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 k / o
                                       politics + culture

Sunday, June 04, 2006

In support of Ron Dellums

I've held off writing about the Oakland mayor's race in part because it represents the classic "Oakland Conundrum:" there are multiple candidates worthy of consideration, all of whom have worked hard for Oakland.

For myself, before Ron Dellums' entry into the race, I would have strongly considered voting for Nancy Nadel over Council President Ignacio De La Fuente, whom I respect but disagree with.

Councilwoman Nadel is a committed and pragmatic progressive representing a "Green" ethos who is willing to put it out there and run for local office and make a difference here in Oakland. Kudos to her. Too often, candidacies like Nadel's (and Aimee Allison's run for City Council) are underappreciated. They shouldn't be. Candidates winning local office and making an impact are exactly how progressives can best put our ideas into practice, and Councilwoman Nadel has done that and deserves praise.

All that being said, however, I am supporting Ron Dellums for Oakland Mayor in the June 6th primary. Here's why.

#1: Despite some very real progress here in Oakland, I am dissappointed at the legacy of the Jerry Brown / De La Fuente years on crime, community and education.

There are three core challenges facing Oakland in 2006: Education, Crime and Development. These challenges are linked; we need to work on all three challenges together as one city, as a set of interlinked communities. Ron Dellums gets this; he sees the big picture.

Mayor Brown and Council Chair De La Fuente have approached these challenges through a take on Development that too often favors chain stores and "market-rate" condos over Community. They've taken an approach to crime that sees Law Enforcement as the sole solution to safe streets. On the other hand, fixing the crisis in our schools and working with our communities on development and solving crime have not been the central priority for Mayor Brown or the City Council. In my view, if we elect Council Chair De La Fuente mayor of Oakland, we will get more of this approach.

When you read what Ignacio De La Fuente promises to do for Oakland on Education and Crime, especially his laundry list of law enforcement goals, it's clear: Mr. De La Fuente's candidacy is mostly about giving us more of the "Development / Law Enforcement focus" that has marked the Jerry Brown years. In this sense, De La Fuente is very much a "business as usual" candidate (more development, more "criminalization," incremental steps on Education) at a time when Oakland needs more than a business as usual approach. In particular, there can be no real solution to the challenges that Oakland's citizen's face that fails to address the crisis of our public schools as the central task at hand.

When it comes to educating our kids, Oakland needs to make a drastic change. Ron Dellums best represents that goal. Ron Dellums understands that Education, Crime and Development link together. (See his plan here.) We need to work on all three and we need to do so with everyone at the table building a shared vision with shared commitments for our city.

Yes, we need Development, and that means Ron Dellums, like any good Mayor, will work with developers and business to bring worthwhile jobs to Oakland. Ron Dellums, however, promises to do so with the community involved at every step of the process and with ALL the structural agents (including County, philanthopic organizations, the School District, small businesses and State and Federal Government) understanding the broader goals and needs of Oakland's citizens. That's leadership; forging broad partnership is something Ron Dellums is good at.

Yes, Law Enforcement is a critical aspect of reducing violent crime, but Law Enforcement alone is not the answer. We all know this. We won't make Oakland truly safe simply with more police officers or stricter law enforcement alone; Ron Dellums gets this too. (See Dellums on a Safer Oakland.) In addition to law enforcement, we need to get our communities involved in policing and improving the safety and quality of life in our neighorhoods. Our Mayor needs to be out front on this. Ron Dellums has made that a pledge.

Finally, the Oakland Mayor needs to lead in building the infrastructure that wins Oakland improvements in education and jobs. When there is an educational system invested in getting every one of our students the skills they need to thrive, when there's city development committed to bringing good jobs to our citizens, that's when Law Enforcement and community organizations can best work together to make our streets safe for everyone. When we're all invested, we're all on board. (Read here for more.) Ron Dellums understands this point of view. It's how he thinks and sees the world.

Simply put, it's hard to convince the citizens of Oakland that our government is working in our best interests when that government's actions seem to put chain store developers and law enforcement as its top priorities to the neglect of our communities and schools. We all know that some developers have been happy to see zoning that allows them to put up fast food restaurants and national chain stores without regard for our small businesses and the health of our citizens. We recognize that the corporations that run big box stores have been happy to see more police cars in the parking lots of their shopping centers but aren't as invested in the neighborhood next door. All of us know some residents of wealthy neighborhoods in our city who are happy to pay for more police officers but who are not willing to realize that our neighborhoods are linked by more than simply concern about crime.

