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).