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Oakland's Long Standing Racist Subtext To Blame For Problems - Brenda Payton, Oakland Tribune

Brenda's right -- spot on here. Oakland's City Council has always had to deal with crime, but when crime problems are brought to them by white and / or well-moneyed Oaklanders, only then is it a state of emergency. But that written, I fit somewhere on the fringe of that, so as far as I'm concerned, there is a state of emergency.

Too much crime in my hood.

Plus, the whole "Beach Chalet" matter smells bad, in my view.

Race has a hand in Oakland concerns
Brenda Payton - Oakland Tribune

RACE is the subtext of a number of issues in Oakland, unspoken yet unmistakable. Every now and then, the curtain falls, and there it is right in our faces.

Some weeks ago a group of Oaklanders showed up at City Hall to protest an increase in crime in the city and inadequate police response. It wasn't the first time residents have come to City Hall to complain about crime. The racial composition of the group may have been a first in recent times. As depicted in a photograph of the protest, the group was all white.
Given the city's population, it was noteworthy. And it was noted by several people in private, even if it wasn't discussed publicly.

African-American, Latino and Asian-American residents who have been complaining about neighborhood crime for years probably welcomed the reinforcements. They attracted new attention to the problem that led to a plan to put more police officers on the streets.

Many factors went into implementation of the plan; however, it's difficult to avoid the conclusion that when white residents worry about crime, city officials view it as a near state of emergency.

It is cause for alarm when crime spreads to areas that have been relatively crime-free. Still, there is a sense crime is tolerated in poorer neighborhoods of the city. It's expected. Just as we've come to accept other aspects of poverty, including inadequate public education and the absence of basic amenities such as grocery stores. Of course the schools in the hills are better. What would you expect?

The recent flap over the city's choice of a restaurant to occupy Lake Merritt's renovated boathouse, financed largely with public funds, also has racial overtones. The council split on the decision, with four voting for the Beach Chalet Brewery and Restaurant, a San Francisco restaurant, and four approving Oakland's popular Everett & Jones Barbeque restaurant, owned by Dorothy King. Mayor Jerry Brown was called in to break the tie and voted for the San Francisco business. All of this happened in closed session.

Initially it struck me as an issue of city officials choosing a nonlocal business over a local enterprise. It seemed like another example of the city's inferiority complex, feeling ithas to go to San Francisco to get a quality establishment. Council members who backed the Beach Chalet said it was ranked first by a firm hired to help the city choose a restaurant, and the owners proposed to contribute $1 million more to the project than King.

The more details have been revealed, the more questions have been raised. The firm sent out 100 requests for proposals. According to a representative for the East Bay Small Business Council, only 12 went to local firms, and none went to restaurants owned by African Americans. King, who is African American, only got a proposal submitted after seeing a posted notice and getting the deadline extended. More about that later.

Although the council is permitted to make real estate decisions behind closed doors, you have to question the wisdom of making a decision about the expenditure of $12 million raised by a bond measure outside of public view.
This particular issue got even thicker. Previously, King had written a letter, published in this newspaper, defending Brown against African-American business leaders who said they were not getting a fair share of city business. After Brown voted against her, she called a news conference and said she had signed a letter defending the mayor, written by Brown's aide, after he promised she would get the boathouse restaurant. Brown and his aide have denied her claim.

Thursday, a group of African-American political, religious and business leaders called on the Alameda County grand jury to investigate King's charges against Brown.

This tiff is fueled by both the campaign for attorney general -- Brown is a candidate -- and the Oakland mayor's race. African-American leaders who felt they had been shut out of City Hall composed one of the groups that urged Ron Dellums to run for mayor. (Nancy Nadel, a mayoral candidate, voted for Everett & Jones. Ignacio De La Fuente, also a candidate, voted for the Beach Chalet.)

The number of police officers assigned to the streets. The restaurant chosen for a renovated building on the lake. There's nothing racial there, right? Think again. This is Oakland.

Brenda Payton's column appears in the Metro section on Tuesdays and on the opinion page on Sundays. She also writes Friday's Eye on the Arts feature.
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