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).

November 24, 2006

Encouraging signs from Dellums' staffing decisions

Long-time readers of this blog know that I started it to oppose Ron Dellums' mayoral candidacy, based primarily on his lack of touch with Oakland (since he hasn't lived here in 35 years), and my strong disagreements with the anti-everything activists that backed him (like Just Cause, PUEBLO, and the ORPN - that's a motley crew indeed). Before the election I expected it to be a referendum on growth, or downtown versus the neighborhoods, but that's not what happened, and Ron Dellums confused everyone with his pledge to top the 10k project with a 100k project. For months after his narrow election, Mr. Dellums kept his nose out of Oakland, which was a smart move. Over the summer, he trotted out some developer friends to the business media, and then reentered Oakland politics by settling two threatened strikes (nice job!) and adroitly resolving the furor over OakPAC (which greatly helped Kernighan, and gave his spokeswoman cover to distance him from Allison). So far, so good. Now, we have a little more information about the incoming administration.

Community and Economic Development Agency manager Claudia Cappio, whom Mayor Brown promoted to Development Director (from Major Projects Director) a few years ago, has been the city's go-to gal for developers. Her key role in the 10k plan led the East Bay Express to call her out as a major loser in the mayoral election, since insiders expected her to be canned by Dellums. Her coeval, Redevelopment Director Dan Vanderpriem, was said (before the election) to have been approached by the Dellums campaign about being part of his administration. Mr. Vanderpriem wrote the original version of the proposed Inclusionary Zoning ordinance, and is generally thought to be more inclined to seek concessions of developers than Ms. Cappio. However, now the San Francisco Business Times reports* that Ms. Cappio has been asked to stay onboard, while Mr. Vanderpriem is job-hunting. Several sources also report that Brown's appointee, City Administrator Deborah Edgerly, will remain as well. I shouldn't speculate about Mr. Dellums' positions based solely on his council ally Desley Brooks' opposition to IZ, but opponents of development restrictions have some cause for hope.

Something notable about the Dellums campaign is how broad-based it was. Ignacio's was a very diverse and broad campaign, but everyone who voted for Iggy supported growth and investment in Oakland. Dellums, as noted above, had support from widely varying parts of Oakland's political landscape. Some would call that diversity; I'm inclined to call it incoherence and a recipe for disappointment. Either way, some growth advocates were in the Dellums campaign, and it appears that one of them will be taking the reins.

I must warn the reader that my source is secondhand, but the word is that Hastings Trustee and MoFo partner Tony West will be Dellums' chief of staff. West's name appears on a recent fundraiser invitation for Dellums' PAC that was sent to my apartment, he was an observer for Dellums during the tortured 10-day vote count, and the Express's blog quotes him as a Dellums aide. Mr. West (who worked for Attorney General Bill Lockyer) ran unsuccessfully against lefty Cindy Chavez for the downtown San Jose council seat in 1998, and lost the San Jose Democratic assembly primary in 2000 to union-backed Manny Diaz. He lives in a condo in 94612. His past races, his job, and his address suggest that he will be a pro-growth and pro-business voice in the incoming administration.

I may be overly optimistic, but much of Ron Dellums' recent behavior, as well as votes by his council ally Desley Brooks, indicates that he is serious about "moving Oakland forward," and is not interested in the selfish and reactionary positions of the anti-growth activists who supported his candidacy. On the other hand, his dalliances with his commission on the plight of minorities and his opaque, cliquish task forces remain distractions from the real issues of increasing investment, housing and job growth in our city. We'll have to wait until after January 8 to see his course.

* The San Francisco Business Times, which has very good coverage of Oakland, has stupidly restricted free online access to their articles (until 17 days after publication). To add insult to injury, they uploaded their entire Oakland Structures special section (which I highly recommend) as a PDF! Look to the Nov 17 issue, page 4 (of the special section), for the article about Cappio.

November 20, 2006

Opponents of condo conversions spread hysteria

The hysterical tone of many of the condo conversion plan's opponents was evident in last week's CED Committee meeting, where anxious upper-income renters and homeowners spoke passionately about the low-income renters who have nothing to do with this proposal. Now, renowned anti-capitalists Nancy Nadel, Lynda Carson, and Paul Hogarth have decided to spread misinformation throughout the media. Additionally, they link this to mayoral politics despite having no evidence that Dellums objects to the proposal.

