First Impressions: Mayor’s State Of The City Address

After watching Oakland Mayor Ron Dellums deliver his annual address this evening, we know he needs a better speechwriter or at least some practice time beforehand.  The Mayor rambled from grandiose goals to program details, and back again.  He highlighted the grant money hunt and barely pointed to the elephant in the room – the tough budget cuts and potential taxes ahead.

The most cringe-worthy moments arrived when Mayor Dellums uttered the words  “model” or “model city.”  We regret not keeping a running tally, but estimate at least 50 times or so.  Not surprisingly, he escalated to “the model city is our destiny” at the wrap.

On the flip side, we liked when Dellums threw out hella-love for Oakland because that’s what a mayor should do.  One highlight was when he bragged about our new-found restaurant hipness, declaring that “Oakland is nobody’s country cousin.”  Here, here!

We trust our first impressions, so here are address highlights:

  • Most “come on” moment – The Mayor proclaimed his four years as a foundation and starting point.  Like all politicians, he wanted to burnish his legacy, claiming the 10 percent reduction in crime along with hiring Police Chief Anthony Batts.
  • Truly transparent words – Dellums admitted that local politics are different than D.C., because true cooperation’s needed here.  He pointed to civic-minded, common citizens as the linchpins connecting elected officials and city bureaucrats.  Yes, the Mayor called ’em bureaucrats.
  • Rah, rah for home team – Hey, we might keep the Oakland A’s in Oakland.  The City recently pitched to Commissioner Bud Selig “with dignity, respect and confidentiality,” reported the Mayor.  Now we’ll wait and see.
  • Yup, the port city – We kinda liked this part, when the Mayor declared “let’s stop the City and Port dichotomy.”  He wanted the port to grow by serving the middle of the country, a worthwhile sentiment.  And he dissed Seattle, saying it’s nice competition but too far away.
  • We beg the best – Dellums bragged about our $19 million COPS money from Uncle Sam, the most received by any U.S. city.  He continued to highlight many, if not all, local programs receiving federal stimulus money.  It’s good but old news.

Since Mayor Dellums doesn’t do public appearances that often, we relished watching his very long address on KTOP (Channel 10) this evening.  He should have quit while he was ahead rhetorically, rather than develop a supremely bad case of logorrhea.

Happy New Year To You

Here’s to a happy and prosperous Lunar New Year to you, in the year of the tiger!  This weekend, we went to a special Chinese celebration of Oakland volunteers and it was so heartwarming.

Traditional lions danced to their large drum, with front and backseat drivers directing them through the audience and up to the stage.  The hungry felines expected an offering, and District 4 Council Rep Jean Quan presented a lettuce head to them.  Properly and fully satiated, our lions departed for other New Year’s celebrations throughout the city.

Then it was time for honoring an amazing volunteer line-up.  Rep Quan introduced some 45 individuals and groups who, in turn, described their motivations with the audience.  Generally, these volunteers improved their physical environments, focused on local kids, or brought together neighborhoods.

Several volunteers received small monetary awards, which go a very long way for people who really need them.  One winner, Tony Colman, runs a non-profit bike shop where city kids learn all about bikes and repairs.  Winner Cora Sue Anthony heads A Season of Change, which recruits youth to do home staging – and their floral decorations even made it to the White House!

Also we appreciated the long-term contributions of Eddie Dunbar, who oversees the Insect Sciences Museum of California, and Dale Hagen, who serves as Peralta Hacienda’s president.  And the Cleveland Cascades, near Lake Merritt, were nearly forgotten until Barbara Newcomb and Jim Ratliff began their reclamation work.

What hit me is that volunteers share a certain indescribable spirit.  It’s a marvel to see how many people are motivated to contribute for years and years, simply because they want to improve our city.