I apologize in advance for the length of this post. I wanted to address the Ron Dellums’s State of the City address fairly and completely. Below I have noted (in order) every point the Mayor hit during his speech, followed by relevant supplementary information and/or my thoughts on the topic. I considered breaking it up into a few different posts, but then I decided that spreading it out would make it seem like I’m just beating up on Dellums non-stop, and that isn’t my intention.
Dellums managed to do one thing Monday night that I didn’t think possible – he made me feel genuinely sorry for him. He was so defensive and so clearly overwhelmed by his responsibilities, and so clearly searching desperately for something, anything he could point to as an accomplishment, that I seriously considered just giving him a break and ignoring the whole event. But facts are facts, and as the man said himself (repeatedly) on Monday night, we have to “set the record straight,” “separate fact from fiction, myth from reality.” And boy, oh boy, was there a whole lot of fiction flying around at the Marriott Monday night. So let’s get to it.
He was on the defensive from the beginning, saying “Finishing this first year, it is very clear to me that many people don’t know what we have done,” then went on to tell everyone to read to 22-page booklet listing his accomplishments that was being distributed.
- The booklet is a list not so much of what Dellums has done, but what happened in the City as a whole. Little of it has anything to do with him. It includes things like the installation of multi-space parking meters, implementing the Crimeview web application to deliver OPD stats (not only do I find that the new Crimeview offers decreased information and functionality over the previous version of Crimewatch, I haven’t been able to get this to work consistently for weeks), completing 3 public art installations, the Art & Soul Festival being successful, Oakland being featured in San Francisco Magazine, launching the Parks for Peace project, establishing the Mayor’s task forces, winning an EPA award for storm water management, opening of the Whole Foods store, Harvest Hall breaking ground, having a public safety director for the Mayor’s office, and launching the new geographic policing strategy.
After more talk of setting the record straight, separating fact from fiction, he told the audience “I am confident that as you check the record you will see that we have moved [in the right direction],” then started the main section of his speech by acknowledging what he called “the elephant in the room” – public safety.
He told the audience that overall, our crime rate is level, and that murder has gone down 15% in Oakland, which makes us better than average, because nationwide, crime is up 6% and murder is up.
- Technically, overall crime was up 1 percent, although murders went down. Aggravated assaults increased 3% and burglaries 7%. I don’t have the faintest idea where he came up with that number about the nationwide rates. The FBI’s recently released preliminary uniform crime report for 2007 shows a nationwide decrease in violent crimes by 1.8% (including a 1.1% drop in murders) and property crimes by 2.6%.
Look, I’m happy that we had fewer murders this year than last year, and that the increase in crime was small, but let’s not pat ourselves on the back too much over this. Sure murders rose in some places, like Baltimore, New Orleans, Dallas, and DC. But they dropped in Detroit, Columbus, Cincinnati, Philadelphia, Newark, Philadelphia, San Diego, and Boston. New York, Chicago, and Los Angeles all ended the year with record low homicide rates. I’m underwhelmed with our progress.
Dellums then moved on to the police department reorganization. He told the audience that he was committed to community policing during his campaign, and that after his election, he went to Oakland Police Chief Wayne Tucker and asked him how to lay the foundation for community policing, and that Tucker told him the answer was geographic accountability. Since he trusts Tucker’s professional opinion, he did what was asked, and the new geographic reorganization started January 12th.
- Sort of. I mean, it’s entirely possible that exact conversation happened, but there’s a few details left out. Before he left office, former Mayor Jerry Brown commissioned a report evaluating the police department from Harnett Associates. The report, Crime Fighting in Oakland: An Assessment of the Oakland Police Department (PDF!) was completed last December, and Chief Tucker stated in February that he would be reorganizing the police department according to its recommendations. Dellums announced the reorganization in March, saying it would be implemented within three months. Implementation was held up by opposition from the police officers association. The reorganization that was rolled out last weekend was a modified version of the plan Dellums and Tucker announced in the spring, with three, rather than the originally planned five, police service areas, mostly due to staffing shortages that made full implementation impossible.
Dellums was clearly very proud of this, which he should be, since it’s the only real thing the office has accomplished, but I think he went a little too far, calling it “unprecedented” and a “landmark achievement,” and saying that for the first time in Oakland, cops will be assigned to specific neighborhoods they can get to know. “Now we have true community policing…We’ve been talking about it for 10 years, but on our watch, we have done this.”
