Never failing to disappoint, Berkeley Daily Planet columnist Jesse Douglas Allen-Taylor has offered yet another apologia for the Ron Dellums do-nothing regime in Oakland. This time, he’s decided that writers for this very paper have been scurrilous and mean to the long-suffering mayor, at least when we’re not too busy cultivating an air of mediocrity. Referring to reporter Robert Gammon’s latest column on Dellums’ numerous task forces, and the undeniable fact that the mayor’s office has refused to reveal who sits of them or even what they are working on, Allen-Taylor makes the decidedly entertaining claim that this doesn’t necessarily mean they’re “secret” or anything.
Sure, Dellums may not be giving the public any information on the task forces now. But back when they were just getting started in the summer of 2006, Allen-Taylor writes, anyone could join. “Under those circumstances, how difficult would it have been for local reporters to get information on the task force membership or deliberations in a town, like Oakland, that so dearly loves to gossip?” he writes. “Not very. So why didn’t they?”
So magnanimous is Allen-Taylor that he doesn’t for a moment entertain the idea that we’re just lazy and inept. No, he suspects we’re all just too overworked, thanks to brutal newsroom budget cuts. And in the case of Bob Gammon, Allen-Taylor claims that after joining the East Bay Express, he has “become spread so thin in trying to cover so many areas of concern that [his] work has suffered.” Since I sit next to Gammo in the newsroom, I can tell you just how tragically gaunt he’s gotten lately. Seriously, the man’s skin is friggin’ translucent.
But if Allen-Taylor really wants to know why we didn’t get information on the task forces in the summer, here’s the answer: we tried back then too, and were given the big stinky finger. In the late summer/early fall of 2006, columnist Will Harper repeatedly tried to get information on the task forces; he even sat in on a few that were held at City Hall. But when he asked Dellums’ representatives to give him a comprehensive list of the task forces, he was endlessly told, “next week, we promise.” In his column, Allen-Taylor guesses – really, he just guesses – that this latest lack of public accountability is simply due to a temporary culture clash (or “creative tension,” as he calls it) between old and new staffers. But from the day he announced he was running for mayor, Dellums made two things perfectly clear: He wasn’t going to work very hard, and he wasn’t going to tell you what, if anything, he’s doing on your behalf.
Take Dellums’ town meeting last night – the first such meeting he’s held since taking office, and one that almost certainly was only organized after newspapers hammered him for doing nothing but hiding under his desk. According to this morning’s story in the Oakland Tribune, here’s what the mayor said he’s been doing. He intends to ask the state of California, which is struggling with a multi-billion-dollar budget deficit, to give him a lot of money. He intends to ask the federal government to give him a lot of money. He’s negotiating with a few charities to give him about $1 million for some social programs. He intends to hire someone to “coordinate” some anti-violence programs. He intends to hire some people to increase “civic participation,” a make-work job if ever there was one.
At the same meeting, Dellums repeatedly sneered at local newspapers for having the temerity to criticize him. Fortunately, he’ll always have the Daily Planet to watch his back.