Alameda shopping: On- or off- Island?

This week’s Life on the Island, the column I write for the Alameda Journal, is about last week’s Alameda City Council decision to let the plans for an Orchard Supply Hardware at Towne Centre continue. I know there’s not universal support for the store because many who opposed it went before City Council to make their case, but many Alamedans I’ve talked to over the years are eager for more local shopping options, even if they’re not locally owned. What’s most interesting to me in the instance of the OSH, is that we’re not talking about new development. We’re talking about a filling an existing building in an existing shopping center.


Another “NO!” re leaf blowers in Alameda

I was glad to see Alameda Sun columnist Noelle Robbins had a piece this week on the negatives of leaf blowers. As I have said on the same topic, “It’s time for Alameda to explicitly ban the beasts. It’ll be better for our peaceful small town, better for our air and, not the least, better for the people who wield them, forced to endure the noise and breathe the particles all day long.” Robbins had these stats about much air pollution leaf blowers create:

According to the California EPA Air Quality Resources Board, each leaf-blower engine, although seemingly tiny, churns out the equivalent of the same smoggy pollution as 80 cars, each driven for 12,500 miles every year. In fact, all small-engine yard machines, including lawn mowers, weed trimmers and leaf-blowers, contribute five percent of all our air pollution annually. And with the lack of emission controls on these devices, that consists of carbon dioxide, nitrogen oxide and volatile organic compounds, all the components of global warming chemicals.

And this on the noise they create:

Leaf-blowers are also responsible for noise pollution, a type of infringement on our senses that can have serious negative health impacts. A normal decibel level, considered acceptable in residential areas, is about 60 decibels (60dB). Every increase in decibels means noise that is 10 times louder. Leaf-blowers usually generate about 70-75 dB. According to the U.S. EPA this level of noise actually degrades quality of life by interfering with communication and sleep, leads to reduced accuracy of work and increased levels of aggravation, which can linger hours after exposure.

Maybe now with Alameda’s Community Action for a Sustainable Alameda in business we can get these things banned in Alameda. Some times goals converge: you can do right by the long-term health of the planet and your own immediate comfort in one fell swoop.


Alameda Point Development, what now?

If you’re like me, you have a hard time getting your mind around development at the the former Naval weapons station. How many years has it been since the Navy left? And how is it that price tag for the property went from $1 to over a $100 million dollars? Confusing. Michele Ellson, writing in today’s Alameda Journal, has a good article about the development plan just submitted to the city by SunCal Companies, the current chosen developer. For more info on the plan, Lauren Do has this post, and this one, too. For all Lauren’s Point-related posts, go here.


Hey, Alameda, check out video re the federal financial/campaign mess

What with all the craziness on the federal level—Bush asked for what amounts to a $700,000,000,000 blank check to bail out our major financial institutions—I think it’s worth dedicating some blog space here to the situation. Here’s CNN’s Campbell Brown:

But for real fun, here’s David Letterman, all fired up that McCain called in his last-minute regrets for a guest appearance on Wednesday’s Late Show. Letterman said in part (reacting to McCain’s ‘suspension’ of his campaign because of the financial crisis), “This doesn’t smell right. This isn’t the way a tested hero behaves.” Watch all of Letterman’s comments on McCain here:


This week’s “Life on the Island”

The column I write for the Tuesday edition of the Alameda Journal is up online already. The headline: We’re not on the school yard anymore. Many of my past columns are still online as well. Oh! And here’s a link to last week’s “Life on the Island,” Alameda mom clean and sober for 14 years, which I wrote in recognition of National Recovery month, which is September. I am grateful for “Diane”‘s willingness to tell me her story.


State budget leaves Alameda schools in the lurch

The new California state budget lowballs the cost of living increase for schools (anyone notice the rising cost of almost everything these days?). Superintendent of Public Instruction Jack O’Connell issued this statement about the budget’s funding for education:

[It] includes a reduction of the cost-of-living adjustment that will further tighten the vise on local school budgets as districts across the state face increased costs for supplies, food, transportation and employee health care costs. These reductions are a disservice to California’s 6 million school children and the thousands of educators across the state.

Read all of Contra Costa Times reporter Kimberly Wetzel’s story on the budget and education here. As for blame? George Skelton has this piece in the Los Angeles Times: Blame all the players for a gimmicky budget.


Alameda real estate not immune from national crisis

With the federal government in the midst of hashing out the details of a massive rescue of country’s largest financial institutions, the news on the local front, in terms of falling home values and foreclosures, is bleak, too. In her September 11 blog post, real estate agent Pacita Dimacali, calculated that 14 percent of the 166 homes on the market in Alameda are either short sales (when they’re selling for less than is owed) or ‘bank owned.” Scary. And for always-edgy take on the local housing market, check out Knife Catchers, a blog dedicated to Alameda real estate. Anyone willing to talk about their home ownership problems with me, please send me an email, I’d like to hear your story. Anonymous is fine.


Hey, Alameda, maybe the state budget crisis is our fault

Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger says he will veto the budget compromise worked out over the weekend by California’s legislators. And it sounds like the lawmakers are poised try to override his veto. What a mess! Mercury News columnist Patty Fisher has a piece today, Who’s really to blame for the budget mess? Who do you think she points the finger at? Dems? Repubs? Gov. Schwarzenegger? Nope. She says it’s you and me, citizens of this democracy. The ones who voted for term limits, Prop. 13, the law that requires a budget to be passed by two-thirds of legislators…the ones to passed all kinds of propositions requiring spending on this and that, but without setting up the funding to support them. It’s you and me, baby.


Alameda OSH looking more likely

I was over at Pagano’s this morning (did you know they now carry Benjamin Moore paint?) and talking to Pat, who is always helpful, and who was mixing up a white for my basement ceiling. We were talking about the Orchard Supply Hardware that it looks like we may soon have in South Shore/Alameda Towne Centre (the City Council voted last night, 4-1, to deny an appeal that sought to keep them out.) I am a local business loyalist and, even before I gave up my car, I made every effort to shop locally. But with local shopping, comes a need for more local options. Do you know that most retail dollars spent by Alamedans are spent off-island? Do you know that sales tax dollars are an essential line item in the city’s budget? In any case, I of course don’t want Pat to lose her job, or business at Pagano’s to drop, or Encinal Hardare to suffer—and I will continue to frequent those stores because, let’s face it, the service is great. But if we’re going to boost coffers we need to get more folks shopping in-town, and more options are not a bad thing.


California state budget? We shall see.

California legislators—yours and mine—passed a state budget this morning that will close the budget gap without, get this, raising taxes or cutting services much. How do they do this? Through a series of accounting tricks. Such as this one: counting revenue expected in the next fiscal year as coming this year. Another? They’ll be boosting tax withholdings for workers—even though the money will be refunded later in the year. In sum, it’s no long-term solution, just a game of smoke and mirrors. “They basically punted the ball down the field,” Mike Herald of the Western Center on Law and Poverty told the Contra Costa Times, “and delayed all the pain and anxiety until next year rather than deal with it now.” And, in any case, Republican Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger has threatened to veto the plan…so I wouldn’t say we’re quite there yet. As the details emerge over the next couple of days and weeks we’ll be able to get a clearer sense of how it will impact Alameda.