Monday, January 10, 2011

For Chip Johnson, It’s Tough to Make Predictions When Your Facts Are Wrong

By J. Douglas Allen-Taylor
Mon, Jan 10, 2011 at 9:39 AM

After making what was arguably the most spectacularly wrong political prediction for 2010 — "With the dark cloud of a lingering federal probe behind him, there is nothing standing between former state Sen. Don Perata and the Oakland mayor's office but time, opportunity and blue skies" — you would think the Chronicle's Chip Johnson would be shying away from forecasting the future these days. Not so. Mr. Johnson was at it again last week with
his "2011 Oakland Predictions," sharing with us nine separate events that he believes will happen this year.

While it's impossible to judge a prediction in advance, one of Johnson's statements in his article about the past should have set off bells in the fact-checker's room at the Chronicle. In an item concerning how fast Jerry Brown might get out of the gate in his first term as returning California governor, Johnson wrote that "in the first of two-terms as Oakland mayor," Brown, among other things, "adopt[ed] the city's then-state-controlled school district."

That's not quite how we remember it.

First — and perhaps this is being picky — the Oakland schools did not get taken over by the state until 2003, after Brown was already into his second term.

Brown certainly took a great interest in the Oakland Unified School District during his first term as mayor beginning in 1999, convincing Oakland voters a year later to give him the power to appoint three additional members to the Oakland school board, and partnering with then-State Senator Perata to force the ouster of then-OUSD Superintendent Carole Quan. But Brown appeared less interested in running the Oakland schools after the school board refused to hire his personal choice for Carole Quan's replacement — Assistant City Administrator George Musgrove — and instead hired Dennis Chaconas for the job.

According to an investigative piece in the Tribune, there was significant evidence that Brown may have worked behind the scenes to help orchestrate the 2003 state takeover of the Oakland public schools ("Phone Logs Link "Politics" To School Takeover").

By that time, Brown's educational interests were centered almost exclusively around the two charter schools he had formed during his first mayoral term — the Oakland School for he Arts and the Oakland Military Institute — ordering staff from the City Administrator's office to put in many hours working on OSA and OMI business and setting aside more than a million dollars from the city budget for the two schools' use, including city-financed renovation of OSA facilities first at the Malonga Casquelord Center and then at the Fox Oakland. Brown even helped engineer deals between the Port of Oakland and billboard companies to steer thousands of dollars a year to his arts charter school ("Jerry Brown Raised $12 Million for His Two Oakland Schools").

Meanwhile, the Oakland public schools floundered financially under state control, ending up deeper in debt than they were at the point of the state takeover. In our view, Jerry Brown turned his back on the Oakland schools during their years of state takeover and his years as Oakland mayor, refusing to intercede in the many state failures that were well documented in reports by the Fiscal Crisis Management Assistance Team (FCMAT).

But if Jerry Brown did, indeed, adopt the Oakland public schools during his tenure as Oakland mayor, as Johnson asserts in his column, then someone ought to call the Department of Social Services and get the then-Oakland mayor and now-California governor cited for child abuse.

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