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Mayor Dellums cancels final public address, moves online

on November 16, 2010

The last state of the city address by outgoing Oakland mayor Ron Dellums, scheduled for this Wednesday, was cancelled on Monday. Instead of a public speech, the mayor will deliver his closing remarks on his four year term in a speech posted online in text and video form.

Originally planned to take place at the City Center Marriott Hotel, and then later rescheduled for City Hall, the event was moved online yesterday. A press release from the mayor’s office announced the change of plans, stating: “In lieu of a public address this Wednesday, Mayor Dellums has opted to provide a comprehensive, printed State of the City report and accompanying video chronicling his four-year administration.”

The mayor’s office did not respond to requests for an interview. An Oakland North reporter attempted to sign in at the entrance of City Hall and go to the mayor’s office on the third floor of 1 Frank H. Ogawa Plaza, but was asked to wait while a security guard called the mayor’s reception desk. Dellums’ receptionist informed the reporter that the only staff person present, Marisol Lopez, was in a meeting and unavailable for comment. The reporter requested a statement from Ms. Lopez about the mayor’s decision to move his final address online, but as of press time had not received a response.

A veteran of the US Marine Corps, Dellums served on the Berkeley City Council from 1967-1970 and was elected to the US House of Representatives in 1970, representing Oakland and Berkeley for 28 years. Dellums’ success as an advocate and legislator won the favor of Oakland voters in 2006 and he began his term as Oakland mayor in 2007. Dellums was initially reluctant to run for mayor, but his popularity on the national stage inspired the “Draft Dellums for Mayor” campaign, which collected thousands of signatures from Oaklanders who wanted him to lead the city. The San Francisco Chronicle reported he warned an enthusiastic crowd at Laney College in 2005 that he had left Congress for a reason. “I want balance in my life,” Dellums said. “I don’t want you to think that I have to go 24/7.”

Although much admired as a member of Congress, complaints about Dellums’ frequent absences and an investigation into his tax history marred his mayoral record. Some Oakland residents and civic leaders say they have been disheartened by Dellums’ lack of public engagement and that his decision not to publicly deliver his final address is a continuance of what some residents have come to expect.

“Well, that shows you the state of the city,” said Jessie Ortiz, an adult education teacher with the Oakland Unified School District and organizer for Oakland’s Bringing Back Adult Education Coalition. “If you want to be the mayor, you have to be with the public.” Citing concerns over accessibility for her students, many of whom are immigrants who don’t speak English and have limited access to the Internet, Ortiz said, “That just indicates a real lack of information and acknowledgement.”

City council member Jean Quan, who will replace Dellums as mayor on January 3, 2011, campaigned on the promise that she would be a more active mayor with a strong public presence. A Quan spokesperson said she had no comment on Dellums’ cancellation.

Regina Jackson, executive director of the East Oakland Youth Development Center, a non-profit that offers after-school arts and sports programs, as well as job training, said that she admired the mayor’s record as a politician, but she had hoped he would address the public one last time. “Given his exemplary record of service over 40 years, I’m disappointed that he wouldn’t give us one more opportunity to hear him inspire us,” Jackson said.

Despite her disappointment, Jackson expressed confidence that Dellums would continue his work as a progressive politician after he turns over the office to Quan in January. “He’s not going to go climb under a rock,” Jackson said.

Check out all of our Oakland elections coverage on our Campaign 2010 page.

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