We’re approaching the final months of Ron Dellums’ first year as Mayor of Oakland, and he has stated how he thinks big city mayorship is a harder job than the US presidency. His relationship with the mainstream local press and media has definitely been cold, and the really negative articles about him written by SF Chronicle columnists such as Chip Johnson and Matier & Ross are reflective of that. However, that relationship might be changing, and Chip Johnson wrote some interesting thoughts on a conversation he had with the Mayor recently.
I for one appreciate that Oakland now has a progressive, passionate Mayor with real vision. He leads in a very thoughtful way, and it shows in his approach to specific issues, such as public safety. Oakland has one of the highest murder rates in the country, and the struggle to stop the violence occurring in our city everyday is an issue that must be addressed (not to mention racist killings like that of Gary King, killed by the Oakland Police Department). It is also a very complex issue with no simple solutions. Dellums has been criticized for not providing concrete details on his plans for lowering the homicide rate; people think he’s straight up “not doing anything.” However, he recently announced his plans to hire 25 Street Outreach workers from East and West Oakland whose jobs will be to steer Oakland youth away from crime and drugs and into recreation programs, education and jobs. The idea is that these workers will be experienced in conflict resolution and social services, as well as being from the neighborhoods they would work in, thus giving them the cred they would need with the community to try to stem the violence. This is an idea that makes so much sense, but is completely different from the generic solutions to crime that you normally get that call for “more cops, more arrests, bigger jails,” all of which Dellums has repeatedly said he will not pursue.
This is the difference that you get with Dellums. I get the sense that he doesn’t want to just appear like a strong personality in front of cameras and press conferences, he genuinely wants to do what he can to make Oakland the “model city” that we all know it can be. He wants to take the time to think and plan out a course of action, so that the plan is the best one. However, he’s always said that he is only one man and can only do so much by himself. If we are invested in a prosperous future for all of Oakland’s residents, we all have to do our part. Time will tell if Dellums’ approach does in fact translate into results. Its still early in his term and I for one am willing to give him the benefit of the doubt.