Monday, December 05, 2005

Oakland Mayor Jerry Brown Angers Members of Oakland's Black Political Community

This article from the Oakland Tribune appeared today and sheds light on only part of the real problem. In 2000, I accused Jerry of having problems relating to young, intelligent African Americans who didn't fit a stereotype. I was referring to how he treated me as I headed Oakland's Super Bowl Bid.

The story is part of Oakland legend now, but what Jerry did was constantly ignore -- or attempt to avoid -- me and the matter of the Super Bowl, until he realized it was generating good press. Then, and too late, he jumped on the bandwagon. Prior to that, Jerry would tell me he "didn't have time for me" and other comments.

That didn't stop me from pressing the issue of Oakland's Super Bowl Bid, but his behavior was more than annoying most of the time. I think that deep down, Jerry thinks of himself as "intellectual" in a way that's classically race - based , where people he looks to most of the time fit a kind of mold.

That written, I don't think Jerry wants to be this way, or be regarded as having this problem, but he's not found the proper way to avoid it. Really, all it takes is making people feel special in his presence, as Bill Clinton does. In other words, Bill Clinton really enjoys African American people and culture, where Jerry in my experience seems somewhat disinterested in both. I wish he'd change, for his own good.

African-American leaders seething over Brown

Letter to mayor charges their community has been shut out economically and politically
By Heather MacDonald, STAFF WRITER

OAKLAND — The long-simmering animosity between Mayor Jerry Brown and some African-American leaders bubbled over last week when several sent Brown a letter accusing him of harming Oakland's black community.
The informal group, which includes former Councilmember Dezie Woods-Jones and school board member Greg Hodge, said they sent the letter "to express our profound disappointment with your stewardship of the mayor's office and the resulting negative impact on the health, welfare and vitality of Oakland's black community."

Brown, who is running for state attorney general, dismissed most of the complaints as without merit. Other charges are just a rehashing of old grievances, he said.

"I don't even know how to respond to such misinformed and inaccurate charges," Brown said, adding that he does not think the letter represents the views of the majority of Oakland's African-American residents.

The letter lays out five specific criticisms against the mayor that center on the belief black-owned firms have been shut out of lucrative municipal contracts and the African-American community's leaders are not consulted on issues facing Oakland.

"It's a wake-up call from a large portion of his constituents who feel completely left out of the process," said Hodge, who wrote the first draft of the letter.

Brown acknowledged political differences with members of the group,

especially over development issues such as affordable housing and the push to require community development agreements as part of large projects.

"There are real philosophical issues," Brown said. "But they are not racial. They're political. They're economic."

William "Bill" Patterson said dozens of black-owned companies have gone out of business because they haven't been able to obtain city contracts.

"There's still ample opportunity for Brown to respond to these issues," Patterson said. "It's late in the game, though."

Brown said an ongoing study will determine whether African-American, Latino and Asian companies are getting their fair share of the city's contracts. That study is expected to be completed next year.

"There is not one shred of evidence" proving black companies have been shut out of City Hall, Brown said. "It's preposterous."

Joseph Debro of the National Association of Minority Contractors and a frequent critic of the mayor, said he signed the letter because he was tired of Brown escaping criticism.

"I don't understand why no one calls him on the rampant cronyism and corruption of his administration," Debro said, criticizing Bay Area media outlets for not being more aggressive in covering the mayor.

The letter's harshest criticism is directed at Brown's handling of the months-long dispute over $575,000 in federal job training funds. It blasts Brown for backing a proposal from Council President Ignacio De La Fuente to take the funds from the $3.2 million allocated to the Oakland Private Industry Council and use it for programs focused on ex-offenders.

Originally, De La Fuente (Glenview-Fruitvale) tried to give the $575,000 directly to two of the most prominent houses of worship in East Oakland — Acts Full Gospel Church and Allen Temple Baptist Church. His effort was thwarted after City Attorney John Russo ruled federal funds could only be allocated after a competitive bid process, and with the concurrence of the city's Workforce Investment Board, the council and the mayor.

The letter calls Brown's support of De La Fuente's action "highly troubling" for someone who wants to be California's next attorney general and denounces the mayor for disrespecting the black leadership of the Workforce Investment Board.

Although De La Fuente said his aim is to spread the city's scarce job training resources to all areas of the city, his critics have accused him of violating federal law in an effort to boost his bid to become Oakland's next mayor, and in the process, pitting the black community against itself.

Brown said he understood some of the group's concerns and had been working as a "peacemaker" to diffuse conflict.

"Whenever you hand out a government contract, people fight hard to get it and keep it," Brown said.

Brown said he expects a compromise will be reached in the next several weeks to end the stalemate about the job training funds.

The deal is likely to include a provision to give $300,000 to Acts Full Gospel Church for its Men of Valor program. Earlier this month, Allen Temple Baptist Church received a $660,000 grant from the U.S. Department of Labor, and withdrew its informal request for federal job training funds from the city.

Although the job training funding dispute is on its face a quarrel about a relatively small amount of money, it has crystallized the frustration felt by many in the African-American community during Brown's seven years as mayor.

"It was the tipping point," Hodge said. "These are hard, intractable issues and you want your city's mayor to lead."

As the dispute about job training funds heated up this fall, many of those outraged by De La Fuente and Brown's actions began a campaign to urge former Congressman Ron Dellums to run for mayor. They succeeded.

Many of Dellums' backers — who are quick to note he has broad support throughout Oakland — say they believe he will be a progressive mayor and more inclusive than Brown.

"There have been too many backroom deals, too much cronyism, too many insider deals," said Hodge, who dropped out of the mayoral race after Dellums announced his candidacy.

First Review of Peter Jackson's "King Kong"

If this review is any indication (click on the post link to read it), Peter Jackson's "King Kong" will not only sweep the Oscars, collecting best picture and best director awards, in addition to a slew of technical nods for editing, sound, and cinematography, but it will be regarded as a modern classic. I can't remember when a sci-fi/monster/horror movie has been so effectively formed into a true Oscar contender.

I still think the first Godzilla film deserves a dedicated remake as well. It had much to say regarding technology, war, and nationalism. Moreover, like the original "King Kong", the first Godzilla movie's special effects are still remarkable.

A Great SF / Oakland Bay Area Weekend - Society's Changing

I write to report a weekend in the San Francisco Bay Area. On Saturday, I spent most of my time watching the UCLA / USC game at The Balboa Cafe. Then I went over to The Grove -- a great indoor / outdoor cafe on Chestnut and Avila that I discovered for myself when I was taking a screenwriting class at Fort Mason. After that, I went to the home of my good friends Bob and Barbara to help them trim their Christmas Tree. But what I loved about the day so much was how nice everyone was. The holiday and Christmas sprit was certainly in the air. Moreover, it made me very happy to be in the San Francisco Bay Area and to be an Oakland resident.

I write that society here is changing in that I observe the Bay Area's maturing to a level of social interaction that's certainly hyper-integrated, and yet it not only doesn't matter, people actually want to know each other. Heck, maybe it was an planetary alignment, but I don't think so. Bay Area society has moved in this direction slowly over the past 20 years. It may also be a statement of how life in urban America is changing, since people in our country are so mobile.