Oakland may be Northern California's chocolate city, but its pool of formidable black mayoral candidates is a shallow one. The most prominent to date is a public official nobody has heard of, whose last name is -- Feeder shits you not -- White. Meanwhile, the frontrunner to succeed Jerry Brown, the town's very white mayor, is Ignacio De La "Fuckin'" Fuente, who is likely swearing a blue streak over media reports that an unbeatable contender from the East's chocolate capital might have designs on City Hall.
This wouldn't be any ol' carpetbagger: We're talking, of course, about Ron Dellums, the legendary and revered former East Bay congressman who helped topple apartheid in South Africa. There have been whispers about a Dellums candidacy for a while, but those whispers grew into a loud chorus earlier this month at the fiftieth anniversary gala for Oakland Citizens Committee for Urban Renewal, where he was the keynote speaker. When businessman Geoffrey Pete accepted an award, he urged Dellums to run for mayor. The crowd reportedly responded with cheers of "Run, Ron, run." The Oakland Post, the city's black-owned newspaper, followed up with a column by Kitty Kelly Epstein pleading for Dellums to run: "There is one potential candidate that has the stature and resources to defeat big money and govern the city on our behalf. He has an unblemished record of beating the odds, sticking to his principles, and accomplishing his goals." In one of the column's more amusing passages, an apparent dig at Brown, Epstein opined, "I want a mayor who comes from Oakland and actually likes the people who already live here, not just the ones who might move in someday."
While Dellums satisfies Epstein's first requirement -- he originally hails from Oakland -- he'd have to become a true local again in order to run for mayor. Since retiring from Congress seven years ago, Dellums has lived primarily in Washington, DC, with his wife, Cynthia, in their million-dollar, three-story home equipped with not one, not two, but three fireplaces, according to property records. He and his old lady also run a lobbying business inside the Beltway. That's right: The Conscience of the Congress is now a lobbyist who represents progressive constituencies such as AT&T and Rolls-Royce. Still, Dellums hasn't totally left the East Bay behind since his retirement from Congress. He continues to vote in Alameda County for some reason, using his elderly mother's Oakland address as his residence.
Will Ron claim he still lives with his mama? Little joke, there. So far, Dellums has been noncommittal about his political plans. He told the crowd at the OCCUR gathering that he'd give the idea careful thought. The smart money says he won't run, despite this desperate attempt to recruit him. Supervisor Keith Carson, a former Dellums aide, says he hasn't heard about Dellums' plans one way or the other. But when Carson last saw Dellums a few months ago, his old boss didn't sound like a man who missed public life. "It was extremely clear that Ron is happy with his life," Carson recalls. And does the 69-year-old Dellums really want to come out of semiretirement to confront municipal banalities like trash pickup and potholes? Besides, returning to public life would only open the door for asinine columnists like Bottom Feeder to impugn his integrity and residency.
"Black Chick" Speaks for Me
Dellums' successor, Rep. Barbara Lee, has done an admirable job carrying on the Great Man's progressive and pacifist legacy. She is best known for her lone vote against a bill giving the president a blank check to fight terrorism after 9/11. That led to death threats from some circles, praise from others, and the slogan "Barbara Lee Speaks for Me." Among those Lee apparently speaks for these days is Live 105's syndicated morning man Howard Stern -- at least judging from the praise Stern heaped on our local rep last week. Naturally, he lauded Lee's stance against the war in Iraq in his own politically incorrect idiom.
For Feeder readers not acquainted with Stern's political turnaround, he was a big cheerleader for the military after 9/11. However, when the Federal Communications Commission ramped up its campaign against indecency, Stern became a vocal critic of the Bush administration. Anyway, last week Stern saw Lee on C-Span speaking out on the need to withdraw US troops from Iraq. To paraphrase, he gushed, "This woman, Barbara Lee, some black chick, she's good." Or something like that. Hey, Feeder had to scribble this down while keeping his eye on the road as he drove past Berkeley High checking out the jailbait. Stern's sidekick, Artie Lange, asked the question on most listeners' minds after the host praised Lee: "Is she hot?" Stern never said.
Lee spokesman Nathan Britton conceded that it was surprising to hear his boss being praised by the nation's most famous shock jock. "The policies of the Bush administration and opposition to them," he sedately reasoned, "has brought people from across the political spectrum together."
BART Counterstrike Nixed
As Feeder's deadline passed, it was still unclear whether BART workers would strike the ailing transit agency, which is grappling with a $24 million deficit. BART directors, however, have privately made it clear they don't want to go on the attack against the various BART unions. BART insiders tell Feeder that some management folks want to fight fire with fire, since the unions have had no problem twisting rhetorical knives. For instance, BartRiders.com, the union-financed Web site, criticizes general manager Tom Margro's bloated 2004 compensation ($289,317). And new union-paid posters at various stations compare BART management to Enron and WorldCom execs.
Three BART directors say a consultant hired by management presented the board with mockups of posters that took swipes at union leaders for being greedy. Board members rejected the idea. "We felt it would backfire," one director says.
From time to time, a business asks the Express not to leave papers there due to its "adult content," i.e. the escort ads in back. In a strange twist, Hooters, a venue whose very existence depends upon scantily clad women, recently objected to this paper's content. No, not the escort ads -- Hooters apparently didn't like cartoonist Thien Pham's candid June 8 review ("I Like Eating"), which gave the food a tepid review and panned the atmosphere as "cluttered and badly decorated, featuring basic, strongly flavored food, and guys gawking at TVs and scantily clad women they have no chance with." According to Express distribution manager Wesley Chung, a rep for Hooters at Fisherman's Wharf ordered him to stop dropping off our sister paper, the SF Weekly. "He didn't appreciate us taking a poke at them, I guess," Chung says. But the Dublin Hooters -- the one Pham reviewed -- still takes the Express for now, which means horny Tri-Valley readers can still eat, bird-dog the waitresses, and shop for escorts all at the same time.
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