Last night was cathartic. There can be no doubt that what happened in Council Chambers last night was an event that will be marked in the history of Occupy Oakland, no matter the horrible press already written and to come. I saw people there I hadn’t seen in months. It reminded all Occupiers that we have far more in common than our differences. It reminded us who the enemy really was.
The fact that the City Council would care to take the time to consider such an ordinance shows us that they have no interest in the pressing problems of Oakland. When the Public Safety Committee morphs into the Police Safety Committee you know that your government has no interest in your well being.
Believe it or not, there are many things the City Council could be doing that could positively affect the well being of its citizens. And none of them have to do with criminalizing the carrying of protest signs attached to sticks thicker than 1/4″.
I spoke last night of how the Council could be addressing one of the most serious revenue problems it has — the draining of the City treasury by the Oakland Police because they continue to shoot people in the back and in the head, gun them down in the street and do everything possible to violate the 1st amendment rights of the population they allegedly protect and serve.
But there are plenty of other things the Council could do that would also have a real affect on the lives of those the police do not necessarily target, those who are just trying to scrape by.
Last night the San Jose City Council considered a measure to raise the minimum wage to $10/hr and index it to inflation, much as the City of San Francisco already has. The San Jose Council was too cowardly to pass it themselves — it will go on the ballot this November. But there is no reason the Oakland City Council should not be passing a similar measure.
Last year, there were more than 1300 foreclosures in Oakland. When a council ordinance speaks of violence perhaps we need to ask which is more violent — someone breaking a bank window or a bank demanding that the sheriffs come and throw a family out onto the street at 6:00 AM ? The Council may or may not be able to legally impose a moratorium on foreclosures in Oakland, but they could certainly create regulations that would make the foreclosure process much harder and more rigorous, while imposing fees and penalties that would make it more costly for banks to foreclose than to negotiate a loan modification.
San Francisco has a program called Healthy San Francisco that guarantees health care for all its residents (as long as they remain within San Francisco’s borders). With the Federal health care law quite possibly about to be declared unconstitutional, why isn’t Oakland’s City Council looking into how to set up a program similar to San Francisco’s for Oakland’s residents, or partner with Healthy San Francisco? What could be more worthwhile than for the Council to set a goal of health care for Oakland’s unemployed and working poor?
These are just three of many things the Oakland City Council could be doing to make the lives of the people it is supposed to represent better. Instead, as thirty-odd very agitated speakers made clear last night, the Council would rather waste its time on the definition of a shield than on creating a society where a job with a decent wage, a home, and health care are human rights.