A Long Hard Road to Freedom

You can’t say that the Montclarions looking into secession from Oakland are going into the process with their eyes shut.

Montclair About 90 Years Ago (Oakland History Room)

A highly informative presentation (PDF) from one of the movement’s organizers doesn’t try to hide the fact that turning Montclair into its own city will require a miracle. And that miracle will have to follow many, many hours of long (and often tedious) work on the part of volunteers. You know you’ve entered a new realm of civic wonkiness when you stumble onto this acronym: LAFCO. It stands for Local Agency Formation Commission. The Alameda County LAFCO would oversee any changes in Oakland’s boundaries.

Tony Morosini’s detailed analysis of the steps to secession describe a long process that would require map making, environmental research, fundraising, petition gathering (25 percent of the residents in Montclair would have to be behind separating from Oakland before anything could happen). Morosini couldn’t be more clear: “This entire process would take an enormous amount of time, money, energy and effort from a large number of the citizens and businesses of Montclair.”

And then there’s the hard part. A majority of voters in the rest of Oakland would still have to approve secession. Morosini points out that the money the new city of Montclair (or whatever it may be called) would have to pay to Oakland for the transfer of property might be an incentive, particularly when the city is broke. It’s still hard to imagine Oaklanders backing the permanent partition of their city for a one-time payout.

Secession movements are not new in Montclair, or in other parts of Oakland. Frustration with crime and dwindling city services sparked talk of secession in North Oakland a few years back. The movement went nowhere, probably because of the daunting challenges described by Morosini. Whatever the outcome of Montclair’s “independence” drive, Morosini’s presentation will stand as a useful resource when other neighborhoods inevitably begin to wonder if they could do a better job managing their communities without City Hall.

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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?