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Welcome to the Coalition for a Better Oakland!

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The Coalition for a Better Oakland is the name of a political action group I have co-founded with a few colleagues. Our goals are twofold: to end the blight of homeless encampments that are polluting our parks, underpasses and sidewalks, and to support the Oakland Police Department, which is embattled on all sides, fighting a record surge of crime and at the same time having to deal with the insanity of the “defund the police” crowd.

For the last several years I’ve felt increasingly isolated in my city. Could I be the only one worried about these twin issues of cops and camps, which after all are interrelated? During the pandemic, I turned to social media, especially nextdoor.com, to share my thoughts. I discovered that I was not alone. Many others felt the same way I did. I then found myself being censored and blocked from nextdoor.com. My political views, apparently, were at odds with those of the anonymous censors who can throw someone off the platform with no warning, no explanation, and no right of appeal. I began to see the connections between the censors at nextdoor.com and the various radical groups who seemed to have such an outsized influence at City Hall. Both were not interested in anyone’s views except their own. Both indulged in what we now call “cancel culture.” It was all very discouraging.

I have now abandoned nextdoor.com and will not return. (Their latest salvo into cancel culture was to inform users that the term “Black Lives Matter” is acceptable, but that “White Lives Matter” and “Blue Lives Matter” will be cause for expulsion.) But before I abandoned that dreadful platform I met (in the digital sense) a group of like-minded men and women and it is with them that I have started the Coalition for a Better Oakland. The exciting news is that, after months of delay, we will launch our website this Monday; and I will certainly share it here with you. We hope to become a political force in the city. We want to endorse candidates in future elections, and we want to influence the debate in the City Council, the Police Commission and in the City Manager’s office. For too long the radicals on the extreme left have been the ones to dominate meetings, hold demonstrations and intimidate politicians, including our Mayor, Libby Schaaf, into positions they clearly are uncomfortable with, but feel compelled to accept. We believe that we—the Coalition—represent the thinking of a majority of Oaklanders, most of whom are too busy getting on with their lives to be able to spend time on the computer researching issues or showing up at City Council meetings. We want to inspire that majority, rally them to our side, and tell the current crop of Oakland leaders that their day is done.

One of the things I, in particular, have had to do is protect our young Coalition from being a Trojan horse for rightwing extremists. When you’re supportive of the cops, and when you’re saying that homeless people do not have the right to set up tents wherever they want, you tend to open yourself to the charge of being a white supremacist trumper. I am a lifelong Democrat—everyone who knows my blog knows that since September 2016, I did everything in my power to take Trump and his Republican Party down. I fail to see why a moderately-progressive liberal like me cannot at the same time be a strong cop supporter. How did Democrats allow Republicans to own the issue of crime and policing? I don’t know, but it’s time we reseized the initiative.

And by the way, I’m convinced that the reason Democrats lost so many seats in the Congress during the last election, despite Biden’s victory, is precisely because of the stupid “defund the police” movement. The American people hate it, they’re afraid of it, and they find the people arguing in favor of it distasteful and irrational. My own feeling is that the reaction against the “defund” movement has already set in. Fewer and fewer politicians are using the phrase. As a political slogan, it’s easily the dumbest I’ve heard in my life. Yet here in Oakland, ambitious politicians still insist on 50% cuts to OPD’s budget—even though the local media is telling us that the neighborhoods most impacted by crime want more cops on the beat, not fewer. It strikes me that the people who are most insistent on “defunding” are (a) politicians who don’t give a damn about anything except power and (b) well-off white suburbanites who are appeasing their own guilt.

Well, I wanted to share this news of the Coalition for a Better Oakland with you. On Monday (barring some unexpected glitch) I’ll be able to give you the link, including sign-up information.

Have a great weekend!


Why doesn’t the Oakland Police Department fight back?