- Okay. First, there’s more to community policing than an area-based deployment system. Second, a geographic-based deployment and command system is not unprecedented in Oakland. We switched to one in 1996. From the staff report (PDF!) on reorganization:
In 1996, the Department implemented a Patrol 35 Area Based Command Plan (geographic accountability). In an effort to strengthen the efforts toward community policing, field deployment and command structure was established in three distinct areas.
Sound familiar? We later abandoned that structure because we didn’t think it was working. The staff report says that it failed then due to insufficient resources within the department.
Dellums then moved on to accomplishments on the violence prevention aspect of the program. In 2007, $10 million in Measure Y funds were spent on violence prevention programs that helped 30,000 families.
- Really? That’s interesting, because Measure Y only provides $6 million per year in violence prevention funding.
After a fair amount of puzzling, I think I figured out what he’s talking about. In the first year the funds were collected, only $2 million were spent. In 2006, the City Council allocated the $4.4 million in unspent carry-forward funds (PDF!). $3 million of these were earmarked to fund teen centers, with certain amounts to be allocated annually between 2006 and 2011. So only $350,000 of the fund got spent in FY 06-07, and $450,000 is earmarked for FY 07-08. There were three other small one-time grants, and $845,718 left in a reserve fund to be held for emerging needs. Part of the reserve fund was allocated by the Council last summer to increase Youth Radio’s grant, and Dellums encumbered the remainder for his street outreach RFP in December. Anyway, even if you add in the distribution of those carry-forward funds that have been spent so far, I’m not seeing any way to get that number anywhere close to $10 million.
As for clients served, the number isn’t wrong, exactly, but I think it’s a little misleading. Between July 1, 2006 and March 31, 2007, Measure Y funded programs provided individual services to 2,302 unduplicated clients. 22,173 unduplicated clients benefitted from group services (classes and support groups). Of the group services, 21,274 of those clients were middle school children participating in the Second Step social-emotional learning program. Apparently this has been shown to be very effective – I don’t really know. At only $13/student, it seems like it’s probably worth a shot. I don’t necessarily have a problem with Measure Y programs, but I do think that we should be aware of what they’re actually costing. I mean, $10 million to serve 30,000 people actually sounds like a pretty sweet deal at only $333/person. But if you take out the middle school classes, you’re actually looking at a figure more like $5.5 million to serve 3,201 people, or $1718/person. I’m not making a judgement call here – $1718 doesn’t seem like very much money if it’s going to end up changing (or maybe saving) someone’s life. Whether the services are working as intended is beyond my level of knowledge. I just do numbers and I like them to be accurate.
He then moved on to talking about community anti-violence efforts. He said that in 2007, 86 neighborhood watches were formed, bringing the total of Neighborhood Watches in Oakland to 487 with 12,000 people involved. He also praised the 21,000 participants in our 315 Night Out block parties with 21,000 people a 10 fold increase (over 3 years), and thanked the faith-based community for stepping up to provide outreach and services to families touched by violence and at-risk youth.
- Good for them!
He noted that the Fire Department trained 4000 people in emergency preparedness, and talked about the 10 county emergency response plan and interoperability agreements, saying they are both unprecedented in the country.
- I never blogged about this because I don’t really know anything about it. From what I can tell, it does seem like a good thing, so kudos to Dellums (and everyone else involved) on that one.
Then he moved on to the police staffing shortages, and said he wanted to “set the record straight” and that the staffing problems didn’t happen on his watch – the Council and Mayor should have known in 2000 that the baby boomers would be retiring (“It’s simple math.”), and that the staffing problem is due to the hiring freeze from 2002-2004, and concluded by reminding us “I was not here.”
- Yes, we know he wasn’t here. He was living in DC. And I certainly agree that the hiring freeze was an aggressively stupid move on the part of the City Council. But as Charles Pine loves to remind us, we had 704 sworn police officers in January 2005 when the hiring freeze was lifted, and three years later we have only 736. Why should a decision made in 2002 absolve him from responsibility now that he’s in office? He must have been aware of the staffing problem when he announced in October 2005 that he would run for Mayor. He certainly knew about it in June 2006 when he won the election. He’s had ample time to come up with a plan to address the problem.
