When Ron Dellums was elected mayor of Oakland, California, I knew that the city was heading for trouble. Combine hard leftism with self-absorption and a healthy dose of municipal corruption, and you have the crisis developing on Oakland.
"Red Ron" was an openly socialist member of Congress focusing on opposing Cold War weapons programs and supporting the Communist revolutionaries taking over Grenada. When US forces invaded and captured documents, Dellums was revealed in all his glory as a promoter of communist power in the Caribbean. From Wikipedia: In 1982 Dellums took a trip to Grenada at the invitation of the Prime Minister of the People's Revolutionary Government, Maurice Bishop. Grenada was building an airstrip that U.S. administration officials claimed could be used for Soviet military aircraft. Dellums traveled to Grenada on his own fact-finding mission and described his findings before Congress. ...based on my personal observations, discussion and analysis of the new international airport under construction in Grenada, it is my conclusion that this project is specifically now and has always been for the purpose of economic development and is not for military use.... It is my thought that it is absurd, patronizing and totally unwarranted for the United States Government to charge that this airport poses a military threat to the United States' national security. A U.S. invasion of the island later obtained the diary of the former Grenadian defense minister. One entry in it read: "The Revo has been able to crush counter-revolution internationally. Airport will be used for Cuban and Soviet military." Soon after the invasion, members of Dellums's staff traveled to Cuba and allegedly broadcast anti-American statements over Radio Havana. The invasion also recovered a letter from Dellums' chief of staff Carlottia Scott to Maurice Bishop, describing Dellums' feelings towards Bishop and, presumably, Cuban President of the Council of State Fidel Castro. Ron [Dellums] has become truly committed to Grenada, and has some positive political thinking to share with you.... He's really hooked on you and Grenada and doesn't want anything to happen to building the Revolution and making it strong. He really admires you as a person and even more so as a leader with courage and foresight, principles and integrity.... The only other person that I know of that he expresses such admiration for is Fidel.
Another document was recovered showing that Dellums had sent a draft copy of his report on Grenada to Bishop for editing before presenting his report to Congress, stating
Barbara Lee is here presently and has brought with her a report on the international airport that was done by Ron Dellums. They have requested that we look at the document and suggest any changes we deem necessary. They will be willing to make the changes. Today in the San Francisco Chronicle, the excellent columnist Chip Johnson describes the serious mess Oakland faces with its mayor nowhere to be found.
The mayor's mother died recently, and of course we extend our sympathies. It's understandable for Dellums to take time with his family. And it's reasonable - never mind a 10-day holiday in South Africa in April - for the mayor to coordinate a vacation with the six-week annual council recess.
The problem is this: The city officials who've requested time with the mayor have been told there is no timeline for his return.
Unfortunately for Oakland's mayor, perhaps the single biggest personal loss he's ever dealt with coincided with the most important challenge of his political career.
For the remainder of his term, until 2010, Dellums' main task will be to lead reconstruction of a municipal government that has literally fallen apart on his watch - and earn back some measure of public trust.
I lost my mother and understand the grieving process. But the mayor of Oakland is 72 and ought to be accustomed to losing friends and loved ones by this stage of the life cycle. Here are just a few of the crises festering in Oakland:
On the financial side, Oakland faces a gaping - and growing - $50 million budget shortfall, $20 million in cash reserves are unaccounted for and the FBI has started a corruption probe into the city government.
Oakland has an acting city administrator and a temporary director at the Oakland Community and Economic Development Agency, which drives the city's redevelopment efforts. Everything is up in the air.
The FBI is currently investigating extensive municipal corruption. Those familiar with the city expect there is lots for the feds to find.