Shenanigans on the Boulevard
A Breath of Fresh Air in the Laurel

by Dennis Evanosky

A little over a month ago, I discovered that Laurel residents were using the Web to discuss their concerns in an open forum. When I investigated further, I was delighted to learn that many forum participants had organized a neighborhood group.

The group has been meeting at 7 p.m., the last Thursday of the month, at World Ground Caf?. I decided to join them last month, and found a dedicated group of concerned people who want to create a formal, independent association apart from official city bureaucracies that can speak for its residents. That kind of independent group is in the Laurel tradition. In the 1980s the Laurel had the MacArthur coalition; in the 1990s, L-CAP.

I'd like to suggest an action plan to the new group. First, formally assert your existence: Choose a name and elect officers. Then draft up and vote on a very strong statement of purpose.

Take a cue from the City Council, and begin each meeting with an open forum, gleaning action items from this forum. I favor a strict agenda ending with this question: What one thing are we all going to do this month to forward our goals? Pick one thing and do it.

In order to take effective action, you might dedicate some time to education.

First, learn exactly how the City Council works. The best way to accomplish this is to attend City Council meetings. If you can't make the meetings, then turn on Channel 10, and watch at home.

Second, learn how the City of Oakland functions. The best resource is the City's own Web site. This site provides a wealth of information. Over time, you will know just what to do when a problem arises.

Third, get to know the Oakland Police Department well. When you do, you'll find a dedicated group of men and women willing to help. You'll also find, however, that OPD is a bit like the military, so it's important to get to know the chief, the lieutenants, and captains as well as the sergeants and the patrol officers.

You also need to know just how OPD works. How is the organization set up? What can you do to strip through the bureaucracy and get to the people who can really help? Go to the NCPC meetings as a first step. Form Home Alert groups in your neighborhoods.

Finally, use the neighborhood resources you have all around you. Well-established neighborhood associations surround the Laurel: Redwood Heights Neighborhood Association, Dimond Improvement Association, High Street Neighborhood Alliance, Leona Heights, Allendale. Learn where they are. Go online to the Metro Web site, and read their articles, attend their meetings. Ask for their help.

These are just suggestions. I'm sure you'll find your own ways to solve the problems that face the Laurel.