Detach and Evade – Oakland Worthy of Better
Posted by Roobs on July 20, 2010
I have come to view Twitter as a great resource for news junkies. The increasing number of people I follow on my account include many bloggers, columnists, reporters and news sites. It’s rather exciting for someone like me who enjoys getting almost real-time information from these news purveyors because many columnists and reporters will actually update their Twitter accounts before updating their websites. So it’s no surprise yesterday that i first learned of Oakland’s past 24 hours of crime ridden incidents on Twitter: Sniper shot at police from rooftop in West Oakland, Man with body armor shoots at highway patrol on I-580, Gunman shoots and kills visiting tourist for less than $20. But this post is not about how awful those individual incidents are. This post is about how, frankly, I initially was unphased. And frankly, so was everyone else.
As I began this post, Twitter is a great source for news. Because I love politics and many of the people I follow on Twitter are political related, when a big story breaks in politics Twitter is abuzz with all the great details of the story. One after another, my news feed is filled with a new tweet on the subject. But when the incidents happened in Oakland, the accounts I follow that cover local issues were quiet. Only two or three accounts out of a hell of a lot more had a quick tweet with a link to a news article on what happened. Just another day in Oakland, I guess. So what’s going on?
I don’t believe that Oakland residents no longer care crime occurs in their city at an unusually high frequency. They do. You hear residents ask their leaders, and candidates in an election year, what they plan to do about public safety. They are clearly aware and concerned. But they are also disheartened. They seem beaten down not just by the constant barrage of bad news from the city streets but from the ineptitude of City Hall to address the issues that have plagued the city for years. And it’s not just Oakland residents. It’s all of us who live outside of Oakland. We are so used to making the joke about Oakland or stereotyping the city as one big crime-ridden metropolis that we are un-flinched by the stories of theft and murder on its streets and local governments inability to do something about it. It’s just another day in Oakland.
I was going to college when Oakland residents elected Ron Dellums as mayor. I didn’t follow local politics much back then but I know it was an incredibly slim victory with Dellums garnering just a tad over 50% of the vote. Not exactly a rousing endorsement for the former congressman. And to venture a guess, I’m not sure Oaklanders have been terribly happy with the results ever since.
Ron Dellums has been kind of a lame duck Mayor for the past 4-years. As the city has dealt with incidents from riots, police officers shot and killed by criminals and police officers shooting non-criminals, a struggling economy and ridiculously low unemployment rates; Ron Dellums has not been visible. After the Oscar Grant shooting and following riots that embroiled the streets of Downtown Oakland, where was Dellums? He wasn’t out on the streets asking for calm and peace. The same thing during the Mehserle verdict riot. Where was Dellums? Instead of a man we received video clips and handouts even as Downtown Oakland was boarded up out of fear. He gave a un-emotional and detached report from inside police HQ and never came outside to address the crowd. Instead, members of the City Council were more likely to be out on the street with their constituents calling for peace. It’s not to say that they shouldn’t be out there but they shouldn’t be the only ones. This is part of the job as mayor. You are the leader of the city and the leader of the people.
On top of the detach-and-evade method of Ron Dellums’ term as mayor, Oakland is suffering like most cities during this time. Low unemployment rates and a struggling economy mean that people are lost in their own world looking and hoping for some kind of life raft to cling to. They are waiting for an opportunity to present itself to help them weather this economic storm. And the sad thing is that they are not looking to City Hall. They have all but given up on the system of government that is placed to help these very people. Instead, they look to the streets and perpetuate Oakland’s problems. The city has recently laid off 80 police officers and has plans to lay off hundreds more, even as these horrifying incidents happen; one only a few blocks away from City Hall itself.
All this after Dellums’ meltdown to a KTVU reporter who was asking him the question every resident of Oakland has been asking for years: “where is the mayor?”
“Who the (blank) are you to decide what my role is?” a raging Dellums told Shandobil in a phone call Monday, after the Oakland-based reporter showed up at City Hall to ask why Dellums has been seen at high profile boxing matches lately while being a no-show at major budget meetings and city council sessions where Oakland’s fiscal crisis is Topic A.
Yes, Mr. Mayor… I am telling you what your role is. I may not be a resident of Oakland, but me and everyone else seem to have a better grasp of what your job is than you do.
With the November election coming ever closer, Oakland has it’s first opportunity to find new leadership for the great city. Three candidates have taken the lead in the court of public opinion and it will likely come down to them: Don Perata, Rebecca Kaplan and Jean Quan. But who is the best choice to lead Oakland in this time of great struggle and restore a battered populace to hope?
I’m not going to sit here and write to you about who I think should be the next mayor of Oakland or why. One because, this isn’t the appropriate post for it and two, because I am not entirely sure who I think is the right person for that job either. All I can say with great certainty is that Oakland needs new and competent leadership who will run Oakland on tangible ideas and not platitudes; someone who can inspire and not just quell. Oakland is a fantastic city with so much potential. The city not only deserves but is more than worthy of the kind of leadership that recognizes the enormous good that exists within. To see it suffer under those like Dellums is almost tearful. Oakland deserves better.