Brown promised that he would attract 10,000 new residents to downtown Oakland. On Wednesday, Dellums asked, "Does 10,000 really get you there?" Then he threw out the notion of "100,000 people downtown," using mixed-used buildings. "Now you've changed the paradigm for Oakland." With that many new Oaklanders, a Saks Fifth Avenue will roll into town.
(Of course, it is difficult to figure how Dellums can attract new development after he chilled local real-estate biggies when he said, as my colleague Chip Johnson reported, "market-driven development doesn't embrace diversity.")
The big difference between Ronnie D. -- as he used to be called -- and Moonbeam is this: Brown changed his message before he was elected mayor. He stopped promising nirvana, and instead pledged to concentrate on luring employers, cutting red tape to help private developers build homes downtown and working toward ending the violent crime that has killed too many of Oakland's young.
Dellums has not changed his message and may never. He wants to improve schools by wrapping his arms around them. Or by creating a community-college program to train parents to be better advocates for their kids at school -- he didn't talk about teaching them to be better parents. To Dellums, every answer came with a handout and a program.
Law enforcement? Dellums' take is: "I don't think this 911-response business works in Oakland." I asked him: A group of kids is selling drugs around a liquor store at night. Do you arrest them or send in social workers? Dellums discussed a recent incident near Castlemont High School. Oakland cops broke up a scuffle between rival gangs. Some kids went to the community center and talked to its director. "I think we have to have a much greater arsenal than rounding them up and putting them in prison," Dellums answered.
True, but social workers don't always succeed. There will be no Model City, there will be no East Bay Green Silicon Valley, no new mixed-use housing, if working people are afraid to live or work in Oakland.
Brown wasn't a great mayor -- but he was a good mayor, and that's no small feat. He would have been a lousy mayor if he had stuck with the gibberish about artisans contributing to sustainable urban life, but he became a good mayor because he realized that his first order was to make Oakland safer.
The Sears in downtown Oakland used to be so empty that the number of employees often matched the numbers of shoppers. Last Wednesday at 6:05 p.m., the retailer enjoyed brisk traffic. In the appliance department, Quenticia Young and Damian Lebby have seen business grow as the number of nearby residents rises. As for downtown, they replied simultaneously, "It's coming up."
Model city? A Silicon Valley of green technology and sustainable energy? The next Oakland mayor should start with a simple proposition: A place where people want to be.