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.

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?

Eucalyptus, As Political Hot Potato

Eucalyptus has become the newest political hot potato.  While the opinions aren’t exactly this cut and dry, there are three main camps:  folks who want to save the trees; others who call for selective pruning; and still others who want to cut them down.

We wanted to pay a little homage first, and walked in the hills today.  The eucalyptus are everywhere, standing sentinel on many hillsides.  We noticed these trees, below, while ambling along the Bay Area Ridge Trail.  Within East Bay MUD territory, these specimens were quite tall and there were a couple tree stumps here and there.

The Hills Conservation Network (HCN), which aims to save trees, filed a suit against the East Bay Regional Park District last Tuesday.  The group is looking to prevent any tree removals, until there’s sufficient environmental study about the 20-year impact of removing half a million trees.  According to HCN’s press release:

Large scale removal of pine, eucalyptus and acacia trees is a radical plan to restore the landscape to the way it may have looked 200 years ago.  Removal of thousands of trees eliminates their ability to absorb carbon dioxide, a main culprit in global warming.  This is poor forest management and ineffective fire prevention — and it harms the environment.

Meanwhile, there are concerns about limiting the impact of the next firestorm.  The hills are part of the Wildfire Prevention District where, like clockwork, the Diablo Winds fuel fires every two decades or so.  Ever wiser since the 1991 firestorm, we’re all trying to mitigate the fire fuels – whether on public or private lands.

Homeowners know the drill each summer, as we’re required to maintain “defensible space” between the greenery and our homes.  Everyone keeps things under control or else gets fined, and must adhere to very tight regulations.

The eucalyptus have become a real point of contention, with different opinions about whether or how to clear them on public lands.   Other plant species may or may not grow successfully near them.  Various chemicals might be acceptable or not, when clearing eucalyptus and other growth.  And some selective de-limbing and chopping might be useful.

To shake this all out, it comes down to what is best for supporting the natural environment and for reducing potential fire damage.  There’s plenty of human sparks coming from scientists, arborists, environmentalists and fire marshals who are debating here – and we’re curious where you stand.

Blockbuster’s Leaving The Village

Blockbuster’s leaving Montclair Village!  After getting a tip earlier today, we confirmed that our very last video store is supposed to bite the dust on June 19th.

It’s easy to jump to conclusions:  this Blockbuster wasn’t “making it” due to seismic shifts in movie distribution.  After all, movie rental stores have been fading away and getting replaced by Netflix subscriptions, store kiosks and various on-demand options.  Our movie viewing behaviors contributed to this corporate decision.

On this rainy Monday, our local outlet still attracted plenty of locals.  The parking lot was full, people streamed in and out, and customers queued five-deep at the checkout.  You could find the latest releases, lots of popular flicks, evergreens and video games for the taking.

We understand that Blockbuster’s still out there.  Apparently the company offers movies first, during an exclusive, one-month window after leaving theaters.  And they provide a by-mail service, without any subscription requirement.  They are trying to compete for your now-fickle attention.

Good old Blockbuster in Montclair didn’t seem very troubled, so what gives?  When we spoke with a Blockbuster employee today, her emotions ran high.  Apparently, the building owner seeks to raise rent and intends to lease the building to yet another…bank.

So the end is near for Blockbuster.  No more video game release parties, like last year’s Beatles concert.  No more box office hits proudly stocked along the back wall.  No more browsing for an arcane movie that strikes your fancy.  Your movie habits are about to change, unless we rise up and try to save this outlet.

District 4 Seat: Libby Schaaf

We’re pleased to introduce District 4 candidate Libby Schaaf.  She provided responses to questions Today in Montclair posed in April 2010, below.

Q.  Why are you running for District 4?

Born and raised in District 4, I’ve centered my life and career on building community, solving problems, and leading change in my hometown. I’m running for City Council because I love this community.  I want to use my experience, creativity and persistence to help us fulfill our amazing potential – to make change you can see and feel.

