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Dellums Focuses on Oakland’s Crime and Violence in First State of City Speech

By J. Douglas Allen-Taylor
Friday January 18, 2008

Oakland Mayor Ron Dellums flipped the script in his first State of the City address Monday night—as the hip-hoppers like to say—focusing on policy recommendations for the coming year rather than on listing accomplishments for the old, and largely abandoning the rhetorical flourishes for which he is best known, replacing them with a more sober and businesslike recitation of details. 

“We wanted to challenge Oakland to see its destiny as the model city,” Dellums said. “We have been consistent in moving forward to that goal.”  

He closed saying that “I believe we can meet our destiny to be a beacon of light in this state and in this nation.” 

The mayor spoke for an hour and eight minutes without notes. While the overflow crowd of some 800 seated inside at the Marriott Hotel ballroom and several hundred more watching on monitors in the foyer outside interrupted him several times with applause, Monday’s event was nothing like the electric excitement that greeted Dellums’ announcement in early 2007 of his intention to run for mayor, or the enthusiasm that greeted many of his speeches in the spring campaign that followed. 

Instead, the audience listened intently and quietly to their city leader as he devoted the bulk of his speech to Oakland’s most serious and nagging problem: crime and violence. 

“Scores have been murdered and hundreds have been adversely touched by violence and crime in Oakland,” Dellums said, saying it was a fundamental right to be guaranteed by the city for people “to go about their lives in peace, security, and safety.”  

While saying that murders in Oakland are down 15 percent this year from last and overall crime “is at a level pace” during a year when crime in the nation is up 6 percent, Dellums said “that is not enough. When a journalist is killed on the streets of Oakland or a young boy is in the hospital, paralyzed by a shooting, we can take no comfort in that.” 

Responding to the repeated calls from several quarters in Oakland for more police on the streets, Dellums said that “we must commit to join together to do whatever it takes so that at the end of this year, we will have the full [authorized strength of] 803 police officers.” 

The 803 police strength authorization was originally approved by Oakland voters in 2004 in the violence prevention ballot Measure Y during the administration of former Oakland Mayor Jerry Brown, but difficulties in getting enough recruits through the tough police academy course and offsetting retirements by veteran officers during the last Brown years and the first Dellums year have kept Oakland’s police strength only a little over 700. 

To meet the 803 authorization by the end of the year and to determine how many police Oakland will need, at what cost, in the future, Dellums gave a list of eight specific proposals [see sidebar]. 

The mayor also said that he would soon order all city department heads “to deploy and align their staff” in the same three geographical divisions recently developed by Police Chief Wayne Tucker and to coordinate their efforts with the police under an overall public safety plan, a hint that a promised comprehensive public safety plan that has been worked on by the mayor’s staff for many months may be soon finalized and released to the public. 

But while repeatedly praising the city council for its cooperation in his first year’s work and asking for their help in future projects, Dellums also fired a warning shot across the Council bow to those who might think he had no defense against charges that the lack of full police strength was his fault. 

Saying that “we should have known by 2000” that the retirement of the baby boomer generation of police officers would overwhelm efforts to recruit new police, Dellums said that something should have been done earlier to address that problem. He also said that the low police levels were exacerbated by the 2002-04 police hiring freeze instituted by the Oakland City Council, most of whom still hold their seats. For both events, Dellums said that “I make no judgment. There may have been good reasons for it. I don’t know. I wasn’t there. It wasn’t on my watch.” 

But Dellums said that adding more police was not enough, and that the city “must address the underlying causes of crime and violence.” 

Noting that some 3,000 ex-offenders return to Oakland every year, Dellums said that these persons are responsible for 40 to 50 percent of the crime in the city. “They leave prison with $200 in their pockets” given to them by the state, the mayor said. “When that $200 is gone, where is the next $200 coming from? It’s ‘stick ‘em up.’”  

Dellums said that “we must deal with their problems of re-entry into society, give them a sense of pride, train them, and provide them with the resources necessary.” 

The mayor said that he has already employed an ex-offender re-entry specialist in his office, and said that $200,000 in Measure Y money has been allocated to go to a local institution to retrain ex-offenders for employment. 

In another violence prevention initiative, Dellums said that his request for $575,000 in funding has been authorized by the city council out of Measure Y money to put violence prevention outreach workers in East Oakland, West Oakland, and the Fruitvale in a pilot project to deal with conflict resolution in the troubled streets of those neighborhoods before those conflicts flare up into violence. 

In other policy announcements: 

• The city will be sending out an RFQ “in the next few weeks” for the city’s plans to develop the old Oakland Army Base. Dellums said he hopes the project will eventually bring in $10 million a year in revenue and 10,000 new jobs to the city. 

• Declaring that “people who live in Oakland should have the right to stay in Oakland,” the mayor said he will be presenting his comprehensive housing policy to the city council “in the next couple of weeks” to ensure that “we will not sacrifice the richness and diversity of Oakland.” The council is currently set to discuss two highly controversial affordable housing proposals concerning inclusionary zoning and condominium conversion, and has been waiting for the mayor’s plans to assist in its deliberations. 

• He announced two health care initiatives, one an upcoming three year demonstration public-private collaboration project to eventually put health care clinics in every high school and middle school in Oakland, the second to collaborate with the Peralta Community College District to put health clinics—with community access available—in every Peralta campus. 

• He has committed $350,000 in city money for an ultimate $1 million “Green Corps” project to train low income Oakland residents for entry into the area’s growing green industry. 

Dellums’ first State of the City address was a marked departure from the practice of past mayors. While former Mayor Jerry Brown gave his major State of the City speech annually to a breakfast meeting of the Oakland Metropolitan Chamber of Commerce, which the Oakland public could attend by paying a $50 fee to the chamber, Dellums chose to give his speech at an evening event which the public could attend for free. Dellums, as was Brown’s practice, gave a shortened followup address to Oakland City Council on Tuesday night. 


[The mayor’s State of the City speech can be heard online at The mayor’s accomplishments during 2007 were listed in a 24-page booklet handed out at the address and available for download at the mayor’s website at]