N.O. Now: those meters make strange bedfellows
on October 9, 2009
What does it take to bring Allen Michaan, the owner of the Grand Lake Theater and one Oakland’s most public and outspoken liberal voices, to the same table with some of Oakland’s more conventional capitalists – the Metropolitan Chamber of Commerce and small business owners?
In Oakland these days, it all comes down to parking.
Michaan, of course, is well-known around town for the anti-Republican messages that regularly grace the Grand Lake’s marquee. Lately, however, those messages have been directed toward the Oakland City Council in an effort to force its members to recall the new parking measures that went into effect July 1.
In anticipation of yet another council meeting tonight at which the parking issue will come to a head, local business owners and Oakland citizens gathered Monday afternoon at the Oakland Metropolitan Chamber of Commerce office to air their concerns and outline their speaking points for Tuesday’s meeting.
The sentiment is that the city council has the five votes it needs to move the parking meter hours back to 6 p.m. But that still doesn’t satisfy all the concerns the Chamber of Commerce addressed in a letter it sent to each councilmember on September 21. “We don’t agree with the 30% increase in meter rate prices,” said Chamber of Commerce Policy Director Scott Peterson. “We’ll say thank you to the council for rolling back the hours but will offer creative financial suggestions” to find the needed budget money elsewhere.
Personal stories filled the hour-long meeting—of the mothers who typically come to Sadiedey’s Café on Telegraph Avenue but who now stay away, of the volunteers in the thrift shop at the Children’s Hospital who are afraid to go to work, of the small business owner who is currently out of business in part because of the parking increases. Their voices were civil but animated, angry still three months later. They spoke of an Oakland they love, an Oakland they’d like to see become a tourist destination—with the full realization that any negative press that comes out of Oakland taints its reputation further. “People still think Oakland is downtown Newark, which it’s not,” one attendee said. “Decisions like these that seem innocuous at the time lead to negative bylines, which is a further contribution to all the problems. I’ve been waiting for this city to realize its world-class potential for 35 years.”
In the meantime, this group of unlikely compatriots will continue to gather. Something tells us they won’t stop pushing this city—or its city council—until they get what they want.
—Lauren Callahan/Oakland North
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