KTVU aired a story on Nov. 19 that gave the impression that Ceasefire is a crime strategy destined for failure. What the story didn’t say was that since Ceasefire has started back up again, the murder rate in the city has decreased.

Everything is not doom and gloom when it comes to violence in Oakland. There are people who care, and there are people—a lot of people, actually—who are working to reduce the violence. Hiring private security may be some people’s prerogative, but we know from our research that the best way to reduce gun violence is to build relationships with the people who are most prone to cause the violence and be victims of the violence.

The first reason why this strategy has been the most effective is because it has been proven to work in other cities when implemented correctly. The other reason: Ceasefire Oakland is a community-driven, faith-led effort that works in partnership with the city, police department and other community organizations to reduce gun violence in Oakland’s “hot spots.”

Since Oakland Community Organizations restarted Ceasefire in 2012, homicides have dropped by 22 percent. That statistic right there tells you that something is working.

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34 Responses

  1. Oakie

    Bunk, bunk, bunk.

    If you want to make the claim that homicides are down by 22%, I would be more than happy to bet with you that in 6 months or 12 months or 24 months (your choice), homicides will not be down 22%. I’ve watched the stats here over the years, and you can always pick two points in time where the number of murders can be demonstrated to go up or down by any arbitrary amount. The variation is noise (even murderers take a break in the action or go on vacation, I guess). Watch the long term statistics and you will not see this variance. Our murder rate hovers around 25-35 per year per 100,000 population. By comparison, New York City had a murder rate in 1990 at 35, but now is 5.5 (yes, it’s so low they had to add an extra digit). Also for comparison, Iraq had a civilian death toll of 14 for 2012.

    That is a minor point, although indicative of the kinds of claims only used by hucksters, like Jean Quan.

    You claim you’ve done years of research to come to the conclusion, I am guessing, that Operation Ceasefire will solve our excruciatingly high murder rate. Hm. According to wikipedia, OC was started in Boston in 1996. Focusing on youth violence alone, and in 3 neighborhoods only, they “proved” the success of the program because the youth homicide rate went from the range of 22-73 per year prior to OC to 10 after implementing OC.

    However, IF you continue reading, by 2010 the rate was back up to 52 (and don’t forget there was a nationwide trend, not including Oakland, where the violent crime rate following the peak year 1990 went down 40% without any clear reason-meaning the 22-73 rate should be adjusted down to 13-44 as the baseline). In other words, no improvement from OC.

    Consider Chicago, which is one of the cities that employed OC. The OC hucksters claimed a 39% decline in murder for 2012. Only problem was the director of the program was arrested for domestic violence plus 6 of his “outreach workers and interrupters” had already returned to criminal activity. The OC contract with the city has been terminated.

    And the murder rate in Chicago did not go down:
    If you Google “chicago gun violence” you will see as recently as September there were mass shootings, the city’s gun violence problem called “epidemic” and just 14 hours ago Chicago was called the “Murder Capitol.” Some success story, huh.

    If you’ve done years of research, I wonder why you’re not mentioning Prof. Zimring, at UC Berkeley. He’s very dubious of OC and states that it is unproven (contrary to your claim).

    OC methodolgy can be explained very easily: it’s the moral equivalent of very bad parenting.
    You identify a small number of very violent guys (we wouldn’t want to harm their self esteem by saying they are bad guys). You round ’em up in a room and tell them you’re wise to their ways, that now it’s going to be different (than the failed enforcement we have become used to in Oakland), and that the next time they do something bad you promise you’re going to go after them to the full extent of the law. If, however, you want to take advantage of extra special support services (job training, etc.) you will help them change their path in life.


    You’d be wise to rewatch all 5 years of The Wire. Then ask yourself, would Omar Little or Angelo D take these yokels from OC seriously? C’mon.

    And the evidence, from Boston to Chicago, to Oakland is the same. It’s nonsense, a waste of time and money, and prevents us from looking at what solutions actually have proven to work (the New York City Miracle, starting in 1991 when William Bratton took over the NY Transit Authority PD, in 1994 taking over NYPD, which resulted in an 80% decline in violent crime).

