With the right leadership, we can handle our crime problem without violating civil rights. The safety of the citizenry -- the life of the civil libertarian; the very foundation of any hope we all have to live free, healthy and able to enjoy -- should be the top priority of any government worthy of our allegiance.

But a previous writer proclaims that the protection of civil liberties is the top priority. We've heard that too many times before. We need look back no farther than the recent shootings, riots and disruptions of city council meetings to see the consequences of politicians setting the wrong priority.

Focus on the wrong top priority is what turned Oakland's main streets into a wasteland. It's what allowed the mob and anarchists to disrupt council meetings and intimidate would-be speakers trying to exercise their civil rights.

Focusing on the wrong priority allows thugs and criminals to keep divergent opinions suppressed and witnesses silenced. It creates victims.

The complexity of solving Oakland's problems isn't incomprehensible, nor so daunting that we can't expect immediate results.

We must shift from the pattern of saying, because of our pathos' unmet need for federal aid, we'll just have to fail. Repetitively droning that our residents suffer the consequences of unsatisfied needs and long-standing inequities, and that crime won't abate until more federal funds are expended, is a setup for low expectations and low achievement.


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While responsible leadership can help ensure that we don't become hypnotized in yearning for the actualization of familiar slogans, leadership must also show that our situation is not hopeless and show the way to a better day. Show how local resources are poised to help make progress toward the goals we set and the things we hope for. Show how we make progress without new federal gifts. Show that hope should be based on fact, and not necessarily upon the receipt of federal dollars.

We should not plan our future as if tax money is just hanging on trees waiting for the insatiable frequent picker to reach out for more. And we must not be coerced that unless those demanding them get jobs, opportunities and wealth redistribution, unchecked violence and property destruction will be our fate. Oakland must no longer tolerate criminality as a balm for failed desires.

I'm fortunate to have survived much of the same pain, burden and history that form the bed from which cries spring. I'm an authentic veteran of the human struggle who has personally experienced and suffered poverty, racism, police brutality, hunger, despair and violence. But I am not one who believes any tale of woe excuses the violence plaguing our city.

Although we will be involved with other government entities and may expect to get some local, state and federal assistance, I believe Oakland's residents are responsible for Oakland's future and we should look within our own resources and to private investment for solutions to our problems.

Forging a better relationship between our residents and our police does not cost one single federal dollar.

Providing money for hope projects does not by itself stop crime and merely serves a bottomless pit of demand if the recipients aren't properly guided.

Patrick McCullough is a longtime Oakland resident.