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Tuesday morning's funeral for the late Oakland Tribune columnist Peggy Stinnett was sad as one could understand just how much a part of the soul of Oakland she was by listening to the words spoken about her. As if to underscore that, a number of Oakland's long-time journalists were there, especially people from the Tribune staff both former and current, like sportswriter Dave Newhouse and Oakland Historic Preservation expert Annalee Allen.
Oakland Post Editor Paul Cobb, a friend of the Stinnett family for 45 years, gave an excellent speech worthy of posting here when I can get a copy of it. (I asked) And there were a good share of politicos there, lead by Berkeley Mayor Tom Bates and former Oakland City Manager Henry Gardner.
As one can imagine with this assembly of people there was more than the usual talk about what's happening in Oakland. A few people I kibitzed with at the reception following the ceremony - and who shall remain nameless - focused on the constant disappointment that has been the Office of The Mayor Ron Dellums.
The people who talked were in a good position to know what they were saying as they worked for and are friends with Mayor Dellums. So what was said wasn't meant with malice but with concern.
The problem has been a constant revolving door of people. From the much-liked and talented Chief of Staff Dan Bogin, who left after just six months on the job reportedly saying "this isn't for me" to now former Chief of Staff Dave Chai who's been transferred to "somewhere in the City of Oakland" and reportedly protected by the City Administrator Dan Lindheim. In Chai's case, the talk was that he was more of a policy person than a political staffer; he'd never been a chief of staff before and didn't understand what it took to be head of the mayor's staff, which calls for managing people.
In fact, managing anyone in the office was a challenge according to my sources. The reason Marisol Lopez was placed in the position of Chief of Staff to replace Chai was that she, along with the Mayor's wife Cynthia Dellums, orginally controlled the Mayor's itenerary when Lopez was scheduler. Then and now "Cynthia controls his schedule" one person in-the-know said. "She goes through and marks out places she doesn't want him to be."
That can be crazy-making for anyone who's in the position of aide to Dellums. If one has an event the Mayor should attend and Cynthia Dellums marks out that event, the aide, who generally makes a promise to someone that the Mayor will attend, is left looking bad, which reflects badly on the office as a whole.
The bottom line is Ms. Dellums should step out of the way, but "She sees it as looking out for Ron" as my sources put it, so she won't do that. Reportedly, Mrs. Dellums and the mayor's now-former spokesperson Karen Stevenson got into a lot of shouting matches, but my source claims Stevenson was the focal point for many of the staff arguments and is why she was let go in 2007.
From Karen Stevenson:
Regarding your Peggy Stinnett column on Mayor Dellums, in fact, Cynthia Dellums and I got along famously the entire time I was in the Mayor’s office. Screaming matches…simply false. As for being fired…also untrue. I resigned. I was a contractor so the contract from the City of Oakland to my business is a matter of record. The contract was for six months and I stayed on an additional month due to the garbage strike. Once that was resolved…I returned to my business. For the record, I hand-picked David Chai and Paul Rose as my replacements…and had many meetings with both of them, along with Mayor Dellums and Cynthia, prior to my leaving. Who do you know that is fired that meets over two months with their successors?
Gossip is just that…gossip. It’s amazing to me that someone (your “source”) feels a need after two years to perpetuate lies. That says a great deal about your “source.”
The picture I was given was one of an office in a constant state of chaos almost from the moment Dellums' moved in. It's sad and it all flows from the Mayor himself, who's well-loved. "He got a call from (Democratic Senator) Chris Dodd who told him he placed Oakland on the first list for funding aide," my sources said, "but he doesn't tell anyone (his press staff) about it. When he was introduced at the Conference of Mayors he got a standing ovation."
Running For A Second Term?
With all of this, some still have the idea he may run for a second term as Mayor. My friends think the Mayor's race is Don Perata's to lose, and given Robert Bobb's lack of aggression in pursuing the role of Mayor of Oakland, I have to agree. What's sad - and we talked about this - is how small the pool of candidates running for Mayor is as of this writing: two, maybe three people. Two weeks ago, District Four Councilmember Jean Quan told me she's running a series of "exploratory meetings" around town, but I take that to mean she's going to run and is just introducing herself to Oaklanders. By contrast when Elihu Harris ran for reelection as Mayor in 1994 there were nine candidates.
This is a dramatic change even from last fall, when it was believed that Dellums, Oakland City Attorney John Russo, Vice Mayor / District Five Councilmember Ignacio De La Fuente , Perata, District One Councilmember Jane Brunner and Quan would compete. But the idea , and it was expressed today, is that De La Fuente wouldn't run against Perata, who's considered his mentor by observers at today's reception. (One has to ask Ignacio here.) Russo took himself out of the picture at his uproarious 50th Birthday party this year:
There are three primary reasons for the small field of candidates:
1) Political economics. Running for office is expensive; the Oakland Mayor's race calls for about a half-million per candidate by my estimate considering TV airtime and other promotional factors, but a new media grassroots approach could save a quarter-of-a-million. Still, gathering $250,000 to run for Mayor's a tall order in this economy. Dellums didn't raise quite that much money, but he had a grassroots effort to propel him; the other candidates aren't so lucky.
2) Oakland's Budget. With the City of Oakland openly talking about the possibility of filing for bankruptcy, then pouring water on the flames that followed the revalation by The Chronicle's Chip Johnson, the question is "do you really want this job and why?" The next Mayor of Oakland inherits a huge mess that will take years to dig out of, and with cuts in vital services like police spells less resources to tackle the problems that come with a poor economy: robberies and assaults.
3)The Perata Factor. Perata's an excellent campaigner and I'm told he's running around Oakland already making deals with civic leaders to gain their support, especially Oakland's black clergy. This is where Bobb could blunt Perata's fire, but he's focused on the Detroit school system where he's still working as of this writing. By the time Bobb starts his campaign, if he does, he's got to make up a lot of ground to catch Perata.
In the end, it's Perata's race to lose. "He could blow it" my friend said. But with all this chatter, there's one person grinning from ear-to-ear:
Peggy Stinnett, looking down on us from Heaven.