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Comment Archives: stories: News & Opinion: Guest Essays

Re: “Oakland Must Re-Imagine Code Enforcement As Advocate For Community Health and Safety

Once again the problem in Oakland is much less a computer system problem as it is a people problem. A new expensive program with a fancy acronym, headed by yet another high paid manager and trying to do all things for all people may not be the panacea suggested by the author of this article. For staff, the mission will be confusing when you combine life safety goals with commensurate goals of avoiding displacement of tenants and reducing costs for owners. Those goals will inevitably be in conflict. When that occurs, which goals are the priority in decision making will be problematic, inconsistent and ultimately political. At the end of the day, "code enforcement" includes zoning codes, building codes, fire codes and housing codes. In addition to looking at different things when inspecting a property, the people who perform each task have different backgrounds, education and training. The current situation is that those people do not communicate with each other in any meaningful way in order to identify problem properties and jointly coordinate mitigation plans. If they did, the recent tragedies, where all facets of code enforcement had knowledge, could never happen. In most cities, there are internal systems of communication that make code enforcement happen every day. Oakland's Building Department has budgeted and spent millions over the last 20 years promising high tech solutions to this inspection problem and nothing has changed. Why will it be different this time? What really has to change is the current inexperienced leadership, especially at the top of the food chain. There has to also be a retraining of staff so that they realize how the work they do is connected organizationally and systems set up to facilitate internal communications. It's not the system, it's the culture!

Posted by Gary Patton on 04/25/2017 at 7:09 PM

Re: “Oakland Must Re-Imagine Code Enforcement As Advocate For Community Health and Safety

No re-imagination of code enforcement is necessary for rental properties.

A person renting out a property isn't a low income individual. Certainly a company isn't. If either category can't or won't maintain the property so as to make it habitable by the code, they need to divest, either voluntarily or be forced.

Cases like Ghostship and the halfway "halfway house" cannot be tolerated.

Posted by Bruce Ferrell on 04/25/2017 at 2:39 PM

Re: “Oakland Activist Cat Brooks on President Trump: 'My Revolutionary Prayer'

Thank you...reading from Copenhagen, Denmark, and after being in a march of solidarity recently, seeing all the 'ordinary' people who showed up, your words resonate deeply....and think it's very important to frame the response this way. Peace and love.

Posted by Auricia Tama-Sweet on 02/21/2017 at 12:59 PM

Re: “Congresswoman Barbara Lee: We Must Keep Fighting For Reforms to End Gun Violence

translation: I will fight the fight while I whine and dine off from taxpayers for almost the last 20 years

Posted by Matthew Lee on 02/02/2017 at 11:26 AM

Re: “Oakland Activist Cat Brooks on President Trump: 'My Revolutionary Prayer'

@SRRnPMR ::: snapping back with 'black on black crime' to a deep statement about resistance to oppression only reveals your own ignorance and racism . white on white crime is virtually equal to black on black crime, across the board

shame on you

thank you, @cat brooks

Posted by demotro polis on 01/19/2017 at 6:16 PM

Re: “Oakland Mayor Libby Schaaf on President Trump: 'Move Beyond Anger to Action'

The mayor says. "Oaklanders can rest assured that our government will continue to protect all its residents and defend our progressive values." She needs a good long look in the mirror. Scores died in an unsafe warehouse turned into apartments and artists' center, just 500 feet from a firehouse. Why and how? Basic municipal duties for safe building codes was not a priority while clamoring to be among world leaders on climate change. Abject failure in governing.

Posted by Willard Helander on 12/14/2016 at 8:17 AM

Re: “An Open Letter to Our Community, From the Former Residents of the Recently Closed LoBot Gallery in West Oakland

Francesco writes: "I know a manager at one of the local Bank of America branches who is always looking for young people who want a start in the banking and finance industry. Why not stop in and inquire?.... Then you could do your artwork at night."

That means assuming that what B of A does is more worthwhile than what artists do, and must be assigned higher priority -- with creativity relegated to whatever time's left over. However, such values can also be seen as those of a warped corporate system that's increasingly totalitarian as it crowds out other options (and demands more and more of our time and attention).

Under the circumstances, it's no wonder that people start looking for workarounds -- some more viable than others. I might suggest driving for Lyft or Uber rather than working at B of A, but there are problems with that as well. Unfortunately, all the alternatives are makeshift.

Posted by Mitchell Halberstadt on 12/13/2016 at 12:38 AM

Re: “An Open Letter to Our Community, From the Former Residents of the Recently Closed LoBot Gallery in West Oakland

"Harm reduction."

Like handing out free needles because people are going to do heroin one way or another, so give them clean needles.

Actually enforcing laws against fire traps and against illegal, unsafe housing situations remains the best "harm reduction" of all in this instance.

