RCPC Town Hall: Meet Councilmember Dan Kalb

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An Interview With Dan Kalb
Friday, April 5, 2013

"It's a lot of work, about what I expected, but I'm a workaholic generally," said Dan Kalb, characterizing his first months as the City Councilmember for Council District 1 which includes Rockridge.

Kalb met late in March with RCPC board members Stuart Flashman and Don Kinkead to discuss a range of Oakland and Rockridge issues in anticipation of his attendance at the RCPC April Town Hall meeting.

For one so recently elected to public office, Kalb was at ease with the range of questions prepared by the RCPC board, discussing city-wide and Rockridge-centric issues with equal comfort and depth. He was also comfortable not answering questions on subjects he felt he needed to know more about.

Excerpts from the interview follow:

City Operations

It was an eye-opener in his early council experiences, Kalb said, to realize the extent of the influence wielded by the city administrator over city affairs.

"Oakland has a strong-mayor system in name only," he said, referring to the arrangement put in place during Jerry Brown's mayoral terms as a "convoluted kind of hybrid." The position of the mayor, separate from the person occupying it at any one time, he noted, "has no veto authority and can only break a council tie vote, but since council members are allowed to abstain, there are few ties to break."

Day-to-day operation of the city is left to the City Administrator, including the hiring and firing of department heads and staff. The mayor can appoint people to commissions, some of which have lots of authority, but "that may be the most significant thing the mayor has." In the end, the mayor gets either the credit or the blame for city policies.

Community Concerns: Crime

During his door-to-door campaigning, Kalb said he heard from Rockridge residents - and many others in the larger district - that they want more of a police presence. "Every part of Rockridge has gotten more crime in recent years than residents have been used to." Thus, he supported the hiring of the Strategic Policy Partnership consulting team headed by Robert Wasserman.

"I am hopeful that the strategies and recommendations that come out of the consulting team will be helpful," he said. He also said that he thought the reforms being required of the police department in the wake of the "Riders" scandal would, in the long run, be beneficial in restoring trust in the police, especially among the city's minorities. As to why those reforms have taken so long to implement, he said he wasn't sure, but it appeared to him that the current city administration was making them a top priority, an approach he approves. Kalb added that whatever decisions are made in the redeployment of new police resources in the future, "I want to make sure District 1 gets its fair share."

Kalb believes that, in addition to structural changes in policing, such as expanding investigative capacity with well-trained civilian personnel, a multifaceted approach to reducing crime is important: "More police is one essential thing, and how they are deployed is another. How the department is structured is important, and working effectively with ex-offenders as well as youth before they get started in the criminal world also needs to be a part of the overall approach."

As to the result of crime reductions, Kalb said, "I hope that feeling safer and being safer end up being the same thing."

NCPC Role in Crime Reduction

As an existing crime reduction strategy, Kalb supports Neighborhood Crime Prevention Councils as providing a good place to share crime tips and information, both at their regular meetings and on the various group listservs. Patterns can be recognized and communicated to the Problem Solving Officers (PSO) attending the meetings. Neighborhood Watch groups are also important, he believes.

Rockridge Zoning Kalb said that he supports Rockridge's current CN-1 zoning, but he also said, "I am definitely open to considering more requirements on conditional use permits and variances," while also noting that not all District 1 neighborhoods have the same needs. He cited the interest that San Pablo Avenue area residents in the Golden Gate neighborhood have in more housing and retail development. Local Schools "The biggest factor of how well a student does in school is home life," Kalb believes. Suggesting a return to the view that the primary responsibility for student success lies with the family, rather than the school, he believes it would be beneficial for young students if parents throughout the city would take more responsibility for creating an environment more supportive of learning, both in the school and at home, as a part of the answer to public school children's performance. While recognizing the role that intra-district transfers play in promoting diversity, Kalb thinks that, ideally, children should attend schools near their homes. He said that he grew up being able to walk to his local school. He'd like to see OaklandÕs schools improve to the point where every neighborhood's schools would be schools a parent would be happy to send their kids to.   Acknowledging the limited role of the city in school affairs, Kalb has already met with District 1 School Board member Jody London and has committed to meeting with her on a monthly basis to learn how he, and the city, can better support the schools. "I intend to be an active partner with Jody."   Dan Kalb had more to say on these and other issues. Join him and your neighbors at RCPC's April 18 Town Hall meeting at the Rockridge Branch Library for a full discussion.