Friday, January 25, 2013

Are we ready for a successful consultation?

Are we ready for a successful consultation?  

Now that we have Chief stop-and-frisk Bratten on the Oakland payroll as a consultant, are we going to have a valuable consultation?  

I have no idea how our city leaders think our unity problem gets any better with Bratten on board.  In the real Oakland, not the consultant Oakland, we have big social issues between our police and our residents.  Our Civilian Police Review Board, of 1977, still does not have the authority it needs to guide, oversee and discipline our police officers akin to a real Police Commission.  The amount of money that our police officers are paid does not go down well with most of us and the fact that so very few of them live in Oakland does not go down well with any of us.  We have been in a decade of non compliance in the court case stemming from a group of police officers that got caught using illegal strong arm tactics.  More than one organization in town tracks police abuse.  Our City Attorney Office helps us pay out police abuse settlement cases to the tune of more dollars than San Francisco and San Jose combined. 

Into this mix our city decides to hire the poster boy for stop and frisk.  As if the Gang Injunctions did not cause enough division we had to do this too?  Do we really think that a 7 to 1 vote in council reflects a 7 to 1 consensus for this consultation subcontract with Bratten?  Council President Patricia Kernighan may want to call all those who do not agree with her some kind of radical fringe, but that fringe includes many of the same people who put together our official crime policy: Measure Y.  

This whole thing makes me feel that community consensus is not something Council values much.  

I do not know what kind of group-think our new council has gotten itself into in making this decision and I wonder what we will hear from them after we have paid Bratten’s bill and received his wisdom.  

The lone dissenting voice, Council Member Desley Brookes of District 6, made it very clear on KPFA that the prime contract, of which the Bratten sub contract is but a part, was already in trouble on its deliverables.  

Why do we need this consultation?  After all this time we still need to decide what our crime policy is?  What exactly is the wisdom we do not have that these enlightened beings will bestow upon us?  Our Police Chief Jordan, our Police Captain Torribio, our expensive City Administrator Sanatana do not know what their policies are?  They need the advice of this guy from New York to run the Oakland Police?  If that is the case, we should not be hiring consultants, we should be hiring replacements.  

This city went through a very big public process to end up with Measure Y.  We looked around for advice at the time.  And we have never implemented the program, just like we have never implemented a Citizen Police Review Board with any teeth.  Measure Y is our policy and a well thought out policy it is.  It is not particularly original, but it is based on solid research.  Our policy of enforcement, prevention and diversion is supported by the super majority required to pass a ballot measure.  

Maybe our consultant will tell us why we do not really implement our own plan?  Measure Y has become more of a funding source for non-profits than any policy that our City, Police and with cooperation from the county the DA follow.  We talk restorative justice.  We walk lock-em-up with a few programs on the side.  Every day we send young people to start a life of crime and every day we do not help people getting out of prison end their life of crime.  Every day.  

The State of California has consultants too.  For the longest time I have been telling folk about the Little Hoover Commission Report on Parole ( ).  This 2003 report tells us what is wrong with our California Parole system and what a local community can do about it.  SUPPOSEDLY it is our policy to implement the recommendations of this report.  Maybe Mr. Bratten can take a look at that while he is on staff?  All the problems described in the report are still problems with some realignment to Alameda County.  The main issue of not having a place in the community remain a main issue.  The problem of sending folk back to jail on parole violations instead of dealing with any new crimes, is also still a problem.   The only update to this report was to say that we still have not done anything about it.  The first line of that report reads:  “California’s parole system is a billion-dollar failure.”  That failure delivers broken souls to the streets of Oakland, week in, week out. 

I am not sure what a consultant can do about political leadership that does not lead and does not act on the recommendations of its own state government.  

Maybe it is like the consultant that was hired to fix the bike path plan for the bike path that is supposed to run in front of my house.  First we spent some years on a plan.  Oooops, oh, we forgot to run this plan past the bus company who has stops running down the main drag.  Sooooo, we hire a consultant, more dollars, more years, and voila, we have a new plan.  Over a million dollars to paint a white stripe down our street and destroy our community garden in the traffic islands.  That was the new plan.  When released, that plan caused an uproar, mostly for the gardens and another plan is in the works.  I ride my bike on the side streets where it is safer, and probably a better spot for a bike lane, and do not bet my life that the drivers who do not stop for me crossing the street on foot will somehow not drive over the white stripe of a bike lane.  I do not know how many years this planning process, consultants and all, has been going on, but it is over a dozen.  Still no bike lane.  

