OAKLAND – After acknowledging the ‘collective trauma’ caused by the pandemic and the ‘desperation and frustration’ felt by many residents, Mayor Libby Schaaf delivered a ‘state of the city’ speech on Tuesday via a video presentation who painted a pink picture of Oakland’s accomplishments.
In the video, Schaaf expressed appreciation for the way city workers have handled the pandemic, praised the construction of additional housing units for the homeless and praised a number of funded philanthropic efforts. by the private sector, including the educational nonprofit Oakland Promise and a pilot program that gives several hundred families direct relief in cash assistance.
In her first comments to city council, she acknowledged the “immense loss” of lives caused by COVID-19 and gun violence in the city. But the video failed to address the soaring homicide rate that has hit the city and prompted its police chief to implore the community to help stop the carnage.
Schaaf’s video presentation appeared to rub some board members the wrong way.
“It seemed the video was an advertisement for what Oakland could be like, but didn’t necessarily reflect the experiences so many Oakland residents are currently going through,” said board member Carroll Fife. “(They) are faced with environments that are just not livable because of illegal landfills or homelessness or fear of losing their homes to illegal evictions and a host of other things. I think (the video) was ambitious, but that’s not where we’re at.
Schaaf defended the video presentation, saying, “This film is real. They are real people. These are their real stories.
“I think it’s appropriate to show what has been accomplished,” she continued. “Let us all strive to replicate what can be done. And let’s all celebrate the success.
The presentation took place the day after Oakland Police Chief LeRonne Armstrong held a press conference – joined by council member and mayoral candidate Loren Taylor and unsolved homicide victims – to seek help from community members in solving recent violent crimes.
Oakland has recorded 107 homicides so far this year, up from 80 during the same period in 2021, and is poised to record one of its deadliest years. Meanwhile, other forms of gun violence have also increased since last spring.
Council member Noel Gallo noted that Schaaf’s presentation also did not address the increase in illegal dumping and scourge in the city.
“The video was a highlight of what Oakland can be and what Oakland was. The reality of what we live in – at least in the region where I live – the environment has changed dramatically, ”said Gallo. “These are not only illegal dumping, but activities ranging from public safety issues to plague. It is something as elected officials… we are responsible for this activity. But what I see that is missing is the enforcement of the rules that we already have. “
Schaaf acknowledged his concerns and agreed the city needed more enforcement, then added, “I think it’s important to recognize that the employees in our city have worked tirelessly.
“It was recently documented that they were picking up three times the amount of illegal dumping they picked up just a few years ago, and that’s not enough,” she said. “We have increased our accommodation capacity three times what it was just four years ago, and that is not enough. This is why these objects were not celebrated in this film.
Schaaf’s video noted that the city had tripled the number of shelters or temporary housing units for homeless people from 832 spaces in 2017 to nearly 2,400 in 2021, and that Oakland had produced more than 600 units. affordable housing this year.
Council chairwoman Nikki Fortunato Bas asked her if she could expand on what her office is doing to ensure more affordable housing is built, Schaaf listed some of the regional and federal efforts she is involved in, and she urged the council to advancing changes in the Oakland building. code to speed up construction and allow people to place RVs and mobile homes on private property.
Schaaf also urged the council to put a measure on the ballot to expand the “framework” for funding the KK measure. Passed by voters in 2016, the measure authorizes the city to issue up to $ 600 million in general bonds to fund infrastructure projects and affordable housing.
Schaaf’s video highlighted a number of initiatives, including his Oakland Resilient Families program which ensures 600 Oakland families receive $ 500 a month for a year and a half – with no strings attached. It is a privately funded collaboration between the Oakland-based nonprofit Family Independence Initiative and Mayors for a Guaranteed Income, a national alliance of mayors pushing the federal government to provide money to Americans to cover their basic needs.
The video presentation also acknowledged the “transformative” policies approved by city council, including a controversial policy for managing homeless settlements, the creation of non-police emergency response teams and a city initiative to eliminate the scourge and illegal dumping.
She also spoke about the challenge of hiring and retaining staff.
“The city’s success lies not only in our work as leaders, but also in motivating and retaining some of our dedicated employees. We have lost incredible talent and taken in incredible new talent, ”she said. “We cannot do this retention and pull without recognizing the limits of our collective human bandwidth. This moment, where we have endured together 18 unprecedented traumatic months, we must go through it with even more kindness and courtesy. “