Saturday, July 17, 2010

Oakland News: Oakland Mayor's Race - thoughts on the forum before video

On Thursday night July 15th, a change in flight plans enabled this blogger to attend the Oakland Mayoral Forum on Public Safety. Here are some thoughts from the distance of Georgia before the forum videos go up.

First, former California State Senator Don Perata's making a huge mistake by not showing up to the debates. As I've explained to Perata, and the other Oakland mayoral candidates when I've talked to them, its very important to have as much internet exposure as possible that's self-generated. Instead, Perata's allowing others - once again - to write his script for him. Come November, it's going to cost him dearly.

As a joke, someone - perhaps longtime Oaklander Pam Drake, since she took that photo - placed a chair next to the candidates panel with the words "Don Perata" on it. While they also should have had one for Oakland Mayor Ron Dellums, because Dellums is just that he's making his own media just by working at being Mayor, even if the media approach is clumsy at times.

Second, this is the first time in Oakland's post Equal Rights Amendment (1974) history that we've had more than three white guys running than at any time since the 70s: Perata, Greg Harland, Don MacLeay, and while he's of Middle Eastern-decent, demographically still considered white, Joe Tuman. If you count Mayor Dellums, Orlando Johnson, and Dr. Terrance Candell, that's three African American men (so far), two women, Councilmembers Rebecca Kaplan and Jean Quan, with Quan being the only Asian American candidate for Mayor of Oakland.

Overall, this is a great development in Oakland's history of diversity. While someone reading that sentence may laugh, the bet here is they've not been in Oakland longer than 10 years. I've been here since 1974; Lionel Wilson was Oakland's first black Mayor in the late 70s and since then each election has generally had more black candidates than white or any other race or ethnicity.

This one's different.

Third, I resisted this idea of ranking performance of the candidates, but here goes, and to send a message to those at the bottom to do better, and at the top to not get comfortable. From one to nine, Joe Tuman, Rebecca Kaplan, Don MacLeay, Jean Quan, Orlando Johnson, Greg Harland, Terrance Candell, and Don Perata and Mayor Dellums, both who should have been there.

Dr. Candell's a great man and a friend who's video interview with me is live and coming to this blog by Sunday. But his bombastic, theatrical performance totally upset the two women I was sitting next to and they said so in my video - and they were just part of the crowd who didn't like his approach.

Dr. Candell has a great cheering section of people who love him without condition, and that's a beautiful thing. But Terrance is running for Mayor of Oakland, and that means he's got to give the people what they want, or else he loses.

By contrast, Joe Tuman frankly sounds like the best candidate. Again, sounds. The problem with the forum is it's one that's geared to an opinion-centric approach. You have no idea how Tuman's going to handle a complex issue as Mayor from the forum. But Tuman tells it like it is, and has a way of "cutting to the chase" of a problem, and the people in the forum liked that.

Jean Quan has a lot of experience and a big fan base, but she hurt herself by appearing to be too mean. If she wasn't grimacing over what Rebecca Kaplan said on Measure Y, she was not looking at Joe Tuman when he spoke, chosing to wear a "Do I have to sit next to him" look on her face. Councilmember Quan's got to stop this approach. It's not making her look warm and fuzzy; more like someone you'd expect to pull out a Glock.

Rebecca Kaplan did very well and I don't write that because our issue is over. Yep. She apologized and that's enough for me. But even if Kaplan had not, this blogger would be forced by sheer honesty to give her an affirmative nod. Rebecca was particularly clear and intelligent in her knowledge of programs available to help curb the sex trafficking problem - the first question of the forum.

What hurts Rebecca Kaplan  just a bit is her quasi-support for the gang injunction issue, saying she would take action to "to make sure that we're not criminalizing" people of color, is a way of admitting the policy does just that.

Don MacLeay and Orlando Johnson did well by not trying to parrot answers or come up with new, novel ones that might get them into trouble. Both stated where he was coming from openly, in opposing the gang injunction and in general giving simple, direct answers. Where both Don and Orlando can improve is in his overall explanation of his knowledge of the tools available to the Mayor of Oakland.

Greg Harland is a great person.  A kind man. But he makes statements regarding those less fortunate that make one cringe.  He told a story about a fight that he said he witnessed, then broke up a week ago.   The way he delivered the story made him sound like the "white night" flying it to break things up between minority youth because he was identified as "the Mayor."   Harland's take didn't go over well with the crowd.

In general, the people running for Mayor of Oakland present a good, strong group that gave the packed Lakeshore Baptist Church crowd an excellent discussion on the problems of Oakland and how they would address them. Not bad.