I’ll work hard every day to reduce crime, build a thriving local economy, support our schools, and make our government more responsive and responsible. As a life-long Oakland resident and mother of young children, my decisions will be driven by this community’s long-term interests.

Oakland is suffering from the most severe economic crisis of our time. I believe my extensive knowledge of government and effectiveness as a community-organizer is needed now more than ever.

Q.  Why should people vote for you?

Oakland faces painful decisions. I am the only candidate with a deep understanding of the City’s complex services and budget, along with a network of community resources. I won’t waste time getting up to speed or learning the ropes — I know what’s broken and have concrete plans on how to fix it.  From day one, I’ll focus my time and energy on community concerns in the District.

Public service is in my DNA. I spent my youth earning Girl Scout service badges, interning at the Oakland Zoo, playing characters at Children’s Fairyland and volunteering as a Ranger’s Aide at Joaquin Miller Park.  I graduated from Skyline High, earned a political science degree from Rollins College and law degree from Loyola.

As an attorney in my late 20s, my mom and I founded the non-profit Oakland Cares, which organized and implemented hundreds of volunteer community improvement projects across Oakland. I found my calling was in public service, so left a lucrative career at Oakland’s largest law firm to go create the first centralized volunteer program for Oakland public schools at the Marcus Foster Educational Institute.  There, I placed more than 4,000 volunteers into Oakland classrooms and led the most successful NetDay Technology Volunteer effort in the country.

I was later recruited by Council President Ignacio De La Fuente to serve as his Chief of Staff and then by Mayor Jerry Brown. As Brown’s point-person on Violence Prevention, I successfully led the community input process on the Measure Y Violence Prevention Plan and served on the Project Choice Re-entry Steering Committee, whose juvenile parolees had an 83% lower recidivism rate.

Later as Public Affairs Director for the Port of Oakland, I helped secure millions in state and federal funds for community-driven pollution reduction programs. I most recently served as Senior Policy Advisor for Economic Development to the Oakland City Council.

Over my 14 years in local government, some my favorite accomplishments include: reclaiming a waterfront brown-field to build Union Point Park; championing Oakland’s first transit-oriented development at Fruitvale Village; building and supporting some of the highest-performing new public schools in Oakland, revitalizing the Park Blvd. median strip; authoring legislation to protect neighborhood commercial areas from big box superstores; streamlining bureaucracy; and promoting Oakland as the greatest place to live, work, play and do business!

Even during this challenging career, I’ve managed to serve as a Board Director or Advisor to twelve Oakland non-profits and have been appointed to three City of Oakland Commissions — all fueled by my passion for the arts, education, civic engagement and social justice.

Although I’m now enjoying the added responsibility of raising two small children, I recently revived the Bridgeview Neighborhood Watch in Oakmore and continue to volunteer for Make Oakland Better Now!, the Oakland Schools Foundation, the Museum of Children’s Art (MOCHA) and the League of Women Voters of Oakland.

People should vote for me because I bring the most extensive understanding of local government, the best track-record of implementing community-driven projects and legislation, and – most importantly — a life-time of service and passion for this community.

Q.  What are your top three priorities, after becoming council rep?
Q.  What do you hope to change for District 4 residents?
Q.  What have you accomplished, one year after becoming council rep?

My top priorities are to reduce crime, build a thriving local economy, and support our public schools. These issues are inextricably connected.

In my first months, I would introduce legislation providing Chief Batts with the managerial flexibility he needs to expand community policing and support other progressive initiatives. I would champion better integration of prevention and enforcement efforts and use of civilians in the police department.  I will continue supporting community organizing by creating new Neighborhood Watch groups and helping activate existing ones.

I would forge a partnership with District 4’s school board member, explore cost-saving operational collaborations and lend resources to truancy prevention efforts.

I would create a campaign to attract new tenants to vacant storefronts based on community preference.  I would author an initiative requiring more city processes to be available on-line, as well as an Express Building Permit for residents making minor home improvements.

