Tag Archives: jobs

Bitter Tea and Tasty Sandwiches: Yesterday’s MTC “You Choose Bay Area” Workshop and “Tea Party” Eruptions

Attended MTC’s second Oakland spring workshop for Bay Area future planning and visioning tonight, May 24th, 2011.  The visioning process is called “You Choose Bay Area” which is part of ABAG and MTC’s “One Bay Area” project.  You can “vote” on the type of sub/urban future you’d like to see at the YCBA site. The workshop was from 5:30-8:30pm with basic box sandwich dinners provided.  Ham, roast beef, tuna and chicken. Tea was also provided…though not by MTC. I’ll dive into that later.

The purpose of this event (like the oversubscribed May 19th workshop I missed) was for residents of Alameda County to tell the MTC what they’d like their future to be like: Business As Usual or new and different.  How to prioritize land use and transportation options, policies and incentives and tax money.  Everyone did that quite well, though some less civilly.

The night’s most memorable negative feature was the sizable and obnoxious contingent of all-white* folks mostly from Livermore, Alamo, Dublin and other 680/580 suburbs. Some people might call these people “Tea Partyers.”  They were variously very dismissive, distrustful, extremely rude/shrill/loud/uncouth, (think Rush Limbaugh, Michelle Malkin, Sarah Palin and ten of their dittohead friends in a room), ignorant about fossil fuel realities and were completely “antiMTC, public mass transit, planning, taxes, regulations and density. By re-arranging the letters in WASP, we get SAWP, or Super Angry White People. That’s what they were.

[*5/28/2011: At this point, let’s take a break and discuss race. I couldn’t help but notice that all the people who were loud, or anti-MTC/transit, happened to be white.  Does that mean the tensions in the room were due to race issues? In some people’s minds it very well could play a strong part. In a better read of the situation, it really boiled down to who was from newer  suburbs/exurbs, vs who was from older suburbs and urban cities.  Urban workshop participants were also largely white, but far more racially mixed (Asian, black, etc) given the more mixed demographics of the urban Bay Area.  I’m leaving the text as I wrote it, but keep this in mind. It’s more of a “inland vs coastal” sparring match. In microcosm, the US coasts vs the “heartland.” You can see charts of this I commissioned in 2008 for a city sustainability study.

Inlanders from the 680 valley were defending their car-based single family home way of life against decreased funding for them (which they’ve enjoyed for decades mind you), and increasing funding for less car-based, more “dense and convenient” ways of life.  I also have to note, based on the Bay Citizen story this week, that it is self-serving for Tea Party efforts to be led by a sales commission-based realtor… but still the main tension is over “The Economy, Stupid.” Also, there are no black UN (US) helicopters forcing people out of their SFHs and cars back into cities… economics alone do that. We’re in the “maturity and death” part of our society cycle right now. A new society will be born in the US by 2030. Now back to original post…]

You could say they were the ultimate version of that group of NIMBYs in North Oakland and Berkeley who frown upon any buildings taller than two stories or  Bus Rapid Transit. From talking to other people who tried to engage with them, and seeing their actions and hearing their words, I could see that they were there to get their point across to MTC (fine) but their manner of doing so was extremely rude. “Ghetto” would not be far from accurate. They were a riot. The irony! Continue reading

Behind Government Budget Problems

Sutro Baths Steps by sirgious
Sutro Baths Steps, a photo by sirgious on Flickr.

This month’s post by Gail the Actuary explains our country’s (and the world’s) economic situation better than I ever could, so here it is.

This obviously speaks for Oakland as well, since we’re one of hundreds of US cities built upon a once lustrous but increasingly potholed and cracked foundation of cheap (and now all burnt up) oil and gasoline.

We’ll need to find other means of social lubrication, and in the meantime, don’t be poor!

The ramifications touch every part of our society, and thus I’ve tagged this with all categories. Put on your systems thinking cap and get reading!

Free Parking and How to Stop a Bullet

VSmoothe @ABO alerts us to Oakland’s updated car parking drama today.

Here’s a relevant quote from today’s StreetsBlog:

“The root of the problem is that none of these streets were designed for cars in the first place. So I think it’s a little bit backwards for the kneejerk reaction always to be prioritizing cars.”

I agree.

Free parking is worthless to me. Parking spaces are DEAD SPACE. It’s like having zombies in your living room. You can’t put anything useful there, because the zombies are decomposing, messy, giving off poisonous gases.