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We all know that the Oakland Police Department is under attack. There are defunders, like Carroll Fife and Nikki Fortunato Bas, who seem to dominate the City Council. There are abolishers, who want to do away with OPD completely. There are extremists like Cat Brooks and her Anti Police-Terror Project “that seeks…to eradicate police terror in communities of color.” There are media who routinely interview Fife, Bas and Brooks anytime they need a good anti-police quote for a story. And there is the average citizen, who has little time to study the issues but who somehow feels that OPD is vaguely “racist” and must be reined in.

That is a formidable opposition. But what has OPD done to fight back? Their jobs and the very existence of a functional police department in Oakland are on the line, but for some reason, the department is strangely silent in defending themselves. For people who are supposed to be strong, OPD has been as neutered as a cut kitten.

When’s the last time you heard anyone from OPD look the public in the face and tell them the truth: “We are here to protect you. We are not the racists and terrorists Cat Brooks says we are.” Have you heard Chief Armstrong defend his own department? Have you heard from Barry Donelan, president of the Oakland Police Officers’ Association? True, he occasionally sends out a statement against defunding, but no one reads it. Have you seen rallies by rank-and-file OPD cops telling stories of their fallen brothers and sisters, and explaining how they endanger themselves every single day so that we, the people, are safe?

No, no and no. The police are not fighting back against the assault upon them. They remain strangely muted and castrated. They have a strong case to make to the public, or at least to that part of the public that is not hopelessly prejudiced against them. But they are not making that case.

The situation in Austin, Texas could hardly be more different. Although it is as liberal a city as Oakland, Austin’s cops and their friends have formed a coalition, “Save Austin Now,” that includes city council members, Democratic and Republican leaders, police union members, physicians and gun control activists. They hold press conferences that are widely viewed in the Austin area. The group plans to put a measure on next November’s ballot demanding adequate police funding, and it looks like it will pass.

If Austin can do it, so can Oakland. Our Coalition for a Better Oakland strongly supports the Oakland Police Department, but I am mystified by their passivity in the face of the onslaught against them. Our Coalition stands ready to assist OPD in educating the public, in telling cops’ stories, in presenting statistics that belie the allegations of the Fife-Bas-Brooks anti-police complex. We’re doing our best here on our website and on social media. But where is OPD? Why are they afraid to stand their ground and fight back?

(I posted this today on the website of the Coalition for a Better Oakland.)


Transition time for my blog

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I started this blog way back in May, 2008. Wine blogs were then getting to be “the next big thing” and I wanted in on the action. Unlike most other bloggers, I had a steady daytime gig at Wine Enthusiast that gave me plenty of visibility (and a decent income). But I wanted the greater freedom that personal wine blogging afforded. No editors! No publishers! Nobody but me!

My wine blog got big, fast. It was newsworthy that a well-known wine writer had a personal blog. My writing style, too, contributed to its success. Steveheimoff.com rose to the top of the wine blogosphere. It’s true that I never won any trophies from the Wine Bloggers Conference, but I got nominated a whole bunch of times and they asked me to co-keynote one of their conferences. Certainly, as measured by the “comments” my posts got, my blog was one of the most popular in America.

That continued even after I left Wine Enthusiast in 2012 to become Director of Wine Communications and Education at Jackson Family Wines. But when I retired, in 2016, I decided that it no longer made sense to write about wine. I would no longer have day-to-day contact with the industry. There wasn’t any more need to keep up with issues and events. And, to be honest, I wasn’t interested in the wine industry now that I wasn’t in it. So I told my readers I was transitioning. The subject of my blog would now become Donald Trump.

That was in September, 2016. He was by then the Republican nominee for president, running against my choice, Hillary Clinton. I knew what a horror Trump was. It was clear to me then that he, and the evil people around him, were threats to America, and to me personally. So I decided to use my blog to resist him. And that is what I did for the next 4-1/2 years, until he had been defeated in 2020, thank God.

