“Substantive and Heartfelt”

Jay Ward, the moderator of Tuesday night’s District 4 candidate forum at Joaquin Miller school, reports that more than 80 people turned out for the event, which was sponsored by the Piedmont Pines Neighborhood Association.

“The consensus was that we were very fortunate to have seven well-prepared and informed candidates running for District 4, “ said Ward. In addition to the questions given to the candidates before the forum, three impromptu questions came from the audience: What would you do to reduce crime in the hills? What would you do to bring jobs to Oakland? What specific experience do you have involving complex public policy issues?

If you missed last night’s forum, not to worry. There’s another one Thursday evening at the Fruitvale Presbyterian Church sponsored by the League of Women Voters, the Laurel Village Association, the Dimond Improvement Association, Melrose High Hopes NCPC, and the MacArthur Metro.

Dist. 4 Candidate Forum Tuesday Night

The Piedmont Pines Neighborhood Association is bringing together all seven candidates for the District 4 race tomorrow evening.

The organizers provided the candidates the questions from PPNA members in advance. Here’s what the candidates will be asked:

1) What have you done already to improve the lives of residents of District 4?

2) What would you do to address Oakland’s crumbling streets and roads, and how would you prioritize resources in order to keep them in better shape than they are now? Specific examples of problems that have gone unaddressed for years are Mountain Boulevard by the Highway 13 freeway entrance, Skyline between Snake and Shepherd Canyon Roads, and Ascot Drive around Mastlands where EBMUD tore up the road a few years ago and never put it back in its original condition.

3) How will you contribute to making City Council more effective and less dysfunctional?

4) How do you plan to make any changes in how the City balances its budget and what you are prepared to do to help cut any unnecessary spending?

5) What will you do to keep undergrounding for Piedmont Pines on track?  We know that Councilperson Desley Brooks has tried to derail our project in the past.  What steps will you take to stop her if she tries to delay our Phase 2 and 3 in the future?

6) What are the three most urgent needs for change in our district?  What are the three most important elements to preserve in our district?

7) We are told that very little of Oakland’s budget involves discretionary spending.  Much of Oakland’s revenue is restricted by previous propositions.  Do you believe these restricted funds should be made visible to the public and revisited to see if they match the priorities of today’s economic challenges?  How would you do this?

It’s a good list that goes right to the heart of some of the most serious issues in the district and the city. What would you like to ask the candidates? You can pose your questions Thursday at a forum at the Fruitvale Presbyterian Church.

If Oakland’s campaign season has got you down (or underwhelmed), V Smoothe at A Better Oakland has the lowdown on politics in a far more interesting universe.

What: PPNA District 4 Candidate Forum

When: Tuesday, September 14, 7pm

Where: Joaquin Miller School, 5525 Ascot Drive

The PI in Piedmont Pines

Graham Gage lives with his wife in Piedmont Pines, but the nature of his work doesn’t allow him to spend as much time at home as he’d like. Running down arms traffickers isn’t the sort of trade one can ply solely in Oakland. When he’s not in on the trail of a criminal mastermind in a place like Kiev or Geneva, Gage can be found walking in Redwood Park or enjoying a bowl of pho at his favorite Vietnamese restaurant in Little Saigon. In October he’ll prevent a global financial cataclysm and save the United States from falling into the hands of religious extremists.

Steven Gore (Courtesy of stevengore.com)

Graham Gage is the literary invention of Steven Gore, a very real resident of Piedmont Pines who also walks in the Redwoods, likes the pho at Pho Oakland Number One on E. 12th Street, and who worked as a private investigator for 25 years before he sold his first thriller to HarperCollins. That book, Final Target, was Graham Gage’s debut to the thriller-reading public. The next Gage installment, Absolute Risk, comes out at the end of October.

While his private investigator’s office is in San Francisco (Gore’s was on Grand Avenue), Gage is not an heir to Sam Spade. He’s not a womanizer, he doesn’t drink, he’s not particularly brooding or troubled in a noir-ish way. Like his creator, Gage went to grad school at UC Berkeley before becoming a private investigator. Gage was a philosophy student. Gore was in the political science department before he quit. He decided that “the world didn’t need another book about Thomas Hobbes.” The world got another PI instead. He started out investigating for the Alameda County Public Defender. Eventually he opened up his own shop.

Gore didn’t spend much time trailing unfaithful spouses. He worked on several large international cases, untangling the finances of crooked Ukrainian politicians, for example. He tracked a shipment of heroin found in a Fremont warehouse back to its source in the Golden Triangle. Sometimes he worked for the defense, and sometimes he worked for the prosecution. He always saw his job as the clean, unimpeachable business of providing accurate information. “Ninety percent of investigation is getting people to tell you things,” he said.

When Gore decided to stop working full-time as a PI and write, he first tried to write non-fiction accounts of some of the things he saw and heard over the years. He found that fiction came easier. The speed and ease with which he found a major publisher would make anyone with an unpublished manuscript on the hard drive gnash their teeth in envy. In addition to the Gage franchise, Gore sold a series featuring a retired San Francisco cop who lives in Shasta in the lead role.

Gore lives with his wife Liz, who was his PI partner for many years, and who continues to work as an investigator. Gage’s wife is an anthro professor at UC Berkeley. Just as Gore shunned the trappings of the traditional private eye for his character, he said he always recoiled when he saw someone in the profession revel in the mystique of the PI. With a short beard and a baseball cap, Gore looks like the poli sci professor he might have been.

The Library Will be Closed, But the Internet’s Open

Between Labor Day, Admissions Day (What?! You don’t celebrate Admissions Day? Shame on you.) and the budget crisis, the library is going to pretty much shut down next week. Wednesday is the one day next week when you will be able to do your library business. Unless you have Internet access, that is.

Montclair's Storybook Library (OPL)

Use the unfortunate library blackout to experiment with the Oakland Public Library’s cool new OverDrive system, which allows patrons to download ebooks and audiobooks to PCs and Macs. The audiobooks play on most MP3 players, including the iPod. You can read the ebooks on your computer with free software, on the Barnes and Noble Nook or the Sony Reader. You can’t use your Kindle or iPad…yet. Start browsing.

While we’re on the subject of the Oakland Public Library, help out your friendly local librarian and take this survey about the library’s website. They are in the process of revamping it and making it easier to use.