A year ago, after the 2008 State of the City address, I wrote a post expressing my concern that Obama would turn out to be much like Dellums:
Just as Dellums campaigned on making Oakland a model city, Obama is heavy on the rhetoric of hope, change, and unity. But what does this really mean, if anything? Hope alone is not going to get us anywhere, as we’ve seen in Oakland. And unity with right wing Republicans and corporate lobbyists isn’t going to get us the change we’re looking for (at least not the change I’m looking for).
But his supporters (and the media) constantly fawn over his inspirational speeches… You know what? I’m not interested in a president who’s inspirational without being specific…
And on Monday night, I saw such a similar phenomenon. Before Dellums spoke, a young African-American man (sorry, I didn’t catch his name and he never explained his affiliation) got the crowd pumped by talking about “getting down to town business” and how he “hella loves Oakland”. Dellums followed, talking about setting the record straight, and saying that Oakland is and can be a model city.
I looked around me, and really, people were eating this up. I’m not going to lie – for a bit there, I was reminded of my pride for this city and was falling into the trap of equating this city pride with support for our mayor.
But all of this inspirational speaking is ultimately just talk. And I’m worried that an Obama administration would look all too similar to a Dellums administration.
I am very happy to say that I couldn’t have been more wrong.
Though Dellums and Obama share similar rhetorical flourishes and both know how to captivate an audience, the similarities stop there. Even in the first days of the Obama Administration, it is starkly clear that Obama is entirely different than Dellums. Here are some of the differences that jump out at me:
- Obama works far more than 40 hours per week. While Dellums has been said to be working from home and his hours are difficult to account for, Obama is sometimes in the Oval Office as late as 10pm.
- Obama is decisive and not afraid to take action. Amid economic crisis and external pressure, Obama announced his Cabinet picks more quickly than any other president has. He’s also signed several executive orders in his first days in office. Compare this to Dellums, who went back and forth for weeks before finally forcing Deborah Edgerly out, and who supported Chief Tucker up through his State of the City speech this Monday, only to have Tucker resign the very next day.
- Obama has laid out clear and specific policy proposals. Two years into his term, Dellums continues to harp on the model city idea, finally explaining on Monday night what that means but still failing to explain how we’re going to achieve it. Obama, on his first day in office, had his comprehensive and detailed agenda posted on the White House website, addressing issues that matter to Oaklanders, like urban policy, economy, civil rights, and poverty.
- Obama is an excellent manager. It’s a bit too early to see how he’ll manage the White House, but Obama already proved himself as a great manager during his campaign. He hired people who staid with him throughout the campaign, who made strategic decisions, and who remained loyal – which is not an easy feat in presidential campaigns. Dellums, on the other hand, can’t even hire permanent department heads. We’ve been months without a permanent City Administrator, Fire Chief, and director of CEDA; Obama would never let this happen. Oh yeah – and Dellums’ idea of management is telling city employees not to worry about making the trains run on time but to instead be creative and innovative.
So while our city countinues to crumble, at least we can take solace in the fact that Obama has turned out to be a huge success and couldn’t be much more unlike Dellums.