I really enjoyed watching the public comment at Tuesday’s Public Safety Committee on the proposed juvenile curfew. The turnout for the item was so large that the meeting had to be moved to the Council chambers, instead of the smaller hearing room the Committee normally uses, to accommodate the crowd. There were a few disruptive moments where Larry Reid was forced to lecture the audience about behaving in a respectful manner, and there was also the occasional cheering for speakers they agreed with, which I hate because I find it disruptive. But for the most part, I thought the public comment was really good.
Often, anti-police public comment at Council meetings is angry and irrational. The people who came out to speak in opposition of the proposed curfew were generally polite, respectful, had clearly taken time to prepare their comments in advance, and presented clear arguments. While I did not support the curfew, I did not agree with many of the arguments presented against it. Nevertheless, I found the manner they were presented refreshing, and I’d like to share some of them with my readers.
Before discussion on the item began, Larry Reid offered a short explanation of his reasoning in proposing the curfew, saying he felt moved to do something after years of seeing young people loitering on the street at all hours of the night.
The ordinance was written to be as hippy dippy as possible – punitive action for curfew violation was minimal, and youth violating curfew would be taken to special receiving centers to speak with counselors and get enrolled in empowering workshops and such. The almost over the top feel-good aspects of the proposal clearly were not enough to appease the concerns of those who saw the curfew as an attempt to limit the freedom of young people in Oakland and increase the power of the Police Department. The best comments were from the youngest speakers, and I encourage you to watch the two videos below, which were my favorite among the comments.
There were only two speakers in favor of the curfew. Here’s one of them:
Pat Kernighan, Jean Quan, and Nancy Nadel all agreed that a curfew wouldn’t work in Oakland, and that the timing of the proposal was particularly bad, but all asked the youth in the audience to work with them to craft solutions for the juvenile crime problem. Kernighan and Quan also noted that they saw little productive reason for anyone to be out of their homes after midnight, although at the end of the meeting, a young woman spoke at Open Forum and reminded them that attending Council meetings can keep people out until well past the hours of the proposed curfew. Although I didn’t want the ordinance to pass, I couldn’t help but feel bad for Larry Reid, who clearly believed strongly that his effort was in the best interest of Oakland’s youth, and was obviously very disappointed in the outcome and opposition.
Watching this discussion at Tuesday’s meeting prompted a great post from Becks which I strongly recommend you click through and read.