Email to City Govt re Community Meetings

February 17, 2013
By

Hi everyone!

During a conversation on Facebook I was asked to write to city council my suggestions on including community at city public safety meetings. I wrote one and now I am sharing it with the public.

I wrote to the following email addresses:

council@oaklandnet.com, RHarmon@oaklandnet.com, ocop@oaklandnet.com, opdmedia@oaklandnet.com, officeofthemayor@oaklandnet.com, cityadministrator@oaklandnet.com, dkalb@oaklandnet.com, “Kernighan, Pat” <pkernighan@oaklandnet.com>, LMcElhaney@oaklandnet.com,lets-work-together lschaaf@oaklandnet.com, ngallo@oaklandnet.com, dbrooks@oaklandnet.com, lreid@oaklandnet.com, rkaplan@oaklandnet.com

If you agree with any of what I wrote, please feel free to write your own letters of support.

Here is my letter:

To everyone,
I am writing to express a concern I have about various community meetings happening around the city concerning public safety.

I am a 15 year Oakland resident, who has lived all over the city (North, East, West) and now lives in Grand Lake, bordering District 1 and 3. I have attended a lot of city council meetings over the past 3 years and am active in my community by volunteering for local organizations and events, though mostly behind the scenes. I’m not part of the main stream media, but I ‘report’ what happens locally via social media and share information with my peers.

I feel I have a well rounded perspective as far as what comprises of Oakland community. I think when people talk about community it means different things. In general, community, should mean a group of people that live within a region. When it comes to council meetings or the like, often it means those who most actively participate civic engagement. Other times it means those who are most likely to agree with us or give us support without causing problems.

However, it is those that ’cause problems’ or are most vocal, who are the ones that point out problems that should not be ignored. However they often are ignored because their opinions don’t come in an acceptable form.

So yes, there is a segment of Oakland that does not trust police, or agree with the decision Council made to hire certain police consultants. Ok. What’s done is done and now we must live with it.

In moving forward, I suggest that we do things differently. At the council meeting where the new police consultants were hired, Councilwoman Brooks said that ‘real work must be done’. I have suggestions as to how to get started doing the ‘real work’.

When we have community meetings or events, let’s make sure that all segments of the population, that ALL of the community are present and included.

Every time I hear of a meeting, I tell everyone I know about it and ask if they are going to attend. Last weekend two public safety meetings happened in Oakland. One meeting, Peace in Oakland Solutions Salon was held at Frick Middle school and consisted of local non-profit organizations that do great work within the community to address violence and social justice. I didn’t now see one Councilmember there, nor did I see any police representation or school board members. When almost every idea we generated had to do with the school system, keeping the streets safe and would possibly have to involve city council.

Then there was the public safety meeting held by Councilwoman Schaaf that did have the police present and maybe one other council person. I was not present at Schaaf’s Safe Oakland meeting (because I had a prior engagement), but from what I heard it mainly consisted of people within her district. When I made the effort to advertise the meeting, I got questions about how I found out about it etc. I got it because of an email in the Grand Lake yahoo group list. Was it sent to all NCPC lists? Did District 7 get an invitation? What about District 1 or 3? (I really don’t know so you can correct me, but you can probably guess what I think..)

I also know of this group called OCO/PICO that are doing community walks and working on Ceasefire, and another group, SAVE Oakland that Councilwoman McElheney talks about on her Facebook page… They both seem to be a mostly religious organizations affiliated with popular clergy of large churches or in the uptown areas. I’m not knocking churches (I am a proud Christian myself) but are they inclusive of everyone in the community? Are these marches properly advertized in all parts of the city? Were there marches in East Oakland or North Oakland too that I am not seeing on their website?

Were other local organizations asked to join or help with Ceasefire? Was there a general announcement.. “Anyone interested in being a part of Ceasefire marches should come to this meeting at this time and this place?” Was the announcement made so that everyone knows about it? Who else is part of the Ceasefire group? Can anyone join or do you have to be a OCO/PICO member or a SAVE Oakland member? Do you have to be a part of a church?

Then there is the NCPC’s and the CPRB and CPAB..acronyms that aren’t even communicating with each other much less with any of you very well. Half the town doesn’t even know what these acronyms mean..

Wasserman says that community will be a big part of the work that police are going to be doing. What community? Will those that came to protest at city council be invited (provided they ‘behave’ of course)? Maybe those that had concerns about hiring Bratton should be a part of the committee to help them and ALL of the Oakland feel more comfortable?

And what IS going on in East Oakland? Do they know what’s going on in North and West?
..so many great groups working on so many good things and no one (seemingly) is communicating very well with each other or working together. Why is that?

The fact that I am asking these questions should tell you that there is a communication gap. You may have considered all of these things, but if someone like myself who has access to information is asking you these questions, then there is something wrong with the efforts you may or may not be making.

