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Monday, October 18, 2010

Oakland Mayor's Race: Oakland Tribune Prejudice Angers Greg Harland

Greg Harland

One big problem that's plagued the Oakland Mayor's Race and that apparently still exists is how some Bay Area media organizations ignore some of the candidates running for the office of Mayor of Oakland.

That practice has angered Oakland Mayoral Candidate Greg Harland because he wan't contacted by either the Oakland Tribune / Bay Area News Group or The San Francisco Chronicle.

Harland was upset to the point where he referred to one post as saying "that says it all," and it was a column by Mercury News / Oakland Tribune columnist Tammerlin Drummond which reads:

"We began by whittling down the list of 10 candidates to the four who actually merited voter consideration: Kaplan, Perata, Councilwoman Jean Quan and political analyst/university professor Joe Tuman." 

Ok, let's let loose here. That statement is a freaking joke. The only reason Joe Tuman was placed in the Tribune's "merited voter consideration" hopper was because Tuman's name recognition with Oakland's white Montclair / Oakland Hills region was high. Or to look at it another way, Terrance Candell is well-known in black and Latino East Oakland, where his prep school is located on 73rd Street, but the Oakland Tribune didn't even talk to him.

The Oakland Tribune and Tammerlin Drummond should be ashamed, but they're not. This space is not complaining about their selection of Councilmember Rebecca Kaplan to endorse, only the way they did it. The Tribune process was not open, and race and class prejudiced to boot.   Thus, unfortunately, it taints the selection of Kaplan.

That's right, race and class prejudiced. In other words this blogger can hear the Tribune's demons saying about Candell "He's a blowhard brotha who thinks he can be Mayor, so why talk to him?" and about Harland "Who? Never heard of him," and about Green Party Candidate Don Macleay, "Ah. Who? OK. Nice guy." You get the idea.

In other words, different kinds of prejudice applied to different Oakland Mayoral candidates. The real joke is that none of the Oakland Tribune or SF Chronicle reporters has any experience in working for a mayor in Oakland's City Hall, either. So how would they know how to evaluate a Mayoral Candidate? They don't.

You have to have experience in the office in order to evaluate a candidate that is running for office, so you can recognize the qualities that person has which are appropriate for the office.  The Oakland Tribune and the SF Chronicle lack that experience.  By contrast, this blogger has worked for two Oakland mayors - Elihu Harris and Jerry Brown, and sat on the Sports Task Force for Ron Dellums before quitting in protest.  (I'm still proud of that.)

It's one thing to pretend to be a policy wonk, crunching numbers over a local legislative idea. But it's quite another to understand that when a developer contacts the Mayor's Office and wants to build in, say, a location that happens to be in Councilmember Nancy Nadel's District Three (Downtown and West Oakland), it's a good idea to know to contact her office to get them in the loop.

It's one thing to know the population of Oakland, and another to know how to dig through Mayor's Office files to find projects that were of importance, but were left undone. That's one thing I did when I first worked for Elihu Harris on the first day on the job - it's something every mayoral candidate should consider doing.

That's why I ask each candidate what kind of office they're going to have, and how will it be ran. The Tribune and Chronicle people don't have the experience to even think of asking that kind of question. It's a question that of the candidates I've talked to thus far, Don Perata gave the best answer to, but not by much.

It's also why I asked about Tax Increment Financing at one forum, only to find that of all of the candidates, Marcie Hodge, who I didn't expect to get it, actually had a good general answer.

The point is, you as media person have to talk to each candidate, because in doing so you learn something about that person's abilities for the office that you didn't know before.

Look at it this way: Lionel Wilson was a judge before he was elected Oakland's first black mayor.  He went on to serve for three terms and is arguably the best mayor Oakland's ever had.  If Tammerlin Drummond had her way she may have delayed Oakland's election of its first black mayor.

Stay tuned.

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