A Bay Area Journalist's First-Hand Account Of How Mayor Jerry Brown Screwed Over Oakland On His Way To Sacramento



J. Douglas Allen-Taylor
Oakland Unwrapped Column
UrbanView Newspaper
August 7, 2002

Normally, whatever his other faults, Robert Bobb is a pretty down-to-earth kind of guy. Bobb is not the one who carries the nickname "moonbeam." But the other night when Jerry Brown presented his police tax proposal to City Council, it was the City Manager, not the Mayor, who came up with the most otherworldly comment.

Several speakers, including two or three Councilmembers, had complained that the Mayor’s plan was thin on specifics on how the proposed 100 new police would be used to combat the violent crime epidemic in Oakland, especially the rising number of murders. To which the City Manager replied that, actually, the City was right now working on a "comprehensive crime prevention plan," which was being tested in "focus groups" around Oakland, even as he spoke.

Reminded me of the scene in the movie "Alien" when Ashe, the robot science officer, is still "compiling data" on the shipboard computer after half the crew of the Nostradamus has been wiped out by the alien intruder.

And so, with a soaring murder rate that will likely bring us over one hundred citizens killed by the end of the year, and four years after Jerry Brown first ran for the Oakland mayor’s office with a promise to bring down violent crime in the city, we learn that his administration is just now getting around to developing a "comprehensive crime prevention plan" to do so.

So what plan were they working on these past couple of years when they were transferring all those officers from the community policing units to street patrol?

And so it will be the November elections before Oakland voters can consider Jerry Brown’s proposed hotel, parking, and utility tax hikes to raise $70 million for added police protection in the city. And, oh, how very Jerry a protection plan it is.

The Mayor’s plan requires the Mayor to do absolutely nothing more about crime in Oakland this summer than he’s already doing. He says he needs more money to fulfill his duties and his campaign promises. And if we give him more money, he says he’ll use it to hire 100 new police officers.

100 new police officers is like 10,000 new downtown residents, one of those Jerry-rigged whole numbers, which roll off of the political tongue quite well, but do not necessarily comport with the realities or the needs of the moment. Sure, 100 new police officers may sound like great news to some residents or merchants along Center or Holly or Market or International. But how many of those 100 new police officers will actually be doing patrol duty in the highest-crime areas, and what will be their assignments? The devil is in the details, and supplying Oaklanders with details has never been Jerry Brown’s strong suit.

The tax plan was presented to City Council on the last possible date to be placed put on the November ballot. Dick Spees, who supports the added police, worried about the effect the hotel tax might have on Oakland’s ailing tourist industry, and wished there was more time to talk about alternatives. Nancy Nadel offered a compelling and credible alternative plan to spend the proposed new tax revenue, putting more emphasis on preventing crime before it happens, including such things as city jobs for Oakland’s large number of parolees. But there wasn’t any time to talk about that, either.

And that pretty much seems to suit Jerry Brown. The 100 police tax measure on November’s ballot is a take-it-or-leave-it proposition, which clears the Mayor of any responsibility for the city’s rising violent crime wave. It’s like a "pin" move in chess. If voters reject his tax in November, count on Brown to make his usual trash-Oakland statements, saying that he tried his best, but Oakland really didn’t want to "step up to the plate." And if voters accept his proposed tax? City staff projected that the first of the new 100 officers won’t hit the streets until November of 2004. So by the time we can expect any results the Mayor will be on his way out the door, and if the proposed tax doesn’t fix the problem, the rest of us will have to clean up the mess the Mayor leaves behind.

How very Jerry.