Friday, August 28, 2009

Last night I attended the first public meeting of Make Oakland Better Now, a new organization focused on trying to improve Oakland, particularly in the three areas of public safety, infrastructure and city government accountability/transparency.

This is the first time I've attended a meeting for a political/grassroots organization like this, so it was pretty interesting. There was a decent sized crowd, probably around 100 people. Sadly, for such a diverse city, the meeting was not very diverse - almost exclusively older white people with a smattering of younger people.

The meeting organizers did a good job of laying out why they thought a new organization was needed and what they hoped to accomplish. I thought it was very good that they had realized that in order to be effective they need to focus on a small number of topics, and target things that can be measured and have impact.

I think they key will be in what comes next. The meeting broke up into three groups, each focusing on one of the improvement areas. I joined the group on transparency/accountability. There were some interesting points raised, but I think the person moderating this group needed to be more assertive in keeping the discussion on topic and coming up with concrete next steps. The "report out" from the other groups seemed more complete because of this. Our group ended up saying that we wanted to research the budget more and produce a version more people could understand, and do more with PR for the city. The first one isn't surprising since the moderator was a budget person and brought that up as the first thing, which influenced the direction of the whole discussion. The second is a nice, and important, idea, but is completely off topic for transparency/accountability of city government. Keeping it in totally undermines the focused approach of the organizers.

If I stay involved, I will try to influence this sub-group to re-focus on transparency and accountability, part of which includes understanding the budget.

No comments: