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).

December 22, 2006

Plus ca change...

During the divisive and narrowly-decided mayoral election in June, leftists speculated that, with a sweeping Dellums victory (which didn't materialize), Nancy Nadel would be an appropriate City Council President. Despite the obvious fact that Nadel didn't endorse Dellums, lefties lump them together as ideological soulmates. As ignorantly simplistic as that assertion is, Oakland's malcontents hunger for a change on the City Council. The Trib's Heather MacDonald now reports that Nancy Nadel announced her candidacy for the Council Presidency at Tuesday's meeting. Of course, MacDonald wrote an article that, despite its introduction and conclusion, makes it clear that Ignacio will be reelected. Nadel's ill-fated intervention in the District 2 race has diminished her council credibility, and, frankly, I have no idea what she wants to accomplish by voting against Ignacio. Unless she's tired of being Public Works Committee chair.

As I said a month ago, Mayor-elect Dellums managed to avoid losing credibility by staying out of the District 2 race. While the Express has speculated that Allison's and Alona Clifton's defeats mean he has difficulty translating his political popularity to his allies, in truth his pull is untested. That is, until recently.

During the condo conversion debate, Dellums aides were said to have lobbied councilmembers (Brunner and Kernighan were the swing votes) against the ordinance. I found this dubious, since Desley Brooks, Dellums' only actual ally on the Council, pushed the legislation. Nonetheless, SF's obscurantist blog BeyondChron declared that Dellums was instrumental in the ordinance's defeat. Aside from the very unclear nature of Dellums' involvement, the ordinance was not defeated, and instead referred to the same committee that will study so-called inclusionary zoning (and hopefully reject it as an unfair supertax on transit-using first-time homeowners). As the Council realizes how awful the current regulations are (which Quan and Kernighan didn't seem to get until the discussion had already reached its hysterical peak), a condo conversion ordinance will pass next year. If anything, it's likely to be less tenant-friendly than this year's, because many landlords were very unhappy about the overly generous protections in the bill (the Rental Housing Association refused to support it), which nevertheless failed to attract much tenant support.

Dellums may or may not have lobbied Kernighan and Brunner, and the outcome was, at best, a temporary victory for the Tenants' Union (who really should support conversion reform, since there are no tenant protections or caps in the 1981 ordinance). But Dellums did intervene in an issue at the Tuesday Council meeting, and the outcome was decisive. According to the East Bay Express and the Trib, Dellums personally lobbied against Jerry Brown's final appointment to the Port Commission (which has been pending since January). Planning Commissioner Mark McClure was confirmed 5 - 1 - 2, with only Desley Brooks voting no. This is a clear instance of the mayor-elect failing to influence the council majority on an issue. Dellums' intervention was inappropriate (since McClure was not, despite what the EBX reported, a "last-second" appointment), and now Ron Dellums has been handed an early Christmas present: his first defeat.

My fellow Jerry Brown fans also received an early holiday present this year. According to Matier & Ross, the Attorney General will establish his office on the top floor of Oakland's State Building, immediately behind City Hall Plaza. Insiders are already excited by the idea of him speaking at Council meetings and taking an active role as a resident. I'm sure Nancy Nadel will appreciate her constituent's concerns.

December 18, 2006

What will the task forces say?

That's got to be the question on everyone's minds. Mayor-elect Ron Dellums attracted the support of anti-growth advocates while also promising to top the 10k plan with a 100k plan. His candidacy sparked furious opposition from anti-socialists, but has made recent moves to appear more pro-business. He is a towering local political figure, but, as the East Bay Express blog suggested, has recently failed to have coattails (with the November defeats of Alona Clifton and Aimee Allison, whose districts overlapped significantly). These contradictions make it very difficult to predict what sort of legislation, or "vision," Oakland will be presented with early next year. Early indications are disappointing.

Longtime local activist Pamela Drake recently wrote an incendiary critique of downtown development on the Grand Lake Guardian. She was rebutted by several commenters, including the contributors to this blog. What worries me is that her opinion, besides being backwards-looking and reactionary, was incredibly ill-informed. She asserts that the Forest City project "displace(d) the very local entrepreneurial folks who had recently begun to revitalize the area," when in fact the only businesses moved were two auto-repair businesses and a union hall. She seems to be completely unaware that there are many new, exciting places downtown, whose entrepreneurs have told me or newspapers that they opened because of the Forest City Uptown project. And she's a leader of the task forces!

If our downtown "vision" is being shaped by people who know nothing about downtown, that is very worrisome. Another example could be the artists and Korean immigrants who are reshaping mid-Telegraph. Are their perspectives represented on panels dealing with Telegraph's issues of growth and transit? The sheer number of task forces, including ones on unproductive subjects such as the library (what could the task force possibly say about the library?), indicate that there will be many opportunities for task-force reports to say something ill-informed or extremist. Self-appointed West Oakland spokespeople Just Cause are taking advantage of the ignorance of the incoming administration to feed them their ludicrous figure of West Oakland losing 25% of its black population in the last five years.

The inevitable cacophony of reports will interfere with presumptive mayoral Chief-of-Staff Tony West's efforts to set an agenda. Or will it? In an email to city employees (not all of whom voted for him), the Mayor-elect reaffirms the centrality of the task-forces to the creation of his agenda.
Now that we've determined who will lead Oakland into its future, we must now determine how. The work of our taskforce operation was constructed to engage you and other members of our city in a participatory process. This effort is designed to gain the collective brilliance and genius of this community on the issues, concerns, challenges and solutions that we must consider in order to make Oakland a model city. With those findings and recommendations in hand together we will craft an agenda for the change that will Move Oakland Forward.

In the days ahead, we will need your cooperation, active participation and the richness of your experience to advance this effort. Thank you again for your vote of confidence not just in me, but in what you know Oakland can be. Together, we can do great things. As an important part of this team effort, I ask that you to join me on this great journey to make Oakland a model city with a city government that is innovative, effective and inspiring.

Ultimately, the January election of the President of the City Council, which Ignacio looks set to win again, will be much more important to our city's direction than any wacky task-force recommendation. And the commission on housing issues, set to meet for three months starting soon, will have the gravitas at least to delay most discussions on growth to the Spring. Unfortunately, it sounds like the panel will include only grey-haired experts and wild-eyed activists, so it will be up to the City Council to find a compromise on the pressing issues of apartment construction, condo conversions, and growth taxes (ie, inclusionary zoning).

December 05, 2006

Condo Conversion Vote Tonight

Tonight, the Oakland City Council will vote to create an affordable housing fund, and then vote to allow a limited number of condo conversions with a fee paid to the housing fund. Councilmembers Nadel, Quan, and now Brunner have come out against it. Councilmembers Brooks, Reid, Chang, and de la Fuente support it. Pat Kernighan told the Trib yesterday that she is undecided. If she votes against it, the 4-4 tie will be the same cast as the one over creating an Inclusionary Zoning task force.

As I noted before, many of the opponents of condo conversions have opposed efforts to expand Oakland's rental housing stock, and therefore have little credibility as tenant advocates. Others provided volunteers for Aimee Allison's losing Council campaign, and so have little crediblity as political voices. The East Bay Express blog reports that Quan is considering an abstention, which she seems to think would kill the bill. Ms. Brunner has suggested a few amendments. We'll see what happens, tonight.