Friday, February 29, 2008

Quick shout-out to Chip Johnson

I wanted to thank Chip Johnson for mentioning this blog in today's SF Chronicle.

As you may have surmised, writing a blog from a conservative viewpoint within sight of Berkeley's Campanile can be a lonely business. But I intend to plug along, hopefully providing readers with a different take on the region.

I know conservatives are out there. Statistics show that 25% of people in Oakland consistently vote against ballot measures and for more conservative candidates. One thing I'd like to see is for this blog to become a place where like-minded folks can participate in the discussion.

So, are you a conservative who lives in the East Bay area? Drop me a comment on the blog and let me know you're reading.

Police Recruitment: Too Little, Too Late

One of my favorite moments each week is sitting down at my favorite Indian restaurant, House of Curries on College Ave. in Berkeley to read J. Douglas Allen-Taylor's latest defense of Ron Dellums in the Daily Planet.

While I doubt Allen-Taylor is actually on the Dellums payroll in a financial sense, it's pretty obvious he's on the take in other ways--gaining increased access and increasing his social standing by unquestioningly coming to the mayor's defense.

I've held off on talking about Oakland's police recruiting debacle partly due to contracting this year's flu (not reommended) and due to a desire to see how things play out. Well, the results are largely in, and we're facing more of the same.

Allen-Taylor predictably lionizes the mayor's suggestion that we try and hire Oaklanders into the police force. I don't necessarily disagree with some of the arguments about why this would be a good thing were it possible. Sadly it is not possible.

As Allen-Taylor points out, Oakland does resemble a third-world country. But perhaps this is more the case than even he bargains for. Much like Cuba and other Banana Republics, Oakland is filled with the wealthy, the poor, and relatively little in between.

Now, I can hear you saying, why not simply bring the poor into the police force? Nothing would make me happier, but doing so is fraught with difficulty. Many of Oakland's poor are not just unlucky. They're poor for a reason--illiteracy, psychological problems, poor health, lack of willingness to work, past criminality, etc. Attempting to hire these people is a laudable goal. Hamstringing public policy by forcing their hiring is not.

Next, Allen-Taylor takes aim at OPD's policing strategies, essentially arguing that sweeping the streets for minor infractions, in the hopes of finding those with arrest warrants, amounts to racial profiling:
Whether or not the traffic sweeps amount to illegal racial profiling is a matter of opinion that has yet to be litigated. But there can be no doubt that they operate at distinct cross-purposes to the very population that the mayor and OPD now say they are interested in attracting into law enforcement.

My presumption, of course, would be that this commentary presages a Dellums decision to eliminate these traffic sweeps (given Allen-Taylor's obviously intimate relationship there), but this discussion points out an important issue which will persist even if we do hire more police.

Leftists view the courts as the ultimate remedy against a tyrannical police state. I don't necessarily disagree with this--certainly such remedy was warranted during the civil rights era. But in this day and age, courts are frequently employed to assail policies which offend only a tiny minority of the citizens, and those which violate only a truly tortured understanding of constitutional rights.
There is nothing wrong with a police officer pulling a person over for a minor infraction and investigating whether the driver or passengers have outstanding warrants. There is simply nothing wrong with doing this. And to anyone who reads the daily paper, it's pretty clear that doing so can only help decrease violence.

Doing so is also not racial profiling. And even if it was, who cares? It's not as if the wanted criminal the officer targets was planning to venture into a rich Asian neighborhood and commit violence there. All of the statistics prove that the losers here are those living in the impoverished community.

So, by crying "racism,"what the Leftist really does here is ensure more criminals remain the neighborhood, free to commit crimes against their neighbors.

What Oakland needs is very simple: A commitment to hire more police, wherever they come from, and a commitment to tough enforcement in violent neighborhoods. The vast majority of Oakland's citizens--rich and poor alike--would benefit from this common-sense approach.

Thursday, February 7, 2008

Memo To OUSD: Thanks for Failing! Here's More Money!

People like to debate whether private enterprise is more efficient than government at a given task. This week's election results give us an example of why that is so often the case.

In private enterprise, if a business is failing, it will fail to attract investment capital. It will likely fail and be replaced by some other, more efficient company.

In government, if a program is failing, it attracts more investment capital.

It will likely continue to fail, sucking in more and more funding. Often, it will become a bastion of con-artists and sharks, who seek to get that money through carefully scripted appeals. These work because the government officials don't actually care whether the program is successful. They would rather get that next campaign contribution and play into the script so voters think they're doing something.

So it is with the Oakland Unified School District. OUSD would unquestionably rank as one of the worst school districts in the country, were there USNews rankings for such a thing. Oakland residents passed Measure G this week, ensuring the district $20M per year as a "thank you" for what will surely be continued failure.

