In Oakland, political careers, political positioning and power-gathering trump the needs of citizens regarding violence. Two examples follow:
In September, there was a peace march in which hundreds of citizens marched through the city to gather in front of Oakland City Hall and demand action to reduce violence. Mayor Jean Quan and Councilwomen Libby Schaaf and Rebecca Kaplan publicly announced their support for a resolution to be adopted by the council.
This was a statement of intention to do something about violence -- nothing more difficult or demanding than that. It made reduction of gun violence the first public safety priority. It said that killing will be reduced by 50 percent in three years.
March organizers expected the resolution to be adopted by the council the week after the march.
By the first week of October, the resolution had disappeared into a City Council black hole. The resolution never made it to the Public Safety Committee or the whole council. Rules and Legislation Committee Chairman Larry Reid didn't show up for the Rules meeting on the resolution. Committee members Ignacio De La Fuente, Schaaf, Kaplan and Desley Brooks turned out the lights.
There is chatter that the resolution will be brought up again in January when the new council goes to work. Between the end of September and mid-January, there will have been several hundred additional shootings in Oakland, and 25 or 30 more killings.
Ceasefire is touted by several on the council as the answer to violence. Grants have been obtained and a first call-in of prospective shooters has taken place. Successful Ceasefire efforts require significant management and administrative support as well as efficient crime data gathering and analysis by the Oakland Police Department.
Most important is that these critical functions have been cobbled together at the last minute and the prospect for any real success in violence reduction is thereby diminished.
What is significant about Ceasefire in Oakland is that it is not an answer to violent crime. It is only an approach, one approach to finding a part of the answer.
What is needed much more than one effort, however hopeful, is a comprehensive public safety plan. In such a plan, we would think through and make clear all that we have to do to actually make Oakland safer and do it ethically.
How are we going to gather and analyze crime data? How are we going to manage and coordinate the many different programs needed? How many more cops and other resources will we need? How are we going to measure the success or failure of our efforts? How are we going to pay for all of this?
Ceasefire is business as usual in Oakland. It's misleading, a fundamentally political answer and it's an orphan in terms of funding. If (or when) it fails, our elected officials can blame the police department or a program manager or something as yet unforeseen. When grant funding runs out, our elected officials can say, as they so often do, "we just don't have the money."
Remember the mayor's "100 Blocks Plan" which became just an initiative before disappearing into thin air? Here we go again.
Mike Ferro is a community activist who lives in East Oakland.