Monday, January 12, 2009

Mayor Dellums, We Still Need More From You

I haven't been a big fan of Ron Dellums, but I left the door open in this blog's inaugural post to my optimism for a renaissance in the Dellums administration. The Chinese character for "crisis" is a compound of "danger" and "opportunity", and this is exactly that for a mayor that seems to most residents of Oakland to be using his office as a retirement perk.

Yes, Dellums turned up to calm the crowd the night of the riot (let's call it that; a protest doesn't involve setting things on fire). So far so good; one point for Ron. And his administration has stepped up with funds to help those business owners hurt by the riot. Good! Two points for Ron.

But we need more, much more. While justice is slowly enacted in the investigationof Johannes Mehserle, along with the now-incarcerated losers who used Oscar Grant's death as an excuse to burn their neighbors' cars, Dellums must keep very, very visible. The window for action is sliding shut. Obama is building confidence by appearing constantly on television in the days leading up to the transition of power; Dellums can do much the same thing by appearing daily, shaking hands around the city, and giving a transparent plan of attack for how we can keep this from ever happening again - not only the tragedy on BART, but the public reaction to it (driven apparently by outsiders) as well as the violent crime that has plagued Oakland for years, somehow without sparking the same outrage. I haven't seen nearly enough of Dellums on the news to convince me that he's putting forth enough effort. In contrast, regardless what you think of Gavin Newsom's handling of the Olympic Torch visit - I personally disagreed with it - Newsom is about as hands-on a mayor as there is, and I grudgingly admired how involved he was with the execution of the relay that day. After the drubbing that Oakland's reputation has taken, business owners will take some more convincing that Oakland is a good place to grow a business. Broadway and Telegraph downtown really have the potential to be a great entertainment district, but restauranteurs looking for a new location are going to be understandably nervous at this point. The mayor can do something about that.

There are two things that are not helping. The first and most disgusting is the airtime given to the goons from the Nation of Islam to speak for the people of Oakland. To put a fine point on it, Nation of Islam is on thin ice to act outraged over the killing of a black man. I'm also disillusioned that at a time like this Dellums is talking about a position with the Obama administration. Not only does this break an unwritten rule of cabinet picks (if you want the job, you don't talk about it) but it shows that the mayor's focus is not where it must be: on Oakland. My fondest wish is that with the next blog post I'll have to eat my words.

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