It could be so much worse

Wow. This makes me want to take back every mean thing I’ve ever said about the Oakland City Council. I am so happy I don’t live in Detroit.

Thanks to Sweet Melissa for sharing this.

21 thoughts on “It could be so much worse

  1. Max Allstadt

    Shrek! I love it. We should take a thread to come up with sarcastic nicknames for all of our sitting council members. Or not.

  2. MJH

    Speechless. Mildly amused. Sad for the citizens. I was also under the impression that people in Detroit political circles only communicated by text messaging.

  3. oaklandhappenings

    For those talking smack about Oakland, they should also know that Detroit is dealing with be the most dangerous city–ranked by CQ press–for 2006…maybe ’07 as well? The CC there must all be feeling the heat every day, every hour.

  4. Californio

    One problem places like Detroit face is so-called brain drain. Smart people flee places like Detroit or Indianapolis or Buffalo because it drives them nuts to live there. We are so fortunate that they come to places like Oakland. If I were doing a PR campaign for this city, I wouldn’t try to emphasize the gondolas or the Chabot Space Center, but the number of marginalized intellectuals publishing magazines, the documentary filmmakers, etc. who we know make this place worth putting up with. It’d also be nice to get some of our smart, vibrant, dedicated citizens onto the City Council and into the Mayor’s office. At least we know they’re here.

  5. Max Allstadt

    Californio, you’re definitely on to something.

    In my social circle, I see a lot of very talented young artists and musicians, who are moving out here from San Francisco to save $. But as the latest batch grows older and wants more safety to do things like raise kids, some of them are going to leave for places near and far. A brilliant violinist friend of mine is hightailing it to Michigan next month to get married and start a whole other life.

    So my response, Californio, is that we actually have a chance to make our predicament work for us. We have lower rents and home prices, and we might also have some time to turn crime around to retain those attracted by those prices.

  6. Joanna/OnTheGoJo

    I couldn’t get past 40 seconds. Ugh, the brain drain syndrome, indeed. Why would anyone with a brain want to be involved in that sort of crap?


  7. Ken O.

    Which is why we need to vote for COMPETENT and HARD-WORKING council members and mayor. Not the lazy buffoons we have now.

    Oakland is trending toward Detroit ways if we don’t clean it up Chicago/NYC style.

    Then again, what we really need is to bring blue-collar jobs back!

    Why wait for oil ‘n’ gas prices and Chinese/Indian/Japanese monopolies over production to jack up prices on us before making more things here locally?

    Until that day comes, we should be growing more of our own food, and shopping only thrift stores and the Alameda Antiques Fair (unfortunately, a big DRIVE) or not buying more crap at all from 99cent or chain stores.

    What’s wrong with being a “protectionist”? America and Oakland need some protecting! Free trade sucked our industries dry! Everything’s been offshored so all we have left are military industries, and even THOSE are getting offshored now to the EU!


  8. Ken O.

    Oh, they lost their Mayor over a Gavin Newsom/Elliot Spitzer/George Bush-like flap (Mayor Kwame Fitzpatrick was cheating on his wife with his chief of staff)

    Is De La Fuente a married man?

    I think he’d win in any future race. I don’t want any “democratic machine boss” in office (Pirata).

  9. James H. Robinson

    The key to Oakland’s future is to look forward, not backward. The industrial jobs are disappearing nationwide, and it will be extremely difficult, if not impossible, to bring those old jobs back. If Oakland wants to prosper, in the way that South City, Emeryville, and other neighboring towns have prospered, we need to prepare people for the future. Training programs similar to the Ella Baker Center’s Green Jobs program will help.

    Oakland will not become Detroit because the areas around Oakland are doing so well. If anything, Oakland will evolve into a suburb of San Francisco, Berkeley and other Bay Area municipalities.

  10. ConcernedOakFF


    Maybe a bad reference, as surrounding Detroit are some of the richest suburbs in the US. We will not become Detroit because we do no have the same type of Vacancy Rates and nowhere NEAR the crime….

  11. James H. Robinson

    Good point on Detroit’s suburbs. So why hasn’t Detroit become a “suburb of its suburbs” the way Oakland is becoming? Why aren’t people who live in Detroit not working outside of Detroit? And why is Oakland’s population increasing while Detroit’s is steadily decreasing?

  12. Max Allstadt

    I thought Oakland lost people over the last few years. If I remember correctly, we lost low income residents, and gained some higher income residents, with a net population decrease. My memory is usually pretty good, but v- could you tell me If I’m hallucinating this?

  13. V Smoothe Post author

    I wrote one of my very first blogs about this! Short story is – people who don’t understand statistics looked at some numbers that aren’t actually comparable and concluded that Oakland is bleeding population at an absurd rate and their claims were repeated frequently in the newspaper, but actually, we’ve been growing, although not particularly quickly.

