Dellums Departs

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Here's an interesting postscript to Oakland Mayor Ron Dellums' term in office. After facing much criticism for being hands-off, not to mention owing the IRS big bucks, some people are beginning to say he accomplished more than we realized.

Oakland has seen a significant drop in violent crime in recent years. As of November last year, violent crime was down 14 percent from 2009. The city finished 2010 with fewer than 100 homicides -- 95 to be exact -- for the first time since 2005.

I don't think mayors have that much to do with the homicide rate, whether it's going up or down. The elements that drive people to kill each other are more complex and circumstantial. But the public generally evaluates a mayor based on crime in the city.

One of Dellums' decisions that may have contributed to the reduction in crime was hiring Police Chief Anthony Batts. Batts came to the job with a scientific approach, analyzing the cycles of violence and instructing his command staff to deploy their forces accordingly. Batts has also emphasized the importance of improving police community relations to improve policing.

Dellums may be more directly responsible for resurrecting the hope that the Oakland A's might stay in the city. It's not a done deal, but according to The East Bay Express, Dellums and City Council member Jane Brunner got the ball rolling with an appeal to the baseball commissioner, asking him to give Oakland another chance. That led to a blue-ribbon commission that studied the issue. Dellums directed his city manager to work with a group backing the A's, and they came up with a proposed site for a new ballpark near Jack London Square.


The negotiations were confidential. But even since they've come to light, Dellums hasn't said much about them. One of Dellums' problems is his aversion to what he calls blowing his own horn. I don't think he understands how the media landscape has shifted in recent years, with news outlets and blogs demanding to be fed 24 hours a day. In addition, he actually dislikes the media.

If Dellums ends up helping to save the Oakland A's, it's possible that all will be forgiven. But that's likely to be a judgment of historians rather than journalists.

With a Perspective, I'm Brenda Payton.