Since then, my blog writing has been infrequent. I no longer post every day, as I did for more than 12 years. There was another reason for this: my blogging energies became transferred to my “other” blog at the Coalition for a Better Oakland, of which I am president. CBO, as we call it, absorbs a great deal of my thinking and time. My colleagues and I are serious about becoming a force for moderate Democrats in Oakland, a city long dominated by the “woke” politicians of the far Left. I hate seeing my beloved Democratic Party—the party of my parents and grandparents—being hijacked by ideological extremists, whose demands are driving voters away from the Democratic Party into the waiting arms of rightwing Republicans. The stakes are high.

I explain all this in order to tell my remaining readers why you don’t hear from me more often. Times change, and we have to change with them. I’ll still continue to post here every so often, but it’s no longer a priority. My daily blog at cfabo.org is now my priority. I hope you’ll read it regularly. It’s mainly about Oakland, but the issues will be familiar to all of you; they’re national issues. The important thing for me, personally, is to continue to have a platform where I can express my views, in the hope that my two cents will have some impact on things.

Thanks.


Defund the defunders, or how a truly stupid slogan is destroying the Democratic Party

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(I also posted this today on my blog at the Coalition for a Better Oakland.)

Barack Obama is against it. Joe Biden is against it. Two-thirds of the American people are against it.

What is “it”? Defunding the police—surely the stupidest, most damaging political slogan in recent American history.

No one is sure where the slogan originated. According to one version, it started in Minneapolis, after the George Floyd murder, when a group called Defund MPD” [Minneapolis Police Department] was formed. The group describes itself as “a Black-led multi-racial coalition of people and organizations in DC who share a common vision of a city without prisons and police.”

No more prisons and police! Imagine that. This swords-into-plowshares vision surely is as old as human aspiration itself. Isaiah prophesized, “And the effect of righteousness will be peace, and the result of righteousness, quietness and trust forever.” But he also based this prayer on a proviso: it would not happen until a time when “a king will reign in righteousness, and rulers will rule with justice…[and] My people will live in peaceful dwelling places, in secure homes.”

Have we reached that point, here in America? Are we living “in peaceful dwelling places, in secure homes”? Far from it. “Violent crime is rising in American cities,” The Economist wrote just two days ago. Here in Oakland, we know all too well that “The city of Oakland is in the midst of a violent crime wave,” as the Oakland Police Officers’ Association reported last week. We can debate the causes of this spike in violent crime, which is happening across the country, but what is not debatable is the public’s alarm. “78% of Oakland residents want more police officers,” according to a poll cited by Mayor Libby Schaaf when she presented her 2021-2022 budget, which would largely protect Oakland Police Department funding.

In modern American politics, nothing ever gets 78% support, so for Oaklanders to want a fully-staffed police department is historic. But the will of the people apparently counts for nothing among the defund crowd on the City Council, on the Police Commission, and in radical cults like the Anti Police-Terror Project. In those bastions of woke-ness, an attitude of “We know better” prevails. Damn the public’s desire for safety! Damn the public! We elites of the Left know better. Leave everything to us, and the lamb shall lie down with the lion.

Sorry. We, the public, aren’t buying it. The defund crowd is on the run, and they know it; but, ironically, that makes them all the more dangerous. Like a cornered rat, they bare their teeth and make snarling noises, threatening anyone who comes near with a mauling. We know that the defunders have already cost Democrats scores of seats at the local and Congressional level in the November, 2021 elections. We know, also, that “Democratic operatives are warning lawmakers to steer clear of any defund-the-police rhetoric since it could hurt them in the midterms.”

Is that what the defunders want—a Republican wave that destroys the fragile Democratic majority in Congress and leads, frighteningly, to a Trump restoration? The defunders claim to be liberals, but honestly, what they sound like is nothing less than crypto-fascists.


Please check out my other blog

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I invite readers to visit the website of the group I co-founded, the Coalition for a Better Oakland, where I also post a daily blog.

CBO is taking up more and more of my time. I consider myself fortunate to have found something so intellectually interesting, and so important. Although our focus is on the city of Oakland, where I have lived for 34 years, our concerns apply to most cities in America. So take a few minutes and check us out!


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