Jerry Browns Impact on Oakland May Surprise You
When we talk about California politics over the last few decades there's one person who has just dominated the scene he's become the most was curious political figure in American Politics Jerry Brown? He's been retired for about a year now but before that governor of California for her sixteen years what can we get by. The fact that I'm governor of is looking for things that would not have happened but for my beat. Three time presidential candidate did it. Jerry Brown got out of there and he made this great speech on the environmental job cheering roaring cheering. He ran for Senate twice. And if that that isn't overachiever enough. He also served for eight years as the mayor of Oakland so specs more than governor. which is what we're going to learn more about about today? Hey guys I'm Olivia Allen Price and this is big curious today. We're digging in on one of the most impactful politicians in state date history and looking at how Jerry Brown's legacy plays out in Oakland these days and I'll tell you it's complicated. Stick around support for Bay. Curious comes from Sierra. Nevada Brewing Company family owned operated and argued over since nineteen eighty reminding listeners to think for themselves but drink with others Sierra Nevada dot com when you think about Jerry Brown what comes to mind confidence and power this is Devin Katayama. He hosts a podcast at K.. Q. E. D. called the bay. This is a guy who's been around for a long time. And if you have been California amount of time you probably know Jerry Brown's name now when I first moved to California I knew of Jerry Brown but mostly for like what he had done on the national political stage but I didn't know as much about what he had done in California or how. He was mayor of Oakland for two terms in the late nineties and early two thousands. So this is where things get complicated with. Jerry Brown's legacy because a lot of things he did for Oakland did create the vibrant downtown. That we see today but it also set up the problems around displacement and gentrification were also saying today. This is something that I talked with Guy Maserati about. He's cuties politics politics reporter so I would say the story of Jerry Brown and Oakland starts the same as many Jerry Brown stories. He's always looking for new office to run for and we should say guy as part of the team behind new podcast called the political mind of Jerry. Brown will listen to the rest of Devon guys conversation now so this is in the early ninety just lost the presidential campaign nine to Bill Clinton. He's looking for the next job in the next way to get back in the game so he moves to Oakland Oakland California. It's we the people we Jerry Brown. He started this radio show. Welcome to another edition of we. The people this is a radio program dedicated to exposing the follies of the political of class that privileged arrogant group that runs a country like a private club and he takes US sets up shop in Oakland and starts putting out. Feelers doesn't know what office he's GonNa run for but ultimately decides he's GonNa run for mayor and adapt point. This is a guy who spent eight years as the governor of California. He'd already run for for President three times. He's run for the Senate he'd had a long political career for he ever stepped foot in Oakland. What was going on in Oakland at that time when Jerry Brown came and decided to run for mayor I mean I would say oakland like many cities in the eighties and nineties? Was You could maybe say down on. Its luck when you look downtown. Oakland never really recovered from the eighty nine earthquake And there really was a hole in terms of business and development downtown that existed before Jerry Brown got there so in one thousand nine hundred eighty eight. He was up against ten candidates and a previous mayors up to that point had been black for years. Braun appears poised to take over an office. There's been held by African Americans for almost twenty years. Obviously Brown is this white guy so did his message resonate with with people in Oakland at the time the way he puts. What's it is? I had a lot to do with name I D. This is something that if you're a voter in Oakland you probably had seen Jerry Brown on a ballot a few times before this I felt confident did that unknown African American candidates to now have much of a chance. Because you can't beat so nobody. The people knew who he was. He comes from a historic family democratic politics. And as we know Oakland's the Democratic City you know in politics a lot of times if you see someone that did you know that may be all the difference. It makes vote for that. That's why you vote. Yeah Jerry Brown won the nineteen ninety eight mayor's race and he wanted it really big. He beat his closest opponent by more than forty percentage points and used his popularity immediately. Make sure that he could govern his way so before he was inaugurated put for this ballot. Measure to make Oakland's mayor a strong mayor which really gave him control over departments and made him something more than just another voice on the city council as he put it. He didn't WanNa have to sit in public comment. I don't WanNa sit there five or six hours. It's not my thing to say looking listening using critics. Say That's your job as a public official macher soon. You're going to have to hear from residents. This is how you do it. He felt like the whale. Here from residents is by Walking around the city and interacting with them on my own time. I don't need to show up at City Council. Every Tuesday Brown likes to tell stories about his on the ground face to face. Ace interactions during his time. As mayor for example he'd get coffee with someone and try to convince the let construction go up near their home or he'd go to a government office to push permit through and he used this approach