West Oakland youth center finally nears debut

It looks like 2014 will be the year the West Oakland Youth Center finally opens now that the city has a tentative deal with Alameda County to operate the recently renovated but still barren facility.

While no opening date has been determined, the city is targeting a spring debut, said Casey Farmer, policy analyst to Councilwoman Lynette Gibson McElhaney, who represents West Oakland.

Gibson McElhaney's predecessor, Nancy Nadel, got the ball rolling on the center seven years ago when she spent more than $800,000 from her council office budget to buy the former Olivet Institutional Baptist Church at the corner of Market and Brockhurst streets. But the building sat vacant for years because the city had no money to refurbish it or pay for programs.

Renovations, funded primarily through a $5 million state grant, were finished last year. Also last year, the City Council budgeted funds to get the center up and running. The only question had been who would operate it, but under an agreement that will go before the City Council this month, the city would turn it over to the Alameda County Department of Parks and Recreation.

Farmer said that unlike the YMCA across the street, the youth center will focus on high school students and dropouts and will have a strong career development program. "We want this to be strategic so we truly meet the needs of the community," she said. "We think we're poised to get there with the partnership that has been developed."


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Another candidate for Oakland mayor

Nancy Sidebotham, an active East Oakland resident, announced her candidacy for mayor Friday. Sidebotham who has run several times for City Council and worked to recall Mayor Jean Quan two years ago, said she was dissatisfied with the current field, which includes incumbent Quan, Councilwoman Libby Schaaf, San Francisco State Professor Joe Tuman, Port Commissioner Bryan Parker and former school board member Dan Siegel.

Sidebotham said she will fight corruption at City Hall, demand accountability on how tax dollars are spent and target banks over the foreclosures that have destabilized many Oakland neighborhoods.

San Lorenzo Library closes for expansion

The San Lorenzo Library closed Tuesday as work began to almost double the size of the building.

A temporary library will open in early spring around the corner at 16032 Hesperian Blvd., which formerly housed a Hollywood Video store, said Peggy Watson, head of branches for the Alameda County library system.

"We're working very diligently to open it even sooner than that, but we can't say what the date will be right now," she said. Because the temporary site is smaller than the library at 395 Paseo Grande, some books will be stored at the old Castro Valley Library during the construction.

When the expanded library reopens in 2015, it will be almost twice as large as the current 14,000-square-foot building, with more meeting space, Watson said.

The $9.4 million expansion is being funded with development money that was returned to Alameda County by the state, according to a representative for Alameda County Supervisor Wilma Chan's office.

The due date on items checked out of the San Lorenzo Library has been extended to April 2, Watson said. They can be returned to any of the county's other branch libraries or the bookmobile. The schedule for the bookmobile can be found at www.aclibrary.org.

San Lorenzo Library users' library cards are valid at all county libraries.

Piedmont general election begins

Early and mail-in voting begins Monday for the Feb. 4 general election in Piedmont, but voters do not have too much choice in who will sit on the Piedmont City Council.

Three candidates are running for three open seats. They are Teddy King, Tim Rood and incumbent Councilman Jeff Wieler. They will replace two termed-out council members: Mayor John Chiang and Councilman Garrett Keating.

More competition exists in the school board race, where three people -- Doug Ireland, Amal Smith and Hari Titan -- are running for just two open seats.

Also on the ballot is the Measure A pension debt refinance bond. The measure asks Piedmont residents to approve an $8 million bond to refinance the city's "side fund" obligations owed to the California Public Employees' Retirement System.

Those who wish to vote early in person must go to Oakland and visit the Alameda County Registrar of Voters Office at 1225 Fallon St., Room G-1, between 8:30 a.m. and 5 p.m. on weekdays.

But those registered to vote by mail can also drop their ballots off at Piedmont City Hall, 120 Vista Ave., in Piedmont.

County launches online "budget dashboard"

Got questions about Alameda County's $2.69 billion annual budget? A new website, http://budget.acgov.org, breaks it down in charts.

Among the highlights: About 25.7 percent of the county budget is allocated for social services, 24.3 percent for health care, 21.4 percent for public protection and 12.4 percent for capital projects. About 31.2 percent of the county's revenues come from state aid, 16.9 percent from the federal government, 12.2 percent from property taxes and 9.8 percent from service fees. And at last count, the county government employs 9,196 people.