True change in this city is only going to happen if we work together. I am asking that in the future, when the city puts on a city meeting in regards to public safety that affects all of us, it should include all of us.

Suggestions on how to do that.

1. Get an accurate record of who attends city council meetings and speaks up about issues, (especially those speaking on behalf of organizations) and invite them to attend meetings in regards to those issues. (We have to give our names and email addresses when we speak..it’s public record, right? Use it).

2. I heard that notices about meetings to the general public are sent via email, maybe some flyers are given out, maybe posted in the newspaper or announced at meetings.
– What about those that aren’t watching the news, got access to email or read the newspaper? Meet them where they are at. Post at WIC, the library, Walgreens (which has community boards), Safeway, Mandela Groceries, community centers, senior centers, smaller churches etc.
– If you don’t have man power to hit all those resources up, leverage the partnerships you have to community groups that you sponsor and ask for their help. If you reach out to those you don’t sponosor, they might feel included in the process and might be more willing to partner with you. All organizations should be involved! Not just your favorite organizations.. ALL of them..

3. I like how the Mayor travels around the city to have district townhalls..I’m hoping that Safe Oakland, SAVE Oakland and other such orgs that Councilmembers are affiliated with, Wasserman and OPD does the same thing.

4. Don’t forget to leverage social media! We are out there talking and sharing information about Oakland all the time. There was one city council meeting that trended nationally on Twitter. Some of you might actually be following me.. 😉 Use us! Don’t just read what we are saying on the downlow, participate!

Once we get everyone at the table, the real work comes in to play. We must really listen to what is being said and be willing to compromise with everyone. Everyone. That means answering questions with real answers not sound bites or campaign speeches or powerpoint slides that say one thing yet when it comes down to it mean absolutely nothing at all. It means taking suggestions and following thru with action. It means being transparent about the decisions you make and why. It means being willing to go outside of your comfort zone and work with those that may challenge you.

Finally, I hear a lot of talk about the new City Council is going to be different. I’m not seeing it yet. It’s only been a couple of months since the election, but I am still seeing the same old behaviors: behind the scenes power plays, grumpy public speeches, etc. You guys need to do a better job of getting along and working together. Maybe go on a ‘company’ retreat. Share your thoughts and feelings, do yoga together and come back fresh and rejuvenated ready to work as partners with the best interest of the city in mind!

 

3d people partner.

The city is more likely to be able to come together if you guys set the example.

Please don’t feel like I am just picking on you..the city government..I’m asking everyone the same questions. It’s an equal opportunity rant. So..in full disclosure I will be posting this on my blog. Feel free to read and or comment.

Thanks!
Tonya D. Love


“I stay cool, and dig all jive, That’s the way I stay alive. My motto, as I live and learn, is Dig and be dug In return.”— Langston Hughes

Tonya D. Love
Bay Area – Health Advocate

Read my blog! : “Love Health and Advocacy”
Follow me on Twitter! @tdlove5

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2 Responses to Email to City Govt re Community Meetings

  1. February 18, 2013 at 9:23 am

    GREAT letter as always, tonya.

    Just a note in agreement/support of your neighborhood group point- I spent days compiling this neighborhood group page on oaklandwiki- http://oaklandwiki.org/Neighborhood_Groups.

    first, there is no comprehensive list on the City page (or anywhere online, besides this new list), which gives the impression that the city doesn’t really care about neighborhood/community groups.

    second, this page is organized alphabetically, but i may rearrange it geographically, now that i’ve thought about it more. there are almost no groups represented from east or west oakland, but i don’t think that’s accurate: these groups don’t have web presences, but that doesn’t mean that they don’t exist. they might be in the form of church groups, like you’ve said, or they might be less digital, as you’ve also mentioned. but because of the way we organize the city geographically- police beats, council districts, etc, we lose a lot of voices. this is exacerbated when we try to capture the city online. your suggestions about advertising meetings are even more important.

    last- we’ve discussed this briefly on twitter, but keeping meetings acessible is SO important. changing meeting times is just not right. Councilwoman Brooks called out Schaaf for hosting that meeting at Holy Names, and for hosting it last minute, but really, that kind of thing is just shenanigans. You’re absolutely right- Quan is doing something right by moving out into the community, but her public safety stuff doesn’t have near the impact of City Council who actually do things like approve budgets, hire Wasserman, etc.

    keep up the good work- hopefully people are listening.

  2. Kitty Lenhart
    February 19, 2013 at 7:37 pm

    I feel that your letter was honest and sincere in encouraging all aspects of the Oakland community to work as a coordinated unit to discuss issues and solutions. Your commitment to volunteer your time and energy for the well being of Oakland is commendable.

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