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Presentation on Light Brown Apple Moth at tomorrow’s Alameda City Council meeting

At tomorrow night’s city council meeting, representatives from California’s Department of Food and Agriculture will present their plans to control the spread of the Light Brown Apple Moth—a plan which includes the aerial spraying of synthetic pheromones three to five nights a month for five years. I wrote about the moth a couple weeks ago, and you can read that post here.

The moth item is high on the agenda, so it should be addressed pretty early. And you can always watch on cable from the comfort of your own home.

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Rising sea levels and development

Both Lauren Do and Michele Ellson posted this morning about rising sea levels and their impact on Alameda: Just what will be under water here as the ocean rises? A few months back, my presciently helpful research assistant sent email on this topic to Continue Reading

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Just in: Video of car in Alameda-Oakland Estuary

Indeed, it is not each and every day that a car lands in the Alameda-Oakland Estuary. Here’s some video of the car and the Alameda Avenue homeowner under whose house the car is lodged. (The house is on the Oakland side of the estuary, just east of the Fruitvale Bridge.) My best guess is, come high tide, they’ll tow that car out.

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Car in the Alameda-Oakland Estuary, driver safe

The early morning helicopters above Alameda were not, it turns out, because students were protesting budget cuts and not because of an accident on 880, but, rather, they were the news copters chasing down shots of a car in the estuary. A woman apparently drove off the road in Oakland near the Fruitvale Bridge around five this morning.

I went over to take some pictures (see below), and one of the camera guys—several networks were there—showed me Continue Reading

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Save the music in Alameda

savethemusicEver since music was axed from grades one, two and three in the last round of Alameda Unified budget cuts, parents at Bay Farm Elementary have been working hard to raise enough money—about $200,000—to fund those elementary music classes district wide.

So far Bay Farm parents and their PTA have raised a total of $10,375 (which includes the 1,210 rolls of coins pictured left) as well as cash and check donations of $7,300.

There’ll be a SAVE THE MUSIC benefit concert on May 2 at Kofman and other schools are working on fund raisers as well. Bay Farm parent of two Lorri Garrett:

It’s no use saving music for just our school if we don’t save it for the whole district. We’re unified with the district. We have a strong fund raising community at Bay Farm, and we want to save music for the district. We are motivated and together we can do it.

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This Week’s Alamedan: Laurie Wagner

lauriewagnerLived in Alameda: Since 1995
Age: 47
Originally from: Los Angeles
Occupation: Writer (published books on marriage and motherhood) and writing teacher (teaches at Writers.com and “Wild Writing” out of her home)
Family: Husband, Mark Wagner, artist; Children, Ruby, 12, and Zoe, 10
Activities: Racquetball, speed walking with girlfriends, “Tiki at Tiki

Why Alameda?
We were living across the High Street bridge in the Vulcan Foundry, which had been turned into artist studios. We’d cross the bridge to Alameda to shop and to run. We loved the trees here, how they changed seasons so beautifully. When I got pregnant in 1994 we knew we had to move because the parking lot where we lived was littered with needles and condoms from the local nightlife. One day my husband told me that he’d found us a house in Alameda. We rented it for a few years and then we bought it.

Like best about Alameda?
I like being a member of the Farmstead wine club because I don’t know much about wine and so I feel like a little connoisseur when I pick up my monthly allotment. I like Penny the dressmaker because she turns things around really fast and she’s nice, a little like a mother. I like Nick and his crew at Books Inc. because they all read and their selection of books is really interesting. I like that we have real friends here, people who will take our kids if we want to go on an overnight and who take our dog when we go out of town.

Would like to change about Alameda?
I’d like to see more trees on streets like Lincoln. I’d add more groovy places to buy clothes. Whole Foods.

Word to the wise
If you’re considering remodeling your home, make sure you have an appetite for lots of beans and rice, which you will be eating for a long time, at least until you pay back your loans.

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Spray Alameda? Spray the light brown apple moth?

As you may have already heard, the state of California plans to spray up and down the coast three to five nights a month for five years to eradicate the light brown apple moth, a newcomer from Australia. Hundreds of people in the Santa Cruz area, where spraying began last fall, reported respiratory problems. Legislation has been introduced to stop the plan and some towns like Albany (here’s a recent Contra Costa Times editorial by Albany Mayor Robert Lieber) are resisting. Our Alameda is in the area slated to be sprayed.

