Education in Oakland

The Mayor versus the Media

Posted by novometro on April 27, 2007

Mayor Ron Dellums said Thursday that he will soon announce a new public safety director attached to his office, and that the Alameda County District Attorney has agreed to deputize two city attorneys with the aim of going after “quality of life” crimes like graffiti and troublesome liquor stores.

The news came not at an official press conference, but at a town hall meeting at Frick Middle School. City Councilperson Desley Brooks’ hosting of the mayor in her district represented one of Mr. Dellums’ few public appearances since he took office in January. He used the occasion to briefly mock the news media for obsessing on artificial timetables like the “First 100 Days.”

Mr. Dellums is admirably willing to listen to every voice, every group, every minority population as he turns Oakland into a model city. He said Thursday night that he would sit down with the city’s most significant criminals and listen to what they needed to live honest lives, if they would in turn give the city relief from nightly gunfire.

The mere mention of prejudice in Mr. Dellums’ presence provokes a tap on the sternum with a clenched fist, a narrowing of the eyes, and a repetition of his vow to be a sworn enemy of bigotry. Yes. Everyone has a place at the table – everyone except local reporters. They are the one group it’s still OK to ridicule. When Mr. Dellums speaks of reporters, it’s either as a risible bunch of nudniks, who just don’t get it, or as a malicious force working against the interest of good people. The pastor who swore Mr. Dellums into office asked God to protect the new mayor from reporters.

A column in Friday’s Berkeley Daily Planet outlines a tussle between local media and Mr. Dellums over the names of the task forces the mayor established following his victory at the polls last summer. Reporters wanted the names of the task forces. The mayor didn’t want to release them. The East Bay Express obtained the names this week.

The Daily Planet column works hard to claim that Mr. Dellums was not being secretive by keeping the names of the task forces out of the public eye. The author even suggests that the task forces were not “hush-hush” because better metro reporters, or metro reporters with more time, would have been able to ferret out the names from Oakland’s always gossipy citizens. Thankfully there are sunshine laws that prevent the public from having to rely on the chattiness of officials to learn about the workings of their government.

The author does not say if the Daily Planet asked the mayor’s office for the names of the task forces, and if not, then why not.

The Daily Planet column began like Mr. Dellums’ public address at Frick Middle School Thursday night, with a jab at the previous administration of Jerry Brown. Mr. Dellums told the audience that much of his time has been spent sorting out the sloppy record keeping of his predecessor. The Daily Planet column opens with the claim that Mr. Brown’s administration was among the “most secretive in our lifetime.”

But if it’s true that Mr. Brown was bad with files and secretive, he’s not the only one. The City Clerk’s office said Friday that Mr. Dellums’ host Thursday night, Desley Brooks, is three months late filing her most recent campaign contribution report. Sloppiness or secrecy? Who knows? But at least we don’t have to rely on gossip to find out about it.

3 Responses to “The Mayor versus the Media”

  1. adeline said

    I really don’t know why the Dellums office didn’t want to give out the names of task force members . . . My best guess is that it is because they didn’t tell the individual task force volunteers beforehand that their identities would become public record. But, Alex, give me a break: ANYONE could be on a task force, even the journalists who have taken on this secrecy thing like a crusade, because the Dellums campaign had a sign up on their website and there was a sign up list at every election event. There was nothing secret who was permitted on a task force, and hundreds of Oakland citizens, including some who weren’t Dellums supporters, took him up on that offer and decided to participate. We’re not talking about some secret cabal of out-of-town experts giving arcade advise to Dellums. We’re just talking about a bunch of community activists and neighborhood organizers and political junkies and plain old ordinary Oakland citizens.

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