North Berkeley Synagogue Plan Takes a Big Step Forward; Moses Mayne Wins District 6 

So, is there going to be a casino on the former Oakland Army Base or isn't there?

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Tuesday's special election was held to fill the seat formerly held by Nate Miley, who left the council in January to join the Alameda County Board of Supervisors. It was the first such election after Measure I, a ballot measure Oakland voters passed last autumn which required the council to fill midterm vacancies by special election, rather than through appointments. In response to earlier concerns that special elections are generally costly and ignored by most voters, the final draft of Measure I had included several mechanisms designed to boost voter turnout; those put into place for Tuesday's election included the advent of touch-screen voting as well as the addition of a weeklong "early voting" period that allowed residents to cast ballots at several different sites. Did it work? Slightly over 20 percent of the district's registered voters turned out to vote--a relatively high percentage--although only about 400 residents took advantage of the early voting period. Still, it's not too shabby for a special election that fell right on the heels of the Florida fiasco--let's just hope Ward Allen doesn't claim that some of her supporters accidentaly voted for Pat Buchanan.


If you thought tax day was hard, imagine what it was like for those who work down at the local post office. Not only did mail sorters and carriers have all those thick envelopes and frazzled customers to deal with, they were still reeling from a hard-hitting management campaign to improve productivity, according to one Berkeley Post Office employee. The fed-up mail carrier, who asked to remain anonymous, forwarded us a list of "Poor Work Habits" that was allegedly handed out at the office, and we must say that any number of these complaints about employee work habits come off sounding rather petty. Our favorites include: "Wandering Around," "Going to Swing Room, Etc., for Coffee, Soft Drink, Etc.," and "Wasted Motion." But far be it for us to tell the post office how to do its job.


So is the plan to build a casino at the former Oakland Army Base dead or not? The answer is as mysterious as the talks City Manager Robert Bobb has reportedly been having with as many as seven Indian tribes about the idea. At least the city's attempt to receive the parcel of land from the Army is on track: Earlier this month, the Oakland Base Reuse Authority (OBRA) voted to submit its plans for the reuse of half of the base to the Army, deciding on a flexible alternative that includes office space, high-end retail, a convention center, and a hotel as well as space for the Oakland Produce Market and a public park. The other half is to be utilized by the Port of Oakland.

In the past, OBRA plans have hit serious snags. The group had to rethink its plans last year when the San Francisco Bay Conservation and Development Commission (BCDC), the entity that oversees all things waterfront in the Bay Area, ruled that the entire base had to be devoted to Port of Oakland uses. After some impassioned pleas from Mayor Jerry Brown, among others, BCDC changed its mind and allowed Oakland to go ahead with its plans to develop half of the base--but only if the base switched parcels with the Port of Oakland. That meant that OBRA had to stop its work of six years and start over again, now with the other parcel of land in mind.

The plans that OBRA submitted to the Army don't include a casino--but they don't preclude the idea, either. The plans are basically an indication of what Oakland is going to do with the base once the military transfers ownership--a vague outline for the Army's benefit. The actual developments are going to be approved later by the Oakland Redevelopment Agency (ORA), once the city takes ownership of the land, which is expected to happen in Spring 2002.

In order for a casino to be approved, it would need to be discussed in an addition to the Environmental Impact Report prepared for the base, and then get an approval by ORA. But the casino is definitely not at the top of the list for the West Oakland Community Advisory Group (WOCAG), which advises OBRA from the community's point of view. The advisory group submitted its own plan of how the base should be used, a plan that included elements mostly absent in the final reuse plan--including a guarantee that the World War II administration building on the site be retained as a monument to the former use of the base. Advisory group member Ellen Wyrick Patterson jokingly suggested a tradeoff to the OBRA members as they packed up to leave the meeting, having already voted on the future of the base. "If you give me the administration building," she cried out to OBRA member and City Council president Ignacio De La Fuente, who by that time had hid his face in his hands, "I'll give you the casino! Won't we have a good time--it will be a real Fantasy Island!" Maybe Patterson has hit on the one way to save both--how about a casino in the administration building?


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