How do you say anything intelligent in two minutes?

Even after 24 years as a father of boys I have no idea how to do that.

Now try this question:  What inspires you to run for Mayor and how will you better coordinate the city government with the school systems in order to provide a better educational and economic situation in Oakland?  (I am paraphrasing)

Two minutes.  GO.  Give it a try?  Try to even understand that question in two minutes.

Welcome to the third major candidate debate, this one hosted by Laney College.

If you are looking for something you can read in two minutes, this is not your blog.

This blog is on the whole event, the candidates, one by one, and add in some considerations about where Oakland is going and what I think is at stake.  This is not the 2 minute sound bite version.

I had not been in that Laney theatre since I was a student at Laney the second time in 2006.   On my way from class I saw a crowd and some press and invited myself in.  I was asked if I was with the Press.  That is what all the other white males carrying laptop bags were doing in the audience section.  There were a couple other non-African Americans on stage next to Ron Dellums.  He was accepting being drafted into a run for mayor.

In many ways I see that moment when we drafted Ron Dellums for mayor as the beginning of the slow motion disaster for progressive politics in Oakland that continues to this day.  So I found it ironic to be back in that same theatre for another mayor’s debate eight years later. Richmond continues to move forward, Oakland less so.

Each candidate got their two minutes of fame.  All went over; I timed it.  A Siegel supporter glared at me every time the 2 min buzzer went off. He was sort of like a second timer.

The theatre at Laney is not very big. Seats 200 or so? It was not full. I was hardly one of the few whites in attendance this time. There were a lot of the familiar faces one sees at these events and a lot of individual candidate supporters, self-included.

The event at Temple Sinai was an exception for its quality and high attendance. The event at Laney had gone back to the rule. It is amazing how few people these events reach. One group that was not in attendance in great numbers was Laney College students. There were no great numbers. I usually hope that these things be webcasted. Not this time.

After the 3 minute each of our two minute introductions we got questions in a basket.  Each candidate got to draw a question and have another two minutes of brilliance.

WHO wrote those questions? I had to lean forward in my chair and could not take notes fast enough to write some of them down. They all sounded something like:

Given the work that Peralta College has done to promote racial and economic background diversity in employment focused education, how would the city coordinate in a manner to see that these programs are sufficiently and equitably funded?

That is not an actual question, but they were all long and complex and sounded like that to me. I started to imagine multiple choice questions where I am supposed to fill in the bubble next to the funding policy that the school wants you to support.

two minutes…..

My fellow Green Party seat mate was wishing that 8 PM could come soon.

Then we were off to round three with questions from the audience.

My question was: Do you support a Police Commission with hire, fire and discipline powers? THAT was never read.

Mr Burris was our MC / moderator and he did something that could have been great during this part of the debate. He called on different candidates on different subjects, sort of talk show style. It would have been great, but it was not because it became a discussion between him, Siegel and Tuman.

The result was far from great. At one point Burris called on my candidate, Jason Anderson, asking him about taxing the port. Anderson said that there are billions of dollars flowing through our port but the port is effectively exempt of the business taxes all the businesses of Oakland pay.

To counter he called on Parker, who is a Port Commissioner, and let him ramble on in an answer that started with bait and switch and ended with a total plug for an un related PR ploy. The worst of it was that Parker said that Anderson was wrong because there are only 600 million in port fees collected. Of course Anderson was saying that there were billions of dollars of business flowing through the port, not billions of dollars of port fees. If there were not billions of dollars in those containers, there would be no money for hundreds of millions of dollars of port fees. Then Parker went on to say that the Port pays a lot of debts, the airport part is sort of its own money and totally left Anderson’s point begging. None of those things get my little business or any other, out of paying Oakland Business Taxes, which are based on GROSS REVENUES. Finally Parker started to talk about how some of the jobs at the (yet to be realized) Oakland Army Base project will go to Oakland Residents.

Then Burris did not give Jason a chance to respond. My advice to Jason Anderson later was that it was a good time to stand up and demand a chance to answer. The word BULLSHIT would not have been out of place at that point.

Much of the talk show back and forth was aimed at Joe Tuman. I got to say Joe did not handle it very well, but he also was being defined by the questions, not his own policies. He did get a chance to point out that police misconduct cases were a good business for both Burris, our MC and Siegel, the candidate that Burris kept counter pointing him against.

In all of it there was a basic upgrade of how the candidates presented themselves. Sort of a lost opportunity since they had not done a very good job at the much better attended, organized and moderated debate at Temple Sinai.

Dan Siegel did the best job putting his own views out there. In an event moderated by a fellow civil rights attorney, it would have been sad if he had not. But much to Dan’s credit he spoke clearly and put a few major points out there. He got a couple good laughs, a couple applauses and did a good job of making fun of a question that was so long he did not want it to count against his allotted two minute answer.

Mayor Quan and Council Member Schaaf were both clear and concise for the short amount of time they were on stage. This event had been moved from a mid-day event for only a few candidates (the ones with money) to an evening event with many candidates right when Council Committee work was scheduled. Schaaf did a good job of describing her background of service and was the first to take the mike, stand up and speak clearly to the audience. Quan spoke this time with the skills that got her elected mayor and before that supervisor and before that school board member.

