Over the past two years, the indecisiveness of Oakland Mayor Ron Dellums has reached almost epic proportions. The mayor had to be forced into firing former City Administrator Deborah Edgerly last summer, and as of earlier this week, the city was still without a permanent police or fire chief. In fact, knowledgeable sources say Dellums' inability to make decisions — both large and small — had become so serious that many of his 200-plus personal staffers had begun to worry. But then, sources say, Dellums made a significant breakthrough that people close to him believe will help restore the luster to his once sterling reputation.
Until the breakthrough, the former congressman's inability to make up his mind had reached a critical stage. Knowledgeable sources said the mayor not only couldn't make basic decisions in the office, during the two to three hours a day he came to work, but he also had become extraordinarily wishy-washy in his personal life. "You wouldn't fucking believe how bad it got," said one of the sources, who was not Vice Mayor Ignacio De La Fuente. "That motherfucker couldn't make up his mind. Period."
Sources said Dellums began to second-guess himself when the local press — especially a certain San Francisco Chronicle columnist whom the mayor privately calls "That Punk" — kept pointing out all the stupid things he had done since becoming mayor. Dellums was just not used to that kind of close scrutiny. For years, his daily misjudgments had been mostly ignored as he prospered in near anonymity in the US House of Representatives. When he did garner headlines, it was almost always for something positive, such as his courageous decisions as Armed Services Committee chairman to support historic increases in defense budget spending.
Even when the Lion of the Progressives quit Congress to start his own lucrative lobbying practice, no one said a word (except, of course, for a certain local alt-weekly). And why would they? We're talking about the Great Ron Dellums here. How could he possibly have done anything wrong?
In Oakland, however, it was a different story. The local press turned on the Great Man, making sure his every misstep was on display for all to see. And each mistake seemed only to magnify the city's many problems. Sources told Partial Disclosure that Dellums had become so despondent that he started to routinely sleep through his 11 a.m. wake-up call. And when he finally felt strong enough to slip off his white silk pajamas, he couldn't decide which of his 63 suits to wear. The Armani or the Joseph Abboud? The Italian or the French cut? It was a startling development for someone known for possessing exquisite taste. "This is a man with impeccable clothes, just impeccable, and he couldn't even pick out a tie," said one of the sources, who, by the way, was not City Attorney John Russo, "let alone a dress shirt and pair of leather loafers."
Things got so bad that Dellums couldn't make up his mind about anything without first checking with his wife/co-partner-in-everything/boss Cynthia Dellums. What to eat for lunch? Which dignitaries to dine with? Which staffer would be allowed the pleasure of worshiping him this Friday afternoon? You name it. Cynthia Dellums was making all of the hard choices. But then came the breakthrough.
Just a few weeks ago, She Who Shall Be Obeyed sent him to the Safeway in Montclair for a little shopping. Typically, the Dellums' city-paid security guards perform this chore, but Cynthia needed to get her maddeningly indecisive husband out of the house, sources said. So she sent him off with a specific shopping list, including exact instructions of where to find each item they needed. (Dellums loved being able to check off the list; it was so ... empowering). But then when the mayor got to the toiletries aisle, his spine suddenly stiffened. It was a feeling he hadn't experienced in years.
Cynthia had written, "Blue toothbrush for my pumpkin, Aisle 6A, next to the toothpaste." But when the mayor got to the toothbrush section, he suddenly was sure he didn't want blue. He didn't know what other color he wanted. But blue was out. That much was clear. He thought to himself, "Should I choose red, yellow, purple, green, white?" Not knowing what to do, he paid for his other things and quickly left the store.
But as he sat in his city-leased Bentley, a wave of panic washed over him. It had become a familiar feeling. All he could think was: "What would she say if I came home without a toothbrush?" Suddenly, he knew he had to go back in the store. So he walked quickly toward the toothbrush section, and grabbed one red and one yellow one off the shelf. He stared at them, determined to make a choice. Red. Yellow. Yellow. Red. Finally, he made up his mind. Yellow. Somehow, that color just made him feel ... right.
At this point, you must be thinking, "Choosing a toothbrush is a breakthrough?" As ridiculous as it sounds, sources said that three dozen or so of the mayor's closest advisors view it as a life-changing moment for him. "You don't understand; he made the decision on his own," said one of the sources, who was not City Administrator Dan Lindheim. "And she was miles away at the time."
Berkeley City Council Legalizes Pot
In what promises to become a highly embarrassing move, the Berkeley City Council legalized marijuana last week — apparently by accident, although no one is 100 percent sure. The little-noticed measure was slipped into a resolution condemning the United States for having a military. The council's unanimous vote didn't occur until 3 a.m. last Wednesday, after a grueling hours-long meeting that drew protests from both right-wing and left-wing fanatics. In short, it was a typical Berkeley City Council meeting.
The pot legalization language was hidden in a 1,014-page resolution compiled by the city's Gaia/Mother Earth Commission. The council and its staff apparently didn't notice the provision because it was part of a purportedly exhaustive list of US military alleged criminal acts during the Bush years against "Gaia/Mother Earth and Her Indigenous People." The pot provision makes it legal to grow, possess, sell, and ingest cannabis in any amounts.
The vote also represented the second time in the past year that the council apparently didn't realize what it was voting on because of an apparent slight of hand by one of this city's 327 commissions. A year ago, the Peace and Justice Commission apparently tricked the council into declaring that military recruiters were "unwelcome intruders" in Berkeley. That vote, of course, sparked the usual round of massive protests for and against the council and the military, which the national media dutifully recorded. Eventually, an embarrassed council reversed itself.
Now, Partial Disclosure has learned that some of the very same people who served on the Peace and Justice Commission also are on the Gaia/Mother Earth Commission. So did they purposely trick the council into legalizing pot, knowing that councilmembers don't like to read much? "No comment, dude," said Jeffrey "Sniffing" Dawgg, who serves on both commissions and plans to run for mayor in 2012 for the eleventh time. "What were we talking about, again?"
The council's pot vote is sure to spur controversy, although it may be overshadowed by the antimilitary vote, because to date, it has received far more press coverage. It's also unclear whether councilmembers plan to reverse their vote again. In fact, some councilmembers were upset when they learned that a story was coming out about the pot measure. They apparently hoped it would remain hush-hush. "What? The Express is writing another hit piece about Berkeley?" asked Kimberly Weezull, a spokeswoman for Mayor Tom Bates. "Maybe we'll just have to start enforcing that antigraffiti law against newspaper owners after all."