The Untrue and Instructive Boast
of Councilmember Kaplan

Oakland councilmember at-large Rebecca Kaplan sent out a campaign mailer this week. Stating that she is "working to move Oakland forward," the top item on her list of issues was "restoring safety."

For evidence her mailer asserts that Kaplan "fought against police layoffs." She did not fight, but she did cast a vote in 2010 against the layoff of 80 officers. Sounds good, but the vote was phony. The council had already decided to decimate the police department. The final vote was confined to two options:

  • Cut 80 police officers immediately and up to 122 more in January if voters in November don't approve a new tax or an amendment to an existing tax ordinance.

  • Cut 150 police immediately and up to 29 more in January. (Oakland Tribune, June 25, 2010)

The council chose the first option over Kaplan's vote against it. At that point the other choice was an even bigger immediate layoff. Meanwhile, the council made sure that funding to ineffective anti-violence programs continued.

Everyone expects overstatement in campaign mailings. Rebecca Kaplan went beyond exaggeration and slippery wording. Kaplan has no record of action on the number one problem of Oakland city government: the need to hire large numbers of police for a department that has half the sworn staff, in relation to population, that most major cities maintain. Kaplan has done nothing to organize a sustained movement for more officers, nor has she voted against the frittering of money on endless minor programs.

Instead, councilmember Kaplan demonstrated visceral animosity to police a few weeks after her 2010 layoff vote. Kaplan and Jean Quan, both running for mayor at the time, intervened on the street to protect rioters who were turning an Oscar Grant demonstration into acts of vandalism against innocent people. Kaplan and Quan tried to organize a line to blockade police officers who had given warning. The pair of councilmembers shouted orders as though they had a right to be in charge of the situation.

July 8, 2010 – Kaplan tries to block police during riot

Last month Kaplan's disrespect of police popped out again. At a city council meeting Sgt. Jake Bassett overheard Kaplan say to a bystander, "They move officers around as if from parish to parish like Catholic priests." At first Kaplan denied her statement, then at a meeting with police she dug herself deeper into a hole with an "explanation" that she wasn't speaking about one particular officer who was in the news, but problem officers in general. (Oakland Tribune, June 25, 2010)

(In addition, Kaplan's snide remark probably did not endear her to Catholic parishioners, whatever their dismay over the problems of the Church.)

In past years officials generally preached that the City must combine police enforcement and social programs. Never mind that municipal government is the principal source of policing in a city, while the economy, the operation of the schools, and even most anti-violence programs are primarily the responsibility of federal, state, school district, and county government. Never mind that Oakland has two to three times the crime of other large California cities despite a poverty rate the same as and even lower than the poverty rates of safer cities.

Kaplan did not peddle the social program mantra. That suggests it no longer persuades many Oakland residents. Instead she put out a mailer headlined "Restoring safety," proceeding to misrepresent her actions, her sentiments, and her priorities.

Oakland needs city officials who fight for public safety in everything they do. In other words, officials the very opposite of Rebecca Kaplan.

– Oct. 16, 2012; updated Oct. 23

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