Let's begin with a fundamental tenet that is expressed far too infrequently: Oakland is a big deal, it needs help and it is worth the effort.
For the Bay Area -- and especially the East Bay -- to flourish, Oakland also must flourish. It is that fundamental truth that makes what happens in Oakland of intense concern to everyone.
That truth comes with the acknowledgment that Oakland has some serious problems that are, for the most part, rooted in violent crime and that those problems require serious, thoughtful actions.
Let's face it, serious, thoughtful action is hardly a strong suit for the city of Oakland.
That is why we are cautiously encouraged by the City Council's action in the wee
At the end of a sometimes raucous meeting, the council voted 7-1 to approve an additional $250,000 to the consulting firm.
The loudest protests centered around former NYPD and LAPD Chief William Bratton being on the consulting team that is charged with developing a strategy to stem the unacceptable violence committed in Oakland.
Bratton has been successful in reducing crime in both of America's largest cities, but some in Oakland believe those crime reductions occurred at the expense of civil rights.
Critics have charged Bratton is a strong supporter of "stop and frisk" policies, which they say allow
It may be a fair point, but we think everyone needs to take a deep breath and realize that the issues involved here are far bigger than Bratton. The overarching narrative is -- or should be -- that Oakland is reeling from a 23 percent jump in violent crime last year as the city's police force is at its lowest staffing level in more than a decade.
Strong and responsible action is needed.
In fact, the council did listen to the critics' concerns when it specifically prohibited use of racial profiling as an option. There is plenty of room for public input and oversight to ensure that directive is followed.
The irony, of course, is that Oakland had a police chief in Anthony Batts with similar views to Bratton and who we believe could eventually have produced results, but the city ran him out of town. He is now the chief in Baltimore after a stop at Harvard University. But that is water under the bridge, and we are pleased to see the city is at least taking some action.
The consulting contract was but one of several council actions taken Wednesday morning. It voted to remove the funding restriction on what will be the city's third police academy in the last year and to recruit patrol help from the Alameda County Sheriff's Office. It also decided to add 21 civilians to the department, which ostensibly frees sworn officers to concentrate on crime fighting.
These measures appear to be steps in the right direction. The city must now monitor those steps and transparently report the results to the public.