OAKLAND -- New District 1 Councilmember Dan Kalb, who held the second of his four listening sessions, heard concerns from constituents ranging from crime to the city budget to Public Works Department shortcomings.
"This is a bit different than a town-hall meeting. Today, this is about me listening to your concerns in your neighborhood and citywide. Tell me what's on your mind," Kalb told a group of about 40 people Feb. 23 at Chabot Elementary School.
John Box, of North Oakland, expressed concern about the proliferation of potholes.
"I can't believe everyone drives around them for months and months," Box said. "Some of the potholes are big enough to swallow you up. In a way, it's a good thing because it slows traffic down."
Nancy Morton, of Rockridge, added that, "Our tax dollars are not being spent wisely and then we have to vote for tax increases. The potholes are absolutely ridiculous. You have to drive slalom to get around them. We are supposed to report them, but don't they drive on the streets?"
Susan DeVico, of Montclair, said the Public Works Department came to fix a pothole on her street and "didn't fix the one 2 feet away. It was saddening to watch. They had all the materials and the crew right there."
Margaret Pinter, of Rockridge, said she regularly cleans up the median strip along 51st Street.
"This has not been done (by the city) in a very long time," Pinter said. "This is a Public Works failure."
Kalb explained that Public Works took the equivalent of a 10 percent pay reduction in the form of furlough days for a two-year period that ends in July, when unions will return to the negotiating table.
"The outcome of these negotiations will determine what services we get," Kalb said.
Currently, public works counts on residents to report potholes.
"In most cases, when they fill them, they fill them in a more permanent way," Kalb said. He urged his constituents to contact his office to follow up on potholes, if necessary.
Chris Vernon, of the Golden Gate neighborhood, said, "Neighborhood Crime Prevention councils are overwhelmed by the crime in the past year. It's the biggest problem in the city. We won't get anywhere until it is addressed. There is amazing intelligence in this city that will be put on hold until we deal with crime."
"Mayor (Jean) Quan stated that we will not increase public safety funding because we can't afford it. But I say that we can't not afford it," stated Jim Dexter, the vice chair of the North Hills Community Association. "We must increase police staffing. We cannot continue to staff the police department at 603. Anything less is a lack of leadership in the City Council.
"We must regain the public trust lost with Measure Y," Dexter continued. "Something major has to change, or people won't vote for it."
Alan Feinstein, of Upper Rockridge, said he was concerned about "the preallocation of the budget."
"Whenever there is a problem, the City Council says that they can't deal with it. Since we vote for a series of initiatives via measures, City Council gives little feedback and doesn't take responsibility," Feinstein said. "Ideally, the City Council and the mayor should be responsible for as much of the budget as possible."
Kalb agreed, saying, "I'm here to make decisions, not sit on my hands. It would take a few more ballot measures to make (Feinstein's statements) happen."
Shelagh Broderson said she was concerned about the maintenance of Garber Park. As an area resident and steward for the park, she helps maintain the open space and restoration of the park's native habitat. She is concerned about fire safety and urged Kalb to support the special fire district parcel tax that is up for renewal this year.
Other residents expressed concern about the trash that accumulates around the park, especially after tailgate parties on UC Berkeley's game days. Kalb promised to try and address the problems facing Garber Park and the issues on game days.
"I'm all for improving customer service in all departments," Kalb said. "Many departments are doing great. Almost all departments are understaffed."