Don Perata for Oakland Mayor?

How funny, I was just talking about this last night. I’m not particularly interested in speculating on who’s going to be Mayor two years from now – I’d rather focus on what’s happening in the City right now. But I’m sure that Chip Johnson’s column today about Don Perata, barring indictment, running for Mayor of Oakland in 2010 will get some of my readers fired up, so rather than having the issue clutter up the comments section of an unrelated post, I’ll give you guys a space to duke it out.

Here’s my take on it. For me, whether or not Don Perata would be a good Mayor is irrelevant. I am not in favor of his run because he’s simply too polarizing a figure. Whether he is or isn’t corrupt, people who don’t like his positions would bring up the FBI investigation left and right, and every time he does anything, good or bad, you’d have to listen to people whining about how evil he is and how this is some elaborate conspiracy to benefit some campaign donor or other. I just don’t want to deal with it.

And maybe that isn’t fair to Perata. It definitely isn’t fair to Ignacio De La Fuente, who I think would make a great Mayor, but I also don’t want to see run in 2010 for the same reasons. I feel bad for Ignacio – random people are constantly trying to tell me how evil he is, but, when pressed, of course can’t name a single thing he’s done they have a problem with. Sometimes they’ll bring up an issue where De La Fuente was actually on their side – they just assume he was against their cause because they have this bizarre idea that he’s pro-business, and therefore, apparently, against anything and everything good. (I realize that there are people with specific complaints about Ignacio, but you’ll never find a politician who hasn’t upset some group at some point. What I’m talking about is more general perception among the less engaged public.)

So, that’s sad for them. And maybe that means we’ll miss an opportunity for real progress that could happen under their leadership. But the political environment in Oakland is just so poisonous, and I don’t think that’s healthy for the City. It certainly doesn’t encourage people to become engaged. The blame for this totally toxic environment lays largely on the shoulders of, for lack of a better word, the local left, and the politicians that tend to align themselves with them. I can think of no clearer example of this than the early fall City Council meeting where the Council rejected Planning Commission nominee Ada Chan. On the one side of the room, you had those opposed to placing Chan on the Commission, who sat quietly through a very long meeting and, when the time arrived, came to the podium and explained their objections in a calm, rational, and specific manner. On the other side, you had a large group of activists wearing Ada Chan stickers, literally (and loudly) booing and hissing these speakers. They held a freaking rally for her on the steps of City Hall before the meeting. And yet, when the time came for the Council to weigh in, Jean Quan and Jane Brunner unfuckingbelievably accused those opposed to the nomination of “politicizing” the appointment, and even dared to lecture them for having an opinion. It was one of those things that you’re watching and still can’t even believe it’s happening. How can people be so completely divorced from the reality in front of their faces? I just don’t get it.

The polarization is such that it’s almost impossible to have a rational, reasoned debate on many of the serious issues facing Oakland. I think it’s sad that we have to let the opinions of people who consistently behave like spoiled children at public meetings dictate our leadership choices, and while I don’t think we should let that extend so far as supporting whichever candidate they endorse (we all know how well that turned out last time), I do think that, for the purposes of creating a more civil public discourse, we should have a Mayor that they don’t hate with some totally bizarre and disproportionate passion.

For my part, none of the names mentioned in Chip Johnson’s column excite me. Jane Brunner and Jean Quan are both completely unacceptable, being themselves active contributors to the unproductive and divisive atmosphere I’ve been complaining about. If Robert Bobb, as Johnson suggests, helped write the Mayor’s late and incomplete budget, with its heavy emphasis on cuts to direct services – well, that’s hardly an encouraging example of his leadership abilities. I don’t know enough about Tony West to have an opinion either way.

What I’d really like to see in Oakland’s next Mayor is someone who will work towards more transparent and inclusive governance. This was a major complaint many people had about Jerry Brown, and now, on the heels of that, we’re stuck with an administration that I don’t think could possibly be less transparent or more insular. It’s time for that to end.

