Yesterday saw another article in our local newspapers that spoke of the decline of Oakland. "Black population declines in Oakland" articulated what many Oaklanders can tell you of East Oakland in particular, it's turning predominantly Latino what African-American families that could have fled to other area (in larger part the outer East Bay) for more affordable housing, less crime and better schools. Of course in the imploding economic situation of our banks and nation what once seemed like a better housing deal near the delta is actually a sinking ship.
A week ago SFGate ran an article "Violence is why Oaklanders forsake the city" telling the story of a San Francisco Refugee who found good housing, work and a surprisingly good social scene in Oakland. Quickly robbed and feeling unsafe after a firebombing (who wouldn't?) they left Oakland for a new home. Those two articles talk of the long commute from as far as the Eastern Sacramento regional area that people do to work or hang-out in Oakland, happy to not sleep here during the dangerous dark hours of send their children (born or un-born) to local OUSD schools. While our mayor and city structure seemingly don't do or accomplish anything to change the situation many are the voices affirming that a "long commute is better than living in Oakland." Are they giving up? Do they not have what it takes to be an Oaklander? Or are they smarter and have more of a back-bone to make a good, and maybe difficult, decision than the rest of us that stay?
My family only began to dream and talk of moving when we failed to get into any public school besides the one around the corner from our home. At first sight we had wanted to commit to our neighborhood and dreamt of having our kids walk to school. Yet upon visiting the learning institution to find that less than 50% of the graduating 5th graders could read at grade-level proficiency standards and having the kindergarten teacher I observed take a break and leave me to manage the classroom for 10 minutes while I "visited" the school, we choose to try the lottery system for another district school where we might actually be able to expect success. After the depression and despair of the failure of getting in and the existential angst of being a middle-class person type that can't afford a nice enough living situation to attend a public school that is succeeding in more than half of its population, we were lucky - or blessed - enough upon appeal to get into the district school we dreamed of. But it didn't happen until we had gone over to the dark side, doing what we hadn't dreamed of doing, paying the deposit for enrollment on a private school. Through mid-January it's the OUSD time for the lottery school choice system that they call School Options. I find it's the time of year that I most hear people talking of wanting to leave Oakland for another place with better, or just even decent schools.
People love our city for it's diversity in terms of geography, culture, activities and mostly people. Yet all urban metropolises have to be able to offer enough of the basics to retain people [affordable quality housing, safety and good public schools]. You can't just count upon gentrification to make everything all good.
What do you think about Oakland? Why do you choose to stay? Or maybe how is the choice made for you? Why do you dream of leaving?