Never A Dull Moment In Community Safety

You thought the City of Oakland’s budget was done for the next fiscal year?  There’s never a dull moment during the biggest and baddest recession we have ever known.  And there’s never a dull moment when it comes to community safety, either.

In case you haven’t heard the news, the great hopes for Uncle Sam to “rehire” all the Oakland police that were getting cut to balance our city budget…didn’t pan out.  The cops will need to tighten their belts and there will be fewer on the force.  Our residents already participate in neighborhood councils to help police, and might have to redouble their efforts somehow.

Montclair Safety Councils

Even with scarcity, it feels like some public safety resources provide a bigger bang for the buck.  We think these priorities matter most to Montclarions:

  • Let’s make sure enough police are patrolling key places – Today there are public safety officers assigned to the two Montclair beats.  These officers are tuned into what’s happening here, in part based on priorities shared by residents.  Yet resources are scarce, and patrols are mostly limited to major arteries.
  • Let’s ensure a few beloved park rangers survive – We need patrols in places like Joaquin Miller or Shepherd Canyon during the sultry evenings and weekends.  There are only two in place and regular cops can’t do it all.  While Friends of [insert place] groups are useful, they still need help to protect the places from vandals, fires and even unruly dogs.
  • Let’s continue to support citizen safety groupsNo one argues with the importance of community policing and preparedness, yet the city’s neighborhood services program is on the chopping block.  Where does that put residents and active groups like the Montclair Safety & Improvement Council and North Hills Neighborhood Council around here?

It’s a logic problem to us.  If there can’t be sufficient police and rangers in the hills, then citizens need to be able to share priorities and hot spots so fewer cops can do their jobs better.  The city has a few positions to ensure that community policing works and now wants to cut them out?  You can’t have it both ways.

Update: As of month end, logic has prevailed.  The City Council decided to keep the existing park rangers and neighborhood services program.  Uncle Sam gave Oakland enough to cover 41 cops, and the cops have made pay and pension concessions as well.

City Boosts Public Safety Team

There seems to be some good news from City Hall, since newly-appointed public safety coordinator, Dorlista Reed, will work with her predecessor, Claudia Albano.

With both Reed and Albano on board, this team represents a boost to public safety.  Now let’s see how they work together, to support community-based policing and neighborhood watch groups.

Albano issued this message about her role:

I have accepted the position of Deputy Public Safety Coordinator, and will be working under the new Public Safety Coordinator Dori Reed.  I will be talking with her…about my specific duties and how they may relate to the Neighborhood Services Division.

Last week, City Administrator Dan Lindheim surprised “everyone” when he announced changes to the public safety team.  Coordinator Albano, who was admired by many Oaklanders, received a pink slip.

There was an immediate hue and cry from Oaklanders who relied on neighborhood services.  Montclarions and other neighbors protested loudly to City Council members, the City Administrator, and Mayor.

Well, the combination of protests and good politics kept Albano on Oakland’s payroll.  We think Oaklanders may end up with even more support for local neighborhood and safety initiatives – and that has to be a good thing.

City Rep Wants Albano Here

Jean Quan, our city council representative, seems to be picking up the torch for Claudia Albano – the city coordinator who has been actively supporting and nurturing Oakland’s neighborhood watch groups.

Yesterday we reported on the uproar surrounding the firing of Albano and re-assignment of Felicia Verdin.  It didn’t make any sense to Montclarions and others who develop grass-roots neighborhood groups.

Community Triptych

Apparently Albano will interview for another city position next week.  We’re still not sure whether she will continue to be in the driver’s seat regarding neighborhood services.

Quan clearly wants to push the matter, even though the City Council is limited in its authority.  She said “We are concerned that some front line services may be cut by the reorganization.  I expect there will be more discussion between the Mayor, Administrator and Council over the next two weeks.”

Here’s the full, uncut response from Representative Quan this morning.

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Montclarions Denounce Albano’s Firing

Some bad news was hidden in Mayor Ron Dellums’ announcement about new city appointees:  the quick firing of Claudia Albano, Oakland’s neighborhood services manager, who is much-loved among all neighborhood organizers.

Additionally Felicia Verdin, who coordinates the neighborhood watch program and community policing training, has been re-assigned to another department.  These changes are supposed to be effective by close of business, today.

Oakland Administration Gears

What the heck is this about?

When a politician or business executive first rides into town, you expect some housecleaning.  In this case, a new city administrator who isn’t new to the city, Dan Lindheim, may have some reasons to sack Albano and Verdin – or simply wants to create his own team.  We don’t know.

Yet this current team has made a difference for community volunteers.  They organize regular trainings, provide guidance and are touted as “what works” in Oakland city government.  There’s been a huge outpouring of grief from Montclarions, who have found them to be quite helpful on all safety matters (read here.)

Let’s see what happens today.

In this case, it makes sense for Mayor Dellums and City Administrator Lindheim to swallow their pride and reverse course.  Our neighborhood crime watch groups are based on volunteers and voters who value the support they have received over the past few years.  If it ain’t broke, then why break it?

Frankly I feel sorry for the new appointee, who is caught in the crossfire.  The Tribune reported that “Dorlista Reed, who helped develop the city of Berkeley’s Neighborhood Services initiative among other programs, [has been named] as public safety coordinator.”  She may be a qualified and wonderful person, but has a very hard act to follow.

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