Stay in Beautiful Point Molate; Brown Nixes Utility Tax Relief; UC Theatre Patrons Mourn

Mayor Brown to Oakland conventioneers: "You'll have to go eat in the City."

The Most Without-a-Clue
Speech by a Public Official in Recent Memory award goes to Mayor Jerry Brown‘s “welcome” at a national meeting of Asian-American health officials at the Oakland Asian Cultural Center last week. First, Brown was 45 minutes late, and the conference had to start without him. Then he opened his mouth: “Hi. Welcome to Oakland. I don’t know what you’re doing here exactly but you look like smart people, so I hope it goes well. I’m just glad you’re doing it here in Oakland. We’re trying to build up Oakland. Of course we don’t have any good restaurants here, so you’ll have to go across the bridge for that. But welcome to Oakland.” Attendees–who were enjoying two scrumptious banquets from neighborhood restaurants–weren’t sure how to react; some thought it was so bizarre they laughed, the other half were insulted. We just kept taking notes so this gem could go down in infamy.

You could feel the sigh of
relief from Richmond when the city received word last week that the Navy may allow the old Point Molate Naval Base to be used for more than just industrial purposes. However, the city’s ultimate hopes of creating a residential waterfront community on the shuttered base may be in danger from the proximity of the Chevron refinery. Seems that Chevron doesn’t want to risk the liability that will result if a toxic leak occurs at the plant, just over the hill from Point Molate. A convention center or a hotel, however–nonresidential uses–may be considered.

That’s troubling to Henry Clark, a Richmond resident and chair of the West County Toxics Coalition, a neighborhood watchdog group. “For the Navy to say that they can have a convention center or a hotel there seems to me a major contradiction,” Clark says. “If people are going to be staying there–and a hotel does mean staying overnight–then it wouldn’t make a whole lot of difference to have a hotel versus residences. People would be there daily anyway, and you can’t say that a chemical accident is not going to happen during the day.

“It seems like the suggestion is, if it’s only a few people [potentially exposed], then it’s OK, but if it’s a lot of people in a housing development, then it’s not.”

Richmond is scheduled to discuss the Navy’s recommendation later this month.

A new study conducted by
the Center for the Childcare Workforce and UC Berkeley researchers confirms what those in the local child care industry already know to be true. The study, a seven-year longitudinal examination of several higher quality child care centers, reports that extraordinarily high turnover rates detract from the quality of care. Seventy-five percent of teachers interviewed in 1994 and 40 percent of directors were no longer on the job last year. The study also found that many teachers and administrators exit the child care profession altogether, leaving those centers that cannot offer higher-than-average wages with less qualified workers. In fact, many centers could not find adequate replacements for lost staff at all.

Last week, Oakland mayor
Jerry Brown used his mayoral veto for the very first time–and he’s two and a half years into his term–to nix a slight temporary reprieve on Oakland residents’ gas and electricity bills. The City Council had voted the previous week for a six-month reduction in the city’s tax that appears on all utility bills, a move Brown said would cost the city $1.6 million. The proposal’s author, council president Ignacio De La Fuente, put forward a compromise measure that would give the tax break only to Oakland’s poorest residents at an estimated cost to the city of $300,000–the full council will vote on the compromise May 15. He also agreed to delay further discussion of a more sweeping cut until after Oakland’s city budget is given the thumbs-up from the state; problem is, it looks like the state is going to tighten up on the municipal funds it hands out next year.

On the other side of the budgeting coin, it looks like Oakland residents can claim one victory this year: ACORN (the Association of Community Organizations for Reform Now) has succeeded in getting Brown and City Manager Robert Bobb to recommend that the council allocate an additional $1.3 million to boost staff at the city’s recreation centers. So this summer, if you can’t afford to run your ovens and microwaves, at least you’ll have a place to barbecue.

