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Comment Archives: Last 30 Days

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: “If Oakland Cracks Down On Underground Warehouses, It Will Snuff Out The City’s DIY Soul

I think people need to look hard at what is DIY and what are its sensible limits.

When it comes to sewing a patch on a jacket, can I do it myself or learn to do it? Sure. When it comes to doing my own electrical work, can I? Should I? If I have NO FREAKING IDEA what I'm doing? Clearly not.

This is the ugly, deadly downside of taking DIY too far...ignoring rules and laws and focusing on fun and creativity instead of mundane, necessary WORK and being a GROWN UP.

How much of this "scene" survives by sucking public benefits out of the "system" they bash with every breath? Were Derick Almena and his wife getting food stamps? SSI for his rather obvious bipoloar condition? Were the child protective services paying for a hotel room right before the fire? Or long before that?

It's time the pendulum swung in the other direction...the direction of regulation and safety and acting like a grownup and following rules.

Posted by Charles C. Eroster on 12/08/2016 at 6:20 AM

Re: “Building Engulfed by Deadly Oakland Fire Had Pending Habitability Complaints

Did these city workers have the power to do their jobs? Or was there an unofficial "look the other way" policy and any city official who tried to do his job was going to run into the political correctness police who didn't want a crackdown on artists? It sounds like if an inspector isn't allowed inside, the inspector just goes away. Clearly, somebody is holding the leash on that inspector at a much higher level.

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

Re: “Operator of 'Ghost Ship' Lived Inside Site of Oakland Warehouse Fire with Wife, Children, Was on Probation

I don't think you can criminally sue the city and the inspectors. There is a form of legal immunity here for the state, of which a city is a subdivision of the state. It's the landlord who has the deepest pocket and is really going to pay the most when the lawsuits hit.

It's very relevant Derick Ion Almena was on probation. How is it relevant? Let me break it down and make it plain. It's relevant because he's a scofflaw. Because he's an irresponsible person. Because he's a ne'er-do-well and yet he was somehow in charge of this space and therefore the lives of everybody in this space. That's how it's relevant. It shouldn't have to be explained but the "don't judge" crowd has a tendency to be deliberately obtuse. If the guy had a long history of playing with matches, that same crowd would be asking, "How is this relevant?"

Here's another relevant question. Were Derick and his wife getting public assistance? Were the taxpayers paying for those kids to be at the hotel as part of child protection services, right BEFORE the fire? Was he collecting food stamps while partying in Bali? Was he getting SSI for a rather obvious bipolar condition?

Posted by Charles C. Eroster on 12/08/2016 at 6:07 AM

Re: “Couple In Charge of Ghost Ship Lost Kids to Child Protective Services While Living in Oakland Warehouse

Were the taxpayers paying to house those children at a hotel right before the fire? What other public assistance was the couple receiving while partying in Bali and collecting rent without making desperately needed fixes for the sake of safety? Were they getting food stamps? SSI? In addition to manslaughter counts, perhaps some charges are in order for public assistance fraud.

Posted by Charles C. Eroster on 12/08/2016 at 5:58 AM

Re: “'I'm Going To Get My Gun': Event Organizers at Ghost Ship Accused Derick Almena of Theft, Threats

In regard to who paid for the hotel...another news story in this same edition says NBC paid for that posh hotel. But if the kids were staying at a hotel the night of the fire, as they reportedly were, who paid for THAT hotel? My guess is since there was a child custody case going on, somehow the state was paying. The parents (Derick and his wife) were not considered unfit, but their living space was unsafe. So who was paying for a hotel BEFORE the fire? Probably child services. Somebody needs to dig into that.

In addition to multiple counts of manslaughter, criminal negligence resulting in death, violating multiple building codes, I think there also needs to be an investigation into whether this individual was collecting any public assistance (food stamps, SSI, etc) while partying in Bali and all the other well-documented irresponsible behavior.

But as to why this stuff was never followed up...do you know how many low-level nutcase threat-balls there are in Oakland and California and the world, generally? Law enforcement and the courts are overwhelmed with stuff. Nothing this guy was doing with low-level crime, threats, etcetera was all that notable, unfortunately.

