Playing With Politics

A Blog on Law, Politics, Planning, Development, and Other Vices

Archive for August, 2010

Update – BART: When Good Deeds Go Bad

Posted by Roobs on August 26, 2010

This is an update to my previous post: Bart: When Good Deeds Go Bad

Following the news of an $8.5 million windfall, BART has been trying to figure out how best to use it.  The board toyed with the notion of giving riders a temporary fare rollback as a reward for having to deal with them (a well earned reward).  However, after conducting their own survey, BART discovered that 4 out of 5 riders rejected the idea of a rollback, instead favoring longer service hours and/or cleaner cars.

At BART’s last meeting, instead of a fare rollback, they discussed the possibility of a temporary delay in a regularly schedueled fare increase, scheduled for January 2012.

In my previous post, I argue that a temporary delay in a fare increase was essentially the same as the rider-rejected temporary fare rollback.

I may be mistaken, but isn’t a six month delay of a fare increase very similar to a four  month temporary fare cut?  Sure, the percentages are different.  Last year, BART raised fares about 6%, twice as much as the proposed 3% temporary fare cut.  Six months at 6% savings will be a lot more total savings to the rider than 3% savings over four months.  But is this really what the public wanted?  In the end, is this not still a temporary fare cut that 75% of BART riders said they would rather not have in lieu of cleaner cars or better service?.

In an update, today the BART Board voted to delay the regularly scheduled fare increase for January 2012 for six months, essentially giving riders what they said they didn’t want.

The vote was 7-2, with only directors Gail Murray (Walnut Creek) and Tom Radulovich (San Francisco) voting no, favoring putting the money into BART’s reserve funds.

Again, BART seems to like to remind riders that, while they appreciate their input, it’s not up to them.  Guess we won’t see them clean/improve the Coliseum BART station anytime soon.

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Cut and Paste

Posted by Roobs on August 25, 2010

As the saying goes, a picture is worth a thousand words.  And the words are asking us to answer this question:

Has the architecture firm Pelli Clarke Pelli copied their design of the San Francisco Transbay Tower and placed it smack dab in Midtown, New York City?  You be the judge:

Pelli's proposal for NYC Midtown Tower

Pelli's design for SF Transbay Tower (Approved. Construction to begin soon)

Same?  Similar?  I think so.

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Posted in Urban Planning | Tagged: , , , , , , | Leave a Comment »

Hey Arnold! Animating the Benefits of Urban Design

Posted by Roobs on August 23, 2010

One of the best cartoons ever made was called Hey Arnold! on Nickelodeon.  It ran five seasons from 1996 to 2004.  To this day, it remains one of my all-time favorite childhood cartoons for its mature, yet incredibly accessible story lines, symbolism, music and heart.

Hey Arnold revolved around the lives of Arnold (last name never revealed) and Helga Pataki, Arnolds secret admirer and nemesis. Like any good kid show, it tried to teach life lessons.  Many of these were lessons such as standing up to bullies, tolerance, leadership, and first loves. The lessons were taught in a slightly more mature way compared to other cartoons.  And for all the great aspects of this lovable cartoon, one of its greatest and under-appreciated strengths was was it’s setting.

Set in a city setting, Hey Arnold! was one of the only cartoons to depict life in a dense urban environment.  Even the show’s music director, Jim Lang, used jazz as the primary theme music for Hey Arnold! which gave the show even more of that mature, urban feel while still maintaining its child-like accessibility. (Scroll to end for soundtrack clip!).  Arnold’s character utilized everything that makes a city great, from his constant use of the local bus and walking around his very livable neighborhood, to the fact that everything from the butcher, florist and grocery store was within walking distance of his home.

Hey Arnold depicted the end-result of the kind of urban design that America has strayed from but now planners wish to re-create: a walkable neighborhood where walking and transit are more viable means of mobility than the automobile.  But beyond that, it fosters a kind of social interaction that is often ignored when planners and the public discuss urban planning.  The environment we wish to create and animated in the Hey Arnold! cartoon helps foster relationships with multi-ethnic, multi-income families where individuals (in this case, young kids) co-mingle; crossing many social boundaries to form a cultural narrative unique to dense urban settings.

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Posted in Pop Culture, TV & Movies, Urban Planning | Tagged: , , , , , , | 7 Comments »

Melanie Shelby Wont Play With Politics

Posted by Roobs on August 17, 2010

Former Prop 8 Supporter Dodges Questions on LGBT Issues, Attacks Questioner.

Back on July 2, 2010, I wrote a post about Oakland City Council candidate, Melanie Shelby, who is running in District 4.  Melanie Shelby is well known in and out of political circles for her past support of Proposition 8 – California’s same-sex marriage ban.  Why?  Because she told everyone.

Because Melanie Shelby stated she has changed her view on same-sex marriage since starting her campaign for city council, I requested clarification from the Shelby campaign on her past and current position on same-sex marriage.  I received no response.  I wrote my post based on conversations with political insiders who have spoken to Shelby regarding this very issue.

(You can read my post here)

Melanie Shelby began saying she is working with Equality California since starting her campaign; supposedly in an effort to share her story of an evolving view of same-sex marriage.  However, she has never really explained what project this is.

Following the ruling in the case challenging Prop 8 on August 4, 2010, the Shelby campaign released a statement where she again claimed to be working with Equality California and other LGBT activists.  She also stated Californian’s still struggle with the “moral implications” of same-sex marriage.