Much like a cemetary, a parking lot is not so useful to the living.

If you look at old videos on youtube of people in public places, you notice that they walk all around the plazas and streetscapes haphazardly. There are no cars to watch out for. Well-to-do people are relatively free and relaxed in cities, even with the advent of streetcars, because these are slow on fixed guideways. Bicycles don’t kill pedestrians at stoplights in that era, unlike today’s cars.

Councilmember Kernighan, Shame on You and other businesses for promoting ecologically irresponsible “free parking”!

People should pay for the PRIVILEGE of leaving their oil-dripping heaps of glass, steel, vinyl and petro in our shared PUBLIC SPACES.

These spaces could otherwise be used for outdoor cafe seating, walking on wider sidewalks, REAL parks (search the net for “park(ing) day“), small sports fields — soccer, basketball, you name it; small garden plots, shrines, pull-up bars, massage tables, cooking classes, flea markets, lemonade and hotdog stands or any other socially useful purpose.

Cars and parking lots are dead zones at best. The best kind of parking lots are underground, where these polluting death beasts belong. Hidden.

I think that the best uses of these lots are for farmers markets (Temescal on Sundays), mini-golf, karaoke bars, reverting to natural habitat, housing or business spaces.

I assert everywhere and always that parking and car driver amenities should be limited to the maximum extent possible.

The street is our last common, public space we all share. What a shame for cars to gobble it all up. We should do as Copenhagen did: Transform Oakland from car-centric to people- and nature-centric! One street block at a time.

It’s all about creating a place worth caring about which is walkable, not retaining our vast WalMart parking lots, vast Oracle Arena parking lots, multitudes of BART parking lots. Walk, people! Lose weight the natural way. Avoid car payments, parking tickets, gas fill-ups, oil changes, crash liability insurance, speeding tickets, collisions, stress, boredom, fright, animal car-kill, road rage and zipcar. Work fewer hours to supporting a bad habit.

Less truly is more.

Except for public amenities. Just a few months ago, there was a bench outside my apartment complex. But it’s been removed. Lame!


How to stop a bullet? Jobs. People who are comfortable in life don’t go causing trouble.

Example: A new gang in LA: solar installers. (Homeboy Industries.) Could Oakland “employ” this model with a push from Van Jones, Coach Carter and FAB? Indeed, why don’t Oakland Tech and OUSD at the high school level offer vocational job skills classes? Car and bicycle and house repair, woodworking, urban agriculture and home cooking, financial literacy… you know — useful, transferable skills. I know Berkeley USD is ahead of the curve here with their elementary school gardens which supply local restaurants such as Chez Panisse and Flora under the “Green Leaf” BUSD brand; not sure about the non-food items above.

But playing devil’s advo, supporting social programs such as these from private donations and foundation funding only support more “social welfare” programs right? Which in turn support an ever-growing human population on a finite planet…

Still, I support re-localization and de-globalization, because ultimately these WILL provide more fulfillment and make the future a tad easier.

We’ll stil face famine, war, natural disaster. But at least we’ll be a bit better prepard for this future, without our up-till-now fossil-fueled cushion.

Cows…in Berkeley? Jobs…in Oakland?

Hey, remember when “colored” people were the only ones complaining about jobs? Now it’s “middle class” people too. Except that the latter for now are taking their lumps and paying for their kids’ unpaid internships, stuff-white-people-like style. Nary a complaint, no  [Of course, in the past several years the former have been also complaining about police brutality (Marcel Diallo) or killings within the black community. As the church sign on Telegraph says, “stop black on black violence.” So does that mean start black on  (other) violence?, I had to wonder. Anyway, due to lack of money in the ghetto, it is a bit like watching spiders in a jar. The more you add, the more they start eating each other. It’s genetic. I am ashamed to say I did that once as a kid.]

Big surprise. After 30 years of increasing our debts to “eat the future” and giving away (“offshoring”) our manufacturing base to the world for increased corporate profits, and still with a 70% “consumer spending based” economy, we can’t build/borrow/”innovate” our way out of this mess, much less exit a brown paper bag with arrows pointed toward the opening, or repave Oakland streets properly — that is, to 1940s standards.

Time for triage in Oakland street repaving; time for triage in American job creation. I can tell you one thing. Obama isn’t going to create many long-term jobs. So much for change. Besides repair type jobs, the next big jobs wave will be farming. I feel really certain about this based on all the anecdotal stories about people gardening and beekeeping in Oakland and nationwide more than ever these past few years.

