Dellums promises Oakland revival
By Heather MacDonald
OAKLAND - With the hopes and expectations of a city riding on his shoulders, Mayor Ron Dellums publicly took the oath of office Monday, becoming Oakland's 48th mayor.
In a fiery and eloquent speech, Dellums pledged to end the violence that has long plagued Oakland, limited the city's progress and stained its reputation.
"Let us unite to bring peace to the streets of Oakland," Dellums said, bringing the standing-room only crowd at the historic Paramount Theatre to their feet. "Peace is about justice, and we have a responsibility to bring justice to the streets of Oakland."
Dellums, 71, reiterated his pledge to turn Oakland into a model city by eradicating poverty and establishing the right of every citizen to a healthy life, including access to health care and freedom from crime and drugs.
"I challenge all of Oakland to see itself in larger terms," Dellums said, adding the city's economy must thrive for his vision to take root.
Dellums acknowledged his goals are lofty, and pledged to give Oakland his very best -- saying he knows no other way.
"We will find the money," said Dellums, adding he would get on a plane to ask his former colleagues in Congress or Microsoft Chairman Bill Gates for help if necessary.
Without notes, Dellums spoke for about 20 minutes at the end of the three-hour ceremony that included an introduction from Congresswoman Barbara Lee, D-Oakland, and a videotaped tribute from poet Maya Angelou.
"Let us have the audacity to say to the nation and the world: This is how it must be done," Dellums said.
With those words, the mayor launched a week-long celebration that stretched into Monday night with a black-tie gala at Scott's Restaurant in Jack London Square.
The dozen scheduled events, including an evening of music and dance Wednesday night and hyphy-soul showcase Thursday night, are expected to cost $554,000, with corporate sponsorships footing much of the bill in return for a discreet mention in the invitation and signs at the parties.
Those contributions include $50,000 each from AT&T and Kaiser Permanente. Comcast, TV One, the Port of Oakland and HMS Host each gave $25,000, while Clorox, Safeway and Forest City Development gave $10,000, said Mike Healy, the mayor's spokesman.
The city spent between $40,000 and $45,000 on Monday's inauguration, which also featured a performance by the Oakland East Bay Symphony, said Karen Boyd, a spokeswoman for the city.
The inauguration was a homecoming of sorts for Dellums, a native of West Oakland and a graduate of Oakland Technical High School. Dellums represented the East Bay in Congress for 27 years. In 2005, he came out of retirement to run for mayor after 8,000 Oaklanders signed petitions urging him to return to public life.
At the start of his speech, Dellums thanked his wife, Cynthia, for her support, calling her the love of his life, and asked the crowd to give him a "swift kick" if he allows his marriage to suffer because of the demands of his job.
"My heart is very full at this moment," Dellums said.
As he did throughout his campaign, Dellums reached out to teenagers and young adults, reiterating his pledge to appoint young Oaklanders to each of the city's boards and commissions. The mayor also pledged to establish a "great collaboration" with the Oakland school district, saying public education is crucial to democracy.
"It's time for us to step up," Dellums said. "Most kids live and die by public schools."
Since his June election, Dellums has established 41 task forces designed to study all of the issues facing Oakland and to offer solutions.
Dellums said his first priority in office will be to implement the recommendation from the public safety task force to redefine and expand community policing while addressing the root causes of crime.
That's exactly what Pamela Scruggs, one of many Oaklanders who arrived at the Paramount more than an hour early to ensure she'd get a seat, wants Dellums to do.
"He needs to make Oakland a living zone, not a dying zone," Scruggs said.
While the audience bathed Dellums in adoration, he reminded them he is only one person.
"This is not about Ron Dellums," he said. "You just asked an old guy to come out of the comfort zone and play one more game."
Unlike his predecessor Jerry Brown, who offered a four-point plan in his inaugural address, Dellums did not list his priorities, saying that would be a "cop-out."
"We cannot afford the luxury of focusing on just four issues," Dellums said, adding he's prepared to be judged on those terms. "We must focus on all of the issues simultaneously."
Despite his work on the national and international stage as a fierce opponent of apartheid, the Vietnam War and the Reagan and Bush defense policies, Dellums said being mayor of Oakland will be his fiercest challenge.
"Being mayor is not about potholes and street signs," Dellums said. "If that's what you think, no wonder we've got serious problems. It's about quality of life."
Beverly Wilson, one of the first people to line up in a receiving line outside the Paramount to greet Dellums, said she isn't worried about Dellums meeting the huge expectations that mark the beginning of his tenure.
"He has given people hope," Wilson said. "Not hope he can do it, but hope that we can do it."
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