Posted by Charles C. Eroster on 12/12/2016 at 6:31 AM

Re: “An Open Letter to Our Community, From the Former Residents of the Recently Closed LoBot Gallery in West Oakland

Efforts at Harm Reduction are starting. It's too late to stop the coming round of evictions, but perhaps in the new spaces that will be created in Vallejo, Stockton, Fresno, will be safer: https://docs.google.com/document/d/1XtBIjV… which is a longer version of this: http://www.thestranger.com/slog/2016/12/06…

Posted by Ryan R Young on 12/09/2016 at 8:23 AM

Re: “An Open Letter to Our Community, From the Former Residents of the Recently Closed LoBot Gallery in West Oakland

With this much evidence of manslaughter why isn't Derick in jail? The wife, too? He is a flight risk.

Posted by Charles C. Eroster on 12/09/2016 at 7:22 AM

Re: “An Open Letter to Our Community, From the Former Residents of the Recently Closed LoBot Gallery in West Oakland

The Former LoBot Gallery Residents' friends at Ghost Ship / Satya Yuga are clearly guilty of manslaughter. The evidence in the press, and that I saw first hand, is overwhelming, as I see it.* That they say "To our friends at Ghost Ship: We are with you" is despicable. Shame!

Former residents: You explicitly ally yourself with people who hosted events that attracted large crowds to spaces that not only didn't come close to meeting the codes for assembly spaces, they didn't even come close to the much more lax codes for business or residential space - or even the codes for warehouse space, which are the most lax of all. Worse than that, you want to CONTINUE TO DO SO. Damn you. 36 dead isn't enough? Dead bodies are not art.

If you want folks not to call to have your space red tagged, don't say "We want our spaces retrofitted for modern fire-suppression systems, exits, and alarms." If you'd said, "We want a little time to retrofit our spaces with as much safety features as we can afford - modern fire-suppression systems if we can, but certainly sufficient well-marked exits, fire extinguishers and alarms." I'd be with you.

*Unmarked and locked exits, extremely unsafe electrical wiring, no working fire extinguishers or smoke detectors... There are numerous reports that the residents who ran Ghost Ship laughed at people who raised safety concerns.

Posted by Amelie Love on 12/08/2016 at 2:13 PM

Re: “Oakland's Ron Dellums on President Trump: 'Step Forward'

Just another broken minded liberal thinking that their self-importance should be heard by everyone, when in fact nobody cares. He wants us to believe that he has a firm grasp on this matter, when in reality he keeps spouting the liberal nonsense that is prevalent on the #fakenews from CNN, MSNBC, ABC, NBC, CBS and sometimes at FOX. All of America sees a fool on a mission that can't see the truth in front of his very face. Hillary is the one that stole the votes, which is the only reason that it seemed close (3 million proven illegal immigrants voted in California alone). On this fact alone we, the United States of America, will change the law where you idiots will go to prison when you break it next time. Only legal residents should vote, but the moral high road liberals think it's okay to let the whole world vote in our elections. I have never heard of anything so idiotic in my life. Keep up the stupidity and we will be forced to enact laws that will make your liberal minds explode! Annexing the California vote is certainly a viable option.

Posted by Tman1609 on 12/08/2016 at 1:49 PM

Re: “Oakland's Ron Dellums on President Trump: 'Step Forward'

Ron Dellums has provided inspiration to work for social and economic justice for the entire 48 years I have lived in the Bay Area. Happy to hear from him in these times when we need his voice and wisdom.

Posted by Margaret Cunningham on 12/08/2016 at 1:29 PM

Re: “An Open Letter to Our Community, From the Former Residents of the Recently Closed LoBot Gallery in West Oakland

There is a whole new level of relevant issues that need to be examined in the wake of this tragedy, and that is how many of these "artists" are working the system, getting food stamps and SSI and having their children taken care of by child protective services while partying and having fun while other, more responsible people have to work for a living.

Derrick Ion Almena and his wife...were they getting food stamps? Was he sucking down 100 percent disability for his rather obvious bipolar condition, claiming he couldn't work while managing this unsafe space, collecting rent, not fixing things...and then they'd fly off to Bali and party.

What were the kids doing in a hotel BEFORE the fire? Who was paying for that? Child protective services? Section 8? The taxpayers in some form or another?

And it's not just Derick. It's so many of these creative rebels who have their straws stuck into the great big chocolate milkshake of the system, sucking the system all day long while claiming to be such rebels...and the whole time, the system supports their bad lifestyle choices with food stamps, and disability payments, and taking care of their children in foster homes whole these irresponsible "adult children" party and smoke pot and, if they can be bothered to show up to vote, vote for an ever-larger welfare state.

When the Manson Family committed helter skelter, when the Hells Angels bashed heads at Altamount, that was the end of the era of the hippies and the free love...that was the death of the prolonged childhood of the hippy era.