    But the solutions that actually worked in NY are of no interest to the kind of people who cling to OC as the savior of Oakland.

  2. Len Raphael

    While I don’t agree with Oakie that the NYC Dinkins approach of vastly increasing size of NYPD combined with Bratton’s stopnfrisk/tough on minor violations is an approach we should use here, I do agree w Oakie about the mistake of concluding CF will be a long term success based on a year’s worth of Oakland wide data or how well it worked or didn’t work in other cities.

    For all the millions of dollars and person years spent analyzing the huge decline of NYC crime there is no consensus among academics about why.

    Nowhere near that amount of time and money has been spent on analysing CF long term performance.


    1. Is that 22% decline in homicides city wide? What were the declines in the East Oakland police beats covered by CF vs West Oakland or North Oakland beats that were not participating in CF?

    2. is KTVU correct that 21 out of 79 violence prone people contacted have been arrested. How does that incarceration rate compare to other approaches such as what Richmond does in the Iron Triangle?

    3. Did the City ever increase funding for CF over the initial very low amount?

    4. Has the City hired a permanent full time director for CF?

  3. OaklandNative

    I read the essay differently. People outside the “hot spots” often talk as if everyone living there is part of the violence. What this essay does is point out that

    Your most interesting line was the following:

    “You’d be wise to rewatch all 5 years of The Wire. Then ask yourself, would Omar Little or Angelo D take these yokels from OC seriously? C’mon.”

    You do understand they were fictional characters? I wonder who created them and for whom.

    This essay was not about those two fictional characters (or who you think they represent), but the rest of us in the community.

    However, I don’t agree totally with the essay. I think the writer should not have used the statistics. The statistics clouded the point. I wish the writer would have focused more on his/her experiences.

  4. Oakie

    @Len Raphael
    I do not believe NYC vastly increased police staffing (there’s a graph in Zimring’s book that shows year to year staffing of all 4 PD’s in NYC). What Bratton accomplished at the Transit Authority was quite different and very substantial regarding enforcement change. Also, once Bratton became head of NYPD in 1994, Stop and Frisk did not increase substantially until several years later, well after the largest drops in crime rates were recorded.

    Nowhere in the essay did I see any focus on those living outside the kill zones in East and West Oakland. I am fully aware that most of the people living inside the kill zones are the victims exposed to so much crime that PTSD is common there. We who live in the nicer areas ought to be as insistent that effective crime prevention be implemented as those who have to live in the midst of the horror. My frustration is most intense with the “progressives” living in my neighborhood of affluence who are quite willing to sacrifice the poor and innocent on the alter of their discredited ideology. Go talk to Jane Brunner and Dan Seigel. Ask them what they’ve done to make the lives of the innocents safer.

    I am more than quite aware that The Wire is fiction (about Baltimore written by David Simon, an ex-crime reporter for the Sun and an ex-cop). In our case here in Oakland, the fiction of The Wire is vastly more accurate and enlightening than all of the nonfiction news sources and political voices we hear and read locally: I stand by my statement.

  5. OaklandNative

    I agree that “progressives” are out-of-touch with us.

    You say nowhere does the essay refer to people living outside the hot spot? The fact that the author is giving voice to his/her community is clearly speaking to you. We already know this. That’s why it’s the story not being told. Not being told to or by you.

    We can debate whether or not The Wire is more accurate of Oakland than the progressive voices and non-fiction news sources. However, as the essay shows, all three can be inaccurate. Is that the statement you’re standing by?

  6. Len Raphael

    ONative, it’s a encouraging to see people outside of government use numbers to back up their policy positions. I don’t hold them to the same standards for numerical accuracy that should be applied to OPD or the Mayor .

    Without looking at both the human and financial costs of different public policies in numerical terms, it’s impossible to figure out which ones to support.

    No one has a lock on the one true way to make Oakland safer for everyone.

