A community news source for residents of the HarriOak neighborhood in Oakland, CA.

Saturday, April 26, 2008

Electon Update and Community Forum on Sunday

Novometro has the best update on the City Council election shenanigans. The online news service points toward a Web site that includes court filings that allege District 5 candidate Mario Juarez is a deadbeat dad who beats his wife.

Meanwhile, in District 3, Nancy Nadel has accused Sean Sullivan of being the "developers candidate." In fact, Nadel accepted a few hundred dollars more from developers than Sean. (For more details, please check out the post at A Better Oakland, which is nicely nuanced and has lots of detail.)

Dirt is building up in the at-large race as well. East Bay Express has an article about the legal and financial troubles of Clinton Killian, until recently considered one of the leading at-large candidates.

Here's an excerpt:
"Killian's problems, in fact, were so severe that they raise questions as to whether the Oakland lawyer possesses the financial acumen to serve on the council at a time when the city is facing multimillion dollar deficits this year and next. Public records show that over the past decade, Killian went bankrupt in a case in which claims of more than $825,000 were made against him. Plus, the city of Oakland, the state, and the federal government all placed numerous liens against him and his property for failure to pay more than $133,000 in taxes and fees."

But don't write off Killian just yet. Come to the All Candidates Forum at the First Christian Church at 111 Fairmount on Sunday and ask him about it. All the candidates for the District 3 and At Large seats will be there. The Forum will be held from 6:30 p.m. to 8:30 p.m. It will be moderated by Pastor Sandhya Jha and consist of intros and copious q&a.

This is your chance to get your own gut check. Oakland desperately needs good people on the city council. Come, ask questions and see who you think are the best candidates.

POSTSCRIPT: At the forum, Killian said the East Bay Express got the story wrong. He said he filed for bankruptcy after he got involved in a tax dispute with the IRS. He said the only way the IRS would negotiate was through a bankruptcy filing. He said the $850,000 figure mentioned in the suit represented his total assets. He said the only disputed amount was from the IRS, and that he came to terms with them.

Neighborhood Summit

The City of Oakland's Neighborhood Services is organizing a neighborhood summit set for Saturday May 31, 2008. They are calling it "My Block, My Neighborhood, My Responsibility." This would be fine if OPD responded to calls for service and the city of Oakland responded to complaints of blight and other municipal code violations. The fact that they don't and that they are pushing more responsibilities onto taxpayers while more than 1000 city employees take home more than $100,000 in salary is pretty troubling. What are we paying for?

The event will be held at Laney College, 200 Fallon Street, 8:00 am to 3:00 pm. It will include sessions on gang intervention, self defense, disaster preparedness, youth-led workshops and OPD area breakout sessions.

The event advertises:

• Free Breakfast & Lunch

• Free Child Care

• Free Parking

• Free Workshop

Of course these items are not free at all, they come out of property taxes that are paid twice a year by homeowners.

Wednesday, April 23, 2008

Arrests Made in the Milano Restaurant Takeover

OPD announced it has arrested one juvenile in connection with the takeover of the Milano Restaurant last week. The SF Chronicle has a story here.

Neighborhood Crime Prevention Meeting

There is a joint neighborhood crime prevention meeting at the Bellevue Club on May 1, starting at 7 p.m. The 14X APAC & the group from Grand Lake will be there.

Sunday, April 20, 2008

More Crime News

Juicy, a juvenile drug dealer who has been working the Perkins Way bus stop and the corner of Oakland Avenue and Pearl Street for about a year, was recently arrested with a semiautomatic weapon. More details are on the HarriOak Crime Blog.

On a slightly more positive note, the Crime Blog had heard about a bunch of robberies in HarriOak. We pulled the reports and found that all but two of the six assaults and robberies were cases of domestic violence. One of the robberies occurred in the Fairmount slum area (corner of Pearl) where there is ongoing crime. One was at midnight on the 200 block of Oakland Avenue. That's the most worrisome incident since it involves a middle-class residential area that is generally regarded as safe and we are looking for more information.

Saturday, April 19, 2008

GPS Stolen from Car on Oakland Avenue

A GPS device got stolen from a car on Oakland Ave last night. Luckily, the windows weren't broken so it wasn't clear how the thief got in. Please don't leave any valuables in your cars at night. And please try to get to know your neighbors and their cars and don't hesitate to call OPD if you see or hear anything suspicious in the wee hours of the morning. This theft happened right under our noses. The neighbors on the 300 block were around last night and visiting with each other. The theft appears to have happened between midnight and 7 a.m. Let's keep an eye out for each other!!

