Dellums Watch: Keeping Tabs on Oakland Mayor Ron Dellums

Because we care deeply about Oakland, we want Mayor Dellums to succeed. However, we strongly opposed his election because he never held a municipal position in Oakland and has lived in Washington for the last thirty-five years. We are wary of some of his supporters, and wish to keep a close eye on local political machinations. This blog will be focused on politics and people, not policy perscriptions (unlike FutureOakland).

October 27, 2006

Allison staff steals Pat fliers right in front of me!

Last night, Pat Kernighan was invited by District 2 DJs and bar owners to visit several establishments in the Grand Lake and Park Blvd neighborhoods. As Pat was leaving the Easy Lounge, Aimee Allison and an orange-shirted entourage showed up to crash the party. Ms. Allison spent several hours hanging with the clubbers, dancing to hip-hop while dressed atrociously (she was wearing a black velvet blazer with large silver embossed buttons over a tea-length jersey gored skirt, black tights, and pumps with exaggerated toilet heels).

I noticed after awhile that the Pat Kernighan literature the bar's workers had put out seemed to be gone. Assuming that patrons picked it up, I placed a few more fliers on tables. As I was sitting and enjoying a drink with a companion around midnight, Allison staffer Alli Chagi-Starr, with Ms. Allison standing behind her and watching, scooped up the Pat fliers on the table in front of me and walked off with them. I gaped at her, and then saw a young woman run after Ms. Starr to demand that she put the fliers back. Ms. Starr said that it had been a mistake (which is absolutely untrue: I watched her steal them with my own eyes), and gave them back. The young woman was told by a man who appeared to be with the Allison campaign that "Pat is corporate," whatever that means. I assume it was a justification for thievery of campaign material, witnessed and therefore approved by Aimee Allison herself.

October 25, 2006

Dellums to meet with task forces

In today's East Bay Express blog, Will Harper provides two press releases from Ron Dellums' office. One invites the press to cover a mass meeting of his task forces, with him addressing them. The second clarifies that the press is not welcome, saying, "the meeting Wednesday night is a working session that is open to Task Force participants only." Oddly, I was invited via a mailer distributed to my building.

Mr. Harper focuses on the continuing paranoia of the press that Dellums exhibits, but I look at these as clues about the future direction of the city. How is Ron Dellums supposed to digest the findings of his task forces when 400 of them are to attend? Either this public forum is a sop to the task-force members who are left out when their leaders meet with the Mayor-elect privately, or it indicates that Dellums is not taking the task forces seriously at all. I mean, I know the guy needs to do some research on the city he hasn't lived in for thirty-five years, but a 400-person meeting isn't going to do any "working."

In other EBX blog news, the prolific Mr. Harper interviews Green Party candidate Aimee Allison about her gas-guzzling SUV. It's now for sale. Will she promise to send her child to public school too?

October 23, 2006

Desperate Allison campaign engulfed in scandal

As her rhetoric grows more shrill and her opponent racks up endorsements, the Aimee Allison campaign for City Council is growing desperate. From tearing down lawn signs throughout District 2 to recruiting volunteers from San Francisco (for whom "Love Oakland" is merely "optional"), Allison clearly hopes that a last-minute barrage of extremism will make up for her utter failure to connect with District 2 voters (or perhaps she just wants to go out with a bang). Unfortunately for her, a rising tide of scandal is marring her message.

While Matier and Ross's investigation into Allison's business taxes has received little coverage in the East Bay press, she has certainly suffered a serious black eye in the minds of political junkies. Either she's failed to pay taxes for four years (as she claims, paying $200 after the Chronicle contacted her for comment), or she does not actually operate a business and is lying about her resume (which I think is more likely). Either way, it's more ammunition for Pat Kernighan's extremely successful phone-banking effort.

The growing furor over the Allison campaign's sign wars has disgusted many residents of District 2. This scandal has fomented for months, as Ken Katz points out on his blog at the Grand Lake Guardian (whose comments are a useful look at what District 2 is thinking). Two friends of mine, about two months ago, separately told me that Aimee Allison's young campaign manager attempted to berate them into posting signs at their workplaces on Lakeshore. One friend characterized the operative as "pushy" and "obnoxious," and said that she left a trail of venemous insults in her wake when her signs were rebuffed. While these signage battles have been high-profile, they rise to the level of scandal when one realizes that Allison has three times signed documents acknowledging that posting campaign materials on public property is illegal, yet her flyers are posted on and chained to lightpoles immediately around her campaign office (among other places). Pat Kernighan's campaign say they have been calling the Public Works Department daily for the signs' removal, yet the department refuses to act. Interestingly, the only letter written to the Trib in Allison's favor was by the head of the city employees' union.