The reasons for OUSD's performance are well documented and have nothing to do with underfunding. The school system performs poorly because middle-class-and-above parents largely send their kids to private schools. Same goes for all parents with gifted kids. The bottom line is OUSD is stuck with the lowest-performing kids.

This problem has to do with demographics and policies. We can't change demographics, so the right thing to do there is simply to accept the situation and compare OUSD to other similarly-situated districts.

Policies, however, can be changed to bring higher-performing kids back into the school system. Having smart kids in the public schools is good for everyone, as it can help change attitudes and role models for all kids.

Getting there requires a commitment by the school district to serving all Oakland residents, not just those in the lower-income areas. We need magnet schools. We need programs to remove kids who are either disruptive or violent. We need vocational programs to provide more appropriate education to kids who don't plan on going to college.

If OUSD won't make these kinds of changes, Oakland residents should get behind vouchers. At least then our kids would have real options for using the money.

Saturday, February 2, 2008

All Oakland Schools Need To Succeed Is More Money!

According to the Oakland Tribune, no one in the city is opposing Measure G, which would extend permanently the $195 per parcel property tax measure passed in 2004. What a load of BS. I'm pretty sure many if not most Oakland homeowners would oppose the measure if they gave the matter much thought.

  1. My first criticism of Measure G is structural. Since homeowners pay the tax, and most people who live in Oakland don't own their own homes, those voters perceive the measure as having no costs. If renters understood that this cost is passed directly through to them through rent costs, they might think differently.

  2. I defy anyone to find a significant set of people (who are not direct beneficiaries of the spending) who honestly believe more money will solve anything at OUSD. The school district is a complete joke because it has scared off all the good students. They refuse to open magnet schools which might offer high-quality education to gifted children. They refuse to focus on basic tasks like security and removing those kids who won't work to separate environments. Basically, beyond elementary school, no reasonable parent will send their kids to OUSD out of fear that doing so might literally amount to child abuse.

  3. Measure G is a con. We were told in 2004, and again back in 1996 when the first measure passed, that these would be temporary. Well, at least they're being honest now by trying to make it permanent. That was their goal all along.

The argument against Measure G is essentially that "drastic cuts" to services will take place if it fails. Well good. I hope OUSD faces drastic cuts. I always applaud when failing organizations are finally put out of their misery. We should defund OUSD to the extent possible until they're willing to take steps that actually have some chance of helping matters. I've blogged such suggestions in the past.

Measure G takes a 2/3 vote to pass. That means when you vote "no," it takes 2 votes to overcome you. Folks, all it takes is a few of us to stop this thing. Let's finally show OUSD that we want change, in the only way they actually care about--by taking away their pursestrings. At a minimum, let's start a debate about this thing!

The Tribune claims no one opposes Measure G. Nothing could be further from the truth. Historically such funding measures get between 70 and 75 percent of the vote. That's a lot of opponents. Let's get a real debate going and stop this terrible public policy.

Friday, February 1, 2008

A vote for Hillary is a Vote against Dellums? Hooray!

Check out today's article about Oakland Mayor Ron Dellums. I'm probably the only person who is completely un-outraged about him spending so much time on the Hillary campaign. In fact, I think it's great! As far as I'm concerned, the less time he spends here, the better for all of us.

He and his crew are disasters, and as much as I detest government bureaucrats, the status quo is better than anything Dellums has up his sleeve.

I was probably the only person watching the Democratic debate in South Carolina where Hillary mentioned that Dellums was working on "Green Collar" jobs in Oakland. Nevermind that the "Green Corridor" concept seems pretty absurd on its face. I just thought it was funny that she was congratulating Dellums for anything. Maybe this means she'd be an absentee president and run the government from Beijing or Antarctica.

Several of the things Chip Johnson says in the article are worthy of note. They echo some of my own sentiments:
And it is downright uncomfortable for the locals to see him presented as a savior for the nation's urban ills when his own city is suffering so badly from rampaging crime....

... it would appear as if Dellums' commitment to the Clinton campaign is stronger than his desire to provide leadership ... for the city....

He's restating the obvious, but it's nice to see it in print.

But then, oh dear reader, comes my favorite piece from the article:
There's talk about Dellums being a front-runner for a White House Cabinet post if Clinton wins in November....

Johnson goes on to say it's unlikely, but I wouldn't be so sure. I think it's pretty clear Ron likes the East Coast. My dream-come-true would be to see him as head of FEMA. Well, actually, that's not a very nice thing to say, as it would almost certainly doom people in disaster areas.

But it's a funny thought. Ron Dellums coming to rescue me from a flood? I'd probably rather drown.

I was thinking about voting Republican this time, as we may actually get a fairly moderate candidate. But this might tip me over into a Hillary supporter.