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 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).

24 Comments:

At December 18, 2006 6:13 PM, Blogger deckin said...

Native,

NIce to see a new post. I saw the Dellums tour of West Oakland too and I'm curious as to whether this is where he seriously expects to get good advice (the joke that is Just Cause) or whether this is just politics (the kind that honestly Brown and De La Fuente could probably have done more of). Walk around with people who have absolutely no concrete ideas of how to actually create opportunity and economic renewal except to oppose virtually everything that creates it and nod and all and then do things that might actually help. So if this is Clintonian triangulation, then great; but if Just Cause is part of his 'solution' well, West Oakland's going to have to wait for it's full renewal.

The thing on Temescal development in today's Trib is also interesting. It's sad to people who just have this irrational animus to change squirm and twist to try to rationalize why bringing people into an area where there already is transportation and development and who will bring life and economic activity is a bad thing: Six story buildings, oh my! You'd think they were proposing sun blocking skyscrapers. What's next? People walking around, spending money and enjoying themselves instead of staying inside hiding from thugs? What's the neighborhood coming to?

And again the complete ignorance of supply and demand--we're going to keep housing affordable by restricting the supply and then using public money to subsidize a lucky few who win a morally indefensible lottery for which there would be no need if we just let people build (and perhaps overbuild) to keep prices in check.

 
At December 19, 2006 1:48 PM, Blogger deckin said...

Here's more evidence that whatever her skills as a geologist, Nancy Nadel has obviously never cracked an elementary book in Economics.

Oakland City Councilwoman Nancy Nadel (Downtown-West Oakland) said such a store would offer cheap merchandise nobody wants and do nothing to help the residents.

Again and again, Nadel and progressives betray their faith based animus to consumption and anything that makes the lives of low income people easier by actually making things cheaper so they can keep more money in their pockets, and their wild eyed love affair with what they think people 'ought to want' and how they 'ought to work'. I guess it's better to martyr people's ability to purchase necessities like shampoo and household items conveniently and cheaply so that they can buy subsidized yet still expensive food that purportedly 'benefits' the community.

Thanks to God we have Nancy Nadel to remind poor people what they should and shouldn't want and where they should and shouldn't be able to shop. We wouldn't want them to have alienating 'jobs' where they might actually make enough to buy cheap necessities; better to hold out so they can have 'meaningful' work--according to her standards of meaning, of course. In the meantime, there's always public subsidies, demeaning lotteries, and all the ways Nadel and her lot can keep the poor from actually doing anything to upset their dogmatic world view (like, say, wanting to actually get wealthy and moving on in life).

 
At December 19, 2006 4:11 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Not disagreeing that Just Cause is a joke, I will disagree with the near free market fundamentalism expressed by deckin. While I may agree that 99 Cent stores and other purveyors of cheap, plastic crap aren't the best economic devlopment for any neighborhood, I can't say that I would do anything about it if it was someone else's money on the table. I fear, however, that Nancy in fact does have a right to speak on this, for I suspect a cursory look at this deal would show city money in there somewhere. So, as one of the folks we elected to watch over our taxes, she gets to exercise her judgement. If you don't like it, run against her in District 3 (and lose, which seems to be the pattern).

Additionally, although one may not like Nancy, one should like government enough in that it has had the good sense to ensure that there is not a gas station, car wash, auto body shop, or Church's Chicken on every corner in every neighborhood, despite the fact that such proliferation would (presumably) bring prices down for poor people. Indeed, by the arguments here, we should fill poor neighborhoods with gas stations and fast food restaurants, since cheap gas for endless commuting and cheap food are what poor people need, no?

And although it may not mean anything, I certainly will not be spending any time in West Oakland as long as it remains a dangerous place filled with dumb ass businesses. I will go to Rockridge, Lakeshore and the Piedmont Avenue areas, all of which have restrictive zoning, and are the only places anyone an have any fun in Oakland.

No, downtown's not there yet.

Jerome Peters

 
At December 19, 2006 6:35 PM, Blogger deckin said...

Jerome,

My free market fundamentalism waxes and wanes, to be honest. But in this part of the planet, given what the alternatives are, I think a more healthy dose of it could do some good.

I don't know where the City money is going on this West Oakland deal, but my bias would be against it going anywhere in particular, as you might have guessed. My hunch is that, if left to its own devices, businesses and individuals in West Oakland would, if not come up with a perfect solution (and thinking there is is, in my opinion, the problem), come up with something better than the 'experts' downtown at the Planning Department. It just seems to me to be a completely unquestioned article of faith that a degree in Public Administration or Policy equates to some sort of omniscience about what the best pattern and kinds of developments should take place. To my mind, no great city or great area of a city has ever happened that way. You mention Rockridge, et al, and yes, I too spend more time there. But it isn't because of the zoning, etc., I rather think that it's despite it. I don't think you'd see KFC's and check cashing centers there because the population won't support it. I'm just congenitally suspicious of people assuming they know what's best for others. Why not let people decide for themselves?

You might see more of those check cashing centers, etc. in West Oakland without conscious intervention, but then that's because the population may support it. Now that may offend you and me as healthy eaters and Nancy Nadel for other reasons, but again, paternalism is basically the underlying rationale. The basic thought there is that we can change the neighborhood's preferences by not catering to businesses they would patronize and instead trying to change the residents by giving (read: forcing on them) choices that the so called 'experts' deem more worthy. Now, I'm not an absolutist on this--I'm all for putting liquour stores through the ringer if they are a magnet for drugs and crime--but that's because I'm against crime. It's perfectly within someone's rights as a resident to sue a property owner who maintains a public nuisance. But I draw the line at crime; if something isn't my cup of tea aesthetically, I don't view it as my right to keep others from enjoying it--but I gather that puts me in the minority in Oakland.

