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Friday, September 24, 2010

Oakland Mayor's Race: LWV Forum Draws Oakland's Older Folks


Oakland Mayor's Race Forum first take. (Which means, there's going to be more of these posts on last night, because a lot was happening.)

This just in: The Oakland Tribune's out of touch with Oakland. A number of attendees of the 450 estimated said they learned of the Oakland League Of Women Voters via "the newspaper." All of the people who made that statement were over 50 years old.

Still, the forum, which attracted every candidate except Dr. Terrance Candell, was a success. The auditorium at 300 Lakeside Drive seats 380 people, so if you do the math, it was about 70 over capacity. The crowd was a happy mix of supporters of candidates and long-time observers of the Oakland political scene. The one complaint they had was there wasn't enough time to hear what the candidates were about.

That wasn't because there were too many candidates, but due to the format. Either Oakland Tribune Editor Martin Reynolds or the League of Women Voters, or both, decided to throw every question known to Oakland-kind, from the good (Will you spend public money on an A's stadium?) to the bad (Will you commit to a smaller forum with candidates who have a "real chance"? Or words to that effect).

Too many questions and not a conversational format.

Still, errors aside, the forum proves there's a keen interest in the race for the next Mayor of Oakland.

Three Events Come To One Event

As reported there were at first three events, but the one for the Calvin Simmons Theater was scrubbed when the Oakland League Of Women Voters and The Oakland Chamber of Commerce saw the light and opened the forum to all of the candidates. Then there was Dr. Candell.

My original intent was to visit his one-candidate show, but the action at the Kaiser was too good to leave. Moreover, Terrance didn't tell this blogger about his event via phone or email. As an aside, my job as I've crafted it, is to cover the campaign and not support a candidate. I make an exception only in the case of Libby Schaaf, who I view more as family than candidate. Other than that, this blogger calls it plain and true. No B.S.

Dr. Candell is a compelling candidate and individual, but as I've explained to him he has to sell his message to all of Oakland, not just those who he's comfortable with.

Who Won The LWV Forum?

Who Won The LWV Forum? Working backward and focusing on impressions, Marcie Hodge was a disappointment because she was far less confident and self-assured than at the Oakland Jobs Forum. Hodge paused, stuttered, and in general seemed nervous.  This blogger was surprised.

Arnie Fields has to work more on specifics that concern Oakland policy.  Well-spoken and confident, Fields is, but comfortable with the technics of policy discussion he does not appear to be.  "I'm going to have a bake sale" to raise money for Oakland doesn't work with the electorate.  When Fields started his sentence with that, I expected a great follow-up but he stuck to the idea!  A bake sale? Dude, you've got to be kidding!

Oakland Councilmember Jean Quan had that "I have to be here with these people" look on her face again, and this blogger really wishes she would stop doing that.  Jean has to erase that "What are you bitches waiting for, elect me!" attitude she carries around from time to time. A frank aside.

Councilmember Jean Quan could have won the Oakland Mayor's Race if she were less imperious and more gracious. She's an Oakland female Asian politician who's timing is perfect, but execution is horrible. Quan's high-handed approach is alienating, and it's borne of an insecurity Jean does not need to possess - and I know this because I have the same problem, so I can see it in others.

When Councilmember Quan is open, she's a wonderful, loving person who one wants to get behind and help. But when she goes into "Queen Iron Lady" mode, it's off-putting and not in the best sprit of The Soul Of Oakland. My mother would say to Jean Quan what she said to me, and since I don't heed it all the time, I know what I'm talking about: read Dale Carnegie's How To Win Friends and Influence People.

Or, to put it another way, make people know you like them. Sometimes Jean doesn't seem as if she does. That's not true, or course, but it's an impression she gives off from time to time and many people have stated that. Jean's very intelligent, and doesn't suffer fools gladly.  But what I've learned is that the problem in a complex society is the smartest person one encounters may not look the part, so the one who thinks they're smarter than everyone else, is often proven wrong.  One has to open up to everyone and embrace them, especially in politics.

Again, Jean's other side, if it were presented 24 and 7, would seal the deal. With that, it may be too late for her to change so dramatically.  Jean could take lessons from Councilmember Rebecca Kaplan, who is that warm, loving person.

But Rebecca's image, and some will take this the wrong way but it must be said in a true evaluation - the gender-bending affect - at times places her on the fringe of some voters views, and that's why Jean moves ahead but only by just a beat.

Rebecca's crowd, much younger, wasn't there in force last night.  Much more used to such an image as Rebecca's, and therefore able to see beyond it, Oakland's younger crowd could push her into City Hall.  What's great about Kaplan is her boundless sprit.

Boundless sprit also describes Larry Lionel Young, who really has a bright future in politics. If he becomes more comfortable with the discussion of Oakland policy technics, he will do well. A keen expression of understanding of policy and politics, combined with the presentation of sound judgement can at times overcome lack of political experience. That's why Joe Tuman has done so well.

Working our way along, let's move to the top and state that it was a tie between Joe Tuman and Don Perata. Green Party candidate Don Macleay and Councilmember Kaplan tied for third. Greg Harland was fourth, then Quan, Young, Fields and Hodge.

Don Macleay says he's not a politician.  But he has to make a clear case for what he stands for other than being a nice guy.   Don needs a message.  A hook that resonates.  He did much better this time than at the Jobs Forum. Terrance Candell should have been there.  He could have sat next to Don Perata.

Senator Perata I'm certain would have liked more time. But one action which would have helped him would have been to stand up and talk. For some reason, Don on the stump presents better than Don sitting down. Of course it's all image, but as much as you may want to, you can't discount it. Don did nothing to hurt his chances to win.

Perata clearly wants to be Mayor of Oakland, and expresses that singular desire in speech and affect far more than all of the other candidates except Tuman and Kaplan. Joe Tuman's clearly taking votes away from Perata, however. They appeal to the same groups, but which candidate can get Oakland's younger voters is key.  If they don't do that, Kaplan could run away with the prize. A New Diversity Of A Sort

The placement of three of the four white guys running - Perata, Tuman, and Harland - in a row was interesting because let's face it: Oakland's not seen that since the 1960s. It's also a sign of how Oakland has changed.

In the past, Oakland had a lot of well-qualified black candidates running for office; not so today. The reason for the change goes back to something now-former Oakland Mayor Elihu Harris told me when I worked for him between 1995 and 1999.

The reason there have been so many blacks in politics is that discrimination closed out other opportunities in the private sector in the past and up to around 1990. Now, with so many blacks in high-level private sector positions and running companies like American Express, it translates into fewer candidates for the Oakland Mayor's Race.

Part of me thinks that's a bad thing; part a good thing. I have a complex set of reasons for that sentence. More on that later.

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