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
May 24, 2000

One of the more challenging aspects of judging Jerry Brown is that it’s not quite apparent whether he is winning or losing because it's not exactly certain what game is being played.

For example, if this was Celebrity Death Match, you’d say that the Mayor lost two out of three falls trying to attract big names to head up Oakland agencies. Sure, he got Harry Edwards as head of Parks and Rec. But Angela Davis and Maya Angelou both passed on the job as Oakland’s head librarian.

Of course, if this was the "Match [The Correct Department Head With The Appropriate Department] Game," then Brown even struck out on the Edwards appointment. Although Edwards said at the announcement press conference that heís been "everything from a revolutionary to a consultant" over the past 30 years, none of that "everything" seems to have included managing a Parks and Recreation Department, which he is now supposed to be doing for $135,000 of our money. So for Edwards, anyway, the game was "The Price Is Right," and he is clearly the winner.

If we’re talking track and field (with which, at least, Edwards has some experience) then Oakland comes in third, since Harry will still be hoilding on to his first two jobs, one with the 49ers and the other as a UC Berkeley professor. Or maybe the game is either "Greed" or "Win [Jerry Brown’s] Money [Which Actually Comes Out Of The Pockets Of Oakland Taxpayers]." Either way, there can be no doubt that Harry Edwards has come out ahead.

Since he took office a year and a half ago, Brown has pretty much abandoned the progressive, grassroots, Oakland-first, anti-special interest platform he campaigned on. One might say that Jerry Brown now has low liberal credentials. But whether that is good or bad again depends upon what game is being played. Having the lowest score in a basketball game is bad, but it will win you every golf tournament you enter.

If the Mayor is planning to run for the U.S. Senate or for President again, then Brown’s gentrification, suck-up-to-developers, military school credentials makes perfect sense. On the other hand, if Brown wants to run for re-election as Oakland Mayor or wants to take a shot at Barbara Lee’s Ninth Congressional District seat, both of which favor liberal candidates, then his sudden conversion to conservatism is going to be a burden around his neck.

Ahhh, but that is only true if the rules of the game remain the same.

There’s currently a nasty little rumor going around town that the fix is in, and Brown has made a deal with his old buddy, Governor Gray Davis to draw a more conservative Ninth District for him in next year’s reapportionment. New congressional district lines must be drawn after every census, and the word is out...unconfirmed...that Brown may have asked Davis to draw liberal Berkeley out of the 9th and replace it with whiter and more conservative parts of San Leandro and/or Castro Valley.

Don’t turn off the t.v. yet, children. There’s more.

If Jerry Brown wants to run for Congress, that might change the game once again, this time into a horse race between he and State Senator Don Perata, who is also supposed to be interested in the 9th.

Watching Brown and Perata double-team the Oakland School Board last year was a lot like observing the European colonial powers meeting in Berlin in 1895 to carve out their "national interests" on a map of Africa. You always knew the alliance was going to fall apart sometime or other and lead into war.

With Brown and Perata, maybe the first shot has already been fired.

Earlier this month, Perata aide Kerry Hamill was giving a report about the recent Sacramento teachers’ rally to a community meeting sponsored by School Board member Jean Quan. She made some complaints about Governor Davis in his response to the state’s education crisis. He’s rigid, she said, with two or three items he’s insisting upon even if they aren’t the best ways to improve the schools, and probably can’t be budged away from them. And then Hamill added, "sort of like our mayor."

Hamill didn’t return our phone calls to confirm or deny the statement, or to explain it. But Hamill’s a pretty bright lady, and not known for slips of the tongue. If she’s pulling the trigger on Jerry Brown, you can be pretty sure that the guy behind her is the one who’s taking aim.

Stay tuned on this one, y’all. We haven’t even got to halftime.