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Oaktown revisited

Posted by G.A. Matiasz on June 22, 2007


People talk shit about Oakland: poverty-stricken, crime-ridden, gang-plagued, drug-infested, with a brutal police department and a corrupt city government. I moved to Oakland when I came up to the Bay Area in 1991, and I thoroughly enjoyed the eleven years I lived in the city. I spent many a “dark night of the soul” walking about downtown or around Lake Merritt, grieving after my parents died. Not once was I mugged or robbed or even harassed. I liked Oaktown’s racial diversity and pleasant weather and radical history and the fact that I was only a BART ride away from Berkeley or San Francisco.

I didn’t like Mayor Jerry Brown much. I considered him a faux progressive and a crass opportunist. I have a soft spot for Ron Dellums ever since the Vietnam War years, but he seems to be struggling to find his stride as the new mayor. He is criticized for being an absentee mayor, a charge that he denies. His website features a report of his accomplishments in his first six months in office. Maybe I’m a sucker, but I’m willing to give Mayor Dellums a little more time to prove himself.

One Response to “Oaktown revisited”

  1. prfx said

    I agree that it gets a bad rap, I was never hassled or mugged and I would walk around after dark in the same area as you were talking about. Plus, it was nice to actually be able to ‘almost’ afford rent and the BART access and the cultural diversity.

    A couple of times I was walking around in daytime with a friend of mine who is a 21 year old blond female and grungy dudes would say the rudest shit and I almost got into scraps or else we would have to just let it slide. That shit happens most places though.

    My criticisms all have to do with authorities. Normal citizens get pretty shafted and have very little say in how the city is run. All the power is in the hands of people with guns or law degrees. It has to be a pretty corrupt place for something like the Chauncey Bailey killing or the Oscar Grant killing to take place. It is still better than Tijuana but that is not saying much.

    There is a great history of activism but it is exactly that: history. I tried to get a community project going and got support from the community but could not get a green light or even a meeting or callback from city bureaucrats on a project that would cost them nothing. In general there is a shortage of quality service civil services providers and a huge surplus of lazy ass bureaucrats.

    Oakland is not a bad place to live for a young adult but it is an awful place to raise a family. The government is corrupt and/ or inept and the police and thieves run the streets like it is the wild west. It makes for a great rap song but not a great place to raise a child, especially a teenager. There is absolutely nothing for teens to do except get in trouble. All youth in Oakland are at risk youth.

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