Trouble in BayView

by on April 13, 2004

The terrible troubles that beset the Bayview community are a
function of state and national, rather than local, politics. California voters have inadequately funded schools for more than two decades, and even the recent boom years left state per student spending only in the middle of the pack nationally. By overwhelmingly passing a three strikes law California voters ensured that prisons, not quality schools, would become the state’s budget priority. Peter Schrag’s Paradise Lost foresaw the likely impact of these voter-approved funding decisions back
in 1998, and in low-income communities across the state, hope has given way to violence and despair.

The Federal Government has been starving low-income urban
communities since the first year of the Reagan Administration. When the latter Clinton years finally saw real incomes for working families rise above 1973 levels, George W. Bush came in and replaced public investment with tax cuts. Given recent federal economic policies, and such acts as the recess appointment to a federal appellate court of a judge who has little problem with cross-burning, the message being sent
to low-income communities of color is very clear.

Bayview is not unique, and even with all of the shootings the problems in Richmond across the Bay are likely worse.

People are now asking what Mayor Newsom is going to do about Bayview. Whatever he does, the city lacks the resources to make a dent in the problem. Streets can be made safer through increased police and lighting, the Mayor can try to build hope by showing that he cares, but in the end the underlying problems of Bayview and similarly troubled communities require national action.

Massachusetts Congressmember Barney Frank has been recently pushing for government to return to its New Deal role as employer of last resort. Frank thinks that the current jobless recovery will convince many of those skeptical of “Big Government” that creating millions of new government jobs is essential. Let’s hope Frank’s right, because the cycle of violence besetting Bayview and other areas of urban America must be stopped. And there’s no place better to start than with getting jobs for all those who desire them.

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