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.

Oakland Mayor Looking For Fed Funds

You probably missed this!  Earlier today, Mayor Ron Dellums appeared on NPR’s Tell Me More.  We caught this national radio interview because KALW aired the program in its noon slot.  You can still listen to the 12-minute podcast, where he makes his pitch for Oakland.

If the goal is to get our fair share of federal funds, then some national exposure supports the cause – and the Mayor hammered the need for jobs, jobs and more jobs.  “We have to invest in infrastructure, education, health care and research,” said Dellums.  “In solving the problems, you generate employment.”

NPR - Tell Me More

Michel Martin, an experienced journalist who has reported for ABC Nightline, asked several direct questions about local governance, the Oscar Grant aftermath, state and city budget matters and, finally, Dellum’s overall aspirations.

  • Executive Role: She probed the Mayor about his transition from the U.S. Congress to the local level.  Dellums responded that his first public role was as a Berkeley City Council member, back in the 1960s.  “Coming back isn’t new or strange but it is different,” he explained.  “It’s the executive branch [and] all of the problems ultimately manifest themselves at the local level.”  He admitted this is a very difficult job.
  • Circle of Violence: Diving into the Oscar Grant killing, Dellums felt the “pain we echoed 40 or 50 years ago” and the same issues of violence and trust.  Regarding the excessive force, he said the integrity of the community is at stake and that “there are a lot of issues that have to be addressed”  like poverty, education, jail, health, etc.
  • Balancing Budget: When asked about the California budget crisis, the Mayor identified the “significant revenue impact on education, health and redevelopment.”  This could be solved by looking for help from the federal government and also cutting significant local programs.  There’s no choice because “we have to present a balanced budget.”
  • National Scene: Dellums is one of 24 mayors currently working with the U.S. Congress on economic solutions.  At this point, he feels strongly about the jobs stimulus because most of the city’s ills can be solved with putting people to work.

We smiled when reporter Martin asked if the Mayor wanted to join the Obama administration.  “I have a job and it’s a very taxing job,” said Dellums.  “I’m trying to paint a vision for Oakland coming together.”  Of course, his plan is to bring federal dollars to the model city.