« California Democratic Convention: Day Two | Main | Local Environmentalism Lives -- In Oakland »

All Eyes on the Mayor

Bob Kerrey has ended speculation that he might run for Mayor of New York City. He won’t enter the race, but he seriously considered it. Imagine that - a former Senator and Presidential candidate fighting crime, answering pot hole questions and shepherding developers through Byzantine corridors in the planning department.

Kerrey is smart and, as a former Navy Seal, no stranger to combat. Yet, he would have found mayoring quite different from the protective groves of academe and the stately manners of the Senate. Mayors are at ground zero in the political process.

Those who would never think of traveling to Washington, D.C. or the state capitol think nothing of coming to city hall and voicing their complaints. People who are contented don't show up. So the mood swirling around a mayor gets contentious -- many a mayor never makes it to the second term.

From the vantage point of high office, issues such as crime and jobs tend to be abstract statistics. Mayors deal with the concrete and the specific. You face a specific dead body on a well traveled street or the vacant lot that will soon become a condo tower or the school down the street where half the kids don't graduate. No theory here. Not much comfort from partisan rhetoric. Just hands-on reality with names and faces. Management at the human scale vs. pontification from on high.

In Oakland this week, we broke ground for a Whole Foods store in downtown, near auto row. It will be Whole Foods' largest store west of Texas and the first new major grocery store in this part of Oakland in decades.

For those who debate war and peace and the privatization of social security, this may seem like small potatoes. But it is a big deal. It is what we deal with in the city. And it is here that democracy, "people power," still flourishes.

Neighbors count and they make their voices heard. Higher up on the political food chain, neighbors get submerged into the demographics of market research and mass propaganda.

Kerrey's not taking the plunge, but there is always Bill Clinton. He would have a ball as mayor.

April 20, 2005 | Permalink


Excellent news on the Whole Foods groundbreaking! I live in the area, and that will make my life much easier. But beyond that, a grocery store that provides healthy food, epecially decent produce, is a boon to all of the area's residents. Having to take a bus to get decent food often causes people to eat poorly, as the only local sources of food are fast food or liquor stores. Hopefully, a lot of decent jobs will be created at the new store as well. Now let's see if we can't do something similar in West Oakland, which needs a decent local grocery store even more.

Posted by: Jiminy | Apr 20, 2005 12:49:06 PM

Now you're blogging Jerry, now you're blogging! Thank you very much and keep up the good work.

Posted by: Doug Kenline | Apr 20, 2005 3:53:46 PM

Can you look into undergrounding the parking structure at Franklin and Harrison at East 14th, ( downtown Merchants Garage)

Posted by: maurice engel | Apr 20, 2005 7:37:33 PM

self-aggrandize much?

Posted by: heh | Apr 20, 2005 8:55:44 PM


You're what I love about the blogosphere. A former Governor and Presidential candidate who writes his own blog with open comments. It's a level of interaction that was unheard of until now.

I'm a conservative Republican, but I love your blog. I've studied your career closely in preparation for my own life in politics, and I'm a big fan.

One of the most important lessons to be learned is that no position of public service is too small, and that serving people in any capacity is never a demotion. After being Governor of the nation's biggest state at age 36, most people would never consider serving as Mayor, or as Attorney General. I believe John Quincy Adams said the same thing when he stood for election to the House.

Thanks for your blog.

Posted by: Chris | Apr 20, 2005 10:06:35 PM

OK, I've been away from Oakland for a bit and can't wait to get back to find out -where's that Whole Foods going in?

Posted by: Doc | Apr 21, 2005 4:49:43 AM

So what are you saying Mr. Mayor, that being a resident of Oakland you have no responsibility for the wars your country starts?

How about all those corporations, such as Whole Foods, who bring in goods from across the planet, are we supposed to ignore how they operate and think that they're making their products in the back room or growing them on the streets of Oakland?

As a citizen of whatever locality we have just as great a responsibility to be aware of all aspects of the world around us. Thinking you can build something local these days, without being aware of the global connections is delusional. You are not building local bringing in national and global corporations.

Patting oneself on the back for ignoring the world is a great American tradition, though these days a particularly vile one. That the power of state and federal government is so far out of reach and unaccountable to any given citizen doesn't make it less real, but it does point to a great problem.

Posted by: citizen | Apr 21, 2005 6:11:13 AM

Hasn't it become painfully obvious that government alone can't fix societies problems, especially in a city like Oakland. Corporations rule this country more than you think, look how we're still slaves to the Oil Tyrants.

We need corporations with a conscience to help build or rebuild the infrastructure of impoverished and abandoned areas of all major cities.

Posted by: horhay | Apr 21, 2005 10:29:45 AM

Mayor Brown CONGRATULATIONS on the Whole Food Store! It is indeed a victory and you are to be commended. I for one don't look for perfectionism in the present system in the present circumstances.