Points have to be marked for Anderson, Ruby, Parker and Sidebotham for clear speaking and making good points. Parker should get the nod for most improved public speaker and finally sounding like someone who is seriously running for mayor with a reason to do so. Anderson did well, even when his nickname “Shake” came out as “the Snake” from Burris. He did well talking about not only his roots in Oakland, but also the history of being a black person in Oakland. Anderson also got a couple of good crowd responses especially when he said that in his home his mother did not “allow them to be stupid” in a good context. Ruby and Sidebotham both held their own as public speakers one should consider for Mayor with good descriptive opening lines and direct addressing of the issues.

Tuman is still disappointing me. I know Joe and I know he has a lot behind is ideas. He is an intellectual, yet he comes off as the guy who ignores the studies. At one point he was telling Burris that after the show he could send him links to important studies. Burris answered that he needs to tell it to us, his audience. My point entirely. It was really not Tuman’s crowd, and when he asked a rhetorical question of the audience some attendees shouted out YES when he expected a NO. (There were a lot of Greens and Siegel supporters there.) Overall his word choices and comments were too intellectually based in an argument that was not an intellectual challenge.

Then we had Liu, Washington and Williams. I do not know what to say. As a supporter of a candidate without big money backing (a job that I held myself) and an advocate for a better democracy than we have, I think it is important that all voices be heard.

Not all voices deserve to be voted for.

Burris failed as a moderator, yet I think he really had something to offer. With some reflection on fairness and bringing people’s own voices out, he could apply his skills and knowledge of the city to other public debates. Calling Shake “the snake”, messing up Washington’s and William’s names and constantly not knowing Liu’s name was really not cool. Reminded me of Amy Allison.

His back and forth, talk show style, shows promise in a public forum practice drastically in need of some new methods. Maybe forum with only one question, and then a back and forth with all the participants with Burris drawing people out on their views would be very useful. I have to thank him for making himself available for this 2 min sound bite joust.

Let’s just remember that this is still early days. Ballot qualification is months away after the June Primaries. (don’t forget to look for the Green Voter Guide for those primaries)

So let’s also remember that I am writing an opinion piece here as I take the candidates in alphabetical order with what I think they had to say and my reactions and comments:

Anderson: Our Green Party candidate made a very clear point when he closed. He said something along the lines of not being a wealthy man and not aspiring to be one. That was in stark contrast to everyone else on stage, a few of whom were boasting about their business success as a qualifier for office. From Parker to Siegel most of the candidates are well off indeed. Shake put his campaign into the context of wanting to be “Town Mayor” which for him means a mayor that is part of the whole town being mayor; the whole town should have a say. He had more to offer, but did not get a chance to speak much of it. He did convey that there is a need for the resources to be pointed to the public and that he had no time for projects that did not have a clear public benefit. Good point. I know too much of his programs and ideas to know how well it was conveyed that night. I really liked his closing statement where he framed the “town mayor” idea.

Liu: His ideas were mostly about using a game that he has invented to teach people to become successful capitalists, like him. It was in his answer to most questions. Speaking to him at the tables before the show, I asked to be on his mailing list. No such thing. His website? Oakland Wiki. He did have a handout, mostly about his game. Other views? I am not really sure. Party affiliation?

Have you ever heard of someone called Tymiński? He was a Canadian-Pol who ran for president of Poland when Walesa was first elected. His campaign was based on having made a mint in Canada and being willing to show Pols how to make it under capitalism. Walesa came in first, Tymiński second and Poland’s very competent prime minister, Tadeusz Mazowiecki, came in thrid.

Watching Liu speak I was reminded of Tymiński. If we were in Europe, I would have called him a Tymiński and people would know what I meant, maybe. and

Unrelated to Liu or the Oakland Mayor’s race Walesa went on to be an ineffective, right wing catholic president of a corrupt administration that caused Poland to backslide a bit economically and lead the post-Soviet world in taking away women’s rights, such as abortion rights. Mazowiecki was probably the best candidate, but he found himself supporting Walesa in the run-off in order to keep a crazy like Tymiński out of office. There is a very big difference between Walesa the union leader and Walesa the president. One of Poland’s main growth industries under Walesa was the sex trade. They did what they could to tear down the social state and take away free education and health care. Eventually Poland joined W in the invasion of Iraq when even German and France would not.

Parker: As a center right businessman and Port Commissioner he is a very typical candidate for Mayor in any US city. He came out and made a good clear stand for a position somewhere between Siegel and Tuman on Police staffing levels. He made the very obvious point that a viable police force and community policing go hand in hand. What we did not get in 2 mins was exactly what he would do in community policing or how he would keep that police force accountable. No one else did either. When talking education and technology he was talking about the next Mark Zuckerberg coming from Oakland. He was much clearer on what it means to be a young black person trying to make it while facing discrimination and other barriers. He talked of the contrast between Travon Martin in a hoodie and Mark Zuckerberg, also a young guy in a hoodie, and how young black people are not on the track to success. He talked about including program coding and advance computer-sci at Laney as stepping stones to success.

