My poor mother spent the better part of the month of November harassing me to send her a list of things I wanted for Christmas. “I’m really busy right now,” I kept telling her. “I promise I’ll send you a list tomorrow.” And so it went for weeks and weeks. I was really busy, but mostly I didn’t write the damn thing because every time I sat down to do it, I couldn’t think of anything to put on it. Sure, there’s things out there I’d like, but none of them lend themselves particularly well to gifts. The things I want and don’t have are mostly too personal for someone else to pick out – the perfect cranberry fabric in the perfect weight for new drapes, perfectly subtly patterned silk to line them with, or too abstract to stick in a box under a tree, like a new job that allows me the flexibility I need to blog while paying more than the pauper’s wage I scrape by on now.
Like me, the things Oakland needs the most aren’t really tangible. Sure, we can all dream about massive infusions of Federal capital, but frankly, we all know that whatever aid does come here is just going to get squandered anyway, so why bother? I certainly wouldn’t say no to some billionaire benefactor who decides he wants to concentrate all his philanthropic efforts on street repaving, but if this city is ever going to turn around, we need more than money. So if I’m the City of Oakland and sitting on Santa’s lap and get to ask for any magical thing I want, here’s my Christmas list:
For the Mayor to just go away: I’ve fantasized about him being whisked away to a South African Ambassadorship, and I sort of thought last Sunday’s Matier & Ross had confirmed my dream was coming true, but then other people say that was just wishful thinking. Ambassador or not, I just want him as far away from City Hall as possible. I know lots of people are really into complaining about how the Mayor doesn’t work enough and how terrible that is, but as far as I’m concerned, as soon as he hires as City Administrator, CEDA Director, Fire Chief, and so on, he can go sit in his big house in the hills and never look back. Let the Council take care of Commission appointments. Because let’s face it folks – when it comes to governing the City of Oakland, Ron Dellums just can’t do anything right, and every time he tries to do something, he just makes things worse. Why on earth would we want him to work more?
For the media to pay attention and ask questions: When I was looking through the five year financial forecast (PDF) yesterday and reading the depressing note about how Measure Y can’t pay for the officers it’s supposed to provide, I got angry all over again about the Council agreeing to spend all the reserves last year, even when it was clear to everyone that it was an awful decision. I blame the Council, of course, but I also blame the media. The vote certainly wasn’t improved with the pressure created by local columnists hammering the Council for so much as daring to want to ask questions before giving the Mayor whatever he asked for.
In the future, it would be really, really nice if the local press didn’t just mindlessly repeat whatever jibberish spews from the Mayor’s mouth and instead take like, a second or two to pause and think about whether or not it makes sense. (Example: Dellums makes an announcement that he’s going to, sometime next year, create a program to do something about the dropout rate, and the media hails it as”Dellums announces plan to reduce high dropout rate.” WTF? That’s not a plan.) Sigh. I just don’t see how we’re ever going to have better outcomes of our elections without a more informed citizenry. I realize that most people probably don’t care enough about local government to read the metro section in the newspaper, but what depresses me even more is that those who do care enough to read about it still don’t have the faintest idea what’s going on. How are people expected to make good choices when there’s nowhere for them to get any information?
For the Chamber to grow a pair: I swear, Oakland has like, the worst Chamber of Commerce I have ever seen. In most cities, the Chamber of Commerce serves an important function, exerting pressure on local government to improve the business climate and promote economic growth. Our Chamber doesn’t know the meaning of the word aggressive, and is too busy sucking up to everyone and anyone at City Hall, talking about how much they love the Mayor, and congratulating themselves on totally pointless reports to find time to do anything good for the City. Don’t even get me started on the Oakland Partnership or that Halloween-colored mailer they sent out promoting Measure NN on that paper that usually gets used for missing children notices. If you don’t want the Measure to pass, guys, just freaking say so. Stop gushing about how much you love the Mayor and are thrilled to work with him on everything, because nobody believes you anyway and just stand up and demand whatever it is you want. The worst possible outcome is that you don’t get it, which, if you don’t ask, you never will anyway.
More straightforward good government advocates: I really hope the League of Women Voters doesn’t fall back into their total obsession with Oak to Ninth again when it comes back to the Council after break. We need organizations out there paying attention to the small stuff, advocating for transparency and public access to government and the like, and who are doing it because they actually care about good government, instead of people who just use ethics complaints as weapons in their petty political fights. The MGO Democratic Club has been doing a nice job lately – they were all over the nepotism ordinance with their obscure technical changes and such. I hope they keep it up. And that the League goes back to doing what they’re supposed to, instead of being all crazy.
Ambitious list, I guess. I realize Oakland probably won’t be getting any of those things next year. But a girl can dream, right? For my part, I ended up asking for The Wire on DVD (no, I’ve never seen it, I don’t have TV) and fancy cookbooks. Maybe Oakland should just cross its fingers and hope for a TV series to get filmed here and a tenant for 1100 Broadway.
Merry Christmas, folks!