The "development / law enforcement" approach may raise home prices in some neighborhoods...and it has improved life in parts of Oakland, something IS better than nothing, or blight...but development alone doesn't necessarily make a healthy city, or a safe city for that matter. Jobs in big box stores and fast food restaurants aren't "good jobs." A city were some citizens have safe neighborhoods and others live in daily fear of crime is not a healthy city. Finally, a city whose school system is failing is a city in need of a wake up call for change.

Oakland can be so much more than that. Education and community-oriented development are not mere challenges that Oakland's city government should promise to "try harder" at; they are at the core of the social contract that Oakland makes with its citizens. We should deliver the best education possible to all of our kids and we should fight to build a city with great jobs for them when they reach adulthood. A healthy city honors that commitment; it's where the three challenges of "crime fighting," development and education link up. Ron Dellums gets this and has pledged to make this world view the centerpiece of his mayorship, and that, more than any other reason, is why he has my support for mayor of Oakland.

#2: There are two other pragmatic factors that Ron Dellums brings to the table that are worth mentioning as well:

A) Mayor Dellums has promised to bring a "new generation of leaders" into City Hall, in fact, that is the major goal of his candidacy, getting people involved. I'd be very interested to see what fresh, young voices Mayor Dellums would bring to City Hall. Oakland could use some fresh voices in our politics.

B) Ron Dellums' experience in Congress means that when it comes to critical negotiations with the State Legislature and the Federal Government, in particular, negotiating to regain local control of our schools, that we will have a savvy, powerful advocate for the people in the Mayor's Office. That means something. We need someone who has the clout to cut deals that work for Oakland's advantage. Ron Dellums has that clout and that know-how. The City of Oakland, from our downtown to our waterfront to the Chabot Science facility is full of examples Ron Dellums' advocacy in Congress; no one should forget that.

For the above reasons, with all due respect to Nancy Nadel and Ignacio De La Fuente, I support Ron Dellums for mayor and plan on voting for him in the June 6th primary.

5 Comments:

  • Your assessment of Brown's approach to crime is not accurate. Under the leadership of Jerry Brown, Oakland has pioneered reintigration and job training programs that have been extremely successful and are being emulated statewide. In fact, for several years, it was the only city in the entire state where recidivism went down.

    And of course 40% of Measure Y money goes to crime-prevention and youth programs.

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 4:36 PM  

  • Agree and disargree.

    The reintegration program the article highlights is a good program. (Though, to be frank, it's more about law enforcement work with parolees than bringing communities together around community policing and revitalizing our city...which was my point.)

    Despite Measure Y, which all of us supported, we've got 51 murders here in Oakland in 2006 (and counting) compared to 31 last year at this point. Something more needs to be done other than "check in" that the Measure Y money is being spent well.

    Let me be frank. I'm open to a De La Fuente victory. I don't find his supporters or his candidacy unreasonable...and his positions in the face of Dellums and Nadels' challenge have moved in a more community-friendly direction...take inclusionary housing for one.

    What I'm trying to address is a difference in philosophies, in outlook. Jerry Brown was not a Community Mayor. He just wasn't.

    De La Fuente might well become one...but his track record with development and his use of "crime" as his signature/wedge issue indicate to me, in part, how he sees things. Reading the list of De La Fuente's "Safety: Reducing Crime" platform shows that he has a (mostly) law-enforcement oriented approach.

    In my view, crime in Oakland is ALL OF OUR problem, not just police and criminals. And solving crime and making Oakland truly safe is linked to the crisis in our schools...is linked to the mindset that comes from the sense that if you live in the wrong neighborhood in Oakland then "tough for you."

    We've got to change that perception. We've got to expand the pie and get everyone involved. I get that message from Dellums.

    Maybe, come tommorrow....we'll find out whether we'll have a new mayor, or if we're going to continue this debate.

    I welcome either option.

    By Blogger kid oakland, at 9:04 PM  

  • Thanks for the tip, k/o. That helped.

    I'm in 94611.

    By Anonymous FreakyBeaky, at 11:17 PM  

  • Does anyone know in which Oakland neighborhood Ron Dellum's lives? I have been trying to find this out for weeks, to no avail.

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 2:49 AM  

  • I wish California would hurry up and fall off into the ocean. Leave it to California to elect COMMUNISTS like Ron Dellum.

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 5:48 PM  

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