27 September 2006

His Aura Smiles And Never Frowns

You'd think, wouldn't you, that if your city were experiencing a spectacular climb in murders and other crimes of violence, that the mayor would have something to say about it? In fact, any half-decent mayor would not just be saying something, he'd be out there mounting the barricades, flooding the streets with cops, demanding that everyone involved with the local justice system pull their finger out and do something, anything, to stop the carnage.

Not, however, if your city is Oakland and your mayor is Jerry Brown. As two more seemingly innocent bystanders are gunned down, keeping Oakland on course toward its highest murder rate since 1995, and within striking distance of its highest murder rate ever, Brown, who once bragged about revitalising and transforming Oakland, has been strangely MIA.

Well, it's actually only within Oakland itself that the mayor is nowhere to be seen; you can find him almost anywhere else in California campaigning to be State Attorney General. His platform? Tough on crime, natch.

Either Jerry Brown is deserving of the chutzpah award originally given to the boy who killed his parents before pleading for mercy on grounds that he was an orphan, or Californians have the attention span of gnats - okay, I know, both are true - but it looks pretty likely that come November the man who has presided over Oakland's worst crime wave in over a decade will be elected as California's top crime fighter.

It doesn't help any that Brown's Republican opponent, apart from being saddled with the extremely unfortunate name of "Poochigian" (the torment he must have received in his school days must have been enough to scar any normal human being for life), is also a right wing gun nut who's made himself very unpopular with the state's law enforcement community by crusading in favour of keeping armour-piercing "cop killer" bullets legal. As a result, most of the state's police organisations are backing Brown. One is tempted to suspect they're hoping Brown will carry out his state law enforcement duties much as he did in Oakland, i.e., barely or not at all, which will free up cops everywhere from the dangerous and unpleasant task of chasing criminals.

I was once a big supporter of Jerry Brown, so much so that I couldn't understand why the Dead Kennedys were saying such mean things about him in their classic "California Über Alles." Kicking around somewhere is the "Brown For President" button I wore proudly in 1976, and I've often maintained that if he'd followed my advice (sent to him by letter in 1975) to enter the early primaries before Jimmy Carter built up too big a lead, he would have been President.

I was still enthusiastic about him when he took on the thankless task of leading Oakland out of the mire in which it had wallowed since the 1960s, but I've now lost all respect for the man. Once he'd secured a second term as mayor, it was if Oakland and its problems ceased to exist; all that mattered was what was best for Jerry Brown and his political career. That, apparently, will be to treat all troubling questions about his failed (or nonexistent) law enforcement policy with the stock answer of, "I never had mayoral relations with that city, Oakland."

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