While open for about a month now, the official grand opening of the new Kwik Way on Lake Park Avenue, just five doors down from the Grand Lake Theater, happened last Sunday. A small group of people consisting of friends of the restaurant's owner Gary Rizzo, people from the neighborhood, and Oakland's District Two Councilmember Pat Kernighan, and this blogger, lined up to order everything from burgers and fries to chicken.
As I approached the eatery, I saw Lakeshore Business Improvement District Executive Director and friend Pam Drake, who explained that Rizzo received a great deal of help from the City of Oakland, and specifically Kernighan's office.
No, the City of Oakland didn't provide money, but did provide help in the way of expediting the permit process for Rizzo. And why not? The Kwik Way is a long dead landmark brought back to economic life. And already has become a place to hang over a decent, old-fashioned bag of fries.
Well, not too old-fashioned.
Someone put up a sign that day which complained that the food at the new Kwik Way wasn't the food at the old Kwik way. To that, I say, good! The old Kwik Way's food was entirely too greasy and that older establishment was accused of cooking a mouse and putting in someone's order of chicken. Thankfully, those days are gone.
The Oakland Budget and Kernighan
While at Kwik Way, I took time to talk with Councilmember Kernighan about the Oakland Budget and the looming $58 million deficit. I wondered if Oaklanders realized the severity of the problem. Pat said that she think's some people "get it," and have been keeping up with what's going on in the budget hearings and town hall meetings around Oakland.
But Pam then chimed in that some Oakland Councilmembers "didn't get it," causing Kernighan to come to the defense of her colleagues, saying that "they're starting to" realize there's a problem. Pat said "I think the resistance we're starting to see from some of my colleagues is that they feel that certain changes need to happen with the city. That they think that, for instance, the police and fire unions need to make their contributions."
Kernighan was quick to add that the Council's not taking an anti-union stance; they just want to see some movement from those organizations in the way of employee contributions to the pension system.
I then asked what would happen if Oakland elected to maintain its deficit rather than close it with cuts and taxes. Pat said that's "illegal," but I asked if that means she and the other Oakland Councilmembers could be sent to jail? She said she didn't know the answer to that question.
But, if the events in Bell, California - where that city charged property tax rates far above the legal state limit, and several Bell officials pocketed a lot of the revenue difference - are any indication of what could happen, the answer is that if Oakland ran a deficit in violation of state law, the Alameda County District Attorney's Office or the office of the State Attorney General could file criminal charges against the Oakland City Council.
In the case of Bell, its own City Attorney worked to determine which Bell official was responsible for the criminal acts, and said that any possible criminal charges would be up to the LA County DA and the Attorney General of California.
That gives a window into what John Russo could have done as Oakland's City Attorney if the City Council resisted him on the medical marijuana issue. In that case, Oakland was flirting with the possibility of violating Federal laws.