About the crime thing: I couldn't agree more. In fact, if all the money for the Planning department and Redevelopment went to the police department, I bet we wouldn't need those departments in the first place.

 
At December 19, 2006 7:58 PM, Anonymous David said...

We all know that just cause is a group of young comfortable liberals who know the needs of the poor better than the poor know their own needs.

They know exactly what jobs will be best for the poor. That's why they oppose certain employers that typically hire the poor.

They know exactly what stores will best serve the poor. That's why they oppose certain stores even if the poor desire to have these stores available in their neighborhoods.

They know what housing will be best for the poor. That's why, speaking on behalf of the poor, they oppose just about any type of housing development proposed in West Oakland.

They are such experts in the needs of the poor that they are willing (with tax foundation grants of course), to fight on their behalf, to see to it that they (the poor) get exactly what just cause thinks they deserve.

Of course, while they fight, bicker, and feather their class war nest(using the needs of the poor as cannon fodder), the jobs, the stores and the housing gets built on all sides of them.

Nancy Nadel has been in this same liberal-knows-best fighting mode her entire tenure as councilmember. She has worked to make sure that as little progress as possible is made in West Oakland.

All proposed progress becomes part of the class war paradigm. That way as West Oaklanders continue to have to shop elsewhere,and feel threatend by crime in their neighborhoods (as mentioned by Jerome Peters), she can can continue to fight and feel relevant because she knows, better than they, what they want and need.

What would we do without her?

 
At December 19, 2006 8:24 PM, Blogger deckin said...

David,

I don't about you, but to voice opinions like yours and mind in my neck of the woods (professionally speaking)is to know the true meaning of thought supression. How about some real diversity in Oakland--diversity of thought, diversity of ideas, diversity of outlooks? Why is it that people so quick to (rightly) criticize rigid dogma in other parts of the country can't see it in themselves? Ah well, it's at least heartening to know that there are other voices out there.

 
At December 20, 2006 10:10 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Deckin,

Thanks for your thoughtful response. I will say, however, just for the record that College Avenue in Rockridge (and Piedmont Avenue, for that matter) both have highly restrictive C-31 zoning. Among other things, C-31 requires retail on the ground floor of each and every storefront and, on top of that, requires a conditional use permit if you want it to be over 3500 square feet or so.

But the neighborhood also has a lot to do with it. When a Cigarettes Cheaper went in some years ago, the neighborhood and Jane Brunner killed it dead so fast it made thier head spin. And they actually had their sign up and doors open and everything.

Can't say that's so bad.

Jerome Peters

 
At December 20, 2006 12:30 PM, Blogger deckin said...

Jerome,

This Cigarettes Cheaper issue is one on which my fundamentalism might want. I'd be no fan of it, and I can't say I would cry to much to see it close, but I guess I'd like to think it would have closed eventually anyway for lack of customers (think of the Burger King in downtown Berkeley). But even if you think enlisting the City Council is acceptable in that case, there's really no analogy to West Oakland. In Rockridge you have a thriving business district that stands to gain or lose on its image--and that could take a hit with cheap cigarettes and check cashing centers. West Oakland, on the other hand, is a commercial wasteland. They have no image to protect other than of one were no one goes to buy anything legal.

The amount of economic deprivation there (especially compared to Fruitvale) is astounding. So, beggars ought not to be too choosy, if you asked me. Activists who worry about losing West Oakland's character crack me up; the character it has is one of crime and disorder. Exactly what planet do they live on? As long as new business is legal and brings some kind of economic activity to the area, why not view that as a good first step? Eventually, with economic activity and safety, the check cashing places will probably go too. But the activists, like children, want it all and they want it right now. 'If we can't have worker's Co-Ops and well paying jobs with futures no matter what skills the residents have, then we'd rather have a slum'

 
At December 20, 2006 12:55 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Pamela Drake is very comfortable in the role of armchair critic. A great Monday morning quarterback. She knows well how to crticize and "blame" others.

When her ideas were tested in the political marketplace, the result was a candidacy for City Council that stumbled badly. Barely making it out of the starting blocks. Yet she offers no humility nor even the vaguest recognition of the limitations of meanness and criticism. The epitome of the arrogance and conceit that has become progressivism. Ever more regressive by the day.

And for a person whose stock in trade is raw and mean criticism of others, she is surprisingly thin skinned. Take a look at her posts on the Grand Lake Guardian.

 
At December 21, 2006 4:37 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Deckin,

Indeed, I think you're right: West Oakalnd should be hoping to get whatever they can get. Later on, however, if some miracle happens and things get hopping in West oakland(which took arguably decades on College Avenue after the freeway went in), I should hope that they can advocate for government intervention to keep things cool through zoning, as they do in Rockridge and Piedmont Ave.

Jerome

 
At December 22, 2006 1:59 PM, Blogger Oakland Native said...

Apparently the task forces are not what's on everyone's minds. I just want to provide some context for the above discussion on the proposed West Oakland co-op.

The EBX reported on the mismanagement of the co-op almsot two years ago. The co-op's rent guarantees come from the West Oakland Redevelopment Area Project Area Committee, which are redevelopment funds usually used for low-income housing or infrastructure improvements. I also believe that Nancy Nadel contributed money to the co-op from her discretionary funds, although I cannot find that in the Council agenda so perhaps that's not true. Either way, many well-managed and innovative nutrition nonprofits are already in West Oakland, and are more deserving of the help that's coming from the public purse.

On the topic of restrictive zoning (which Berkeley uses to centrally-plan every damn street), Rockridge's anti-restaurant zoning is just now coming into effect, as two of the three cheap Chinese places went upscale. We'll see the impact of the food ban over the next few years.

 
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