  14. V Smoothe Post author

    Ken –

    The fight in the video actually happened during a special meeting of the City Council where they were supposed to be discussing the police whistle-blower lawsuit settlement – wait, do all you guys know about this? This whole story is just insane. From the (sort of) beginning and (sort of) quickly:

    Detroit Mayor Kwame Kilpatrick threw this party in 2002 at his city-owned mansion and his wife, who he wasn’t expecting, came home and found him with all these strippers, attacked one of the strippers and then the police started investigating the incident but Kilpatrick intefered with the investigation and then the police officers investigation the party and some officers from internal affairs were fired during the investigation, and sued the city over it. One of the strippers from the party was later murdered during the investigation of this party, and at least one former police officer alleges that the murder was committed by the police.

    The whistleblower lawsuit came to trial in 2007, and the City lost, and got a judgement against it of $6.5 million. Kilpatrick said he would appeal the verdict, but soon later agreed to settle the suit for $8.4 million. Part of this settlement was that everyone agreed that text messages sent between the Mayor and his former chief of staff remain confidential. After much legal fighting, the text messages finally got released, and it turns out that they proved that Kilpatrick and the woman had had an affair, and lied about it under oath during the trial. After this and other details of the settlement came to light, Kilpatrick was charged with perjury, obstruction of justice, and conspiracy in March. The text messages are insane. The City Council passed a resolution in March requesting that Kilpatrick resign (with every member present except Monica Conyers, the charming woman from the video above) voting in favor. Kilpatrick is not interested in resigning, and the Council has asked their City Attorney to try to find a way to legally remove him. Someone tried to start a recall petition, but the Mayor’s office had the petition’s approval rescinded.

    Anyway, the Council was talking about the repercussions of their approval of the settlement when this video was taken. Conyers (wife of Congressman John Conyers), had already gotten into a fight with one of the other Councilmembers earlier in the meeting, so this is her second flip-out of the day.

    Sweet Melissa has updated her post with another amazing video, in which Monica Conyers sits among a group of middle school girls and defends her behavior, saying that the kids have probably all done it too and that it’s okay because she was frustrated. This 8th grade girl totally schools her, too. It’s awesome.

    She says in a subsequent interview that she’s seen worse behavior than that at work in her capacity as a school teacher, and explains that she “never said Shrek was bad or good.” She later gives an excellent pitch for moving to Detroit: “Come live in Detroit. Detroit is a wonderful place. You’ll find good schools. You’ll find lots of beautiful water, nice landscaping. Our neighborhoods are thriving, and coming back alive, and Detroit is UP on the move! Come look at Detroit for yourself and check out Detroit. DEEE-Troit!”

    Doesn’t Oakland’s city government not look all that bad now?

  15. ConcernedOakFF


    Oakland has gained somewhere in the realm of 8-10,000 people in the last 5 years. There are huge swaths of land the were purely industusrial that now have medium/high density housing, and even in this era of forclosures, there are few vacant houses in the city.

    I would hazard to guess that our actual population, including illegal immigrants, is somewhere around 475,000

  16. Max Allstadt

    Thanks FF. Thanks V.

    I actually see quite a few vacant houses in my neighborhood. I expect that my anecdotal evidence conflicts with the statistics because of where I am. The neighborhood isn’t doing great, and I also expect that the vacancies are underreported. West Oakland is not likely representative of the whole city though.

    It makes sense that we’re growing. We’re cooler and cheaper than Berkeley or SF!

  17. James H. Robinson

    I would expect that with the increased cost of gasoline plus the increase of office space in Oakland, more people will move to Oakland over time and eventually that excess housing inventory will be occupied. It’s just that the credit crunch has really hurt people’s ability to buy, plus people (being the sheep they are) are currently scared. Of course, it would REALLY help if crime decreased in Oakland, especially in East and West Oakland. Meanwhile, homes in the hills have only lost a little of their value and are still selling fairly well, from what I’ve heard.

  18. Max Allstadt

    I only tagami vision was as funny as Charlie LeDuff. That guy’s a riot. Get him to do a guest spot V, I love him!

  19. RDC

    We need to get that 2nd 8th grader out of Detroit and into Oakland. I’ll vote for her in the next election. Charlie LeDuff is fantastic. Watching Mrs. Conyers do her business makes me feel good about Oakland’s leaders for some reason or is there some great video out there on them?

    V – Thanks for the videos.

  20. David

    I used to work with Charlie LeDuff. He went to Berkeley’s J-School, although I doubt that’s where he learned to ask questions like “But if you were a nut, what kind of nut would you be?” He’s a bit of a prima donna who chafed in the newsroom culture of the New York Times, so he quit to become a stay-at-home dad, then moved back to Detroit to work for his hometown paper (not the typical trajectory of an ambitious reporter, obviously). It’s nice to see that he’s thriving there. I’m sure he enjoys being a big fish in a small pond instead of a medium-sized fish in a big pond.