Tag Archives: Florida

Oakland Sears still hasn’t repaired windows

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For a short time in July, downtown Oakland looked like a ghost town marked by boarded-up windows and graffiti after rioters, angry at the acquittal of George Zimmerman in the murder of teenager Trayvon Martin in Florida, swept through the area with masked faces.

But while other small businesses and shops replaced their glass and cleaned up their storefronts within a few weeks, Sears, one of the city’s biggest retailers, still looks practically abandoned almost five months later.

The big building at 1955 Broadway, which spans more than half a block, still has giant sheets of plywood over most of its windows. Almost every opening along the Telegraph Avenue side is blocked out, and the store’s cheery holiday displays on 20th Street are also half hidden by the boards.

Neighbors have spent the past few months asking the store’s managers and the city to fix the storefront, but have gotten no results.

“I walk past it every day – it’s depressing,” said Gilbert Lara, 46, who lives a block away. “It really affects the quality of life in that area because the building’s such a huge presence there.”

Sears, though, has no plans to fix the problem. Howard Riefs, a company spokesman, said that because the windows are difficult to replace, the store has no time frame for when repairs will begin and end.

“The custom windows date back to the 1930s, and replacing them is more complicated than those in a typical building,” he said.

Lara said neighbors, after hearing a similar response from Sears, went to the city for help. Under Oakland’s municipal code, inspectors can cite businesses or individuals for building code violations or blight.

Rachel Flynn, director of Oakland’s Department of Planning and Building, said the agency tries to work with property owners on a resolution before issuing citations or fees. A few months ago, she said, inspectors informed Sears that it could not have exposed and unfinished wood on its windows, prompting the store to paint the plywood.

When the city continued to get complaints about the windows, inspectors cited the business last month for general blight, Flynn said. Sears was given a month to respond to the citation with a plan to fix the issue.

“Our goal is to always to work with property owners and see what can be done and what is reasonable,” she said. “That’s what we’ll have to do.”

Lara said while no downtown business deserved to be vandalized in July, the majority of them – many small, local businesses with considerably less wealth than corporations like Sears – had taken care of their damage within a week. But almost five months later, Sears still can’t seem to get it together.

“I stopped following up because we were just getting the same answer and nothing was happening,” he said. “It feels like no one cares about this neighborhood.”

What’s not working

Issue: The windows of the Sears department store in downtown Oakland remain broken and boarded up from a protest almost five months ago.

What’s been done: Sears representatives said the windows are difficult and expensive to replace, and that they have no timeline for when repairs will begin. City officials said they’re working with Sears to reach a resolution, and have already cited them under the city’s municipal code for a blight violation. Sears officials have a month to come up with a plan to fix the windows

Who’s responsible: Howard Riefs, director of communications, Sears Holdings Corp. – Howard.Riefs@ searshc.com, (847) 286-8371. Rachel Flynn, director of Oakland’s Department of Planning and Building – RFlynn@oaklandnet.com, (510) 238-2229.

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Is Kanye West losing his cool appeal? And is Kim Kardashian to blame?

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Is it a “Kardashian kurse” or is Kanye West losing his cool all on his own? In any case, popularity problems seem to be plaguing the once untouchable rap sensation.

West’s performance this week brought just 4,500 people to the Sprint Center, a venue built for 19,000, meaning less than 24 percent of seats were occupied. He has had to cancel several other shows throughout his nationwide tour and drew criticism when he stopped a Florida concert after only three songs and demanded the lights be turned off before launching a profanity-laced rant at the tech staff and storming off the stage.

So is West’s egotistical, bizarre behavior finally taking its toll on fans?

“We are often drawn to people who have an ego and confidence that is derived from their talent. But an empty ego, based on a fake self-inflated image and concept, creates an over powering sense of desperation and superficiality,” human behavior expert Patrick Wanis told FOX411.

West has made headlines frequently lately, more due to his outlandish remarks than his trailblazing talent. We’ve heard the rapper compare himself to everyone from Jesus, Michael Jordan and Steve Jobs to Nelson Mandela, Michelangelo and Michael Jackson – and amid all that talk, he has also managed to offend much of the Jewish population.

The Anti-Defamation League is accusing West of anti-Semitism over comments he made to a Chicago radio station last month, urging him to take responsibility for saying that Obama can’t execute moves because “he ain’t got those connections. Black people don’t have the same level of connections as Jewish people.”

Adding insult to injury, a new study released in November suggests that West’s connection to the Kardashian family may also be the reason for his popularity decline. Q Scores, a website marketers use to measure recognition, reported that West’s popularity has dipped a whopping 66 percent since he first started dating his reality star fiancée in April 2011, and that he now ranks far below the average hip hop artist and male celebrity.

“When putting two egotistical, self serving individuals together, you’ll create a rather vile spark. And in times of economic hardship across the country, bragging about materialism is typically frowned upon,” says California-based public relations expert Angie Meyer-Olszewski. “The Kardashian brand is a sinking ship. Anybody who jumps on board will eventually fall. A successful celebrity in his own right, Kanye made a horrible strategic decision by engaging himself with Kim.”

