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Alameda Fire Chief Dave Kapler station on impact of cuts

I met with the Alameda’s Fire Chief Dave Kapler this morning to ask him the question that I think is probably on most Alamedans’ minds: “What do fire station ‘brown outs’ mean for us when we call in an emergency?”

Kapler gave me some stats, comparing response time in 2008 to response time in 2009 since brown outs began. (His stats are from before last week when the department changed the vehicle slated to be closed when staffing levels drop below 27 because of illness or vacation from a Bay Farm ambulance to the engine at station five, the western-most Island station.)

In 2008, the average time in took both vehicles (staffed by five firefighters/paramedics) to be at the scene of an emergency was Continue Reading

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Helicopters over Alameda in the wee hours

This time it has to do with two closed lanes on 880 near High Street and maybe ?? the memorial later today at the Coliseum for the four Oakland police officers slain last week.

At 5:30 a.m., 5:50 a.m. 6:45 a.m. the helicopter noise goes on!

Apparently, there has been some effort made to curtail the low-flying, noise-making beasts over Oakland and Alameda. But, according to this article by Angela Woodall, not much progress has been made. From Woodall, here’s the lay of the land which allows the disruptive noise to persist:

...The majority of all complaints the FAA receives are about noise. But the agency only handles air-safety-related complaints, not grievances about noise. Those should go to the municipality, FAA officials said.

But Councilmember Nancy Nadel (Downtown-West Oakland) said air-traffic noise complaints cannot be handled by the city.

Oh well, no one can enforce any regulations. But we can ask:

Nadel said she met last year with pilots from all the major Bay Area news stations, FAA official David Smith, a staff member from the office of Rep. Barbara Lee, D-Oakland, because helicopters were more prevalent than usual in West Oakland in the aftermath of the MacArthur Maze collapse.

Nadel said the pilots pledged to try to be sensitive within the constraints of being forced to fly low by air traffic controllers to facilitate airplane traffic and their news directors’ orders to get the precise shot they need at the precise moment they ask for it, which can require them to hover for 15 minutes or longer.

Basically, we here on the ground are at the mercy of some newsdirector’s ‘need’ for a particular shot. But, this morning, we already know two lanes are closed on 880, and we know there’s going to be a memorial later. Do we need to hover for hours? Perhaps the reporting dollars might be better spent on the ground investigating the Oakland social and political forces that led some people to celebrate as a hero the man who killed the four police officers last week. Perhaps that is a more important story than the lanes closed this on 880 due to a construction this morning?

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Michele Ellson of The Island makes news

If you haven’t been reading Michele Ellson’s The Island, you should be. She’s putting out a great deal of news—all focused on Alameda. This write up at Idea Lab (a media blog) shows she’s making news off-island as well as reporting on-island. In the interview, Ellson, a former print reporter, explains why she launched The Island:

I started covering local news for two reasons. One is practical: With two small kids at home, it’s what I can do. But another is that local news really isn’t being covered well by papers right now. Their resources are shrinking, and with papers becoming more corporate, I think the focus on being local and having a commitment to a local community sometimes is not there.

Ellson made this observation about her new role:

I’ve found covering local news to be a lot more challenging than I expected, and in some respects a little more challenging than covering an issue beat.

For one, you have to be able to speak intelligently on everything from education policy to municipal finance to, in my case, environmental cleanup issues. And people are so invested in these local issues they aren’t shy about letting you know when they think you’ve messed up — in the most personal and derogatory terms possible, I might add.

The whole interview is here.

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Tentative ruling in Alameda school parcel tax lawsuit

An Alameda County judge has issued a tentative ruling today in Borikas v. Alameda Unified School District, the suit filed last fall against Measure H.

Measure H is the parcel tax that passed last June with the support of more than two-thirds of Alameda voters. The tentative ruling in Borikas is good news for the school district, with the judge tentatively finding that Measure H applies uniformly and therefore does not violate Cal. Government Code section 50079, which requires that school parcel taxes apply uniformly to all taxpayers or all real property within the school district. The court will hear argument on the tentative ruling on Tuesday, March 17.

More info about the lawsuits against Measure H here and here.

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Alameda’s John Beery involved in another lawsuit

Local property owner John Beery (who is suing the Alameda Unified School District over Measure H, the school parcel tax passed last June) is in the news with another lawsuit. This one against the City of Alameda over a lease dispute on a west end property. Michele Ellson of The Island has a report.

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Fall upon me: Alameda real estate update

Local agent Pacita Dimacali made this observation on a recent blog post, My heart truly bleeds for…

NEWSFLASH…[T]here are 131 homes actively offered for sale in my island city of Alameda, CA. Of these, 22 are short sales, and 7 are bank-owned. All in all, 29 homes or 22% of total. And more are coming up.

For a different sort of take on local real estate, there’s Knife Catchers, which has been tracking, with seeming glee, many properties in Alameda. And 94501 Real Estate has a recent update on February sales.

When you’re up with insomnia (or a baby) and tired of Facebook, you can always track the slide of local home values on Zillow.

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Orinda passes $502 permanent parcel tax

While many here in Alameda like to blame fiscal mismanagement, administrator pay, unions, or you name if for the financial challenges facing the Alameda Unified School District, other communities are stepping up and funding their schools as the dollars provided by the State of California continue to fall short of what a community actually requires to provide a meaningful education for a community’s schools. Orinda’s parcel tax passed with 70 percent of the voters saying yes.

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Very exciting Alameda City Council Show last night

Luckily, even though I started watching the show late (a bit after 10 p.m.) and stopped when council took a five minute break at 11:30 p.m. (they finally adjourned at 12:16 a.m.), I still got to catch some action.

The owners of 1150 Bay Street—Gold Coast!—have planned an extensive and what sounds like tasteful and green-friendly update of their home, with the aim to restore many of the original elements of the poorly-maintained house. The problem? They wanted to build a porch on the front. And the problem with that? Not actually anything, legally speaking: the proposed porch is well within the 20-foot required set back in the City of Alameda. The problem, then? Continue Reading

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Otis third grader unable to return to adoptive family in Alameda

A bit ago, two Alamedan parents and their son brought a little girl into their family. From their website, here’s how it began:

Tsering Dolker Gurung was rescued from the Upper Dolpo region of Nepal by a Monk “Lama Tenzin” when she was six years old…Our family Tricia Parrish, Philip Kaake and Emmett Kaake, was inspired by Lama’s mission and wanted to help. We started sponsoring Dolker at CED (Lama Tenzin’s orphanage) and decided to extend our mission to adopting her. As her sponsors, we brought her to the United States in July of 2008.

Recently, the family went to Nepal to finalize the adoption. But they were unable to bring Dolker back to Alameda.

Dolker had been in our community for 6 months when the entire family traveled to Nepal to finalize the adoption. Unfortunately, Nepal is a politically unstable country and is in the process of writing new adoption laws. The adoption could not be completed and Dolker had to be left in Nepal.

You can see pictures and video, and read more about the story—including a piece Dolker wrote for her third grade class at Otis Elementary School—on the family’s website, Bring Dolker Home.