28 thoughts on “Don Perata for Oakland Mayor?

  1. Andy

    This post increase my disgust with Oaktown govt. Why does it have to be so bad? The general public is so disengaged – most people I know have no idea how bad things are. While almost everyone I know thinks City services suck, they have no clue how bad the council is. The mayor yes, council no.

  2. Coolhand Luke

    I don’t think Don would be a bad mayor. I’ve known him since I was a baby and despite the rumors of corruption and thuggery he is not a bad guy. He is personable, donates to good causes and has invested a lot in Oakland youth. That said, I agree with V Smoothe that he is too polarizing a figure to be successful. Yeah he can be brash and has openly cultivated a mafioso aura about him, but he can also make things happen. I know that’s not a popular opinion, but it doesn’t matter what I think because he won’t get a shot anyway.

  3. Max Allstadt

    Well you tagged this post with John Russo’s name, V, but you didn’t mention him directly. As I’ve said in the past, I encourage the wonks among your readers to do google video searches for John Russo. Ignore the cute “click it or ticket” ad he did with his kids. Get to the meat. That’s what made me decide he was worth backing. He hasn’t even acknowledged he’s running yet, but I hear a lot my friends (primarily under 40, educated, involved) saying his name a lot. I’m encouraging them to keep talking about him.

    I also hear a lot of horror at the prospect of Quan winning, and I’m hearing it from a lot of people. Did you know that if you google “Oakland Unified School District” that pages about Ebonics come up high on the first page of results. That’s what the world thinks of when they think about our schools, and it’s Quan’s fault.

    Perata? Well you can expect his involvement to make the campaign incredibly divisive, that’s for sure. He basically said he wouldn’t wipe his ass with the East Bay Express… on live radio this week. If you think the conspiratorial exposes are thick now, just wait. The guys got clout, power, but also all the messy baggage that comes with that.

  4. Coolhand Luke

    If Quan is mayor, I may think about leaving The Town and my fam has been here since the early 1900s. I don’t mess with her self-serving, self-centered, retarded ass on any level. I’m campaigning against her for sure. I may have voted for Felix Mitchell over her. Maybe Bobby Seale should run for mayor again lol. What was that ’78 he almost won? I kid, but for real, NO Quan!

  5. Robert

    To blame Peralta or De La Fuente for the divisiveness is ridiculous and as you said, unfair to them. If the potential for polarizing some people were the criteria we would not now have Obama as our next Presidnet. Dellums was non-polarizing, and look where that got us. The criteria for running for mayor should be whether they have the leadership potential to get us out of the current mess. I don’t know that either Peralta or DLF have that potential, but let’s at least judge them for the right things.

  6. V Smoothe Post author

    I’m not blaming them, I’m just stating the facts. Both Perata and De La Fuente have far too much baggage for us to move forward productively as a City with either of them at the helm. I don’t know what you consider the “right things,” but I think that the larger political climate one can expect under someone’s leadership is a perfectly valid criteria for evaluating candidates.

  7. Max Allstadt

    The express gets stuff wrong pretty often. I’m just saying that Perata is going to have a hell of a time with opposition from voter guides, endorsement lists, etc.

    You’re right, Robert, Dellums is non-polarizing. He has us united in exasperation.

    I’m with DTO, let’s write Obama and recommend Dellums for Ambassador to South Africa. He’d shine in that job.

  8. dto510

    Hey, Luke, I don’t want Jean Quan to be mayor either but let’s chill on the threats to move to Canada (or in this case, Moraga). As depressing as this is to say, she would be better than the current mayor.

  9. Coolhand Luke

    I’m definitely kidding DTO. I wouldn’t leave Oakland for much of anything, I just don’t like Jean at all. It really is depressing to say that she would be a better mayor, so I won’t say it, but that doesn’t mean I’m happy with Dellums by any means.

