I don’t agree with everything our new mayor is doing in regards to Oakland’s budget, however I applaud her efforts at community engagement. Jean Quan writes an informal case study of her experience at an East Oakland neighborhood in the following Huffington Post San Francisco article. During her campaign she visited a predominantly African American community and made significant changes by simply showing that she cares about what happens there.
If you are at least 30, I am sure you remember having your neighbors, family friends, or other adults outside of your parents playing an important part of your upbringing. Your ‘hood may have been a relatively safe place for you to exist, because your neighbors came together and made it so. If that wasn’t the case, you probably heard about that rare phenomenom from older people.
I say rare, because it doesn’t seem to be like that anymore. In “rough” neighborhoods, it seems like residents don’t care or are afraid to care about what happens there. This could be because of fear of violence and retribution or lack of education and efficacy to make change in their community. But because the residents themselves don’t seem to care, it makes it easier for neglect and more violence to occur.
This is why I LOVE what the Mayor is doing. By doing something as small as getting 15 people to help clean up a neighborhood that she doesn’t live in, it shows that SHE cares enough about them help keep their streets clean. By giving them self-reporting tools and having the city and police be responsive (that’s key!), she helps them not to be afraid to care as well.
In the two months before our outreach, no one in the neighborhood called the anonymous drug hotline to report drug hotspots. In the past six months, the City’s drug hotline has received 103 calls and police have made several arrests. More residents are also reporting illegal dumping, graffiti, pot holes, broken street lights and other infrastructure issues at almost twice the rate of the previous year. In six months, there have been 507 calls for service, as opposed to 690 for all of 2010.
..In this time of budget cuts at all levels which are tearing the safety net apart, we must engage citizens in every community to join us in providing basic services and help for all neighborhoods
Neighborhoods that are upper class, clean and safe, are that way because the residents care to keep it so. They watch their streets, they make sure that it’s clean, they watch over each others houses and children, and they have a good relationship with the police. My somewhat middle class neighborhood is that way..and as expensive as my apartment may be, I will gladly pay to stay.
All neighborhoods in Oakland can be the same way.. they just need a little encouragement! A small intervention can make a world of difference.
Critics might have a problem with bigwigs like the Mayor swooping down on the ‘hood and making a show of “doing their good deed” to get or stay elected. Was she really responsible for helping to change that neighborhood or is she just taking credit? Does she really care about what happens after she leaves?
Who knows. But at the end of the day, does it really matter as long as the real change that she made was motivating the people to care enough to take ownership for themselves?
What do you think? What have you done to make sure your neighborhood is safe? Do you even know your neighbor? Why do you think it’s so hard to get us to advocate for ourselves?