Well, the grownups who believe in jobs and tightening borders and pulling yourself up by your bootstraps are taking over in January. And the "thriller love child" of Manson just marked the death of the era of Personal Non-Responsibility and privileged identity politics under Obama. The examination of what happened here, it is bigger than Oakland. The whole nation is finding symbolic meaning in what happened.

Posted by Charles C. Eroster on 12/08/2016 at 6:30 AM

Re: “An Open Letter to Our Community, From the Former Residents of the Recently Closed LoBot Gallery in West Oakland

Here's the deal... Members of the community, all about safe spaces, knew about the conditions at Ghost Ship and the operator (see other articles right here on EBX)... And said nothing/did nothing.

LoBot operated, by their own admission for 13 years, and somehow never bothered to advise/press the existing building owner for needed repairs. After the building changed hands, they self reported to the city to force the new owner to make the long overdue repairs (I read the articles right here on EBX)... And the building was bad enough it was red flagged! The city told them to fix it, and they basically tore it down. While I've never seen a statement from the building owner, I suspect the building was so bad that's what had to be done. Not surprising as it was vacant and decaying in '96 when I moved to West Oakland as was most of the area.

The sad and simple fact is it was advantageous for these people to operate this way... The property owner and the lease holder. They built and sold illusion of safety. Those who didn't go along got subtle and not so subtle enforcement with little or no recourse. Things that are underground seem to always go that way. Bullies thrive in secrecy, in the underground.

Tove has it dead right. Get politically active. Stop throwing temper tantrums and make a difference. I know when I voted this year, I had to swallow the vomit and we still got the horror... But I did it because NOT doing it was NOT standing against it.

The city doesn't have the money it needs. It sure isn't going to get it from the art community, nor will it come from the poor or dwindling middle class; there just isn't enough there. If we keep playing "We're different and you're the other", all we do divide and expose the ever smaller groups the the vicious bullies of the world... And they win. Get in the solution. Marching isn't it.

Posted by Bruce Ferrell on 12/07/2016 at 8:06 PM

Re: “An Open Letter to Our Community, From the Former Residents of the Recently Closed LoBot Gallery in West Oakland

I know a manager at one of the local Bank of America branches who is always looking for young people who want a start in the banking and finance industry. Why not stop in and inquire? It can't hurt to ask. Then you could do your artwork at night and in the evenings. I did the very thing as a young man, carving models of WWII battleships from wood that the local furniture maker saved for me. You know, odds and ends that he couldn't use. Once a year I always presented one of my better pieces, just to say 'thanks'.

Posted by Francesco on 12/07/2016 at 5:33 PM

Re: “An Open Letter to Our Community, From the Former Residents of the Recently Closed LoBot Gallery in West Oakland

Why the need for censorship people? Someone doesn't agree and you want it removed? And I bet the people asking to remove comments cry when they don't get heard.

Tove had some valid points whether you agreed with it or not. No guns are being placed on anyone's head to live this lifestyle. It's a choice.

There are also rules for the GREATER safety of everyone and not just a select few. The landlords are also at risk which the author is asking to bear. It's all about self responsibility.

Posted by Robert Hope on 12/07/2016 at 1:29 PM

Re: “An Open Letter to Our Community, From the Former Residents of the Recently Closed LoBot Gallery in West Oakland

Bigfrog - Yes, I think I was incorrect there, in that I'm sure many of the buildings were abandoned or unoccupied when artists moved in. That point was secondary to the rest of the post, and I should have just left it out.

Posted by Carlos Jamal on 12/07/2016 at 8:44 AM

Re: “An Open Letter to Our Community, From the Former Residents of the Recently Closed LoBot Gallery in West Oakland

Hey Carlos Jamal - I was one of the original inhabitants at Lobot and nobody was displaced when we moved in. It was formerly a business and the guys who built the living spaces created a place where 15 - 20 people lived. And in my situation I freed up a low rent room for someone else to occupy.

Posted by bigfrog on 12/07/2016 at 8:11 AM

Re: “An Open Letter to Our Community, From the Former Residents of the Recently Closed LoBot Gallery in West Oakland

The housing crisis is a travesty, as was this horrific fire.

Unfortunately, your way of life, of living in a poverty of choice to create art, appears to no longer be sustainable in this area of the world. You were not the first people to live in Oakland, nor would you be the first people displaced. Likely, you displaced someone when you arrived.

You are in charge of your own life. You are at no one's mercy. Your problems and issues have arisen because of the lifestyle choices you have made. You should come to terms with that.

To retrofit buildings for fire safety, you need fire marshals. You need money. You can't have your cake and eat it too.

Posted by Carlos Jamal on 12/07/2016 at 6:34 AM

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