(Read Melanie Shelby’s full press-release here.)

I again sent an email to the Shelby campaign asking for comment.  I asked what project and relationship she has with Equality California and what she meant by “moral implications”.  I also sent an email to the press office of Equality California asking them to comment on any project or relationship they had with Shelby as well.

I’m still waiting for Equality California to respond but after receiving the following response from the Shelby camp I feel compelled to address it.  I will, of course, update upon any response from Equality California (if any).

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Posted in LGBT, Politics | Tagged: , , , , , , , | 1 Comment »

BART: When Good Deeds Go Bad

Posted by Roobs on August 12, 2010

What is it about no temporary fare cuts, more capital and service improvements does BART not understand?

Last month, we heard the rare good news that BART was ending its fiscal year with a $4 million surplus.  Happy with the good news, the BART Board of Directors decided to do something… well, nice.  They wanted to offer a temporary fare reduction to passengers; a 3% decrease over four months.  They conducted a survey to see how the public felt about their brief exercise in altruism and found something odd.  The public had said “thanks, but no thanks.”

Nearly 4 out of 5 BART riders oppose the idea of a temporary fee rollback, according to BART’s in-house survey. […] What they do want is longer service hours and cleaner cars.

Read more at SFGate.com

Following these results, the BART Board decided to table a vote on what to do with the $4 million surplus.

Yesterday it was announced that BART has discovered another $4.5 million dollar windfall, bringing the total unexpected surplus to $8.5 million.  The board is expected to meet in two weeks to decide what to do with all this money.

And what were they still talking about doing with all this money?  Yup, fare rollbacks.  Temporary fare rollbacks, despite the fact that over 75% of riders do not want them.  You would think that, especially in this economy, when riders are actually rejecting an offer to briefly save them money that they must really really want something else and that the Board would take that to heart.

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Posted in Politics, Urban Planning | Tagged: , , , | 2 Comments »

Caldecott Tunnel 4th Bore

Posted by Roobs on August 10, 2010

Does Directional Traffic Congestion Affect Local Business Development?

A couple weeks ago, a friend made an interesting statement as we left an Oakland bar.  He said that he did not support the 4th bore of the Caldecott Tunnel, bringing the current three 2-lane tunnels to four.  He believes that the 4th bore is actually bad for Oakland business.

My friend stated that a 4th bore only benefits the reverse commute, meaning traffic headed into Contra Costa County and not Oakland.  Therefore, by making it easier to get to cities like Walnut Creek, we are taking away business from Oakland.  He was essentially making a direct correlation between directional traffic congestion and business development.

I thought a little about his statement and told him I disagreed and thought there was nothing terribly bad with the fourth bore project.  We pretty much left it at that and I didn’t think much of it until today.

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Posted in Urban Planning | Tagged: , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment »

Dear WordPress…

Posted by Roobs on August 6, 2010

Dear WordPress,

Why can I not embed flash videos from msnbc.com? I mean, really. That just seems rude. I can’t get all the great videos to share about news stories from YouTube. I don’t think I would want to. Sure, the new Kraft Mac & Cheese commercials are totally cute and all but that’s not news! How am I going to show readers the interview on Hardball as they discuss the possible Obama-Clinton ticket in 2012? Or the news coverage of the Prop 8 ruling?? You want me to pay for it?  Wait… how much? $60 a year?   This isn’t a credit card!  The’re are no annual fees here.  I don’t even get reward points for this!  I might as well just switch to wordpress.org and upload everything for free and have my own domain for much much less.  That is ridiculous.  I’m not really down with this whole scheme you got going on with your boyfriend YouTube. I think we should sit down and reconsider this arrangement. Until then, please feel free to direct readers to East Bay Young Democrats‘ website where we have some great videos from the news. Sometimes, it’s good to keep people informed.

Love, Roobs

East Bay Young Democrats

And yes, this new Kraft Mac & Cheese commercial is TOTALLY CUTE!

Posted in Politics, Pop Culture | Tagged: , , , , | Leave a Comment »

Prop 8 Unconstitutional & Overturned!!

Posted by Roobs on August 4, 2010

Prop 8 is found unconstitutional on both the Due Process and Equal Protection clause!!  This is a HUGE win for equality! I have little else to say right now.  Here is final ruling.  You can read the full ruling here:

REMEDIES

Plaintiffs have demonstrated by overwhelming evidence that Proposition 8 violates their due process and equal protection rights and that they will continue to suffer these constitutional violations until state officials cease enforcement of Proposition 8. California is able to issue marriage licenses to same-sex couples, as it has already issued 18,000 marriage licenses to same-sex couples and has not suffered any demonstrated harm as a result,see FF 64-66; moreover, California officials have chosen not to defend Proposition 8 in these proceedings.

Because Proposition 8 is unconstitutional under both the Due Process and Equal Protection Clauses, the court orders entry of judgment permanently enjoining its enforcement; prohibiting the official defendants from applying or enforcing Proposition 8 and directing the official defendants that all persons under their
control or supervision shall not apply or enforce Proposition 8. The clerk is DIRECTED to enter judgment without bond in favor of plaintiffs and plaintiff-intervenors and against defendants and defendant-intervenors pursuant to FRCP 58.

Posted in Law, LGBT, Politics | Leave a Comment »