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Why I Support Don Perata (Part II)

July 17, 2010

Part II of an occasional series.  Part I here.

One of the big problems with the Dellums administration is that, from the start, Mayor Dellums has delegated governing the city to the city administrator and the city council. The city council, of course, is the city’s legislative body, and is not supposed to be “governing” the city in a strict, political science sense.

(In political science we define “the government” to be the elected executives and the heads of departments and agencies, who are temporarily in charge of directing the apparatus of the state. So, for instance the British cabinet is the UK’s government, and President Obama and his cabinet make up the current US government. The legislature is something different.)

And while the city charter does task the city administrator with executive authority because he or she directs the department heads, the charter also established a strong-mayor system in which the city administrator serves at the pleasure of the mayor. Having both a strong mayor and a city administrator doesn’t really make sense to me, since it allows the mayor to be as much or as little engaged as the mayor wants. The mayor can tell the administrator what to do, or withdraw and put all governing responsibility on the administrator, in a way that the mayor could not do to a chief of staff or deputy mayor.

In strong mayor systems without a city administrator, like San Francisco, New York, or Los Angeles, the mayor’s role is perfectly clear: she is unambiguously the chief executive, and doesn’t have a co-executive with charter responsibilities. When something gets fucked up in these cities’ governments, then the mayor gets blamed and can’t blame anyone else.

Not so in Oakland, where just recently Ron Dellums defined his position thusly:

Tuesday marked Dellums’ first public statements on the budget, even though the council has been trying to figure out for months how to eliminate what is now a $30.5 million deficit. He insisted, however, that he had not been “missing in action.”

Dellums said that he had been deeply involved in budget discussions with City Administrator Dan Lindheim, who has been talking with council members, union leaders and community members.

Dellums said that it was not his responsibility to negotiate details with council members or unions.

“I’m the master strategist,” Dellums said. “My job is to establish strategy, to establish the policy framework within which those negotiations would take place. And I have assiduously and diligently and coherently done just that.”

Dellums added, “I have been briefed to the max. It would seem to me that to the most casual observer, that I’m totally in command of what it is we’re trying to do. My job is to direct.”

And showing up at City Hall is not a requirement, said Dellums, who is frequently absent from the mayor’s office.

“In the world of computers and the world of telephones and the world of faxes, you can do this job anywhere,” he said.

Anyway, this quirk in our charter allowed Ron Dellums, over the past four years, to delegate his duties to and deflect blame onto the city administrator.

While this situation suggests the need for charter reform, it certainly demands that our next mayor be a strong, hands-on executive who will not delegate, or will not be forced to delegate.

Reason Number Two: Real Executive Leadership

The second reason I support Don Perata for mayor is that he will not delegate his duties as mayor. He is a hands-on leader. He is a public executive. His managerial experience means that he will not be forced to delegate his duties, as Jean Quan and Rebecca Kaplan inevitably would, following in the footsteps of Ron Dellums’ failed administration.

Don Perata’s Executive Leadership Experience

Don Perata has held a variety of executive leadership positions both inside and outside of government. Most obviously he served as Senate Majority Leader and then Senate President in the California legislature. In these roles, he had both constitutional leadership duties and party leadership duties. He was forced to make tough, often zero-sum decisions about funding, programs, short- and long-term goals, that ultimately reconciled the wishes of his caucus and plotted a path forward for the state.

Senator Perata has also served on and chaired the board of successful non-profits, like OPLP, and run his own political consulting firm. In less formal leadership roles, he has championed many legislative struggles, and directed several successful local and statewide initiative campaigns. While he has worked as a legislator most of his career, he served as the executive leader in these legislative bodies and also outside them.

The Other Candidates

Jean Quan has served as chairwoman of the budget committee of the city council. She has also served on the board of at least one non-profit. I can’t find any record of her chairing any committees while on the school board. On her website, she claims to have “led state and national organizations advocating for urban and immigrant students,” but doesn’t name the state and national organizations that she led. I would like to hear more!

I can find no evidence that Rebecca Kaplan has served in an executive leadership position in any prior position. I believe she served as a transit advocate prior to being a marijuana legalization advocate. I think she also worked on the political campaign for the inclusive housing ordinance, but did not lead that effort. As far as I can tell, she was not the chairwoman of any committee on the AC transit board [correction: in comments, V-Smoothe tells us that Kaplan was Board Vice-President, as well as Chair of the External Affairs, Operations, Paratransit Service Policy, and Finance Committees.], and isn’t currently the chairwoman of any committee on the city council. Of course, she had only been on the city council for a year when she decided to run for mayor.