We have already had a center right competent liberal mayor, his name was Jerry Brown. I am not sure how, or if, Parker would stand up for the 99%, not sure at all. I also found that talking about the next Mark Zuckerberg is a distraction when talking about thousands of Oakland youth not getting the education they need to take the jobs given to Indians on special visas by companies that get sweetheart tax deals while our schools starve for funds. The very schools that he is asking to produce the next Mark Zuckerberg. Currently they don’t fully help us get the next IT tech.

Quan: The Mayor came back to her personal commitment to education. She has that claim and it would be unfair not appreciate her commitment there. She made two good points in her introduction and one question.  That is 4 scheduled minutes that she stretched to seven.

1 we have 5,000 recently released inmates to work with.

2 the State of California left our Oakland schools more in debt than they were when they took them over because of our supposed financial miss-management. That is several dozen millions of dollars more by the way. Quan said that she wants the state to pay that money back.

For a forum on education, these were important points.

Quan has been in office for 20 years now. The woman whose supporters claimed was “new on the job” during the Occupy fiasco and as a defense against a recall is part of the status quo. 8 years on the school board, another 8 on the council, including as budget chair, and now 4 more as Mayor. Her points are good, but what is her record and why do her supporters think she is still credible? When I was at her campaign table I met friends of mine who still support her.  The Block By Block group behind Jean is something of a local political party and may well get her reelected. I wish it were more out in the open. We never think if Jean as being part of Block By Block or talk about her in the context of this movement she leads. Are they the progressive leadership of Oakland? Are the progressives currently in office?

The Block by Block Organizing Network has a web address with no pages and much of what I saw on Jean’s literature table was reports from the city of Oakland. To contact them I suggest

In the end I think the argument with Quan from the Greens is how to be a successful, effective progressive and what does being a progressive mean?


This is a discussion we need to have among residents of Oakland in a more global way. Have we all forgotten the Dellums administration?

Ruby: She made very clear that her top priority is crime and that she supports more police staffing. She also put forward some of her work as the city’s “watchdog” and included her better administration of the Auditor’s office as her reference points. She made an unpopular, but important stand against spending on ball parks, or anything else, that does not “pencil out” in the city’s favor. I wonder how she feels about the Army Base and Upper Broadway redevelopment plans. She did a much better job in this debate showing herself as a centrist, competent government advocate and something of a reform Mayor if elected.

One has to ask then about her friends at the Chamber of Commerce among the developers? Why is she different from Schaaf and Tuman? If she has opinions on restorative justice, taxation, job training, etc, there was no time in her 2 mins for it.

Schaaf: Libby got the least time of anyone. She had to leave for committee work. So she only her 2 min intro. In that short time she rejected the idea that crime is “an urban tax that we need to pay.” She talked about investing in the police and working on root causes and said that every child needs to graduate from High School. She also supports the same min wage petition that Siegel has made a cornerstone of his campaign.

Those are all good points, but who is against them? Moderators of future debates might have a question or two for Ms. Schaaf on these issues. Does she think Oakland can lower its crime rate more than the national trend? HOW? Of course that is a question that all the would-be mayors should find time to answer.

Sidebotham: Nancy is a clear speaker. A couple of times she stated the obvious, but not mentioned. When she put aside the questions of educational number and crime number and boiled it down to “what is our quality of life” I felt she was going somewhere. She framed her answers in the context of our national problems and how our economy is suffering from globalization. Her attitude seems to be one of social solidarity, albeit from a pro-business perspective, and good government as a way for Oakland to weather the storm. That has been the view of the French Republicans (what we call Gaullists) for about forever, but we are not in France, and she did not say how we should deal with the social economic sociopathic market fanaticism that holds so much of our national politics hostage. Is she supportive of some national movement?

These again are discussion points for all the candidates, not just her, and in a better discussion I would like to see her explain what dealing with globalization means for the actions of an Oakland Mayor.

Siegel: Dan made two things really clear that night. First is that he is belligerent on the minimum wage, and second that he has an actual staffing plan for the Oakland Police. Inside two minutes, he did not get a chance to describe either with any detail. Who could? As far as I can tell it is the only staffing plan on the table other than the mayor’s plan, which is policy.

Dan’s plan gets a mention on the safe streets page of his highly produced, very developed website but it is not the detailed, numbered, plan he sketched out in the debate where he had a layout for the staffing levels building up from the local detachment. It is probably the best proposal Dan has made so far, the most concrete and I hope he will put move of it into print.

The current administration, Quan, and the current police leadership have, to their credit also put out a concrete plan, which is our city’s current official policy as far as I can tell. I think candidates proposals need to be compared to that plan as they are running against that incumbent mayor.

Most recent report to the public safety committee

1. View Report.pdf, 2. View Supplemental Report.pdf (both important)

For the whole meeting, go here:

Siegel made mention of his well-deserved reputation as an activist and civil rights lawyer. He did not make mention of his long standing links with about all of the status quo Oakland pols in the orbit of Jean Quan. He was also not challenged on his involvement in the KPFA civil war.

