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You Tell Us: Tough love

on August 21, 2012

Despite zig-zagging around the geese poop, my run around the lake was like reading a love letter. I admired the luscious nature, the busy hum of life and business, and the feeling of being a part of something bound together by a rich history. Then, a bit of reality: the remains of a broken car window by the curb, a shuttered business, a homeless man sleeping under the bench.

I got a lot of love for my last op-ed, The Oakland Diss (thank you for your kind words). But I also received a lot of flak. I was called “delusional” and “naive.” I got emails asking me if I had ever even seen “the real Oakland.” My thoughts were even dismissed by SFist with an “uh-huh, sure” pat on the head.

It’s easy to say that these people are just missing the point. But as someone who has been the victim and witness of violent crimes, and has seen how much neighborhoods have been punished by Oakland’s most persistent flaws, I can’t dismiss any of it because I get it. Let’s be honest, these are real and important issues. But we, as members of the Oakland family, can’t throw our hands in the air and give up. With love comes commitment.

Whenever we hear about a child fallen by a bullet or a family robbed of their hard-earned possessions, it makes us mad. We’re mad not because we are fed up with our town, but because we are fed up with the stewards, our leaders.

The people hired to take care of Oakland are often only taking care of themselves.

I was involved in the mayoral race in 2010, so I got to see the drama between power brokers in vivid, up-close detail. I respected our town more for it, because despite all of these folks fighting their own turf wars, and refusing to sacrifice for the greater good, our town kept fighting. But the truth was undeniable: While they looked after their self-interests, Oakland burned.

And it keeps burning. That’s where my dismay comes from. I look up to our leadership, present and past, and just shake my head. No one acts out of courage. No one cares beyond their own nose. While they try to look good and fight over the scraps, the rest of us see Oakland crack and decay. Our town is being dissed (truly dissed!) by those whose job it is to nurture it.

I love Oakland, and say this with heart in hand: we can do better. We need to keep our leaders accountable, everyday. It’s not easy. We have our own daily struggles, and sometimes we can’t even fathom adding another grain to our burden, but that’s what it takes. Love for Oakland means that we celebrate it, yes, but as loving family members we also have to tug the ears of its leaders from time to time and say, “Now now, we can do better.”

 Jaime Zepeda is a proud Oaklander who doesn’t mind geese poop around the lake. He’s a project manager for a consulting firm in San Francisco, and writes random musings on his blog:


You Tell Us is Oakland North’s community Op-Ed page, featuring opinion pieces submitted by readers on Oakland-related topics. Have something to say? Send essays of 500-1,000 words to We’d love to hear from you!

All essays reflect the opinions of their authors, and not of the Oakland North staff or the UC Berkeley Graduate School of Journalism. Oakland North reserves the right to edit submissions for length, clarity and spelling/grammar. Oakland North does not pay for the the publication of opinion pieces. You Tell Us submissions must be written in civil and non-offensive language. We do not publish hate speech, libelous material, unsubstantiated allegations or rumors, or personal attacks on individuals or groups.


  1. Tonya on August 21, 2012 at 2:46 pm


    I agree with you 100%. Loving Oakland is loving it whole-heartedly. Not just what is great about it, but acknowledging what is bad and wanting to do something about it.

    No city is perfect. Even big Sis SF has issues. However, Oakland is forever picked on and it’s not fair and we don’t have to tolerate it.

    We can fight back. We can hold our city leaders accountable, but at the same time we can also speak about our city with pride and not let the naysayers bring us down.

    Kudos to you for speaking up!


  2. Tom O'Brien on September 20, 2012 at 11:41 pm

    Ok, I have one point to make. I do respect a lot of the author’s perspective,but. Lets stop ignoring the elephant in the room. Crime, also the glorification of and material and emotional support of it in certain Oakland communities and also on a familial level as well. When you see ignorance,violence,racism,pettiness and other toxic qualities passed off as “culture” in this fair City and (mostly) white folks playing the apologist for it, it saddens my family. Sure, folks in crime infested neighborhoods have it harder than I do,or ever had. But when is it enough in this town for Oaklanders to change their ways in regards to coddling or cowering in fear of the criminal “culture” of our City? One recent Mayor has a Son who’s a murderer, a City council member has a son who’s a convicted serial rapist(in his own Father’s district no less). If you cannot raise a child to not commit some of societies most reviled acts, then I fail to see how they can run a City.

  3. Ken Ott on October 29, 2012 at 11:34 am


    Thanks for expressing your thoughts on OaklandNorth. Candidate Len Raphael for Oakland City Council (North Oakland, District 1) would probably agree with most of your assessment of what’s wrong with Oakland.

    Basically, our city government takes good care of itself — and politically connected “anti violence” nonprofits, developers, long-time police/fire employees — and not as good care of us residents.

    On the other hand, Oakland has so many natural strengths and advantages and many Oaklanders are accomplishing much good here despite a city government rife with problems, and other problems inflicted upon Oakland including Clinton’s NAFTA which offshored jobs and cut tariffs on cheap foreign goods manufactured in places without environmental and labor protections; Clinton’s army base closure; drugs being run into town around the time of the Iran-Contra scandal in the 1980s, etc.

    Check out Len’s platform, and even if you don’t live in North Oakland, you might consider supporting Len’s vision in some way because what he wants to achieve will help ALL Oaklanders including you, me, and most everyone else reading your piece.

    Ken Ott
    campaign manager
    Len Raphael for Oakland City Council 2012

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