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No need to trash the place

We’re lucky around here when it comes to convenient recycling and the resources go far beyond the weekly home recycling. We just need to know where to take the items that don’t belong in our bins at home.

For example, we know what to do about those plastic grocery bags — just take them back to the store and put them into the containers the stores provide and they’ll be recycled. But what do you do about those plastic rings that hold six-packs of sodas and beers or the plastic packaging for paper towels, toilet tissue, greeting cards, dry cleaning and other things that come steadily into our homes?

There is a place about 10 minutes from Alameda called Super Link Plastic that will take them. Super Link is located at 888 92nd Ave. in Oakland.

An even closer recycling facility called Universal Waste Management, Inc., at 721 37th Ave. in Oakland, near Home Depot, is a great spot to drop off, at no charge, all things computer. They accept monitors computers, home-office electronics, TVs and even cell phones.

There are facilities not far from Alameda (and some in Alameda) that recycle more items than most of us probably ever considered, from including non-working appliances, art materials, cd’s, videotapes, DVDs, records, brick, porcelain, batteries, empty propane bottles, bicycles, carpet and padding, polyurethane foam, buckets and barrels, building materials and construction debris, fabric remnants, fluorescent lamps, eyeglasses, hearing aids, windows and medications.

And that is only part of the list.

The more we know about these facilities the more we contribute to a healthier Earth. According to StopWaste.Org, in 1990 recycling diverted 12 percent of waste from Alameda County landfills. By 2006 that diversion rose to 61 percent, equaling 2.3 million tons of trash that went to better uses than sitting under a pile of dirt. The goal is to reach 75 percent by 2010.

For a free recycling guide, go to www.stopwaste.org/home/index.asp, or drop by 2307 B Blanding Ave. (and bring your dead batteries and fluorescent bulbs to recycle).  It’s eye-opening and refreshing to learn how many items need not end up in the trash can, particularly when it takes so long for trash to decompose (and some never decomposes completely).

Longtime residents will remember Alameda’s own trash dump. It’s now a pleasant small hill where bicyclists, runners and walkers can enjoy a little exercise and a nice view. We used to call it Mt. Trashmore, that hill (possibly the only hill in town) perched near the Bay Farm Island Bridge. We don’t need it anymore and with just a little bit of knowledge and an occasional trip to our recycling facilities, the time may come when trash dumps contain nothing but organic materials that feed, rather than just fill, the land.

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New dog-gone service

I received a recorded phone call last week about a lost pooch in my neighborhood. The message included the name, breed and appearance of the dog, the owner’s name and phone number and a reference to this Web site: www.lostmydoggie.com/.  (Sorry it’s not a live link, the link button needs a tuneup today.)

Turns out the site (for a fee) broadcasts phone calls through varying distances and puts the word out for pets besides dogs. Seems like a good business idea to me. I’ve got my eyes out for a cockapoo and have saved the phone message in hopes of calling the owner with happy news. If your beloved Buttons or Bowser is missing, check out the site’s services.

By the way, you can see a picture of the dog and get details at www.theislandofalameda.com.

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Read the city budget online

It’s big and bulky and requires patience, but the city’s budget plan is available online. Dash those fun-filled conspiracy theories that are so alluring to toss around and take a look at the real thing. Undoubtedly, the plan by now has some changes, since it was written a year ago and, well, you know how things have changed since then. The council will hold a special budget meeting Monday night at 7 p.m. Whether it will vote on it will be determined then.

OK, here is the link. Be patient. It takes two or three minutes to load the big guy.

www.ci.alameda.ca.us/finance/pdf/Budget_and_Fiscal_Plan_2008-2010.pdf

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Think twice about this weekend’s road trip

Long delays on I-80 this weekend

Monstrous delays are expected on Interstate 80 this weekend, as road construction and Reno’s Hot August Nights celebration could combine for a very slow drive into the Sierra mountains. Read this.

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Make books into art at free library session with artist

Artist Esperanza Surls made this book into a timely work of art.

Artist Esperanza Surls made this book into a timely work of art.

This looks like fun.

Spend an evening with artist Esperanza Surls cutting, folding, finding, painting and transforming a library discard into a work of art. Materials for images and collages will be provided or you can bring your own. Wednesday, Aug. 5, from 6 – 8 p.m. at the Main Branch of the Alameda Library at Oak Street. Registration is required in advance. Call 747-7713 or check in with the reference desk.

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More reasons to stick around town

Just a note of caution. If you’re going to have dinner out in Oakland, it’s going to cost more. Not for the food, but for the parking. Parking meter and parking pay station hours have been extended to 8 p.m. This was put into place along with an increase in the parking rates. Things really are tough all over. Let’s hope the same doesn’t happen in Alameda.

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Hey, that’s our money you’re spending

Some bad news bears repeating. With multi-media headlines vying for attention 24 hours a day, it’s easy for important stories to lose their punch, even those that directly affect your wallet.

Bay Area News Group reporters Matt Krupnick’s and Thomas Peele’s July 11 stories about Peralta Community College Chancellor Elihu Harris and other district leaders need to remain fresh in our minds. (For the full stories go to www.insidebayarea.com/elihuharris).

