Every big city in California is going through some sort of fiscal nightmare, but things seem to be going particularly badly up in Oakland.
Mayor Ron Dellums has been absent from budget meetings at City Hall, but has been seen at boxing matches and at the grocery store -- during the middle of the workday.
When a San Francisco TV reporter tracked him down recently, Dellums had some unvarnished words about the whole situation.
"Who the (blank) are you to decide what my role is?" Dellums asked.
Don Perata, who is running to replace Dellums, argues that the mayor lost credibility when he vowed to take a 10% pay cut, then changed his mind. Dellums was also ripped by his predecessor, Jerry Brown, who told KCBS reporter Doug Sovern "Oakland could use a mayor. It hasn't had one since I left office." (This was in the famous Goebbels interview, given while Brown was out for a jog.)
Oakland is preparing to close its deficit by laying off up to 200 cops. The council has been debating the budget for months, but Dellums only made his first comments about the matter on Tuesday. He defended his handling of the situation by saying that he had been in close contact with the city administrator, who has been attending meetings with unions and council members.
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"I'm the master strategist," Dellums said. "My job is to establish strategy, to establish the policy framework within which those negotiations would take place. And I have assiduously and diligently and coherently done just that."
When you're defending your own coherence, you're in trouble. He also said it's no big deal that he hasn't been around the office much:
"In the world of computers and the world of telephones and the world of faxes, you can do this job anywhere," he said.