Hobart Johnson 
Member since Aug 1, 2014


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Re: “Oakland City Council Should Censure Desley Brooks

K. Epstein: "Desley...effectively pushes the most difficult and anti-racist policies...the Department of Race and Equity is just one example."

The problems with this perspective are that institutional racism is deeply embedded in Oakland social and government structures. Oakland may adopt well-intended policies but good intentions do not compensate for
all the failures to perform. That's the reality, TV or whatever.

Longtime residents of Oakland's city hall, citizens and staffers like Epstein as well as electeds, may be full of good intentions but remain incapable of thinking outside the box, of being transparent, of being proactive rather than reactive and, fundamentally, of actually producing results. Outside the box means insight into the destructiveness of capitalism and finance, rather than the embrace of neoliberalism.

Whatever Brooks' intentions, she has deep personal problems and her performance as a public servant is thus compromised.

Posted by Hobart Johnson on 01/17/2018 at 2:06 PM

Re: “Oakland Leaders Attribute Drop in Homicides and Shootings to Ceasefire Program

A bit of context:

Virtually all pols in Oakland for the last 20 years have announced that the crime rate is down, when it happens to be down a bit
from year to year. This particular PR bit is to be expected.


Homicide rates go up and down from year to year in Oakland. For 40 years or so Oakland's homicide rate has varied from about 50 per year to about 150 per year. The running average for any five year period is just over 100 homicides. No one has been able to establish with any statistical or other kind of certainty why the homicide rate varies as it does.

There are useful statistical methods for determining whether something like a homicide rate is declining or just varying from year to year as has been the experience for many decades. Needless to say Oakland's homicide rate downswing, while a good thing, hasn't yet provided reliable evidence that things are getting better. Ceasefire is a laudable, benign and civilizing effort to make effective crime prevention better in the face of a socially-destructive and biased justice system. Where Ceasefire has worked well, it has reduced
homicides to a fraction of what they were before. This hasn't happened in Oakland. Possibly more resources need to be devoted to Ceasefire. Those of us aware of the historical context of Ceasefire in Oakand know that it was rejected year after year after year by city hall and then when it was finally funded it was funded well below an effective level. And more people died
of gunshots on Oakland streets.

A couple of standard deviations is often used as a measure of significant change. In the case of Oakland homicide that would mean fewer than 60 homicides per year for several years. We ain't there yet, but when a PR opportunity presents itself, our pols are Energizer Bunnies.

The context of other kinds of violent crime presents additional challenges
to what happens with homicide. With homicides we can be somewhat confident of numbers because there are dead bodies which are not to be ignored. We found a couple in our 'hood just last week. Dead bodies tend to be noticed.

Other kinds of violence which don't leave stinky, messy corpses around,
may or may not be reported to authorities. There are specific reasons for this in Oakland: cops often don't respond to calls to 911; the level of trust in cops and in government generally in Oakland is very low so people have just given up on trying to get help when they are mugged or their homes are invaded. This is the natural result of many decades of failed government and general public disregard of city hall. Our pitiful voter turnouts and the huge amount of dumping of trash all over Oakland are further evidence of a lack of civic pride and trust. This profoundly affects the reporting of crimes, even
the most horrid kinds of violence.

A grain of salt is a necessity in Oakland.

A breath of fresh air in Oakland would be a pol who admits the depth of government failure and the pervasive effects of institutional racism and inequality.

Posted by Hobart Johnson on 01/10/2018 at 4:28 PM

Re: “Oakland Police Chief's Troubles Resemble Those of Her Past

Excellent investigative reporting. We need a lot more of this kind of work if Oakland is ever to dig itself out of its deep hole of dysfunction. City hall is highly resistant to change or progress of any sort.

What I have questioned regarding the replacement for Sean Whent is why someone with no local knowledge of Oakland's violent crime scenes or of OPD culture was brought in.

I should point out that I was for many years involved with community groups in Oakland pushing both police reform and violent crime reduction. Unpopular former Mayor Ron Dellums was far more progressive in many ways than Libby Schaaf in encouraging these reforms.

The learning curve for someone like Anne Kirkpatrick, and I mean anyone from out-of-town, will be almost impossibly steep and very long-term. It is very unlikely Kirkpatrick or someone like her will stick around long enough to really "get" what goes on here.

Needless to say OPD has some very intelligent and competent senior cops. I don't understand why one of them, with insight into the mysteries of Oakland crime and Oakland policing, could not have become a new chief.

I also wonder whether the problems with Sean Whent could not have been handled with some finesse and his work continued, which I think had some
merit despite mishandling of the recent scandal.

Posted by Hobart Johnson on 01/02/2018 at 9:00 PM

Re: “Breaking: Berkeley's KPFA Radio Facing Ruin as New York Real Estate Corporation Considers Seizing Station's Assets to Settle Lawsuit

Thanks to Christina DiEdoardo for opening up the discussion.

The success of a bankruptcy depends entirely on the facts of the situation
and the knowledge and skill of the legal team.

Pacifica has long been at financial risk particularly as a result of the burden of maintaining WBAI.

Pacifica's reactionary, knee-jerk anti-bankruptcy folks have long been at the heart of the economic problems. They seem universally to be economic ignoramuses.

All major financial changes entail a certain amount of risk. The problem at Pacifica is that the status quo risks are likely much greater than that of bankruptcy.

A similar argument could be made about the City of Oakland with its ongoing structural economic problems and its economically-ignorant governance. Stockton recently emerged
successfully from bankruptcy.

Posted by Hobart Johnson on 12/29/2017 at 12:53 PM

Re: “What’s Up With Retail?

Two destructive forces at work have produced these socially, economically and environmentally destructive outcomes: unregulated monopoly capitalism and its chief operating poiitical operating modes which prevent any useful coordinated regional planning for housing, transportation and infrastructure.

High tech dominates our economy, offshores its riches, discriminates against folks with brown skins, pays few taxes and externalizes the costs of housing its workers so that much of our middle class loses. Exploitative rentiers, landowners of every sort, do what they can do.

It's a mystery only to the economically ignorant and, of course, the totally bought-and-sold political class. Neoliberalism has put real liberalism in the graveyard.

Posted by Hobart Johnson on 12/27/2017 at 3:37 PM

Re: “Tuesday’s Briefing: Oakland Councilmember Desley Brooks’ Violence Costs City $3.75 Million; GOP Tax Plan Strips Affordable Housing Funds

Regarding Desley Brooks and the city's required payment on her behalf: this is in keeping with standard operating practice in city hall.

Our Councilmembers (Desley is "mine" although I wish she were not) do a lot of very expensive official business on "behalf" of Oakland citizens.

We undoubtedly could spend our money better and possibly solve our many serious problems like homicides, inequality, federal control of the cops, inadequate support for families and thus kids failing in school, etc.

We'd simply have to elect a better quality of pol to inhabit city hall. From Mayor on down. But somehow we can't do that.

Desley has been in office for 15 years.

Posted by Hobart Johnson on 12/27/2017 at 12:18 PM

Re: “Enviros Battle Developers Over Richmond Hills Open Space

Yes this region overall needs to strictly limit development of open space.

Land with vegetation is our lungs in a region whose air quality is poor.

But pols need to learn that land use and transportation need closely-coordinated planning.

Increasing density near existing public transit (BART, buses) would be a good idea if there were adequate public transit capacity. There is not.

If the region is to continue to grow we will have to invest heavily in additional transportation (NOT car-based).

The social, economic and environmental costs of growth are very high and we have not begun to deal with these costs.

Posted by Hobart Johnson on 12/23/2017 at 9:13 AM

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