Chronicle recommends Bryan Parker for Oakland mayor
Oakland desperately needs an infusion of steady leadership after four years of the uninspiring, often puzzling and sometimes chaotic tenure of Mayor Jean Quan.
The field of 14 challengers lacks a big-name personality like former mayors Jerry Brown or Ron Dellums. But as Oakland learned in the desultory Dellums era, political stardom does not necessarily translate into performance in the job of an urban mayor where engagement, attention to detail and consensus building are the keys to success.
Oakland voters can choose among several solid challengers espousing similar themes: Unacceptable levels of crime remain a major source of worry for residents and a serious deterrent to economic development; the city bureaucracy is too slow and aloof; the city has not done enough to build housing or attract new businesses.
Quan’s upbeat assessment of the state of the city does not square with the reality experienced by many residents and businesses. Even in our editorial board meeting last week, her facts were wrong when she said Oakland would increase its police force to 780 to 800 officers by year’s end (she meant 2015, an aide later insisted) and she made the startling claim that no Oakland officer had drawn a weapon in 16 months (actually, she had meant had not fired a weapon, an aide corrected). And so it has gone with Quan, whose slow and erratic response to the 2011 Occupy protests needlessly inflamed and extended the situation.
Our choice in this field is Bryan Parker, a business executive and port commissioner who possesses a nice blend of economic acumen, interpersonal skills, and appreciation of the causes and effects of what all top challengers list as a No. 1 priority: crime. He rightly cited a “crisis in leadership” at City Hall and pledged to “show up with my lunch bucket” to instill a “complete culture change” in the bureaucracy.
While new to the political world, Parker reflected the attributes of a leader with the experience of having run a large organization during his interview with our editorial board. He listened carefully to questions, engaged them directly and was well versed on the issues.
The unknown variable, of course, is how he would fare in the rough and tumble of Oakland politics when the going gets rough, as it inevitably will for any mayor. Yet that question applies to all the challengers — and proved the undoing of Quan.
Rebecca Kaplan is the most energetic and persuasive Oakland booster in the field, but her record of accomplishment as a city council member is underwhelming. Councilwoman Libby Schaaf, a former mayoral and council aide, brings the deepest establishment roots — and the biggest doubts about whether she would be willing to challenge it. Joe Tuman presents an academician’s critique of public policy in Oakland that is heavier on facts and figures than inspiration. City Auditor Courtney Ruby offers a sharp critique of the dysfunction at City Hall, but her campaign has yet to gain much traction in a crowded field.
Dan Siegel had served as Quan’s chief legal adviser until he resigned after what he characterized as a “tragically unnecessary” raid on the Occupy Oakland encampment. He’s running to the left of Quan, and his candidacy should be a nonstarter for residents who believe the mayor’s office should be more supportive of law enforcement. Quan’s mistake in Occupy was not that she acted, but that she dithered so long.
Parker has the policy grounding and persona to distinguish himself in this field and, if elected, to become an effective mayor. He gets our endorsement.