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Pluses and minuses for Dellums

When I finished DellumsWatch, I wrote about my desire to see the mayor succeed, for the good of the city. I don’t think the tone of that blog, started during the mayoral election in response to the Stop de la Fuente blog (now deleted), was productive or positive. The elections are over, and it’s time to move on. I am excited that Ignacio is presenting real legislative solutions to increasing police presence, rather than letting Dellums twist in the wind. Indeed, proposed City Council long-term funding will complement Dellums’ approach, which is focused on short-term grants and special programs, as well as administrative reform of the police department.

However, I can’t ignore Mayor Dellums forever. Recently, two local thinkers presented persuasive and original takes on recent Dellums news.

Much was made of Ron Dellums, Barbara Lee and Sandre Swanson (who are all intimately linked) writing letters on behalf of Your Black Muslim Bakery when it was forced to file for bankruptcy. In a letter published in yesterday’s Express, Malik Russell pointed out that politicians regularly write such letters, and that it’s a vital part of helping constituents. More broadly, he notes that YBMB represents a long-term failure of local institutions:

the main fault should lie at the foot of law enforcement and the institutions that should have held them accountable.

The Express should go through its own archives from 2002 and begin identifying all these individuals who were aware of the wrongdoings at the bakery and in a position to address these issues, particularly from the law enforcement perspective. Attempting to somehow dump the Bailey assassination and tragedy onto the lap of Ron Dellums is a big stretch and seriously unfair.

There is genuine distrust of the white “system” by the black community and black politicians alike, and news media with its sick myopic approach to black politicians tends to make us even more paranoid. The process in a sense is what continually allows organizations within the black community to navigate between the cracks and often maintain no-longer-warranted legitimacy. This happens because as we see in this article, a mayor with decades of good service and integrity can by sleight of hand and one minor degree of association be categorized with murderers and assassins instead of being seen as one of the many whose good intentions were exploited.

Mr. Russell is right that going after Dellums and his allies for YBMB is somewhat unfair, and can seem excessively negative to their base of supporters. However, that does not make it okay for local politicians to aid YBMB. Writing a letter in their support after their misdeeds were widely publicized does not mean that Dellums et al. were somehow complicit in the bakery’s behavior, but it does mean that they weren’t paying attention. Local politicians, even ones that work in Washington DC, should be aware of major issues and controversies in the community. I once had to inform Barbara Lee’s staff that American President Lines, a major Oakland employer, is majority-owned by the Singapore government and that she therefore should not support legislation preventing foreign government-owned firms from operating American ports (APL has two terminals in Oakland). Her staff was suprised, and Ms. Lee never took a position on the legislation (which did not get a vote). Mr. Russell is pretty much right, but he ignores the responsibility politicians have to be aware of the news and public opinion.

Mayor Dellums got a respite of good press when he took part in announcing a regional emergency communications system. My initial reaction was that, in the event of a major disaster, SF and Oakland aren’t going to be able to help each other out. But I didn’t take the next logical step. In this age of global gossip and wireless whatnot, do local governments really need specialized communication infrastructure? Metroblogging SF has an amusing take on this vague and unfunded September 11 announcement.

Apparently, moving radio waves & data between Oakland and SF is just a dream right now, but someday we may even be able to transmit communications all the way to Sacramento and San Jose. This of course requires building a special “emergency” system capable of true cross bay communications, and Dellums & Newsom, by golly, are just the sort of high tech, get things done, dual dudes to take credit for this modern miracle possibly happening.

Pretty lame when you think about it, huh?

It seems that Dellums is having trouble finding his way as mayor. Nancy Nadel predicted this, saying last year that she wouldn’t need “on the job training” if elected. Dellums’ staff has promised “major new initiatives” soon, including an Inclusionary Zoning recommendation (apparently they figure the Council won’t take up the BRC’s suggestions). It’s a bit of mystery – another reason to keep watching.

In other news, the City Council’s Rules Committee (PDF) heard a report today from the City Clerk indicating that, due to Debra Bowen’s decertification of Alameda County’s voting machines, the County may not be able to implement Instant Runoff Voting for next year’s elections. If the IRV procedures are not approved by the federal and state governments by mid-January, we will have a nominating election in June.

Posted in dellums, oakland, opd.