Let’s talk about “sustainability”

Watch Ron Dellums speak and you are just are certain to hear him mention sustainability as you are to learn that he does not, in fact, have an S on his chest. Sustainable economy this, sustainable city that, and so on. Turning Oakland into a nationwide model for sustainability was one of his key pledges during last year’s mayoral campaign. Until recently, Dellums has done little to indicate how he intends to achieve this goal. Many expected our first real glimpse of his plans would come through his suggested alterations to the city budget.

So Dellums presented his 2007-2009 budget proposal (Warning! HUGE PDF!) to Oakland’s city council last week. Blogger dto510 aptly characterized the document as “status-quo” (from Dellums? Shock!). I’ll talk more about the budget next week, but for now, let’s look at some of what the Mayor himself had to say about it.

From the Chronicle:

How do we get from here with this restricted budget to Oakland as a model city…With great collaboration unprecedented at the state and federal level, with the support of a public-private partnership…We need to go way beyond this budget.


I will not be measured by the status quo. I put together a competent staff…to go after state and federal funding and philanthropic support.

And from the Trib:

It is important for the residents of Oakland to understand that Oakland’s needs cannot be met solely through Oakland’s current budget.


There are simply too few resources to address the magnitude of the problems facing Oakland.

Okay. I understand that Oakland’s resources are limited. Yes, it’s a problem. And I know that Dellums isn’t the only person running around talking about sustainability. Like most trendy buzzwords, it tends to get thrown around by politicians, businesses, and activists to the point where it becomes unclear if it has any meaning whatsoever. I, myself, don’t know what, exactly, sustainability is supposed to mean.

I am, however, 95% certain that it does not mean relying on one-time large infusions of capital from cash-strapped outside sources to solve your long-term endemic problems.

I hope that we do get that $30 million from the state, that $17 million from the federal government, and that $1 million from charities. If it comes, I’m sure that the $48 million Dellums has begged for will do a lot of good for the people of Oakland. But until it materializes, can we please stop sitting around like Emma fucking Bovary fantasizing about things that aren’t going to happen and maybe try to figure out how we can use to resources that actually are available to us to help ourselves in the present?

2 thoughts on “Let’s talk about “sustainability”

  1. Deckin


    Here’s what’s truly amazing: Within the space of four odd months in office, Dellums, nee St. Ron, has not only basically forecast his term as a do-nothing seat-warmer, but he’s come up with the excuse as to why that’s his only option. Amazing! Was that master of analysis unable to read before he took office? Had he not heard that the budget is actually available for any and all to see, online, for free? If this is a shock, the man is incompetent; if it’s not, he’s deceptive.

    Secondly, there’s absolutely no money required to jumpstart business in Oakland and generate the money required for his completely inchoate priorities. All he has to do is allow developers to actually build in this city! What a truly novel idea: People are actually willing to buy and develop land in this city and actually generate jobs and the like. Why won’t the St. try that one?

  2. RALPH

    My god the mayor’s budget really portrays a bleak and dire picture of Oakland’s infrastructure and I had only gotten as far as page 10.