And while West’s highly-anticipated album “Yeezus” initially shot to No. 1 on the billboard charts, it fell an embarrassing 80 percent the following week, the largest second-week performance drop for a No. 1-debuting album in more than a year.

Then there was the release of that scandalous music video for “Bound 2,” co-starring his topless fiancée and baby mama, which become an instant laughing stock across the web and was slammed with a viral video spoof courtesy of comedians Seth Rogen and James Franco.

Things are not exactly coming up roses in the Kardashian empire either, with recent reports indicating that the show has been on a steady decline over the last four seasons and has lost almost one million viewers per episode since season five.

But according to some communications experts, West can get back on top if he plays his cards right.

“He can definitely win back favor with fans, as soon as the attention moves back to his music since he is such a talented artist,” says Elissa Buchter, founder of Schmooze PR. “The amount of ego you’re allowed to get away with in Hollywood is directly proportional to success of your projects. As long as his songs are on top of the charts, his romantic life isn’t going to crush his credibility as a superstar.”

A rep for West did not respond to a request for comment.

Who stiffed who? Wounded Warriors has no record of donation from lesbian waitress accused of tip hoax

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The lesbian waitress who claimed she received an anti-gay note in lieu of a tip promised to donate the subsequent gratuities that poured in to the Wounded Warrior Project — but the veterans organization reportedly can’t verify it had received any donations from Dayna Morales.

 

Morales, a 22-year-old former Marine, claimed last month that a family of four who racked up a $93.55 bill at the Gallop Asian Bistro in Branchburg, N.J., left her no tip, only a note saying they couldn’t leave any extra cash for her service because they “do not agree with your lifestyle.”

 

Morales quickly emailed the story to a gay advocacy website and later posted a photograph of the purported check on her Facebook page. The alleged incident made national headlines and resulted in thousands of dollars being donated to Morales, who said she would send all proceeds to the Wounded Warrior Project. But a representative of the Florida-based charity could not confirm Morales had made any donations as of Wednesday, Bridgewater Patch reports.

 

A representative for the nonprofit group that caters to veterans returning from overseas checked for donations by Morales’ name and within the ZIP codes for Bridgewater, N.J., where she worked, and Bedminster, where Morales said she lives, and was unable to locate any correlating donations. The donations may have been made from a different ZIP code or by a third-party, the representative told the website.

 

Morales, who served in the U.S. Marine Corps Reserve from July 2009 through May 2013 in Newburgh, N.Y., as an administrative specialist, could not be reached for comment. Restaurant manager Byron Lapola told NJ.com earlier this week that she remains off the schedule, at least temporarily.

 

“We’re still waiting for the owners to finish their investigation,” Lapola told the website. “It’s pretty complex, so until then we’re restraining comment.”

 

The couple accused of leaving the note for Morales has since denied doing so, telling NBC 4 New York they did in fact leave an $18 tip on the $93 bill. The unidentified couple also provided the station a credit card statement that indicated the tip, according to the report.

 

NBC News has also reported that a Pentagon source said Morales was dismissed from the Marine Reserve Corps in May because she was not attending drills and that she was discharged under “less than honorable” conditions.

 

Several of Morales’ acquaintances also since questioned her credibility. Kristina Calamusa, who described herself as a former friend of Morales, told The Daily Caller late last month that the waitress claimed to her that she was “blown up by a land mine overseas.”

 

But, according to Calamusa, that story was false; Morales was never on active duty. The Journal News of White Plains, N.Y., has also quoted acquaintances of Morales who say she lied about her military service.

 

Julie Howat and Karolee Larkin, both 23, related to the newspaper a story Morales supposedly told them about her serving in Afghanistan and surviving an explosion that killed everyone in her platoon, leaving her as the unit’s sole survivor. But Maj. Shawn Haney, a spokesman for the Marines, said in an email to The Journal News that while Morales did serve in the Marines Corps reserve from July 2009 to May 2013, there’s no indication in her record of combat service in Afghanistan or Iraq.

 

“While (Morales) did not fulfill her reserve obligation, per the Privacy Act, administrative actions are not releasable,” Haney said. “The same applies to character of service and type of discharge.”

 

That’s not all Morales has allegedly concocted about her past, acquaintances said.

 

“She said that her dad raped her and got her pregnant,” Kiersten Bremer told The Daily Caller News Foundation. When Morales failed to produce a child, she told Bremer and other friends that she had cervical cancer which spread to the baby, killing it, Bremer claims.

 

Bremer says Morales later admitted she fabricated the entire story.

 

Another story comes from a day care center where she once worked, when she told co-workers that Superstorm Sandy so badly damaged her former home in Stony Point, N.Y., that a boat tore through the living room, The Journal News reported. Concerned friends who stopped by the house found only minor damage to the carpet by the front door and no indications of the catastrophic damage Morales described.

 

“Every story she comes up with has a lie,” Howat said.