Milano Restaurant Hold Up

I'm a week late with this news, which has been all over TV. For those who missed it,
the Milano Restaurant at 3425 Grand Avenue got held up by young thugs with guns last Sunday. The surveillance tape of the hold up is here:


You have to click on "OAKLAND: Watch Surveillance Video Clips Of
Sunday Robbery At Milano Restaurant" to see the video.

One of our neighbors, a stalwart member of the traffic committe who was key in helping Westlake Middle School get its traffic light, was there. Here's what she wrote:

"Unfortunately, or fortunately since no one was injured, we were robbed at Milano last night (4-13-2008) when four armed, one or more who I think were juveniles, robbed the restaurant and patrons. A black male held a gun to my husband's head while we emptied our pockets. My brother and his wife who were visiting from out of town were forced to the ground & one of them grabbed my sister-in-law by her hair because she did not have a purse with her to give up. My brother lost his wallet, ID and credit cards. About 20 patrons were robbed in about two minutes. The police responded, news crews were out. We got home about 10:30 p.m. It could have been much worse, but it was bad enough."

This is just one more thing that is making me so angry.

Friday, April 18, 2008

A Good Read: The Plastic Bag Ordinance

A Better Oakland has a good post up about the ordinance banning plastic bags that is being pushed by City Council Woman Nancy Nadel. This sounds like a great idea, but opponents who are suing the city argue:

* Paper bags are worse for the environment than plastic bags. The require nearly five times as much energy to produce as plastic bags, generate 70% more air pollutants and 50% more water pollutants than plastic bags, and require 84 times as much energy to recycle than plastic bags.
* Compostable plastic bags, which are allowed under the ordinance, require no less energy to produce than regular plastic bags, contaminate batches of regular plastic bags if combined with them so as to make them unrecyclable, and photodegrade, rather than biodegrade, breaking down into tiny pieces that contaminate soil and water.

I'm not sure whether or not these arguments are true. What is a fact is that the penniless city of Oakland will be spending $100,000 on an environmental impact report in an attempt to get this ordinance passed.

This is the point where banning plastic bags stops sounding like a good idea. Can't we concentrate on fixing the broken police department and the broken schools and calming the breakneck traffic that is speeding down Oakland's crumbling streets?

Also, maybe its time to tackle the bloated city payroll. We are payingmore than 1000 city employees more than $100,000 a year.

Traffic Light Celebration April 28 5:30 p.m.

Everyone is invited to a Celebration of the new stop light in front of Westlake Middle School, Harrison and 25th Street, Oakland

Monday, April 28, 2008

5:30-6:30 PM

Honor Nancy Nadel, other city officials, and the community that made this people's victory possible.

Food provided by Whole Foods.

Earth Day Gardening on Saturday

Folks are meeting at the Big Island at 9:00 on Saturday to do some Earth Day gardening with Naomi. Come one, come all.

PSO Protest

A bunch of PSOs from our Area Command, including Officer Melvin Bermudez, HarriOak's incredibly dedicated and responsive problem solving officer, have requested to be transferred to patrol. While we don't know the details, there appears to be a serious difference of opinion between Captain Anthony Toribio, the area commander, and the problem solving officers. HARPO, the HarriOak Alliance of Residents and Property Owners, has requested mediation. These officers have acquired deep knowledge of our communities and hard-won trust. Losing them will be a tragedy.

This is also another sign of the lack of leadership at OPD that Mayor Dellums needs to address or face a recall campaign this fall. Captain Toribio and his officers are being asked to do the impossible and they are being left high and dry by the mayor and city council. It is not surprising that the stress would escalate to this level. Meanwhile, residents who voted to pay for resources for the police force are being lied to on a daily basis while violence erupts all around them. They are paying through the nose to live on streets where liquor stores are allowed to sell alcohol openly to minors, restaurant diners are held up at gunpoint and people are robbed in broad daylight.

This is not okay, it is not sustainable and it will not be tolerated. A mayoral recall will become a reality if we don't get a new city administrator and a police chief who is willing to show leadership by early this summer.