A federal judge struck down Oakland's unfair and overly restrictive campaign finance rules on Friday, freeing up OakPAC to send mailers throughout the city attacking Allison and City Auditor Roland Smith (and hopefully supporting Measure N). Allison is trying to make some hay out of it, as her leftist supporters are completely opposed to free speech for business interests. On her "blog" this weekend she writes, "We cannot – and will not – allow a special interest group to buy this election." What about Allison's huge support from the city employees' unions, non-profit activist organizations seeking city grants, and sundry SF-based leftist political groups? Those certainly sound like special interests to me. It is yet another demonstration of Allison's extremism that she considers a coalition of Oakland merchants and businesses to be unworthy of First Amendment protection. Additionally, her blog fallaciously claims that Pat Kernighan "support(s) efforts to weaken (the Campaign Finance Reform Act of 2000)." Kernighan not only supports this unfair law (which saddles new organizations with lower contribution limits than established PACs), but also favors the even more clearly unconstitutional Prop 89. Once again, Allison lies about her opponent's positions, attempting to place herself as a "progressive" in a race against a liberal.

Another issue on which Allison attempts to draw a false contrast with Kernighan is over so-called inclusionary zoning, which was fortunately defeated last week at the City Council. Pat voted for this law despite unanimous developer opposition, utterly flawed language, and specific provisions that hurt District 2. This demonstrates again that Pat is already a lefty, and all Allison would do is add rigidity to the ideological balance of the council. Aimee Allison did show up at the IZ meeting to pass out her fliers, but didn't speak or even observe the contentious meeting. Her campaign manager was dressed for a cocktail party, and their campaigning appearance at City Hall was similarly inappropriate.

October 18, 2006

Allison Neglects City Taxes

In today's San Francisco Chronicle, Matier & Ross attempt to answer the question that's on many Oaklanders' minds: what the hell does Aimee Allison do for a living (besides run for Council, that is)? They found that she had deactivated two business permits in the last six years, and hadn't paid the city any independent-contractor taxes for four years.

Is Oakland's favorite socialist a tax evader, in addition to sending her kid to private school? Personally, I don't think so. I think she doesn't actually have a business, and lives off of her book royalties and speaking fees (she also owns a rental unit). What small business would want her consulting services? Certainly not a nail salon.

In other news, Desley Brooks came to Oakland's rescue and tricked the Brunner-Quan coalition into taking IZ off the table without a vote. Good for her! The council meeting was dramatic. More Friday at FutureOakland.

October 10, 2006

Sharp Contrasts in Debates

On Friday evening, the district 2 council candidates met at City Hall to debate. They followed a debate between City Auditor Roland Smith and his challenger Courtney Ruby. The hearing room was packed, but it's not very big; I doubt anyone was there who hadn't already made up their minds. There were some members of the press, including a Trib reporter, a photographer from the Oakland Post, and Sanjiv Handa (who arrived 15 minutes late to the first debate). Allison supporters outnumbered Kernighan's (who did not invite her supporters to the event, as Allison did), and wore their orange T-shirts in direct contravention of League of Women Voters debate rules which were disseminated to the candidates.

Courtney Ruby presented a strikingly fresh presence across from Roland Smith - much younger, very professional, and with a slight Texan accent, she convincingly made her case for change in the auditor's office from her opening statement. I found her emphasis on benchmarks and copying successful practices in other cities (such as San Jose) very persuasive. She also suggested that the auditor place more of an emphasis on performance evaluation of city programs and grants, rather than double-checking parking tickets.

