Raimondi Park Field in Raimondi Park is at the center of some controversy right now (mid-May, 2014).
- May 12, 2014: Matier and Ross published an article, "Oakland drops the ball on Little League showcase," telling the story of a planned partnership between Oakland Parks and Rec, the Good Tidings Foundation and the A's. Matier and Ross wrote that Mike Anglin, president of the North Oakland Little League and the South Oakland Little League and his parents pitched refurbishment of this field to the Good Tidings Foundation. There would be $150k in private money and in-kind support and league-financed concessions. The city had questions that led to hold ups: who would maintain the grass? The city couldn't staff extra maintenance and couldn't legally outsource it or allow the little leaguers to use a power mower. The city wouldn't allow sprinklers to be installed without permits. They also wouldn't allow the field to be the right size for Little League, since others who use it (5500 people) require a larger size. According to Anglin, the only other people who had a permit for the field, Oakland Tech's JV team, use a different field. According to Matier and Ross, the A's gave up and refurbished a field in Richmond.
On May 13th, 2014, Chip Johnson slammed the city of Oakland, saying that " too often the Oakland Parks and Recreation Department turns out to be the biggest obstacle to" the goals of promoting recreational activity and fostering community spirit. He summed up the obstacles Matier and Ross had described and said that this was the third time the A's had donated money that had been screwed up. In 2008, he wrote that the A's donated 40,000 to renovate the "baseball field at Ernie Raimondi Park in West Oakland. A beautiful regulation baseball field was laid out - and promptly forgotten. It has not been maintained and is no longer usable." which? He also wrote that the A's donated "groundskeeper expertise" and financial support to the Rickey Henderson Field that is now at the center of another controversy. Johnson went on to suggest that the A's should think about moving to Richmond. He called out other programs with problems: Feather River Camp and the Aquatics Center and said that if the city can't afford this stuff, volunteers and community members should be allowed to figure it out. He also said unions and labor rules shouldn't be able to get in the way of accepting $150,000 "free and clear" grants.
On May 13, 2014, Barry Miller, president of the Oakland Parks and Recreation Advisory Commission (PRAC) , responded to the articles. The views are Mr Miller's, not necessarily the views of other PRAC commissioners. His letter to Chip Johnson states that it is common sense to have the "capacity to maintain an asset before building it," and that the real issue is the "chronic underfunding of park maintenance in Oakland." He asks Johnson to give OPR the benefit of the doubt and to support more funding for the Parks, rather than assuming city staff are at fault. He states that the city is working on a corporate sponsorship/naming policy (which has also been in the news).
On May 14th, 2014, Barry Weiss and Ken Lupoff, President and Executive Director of Friends of Oakland Parks and Rec, respectively, wrote a letter to Chip Johnson and the San Francisco Chronicle. As with Mr Miller, their letter represents their viewpoints alone. The men write that Johnson, Matier and Ross base their columns on mistaken assumptions. They explain that OPR has $112 million of unfunded maintenance needs and explain that taking on grant funds without maintenance dollars would create more unfunded liability. They have secured $28 million in the last ten years and $5m from revenue. They also mention the upcoming naming policy. Again the men remind Johnson, Matier and Ross about the hard work of OPR staff and volunteers.
On May 14, 2014, a post appeared on the OPR facebook page addressing Johnson's article. The post states that the A's gave $40k to the Raimondi Park Field, and the field is still in use: "the field has not been forgotten. Traditionally the OPR fields are closed from November through February in preparation for the baseball season opening. During this period, the City learned that there were several complications with the irrigation system that caused major delays in opening as expected. On May 5, 2014, Oakland Public Works completed a major renovation of the Raimondi field, which, including the installation of 8,000 SF of new sod, and will be re-open within 4-5 weeks." The post also notes that the Rickey Henderson Field is not part of OPR and explains the situation and their involvement. (It's on OUSD property.) The post also states that OPR has been involved in "dozens" of successful projects with the A's and Good Tidings and "over the last 10 years we have brought in more than $20 million in outside funding for parks and recreation Capital Improvement work and programming." OPR also says that the Richmond project went through a nonprofit, not the City of Richmond. Here is the rest:
"OPR was approached on Feb. 28 with the Bushrod Park project and saw it as an opportunity with a lot of promise. Our staff and department leaders set to diligent work, and despite several changes requested by Mike Anglin, President of NOLL/SOLL, OPR was ready to move forward on the proposal within the 17 working days. On March 24, OPR was notified that Good Tidings instructed Bothman Construction not to procure payment and performance bonds for the project which are required per the City of Oakland’s Municipal Code and State regulations regarding Public Works contracts.