Kaplan’s official bio essentially confirms this: she “helped to bring”, “worked to improve”, has “a strong commitment to”, etc. As far as my research shows, whatever leadership she displayed or accomplishments she claims to have achieved were essentially in an informal capacity. In other words, as an advocate not as an executive.

(Incidentally, I encourage supporters of these other candidates to send me examples of executive leadership that I can post in this entry.)

Executive  vs. Advocate

As I conceive it, the main difference between a policy advocate and a public executive is that executives have to make tough decisions regarding personnel, budgets, and policy that advocates mainly don’t. Many of these decisions are zero-sum—that is, they create losers as well as winners. That’s why they’re tough decisions. Every dollar you spend on X, means that you can’t spend that dollar on Y.

Advocates, on the other hand, rarely advocate cutting Y—they just want more of X. That’s fine. And advocates are an important part of our system. But the leadership skills that come from being an advocate are not the same as the leadership skills that are needed to be an effective public executive.

During the most recent budget scuffle, I think Jean Quan has at least showed a bit of leadership by being willing to cut police services. Although I don’t agree with her position, Quan has nonetheless been involved in the negotiations with Councilors De La Fuente and Jane Brunner, and the city administrator, and the police union.

Rebecca Kaplan has not been involved, voted against the cuts, but hasn’t offered any immediate alternatives. If she is mayor, will Kaplan just delegate her duties similar to Ron Dellums? Who will negotiate with the unions? Will she rely on the city council to negotiate, like Dellums did? What programs will she cut? What hard decisions is she prepared to make? We just don’t know, given her lack of previous executive experience.  As voters, we have no clues as to how she would govern in difficult times.

Perhaps Jean Quan and Rebecca Kaplan will be outstanding executives, but certainly we can’t rely on their background to give us any indication. Which to me, given the budget problems that Oakland faces and the difficult choices we have to make over the next few years, is an unacceptable risk.

Bombings in Kampala

July 12, 2010

I am safe in Kampala. There were synchronized bombings last night in another part of the city from where my friends and I had gathered to watch the World Cup finale. Stories at NYTimes, Daily Monitor, New Vision, the Independent.  According to reports, the bombers struck an Ethiopian restaurant and a rugby field, where fans had gathered to watch the game. The rugby field was hit twice simultaneously. The bombings were announced at the restaurant/bar where we were, during the 100th or so minute of the soccer game, and some people got up to leave. There was no panic.

The bombings seem to have killed at least 60 people, which indicates to me that the bombers were somewhat skilled. Grenades or pipe bombs can’t do that sort of damage. That sort of damage usually happens with established, practiced terrorist groups—of which there are none in Uganda. So signs suggest that the attacks were perpetrated by an external terrorist group.

The New York Times suggests that the Somali groups al Shabaab might be responsible. Uganda has a large contingent of troops in Somalia, as part of an African Union peacebuilding opertation. Uganda has just announced that they will deploy at least 2,000 more soliders there. And there is an AU summit scheduled for next week. It seems to make sense that as Shahab is responsible, but barring a positive claim of responsibility or dramatic new evidence, we won’t know for sure. The bombers appear to have died in the explosions.

As I rode around the city this morning, everything seems to be normal, even around the government buildings downtown. No apparent added security. Street life proceeding as normal.

It looks as though a US aid worker was killed in the attacks. Among other things, it will be interesting to see how the NGO community reacts—will they pull out personnel, restrict movement, etc. The NGO community in Kosovo (where I worked in 2005) was on a tight leash, and would frequently adapt their behavior to disturbances on the ground.

Why I Support Don Perata for Mayor (Part I)

July 5, 2010

As long-time Oakland residents know, Don Perata has been a force in local politics for many years.

His list of progressive accomplishments is long and unimpeachable.  As state assemblyman, senator, and senate leader, Don Perata carried landmark legislation in Sacramento on literally dozens of public policy issues that the Democratic coalition holds dear.  Climate change legislation.  Gun control.  Health care reform.  Social welfare coverage.  Labor laws that make it easier to organize unions.  Minimum wage increases.  Environmental protection.  Public transportation funding.  His record is really a case of, “you name it, Senator Perata did it.”  He is a modest man, and doesn’t trumpet these accomplishments in his public appearances.  He likes to work behind the scenes, as a workhorse rather than a show horse.  That’s fine, because Sacramento and Oakland are full of show horses.  Nonetheless, the entire state of California, and Oakland in particular, owes Senator Perata an immeasurable debt of gratitude for holding firm on the front lines and advancing the progressive agenda, when Republicans held the governorship and controlled Washington, DC.