I’d work my network of private and public funding sources to bring new resources for implementing the many community-driven plans that District 4 residents have developed over recent years – including the school-to-village path, Fruitvale Alive, Montclair Rail Road Trail, Shepard Canyon and Joaquin Miller Park Master Plans, Dimond Tot Lot, Laurel Access to Mills, Maxwell Park & Seminary (LAMMPS) project and more!

After my first year in office, I’d like to see these measurable results:

  • A lower crime rate in District 4 and city-wide;
  • Police patrol coverage of all District 4 Beats;
  • Problem-solving & Walking Patrol Officers fully staffed;
  • Increased number of active Neighborhood Watch & CORE Groups;
  • Increased gross receipts & decreased vacancy rate in District Commercial Areas;
  • Increased number of District 4 Schools with an API Score over 800;
  • Decreased truancy rate in District 4 Schools;
  • Increased number of city processes and service requests available on-line;
  • First/next phase implementation of neighborhood plans in at least 5 different neighborhoods (including, the new Tot Lot in Dimond Park!), including at least one new source of outside funding.

Q.  How would you balance needs of different neighborhoods?

I would focus on the top priorities for each neighborhood and monitor discretionary spending to ensure even distribution of resources. I would keep an eye on my staff’s time and effort and make sure I have strong community liaisons in each neighborhood.  I would work to nurture and develop community leadership to ensure every neighborhood has strong, active voices.

Q.  How would you balance needs of District 4 and all Oakland?
Q.  How does District 4 connect with other districts now?
Q.  How would District 4 connect if you’re in the council seat?

District 4 is connected to other districts in every way. Most District 4 residents work, shop and play throughout Oakland and the region. We hold so many of this city’s greatest assets – our high-performing schools, municipal and East Bay Regional Parks, Woodminster Amphitheater, Chabot Space and Science Center and so much more.  We also are interconnected in our challenges. District 4 residents I’ve talked with recognize that violent crime in other parts of the City hurts this community as well. Our neighborhoods, our city, our region, our state, our nation, and our planet – we are all interconnected.

I would support transparent funding mechanisms that ensure a fair-share distribution of resources according to objective criteria. Rather than fighting “others” for limited resources, I would use my knowledge, relationships, and experience to build cooperative relationships that leverage and stretch resources to their fullest potential.

I have a track record of bringing new money to Oakland, and I would do so to improve the District and the City as a whole.  I’ve successfully attracted hundreds of millions of private, state and federal funds for projects like Port of Oakland pollution reduction; I-880 operational improvements (including new ped/bike-friendly overpasses at 23rd and 29th Avenues) and Union Point Park.  While I’m a tireless advocate known for my persistence, my first focus will always be on collaboration and creativity.

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

Actually, I plan to continue much of Jean Quan’s work.  Like Jean, I have lots of energy and am a hard worker. I believe in spending as much time as possible out of City Hall and in the District.

I share Jean’s commitment to social justice. I’ll continue Jean’s leadership in supporting youth and schools – including combating the sexual exploitation of minors (an issue Jean acknowledges I helped get her involved with).  I’ll continue her tradition of organizing neighborhoods through CORE, Neighborhood Watch, NCPCs and community events.

I’ll continue her comprehensive electronic newsletter and build on it with more opportunities for interactive, two-way communications. I’ll continue and expand her Local Heroes recognition program and other means of nurturing and building community leadership and volunteerism.

Like Jean, I’ll take on challenges and deliver changes you can see and feel – like demolishing that seedy motel at Lincoln and MacArthur and replacing it with the new Lincoln Courts senior housing. My years of experience and knowledge of the City will allow me to provide the responsiveness and effectiveness that District 4 residents are accustomed to from my first day on the job!

As a new Councilmember, I will bring more experience with economic development, including specific knowledge of Port-related industries and Oakland’s arts sector. I will bring a track record of converting community plans into completed projects. I will be less likely to support new taxes or set-asides.

