Oakland is in the throes of a full-blown public safety crisis. The time to debate whether and what to do has come to an end. As a city we must come together, support our elected officials, and act now.
I am writing first as a life-long Oaklander, a husband, and a father of two. I also run an Oakland based real estate development firm. As such, I am not a public safety expert, but I know something about public safety and closely related issues, such as economic development, taxes and jobs.
Ideally, Oakland would generate sufficient tax revenue to indefinitely fund the 850 police officers needed for safe streets. And, in a perfect world, Oakland would create enough jobs so that all Oaklanders would have work — including ex-offenders and others trying to get their lives back together.
But it is not realistic for a city to hope to achieve its ideals — or even to maintain the status quo — while besieged by constant violence and crime. And, so the violence and crime must end and tax revenue available today must be spent to end it. Not doing so will very simply mean that Oakland residents will be victims of more crime and that our residential neighborhoods and commercial districts will continue to feel unsafe.
On Tuesday night, the Oakland City Council will decide whether to approve several timely and common-sense measures to address our public safety crisis. I strongly urge the full City Council and all Oaklanders to support the measures.
The four proposals coming to the council Tuesday (today) are as follows:
1) Contract with the Alameda County Sheriff’s Department to hire 10 deputies and one supervisor to work 10-hour shifts twice a week for 90 days on violence suppression.
2) Hire 20 police service technicians and one crime lab technician to free up officers to patrol the streets, deter crime and make arrests.
3) Immediately assemble a new police academy rather than wait until a scheduled June academy.
4) Contract with William Bratton, former New York City and Los Angeles Police Chief, to help the city develop a short-term crime-fighting strategy.
Critics have balked at the proposals, arguing that Oakland has unknown future liabilities, such as the state redevelopment reimbursements and bond repayments. They contend that the city should wait for six months to consider the public safety spending as part of the city’s annual budget.
On a positive note, the city’s economy is on the rebound and gained $34.8 million of unanticipated property, sales and business taxes at the end of 2012. A portion of those funds are available today to spend on public safety initiatives.
This blog is a work in progress but the time to act is now