Hypocrisy at Ceremony for Wilma Chan

Alameda County Supervisor was killed one year ago by a dangerous driver. Today the City of Oakland demonstrated how little they really care beyond ceremony.

The new sign and plaque officially naming the park after the late Alameda County Supervisor Wilma Chan. Photos: Streetsblog/Rudick
The new sign and plaque officially naming the park after the late Alameda County Supervisor Wilma Chan. Photos: Streetsblog/Rudick

Alameda County Supervisor Wilma Chan was killed one year ago by a dangerous driver while she was walking her dog near her home. And in Oakland this Friday, officials held a ceremony, along with about 100 attendees, and cut a ribbon at Madison Park, renamed after Chan.

As readers are probably aware, the dedication comes on the heels of an announcement by Alameda’s District Attorney that no charges would be sought against the driver who, despite being blinded by glare, decided to play Russian Roulette with the public. Unable to see, the driver proceeded illegally into the crosswalk where Chan was walking.

Council President Nikki Fortunato Bas cutting the ribbon for the new sign and plaque
Council President Nikki Fortunato Bas cutting the ribbon for the new sign and plaque

Dave Brown, the former staffer who is completing Chan’s term on the Alameda County Board of Supervisors, and Oakland City Council President Nikki Fortunato Bas gave speeches in honor of Chan’s life and mourned her tragic death.

Meanwhile, this was the scene just outside the park:

An Oakland City Council truck, parked right next to the ceremony.
An Oakland Public Works truck, parked right next to the ceremony.

Here’s a view of the new sign from across the street on 9th–or it would be the view, if not for the city truck parked in the crosswalk:

Another illegally parked Oakland truck
The ribbon cutting was on the other side of this Oakland truck

Streetsblog spoke with Richard Battersby and Derin Minor of Oakland Public Works at the ceremony. They confirmed that the trucks belonged to city employees who were there to attend and that none of them were doing any work or unloading anything. They were simply using the trucks to get there (their offices are in downtown, a 17-minute walk away).

Bettersby said parking is hard to find.

Of course, the park is directly above the Lake Merritt BART station (one stop from Public Work’s office). And there are several AC Transit bus stops too. But clearly there were no alternatives but to endanger the public by parking in crosswalks and bike lanes.

Public works had no way to get to the ceremony, held above a BART station, sandwiched between multiple AC Transit stops, a few blocks from their office.
Public works had no way to get to the ceremony, held above a BART station, sandwiched between multiple AC Transit stops, a few blocks from their office.

Meanwhile, as officials gave speeches about Chan’s dedication to public service and the importance of the Chinese community, elderly and disabled Chinese residents struggled to get around all the illegally parked city vehicles. Buses backed up because one of the Oakland trucks was left in the bus stop.

A city vehicle parked in the bus stop.
A city vehicle parked in the bus stop.

And all of this took place at the same intersections where the city decided to stop maintaining corner posts that are key to protecting cyclists and pedestrians by forcing safe turns by motorists.

There was no legal and safe place to park anywhere near the area, insisted Battersby, so blocking bike lanes and crosswalks, for a ceremony commemorating a woman killed by traffic violence, was the only option. Streetsblog took a quick walk around the station. There was plenty of open, legal parking on the next block:

Actually, there was plenty of legal street parking, and there were spots in the BART surface lot
Some of the legal parking one block away

From everything I’ve read and heard, Wilma Chan was a wonderful person dedicated to public service. The mainstream press will continue to write about her legacy, and that’s a good thing. But as the editor of a news website tasked with reporting on traffic violence and street safety, it’s a real gut punch to learn the driver, despite her obvious negligence, will bear no repercussions. And it was really hard to attend this ceremony and see the extent to which city workers and officials talk and talk, but clearly don’t give a shit about safety, even when commemorating a victim of traffic violence who was one of their own.

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