For another candidate long involvement in local government would be listed as one of his qualifications considering his experience on the school board and in housing. Yet that was not mentioned. It IS on his website in detail. The status quo is pretty unpopular and he is selling himself as a change from the status quo. So when did he stop being part of local leadership? What is he going to do different? He talks about how he wrote the community policing ordinance that is not yet implemented. Well, how would he implement it after two mayors he supported did not?

Dan talked about having been a Freedom Rider back in the day. I wish he had used those words, but he described it. That was an impressive thing to have done and a major action to his credit. Siegel spoke openly and well about poverty and racism at the forum. He cheapened it in my view by talking about Sterling and the Basketball scandal but on the whole put forward the ideas we on the left tend to have consensus around.

He made some other concrete proposals. He wants to the culinary academy in Oakland to become “world class” sounding a bit akin to Dellum’s “model city.” He also wants world class broadband. He cited work done in city provided broadband in other countries, but not in San Leandro. That makes me think Dan does not have an advisor who actually works in the IT sector.

In 2006 I was a Dan for Mayor Supporter. That campaign was short circuited by the Dellums campaign. Thus I saw Dellums speak at Dan’s home. At that time Dan put forward some ideas on community use of school sites as civic centers that I found very intelligent and I stole them for my own campaigns. Those ideas did not become policy under Dellums or Quan. Mixed use of schools was on his laundry list of things at the debate, but not core. Dan got a lot more than 2 mins to talk with Burris calling him back multiple times.

I have some Dan inspired questions, which are again questions for any candidate. What is WRONG with local government? Is it just the policies? Is it the social class and racial focus of the services? Is there something wrong with our practice of government? Are we dividing everything up into bureaucratic turf? Is there something wrong with our democracy? What would Dan do differently? When I hear Dan say these great things and talk this great talk, I ask how is this going to be any different than the mayoral terms of his good friends Dellums and Quan.

Tuman: Joe has made a couple of things clear. First and foremost is that he will fund the Oakland Police to pre-recession staffing levels and put law enforcement as the sine qua non (without which nothing, or the absolute pre requirement) of any city plans. He has an argument there and many people in Oakland feel the same way. With current crime rates how do we work on the schools? How do we get people to move/stay here? How do we get businesses to invest here? Those are Joe’s questions that all deserve an answer. Unlike other center right candidates he came forward as a qualified yes on a minimum wage hike. He wants a study and a plan.

The rest of the Tuman message needs some messaging. What exactly is the Tuman view on police misconduct? What would he do ab out it? What would he do with the thousands arrested every year? What to do with those released? If there is to be a Tumanist message, what is it?

Tuman and Schaaf are member of Make Oakland Better Now. Tuman is keeping the faith of that group by sticking to his police staffing levels. Seems that Schaaf is too. Not far from them politically are Ruby and Parker.

So why the hell are these four running for office against each other? If Schaaf stayed on council, Ruby at Auditor, Parker on Port and they ran Tuman for Mayor they would have a powerful team. They could form a local Oakland, municipal level political party.

That is a political party that I am glad that they do not have because I do not agree with the policies. We cannot arrest our way to social peace and the Measure Y non-profit request for proposal method has not given us workable alternatives. What we need is activist government that makes solving these problems the way local government works, not just another liberal program. But I am a Green, so….

Washington: I know nothing of this guy and I learned nothing about him at the debate. He did not say anything others did not say. He did show some insider knowledge, and if I were an insider, I would probably know more about him. He said that we could go to his website to know about who he is, and thus did not use is two minutes to tell us. Washington said some of the basic things almost every business sector person says about government waste. There is some real truth to that, but I found it limited. He also spoke against the disunity of government, leadership vacuum in council and laid some of the blame at the feet of instant runoff voting.  His main thing is that he has worked in a lot of private and public agencies and feels he could offer better leadership to the city. If he has a good case for being mayor, he did not make it.

I am still not very decided on IRV myself, but I find most of the critics seem to think that someone else would have won otherwise. I am not so sure. Had Perata gone to the second round with Quan, I think Quan would still have ended up Mayor because Don Perata had big negatives.

(at some point ask me about Proportional Representation, the voting method used all around the world that our two party monopoly is doing everything to avoid)

Williams: I went to Mr. Williams’ table to meet him before the debate. He seemed friendly, but somehow expecting people to respond to him in a certain way I did not catch. He really reminded me of a church deacon who was an important person among those who knew him. He made a lot of comments about getting tough on crime and constantly said that changing the zoning would bring in the money and the jobs. He may be right about that. Currently zoning amendments are up in front of council all the time and in my view zoning amendments is one of the practices of the council that should be audited. That does not make a mayoral campaign. He seems a great guy, conservative, and wears some kind of star thing on his lapel that reminded me of the Masons. Some of what he said made me think he was a Vietnam era vet, but I am not sure. I am very sure he is a Vet, as is Jason “Shake” Anderson. Any others? His speaking style went into a ramble and he did not get much through with his two minutes. Not knowing how to bullshit in 2 mins is no bad mark on anyone. In my view he was making economic improvement via zoning changes and cracking down on crime all too simple and I do not believe in simple solutions for complex problems in Oakland. And I am not a conservative. In a more democratic Oakland, we would probably have such a person on council.

