Begging for money

This is exactly what’s wrong with Ron Dellums’s approach to governing Oakland. It explains why he’s eager to bankrupt our fund reserves and spend money we don’t have on whatever half-baked plan pops into his head.

Dellums is realistic about what lies ahead.

“We work diligently here, constantly, trying to deal with these issues. You get on a plane, you go to Washington, you beg for money. You go to foundations and you beg for money. You say ‘Give us the resources to help us do the job every day.’

I know I’ve complained about this before, but it continues to frustrate me to no end. If Oakland is ever going to improve, we have to figure out how to make things work with the resources we have. Yes, that’s difficult. But I believe it’s doable. Dellums isn’t even interested in trying. As long as our Mayor is operating from the basic assumption that Oakland is doomed without substantial amounts of charity, we’re never going to see any improvement, and we’re never going to see any effort from his office to use our limited resources wisely.

16 thoughts on “Begging for money

  1. Max Allstadt

    A “strong mayor” reduced to transcontinental panhandling. A “strong mayor” who evades critical dialog with his people. A “strong mayor” who shows up at council chambers to ask for measure Y funds for the cops, who tells everyone in the room how important that is, and who flees the room immediately after giving his speech.

    Has anyone ever seen the British Parliament’s “Prime Minister’s Question Time”. That’s what a strong leader should have to do. I want to see a ballot measure that mandates something like it for Oakland. If you can’t defend your ideas in front of intelligent criticism, you don’t deserve to lead.

  2. dto510

    No wonder the reporter was able to get a rare interview with Dellums. Calling the mayor’s constant flights to DC to beg for money “realistic” must have been a precondition for the article. And this is how Oakland gets in the International Herald Tribune? Not very helpful in improving the business climate.

  3. CK

    Honestly, I’d castigate Dellums if he DIDN’T seek funds from every source possible from the city. We’re facing massive defecits this year for the city, and holding the moral high ground won’t make up gaps in budgets.

    I fully agree that there should be, and needs to be, a ton of reform within the city aparatus. I agree that self-sufficiency should be the keystone of government here. I agree that making the rounds, hat in hand, should be the last resort. This sort of a shift, however, will take time(what DOES move fast in city gov?). In the meantime, the bills still need to get payed. In that light, I find what Dellums is doing to be entirely “realistic”. “Deplorable” too? Sure, but definitely realistic.

  4. V Smoothe Post author

    The problem is that Dellums has shown no interest in using our own resources responsibly during his tenure as Mayor, and has made no overtures towards increasing efficiency in City Hall. This makes me question whether we can trust that any extra fund infusions (Federal, State, charity, etc.) will be used responsibly.

    Instead, he submitted a status quo budget with an introductory letter complaining that we will never have enough money to take care of ourselves. I find it incredibly depressing that the “model city” apparently depends on an endless stream of handouts from other sources. I would also point out that a year and a half of begging doesn’t seem to have yielded much in the way of cash for Oakland.

  5. RALPH

    at some point oakland needs to be self-sufficient. your parents raise you from a pup and give you the tool to exist in the world today and you go forth and succeed. yet after all the aid, oakland still falls to the bottom.

    exactly how is dellums different than the beggar on the street. i mean both are trying to get a buck w/o doing any work. i would suggest ronnie invest in capital and commercial improvements to revitalize a stagnant economy. the outside funds should be supplemental. really why should any outsider place a bet on a city that has no skin in the game.

  6. Max Allstadt

    CK has a point, when you’re broke, you get money from where you can.

    How about we start with Deborah Edgerly’s salary. I don’t pay $250K to people who make a priority of busting street vendors who sell flowers in a city with problems like ours. I remember when she did that. I talked to a cop about it that very day. I asked him if he and his buddies were going to follow her orders. There was some laughter…

    Maybe we could use the money to put a radio collar on the mayor? We could put his whereabouts on an online map. According to is still available.

  7. V Smoothe Post author

    I don’t think the City Administrator’s salary is excessive at all. If people don’t think Edgerly is doing a good job, the appropriate solution is to find a new City Administrator, not reduce her pay.

    In any case, my understanding of the flower vendor situation was that the directive was issued at the urging of local florists. It may have been silly, but she was responding to the desires of local businesses, something I wish the City would do more.

  8. Max Allstadt

    Then who’s salary is overboard? The assistant administrator, who’s making almost as much? Or is it the cumulative weight of all of the emergency services people? Who decides? What should the process be? More critically, in an election year, how do we expect anyone to do anything against firefighters and cops?

    This is a damn hot potato and it will fly around town forever. Anybody dumb enough to catch it will get their hands cooked, and their career along with it.