  10. das88

    Since it is early days and we can just throw out names, what about Doug Boxer. He has name recognition, is smart, and knows how the city works.

  11. Robert

    With all due respect V, (and I really do mean that), what you are saying, “the larger political climate”, sounds an awful lot like blame the victim. If there are things that you think they are doing to agravate the situation, that is one thing, but you original post implies that is not what you believe, at least for DLF.

  12. John

    Sorry, V, but you have it exactly backwards regarding Ada Chan. Putting aside that Chan’s nomination is completely off topic regarding Perata, Chan is more than qualified to be a planning commission. It was the development community, lead by Oakland Builders Alliance, who politicized the appointment – they simply don’t like her politics…how much more politicized could it be? These opponents of the nomination, whom you say sat so quietly, had already finished their dirty work behind the scenes.

    OBA coordinated a vicious e-mail campaign of lies and distortions regarding Chan that was directed at the two “fence sitting” council members: Kernighan and Brooks. By the time the nomination reached the council for a vote, the appointment was already defeated, so there was little need for the opposition to say much more.

    Chan had, and has, tremendous support in the community. The only mistake the community made was not the hissing and booing. Rather, it was that they expected their voices to make a difference at city council that night. Silly them – they did not know that it was already too late.

  13. V Smoothe Post author

    John -

    Your comment is an excellent example of the sickening and hypocritical self-righteousness on the part of the anti-business and anti-growth zealots in this town, and their tendency to fabricate elaborate conspiracy theories about things they know nothing about. Can you provide any evidence of this so-called campaign of lies and distortions? Of course not, because it didn’t exist.

    Proponents of Chan offered absolutely no arguments for why she was an appropriate candidate except for the fact she has a planning degree. Opponents have specific problems with her actual record, which includes such stellar examples of advocacy as opposing applications for restaurant (an “unwelcome use”) and a gym (would bring too many people). Perhaps these are positions that you agree with, but the majority of Oakland residents don’t. After the Council meeting, two of the seven people who spoke in favor of her appointment admitted to me that they didn’t actually know anything about her work. Hardly responsible advocacy.

  14. Max Allstadt


    You also fail to mention that the people who showed up in support of Chan were brought in by an organized effort. Most of those who spoke on her behalf were associated with a loosely allied group of non-profits and Sharon Cornu’s central labor council. They had political motivations. And as I’ve pointed out a thousand times already on, you clearly have political motivations or results that you’re looking for. If you identified yourself or your organization, I’m sure they would be more clear. Got any projects you don’t want built? I bet you do.

    Another thing I noticed, and I was there in the room at the last vote, was that a lot of the people who were there in support of Chan didn’t get up to speak and were rather young. They just wore stickers and booed and hissed. A sign to me that they were likely brought in by leaders of non-profits who wanted to pack the room.

    The folks brought in by OBA, in contrast, were respectful. And all of them actually spoke. If anybody has any doubt about that they can watch the video.

    Chan’s nomination failed because of the poor tactics and form of her allies, and because of the damning evidence on record of her activities in San Francisco. Councilmembers saw that she opposed a restaurant and a gym, among other things, and it was clear immediately that she was a radical. Dellums, in the position of weakness that he’s placed himself in, was a fool to try this twice.

  15. John

    I received an email sent from the OBA listserv before the vote on Chan. The email asked everyone to write to Kernighan and Brooks specifically to oppose the nomination and provided talking points to mention, including “Chan will be bad for revenue in Oakland”, the email even included what to write in the Subject line. Later, I received another email from OBA indicating that over 40 emails had been sent to Brooks and Kernighan opposing the nomination.

    It is an established OBA tactic when opposing an individual in a governmental position, to blame that individual for many of the problems in society. OBA has claimed that Dan Lindheim is the cause of “dozens of project failures in Oakland” and for the high rates of foreclosures and unemployment in Oakland (I’ll never figure where they came up with these). In Chan’s case, it was that she would “hurt revenue in Oakland.” Naturally, this is impossible since one planning commissioner doesn’t have that much influence.