In all the talk I felt that some things were missing the mark.

School was spoken of as vocational (often treated as correctional or remedial by education bureaucrats), entrepreneurial or just plain academic degree success driven. (How many graduate high school, how many go to college, etc, more degree, more better) Siegel talked about having our culinary academy being “world class” which is fine, but where does one learn to be a health inspector or comply with a health certification? To its credit, Laney pays more attention to the next IT geek and health inspector than our candidates did.

What left me begging was certification and qualification all hands around. When someone get skills training the path to a job is often dependent on those skill certifications such as the Microsoft Certified Professional programs, low voltage certified electrician’s license, contractor’s license, etc. This forum was on education and not one question or answer was about certifications. As a working class graduate of a machinist program I do not see opportunities for today’s youth that I had 35 years ago.

There was also a silence on diversion programs for those arrested, and integration programs for those released. Only Mayor Quan made any mention on this. Yet we were talking about crime, education and jobs?

When it was over the place cleared out faster the financial district on a Friday with snow in the Sierras. I chatted a bit with folk and then went to fetch my bike for the ride home. I would have more than two minutes to pedal through the hot summer evening air and reflect on what I had just watched.

Passing under what is now the 12th street overpass back to Lake Merit I came upon the same homeless folk I saw when I got there. They had added to their numbers, and even had a motorbike of some kind parked among their bicycles and shopping carts. Some pads were down with people sleeping on them. I found a sense of perspective leaving an event attended mostly by middle class, college educated, secure followers of Oakland politics.  Who represented the folk under that overpass? Who witnessed among that population? There are reasons that I am a Green.

We did not mention homelessness during the event at all. Yet it is one of the core difficulties affecting the jobless and many of our students.

I decided to go the long way around the lake and enjoy the lights and then made a commitment to myself to write this very long blog.


About The Author

18 Responses

  1. Len Raphael

    Don, speaking entirely on my own without any research, and not as strong supporter of Bryan Parker, has someone done the research on applicability of the Oakland business tax to the Port?

    I once did a superficial research of the State tax law to see if Oakland could tax non-profits operating in Oakland. Kaiser Hospital, Anthem Blue Cross?, Sutter Hospitals come to mind.

    Under California state law local governments cannot impose a net income tax on any real person entity of any kind. In my quick search and a couple of inquiries, that tax prohibition also seems cover the imposition of the gross tax tax on any entity exempt from CA income and franchise tax.

    I haven’t checked, so I’m only presuming that the Port of Oakland as a quasi government entity is exempt from California income or franchise tax, and by extension exempt from Oakland business tax.

    I’d like to be wrong because I think the Port benefits to Oakland itself are disproportionally small relative to the costs, environmental and economic. it is very good for the region. It could be much better for the city if, for example, the city set up free trade zones for light manufacturing/assembly near the Port. But trying to tax the Port is a lost cause without the support of the California legislature and probably a State wide proposition.


    Re your comments on candidates, you seem to have forgotten how much candidates without public speaking experience can improve over the course of a campaign. Joe Tuman was a talking head and SF State professor for years. Quan, Schaaf, and Ruby all vets of multiple campaigns, fund raising dinners, Council meetings etc.


    How can we demand/insist that all Forums be webcast, even these early ones where some of the candidates are finding their public speaking sea legs for the two minute sound bites that these forums really are?

  2. r2d2ii

    A+ for effort in this piece. Not nearly such a high grade for content, spelling, punctuation and grammar.

    In particular I wonder just how useful it is to use words like “progressive,” “centrist,” “center right,” “liberal” and so on with regard to Oakland mayoral candidates. If such words are used they should be clearly defined and their utility identified within the context.

    Some information is just plain wrong. Joe Tuman used to be a board member of Make Oakland Better Now. Libby Schaaf was a member long ago. I doubt very much that that organization has a clear view on much that’s going in terms of policy in Oakland, outside of having pushed for some financial reforms, more cops and more ceasefire. The organization
    seems very much tied to working with the Oakland establishment, however, and one current board member is a strong supporter of Libby Schaaf for Mayor. In other words, this is not particularly a change-oriented group as far as I can see.

    The main thrust of the piece is right on, however, and needs mentioning again. Thus far the mayoral forums have been very poorly designed as ways for voters to better understand the candidates and the possibility for change that each might offer.

    My own view is that many, if not most, of the candidates are not change candidates. Too many of them like Quan herself, Siegel, Schaaf and Parker are so deeply tied to the existing establishment in one way or another that change is very unlikely to result from their election. These are folks who sometimes can talk the talk but it’s very doubtful whether they can walk the walk. They are essentially CYA types, sometimes good with soundbites, and essential risk-avoiders. Any real change agent in Oakland will have to take real risks.

