Education in Oakland

Archive for the ‘Ron Dellums’ Category

Kernighan Campaigns

Posted by novometro on October 12, 2006

One Friday afternoon, I joined Patricia Kernighan for some door-to-door campaigning in the lower San Antonio. It was late afternoon, and dead quiet. The neighborhood kids were inside playing video games, or watching television. The parents were still at work. Ms. Kernighan and her team of about six middle-aged Vietnamese volunteers accounted for just about all of the action on the hilly streets tucked behind Highland Hospital.

The leader of the volunteers was Trung Nguyen, a former lieutenant in the South Vietnamese Navy who first came to Oakland in 1969 to train at the Navy Supply Base. He returned to Oakland for good in 1981. But not before spending a few years in a Vietnamese prison. Mr. Nguyen pointed to another volunteer and said that the man had been a captain in the South Vietnamese Navy. The man smiled. Mr. Nguyen said that Oakland’s Vietnamese love Ms. Kernighan. If that’s true, it might be because Ms. Kernighan was once the chief of staff to Danny Wan, who represented the district until he resigned in 2005. Mr Wan was known as a politician who built bridges to Oakland’s Vietnamese community.

In her tight race against Aimee Allison to keep her City Council seat representing Oakland’s District 2, Ms. Kernighan is wise not to take the support of any group for granted. Ms. Allison, a smooth-talking political newcomer with a Green Party membership and a Stanford B.A. has been winning over supporters since the runoff race began in June. Ms. Allison, 37, depicts Ms. Kernighan, 57, as a pillar of the establishment.

With a troop of former officers in South Vietnamese Navy acting as her street team this particular Friday, Ms. Kernighan doesn’t even try to shake the image as an establishment candidate — although she protested the Vietnam War when she was a student at the University of Washington, and she opposes the war in Iraq. Only in Oakland could she be considered a conservative. She says she agrees with much of what her opponent says about the state of crime, affordable housing, and job opportunities in Oakland. But she says the political and fiscal realities inside City Hall quickly take their toll on high ideals.

Ms. Kernighan won the council seat after Mr. Wan resigned. She didn’t have much of a political career before that. She was active in her children’s school, Crocker Highlands. She did “volunteer stuff.” She ran unsuccessfully for the school board in 1990 against Jean Quan, who now serves on City Council. “We were just a couple of unknown housewives,” she says. She has a law degree from Hastings, but she hasn’t practiced law in years.

A politcal ally of City Council President Ignacio De La Fuente, Ms. Kernighan did not endorse Mayor-elect Ron Dellums, who beat Mr. De La Fuente in June. I asked her what she thought of the new mayor.

Kernighan: I think it’s going to be interesting. I’m pretty excited to have someone who is going to be more present and engaged.

NovoMetro: What do you think is the cause of Oakland’s crime spike this year?

Kernighan: I don’t think anyone really has the answer to that. It’s kids hitting a certain age. There’s also a new drug. I don’t know the street name, but it makes the (users) crazy.

NovoMetro: What about negotiations with the police officer’s union that would change the hours police officers work?

Kernighan: I think the council is going to be tough on (the police union). Somehow the message needs to get to get to (the union) that people are not supportive of what they are asking for.

Walking down East 27th Street towards 14th Avenue, Ms. Kernighan points to a pothole and says Oakland’s roads are a disaster. (This was before a study was released, which found that they are indeed among the worst in the state.) “The streets are always what we don’t do,” she says.


Posted in Crime, Democrats, News, NovoMetro, Oakland, Politics, Ron Dellums | 14 Comments »

Polls Show Aimee Allison Ahead in District 2, Sources Say

Posted by novometro on September 19, 2006

By Alex Gronke

As I was talking to Aimee Allison this morning in Chachies cafe on Broadway in downtown Oakland, I kept wondering who she reminded me of.

It wasn’t until my partner-in-crime, Priyanka Sharma-Sindhar, and I left the cafe that we figured it out: she was just like every savvy CEO we’d ever met as reporters for Red Herring, a business and technology magazine in Silicon Valley.

