Assessing inaugural week
Oakland Mayor Ron Dellums’ gala week of inaugural events did not prove to be in as poor taste as the contributors to this blog feared, although the murder of a Adams Point resident over a parking space, which happened while Dellums hobnobbed with big donors at the exclusive cocktail reception before the black-tie dinner, underlined the need for city leaders to focus on our gravest problems. J. Douglas Allen-Taylor nonetheless managed to blame the murder, which apparently resulted from a dispute over parking in the dense neighborhood, on Jerry Brown and dense transit-oriented development (in response to which the EBX had a rare cocktail-hour blog posting). Partisan squabbling aside, there were some positive and negative signs for Oakland.
Mayor Dellums’ inaugural address produced predictably mixed reactions, with his supporters reveling in his refusal to “cop-out” by offering any sort of concrete agenda, while his detractors point out that he’s moving slower than molasses in his goal to provide leadership for Oakland’s future. Most people are more concerned by the rude and disrespectful manner with which Dellums’ supporters treated the City Council and the election of Ignacio de la Fuente as City Council President. Local blogger Miss Carnivorous points out the tension between black and brown Oaklanders in her “anti-liberal” blog, and followed that up with a long, un-PC discussion of race relations in which she calls Dellums a “black nationalist,” which is a bit of an exaggeration. He’s not actually a former Black Panther, but there is clearly a great deal of race-based support for the mayor. A USF journalism professor also commented on the racial divide exposed by the inauguration uproar, which was also the topic of a press conference organized by East Oakland community leaders.
Left-wing bloggers, however, saw the incident as an indication of how the “people” dislike Ignacio and his pro-developer Council allies (who, of course, include Larry Reid and Desley Brooks as pro-development, and Nancy Nadel as his ally). Long-time community activist Pamela Drake, on the Grand Lake Guardian, says that it showed that the audience members "were ready to hear the new mayor talk about change and would accept no less from the Council." Sanjiv Handa, writing for the Post, said the same. On the contrary, it shows how those who attend public meetings, and Dellums’ most passionate supporters, are dogmatic and unrepresentative proponents of their narrow ideology. The average Oaklander was clearly appalled and embarrassed by Dellums’ supporters’ behavior. Leftists, though, think that anger at Ignacio and the council majority is appropriate. Let’s not forget that the harsh words and overzealous tone of the public comments against Ignacio set the tone for the audience’s outburst later. Even AC Transit Director (and failed City Council candidate) Rebecca Kaplan used a speaking style more appropriate to a political rally to make her technical point about the desirability of consensus-based committee appointments. Sanjiv Handa and the Oakland Post regularly couch their reports on the City Council is extreme and divisive language. In the current Post, Handa invents the following scenario:
In a privately negotiated deal, Reid was scripted to win the Council presidency on the second round of balloting - following a 4-4 deadlock in the initial casting. However, Ignacio de la Fuente... double-crossed Reid and decided decided he wanted a fifth two-year term. He leaned on Councilmember At-Large Henry Chang to re-nominate de la Fuente - allegedly in return for a promise to make Chang vice mayor.Unfounded assertions alleging city hall or developer deals are a staple of the Post, which encourages disrespect toward our elected officials. Practically, though, Ignacio and Dellums will be able to work together despite the display (especially since Dellums has nothing to propose).
The reader doesn’t need a review of every inaugural event, but a few were telling of the mayor’s administration. The Hyphy-Soul Showcase, which was meant to connect Dellums with Oakland’s vibrant youth culture, was thinly attended. Worst of all, it incorrectly described Hyphy music as “home-grown hip-hop with a neo-soul flair,” which is completely wrong. Hyphy, rather, combines West Coast electro rap with Oakland’s post-rave underground electronica scene, creating a fresh new dance sound that has none of the guitars, sweet vocals, or retro panache of Neo-Soul. At the event, held at Sweet’s Ballroom (which is a Jerry Brown-era historic redevelopment project), Mistah FAB, a successful local hip-hop artist, gave a speech proclaiming his wish to be a good role model for the kids. He then launched into a song about thizzin’. Mayor Dellums gave a speech repeating both his tired “I don’t have an ‘S’ on my chest” line and his befuddlement with contemporary technology of "instant communcation" which most people take for granted. Between lackluster attendance and a somewhat confused message, the Hyphy-Soul event confirmed, rather than dismissed, the difficulty 71-year-old Dellums will have connecting with the young people who are transforming and even “gentrifying” Oakland.
Overall, many of the events were disorganized and sparsely attended. The black-tie event ran out of gift bags and engraved glasses. The Experience Oakland art-walk was less about the mayor than the art galleries. Young Oakland was unsatisfied with the Hyphy event. The “Hands Around the Lake” Event drew fewer than 2500 participants, although the transition hoped for at least 5000 (and were aiming for 10k), and extensively promoted the cute event. The Grand Lake Guardian reports that union activists (probably from the city employee's SEIU chapter, local 790) were overrepresented at the ceremony, though it affirmed that Dellums is going to work with Ignacio.
Perhaps Mr. Dellums will realize that the greatest threat to Oakland’s unity are people duped by the extremist rhetoric of media publications from the Oakland Post to BeyondChron, as well as the selfish and divisive anti-growth proposals sure to come from his task forces. Fortunately, the repeated pledges of the City Council and the mayor to work together suggests that Oakland can focus on issues with which there is more common ground, such as the need to get a handle on the crime wave that is sweeping mid-sized cities across the country. Jerry Brown’s appointment of an OPD lieutenant and his relocation of the Attorney General’s office from Los Angeles to Oakland indicates that he will be working on our crime problems with the enormous resources afforded to the state. If Dellums and Brown can work together (and their shared emphasis on rehabilitating prisoners indicates that they can), Oakland may be able to make real progress on some of our most vexing social issues.