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Council Drops Proposed Contract With Don Perata
By Craig Staats
March 8, 1995
OAKLAND--In an awkawrd about-face, city officials abandoned a proposed $50,000 contract with former Alameda County Supervisor Don Perata to consult on ways to boost Oakland's struggling economy.
Skeptical members of the City Council's economic development committee killed the idea, saying the city ought to do the work itself and not hire another consultant.
"I'm just really confused why we need yet another 'visionary' study," said City Councilmember Dezie Woods-Jones (Elmhurst-East Oakland Hills).
One critic ripped the proposed contract as a giveaway to Perata, who left the county Board of Supervisors earlier this year and opened a consulting firm called Perata Engineering.
"If we need welfare for out-of-work politicians, perhaps they should apply some place," said Pamela Clark, who serves on the city's General Plan Congress.
Politics played a big factor in the decision. Although Perata had a block of allies on the City Council, only one member of the committee—chairman Ignacio De La Fuente (San Antonio-Fruitvale)—is a Perata protege.
In addition, Woods-Jones and Perata are expected to be rivals next year for the State Assembly seat held by Barbara Lee, D-Oakland, who cannot seek re-election because of term limits.
Afterward, De La Fuente blamed the committee's decision on "pure politics."
"This is two people running for the Assembly," De La Fuente said.
On the surface, the proposal was simple enough: City officials asked the committee to authorize $25,000 for Oakland Sharing the Vision, the city's nonprofit planning group. The port would have contributed a matching $25,000.
Sharing the Vision planned a study of the role of the port and the health care sector in Oakland's economy and ways Oakland could capture more spinoff business.
However, it was Perata who city officials had asked to submit a synopsis of the research project and Sharing the Vision officials confirmed last week that the ex-supervisor was being considered for the work.
Dick Spees (Montclair-Laurel) complained that Oakland Sharing the Vision's board never considered the idea and the proposed scope of work was unclear.
Under questioning by Woods-Jones, Sharing the Vision's Steve Costa denied the group had already selected anyone to do the work; "No person has in fact been selected for this team," he said.
Woods-Jones, however, said press reports suggested that the decision had been made. "No one seems to own up to that," she said.
Perata did not attend the meeting, but afterward said he wished he had had the chance to brief the committee on the proposal himself.
"It's very typical of a lot of things in Oakland, where good ideas—and this is a good one—get miscommunicated," he said. "I feel much more comfortable when I can represent my own interests. That didn't happen here."
Perata speculated that some city officials may have gotten cold feet about the study after he declared himself a candidate for next year's Assembly race.
Perata said he prepared a five-page proposal at the request of Mayor Elihu Harris and Sharing the Vision, explaining how the city could create a body similar to the county's Economic Development Board.
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