"The number-one concern in Oakley is not to become Antioch," said resident Dorothy Shavers. "Oakley has grown quickly, and we have some serious issues in regard to our children."
In the first of what is planned to be a series of monthly meetings, Oakley Mayor Kevin Romick, Police Chief Chris Thorsen and City Manager Bryan Montgomery met with nearly two dozen residents at Fagan's Restaurant to discuss the issues important to them.
The main topic of the night concerned youth safety and teen programs.
Photos by Ruth Roberts
Dorothy Shavers told officials that Oakley's youth need more facilities and programs.
"There is a significant problem here," said Shavers. "I fear for our children in the streets on bikes and skateboards. I work in the ER at San Francisco General, and it's not a pleasant sight. We need facilities and programs and parents and community activitists to work with the administration and get things in place so that our children have a place to go and something to keep them off the streets."
One resident expressed the need for an additional police presence in Oakley and the enforcement of existing laws such as bike helmets, instead of city officials focusing on economic development and growth.
"I share these concerns with you," said Romick. "But economic development brings us sales tax. If we can get a big box in Oakley and it can bring us $1 million in sales tax, that can pay for four more police officers or additional programs. Right now the city doesn't have those discretionary funds for those things."
Other topics included city zoning ordinances, the location of the proposed new high school and concerns over traffic and speeding in Oakley.
"Generally what we do is spend a day or so at a particular location and then move on to the next block," said Thorsen. "The reality is that you'll never have a policeman on every corner, nor does anyone want to live in a society like that. … But we are issuing a lot more citations - 315 last month - and so far it's working."
Mayor Romick said the following day that he's pleased with the way the community forum went.
"I had set my expectations incredibly low as far as a turnout, but I think it was a success," said Romick. "People were there to point out their concerns, and I thought it went very well."
"I was thrilled with the turnout," said Thorsen. "I thought it was a great use of our time, and I think the concerns that people had were logical. It was very productive."
The next town meeting, which will take place at Fagan's on May 7, will focus on the formation of neighborhood watch programs and the possibility of additional teen recreation and after-school programs.