Ramona Rochelle Foreman was walking to a store in her East Oakland neighborhood on what should have been a routine errand. But International Boulevard is one of the deadliest streets in the city. Last Wednesday, it once again lived up to its notorious reputation.
Just before 7 p.m., the grandmother was struck by a wild bullet as she walked along International with a relative. Once again, thugs who couldn't shoot straight missed their target. Foreman, 48, was fatally wounded. She is the 124th person killed in violence in Oakland this year.
While police processed the crime scene, Foreman's crumpled body lay on the sidewalk beneath a yellow tarp.
This is the kind of monstrous sight that you see in certain parts of East and West Oakland day in and day out. After so many lives lost -- most of them to street gun violence -- you would think that people in this city would finally emerge from their collective slumber and say enough is enough.
You would think that concerned residents would be holding Mayor Jean Quan's feet to the fire. That they would be packing City Council meetings to demand that Oakland's leadership finally produce a strategic plan for attacking runaway crime. That they would stop accepting Oakland Police Department officials' excuses that they can't do anything about the violence because they have too few officers and too few resources.
Yet instead, what gets folks in this town so hot and bothered? What gets
A dog park.
At Tuesday's council meeting, supporters and opponents of a proposal to create an off-leash area for dogs near Lake Merritt argued back and forth for hours.
The council was split over the issue. Quan refused to cast the tiebreaking vote because she said she wanted time over the holiday to meet with the parties "to see if we could not get into nuclear warfare lawsuits that the city has been known for."
The mayor needs time over the holiday to deal with a dispute over a dog park?
Don't get me wrong. I am a dog lover. I think it's silly that Lake Merritt is pretty much off-limits to dogs (though we all ignore the "No Dog" signs), yet you can't take two steps without stepping in goose poop.
But how is this a life-and-death issue?
You can tell a lot about people's priorities by where they place their energies.
I live in deep East Oakland, where people are getting shot just about every week. A month ago, there were three street shrines to shooting victims near my house. The mother of a 1-year-old who lives close to Foothill Square shopping mall says she is considering moving because she doesn't want her child having to walk past shrines to homicide victims once she is old enough to go to school.
Yet the strange thing is, there is almost no sense of urgency about the nonstop street shootings at our neighborhood crime prevention meetings.
I went to one meeting in late October at the Eastmont police substation.
A few hours earlier, businessman Wilbur Bartley, 50, had been shot and killed inside his cellphone store on International Boulevard two miles away -- less than two blocks from where Foreman was killed.
Yet those in attendance were more concerned about code violations and neighborhood nuisances than violence. They grilled public works officials about the unkempt medians on Bancroft Avenue. They demanded to know when the city would cut the overgrowth. They complained about dumping and abandoned cars. Yet they live in constant fear in homes with bars on the windows.
Alameda County District Attorney Nancy O'Malley recently referred to crime in Oakland as "out of control."
"Crime in Oakland is like cancer;" O'Malley said in a speech to the League of Women Voters of Piedmont. "We need chemo to stop it."
What we need, actually, is leadership.
Oakland does not have to accept the status quo. We must insist that our elected officials in concert with the Police Department and city stakeholders produce a comprehensive plan for addressing the violence.
Oakland is spending $5 million a year on Measure Y violence prevention programs. Yet Resource Development Associates, the firm the city is paying $300,000 annually to evaluate Measure Y's success, reported at a public safety meeting that the programs have had a limited effect because the city lacks an overall citywide crime plan.
What are Oakland's leaders waiting for?