Archive for September, 2010

Dirty Pool

Wednesday, September 29th, 2010

Who is subverting the democratic process more?

a) Candidate A, who uses his political allies to exploit a loophole in Oakland’s campaign finance law in order to exceed spending caps

or:

b) Candidates B and C, who use their positions as city council legislators to attempt to modify clarify* Oakland’s campaign finance law 5 weeks before an election in order to prevent Candidate A from exploiting the longstanding loophole

Background (complete with tendentious headline) here. This is not an entirely rhetorical question, by the way.

*I changed “modify” to “clarify” above for accuracy’s sake. Candidates B and C may not precisely be trying to change the law itself, but rather mandating a particular procedure or set of “guidelines” for how the law should be interpreted and implemented. If any lawyers out there care to elaborate on the possible distinction between changing the actual statute and changing the “guidelines” used to implement the statute, then please feel free to clue me in below. For instance, would such “guidelines” be a legally binding part of the municipal code, or something less than that?

When the Dog Bites. When the Bee Stings.

Friday, September 17th, 2010

These are a few of my favorite things: coffee, bikes, music, and the reclaiming of public space from the tyranny of the automobile. Imagine how delighted I was, then, to be able to take a picture of a coffee shop, a bike shop, a record shop, and a (temporary, alas) parklet installed on 40th Street in Oakland today as park of the annual Park(ing) Day takeover of curbside parking spots:

Coffee, Bikes, Music, Parklet.

I rode up to Berkeley today, so I swung by a few of these spots. I love the idea of Park(ing) Day, but I have to admit that seeing it in practice made me a bit sad. These parklets are sort of cute, but they were all surrounded today by the ugly, charmless streetscapes which pervade Oakland. Instead of being little oases of green, the seating areas in front of Subrosa (above) or Actual Cafe were unused at lunchtime until I plopped myself down and had my cappuccino or bagel or egg cream. Rather than giving me a small glimpse of how nice streets such as 40th or San Pablo could be someday, they just reminded me of how inhospitable to human beings those arterial streets are, and how dramatically they would need to change in order to feel like they were made for people instead of for cars.

Two other places I rode past which were supposedly participating in Park(ing) Day (Tip Top bikes in Temescal and Good Chemistry bakery on Grand) did not seem to have taken part after all, and Farley’s East on Grand, which looks like it had a great and well-used setup this morning, had moved everything up onto the sidewalk and given up the parking space to a car by the time I rode past in mid-afternoon. Given how low-density most parts of Oakland are, I have some real doubts about whether any amount of improved streetscaping or road diets or redevelopment or reclamation of public space will ever make it feel like a truly pedestrian-friendly city, except in small pockets here and there.

On a less pessimistic note, I was riding to Berkeley because I have wanted to check out Waterside Workshops in West Berkeley since I first heard about it a couple of months ago. It’s a non-profit which runs a boatbuilding workshop, a bike shop, and a cafe. They have local disadvantaged teens serve as interns, teaching them how to craft wooden boats, fix up old bikes for resale, and serve customers at the waterfront cafe. Obviously the main point is to instill good work habits, pride of workmanship, and collaborative and customer service skills, but who knows, boatbuilding and bike repair may end up being in demand if we start to run out of oil in the next few decades.

Waterside Workshops

It is very Berkeley, and very awesome. Sadly, it was also very closed today, due to a water outage caused by a nearby construction project. My visit will have to wait for another time, but I’ll probably take some photos and write about it more after I finally get to take a look around.

This Year’s Soccer Mom?

Wednesday, September 8th, 2010

I just got back from vacation today, and I see a lot more yard signs and window signs for the mayoral and city council races than I did when I left town ten days ago. Looks as if Don Perata is hoping to win the “creepy, shadowy figure lurking on a porch” demographic: