Letters for July 2 

Readers sound off on electronic noise, gun violence, race and crime, Ethiopian food, John Yoo, and more.

Page 3 of 4

Jerry Brown made his bones in Oakland. Brown's cronies made their fortunes in Oakland. The taxpayers are stuck with the obligations to pay for the excesses, which made this possible. Many of the 10,000 people that Jerry brought downtown can't pay their mortgages. The developers who were given the concessions can't finish their projects, and those who can finish them can't sell them. This is only the bad news.

I have some bad news and some very bad news. The bad news is that many people who bought condos downtown can no longer afford them. The values upon which their debt is based is likely less than the mortgage. The unsold and unfinished condos will remain unsold and unfinished because they were built, based on an income and expense model that no longer exists.

In the downtown disaster, there are several layers of problems. The least visible problem is that many who bought downtown condos can no longer afford them. Those who can afford them are watching the value leak our of their investment. They find that the property they bought has lost half its market value. They owe twice as much as the condo is worth. This situation is likely to result in people walking away from these properties.

Another layer of problem is that condos that are just being built out and those that were built out within the past eighteen months and are unsold will remain unsold well into the distant future. The developers, most of whom got paid at the first closing, will turn these properties over to the lenders and walk away.

What plans does the city of Oakland have for dealing with the unoccupied condos that will soon litter the downtown Oakland landscape? Are we planning for the disaster that is looming? The most pressing and visible problem is the increasing number of unfinished properties that are coming to the surface on our streets. How does the city deal with them? Should a proactive city raise bond money as a vulture fund and buy up these properties for pennies on the dollar and resell them to our citizens at prices they can afford?

The very bad news is a ticking time bomb. The Uptown project was built with city bond money, borrowed, based on projections that no longer make sense. The income projections were based on an income model that now appears inflated by at least 100 percent. If this project had been financed by private money, it would be in bankruptcy. Its salvation is the taxpayers of Oakland, whom our political leadership has obligated to pay no matter the cost.

The very bad news is Jerry Brown guaranteed these developers a 12 percent profit regardless of the outcome of the project. Forest City and the construction contractor who did not bid are the winners in this disaster. The profit guarantee is backed by the city general fund. The current city budget does not include the amount of money the city will be required to pay out under the Jerry Brown guarantee to Forest City.

The city subsidy of the Fox Theater is almost as egregious. This is a project that started out with a cost basis of $28 million and it is now approaching $100 million without a competitive bid from the general contractor and with a $200,000 subsidy from the general fund to the anchor Fox tenant.

Oakland needs help.

Joe Debro, Oakland

Time to Reform Oakland's Charter

The following are just a FEW examples of how our wonderful city is falling apart due to piss-poor leadership. Many of you are fed up and others are complaining about what to do ... unfortunately, very few voted in this last election and the same individuals were reelected. Sooooo, as seen on KTOP Tuesday, 6/17, and based on what is being reported in the news we, the citizens of Oakland, have a REAL problem with who is leading this city and how it is being managed.

We have a couple of options:

1) Total recall of the full council and the mayor! Someone from each district needs to step up to the plate and take out the papers. If you want to effect change, then this is a real wake-up call to your representatives.

2) The formation of a charter review committee that leads to changes in the charter that represents the views, needs, and strengths of the city and her citizens here in Oakland.

3) The need for term limits of the city council, city attorney, and auditor (mayor is already two terms). Perata's consultant, who also does the work for most of the city council, Larry Tramutola, has alluded to twelve years as the limit, in an article recently published in the Chronicle by Chip Johnson. If Tramutola is being quoted, then something is up!!!!!!

4) If after two terms of Jerry Brown and now Dellums we have nothing to show for either other than a lot of development and favoritism, then we need to either strengthen the role of the mayor with real checks and balances or we need to go back to a strong city manager form of government.

These are crucial if we are really going to get Oakland back on her feet. Right now we have power-hungry councilmembers who daily break the law by ignoring the mandate of our city charter by micromanaging when they should be legislating ... and a mayor who really has no clear accountability to the citizens because of the vagueness of what is the strong mayor mandate as written in the charter and is not leading.

We need people of vision and passion for this wonderful city, to bring change — committing to work on reviewing the charter and getting it on the ballot is going to take time and it needs to be representative of everyone who lives in Oakland. Not just the usual handpicked individuals that take us nowhere and we still end up with nil.

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