The year in review

dto510 reminds us today that those who forget the past are doomed to repeat it. In that spirit, let’s take some time to remember what dominated the news in Oakland in 2008.

  1. Christopher Rodriguez: 2008 got off to a decidedly inauspicious start when a 10 year old boy was hit by a stray bullet during his piano lesson on normally-safe Piedmont Avenue. Oakland residents rallied to raise funds for the now-paralyzed boy, while State Senate President Don Perata responded with a highly publicized gun buyback, which turned out to be a total fiasco, leaving organizers on the hook for $170,000.

  2. City Council re-elected: Oakland residents eager for change staked their hopes on the June primaries, when four long-term Councilmembers came up for re-election. After running unopposed in 2004, Nancy Nadel, Jane Brunner, and Ignacio De La Fuente all faced energetic challengers.

    Despite being totally despised by both anti-development and pro-growth advocates, and getting hammered on crime by Bushrod activist Pat McCullough, District 1 Councilmember Jane Brunner coasted to re-election with 76% of the vote. District 3 Councilmember Nancy Nadel battled strident criticism from Covenant House director Sean Sullivan and School Board member Greg Hodge, but managed to escape a run-off fight by 114 votes. Things got especially nasty in District 5, where Council President Ignacio De La Fuente and challenger Mario Juarez both had campaign offices vandalized. Despite his disturbing personal problems, Juarez won strong support from longtime De La Fuente detractors, but even an election day blanketing of District 5 with Juarez propaganda wasn’t enough to keep the 16 year veteran from winning 53% of the vote. OCC Director Clifford Gilmore attacked Councilmember Larry Reid for neglecting District 7′s poor neighborhoods and failing to address the crime problem, but just like with everything else in East Oakland, nobody cared, and Reid walked away with 62% of the vote.

  3. Deborah Edgerly: After allegations surfaced that City Administrator Deborah Edgerly had tipped off a nephew about an upcoming bust of a gang he belonged to, Oakland citizens got temporarily obsessed with corruption in City Hall while Oakland Mayor Ron Dellums spent two weeks dithering over what to do with her, issuing a new announcement about her status virtually every day, and finally firing her when there really weren’t any other options left. The next month, he hired popular former City Manager Robert Bobb to lead the search for her replacement, promising he would announce someone within three months. By December, the Mayor still hadn’t picked a replacement, and City Attorney John Russo finally stepped in and pointed out he’s obligated to do so by the City Charter. Dellums pushed back, indicating that he has no intention of doing so anytime soon. The Mayor claims that the Charter gives no specific timeframe for him to appoint a permanent Administrator, so he can keep Lindheim in an acting position as long as he feels is necessary. Too bad the appointment of Lindheim in the first place, as dto510 pointed out at the time, was totally illegal.

  4. Restaurant robberies: In August, Oakland experienced a wave of restaurant robberies for the second time this year. Furious and frightened citizens demanded the Mayor do something about Oakland’s crime crisis, and Dellums responded by blaming the problem on the bad economy and calling in the Guardian Angels to patrol Oakland’s streets. Eventually, three suspects were arrested, and the robberies stopped. Everyone seemed pretty much satisfied with that and stopped worrying about crime, conveniently forgetting about all the teenagers getting shot in East Oakland at an ever increasing rate.

  5. Financial meltdown: The Council managed to close a $15 million deficit during June budget deliberations, only to learn a month later that they were still short $40+ million and had spent all their reserves. The fiscal crisis dominated October’s City Hall news, and the Council eventually managed to close the hole with a combination of layoffs, one time fund transfers, and monthly city shutdowns, making just about everyone angry in the process. Frustrated by the service cuts and the general complete mess at City Hall, people started condemning the Council for letting salaries and benefit costs get so out of control and wondering how this bunch of clowns managed to stay in office for so long, conveniently forgetting that they were the ones who re-elected them all only a few months ago. After a two month rest, we get to start the process all over again in January.

  6. Search warrants challenged: Fall brought more scandal for the Oakland Police Department, after news came out that a number of officers had been lying to judges for the last four years in order to obtain search warrants. The department defended the sworn affidavits which claimed that confiscated substances had returned positive test results when in fact the substances had never been tested at all by saying they were simply misstatements due to deficiencies in training, but that wasn’t enough enough to keep convictions from being overturned or the City from being sued over the scandal. Finally, a judge ordered the department to prove that some of their confidential informants actually existed. Turns out they did, although in at least one case they had lied about the informant’s previous work in order to establish credibility. The Department waved off the issue, saying it was enough that that officers did not exhibit “evilness” when they made the false statements.

