Friday, February 26, 2010

Under-the-radar racism in Oakland

To be fair, this was not under the radar for Oakland residents, just for me-- being several hours away, and darn careful when I go to the Bay Area anymore, down to obeying parking regulations. People who know me well are aware that I sometimes extrapolate from seemingly very small matters (butterfly flaps its wings) and wonder if they are indicators of larger effects (gale force winds halfway around the world).

The butterfly in this case is the selective enforcement, by socioeconomic neighborhood, of parking regulations in Oakland. Some of us may not be surprised at the practice of enforcing the law strictly in some zip codes, while treating offenses more lightly in others. (We could use drug law disparities as a prime example. There's nothing less impressive than sanctimonious pot-smoking suburbanites telling urban folk not to use drugs.) In this case... well, let the pullquote speak for itself:
Parking enforcement officers who shed light on the practice in The Chronicle on Thursday alleged that the policy of not ticketing cars in the two Oakland hills neighborhoods led to fines being leveled disproportionately against poor, black and Latino people in the flatlands.

What gets me is that someone-- say, a city administrator-- (a) thought it was a good idea, and (b) thought they could get away with it based on spurious comments at an Oakland city council meeting.

Oooh! ® ...Okay, here's the lead-in:

Oakland ends unequal ticketing, officials say

Matthai Kuruvila, Chronicle Staff Writer

Friday, February 26, 2010

Oakland officials said Thursday they have stopped the unequal practice of issuing tickets for certain violations in some neighborhoods while issuing courtesy notices in others.

City Administrator Dan Lindheim said that people who were cited for the violations in question during a four-month period from July 24 to Nov. 12 - when the city says the practice ended - may be able to get their tickets voided on a case-by-case basis.

The announcements came in response to an article in The Chronicle on Thursday, which exposed an internal city memorandum that directed parking officers to issue tickets to cars parked in the wrong direction or on sidewalks anywhere in the city except for two wealthy neighborhoods - Montclair and Broadway Terrace. Cars in those neighborhoods were not tagged but instead received courtesy notices when they violated either of two parking laws.

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