I personally find it hard to believe that any self-respecting progressives and Democrats in Oakland would consider supporting another candidate, given Senator Perata’s caliber and his record of accomplishments for our state and our city.  To me, it would be like voting against Willie Brown or Ted Kennedy—legislators with lifetimes of accomplishments.  But politics being what it is, the best progressive candidate doesn’t always win, and the campaign this fall will be difficult.  Robert Gammon, formerly of the Tribune and currently of the local weekly, has made it his life’s goal to destroy Senator Perata.  Anyone with an internet connection can call up 15 years or so of poorly researched hit pieces by the obsessed Mr. Gammon, the monomaniac Captain Ahab of local ‘journalism’.  The vibrant and wonderful blogging community in Oakland generally supports half-term city councilor and marijuana-legalization activist Rebecca Kaplan.  Jean Quan, a two-term city councilor, has strong support in her district.  These are hard obstacles for even a seasoned campaigner like Don Perata to overcome.

Over the next few months or so, I am going to offer some short essays explaining why I support Don Perata for mayor, what I view as the core issues of the campaign, and how Oakland can emerge from the crisis in which it finds itself.  I begin below with my first reason for supporting Senator Perata for mayor:

Reason Number One: A Willingness to use ‘Tough’ Leadership

One (Partial) Diagnosis for Oakland’s Ills

Why is the willingness to use ‘tough’ leadership so important for Oakland?  I plan to write more systematically on this later in the summer, but a thumbnail sketch of what’s wrong in the city is that the institutions are broken.  In political science-speak, institutions are “rules of the game,” human-devised constraints on human behavior.  In my discipline, we essentially define institutions as anything that shapes how humans interact with each other.  They can be formal, like the US Constitution, which aims to regulate how various branches of government interact with each other, with the citizens, and with the several states.  And institutions can also be informal, like the norm that undergraduates should call their professors by their title and last name, but their teaching assistants by their first name.  An organization (say, the United Nations, the Internal Revenue Service, or the Boy Scouts) is also an institution—in so far as it is a bundle of rules that guide the behavior of humans both within and outside that organization.  But not all institutions are organizations: the Geneva Conventions are treaties that guide how states are supposed to behave during wartime, but there is no formal bureaucratic enforcement mechanism, save for the limited involvement of the Red Cross.

There are many institutions in Oakland that are broken.  The mayoralty itself is only limping along under Ron Dellums.  But I want to talk about two other prominent ones.  First is the City Charter.  The Charter states that when the legislative branch of the city interacts with the executive branch of the city, it should interact with only the very top officials.  In other words, the City Council should interact with the Mayor and perhaps the City Administrator.  Councilors should not be contacting and exerting pressure on individual departments, department heads, or line-worker bureaucrats, say, in the Parks Department or the Public Works Department.  This rule, which obviously constrains how the city councilors behave, was presumably put in place to prevent councilors from extracting patronage or favoritism out of the city bureaucracy, i.e. extracting “special consideration” from the bureaucracy.

During the parking-ticket fiasco in the spring, various media reports suggested that members of the city council were flagrantly violating the city charter, and exerting pressure on the parking department to let certain parking violations slide in certain city council districts.  Above and beyond the obvious inequity of this policy, this episode illustrates how council members can try to grab executive power—the power to direct the administration of the city—from the mayor, rather than limiting themselves to legislating the laws to be implemented.  Even City Attorney John Russo suggested (carefully) that the charter was being violated:

City Attorney John Russo said any council member directing staff – instead of working through the city administrator – violated the city charter.

“The idea is to protect the city from this kind of scenario, where council members are able to cut different deals for their district,” he said. The public, too, holds responsibility for expecting council members to intervene for them, Russo said. “Everyone is complicit here.”

If the city councilors have problems with the city’s administration, or their constituents’ needs aren’t being met adequately, then the councilors are supposed to take it up with the mayor or the city administrator.  It takes a forceful mayor to push back against council interference.

