After nearly eight years of Jerry Brown’s neglect and Ignacio De La Fuente’s short attention span (allowing only 1 to 2 minutes of public comment per person per issue), morale amongst the activist public—not to mention concerned citizens who only rarely visit the City Council chambers—has dropped to a low point as this administration draws to a close.
So it might have seemed surprising to some that more than 800 people signed up for one or more of Mayor-Elect Dellums’ 40 task forces to begin again the process of self-governing. Even more surprising, they were all enlisted in the effort.
[Editor’s note: Pamela Drake was a convener of the Economic Development/Redevelopment Task Force.]
No statistics have been compiled, but a significant percentage of those conveners/facilitators and attendees had voted for other mayoral candidates, but they were also welcomed into the process of making and ranking proposals for the “model city.” Mr. Dellums’ staff has reported that he is excitedly anticipating the results of this process and the opportunity to work with this newly energized community.
All participants attended an orientation, after which they broke into 40 Task Forces. These groups have been meeting on the same night every week for 6 or more weeks, not including the extra week for Neighbor-to-Neighbor Meetings which took place in various parts of the city and a special session with Mr. Dellums himself.
The extra responsibilities taken on by the conveners required them to attend an additional orientation and some Saturday morning sessions in order to ascertain what other groups in their similar topic areas were proposing. For instance, there were about six groups whose recommendations were aspects of our economic development strategy and actual practices.
The conveners also met last Saturday morning to get assistance in putting together our top recommendations and our lesser recommendations into the designated form, which asked us to describe the problem, solution, and rationale for each recommendation.
There were so many task forces that the meetings were staggered to include Monday through Thursday night groups, who dedicatedly showed up on their assigned night in their assigned places around town and, after doing their own research, came together to mull over city documents, listen to experts, and hash out details.
Attendance ebbed and flowed with familial and job responsibilities, illnesses, and the political season but it never dropped perceptibly. Oaklanders have demonstrated once again their passion for their hometown—whether they moved here six months ago or were born and raised here.
An important part of the process was to break down the proposals into categories designating the investment of time or money to implement them: to note them as doable in the short term or longer term; goals that have significant costs attached, and those requiring little monetary investment. We were encouraged to shoot for significant change but also encouraged to understand that Mr. Dellums believes in patient collaboration to attain the buy-in necessary to achieve longer term goals.
Given the short time in which this endeavor was assembled by many of Dellums’ former staffers who volunteered their time, the coordination effort and lack of snafus was phenomenal. Just the required analysis needed to compile and then break down the issues that represent a city of 400,000 individuals and unique neighborhoods, not to mention interest groups, into comprehensible and workable units, should have been overwhelming. But they got it together and the task force members “reported for duty.” The interest is so high that many groups will continue to meet after Dellums’ inauguration.
While I cannot comment on any of the proposals until our new mayor has had a chance to review them, I can say that we have discovered that some are similar to policies already discussed and approved by Oaklanders in other lifetimes. The difference is that former mayors (and councils) received them, said “thanks but no thanks,” and quietly packed them away. This modest assembly of 800 dedicated folks seems to have reawakened their faith in the process enough to believe that we can utilize the wisdom of Oakland’s communities to chart and then follow a renewed course.
At the end of today’s session conversations buzzed into the afternoon about next steps and collaborations between groups and individuals. Somehow Oaklanders have always known that we have the heart, the brains, and the guts to get ourselves home. With Mr. Dellums help, we’re on that road.