Furthermore, it is exceedingly disingenuous to suggest that our entire staffing shortage is due to “baby boomer” retirements (the Mayor’s office must have decided they like this line – Lenore Anderson repeated it on KQED this morning). We have a problem with attrition for multiple reasons. Between January 2005 and November 2007, OPD lost 156 officers (PDF!). Of those, only 40 were service retirements. 53 were disability retirements, 47 were resignations, and 16 were terminations. Poor department morale is a bigger problem when it comes to attrition than old folk retiring.
Then (and this is shocking), he made a promise. “Whatever it takes, by the end of this year, we will be at 803 police officers.” Wow.
- Um…I don’t like to be a party pooper, but that just isn’t going to happen. It’s impossible. Not unlikely, not improbable, but literally impossible given the amount of time the hiring and training process takes. I applaud ambition, but at the same time, I’d have a lot more confidence in Dellums if he could at least demonstrate the he has a minimal understanding of the City’s issues by offering somewhat realistic goals.
Then he laid out 8 initiatives toward police staffing:
1. New intense pre-Academy program with Peralta Colleges so people can pass the Academy
- Seems like a good idea. Our Academies have attrition rates (PDF!) of as high as 47%. That’s a problem.
2. Support concurrent Academies.
- This is a good idea, if not actually a new one. We already have overlapping Academies. The 162nd Academy (July 07 – Jan 08) and the 163rd Academy (Oct 07 to Apr 08) overlap, as did the 158th Academy (Jun 06 – Nov 06) and the 159th Academy (Sep 06 – Feb 07), and the 159th Academy and the 160th Academy (Dec 06 – May 07). The Council actually asked about the possibility of running concurrent academies last year, and in a report on police staffing (PDF!) delivered at the November 6th meeting, OPD basically said that it was impossible. Mostly because they are currently “taking full advantage of the available qualified candidate pool,” but also because:
A significant concern that has been expressed is that while OPD has the capacity to run concurrent academies, doing so will divide its resources among more POTs. This may contribute to an even higher attrition rate among the POTs in the concurrent academies as they struggle for more individualized attention where needed to be successful.
In a best case scenario, OPD can maintain 50 Field Training Officers (FTO) who can accommodate 30 to 35 trainees at a time for the 15 week field training program. OPD can run three 15 week field training cycles for a total potential output of 90 to 105 officers at the maximum, if OPD were to graduate either a larger academy class or two classes simultaneously there would be police officers who could not begin field training due to the lack of FTOs. These officers would have to be assigned desk duties under the direct supervision of a veteran police officer until such time as an FTO is available for assignment.
In spite of these problems, the police department’s current estimated timeline, which claims we will have a total of 762 officers (36 short) by June of 2010, actually assumes concurrent Academies beginning in December of 2008. Maybe Dellums has found a solution to the objections to the idea raised in this report. If so, he didn’t share it last night. Or maybe he just didn’t read the report or the timeline.
3. Senior officers are retiring – put together an incentive package for them to stay as field trainers.
- Sounds expensive, but provided he can find the money, I’m all for it.
4. Move sworn officers out of jobs that can be performed by civilians and into patrol positions.
- A good idea. Ignacio De La Fuente has been pushing this for a while. The budget process last summer would have been the ideal time to move toward this, but better late than never, right? Maybe with the Mayor’s backing, it will actually happen.
5. Do an intense review of recruitment and training to asses the problems.
- Another good idea. That’s something Desley Brooks has brought up several times at Council meetings.
6. Call together a public safety summit, the purpose of which will be to review our current authorized strength
- Summit! Predictable, but oh well. If it gets the discussion started, I’m for it.
7. Intensify our recruitment efforts – he will explore ways to do this over the next year.
- I don’t think this counts as a point in the 8 point plan. Shouldn’t he have been exploring ways to do it already? It took him a year to figure out that we need to explore ways to intensify recruitment efforts?
8. Support programs that will embrace homegrown officers.
- Also not impressive. What programs? This 8 point plan looks more like a 6 point plan to me.
Moving on. He said that we need to address the underlying root causes of violence. 16,000 people we murdered in the US last year. The Federal government will have to come help. There should be more investment in education.
- That would be great, but you can’t base your public safety strategy on hoping someone else will start throwing money at you. Also, 17,000 people were murdered in the US in 2006. I realize that seems petty, but I find it exceedingly irritating that he seemingly just pulls these numbers out of thin air.
