In this Oakland News this blogger has a lot to say, some of it may not make certain people happy, but turning 50 turns on switches in people, and that includes me.
Specifically, I refer to the Oakland City Attorney’s Race and my personal dilemma regarding whether to support the incumbent Barbara Parker, or current Oakland District One Councilmember Jane Brunner. My problem is tha neither Jane or Barbara is John Russo, Alameda’s current City Manager, and the man for whom the position was arguably designed for. As the District Two Oakland City Councilmember, Russo essentially designed his position and then filled it, winning the right to hold it three straight times. That’s no small sack of potatoes.
Unfortunately, Russo and the current Mayor Jean Quan didn’t see eye-to-eye, and John found his budget cut to the bone and a hostile client. One – and I mean Mayor Quan – who would not even speak to him at events.
The bottom line is that Mayor Quan and much of the Oakland City Council wanted to pursue a more aggressive (and illegal) strategy regarding protecting Oaklanders who grow marijuana for medicinal purposes. Trouble is the U.S. Attorney in these parts, Melinda Haag, wasn’t having any of that, and threatened to sanction the City of Oakland. Russo, who was at one point in favor of the City Council’s position, pivoted to protect Oakland from itself – arguing with Quan and Council, while using his friendship with Haag to keep the Feds at bay for a while.
I could go on about John, who’s a good friend, but I must come back home to talk about the current City Attorney Race. All politics is personal. I’ve learned that over my time in Oakland as columnist, Mayor’s Aide, and head of the Super Bowl XXXIX Bidding Committee that lost the 2005 Super Bowl Competition to Jacksonville. Politics is personal, and that’s especially true in Oakland.
I was all set to back Barbara Parker because so many of my friends in Oakland were behind her – but I have to give this some deep consideration. I have a great deal of respect for Jane Brunner. I remember when Jane was part of the Charter Review Committee in 1993, along with my friend and long-time mentor, the late Richard Winnie, and long-time Oakland District Four Councilmember (and friend) Dick Spees, as well as others like Oakland attorney Zack Wasserman. Jane was a practicing lawyer then, who went on to become a successful Oakland Councilmember, beating Peter Smith, who she considered too “ambitious,” for the seat.
I too remember Barbara Parker, and fondly. My time of aquaintance with her goes back to about 1996, when I started working for Elihu Harris as his Economic Advisor. She worked for Jayne Williams, Oakland’s last appointed City Attorney. What I remember about Barbara was that she was always intelligent, professional, and personable. Unfortunately I wound up in a situation where Williams’ office twice held up my paycheck for six weeks over the matter of whether or not I was a consultant or city employee in 1999, and while I was trying to bring the Super Bowl to Oakland.
It wasn’t something they needed to punish me for; it was an administrative matter that didn’t start with me. Still, Williams and company made it impact my pocketbook. Why? I don’t know.
I had to get Oakland District Seven Councilmember Larry Reid to help me on this issue, since at the time he was also the chairperson of the Super Bowl – Oakland Committee I created.
It’s episodes like that one which make me stop before I press the “yes” button for Parker. In fairness, it wasn’t her fault as far as I know, but it was a big factor in my decision to back John and not Jayne Williams for City Attorney, the other being my friendship with John. Small issue to you, but not to me; that was a painful experience.
Ok, that’s personal. Here’s the professional.
While others have their own checklist, for determining who the next City Attorney should be – like “sunshine,” and medical marijuana, which are important, but really hard to say Jane and Barbara are all that different – but the one fact that sticks out for me is this one: as councilmember, Jane was one of the officials who opposed Russo perhaps more often than is comfortable. Now, she told Make Oakland Better via questionnaire that she preferred to allow the City of Oakland to pick its choice of legal direction, rather than what Russo and Parker have done: make sure the City doesn’t get into legal trouble with its decisions.
I have to agree with the Make Oakland Better folks here: that difference in style can get Oakland in trouble if Jane follows through with her approach as Oakland’s lawyer.