What should have been on the radar of public officials was the death trap party space. It looks like there was an unofficial policy of benign neglect and not cracking down on artists living in these illegal spaces. Like, a building inspector went to the property...but then he just went away?

You know who is really going to pay, here? The landlord. The landlord is the only "deep pocket" in the mix. The government officials have various forms of legal immunity. The landlord is probably going to lose everything.

I would also like to point out that the behavior of Mr. Derick Ion Almena, from his creativity to his unpredictability to his utterly self-centered behavior and especially his cluttering, this all screams bipolar. He's probably been collecting SSI for a long time and using it to support his bad lifestyle choices.

Posted by Charles C. Eroster on 12/08/2016 at 5:42 AM

Re: “NBC Paid for Ghost Ship Operator Derick Almena's Hotel Room During Exclusive Interview

Dig deeper. I think it would be good to know whether Derick and his wife were getting public assistance for years and years while partying in Bali and buying great big hand-carved wooden beds from Bali, and growing pot...this whole time were they getting food stamps? Claiming some disability and sucking off the taxpayers through SSI?

In fact, it would be good to check the "public assistance background" of everybody who died there...except for the 17-year-old, a minor, may he rest in peace.

Thank goodness the GROWN UPS will be taking over this country at the presidential swearing in, and working a job, obeying the law, generally acting like an adult will be the new normal.

Posted by Charles C. Eroster on 12/08/2016 at 5:33 AM

Re: “Oakland Firefighters Say Their Department Is So Badly Managed, Ghost Ship Warehouse Wasn't Even In Its Inspection Database

Somehow people keep ignoring the bottom line problem when it comes to leadership at the City of Oakland. MEASURE X needs to be repealed. Mayor Schaaf is a nice person and tries hard, but at the end of the day, just because you can get 50 % of the 30% of citizens who vote to check the box next to your name does not qualify you to run a city. Running the day to day operation of a city the size of Oakland is complicated and should be done by a trained, educated and experienced City Manager. Being Mayor is political not technical or professional. The problems in Oakland with leadership in many areas are a direct result of weak and inexperienced people in key executive management positions. Trained experienced top level managers in the workforce will never ever be interested in working in a place like Oakland because they recognize dysfunction and are not interested in working for Mayors and administrators who are political and do not know what they are doing. Without the change I am suggesting, this will never get better. Jerry Brown was a unique candidate when Measure X was adopted in 1998. Not one of the Mayors elected since has been even close to being capable of running a City. When Robert Bobb was the City Manager in charge of the day to day operation, qualified and experienced professionals in all areas of the organization were flocking to Oakland. Since X was adopted, Bobb resigned and the City Administrator, with less authority, now works for the Mayor, the quality of managers and level of services to the citizens has gone down each and every year. The structure of the organization mandated by Measure X is set up for this to continue and trust me it will continue to get worse.

Posted by Gary Patton on 12/08/2016 at 5:14 AM

Re: “Stop Blaming Artists and Musicians for the Ghost Ship Fire. Blame People In Power Who Screwed Up.

By the way, Conan Neutron, the proper spelling is "here, here."

Posted by Charles C. Eroster on 12/08/2016 at 4:55 AM

Re: “Stop Blaming Artists and Musicians for the Ghost Ship Fire. Blame People In Power Who Screwed Up.

I keep reading in various editorials about how these artists were "just trying to survive." How is making art "surviving?" Some guy who is living under a bridge, with substance abuse and PTSD issues, that guy is trying to survive in his illegal living space...but this situation wasn't about "survival." This is about never growing up and wanting to keep playing with finger paints while the other kids are doing math, science, and lining up en mass get their participation trophies. Here's a really unpopular question. How many of the dead were getting public assistance checks every month while they were out partying? Including the managers, Derek and his wife, who could barely manage to hang on to their children? And yet there are stories of them going off to Bali, of owning great big beds hand-carved of wood, from Bali, of growing pot...leaving the kids for days at a time with the babysitter while they went off and partied. Most of these participants weren't "just trying to survive." They were partying, and now society pays for the party. Society has, in fact, been paying for their party for a long time. Now the firemen and the coroners and all the GROWN UPS who work for a living have to get up at the ringing of the alarm clock and work, work, work to fix this mess. If there's a crackdown on illegal artist spaces, not just in Oakland but all over the nation....well, it's about time the grownups took charge. For the record, I don't cast any blame on the 17-year-old that died. He was a kid and could be expected to act like a kid. Everybody else...they took a risk, and sometimes when you play, you pay.

