According to a good source, Oakland Mayor Jerry Brown has been looking for a home in San Francisco's Pacific Heights for "The better part of the last year," this person reported. "Oakland's served its' purpose (for Mayor Brown)," they said.
This confirms the beliefs of some observers of the Oakland poltical scene who -- as far back as 1994, when Brown moved into his warehouse home on 2nd and Harrison in Oakland's Jack London Square -- said "He's just here to run for mayor and remake his image." (In 2004, Brown moved to a loft home in a converted Sears Department store off Oakland's Telegraph Avenue.)
Jerry himself touted the move as signaling that he's "ready for community." In a speech given at International Transpersonal Association Conference, Santa Clara, California, on June 10, 1995, Brown was recorded as saying "As our lives are commodified, we go further away from the essence -- which is inside, which is in friendship, which is in study, which is in being alive! The simplicity, the radical openness of the way life could be is being crushed by the way life is and the way it's being organized. If we're to take our political awareness and engage in transformative action, first we have to see -- then we have to act. The way to act is to be here -- be with other people. And in some small way, I'm starting to do that in Oakland. I used to live in a firehouse in Pacific Heights and I have moved to a warehouse in Oakland. I have thirteen bedrooms and nine bathrooms. I'm ready for community!"
Apparently, he's gotten sick of it ten years later, at least in Oakland. But I think it's a signal that indeed, Oakland did "serve its' purpose" and Brown's ready to normalize his life, which means a return to his real neighborhood, Pacific Heights. Unfortunately, for him, well-known advertising executive Hal Raney sold Brown's old converted firehouse home (which he bought from Brown for about $1.1 million in 1996) to John Traina for $4 million in 2005 , so he can't go exactly right back where he started.
As CNN reported in 1998,"a (Oakland mayoral) victory would mark an unconventional, if modest, political comeback for Brown, now 60. In 1995, after three failed bids for the presidency, he sold his mansion in San Francisco's posh Pacific Heights and moved across the bay to Oakland's gritty waterfront. There he started up We the People, a nonprofit community center for grass-roots activism, and hectored his old rival Bill Clinton and other politicians on a national radio call-in show. Last fall, to the horror of other would-be mayors, he announced his candidacy.
So was Oakland used? Yes. Only Oakland -- a city where our residents seem to take little pride in how well their government representatives know it (note the head of the Oakland Chamber of Commerce doesn't even live in Oakland, he lives in Tiburon in Marin County across the Bay, and over 50 percent of Oakland's police officers live outside of it) -- could allow itself to be "taken" by a political outsider who knows nothing of the city , yet has massive name recognition, and seeks to remake his image. This is not a Ron Dellums story, as Dellums was litterally drafted by over 7,000 Oaklanders (ok, some Berkeleyans, too) desparate for leadership they could trust. By contrast, Brown was pulled into the Oakland Mayor's race of 1998 by no one but himself.
But it does make one ask "Will the real Oaklanders please stand up!"
Brown's whole effort to give his poltical image a facelift by using Oakland caused me to create a song five years ago. Sang to the tune of "New York, New York." It goes like this:
Start spreadin' the news, I'm leavin today. I want to be a part of it: Oakland, Oakland
These Governor's shoes. Are longing to stray Right through the City Hall of it. Oakland, Oakland.
I want to wake up. In a city, that -- goes to sleep. And find I'm king of the hill. Top of the heap.
These Moonbeam blues. Are melting away. I'm gonna make a brand new start of it, in old Oakland!
If I can make it there, I'll be President... Anywhere!
It's up to you. Oakland, Oakland!
I suppose one could exchange the words "Attorney General" for "President" in the song, but I digress.
More and more, former Mayor Elihu Harris looks like the best one Oakland's had in a long time: someone who actually lives in and cares about the city, yet didn't divide the town's black and Latino residents, as current Oakland Council President Ignacio De La Fuente has a tendency to do.
But what gets me is the news that Jerry's basically had his head out of Oakland even as he has served as its Mayor, looking for property in San Francisco for much of 2005. No wonder I've seen him at The Balboa Cafe and other spots not far from Pacific Heights. He may have just come from house-hunting that day. Yes, I know he's campaigning for the open position of California's Attorney General, and he may win it, but that doesn't mean he has to leave Oakland.
He should stick around. Oakland's a great city to live in.