I had a good laugh this weekend as I relaxed at House of Curries in Elmwood and read the latest "UnderCurrents" column in the Berkely Daily Planet. Apparently author Allen-Taylor can't figure out why people don't find Mayor Oswald Bates' actions on policing to be sufficient.
I'll explain this conundrum in a minute, but first I'd like to challenge the Daily Planet to include some semblance of balance in its coverage. And, I'd like to formally offer my services as a columnist to balance out Mr. Allen-Taylor. I do live in the area, and I'm willing, ready and able to write if the Daily Planet is interested. I even have journalism experience!
But back to the matter at hand. Allen-Taylor is mystified as to why Chronicle columnist Chip Johnson seemingly switched sides and opposed Dellums' call for a new parcel tax to pay for 100 new police officers.
Allow me to clear this one up.
The problem is that Johnson called for this kind of action nearly a year ago. The mayor did literally everything he could to ignore the issue and even blame it on the law-abiding citizens of Oakland for having such a big problem with criminals.
In fact, even after finally admitting we have an issue, Dellums still describes it in the wrong terms -- characterizing criminals as economic "victims" instead of the anti-social element they truly represent.
Dellums seems to have made a career out of being late to the party. He didn't even consider running for mayor until standing in front of a crowd of people chanting his name. He completely ignored the obvious mismanagement under Deborah Edgerly until the last possible moment and he's late on this police initiative as well.
In other words, the man doesn't lead anything. He follows. That's a serious problem when you're -- well -- supposed to be the leader of the city.
Johnson also took issue with the specifics of Dellums' proposal. Now, as you all know, I actually favor the initiative because of its regressive tax structure. But, I can respect the opinion of Johnson, City Council President De La Fuente and others that the city can't bear another tax.
So, here we have another issue where Dellums is pretty much guaranteed to be late to the party: wasteful city spending which steals money away from vital services such as police.
V Smoothe published an excellent blog post recently about this very issue. Apparently Oakland pays its city employees around 120 percent of the regional average. That's particularly interesting considering our crime rate and the dearth of the kinds of services most cities expect out of their governments.
All this is to say that Johnson is probably right that the city should be looking for ways to devote more money to police without raising taxes. Dellums' plan, while nice in that it shows he's finally acknowledged the issues we had in 2007, completely fails to account for the realities of 2008.
Of course, maybe sometime in mid-2009 he will catch up with Johnson's logic and propose some budget cuts. Given his liberal credentials, it seems pretty unlikely.
As an aside, if my readers did click the link to Allen-Taylor's article at the top of this post, I suggest you read carefully his discussion of Councilmember Desley Brooks' summertime entertainment events. Does it make anyone else a little worried that the Nation of Islam is policing these events?
And, while I'm at it, what's the deal with Allen-Taylor spilling so much ink about Brooks and Dellums -- Oakland's top black politicians? Is this some sort of racism at work?