So, several folks, having read my comments on the mayoral forum, have told me something along the lines of, “OK, Stu, this is all very interesting, but I want to know how you think I should cast my three votes.” Well, personally, I think each voter should spend the time necessary to study the issues and the candidates and make up their own mind. Unfortunately, few of us (myself included) spend enough time to gain a deep understanding of the many complex issues involved in each electoral decision. That’s why we’re a republic, rather than a true democracy. We rely on picking people who we think have the wherewithall to do that serious study and make good choices for us. Unfortunately, the American electoral system does a pretty poor job of showing how candidates think, relying more on soundbites, catch phrases, and slogans. If I was going to give you recommendations that you could seriously rely on, I’d have wanted to sit down and interview each candidate individually for at least an hour and a half (kind of like the applicant review panel did for the citizens redistricting commission). Not having done that, please take my recommendations with a very large grain of salt. To paraphrase Scoop Nisker, if you don’t like my choices, go out, study the candidates, and make some of your own.
So, my choices are:
Number 1 — Don Macleay — While I don’t think he has a serious chance of winning, I thought that his answers during the candidate forum showed a lot of thought and some insights into Oakland’s problems and how to solve them. I just wish he had more experience dealing with Oakland’s politics and bureaucracy so I’d feel more comfortable with his ability to “work his plan”.
Number 2 — Jean Quan — Jean is strongest where Don is weakest, and visa versa. There’s no question Jean knows a lot about how Oakland’s government works, and doesn’t. What I don’t see is enough of a vision of how to fix things to make Oakland work better. Still and all, I think she’d do a decent job as mayor, even if she’s not the superhero the city may need to put things right.
Number three — Joe Tuman — Joe Tuman has some interesting ideas about how to fix Oakland. But they’re the ideas of an academic and political commentator, not of someone who’s been “in the trenches” dealing with Oakland’s problems on a day-to-day basis. I thought it was interesting that he’d already picked out his choices for city administrator. I would’ve loved to know who those choices were, because IMHO the choice of city administrator will be key in whether Oakland’s administrative structure gets reformed or not. With both Macleay and Tuman, having them be mayor would be like handing over the captainship of a large ocean liner to someone who’s only piloted a small motorboat. (By contrast, handing Oakland over the Perata would be like handing the captainship over to the captain of the Titanic!)
Kaplan didn’t make my list of three choices (although she’d probably have been #4) for two reasons. First, she behaves too much like a politician — willing to horsetrade and make deals when, IMHO, a certain amount of idealism and integrity is called for, and second, because her track record is too short and her level of ambition too high for me to feel comfortable with her. I think our next mayor needs to be focused on the task at hand, not looking ahead to their next political office.