I will bring the Council a new generational perspective.  If elected, I’d be the Council’s only Oakland native and only parent of young children. I hope my infectious optimism for Oakland and positive spirit will be a welcome addition to the Council.

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

Although this election is more than five months away, I am proud to already have endorsements from many community leaders, including:

Elected and Appointed Officials: *

Hon. Betty Yee, Chair of the California State Board of Equalization
Hon. Ignacio De La Fuente, Oakland City Council Member
Hon. Pat Kernighan, Oakland City Council Member
Hon. Judge John Sutter, East Bay Regional Parks Director
Hon. Bob Franklin, BART Director
Hon. Doug Linney, East Bay MUD Director
Hon. Elsa Ortiz, A.C. Transit Director
Hon. Noel Gallo, Oakland School Board Member
Doug Boxer, Oakland Planning Commissioner
Lori Zook, Chair, Oakland Cultural Affairs Commission
Jonathan Bair, Chair, Oakland Bicycle & Pedestrian Advisory Commission
Daniel Schulman, Oakland Landmarks Preservation Advisory Board
Caryn Bortnick, Past Chair, Oakland Public Ethics Commission
Don Link, Past Chair, Oakland Community Policing Advisory Board
Phil Tagami, Past President, Board of Port Commissioners
John Protopappas, Past President, Board of Port Commissioners

(* organizations are listed for identification purposes only)

District 4 Leaders:

Kevin Alston, Ken Betts, Claudia Jimenez Burgos, Kevin Cardenas, Vanessa Coleman, Jose Corona, Tom & Sue  Davies, Joe DeCredico, Dennis Donnegan, Faith Du Bois, Margo Dunlap, Mike Ferro, Ed Gerber, Corrine Jan, Conway & Leslie Jones, Robert Kidd, Jonathan Klein, Richard & Alice Kulka, Terry Kulka, Glen & Jean Lambertson, Lynette Lee, Lindy Lowe, Daphne Markham, Bernard & Anne Metais, Joyce Meyers, Jim Mittelberger, Annie Mudge, Helen Nicholas, Cameron Polmanteer, Gary & Kathleen Rogers, Lisa Ruhland, Joan Story, Alva Svoboda, Rebecca Lasky Thomas, Anne Campbell Washington, and Gene J. Zahas.

To see my complete list of endorsers and learn more about me, please visit or become a fan of “Libby Schaaf for Oakland City Council” on Facebook.  I can be reached at (510) 479-7196 or – I look forward to meeting you soon and hope to have your support!

How To Check Power Outages

When will Mother Nature strike again, putting us in the dark?  It’s hard to say during this storm-laden week.  Your faithful Montclair blogger can always tell when there have been recent power outages, based on what you’re searching to get here!  We think it’s time to reveal the best official place to check:  PG&E itself.

Today all is calm in Oakland, based on the map status a few minutes ago.  In this snapshot below, you can see eight outages reported with the cause unknown.  We assume the repairs are underway, and perhaps these residents near the Laurel won’t even know it happened – save the clocks gone awry.

When you visit PG&E’s status map, you’re able to track the Utility’s entire 70,000 square mile service area.  No matter what, there are always outages scattered across such a large footprint.  You would go ahead and select a city (Oakland) and, as needed, drill down to zip code (94611) to see what’s happening right now.

Of course, an online source has some natural flaws:  when the power’s out, it may be tough to go online.  With fingers crossed, we sometimes have cell phone service and hit the interweb to check outage times, causes, homes impacted and updates.  Pretty cool!

If you don’t have online access due to the outage,  then you may still reach PG&E the old fashioned way – by land-line phones operating off the grid.  Remember to have a telephone directly plugged in,  and not all hooked up to remote handsets depending on electricity.

PG&E has two toll-free numbers available to report any outage (800-743-5002) or to ask questions about outages (800-743-5000).  Keep ’em handy, especially during this stormy week.