    Unfortunately, our politicians have oversold CeaseFire as the cure all for lowering crime through out the city. If it doesn’t live up to that inflated promise, it’s likely to get discarded prematurely.

  7. Len Raphael

    Oakie, re increase in size of NYPD during Mayor Dinkin’s term, pages 149-150, Zimring’s “Great American Crime Decline”. “What changed at the city level in NYC during the early 1990’s was both the quantity of police in the city and the way the police were deployed, evaluated, and managed.No fewer than three major elements of city policing changed. The first was the number of police officers in New York. Beginning during the term of Mayor David Dinkins in NYC, the number of full-time police employees grew from 39,400 to 53,000 in the 1990’s , or 35%”

  8. Oakie

    If the writer claims I am an outsider does not make me an outsider.

    If the writer claims that all three can be wrong does not show that it is true.

  9. Oakie

    I just emailed you the graphs from the book (is there a way of putting jpg’s in these comments?).

    The staffing by function (patrol, detective, vice, narcotics) shows very little increase until 1996. If you compare this to the dramatic decrease in homicides to 1996 (200 to 75) the staffing levels do not explain this. [Not sure which page this came from in Zimring’s book, I just emailed this to you also]

    I think Zimring is overstating the significance of the staffing as the bulk of the increase occurred after 1996, at least in these 4 functions while the most dramatic crime reductions happened before 1996. That’s why I suspect Bratton’s (and Marple) strategies developed at the Transit Authority drove the miracle (whipped the miracle?).

    I’ve got Bratton’s book (picked up for 25 cents, surplused at Rockridge Library, ironically enough). Mostly it’s a hack job of writing, but if you cut through the bs the real story of what they did becomes apparent. Unfortunately, I have found no interest by anyone in Oakland about understanding what they did and how that could be implemented here (unlike the googly eyes applied to OC, as this essay is a prime example of…). I believe we will never ever become a safe city unless we do what they did. And it’s not Stop and Frisk, which only began around 2003 under Bloomberg. What Bratton did on the subways is THE key.

    Just consider this one statistic:
    Central Park in 1981 reported 731 robberies in Central Park alone. In this year, the recently passed 2011, 17 robberies in Central Park.

    If you believe that the root cause of crime is individual behavior, well, that’s what police in a democracy exist to deal with, and that’s what we dealt with, first in the subways in New York City beginning in 1990. Malcolm Gladwell wrote about the effect of that in his book “Tipping Point,” where fare evasion, which was epidemic, like an epidemic growing in leaps and bounds, once we began to focus on going after the individual fare evader so that people could see we were focused on that behavior, it changed and changed almost overnight.
    We consciously understood that when we began to change behavior that we were going to increase the number of arrests particularly for quality-of-life behavior, and many of those then led to arrests for more significant behavior such as carrying firearms while you’re evading the fare on the subway.
    it was how we use them. We use them very proactively, hot-spot policing. We use them very assertively. And we use them to control behavior. The challenge was to do it constitutionally, compassionately, consistently.
    …Enough police, but, as importantly, what those police are doing. Are they, in fact, assertive? Are they policing? Are they addressing what’s creating fear? In New York for 30 years, they were not addressing what was creating fear among the eight million, and that was bringing about the 700,000 victims that they had in the early 1990s. Starting in the ’90s, we began to address what was creating the fear, as well as the root causes.

  10. R2D2II

    Oakie identifies well the chief intellectual aspect of the inability-to-deal-with-crime problem in Oakland. Other accessible writers on the topic of improved, science-based crime policy include Mark Kleiman of UCLA in “Beyond Brute Force.” There are many many others.

    The heart of the problem in practical terms in Oakland is the determined ignorance of our local pols. They don’t read widely, they cannot understand or accept expert advice, they have far-too-little actual problem-solving work experience and they are largely immature, narcissistic personalities.

    The simple, straightforward path towards much less crime in Oakland would be to take the essential decisionmaking and micromanagement power away from the electeds and put it in a really competent, independent office, like that of a police commissioner. The role of the Mayor and Council would be to set policy, e.g. the highest ethical standards for policing, setting measurable goals for crime reduction and provision of adequate resources to meet standards and goals.

