News & Notes

Of mayors and marketers, no control and self-control, busy bureaucrats and idle ones.

Part-time mayor: Richmond voters presumably spoke their minds when they nixed a ballot measure last year proposing to change city elections from odd-numbered years to even-numbered ones. But apparently the Richmond City Council won’t take no for an answer. Last week, the council agreed to give the same ballot measure another shot in November, arguing that last time around they didn’t explain the issue “adequately” to Richmond voters. Ostensibly, the rationale behind the year-switch is a cost-saving measure. By consolidating the city elections with when the county, state, and feds have their elections, the city won’t have to pay the Registrar so much money in the future.

There’s also another little perk for some councilors, should the measure pass: The five incumbents now slated for reelection in 2003 would get one year added to their original four-year terms. This might explain why even the council’s resident skeptic, Tom Butt, agreed to give the measure a second try. Butt is up for reelection next year, but he says he hasn’t made up his mind yet as to whether he’ll actually vote for the thing once he’s in the voting booth. He says he just thought there’s no harm in giving Richmond ballot-casters a chance to weigh in again. “I’ll put anything on the ballot,” he explains.

Meanwhile, Mayor Irma Anderson‘s bid to tweak the city charter to make her post a full-time job — presumably with a commensurate salary — has been shelved indefinitely. Council members with day jobs, such as personal injury attorney Jim Rogers, argued that making the mayor’s job full time would exclude people such as himself from running for the post. In spite of the setback, Anderson did get her colleagues to recently approve a ten percent pay raise for her. The part-time mayor will now earn $35,000 a year.

Full-time marketer: Thought Pepsi Cola’s incessant quest to insinuate itself with the nation’s every demographic niche had reached its apex when the corporation managed to corral both teen pop sensation Britney Spears and crusty ex-senator and Viagra pitchman Bob Dole into the same commercial? Think again. Or rather, “think young” again. Pepsi’s next marketing move lands much closer to home. Pepsi is currently negotiating with the Hayward Area Recreation and Park District: In return for a promised $90,000 plus commissions on sales, for the next five years Pepsi will get the exclusive right to stock about thirty park district vending machines and the concession stand at Kennedy Park. But that’s not all. Just in case park patrons aren’t getting the Pepsi-only message, the deal would also stipulate that the district must spend $35,000 to $40,000 — or nearly half — of that money erecting a giant electronic message board bearing Pepsi advertisements at the new park being built on Hayward’s Hesperian Boulevard. (You’d think that passersby might already be familiar with the soft drink company’s logo, since the park will be right across the street from a Pepsi bottling facility.)

Some of the park district’s administrators aren’t happy with the proposal, pointing out that the money could be better spent financing the district’s recreation programs than on billboards. But even after spending a chunk of change on the sign, the Pepsi deal would still bring in more money for the district than less than $4,000 a year it currently makes from commission on soda sales through other vendors. Park spokesman John Gouveia says the district has been wanting such a sign to promote local events. Still no word yet on when we can expect Pepsi in the drinking fountains.

Blurting what’s on his mind: How ’bout that Jerry Brown? We always figured that sooner or later he’d try to back out of the sunset clause in the Strong Mayor initiative, and last week he didn’t disappoint, showing up at the Oakland City Council’s Rules Committee and asking the council to put an measure eliminating the clause on the November ballot. But what really got us going was his second idea, which he blurted out in the middle of the meeting without any warning, supporting documentation, or apparent thought at all. Jerry wants the power to put initiatives on the ballot all by himself, without any City Council approval or tiresome petitions.

Did he discuss this idea with any of his staff? Apparently not. Has he been frustrated in his constant efforts to put measures on the ballot, only to be rebuffed by obstructionist foes on the City Council? Of course not. According to mayoral aide Nooshin Saadat, “it was really impromptu.” In other words, Brown just thought it up and opened his big mouth. And since the mayor left town immediately after dropping these two bombshells, it has fallen to his poor, nonplussed staff to explain what he was thinking. “He wants to have as much creative access as he can,” says senior aide Erica Harrold. “As collaborative as he can be, when he wants direct action, he really moves.”

The ever-accommodating Rules Committee members agreed to discuss the idea at the council’s July 30 meeting. Maybe Hizzoner will grace them with his presence.

Learning not to blurt what’s on his mind: Corey Duffel, the potty-mouthed Walnut Creek skater profiled in this newspaper in April (“Skateboard Rules for the New Economy”), has officially kick-flipped his way into the big time: he made the cover of Thrasher magazine.

The seventeen-year-old got famous quick after he slurred the N-word and other disparaging remarks into an interview with the prominent skate mag Big Brother, á la former Atlanta Braves reliever John Rocker. Since then, our local boy has cleaned up his act and clenched his gums long enough to earn a name-blurb on the cover of this month’s Thrasher. “Corey Duffel,” it reads, “No words, just hammers.” (“Hammers,” for those outside the magazine’s target demographic, are ultra-spectacular tricks performed on a skateboard.)

Inside, the sixteen-page spread begins with a close-up of Duffel’s face, a strip of duct tape sealing his mouth shut. The following pages show Duffel defying gravity, and sanity, in a variety of ways, launching over tall obstacles and sliding down long handrails.

“There’s no words because I didn’t want to say anything,” the teenager told 7 Days last week, after returning from a European tour with team sponsor Foundation Skateboards. “I just wanted my skateboarding to speak for itself.”

Mum’s the word.

One busy commission: The Port of Oakland got off the hook earlier this month when the grand jury found that the Port Commission didn’t break the law by awarding a security contact worth $4.4 million to the politically connected ABC Security company. Although port staff ranked the company last in a survey of six candidates, the company got the contract anyway, and the fact that ABC Security owner Ana Chretien is close to Port Commissioner Pete Uribe and City Councilmember Ignacio De La Fuente prompted the subsequent investigation. (“Security Issues Plague OAK,” September 26.) Although the jury found nothing explicitly illegal in the deal, the report detailed disastrous morale at the port. Port staff, the report explained, consider the commissioners inexperienced appointees who may make decisions based on local politics; commissioners, meanwhile, think the staff are lazy bums hiding behind civil service protection. Since the Port is just beginning to hand out contracts in the $1.4 billion airport expansion, expect to see this dynamic play out again and again.

Many idle commissions: It’s the time of year that the city of Oakland puts out its annual vacancy list for boards and commissions, telling us how much — or little — our city officials have done to fill the city’s panels with upright citizens bent on bettering their local government. If this year’s report is any indicator, prepare to find little more than a conference table and some tumbleweeds if you show up at any Oakland commission meetings in the near future.

For instance, the Community Policing Advisory Board and Library Advisory Board are both missing six out of fifteen members, the Health and Human Services Commission is missing seven out of fifteen, the Parks and Recreation Advisory Commission is missing eight of eleven, and the Enhanced Enterprise Community Policy Board is missing a whopping twenty out of twenty-one. In fact, the report lists a total of 136 vacancies.

A staggering 97 vacancies are in positions that should be filled by none other than Hizzoner Jerry Brown. Mayor, think about it. If you take your appointing wand down to the Temescal Cafe at midday, you could take care of your committee quorum problems while also solving the dilemma of what to do with all of Oakland’s ex-dot-commers.


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