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Oakland Mayor's Race: Joe Tuman Interview

Oakland Mayor's Race candidate Joe Tuman and this blogger met last Thursday at Merritt Station at 614 Grand Avenue for this interview. It came at a time when Tuman, like this week, is riding a high of name recognition thanks to Grand Lake Theater Owner Allan Michaan, and a powerful word-of-mouth campaign on the part of people who've met Tuman.

The kind, seemingly mild-mannered San Francisco State Professor of Communications has changed the climate of the race from what some have seen as a three-person battle in ten candidates, to a four-person contest among the same field.  Tuman did this even with a late start in the campaign.  He says the campaign  is still "going well.  We managed to get a co-endorsement from the East Bay Express, and a second-place endorsement from The Oakland Tribune.  It was a good boost," Tuman said.  "I don't think people vote on the basis of newspaper endorsements. But it has added to the buzz around the campaign."

Tuman vs. Matthai Kuruvila and The SF Chronicle

On the subject of newspapers, Tuman and I briefly talked about the little feud between San Francisco Chronicle "Reporter" Matthai Kuruvila. The issue from this blogger's perspective is that Kuruvila has upset a number of the campaigners with a form of coverage that reveals a bias not expected for a "reporter." He's only talked to some, not all, of the persons running for mayor, openly expresses his opinion even by body language as he did in the San Francisco Chronicle Board Meeting with Tuman, and when he does blog - in this case in an attack on Tuman, the effort is intellectually sloppy at best.

The best Oakland political reporter was The Oakland Tribune's Kelly Rayburn (who's in law school now), who kept his personal views to himself and was a consummate professional - such cannot be said for Mr. Kuruvila. Moreover, Kuruvila is crossing over into territory reserved for the legendary San Francisco Chronicle Columnist Chip Johnson. Tuman had enough.

While Joe will not say Matthai has a bias against him, he's "If not hard on me, maybe harder on me, and a little dismissive," Tuman said. But. I've talked to him about that and I take him at his word when he says he treats everyone the same. But, in all honesty, sometimes it hasn't felt that way."

The Campaign's Progress

Tuman says his numerous house meetings have "Gone great. I don't know what number we're at. Sometimes it seems like we do one every night or every other night. Sometimes we have several in one day, like on Saturday I did three." Tuman says the house meetings are all over Oakland, both the hills and flatlands, and the response has been "uniformly good."

Allan Michaan and Parking

Tuman got a real significant elevation in visibility from Grand Lake Theater Owner Allan Michaan, who  used his marque normally reserved for movies and anti-war announcements, to say that Oaklanders should vote for Tuman.  The reason is that Tuman's openly adopted Michaan's call for an end to Oakland's predatory parking enforcement system, even to the point of saying he would "phase it out" and do away with the parking machines.

Tuman observed, "I could run on a platform that says 'Let's do away with the boxes that spit out the white pieces of paper that fit in your dashboard,' and I'd get all the votes."  Tuman says he's not opposed to charging for parking, but he wants to make it, over the long term, free "only for a couple of hours," and says, again echoing Michaan, that the parking rates should be "around $20 or $30," and not the $60 to $80 they are at now.

Tuman Against Measure BB

Measure BB, if passed, would rehire the 63 neighborhood officers responsible for crime prevention on the Oakland police force. In Adams Point, Hong Bahn has served as one of those officers and has done an incredible job. This blogger's in favor of Measure BB; not Tuman. Tuman says he's in favor of the programs that BB puts money into, like Youth Uprising, but is in opposition to the measure because it does not address the reason Measure Y, which it modifies, was passed which was to serve both the desires of those who wanted more beat police, and those who wanted more money for after school programs.

Tuman says that Measure BB is a way for the Oakland City Council to get around the problems of Measure Y, where the City failed to meet its obligations to that program.

What happened was that Oakland did essentially raid Measure Y money and use it for other services - what Tuman calls a "bait and switch" - while police were laid off, and failed to conduct a good program audit. (While I disagree with the logic in not wanting Measure BB, the interview is Tuman's platform, not mine to disagree with him.)

Tuman objects to the idea of a "fix" and wants Oakland to live up to its obligations.

The Tuman Mayor's Office

The conversation turned away from that, and to what kind of Mayor's Office Tuman would have if he won. What I mean is style and structure. Anyone can talk about policy issues, but what separates the wonks from the leaders is a knowledge of how to form a managerial and organizational structure that can effectively push policy through to adoption, improve city service delivery, and fill the giant leadership vacuum that exists in the Office of The Mayor (and something Oakland City Attorney John Russo and I talked about in an interview earlier this year.)

Tuman says he does not want a large staff or for that matter a security detail. He says he'll drive himself around Oakland "or ride my bike."  Tuman wants to appoint a new city administrator, and bring that person into the Mayor's Office, essentially fusing the City Administrator's Office into the Mayor's Office.
He will then set times with the City Council - separate meetings where they bring "a punch list" of things they need to get done.  "I want them to let us manage the bureaucracy."  Tuman wants control of the city staff to get things done.

As to the City Council, as a note, Joe says Councilmember Desley Brooks (District 6) has endorsed him.  But in full he says he can "count to four" City Council votes, and in time will be able to "count to five."  Moreover, Tuman will attend all City Council meetings, much as Oakland Mayor Elihu Harris did during his tenure.

Should Oakland Sue The Oakland A's

Tuman's not in favor of using the legal process against the Oakland A's, which seems to be threatening to leave Oakland every year, as he thinks it just encourages them to try harder to do so.  But suing the City of San Jose is something Tuman's willing to consider, as that municipality has worked to try to take the A's away from Oakland, interfering with contracts between the parties in the process.

Tuman says he will be a friend to all of Oakland's sports teams, but does not want to give away public money to retain them.  But he does leave tax increment revenue as an exception because of it's market  generated nature.    

Tuman The Candidate

Overall, Tuman expresses a very good feel for the issues, politics and, management of The City of Oakland, and has come a very long way in a very short time.  Give his website - Joe4Mayor.com - a study as well as this video and learn about all 10 of the candidates, too, before you make a decision (if you've not voted already).
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