Friday, December 12, 2008

A Tale of Two Columns

By Chris Thompson
Fri, Dec 12, 2008 at 7:35 AM

So here's the gist of Berkeley Daily Planet columnist Jesse Douglas Allen-Taylor's latest bit of Dellums defense: I've never been shy about airing my own criticisms of the mayor (hah!), but at least he's not a nasty, kneecapping, vindictive ratfucker like Ignacio De la Fuente. Case in point: Nacho's attempt to tweak the rules on city councilmembers' discretionary budgets, in order to allegedly deprive Councilwoman Desley Brooks' free summer Arroyo Viejo Park concerts of public funding. It's no secret that De la Fuente and Brooks loathe one another, and De la Fuente tried to gut those free concerts out of pure spite. Last election, the choice was between Dellums and De la Fuente, and even if you don't care for the incumbent, this latest little move shows what Oakland could have been stuck with if St. Ron hadn't descended from the heavens.

We don't know the whole story, of course. But we know Nacho's perfectly capable of something like this. Just as we know, and said so in 2005, that he'd be ten times the mayor Dellums is. Still, we thought while reading the column, Allen-Taylor had a point: Dellums may be a lot of things, but he doesn't strike us as petty and vindictive.

Enter Chip Johnson, whose column this morning accuses Dellums of being, you guessed it, petty and vindictive. Here's his story: Back in October, a relative of Assistant City Administrator Anne Campbell Washington came to a City Council meeting and criticized a Dellums appointee to the city's Housing Authority Commission. Just before the old woman spoke, Campbell walked up and hugged her. From that moment on, her career in Oakland was over. Dellums' staff started a "whisper campaign" against Campbell, culminating in news that she had once served as Jerry Brown's chief of staff, the apparent pinnacle of disloyalty. Her position was eliminated as part of a retroactive budget measure, but you just know it was payback for one little hug.

Well, maybe. There are a lot of holes in Johnson's story; not only is every single source unidentified, but so are the Dellums staffers who organized this "whisper campaign." At times, Johnson's effort to accuse the Dellums office of malfeasance without naming anyone gets fairly ridiculous: "the powers-that-be inside the mayor's office had already decided that she had to go." The powers-that-be? This ain't the X-files, Chip. If you're gonna accuse the Dellums administration of something this specific, it would help to have at least one named source or one named mayoral aide.

It's a real shame, because Johnson ends his piece with an excellent point. Dellums has been an abject failure as mayor, but as long as no one on the City Council is willing to say so, he won't feel enough heat to change his ways. He can go on screwing up the city with his laziness, paranoia, mistrust of the public, and narcissism, and no one with any real power will call him on it.

"If an elected official, one Oakland elected official, won't stand up and tell the public the truth about the bizarre events in local government, it will continue until Dellums' term is finished," Johnson concludes. "That's unacceptable."

How true. And how sad that Johnson undermined this point with a story too thin to pass muster.

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