Posted by Charles C. Eroster on 12/08/2016 at 4:53 AM

Re: “Stop Blaming Artists and Musicians for the Ghost Ship Fire. Blame People In Power Who Screwed Up.

Where do people get the idea that artists should be given affordable housing ahead of manual laborers, low-level office workers, etc.? They don't seem to realize how elitist this sounds.

Posted by MorganJones on 12/08/2016 at 1:23 AM

Re: “Oakland Official Handling Coal Controversy Personally Invested in Fossil Fuels

Questioning Claudia Cappio's integrity is your prerogative but if you look closer you'll see a good and honorable person. She's a pragmatist in the end. When she sees the inevitable approach and it has negatives to it she looks for the best ways to minimize them. She understands constructive compromise but would never compromise principles. As for her small investment portfolio, if you understand stocks you know there are about zero clean stocks; somewhere one is connected to the next. I bet if we looked at most stock portfolios, including those of Cappio's critics, we'd find similar scenarios. Don't try to malign a good public servant in a try to score cheap points. I, too, am certain we shouldn't be mining or shipping coal ANYWHERE, but due process, crossing the t's and dotting the i's, has to be followed.
-JD Benson

Posted by jdbenson on 12/08/2016 at 12:07 AM

Re: “Oakland Firefighters Say Their Department Is So Badly Managed, Ghost Ship Warehouse Wasn't Even In Its Inspection Database

Charlie Pine,

I relied on the city administration's October 24, 2016 Semi-Annual Vacancy Report.

It shows that the Oakland Police Department currently has only 2 vacant sworn police officer positions.

The Fire Department has 63 sworn firefighter positions vacant right now, according to that same report.

Another document I have from the Fire Department shows that they filled one position since then, bringing their sworn staffing vacancy to 62.

I'm comparing apples to apples.

I invite readers to review the document here: https://oakland.legistar.com/LegislationDe…

Posted by Darwin BondGraham on 12/07/2016 at 10:39 PM

Re: “If Oakland Cracks Down On Underground Warehouses, It Will Snuff Out The City’s DIY Soul

Oh, ps. Mr. Good: As you make your declarations about what needs to be done, over a dozen of my friends have been evicted from their already-precarious living situations in the last 24 hours, a result of this witch hunt. More will follow, and all the city is offering is a grant aimed at professional artists who know how to game the system.

Posted by JohnNoMoniker on 12/07/2016 at 9:37 PM

Re: “Operator of 'Ghost Ship' Lived Inside Site of Oakland Warehouse Fire with Wife, Children, Was on Probation

It is sad to see such scurrilous and needlessly caustic responses to this article which was to all intents and purposes a non-starter. So he is on probation. How does that pertain to this tragedy? So he is staying in a Hotel. His house just burned down, he has to stay somewhere with his family. I don't know him and I do think he has some responsibility for this very unfortunate situation. At the same time he is a victim too and deserves to be given some space at this point for that reason alone. Beyond this, the fact that local politicians are using this as grist for the mill in their attempts to position themselves for future advancement represents the worst kind of opportunism. The Bay area is a very difficult place for artists and musicians these days. If it wasn't for their creative abilities and their application thereof to the problem of housing and so on we would see their exodus. Their contribution (generally poorly compensated) constitutes one of the primary reasons that the Bay area has the elevated and progressive culture that we all enjoy as residents. The inevitable over-reaction to this tragedy from a crackdown standpoint is unfortunate and represents a loss of macro perspective overall. Warehouses are the traditional home of counter-culture in the East Bay. I have been to hundreds of events in similar spaces. There must a hundred events like this going on every weekend in Oakland alone. Scale this across the Country and the probability that a tragedy like this is going to unfold is inevitable. It is a numbers game. I lost a couple of friends in this fire for the record. I see the need for a practical approach to implementing safety measures in such instances. It is important to recognizing that people are living in warehouses, legal or not. If this is the case let's make the owners of such spaces responsible for at least the minimal improvements necessary to make a big difference. Things like sprinklers and fire escapes do not constitute a massive expense. But a hardcore crackdown on semi-residential warehouses across the board would be an additional blow to the artistic community which is already reeling from the loss at hand.

