Street Knowledge News
One On One With Jerry Brown
June 6 1998

Oakland mayor-elect Jerry Brown has a blueprint of what he plans to do as the next mayor of Oakland, and he shared it with Davey D in last weekend's edition of Street Knowledge. Brown, who ran for mayor against 10 other candidates will be the city's first white mayor in 20 years. Being a former governor and a three-time presidential candidate, the Oakland mayoral election reached newspaper headlines across the country.

"There was a lot of attention that went to this particular race," said Davey D. "You had 11 candidates coming in to it. Probably all of them qualified to a large degree, but with the entrance Jerry Brown, it took on a whole different take on things. Some people were very excited, some people were very resentful, some people expressed concern." He beat the other 10 candidates by getting 60 percent of the votes. He moved to Oakland in 1994, two years after his third failed bid for president.

He will suceed Elihu Harris in January and take over a struggling and overwhelming minority city of 396,000. Of the 396,000, 46 percent is black, 14 percent is latino, another 14 percent is Asian and 26 percent is white. But the former California governor isn't breaking a sweat. "Things are really screwed up," Brown said. "What's going on at City Hall? The Raiders deal, $200 million down the drain when they said it wouldn't cost a penny, they got an ice rink that went bankrupt six month later ... all these things conditioned the election. And that was a really deep desire. Let's have a change. And being the outsider to Oakland, that worked for me instead of against me."

It may have been Brown's celebrity status that gave him the mayor office. "Obvious, when you've been governor of California, you get some attention," Brown said. "And I've had attention world-wide. But it was the record, the name, the desire for change and a message that was in two words: 'OAKLANDERS FIRST'. We've been pushed around long enough and now we're gonna push back."

But as the first white Oakland mayor in almost two decades, there is concern that Brown's election is a slap in the face to the city. "When I was elected (governor), I promoted more people of color into high positions of power than any governor in the history in America. People don't remember that. Affirmative action was a positive word back then."

Brown's first method of change is to turn around the city's roughhouse image. "People have this image about crime on the streets. You turn that around by making Oakland as safe as humaly possible. And you do that by mobilizing the people neighborhood by neighborhood. You also do that by requiring that Oaklanders get these jobs ... I wanna combine training, schooling apprenticeship and all these public works jobs along with private sector money. So the key to Oakland is filling up downtown and doing it with Oakland people."

The mayor-elect is also interested in improving housing -- particularly in downtown, where several blocks are empty. "People are getting tired of high rents in San Francisco," Brown said. "And I believe that (Oakland) is a great place to actually live as well as work. Oakland's too small. We need more development downtown."

Brown would also like to bring in other bay area residents to the city. "Instead of ripping up the farmlands in Contra Costa County, come on into Oakland. Live, work and housing at various income levels. And then the shopping comes. And do with people who have been trained in Oakland who will do the work, instead of having guys driving from Novato or Santa Rosa or Vallejo to do the work. So there's money in their pockets and they're spending it in Oakland."

Other concerns were the youth. A caller from East Oakland expressed concern for her children. "I'm 31 years old and Oakland has changed tremendously," said caller Sherrell. "My children, I am afraid to let them play in their neighborhood. And I feel like that's a shame."

Brown plans to imrpove neighborhoods by beefing up police and getting the community more involved. He plans on adding more police officers who live in the city and getting more schools involved. "To do that, of course, we're gonna have to change the charter, so we make the mayor more than a figurehead," said Brown, referring to his idea of a stronger mayor form of government. "Not just waving to people and cut ribbons, but somebody who has the authority over the 4,000 city employees." Brown needs at least 45,000 signatures in order to have the charter on the ballot in November.

Brown's home is also open to all concerned residents. He welcomes all Oaklanders to come to his house for information, questions and support of his charter for a stronger mayor. He is located at 200 Harrison Street, close to Jack London Square. He is also available via telephone at (510) 893-2684. "We want to be a people's movement," Brown said. "And the only we can be that way is if you listeners that have never been into politics come by and say 'let's do this' and see what's going on with the new mayor."

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written by
Chris Navalta of
The Vallejo Times Herald

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