  7. Chauncey Bailey project: It’s been a year and a half since the Oakland Post editor was murdered in broad daylight in downtown Oakland. After a kind of rough start last year, the Chauncey Bailey project released a slew of scandalous stories revealing, at best, total ineptitude and at worst, outright malfeasance in the handling of the investigation by OPD. Dellums eventually caught on that this was a serious problem, and asked the State to look into it. Unfortunately, the articles, while incredibly informative and disturbing, were generally just way too long and dryly written for anyone but the most devoted media junkies to sit down and read all the way through, and most people were left with a nothing but a vague sense that things had probably been somewhat mishandled, but what else is new.

  8. Oaklanders totally screw their budget: In response to citizen cries for more police, Oakland Mayor Ron Dellums asked the Council to place a parcel tax on November’s ballot that would add 75 new officers to the force over three years, and they agreed. Then nobody bothered to campaign for the tax, and it went down in flames, leaving nobody with any idea how to even pay to maintain our existing force. Meanwhile, voters easily approved Measure OO, agreeing to take millions of dollars per year away from their parks and libraries and give them to youth-oriented non-profits instead.

    In other election news, the much anticipated showdown between Kerry Hamill and Rebecca Kaplan never materialized. Frantic rumors about Don Perata spending millions of dollars to install his puppet on the Council and a planned series of nasty attack mailers flew around town for months, but in the end, all Hamill was able to muster was a bunch of ugly and unpersuasive signs ineptly posted on fences around town. Endorsements from OakPac and the Oakland Builder’s Alliance undermined arguments that the former Green Party member would be bad for business, and Kaplan coasted to an easy and predictable victory.

  9. OPD hits 803: After promising to bring the police force to full staffing by year’s end in his State of the City address, Oakland Mayor Ron Dellums decided the best way to accomplish the goal was to spend a bunch of money we didn’t have. The Council agreed, we spent the cash, and the department victoriously announced a whopping 837 officers in November. The triumph was short-lived, however. With all the money gone, the Mayor, without consulting anyone, abruptly cancelled the next Police Academy, and now we’ll be back under 803 either by the summer or before all those new officers from November even finish their field training, depending on who you believe.

  10. People finally started hating Ron Dellums: Although many who had opposed his Mayoral candidacy were critical of Dellums from the beginning of his tenure, most residents elected to take a wait-and-see approach. During his first year in office, people were generally content to believe the line that Dellums was working feverishly behind the scenes, but after two years of no visibility, no progress, no ability to make a decision amid rising violent crime, budget crises, and corruption scandals, almost everyone stopped buying it. The Mayor’s reputation wasn’t helped by media reports of a scandalously light work schedule and wasteful personal spending. A fall poll pegged Dellums’s approval rating at a depressing 27%, while his disapproval rating had risen to 55%. Organizers of the draft Dellums movement started apologizing, and talk of a Dellums recall gained steam, even though it’s pretty much too late at this point.

Well, that was depressing. Here’s hoping 2009 will bring better news.

16 thoughts on “The year in review

  1. Patrick

    “…but just like with everything else in East Oakland, nobody cared…” That’s kind of insulting, V.

  2. dto510

    I think V meant to point out that the mainstream media insultingly ignores East Oakland beyond homicides (and completely ignored the D7 election).

  3. ConcernedOakFF

    That is what I meant as well…That the only people that seem to care there anymore are the residents, the rest of the world just ignores the violence rather than confront anything that requires effort or thoughtfulness.

  4. oaklandhappenings

    Despite all of these “bads”, there were some goods in Oakland also:
    1) Residential towers
    Despite the housing/condo crisis, Several towers/complexes in Oakland are at or near completion: Webster/Grand (forgot the exact name), 8 Orchids, Ellington, and Uptown are all at or near completion, and/or leasing. Whether or not rents work as well as condo purchases is yet to be seen. Let’s just hope these aforementioned projects fill up.

    2) 601 City Center
    Hoping that the economy doesn’t get worse to the point that this project gets stalled, it will be another great office tower for downtown, hoping that it fills up faster than its Shorenstein predecessor (555), which seemed to take 2-3 years to get a decent filling, with Ask (Jeeves–as they were known as then), being a major tenant.

    3) Jack London
    Still going strong, and getting better; too bad that there is no fast transportation from BART though . With the Marketplace nearing completion, and other buildings at various stages of construction, it seems as if Jack London Square (and district too for that matter) are starting to get some more recognition.
    With new restaurants emerging, being better than the chains that Ellis Partners seemingly “forced out”, I see the future of this area improving. I hope the so-called 4-star hotel actually happens though…right there at the AMTRAK station.

