Fremont officials say they want input from residents about political issues, so they've launched an online forum allowing them to give instant feedback.

It's called "Fremont Open City Hall," and it can be found at the city's website, www.Fremont.gov/OpenCityHall.

To kick off the city forum, officials are asking citizens to respond to a simple question: "How do you receive your news and information about what is happening in Fremont?"

It's the first of many queries city officials plan to pose to residents on the website, with the goal of fostering communication so that leaders and citizens can work together to shape Fremont's future.

"Local government is recognizing how people want to interact with their city leaders, and that is online," Fremont Mayor-elect Bill Harrison said in a written statement. "This new forum is an incredibly cost-effective way to empower residents to participate in city decisions from the privacy and convenience of their own home."

Fremont Open City Hall was created by Peak Democracy, a Berkeley-based nonpartisan company whose mission is to broaden civic engagement and build public trust in government.

The city is paying $600 per month to use the customized forum, according to Fremont officials.

Mediations set in Oakland dog park dispute


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Antagonists over a proposed Lake Merritt dog park are scheduled to meet with a mediator next week to see if a compromise can be reached before the City Council takes up the issue Tuesday.

Optimism isn't high for a settlement, however, since both sides have refused to consider a smaller park, and any alternative site would necessitate a new round of environmental studies and neighborhood meetings.

Dog park supporters have incentives to push for a council vote this month.

The proposed park at the corner of MacArthur Boulevard and Lakeshore Drive, near the I-580 interchange, is at the edge of Councilwoman Nancy Nadel's district. Nadel, a park supporter, will leave the council at the beginning of January. Her successor, Lynette Gibson McElhaney, has said that she felt a better site could be found for the park.

Oakland council to proceed against Goldman Sachs

Oakland council members on Tuesday indicated they plan to move ahead with cutting ties with Goldman Sachs after the Wall Street titan refused to terminate an investment expected to cost the city $20 million before it expires in 2021.

Members of the council's Finance and Management Committee all expressed frustration with Goldman. Councilman Ignacio De La Fuente went the furthest, saying the council should consider not making payments and pursue a legal remedy.

Oakland entered into the interest rate swap with Goldman to protect itself from potential interest rate spikes on city bonds issued in 1998 to fund police and firefighter pensions. But interest rates have remained low, and the city continues to pay Goldman a fixed interest rate that is much higher than the prevailing rate Goldman pays Oakland.

Unions and citizen groups have pushed Oakland and other municipalities to take a tough stand with investment banks over interest rate swap deals. They said banks were profiting from their role in the 2008 financial collapse, which forced the Federal Reserve to slash interest rates and consequently turned the deals dramatically in the banks' favor.