Peralta raises at odds with district rules

According to Krupnick and Peele, Harris “violated Peralta Community College District policies when he unilaterally approved raises for dozens of managers throughout the course of several months, according to district trustees and documents.”

Raises are supposed to be approved by district trustees, but Krupnick and Peele report, “beginning last year Harris handed out pay hikes of up to 16 percent for 57 top administrators, two of whom received two raises within six months. Trustees, who learned about the raises after fact, said they were upset about the policy violation but would not punish Harris or roll back the salaries.”

While the managers were enjoying their fattened paychecks, other employees were steeling themselves to make it through proposed furloughs and pay cuts.

Thuy Thi Nguyen is general counsel for the Peralta district. She and Harris are longtime acquaintances. When Harris was mayor of Oakland and Nguyen was freshly graduated from high school, Harris proclaimed June 23, 1993 “Thuy Thi Nguyen Day” for her contributions to the community.

Within about a year’s time, Nguyen former income of $148,000 bumped up to$165,000.

And Alton Jelks, Harris’ special assistant, has gained $20,000 for a current salary of $145,000, a raise in two installments in six months’ time. Jelks also worked in the mayor’s office when Harris was in City Hall.

The reporters state that Harris has declined numerous requests for interviews within the past three months. And Nguyen declined to answer questions, citing attorney-client privilege and professional ethics.

Several trustees said they were upset the chancellor had granted the raises without first bringing them to the board, especially since Nguyen, as district counsel, is supposed to make sure Peralta leaders follow laws and regulations. Board President Bill Withrow said he did not know about Nguyen’s second raise until the reporters asked him about it .

Trustees decided this year — without telling the public, as the state open-meeting law requires — to keep the manager raises in place and not to admonish Harris publicly.

At Peralta, lavish spending is routine

“Leaders of the Peralta Community College District have spent thousands of tax dollars on lavish hotels, East Coast trips and even clothing in the past 18 months.”

The reporters reviewed district records that showed some trustees — and Harris — broke the district’s rules on travel and related expenses, which require travel is preapproved at the “lowest possible cost.”

But Harris last year opted instead for more tony lodging options, and traded in his preapproved option for a Yosemite Lodge room ($140 – $170 per night) for a room at the Ahwanhee Hotel ($340 per night) during a conference for educational leaders.

A few weeks later, Harris’ wife, with a plane ticket purchased on a Peralta card, accompanied her husband to conference in Florida. The airfare was refunded more than a year later, after the Bay Area News Group questioned the $240 charge.

Counsel for the district censored the bills so that the reporters could not get information on exactly what trustees were buying with the cards. The story states that Trustee Marcie Hodge spent more than $4,460 in personal expenses since January 2008. Hodge has repaid the money, often citing using the Peralta card by mistake.

If you can read the full stories, please take the time. These seemingly nickel and dime violations aren’t just bad for the budget, they’re also signs of how little respect there is for the public, which subsidizes community colleges. Any conduct that raises red flags should lead to a vigorous review and re-evaluation of the district’s leaders.

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Alameda real estate gaining assessment value

Alameda houses growing in assessed value.

Alameda houses growing in assessed value.

“Alameda, Piedmont, Albany, Berkeley, Emeryville, Lafayette, Moraga and Orinda have all seen their assessed property values increase, albeit slightly, according to data from the Alameda and Contra Costa counties’ assessors’ offices.”

Remember good news? It seems it may not have left the planet after all, at least in terms of property value. Check out this story from the Alameda Journal.

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10 minutes later, the curb wanted more

This empty MSG (monosodium glutamate) barrel was placed on the sidewalk near Park Street and Santa Clara Avenue, near a Chinese restaurant. This stuff has taken a public beating, reputation-wise, and maybe, like any so-called “flavor enhancer” it’s not necessarily nutritious, but according to Web MD, it’s also not the food demon that people have been led to believe. Check out this.

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Crosstown “wake” set for Friday

This announcement about a “wake” planned for Friday to commemorate Crosstown Community Center (AKA Crosstown Coffeehouse) was submitted by one of Crosstown’s fans, Rick Dougherty. Friday will be the center’s last day of operation, unless it can find an affordable location to move to. The wake will be an opportunity for folks to pay their respects to a center that grew from a grassroots movement for a venue where open mike nights, socializing and relaxing were open to all ages. Come, hear the music play.

“On Friday, July 24th there will be a wake held for the closing of Crosstown Coffee on Alameda Island. All are invited for this final farewell.

The doors will be open all day as usual, so you can stop by any time. Please bring a flower, wreath, candle, or ribbon for the tribute. People planning to come after 6:00 pm are asked to bring a dessert for an impromptu potluck. The Circle R Boys will be performing with other musicians dropping in.

Crosstown Coffee served as a community center for the east end of Alameda Island, supporting musicians and artists and providing a place where mothers with young children, teens and business men could all meet and mingle. It became a focal point for many activities, including raising over $2000 for the local elementary school by providing free coffee for the PTA to sell before school.

Crosstown Coffee is located at 1303 High Street, Alameda, CA 94501 on the corner of High and Encinal. BUT… the High Street Bridge is closed until 6:00 pm each day for repairs. So use the Park Street, Fruitvale or Bay Farm Island bridges to get onto Alameda.”