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As young as age 15, Libby Schaaf took to the streets to promote Oakland. This photo shows her passing out fliers on Broadway for the Wee Pals Concert Series with Morrie Turner.

Today Oaklanders approach voter booths with three-page, two-sided ballots. The flurry of mayoral debates alone has crowded public discourse in the past months, with little attention paid to the candidates for Oakland City Council. I urge you to support Libby Schaaf, who is running for Jean Quan’s soon-to-be vacant District 4 seat. Her signage may not dominate the cityscape, and recent reports indicate she has raised less than half of her opponent, but Schaaf is a resident model of progress.

Born and raised in District 4, Libby has lived in Oakland her entire life, including three neighborhoods within the district. She has worked as a city activist since joining the Girl Scouts in kindergarten, and helped form a habitat restoration project in Redwood Heights and restore the Sausal Creek Watershed.

“My whole life, I have done an amazing amount of community volunteer work,” Schaaf said. “And all this touched or took place in District 4.”

A recent campaign mailer details her volunteer history and a several bloggers and writers have endorsed Schaaf for the job. Her experience in city government as Chief of Staff for City Council President Ignacio De La Fuente and as a Chief Aide to Mayor Jerry Brown adds to her credentials as a lifelong proponent of Oakland.

“I really am an optimistic, upbeat person who truly gets along with a lot of people,” Libby said. Her plan for City Council is to mediate the in fighting and expedite progress. “Oakland gets held back because we’re squabbling with each other so that golden opportunities pass us by.”

In keeping with her neighborhood spirit, Libby hopes to organize and empower residents to better protect the city.

“A crime puzzle has three parts to it: Neighborhood (you need organization and physical improvements to communities that discourage crime and enhance a sense of safety; Crime prevention and intervention (there are lots of critics of Measure Y but I believe the prevention money has been spent well, including Project Choice that I oversaw that yielded some positive statistics); Fiscal reform (we need to change the way we spend our money).”

Of her plan for fiscal reform, Libby wants to start with the pension plans for Oakland Police Officers. She plans to open a second tier system of benefits for new hires that requires they pay more than 0% toward retirement.

She also claims that city government needs to tighten its belt in fatter economic times. “We shouldn’t yield to the temptation to add more programs and staff but instead save the surplus for capital improvement.”

Financial mismanagement has certainly led the refurbishment of city infrastructure down a dead end road.

“The roads and sidewalks don’t show up at city council meetings with tears in their eyes,” she said. “Infrastructure is not sexy but that is one of the main priorities of this city. I have concrete ideas that are practical and doable and know how to make things happen.”

One needs to look no farther than the drawing still posted in the Paramount Theater. In the belly of this Broadway establishment, on the other side of a stage door, is a brown piece of butcher paper. A giant sun wearing shades smiles over the words, “Libby Schaaf, age eight.”

Over the sun are the words, “The Paramount Theater is on the sunny side of the street.”

Vote for Libby Schaaf: for District 4, for a sunnier Oakland.


Glenview Elementary Day of Action

Glenview Elementary has learned that its principal, Ms. Dietra Atkins, is retiring. The Oakland Unified School District, as it searches for a replacement, has also indicated it will lay off the school’s beloved secretary, Ms. Yolanda Brown.

Ms. Brown is not just any secretary. She is loved by the staff, students and families of Glenview Elementary. As one concerned Glenview Elementary parent said, “Ms Yolanda Brown has been with our school for 12 years and is an incredible resource to the children, faculty and staff. She is the heart of our school. To lose Ms. Brown in the wake of losing our principle presents a unique hardship to our school and could impact our continuing success.”

This concerned parent has written a form letter and petition to send the OUSD Superintendent. She asks that you sign it online today so she can send a message that Ms. Brown’s position should be retained.