Roland Smith pointed to clear improvements in the city auditor's office since he took over in 1999, including migration to a sophisticated Oracle payroll system and an overall increase in the number of audits. He defended his work to refund parking tickets to citizens and increase revenue from city-owned parking lots, and blamed the council for not supporting him (Ruby responded that San Jose found that business and sales taxes are better targets of city revenue audits than parking lots). Smith glossed over the recent workplace scandal in his office, and said that an unnamed "female councilmember" gave him "a lot of wrath" when he refused to change a report at her request. He proclaimed his independence, but expressed his excitement to work with Ron Dellums, saying that he "can work well to provide information making [Dellums'] regime more desirable." Ruby, of course, has far more endorsements than Smith (including Barbara Lee, Keith Carson and Pat Kernighan) but he's getting a lot of support from the Oakland Post. Independence isn't really the issue at hand - it's effectiveness and creating a good working environment. This blog's contributors are eager supporters of Ms. Ruby.

There was a short break before the main event, and the gallery filled up completely. Aimee Allison's supporters had to be admonished twice by the LWV to cover up their loud campaign T-shirts. A photographer wearing a Ron Dellums pin on his hat (I think he works for the Post) busied himself taking dozens of pictures of Ms. Allison, for which she preened and posed prettily. Finally, the debate started, about ten minutes late.

Aimee Allison is an accomplished speaker, and used her measured tones and lengthy opening statement to make a broad case for addressing the division of Oakland above and below MacArthur Blvd, which I found to be very simplistic. She said that this widening economic gap is causing our problems, and that she wishes to be on the council to fight "growing social inequity and environmental degradation." I am not clear what she means by the latter, but the Green Party seems to confuse economic growth and transit-oriented housing construction with environmental harm, so perhaps she considers cleaning up Oak-to-Ninth to be a loss of (blighted) open space.

Pat Kernighan's opening statement was impressive and direct; she started off by taking a veiled swipe at her opponent's choice of a private school, noting that she started her involvement in Oakland politics as a public school parent and an advocate for parks. She placed emphasis on the equitable delivery of city services, and promised, if reelected, to prioritize "finding common ground with Dellums and really getting things done."

The League of Women Voters were of course one of the leading opponents of the Oak-to-Ninth development. Their first question was quite leading: what would the candidates do to address "gentrification" and the council "selling off public land?" Ms. Allison predictably called for socialist brakes on housing development, calling for "inclusionary zoning" and asserting that "the council should control the market." She characterizes all development deals as "corruption," and decried the council's alleged practice of "subsidizing profits over people."

Councilmember Kernighan rightly responded that, in the year she has been on the council, the city "has sold no land or given a subsidy" that goes to anything other than affordable housing. She again pointed to her work with the community benefits coalition to guarantee low-income, family-sized housing and that the developers "invest in our youth" through apprenticeship and entry-level jobs programs. She also noted that she was "the first councilmember to come out against the school land sale," which is true.

A very telling debate occured over the question of what the candidates have done to help the schools. Aimee Allison claimed to have been a former schoolteacher (I had never heard that before) and pointed to her work with "counter-recruitment," which appears to be a pacifist propaganda program. Kernighan spoke of her work to put Measure C on the ballot in 1996, and her targeting city funds toward after-school programs, school playgrounds, and pedestrian and public safety measures.

There was also a sharp exchange over Allison's controversial plan to tax the port, where she once again claimed that we could reap $500m/year (which is so ridiculously exaggerated to constitute a straight-up lie). Kernighan noted that this was against state law, and that this idea is being proposed without any sort of study of its effects on job growth in Oakland, but is open to the city attempting to recoup some impact fees. Allison responded that Swanson and Perata could work together to change state law.

The two also sparred over social spending by the city, with Pat saying that she has "actually done something" about social issues, and that she is "the biggest advocate on the council for community policing." Allison asserted that a friend left for "Pleasant Hill because Oakland is too pricey," which elicited some skepticism from the audience. She also called for a huge "New Deal-type job corps," saying that we "need to put money behind it." It was not clear where this money would come from. Beyond asserting that Oakland's current "approach has failed," Ms. Allison gave no clarification of how she thinks we can have community policing while slashing the police budget.

Pat Kernighan's conclusion made a forceful case for experience on the council. She noted that Allison didn't know that prostitution in San Antonio has been reduced thanks to a program she initiated last year. Pat, drawing a contrast with Allison's newfound love of local politics, noted that she has been "fighting for twenty years to make Oakland a better place," and that, while "it's easy to criticize," her "actions speak louder than words." Allison said that the "city is ready for a change in direction," and that "District Two is the swing vote" on the council. Perhaps reflecting the truth of that conclusion, (aspiring Council President?) Nancy Nadel endorsed Aimee Allison Monday morning. The debate will be rerun daily on KTOP.

