Oakland Councilmember Noel Gallo cares deeply about the wayward children of his city. At least, his council colleagues say so. However, members of the Public Safety Committee said they couldn’t buy into a proposed youth curfew detailed by the Fruitvale District representative. It was also an idea even Oakland’s chief of police believes would further stretch an already thin force.

Councilmember Libby Schaaf, now a potential mayor candidate next year, said youth curfews are not productive use of our time. “Things have changed,” said Schaaf since the last time the issue came before the council in 2011. “Our resources are even more strapped than when we had this last discussion,” Schaaf said. She added, not even Police Chief Sean Whent is interested in enacting the ordinance right at this time. “He knows this is the not the best use of our limited resources.”

Like Schaaf, Councilmember Lynette Gibson McElhaney, said the city would be better served by focusing on chronic absenteeism by its students and figuring out how engage youths in more productive endeavors. But, McElhaney also noted, “Oakland has failed its youth.”

Councilmember Dan Kalb, who has consistently opposed youth curfews, agreed and said, OPD should be concentrating on stopping high-level crimes and responding to 911 calls. “If there stopping a bunch of 16-year-olds out at night, I don’t think that’s a good use of their time,” said Kalb.

In describing his proposal, which he made clear was not yet an ordinance, but a discussion, Gallo said it is aimed at getting youths under 18-years-old off the streets after 10 p.m. and also provide three youth action centers for kids who need assistance overnight or academic support. He asserted other cities like San Jose are able to provide similar services for juveniles, while others have also used non-emergency portions of firehouses to house help centers for troubled young people.

In response to critics who say curfews will increase the chance of teenagers heading to Juvenile Hall, Gallo said. “I don’t want to lock up anyone. Why would I want to do that?” Doing so, he added, would only put more teenagers in an even deeper hole within society.

However, over 50 public speakers at Tuesday’s night’s length committee hearing passionately disagreed and tore into the Gallo’s proposal. Some called it an opportunity for OPD to target minority youths, while others, some frequently using expletives to convey their point, attempted to accuse Gallo of turning his back on his Latino heritage by authoring the specific proposal.

The vitriol against Gallo led him to call on police to escort two audience members from the council chambers. When Gallo asserted every U.S. city has a curfew, the audience, made mostly of young people, responded with cries of “bullshit!” “You know what?” said Gallo, as he pointed upward to the gallery. “I’m going to respect your opinion and you’re going to respect mine.”

Tony Coleman, a West Oakland businessman, asked why the city does not spend more time on creating new jobs for young adults and charged Gallo with grandstanding with an issue that has failed in council’s past. “If it ain’t worked before, it ain’t going to work now,” said Coleman.

A young Latina woman berated Gallo for proposing an idea that could disproportionately harm members of his own ethnicity. “You should be ashamed, you’re La Raza and you should know our struggles.” Another, while rapping his thoughts, added, “Mr. Gallo, are you feeling guilty?”

Gallo, clearly miffed by the voices of opposition from the long line of speakers and his own council mates, admonished Schaaf and McElhaney for making “excuses” for the city’s youth. In pointed remarks relayed by Schaaf regarding the police chief’s opposition to his plan, Gallo said to her, “He works for us. We don’t work for him. Your ideology is wrong.” With the proposal to enact youth curfews again in shambles, Gallo ended his remarks by saying, “Don’t make excuses for my kids.”

Cross-posted from East Bay Citizen

7 Responses

  1. Jonatton Yeah?

    Oakland hasn’t “failed its youth.” Parents and certain communities have failed their youth. And gotta love the Oakland needs to create “more jobs for young people” followed by the “if it hasn’t worked before, it ain’t gonna work now.” Irony, much?

    The curfew is totally reasonable. What kid needs to be out at 1:00 in the morning?

    In sum, the broke City of Oakland is responsible for somehow making sure kids aren’t failures, is responsible for somehow finding them jobs, but isn’t allowed to tell them to go to bed.

    Got it. Makes loads of sense.

    That’ll be very successful, I’m sure. Meanwhile, people will continue to get killed, robbed, and maimed at ridiculous rates because…why now? Oh yeah, to protect the rights of 16 year old “troubled” (aka “trouble causing”) youth.

    Reply
  2. Eric K Arnold

    Just to put things in context for you Jonatton, the curfew would have started at 10pm. which means that youth attending a movie which started at 8:30 or traveling home from Warriors basketball game or a concert w/out parental supervision would have been subject to detainment and arrest by OPD. It would have made a run to the 24-hour Walgreens to get cold medicine for an ailing parent or family member illegal. It would have made getting a burger, fries and shake at Giant burger after 10pm against the law, not just on weekday nights, but on weekends as well.