Paul Hogarth of the Tenderloin Housing Clinic (whose successful advocacy of "progressive" policies has rendered San Francisco utterly unaffordable) asserts in BeyondChron that, like a lame-duck Congress, Ignacio de la Fuente is trying to rush through his condo conversion ordinance "even though incoming Mayor-elect Ron Dellums opposes the plan." But Dellums doesn't oppose it! According to Desley Brooks (who, of course, was the sole councilmember to support Dellums' candidacy, and is the author of the conversion ordinance), "Ron hasn’t said anything on this issue." Andre Spearman, while speaking against the ordinance at the council committee hearing, strongly implied that a Dellums task force is going to recommend a similar ordinance. It is interesting that those who oppose it continually refer to it as Ignacio's plan even though it was introduced by Desley Brooks. Like many "progressive" diatribes from San Francisco about Oakland, Paul Hogarth's article refers to an imagined political situation on the City Council and does not address the substance of the proposal.

Lynda Carson, on the other hand, a long-time tenant activist, does indeed address the proposal on her post to IndyMedia. Unfortunately, she focuses on the spectre of greedy speculators and doesn't actually address the merits of the conversion act. She seems to be unaware that the cap went down to 800 after the planning commission hearings, and focuses on low-income tenants, who are unaffected by the proposal. She writes as though the current law, requiring replacement apartment development, is great, even she opposed increasing our housing stock as part of the Oak-to-Ninth development. I wouldn't be suprised if she also opposed the Forest City development (along with other housing activists), which will be the largest addition to Oakland's rental housing stock in decades. She appears to be deliberately misinformative when she cites Nancy Nadel and Jean Quan's opposition to the ordinance as evidence that Dellums opposes it, even though neither of them supported Dellums' election. Finally, I'd love to know where she gets her figure of a 2.7% vacancy rate in Oakland's apartment market, since reliable data is very hard to find. Also, 2.7% isn't very low.

Councilmembers Nadel and Quan helped gather petition signatures against the condo conversion plan on Saturday, according to the Trib. Using her trademark divisive and ignorant rhetoric, Nadel characterized the proposal as "a ploy by developers." Deckin pointed out on the earlier comment thread that Ms. Quan made broad arguments against homeownership that she knows to be untrue. I am puzzled by Ms. Quan, who is a savvy political operator, acting so clearly against the wishes of her constituents. Does anyone really think that Montclair's councilmember (the only councilmember to represent an all-hills district) should be leading a charge against homeownership? Her repeated calls during the Inclusionary Zoning debate for economic integration within buildings was ironic in the extreme - she feels that downtown condo buyers living next door to residential hotels need to be in mixed-income developments (which is extremely inefficient), while development in her own district is primarily single-family homes. I'd like her to tell her constituents that they should be sharing a roof with subsidized housing.

The rent control and do-nothing activists opposing condo conversions miss several key points of the proposal. First and foremost, it attempts to convert 9% of the apartment stock over 10 years, which is less than 1% a year. Thus, liquidity in the market will be preserved, and the proposal will not impact most renters. While the assumption behind the proposal is that up to a third of existing renters could afford to buy their own apartments, even if we accept the opponents' figures that 90% cannot (which is from the same source, HUD, cited during the IZ debate saying that 70% of Oaklanders cannot afford to rent here), the proposal still makes sense. Second, there are many protections built into the law to prevent evictions (and all Section 8 buildings are exempt). Tenants are given three months to decide to purchase their unit (a timeframe that may increase as a compromise measure), and if they don't, they receive 6 months rent as compensation. That is extremely generous. Seniors receive lifetime leases (which to me seems really costly). Third, the funds raised by conversion fees will triple Oakland's affordable housing budget, which would have prevented the Chinatown evictions that happened because the city could not afford to purchase the subsidized units when the subsidies expired. Fourth and finally, any issue of tenant displacement could be solved by an aggressive push to incentivize the construction of rental housing. No tenant activist is suggesting that. By consistently opposing efforts to increase Oakland's housing supply, tenant activists do a great disservice to the renters they claim to represent.

November 15, 2006


Some gems from the condo conversion meeting last night:

Andre Spearman, city employee union director: "We need an income conversion program!"

