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Parkway Theater: Pat Kernighan must lead now!



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The "Save The Parkway Theater" movement, once a seemingly happy collection of like-minded Oaklanders, has rapidly degenerated into the same kind of feckless factionalization that's doomed the effort to keep the Athletics baseball team in Oakland.

Yes, once again, we have groups that don't talk to each other and with different agendas and a common problem: a lack of leadership from the elected officials involved. In the case of the Athletics, it was Oakland Mayor Ron Dellums (until he began to really insert himself into the process and call for meetings) and now it's Oakland's District Two Councilmember Pat Kernighan.

(A bit of housecleaning: I like Pat; I really do. Always have. But I don't like the way she handles community controversy and this is an example.)

Four Factions

When the Parkway Speakeasy Theater closed after its last show on March 22nd 2009, a rag-tag group of neighbors, concerned Oaklanders, and even people outside Oakland, banded together to create the "Save The Parkway" movement. The first meeting of the "organization" was successful, and Councilmember Kernighan arrived to give her valued input.



But after that the wheels came off the wagon. Once a potential buyer of the theater was located, factions developed:

1) The Parkway Employees - This group of loyal former workers at the theater got notices that it was going to close just four days before it happened. They're rightly upset, but now, months later, they're trying to find jobs. The main "Save The Parkway" members worked to raise money to help them, but the former employees I talked to, while they appreciated their help, felt it was delivered in an over-zealous way, with "out of the blue" calls and contacts from people they didn't know.

2) Save The Parkway - Peter Prato is the spark plug behind this Internet-based organization that has marshalled support for reopening the theater. What's happpened here from my point of view, and the many calls and emails I've gotten, and a video I've not yet installed, is that once Kernighan went to work behind the scenes, it seemed they felt a bit "pushed out" of the proceedings. That's not from them; that's my read alone.

3) Catherine and Kyle Fisher - Once loved by everyone, now hated by some, and still loved by many, has seen their business collapse under the combined weight of the economy, the changing movie climate, declining revenues and rising business costs. No one of the other two groups talks to them or wants to, sadly. The Fisher's view on all of this is hard to determine for publication; they've gone almost completely underground.

4) Councilmember Pat Kernighan and Councilmember Jean Quan - Ok. Now, you're scratching your head on this one, right? What's Jean Quan got to do with this? That's what I was wondering when Quan showed up in the middle of the May 31st Parkway Community Meeting and presented herself as a concerned citizen (who happens to be running for Mayor of Oakland; my view interview with Quan will be installed Sunday June 14th). At first I wondered if Pat knew Jean was coming to the meeting and gave Quan her blessing as the Parkway's in Kernighan's district. All things considered it would be more appropriate for At-Large Councilmember Rebecca Kaplan to have attended the meeting or for Quan to be there with Kernighan. But frankly it looked weird to me.

There's a lot of drama from these factions but all of it can be taken away or at least lessened by one action: Councilmember Pat Kernighan calling what former Oakland City Manager Robert Bobb would call an "all-hands" meeting, with everyone at the table. And I mean everyone Pat can think of regardless of her relationship with them. (Get the message, Pat?)

This is Councilmember Kernighan's time to shine. Right now, she's adding to the gossip mill (what Bobb calls "sniper fire") rather than rising above it. This community development problem is in her District and its rapidly spinning out of control.

It's Councilmember Kernighan's time to step up and lead.
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