What else do we have really, which could generate enough jobs? Please don’t tell me government. Government and government-run entitities needs to take a severe diet. Car and housing related employment is dead for decades. High tech outsources and centralizes more jobs than creates new ones.

1 in 9 Americans are now on food stamps.

We’re going back to the future, 1849 before Industrialization Part 2 took off in Britain in 1850.

Continue reading

Detroit’s limited industry(job) options… and how Oakland compares

Primary Industries, Thus, Employment Opportunities

There’s a Grist post today about how waste and inefficiency of the Soviet type are good, socially and ecologically speaking. (One example: the internet is inefficient – there are thousands of possible “pipes” to get your “dumptruck’s worth” of data around, instead of just one cable somewhere that can be snipped. This allows for a million small scale business startups to jump onto the dance floor instead of one big corporate bouncer controlling access.) The importance of inefficiency is also covered in Dmitry Orlov’s 2008 book Reinventing Collapse as well as at his blog Club Orlov.

Our current centralization and concentrated wealth are possible in crazy quantities (JPMorgan Chase, Buffet, WalMart) only because of fossil fuels. Centralized is what cities are, too. Decentralized systems are more robust, resilient and human-scale. Even within the city “organism.”

The article speaks about how centralization and over specialization or optimization makes for a stool with one leg. (also known as “just-in-time” inventories at our safeways, trader joes and toyota factories — everything comes in the night before with a 2 day supply on 18 wheels.) Efficiency saves money but is not resilient.

The article looks at how Detroit became the Manchester (UK) of America. Detroit, like Manchester, overspecialized in one industry. (Spun textiles in Manchester’s case, which India offshored back in the 1800s… instant replay with Jaguar being bought by Tata?)

How about Oakland. How do we compare? Ah, to bask. Or should we? Detroit has lots of great farming soil. We do not. But we also have a large urban saltwater pond. Who would try to invade or control Oakland, with its lack of any sizable amounts of fresh untreated drinking water? That would be like invading LA!

Oakland’s Industries

Oakland’s primary industries and employers are quite mixed vs Model D: Kaiser Healthcare, Clorox consumer goods (corporate office), Port of Oakland dock workers, West Oakland Post Office building, EBMUD the water utility, City (public works, fire/police, admin) and Alameda County governments, public school district, charters, libraries and BART HQ. Bart Stations must contribute at least 20-30 bored booth employees and janitors. Add to that Merritt, Mills, Laney and CCA.

The rest of our employers are a few more dentists and tiny clinics, banks, one hundred (??) non-profits, lawyers, a trophy shop, grocery stores, little trinket shops and hair cutting services, gas stations, bike repair shops, the occasional sweatshop in Chinatown, (used) car dealers and mechanics, DIY self-employed consultants and artists; and lastly, the bars/eateries soup of nightlife. No wait: we also have private security scattered about, plus a few newspapers, “AK” Press and many churches.

We never were a rust belt but obviously we’ve matched the general nation-wide off-shoring of most manufacturing gigs to India and China, which is why they can spend $88 and $30 billion on new rail systems respectively this year to our dingleberry $9 billion worth. That’s not my point here.

I’d say we don’t have enough tourism (SF), local food production (Marin Co, Detroit), high-tech (SJ), other natural resource extraction or light/heavy industry. There’s not enough makings things of Real Value(TM). We lost our military base. (As useless as they are these days.)

[4/4/09 UPDATE: I forgot to mention DRUGS and THEFT. These are probably two of Oakland’s larger industries as well. Musn’t forget the underground economy. I’m sure we have fewer white collar “blow parties” than SF or LA, but I’m sure there are a few in Oakland. Plus we have marijuana sales legal/organized and otherwise, not to mention meth and crack cocaine.

Read “Bullets from the Drug War” if you don’t already know anything about the history of drugs and powerful countries over the past 200 years. Before the CIA ran drugs into the US, the British empire ran opium into China setting off the “opium war” back then. I suspect the Chinese remember their history very well. Kudos to them for clawing their way to the top of our new world economic order.

And theft and crime generally? There is plenty of red hot auto theft in Oakland, done by chop shop rings in and outside of the city. People come to Oakland from all over to steal cars. I’ve seen evidence aplenty, helping victims out. Want this to stop? We need our alamedaa country district attorney Tom Orloff to actually prosecute criminals! And more OPD investigators!]