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October 05, 2006

District Two Candidates Debate

The pivotal council race between Aimee Allison and one-year inclumbent Pat Kernighan may be close - certainly the campaigning is vigorous. The district includes much of the DTO southeast of 14th and Broadway (ie, Chinatown and Laney College), Eastlake, San Antonio, Park Boulevard, Grand Lake, Trestle Glen and Crocker Highlands. It is ground zero for some of the city's most controversial issues, from downtown condo construction to the school board headquarters to Oak-to-Ninth. It is probably the most diverse district in one of the most diverse cities in the world. The candidates couldn't offer a sharper contrast: an experienced, compromise-minded liberal do-gooder versus a firebrand ideologue looking to capitalize on anti-war fervor.

The two meet across the street from the district line, at City Hall, on Friday. The League of Women Voters sponsors a debate at 6:30 (or perhaps 6, it's not clear). This should be interesting and hopefully well-covered by the local media. Recent developments in the race include Pat's endorsement from third-place primary finisher Shirley Gee, and the Guardian's lack of a mention of Allison in their current endorsement issue (they found space to urge us to vote for Sandre Swanson, though).

In other news, also across the street from District 2, a long-time downtown Oakland bar is closing after this weekend. The Golden Bull, on 14th next to Geoffrey's, is closing after fifteen years of operation by Ms. Lee and, recently, her son Jamal. Jamal is taking his liquor license with him to a new place down the street (to open in a few months), but downtown is losing its best place to get a martini at noon.

October 03, 2006

Dellums endorses nobody

While our mayor-elect cools his heels on the East Coast, Oakland has many controversial issues on its ballot. The city auditor and district two's council race are prominent, but Measure N and O are also important. Some may wonder, what does Dellums think of the candidates and of the measures? Unfortunately, he has declined to make an endorsement in any of two races or ballot measures.

Mayor-elect Dellums, as part of his "Jerry Brown was corrupt" platform, has repeatedly called for an independent audit of city finances. Yet, as a new, independent voice seeks to upset our scandal-prone long-time auditor, Dellums declines to take a position. If an audit is so important, why doesn't the mayor-elect endorse Courtney Ruby? A possible explanation is that Roland Smith endorsed Dellums, and so the mayor-elect is unwilling to stand up for the fresh hopeful. It is hard to think, however, that Dellums' calls for an new independent audit don't imply that we also need a new auditor.

I contacted representatives of the Measure N and Measure O committees, and none claim to have even sought Ron Dellums' endorsement. I find that somewhat difficult to believe, as everyone (except Ignacio) endorsed Measure N, and Instant Runoff Voting is the liberal flavor-of-the-month, garnering little opposition (I am very suspicious of efforts to change the entire electoral system for the benefit of disorganized fringe candidates, but my energies are best spent elsewhere). On the other hand, perhaps getting a hold of Dellums is just as difficult for the committees as it is for journalists.

District 2 extremist Aimee Allison takes some credit for encouraging Dellums to enter the race for mayor, and has promised to vote in lockstep with him. Incumbent Pat Kernighan, while supporting Ignacio for mayor, has promised to work with Dellums, but is obviously not part of his loyalist camp (on the other hand, she's a moderate, and not rabidly pro-development like Ignacio, Reid and Chang). Allison has received endorsements from much of Dellums' machine, including Supervisor Keith Carson and the city employees' union, and is following his tactic of hosting house parties in San Francisco. It is odd, then, that Dellums has refused to endorse her. Kernighan's campaign just announced an endorsement from Shirley Gee (the third-place finisher in June), meaning that, of the candidates in last year's District 2 special election, all but two have endorsed Pat (one moved away and one is neutral). Gee's endorsement is somewhat surprising, since Gee campaigned on the same anti-growth rhetoric as Allison. So why won't Dellums or Gee endorse Aimee Allison? Maybe it's personal - her campaign materials and HQ decor give the impression of a megalomaniac, and her nasty speeches make her sound like a bitch.