to accomplish his biggest priorities as mayor. Jerry Brown ran on three big promises. Fix Up Oakland schools reduce crime crime and spur more development. Bring more people downtown. Those are all three issues. That still exists in Oakland. Today there are still issues with the schools obviously. OPD has been in. Scandals handles years before year sentence and development and the ramifications of development each application or is still a debate going on in Oakland. Today okay so let's talk about these three main issues starting with schools. What did Mayor Jerry Brown do for schools? His solution was. I'm going to take more control over. How the district is run? Usually the mayor there some separation operation. And how the mayor and the school district work. He felt like I gotta get my hands around this by getting more hands on so he put forward another ballot. Measure got it approved to be able to appoint three three members of the board of Education. No other mayor in California had that power at that time but this was a political miscalculation because three members still didn't give him a majority and he wasn't really able to make that much difference at the board it was still kind of the Jerry Brown faction on the school board versus the non J. Round faction so after that didn't work he felt like okay. Forget this forget the school district. I'm going to create my own school so he created the Oakland Military Institute and the School for the arts and then he really focused his energies on his own charter schools. We're GONNA give them the best They'RE GONNA have field trips to Stanford University of California to the museum to the Ballet Symphony Too high-tech companies losing the most privileged children and so two charter schools exist at the time. Or did they start to exist. Under Jerry Brown Charter. The schools had already existed. But I think it's so rare for mayor sitting mayor to almost bypass with the district is doing because there is so much tension and still is between the school we'll district and charter schools. And basically to abandon any initiatives yet going with the district and say I'm going to focus my energy on my schools. I believe that if ten percent of the students of Oakland move out into excellent charter schools that pressure that loss of five thousand dollars a kid will create a wakeup call. That will enable the Superintendent and the board finally to come together and work through the incredible Byzantine set of rules rules and regulations and relationships that have made it dysfunctional for over two decades. The second big priority. That Jerry Brown. How does the mayor was reduced crime in the city? That was going to have less crime when you have four times the crime rate of most major cities. What was his idea to do that? Well I think it really stemmed from what we saw it. A lot of American cities in the nineties was get more crime data. And also you get more tougher policing in our interviews. He mentioned admiring the work. That William Bratton was doing in New York City and I think that was very controversial again. All stop and Frisk history there. But he was definitely a supporter of the Oakland Police Department and felt like as he described it. This is a war. It's a war. I mean the cups cups under under there being shot at so Jerry Brown. As he was mayor he was living right in the city with no security detail. WHO's walking around as he puts is it like I would rather be more safe than less safe and I think that went into how he governor especially how he governed around public safety? I mean he was riding around with cops on ride alongs he would hold these town halls where he would talk to people and try to figure out what they wanted to see and as he put it a lot of people would say we want more police. We want more safety. There's too much crime so we've got both messages. We need more police protection and by the way the police are harassing African American men and while Brown acknowledges is that he heard from both sides definitely clear where his sympathies lay which was with the Oakland Police Department and the aggressive work that they were doing to cut down crime wall crime. I'm was going down. There are still a lot of people even at the time who are critical of how the Oakland Police Department was operating. I talked to former councilman. Nancy Nee Dell and she brings up one of the the biggest scandals that happened other browns watch in two thousand. which was the writer scandal? The recent incident of four rogue cops known as the writers will allegedly assaulted citizens and planted evidence further inflamed a volatile situation. So these were Oakland. Police officers who were indicted for beating up civilians planting planted evidence falsifying police reports and what critics of Brown have said was. Look these weren't just a few rogue police officers went off and did their own thing. This was a culture that was established where the ends justified the means and the writers were just the ones who got caught and there were other police who were engaged in this activity. Nancy Adele former former councilwoman was telling me they were brought you know excessive force cases again and again in front of the council and that this was just a culture that came out of it. But when you look at the Oakland Police Department now people are still up in arms about the the infractions that are happening in the in the problems within the department it does not have a good reputation. So you mentioned you mentioned. Some of the numbers are down down. But but they're still like systemic problems in the department right and I think he might say I didn't promise to fix the systemic problems in the department. I promised to bring crime down and crime went down when he he was married. There's no doubt about that. I think in subsequent years you've had mayors who realize politically. They