He talked about the need to provide services, training, and jobs to ex-offenders, and said that his office now employs a re-entry specialist, as was recommended by one of his task forces.
- I personally think the Mayor’s office is overstaffed, but whatever. I agree that we need better re-entry services, so if Isaac Taggart can make that happen, I’m happy.
He talked about the $575,000 that got approved to put outreach workers in East Oakland, West Oakland, and Fruitvale, and the $200,000 approved at the same time for an RFP for re-entry employment training.
Then, and honestly, I think this was the most bizarre part of the whole speech, he starts talking about that block party he hosted back in September at DeFremery park, saying how nice the music and the food and the recruitment booths and everything was. Then he says “This was a wonderful event. Not reported. But it happened. I’m here to set the record straight.”
- Okay, this was where he lost any shred of sympathy or goodwill I had been feeling towards him. This is just a straight up lie. The theme for the whole speech was essentially that he’s doing all sorts of wonderful things for Oakland, but that they simply aren’t being reported. This is not true. That party was in the newspapers before it happened and afterwards. The TV news was there. I can’t imagine how a five hour party could have possibly gotten more press coverage.
I get that Dellums is on the defensive, and he’s just saying whatever he can think of to make himself look better. But I really do not appreciate his repeated and aggressive attempts to foster distrust of the media. In fact, they enrage me.
Dellums, through his own inaction, put himself in this position, and there is no excuse for lying to try to get out of it.
Ron Dellums should not be encouraging attitudes like this one:
I don’t place my trust in obtaining accurate accounts of the news in the Oakland Tribune, San Francisco Chronicle, San Jose Mercury, KTVU, KRON, or any other local media outlets that are privately owned and controlled by huge companies that ain’t even located in the Yay.
Dellums chooses to NOT use the media as a tool of community manipulation and image production, this can not be said about most politrickcians across this nation of ours.
It is for this, more than anything else he has done or failed to do in his first year as Mayor, that Ron Dellums should be ashamed of himself.
It is mind-bogglingly irresponsible of someone who loves to talk about the deep-seated institutional biases that create systemic poverty in this country to exploit the inherent distrust of external information channels that plagues low income and minority communities. In doing so, he is actively perpetuating the cycle that ensures the poor will forever remain information poor, unable to locate or use resources that can benefit them, and only likely to absorb information of an extremely localized nature that is immediately verifiable through lived experience. Study after study has demonstrated that the information gap causes social stratification – in an information poor world, communication skills are impaired, as is social and economic mobility. People who live in information-closed worlds are unable to obtain accurate information not only about news, but also about security, education, health care, employment, and a host of other issues. They cannot make good decisions. They cannot help themselves. They cannot improve their own lives. They become vulnerable to predatory business practices. That Dellums continues to encourage these destructive self-imposed information ceilings to boost his political ego is unconscionable.
I care deeply about fair and equitable access to accurate information, particularly government information. That’s why I harp on local media when their stories aren’t accurate – I want them to be better. Clearly, people should consider the information they receive through the media with a healthy degree of skepticism. But when a person lacks to very basic ability to accept non-localized information sources as legitimate, they will never be able to develop a level of information literacy that allows them to process information critically, find information they need, or evaluate information for accuracy.
I am also an ardent supporter of any government initiative aimed at making information available directly to the citizenry without filtering, media or otherwise. But your information has to be true. You can’t lie!
Okay. Off my soapbox and back to the speech. It gets less interesting from here, so I’ll go a little quicker. He’s not superman, but he’s making things happen. “Every time you see a pothole filled, that’s what we’re doing. Every time you see a tree planted, that’s what we’re doing. Every time you see a fire put out, or a police officer patrolling, that’s what we’re doing. The buck stops here. But I have 5000 employees to carry out the job.”
- Ugh. I don’t actually see any of those things happen very often. Oh, and according to the citywide vacancy report (PDF!) the Finance and Management Committee received last week, he’s got more like 3900 employees to carry out the job (4,401.38 authorized FTEs with 483.81 FTE vacancies).
“Under the radar screen, not reported to you”, he’s trying to change the culture of city hall. He meets weekly with all the department heads.
- If he says so. I wouldn’t know.
He believed strongly that we needed to put together an economic development plan to bring 10,000 jobs to Oakland over 5 years, and created public-private partnerships and cluster groups to accomplish that. They have been meeting and their plans are being completed.