    What we have now is a group of remarkably dimwitted amateurs trying to do a job they cannot perform. We go through the same rituals year after year, curfews or no, ever-diminishing numbers of cops, remarkable lacks in basic resources like data management and even functional operation of police radios, police chief changes at odd intervals for incomprehensible reasons, regular and regularly-ineffective changes in police organizational structure and so on.

    Most of us don’t try to do things we know we are not competent at–rewiring our houses, performing needed surgeries, etc. That’s a basic functional attribute of a grown-up human being. If only our electeds had the brains to know that they are way out of their depth regarding crime (as well as finance and many other matters).

  11. Eric K Arnold

    “In our case here in Oakland, the fiction of The Wire is vastly more accurate and enlightening than all of the nonfiction news sources and political voices we hear and read locally: I stand by my statement.”

    really? how is this even possible? while the Wire may have employed more realism than other police procedurals, it’s still fiction. it can’t be more “accurate” than reality, by definition.

    For instance, police accountability in that show was downplayed and even tweaked for humor. In reality, there is nothing humorous about a PD with a homicide clearance rate under 30% and a 10-year DNA lab backup, which is under an NSA stemming from misconduct,.

    As for OC, the success of that program depends on how seriously it is taken, not just by participants, but also by the city and OPD. if OC volunteers are used as guinea pigs to ferret out arrest suspects–as recently happened during a task force sweep–then that undermines the program’s credibility. If OC is defunded because funding it would conflict with the gang injunction agenda–as happened in 2011–then it wont be successful because it’s not being given a real chance to succeed.

    The alternatives to career criminaldom need to be viable and accessible. You cant just offer lip service. it requires a sincere commitment to workforce development and social services, which is usually the first thing critics attack.

    Also, blanket pessimism statements don’t really help. Most politicians, from Quan to Schaaf, are committed to increasing the number of officers. The problem is that the economic reality is such that union contracts won’t allow that to be done in any great numbers without renegotiating. No politician really wants to go up against OPOA, so if there seems to be a merry-go-round, that’s a big reason why. If citizens and voters understood this, then maybe our local pols would have the courage to take on OPOA.

    The bottom line is we need to look at crime-reduction solutions which don’t involve additional additional investiture in law enforcement, since any additional investment in police services won’t guarantee effectiveness or cure OPD’s internal dysfunction and bureaucratic foibles in and of itself. In other words, we need to prioritize solution-oriented community investment, not just throw money into the OPD black hole.

  12. Len Raphael

    Tell me it’s not so, but my impression of most Oakland job training programs is that they are as ineffectual at placing people permanently in decent jobs as OPD is at solving crimes. Like OPD, most of the programs are quite effective at compensating their staff, especially managers/directors.

  13. Eric K Arnold

    that may be so, Len, but that’s just another way of saying bureaucracy is inefficient, no matter what field. to not have job training programs at all would be disastrous. So let’s fix those programs. Let’s make them work. Is there a fear that an effective workforce development agenda would make inertia impossible? if so, let’s conquer that fear.

  14. R2D2II


    “So let’s fix those programs. Let’s make them work.”

    I assume that your “we” is Oakland’s citizenry in itself and with the help and leadership of our government. The fundamental difficulty as I stated above is that our government does not understand the problem and has no leadership or management skills. Thus citizen involvement and government-sponsored efforts are in constant conflict and are utterly ineffective.

    “If citizens and voters understood this, then maybe our local pols would have the courage to take on OPOA.”

    Citizens and voters in significant numbers do understand much of the problem, to a degree infinitely greater than the folks in City Hall. Many, many citizen groups have year after year informed City Hall about what’s going on and how to try something new. City Hall does not listen–about the need for a real public safety plan, about how to make Ceasefire really work, about police reform and organizational improvement, and, last but not least, about taking on OPOA. The pols are completely without courage, or vision or sense of duty other than to their own careers. Thus they don’t take on OPOA, don’t set any real goals for change in Oakland, and never, formulate all their schemes behind closed doors and never, ever tell the unvarnished truth.

