Oakland North

Financial Planning Day provides free financial advice for hundreds of Oakland residents

–Published on OaklandNorth.net on October 3, 2011–



Money was the theme of the day on Saturday as hundreds of people flocked to City Hall to partake in Financial Planning Day, a free event that provided no-obligation financial advice and counseling. The event was hosted by the city of Oakland and the East Bay chapter of the Financial Planning Association (FPA), a networking organization for certified financial planners, and offered attendees both workshops and one-on-one meetings with certified financial planners.

Now in its second year as a national event, Financial Planning Days have grown in popularity; during the first four hours over 300 people attended the Oakland event.  Dozens of participants waited their turn on the balloon-decorated mezzanine to meet with one of the many financial advisors seated in rows of long, white tables for 15 minutes at a time. Below, on the ground floor, workshops were held in classroom-like settings, and featured both lectures and power point presentations.

Haly Pilgrim, an employee at the Oakland International Airport, took the day off of work to attend. “I’m pretty bad at money planning, 401(k)s, and those kinds of things,” she said. “I thought that I could come and maybe get some idea on how to invest in stuff like that.”

Others were happy to just get clear, easy-to-understand financial advice and to have their questions clarified. “I’ve always been intimidated just by asking a question because I think that everyone else already knows what they’re doing and I’m the dumb one,” said Oakland resident Dan Sawran “There’s just so much out there and I have no idea where to start.”

Free financial advice workshops are no new thing to Oakland. In fact, Financial Planning Day itself is modeled in large part after local certified financial planner Frank Pare’s financial planning clinics, which he first started organizing in 2008.

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5 Occupy Oakland Campers Speak About Why They Joined The Protest

–Published on OaklandNorth.net on October 24, 2011–
(Co-written by Brittany Schell)



There used to be grass here, but it didn’t last long―not after the bodies started multiplying and the make-shift community started growing. Now the space is covered in mud and heaps of hay. And a runaway pancake that slid off of someone’s blue-plastic plate. And a stray sock, and a boardwalk of planks. And feet. Hundreds of feet. This used to be Frank H. Ogawa Plaza, but not any more. Welcome to Occupy Oakland.

The camp has been occupying the plaza in front of Oakland’s city hall since October 10, when a group of protesters decided to replicate the Occupy Wall Street movement that began last month in New York City. The demands of the movement are broad, but focus largely on economic inequality: one of the mantras chanted often by protesters is, “We are the 99 percent,” implying that the nation’s wealth is concentrated among one percent of Americans.

The entrance to the campsite is littered with signs that read: “Let’s end a system prone to corruption and try again,” and “Bail out the people, not the banks.” Visitors walk by a community garden box growing chard and rosemary, then squeeze past the cluttered dish-washing station and a noisy line of campers waiting for a free meal before winding their way into the depths of the tent city on improvised wooden walkways with names like “Endism Road.”

On a hot Sunday afternoon, in and around a sea of tents in varying sizes and colors, there are snowy-haired elderly women, hippies with dreadlocks, street kids in baggy pants, optimistic college students and a few children running around. Here are excerpts of conversations with five of them.

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City Administrator’s Office: Occupy Oakland Strike Was “Primarily Peaceful”

–Published on OaklandNorth.net on November 3, 2011–

Wednesday’s Occupy Oakland general strike began at 9 am and continued until early the next morning. According to the City Administrator’s Office, the demonstrations were “primarily peaceful protests with some isolated incidents of violence and vandalism.” Nearly 10,000 people took part in the protests, 300 of which were teachers from the Oakland Unified School District, said Troy Flint, Director of Public Relations for OUSD. From 7 am to midnight, there were no arrests and the general strike consisted of mostly marches, rallies, and music performances.

However, after midnight, a number of isolated incidents occurred throughout the area, including property vandalism, lighting fires, and police assaults. A total of 80 preliminary arrests were made, and five civilians and three police officers were injured, according to the City Administrator’s Office website. Tear gas and beanbags were then used to motivate protesters to leave the area.

A substantial number of businesses were vandalized or sprayed with graffiti throughout the day. According to the City Administrator’s Office, Chase Bank, Bank of America, Wells Fargo, and Whole Foods Market were vandalized in the afternoon, incurring damages such as broken windows and tagging, followed by more buildings that evening. Buildings at 150 and 250 Frank Ogawa Plaza, as well as the BART entrance at Broadway and 12th Street, were tagged with graffiti, and the windows of Tully’s Coffee, the ground floor of City Hall, the Oakland Police Department, and the Cypress Security offices in the plaza were broken. Protesters also removed 30 square feet of paving stones (about 70 stones) from Frank Ogawa Plaza near the fountain.

