Me and W. Kamau Bell and the Elmwood Cafe

January 30, 2015
W. Kamau Bell Citizen Radio LIVE in NYC! Photo by Anna Matsen

W. Kamau Bell
Citizen Radio LIVE in NYC! Photo by Anna Matsen

W. Kamau Bell, one of my favorite comedians, educates people about race and racism. He started educating me before one of his shows at La Pena by offering a discount (I love discounts) for coming with a person of a different race (uh, oh. Who do I know that is of a different race that I could invite to the show? Big consciousness-raising moment for me there. ) He is going to have a public discussion with the Elmwood Cafe about their racism. Go read it.


Courtesy Pay or Overdraft for debit or ATM cards.

November 15, 2011

If you have no money in your account and you pay for a purchase with a debit card, what do you want your Bank or Credit Union to do?

1.) Decline to pay. That way I won’t spend money I don’t have and pay fees for the privilege.
2.) Pay it and charge me a fee and give me a few days to get the money there. That way I won’t be embarrassed in front of people.

There is a law that says the Bank or Credit Union has to get your permission in writing to do #2. Some financial institutions would charge a large fee, $35 for example, for each transaction. The average fee is $29. So a movie ticket, popcorn at the snack bar, and coffee at the local coffee shop after could cost $105 in fees in addition to the actual costs. Or an ATM withdrawal could cost a lot more than the fee the ATM owner and your financial institution charge. Some financial institutions also charge another fee for every day your account balance remains negative.

Most accounts have a limit (say $200) that the financial institution will let you overdraft. Some of the financial institutions would add your allowable overdraft amount to the amount they reported as your “available balance” when you checked the ATM. Trying to fool you into thinking that you had more money in your account than you actually had. And encouraging you to rack up those fees.

Decide whether you want “courtesy pay” on your debit card before you open the checking account. Decide if you want “courtesy pay” on checks you write, which is a separate decision. Don’t sign up for anything you don’t want, no matter how persuasive the representative is.

This post applies equally to banks and credit unions.

“Courtesy.” I do not think that word means what you think it means.

1st United Services Credit Union

November 4, 2011

1st United Services Credit Union is very focused on the East Bay. They have the most branch offices (eleven) in Alameda and Contra Costa County of any C. U. in Oakland, and don’t need to use C.U. shared branching. List here includes their ATMs. The Co-op ATM network is also available for free. The annual meeting is in Pleasanton at the headquarters, so members may attend easily.

1st United Services Credit Union was one of the first credit unions in the State of California. The credit union was originally founded in 1932 as City & County Employees’ Credit Union to serve Alameda County Employees. 1st United Services C.U. has $788 million in assets, and 47 thousand members.

They make it easy to leave your bank with a Switch Kit (pdf)
To join you must put at least $25 in savings and $25 in checking.

The minimum balance listed for regular savings to earn interest is $100, but as of November 3, 2011, the rate is only 0.05%. Their highest savings rate is 2.02% on a 60-month bump certificate of at least $2000. If they advertise a higher rate on those certificates, you can bump up to the higher rate once during the term.

They have free 1st basic checking. No minimum balance required, no direct deposit required. Checks are $17.50 for 150 checks. Returned/bounced checks cost $25 each.

The member services agent recommended 1st interest checking. For $1000 minimum balance, you get a free box of checks each year and one $25 fee waived per year. The interest paid is 0.05%, so you’d earn at least fifty cents a year on your $1000 minimum balance.

They have a Sharing is caring program. Refer a friend and 1st United will donate $10 to Alameda County Food Bank or Toys for Tots. Sharing is Caring

Scraper Bikes Exhibit in Berkeley

July 1, 2011
Red, fuschia and yellow Scraper Bike

Scraper Bike exhibit in Addison Street Art Windows

Oakland’s Scraper Bikes are on exhibit in Berkeley in the Addison Street Art Windows next to Freight and Salvage across the street from Berkeley Repertory Theater.

The Scraper Bike Movement “seeks to capture the creativity of youth living within dangerous communities. It gives them a positive outlet that is fun, educational, and promotes healthy lifestyles. The Scraper Bike Movement offers youth a sustainable group of peers that is positive and motivating.” And they are fun to watch! (Trigger warning for ableist language and, I believe, homophobic language.)