    Change the population of City Hall and Oakland has a chance.

  15. R2D2II


    “So let’s fix those programs. Let’s make them work.”

    I assume that your “we” is Oakland’s citizenry in itself and with the help and leadership of our government. The fundamental difficulty as I stated above is that our government does not understand the problem and has no leadership or management skills. Thus citizen involvement and government-sponsored efforts are in constant conflict and are utterly ineffective.

    “If citizens and voters understood this, then maybe our local pols would have the courage to take on OPOA.”

    Citizens and voters in significant numbers do understand much of the problem, to a degree infinitely greater than the folks in City Hall. Many, many citizen groups have year after year informed City Hall about what’s going on and how to try something new. City Hall does not listen–about the need for a real public safety plan, about how to make Ceasefire really work, about police reform and organizational improvement, and, last but not least, about taking on OPOA. The pols are completely without courage, or vision or sense of duty other than to their own careers. Thus they don’t take on OPOA, don’t set any real goals for change in Oakland, formulate all their schemes behind closed doors and never, ever tell the unvarnished truth.

    Change the population of City Hall and Oakland has a chance.

  16. OaklandNative

    The title of the essay was “the Story That’s Not Being Told About Oakland’s Crime.”

    A commenter who admitted to living outside of the “hot spot” called the essay “bunk” and then used fictional characters based on Baltimore (not Oakland) to criticize the essay.

    Commenters got into several THEORIES about crime (again, not based on Oakland).

    Theories are more effective when you know what you’re talking about. If you’re going to apply a theory, you need to understand how the theories came to it. This includes knowing the variables and assumptions.

    And yes, some theories would be better discussed or made from within those “hot spots” than from cities like LA and Chicago.

    I agree with Eric that the job programs have value, but they need to be re-worked. Some work. I personally know many people who benefited from the high school and college internships. (Yes, I consider those job programs).

  17. Pablo

    shouldn’t opinion pieces like this one have the author’s name? It’s not clear at all who wrote the piece, or even why. It’s not as if it goes into any depth or really analyzes statistics or offers anything of substance.

  18. Len Raphael

    Eric re problems with Oakland job training programs “another way of saying bureaucracy is inefficient”

    Many of those programs are very efficient at feeding themselves and building the political alliances with community leaders and politicians to preserve their funding. Not that much different from OPOA, though not a matter of life/death and the pay is lower.

    R2 would say throw the bums out. That’s a temporary solution. I’d say we have to consider charter amendments that would strengthen the mayor and take power away from the council, then we can hold the mayor responsible for the success or failures of the city’s departments and grant programs.

    The way it is now, the mayor can blame the council for failures and take credit for successes.

  19. Len Raphael

    Baltimore, which has a higher violent crime rate than Oakland despite more cops per capita, has our ex-chief wunderkind Anthony Batts, the Wasserm-Bratton $250k consulting team, David Kennedy in the flesh overseeing CeaseFire, plus George Kelling one of the original academic architects of “Broken Windows.”

    They have even more consultants than OPD running around and billing for their time.


  20. R2D2II

    “The way it is now, the mayor can blame the council for failures and take credit for successes.”

    Yes and this is a long-term problem with the very well-established culture in City Hall. That’s why all of the current electeds need to be thrown out and some competent, problem-solvers put in their places. All of them.

    Oakland’s political culture is all about taking credit and giving blame for policies which are poorly-conceived and then very very poorly implemented.

    I think trying to solve these problems through Charter revisions is absurd. Laws and the people who administer them both need to be of the highest quality. Oakland has an adequate legal structure and entirely inadequate elected public servants. It is, like with all things, a matter of an appropriate balance.

    Consider the laws in Oakland which are so notably broken every day:

    1. Gun-carrying by felons on probation. Against the law but Oakland lacks sufficient enforcement resources. Oakland pols then want more gun laws.

