Friday, May 12, 2017

How the Future of the Grand Lake Farmers Market Stands Today

English: SVG of the City Of Oakland Logo, on a...
English: SVG of the City Of Oakland Logo, on a black background. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
 In January, City staff in a Council Agenda Report to the City Administrator recommended that Agricultural Institute of Marin (AIM), the organization that has run the Grand Lake Farmers Market for nearly 20 years, be granted the right to manage the market for another five years. (See following post.) Hearing that there was some neighborhood opposition to this proposal, last month my wife and I attended a meeting of a group calling itself the Farmers Market Coalition at Lakeshore Baptist Church where several members of the group expressed unhappiness with AIM’s management for a variety of reasons, some of which had merit but most, I thought, did not.

For instance, one speaker thought AIM could do a better job cleaning up after market. I have no knowledge of whether or not this is an issue, but it’s certainly a reasonable subject of discussion. On the other hand, the notion voiced more than once that only an Oakland group could run an Oakland market struck me as parochial. My wife has a more extensive discussion of the particulars of the meeting that I will post next week, and you can judge for yourself.

Two AIM representatives, including the market manager, were in attendance and listened patiently to the complaints and expressed willingness to address them though, as I said, some – such as the complaint that the market is “too popular” – struck me as particularly wrong-headed since I remember what a ghost town the Lakeshore shopping district was in 1991 when we moved into the neighborhood. My problem with the tenor of the evening was that rather than embrace AIM’s willingness to listen, the group was ready to ask Oakland City Council to do an RFP, or “request for proposal,” in relation to the market’s future, that is, to throw wide open the question of who will run the market going forward.

My feeling about this is simple: If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.

Grand Lake Farmers Market is outstanding, award winning, praised in the media and by those who frequent it, at least by everyone I know. To “rebid” who will run the market opens the door for political maneuvering of all kinds – favoritism, cronyism, political manipulation and backstabbing, and shiny promises that tarnish in the light of day. To me it is self-evident that the market is a great success and that an RFP is a very bad idea since it would represent a great risk for a small potential gain since the probability that new management would be better management is slight. Rather the opposite, I’d think. Our market – our farmers, our vendors and craftspeople – are wonderful.

My assumption is that most who attend the market are delighted with it and regard it as a source of pride for the neighborhood and for Oakland.

If you agree with me, these are the people to talk to:

 City Council - City of Oakland, California

·      Council District 1:  Dan Kalb
o   Office 510-238-7001
o   Olga Bolotina, Chief of Staff
510-238-7240 or
o   Monica Harris, Community Liaison
510-238-7014 or

·      Council District 2 (Market site in this district):  Abel J. Guillen
o   Office 510-238-7002
o   Richard Raya, Chief of Staff
510-238-7023 or
o   Jessica Chen, Scheduler
510-238-7022 or

·      Council District 3 (District adjacent to Market):  Lynette Gibson McElhaney, Council President
o   Office 510-238-7003
o   Zac Wald, Chief of Staff:
o   Bridgitte Cook, Constituent Liaison:
o   Alex Marqusee, Legislative Analyst:

·      Council District 4:  Annie Campbell Washington:
o   Office 510-238-7004
o   Adam Simons, Chief of Staff: or 510-238-7042

·      Council District 5:  Noel Gallo
o   Office 510-238-7005
o   Lisa Coto, Special Assistant:

·      Council District 6:  Desley Brooks
o   Office 510-238-7006
o   Sidney Wilson, Council Aid: or 510-238-3971

·      Council District 7:  Larry Reid
o   Office 510-238-7007
o   Ray Leon:  510-238-7071

·      Councilmember At Large:  Rebecca Kaplan
o   Office 510-238-7008
o   Sheng Thao, Chief of Staff:  510-238-7082

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