What can we do individually? Lessen reliance on centralized systems for transport and food. (Hahahaha!) No really. I’ve planted my own strawberries, potatos, carrots, tomatos, peas, cilantro, and fruiting trees. All this on an apartment balcony. I have a zipcar membership, a plethora of bicycles, live near BART, and own sturdy hiking boots. Some of these depend on central systems. But it’s a diversity of options.

We can buy local.

We can carrotmob.

We can start and use our own local OAKLAND CURRENCY.


Of course, many of us work in SF/Berkeley and the rest of the Bay, so this is a biased look at our “local” economy. The regional economy is more accurate to look at, and things probably should be organized more with the whole region in mind. (watershed, landfills, transit routes, where people live and work, where food comes from, etc.) But, city officials and staff have jurisdiction within city boundaries (slightly) to make changes, and a city is easier to dissect than a region.

A New All-American Olympics; Plus, Oakland Edition

Now we have another “We’re #1!” type event: the Unemployment Olympics in NYC! Woohoo!(As seen at NYDN and elsewhere.)

Time for Oakland’s Crime & Pimpin’ Olympics! We could have:

  • Find a Mayor Up to Some Good, Or Possibly Working
  • Put out a porta potty fire
  • Be a human shot spotter in the Eastmont Mall parking lot
  • Speed portrait painting of prostitutes by San Pablo McDonald’s
  • Timed scavenger/treasure hunt at all 100+ 2008 murder sites
  • Duck and cover from the chrome wheels
  • Find a Tree Without Graffitti
  • Measure the black tinting in my windshield
  • Count shell casings on my block at night with the lights off
  • Turn these empty cartridges into necklaces for sale in RR or Uptown
  • Convince your neighbors we have a crime problem taboo/charades
  • Fill the water coolers in City Hall with every Koolaid flavor
  • Drive your neighborhood drug dealer caught in the act to Montana to be processed at the nearest county jail and fill out his paperwork before falling asleep
  • Find a “safe” beat in Oakland not too far uphill or filled with hipsters
  • Run away from the muggers three-legged race
  • Catch the garden hose thief

Now who will help me “bake the bread”? Ho ho ho–a low blow, you say?

This reminds me of an epiphany I had today. We had a housing atm bubble, zero down for 60 months auto bubble, and bankster bubble… to go with that we also had a jobs bubble… which leads me to conclude that our peak oil bubble also produced a human population bubble. Charming thoughts.

Job bubble photo below, from Mish’s Global Economic Banalisys.

For the record, I don’t consider vice to be in the same category as violent crime or property crime.

My feedback on AP’s “Economic Woes, Police Problems in Oakland” article

It’s Friday and I’m going out on a limb. Here’s my deconstruction of yesterday’s mostly accurate AP socio-economic snapshot of our fair city. Let me know if I’m missing or misconstruing anything.

“In other problems, the city struggles with an unemployment rate that reached 14 percent in January. Because of the recession, Oakland is also looking at a projected budget deficit of nearly $114 million over the next two years.”

AP article, 3/19/09

Overall, the AP  article paints a fair picture of our city’s dire financial and political leadership situation. I want to praise the writers for getting at least this piece of truth:

“”This city needs some clear leadership, and it starts up top with the mayor,” said Dom Arotzarena, president of the Oakland Police Officers Association.”


On the other hand, the writers take without a grain of salt the Mayor’s proposed solutions. They also make no note of his shortcomings  – such as his famously low work hours. They also make no mention of the continued allegations of nepotismo that Mayor Dellums seems to enable at City Hall, that I have read about time and again at A Better Oakland. I’ll discuss what the AP guys missed or got half-right, below.


About Our Mayor

Some of Oakland’s Alleged City Hall Nepotisms: The Mayor spent $100k of our tax money to conduct a national manhunt for a new City Administrator after the Deborah Edgerly slow-firing bowel movement.

In the end he signed up his long-time FRIEND Dan Lindheim who has no relevant work experience (PDF!). Allegedly, the qualified candidate Robert Bobb, per opinions stated at ABO, RockridgeResidents and elsewhere, didn’t want to deal with INTERFERENCE from Dellum’s “shadow mayor” wife Cynthia.

Sorry about the All-Caps, but I’ve written to my councilmembers asking that they request the results of this $100k candidate search and gotten nothing. No published results. No answers. Who got the dough and what did it produce?