But what does bother me about Ms. Parker comes from people who work in her own office. It’s not so much anti-Barbara, but the constant refrain I hear is “It’s really different that when John was here.” That means morale just isn’t as great as when Russo helmed the office. If I was told this once, I’d not bother to repeat it, but I hear the view again, and again, and again. It’s not a deal-breaker at this point, and because it’s not clear things would be better under Brunner, but there’s a clear problem in the office. It’s not just that Parker isn’t Russo.
It comes from her style, which is not warm-and-fuzzy to some, and I have to throw myself in that category. The model here for someone that Barbara can style herself by is Libby Schaaf, but frankly Barbara just has to be herself – just stop crossing her arms and give a hug or three. While this is a little issue from a policy perspective, it’s a big deal when firing up the troops to move new initiatives is the matter at hand.
I also don’t see that Barbara’s fiscal success isn’t something that Jane Brunner or anyone else would not have been able to duplicate given that the City Attorney’s Budget was coming to a point where layoffs were less than in the past anyway.
But where I do see Parker as a plus is that the office does run, and has done so without controversy. I just wish that Parker would be more of an active player in the matter of the business of sports in Oakland – something Russo could point to with pride.
If Russo were at the helm, I’m almost certain the Golden State Warriors would not have been so quick to throw a party in San Francisco for a stadium that may never be built, and all-but thumbed their nose at Oakland and Mayor Quan in the process, siting a lack of leadership. That comment must include Parker – but perhaps she felt she had to be officially elected before she acted in a more aggressive fashion.
That’s my evaluation, but without an endorsement for now.
I Feel Sorry For Mayor Quan
This is going to come as a shock to some, including her, but I do feel sorry for Oakland Mayor Jean Quan. The basic reason is that Quan’s not very personally popular because of the Occupy Oakland Riots, and her response, doesn’t gain a lot of followers in general, and some in the media have taken to maligning her as a form of sport; but she does deserve much better treatment. This is where I do feel sorry for Jean, because if you give her your time and your ear, you will find a very interesting, smart, and engaging person.
I can say this because she and I had what must have been a 30-minute conversation at Awaken Cafe during the First Friday / Art Mumur of August. I can’t say what we talked about because I told her I would not do so, but I can report that it was wide-ranging, and more-often-than-not quite funny. It’s not that I’m getting soft, but I am starting to hold a distain for people who act as if they have to hate someone, rather than dislike an action they took on a specific issue.
But the one things Jean needs to work on is listening better – on a scale of 1 to 10, Mayor Quan’s about a six. Quan was so busy talking about her views on various subjects, that when I mentioned my birthday was coming up, she didn’t say “Happy Birthday.” It’s little things like that lack of a “Say, Happy Birthday Zennie!” that can cause people to move away from, rather than toward, an elected official, either personally or professionally.
Chauncey Bailey: Bey Family Steps Forward To Finger Oakland Police
On Sunday, I sat down to talk with John Muhammed Bey and Ali Saleem Bey about the murder of journalist and friend Chauncey Bailey on August 2, 2007. Here’s my video from the scene of the crime..
And below is my talk with Oakland Post Editor And Publisher Paul Cobb on October 31, 2008, where Cobb said that Mr. Bailey was investigating the Oakland Police on an illegal search and seizure claim, and he said that OPD had “infiltrated Your Black Muslim Bakery” and said I could put “two and two together.”
Well, the Bey Brothers filled in the blanks in dramatic fashion, pointing a finger at OPD and calling for a new investigation of the department’s actions up to, during, and after Bailey’s murder. The Bey Brothers point a finger at current Oakland Police Chief Howard Jordan as knowing more than has been revealed to this point. I said to the Bey Brothers that I have to ask Chief Jordan about their claims – whether he’ll answer my question is something else entirely. But here’s the entire 37-minute video:
I am personally not sure if the OPD conspiracy theory holds, but I do agree there are still a lot of holes, and that it’s wrong for only one person or small group of journalists to try and muscle others out of the way and leave the matter of investigating what happen to Chauncey to themselves.