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Community Acupuncture a New Trend in Oakland


The process is simple: a whispered check-in with the patient—How are you feeling? What’s bothering you? Then the needles go in, quick and meticulously positioned, usually for no longer than 10 minutes.

Once the practitioner’s role is done—the needles are placed and the Meridian points connecting various organs of the body have been pricked— it’s the patient’s turn to take over. Lean back and relax, they are often instructed. Close your eyes and try to feel the sensations.

And so they do. In a dimly lit room on the ground floor of an office building in North Oakland, the patients lean back in their zero gravity chairs, their bodies cocooned in blue and green pillows and blankets. An I-Pod docking station plays songs from the album Realms of Grace: An Angelic Experience, which is basically Enya, minus the vocals. Nobody talks. Some read, many sleep, all wait. This is its second day since opening, but already the Oakland Acupuncture Project clinic is packed. In less than 48 hours, it has already treated 22 patients.

Last Monday, the Oakland Acupuncture Project opened up its second clinic across the street from Safeway on Grand Avenue. The original clinic, which opened in 2008 at its current location on Laurel Avenue, was started by two graduates of the Acupuncture and Integrative Medicine College of Berkeley, Roselle McNeilly and Whitney Thorniley.

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New State Law Mandates Booster Seats for Kids Up to 8 Years-Old


For the last eight years, Nishan Shepard, the owner of Rockbridge Kids, has set his own standard when it comes to selling car and booster seats. Although until this season California law required parents to keep their children in car or booster seats until they reach the age of six or weigh 60 pounds, Shepard encourages parents to stick it out even longer— to avoid for as long as possible letting their children rely solely on seat belts.

“I made my daughter ride in a car seat, way back in the caveman days, until she was eight years old,” he said. “These kids need for as long as possible to have car seats surrounding them to protect their delicate, still-developing bodies.”

When parents come into the store shopping for a new car or booster seat, the first thing they ask Shepard is about the requirements of the law. “And we answer, very quickly:  ’Let’s talk about what’s right, not how old or how big your child needs to be to stop using a booster seat,’” he said.

The state of California has just gone one step farther in agreeing with Shepard. Last month, Governor Jerry Brown signed a bill designed to give kids more time in the extra protection of booster seats. State Senate Bill 929, which will go into effect January 1, 2012, makes booster seats mandatory for kids up to eight years old, or 4 feet 9 inches tall. The new law, written by Senator Noreen Evans, is based on recommendations from the National Highway Transportation Safety Administration (NHTSA), the American Academy of Pediatrics, the National Transpiration Safety Board, and other groups that all argue for keeping kids in booster seats until they have grown large enough to make proper use of an adult safety belt.

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Business as Usual and a Low Profile for Dispensaries After the Oaksterdam Raid


Medical marijuana dispensaries often strive to keep a low profile, but this has been even more the case than usual after federal agents raided Oaksterdam University and the home of founder Richard Lee on Monday. Half a dozen East Bay dispensaries responded with “no comment” when asked about how their organization was reacting to the raid, and others ignored voicemails. An employee at Crystal Paradise Delivery, a medical marijuana delivery service based in Emeryville, declined to comment, but he did say that the business was “just watching and waiting to see what happens, I guess.”

To date, there are no known closures of other dispensaries in the East Bay as a reaction to Monday’s raid. For many dispensaries, such as Oakland’s Harborside Health Center and the Berkeley Patient’s Care Collective, it’s business as usual. But this doesn’t mean that staffers don’t have their fears.

Erik Miller, the manager at the Berkeley Patient’s Care Collective, a dispensary in Berkeley which just celebrated its eleventh year in business, said that he is always worried that the city or federal government might shut the collective down. “So far so good,” Miller said, “but we’re always concerned.”

Worrying about the future is not uncommon for dispensary owners and managers, said Steven DeAngelo, executive director of the East Oakland dispensary Harborside Health Center. “I decided five years ago when we opened our doors that this was a risk that was worth taking,” he said, “that this was a medicine that people desperately need and that I was going to continue doing it as long as I was physically able to do so.”

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