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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.


Lately crime has taken a toll in my neighborhood. Within the last two weeks, my friend got held up at gunpoint on 13th Avenue, and a couple guys walked up my driveway and broke into my car. I’m not sure what I’d have done if I ran into the thieves before they stole my stereo. When I was in high school and a guy pulled a knife on me, all I could do was run.

Next time I feel threatened though, I want to kick criminal ass—just like the femininjas I used to watch on TV in the ’70s. To do this, I’ll need a mentor to teach me street fighting in real life.

Enter Helen Grieco. She’s the daughter of a marine and a 25-year of veteran N.O.W. She believes in “the sovereign right of women to defend themselves by any means necessary.” And her self-defense training course begins next week, in Oakland.

Grieco certainly has a lot of fight in her. Her story of survival spans from New York to California, and over decades of domestic abuse, drug addiction, eating disorders and dysfunctional relationships. But one day on a San Francisco doorstep, she saw a glimmer of hope.

“I was in the midst of an abusive relationship,” she said, “and only had a few dollars to my name. Suddenly I saw this shiny penny on the ground and thought, ‘See a penny pick it up; then someday you’ll have good luck.’ I took it as a token of better things to come.” Grieco held onto her good luck charm through the next several years of therapy and worked through her issues. She also got a masters in clinical psychology and became a therapist for women and girls.

You could say she came out swinging. With her loving husband Patrick Phair, she co-founded Building Resources for Anti-Violence Education (or, BRAVE People). The pair have since taught nearly 10,000 women the art of self-defense. Phair, whose dad also worked for the military, gave shape to their shared teaching style. What makes their course different from most is its basis on a police and military combative training. Its techniques informed WW II combatants and now, under the instruction of Grieco, teach women how to defend themselves in real-life situations.

The women enrolled in the self-defense are called the Fighting SHE Weezels—a mascot that represents the weasel’s ability to attack other animals several times its size. And the course is just one part of her multi-pronged approach to empowerment. With the founding of her new, Bay Area-based organization, the SHE Institute, her mission is dedicated to “sustainable living and leadership educating safe, healthy, economically responsible advocates and leaders.” Not only will the Fighting SHE Weezels of the self-defense course battle their own demons, but also learn how to form partnerships with people, communities and governments to promote women’s rights.

“When women know that in the face of an imposing male that they can hold their own,” Grieco says, “it changes everything.”

Sounds like a winning strategy to me.

The details:


SHE is Wise Workshop Schedule
Sundays, 10 a.m.–noon
12 weeks – $360
(Payment plans available)
For more information or to confirm your place in the workshop,
or call 415 531 1774

This week, citizens raised a ruckus at City Hall about Oakland’s parking meters. Yet, despite their outcry, the City Council has maintained its extension of meter operation hours until 8 p.m. To add insult to injury, Oaklanders face increased ticket fees starting at around $50 and credit card operated meters require a minimum of $2. And the coin-operated meters? Parkers beware: meter maids will write up a ticket regardless if they’re broken.

Perhaps drivers have Carl C. Magee of Oklahoma City to thank. He is widely known as the inventor of the parking meter, which he patented in 1935; the debate over paying for public space has been raging ever since.

When Magee’s invention hit Oakland’s Park Boulevard circa 1979, one Glenviewer took issue. His neighborhood newsletter can be found in the Oakland Public Library’s Oakland History Room:


A realtor named Donald C. Smart published this rag as a thinly veiled advertisement for his business. More compelling than his business slogan “Be Smart!” were his columns on neighborhood lore, events and a curious rant about the installation of parking meters in the Glenview:


“Shoppers in the Glenview district have watched the recent installation of parking meters with mixed emotions. Sure enough—meters deter all-day parkers. Parking space is a scarce resource and as the economists observe, if you want to optimize the use of scarce resources, you should charge the user.

“It is interesting to note that two-hour meters were installed in preference to meters of say, one-hour or one half-hour, etc. That should please the beauty shop operators, whose customers often require that much time.

“But the basic anchor stores of the Glenview shopping district—the stores that do the largest dollar volume of business and attract the greatest number of customers (such as the grocery and hardware stores)—those stores and their patrons can hardly benefit from two-hour meters.

“Perhaps experience will change some views in this matter, and changes will be made, especially if you have feelings in this matter and make them known at City Hall.”

…Twenty years later, Oaklanders seem to have answered Smart’s call to action. And while the move to rollback the cut-off time to 6 p.m. fell one vote short this week, the City Council will revisit the topic, wrote Councilmember Jean Quan in her newsletter today, at their October 6 meeting.

Adding to the mix is the proliferation of cars in Glenview’s business district. Some residents have expressed concern that the growing number of popular restaurants will overwhelm the number of meters along Park Boulevard.

Looks like the best option for Oaklanders is to exchange their four wheels for two.