–––––––– ORPN: Reporting and advocating since 2005
What We Are For
Oakland could be a great city to live in. It has gorgeous weather nearly year-round; the city participates in the cultural riches of the San Francisco Bay Area; and the population is a talented mix of long-time residents and eager new arrivals.
Yet living in Oakland brings too much pain throughout the city's broad flatland districts: Maxwell Park, Dimond, San Antonio, Laurel, Fruitvale, and north Oakland, not to mention west Oakland and deep east Oakland. Boom cars disrupt peace in our homes throughout the day and evening; then they gather for gunshot-punctuated sideshows at night. Oakland is one of the top cities for vehicle theft; it is not safe to leave your car parked on the street. Our children walk to school past aggressive thugs dealing drugs openly. Armed robberies and violent burglaries are rampant.
City government has not responded. The mayor and city council maintain only half a police department, comparing Oakland on a population basis with Atlanta, Boston, Cleveland and most major cities.
On the other hand, the City acts as though it can take the place of county, state, and federal social programs. The city council turns again and again to financially strapped homeowners for additional parcel taxes and other levies on homes. But the City does not spend the money well, often not even as promised. Sometimes the handouts are disasters, like the $185,000 embezzled by PUEBLO officers. Overall, too many private agencies are badly supervised, uncoordinated, and inefficient. One operation, Youth UpRising, has received millions of dollars in virtually unconditional grants while promoting the sideshow culture whose celebrants make our streets unpeaceful and unsafe.
Our Contributions As The Opposition
Oakland Residents for Peaceful Neighborhoods is one representative of the growing ranks of people who will no longer accept City Hall's business as usual.
Eight years ago Oakland Residents for Peaceful Neighborhoods was almost a lone voice calling attention to understaffing of the police department. Today most people acknowledge that Oakland has far too few officers. ORPN played a role in the growth of awareness, primarily by drawing the lessons from one outrageous wave of crimes after another.
When we fight bad proposals from a council that is supposed to craft good legislation, we think we perform a public service.
We warned Measure Y would not provide 802 police officers. Events confirmed that supporters of Measure Y were either irresponsibly ignorant or just plain lying when they insisted its language guaranteed 802 officers. Indeed, the City has not even maintained the 739 police supposedly required as a prerequisite to spending Measure Y money.
We helped defeat permanent annual increases in the Landscape and Lighting Assessment, simply by publicizing the city council's unashamed provision that it would put 55 cents of every dollar back in the general fund, to be used for anything but landscape and lighting.
Our critics are not happy with the odious but accurate picture of a City Hall that disappoints and betrays residents time after time. The charge is that we are always so negative. What are we for?
Let the aroused residents of Oakland say what we are for.
- We are for restoring public safety in Oakland. That means at least 1,100 police officers, and therefore a solid plan and commitment to rebuilding what is currently half a police department. That means bringing closure to the crippling "negotiated settlement agreement" that continues to enrich a couple of attorneys year after year.
- We are for City leadership that insists everyone in Oakland observe simple respect for the community. We must turn around the attitude of making concessions to boom cars, open street dealing, sideshows, wrecking of public events, and disruptive party houses. There is no "cultural" excuse for making the lives of innocent residents all across Oakland miserable. City leaders must draw the line, not give Oakland a national reputation for thug rule of the streets.
- We are for the City providing efficient basic services first and foremost. In addition to public safety, that means maintain the streets and sidewalks, do garbage collection right, keep the traffic lights working. These are the first jobs of government, even if they are not exciting like grandiose schemes for a Coliseum deal, a palace library, and Fox Theatre restoration. Do first things first; you can play later if there is the money.
- We are for imposing accountability on social programs. From the PUEBLO scandal to the latest illegal raid on the Measure Y fund, social programs in Oakland are scattered, overlapping, inefficient, out of control, and a breeding ground of political corruption. We are for fewer, consolidated programs run by public departments, not by half-secret nonprofit agencies. The City should largely confine itself to helping implement county, state, and federal job training, probation, and other programs. These levels of government have a broader tax base and the responsibility to run their criminal justice and penal systems well to achieve real rehabilitation.
- We are for a selective brake on residential development projects. Oakland does not need the two main kinds of housing promoted by the city council in its role as the redevelopment agency: neither more unsold condo towers, nor subsidized low-income housing. Our money should not help developers sell condos built like stacks of ship containers. As for so-called affordable housing, Oakland has 28 percent of the people in Alameda County but 55 percent of the income-based assisted housing, and this housing is concentrated in flatland districts while other parts of the City bear none of the travails that have accompanied these projects. We need peaceful, comfortable neighborhoods for the current residents of the flatlands – a mix of hard-working middle-income and poor people who all want peaceful communities for themselves and their children.
City officials cannot explain why they deny Oakland residents a peaceful, efficiently run city. We are already paying for it. It is for the good of all.