Waiting For Messiah, Tony Batts

I, Anthony Batts, solemnly swear or affirm, that I will support the Constitution of the United States, Constitution of the State of California, and Charter of the City of Oakland and, truly and to the best of my abilities, perform the duties of the office of the Chief of Police.

At tonight’s Oakland City Council meeting, Mayor Ron Dellums performed a ceremonial “swearing in” of Tony Batts.  His loved ones were there.  San Francisco’s Police Chief George Gascon showed up.  And a contingent of Batts’ Long Beach cops traipsed north for this ceremony.

Praying For Messiah

Of course, the City Council welcomed our new chief with open arms.  My favorite comment came from Council Rep Rebecca Kaplan, who was up first and declared that “we’re going to hold off on the swearing at you for as long as possible.”  Isn’t that great?

Other Council reps also shared their expectations, and were hopeful about what Chief Batts could accomplish in Oakland.  Here are a few curated points from their welcome statements:

  • My sense is that you will do really well.
  • This time next year…crime [will be] lower.
  • I will entrust in you, to build the confidence.
  • There’s a lot that’s on your shoulders, and we’re in good hands.
  • I can’t wait until you have rolled up your sleeves.
  • We’re counting on you.
  • You have a contract.  I believe you are up to the task.
  • We are one voice, and now it’s entirely up to you.
  • We all have very high hopes.
  • Take the department to the next level.

We know that Tony Batts brings some great experience from down south, and clearly took this job to “do good” for Oakland.  Let’s wait and see whether the new police chief really is the next coming of the Messiah!

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Fire Anniversary Today, To Life!

We are reaching another Oakland Hills fire anniversary today, October 20th.  While our culture likes to mark the passing of decades, it has been 18 years since the last major fire.  And that lucky number equals life, which returned quickly to the decimated hills.

Eighteen Years

What happened in 1991?

The Oakland Hills fire wreaked total havoc, with 25 deaths and 150 injuries.  This wildfire quickly burned across 5.25 miles and 1,520 acres, destroying 2,843 houses and 433 apartments as well as damaging another 193 houses.  In financial terms, the fire produced over $1.5 billion worth of losses.

Shortly thereafter, Oakland Fire Captain Donald Parker declared, “the magnitude and scope of what is simply referred to as the ‘Tunnel Fire’ is far beyond the experience of any living American firefighter. Only those who fought the Chicago Fire last century or battled the Great Fire in San Francisco would be able to identify with this conflagration and firestorm.”

Where’s the evidence?

Since then, the tell-tale signs of destruction have pretty much vanished unless you notice the “newer” section of homes in the hills.  Vegetation has grown in quickly, although everyone living in the Wildfire Prevention District must adhere to regulations to protect their homes.

Even so, we need to keep history alive because many current hills residents moved here after the raging fire.  Let’s hope our community response to the next big one, whenever it happens, lessens that destructive force.  Here’s to 18 years – and counting.

More info:  How many Oakland firesHills fire historyFire captain reportOakland fire bookletOakland COREOakland Wildfire Prevention District