The closing of the UC
Theatre has broken hearts all over town–and if you don’t believe us, stop by the theater’s facade sometime. Posted on the ticket kiosk is a plaintive, anguished flier from an anonymous fan of vintage film: “Corporate Obliviousness Killed the UC Theatre,” it reads. “Back when [Gary Meyer] programmed the UC, patrons were treated to imaginative, thoughtful, smart, even gutsy repertory programming,” the flier reads. “He sought obscure, sometimes classic, but always interesting (for one reason or another) films that had not recently or rarely been shown locally… After Meyer left, the programming became more and more a quagmire of uninspired, generic, safe ‘art house’ programming largely consisting of leftovers from the Roxie or Castro, week-long premieres of forgettable junk that will never be heard of again, and films that the UC itself had already played into the ground.”

The anguished scribe goes on to cite several examples of what he considers Landmark Theater’s blundering programming: booking Dirty Harry right after the Castro had shown it; showing a Planet of the Apes marathon–but omitting the vastly superior third sequel; airing the obscure gem Vanishing Point–“a film which is widely regarded as the the quintessential ’70s muscle car film”–but double-billing it with the ghastly 1958 Thunder Road; and during a recent James Bond festival, choosing the stinker Live and Let Die as the Roger Moore offering while ignoring such hefty fare as The Spy Who Loved Me, Moonraker, and For Your Eyes Only. This may just be a coincidence, but someone has spray-painted a horrified “NO” on the display cases that ring the kiosk–these cases just happen to be adverstising the Freddie Prinze Jr. piece of bubble gum, She’s All That.

Alameda County
remembered over 150 children who died by violence in the East Bay by reading their names in a ceremony last week. The 161 names represented youth aged from newborn to seventeen years old, and their deaths have all happened since late 1993. The memorial was lead by Supervisor Gail Steele, who says she hopes her yearly ceremonies will help prevent future violence; although the number of children killed by violence each year has certainly declined overall since 1994, the 2000 list is just slightly longer–seventeen children as opposed to 1999’s sixteen–than last year. But there may be hope on other fronts, as youth organizers continue to organize young people to combat violence from within their communities. One such anti-gang violence group is struggling to get on its feet in Fruitvale; the group was inspired largely by the death of Joe Muscadine, a seventeen-year-old shot to death on Día de la Muerta by the member of a rival gang. Muscadine’s brother David has now named his baby son after his deceased older brother, and at one anti-violence meeting he told his friends, “I’m here to keep youngsters off the streets. I don’t want them to make the same mistakes.”

Negotiations between
Albany and Alameda school teachers and their respective districts are proceeding, all right –past the impasse point and into the fact-finding stage. Albany teachers have been in mediation sessions with their district under the authority of a state-sponsored mediator since December while Alameda has been in mediation since March. Now yet another third party is set to enter the fray, vetting the books of both districts in an attempt to wangle out a final settlement. After the fact-finding process is complete, the districts have the authority to impose an offer on the schoolteachers, at which time the unions have the authority to impose a strike. The latest round of talks in Alameda have the teachers requesting a ten percent raise for this fiscal year, with which the Alameda Unified School District agrees; the sticking point remains in raises for the following years. The Albany Unified School District says that it hopes to offer teachers something by the end of next week.

Once again, we bring you
news from our sister cities around the globe. This time, it’s Pusan (or, depending on which transliteration system you adhere to, Busan), South Korea’s southern port city. It was Pusan that the South Korean government retreated to when under attack from communist North Korea fifty years ago; the South Korean government was reinstated with a little help from its friends–the US military, that is. But now it looks like GI Joe–and the US ex-pats and businessmen that followed –may have outworn their welcome, at least at a popular hang-out. According to online news site Pusanweb, the nightclub New York New York recently instituted a “no foreigners” policy. New York New York owner has reconsidered this decision, but he has a few choice words to say in a statement published on the site: “This has nothing to do with racial discrimination, as we were accused of by a foreigners who were refused admittance … Up until now, our foreign customers’ behavior have not been as pleasant as other customers. For example, they yelled loudly without any consideration of other people, teased women customers continuously, offended the DJ and people who were dancing on the stage by striking music box and went around in the bar in sleeveless undershirts. We just couldn’t let this pass in silence. For these reasons, we couldn’t help but reject foreigners. However, we would like to serve you as our precious customers if you can kindly keep our rules.”

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