Here is the form letter that appears on the online petition:

TO: Tony Smith, Superintendent, Oakland Unified School District
CC: Mynette Theard, SEIU Local 1021

I am writing to ask that Yolanda Brown’s removal from Glenview Elementary School be reconsidered in light of her extensive years of service to our school and the need to retain as much school-wide continuity as possible while we are in transition to a new principal. The loss of Yolanda Brown – during the same year as the loss of Glenview’s longtime principal, Deitra Atkins, who together represent two-thirds of Glenview’s administrative staff – would be devastating and deeply disruptive to our school’s continued, but still vulnerable, success.

During her 12-year tenure at Glenview, Yolanda has worked diligently to support the principal, teachers, parents, and most importantly, the students. Yolanda is honest, kind and cool under pressure. Current and prospective parents often comment on Yolanda’s warm yet professional demeanor, and she is often the first person that speaks to prospective parents interested in sending their child to Glenview. For that reason, Yolanda has been a tremendous asset in helping the school recruit involved families. These families can see, from their initial conversations with Yolanda, that we have a very special community here at our school.

Along with dedicated teachers and parents, Ms. Brown has worked diligently to facilitate Glenview’s evolution into a vibrant, successful school community. In fact, over the course of her tenure, Glenview’s API has increased from 618 in 1999 to 835 in 2010. The District cannot afford to lose her at this time and risk letting Glenview slide backwards.

Yolanda is also key to a successful transition with our new principal. A secretary like Ms. Brown, who has been with Glenview for 12 years, can bring a type of support to a new principal that no operations coach can. From her deep understanding of each family’s circumstances (she knows every parent and child’s name!) to her unparalleled institutional memory, Yolanda’s administrative presence is essential to our upcoming transition.

We know that the district has spent significant time and resources during its principal “matching” process. Retaining Ms. Brown will leverage this financial investment and greatly increase the odds of a new principal’s success. Indeed, experiences at other OUSD schools have demonstrated that a solid administrative foundation is key to the success of a new principal.

To conclude, we ask that you retain Yolanda Brown at Glenview. We understand that the decision to lay-off Ms. Brown is not final and that OUSD can still change this outcome. We implore that despite OUSD’s short-term economic turmoil, it prevent long-term turmoil by doing everything in its power to retain Yolanda Brown at Glenview Elementary.

Your Name Here

My article on a rare, East Bay hills plant posted today in Oakland Local. I originally fell in love with the pallid manzanita as a kid, while playing at my best friend’s house on Manzanita Drive. The red bark was smooth to the touch and bushy leaves would yield pink blooms in the winter. In the spring, the fertilized flowers would grow into what poet Gary Snyder called “little apples”:

What I didn’t realize then was that the migration of the human species has largely displaced the pallid manzanitas. As Oaklanders built their homes, they’d raze whole colonies, or chop stray plants down for fear of fire. The pallids that remain—some 1,200 total in the East Bay hills and also the world—struggle in an increasingly shaded landscape. What residents may not realize is that the Oakland hills have not always grown into a green jungle, but frequently burned and regenerated as a largely sun-lit region.

In the article, I mention the efforts of the Friends of Sausal Creek, who have ventured into the far reaches of Joaquin Miller Park to find and restore this rare chaparral. They regularly host events where volunteers tend to Oakland’s many ecosystems, improving trails, tracking trout, monitor birds, collecting seeds and caring for native plants. Their work cultivating pallid manzanita at Big Trees has been a successful experiment so far. It also requires constant maintenance. A FOSC map shows the status of the Big Trees pallids as of April, 2010:

Oakland’s backyard needs weeding and trimming just like any green space. Future plans to propagate pallid manzanitas is underway at Chabot Space & Science Center, in partnership with the City of Oakland and the Wildfire Prevention District. They have plans to begin carving a sunny place for pallids very soon.

If you’d like to check out a thriving patch of the endangered chaparral, check out the Huckleberry Trail off Grizzly Peak. You’ll find them a few yards down the path. Take a left up a small incline and you’ll find yourself bathed in sunlight and surrounded in pallid manzanita splendor.