    Ruby is indeed in a way a member of the establishment but she has made a career locally of challenging that establishment. The Oakland establishment is absolutely without integrity and Ruby has demonstrated real integrity as Auditor. Integrity as in telling the truth.

    Tuman is smart and creative but perhaps too heavily burdened by his habitual good manners and diplomacy. I think Tuman could bring about some real change but he’s got to start kicking ass and taking names. He won’t succeed as Mr. Nice Guy.

    I would only wish that “Shake” would shake himself hard and start making some very strong arguments about what the Green sensibility might do for Oakland. Maybe he never could get elected in this town which likes to think of itself as “progressive” but which is really deeply reactionary, but he certainly could enliven the debate.

  3. Pablo

    Doesn’t this website have an editor?

    Macleay should have limited his commentary to something that could be read in two minutes, because I just wasted 12 minutes reading this and learned less than a minute’s worth about the candidates or issues.

    And any serious candidate should be able to express succinctly their views within the two minutes. Plan ahead for what will be asked and have answers ready to go. A two hour forum should allow each of the 15 candidates 8 or 10 minutes. At the end of the forum, poll the audience and only the top 10 move on to the next debate. Then marginal candidates like Tuman, Anderson, Washington, and Schaff can stage their own debate.

  4. Paul B

    So Don Macleay thinks Mr Williams “seems a great guy,” and has the demeanor of a deacon or veteran or Mason. This is absurd and irrelevant and shows that what these candidates say and how they look is basically meaningless. Williams should be judged on his actions, his history. Wouldn’t it be worthwhile to remind readers that Williams is infamous for shooting a teenager who he claims was intimidating him? Instead we are told that “He seems a great guy.”

  5. Len Raphael

    R2, Is your basis for saying Bryan Parker is an “essential risk-avoider(s)” strictly his public policy statements at forums and on website? Have you ever talked to him at meet and greets? Ever look at his school and work background?

    His forum statements are bland. To me that’s more a combo of inexperience at public speaking and wanting to get elected in a ranked choice environment. His resume shows he’s a person who was not afraid to job changes that would be very risky for anyone, not to mention a lower middle class African American.

    The other “viable” (and i do hate that word but fund raising = viable) candidates show the only “risk” they ever took was running for office.


    You say Ruby has “made a career locally of challenging that establishment. The Oakland establishment is absolutely without integrity and ubRy has demonstrated real integrity as Auditor. Integrity as in telling the truth.”

    Run that by me again, phrase by phrase.

    By challenging the local establishment, are you referring to her potshots at Reid and Brooks? Hardly what I’d call a substantial portion of the local power structure. i’d call it a shrewd political move to attack two politicians whose loyal voting constituencies are in low turnout districs but who are seen as disreputable by white voters in high turnout districts that come in handy when running for any city wide office.

    i know you are extremely careful with your choice of words. I did some poking around and came up with this definition of integrity in the leadership context: “A more specific definition of leader integrity is the definition and operationalization of behavioral integrity developed by Simons (2002) and adopted, with some adjustment, by Palanski and Yammarino (2007). Simons (2002) defined behavioral integrity as the perceived pattern of alignment between a leader’s words and deeds. Behavioral integrity refers to both a pattern of consistency between leaders’ espoused values and their actions and also the extent to which promises are kept (Simons, Friedman, Liu, & McLean Parks, 2007).”

    An antonym of political hypocrisy.

    So it’s not the same as personal integrity which means honesty, lack of moral or financial corruption.

    Ruby, certainly has personal integrity. With some notable exceptions, I’d say that was true for most of our city officials for the last decade (I know my pre 1920 Oakland political history much better than 1920 to 2000 period)

    Political leadership integrity, is another story.

    i simply don’t see Ruby as any different from most honest, well meaning, ineffectual, politically expedient Oakland elected officials of the last decade.

    Sure, compared to her predecessor, Roland Smith, she’s an angel of personal integrity. But has she either internally or contracted for any audits that came up with any significant amounts of waste or misuse of funds since 2006 when she beat Smith? A few hundred thou here and there.

    What dollar percentage of city contracts did she audit? (I don’t know but I’m looking into it)

    At one of the forums she declared she’d pay for more cops by reducing waste but Matt Artz called her on that claim and she reportedly couldn’t answer.

    Why did the audit of the Fox Theatre take years to complete? What good is an audit of something that might even be past the statute of limits to pursue violation?

    Why didn’t she audit some of the truly big ticket cost items for the city? According to her website she has an extremely broad mandate to question any City financial or contract performance matter.

    So why in her 7 years in office didn’t she investigate where the 900 million of real estate tax override revenue collected over the years go. Supposed to go to pay down the PFRS ancient retirement obligations. PFRS pension board went to court to get an answer but court said they had no standing because PFRS retirees were getting their benefits paid. For all we know most of it went to Goldman Sachs. Ruby had the authority to answer that question for all of us and didn’t do a thing.

    Then there are decades? of sewer taxes collected by EBMUD. But we’re told the sewers are falling apart.

    Her Measure Y “performance audits’ were an audit of how well the MY entities documented their spending, not how well they performed at reducing violence. At the least she could have audited the performance of the evaluator hired by MY .

