An Outsider looking at
the Oakland Mayoral Race

Oakland! Oh Oakland, California. Itís a city that has been stuck behind the glitter of San Francisco and the microchips of Silicon Valley. Itís a city that politicians and economic analysts have said is on the verge of great things. It has always been on the verge according to them. Itís also the last hub of black culture on the west coast. If you really think about it, one of the last vestiges of black culture west of the Mississippi.

So as the Oakland mayoral race heats up, the spotlight of the nation has somehow hit this city. And what this spotlight has found is a mayoral race with 11 candidates, eight of which are black, who have claimed they are the one to lead Oakland to itís ìgreatnessî going into the 21st century. As an outsider looking at the race, I decided to handicap it and point voters in the right direction, as I know that most of you have more important things to do then listen to politicians make promises they canít keep.

In one corner, we have Jerry Brown, the ex-governor who just moved to Oakland within the last four years. I know more about the town than this mainstream media front runner. Brown said if he is elected Oaklandís mayor (I am puzzled to this day why a former presidential candidate, would want to be a lowly mayor in the first place?) he would lead the city to ìglory.î I guess this thinking is kind of like Hollywoodís fixation with the ìgreat white savior roleî they always have had with black movies. Nevertheless as he works the stump, Brown sounds like a motivational speaker full of motivation and less on substance.

He is a very articulate man, who is an intellectual and very well could be a college professor, but yet when it comes to common every day problems like many other intellectuals and college professors, he doesnít have a clue. This was apparent when at a town hall meeting, called to discuss Oaklandís problemís, Brown said the cityís problemís ìwere due to a colonialization of the mind, due to outsideî interests. I guess Mr. Brown never heard of economic development, and gentrification or ìurban removalî to name a few problems.

In the next corner we have a real college professor in Ed Blakely. Blakely is a mild mannered and gentle fellow who is a professor of Urban Studies at U.C. Berkeley. He looks awkward on the political stump, because it is apparent he isnít a politician, but his message of restoring Oaklandís industrial job base is attractive. Although he is mild mannered, this guy is cool, especially when you consider he is trying to woo the hip hop vote. This was evident when he took out an advertisement in the rap publication Roots.

In the next corner we have Oakland city council man Ignacio De Le Fuente and Alameda county supervisor Mary King. De Le Fuente is a fiery and witty politician who called candidate Brown a ìliar and a hypocriteî at a breakfast debate I attended. King jumped off of the welfare rolls to become the most powerful politician in Alameda county. Notice I grouped, them together despite the fact that one of them is an Hispanic man and the other is a black woman. I did this because they both have one thing in common. The Raiders deal.

In 1995 both of these politicians said the deal to bring the team back to Oakland from Los Angeles ( a move that I liked-but I am not from Oakland) wouldnít cost the taxpayers a dime. This deal brought the Raiders back to town but thatís about it. It will cost Alameda county and Oakland tax payers almost $16 million this year and this figure will grow like a yearly cancer unless there is some type of restructuring to the deal.

These three words, ìThe Raiders deal,î have caused twiddle dee and twiddle dumb to go on the defensive for the entire campaign as they have wiggled with anxiety anytime someone mentions it. At least De Le Fuente admitted there have been some mistakes and they will have to be fixed. King for the most part has been mute on the issue. I wonder why?

In the next corner we have Shannon Reeves, the thirty year old head of Oaklandís NAACP. He is an exciting candidate because he has the oratorical skills of a Martin King and he is young, black and republican. His campaign slogan reads ìNo More excuses,î and Reeves said if he is elected mayor he will make personal responsibility his main focus. He said he will personally lead a campaign, and go from section to section in the city, to correct peopleís behavior patterns in the city. This may sound incredible, but I would like to see this when he tries to bring his message to the hood.

In the next corner we have Ces Butner. Butner the owner of Horizon Beverages, one of the top 100 black businesses in the country. He said that if he is elected mayor, he will run the city like a business, and this has attracted people to him. But I wonder what will this business man/mayor do, when an angry activist jumps in his face at a city council meeting. I guess he will want to down-size the activists.

In the next corner we have Leo Bazile. An attorney and a former city council member who has a campaign slogan of ìlongevity over celebrity,î which is a reference to Jerry Brownís celebrity. He has called the series of debates as a ìrelay raceî where people talk about issues in one minute snippets. He has a ìbear stragedyî in which Jerry Brown is the bear and instead of outrunning Brown, he will concentrate on outrunning all of the other candidates so he can get in a run off with the ìbear.î

In the next corner we have Sharon Rice Oliver, the sister of Seattleís first black mayor Norm Rice, and the founder and CEO of Integrated Business Solutions Inc. a multi million dollar high tech company. I kind of liked her message of making Oakland a technology center and because she is also trying to reach out to the hip hop vote -like Blakely- as she also had an ad in Roots. I liked her all the way up until a recent debate, when she said she wanted to ìput more undercover police (armed mind you) in the schoolsî to protect the teachers. This thought scared me away. I know it will scare you too.

In the next corner we have a teacher Hugh Bassette, who people call a city hall gadfly. He has been a constant critic of Oaklandís city hall policies for the past 20 years. He has criticized the place so much, if he gets elected mayor, he would probably criticize himself.

In the next corner we have Maria Harper, who happens to be an evangelist. She has a good heart who wants to turn around Oaklandís education crisis which featured over spending, ebonics, and a 1.9 overall grade point average. Listening to her, you know she doesnít have a chance in hell of getting elected, especially after she said at a recent debate, that she spent only $200 on her mayoral campaign, and that was to run off flyers in which she proudly held over her head.

And finally, we have Hector Reyna, who is the most amusing out of the candidates. The black cowboy hat wearing politician, says he wants to halt tax rates, called Brown a ìcarpetbaggerî and a ìdemocratic socialist,î and Reyna said Brown would make a lousy mayor because he was a lousy governor. Beyond this, any candidate that can ask another candidate ìAre you a socialist?î with a straight face, as everybody in the room laughs, would get my vote. He is another candidate that doesnít have a chance in hell of getting elected, but he makes good copy and he would keep me busy writing away.

So here your choices. There are only a few weeks left to decide so take a careful look at the candidates. All of them will make promises, but they will probably never be kept. So if any one of these politician gets in your face and says they can deliver on what they say, just remember these three words. ìThe Raiders Deal.î

written by Lee Hubbard

For interview requests, questions or comments call Lee Hubbard at (415)671-0449 or e-mail him at
Look at your nearest newsstand for his profile on Latrell Sprewell in the premiere issue of the Source Sports magazine and his profile on Ishmael Reed in the April/May issue of American Visions Magazine.

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