    2. Council interference with executive branch functions. Against the law but Oakland electeds lack the ability to enforce the law.

    3. Failure of $150 million of Measure Y funding over ten years to reduce violent crime by better police staffing and effective social programs for violence prevention. Council refuses input from citizens for Measure Y improvement; Council refuses to listen to recommendations of Measure Y Oversight Committee; Council hires incompetent, biased firm to audit Measure Y performance.

    And so on. It’s the office holders who are the problem.

  21. OaklandNative

    I don’t think the problem is the City Charter. I think the problem is that so many elected officials and their constituents don’t know the City Charter. Many don’t even know what the City Charter is.

  22. Eric K Arnold

    @R2, to your list i would add the elephant in the room, which is the fact that the City Administrator is not an elected position. It’s a matter of fact that Santana has attempted to sabotage OPD reform and her office tried to bend the rules around the surveillance center by attempting to bypass Council in getting a waiver on the no nuclear contractors requirement. That’s extremely questionable behavior, from an ethical standpoint.

    Also, Measure Y was a boondoggle from the beginning. It
    is too much of a catch-all that ends up being a sieve. 60% of its funding off-top goes to police/fire services. So it was underfunded from the start, if you are looking at it from a social services perspective. Then from an administrative level it is also flawed, as there is no common metric which would allow tracking results across different programs. The areas where it has been the most successful–i.e., restorative justice programs in OUSD–should be funded separately. And you need more community input and flexibility in how programs are managed.

  23. Len Raphael

    Oakland’s council members elected are somewhat above average quality. Are San Jose’s or SF’s all that much better? And we haven’t had any elected official convicted of corruption in many years. (was it in the fifties or sixties that a Mayor went to jail?)

    There’s something in the structure of Oakland political life that brings out mediocrity in it’s elected officials. The longer they’re in office, the worse they get.

    Mayors are a different story.

    Couldn’t a mayor fire the city administrator either directly or by asking the Council to do so?

    Measure Y might not provide as much funding for social programs as some would like, but ten years ago before gentrification, when residents felt flush and weren’t so po’d about crime, MY would never have passed without the police and fire funding provision.

  24. Len Raphael

    Eric, police and fire are not highly compensated here because of their campaign funding/endorsement power or even because of the support of residents. At one time that was true. Maybe as recently as early 2000’s.

    In recent elections, OPOA support either hurt or didn’t help several candidates who were expected to win.

    Right now, until hundreds of thousands of people get laid off by the US Army over the next few years, it would be very hard to negotiate lower wages for police and fire because other, safer cities are still hiring at high salaries. San Jose had to raise police wages for that reason. The Oakland charter provision giving only police and fire binding arbitration rights for all personnel further backstops the high pay and high benefits of police and fire.

    It’s impossible to negotiate substantially lower benefits, which are close to half the cost of police and fire compensation, not because of what other cities offer or of the political power of OPOA and OFA but because of the reluctant support of all the other municipal unions against any benefit give backs.

    Those other unions have hecka more members and more campaign clout than OPOA and have similar strength in SF and SJ. Those union members resent the high pay and benefits of cops and fire, but rightly fear that if cities cut the benefits of cops and fire, the other unions are next.

  25. R2D2II

    Arnold–I agree with your recent points. Well-put.

    Raphael–the poor performance of Oakland’s elected officials has much less to do with the whether individual pols are adequately intelligent, literate, compassionate or any number of other individual qualities or potential abilities.

    Their overall incompetence has to do with the subculture of City Hall. It’s a matter of what’s called “social psychology” or “groupthink” or, to be blunt, a gangland-like mentality.

    Oakland’s government is populated by highly-empowered inbred subgroups (gangs) including the electeds, OPOA and other “public servants.” The electeds make up the most problematic group or gang.

    The gangland mentality exists in the absence of strong leadership focused on a deep understanding and commitment to the common good. Gang-like groups tend to divisiveness within the groups as immature individuals compete with one another for social/electoral status, between groups also in competition for real power (money), and between groups and the public again in competition for real power (money).

