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Green Party candidate Don MacLeay running for Oakland Mayor

In a day filled with John Mayer, Megan Fox, snow storms in New York and DC, and new 9-11 photos, it's important to stop and take a look at local citizens who want to make Oakland better. Don MacLeay is one, and he's the Green Party candidate for Mayor of Oakland.

In the video above, created two weeks ago, Don and this blogger met at Merritt Station Cafe across from Lake Merritt and talked - really his platform - for 35 minutes, and 21 of that on the video above. What follows is a summary of a long, uncut talk.

Don MacLeay is a computer consultant who does "small office networking" and a volunteer in a number of Oakland government activism activities. It was at that point that Don MacLeay first determined something wasn't right with Oakland, "I decided I was not in tune with where the Oakland Council and Jerry Brown were going," he said.

When Ron Dellums became Mayor of Oakland in 2006, Don MacLeay became concerned again after Dellums said his job wasn't to fix potholes. "I just couldn't disagree more," Don MacLeay said. "I'd like to be a mayor who's interested in potholes. Who's interested in a lot of those details."

Military versus a Civilian

Why should we vote for Don MacLeay, the new person, for Oakland Mayor over Don Perata or Oakland Councilmember Jean Quan (District 4), the two current front runners? For Don MacLeay, it's like the choice between those in the military or a civilian to run the military. (Interesting take.) "Some people treat it sort of like that", Don says. "It's a leadership job." And Don says someone representing the community should be mayor rather than the "military generals" Oakland's had to date.

What would Don do in a situation like that after the Oscar Grant Murder? "We have accountability to the civil society that is immediate. I would start by taking personal responsibility. It doesn't matter whether or not you gave orders or made mistakes or what it is, if you have a leadership job, you've got to get out there and take responsibility."

Don MacLeay says that Oakland's crime problem is part media creation and part real. Oakland has 25,000 reported crimes a year, he says, in a city of 400,000 people. "Now that's reported crimes, he says, "Every body who lives in Oakland feels it."

At the time of the interview, MacLeay was just three weeks into being a politician and said he was learning a lot and had "fire in the belly" for the job. He's done a lot of listening to the concerns of Oaklanders.

On the matter of sports stadiums for the Oakland A's and the Oakland Raiders, Don MacLeay reminds us that we're in a recession (technically, two quarters out of one), and while opposed to using general fund money for sports stadiums, feels that redevelopment dollars are the source for such an expenditure but it must be well-considered, first.

What kind of Mayor's staff?

One aspect of being a mayor that's lost in the campaign conversation is what kind of organization the candidate is considering. With Oakland Mayor Elihu Harris, the design was to have policy advisors that were a liason between he and the City of Oakland's staff.

When Measure X was passed and Oakland's government went from council-manager to strong mayor, Jerry Brown paired down his staff to just a few people and let the City Administrator's staff serve as his own. Ron Dellums approach was more like Brown's. What will MacLeay have? "I'm very concerned with the day-to-day function of management...there's way too much micromanagement." Don MacLeay thinks the City Council is far too involved in the management decisions of City Staff.

MacLeay observes that Oakland's City Council forced City Attorney John Russo's staff cuts such that Russo had to hire outside lawyers, which are more expensive.

In short Don MacLeay's administration will pay more attention to details, but avoid micromanaging City of Oakland's staffers. The word "attention to detail" came up a lot in our talk. MacLeay is very much interested in being a mayor that makes Oakland government work at the consumer level. Don doesn't want to throw out Oakland employees and start over because he doesn't think it's necessary to do. He wants to work with the staffers to make a better government.

A time for debate

"I see the election as a time where we argue about it. Do you want to do it Jean's way or Don's way or my way?" Don MacLeay says that Quan's policies are more clearly outlined that Perata's and that Perata has not made his direction clear as of this writing.

The race for Mayor of Oakland: a note

Don's website is www.macleay4mayor.org - visit the site and watch the video for more information. And as a note, I'm not backing any candidate as of this writing. Don and I have worked together on an Oakland Parking Initiative, which is where the idea for this video came from after I learned he was running long before any other media news.

Long before I talked to Don, I emailed Councilmember Jean Quan to request an interview and I expressed my desire to interview Don Perata months ago when we talked in public. In Quan's case, she wrote that I had "negative" things to say about her, which isn't true.

The truth is I had negative takes on how Quan handled running for Mayor of Oakland at the time, and believed that if she followed my advise she would be a better candidate. But it wasn't personal. I simply reserve the right to criticize any elected official in a constructive way. If anything, Jean's the front-runner and not because she's got more money than Perata, but because she's a woman and Asian.

Women political candidates are generally more popular than their male counterparts in Oakland.  Plus, Oakland's not had an abundance of Asian female political candidates in its history; it's great to see Jean Quan run for that reason.  

In Don Perata's case, Don's my friend; I've said on video that I believed Don's next political place should be as U.S. Senator and that's not taking anything away from California's Senator Barbara Boxer. It's just a very hard, very cold look at Don's political trajectory, which points to Washington D.C. in my view.

Mayor of Oakland just seems too small for Don Perata.

In the case of Oakland's Mayor Ron Dellums, I simply don't want to see him run and lose. If there are those who believe Oakland needs a "black candidate", they should run themselves rather than waste time with any silly analysis of what are my feelings or picking "the Golden Brother". (Why not a woman?)

Moreover, if those persons are really serious about having blacks in Oakland politics, they should establish an organization that funds political campaigns for Oaklanders of color. That's an idea who's time came long ago and one I would support with all my heart.
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