    With regard to the two projects in SF during 2001 which Chan opposed, one of them passed and one of them failed – a 50/50 split with regard to Chan’s position. So, what is your point…that she will be right only half the time? The only point I can discern is that you prefer that everyone think alike when it comes to economic development. Obviously, this will never be the case. The fact that people are willing and able to speak their minds on development issues is evidence of a healthy democracy. Perhaps more equanimous outlook toward others who think differently, or thicker skin, will help minimize those episodes of sickness you have.

    I think we can all agree that many organizations representing a huge variety of issues organize efforts to have groups of people appear at public meetings – recall all the artists that appeared during the budget hearings. Everybody does it but nobody likes it when it happens in opposition to their issue – get over it. All attendees should be polite, however – I’ve been “booed and hissed” at while speaking, also.

  16. len raphael

    re. mayoral possibles, we never seem to get much of a field of candidates. we have to try to persuade people we know who have management experience instead of being legislators, attorneys, or union reps. that might be less of a problem for governor or even president because they have entire experienced staffs to delegate the management tasks to. and yes they have to be able to shell out several hundred thou to self fund their campaign.

    lawyers and legistlators at best are used to managing a couple of dozen highly motivated professionals. then there are attorneys like jerry brown who could have learned how to manage from his governor experience but didn’t.

    so we won’t get a ny bloomberg type. but why can’t we get a denver hickenlooper (who btw lived in oakland for a brief time before moving to denver)? I think the people are out there.

  17. Max Allstadt

    So you’re raising moral objections to the tactics which successfully rallied supporters to direct their opinions to the legislators most likely to listen? No wonder your side didn’t win.

    You’ve been booed and hissed at while speaking? While speaking about what? John, every time you post, I’m going to ask you who you are and which causes you’re actively supporting. I’m not going to stop. I’ve asked umpteen times and every time I do, you ignore it. Every time you ignore it, it discredits you.

    V supports personal anonymity, so I suppose I’ll backpedal that. But if you’re focusing on OBA’s motivations and agenda, I feel perfectly justified in asking about your own. I’ll show you mine if you show me yours.

  18. John


    If I opposed one, and only one, project being built in the entire Central Business District of downtown Oakland, would that make me an anti-business, anti-business zealot?

  19. Max Allstadt

    No, but if I had a better idea of who you were, and what you were about, I might be able to tell you how I’d rate you as a planning commission candidate. I’ll show you mine if you show me yours.

    Actually, if you had as much opinion on-record as Ms. Chan, and if you were to direct us said on-record opinion, you’d already make a better candidate than she did. She deliberately avoided any attention to selected parts of her history. Perhaps that’s part of why she wasn’t just voted down, but was the first candidate in quite some time who wasn’t unanimously voted in.

  20. Carlos Plazola

    John et al,

    Some clarifications:

    On the proponents’ organizing tactics around Ada Chan. Fifteen years ago, I was an organizer for groups such as ACORN, Southwest Network for Environmental and Economic Justice (SNEEJ), and other less known CBO’s. I became disillusioned because we were not organizing to help people get out of poverty. We were organizing to help people stay in poverty. But before leaving this “movement” world, I worked for a man named Richard Moore, who is the leader of SNEEJ. Richard lives in Albuquerque. He is a tremendous organizer. A brilliant leader. He travels around the US, and the world, to train people how to organize for “movement” issues.

    He was also one of my mentors. I saw him in the crowd at the Ada Chan hearing so we went outside to talk. It turns out that he was there because a large group of them had traveled to Oakland for the Ada Chan hearing from a training they were doing in SF–to support Ada. Most of them knew nothing about Ada Chan or what she meant for Oakland. They were there to support their fellow organizers, not to promote what they thought was best for Oakland. So, John, you tell me, who is responsible for the disingenuous organizing? The tactics they use are also part of the reason I left “the movement”–Polarize, Organize, Mobilize, and Force your position. Not included in this model is “talking to your perceived adversaries”. Interesting, no? We encourage Obama to do it as a world leader, but then accept much less from our leaders here at home.

