn/civilian coordination worked. OPD arrested three suspects, a 15 year-old boy whose name can’t be released because he’s a minor, Matthew Buford, 19, and Michael Maes, 22. The trio drove to their would-be victim’s house in a stolen 2006 Pontiac Grand Am.

The man who saw the cops walking up his neighbor’s driveway retrieved a jar of money containing several hundred dollars in his backyard, which he was able to return to his neighbor. If the burglary had been successful, it would have been the 42nd burglary within the boundaries of 94611 in the past 60 days.