Ron Dellums and the failed Port Commission appointment

Shortly before Tuesday’s City Council meeting, Oakland Mayor Ron Dellums withdrew his nominations of two local activists, Victor Uno and Margaret Gordon, to the Board of Port Commissioners after it became clear that at least one would be rejected.

The nominations reveal the tension between the Mayor’s dual public devotions to labor activists and the city’s economic development. He frequently speaks of the need to expand the Port’s operations and promote Oakland as a center of international trade. He visited China earlier this year to promote our Port (corrected, thanks to RodeoClown), and is a strong backer of the proposal to build a World Trade Center in Oakland. Meanwhile, both his nominees advocate large-scale reforms that could damage the Port’s competitiveness.

Dellums says that he will return with the same nominations when the Council resumes their meetings in September. Mr. Uno will likely be accepted, but the other nomination remains in question. There is no question that Ms. Gordon should be commended for her tireless work fighting the health impacts of the trucking and shipping on West Oakland’s residents. It is partly due to her efforts that Oakland remains a leader among the nation’s ports in environmental responsibility. Our experimentation with mobile shore-side power and truck replacement program might not have happened without her advocacy. Whether that is enough to make her an appropriate candidate for the Port’s governing board is another matter entirely, and one the Council will deal with in the fall.

What concerns me more is the joke of a nomination (PDF) Dellums presented to the City Council. Normally, the Council receives a resume, letter of interest in the position, and, in the case of high profile positions like Port and Planning Commissioners, responses to questions explaining their political outlook and how they would view their new responsibilities. Perhaps Ms. Gordon gave these to Dellums. If so, he did not feel compelled to share. Instead, he submitted a single page of incomprehensible nonsense. Here’s how it begins:

Margaret Gordon is the winner 2004 award winner given by the Easy Bay Community Foundation. The ” Effect Giving “honor represent volunteer work for all of Alameda County. Ms. Gordon is one of the founding members of West Oakland Environmental Indictor Project, she also, as member she contributed to the development of two community-base participatory research reports and the publication “Neighborhood Knowledge for Change” and “Reducing Diesel Pollution in West Oakland.” Her concerns with asthma in West Oakland as lead to the strengthen health education for people with asthma by supporting and bring the West Oakland Asthma Education Center, and the West Oakland Asthma Coalition. Ms. Gordon was diagnosed with asthma and allergies as child.”

I have no idea what happened with this. Was it the result of some terrible copy and paste disaster? Was it prepared by someone with a poor grasp of English? I tend to be pretty forgiving of minor errors in city reports, but this borders on complete incoherence. It is offensive that Dellums would expect the Council to accept his candidates in the absence of a remotely legible explanation of her qualifications. If Dellums is truly interested in progress, he needs to realize that the Council is not going to simply rubber stamp whatever jibberish he feels like handing them. He needs to stop spending all his time doing God knows what in secret and start working with our other elected officials to get things done.

One staffer remarked “He has had a year to come up with appointees the City Council would accept and couldn’t. It’s pathetic.” Word.

6 thoughts on “Ron Dellums and the failed Port Commission appointment

  1. Charles Pine

    On July 22 I had no problem following the link you provide to the nomination papers. The downloaded 11-page .PDF was not gibberish. However, it did repeat supporting pages for Uno where the reader expects more about Gordon.

    It is an embarrassing clerical error, especially since the mayor is under fire for adding a million dollars worth of personnel cost to his office in his first budget. But it doesn’t appear to be a deliberate slight to the council, nor even a cavalier one, as you imply.

  2. V Smoothe Post author

    It is more than an “embarrassing clerical error”. The single page about Gordon is impossible to read. The paragraph I quoted above is nonsense. If Dellums expected the Council to appoint someone to a hugely important position after giving them that, he is demonstrating acute disrespect for our legislators. It’s disgusting.

  3. Deckin


    I think you’re being too kind to Gordon’s (and her supporters’) basic position regarding the port, pollution and health concerns. If you read the study, you come to a section entitled ‘Data Limitations’. The following passage is really crucial and the fact that this glaring caveat isn’t mentioned (or possibly even understood) by Gordon and others is disturbing:

    Local air quality is affected not only by local toxic air emissions but by regional toxic air emissions, by local atmospheric conditions, and by those pollutants resulting from reactions between different airborne chemicals. Thus, a better indicator of local air quality conditions would be one that would rely on ambient air measures, measuring concentration of pollutants in the air rather than emissions. At this point in time, the ambient air quality data is still insufficient to effectively depict local air quality conditions. However, technological advances in recent years and efforts of local agencies and NGOs are advancing rapidly in this direction.

    In short, the single biggest indicator of harm from the port to the oppressed communities of West Oakland, whether the ambient air in West Oakland is worse than other parts is EXPLICITLY something this much touted study can saying NOTHING about. All they can say definitively is that there are more polluting establishments in West Oakland than other parts. Well whoopee shit! Gee, the port’s there, there are still some manufacturing sites there, what a shock! I would have thought Rockridge would produce more. If you think about it, given the prevailing on shore wind patterns, I’d take a bet that with the winds coming off the Bay West Oakland’s air is probably cleaner than Downtown’s and maybe even Lake Merritt and Rockridge (perhaps Piedmont).

    So, Dellums wants to put on the Port Commission someone who either can’t see this difference or willfully tries to downplay it. My assumption is that Ms. Gordon has been adopted by people who do know better and my dismay is that she doesn’t and perhaps neither does Dellums.

  4. V Smoothe Post author

    Deckin –

    You raise an excellent question. I expect I will return to the issue of Margaret Gordon’s appointment in the fall if Dellums does decide to re-nominate her. For the record, I did not mean to give the impression that I think she is a suitable candidate. While I respect the work she has done for the community, I do not believe she belongs on the Port Commission. I think that her current position as co-chair of the Port’s Air Quality Task Force is appropriate.

  5. RodeoClown

    Dellums never went on the trip to China. First rule of reporting: Never assume thats the facts reported in mainstream press are true. Do your own research. Judging by the majority of your information on your site, this is not a common problem for you. He had plans to go to china but changed his mind for fear of the predicted public scrutiny which likely would have followed.