Different way to look at Oakland's budget
A riddle: What is pink, blue, red, orange yellow, magenta, indigo, aqua, puce and chartreuse; swoops and curves with the grace of a mare's tale; and is a compendium of information? You didn't guess it?
It is the Oakland 2013-15 budget as visualized by the talented Code for America. Don't trust me, go to openbudgetoakland.org.
These guys have put the budget into a graphic of saturated colors that is nothing short of miraculous when it comes to understanding Oakland's finances. Words are not necessary -- just look.
Before me appears a huge magenta block called nondepartmental and when I click on it, it opens up like a Pandora's box to big items like debt service, insurance premiums, Coliseum, Oakland Convention Center lease payments; things I never thought about.
Check out the police, a big whopping 20.09 percent; and then city auditor, a tiny orange strip on the bottom, 0.15 percent. The 2012-13 adopted revenues and spending graph shows at a glance revenue coming in and going out and what goes through the general fund and what is outside of it. Arguments stop and understanding takes it place.
For those of us who would never crack the 300-page budget, this is the way to go. Kudos to the Code for America brigade, and the whole Open Oakland movement. I love these guys and gals.
Mid-century modern should be preserved
Fremont is about to lose another building that is a fine example of mid-century modern architecture, a popular style during the city's founding.
Casa Robles restaurant is leaving its Mowry Avenue location, and the unique angular building that first opened as the Steak Block House is reportedly to be demolished.
My architect friend Jim and I often fantasized about buying the building and turning it into a Tiki bar/restaurant (another rage from the mid-century). When describing mid-century modern and Googie architecture, I usually mention "The Jetsons," the Seattle Space Needle and the LAX theme building. Mid-century modern and Googie were fanciful and optimistic about our future.
There are other examples in Fremont, such as the entrance to Cloverdale Bowl and the now-empty circular bank at Brookvale Shopping Center. I hope that the interest in this architecture keeps growing, and at least a few buildings from Fremont's early years are preserved.
Different approach to education issues
It always amazes me that people in this country create problems, wonder why they exist and develop solutions that are ineffective. Cyberbullying is one such example. In a local high school, administrators decided to recess more than 1,000 students to discuss and find solutions to this vexing problem. I watched the kids roll their eyes -- no solution.
In an English class I taught, one female student, who had been texting her boyfriend under her desk, suddenly burst into tears. The boy dumped her and she had to be consoled in the hallway by another student. Neither student got the assignment done.
School districts maintain a policy of no electronics in the classroom, but since teachers are inconsistent or negligent in enforcement, the children ignore the rule.
We spend millions education our children. To have them fritter away their time playing with electronic pacifiers is unconscionable. It's a parental problem and without parental cooperation it will not be solved.
A solution should start by considering that education is a right, but attending school a privilege.
Pledged against discrimination
In a May 18 Times article, I was deeply saddened to read that a Boy Scout leader said that allowing openly gay scouts will "lead to an infusion of sex and sexuality into a children's leadership program."
This implies that, somehow, this will be an issue for the Boy Scouts, while it's a nonissue for the YMCA, Boys & Girl Clubs, youth sports, summer camps, academic camps and even school science trips.
I think the concept that a gay scout who is out is a greater risk than one who is closeted is bizarre.
I know the scouts in my troop know right from wrong. They also know that discrimination is wrong. Because of this, last October they pledged that they wouldn't discriminate.
The Mount Diablo Silverado Council and our troop are taking a leading role in changing this membership policy. I'm very proud to be a member of both.
Moraga Baker is Scoutmaster of Moraga Troop 234.