Yesterday, a young woman was stabbed to death by her boyfriend near downtown San Leandro. The stabbing was witnessed by a friend and the suspect was quickly caught. Of course, that doesn’t do the victim any good. Nor did the quick arrest of another man who also stabbed his 15-yo girlfriend to death earlier this year.
I congratulate the Police for their quick work, but I can’t but wonder if these murders demonstrate a much larger problem of domestic abuse that we are not seeing. And behind that, a greater problem of men who are growing up without the coping techniques to deal with anger and frustration and know little else but to resort to violence.
Domestic abuse is not a police problem. Washing our hands and looking at the police to arrest perpetrators is of little use. At the moment you are hitting your wife or killing your girlfriend, you are not rational enough to be thinking “I better not do this or I’ll go to jail.” This is a problem that we need to address earlier, from the moment a child enters kindergarten, and we must do it as a community.
I salute our public schools for having initiated the anti-bullying program at the elementary schools. I know that at Roosevelt it works great, my daughters report that there is very little teasing going on, much less violence. Things seem to be different at the Middle School and High School, and as the District is forced by a declining budget to cut counselors it will even get worse.
The City, of course, could very well step up. It could fund those counselors as well as early-intervention programs for children who are showing signs of anger problems and violence. It could institute outreach programs to victims of violence, direct them to existing services and so forth. When he was running for election Mayor Cassidy listed proudly his seat at the Board of Building Futures for Women and Children, a shelter for victims of domestic violence, but what we need are programs, not just warm seats.
The City Council and the Mayor will cry that there is no money for social services such as these. However, they have little trouble finding it to fund needless lawsuits and enriching their employees. Just last Monday they approved a $500,000 parting gift for four staff members. Right before I reminded them of their greater obligation to the community – but the vote was still 5 to 2 (with Cutter and Cassidy voting against it).
What we need in this town is leadership. As a woman, I applaud the fact that four of our Council members are women and that three of our top-level City staff are as well. But for years, women have been saying that if they were elected to office, if they had positions of responsibility, they would do things differently. It’s time they follow with those promises.
Councilwomen Joyce Starosciak, Diana Souza, Ursula Reed and Pauline Cutter – show yourselves! Get off your comfy chairs, take your lips off the butts of City staff (to be fair, this doesn’t apply to Cutter), and show that leadership. Create programs to help the community, find the funding and don’t whine. You were elected to do a job, do it!
And the same goes for Assistant City Manager Lianne Marshall and Deputy City Manager Jacqui Diaz. Justify your six figure salaries!
Of course, leadership is not enough. There has to be a commitment from the community to address the issue of domestic violence, but few things take place without someone taking that leadership.