It’s a strange thing to say about the conscientious objector and Green Party candidate in the runoff election against incumbent Pat Kernighan for Oakland City Council’s District 2, an area that stretches from the Piedmont border to the estuary, along the east side of Lake Merritt. But Ms. Allison has that controlled manic energy of a Type A personality, not to mention the capacity to stay on message no matter where the conversation leads. Perhaps like any smart politician, she calibrates her personality to suit her audience, but the Stanford grad made much of her corporate background and emphasized her view that Oakland sorely needs jobs and should become a magnet for venture capital. “There should be opportunities for rich folks,” she says.

Ms. Allison, 37, saw her political opportunity when Danny Wan left the City Council in 2005. Ms. Allison finished fourth in a special election held in May 2005 to replace Mr. Wan. But 13 months later, she forced Ms. Kernighan into a runoff race by capturing almost 40 percent of the vote to her opponent’s 46 percent. And, while I have not been able to confirm it, two sources have told me that OakPAC, the pro-business political action arm of the Oakland Chamber of Commerce, which backs Ms. Kernighan, recently conducted a poll in district 2. It found Ms. Allison ahead by five points. That’s an impressive showing for someone whose primary political activity was trying to dismantle the nation’s military-industrial complex rather than working in local government.

I asked Ms. Allison why she thinks she can step into Oakland politics without so much as a bid for the school board or serving time on some citizen’s commission. “Democracy, at its healthiest, encourages people from all kinds of backgrounds. Who are the haters? The haters are people who have been around, people who have been part of the system. It will never be our turn until we assert ourselves,” she says.

NovoMetro: You talk a lot about schools, but the City Council has little control over what happens with the way local schools are run, and your own child attends a private school. What can you do about Oakland’s troubled schools from a position in City Hall?

Allison: Mayor Brown’s [Oakland Military Academy] showed that a mayor can go after funding.

NovoMetro: Doesn’t a charter school detract from the strength of the local school district by taking away funding and students?

Allison: We need to subsidize our school system. We need to identify other sources of revenue. I’m not talking about more taxes. Property owners in this city are already very generous. [Ms. Allison had said earlier that developer’s fees applied to new projects could help fund schools].

At the beginning of our talk, Ms. Allison said that she had gone from feeling safe in her Oakland neighborhood to feeling afraid. I asked her why she thought crime was rising in Oakland. “It’s a vicious cycle,” she says. She describes a political ecosystem that underfunds social programs that direct youth toward employment and away from crime. Simultaneously, it gives too much money to a police department that seeks more resources because of rising crime. She says the Oakland police department’s contract needs to be renegotiated.

NovoMetro: One of your more controversial positions has been to say that you will seek to change the city charter so the Port of Oakland can be taxed. Won’t this hurt one of the largest economic engines in the area?

Allison: That’s the assumption the folks at the port would like you to believe. If they want to act like a private business they should have to pay like a private business.

Ms. Allison said she was going to stay in the cafe to finish edits on her forthcoming book, An Army of None, which she is coauthoring with David Solnit, the editor of Globalize Liberation: How to Uproot the System and Build a Better World.

We’ll be talking to Pat Kernighan soon.

Posted in Democrats, Green Party, News, NovoMetro, Oakland, Politics, Ron Dellums | 4 Comments »

Fast Links

Posted by novometro on August 1, 2006

Oakland Pols Open Campaign Books. Dellums’ bookeeping appears sloppy.

Posted in Mayor, Oakland, Politics, Ron Dellums | 3 Comments »

East Bay Atlantis

Posted by novometro on June 20, 2006


Anyone watching the Al Gore global warming documentary “An Inconvenient Truth” at the UA Emery Bay would have had the uncomfortable experience of seeing large swaths of the East Bay, including the theater they were sitting in, vanish under water on one of Mr. Gore’s Power Point slides.

The camera didn’t linger on the image for very long, so it was difficult to see exactly where the new shoreline would sit if all the ice in Greenland were to melt. But a closer look can be found at this site. It’s a disturbing picture. Lake Merritt is reunited with the bay. Almost all of West Oakland is submerged. Emeryville joins Atlantis.

Often, there is something perversely thrilling about a good disaster map. One that shows the wake of devastation should a meteor the size of a Volkswagen Beetle strike Manhattan, say, or one that outlines the range of a North Korean missile. They are compelling because we know the calamity they illustrate is unlikely to actually happen. But we should look at this map as public officials and citizens in New Orleans ought to have studied maps showing the ruin that would follow a category 5 hurricane hitting the city.