    On the other hand, OBA invited Boapphua Tamaley, the mayor’s appointment person, to have Ada sit with us so we could get to know her two months before the appointment hearing. Ada never called. She chose instead to Polarize the matter, organize her base, mobilize her forces, and force their decision. Old tactics that should have no place in new Oakland politics. (BTW, OBA strongly supported Rebecca Kaplan for council for, among other reasons, her commitment to bring sides together to start talking.)

    So, as a result of not being able to meet with Ada, the OBA along with Chinatown leaders, and other business leaders researched Ada’s history on land-use decision-making, and used it as a guide to future decision-making, assessed whether it was what Oakland needed at this time, and then came to the conclusion that it was not. So, we shared our opinions with anyone that would listen. Last I checked, democracy includes sharing your opinions with councilmembers and encouraging others to do so.

    By the way, I think it is pretty much a consensus now in the business community in Oakland that Dan Lindheim is bad for Oakland, at least as long as he is making decisions that effect economic growth. That the OBA was one of the first groups to boldly express this opinion simply shows that we’re willing to lead, even when it is a risk to ourselves.

    Carlos Plazola

  21. SF2OAK

    Unfortunately our choices are slim for a Mayor- who wants the job- yes I know Perata & IDF but they are too polarizing, and who can get elected. Also unfortunate are the voters in OAK. they elected Dellum’s who did just about everything he claimed he would do as Mayor, had no experience running anything, and has been a lobbyist (which one would think would doom the man) but for his opposition he was begged to run and got elected. Then the voters re elected the incumbents on the City Council – and it cannot be a reward for good job performance. I think it’s because it is impossible to get a handle on who does what in City Hall- it is not transparent enough. It also doesn’t get reported on except for Chip Johnson 2x weekly. I believe enough ineptitude to fill a newspaper.

  22. Critical Chris

    Perata for mayor? The public record of Perata’s own (now expired) concealed handgun permit flies in face of his legislative policy efforts to control guns…or does it? I haven’t seen the death threats, but what a perfect “bulletproof” (pardon the pun) reason to get a CCW: At least Dianne Feinstein was in the hallway near Harvey Milk’s office.

  23. Edina Monsoon

    Max Allstadt, I googled Oakland Unified School District and the word Ebonics did not show up on the 10 first pages of search results. Regardless of who you support for mayor, why would you make up something like that?

  24. Max Allstadt

    Wups. Try googling OUSD and Quan in the same search. It is admittedly old news, but comically bad judgement is a trait that rarely changes. The latest on Ms. Quan is that she may attempt to push through her friend Ada Chan for Planning Commissioner a third time. Why? Is it because in a city of 420,000 we can’t find another candidate after two rejections? Nope. It’s pure politics. Part of the Cornu/Quan alliance which seems to be largely a power-oriented pair.

    See, if Quan runs for Mayor in 2010, she has to give up her council seat. Getting Chan into the Planning Commission now is a way to give her some Oakland experience… so that she can run for Quan’s vacated seat. Quan’s master plan is to be Mayor and have Ada Chan as her proxy in district 4.

  25. Critical Chris

    Edina, it is generally true that a ( ) article on any given subject often appears in the top five search results on said subject. That being said, in addition to the blogosphere, and other media, many of us expect Wikipedia to be a key public relations battleground over the coming years, with a brave new world of politically sophisticated games, players, tactics, and tricks.

  26. Max Allstadt

    Top searches also change fairly frequently. For instance, Art Michel (the OUSD police chief who should be fired for gross misconduct) is now in the top hits for OUSD if you google it by itself. You also get different results if you use the acronym and the full name.