    There is a rich literature about gangs and other antisocial groups like cults. The only way to provide real change in Oakland is to break up the dysfunctional social networks–with a really powerful leader as Mayor and with replacing a majority of the Council members. In a similar vein, the only way to reduce the homicide rate in Oakland is to break up the violent social networks or gangs with guns.

  26. Len Raphael

    R2, I’m as skeptical of the NSA’s blaming the “culture” of OPD as I am blaming the subculture of the City Council. Yes, both groups effectively train new recruits to look at their assigned tasks in the same old problematic ways. But as you say, putting in managers, police chief, mayor who were effective at leadership should make a huge difference in the behavior of cops and the behavior of council members.

    Much harder to fix the leadership/management problem at City Hall than at OPD. My hunch is that effective City governance took a double hit from two well intentioned charter reforms:

    One was Mayor Lionel Wilson’s change to district elections for council members to enfranchise minorities. The other was Brown’s elimination of a strong City Manager with semi-strong Mayor.

    Those two changes shifted power to the 8 mini mayors on the council. District elections making it very difficult to create a city wide unified ticket.

    The longer you stay on Council, the more you learn to get along and avoid rocking the boat of the various interests or the other council members.

    That’s fine if the Council had less power.

    Even If we do elect a charismatic Mayor who knows how to manage the bureaucracy here, she or he will have to constantly use the bully pulpit to go over the heads of the council to push thru legislation we need. She or he will still need to go to council to approve every important appointment and contract.

  27. R2D2II

    Raphael–I couldn’t agree with you more although I prefer to use the language of dysfunctional, anti-social subcultures than legalisms of governmental structure for explanation. I think Oakland could have a functional government quite independent of the establishment of minority electoral districts or the mini-mayor/micromanager behavior in the Council. Keep in mind that it’s a small minority of Oakland’s minorities which actually votes or otherwise participates in democracy. Most of Oakland’s most-beleaguered citizens don’t know the Mayor’s name much less their Council District number or Council member. For them there’s essentially no government at all n Oakland.

    I really do agree that the subculture of OPD/OPOA is far less problematic than that of the isolated electeds in City Hall. Cops in Oakland are not isolated from the reality on Oakland’s streets. Cops have real jobs to do and far more tasks than they can reasonably accomplish whatever their pay scales would suggest. Electeds live in their own narcissistic worlds of political games.

    You are quite right to point out the challenge in dealing with the Council for even the most charismatic and compent mayor Oakland might elect. This brings up another chief barrier to functional Oakland governance: our lack of competent media. We simply do not have anyone with any journalistic skill paying close attention to what goes on in City Hall. Sanjiv Handa long did much of this and he found that nearly every City Council action was in conflict with some provision of the City Charter. It took the Oakland Tribune nearly three years to make a statement significantly critical of Jean Quan’s blatantly incompetent performance. Oakland needs not only a very competent new leader-in-chief but also media that have real commitment to covering local politics.

  28. Len Raphael

    R2, the lack of consistent, objective, in depth City Hall coverage is serious. You know it’s bad when strangers email me thanking me for posts about City Hall on local community Yahoo sites. They often don’t agree with me but appreciate hearing more what’s going on.

    OaklandWiki and @oakmtg twitter barely starts to fill the information void.

    I made my very modest donation to OL today. It was much less than my online subscription to the NYT’s.

    Must be some well heeled young Oakland techies who could get some friends together to donate enough to OL to pay for one full time City Hall journalist for a year.

  29. R2D2II

    Raphael–Recall the influence that Echa Schneider garnered in a year or two with the writing she did at A Better Oakland. This was a part-time, modest one-person effort but the writing was lively and clear and the writer had real curiosity. What we see these days, largely, in the East Bay Express, East Bay Citizen, in Chip Johnson at the Chron and so on is usually very very poor. The local political clubs and community organizations (MGO and Make Oakland Better Now for example) are inconsistent, poorly-focused and essentially disconnected. Oakland has become a shattered community/city. That’s the real elephant in the room which so many of us are unwilling to admit. The evidence is all the superficial celebration of Oakland as the land of diversity or Oakland as the greenest city or Oakland as the best place to wine and dine. Good grief Charlie Brown.