The second important institution that is broken in Oakland is the bureaucracy itself.  The bureaucracy is not performing adequately.  Technology is not being adopted, performance metrics are not even reported in many cases, and standard HR procedures are not being followed.  The citizens are not receiving the “bang for the buck” that they deserve or expect out of the relatively expensive city bureaucracy.

Institutions are by their nature entrenched and difficult to change.  After all, they are intended to restrain individuals, not enable them.  Unusual amounts of political pressure are often necessary simply to nudge institutions in the right direction, let alone transform them.  I think Don Perata is the only mayoral candidate with the chops to push that hard and that vigorously against the broken institutions in Oakland, to get them finally back on track.  The city council cannot be allowed to run roughshod over the Charter, and the bureaucracy has to be allowed to do its job.  And the bureaucracy has to be convinced, coerced, or cajoled into higher-quality performance.  Getting these institutions back on track (among all the other issues facing the city) will not be easy or conflict-free.  But I think Don Perata certainly has the best shot of doing so.

Why Senator Perata?

Like the best progressive elected officials, Senator Perata uses the full range of political tactics available to him.  Over his distinguished career he has demonstrated his facility with most forms of political leadership:  building coalitions, working the ‘inside game’, leveraging his network of supporters, working the media, making tactical concessions to win passage of a bill, and holding firm when necessary to win concessions.  (These skills may sound trite, but they are not skills that every politician shares.)  One of his most obvious skills is political fundraising for Democratic candidates and causes; I don’t think I exaggerate in saying that he has raised tens of millions of dollars for Democrats, the Democratic Party, and progressive causes.  Another skill is his recruitment of, support for, and partnerships with up-and-coming community leaders in Oakland and around the state.  These two skills in particular give Senator Perata a large measure of his political power—power he uses for progressive ends to “get things done.”  A consummate dealmaker, Senator Perata got things done even in a severely broken Sacramento.

In addition to these skills at persuasion and coalition building, Senator Perata is not afraid to play hardball when it’s appropriate.  Two examples spring to my mind.  First, when three fellow senate Democrats broke a caucus rule (and crossed him), Perata locked them out of their offices using his official power as president pro-tempore.  That may seem petty, but, well, disciplining caucus members is that sort of game:

“Whether it’s locking somebody out of an office or repainting it or suddenly having the special parking space vanish, legislative leaders back to Jesse Unruh have taken some kind of action to maintain discipline in the caucus,” said Bruce Bronzan, an Assembly member from 1982 to 1993.

As a political scientist and political junkie, I eat this stuff up.

Second, Senator Perata played hardball with a Republican legislator who broke an agreement to vote in favor of the state budget in 2007.  (Can we finally call a constitutional convention, most importantly to kill the two-thirds budget rule?)  From Wikipedia:

In response to Denham’s refusal to vote for the budget on the grounds that it wasn’t balanced, Senate President Pro Tem Don Perata demoted Denham from his position as Vice Chairman of the Senate Governmental Organization Committee. At the same time, Perata started working with local Democratic parties in the Central Valley to create a petition to start a recall election against Denham.

The recall made in onto the ballot but lost; Perata’s actions are still a good example of hardball tactics.  There are many other examples.  (But not overly many!)

Why a Willingness to Play ‘Hardball” is a Necessary Condition for Progressive Change

I argue that hardball tactics are an essential tool in the progressive toolkit.  (I argue this most persuasively after a glass or two of red wine.)  Of course they are not the only tactic… But progressives need to understand how important ‘tough’ leadership is to our success.  Why is it so often necessary for progressives to be tough?  Tougher than conservatives?  Because American constitutional and political-institutional arrangements favor the status quo.  Our political system has an amazing number of veto points relative to other advanced democracies, which tend to have parliamentary systems with disciplined party government.  Federalism, separation of powers, bicameralism, presidentialism, the committee system, judicial review, weak parties, decentralized government within the states, overlapping and redundant local jurisdictions, the privileged position of business in polyarchy, and a truly ridiculous number of lower-level elected officials all combine to slow reform to a glacial pace.  As a result, progressive reformists in the United States have an exceedingly difficult time advancing their agenda; successful progressive leaders have typically needed to use—vigorously—the broadest range of tactics available to them, including hardball.

(Hardball is also the favorite leadership strategy of political scientists because that is where we get all of our colorful political anecdotes.)