- Sigh. I already wrote about this. Assuming we continue our current rate of employment growth, we would add 10,000 new jobs in 5 years anyway. By doing nothing. Dellums apparently didn’t bother reading the report that his economic summit was celebrating.
The Army Base is now vision driven instead of project driven. We have embraced an economic development package or the Army Base to create 10,000 jobs and bring in $10 million per year. An RFQ will be issued soon, followed later by an RFP.
- Well, the RFQ part is true. The vision part? Not so much. Dellums endorsed a ridiculous plan for the Army Base that entailed a 30 story office tower in the middle of nowhere and uses that were only “moderately compatible” with the Port. The Council rejected his whack plan and decided to scrap the “vision” and simply issue an RFQ and see what people come up with.
We have been zoning project by project. He’s reforming the zoning so that everyone can understand what can be built where, and has already begun that process.
- More or less true. dto510 has written a bunch of good blogs about Oakland’s zoning issues if you’re interested.
He will be presenting a comprehensive housing package to Council in the next couple of weeks. The guiding principle will be “People who live in Oakland should have the right to stay in Oakland.”
- This was all he said about housing. He did not endorse (or even mention) IZ, contrary to what was reported in the Chronicle. Anyway, I look forward to the plan finally coming out. I find it very irritating that it’s taking so long. In early September, when the CED Committee heard the BRC report, Lindheim said the Mayor’s comprehensive housing plan would be ready soon. The Council has continued to delay their affordable housing discussion because they’re waiting for the Mayor to weigh in. And at last week’s meeting, he said that the Mayor’s plan would be ready when they returned to the subject next week. Now it’s “the next couple of weeks”? Ugh!
Health care: he put together a $400,000 Get Screened Oakland initiative – only 2 cities have done this, Washington DC and Oakland. He’s trying to take the stigma out of testing “Get screened, Oakland. I did.”
- I constantly hear people making fun of those billboards, but I actually like this. AIDS cases have been rising within the black population, so I appreciate that he’s trying to raise awareness.
Applauded Newsom for his eforts to bring universal health care to SF. He then said “The conversation about health care has been way too lofty. What we talk about is how you pay for it.” We need to put together a comprehensive approach with the county and federal government.
- Talking about how to pay for providing health care for people doesn’t really seem all that lofty to me. It seems practical.
Working with foundations, using philanthropic resources and collaborative resources, we will be announcing a 3 year project to put a health care clinic at every middle and high school in Oakland. Will then work to put a health clinic at every Peralta campus and then work to open them up to the whole community.
- If this is actually going to happen, I think it’s wonderful. Good job!
Greening of Oakland: global warming will drive the growth of cities, we won a storm water award, we won a solar panel award, we were ranked 1st in the nation in the development of renewable energy – we produce 5% more energy than any other city in America. We put $250,000 into the Green Jobs Corps – ultimately a million dollar project that will allow us to deal with pollution and poverty.
- Yes, it’s nice to win awards, but those didn’t really have anything to do with him. I have some issues with the Green Jobs Corps, but I’ll save them for another day.
Citizen participation: he made 102 appointments to Boards and Commissions Now for the first time, many boards and commissions have a quorum. 24 of them are youth – he wants youth to have the power to shape the future.
- I’m glad that Dellums is finally paying attention to our long neglected Boards and Commissions. Of course, I don’t really see why anyone would want to give up their time and energy serving on a Board or Commission when the Council (at the Mayor’s urging) simply ignores your advice and decisions, then gives you condescending lectures about your duties. I have a big problem with at least one of those 24 youth appointments, but again, that’s an issue for another post
Half of the task force recommendations have been fully or partially implemented.
- Bullshit. I don’t believe that for a second. I’m looking through the task force reports right now, and there is no way that figure is anywhere close to reality. This post is long enough, so I’m not going to go through every single recommendation now, but seriously – just pick one report at random and page through it to see what I’m talking about.
Being Mayor of Oakland is more challenging than being President. This job is 24/7 for real. There’s nowhere to hide, whether you like it or not.
- I hear New York is a good place to hide.
He concluded by saying that Oakland can be a “beacon of light to the world.”
- In my lifetime? Seriously, I try to be an optimist, but…I just have no idea how to respond to this.