Mr. Gore says that in the next 50 years, it’s quite likely that sea levels could rise high enough to turn downtown Oakland into an island, if manmade carbon emissions are left unchecked. That makes the new mayor’s plan to make Oakland a “model green city” all the more relevant.

Ron Dellums usually casts his plan to promote green businesses and technologies in terms of the economic benefits that would accrue to the city. He is right. Venture capitalists are pouring billions of dollars into alternative energy. Oakland’s own Clean Edge, which studies the alternative energy market, predicts that so-called clean energy technology market will grow from $40 billion last year to $167 billion by 2016.

There’s more than just money involved. During periods in the nation’s history when Congress has been unable to pass legislation opposed by corporate interests, cities have served as incubators for ideas that ultimately become federal law. Chris Rhomberg, a sociology professor at Yale, and the author of “No There There: Race, Class and Political Community in Oakland,” points to the various labor law movements in the United States which have urban origins.

As long as the United States remains one of two industrialized nations not part of the Kyoto Protocol, it will be up to cities like Oakland, which will pay a stiff penalty for ignoring climate change, to act.

Posted in Development, Mayor, Oakland, Politics, Ron Dellums | Leave a Comment »

Six Months and Counting

Posted by novometro on June 19, 2006

"What's going on?" asked a woman with luggage at the hotel lobby's information desk. Even an out-of-towner could tell that this was not a normal Monday morning at the Marriot City Center Hotel in downtown Oakland.

Ron Dellums was talking in the lobby to a handful of supporters and staff before entering the hotel banquet room where some 300 well-wishers and media had assembled to see Oakland's new mayor celebrate the 16th win of his nearly 40-years in politics.

Standing with his wife, Cynthia, in front of the crowd, Mr. Dellums repeated many of the pledges and slogans he made during the campaign. Oakland will be a global green city. Oakland will go forward together. He called for the city to embrace its diversity and for citizens to treat one another with dignity and respect. But he did say three interesting things, that if not entirely new, were at least not included in most of his speeches.

1. He called on the current mayor, Jerry Brown, to reconsider a recent appointment to the Board of Port Commissioners, and allow Mr. Dellums to put his own choice on the board.

2. Mr. Dellums also asked Oakland voters to read the city charter, and consider whether or not an initiative granting the mayor veto power should be placed on a future ballot.

3. One comment that stood out for its concreteness was that he plans to use some of former mayoral candidate Ron Oz's ideas regarding policing Oakland when he tackles the city's rising homicide rate. Mr. Oz, a former police officer, won two percent of the vote against Mr. Dellums. More on Mr. Oz in a later post.

Meantime, there will be six more months of normal Mondays as Jerry Brown transitions out of City Hall even more than he already has. (The last press release on his official mayoral website dates from January 2005. His last blog post was published on October 25.)

Mr. Dellums said Monday that his campaign only got started in the last few weeks of the election. He beat Ignacio De La Fuente, with less money and much less time. The 180 days he has until he is sworn in should be plenty of time to turn his campaign into the beginnings of his administration.

Posted in Mayor, Oakland, Politics, Ron Dellums | 1 Comment »

Dellums’ Day Dawns

Posted by novometro on June 17, 2006

While on the stump, Ron Dellums was fond of saying that Oakland is big enough to matter, and small enough to fix. Now he will have his chance to show that Oakland can be a model city, and he is the person for the job. Even Oaklanders who voted for the other candidates have reason to be optimistic. During the course of the campaign, critics charged Mr. Dellums, not inaccurately, with being vague. But there was something absurd about the idea that more than two decades as a Congressman was not suitable training for City Hall.

In an endorsement for Ignacio De La Fuente, the San Francisco Chronicle made the silly claim that Mr. Dellums would make a better Secretary of State than Mr. De La Fuente, but Mr. De La Fuente would make the better mayor. This is in a city where some neighborhoods greet patrol cars with the same warm welcome that Sunni insurgents in Fallujah show Marine Corps humvees. Forget the yawning class divide between the hills and the flats. If Oakland doesn’t need diplomacy, what city does?

We have high hopes for the Dellums administration, and look forward to covering it.

Posted in Mayor, Oakland, Politics, Ron Dellums | Leave a Comment »