Thoughts on Ron Dellums's long awaited platform
At long last, Ron Dellums seems to have blessed us with his much anticipated platform.
I'm going to take it bit by bit here.
He starts out with a little biography, and an explanation of how he entered the race due to a grassroots effort in the form of "the unprecedented 8,000 signature “Draft Dellums” community petition campaign." I think deckin has covered this pretty well over at Common Sense Oakland, but to recap: the campaign was initiated by the city employees union in response to Ignacio De La Fuente's refusal to fire Head Start teachers to balance the city budget instead of closing the city jail (which saved a tremendous amount of money and put additional sworn police officers back on the street), and the petitioners set up tables at outdoor concerts, festivals, and virtually every large public gathering throughout the summer of 2005 to collect signatures.
Dellums then moves on to brag about his widespread support:
I have been endorsed by every major political, labor, environmental, health, and education group as well as leaders and groups throughout the Oakland community.
I have already written a series of blogs about the candidates' respective endorsements (with a few more on the way). When one inspects the lists of endorsers from each candidate, this statement does not bear out. Perhaps Ron Dellums doesn't consider five out of seven city council members, and the Mayors of Los Angeles, Oakland, and San Francisco major political figures. And perhaps he doesn't consider nine different Oakland unions important. Perhaps he belives that the school board members who incurred such an enormous deficit that our schools were bailed out and taken over by the state carry more weight with the community than school principals and PTA presidents. His list of endorsements is admittedly impressive, but when it comes to choosing a Mayor, I'm more concerned with the opinions of real people right here in Oakland who are active in a day to day effort to make our city better and safer than I am with the opinion of Barbara Boxer in Washington.
Now onto his plans. Ron Dellums promises to make Oakland a more democratic city by
* governing as I have campaigned: with honesty, without deceiving the public or launching personal attacks on other candidates.
* insisting on transparency in government: with no backroom deals and no “pay to play” as currently dominates the policy environment. The citizens have a right to full knowledge and participation in decisions about how their money is spent and how decisions are made
* initiating a six month planning period to engage the whole city in discussing its future.
Good to hear. I'm certain that we all applaud and strive for honesty and transparency in government - I know I do. I have a few questions, though. Does "governing how [he has] campaigned" mean that his tenure as Mayor will be marked by spending his time in Washington D.C instead of spending time with the community here in Oakland? Does it mean that as Mayor, he will deny access to reporters who write about things he would rather go unmentioned? Does it mean we can expect more secrecy and evasiveness about his work, the way he has refused to provide details about his lobbying contracts or release his tax returns?
Will his insistence on "transparency in government" extend to demanding accountability for and stamping out inappropriate use of taxpayer money, such as the way his lone endorser on the City Council, Desley Brooks, funneled money from her city staff accounts to groups that helped recruit Ron Dellums into the race? Or insisting that another of his endorsers, Gay Cobb, whose job training organization recieves nearly 3 million dollars a year in taxpayer funds, yet spends 5 times the amount per trainee as other organizations open her books to city review before assigning her funds? Will he take steps to prevent campaign code violations in favor of preferred candidates, like when the city clerk, a Ron Dellums supporter, allowed him, and no other candidates, to list the titles of his endorsers in our official voter handbook?" I certainly hope so.
The next section is about safety, but basically reiterates what the other candidates say in their materials, and provides no details. Nothing to disagree with here. I also want police on the streets during high crime hours, more community policing, and effective crime prevention policies.
Moving on to education, Ron Dellums tells us about:
* creating wrap-around services for each school to remove the barriers to learning faced by too many of our youth: providing health services, recreation, music, art, and sports activities, as well as adult literacy, second language classes, and senior classes.
* insisting upon a definite and shortened timetable for returning the schools to local control.
* bringing together elected officials and citizens to change the State policies which hurt urban schools, including lack of State funding and the State’s failure to create enough credentialed teachers
Again, it all sounds wonderful. The wrap-around services at schools have been part of his promises for some time, but still no details emerge as to how he plans to pay for them. Perhaps he hasn't thought that far yet. After all, as the Express notes, he's "spent the last thirty years working in a town where deficit spending is a way of life." Unfortunately, in a city where resources are severely limited, creating such an expansive program is slightly more difficult.
As for returning the schools to local control - this is another point he has mentioned repeatedly in debates and at his few public appearances, but he offers no explanation as to how he will accomplish this. I'm skeptical of his ability to do so, especially given his behavior in anticipation of the narrowly-averted teacher's strike, where, rather than encouraging a compromise in light of our severely limited resources, he responded by actively encouraging the strike and insisting that the teachers be given everything they want. This is hardly a path that will lead us back to local control.
As for changing state policies, well, I vote for a Govenor, a State Senator, an Assemblyperson, and so on to do that, not my Mayor.
He then continues along the same lines. I encourage everyone to read it for themselves. But the breakdown is basically that he will promote development, preserve industrial land, develop our economic potential, ensure more market rate housing and more affordable housing, reduce pollution, pioneer the expansion of alternative fuels, expand access to the waterfront and more open space, expand health care services, renovate our infrastructure, fill our potholes, and so on.
Ron Dellums has finally provided us with his platform - a laundry list of everything everyone could want from their local government. Still, he continues to offer platitudes rather than solutions. If I had any faith he could do it all, he'd have my vote. But up to this point, his campaign has been notable for his lack of accessibility to our citizens, marked by multiple suspicious incidents on the part of city officials that favor him, and fueled by a uptopian vision and a complete lack of details. I've been given no reasons to believe him.