    But the topper was her recent “sounding the alarm” on the city’s pension obligations. Truly shutting the barn door after the horses have bolted. No, I don’t count that milquetoast analysis without strong recommendations preceeding the Council’s decision to kick the PFRs funding problem down. the road.

    Hase Ruby ever gotten up in front of City Council to criticize the total lack of long term fiscal budgeting?

    If Ruby wasn’t all show and no go, she would have had the backbone to yell and scream years ago about some of the above issues.

    Now she wants us to make her Mayor because she seems so much trustworthy than the other politicians.

    She seems trustworthy because most voters have not the slightest idea of what a city auditor is suppose to or could do. And Ruby has a great smile and an award winning website.

  6. Len Raphael

    Correction and addition:

    Change “compared to her predecessor, Roland Smith, she’s an angel of personal integrity” to “…. political integrity”

    add: If she’s looking for waste, why didn’t she audit the political sacred cow called the OPD overtime expenditures? Huge item, lots of simplistic selective data released but no comprehensive audit of how it’s spent, who gets OT, and how it could be reduced. An audit of that would both annoy OPOA and many police supporters.

  7. jpm

    Wait, what?

    “((Dan Siegel)) cited work done in city provided broadband in other countries, but not in San Leandro”

    Dan clearly cited Chattanooga, Tennessee for city provided broadband in that debate. While it may be true that the author considers Tennessee another country it does not seem to fit with established facts.

  8. r2d2ii

    LR–You make some excellent points. Your sorts of observations, however limited they are to certain candidates, are exactly the kind that need to be made about each and every candidate for elected office in Oakland. Such observations are what should be widely discussed here in many media in order for us to elect some really competent leadership. Profound thanks are due to Don Macleay for getting the ball rolling on this on this site.

    I think you are right on regarding the mediocrity of our establishment candidates. Most of them have never had any employment in which they have had to actually accomplish complex long-term tasks. I also think you are attempting to draw much too fine a line between two theoretical kinds of integrity. There is a salient point about integrity in Oakland, whether you call it personal or political, which has to do with saying things publicly for which you take actual responsibility, admitting failure and so forth. How can Oakland have so many governance failures when no one in public office, if they are to be believed, has ever made a single mistake?

    On risk-taking–I think it’s a critical aspect of leadership for Oakland. Change will not come easily and any competent new leader will make many mistakes. Integrity is all about accepting responsibility for screwups so that they may be remedied. When you have an establishment in which no one ever admits a failure, there is no motive for changing direction and making real improvements.

    I do think that Bryan Parker has some real accomplishments in his career (any real accomplishments require risk taking); I would just like him to take some political risks in his campaign beyond advocating things like bitcoin. I think both Ruby and Tuman have had real careers of accomplishment where they have had to make commitments and then follow through towards getting something done. All other viable, sufficiently-financed, candidates should be subject to the same sort of scrutiny about actual accomplishments.

  9. Len Raphael

    R2, forgetabout any particular local politician admitting mistakes. I’d settle for the City Council attaching a statement to the new and unimproved Measure Y for collective mistakes in lying to the residents about the original Measure promise of funding 60 community cops, when the fine print only promised to budget for 60 cops. And a line or two about how Measure Y programs (according to public testimony by the chief outside evaluator of Measure Y), no matter how beneficial to individual participants, was never designed to measurable reduce city wide violent crime.

    But that ain’t gonna happen because the politicians, non-profits, police union seem to think the only mistake made was not to have a better public relations campaign letting us all know what a great job Measure Y does.

    (btw, if you’ve ever listened to Parker outside of the forum speed-dating situation, you will notice how often he says we have to be willing to try new policies that could well fail. I can’t think of any local pol ever saying that.)

  10. r2d2ii

    LR–Yep, as I said, it’s all about integrity.

    To go a bit further I would say something about the banality of evil a al Hanna Arendt.

    Oakland’s electeds by never taking responsibility are responsible for a lot of destruction of lives in this town.

  11. Oakie

    Thank you Len and r2d2ii for contributing your analysis to this thread.

    What we have here, at the highest level, is a clusterf$uck of insanity and you guys are working hard at using rationality in extracting meaning out of it. Without denigrating in any way your contribution, the old “how many angels can fit on the head of a pin” comes to mind.

    Does that make sense? Measure Y is a perfect example. As Len points out, the people at the taxpayer’s feeding trough think the only problem is that their PR wasn’t effective enough. Only 10% of taxpayers think the spending on OPD and policing is well spent. The voters are asked to vote on Son of Y (unrepentant as it is toward its monumental failures in accomplishing what its goals were) at the very same November election at which we decide who the new mayor will be come January. We are choosing whether to collect this tax not having any idea who will be in charge of spending it. Insanely, 66% plan to vote for it any way. [Bang head against wall now]

    Have we heard any of this addressed head on by any candidate?

    I am particularly miffed by the failure of the city to effectively use the Shot Spotter system. Over the last two years we have had over 8,500 guns fired, presumably illegally, in our city. That averages out to a gun fired every 2 hours. 24 hours a day. 7 days a week. 365 days a year.