Baybe Champ’s blog, The Original Scraper Bike Team is well worth checking out.

Cool Hand Luke wrote posted an excellent article and video link at 38th St. Notes about the Scraper Bike Movement.

Or here’s another video:

Scraper Bike Riding Peace in Oakland from New America Media on Vimeo.

Here’s an instructable for how to make your own:

I like seeing the Scraper Bikes around town, and I admire these boys and young men, but I wish they would wear helmets!

BlogOakSphere Party Report 2011

January 7, 2011

Last night I attended the 4th BlogOakSphere Party at Disco Volante. I had such a good time that I didn’t leave for the other Thursday evening event I was supposed to attend.

The first good thing was the special drinks menu: The drink names were take-offs on Oakland Blog names, with a couple of politicians for good measure. “Living in the OJ” and “Ranked-Choice Don” (You can’t figure out the ingredients), for example. Unfortunately for me, I drove myself to the party so I had to content myself with “We Fight Booze,” fancy Italian soda.

The famous Tina Tamale and Consuelo of facebook artist page Oakland convinced me to look at Old Oakland as a place to move to within walking distance of almost everything. There is an Old Oakland Neighborhood Group, and an Old Oakland Farmer’s Market and many different types of places to live.

I got to meet a woman I thought was named Marlene Lee who explained to me that Lee is her middle name. Leaving me with the question of “Who are Oakland’s Asian bloggers?” There seemed to be some under-representation at the party and in my blog-reader. Suggestions, dear readers?

Cool-hand Luke is even cooler than I thought he was. He really loves Oakland. Max Allstadt has started a blog with doable ideas to improve Oakland, and he’s planning to just let the commenters discuss it. Dianna of City Homestead recommended her neighborhood to move to. Abel of Ella Baker Center and Oakland Geology recommended the Alameda County Leadership Academy as an amazing experience.

Thanks to V. Smoothe and her friends for putting on such a great party.

I’m going to post this pre-maturely and fix it later. Check back, ok?

The letter to the Salvation Army

December 24, 2010

I explain in this post what I’m doing, and I include here the letter I’m sending to inspire you to pick up your own teaspoon. (scroll down to the definition of “teaspoon” on that link.)

Salvation Army
Major C. Patrick Granat
Alameda County Coordinator
Oakland Corps
P.O. box 510
Oakland, Ca 94604-0510

December 23, 2010

Dear Major C. Patrick Granat,
In previous years, this envelope would contain my usual large annual donation to your organization. Please check your records to find out how much I have given for how many years. I want to explain what you did that makes this year different.

It has come to my attention that the Salvation Army discriminates against homosexual people they employ. I’ve discussed this with a surprisingly well-informed red kettle bell-ringer who explained that the Salvation Army quit offering benefits to domestic partners so it wouldn’t appear that the Salvation Army condones homosexuals being in loving committed relationships.

I don’t want to appear to condone hate or discrimination.

Your job requirements also discriminate on the basis of religion. There are other local charitable organizations that provide shelter and transition to stable housing without discrimination. I have re-directed my donations to one of them. I have blogged my reasoning publicly. I read that donations to the Salvation Army are down this year—maybe it’s because of the discrimination?

Please let me know when you change your policy, start advocating for gay marriage, or break with the national organization so that Oakland’s Corps can do the right thing. Otherwise, put me on your “do not mail” list and save a tree.


Why I’m not donating to the Salvation Army this year

December 24, 2010

As a collector of Oakland firsts, I offer a fun fact about the Salvation Army kettles: The Salvation Army kettles began in 1891 with Captain Joseph McFee hitting up Oakland commuters to San Francisco to put donations in a crab pot at the Oakland Ferry landing. And I explain why I’ve stopped donating to the Salvation Army.

Years ago, I asked an Oakland Police Officer who I should give money to in order to help the homeless. Police Officers get to see what is happening on the streets in a way that most of us don’t. The Salvation Army was recommended, and I’ve given them a large donation every year since. This year, a friend asked me to re-consider because the Salvation Army discriminates against gays.