Man from Tenants' Union: "This is the first proposal I've ever seen that intends to increase homelessness."

Helent Hutchinson: "The League of Women Voters believes we need to protect the rental housing we have."

Woman from Just Cause: "We need fair and equal housing for everyone."

Eddie Ytuarte, tenant and teachers' union activist: "Ignacio, Henry - why do you like evicting people?"

Anti-condo audience: "Yay Berkeley!"

Woman from Movement Strategy Center: "We will lose 1000 students a year!"

Sanjiv Handa: "Because people get only one or two minutes to speak, the council makes bad, bad policy!"

At the end of the comment period, Ignacio de la Fuente pointed out that many of those speaking against the condo conversion ordinance are homeowners.

In other news, a recent transplant to Berkeley (from Philly) tells the Daily Planet about volunteering for Aimee Allison. After pontificating about a Dellums victory she wasn't here for and a city she has barely visited, Beandrea Davis explains Pat's sweeping victory (echoing Allison spokesman Ben Wyskida) was because "more of Kernighan’s supporters voted and not enough of Allison’s supporters did." Yup, 923 more.

Speaking of recent transplants, EBASE labor activist (and Allison volunteer) Brooke Anderson, who spoke against condo conversion last night, writes on her blog about supporting Just Cause's sign and billboard campaign against "gentrification" and new people moving to Oakland. Brooke recently moved here from Illinois, but that doesn't stop her from condemning new Oaklanders. Zennie Abraham has a discussion about it on his blog.

Speaking of people who recently moved here, Mayor-Elect Ron Dellums was back in DC this week promoting a study his commission did about minorities. What fresh new ideas does he have, with which he has been too busy to meet with his task forces or Lew Wolff? Well, the media negatively stereotypes black men, he concludes, and the government needs to increase the minimum wage.

Speaking of pointing out the obvious, NovoMetro is launching their new online journalism experiment tonight! The party is at Swarm Gallery, 560 Second Street (at Clay).

November 08, 2006

Kernighan trounces Allison

It's almost more than I could have hoped for: Pat won almost 55% of the vote, beating Aimee Allison and her ideologues by over 800 votes. This was a stunning loss for the malcontents who are unhappy with the City Council's pro-growth, pro-downtown, consensus-based direction. Despite massive publicity of Allison's sharply negative campaign, Pat Kernighan earned a decisive victory.

There are two political lessons to be learned from this. The first is that there is little appetite in Oakland for the ideological, anti-business rhetoric that San Francisco supervisors and Berkeley councilmembers use to justify their lack of coherent approaches to solving local problems. As one (lefty) council aide said last night, contrasting Daly's narrow victory with Allison's wide loss, Oaklanders "vote like adults." Oakland is simply not wealthy enough for anti-business positions to attract much popularity. Additionally, the Port of Oakland is too important to our city for anti-globalization activists to make hay out of taxing the Port. District 2 is definitely one of the most liberal parts of our city, so if Allison's far-left (I mean, "progressive") campaign won't work there, it won't work anywhere (except maybe District 3).

The second is that money is no substitute for grassroots support in winning a local election. Independent expenditures on Allison's behalf helped her far outspend Kernighan in the last two weeks of the campaign, yet the duplicitous nature of the mailers and paid bilingual workers, as well as their distasteful source (nobody likes ultrarich SF lawyers) made no impact. Allison's volunteers, culled from outside the district and even outside the city, were (as I predicted) unpersuasive to voters. When I phoned residents for Pat, I would end up talking about my own Oakland public school experience, or details of downtown redevelopment, or specific Council actions about which residents would be concerned. The self-described "activists" staffing Allison's office know nothing of the issues that matter to District 2 voters. The robo-poll Allison did a month ago to identify supporters was a miserable failure, leaving her volunteers with no effective GOTV drive. Instead, they drove around in an old truck (one exempt from Smog Check), banged on drums, and used loudspeakers to berate residents. According to a poll worker, they even recruited voters outside of District 2!

Some media reports assert that, because Allison tried desperately to ride Dellums' coattails, that her loss lessens Dellums' influence over the council. While Councilmember Allison (an image that still produces a shudder) would have been more divisively pro-Dellums than Pat, Allison's loss is not the same as Dellums' loss. Dellums himself did not endorse her, a fact that became increasingly obvious in the last days of the campaign. A test of Dellums' support making a difference in a Council race will have to wait until 2008.