    Besides wasting OPD resources, the proposal would almost certainly have resulted in discriminatory racial profiling: 78% percent of juvenile stops by OPD are against black youth. and 78% of those arrests aren’t upheld.

    Only a myopic view from someone who automatically assumes youth are “trouble-causing” could fail to see that this proposal would have had the effect of criminalizing youth and blaming them for the rise in violent crimes, the majority of which, studies say, aren’t committed by youth. In fact, youth crime is down. Furthermore, most crimes against youth happen between 3-6pm, a time frame not covered by the ordinance.

    To put this another way, if 3/4ths of the Public Safety Committee, plus the Chief of Police, dont think this would have been a good idea, why would a curfew be “reasonable”?

    If there is an irony here, it’s that some people still seem to think that zero-tolerance policies work, despite a mountain of evidence to the contrary.

    Reply
  3. Jonatton Yeah?

    Driving 45 in a 40 MPH zone is against the law. Eating on BART is against the law. Making a right at a red light is often against the law. There are lots of things that are illegal where police can make a judgement about whether or not the behavior is a big deal. Do you really think a cop is going to waste their time, in Oakland of all places, bothering some 17 year old kid at Walgreens buying tampons at 11:00 at night? Do you really think that? You really think this would amount to a “zero-tolerance policy” in practice? Kids just lined up at 10:01 PM, next to a Police bus, ready for the Hall? C’mon…

    And I didn’t say all youth are “trouble-causing.” I just believe the term “troubled youth” is a nice, pampered way of saying “youth that cause trouble.” And there are plenty of those in Oakland. Sure, youth don’t commit the majority of violent crimes (which is not rising, by the way), but those who do were young once and certainly didn’t learn their deviant behaviors when they hit 27 years of age. They learned said behaviors when they were young and when they were young they were criminals – sorry, I mean, “criminally-afflicted youth.”

    To put your other point another way, if Oakland has had and continues to have such problematic crime, what makes 3/4ths of the Public Safety Committee any sort of authority on practical crime prevention strategies?

    Look, you made some solid points and I’ll concede that this curfew is designed poorly and won’t work. But the constant barrage of “NO NO NO NO NO” to pretty much any and every idea that doesn’t involve wasting more money on building “community” (a term that has lost any sort of meaning) has extended well beyond ridiculous. Instead of a zero-tolerance policy, this City just has no policy.

    And, once again, Oakland has not failed its youth. Parents and some communities have.

    Reply
  4. Eric K Arnold

    Jonatton,

    thanks for conceding that i made some solid points in my response

    take care,

    Eric.

    Reply
  5. Oakie

    City Council meetings are no longer functioning for a whole lot of people, including myself. The rabble in control has more in common with the French Revolution than de Toquevilla’s city on a hill.

    It is best to consider all the “solutions” tossed out in the mess that is Oakland politics as people throwing spaghetti against the wall and hoping something, anything at all, sticks. It is, all in all, a useless exercise in futility.

    I wish people would be interested in learning from a city that reduced it’s violent crime by 80%, from being the highest crime large city in America to, now, the safest large city in America. Current homicide rates are 5 per 100,000 population compared to us in the 25-35 range. How many human being must die because of our blindness to what actually, historically, has worked? And, by the way, Iraq’s civilian violent death rate is not much higher than Oakland’s. Can you imagine taking your vacation in Iraq? People would think you’re nuts. But taking a trip to Oakland is not, statistically, all that much less dangerous. A very sad state of affairs. And attending a city council meeting is no way to change things in this city.

    Reply
  6. Maximillien

    While the curfew might not be the best use of limited police resources, seeing how these city council meetings are run is deeply concerning. Hecklers come to scream and shout and shoot down every proposal to curb crime, easily Oakland’s biggest problem, without proposing any real alternatives aside from vague pleasantries like “more community building”. It’s pathetic to witness the very folks most hurt by crime effectively sticking their heads in the sand and ignoring the problem.

    While we certainly can’t arrest our way out of a crime problem, there absolutely needs to be stronger and more heavy-handed enforcement coupled with the more palatable community-outreach tactics. While the people might be right in rejecting this particular curfew, these city hall hecklers need to step up and accept that serious, forceful action needs to be taken to curb Oakland’s crime problem. The career criminals know that Oakland is a great place to rob, murder, and steal because criminal apologists run amok in the city’s body politic — and they’re never going to change their ways until Oakland’s leadership is able to ignore the screaming fringe and take proactive measures on criminal enforcement. You can build all the youth community centers you want, but unless you also step up enforcement and punishment, it won’t do a damn thing.

    Reply

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