They don’t discriminate against gays and non-Christians in delivering services because that would be no fun—you can’t convert someone who is already a Christian and not a sinner. They discriminate in benefits available to their employees. The Salvation Army decided to quit offering domestic partner benefits after only one month of doing so because they didn’t want to appear to condone gay and lesbians having committed loving relationships. The Western region of the Salvation Army was pressured by hate-your-neighbor so-called-Christian groups, including the rest of the Salvation Army. They now say that homosexuals must be celibate. The national Salvation Army lobbied to exempt themselves from laws requiring that they hire gays if they take federal funds.

Donations to the Salvation Army are down perhaps, especially in the S.F. Bay Area, because of their discrimination.

The City of Oakland has an Equal Benefits Ordinance that prohibits giving City contracts or renting City-owned property to the Salvation Army because they discriminate by not providing equal benefits to domestic partners.

Who else are you going to give to?
The Alameda County Community Food Bank is serving 1 in 6 residents of Alameda County – nearly half of them children and teens. They are trying to end hunger and go out of business, a goal I support and applaud (and give money to.)

A Safe Place domestic violence shelter provides emergency shelter and supportive services for women and children.

Building Opportunities for Self-Sufficiency includes homeless people in creating solutions rather than preaching at them. BOSS started when California quit locking away mentally-ill people in mental hospitals. They do many things for the homeless, including handing out hotel vouchers and arranging to use un-used houses.

A Street Spirit / Street Sheet seller (I’m sorry I didn’t think to get his name) recommended that I give my money to him, and if not him, the street papers. He also recommended City Team as a place to get a bed on a cold night (only $3). He said preach at you, so I expect they have the same policy of discrimination that the Salvation Army has although I haven’t verified that.

Don’t like those choices? The City of Oakland has some suggestions for homeless services.

The Bay Area has a 211 resource which lists shelter possibilities.

Related links
New York Times: Bay Area. The Salvation Army-Gay Dilemma: To Give or Not?

This link is a particulary good summary. Salvation Army Policy Decried: Bay Area officials criticize the organization for halting health benefits to domestic partners.

Related post The letter to the Salvation Army

CO-OP network: ATMs for Credit Unions

January 31, 2010

CO-OP network logo

Where can you find an ATM? How much will they charge you to use it? Which credit union has the most free ATMs?

Since credit unions have a limited number of branches and ATMs, almost all of them have joined the CO-OP network. This means that you can use an ATM owned by other credit unions. 7-11 store ATMs are also in the CO-OP network. That’s 28,000 ATMs nationwide, 34 in Oakland proper.

CO-OP network ATMs are surcharge-free. That means that the owner of the ATM doesn’t charge you a fee.

Typically, CO-OP network ATMs are free for credit union members to use. There are exceptions. Some accounts have a limited number of free ATM withdrawals. Some credit unions charge for using any ATM they don’t own. Check the fee disclosure for your credit union.

The CO-OP network also gives you access to over 800,000 ATMs worldwide through links to NYCE, STAR, Cirrus, Pulse and Plus, but these are not surcharge-free. Some credit unions will rebate the surcharge, depending on what account you have. Your credit union will probably also charge you to use these ATMs, although they may allow a limited number of uses for free.

The issue of which Oakland credit union has the most free ATMs will have to wait while I research whether Bank of the West has joined the CO-OP network and whether any other CUs belong to the additional networks that Alliant CU belongs to.


Other Coast Live Oak posts in the Credit Union series:
Move Your Money to Oakland,
Patelco Credit Union,
Provident CU: Super Rewards Checking,
Alliant Credit Union: high savings rates
Oakland Credit Unions: the complete list
Is my money safe in a credit union?


January 31, 2010

December 7, 2009 it snowed in Oakland.

Redwood Park Skyline Gate

This is rare. I’ve never seen snow on a bay laurel tree before. I think of snow on needles, but not on leaves.

Snow on bay laurel tree

Looking toward the East Ridge Trail

Here are some links for those who liked the Oakland snow:
Snow on Claremont Avenue in Oakland/Berkeley hills
snow day in east bay hills
Snow in the O!
Bay City News Service
New York Times
Tearln’s Skyline Snow 12/07/2009 Flickr set

Aren’t those pictures in the header beautiful?

January 31, 2010

Carolyn of Oakland Daily Photo took them. Her blog has pictures for many of the posts that are still in my head.

In other news, I cleaned up some typos and added graphics to a few posts.