News & Views from 465 California Street

Perata is Oakland’s Hope

Clint Reilly

Oakland desperately needs a nuts-and-bolts mayor to fix its ongoing problems.

Oakland’s leadership crisis troubles me.

I was born in Oakland’s Kaiser Permanente Hospital. I can still remember my mother’s many visits to Pill Hill during the 50’s and 60’s as she prepared to give birth to my next brother or sister.

Back then, my family lived with my grandparents in the house where my mother grew up across the Oakland line near Ashby and San Pablo Avenues in Berkeley. We later moved to San Leandro, but Oakland was still a big part of my life.

I recall trips with my mother and grandmother on the AC Transit bus to the long-gone Capwell’s Department store in downtown Oakland.

Later, as a teenager, I was a frequent visitor to the Oakland Main Library near Lake Merritt and DeLauer’s 24-hour book store on Broadway – an Oakland landmark.

I attended Oakland Raider games with my dad at Frank Youell Field before the Oakland Coliseum was built. I can still remember a young coach Al Davis pacing the sidelines during games.

During the summers of my first two years of college I lived and worked at St. Patrick’s Church at 10th and Peralta Streets in West Oakland with the Bay Area’s sole African American Catholic priest – Father Clarence Howard.

Father Howard was a quiet man and he was widely respected throughout West Oakland’s tough neighborhoods. One Sunday morning a black judge by the name of Lionel Wilson attended church services and greeted Father Howard warmly. In 1978, Lionel Wilson became Oakland’s first African American mayor.

Eventually I moved away from my family’s San Leandro home. But I kept my eye on Oakland politics.

Today, Oakland suffers from the bewildered rhetoric and bumbling policies of Mayor Ron Dellums. No American politician more clearly evidences the impotence of ideological rhetoric as a prescription for curbing urban violence than Dellums. His bombastic sermons echo Fidel Castro. At times, the most violent parts of his city resemble an American Baghdad. Dellums is painfully out of touch with the law enforcement best practices that have turned around other big American cities.

But Oakland is fortunate to have one of California’s most able politicians protecting its interests in Sacramento – State Senate President Pro Tem Don Perata.

Termed out in 2008, many are hoping Perata will return home and run for mayor of Oakland. No movie star, as blue collar as the Black Hole, Perata started out as an Alameda milkman’s son and worked his way up to become the most powerful Democratic politician in California.

Perata taught in Alameda County schools for more than 15 years before he became an Alameda County Supervisor and later, Oakland’s state senator. His colleagues quickly saw his leadership potential and elected him to lead the state Senate in 2004. Perata might be the most effective grass roots politician active in California today.

I know firsthand the hard decisions that a Senate Pro Tem faces. From the 1980’s through 1994, I served as Senate President Pro Tem David Roberti’s political advisor on numerous campaigns. Roberti’s precedent-setting law banning assault weapons provoked a multi-million dollar recall campaign against him financed by pro-gun zealots.

Perata has embraced the pressure-filled position and thrived. He brokered the $37 billion infrastructure bonds that are rebuilding highways, bridges, airports and ports. Moreover, pioneering legislation on global warming, health care, education, water and energy conservation bear the imprint of Perata’s iron fist.

Oakland desperately needs a nuts-and-bolts mayor to fix its ongoing problems. There is no better political mechanic operating today than Don Perata.

Comments (6)

  • I have a friend who works out on the docks of the Port of Oakland and he tells me the biggest contributor to particulate matter in our air is due to DIESEL engines, not big gas-driven SUVs contrary to common belief. That black soot Don Perata showed was “black carbon” emissions released from Cargo container ships that don’t “plug-in” when they are docked at our ports for weeks and months at a time. The Port of Long Beach, the busiest, is adopting new standards whereby shipping lines such as Maersk, Cosco (Busan), and others are required to turn-off their diesel engines and plug-in, even if it costs more to do so.

    The SF Bay Area and Oakland is blessed to have an offshore Westerly breeze that natural cleans and moves our contaminated air to the Central Valley and the Sierras where the abundance of trees absorb all that excess CO2.

    Precipitation also helps a lot too!

    Posted by: Don Nguyen | March 18th, 2008 at 11:41 am

  • If Perata’s botched gun buyback is any example, Reilly wants to jump out of the frying pan into the fire. Hey, dealers and thugs from as far away as Nevada, bring in all your old weapons for $250 each! What a cheap publicity stunt.

    This column also ran as an ad in the Oakland Tribune. Did Perata help Reilly pay for it?

    Posted by: Looking for a real independent | March 18th, 2008 at 12:19 pm

  • perata doesnt have anything to do with reillys column. go back and read his full disclosure column from a few weeks ago where he explains the whole thing:

    i don’t think perata would make a good mayor just because hes a wheeler and dealer. i dont see anyone else on the horizon either though. where are the new, young leaders who are in touch with the city’s problems? thats what we need instead. someone living in it and sick of same ole same ole.

    Posted by: Marc Reeler | March 18th, 2008 at 3:44 pm

  • “i don’t think perata would make a good mayor just because hes a wheeler and dealer. i dont see anyone else on the horizon either though. where are the new, young leaders who are in touch with the city’s problems? thats what we need instead. someone living in it and sick of same ole same ole.”

    Somewhat agree. Whoever leads “Oaktown”, must be able to unite all its peoples, and make it truly a “town”. You need someone transformational, such as former L.A. mayor Tom Bradley, who’s sensical, smart, and can stand up to crime and tough love its gangs and thug elements.

    The one bright spot in Oaktown that has brought positive inspiration to that city and impressed the rest of the Bay Area (and applause of the nation) was Baron Davis and the Golden State Warriors’ stunning victory over the Dallas Mavericks in last year’s first round NBA playoffs.

    We need more of that. ;)

    Baron Davis for Mayor!

    Posted by: Don Nguyen | March 18th, 2008 at 5:39 pm

  • Dellums has made a career of the Angry Black Man role, whose most recent star turn is the Rev. Wright’s. This works OK in talking shops like pulpits or Congress where pronouncements have no real-world relevance, and are customarily ignored. Put these individuals in roles involving real administative responsiblity, however, and things pretty quickly grind to a halt. As long as blacks vote for black politicians because they are black and not white, regardless of such minor considerations as competency, and places like Oakland will retain the dead-end chaos of ghetto-think where bling and the gangsta life are elevated above education, hard work and the other boot-strap aspects of lifting yourself out of ignorance and poverty.

    Posted by: Jerry Carroll | March 19th, 2008 at 3:39 pm

  • The possibility that the affected people are impaired only in recursion is a non-starter. ,

    Posted by: Settor20 | October 22nd, 2009 at 2:40 am

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