In fact, the two great eras of major progressive reform—the New Deal, and the Great Society/Civil Rights era—were orchestrated in part by presidents unafraid of using hardball tactics.  To be sure, Franklin Roosevelt and Lyndon Johnson were also masters of co-option—granting recalcitrant congressmen pork barrel projects for their districts, using the bully pulpit to rally the American public, or offering legislative concessions or executive branch jobs to senators.  However, these ‘velvet’ tactics were reinforced by—and were not substitutes for—hardball.

We mostly remember Roosevelt’s political tactics as, perhaps, grandfatherly.  He gave speeches full of soaring rhetoric and held Fireside Chats on the radio.  But that sepia-toned memory is only part of the story.  Roosevelt enjoyed enormous congressional majorities, and the significant threats to Roosevelt’s New Deal reforms came not from legislative obstruction, but from the Supreme Court.  The Court at the time held dearly to its 19th century doctrines of economic substantive due process, and of very narrowly interpreting the Commerce Clause of the US Constitution; together, these doctrines essentially prohibited economic regulation at both the state and federal level.  Still following these doctrines, the Supreme Court struck down many of the core laws of the New Deal in the mid-1930s.

So FDR played hardball.  In a March 1937 Fireside Chat, he proposed expanding the Supreme Court from nine justices up to 15.  (The size of the Supreme Court is set by statute, not by the Constitution.)  Roosevelt, of course, would nominate those six extra justices, and they would be readily confirmed by a Senate supportive of a more liberal court.  In the end, one justice began switching his votes from the conservative bloc to the liberal bloc, thus preserving the New Deal reforms and the nine-member Supreme Court.  This apparent surrender to Roosevelt’s “court packing scheme” is the so-called “switch in time to save nine”:  FDR took direct aim at one of the most august American institutions and made it bend to his will, an unusual and even breathtaking action commensurate with the scale of the political and economic crisis of the 1930s.  (If only President Obama were as willing to thrash the institutional barrier to his agenda during the current crisis, the archaic Senate filibuster rule!)

Most political scientists and historians see this episode as a blunder for FDR; I think keeping the New Deal intact was worth scuffing up the Supreme Court a bit.  In FDR’s time, it wasn’t clear that the New Deal would take hold and endure; only to later observers does the court packing scheme seem clumsy.  In any event, my point here is not to argue on behalf of FDR’s tactics in this given instance, but only to argue against the idea that this liberal icon was some sort of cuddly grandfather, or simply a rhetorician or only an ‘ideas guy’.  The idea that progress flows peacefully and naturally along with time– so-called ‘Whiggish’ history— is a dangerous one for progressives to adopt.  Progressive change comes often only with tough tactics, is historically contingent, and is not inevitable.

Lyndon Johnson also used the full range of political tools available to him.  As ‘Master of the Senate’ and later president, Johnson was famous for bargaining, cajoling, persuading, arm-twisting—you name it.  These well-known photographs by New York Times photographer George Tames captured what everybody called the “Johnson treatment,” the forceful personal suasion for which the Texan was famous.

Johnson, of course, was a self-made, scrappy farmer from Texas, who enacted Medicare, Medicaid, the Civil Rights Act of 1964, and the Voting Rights Act of 1965, using the full range of political tactics.

Politics is rough sport; real progressive change does not come from having ‘better ideas’ than your opponents, or from being on ‘the right side of history’.  Real progressive change comes from having better ideas than your opponents and from being on the right side of history and also from tough-as-nails leadership that is willing to play hardball when appropriate.  In mathematical terms, I guess my overall point is:

(The Right Policies) x (Tough Leadership) = Progressive Change

A president can have great ideas about providing universal health care, or stopping global warming, or reforming Wall Street, but if you can’t make that 60th senator vote with you, or you can’t force needed reform of the filibuster rule, then all the good ideas in the world will get you nowhere.  Closer to home, a mayor or a city councilmember may have a nice plan to make Oakland a model city, or to radically increase public transportation in Oakland, or to bring green jobs to West Oakland, but if you cannot get the people and the institutions to move forward together—to work for rather than against change—then the ideas don’t matter.  Good policies without leadership mean nothing, or equals zero in the above equation.  Don Perata may not be FDR or LBJ, but he understands how to lead progressive reform.

So the first reason that I support Don Perata is that he knows how to lead. Oakland has suffered through four years of good ideas and good rhetoric coupled with bad leadership.  On the other hand, on issue after issue, and in negotiation after negotiation, whether against Republican legislators, Governor Schwarzenegger, and even the Bush Administration, Don Perata has delivered progressive results.  Most importantly for Oakland, he will know how to apply sustained political pressure until we get the progress the City deserves.  And we get the institutional change we need.

