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.