Not knowing much about moths, I called Dr. Jerry Powell the Berkeley entomologist who found the first light brown apple moth in his backyard blacklight trap in July of 2006. While Powell graciously declined to weigh in on the value of spraying–”insect control is not my field,” he said—he did point out that science does not indicate with any certainty that the apple moth (which he describes as “small, drab and maybe about a centimeter long”) will necessarily become a huge problem: “I think the crux of the matter is that the USDA classifies it as a potential pest and there’s a budget to keep it from spreading.”

What I found most interesting about my conversation with Powell—aside from the fact that it’s not every day I get to chat with people who’ve made a career studying insects (there’s a heck of a lot more of you tech people out there)—was that he made it quite clear there’s no way to predict how and where the apple moth might establish itself:

There is precedent for new moths coming in and not spreading elsewhere along the coast. There’s also a couple of examples of ones that have come in and spread. And there’s one that was in Southern California on the coast for 50 years and then suddenly began to spread inland. You certainly can’t predict what’s going to happen based on other species. It’s sort of anyone’s guess what would happen if you did not spray.

To be clear, the plan does not call for spraying pesticide, but rather synthetic moth pheromones designed to confuse the male moths and interrupt their breeding patterns. Powell:

It’s a kind of like a dust. They call it spray, but it’s a dust made of tiny plastic flakes on which the synthetic pheromone is affixed. And the way that kind of treatment works—or they hope it works—is that it causes so much confusion on the part of the males that they can ‘t find females. The hope is that it leaves a lot or most of the females unmated.

Call me crazy conservative, but I’d like to know, one, that these moths really, really are going to be a big problem if left unsprayed and, two, that the little plastic flecks with pheromones (as well as the other ‘inert’ ingredients included in the product) really, really don’t harm people.

For more information—-you must be curious now? The Pesticide Action Network has a pretty extensive description of the issue, including a timeline of moth-control related events and some background on aerial spraying and pheromones.

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This Week’s Alamedan: Dawna Dowdell

dawnaLived in Alameda: Since 1993
Age: 45
Occupation: Personal Banking Officer, Bank of Alameda
Pets: Two cats, Scooter and Fatters
Activities: Volunteer for the Alameda Police Department’s VIP program; Avon Walk for Breast Cancer volunteer crew; American Cancer Society Relay for Life volunteer crew; member, Bayview Women’s Club; President-elect Alameda Kiwanis Club

Like best about Alameda?

I like the small-town community feel. I love all the restaurants in the downtown area and on Webster Street, too. I love eating! I love that you can walk to anything in Alameda, and that people are really involved in the community here.

Would like to change about Alameda?
Some of the small-minded mentality—that Alameda should always stay a certain way. We all need to grow; everything needs to grow and change. For a city to succeed, it needs to change. I’m glad that the parking structure is there. I think it’s a good thing for downtown and a good thing for Alameda.

Word to the wise
Alameda isn’t as racist as everyone thinks it is. It’s not. It’s what you make of it. I’m comfortable wherever I go, and I want people to be comfortable wherever they go. I want people to know it’s OK to talk about things—whether it’s the war or cancer or race. It’s OK to have an opinion and for people to have different opinions.

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Pictures of school protests in Alameda

In case you missed it, yesterday afternoon many of Alameda’s main streets were lined with protesters in trash cans drawing attention to some to the features of public education—arts, music, athletics, counselors, clerical staff, ‘children’s futures’—that are, by way of catchy slogan, ‘too valuable to throw away.’ The protest was an upbeat, cheerful affair, drawing lots of yells and honks of support.

Pictured below in trash cans are Edison Elementary students Liam John with Tyler and Julia Kennedy as well as Alameda High teacher, Rob Siltanen. There’s also a shot of trash cans/protesters from the kickoff rally held on the steps outside AUSD’s district offices.

Some of the younger students in trash cans report learning this lesson: if you drop your sign and lean over to get it without someone else anchoring the trash can, you will fall on your head.
LiamJuliaTylerrobsiltanen

rally for schools

[Ed. note: The California Progress Report has a nice piece (with lots of pictures) on yesterday's protest.]