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Three years of Oakland’s future

Three years ago today, V Smoothe and I started this blog, FutureOakland (then on blogspot). We were disappointed by media coverage of the mayor’s race, and felt the minority of Oaklanders opposed to growth and revitalizing the city were completely dominating the public discussion of Oakland’s future. Under the reactionary handle of OaklandNative, I hoped to help move public discussion in favor of a more informed and more hopeful vision for this beautiful city’s success. Three years later, that goal has been largely realized.

It was not long ago that any discussion of redeveloping downtown was clouded by the angst of those wishing to preserve the failed past. Now, Oakland and East Bay residents take justifiable pride in the rebirth of Uptown as an entertainment destination, and countless neighborhoods have rediscovered their identities and are demanding their rightful share of city attention. Three years ago city government was regarded as problematic because of the influence of “greedy” developers; now the public is aware of the timidity of our elected officials and the enormous self-imposed barriers to economic success. Wednesday night’s meeting of the Planning Commission on the downtown zoning update feature a much younger and more hopeful crowd than perhaps the commission has seen in its history. While I may not agree with everyone who was there, I agree that they should offer their practical and optimistic vision to public officials. I am sure that this blog helped drive the ever-higher public meeting attendance that Oakland has experienced for the last year or so.

I don’t necessarily mean to take credit for the dozens of committed activists who have shaken up a complacent City Hall in the last few years, or for the New Media explosion allowing Oaklanders to understand the context and impact of city policy and cultural change for the first time in perhaps decades. Maybe I was just a little ahead of the curve. Of the three major Oakland blogs that predate mine, one is still kicking. But, as I am often reminded by longtime politicos, Oakland’s public discussion is light-years ahead of where it was when Ron Dellums was elected Mayor on a platform of nonsense.

Real change, whether you call it shaping the future of Oakland or creating a better Oakland, does not come from reporting alone. Since starting this blog I have become not only more informed, but more engaged. I have joined several civic organizations, taken leadership roles, and found my political niche. I have learned that, while full-throated advocacy (always nuanced and well-founded, to be sure) may make for exciting blogging, making a positive impact in the community means working with others. We Oaklanders are a clever and mostly well-meaning lot; civic engagement has been rewarding and thought-provoking.

So while I am thrilled that so many bloggers are lighting up cyberspace with a wealth of thought and information about every facet of life in this complicated city, and of course everyone should totally follow my Twitter, I ask the reader to do more than just read these brilliant blogs, but to take a more active role in the future of our great city. Volunteering, attending public meetings, starting a neighborhood organization, cleaning a local park on Earth Day, and emailing city councilmembers are the tools with which we make a stronger, healthier Oakland. Individually, we each only have so much time and so many issues that excite our attention, but together, we contribute to creating a thriving community.

Posted in blogoaksphere, california, citycouncil, dellums, development, downtown, elections, endorsements, oakland, planningcommission.

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4 Responses

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  1. Becks says

    Happy birthday! I know that this blog and A Better Oakland have had a huge impact on not only my knowledge about Oakland but also on my activism here. Hopefully we’ll have something more to celebrate after stopping the surface parking lot in Uptown.

  2. Adam Metz says

    Hey, I just wanted to say that I’m moving back to The Town after a brief hiatus. Really glad to be back, and hopefully I can contribute to the blog a bit in the coming year.

  3. Mike says

    Right on! I agree that Oakland seems ready to start off on a new journey, with an energized, informed and engaged citizenry calling the shots. And it’s definitely going to be a long haul.

Continuing the Discussion

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