Fourth of July

July 5, 2010

Met up with a bunch of American NGOers and academic-types (and folks from other countries) for the Fourth.  They grilled me on my dissertation project, which was good practice for me.  They grilled meat to celebrate the holiday.  Ugandan beer is just… okay, despite the reputation of Ugandans for being some of the most ‘alcohol-friendly’ of Africans.

Arrival in Kampala

July 3, 2010

I have arrived safe and sound in Kampala, after an epic 20 hour, 3 leg flight. The flights themselves were as good as could be hoped for in economy class. I am staying at a cheap hotel in town until my housing situation firms up. I do not recommend the hotel, the Aponye, but I’ll soon be settled in a nicer neighborhood.

First impressions are typical of my experiences in developing countries, especially when you are on a shoestring budget and a pedestrian. Hot. Dusty. Smoggy. Crowded. Noisy. Chaotic traffic. Broken sidewalks where they exist at all. But considering my experience in Kosovo in 2005, I expect these inconveniences to melt away after awhile, as I get to know people, move in, and adjust. My interactions with people have been positive—a cab driver even told me when I dramatically overpaid for a ride. Naturally, I stick out like a sore thumb, especially in this neighborhood.

It’s been fun and challenging at the same time. Some cool things I’ve done so far:

  • My first and second motorcycle rides ever. Hopping on the back of a motorcycle is the only fast way to get around this large, congested city without melting into the pavement. These are called ‘boda boda’, because they will take your from border to border. At least, that’s the story in my guidebook. Fairly safe, and only a dollar to go all over town.
  • Watching the Netherlands beat Brazil in a Dutch-owned, Dutch-filled thatched hut bar.

Otherwise, I am still vainly trying to adjust to the time difference. It’s 10 hours ahead of the Bay Area here.

About This Blog and Website

June 16, 2010

What is the purpose of this website?  Taking my cue from the inaugural post of The Monkey Cage, here are some thoughts:

  1. I am a doctoral student in political science, and it seems to be the trend to have fancy websites and blogs.  These website often contain bibliographies and datasets, collect course syllabi, link to interesting research, and accomplish other useful academic stuff.  In other words, it’s a bit of self promotion.
  2. I have blogged before, once during a field research trip/internship in Pristina, Kosovo.  I foolishly deleted this blog a while after returning home, and it exists now only in paper form.  I also blogged more recently, at my blog “Live from Oakland,” but ended up not posting regularly.  I also took down that site.  Here, I have combined my personal webpage and blog– which I hope motivates me to post more often.  This site will also have a clearer mission.
  3. Like the political scientists at The Monkey Cage, I believe there is a dearth of informed comment in the media and the blogosphere on subjects related to political science and public policy.   I envision this blog as place for high quality commentary on politics, governance, and public policy.  I would also like to invite guest posters, since whatever expertise I have is quite limited.
  4. The mission of this blog is, in part, to challenge bad politics, bad political science, bad policy, and uninformed comment in an entertaining way.  If, for instance, public figures, political parties, interest groups, or other writers are behaving dangerously, disingenuously, or, well, stupidly, then good citizenship often requires sharply worded responses.  But I also pledge to strive for fairness in my criticism.
  5. My hometown and current home, Oakland, California, is in a slow-moving political and economic crisis, and the lack of leadership from City Hall has been astounding.  I expect to comment heavily and critically on these circumstances.  I will also offer some potential solutions.  In my next post, I will briefly explain why I am supporting Don Perata for mayor in the November, 2010 election.  Though I am a partisan for Sen. Perata, this blog will, again, be a place for fair criticism of all local leaders and candidates, unlike many of the other local political blogs in our fair city.  I also hope to apply some of my formal training in political science and public policy analysis to this criticism, which I think should bring a unique voice to the politics of the city.  (Of the Oakland-focused blogs, I believe I will be the only political scientist.)
  6. Ditto for the State of California.  The State is in a severe crisis, with ever-lively politics.  Expect to see commentary on the state of the Golden State.
  7. I will be conducting field research over the next few years, starting with a trip to Uganda in summer 2010.  This website will be a place to offer my observations, pictures, experiences, and so forth, while (hopefully) travelling extensively.

I think that about covers it.  I’m sure the mission of this blog will evolve, but hopefully this post gives you some sense of what to expect to find here.