have to voiced concerns of Oakland residents with the Oakland Police Department. You've seen that Louis Shop. I mean she's not afraid to take on the department and really call it out for systemic cultural issues in a way that Jerry Brown never did when you see how hard the work is of law enforcement officers how they put their lives on the line. How dangerous it is? You can become insensitive to just how how destructive that bad culture and those few bad apples that can infect a whole lot. More apples can can be the third and possibly biggest priority of Jerry Brown as mayor was housing and developing downtown. And the way Jerry Jerry Brown phrase. This plan to bring development was ten K.. Bringing ten thousand New People to downtown. Oakland Brown's goal is to lure ten thousand new residents to downtown to retract new businesses. And the way he was going to do that was built housing specifically as he puts it market rate housing. So how did Jerry Brown think he was going to attract tracked all this money and all these people to Oakland. Well I think part of it was just wielding his personality. We would try to get meetings with the real decision-makers invest in Oakland and. We've got the mayor with us. We'd have the head of economic development. We'd have the city manager. Forget it you could not get a meeting now. You have Jerry Brown they all. I WanNa meet Jerry Brown. I should point out that a lot of development has nothing to do with. WHO's in office? This was while the tech boom was happening and people in jobs are coming into the bay area and there was was just more money around in the region and more people that who could afford market rate housing. That has nothing to do with. WHO's mayor but I think it fed into Jerry Brown's plan and that he was really laser focused focused on development? There weren't part of. It is having such few priorities. Having these real three priorities allowed him to really dig in and say like all. My effort is going to go into making this development happen. So where did affordable housing fit into his picture. I don't think it fit into his picture. Quite frankly so crazy to think about how it can fit into the picture but now it's all we talk about now. I didn't want to subsidize. People committed no surplus money then that they were just living their little apartments. It wouldn't have the money to spend so there wouldn't be much visible economic activity and I think that really shows how much Oakland is change politically sense Jerry Branislav but even when Jerry Jerry Brown was mayor there were still people pushing him saying. Why are you doing more to set aside units for affordable housing? If you're bringing the money in why not make sure that. With each development there are unit set set aside that are affordable critic. Say they're still not enough affordable housing and money should be spent on the neighborhood in fact this last year as mayor he blocked a measure that would have done on inclusionary housing and Oakland basically setting aside those affordable units. I mean he tells the story of running into a woman coming off a plane and she said why. Are you throwing all the black people out Oakland and he said I'm not doing that as if like on. Not personally doing that. Which yes true? The mayor is not personally victim people or gentrifying the city but I think uh he didn't connect or didn't feel like it was his job to connect the larger structural changes that were happening because of his insistence or maybe in part because of his insistence on market career housing with the fact that these changes were happening for Longtime Oakland residents. If you were to walk around Oakland today where can you see the most visible results of Jerry Brown's policies while he was mayor of Oakland. You gotta go uptown. I mean look at the uptown development both in housing and the Fox theater. The Fox theater was something that Brown saws a priority kind of the crown jewel of uptown. And he used redevelopment money to get that done. It's a beautiful beautiful theater for years. That was revitalized in his tenure. And that's the area where you can see the Oakland that Jerry Brown wanted. which is he put? It was in Oakland. That would be more like Paris or New York City vocal Paris. He looks back on his tenure. Unlike you know some of his his issues that came up in the governor's office where he has reflected and said maybe I should have done this differently tests not the case in Oakland and the ultimate conclusion that he arrives on and this is a very very political mind. Conclusion is that I was very popular. Defectors the overwhelming majority by a huge amount. Liked what I was doing Louis and continue to like your episode on on Oakland. What do you think the reaction is going to be when we when they hear about the three main priorities education policing and housing and development that he really took on and when they look at Oakland today? What do you think they're going to the reactions are going to be from people? I think people might hear the way that he talks about those issues. As being maybe crass or maybe out of touch with the way we talked about issues like that in Oakland today but I think going back to the way he ran he made real concrete promises and delivered on them and he he governed in a way that was controversial and still is is controversial but he did enact what he promised to do while he ran. And that's how he concludes. It is really a political fashion. Like can't blame me because I was really transparent spirit about what I wanted to accomplish and I went ahead and did it. That was Devin. Katayama host of K.. cuties the Bay Interviewing Guy Maserati a producer K cuties newest podcast the political. Mind Jerry Brown. You can find both in the same place you get bay. Curious Bay. Curious is made in San Francisco at Katie. I'm Alan Price and I'll see you next week.