Posted by John Middle on 12/07/2016 at 9:27 PM

Re: “If Oakland Cracks Down On Underground Warehouses, It Will Snuff Out The City’s DIY Soul

Michael Good: You have a right to your opinions, and I have a right to assert that I (and I suspect many others) find your opinions to be quite conservative, your vote for Clinton (not exactly a progressive though admittedly better than a neo-fascist) notwithstanding. By pointing this out, I am noting that you (and many of the reactionaries commenting on this issue) and your views should be considered as part of a philosophical agenda that is at odds with the city's long progressive and radical tradition, and can't be viewed as some kind of neutral "voice of the people" as comment thread denizens often give an impression of - you are consistently projecting conservative viewpoints, and by doing so in a public forum you are being inherently political and should be judged based on your leanings thereof. Like many conservatives, you seem to imply that your ramblings are "common sense", but that sense is common to your worldview only.

Posted by JohnNoMoniker on 12/07/2016 at 9:06 PM

Re: “Operator of 'Ghost Ship' Lived Inside Site of Oakland Warehouse Fire with Wife, Children, Was on Probation

The Mayor and the head of Code Enforcement need to step down and be criminally sued themselves. All of the above reported points to a City out of control for years. The reporting is unfortunately necessary - 36 people were killed in the most horrific way - a full picture needs to be painted pixel by pixel of why they died and who is responsible, or it will keep happening. The mayor, FD, PD, CE all knew these dangerous underground artist complexes were rampant, and needed to have addressed the problem as community leaders. They obviously can't find their way out of a paper bag, much less come up with win-win solutions.

Posted by OhNoNotStationFireAgain on 12/07/2016 at 9:03 PM

Re: “Oakland Officials Order Staff to Withhold Public Records Related to Ghost Ship Fire

Every time that insult for a Mayor people gets on the news, she's just digging a deeper hole for herself and Oakland - she needs to step down now and get someone who actually can get things done to take her place. She's an insult to those who lost their lives there. As for the First Responders, speaking as an ex FR, yes it's difficult, but get used to it because there will be lots more horror shows since your Mayor is so incompetent. Also, remember this, what the victims went through is far worse than what you went through recovering them, you chose this very job, are well compensated for it, receive taxpayer help to over come any fire-related psych difficulties - so the story should not be about you, real FR's stop the press making the story about them when it's about those guests on the second floor who were invited there even from Facebook. Think about that.

Posted by OhNoNotStationFireAgain on 12/07/2016 at 8:50 PM

Re: “Oakland Firefighters Say Their Department Is So Badly Managed, Ghost Ship Warehouse Wasn't Even In Its Inspection Database

This expose is marred by a blatant falsehood that makes one wonder: "The Oakland Police Department has only two vacant positions." The current OPD personnel report, prepared Nov. 28, 2016, details 92 unfilled positions. So much for Mr. BondGraham's crude attempt to set OPD against OFD. What other basic facts did he get wrong?

Posted by Charlie Pine on 12/07/2016 at 8:50 PM

Re: “Oakland Officials Order Staff to Withhold Public Records Related to Ghost Ship Fire

PS Many victims in the 2003 Station fire had more clout than the poor victims in Oakland, so the lawsuits flew, most victims and families were properly compensated, if there can ever be such a thing. Now, watch this "mayor" try to stop any such activity from helping this Oakland horror show, one for which the owners etc. are surely responsible, but so is the City, for 30 years they let this fester - and Schaaf thinks she can shaft the victims, making Oakland above the legal lawsuit process, because the vics are poor, transgender, counter-culture, and so obviously in her opinion aren't people, aren't humans, deserving of proper compensation. And this in "California" no less. Oakland needs to be properly sued for criminal negligence, along with the owners etc. etc. etc.

Posted by OhNoNotStationFireAgain on 12/07/2016 at 8:38 PM

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