Brown Makes His Move

Max Sawicky sawicky at
Sat Jun 13 11:27:05 PDT 1998

> Those of us who see Brown as a bush-league demagogue will be
> gratified to hear that he's now pushing a petition around Oakland
> that will give him veto power over city council actions and
> direct control over the city manger's office. Apparently, Brown's
> big electoral mandate has emboldened him into making this big power
> grab.
. . .
> Will a Brown with autocratic powers be a disaster for Oakland?
> I have a feeling that he will be. . . .

Brown aside, a city manager is more remote from democratic accountability than a mayor. So transferring power from the former to the latter may be a power grab but it does not imply less democracy, much less autocracy. Having veto power over a city council is pretty well short of autocracy as well. If a city manager is hired and fired by a city council, the manager is insulated from the public by the council. The manager and council can also blame each other for stuff that goes wrong, a further diminution of accountability. A strong mayor can take the credit but also the blame.

Full disclosure: I did a little work for Brown in his primary run against Bill C. He has been, shall we say, inconstant or at least confusing in his convictions. I don't think he is shallow or corrupt. There is always a chance he will come out with something interesting. For a place like Oakland, I speculate, albeit from a distance of 3000 miles, that it couldn't hurt to try something different.

I still think he had one of the best slogans ever.


"Serve the people,

protect the Earth,

explore the universe."

-- Jerry Brown, 1976

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