Oakland the Heartbreaker

Sunday, July 28, 2013 6 , , , Permalink 0

Being an Oaklander sometimes feels like being in love with a jerk.

We’ve all been there, right? You can see nothing but his charms through your lust addled eyes but your friends and family are saying: WTF?

In law school in San Francisco in the nineties, I overheard a fellow student say, “I’d never live in a suburb like Oakland.” Ouch. It sucks to hear what people really think of your lover. But in reality, Oakland has never depended on the larger city across the bay for its identity. Only San Franciscans compare Oakland to SF.

Oakland’s had an image problem my entire life. The outside world sees violent revolutionaries (60s and 70s), crack epidemics and violent gang wars (80s and 90s), rising crime and falling property values (2000s) and even worse crime and violent protests (the twenty-teens). Natives and residents know Oakland has always been a beautiful city with great parks, a vibrant urban scene and, best of all, a diverse, welcoming, and innovative community.

But still. Sometimes the shit does get thick here. The recent protests in the wake of the Zimmerman verdict that resulted in damage to local restaurants and injury to a waiter at (an Eat Oakland favorite) Flora, are frustrating. Makes me nostalgic for the old days, when the bad behavior at protests was perpetrated by the police. At least the bad actors wore uniforms and you could see them coming.

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Reasonable people are outraged at those recent events. And there’s not much to be done about assholes and sociopaths. It seems, though, that there is a larger conversation to be had about gentrification and how the community at large can participate in Oakland’s current upward mobility.

Sometimes the most diverse cities become a collection of homogeneous communities. What I love about Oakland is that, at many of the places I go, the crowd is a mix of ages, races, sexual orientation, singles, couples, families, rich and poor. I worry that as Oakland becomes more prosperous, that will change.

Downtown Oakland is more of a destination than it has been in my lifetime. That’s largely down to those entrepeneurs who took a chance on Oakland and opened their businesses there. But I still hear people say they are afraid to go downtown.

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I don’t think the solution lies in more police (though walking beat cops are always a good idea). But wouldn’t it be great if there were training programs for young people in Oakland that would prepare them to work in the industries that are doing well here? A “front of the house” academy, or something like the Old Skool Cafe in SF. Or the program started by two cops in SF.

For now, I’ll continue to vote with my wallet and support the businesses that had the vision to put down roots in Oakland.

6 Comments
  • Matt of Uptown
    July 28, 2013

    Awesome piece, but…

    More cops will be part of the solution that lowers crime in Oakland. We have one of the largest cop to population ratios in the country and the highest burglary rate in the nation. Unless you subscribe to some ideology where a civil society somehow exists without law enforcement… then you see that more cops will be a part of Oakland’s solution to lower crime.

  • Leigh Costain, aka Carnivoress
    July 28, 2013

    More cops is fine. However that seems a bit like treating the symptom and not the disease. And I’d really like to see them out of their cars and walking or biking in the community.

  • Edgar Koop Rodriguez Dk
    July 29, 2013

    What we really need is stop the violence take care of our youth they are the future generation behind us have more programs and have more police patroling the streets not harrasing any body but looking out and arresting any guilty person who brakes the law such as dope dealers prostitudes pimps people who drinks in public have a good gang unit that wont tolerate any wrong doing from all this streets thugs gangsters and hoodlums and they got to be on point not take a few hours after shootings or killings we need them to respond asap.

  • Fancois Merryweather
    July 29, 2013

    The Police Union Pension program in Oakland has single handedly been keeping Oakland poor since the 1950’s. Oakland has a 1 of a kind pension program that is 100% tax payer funded, which is why there is such high property and business tax rates in Oakland. Oakland currently has federal police involved in its policing and is getting federal assistance, yet Oakland is still poor since a majority of its funds go to paying for retired police that are getting paid more money retired than they were while on active duty. The police union that operates in Oakland has held the city hostage when they didn’t get one of their former bosses elected. Almost every mayor, up until Quan, has been involved in the Police Union and have made maintaining the pension program their primary concern. Because Quan was not a blind supported of continuing this pension program, she was smeared by the union and by De La Fuente and his cronies. At one time in Oakland, a group of OPD were running drugs and prostitutes. People that say that more police are needed in Oakland have probably never looked at a budget plan for the city. More money goes to the archaic Police Pension plan than the active police themselves. I am not saying that people in law enforcement do not deserve retirements. But they are guaranteed unreasonable retirement wages that have been holding the city captive for decades. THIS is the #1 problem. More money goes to paying retired police, many of whom do not even live in Oakland anymore, and never did, than active police, schools, roads, and other public works. I am a 3rd generation Oaklander with a strong passion for this city. It has EVERYTHING needed for upward expansion, minus this pension program, and gentrification has nothing to do with it. Alameda county is the 22nd largest county in the country with Oakland as its primary city. Oakland also has the 5th largest port in the country, a blazing hot real estate market, and up and coming and respected entertainment scene, and tons of open real estate. The only reason more business do not move here is because of the business taxes, which is of course so high to pay for the pension fund for police. It’s everything wrong with the city and keeps real law enforcement from achieving its goals. And Quan is doing a HELL Of JOB, as she is the 1st mayor in a long time to achieve a balanced budget for the city. People, especially out of towners that just moved here, do not understand how significant that is. Please note, this is not a slam on ALL unions, or even Police Unions. I think the union movement is very important for workers rights, but sometimes these unions need to look around and see how some of their actions and requests effect the communities they live in. Oakland police would be safer if a new pension structure would be negotiated, as active police could have a bigger budget for equipment, infrastructure and more officers, and the people could have a better life by having more robust education, and streets that aren’t a series of dusty, jagged pieces of asphalt. And I am confident retired officers could still be compensated while not making up $75,000-$80,000 a year while retired. There are a lot of people that wish they could make that much with a JOB, let alone on retirement.

  • clarke
    July 30, 2013

    Oakland is great! I do hear folks from Oakland compare it to SF, especially exSFers…both are fine places, and cities with issues

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