But I don't think that those who are not only interested in war and social security and state funding of teachers and schools need not be interested in local matters as well. All are important. From your perspective as a former governor and now a candidate for AG, you know better than anyone the profound impact the present state budget deficit has had in TAKING away all our property tax dollars--like 96% and not returning them to us for the services cities are mandated to provide.

I don't think you need to pit one issue against the other. State issues are more important now such as universal health care with so many Americans losing health insurance with their jobs that are traveling abroad. And federal funding of COPS is important for local health and safety.

While your job as Mayor might be the hardest one you have ever had and anyone might have in this city and in these times, it doesn't mean that we need to pit local issues vs. state and federal issues in order to give credit and weight to the importance of issues or of successes and failures.

I think most intelligent people in the political arena are cognizant of the challenges and stresses of being Mayor in Oakland in 2005.

Hopefully, they are equally cognizant of the cost of ignoring government at the state and federal levels as well.

Posted by: val | Apr 21, 2005 3:53:12 PM

HERY! kerry was not a seal, at least not a Navy Seal. However, he is as wet as a seal.

Posted by: LYNN | Apr 21, 2005 5:57:53 PM

Bob Kerrey was a navy seal and has a medal of honor! Look it up on google. He is missing a leg that is still in Vietnam.

He is a true hero, and as a Nebraskan we are very proud of Bob Kerrey and all the veterans.

Posted by: Guardian | Apr 22, 2005 1:49:26 PM

There is a subtext to the troubles in Oakland. And sadly it is based along racial lines. Somewhere in your blog you noted that some things unsaid need to be brought out into the light. Well we have a terrible secret in *every* urban center in this country - and no one wants to talk about it.

The steady and consistent degradation of African American communities. The trouble with the discussion is A) Many African Americans are succeeding. Any discussion based on race is a direct affront to African Americans working hard to better themselves and their community. B) The venue of discussion would probably only be available to African Americans at some level of affluence. I would guess that few thugs read Bill Cosby's remarks to the NAACP.

The discussion always ends the same - the blame game, Racism still exists rebutted by the many years of affirmative action, rebutted by failed inner city schools rebutted by community/cultural negligence of the youth, etc. etc. etc.

In the end the community, city, state, and federal government need a discussion ont how to solve a seemingly intractable problem.

Sadly public opinion does not make this a high political priority. The neihborhoods of the 1970's that featured crime, drug dealing, and protituion are now selling home in the millions - dog parks, restaurants, shops open. At least in the Bay Area the poor either live in housing projects, section 8, or in cramped and dangerous neihborhoods like Bayview/Hunters point.

Anyway, things have gotten really bad, where the fatal shooting of a 15 year young man in San Francisco gets one newspaper piece...

Posted by: reality | Apr 22, 2005 1:56:49 PM

Saving the Cox Building (finally) is the real value of this Whole Foods Project, but I dare say it is not the "the first new major grocery store in this part of Oakland in decades."

Apparently, Grocery Outlet is not counted as "major"? Regional chains with Berkeley origins are minor league, I guess.

Posted by: Steven Lavoie | Apr 22, 2005 4:29:57 PM

Grocery Outlet has created problems in the surrounding neightborhood....dumped carts especially. Whole Foods while not perfect does present pretty wholeome products, organic produce etc. I don't understand those who would complain. I am grateful that it will be coming to the area.

Posted by: m2sn | Apr 22, 2005 10:43:29 PM

Bill Clinton as mayor?


His ego is so big that being God would be a step down for him.

Posted by: James C. Hess | Apr 23, 2005 2:56:32 PM

"In theory, there is no difference between theory and practice. But, in practice, there is."
- Jan van de Snepscheut (educator and computer scientist)

Posted by: Charlotte | Apr 23, 2005 6:48:28 PM

Bravo on a new Whole Foods Market. Maybe if the folks in Berkeley start eating right their thinking will improve.

Posted by: Wallace-Midland, Texas | Apr 23, 2005 9:38:24 PM

Some folks have such myopic vision that they are unable to see the effects of the loss of practically the entire manufacturing industry from Oakland and the East Bay. Without knowledge of the economics and history of the Bay Area, and usually being souls who rarely venture out and travel, they seem capable of only seeing things in terms of either "black" or "white.

Posted by: EyeDoc | Apr 23, 2005 10:50:32 PM

Speaking of Mayor's, I want to talk about ex-Mayor Di Feinstein, who is presently to preside over your nuptials. This Repugnantcrat would never have gotten in as Mayor if Mayor Moscone hadn't been assassinated. She has always been more of a Republican than a Democrat. Although she has received a million less votes than Boxer she is deemed by the conservative press to be more popular, but not amongst the Democrats.

