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Recent Comments

Re: “Privatizing the Parks?

If I might respond to "RBA", who unfortunately did not put his or her name on his or her comments, I assume you are not responding to my comments.

It is not a sign of "too much time on their hands" to care about one's neighborhood park and unresponsive city government. You probably aren't talking about me with your comment about, "standing on the sidelines", either, given that I have been very much involved in Mosswood Park for the last ten years, taking a central role in building a dog run facility and upgrading all of the park's water fountains, and sitting on the Redevelopment board which approved the teen center and tot lot grants. I was Mosswood's park steward for a while there, too, and have worked numerous volunteer days, among other activities. I have built in that park (with no financial gain for myself) and I don't want to see what I and others have built ruined.

And who are you and what have you done, besides posting an anonymous, mean spirited, and partisan note?

Posted by Seth Katz on 10/22/2009 at 8:55 AM

Re: “Privatizing the Parks?

Only in Oakland would it be considered anything less than a scandal to find out
that the Parks and Recreation department allows private businesses to operate
on public land without a contract specifying liability and precisely what it is the
city gets from the use of public land. Only in Oakland would the lack of process
and permits or even a clear plan for the use of the land persist after it has been
exposed in public meetings, in wide-ranging email messages, and in the press.
The, in my opinion, institutional dysfunction that fosters these situations
and in which there are no consequences for flagrant violation of good
practice has not served Oakland well.

Reco Bembry of OPR told me at the meeting mentioned in the article that he
believes Kijiji Grows intends to sell hydroponic systems. Other hydroponics
companies in the East Bay rent stores and pay their own way. Kijiji has told a
number of people that it is a "non-profit" although no such paperwork has been
filed, to my knowledge. What liability are the citizens of Oakland carrying for
a private hydroponics company and other businesses in Mosswood Park? What
cost is associated with these businesses in power, water, upkeep, and resources?
I'm not saying it can't be a good deal. I'm saying there is no public transparency
and to my knowledge no contracts.

The arrogance and miscommunication on the parts of Kijiji Grows and OPR,
and the lack of a garden coordinator at OPR have undermined what could
have been a successful process to reclaim an unused portion of Mosswood Park.
Instead, you can go by any day and see the mounds of garbage bags
and piles of lumber they have left against the fence and the empty raised
beds of discouraged gardeners. One of the major themes of the meeting about
which this article reports was that OPR has been, by and large, unresponsive
to email and to established neighborhood groups around Mosswood Park.
At the meeting, Audree Jones-Taylor presented an impassioned defense of
the lack of adherence to printed rules by the one group to which they must respond, the Mosswood Advisory Board.

Oakland Parks and Recreation needs true volunteers like the ones who
built the garden or those who are trying to work with OPR to build projects and
get grants in parks throughout Oakland in order to revitalize our parks and
widen their use at a time when the OPR budget has been slashed. I encourage
OPR to support those efforts and to spend the time to court neighborhood
groups, not ignore them, so that our parks will improve and better serve
those who use them. We have seen a revolution in parks renovation in Oakland,
largely fueled by local volunteers, in the last decade. We don't want to go back to
the dangerous, run down, crime-ridden parks we had ten years ago because OPR wants
to do the easy thing and not the right thing. Speaking as someone who spent
many years working to improve Mosswood Park, I do not feel OPR appreciates the value volunteers put into the parks and do not respect their efforts. Our parks are for those who live here, not those who can
most successfully sweet talk our city officials
or to promote special interests over serving the neighborhood.
As our new police chief recently told Councilmember Jane Brunner,
"I believe that all public entities exist to bring value to the residents
which they serve, in the way that the residents expect".

My opinion,

Seth Katz

Posted by Seth Katz on 10/18/2009 at 11:10 AM

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