The news reports this week of an Oakland Tribune photographer being robbed of his cameras by two armed gunmen while on assignment in broad daylight in West Oakland inspires me to offer readers some additional insights about that troubled California city.
I was born in Oakland and am a Raiders fan, so when I started writing my new book “Taxifornia: Liberal’s Laboratory to Bankrupt America,” there was no doubt that I would have my eye out for data about Oakland, one of the state’s leading cities.
On the other side of the San Francisco Bay from San Francisco, it has always played second fiddle to “The City,” but nevertheless has made its historical mark in many ways. Oakland’s port is one of the biggest in the state, and handles more commerce than San Francisco. Oakland has also been home to a long list of exceptional Californians: author Jack London; Hall of Fame athletes such as Major League Baseball’s Joe Morgan and Ricky Henderson, the NBA’s Bill Russell, as well as entertainers such as the Pointer Sisters. Jerry Brown served as Mayor for eight years.
But current Governor Jerry Brown’s long stint as Mayor of Oakland didn’t do much anything at all to reduce violent crime in Oakland. Today the FBI considers Oakland, a city of 400,000, the 3rd most dangerous city in the country, with 130 murders per year (90% gun related), more than 270 forcible rapes and upwards of 4,000 robberies per year. These data suggest that if one lives their lifetime in Oakland, there is a statistically significant likelihood that one will be a victim of a violent crime.
Oakland is one of the poorest cities in California but its local governments offer public employee union jobs that pay such high salaries that they alone could be the focus of an “income inequality” debate at nearby U.C. Berkeley. A Bay Area Rapid Transit District employee who operates the train maintenance yard in Oakland made $271,000 in 2012, which is more than the Chief Justice of the United States Supreme Court is paid. When city electrical workers went on strike last year, their public employee union representative told the press “the working class in Northern California are mad as hell, and we’re not going to take it anymore.” What the union representative didn’t tell the press was that the electrical workers were already making an average salary and benefits package of $133,825 per year, much more than the average salary of $52,000 in California, and far exceeding the average real “working class” salary of $30,672 in Oakland, where 71,599 individuals live in poverty.
The news of the news media being robbed while on assignment in Oakland is recent, but apparently not a unique event. According to the Oakland Tribune “in recent years, several news photographers and television camera crews have been robbed of their equipment in Oakland. Another (Bay Area News Group) photographer was robbed twice at gunpoint. Some TV stations now send armed guards with media crews covering stories in Oakland.”
California’s liberal politicians are ignoring the high poverty rates that their policies, specifically the highest consumption taxes in the nation, contribute too. Sacramento Bee columnist Dan Walters has observed that the Governor essentially ignored recognizing in his “State of the State” speech last month that California’s poverty rate is now the highest in the nation. What Brown might also have ignored is the terrible violent crime plaguing many California cities today, including Stockton, and how his own eight years as Mayor of Oakland was useless in fighting it.