November 06, 2006

Election Predictions

There are, of course, many important issues that will be decided by voters tomorrow. I will spend all day mobilizing voters for Pat K., and so will be off the blog until Wednesday, when I'll write about what happened. While the wind is in Pat's sails right now (the revelations of Allison's SF-based and hypocritical support, Dellums' spokeswoman's condemnation of AA's negative campaign, and the success of Pat's year-long effort to recruit Trader Joe's all favor Pat's reelection), the outcome of the District 2 election is by no means assured. Allison's hard work and personal charisma, as well as her successful manipulation of the media (until recently), have effectively erased Pat's advantage of incumbency. As Desley Brooks noted in the Express's lying, tired and poorly-written hit piece on Pat (written by long-time paranoid Perata conspiracist Robert Gammon), Allison has effectively tied Pat to Ignacio, and people believe that Pat votes in lockstep with him (which is unfortunately untrue).

Ignacio lost the mayoral election, even in District 2 (though won 60% of Chinatown), but I don't think that demonizing him is persuasive. Additionally, Pat has substantial support from Dellums voters. What is suprising to me, and could really swing the election, is that Pat is supported by the (generally) anti-growth neighborhood activists who post on the Grand Lake Guardian. They, and not the pro-growth establishment, may turn out to the biggest winners in a Pat victory. I'm not going to make an official prediction, but the numbers are on Pat's side: she came within three points of a majority in June, and Shirley Gee's 13% will most likely vote for her.

Randy Shaw of BeyondChron, while very confident of "progressive" victories in SF (Daly), San Jose (Cindy Chavez), and statewide (Bowen), does not make a prediction in the District 2 race. He says that "an Allison victory entirely depends on a high voter turnout," which is somewhat true. I cannot imagine Allison winning without huge turnout, but unless she has convinced many Pat and Gee voters to switch, the vast majority of the electorate has already voted against her twice. Unfortunately, without any stirring races beyond the Council, turnout is not likely to be much higher than June's 48%.

A young lefty on LiveJournal thinks that "Pat Kernighan may have just whoomped Aimee Allison in the runoff" because of Trader Joe's. I agree that TJ's is a major victory for Pat, underscoring her pro-growth, get-things-done message. I am honestly suprised by how thankful District 2 residents are for that. If Pat cannot win reelection despite delivering what the Grand Lake neighborhood asked for, that means that voters truly are willing to favor ignorant ideology and image over quality of life and effective leadership. Tomorrow, Aimee Allison will count on that to put her in power.

November 02, 2006

Dellums endorses Kernighan?

In today's Oakland Tribune, Heather MacDonald writes about the hypocrisy of Allison's wealthy SF-based supporters exploiting OakPAC's loophole and sending out vicious, lying mailers blaming Pat Kernighan for the recent crime wave, even as OakPAC was denounced for attempting to spend its donations. This has outraged bloggers before, such as Pamela Drake of the Grand Lake Guardian and Will Harper of the East Bay Express. But now we find out that Mayor-elect Ron Dellums is outraged as well.

According to the article, Dellums "was not pleased that the most recent mailing from the Allison campaign features his picture, implying an endorsement." Pat's campaign has been very careful not to use pictures of Dellums, because they felt it would be disrespectful to the mayor-elect's neutral stance. Allison, on the other hand, has basically ignored the fact that Dellums refused to endorse her. His displeasure bodes ill for their relationship, and certainly belies Allison's claim that she needs to be elected to implement his agenda.

What's so galling about this scandal is the blatant hypocrisy combined with lies. According to the Trib, the "Pat is responsible for crime" mailer used utterly false statistics, claiming that murders have triped when in fact they are up by only 75%. Allison's spokesman says that "the progressive community," which is apparently made up of two millionaire lawyers from San Francisco, wants "to make some real change." Well, I hadn't seen city races dip to this level before, so it seems that they succeeded.

I am truly shocked by Allison's hypocrisy and the unethical actions of her mega-rich friends. I'll let Dellums' spokeswoman conclude for me: "The community will have to decide whether they want to support a candidate who is associated with violating the spirit of the agreement. The mailer sends a bad message and is in bad faith."