I suppose I should know by now not to be surprised when Oakland politicians behave in a manner contrary to all logic or reason, and completely inconsistent with anything they’ve ever said before. But it still makes my blood boil every single time. And after the seriously pathetic show of small mindedness in the news this weekend, I’m tempted to just give up on following Oakland City Hall forever, and devote my time to less frustrating hobbies, because clearly whatever progress this city ever makes is going to be in spite of local government, not because of it.
What other conclusion could one draw when reading statements from Oakland Mayor Ron Dellums, Oakland City Council President Ignacio De La Fuente, and District 2 Councilmember Pat Kernighan saying they’re don’t want an HBO series being filmed in Oakland. It’s really just…completely unbelievable. I don’t know what to say. I have sat and watched all three of these politicians talk about the importance of supporting our film industry on multiple occasions. Film industry jobs are green and pay well, without requiring a college education, they say. Supporting the film industry benefits small businesses like caterers, dry cleaners, and building suppliers, they tell us. We want to make Oakland the “creative capital” of Northern California, they promise. Creative arts is one of our key areas for potential job growth, they announce.
So now, what happens when they get exactly what they’ve been wanting, and we have a television series wanting to start production here next year, at a time when the local economy could desperately use any kind of jolt? They suggest HBO take their series elsewhere because they don’t like what it’s about. I’ve grown pretty used to the nearly incomprehensible hypocrisy of the Mayor by now, so his attempts to interfere with the project come as no surprise. His entire administration has been nothing but a poorly executed magic show, so naturally he’s going to prioritize maintaining his catch-phrase of a “model city” over something that might put the fantasy in jeopardy while furthering the reality of his dream, creating local jobs and bringing in some actual revenue to fund those model programs he’s so attached to. Maybe he could work out a compromise with HBO and they can have the character enroll in the green jobs corps.
Resistance from Pat Kernighan isn’t much of a surprise either. Pat’s elitist and nanny-like tendencies are the worst thing about her. Who could forget her Grand Lake Guardian letter about her attempts to block a thrift store from opening on Lakeshore in her district?
I immediately contacted the owner’s broker, Steve Banker of LCB Associates, and told him that a thrift store would not be welcomed by the majority of area residents. I also called and spoke with Out of the Closet’s broker and the Board President of the AIDS Healthcare Foundation, which runs the thrift stores. I explained that Lakeshore is trying hard to attract more shoppers with disposable income to keep all the stores in business and that a thrift store would lead in the other direction.
Her complaint in today’s Matier & Ross:
Plus, I don’t care how you portray prostitution – there are still creepy guys out there who will be getting a kick out of seeing women abused.
besides being somewhat nonsensical, is unfortunately fairly consistent with the rather chilling ideas ideas about speech she displayed with respect to the canceled Buju Banton concert. Still, it’s hard to see why someone would introduce to the Council a reduction in film parking fees (PDF) in hopes of supporting the industry and increasing revenue to the City if they’re so concerned about potentially objectionable subject matter being shot in Oakland. After all, the entertainment industry isn’t exactly known for relentless promotion of moral fortitude.
So Dellums and Kernighan are disappointing, but their hypocrisy at least is expected. What I found the most crushing was opposition to the series from Ignacio De La Fuente, who we can normally count on to be a voice of reason when it comes to supporting business and industry. For him, of all people, to be broadcasting the message that we want more creative arts, but only if the scripts meet our apparently stringent moral standards, just makes me lose all hope for Oakland.
All this hand-wringing about Oakland’s image is, as I’ve said before, totally misplaced. If we don’t want Oakland portrayed as a high crime city in the media, then the proper response is not to complain about the media, but to reduce crime. If we’re unhappy with Oakland being shown as a hotbed of prostitution, then we should do something about our terrible human trafficking problem. Because those are the things that give Oakland a bad reputation. If someone was talking about making a reality show about child prostitution, sure, I could understand the objection. But we’re talking about a scripted fictional series! A television series on HBO about a retiring pimp who lives in Oakland will do no more to make people afraid of Oakland than the Law & Order franchise, with its three weekly hourlong primetime dramas of gruesome murders, makes people think they’re going to get killed if they visit New York, or Twin Peaks made people think that people are being butchered constantly in rural Washington. Which is, I’m guessing, not at all.