A Hellish Week in Oakland

Mayor Dellums heckled, police chief Tucker resigns, and Bobb flees to Detroit.

It’s as if all the tensions simmering around Oakland finally broke
out into the open last week, and the people, the politicians, and the
press could no longer contain themselves. Mayor Ron Dellums was all set
to deliver his State of the City address on January 26, where his
greatest asset — stirring if formulaic rhetoric — would be
the next day’s headlines. Instead, the whole affair degenerated into a
chaotic mess.

Dellums was at the podium, using flowery language to diffuse his
personal responsibility to govern the city as usual. “I challenge us
all to bring down crime by 10 percent this year,” he said, as if we’re
the ones who draw six-figure salaries to do this sort of thing. But
things didn’t go the way he planned, as two people from the audience
rose up and heckled him, demanding action on the alleged BART police
killing of Hayward resident Oscar Grant and more effort to improve life
in the city’s poorest neighborhoods. “I’m not intimidated by that,” the
mayor replied.

But that was peanuts compared to the treatment he got at the hands
of his colleagues on the city council. Fed up with a blistering crime
rate, as well as mounting scandals inside the Police Department, four
city councilmembers declared that they would hold a press conference
the next day, calling for a no-confidence vote in Police Chief Wayne
Tucker, who still enjoyed the backing of Dellums. Television reporters
swarmed Tucker as he left the mayor’s speech, shoving microphones at
him and asking if he planned to resign. “Will you get it out of my
face?” Tucker snapped as he walked away.

The next morning, a glum Dellums stood by as Tucker held a press
conference and announced his resignation. Tucker acknowledged that
mistakes were made in the investigation of reporter Chauncey Bailey’s
murder, but saved most of his passion for his enemies on the city
council, who he claimed have “given lip service to public safety in the

Meanwhile, Robert Bobb, Oakland’s excellent former city manager who
was considered in the running to replace Deborah Edgerly as city
administrator, declared that he was taking a job with the Detroit
public schools instead. Finally, after months of delay and silence,
Dellums did what everyone thought he would: appoint his pal Dan
Lindheim to the post. That announcement put an end to a bizarre,
farcical epic, in which everyone begged the mayor to put someone in
charge of the city, only to be met with his distinctive inscrutability.
And so ended the week for Ron Dellums, surely one of the worst he’s had
since he took the job.

Circus at the Court

There was a similar circus atmosphere at Alameda Superior Court a
few blocks away, where Devaughndre Broussard, who is accused of
murdering Bailey, was due to appear at a preliminary hearing before his
trial. But then a funny thing happened: his lawyer, LaRue Grim, never
showed up. Irate judge Morris Jacobson rescheduled the hearing for
February 20 and warned the room that Grim would get a hefty fine if he
pulled this gag again.

Then it was on to the next big case on Jacobson’s docket: a bail
hearing for Johannes Mehserle, the former BART cop accused of killing
Oscar Grant. Outside, protesters milled about and chanted, “We are
Oscar Grant!” Inside, lawyer Michael Rains claimed that fellow officer
Tony Pirone, who is himself under investigation for his role in the
incident, claimed that just before the shooting, Mehserle said, “I’m
going to tase him, I’m going to tase him,” which appeared to buttress
claims that Mehserle thought he held a Taser when he fired. But
Jacobson noted that Pirone had also said that after the shooting,
Mehserle said that he thought Grant had a gun; the judge suggested
— okay, he flat-out said — that Mehserle was making things
up. Nonetheless, he decided to let Mehserle try to raise $3 million in
bail. And so this saga will continue.

BART Gets Wi-Fi

Meanwhile, BART’s actually done something pretty cool. Thanks to a
new public-private partnership, riders in the San Francisco and
downtown Oakland trains and stations will be able to access the
Internet, even while riding under the San Francisco Bay. There’s no
such thing as a free lunch, of course. Users will have to pay a
subscription fee or watch advertising every few minutes. But the
company, Wi-Fi Rail Inc., will pay to build and operate the service,
while BART gets a cut of the revenue. Not bad.

Three-Dot Roundup

Operators of two major East Bay hotels, the Sheraton Pleasanton and
the Coliseum Suites, have fallen into default on multimillion-dollar
mortgages; the Coliseum Suites are already fenced off and falling prey
to vandals. … Chevron released its fourth-quarter numbers last week,
and while revenue fell sharply, the company still did quite well.
Chevron’s net income for 2008 totaled a staggering $23.93 billion.


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