On March 27, the City of Oakland received notification that the Oakland A’s would not be moving forward with the project based on the obstacles and limitations set forth by the City of Oakland. As with any substantial changes proposed for public property, we were responsible for ensuring that the changes went through a transparent, accountable process. More than 5,500 people use Bushrod Park every year and changing the size of the field would affect those people's use of the space. We were excited about the project but had a responsibility to give the public a chance to weigh in. Our process was the same as it has been in the past for similar proposals, and if the A's would like to reconsider bringing the game back to Bushrod Park we are ready to take the next steps. While our responsibilities to ensure transparency and opportunities for community input on proposed changes to public space, we want to ensure as streamlined and effective a process as possible. We're taking a hard look now at how our process is structured and hope to report some improvements in the coming weeks.
Feather River Camp: In 2003/2005 the camp was being recommended for closure as part of the budget proposal due to insufficient funds for OPR to continue to operate Feather River Camp. At that time the Non Profit Camps in Common stepped forward to operate the camp. The City entered into a one-year agreement with CIC for the one-year operation of the Camp. In March 2004 an agreement was executed from 2004-2008, CIC has been operating in a hold over capacity while a new agreement is being negotiated, due to numerous changes in the CIC administration. There are several concerns regarding the inability of Camps in Common to continue its operation.
This statement is generated from the request of Camps in Common to seek $80,000 -$100,00 of additional funding for its operation from the City Oakland. (when the city continues to reduce the subsidies to local non-profits such as Peralta Hacienda, Oakland Zoo, Fairyland and the Asian Cultural Center). The Director felt the addition to the current subsidy estimated at $50,000 was unfair to request due to the city’s financial circumstances. The City continues to be committed to the success of Feather River and this commitment is demonstrate through allocating $500,000 of Measure WW funds for the Capital Improvements deemed necessary by CIC administration. In addition OPR continues to make the enterprise facilities available for fundraisers deemed necessary by the board of CIC to support their fundraising efforts. In regards to marking of Feather River, the programs are advertised in our print materials as a means of promoting and encouraging participation along with the Mayor’s support in continuously seeking sponsorships for the young people of the City of Oakland to attend Camp. It is unfortunate in the last 2-3 years the youth of Oakland have not been able to attend the camp due to the camp fees being cost prohibitive for our recreation facilities and families.
The Oakland Jack London Aquatic Center was an issue under the previous administration and is certainly inaccurate for today’s conversation. On March 1, 2011, OPR resumed the responsibility of the Aquatic Center, due to the inability of the Non Profit Organizations to operate without a significant subsidy from the City of Oakland. Since that time OPR has resumed control over the facility without additional General Purpose Funding while ensuring and maintaining a strong youth presence, with a constant representation of inner city youth to include Outdoor Recreation After School Kayaking (from various Oakland Recreation sites), Racing Camp, Catamaran Camp and an introduction to Sailing Team.
However, Oakland youth have not been limited in the outdoor experience. OPR has found other means in engaging youth in outdoor adventures through East Bay Regional Parks and the State of California Department of Recreation and Parks. The City of Oakland entrusted CIC to operate the camp per their agreement and should not be compared to SF or Berkeley Camps where, in contrast, their camps are operated by their respective City agency. The City has reached a tentative verbal agreement with CIC and will be going before the Oakland City Council to renew an agreement next month."
- On May 14th, Matier and Ross posted a followup article in the San Francisco Chronicle saying that the A's were giving Oakland a "second chance" to work with them as long as there wasn't a lot of red tape involved.
On May 15th, the City Administrator issued a response. OAK047175.pdf The response was a short version of the above post with the addition of a final paragraph: "We are excited about this project and at the same time we have a responsibility to give the public a chance to weigh in. Our process here is the same as it has been in the past for similar proposals. City officials had already set a meeting with the Oakland A’s to discuss solutions together prior to this issue’s coverage in local media. We look
forward to continued discussions with the A’s and working together to arrive at a solution that serves Oakland children and our community as a whole. "