Odds and Ends

Odds and Ends – May 2022

On May 25, the Grand Lake Theatre will be hosting the Oakland premier of  American Justice on Trial, followed by a panel discussion that includes producer/author Lise Pearlman and HueyNewton ‘s brother, Melvin.  This documentary tells the untold story behind the murder trial of Huey Newton and the landmark case that put racism on the stand. For background information about the folks who made the film and what motivated them, we’d highly recommend this article in The Oaklandside by C. J. Hirschfield.

If you’re into butterflies, we’re willing to bet that you’re already acquainted with Tora Rocha and Terry Smith, co-founders of the Pollinator Posse. Both were featured in a Washington Post article earlier this month that applauded the (hopefully permanent) resurgence of the West Coast monarch butterfly population.

In a February 2022 Splash Pad News article by C. J. Hirschfield, Charlie Haas shared his favorite films, books, and puzzles. This past month on iHeartRadio, he chatted with Alan Rifkin and shared a sneak preview of his new novel Sunland about a German family who join a community of bohemians, poets, and artists to live on the land outside 1914 Los Angeles.

An April 22 article by Natalie Orenstein in The Oaklandside reports on a 114-page Map Atlas that was published by the City of Oakland as one component of a new Citywide Master Plan. The attached screenshot indicates the scope of the Atlas’s contents.

For the last several months, residents along the Lakeshore corridor above Mandana have been heavily lobbying for measures to slow down traffic and improve pedestrian safety in the crosswalk that leads to and from the Mandana Green and the children’s playground. At the April Grand Lake Neighbors meeting, several staff members from the Oakland Department of Transportation ran through a list of alternatives–concluding that a traffic island would be the best solution as it will slow down traffic and also provide a safe haven while crossing the street.

Funding for such projects is severely limited, but each council member can draw on a $100,000 discretionary safety fund. Councilmember Bas concluded that the proposal met the priorities and other criteria spelled out in the Safe Oakland Streets program and accordingly announced:

“I am allocating these funds to the Lakeshore project because I share your safety concerns for the children and families who visit the playground, children’s center, and church, and walk/bike our neighborhood.”

OakDOT said the project should be implemented by early next year.

The quick turnaround on the above pedestrian safety complaint hearkens back to 2000 when the Splash Pad group first started lobbying for a new park. Less than three years later, it was completed. By comparison, it will have taken twice as long just to repair the hazardous, sunken wooden decking in the plaza. The good news is that it is scheduled to be repaired next month (please see the Splash Pad Park page for details). There was an even longer delay (nine years) for the implementation of variable parking rates in the Walker and Lake parking lots, but that too came to pass last year. Overall, there’s reason to be more optimistic about Oakland’s ability to get things done. A big part of that is due to the hiring of Gordon Duffey as the new Public Works Director and also to the diligence of Council Member Nikki Bas and her staff. Speaking of which, Councilmembers Bas and Fife are proposing a progressive tax on large corporate businesses. If passed, Bas has pledged to use at least a portion of the additional taxes for increased staffing in the Public Works Department. Currently, there are three electricians for the entire city. Historically, there were seven full-time gardeners at the Morcom Rose Garden. Now it’s just Christian Boyle, who has multiple other responsibilities including Splash Pad Park and Mandana Green.

Responsiveness from Alameda County Health services has been equally problematic, but the complaints and concerns recently expressed by community members regarding the disruptive behavior of  two particular mentally ill individuals have apparently gotten some attention. One man who lives in his family home has apparently been assigned a conservator, and another who had a habit of tipping over planters and ripping out plants — not to mention disrobing in public — hasn’t been seen in several months. Word is that he is in currently in a program where he can get the support he desperately needs.