When former Gov. Jerry Brown first ran for mayor of Oakland in the 1998 election, he had a vision: "Oakland Ecopolis: A Plan for a Green Plan." Brown's gurus promised a city based on "the historical genius of Italian hill towns" like Perugia, where civic solons would foster not "mere economic growth," but a chichi economic boom thanks to an influx of artisans, small boat builders and organic gardeners.
Former U.S. Rep. Ron Dellums, now running for Oakland mayor, is eerily similar to Brown as a rookie candidate. Brown offered Oakland Ecopolis. Dellums is selling "Oakland, the model city" -- a euphemism that will bring philanthropists to the city, despite its notorious reputation for violent crime. Dellums told the San Francisco Chronicle editorial board Wednesday that he didn't want to sound self-serving, but, "When I came out with this idea of Oakland, the model city, this has triggered people to start writing about Oakland as a model city," whether on environmental or human or economic terms. Heavy.
Brown's big thinkers described Oakland Ecopolis as "both far away and very near." Dellums says that Oakland is "big enough to be significant, but it's small enough to get your hands around the problem."
Brown's Ecopolis would boast a commitment "to export none of its industrial wastes and environmental pollution" -- as new eco-businesses create jobs for unemployed youth.
Dellums envisions making a model city with "well-educated" residents in "the Silicon Valley of green technology and alternative energy sources."
Moonbeam, as Brown was known, promised to attract artisans, eco-farmers and "sustainable fisherman." Dellums focused on drawing "philanthropists" and corporate donors, who can provide health care for Oaklanders. Brown arrived on the scene as the celebrity candidate -- whose star power would draw development to Oaktown. Dellums disses "this business of being a celebrity" as "an insult, in one sense." As a member of Congress, his push for disinvestment helped end apartheid in South Africa. No wonder, he sniffs, "If I wanted to be a celebrity, I would have taken guitar lessons."
Brown had a reputation for flitting from post to post. Even friends wondered if Brown would stay interested in the minutiae of local government.
While Dellums served in the House for 27 years, he left the House suddenly in midterm for personal reasons in 1997. He had to be replaced in a special election, but now his private life is balanced and he is ready for the challenge of mayoral politics.