- Oakland City Mayor Ron Dellums speaks during a press conference about a protest in downtown Oakland over the involuntary manslaughter conviction of former BART police officer Johannes Mehserle for the shooting death of Oscar Grant, July 9, 2010 in Oakland, California. Photograph by David Paul Morris/Special to the ChronicleCredit: David Paul Morris
(08-01) 17:27 PDT OAKLAND — This is decision week for Oakland Mayor Ron Dellums, who has promised to let everyone know on Friday, the last day possible, whether he'll run for a second term.
Critics might see Dellums' long silence on a possible re-election campaign as a symbol of his four years in office, during which, in their eyes, he has been missing in action for extended stretches. In this case, however, the lack of communication has been a sign to his most ardent supporters that they should move on.
"I worked for him for 25 years," said Assemblyman Sandré R. Swanson, D-Alameda, who served as an aide to Dellums before running for office himself. "I would assume that if he were planning to run, that he would call me."
Oakland Mayor Dellums Decides Against Second Term
Posted: 10:55 pm PDT August 3, 2010Updated: 3:57 pm PDT August 4, 2010
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Oakland Mayor Ron Dellums won't seek second term
OAKLAND -- Mayor Ron Dellums has announced he will not seek a second term.
Dellums cited personal reasons. He announced his decision during a meeting with several dozen City Hall department heads, community leaders and supporters, and at a meeting with other supporters at the Marriott Hotel in downtown Oakland.
Dellums became emotional during the Marriott meeting, sources said.
With the deadline looming Friday for taking out election papers, speculation had been widespread among City Hall insiders that the 74-year-old mayor would not seek re-election.
Six other candidates, including City Council members Rebecca Kaplan and Jean Quan and former state Senate President Pro Tem Don Perata, are running in the Nov. 2 election.
Dellums spent 28 years in Congress and was a lobbyist for several years in Washington, D.C., before being elected mayor of Oakland in June 2006.
"Five years ago, my wife and I accepted the call to service based on our love of Oakland, our home, and our lifelong commitment to public service," Dellums said in a statement. "I have dedicated 35 incredible years -- most of my adult life -- to my community. I have been a political activist, community organizer, social worker, city councilmember, legislator, and now an executive. Now it's time to pass the baton to the next generation of leadership."
Over the last four years, Dellums was criticized for appearing disengaged on the city's biggest issues, including Oakland's multimillion-dollar budget deficits, and particularly early in his tenure, crime. He has also come under fire for running up tens of thousands of dollars in bills for out-of-town trips, and for tax problems. The IRS placed more than $250,000 in liens against his property for unpaid taxes, interest and penalties.
He has also been called "missing in action," and often has not shown up for major city functions. He did not attend Tuesday night's National Night Out event, which brought more than 25,000 people into the streets of Oakland at neighborhood parties and barbecues.
"He may not have held as many press conferences as people would have liked," Assemblyman Sandre Swanson, D-Alameda, said. "But he's never been the kind of statesman that sought publicity. I personally will celebrate his career and respect his decision."
Robert Smith, a political-science professor at San Francisco State who has followed Dellums' political career and considered writing a book about him, said he was "not surprised at all."
"He understands that people in the city are not happy with what he has done. I think he thinks he can't win another election. Even if he could win, I don't think he would run.
"I don't think he has enjoyed the job. Watching him for many years and understanding his background in Congress, he wasn't in a position for executive leadership."
Quan also said Dellums' decision did not shock her.
"I'm one of the few people who was saying all along that Ron would not run again, so I'm not terribly surprised," said Quan (Montclair-Laurel). "I will always respect his work in the Congress. And he's done a great service to this city. He's probably done a better job than people give him credit for.
"But being mayor was probably not the right fit for him," she said. "He's more of a big picture kind of guy. He did accomplish things during his term, like working to win the arbitration to get control of police scheduling, and stepping up to try to woo Major League Baseball when others had pretty much given up. Big-picture stuff. But ask him to make a budget where he has to go through all the little details and mediate between community groups -- that's just not his thing."
Kaplan said she was grateful for the "mayor's many, many years of public service" and planned to meet with him next week. She is hopeful that Dellums supporters will now support her candidacy, she said.
According to sources, Dellums said during his meeting at the Marriott that he was "tired" and wanted to focus the remainder of his life on himself and his wife. He did, however, say he would continue to offer his services to Oakland.
"It's clear he has earned time to rest after having had a very extensive public service career over four decades. An outstanding career," said Swanson, who attended the small meeting at the Marriott on Wednesday morning.
Perata said Dellums will always "have a special place in the pantheon of American leaders."
"His work to end the Vietnam War, apartheid and give AIDS international attention constitutes a great legacy for this nation. He's brought honor and dignity to his place of birth, and to a profession too often lacking same. As always, I wish him good fortune," Perata said.
Dellums credits himself with bringing more diversity to Oakland's boards and commissions, engaging young people in the political process and building collaborative relationships across community -- including philanthropic, nonprofit partners and government.
Geoffrey Pete, an Oakland businessman and longtime Dellums supporter, called Dellums' decision a "travesty for Oakland."
"He is a statesman," Pete said. "He has set a tone for this city, and now it's going to revert to the same backbiting and pettiness and bickering that was so prevalent before his term in office.
"Here's a man who knows Washington like the back of his hand, can represent us there, knows all the players, and we didn't realize what we had."
"The media should be ashamed of itself for the way they treated this world-class statesman. His shoulders were big and broad. The fruits of the foundations he laid, we will benefit from for years to come. (His departure) is our loss. More than we know."