To be fair, Dellums campaigned on a platform in which said he didn’t really want the job in the first place, and wouldn’t be spending the same amount of time that other candidates would. So this is the fault of Oakland’s MEDIA for not calling this out at the time, and Oakland VOTERS’ fault for not making a better choice. (According to the general  sentiments of Oakland’s bloggerati, De La Fuente – for all his faults – seems to get things done.)

The AP writers also write without hesitation that

“The city has proposed about $3 billion in new projects, including creating thousands of green jobs, establishing community policing programs and improving streets.”

Nitpick – it was $2.6 billion. Excuse me for being quaint. I forget that Trillion is the new Billion.

“Thousands of green jobs” – Sorry. I just reviewed the Mayor’s stimulus funding request through US Conference of Mayors, and there aren’t “thousands” of green jobs. The total jobs created number is 3,400.

At most, there are 1,449 “green jobs” and some are double-counted. Streetscape improvement projects of various streets don’t require  a unique crew for each street – not to mention the one-time nature of these jobs. Construction jobs are very short-term, less than a year gigs. Cutting out the construction jobs, we are down to under 1,000 ongoing “green jobs.”

There are plenty of non-green jobs: dredging the Port’s harbor to be 50 feet deep, spending $2.5MM on a new helicopter (creates “30 jobs” how?), installing surveillance cameras at Eastmont PD and laying out cash for more gas-powered Crown Vics.


Oakland’s Unemployment Rate

The  AP tagteam writes that Oakland’s unemployment rate is 14%. This is according to the State of California. I don’t know if they do their math better than the feds — I would hope so. If not, well then, read below for why our rate may be even higher. This may be a bit of a stretch.

If you know anything about federal statistics, you know that BLS in the 1990s changed the way it calculates unemployment such that a minimum of 7% of people  unemployed are no longer counted. Thank you, Former President Bill Clinton. Read a full explanation of how/why over at John Williams’ “Shadow Government Statistics” website.

Here’s what the current national unmployment rate is, according to SGS:

Current National Unemployment Rate: 19%

With this in mind, we should add 7-10% to Oakland’s unemployment rate for a true assessment. If accurate, this would mean that Oakland’s real unemployment rate is between 21% and 24% — nearly the First Great Depression amount of 25%. Time to start picking apples!

Dellums’ late 90s military base closings account for some of the long-term job losses; the rest can be equated with the long national march of offshored jobs in manufacturing (China now has the world’s largest “Middle Class”), the end of WWII shipbuilding (Kaiser shipyards), and general “white flight” to the Suburbs due to Oakland’s perceived and actual crime problems.

With white flight in reverse now, there are more entrepreneurial options for those with money and creative visions. New bars, resaturants, galleries and other entertainment venues are opening all over North Oak and Downtown. (Two more bars are opening in the Uptown District this spring – as if we needed more!)

I’ve seen one black family selling hot dogs out of a cart in front off the Uptown Night Club which they bring in on a pickup truck. Smart move, and reminds me of all the hotdog and khebab carts in NYC. There are also two new pedicab (bike taxi) services in DTO.


Police & Local Economy

It will be interesting to see if Oakland’s crime problems recede with a new Police Chief, police management strategy, and any wrap-up of alleged corruption and collusion with criminals. Some of this relates to the Black Muslim Bakery-Chauncey Bailey case; the rest deals with “geographic policing” and the low morale of 12-hour days, chronic understaffing, and other problems outlined elsewhere.

Increased public safety would create a welcoming atmosphere for more Higher-Income Residents, Redevelopment, Tourism and New Businesses to flourish, thus adding more local jobs and reducing our unemployment rate. That is my theory anyway, and probably the theory of most Oaklanders and city politicians.

It doesn’t help our economy that many businesses are on hold, closing or have closed (Parkway, car dealers, restaurants, housing and commercial development projects) but in the long view, many of these were unsustainable anyway.

I’m not going to discuss the city budget here because V Smoothe does a better job of it. Soothe to say, like thousands of other US cities, Oakland will be cutting its staff and programs. It’s inevitable.

Cleveland did its round of firing and freezes in 2006 as soon as the housing bubble peaked, and is now sitting pretty. In a macro sense, I’m still amazed at the people who predicted that President Obama would be little more than an economic janitor. No wonder the Army’s ending its Stop-Loss program – they don’t need it anymore.

Time to get to work!