Friday, December 12, 2008

Tribune v. Chronicle

by Chris Thompson
Fri, Dec 12, 2008 at 11:01 AM

Oakland Tribune writer Angela Woodall gets in a big snit over the the San Francisco Chronicle's recent double-whammy on crime and population decline in Oakland. We've seen this before: someone, usually from San Francisco, Marin County, or New York, points out what a mess Oakland is, and the local press gets so indignant it loses sight of the truth. In the latest iteration, Woodall's annoyed that Boalt Law School flak Susan Gluss wrote about how the grinding crime left her so depressed that she departed for the tonier suburbs, and that Chip Johnson claimed Gluss was part of a larger exodus. The facts, Woodall claims, say something else entirely. "Oakland's 1980 population was 339,337. On Jan. 1, it was 420,183, according to the California Department of Finance. (The U.S. Census only has 2006 numbers right now for Oakland.)," she wrote.

We don't blame her for neglecting to publish what those 2006 U.S. Census numbers might be, because they don't exactly back up her point. In case you'd like to know, the Census claims that between 2000 and 2006, Oakland's population declined by more than 30,000 people.

A couple of quick points. First, the state Department of Finance and the U.S. Census use different methodologies to calculate population, and the two are difficult to reconcile. In other words, it may be impossible to precisely determine Oakland's population for years outside of the decennial Census reports. Second, if there is a population decline (and we think there is), it probably has less to do with terrified yuppies moving out than with childless yuppies moving in, displacing blue-collar families who tend to have more children.

But here's our real point: crime is a serious and growing problem in Oakland, and yes, there are people like Gluss -- talented, imaginative people -- who get sick of it and move away. Here's a snippet from Express reporter Robert Gammon's latest feature on crime: Between 2005 and 2007, the incidence of violent crime in Oakland rose 27 percent. Woodall claims that more companies are moving to Oakland, and while she relies on merely anecdotal evidence, we suspect that's true as well. But that's probably 'cause times is tough, and San Francisco commercial and office rents are a luxury many firms can no longer afford. Don't imagine businesses are coming to Oakland because they want to.

We're living in hard times, and Oakland is cursed with a mayor and City Council that is particularly, tragically incapable of coping with the problem. (Okay, we're mostly cursed with the mayor.) We understand why Woodall wants to defend her home turf; as far as we're concerned, this town still kicks ass all over the street and sends your momma a telegram after it's done. But regional pride won't hide the fact that Oakland's leaders are fucking up. In fact, it just gives them more cover. Call it like is, Angela, and save the pride for a time when the city can back it up.

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