  30. Len Raphael

    R2, agree w much of what you say about the media coverage, except for the part of A Better Oakland being a part-time modest effort. My understanding is that it took up much more of the founders’s time than it appeared to the readers.

    The shift from foodie on a shoestring to fine dining $$$$ is fine by me if it pays for the ads to support good journalism.

    We’re not going to get the media dream team so that lack of attention of ordinary residents to City Hall (and OUSD and Port etc) and lack of time/energy to find out what’s happening is our biggest problem with fixing muni govt.

    Now, if we could just graft a fraction of the energy and enthusiasm of the latino and black kids and occupiers who disrupt the meaningless drone of City Council meetings into most Oakland voters…..

  31. Len Raphael

    Came across a 1979 academic article discussing why Oakland did not chose to desegerate its schools but instead chose to try to move resources to minority schools, “Race, schooling, and Interest Group Politics: The Oakland Story by David Kirp. In a throwaway line, he opines that Oakland government hadn’t had much community input and attention in many years dating at least from the Progressive Era. His point was the Progressive reforms emphasized efficient government by bureaucrats, not citizen participation. He also opined that by the 60’s Oakland did not have a unite power elite pulling the strings behind the scenes. Doesn’t sound correct re the 50’s and early 60’s but sounds correct for late 60’s and present. With uninterested/uninformed voters, semi-weak mayors, strong localized council members, and no single strong power elite, no wonder City Hall drifts and stumbles.

  32. R2D2II

    “With uninterested/uninformed voters, semi-weak mayors, strong localized council members, and no single strong power elite, no wonder City Hall drifts and stumbles.”

    I think LR is right about A Better Oakland–it was a demanding job for its creator, but a one-person effort is definitely a modest effort in terms of resources.

    This discussion sounds like the old nature (character of the individual officeholder) vs nurture (social environment) argument about personal growth/development.

    Current view on this is that nature and nurture cannot be separated: at any given point in personal growth and development both forces are in effect, each force influencing the other. Gene expression (nature) is influenced by experience (nurture); effect of experience is influenced by genetic character.

    In Oakland we have the flawed governmental structure and poor democratic environment (uninformed voters, lack of responsible media) along with a very mediocre group of people who choose to run for office. They are largely unaccomplished (no real work experience outside serving on a corporate board or as a government paper-pusher), poorly educated (generally second rate colleges, no sense of vision), uninformed (don’t read widely, haven’t lived in other areas, are essentially narrow-minded and provincial). I don’t think many self-respecting, traditionally competent pols would consider running for Oakland City Council. The Mayor’s job, on the other hand, is quite open to name-brand, widely recognized types (Brown, Dellums, Perata) who are looking for somewhere to hang for a few years before moving on.

    The problem is getting someone to run for Mayor who can articulate problems clearly and can get messages to the public, a very difficult challenge. With effective local media coverage, Mayoral candidates like Quan and Schaaf whose habits are never tell the truth about anything could quickly lose any credibility in the public mind. As indeed Quan has succeeded in doing after three years of lies and evasions.

  33. Len Raphael

    Yup, nature vs nurture. Or maybe it’s something in the City Hall water fountains?

    Tonight’s NYT’s reports that Mayor De Blasio’s leading candidate for next NYPD chief is none other than Bill Bratton.

  34. BostonStrong

    NYC in the 90s experienced a huge drop in violent crime, but supporters of the effort often leave out the other stat – that citizen complaints against the police skyrocketed in NYC during that same period. Flooding neighborhoods with police will obviously bring crime down, but you run the dangerous perception of having a police state. OC works when the community component is strong and respected as a partnership. BTW, Bratton was also a key figure in Boston’s success during the 90s…


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