Sunday, April 13, 2008

Oakland Parking Task Force Meeting April 28

The next Oakland Park Task Force meeting will be held on April 28th, 8:30 am at the
Peralta District office, 333 E. 8th Street, Oakland, CA.
The following information will be discussed:
1. Bullet points for market rate/smart parking strategies
2. Options for parking/transportation/pedestrians
3. More on the Oakland Parking "How to" booklet
4. General "Smart Parking" principles
5. Update on possible meeting with Redwood City Parking officials.

Saturday, April 12, 2008

Is City Administrator Deborah Edgerly Corrupt?

That's a question the U.S. Attorney could be called on to answer pretty soon.

The San Francisco Chronicle has a damning article in Friday's paper about a whistle-blower lawsuit filed by a former Oakland city Controller Larae Brown. According to reporter Chip Johnson, who deserves a Pultizer for his fearless local reporting, Brown said she was fired last year after she informed her superiors and elected city officials of potentially disastrous flaws in the city's bookkeeping.

The HarriOak News doesn't usually publish extended excerpts, but you have to read this (then please go renew your subscription to the Chronicle).

"Brown, who turned down a settlement offer from the city, is asking for $1.5 million in damages and compensation. She is suing the city for retaliatory discharge, emotional distress and violations of the right of free speech.

"She was fired in March 2007, four days before she was scheduled to meet with newly elected City Auditor Courtney Ruby and an outside financial auditor about her findings.

"The trouble began in 2006 when Brown completed a reconciliation of more than 100 city bank accounts, a task she alleges had not been performed since 1999 - and what she found was extremely troubling.

"In her review, she discovered the city's cash balance was overstated by $172 million and 77 of 111 city accounts showed negative fund balances. By her estimates, all that was left in city coffers were bond funds, whose use is restricted by state law.

"When she raised concerns with her superiors, the suit claims, she was told that City Administrator Deborah Edgerly had devised a 10-year repayment plan to cover a half-dozen negative fund balances. Brown claims she also discovered the city had commingled bond funds with various city general business funds, which also constitutes a serious violation of a public employee's fiduciary responsibilities.

"Edgerly denied Brown's version of the accounts and said the lawsuit is without merit, said Karen Boyd, a spokeswoman in the city administrator's office. Boyd pointed to the outstanding credit rating the city recently received from both Moody's and Standard & Poor's, two of the nation's largest bond-rating concerns.

"That may well be, but if even one of the numerous allegations made by Brown has merit, it means that Oakland City Hall is either inept - or something worse - when it comes to maintaining clean financial records and holding the public trust.

"And even as Edgerly's office denies the claims in the lawsuit, Brown alleges that city Budget Director Jim Smith and two budget analysts went over Brown's accounting work, came up with the exact same conclusions and took that information to Edgerly.

"According to the lawsuit, Edgerly would neither address the issue nor inform the City Council of the problem.

"Brown also pointed to accounting errors in the Police Department that allowed some employees to receive overtime pay for holidays they didn't work.

"Between 2003 and 2005, Brown found more than 950 city employees who were paid 22,000 hours for time they never worked. When city officials tried to correct the problem, Edgerly rejected it and said the money awarded would be recategorized as a "beneficial past practice," the suit claims.

"Edgerly also took advantage of the city's ineffective internal monitoring to grant herself a big payday, according to Brown.

"Between 2000 and 2006, Edgerly cashed in $183,000 in vacation, sick pay and management leave. Separately, she awarded herself an additional $60,000 in bonuses during that period. According to the lawsuit, no other city employee has been allowed to cash out benefits in such a manner.

"Burris said he did not enter into the case lightly and investigated his client's claims before moving forward because of the potential damage it could cause to the reputation, standing and the integrity of local government.

"'It wasn't like we did this willy-nilly,' Burris said. 'We did a lot of checking before we brought this lawsuit because this is a very serious matter.

"'I understand the city is playing hardball and denying the claim,' Burris added, 'because the allegations are serious. But it's our view that this woman was fired for simply trying to bring forth items of concern to her superiors.'

"Before she lost her job, Brown was transferred out of her position in the controller's office and reassigned in an effort to muffle her complaints, Burris said.

"My guess is that Brown's lawsuit will never see a courtroom because the city stands to lose too much. If there is a kernel of truth to any of the claims made by this former city employee, it would sink careers and maybe even launch a criminal investigation.

"On behalf of all Oakland residents, I want the case to be heard and the truth exposed, however ugly it is.

