Noel Gallo, Juvenile Curfews And The Politics Of Personal Experience

OAKLAND CITY COUNCIL//CURFEWS | A younger Noel Gallo once walked the late night streets of Oakland. “Growing up in the city of Oakland as a teenager, I knew what the curfews was because I was one individual picked up by law enforcement and questioned what was I doing on a Thursday night on Fruitvale Avenue at 12 midnight.” Police back then gave him a choice: we’ll call your parents or take you home?

The connection between life then for Gallo growing up in Oakland’s Fruitvale District and the Latino-infused area he now represents has often been a proxy for a very paternal view of fixing the problems that plague his neighborhood. In only his first year on the City Council, Gallo has literally and figuratively, worked to cleanse the Fruitvale District of grime and graffiti, searched for ways to stop young women from prostituting themselves along the International Boulevard corridor and strived to change the downward direction of youths.

This week Gallo and other members of the council propose enacting stronger fines for those who illegal dump garbage on city streets. On Thursday, Gallo also scheduled a proposed mechanism for censuring council members for Oct. 17 in the aftermath of a contentious hearing last July to reprimand Councilmember Desley Brooks for violating the City Charter. His old school ways may irk some in Oakland, along with a default setting for bending rules and relegations, but his clear desire for law and order is exactly what many Oaklanders say they desire.

An ordinance to enact a 10 p.m. to 5 a.m. daily juvenile curfew that features punishment ranging from community service, fines or even incarceration, is likely to be the next battle in cleaning up Oakland. On Thursday, Gallo requested his controversial proposal be scheduled for introduction Nov. 12. Gallo told the City Council Rules and Legislation Committee, he needs more time to fine-tune the proposal, along with allowing the city attorney’s office to weigh-in on some portions of the ordinance and locating areas and circumstances outside the proposed curfew rules. “By then we will have the police chief, the city administrator, the attorneys, all engaged in what a curfew should look like and be all about here in the city of Oakland,” he said.

The juvenile curfew ordinance is similar to a proposal by former Councilmember Ignacio De La Fuente, of which Gallo replaced last year, and current Councilmember Larry Reid. Gallo told the committee a copy of the prior curfew ordinance will be attached to the latest version when it eventually appears before the Public Safety Committee.

The De La Fuente/Reid plan, however, met resistance from the previous council and elicited stiff public condemnation. Opponents deny juvenile curfews actually improve public safety, while unwittingly offering a target for police to harass young black and Latino males. In the past, Gallo has also supported gang injunctions in the Fruitvale area, which critics have opposed under a similar argument to juvenile curfews. Nevertheless, Gallo often views the city’s problems within the prism of his own personal experiences.

It wasn’t just the cops, however, who set Gallo straight. It was his parents, he says, who ultimately stopped his late night gallivanting. After being questioned by police as a teenager for loitering, he finally got the message. “I experienced that not only one time, but several times,” Gallo says before adding the kicker, “So I got it after the third time due to my mom’s discipline and direction.”

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