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Oaklanders & politics “Mix It Up” at monthly gig

on November 14, 2008


Nov. 14– Alongside whooping football fans glued to flat-screen TVs, and above the excited murmur of someone’s birthday party table, young Democrats crowded into Arsimona’s bar in downtown Oakland last night for a festive gathering of their own. One week and two days since voters named Barack Obama U.S. President-elect and Rebecca Kaplan Oakland city-councilwoman-elect, they had reason to ring up their bills with good cheer.

Among the crowd were spokespersons from the city attorney’s office, a recent graduate from Harvard’s Kennedy School of Public Policy, and a self-described investigative journalist who calls himself Critical Chris on The occasion was Mix It Up East Bay, a monthly event hosted by the East Bay Democrats, and of the 30-some in attendance, few shared the same reason for showing up.

“People have found jobs through Mix It Up, relationships through Mix It Up – it’s definitely an effective space,” Edie Irons, a founder of Mix It Up and member of the Alameda County Democratic Central Committee, said. “We know there are a lot of young people who care about progressive issues, but not necessarily engaged in local politics. Mix It Up was formed to bring all those people together and be a forum for local groups.”

This Thursday night was therefore also billed as a chance to reflect on the campaign–both the significant gains and the losses. Clutching their drinks and gesturing with their free hands, the young professionals in chat circles voiced their continued concerns about the economy – the seeming impossibility of ever being able to buy a home or afford their kids’ education– and the success of Proposition 8, a ballot initiative poised to change the constitution to eliminate same-sex marriage.

Quite a few attendees came to hear Echa Schneider, the woman behind the popular community blog, who spoke briefly as a featured guest of the event on the topic for the evening “the influence that traditional and new media have on local and national politics.” Schneider underscored the importance of local blogs—useful alternative news sources, she said, at a time when staff cuts are causing major area papers to abandon City Hall meetings.

Known to visitors of her blog as V Smoothe, Schneider repaired to the bar after her talk, carrying a notebook and wearing a braided-up hairdo, black formfitting wool separates and narrow glasses. Some were seeing Schneider in the flesh for the first time.

“I came to this event to hear Echa,” said Chris Kattenburg, a freelance reporter. “She’s basically the pre-eminent blogger for Oakland.”

Now nearly two years old, a attracts 3,000 readers a week, Schneider said, and includes posts on a broad range of Oakland issues from crime to development. Schneider said she began blogging a year and a half ago, when she said she could no longer find useful voices in local media outlets. The most popular posts on her site have been about the opening of the downtown Oakland restaurant Flora and the District 3 Community Development Block Grant Advisory Board elections.

Schneider is a registered Democrat, but professes to have no partisan bent when it comes to her blogging, which she does in her spare time between cooking part-time at Verbena at 11tha and Broadway and building learning platforms for San Jose State University. “I really want to make people more aware and engaged,” Schneider said. “I see so much unrealized potential in Oakland.”
Schneider said she was originally from Louisiana, then Texas, before she moved to Oakland seven years ago. She said she remembers when she decided to relocate: It was watching the sun go down, sitting on the banks of Lake Merritt.

She said she keeps abreast of all things Oakland by visiting a milieu of online blogs including, and She attends Oakland City Council meetings. However, she said she finds some of her best tidbits have come from cafes and bars like Arsimona’s, when she talks to residents face to face.

When asked what “A Better Oakland” might look like, Schneider said she would like to see is a stronger retail center, less trash and graffiti, and less crime. “I’d love to see an Oakland where people could feel safe,” she said. “Where teenagers can feel safe that they won’t be mistaken for a gangster and get shot.”

When she talks about Oakland, Schneider said she likes to quote a friend who once told her, “Oakland is like the worst house in the nicest street in the country.”

With an e-mailing list of over 700 addresses, “there’s a demand for this kind of forum,” Edie Irons said when the forum began to break at 9 p.m.

Lately, she has begun to think about the group’s next step. “We’ve created a very powerful community already just by bringing people together. I’d like to leverage that to get more action on all the issues we care about.”

The next Mix It Up will take place on Thursday, Dec. 11 at Arsimona’s Bar and Lounge at 561 11St. (above Le Cheval), from 6 to 9 p.m.||||||||||||||||||||||||


  1. dto510 on November 16, 2008 at 12:38 am

    I have to correct something: V was wearing wool separates, including a not-long-at-all pencil skirt, not a “formfitting long,cotton dress.” Otherwise, thanks for attending and writing this article.

  2. For your reading pleasure « Living in the O on November 17, 2008 at 9:29 pm

    […] you missed Mix It Up East Bay on Thursday, you can read all about it at Oakland North, including an interview with V […]

  3. Genie on November 18, 2008 at 1:53 am

    This was an interesting report on the event — I’ve been watching for one, since there were so many bloggers in attendance, and since, sadly, the speakers were nearly inaudible over the TVs and the other bar patrons in that acoustically challenging space. I wish there was a venue to which this worthy and really excellent event could relocate so we could all actually hear the speakers the organizers work so hard to attract.

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