Five-Year Backlog of Oakland Sex-Crime Investigationgs

The Oakland Trib has an important story today about how a shortage of investigators has created a five-year backlog involving sex-crime cases. The newspaper reports that there are 1,800 open sexual assault cases involving both children and adults.

Here is an excerpt:

"The cases include rapes, molestations, oral copulations and sodomies. Marcia Blackstock, executive director of Bay Area Women Against Rape, or BAWAR, called such offenses, "the most detrimental of crimes that can happen to a living survivor."

In some cases, victims have not been contacted by an investigator in at least a year, and Blackstock said some of the victims she has talked to are so upset they are not willing to cooperate with police. "They don't want to relive that (again)," she said.

The case backlog is just one example of the challenges posed by understaffing in the Oakland Police Department, though police officials claim the problems in the Special Victims Unit, or SVU, can be traced to city leaders' focus on patrol and problem-solving efforts rather than investigations.

Police said the number of open sexual assault cases involving juveniles as of this week was 1,186. Adults were the victims in another 593 open cases.

Besides those 1,779 cases, another 1,516 cases involving other offenses investigated by the Special Victims Unit remain open, officials said. Those include abuse cases, monitoring registered sex offenders and other investigations.

What makes this so horrifying is that Mayor Dellums' push to hire 803 police officers will still do nothing to address the criminal shortage of investigators. HELLO: NO ONE IS AVAILABLE TO INVESTIGATE CRIME IN OAKLAND. This is an issue that City Administrator Deborah Edgerly should have addressed a long time ago. It's Edgerly's job to oversee the police department. But she was apparently too busy making sure Oakland wouldn't have a functioning crime lab. (Not to mention cashing in $60,000 in bonuses and $183,000 in vacation sick pay and management leave.) Crime is skyrocketing again in Oakland and the city is not reporting it on the public Web sites. Numerous crime reports are missing from sites that citizens rely on like oakland.crimespotting.org.

How do we know this? Because there are crimes that we know occurred in HarriOak and for which we've got report numbers that are not listed. Something is dreadfully wrong.

When are we going to get competent and honest city officials? What do we have to do to get some accountability in City Hall?

Please remember to vote on June 3. If you are wondering who to vote for, come to the All Candidates Forum at the First Christian Church on April 27 and talk to folks like Nancy Nadel and Sean Sullivan. This is your chance to ask Nancy, the incumbent, why she hasn't demanded accountability from Deborah Edgerly? Or, how it is possible that the biggest city in the third richest metropolitan area in the wealthiest nation on the planet does not have a functioning police department? Or why her volunteers are calling up voters and claiming that she is responsible for hiring more police officers when this is the awful reality? As for Sean Sullivan, and the multiple at-large candidates, what would they would do differently?

Sunday, April 6, 2008

Speaking of: Learning more about Council Candidates

There's interesting stuff over at A Better Oakland, including highlights from the forum sponsored by the League of Women Voters. The blog notes that Greg Hodge, who squeaked into the Council race with less signatures than are needed to get one block of residential parking in our nabe, didn't show up. The title of the blog post: "Greg Hodge is not qualified to serve on the Oakland City Council."

Parking Etiquette

One of the neighbors almost had their car towed for partially blocking a driveway this morning. If this sounds like it could be you, during one of those nights where it is impossible to find parking, here's how to prevent being towed: Let the residents of the home whose driveway you are blocking know how to contact you. Leave them a note or knock on their door. Repeat: Make sure they have a way to contact you! Some homeowners routinely block their own driveways. This doesn't mean it's okay if you do it without permission.

Meet the Candidates April 27 6:30 to 8:30 p.m.

The First Christian Church at 111 Fairmount Avenue is hosting a forum for all the City Council candidates on April 27 from 6:30 to 8:30. This is your chance to meet the three candidates for the District 3 seat and the five candidates for the at-large seat and to ask lots of questions and communicate your priorities.

This will be a neutral event that is specifically designed to give people the chance to meet everyone in one place and to talk about how to get Oakland back on track. Obviously, if you look at the post about the burglar below, safety and security are huge issues when people are feeling too terrified to report a standard, run-of-the-mill crime in a middle-class neighborhood.

Burglar Caught on Camera

(this post has been updated 4/9/2008)
One of the neighbors on Orange Street and Pearl Street caught this burglar on camera. The burglar resembles a man who frequents the liquor store at Pearl Street and Harrison. If you see him, please call OPD 510-777-3333.