Education in Oakland

A New Yorker’s View of Oakland

Posted by novometro on June 23, 2007

The Wall Street Journal writes Friday about OUSD’s outgoing finance director, who is taking a job at Yahoo. And the New York Times has a strange piece about last year’s murder rate in Oakland. The article seemed like it wanted to say something more compelling about the fact that the majority of the murders in Oakland last year were blacks killing blacks, but backed away from making that the main point of the article.


13 Responses to “A New Yorker’s View of Oakland”

  1. I kissed my wife goodbye before she left for work this morning from our Oakland home, laying down a line of fire from my M-16 so she could make it to her car. Our labrador Daisy still chafes a little from the Kevlar vest she wears, but she is quite adept at army-crawling under the barbed wire and detecting IEDs…

    The above is vision you might have of Oakland if you read that crap in the New York Times. The only comment from police it got was a “spokesman” saying he does not know. The article hits new lows for laziness, and it wastes half the space on pontifications from “experts” at Harvard, Southern California, etc. No comments at all from political leaders just the endless line of crap that Oakland takes all the time in local and national press.

  2. dto510 said

    MS is completely right. Oakland gets so much undeserved negativity from the press, it’s unbelievable. I thought the tide had turned under Jerry Brown, but we’re right back to where we started.

    Other recent outsider views of Oakland include an article in June 7’s Economist about crime in big cities versus mid-sized cities, and Time Magazine’s unprovoked defense of minority committee chairs, using Dellums as an example.

  3. Parker S. Waterman said

    The New York Times article reads as though the writer had a number of quotations regarding violent crime and decided to write an article using them. Then he remembered a J-school lesson that stories should have a local focus, and decided to use Oakland.

  4. Priyanka said

    Why do you think we launched NovoMetro? This is the sort of coverage that drove us insane. And we wanted to do more than feel angry.. So, by writing for us, Mike, you’re part of the solution! Gradually, this perception of Oakland as a place where you need to walk around in a bullet-proof jacket will change.

  5. Deckin said

    I’d like to second all the comments so far; it’s truly amazing when you take out of towners around the non-West and East areas of Oakland and people just look dumbfounded. ‘This is Oakland?’ is the typical response. What’s even worse is that you get this slanted media coverage by reporters who live in Oakland! Still, at least part of our bad rep is self inflicted and much of that wound comes from elected officials. It often seems that the official city policy is to NOT talk up places like Rockridge, etc., and instead focus on ‘the problems in the community’. There seems to be a vested interest in keeping the common picture of Oakland confined to ‘gritty working class’, ‘down on its luck’, ‘ghetto fabulous’, instead of the almost ridiculous wealth one finds in much of the city–I imagine not even most Oaklanders know that all of those irresponsibly massive homes behind the Claremont Hotel are actually in Oakland, and not Berkeley. For instance, Dellums has, to the best of my knowledge, yet to set foot, in any official capacity, in either Rockridge or Montclair (that might be unfair, because he’s yet to officially do anything). And of course, many of the residents of those communities are willing conspirators in this official policy of denial. They want to pretend that they aren’t part of the same entity that includes the Fruitvale, Ghosttown, etc. It would be nice to see portraits of Oakland (like in NovoMetro) that are big enough to include the whole city and not the narrow pictures only those in their neighborhoods want to portray.

  6. Letter I sent today to NYTimes:

    I am not going to sit here and tell you that Oakland, where I have lived happily and run a business for 11 years, does not have its share of urban ills. But I can’t be idle about your misleading, sloppy and lazy article in the June 22 edition, “Killings Surge in Oakland, and officials are unable to explain why.” You could have substituted any number of mid-sized cities in the United States but instead you kicked Oakland in the groin.

    If you were to look at the City homicide rates going back 20 years you would see peaks and valleys. The crack cocaine and drug wars of the late ’80s and early ’90s brought a spike in homicides and then, as the economy rose, the killings slowed in the early 2000s. Last year was a deadly one, but this year the numbers are down, yet you still claimed this year’s numbers are cresting.

