The sadly second class city

The news tonight included a report on a homicide in Oakland – the fourth homicide today, and the sixth in 2013 thus far.

My parents were both raised in Oakland, and both attended Castlemont High though at different times. The city was rough-and-tumble during those post-depression years, but then as now its geography was a great advantage: green and gold rolling hills covered with native poppies each Spring; great stands of Redwoods impermeable to the city sounds beyond; the San Francisco Bay reflecting the sun.

The sight of these beauties steals my breath, and while I have often experienced the underbelly of this little city I can’t help but circle back to those things which make it a wonderful place.

It’s a shame that the city’s blindly-ambitious politicians have allowed this pretty and interesting city to gain – and maintain – a reputation as a dangerous, chaotic place. What could be a progressive, world-class city is relegated to second class status through a pattern of neglect – and neglect of such monumental proportions that I’m tempted to characterize it as criminal. The current mayor, Jean Quan, has said a few right things but acted wrongly. An ineffective City Council has failed to keep the mayor honest and focuses on the banal instead of doing the hard work that they were elected to undertake. The police force is undermanned, outgunned, and largely unsupported by the politicians. It’s enough to make this Bay Area native weep in sadness and frustration.

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