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Small group gathers to consider council recall

on October 1, 2009

A small group of local business owners and Oakland residents gathered at the Grand Lake Theater last week to discuss what to do in response to the September 22nd city council meeting, where the July 1st parking measures were kept intact.

The meeting’s host was Allen Michaan, who owns the Grand Lake Theater and leads a group against the parking measures under the slogan “rescind or recall.” Michaan began the meeting by initiating a discussion to determine which council members the group would attempt to recall.

Although attendees had varying opinions, the consensus became to target the three council members who abstained from a vote to take immediate action to roll back parking meter hours at last week’s city council meeting: These were District 3 Councilmember Nancy Nadel, District 6 Councilmember Desley Brooks and At-Large Councilmember Rebecca Kaplan. They also plan to recall District 5 Councilmember Ignacio de la Fuente, who did not attend the meeting and who could have cast the deciding vote, many believe, had he attended.

Michaan’s desire to recall councilmembers is no secret. In fact, his current marquee reads, “Shame on the City Council for the Damage their Parking Racket is Inflicting in Oakland. Recall?” Michaan had done his homework and brought a packet to the meeting that outlines exactly how to recall an elected official.

“We’re here because we care about what’s right for Oakland,” Michaan said. “The council is doing what is expedient for the budget, but they’re chasing our customers away. We’re trying to save the city from irresponsible leadership.”

The group also made plans to introduce two ballot initiatives to the June 2010 election. One will let voters decide to make Oakland a meter-free city, in which parking spaces still have time limits but patrons do not have to pay to use them.

Peter Brady, a former Oakland small-business owner, said he recently went out of business in large part due to the increase in parking meter rates and hours. “This put the final nail in the coffin,” he said.

The group’s other initiative would change the number of city council seats from eight to five and recommend that the city outlaw the seven districts that currently exist. Instead, the initiative proposes each councilmember would have to be elected at-large by the entire city.

The city council will take the parking issue up again when it meets next Tuesday, October 6th, at 6 p.m. at City Hall.


  1. G on October 1, 2009 at 12:23 am

    I support Allen’s activism. No doubt, the rest of Oakland can use some. However, turning a parking issue into a larger political issue like council member size, voter procedure, may kill Allen’s overall goals.

    Allen – KISS. Keep It Simple Stupid. Start with parking to show real people power. And then, and only then, try to start a bigger movement. People do NOT understand things like voter procedure. They do, however, understand parking rage.

  2. Max Allstadt on October 1, 2009 at 9:40 pm

    Some fun points:

    1. Allen Michaan resides in Alameda, and can neither file an Oakland recall petition himself, nor place a valid signature upon one.

    2. The laws regulating recall elections in Oakland require a huge amount of signatures, and there are very strict time limits for their collection and delivery. Councilmembers Quan, Kernighan and Brooks are likely completely immune from a recall attempt because their scheduled elections are set to happen in under a year.

    3. Allen Michaan was brought before the Oakland Public Ethics Commission after Councilmember Kernighan’s last race. Mr. Michaan supported her opponent, and violated campaign contribution limits by a huge margin. Because Kernighan won, and there is a tradition of not sanctioning losing campaigns for violations, Michaan was let off the hook.

    4. A ballot measure making Oakland a meter free city would create total havoc. First it would be an unfunded mandate, creating a 4 million dollar budget hole which would have to be filled by gutting vital city services. Second, on narrow commercial streets, meters create parking. In a residential/commercial area, meters are necessary to prevent residents from using up spaces that shoppers and diners need.

  3. CitizenX on October 2, 2009 at 12:40 pm

    Parking meters exist for one reason — efficiency. Meter enforcement people can drive/walk by an area one time and see who has overstayed their welcome. It’s not perfect, but that’s the concept.

    If meters are eliminated, enforcement staff need to come by twice — once to mark tires, note license plate numbers, whatever and a second time to determine who has been there to long. So, to get a similar level of enforcement, more staff/vehicles are required.

    So, this group of braniacs want to take a giant step backwards?

  4. Don Macleay from Oakland CA on October 2, 2009 at 4:47 pm

    As one of the people at the meeting I felt that the conclusion was to focus on the issue of parking and pay attention to the politics when the elections comes along in separate votes.

    The group was small and called at the last moment, but the feelings of the local business owners mostly seem to be the same.

    To hear more of them, come to the Oakland Metropolitan Chamber of Commerce office on Monday at noon. (14th and Broadway)

  5. G on October 2, 2009 at 10:01 pm

    Is everyone here completely missing the point?

    No one wants to get rid of parking meters. We just want parking tickets to be cheaper so that Oakland merchants don’t think their customers go somewhere else.

    As for the politics of the whole issue, it’s about being pissed with the status quo. This city does NOT appreciate business enough. There is WAY too much emphasis on services, including senior services, homeless services, whatever. The business community, which is the backbone, is suffering. Shame on anyone who wants to squeeze more money out of them.