    And yet we know within seconds of each and every gun shot event that it occurred and the exact location. And we do absolutely nothing with this information except provide the data, months after the fact, in nice little reports which are entirely ignored. The most recent data available is from February. Here it is almost the middle of May.

    I understand that it is very difficult to see what is in front of our noses. That is the human condition.

    My question is whether this gun violence is the single most important piece of our crime problem, and are we interested in putting a major dent in it?

    Let’s suppose there is an effective (and by that I mean cost effective) way to do that. Would we be willing to do that? If we did that, would not all the other crime problems become far more manageable? Would we then be able to see the light at the end of the tunnel and finally, finally, be able to envision ourselves as the Brooklyn to San Francisco? With better weather.

    We collect about $20 Million each year from Measure Y. I can think of a much much better use for that money if it were solely dedicated to that purpose.

    I have read a great deal about the New York Miracle. I am convinced that if we effectively made this effort that the result would be a dramatic reduction in guns fired in our city

    Criminals have agency. They are not dumb. The way things are right now, there is no penalty whatsoever for firing a gun in Oakland. The chances of being caught and prosecuted and taken off our streets is vanishingly small. Search YouTube for “Oakland guns” and watch how the guys with the guns have absolutely no fear of being caught.

    These people would pay attention if 5% of gun fire events resulted in an arrest. I’ll also bet dollars to those cop-eaten doughnuts that those arrests would result in capturing many people wanted for other crimes, mostly violent, as well as parole violations, etc.

    You put a dent in the number of violent criminals on our street fully ready to fire loaded weapons and all of a sudden our crime problem becomes manageable.

  12. Oakie

    If you would like to see my Amateur Hour production of a slide show about the beginning baby step of the New York Miracle, here it is:

    This is based on the first couple of chapters of Fixing Broken Windows by Kelling and Coles.

    At that time, the subway system lost over $120 Million per year for required graffiti abatement and lost revenue. The first target of the NYM was putting an end to the graffiti in the subways. They were in a far deeper hole than we are in Oakland, as you will see from the slides circa 1980-1989. Know hope.

    I understand that hipsters may want to avert their eyes. OTOH I have known a few hipsters who are perfectly happy to make trips to New York and enjoy the fruits of the NYM, making it the safest large city in America (in 1990, it was the most crime ridden large city in America), so they can pose in the pseudo-dangerous edgy mean streets of New York.

  13. r2d2ii

    Oakie–right on!

    Where is the outrage in the Mayoral candidates about the destruction of life that goes on every day in Oakland?

    Don Macleay’s original post pointed in this direction: the forum questions are all about “angels dancing on the head of a pin.” They are all about having a polite, all-too-civilized discussion tiptoeing carefully around the topic of day-in, day-out murder. Murder which continues the cycle of poverty and crime, one causing and reinforcing the other over and over again.

    I once exchanged an email with Joe Tuman about the outrageous conditions of violence for the poorest of us and he said he agreed “one million percent” that it was an outrage that we have refused to do anything significant about murder in Oakland.

    But where is Tuman now? Where is the outrage? Everything is polite, all buttoned down.

    I would wager that the first candidate for mayor who lets out some anger and outrage about murder in Oakland is going to absolutely change the character of the debate. As it is there’s not a lot of actual alternatives to the fumbling along of a Jean Quan, all business-as-usual. What is wrong with these people? What is wrong with all of us?

  14. Len Raphael

    r2, Tuman and Parker know darn well that voters might be angry, but they want their politicians to be upbeat and smiley. Countless times after a D1 council race forum, someone would come up to me, thank me for making the forum interesting, say something about well I understood the issues, and then say they wouldn’t vote for me because I was angry and angry people couldn’t work with the rest of the city council.

    Funny how many voters thought the City Council was dysfunctional because they weren’t civil to each other.

    Oakie, I’ll visit your links tonight.

    Meanwhile, I opened my snail mail and found a couple of election mailers. Waste of time reading them because they don’t give any detailed platform info, but I did anyway. Big list of well known endorsements by incumbents.

    Politicians begat politicians

  15. Onoymus

    For the record, I accepted Don Macleay’s challenge and tried to answer the question he posed at the beginning of this rambling blog piece. It took 10 seconds to think about an answer and about 1:45 to express it. Any candidate for Mayor should be able to answer that question in 2 minutes easily. If they can’t, they don’t know enough about the basic issues of the city, schools, budgets or politics to be worth my vote.

  16. Don Macleay


    Longbeach has a tax on port traffic and a couple places in CA have a tax on Airport taxes.

    I think you are right about the tax on net income.

    The local business tax is not that, it is a tax on gross activity.

  17. Don Macleay

    So please post it.

    I used to do this and I was good at SOUNDING GOOD in a two minute sound bite.

    Did this debate do anything to clarify where the candidates stand on education? I think not.

  18. Oakie

    “a couple places in CA have a tax on Airport taxes.”

    Oh, the thought……. progressives must have their heart aflutter at the thought of being able to tax taxes.


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