As if reading my mind, I get an email telling me “Visit Oakland (Oakland's Convention & Visitor Bureau) is working to develop a strategic plan for Oakland as a travel destination.” And to get this great strategic plan in place:  “Visit Oakland has retained a top-flight research firm, Young Strategies Inc., to conduct a comprehensive destination analysis and lead a strategic planning process.”  

If I could make stories like this up, my fiction would sell.  

How many years has the Visitor’s Bureau existed?  Only now are we developing a plan?  And what is step one?  An on-line survey with Survey Monkey .  The only two visitors I know of coming to Oakland are my brother in Oregon and Chief Bratten.  Both work related trips.  

Meanwhile on my street that still has no bike path, the mugging rate has spiked.  We held a meeting at the Mac and Cheese place and the Neighborhood Crime Prevention Council (NCPC) got good attendance this month.  My own neighborhood watch group had become dormant, so I invited some neighbors over to see if reviving it could help.  During the meeting there was a mugging at Shafter and 41st.  After helping the victim, one more couple decided to come to the Neighborhood Watch meeting.  

All over Oakland there are lots of neighbors willing to do something.  We fill the NCPC’s and we volunteer at the myriad organizations that reach out to youth at risk.  

In Oakland most of the public agrees with the consensus that prevention, diversion and enforcement go together and many of us are willing to do something about it.  We do not need a consultant for that.  

Saturday, January 5, 2013

Give NOW!

With the end of the year my email and postal mail boxes have been filled with the message:


Greenpeace, the ACLU, and Amnesty International were the best known brands.  I think it was over two dozen other brands also writing me to tell me about what a great opportunity I have to do all kinds of things to change the world with my money.  Even the ones from groups that I do support and give money to, sound like cheap hucksterism. 

Frankly, I am stunned nowadays if I get an email from any group about anything without the word DONATE on a button. 

When you get a message that asks you to vote, protest or just be informed and is not a lead pitch for a donation, READ IT; it is from somebody real. 

We Americans are great employees.  We do lots of things, including immoral things, for those who give us a salary.  We are also able to put out a lot of self serving doubletalk in defense of those who pay us.  “Americans will do close to anything for money” is not news. 

I do donate to stuff.  But Non profit corporations and their “advocacy” is not the same as activism.  Doing what you are paid to do and saying what will make your sale is not the same as having a social conscious. 

Have we become so stupid that we think that only MONEY makes people work?  Were we paid to join Occupy?  Was Martin Luther King motivated by profits in the civil rights “industry”? Is there a Neighborhood Watch market?  We spend to much of our lives looking at advertizing produced by people who ARE only in it for the money. 

Let’s not drink the sociopathic money-is-the-only-motivator Cool-Aide. 

That is another blog I should write about the corporate side of non profit corporations.

Right now I want people to GIVE NOW. 

First, I want us to GIVE A DAMN. 

What our government does matters.  It is important.  It affects you, your families, and your communities.  We have a pretty bad government and a bad system of government.  Not caring or thinking that you can just deal with number one in your corner somewhere only makes it worse and makes you powerless when your turn comes. 

Then I suggest that we all TAKE.

We should TAKE THE TIME to know what the hell is going on around us.  City government is complicated and a lot of money goes in a circle without getting spent on us.  Take a few moments read the reviews, look at the numbers, talk to those you respect and trust.

And finally I ask that we all BE HERE NOW.

Look around and see who is doing what and ask yourself uncomfortable questions:
•    What do you think is right?
•    Who do you trust?
•    What can be done about it? 

Give a damn, take time to learn what the hell is going on and then do something real about it such as vote or go see something for yourself.  That is my New Years message.  That was my last year’s message and that is what I would suggest we do before we decide to open our wallets and spend any money to build a better world.  Otherwise, how do you know what you are buying?