Monday, June 30, 2008

KQED's Forum On Ron Dellums: Worst. Mayor. Ever.

by Chris Thompson
Mon, Jun 30, 2008 at 11:56 AM

When history discerns a low point in the tenure of Oakland Mayor Ron Dellums, please let it be last Thursday. Because I don't think any elderly man's heart could take any more of the beating Dellums took on KQED's Forum program. Chron columnist Chip Johnson, KTVU producer Roland de Wolk, and blogger Zennie Abraham talked with host Michael Krasny about how the mayor's doing, while Dellums chief of staff David Chai gamely tried to convince the world that Dellums is working really hard, and no one pays attention to all the great things he's accomplished. Highlights (who are we kidding? If the word lowlights ever applied, it's now) after the jump:

Chip Johnson starts off by denouncing a culture of nepotism at City Hall, and claims that disgraced City Administrator Deborah Edgerly has just promoted her own niece and city employee Daria Edgerly to a job two pay grades above her present level.

Krasny complains that Dellums won't come on his show like he promised.

David Chai on why Dellums hasn't fired Edgerly: "This mayor is not going to shove someone under the bus for simply coming under investigation. That is principle vs. political convenience."

Chai on whether Dellums' wife Cynthia is really running things: "There's really no factual evidence that can come out that demonstrates that sentiment."

Chai: "This mayor is in charge. ... You have to come to the conclusion by any objective measure that this mayor is present."

Roland de Wolk runs down KTVU's recent report on how Dellums barely works four-hour days one third of the time, and has billed the city for lavish personal expenses.

Zennie Abraham defends Edgerly and says she's the victim of a media smear job, but complains Dellums is secretive.

Then it was on to the callers.

Chris: "I've noticed a really big improvement in terms of the downtown area being cleaned up, new construction, and also it seems that International Boulevard has definitely seen an increased police presence." Wants to know who's responsible.

After David Chai makes a few noises about Dellums' accomplishments, Chip Johnson makes a stink:

Johnson: "David, let's be real here. And let's be real to the listeners of this show. Which developments were started under Mr. Dellums? Which ones? Any of them?"

Chai: "Well, for one example, I wasn't...">br>
Johnson: "Any example."

Chai: "Let me finish, Chip. for example, we've announced Shorenstein, a big major player, coming into Oakland. We've had several different other developments. I'm not saying we should take credit for.."

Johnson: "I'm sorry..."

Chai: "Listen, let me finish my statement, Chip. I'm not saying that, look, a lot was accomplished under the Brown administration. There's no doubt about that. And I'm not here to give the, I'm not here to tout the mayor's horn, I'm just trying to simply lay out the facts as was stated, and let the people decide. And the mayor, former mayor Jerry Brown did bring a lot of development. We're trying to continue that. This is a completely different economic reality. I think everybody knows what we're going through."

Ah, but Johnson's not done tearing through Chai's guts yet!

Johnson, after mentioning that Dellums knew six months ago that Edgerly was planning to resign on July 31: "When did you guys start your search for a new city administrator, who have you tapped, and who are some of the leading candidates? Because if this decision was made six months ago, then surely someone in city government has begun the search for a new city administrator. Who's doing that?"

Chai: "Well, we have put a transition plan in place, we requested $150K for a search firm to go out, um, rest assured..."

Johnson: "When did you do that?"

Chai: "Rest assured those plans are moving forward, and ..."

Johnson: "No, I didn't ask you that. I asked you..."

Chai: "...we will have a transition team..."

Johnson: "I asked when you began that search? When?"

Chai: "As I stated earlier, again, I can state it again. We have a transition plan in place as we speak. Deborah Edgerly will retire July 31, and rest assured we will have a seamless transition."

Johnson: "Not if I can help it."

Yeowch! Let's take some more calls:

Mercedes: "In watching this mayor's tenure, it's really been insulting to see the lack of engagement he's displayed. And I want to completely contest the mayor's spokesman's assertion that he's been an active and engaged mayor....So he's having a lot of fun going to a lot of mayors' conferences and being bowed down to as some great model city mayor. But it doesn't seem that he's present, getting thing done."

Chai: "He is deeply engaged in the city of Oakland. ... This isn't about, you know, his wanting to go to D.C. He wants to be able to use all his resources. And that's the benefit of having the mayor be the mayor, because he has these relationships, and everyone knows power and money reside in D.C."

Elliott, a caller: "I started out wth a very favorable imprssion of Dellums and have retained it, until listening to this program this morning. Mr. Chai is doing his employer no favors at all." On Chai's characterization of Dellums' plan to replace Edgerly: "It's obvious he's spinning, if not outright lying about that."

Gene, a caller: "I am distressed at the mayor's running of the city. Specifically, the public safety. Since he's been mayor, we've had spectacular crime, including the murder of a journalist at 7:30 in the morning by the Your Black Muslim Bakery crew, that seems to get loans from the city and not pay them back.... Perata's carjacking at two in the afternoon, a boy shot at his piano lesson, the takeover robberies in neighs that we thought were safe...I fear for my safety each and every day. I'm parking in Lake Merritt right now, when pepole walk behind my car, I wonder if I'm gonna get whacked!"

Roland de Wolk: "Everywhere around Oakland, what you hear in the hills, what you hear down in the flats, what you hear anywhere you go in town? We're alone here. There's this perception that we're on our own here. And much of it comes down to, for example with the Deborah Edgerly story here, it all kind of wraps into this: that the man that Chip very generously calls the quiet mayor is often considered, by many people we talk to, as an empty suit. And the turmoil and the chaos that is ensuing at City Hall, the city councilmembers are running off on their own. They're all running little fiefdoms because there is no center."

Jesus Christ, David Chai! Your people cry out in the widerness! Do you have any words of encouragement for us, to assure us that Dellums isn't the Cat-5 disaster we fear he may be?

Chai: "I think Oakland is a phenomenal city. It has many challenges. It has many strengths. It has weaknesses. But oftentimes, you don't hear about the positive things that are going on."

Oh.

This is very possibly the worst performance by a public official since Bush's first Katrina speech. It might even be worse than that, since Dellums couldn't be bothered to show up, and forced his chief of staff to answer the public's questions for him. Any bets on what Dellums was doing instead of talking to the public? Admiring his humanitarian awards? Getting out of bed? Wii?

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