Salvo 07.09.2024 5 minutes

Oakland, Model City


Kamala Harris’s birthplace shows the wrong way for American cities.

Vice President Kamala Harris, suddenly a contender to win the Democratic presidential nomination, is said to be from Oakland, California. Like everything else about her, that fact is disputable. Although Harris was born in an Oakland hospital, her University of California graduate student parents were residents of Berkeley. This technicality aside, the veep is hardly the working-class girl implied by an Oakland background. Still, given that she claims the city as her political heritage, its sorry state of affairs is worth considering.

Although the local politicians are predictably progressive, the city government is unstable. Currently, both District Attorney Pamela Price and Mayor Sheng Thao are under voter initiated recalls. Price is a Soros gal—one of the DAs elected across the country to subvert prosecution—and Thao’s financing is currently under FBI investigation.

The city’s most pressing problem is criminality. It’s not just that retail robbery is rampant in post-Proposition 47 California—the measure, put before voters in 2014, drastically reduced criminal penalties for multiple offenses, including theft. (Notably, it was then-Attorney General Kamala Harris who slapped the Orwellian title Safe Neighborhoods And Schools Act on Prop 47, deceiving unsophisticated voters.)

The city, which commemorated Juneteenth with a mass shooting, recently clocked in eight murders in nine days. Car theft jumped 44 percent in 2023, with one car stolen for every 30 residents. Oakland’s largest employer, Kaiser Permanente, headquartered in the picturesque Lake Merritt neighborhood, advised its employees against going out for lunch to avoid being mugged. A busy In-N-Out next to Oakland International Airport had to close due to “ongoing issues with crime,” according to the company. On the Fourth of July, a flash mob of around 100 ransacked a gas station, causing $100,000 in theft and damage. The cops were called but didn’t show up for hours.

The Oakland Police Department is chronically understaffed and takes almost 20 minutes to respond to priority calls, meaning reports of imminent physical danger. Police departments across America suffered as a consequence of the Black Lives Matter “Defund the Police” movement, but Oakland is particularly poorly served. The situation is so bad that in 2022, Oakland Councilman Noel Gallo called for the deployment of the National Guard. Governor Gavin Newsom sent 120 California Highway Patrol officers to beef up law enforcement—along with some National Guard lawyers to help out the DA’s office, because, in addition to her unwillingness to charge criminals, Price’s mismanagement has resulted in an exodus of experienced assistant DAs.

The Oakland crime wave is partly racial. Asian elders have long bore the blunt of ethnic unrest in the Bay Area. Recently, local reporter Dion Lim found that as many as 30 residents of Westlake Christian Terrace, an assisted living facility, had been assaulted within a week.

In December 2023, during Hanukkah, vandals upturned the 350-pound Chabad menorah and threw it into Lake Merritt. They covered the area with hate messages. That was far from the sole anti-Semitic incident in the port city. Jewish families are taking their kids out of public schools over concerns of Jew-hate.

Mayor Thao did appear at a rally in support of Chabad, but she’s not the kind of woman one would trust to lead a charge against anti-Semitism. So far, her most outstanding quality has been corruption. After the FBI raided Thao’s home in mid-June, the elected representative went into hiding for five days. At a press conference after she emerged, the teary-eyed mayor blamed “the handful of billionaires from San Francisco and from Piedmont” for the federal law enforcement raid. That was news to Thao’s attorney Tony Brass, who quit immediately after the presser.

The FBI raid appeared to be in connection with an investigation of local garbage kingpin Andy Duong. Duong allegedly ran a downtown karaoke joint called Music Café fronting a sex trafficking and narcotics operation. Duong’s family is alleged to have made 93 illegal campaign contributions to officials on all levels of government, including the sitting Oakland mayor, several city council members, and the current Attorney General of California, Rob Bonta.

Bonta and his wife Mia, an assemblywoman, have a cozy personal relationship with Duong as well as another shady Oakland operative, Mario Juarez. Among Juarez’s alleged transgressions is manufacturing illegal campaign flyers for Thao’s 2022 campaign. The ads featured the altered, darkened face of mayoral candidate Loren Taylor, who blames them for his eventual loss.

And while it looks like progressives in charge of the city are pretty good at counting their own money, they are not as keen on keeping track of the taxpayer’s. The city’s social fabric is falling apart at the seams and making ends meet is a challenge. Last week, the city approved the budget reliant on the projected $105 million sale of the Oakland Coliseum. The entertainment venue became vacant after both the Raiders and the Athletics departed the California city for Las Vegas. As local journalist Justin Barton put it, “Bottom line Oakland, if a guy named Ray Bobbitt doesn’t come up with $105 million by Sept.1, we’ll close five fire stations, cut OPD down to 600 officers, and trim everything from libraries to homelessness response.”

Being from Oakland is nothing to brag about, certainly not for a politician. Drafting a United States president out of Oakland would be nothing short of pathetic.

The American Mind presents a range of perspectives. Views are writers’ own and do not necessarily represent those of The Claremont Institute.

The American Mind is a publication of the Claremont Institute, a non-profit 501(c)(3) organization, dedicated to restoring the principles of the American Founding to their rightful, preeminent authority in our national life. Interested in supporting our work? Gifts to the Claremont Institute are tax-deductible.

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