News & Notes 

Who is Lieutenant Kije, and how can he be unmasked and stopped?

A modest proposal: Who is Lieutenant Kije? He's a figure in Russian folklore, in which the czar's bureaucrats create a nonexistent army officer by way of a typographical error. Rather than own up to the mistake, the bureaucracy assembles a mountain of supporting documents detailing his birth, marriage, exile to Siberia, and triumphant return. Kije eventually advances to the rank of general and is given a magnificent state funeral upon his death. He's Gogol's nose, Harvey the Rabbit, Major Major.

He also happens to be the greatest threat to local public safety since the Loma Prieta earthquake. Clearly the lowest form of malignant anarchist, "Lieutenant Kije" has created a Web site skewering Jerry Brown, Don Perata, Wilda White, and the rest of Oakland's selfless public figures, leaving City Hall scrambling to discover the identity of this nihilist. If you visit the KIJE Project at http://home.att.net/~lieutenantkije/index.html you'll find such impudent sneers as the Gap on Broadway Deathclock. "We predict that the Gap on Broadway in downtown Oakland will die by July 1, 2004," the page declares. Next to a full-color image of Mayor Brown striding manfully out of the Gap's doors, the deathclock slowly, venomously ticks down to the retailer's terminal date: "Actual moment of demise subject to fashion whims; rebellion of sullen, underpaid Gap cashiers; discovery of Enron-like evil, etc."

Apparently, the malicious Lieutenant Kije won't be satisfied till he wrings every drop of irony from Brown's somber majesty. Take his (her? their?) "Jerry Brown's Canal Diary," which ridicules the mayor's glorious $100 million plan to link Lake Merritt and the estuary with a scenic waterway.

"March 13: Success!" Brown's journal begins. "My plan to connect the Bay to Lake Merritt (in a real, meaningful way) begins today ... My only hope is that the stench of Lake Merritt does not put people off from this tremendous opportunity. I do not trust the civil servants in charge of this massive project, so I have decided to move from my vermin-infested loft by Jack London Square to a tent hard by the shores of the lake, the better to supervise the cretins who labor on this holy mission. I hope my skill with people and my expansive human warmth will win the day -- for me, and for all of Oakland. But mostly for me.

"April 7: I have purchased thirty elephants to assist us in the task of digging trenches in the muck of the lake. The elephants toil for hours without complaint, and they work for peanuts. Ha ha ha. 'Elephants work for peanuts.' Sometimes I slay myself. I think I'll send that to Herb Caen. Oh wait, he's dead. In that case, I shall email this witticism to Saturday Night Live, then. We keep the elephants in pens near Lakeshore Drive. Some neighbors have raised objections, and numerous unkempt individuals have taken to parading around the elephant enclosure with picket signs. They claim to represent an organization by the name of 'PETA.' I find them odd and embarrassing. I think the elephants do, too.

"May 22: The governor called today to say that due to budget constraints, I had to choose between monies for the public schools, sewers and road repair, or my Grand Canal. I told him that the choice was quite clear. Sewage is a natural by-product that will be safely rendered harmless by the sea, people shouldn't be driving fossil-fuel machines and repaired roads would only encourage them, and Oakland school children will only grow up to taunt me. But my Canal ... my Canal is for the ages. The Grand Canal must go through! Several of my acquaintances have substantial financial interest in the no-bid construction contract I drew up, and it will be embarrassing for me to face them at the Opera or the Ballet if the Canal fails.

"June 14: Disaster! Thirteen of our elephants have escaped! Several of the creatures lumbered down to Broadway, causing panic and despair all along Auto Row. (That is to say, more panic and despair than usual.) We recaptured six of the beasts, but seven remain at large. While a setback, I will not let this prevent me from making Oakland the Venice of the Greater East Bay, south of Berkeley and north of San Lorenzo, not to put too fine a point on it."

Who is this villain, who dares to be funny, erudite, and intimate with Oakland civic life? Who is Lieutenant Kije? We found an e-mail address tucked away on the KIJE site and demanded that this would-be Wanda Tinasky reveal himself. Unfortunately, Kije only communicates in the despicable genre of haiku:

"We can't say too much
Or KIJE will blow away
Just like gossamer.

"Just you wait until
April 1st spectacular
Jerry will be pissed!"

This is, we're afraid, unacceptable. Anonymous assaults upon the dignity of our beloved mayor cannot go unanswered. Accordingly, 7 Days herewith announces the creation of the City on the Move Fund, an ample reward for the first vigilant citizen who steps forward with the true identity of Lieutenant Kije. Bring us the head of this miscreant, and collect your very own copy of The Complete Jerry Brown, a compendium of the mayor's most profound observations. Like the time he referred to Oakland as "a great seedpod." As true today as when it was written.

Tensions at the border: If you think parking and gridlock is bad enough in Oakland, brace yourself, Chinatown -- it could get much worse. Or so say a handful of leaders from Chinatown, who are rallying against the new development proposed for Alameda Point, which would put four and a half million square feet of commercial space and 1,600 housing units on the former naval base, generating an additional 53,000 vehicle trips per day. Chinatown, which serves as an exit and entrance ramp for the Posey and Webster tubes to Alameda as well as the adjoining freeway, already has the highest number of pedestrian and auto accidents in the city.

Sherry Hirota, executive director of Asian Health Services, who has long been concerned about pedestrian safety, is especially worried for Chinatown's many elderly residents. "We actually did a survey which indicated that a third of the pedestrians are seniors, and that 65 percent of pedestrians do not make it across the street before the lights change," she said. Last January, Hong Yee, father of Oakland attorney Alan Yee, died after being struck by a car at the corner of 8th Street and Webster Street.

Councilmember Danny Wan says a Draft Environmental Impact Report on the development by the city of Alameda's planning department fails to offer mitigation measures. "They identified three intersections that would be significantly impacted and basically said, 'That's life.'" Willie Yee, senior advisor to Councilmember Henry Chang and no relation to Hong Yee, said that if anything, the report undercounted traffic and failed to meet the California Environmental Quality Act. "They get all the benefits, and Oakland's flatlands and downtown suffer the consequences," he said.

Alameda Point Community Partners, the consortium of businesses the city awarded the rights to work on the proposed $2 billion project, has toyed with the idea of installing an aerial tramway to whisk commuters into the air over the Oakland Estuary, and deposit them at the West Oakland BART.

"We think that's just a fly on an elephant's ass," says Jennie Ong, executive director of the Oakland Chinatown Chamber of Commerce. Ong fears the additional traffic will devastate businesses in Chinatown, and she points out that it also will dump traffic into another minority community at the 29th street bridge: Fruitvale.

Development critics say part of the problem is that mass transit is not particularly viable in Alameda, due to the city's prohibition on building new housing with more than two units. "You can guess why they have a law like that," Wan mused. "I won't lay out any accusations, but no apartments and no multistory housing -- well, you know what that means."

With tensions running this high, officials in Alameda aren't exactly doing a lot to spread their side of the story. Alameda Planning Manager Cynthia Eliason did not return repeated calls from the Express made over a period of several weeks. And Debbie Potter, the manager of Alameda's Base Reuse and Redevelopment Authority, declined to comment on the issue because she said the environmental impact report was not within the purview of her agency.

So far, the city of Oakland and the Oakland Metropolitan Chamber of Commerce have lined up squarely behind Chinatown leaders. Wan and Chang brought the dilemma to the attention of the rest of the city council several weeks ago. The council unanimously agreed to pass a resolution expressing their deep opposition to the development, which they wish to see downsized. Anyone smell a lawsuit?

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