Almost two years ago our family embarked on a “One Month No Car Experiment” that has extended nearly two years. Since our daughter switched schools to one that is not within easy walking distance, we’ve once again been considering buying or leasing a car. But carpooling with our friends and the existence of the East Bay car-sharing service Gig has allowed us to postpone that decision, perhaps indefinitely.
Category: Oakland (Page 1 of 2)
As regular readers know, my family gave up our car about a year-and-a-half ago. Our lease ended, we turned in the car, and we didn’t get another one. The idea was to go one month without a car and see if we could get around with biking, walking, public transportation, Lyft, and the occasional rental.
Overall the experiment has been a success. I’ve written about the experience at length in the followings posts:
This year I’ve decided to share how I’m voting, as an experiment. Sometimes I just ask my wife how she’s voting, and copy her (since we agree on most political issues, and she always does the research), but this year I actually did the research myself. I’ve tried to make notes that get to the crux of the issue, at least from my own perspective. My bias is generally liberal, leaning libertarian on personal freedoms, leaning social democrat on economic policy. I’m more of a pragmatist than an idealist, and for political decision making I favor an empirical approach (what has worked before in similar situations/environments).
I don’t expect anyone to agree with all of my choices, but maybe some readers will find the information to be helpful in making their own choices (somewhere out there is my perfect “mirror-image” voter: one who makes the opposite choice in every category). I hope you find my notes to be useful, even if you end up voting a different way. Let me know in the comments.
Many forms of Government have been tried, and will be tried in this world of sin and woe. No one pretends that democracy is perfect or all-wise. Indeed it has been said that democracy is the worst form of Government except for all those other forms that have been tried from time to time.… – Winston Churchill
OPD has had its share of problems. The painful, disturbing legacy of the Riders. $57 million paid out to alleged victims of police abuse between 2001 and 2011. Poor handling of Occupy Oakland in 2011. A very recent sex scandal where multiple officers paid for sex with a minor, followed by the resignation of police chief Sean Whent and, in quick succession, two interim police chiefs.
Pretty bad stuff.
But in the last couple years, Oakland crime has dropped significantly, especially homicides, but also robberies and assaults. Officer use of force is down 75%. Citizen complaints against police are down 50%. Something is clearly going better.
I recently attended a community meeting with Mayor Libby Schaaf, and learned a few things:
- Though Oakland’s police-to-crime ratio is still one of the lowest in the nation (if not the lowest), our police department is much better staffed than it was a few years ago. Oakland police are responding to more crimes, doing so much faster, and most importantly, interacting with the community more and thereby preventing crime (through visibility, familiarity, and information sharing).
- OPD has changed many of its policies to reduce the chance of violent escalation. For example, foot chases and car chases are abandoned more quickly in exchange for slower perimeter capture strategies. This slows everything down and reduces the chance of injuries and casualties for officers, suspects, and bystanders.
- Oakland police officers are trained to interact appropriately with people suffering from mental illness, thereby making things safer for everyone involved.
- OPD works directly with Stanford psychologist Jennifer Eberhardt (a MacArthur “Genius Grant” recipient) to understand, deconstruct, and counter inherent racial bias as it pertains to police work.
- Another interesting policy: Oakland police officer are trained to inform suspects that personal searches are voluntary and may legally be refused. Does any other police department do this?
- Last but not least, Oakland is effectively implementing the Ceasefire program, which I’ve written about before.
In many ways, OPD is on the forefront of being a progressive, forward-thinking department, committed to social justice. While there may be a long way to go, Oakland police culture is changing for the positive. And crime is dropping.
So when do we get a new police chief? Apparently (after a long community input process) the job listing went public on Friday. Schaaf is confident we’ll get a strong pool of applicants.
After a multi-decade rough patch, I’m cautiously optimistic that our police department is headed in the right direction, getting the resources they need to do their jobs, and doing their best to protect and serve all our residents (not just the wealthy white ones). Thank you to the hardworking police officers of Oakland.
Four months ago I wrote about the ongoing contract negotiations between Oakland public schools teachers (represented by OEA) and the Oakland Unified School District. I was very happy to learn that last week the teachers ratified a three-year contract with a 67.5% vote. It’s done! Congratulations to all the teachers, the union, the district, the superintendent, and the school board. The teachers received a significant pay raise. The contract also includes the following (copied from the press release):