Saturday, August 21, 2010

Meandering in Point Richmond


It's a funny feeling to have the lights go off at 10:15 p.m. on Wednesday, August 18, and not be sure if it was PGE's fault or do I need to go downstairs and put a new fuse in my historic breaker box? Knocking on the door of the neighbor up the street brought them to the upstairs window to tell me the lights were off all over Point Richmond and they took it as a sign that they should go to sleep early, and I should too.  I could hear the humming sound of overloaded transformers on Cutting Blvd, or whatever they are called.  I don't know much about electricity, only who to call when it goes off.  Of course my cell phone was no good, since I had neglected to charge it for a couple of days.  However, I grew up in a part of the country where they had hurricanes, so I religiously  stash a living flashlight in an emergency drawer along with candles I never use.  When the light went off,  that flashlight was only a few feet from my hand.  I reflected, well I did something right for a change.   It's time to check the earthquake supplies--portable radio that runs on a battery, water, bandaids, peroxide, etc. I need to buy an electrical outlet that plugs into the car's cigarette lighter.  It would be enough to charge a cell phone.  I guess that blackout was our reminder.


It makes a person grateful to live in Point Richmond: the BP oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico.  For once, something bad didn't happen to us.  However, we are prepared, if it does.  Admiral Thad Allen said they had volunteers but the problem was some of them had muskets and knives.  He said they are trying to decide how clean is clean enough, regarding the beaches in the Gulf.

One woman says, "I remember someone pulled out a knife and pointed it at me when I was a 9-year old child, when I was hanging out by myself at the local stables.  I pulled that knife out of her hand and got a cut on my finger where I still have a scar.  I'll never do that again. So then I was taught about knife safety.  My dad was very concerned about whether it was a switchblade, but I assured him no, it was just a penknife."  Read on.


A possible tragedy that you will not read about in The Point Richmond Voice, because I did not stop.  A small camping trailer, the kind that is pulled by a car, went over the side onto the shoulder of the Castro off ramp going north on I 580.  It apparently fell over the side of the highway as it was being parked on the shoulder on the freeway up above.  It seems that we have a lot of problems with vehicles falling off the road on to  downsloping shoulders of the roads around here.  I didn't stop because I can hardly walk, much less navigate a steep piece of land next to a vehicle that might roll down the hill if a person touched it. A few years ago I stepped on a kickball at a San Francisco middle school, and sprained my knee.  I think this current disability might have something to do with that.  Anyway, someone was already at the accident looking into the window of the trailer with a flashlight.   However, the police were called and said they would respond.  When I drove back to go past it one more time, the railroad train was blocking the road to the on/off ramp that goes down into Chevron, so I couldn't go back.


What is the city going to do about the horrible parking situation in front of the Plunge?  Driving through there is like driving through land that is booby trapped with people backing their cars out unexpectedly, and people coming around parked cars into the street, still wearing bathing suits and carrying towels, and so on.  The only other way to get out is drive to Tewksbury and go over the overpass.  Or I guess you could go over the hill on Washington Avenue, drive through Miller Park and Brickyard, then up over the hill and down on to Canal, turn left and get on Cutting Blvd that way.


Dr. Bruce Harter, superintendent of the West Contra Cost Unified School District, will be back in Point Richmond to speak at the Neighborhood Council this week.  Dr. Harter takes time out of his busy schedule to speak at many civic meetings.  People should go to the meeting prepared to ask him the difficult questions that he is prepared to answer, since he is a public figure and qualified to be spokeperson for the school district.  It's part of his job.

 Reporters don't go over to the district office and pester the secretaries for information, do they?  They don't go on to school grounds unless they have been invited or have a good reason to be there, like any sensible person.  That's because they ask the person who has, or ought to have information the public needs to know about the schools, who comes out to the neighborhood to answer questions and give out information to the public, and who is the one most qualified to speak to the public about those matters.  He gets paid a big salary to answer questions from the press and the public, among the other things he does. 

When something bad happens in the school district, Dr. Harter is the one who has the most access to information and is most qualified to speak in public or to the press about it.  He has been trained to do that, and if he hasn't been trained to do that, the school district ought to send him to GET trained to do that. 

Some city councilmen who are getting big architectural design contracts from the school district would like to tell the superintendent what to do with his school district and how to run it, and threaten to sue them and stuff like that, to the point where if you have a question about what is going on in the school district he just says, "Ask Tom."  But where are those people when something terrible happens like a girl being raped by five boys?  They don't have anything to say because they do not have any real authority to speak on behalf of the school district.  They do not have one single idea about how to deal with such a horrible event.  They aren't qualified to answer questions about that to the press or anyone.  They don't have the information they need at their disposal, like Dr. Harter has, and they don't know what to do.  They do not even know how to respond when someone asks about it.  That's why the district pays Dr. Harter a lot of money--so he can talk about the bad stuff, not just the good stuff.  So if you  have difficult questions that you want an answer for; Wednesday night Dr. Harter will be at the Point Richmond community center, ready to answer your questions.


Last week some kids or grownups were shouting and running around at about 9:30 at night inside the yard at Washington Elementary School.  They were carrying a ball that looked, from a block away, like a basketball.  There is a basketball court inside the school grounds.  The area is posted with big signs saying keep out.  The police were called and reluctantly responded a half hour later with a loud siren, which the neighbors objected to.  They said they have a quiet neighborhood. They have to decide: do they want security for the school or a police deparment that does not know what is going on because no one ever calls them?
It's like having a uniformed police officer walking through a crowded bar.  About half the people are too young to be there.  And they KNOW they are not supposed to be there.  So when the uniformed police officer shows up, they leave.    Berkeley cops might be afraid to do this, but Richmond cops, I guess have spent so much time in bars that they feel right at home walking through a crowded bar.

We keep getting urged to call the police, by the police, so I guess they want us to call them, at least some of them do.  They know how to do things safely so that's probably why they sounded their siren instead of walking up to the fence and yelling at the people inside.  I think the siren on the emergency vehicles is supposed to be loud enough to wake the dead, which is also the job of the police and fire.  I would say THANK YOU for responding to something BEFORE it became a big problem.  Also the police used to always say that a dog is your best protection.  That's why there are so many people with dogs in the Point Richmond neighborhood.


The police go up the street where I live fairly often, without me calling them. Even though a sign says that Crest Avenue is a dead end street, the street leads to a trail head that goes into Miller Park.  There is a small parking area that overlooks the bay with a commanding view.  People often drive up that winding road to that overlook.  There are overgrown bushes that grow right out into the street, making the street very narrow and hazardous right near the curve on the way up there.  There is no guard rail.  The street has potholes and is in need of repair because the shoulder is crumbling.  And the police go there if people are parked there too long, especially at night.  The police shine their bright lights into the cars.  That would give anyone quite a scare. 

I asked one lady who lives on that block, about it.  I asked her why don't you just let those people have their privacy, and let them neck and make out in their car?  She said she did not like thinking about how some young woman might be being raped in a car right outside her house.  So she calls the police when she thinks they have been there too long.  How long is too long?  Long enough to admire the view, but not long enough to get pregnant.