    Your only quote from someone in law enforcemement was a spokesman saying the increase of last year was irrational. It it not until the middle of the story, after the headline has tarred Oakland with big messy broad brush, that a source, Mr. Williams, said the majority of “crimes are being committed by young brothers.” This would have been a logical point in the article to insert the fact that most of the crime is concentrated in two relatively small pockets within east and west Oakland, with each area probably being no more than a 1/2-mile square

    But instead of talking to more residents of Oakland, which could have lent a more balanced section, you take blathering from college think-tanks and an ER doctor saying that he sees and treats some of the same people. The point the ER doctor makes actually reinforces that it’s the same small element doing the shooting and getting shot.

    I can’t resist giving the Chamber- of -Commerce speech. We have incredible diversity and arts, many awesome neighborhoods where no one gets shot at, some of the Bay Area’s better restaurants, a vibrant sports scene, weather to make most of the country envy and a pretty healthy economy. No doubt though, we have urban ills found in any city with population more than 400,000. If the homicide rate is lower this year than 2006 and maybe lower in 2008, where will be your “Life in Oakland looking up” article?

    It reads like an editor said to Mr. Moore, “Go get me one of those Oakland as ghetto stories,” before the reporter even picked up the phone. Shame on your laziness

  7. len raphael said

    There are several very different Oaklands. The one you guyz live in are not the ones where gunfire routinely is heard at night. Drive down International Blvd from San Leandro border at night sometime. Try wandering off to the side streets.

    Your part of Oakland would be lucky to receive any police response to non-felony crimes (that’s a direct quote from police)because they’ve got their hands full with violent and non violent felonies.

  8. len raphael said

    or to put it another way, leave the Green Zone’s more often, especially at night. There are good reasons of survival for why ghetto kids who went to Tech with my kids try real hard to get the heck out of Oakland.

  9. Deckin said


    I agree that everyone has their zone, but I actually think it should go the other way around. The people in what you call the ‘Green Zone’ have an excellent understanding of what bad neighborhoods are like–that’s why they avoid them. For most of them, their whole lives have been devoted to not ending up in one. If you asked me, the people who need to get out of their zones are a small minority of those living in bad neighborhoods whose attitudes and beliefs are keeping them there. The zone that these people need to leave is the one between their ears. If they went and really saw what Green Zones are like and, most importantly, how one gets there, they’d see that virtually all of the people there got there by staying in school, graduating college and working long hours. There aren’t any Paris Hilton’s in Rockridge. It’s lawyers, doctors, engineers, and the like who are up at 5AM and getting ready for work. I used to work in West Oakland in the early mornings and from what I saw, absolutely no one there was up between 5-8AM. They were too busy sleeping from the night before. If people in that zone saw that hard work really pays, but only in the long run, and that you can make good money and not have to worry about getting shot for it, but only if you’re willing to do things that are ‘Tommin’ like studying and not going out at nights, then they’d be in the Green Zone soon enough. Lots of kids in the bad neighborhoods get this, that’s why they’re out of here to Moorhouse, or Spellman or Fisk. It’s the ones left behind that cause all the trouble.

  10. len raphael said

    people do get trapped by a combo of their own low expectations.

    Green Zone in Oakland is taking some heavy mortar fire: Crogan’s hit twice in a past month; once with patrons robbed also?; wasn’t a drug store robbed too?

    Bad guys might have whacko risk/reward mentalities (what’s the jail sentence for armed robbery?), but they know that most of the cops have been shifted to East O, so it’s now less risky for bad guys to hit Montclair and Upper Rockridge than say a few years ago.

    If you’re gonna break into a house or a bar with residents/customers present, you want to do that in most affluent area w most stuff to take, and least likely to have residents/customers packing guns. -len

  11. vsmoothe said

    In Oakland, the penalty is apparently nothing. When we have a D.A. whose policy is “We try not to put people in jail” and a police department that doesn’t even bother to detain juveniles who commit felonies, is it really a surprise that we have a crime problem?

  12. Deckin said

    All I can say to the statements by the assistant DA is wow! (and not good wow). People talk about what to do about crime and here you have the prosecutor’s office basically saying ‘we won’t punish crimes’. What a fucking shock! Even more astounding is his statement that people in Southern Alameda County wouldn’t tolerate the non-prosecutorial stance that defines the Oakland approach–gee, I wonder why there isn’t more crime in Fremont?? Why won’t the Tribune talk about this? I’m sure more people in Oakland would be pissed off if those keen public servants at that rag would actually publish the official policies of this city vis-a-vis one of its biggest challenges.

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