  9. RDC

    I believe the outrage over the high salaries in Oakland is a direct reflection of the mood of its people. We have nothing to lash out at and when something comes down the pipe with concrete numbers (salaries) then we get up in arms. I think this salary thing is blown out of proportion and Chip Johnson is right, We are not getting what we pay for.

    I have no problem with the amount of money that our city leaders pull in but it is what they produce, or lack thereof, that is troubling. Don’t slash salaries, high paying city jobs are competeive and everyone knows that turnover is not a good thing for business, especially someone running day to day operations of a city. Demand more from them and don’t take this, “We are doing our best, Oakland is changing!!!” line of BS served.

    Downtown is trashed, the parks are trashed, we have no money, yet these people pull in disproportionate salaries for their actual work. There a tons of committes, “Friends of______ ” groups with 25 people on their board of directors yet we see no progress, no new construction, just the same level of flatline service. Everyone loves being powerful in Oakland but no one wants to step up and go against the grain. The gravy train known as being a city manager/worker is just too good. When you have no public exposure then why work hard if there are no consequences? Why don’t we demand more of our workers who are getting paid to run this city? With dwindling tax revenues and almost no transparency in our local goverment, it is time that the citizens who pay these salaries start demanding more.

    Since I am one of these citizens and this is an open forum to share, here is my wish list. It is limited to the things I see everyday (Lake Merritt Area to Downtown).

    1. If a trash can gets knocked over by one of our many street people and 10 cop cars drive by, could one of them possibly call public works to come by and clean it up. (I had to do it).
    2. Stop allowing cars to park up on the grass at Fairy Land. It looks terrible yet, almost as terrible as fairy land, yet its tolerated. You don’t see employee cars parked on the grass at GG Park do you?
    3.Trench Lake Merritt so the water can circulate and drain so we don’t get terrible smells and trash pileups. The “Jewel of Oakland” gets zero attention.
    4. Actually patrol the Lake Merritt park, homeless people don’t really mix in a family enviorment yet they can thrive w/ no oversight.
    5. For gawd sakes please do something about the geese, playing football on a landmine field really isn’t too much fun.
    6. If someone relieves themselves on a sidewalk(not #1) who cleans it up? Its been a week and I have seen 3 places yet to even be touched by a clean up crew.
    7. Aggresive panhandlers who yell at everyone (and they aren’t nice), 5 times a day on my walk downtown.

    These are quality of life issues that seem to be forgotten or I guess not too high on the radar. I do understand that in comparison to West and East Oakland some would say I’ve got it good but I do not agree with that argument. Anyone have anything to add to the list?

  10. Deckin

    I agree with RDC. It’s a perception of what we as taxpayers are getting for our money. But it’s more. In dealings with City Hall, it’s almost impossible to avoid the impression that we, the citizens and taxpayers of Oakland, are a rude intrusion on their otherwise happy day. Cronyism has always been the rule in municipal government, but here it seems to go to alpine heights. The story is that the city administrator has been trying to shove her daughter down OPD’s throats for years. And who has an administrative assistant making over 200K a year? One would expect just a hint of shame from people drawing these checks with essential services in such dire straits.

    Lastly, I disagree with Max Allstadt about the anonymous comments. They don’t seem any more or less hostile than the named ones. If one compares the comments to this site with others, it comes off like the agora of Athens. It sure beats the hell out of the Chron.

  11. RDC

    Deckin, You articulated what I was trying to say perfectly,

    “In dealings with City Hall, it’s almost impossible to avoid the impression that we, the citizens and taxpayers of Oakland, are a rude intrusion on their otherwise happy day.”


  12. Max Allstadt

    Deckin, you’re right, we’re actually comparatively decent here. More a matter of principle for me than anything. I’m rather obsessed with honesty.

  13. V Smoothe Post author

    I mostly agree with RDC and Deckin, but I’m going to save further thoughts for a future post about the salaries, which I hope to get to this week, although I’m way behind on my blogging schedule right now.

    One correction, though, Deckin: The position you’re referring to is Assistant City Administrator (second in charge), not assistant to the City Administrator. Another salary I don’t think is out of line.

  14. Joanna

    In other companies, when a person isn’t performing – or there’s a perception that they are not performing – they get canned or demoted. (sometimes, not always – in bizarre cases they get promoted)

    It’s my perception that the City isn’t being managed well, by either the City Manager, the Mayor, or City Council. Two of the three are elected, so we can try to make a difference there. But the City Manager is not elected. I just don’t see that we’re getting what we’re paying for. Perhaps it’s just a matter of spin, but I saw several cases where she protected her friends at the expense of doing the right thing. Backing up Mingles during a cabaret license hearing is one example – and ultimately someone did die, just as many feared would happen, before they were shut down. Another is the mixed-use parking permit plan where she, Desley Brooks, and Claudia Cappio wanted $600 per permit, while another business district only pays $50.