Her positions lately in sabotaging and torpeoding the efforts of real Democratic leaders like Sen. Boxer who is trying to promote a fair immigration reform which would grant some kind of worker status to those who have been in this country and paid taxdollars a long time (more than they have drawn out in public services)is outrageous.

Furthermore, she is a promoting an environmentally destructive and uselessly laughable fence solution which will do nothing but promote further citizen patrols along the border and create centers for bounty hunters to round up whomever they see fit to bring to them. If this isn't George Bush style l9th century thinking promoting vigilantism I don't know what is.

Rather than fighting to increase the border patrol, legalize long term residents who we have allowed to remain in our country for decades and longer, and fighting to provide accountability by granting temporary licenses, Feinstein is taking the do-nothing approach which undermines workers rights in this country.

We need to both legitimize those here fairly and limit new arrivals in order to protect American workers and jobs. Each and every country has the right to do this. The current Sensenbrenner bill does neither. While it fuels individual lawlessness, it doesn't stop the current flow nor address the current problems of those residing illegally in our country. It is a typical American "denial" solution that will benefit employers in the long run allowing the agricultural interests and others to continue exploiting the illegals on their payrolls and others who misuse, abuse and criminally exploit human beings. It's ironic that the Minuteman seem to fully understand who benefits from Sesenbrenner's reform while the Bay Area liberals just don't get it.

But then what do we expect from a Senator whose husband's firm has a $l.5 billion contract with the Pentagon to provide war materiel over the next 5 years. Feinstein's SF Chron editorial last year about an opportunity for a just solution to the Israeli and Palestinian conflict was just lip service.

What is she doing now about the Frist torpedo option? I have received NOTHING from this senator. The most critical issue of the day stands before us and where is Di Feinstein?When the day is done, it ain't about separation of church and state, it's not about survival of the planet earth, it's about the maintenance of American profits and American dominion over oil resources in the Middle East and who is benefiting from this bloody unholy war.

BTW, Why hasn't Sen. Feinstein gotten us more community policing officers and demanded that Honest George fully fund the COPS program rather than cut it by 96%?
How come it was Pelosi who brought more cops to SF while Oakland's police force has whittled down further now (to what, 640 officers)? Isn't Sen. Feinstein our senator too?

There's a lesson to be learned here. If you are not good on the local issues, you are not going to be effective on the national issues either. Feinstein was not a great mayor nor is she a great Senator. She should officially re-register Republican in my opinion cause that's what she's been all along-when I lived in SF for l5 years and now Oakland for another l5.

Posted by: Val | Apr 24, 2005 10:32:02 AM

You're absolutely right about Bill. I think he would love City Hall and maybe those of us in the New York area should start a petition to encourage him. And there would be a certain symmetry to the two of you from the 1992 race sitting in the mayors' chairs on opposite coasts.

Posted by: True Blue Liberal | Apr 25, 2005 8:44:52 AM

Clinton like you would make a great Mayor. He would be a good fit in Oakland or Washington,D.C., or NYC. See what you can do Jerry!!

Posted by: Chet | Apr 25, 2005 2:49:56 PM

OK, is citizen's comment satire or not? I'm finding it hard to tell the difference these days.

Posted by: trostky | Apr 26, 2005 4:09:02 PM

Liberals like you always have been and will be politically confused and lost souls who waste their time pecking at the stronger ones. Political confusion and chaos seem to rule the day in this country of milk and honey. You have so much but you Americanskys are never satisfied. Always wanting, and looking for more and more...Never content with what you have. Pretty soon the whole planet earth will wither away from your endless exploitation and consumption. Technology without wisdom is like putting a gun in the hands of a child. Sooner or later the trigger is going to be pulled and someone is going to die planet--earth. I know--we had Chernobyl.

You technocrats don't understand a thing. You think you are the first to be born into this world of technology and this makes you the smart ones? Niet! You are babes in the internet wilderness of technology and science and political illiterates on top of that. What do you American techies know about the world and other countries like mine? That we are only to be controlled and exploited in our factories by Americans who use our Russian mafia business cartels as labor contractors?

Posted by: Natalia | Apr 26, 2005 7:43:12 PM

Hey Jerry- You're still AWOL on the Oakland schools. The Oakland Teachers just rejected, by a 5-1 ratio, the degrading contract that your buddy Randy Ward offered us. Schools are the number one issue in Oakland and we are now heading for a very possible strike. Many teachers who were supporters of yours are wondering about your deafening silence.
I suggest that you call your fellow democrat Jack O'Connell and tell him to remove Ward. Ward is the third rail in Oakland--- are you touching him?

Posted by: Drydock | Apr 27, 2005 11:57:50 PM

I thought Clinton lived out in the 'burbs. He would actually have to move there to be mayor of NYC.

Posted by: Ruby | Apr 28, 2005 11:16:19 AM

The comments to this entry are closed.