    4) The Arts
    Along with the School of the Arts moving their home into the Fox Theater (and the theater itself nearing the beginning of its second life Feb. 5th), people from other areas seem to want to enjoy making Oakland more artsy-friendly. With Art Murmur still a big success, that is just for starters.

    5) A long-term decrease in the homicide rate
    Over the last 15 months, Oakland’s unjustifiable (unj) homicide rate is about 25% lower than the 15 months prior to that (~133 vs ~178 respectively as of last reports Dec 29th).
    This, even after a 6-week period to start off 2008 with 21 unj slayings. They are “just numbers” (quoting Dellums), but hopefully a sign of further decrease, letting police put more time towards other non-fatal crimes, and give those homicide investigators a much needed slow-down. Maybe that will help Oakland’s solved-homicide last-in-state-rating.

    6) Oakbook!
    Okay, so this was actually launched in late ’07, but its success in ’08 has given Oaklanders articles and news that no other Oakland/East Bay source would ever bother with. Thanks V, for being a part of that!

    7) Finally, and definitely not least, the (continued) success of V with ‘A Better Oakland’, which–although leading to heated debates in the comments sections–is a way to help Oaklanders cyber-unite, and find out more about our great little-big city…which hopefully will have even more greats happening in 2009.

    *BTW– If I forgot anything of significant importance among these positives, please remind me. I know there are more, but didn’t want this to go too long…which it actually turned out to be…my bad! ;-)

  5. Mike Spencer

    I don’t know the plans for Jack London Square but right now the only reason I would go down there is for Barnes & Noble or a block over to the Fat Lady. It is really not a destination spot, seems sort of shabby. It should be a true anchor for Oakland so that residents stop going to SF,Emeryville and Walnut Creek. Is there a great place down there that you can’t get anywhere else? I don’t think so And you can say it has charm and grit and character but that is not going to make the cash registers ring.

  6. Max Allstadt

    Re: “Too bad the appointment of Lindheim in the first place, as dto510 pointed out at the time, was totally illegal.”….

    Technically true, according to the Charter. But according to the Charter the person responsible for appointing a temporary successor was…that wretched horrible troll Edgerly herself. Illegality be damned, what this really means is that our charter is flawed and needs to be changed.

    Frankly I prefer Lindheim to whoever Edgerly would have replaced herself with. That said, I’ll point out that I also prefer being kicked in the nuts to being stabbed in the nuts.

  7. oaklandhappenings

    Thanks, Brian– although that whole thing is very slow going. One that I forgot about was the Cathedral–Christ of the Light completion, despite some controversy over the design and price.

  8. Jason

    Mike Spencer, I enjoy Home of Chicken and Waffles quite a bit.

    Heinold’s First and Last Chance is a way to enjoy a beer in a strange and slanted piece of history. Don’t forget about Yoshi’s. And there’s always BevMo. (…)

    I’m sure there’s more — those are just the ones off the top of my head.

  9. Max Allstadt

    JLS is not going to be a hub of activity until some or all of the following is changed:

    The crossings under the 880 must be made to feel inviting, beautiful and safe. Starting with Broadway. Similarly, drab, uninviting uses near the 880 crossing need to be phased out and replaced by things like schools, libraries, retail, entertainment, etc. Broadway between 4th and 6th should be aggressively redeveloped at every possible opportunity.

    Private ownership needs to regulate activities within the square with less restriction. It should be treated like public land rather than a mall. Get some free speech happening there, some low-restriction live music and tolerance for unauthorized busking.

    JLS is not a transit hub, but an end. It needs more destination style activity versus pass-through activity.

    How about a bike/ped bridge to Alameda, with coordinated development on the other side? A guy can dream.

    The entire square turns it’s back on Embarcadero, with all storefronts on the private grounds facing inward and in many places a blank wall facing outward. If the developers won’t take steps to fix this, the city should focus moving as much destination use as possible to second street.

    Better promoted and better quality public access to boats for fun and transportation to other parts of the Bay Area.

    The fucking trains need to shut up. Or at least lower their volume to a non-painful level. Maybe they could use strobes instead. Quoth Ozzy: “All aboard the Disco Train!”

  10. V Smoothe Post author

    We can’t build a bike/ped bridge because the Coast Guard needs to get their ships through there, so it would either have to be like 200 feet in the air or be a drawbridge. Really.

  11. Max Allstadt

    200 feet is out. Isn’t there some idiotic two story maximum for absolutely everything in the entire city of Alameda except for live giraffes?