    I want to see a new city council that will LOWER taxes and take on crime. I also want to see few state employees. How about that, huh?

  6. Max Allstadt on October 3, 2009 at 5:39 pm

    If the merchants really wanted to attract people from outside Oakland, maybe they shouldn’t have banded behind Allen Michaan.

    Michaan’s brilliant business attraction tactic was to call every local TV news affiliate, get on the air, and make sure everybody in the East Bay knew that they should be afraid to shop in Oakland, because they were sure to get a parking ticket. Genius!

  7. G on October 3, 2009 at 7:21 pm

    Allen is someone who will change the status quo. The business community is being persecuted in Oakland and pretty much the rest of California. We deserve to be treated better. We don’t want to be squeezed to support services we don’t like for people we don’t want to support.

    It’s that simple.

    If Oakland has a deficit problem, Oakland should solve it like everyone else. Make budget and payroll and benefit cuts.

  8. G on October 3, 2009 at 11:41 pm

    Max Allstadt represents everything that is wrong with Oakland’s government and current state. First and foremost, he’s not a merchant with a storefront.

    Chiding merchants on a “nothing” 50 cent increase is wrong. This whole issue is not even about a lousy 50 cents. This whole issue is whether the city works for merchants, not against in a setting where merchants face armed criminals, young thugs, and a population that doesn’t want to do business in Oakland in fear of crime. Saying that merchants give flavor and then not doing everything in your power to make them feel welcome, critical, and valued is wrong. Calling for some kind of study to compare before-parking-increase and after-parking-increase revenues is ludicrous and misses the ball.

    This parking issue is really a taxation and a test of endurance for Oakland merchants. It’s really a way of saying “give more so we can keep services like cops and everything else” when merchants feel powerless against city hall and crime. Taxes have increased over 100% over the past 10 years in terms of fees, permits, and yearly assessments like renewal licenses, etc. All these taxes are meant to maintain city services. In the past 10 years, crime has continued to make business challenging if not impossible and city payroll has exploded.

    There is something really significant to the fact that Oakland’s parking is more expensive now than neighboring cities. We are being pushed around by city hall and basically told to shove it. Well we don’t want to.

  9. Max Allstadt on October 4, 2009 at 7:54 am


    If you want to tell us which programs they want to cut in order to make up for parking meter revenue, I might well be interested in that conversation.

    At the moment what you are asking for is an unfunded mandate. With a finite budget, funding one thing means going without another, or going into debt. If you don’t understand that, then I’m not surprised your business is having a hard time.


  10. Max Allstadt on October 4, 2009 at 7:57 am

    To clarify, I mean tell me specifically what payroll, what benefit and what budget cuts you want to make in order for the city to give merchants free parking.

    Cut libraries? Cut police? Cut firemen? Cut business development? Or perhaps we should cut funding to the Chamber of Commerce? or the subsidies that the redevelopment agency offers merchants to redo their storefronts?

  11. G on October 4, 2009 at 10:38 pm


    Those departments have already been cut. A huge expense is benefits and payroll/pension costs, which are tied to union bargaining. We can easily find savings of tens of millions if we demand employees to pay for their own healthcare and pensions.

    Finding 1.5-3 millions is actually a relatively easy thing to do in light of how much money is spent on payroll. The Chamber of commerce’s redevelopment funds is puny. It is very difficult to get a tenant grant from them that tops say, 50,000 dollars. You would be surprised at how underfunded programs that actually help merchants are. The real funds are “tax breaks” that merchants can claim if they follow redevelopment guidelines. There is actually little cash they can get as a grant.

    Without a doubt, there is a lot of areas to cut from. Senior services, like transportation and get-together activity centers. Welfare centers, including subsidized healthcare for homeless and low income families. Subsidized housing for oakland’s low income families. Subsidized housing is not just Section 8 federal dollars. It requires Oakland city dollars to set up administration and legal counsel for these families. There are many many more programs that need to be trimmed.

    Max, what this is really about is controlling the size of Oakland’s government and shutting down runaway costs. It’s not fair to burden merchants and also property owners to the point where they feel like they are being squeezed and have no say in how their money is spent. I would like to see many services cut down and employee benefit/pensions trimmed to the point of being nonexistent. I see lots of city inspectors driving BMWs and working 4 days a week. It pisses me off and I have every right to demand change.

    You miss the point by saying Allen lives in Alameda or just has an obnoxious attitude. Yes, he is obnoxious and lives elsewhere. However, he speaks for many of us and while I don’t like his other issues, I like this one and the wave it has created in media. City council is finally listening. You say that city council already forewarned about the parking fee hikes? It doesn’t matter – people are too busy to follow the minutes and they can’t be blamed for getting angry after the fact. They can get angry any time they want. This isn’t elementary school where the deadline matters – if the city council makes a bad move and the public decides to reverse it, it’s perfectly alright.

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