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City Council OKs billboard plan

on November 18, 2009

After dustups over parking rules and the BART airport connector in recent months, the Oakland City Council had a relatively quiet meeting last night.

In the evening’s most significant development, the council voted unanimously to allow Clear Channel and the East Bay Municipal Utility District to move forward on a plan to place new billboards on the approach to the Bay Bridge. As part of the agreement, Clear Channel would remove 33 of its billboards in neighborhoods throughout Oakland. The city would also receive a $400,000 down payment from Clear Channel and 10 percent of proceeds from advertisements on the new billboards near the Bay Bridge.

City Council Member Ignacio de la Fuente prepares notes at the beginning of the City Council meeting

City Council Member Ignacio de la Fuente prepares notes at the beginning of the City Council meeting

“This means a net decrease in billboards,” said Council Member Rebecca Kaplan, who introduced the proposal. “But because the new billboards are in a higher-value location, we will end up with more money even though there are fewer billboards.”

The council devoted much of the four-hour public meeting to discussions of Oakland’s lobbying efforts in Washington D.C. and applications for federal stimulus money. The city has received $60 million in grants so far in 2009, and may receive up to $130 million more. These grants have not led to the kind of job creation in Oakland that council members said they anticipated, and several members urged city officials to aggressively target new federal funding opportunities.

“Our grants have not been competitive,” Desley Brooks of East Oakland said. “We’re not pulling in large amounts. I want to make sure that we submit applications that are competitive. The point is not just to submit applications, but to actually get the grants.”

Council President Jane Brunner of North Oakland was absent from the meeting, as she is in China for two conferences on environmental issues and urban development. Several council members asked for more information about how council members are funding their business travel. In Brunner’s case, expenses for the China trip were covered by the Chinese government, but members asked for more information on travel money generally.

“The public assumes the city is paying for all these things,” Council Member Patricia Kernighan said. “When the source is not city funding, people need to know we’re not frittering away their money in a way they don’t approve.”

The largest crowd of the evening emerged when Reid introduced a resolution honoring the Oakland Builders Alliance for its work with the East Oakland Boxing Association. Reid recognized the more than 20 builders in the chamber for their work renovating the boxing association’s gym. Reid said the gym has helped keep young people off the streets.

“These people are saving lives, so young people don’t become casualties on the streets,” he said.

The council also held a private session to discuss cutting the city’s annual budget by $19 million. The council already trimmed the city’s annual budget by $80 million this summer, but is expected to make more cuts before the end of the year.

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Photo by Basil D Soufi
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