Urban Oasis or Crime-Ridden City Desert?
I'm torn about living in Oakland this week. Why am I here? It seems like things are getting worse. Many veteran Oakland-living friends have told me that things have never been this bad in Oaktown in terms of crime, danger, lack of civic pride and municipal immobility. The mayor's wife seems to be running town. Recently news highlights include a drive-by shooting of a pregnant woman. A drunk driver running a UPS driver off the road. A man found a leg floating in the estuary (ok this is in Alameda - almost Oakland...undoubtedly it was thrown into the water on the Oakland side). And as if the struggling-to-no-longer-fail Oakland Unified School District wasnt' drama enough (OK - I am supporter!) - their main school district office was robbed earlier this week by thieves. Classy!
I learned this morning that at least the gang of thugs robbing area restaurants nightly while families ate out was arrested. What is troubling about it is that the mastermind of the whole gang lives 2 blocks up the street from the Cooperative Preschool that is one of the primary communities our family lives in.
I received an email last night from a friend who opened and operates a small business with their partner in the business district I call home. The owner of store across from their store, a consignment store, had her car keyed (parked in front of her store in daylight) with the creative keying artists finishing their masterpiece by carving "bitch" into the top of her car. She had recently been complaining about some crime and blight in the neighborhood. Is it a chance random crime? Or is it retribution for daring to speak up and name crime, crime.
Another store in that same block was discovered to be re-selling stolen merchandise. This was discovered by a neighbor, who having had their stroller stolen from their house went to purchase a used one. What luck they found their recently-stolen stroller in the stock of the store. Is that chance? Or is this a store that is funneling and intentionally selling stolen merchandise? I'm not pointing fingers. How would I know? But it makes you wonder.
Then my good blogging and urban-rant friend Corndog recently blogged about discovering a dead body in a body bag at the end of her street (a block from the church I serve). Ironically it's neither the first or second such body to be found on that street in the past weeks.
What the *%&#? Is it worth paying down a nearly half-million-dollar mortgage to live in such blight that is commonly billed and marketed as an "URBAN OASIS" by real estate agents? I'm not sure. I'm all for the neighborhood, and I still wonder.
Then about an hour ago I went to the Post Office in the Dimond to mail a package. As I approached the entrance I saw two girls throw down a piece of paper and walk on without batting an eye. I picked it up and pursued the adolescents, pointing out that a grabage can was right there (a whole 5 feet away), that I live in this neighborhood, am proud of it and care about it. Like good 13 year old girls they never made contact. But I hoped that they at least heard me impress (without jumping on them in a verbally violent kind of way). I then went into the post office and the 8 people in line all looked me in the eye and applauded me with comments such as "Good for you!" "Way to go!" "Right on!" They'd witnessed the whole thing.
It doesn't make up for the body bags, restaurant robberers or revenge keying, yet it makes me want to stay in Oakland, at least for the weekend. Maybe we need more community organizers. Maybe the mayor's wife needs to work harder. Maybe we should just elect Corn Dog as mayor!?