By J. Douglas Allen-Taylor
Like many voters, when it comes to a multi-multi-candidate election like the 2014 Oakland Mayoral race, I like to divide the race into two divisions: those who I think have a reasonable chance of winning and those who don’t.
Please understand that this has nothing to do with paying attention to all of the candidates. Some candidates who
aren’t likely to win have important things to say, and should be listened to by voters. Sometimes they have the keenest insights and best ideas and are freer to say them, since they aren’t burdened by the necessity of trying to say what’s more popular so that they can gather in more votes.
But while I listen-carefully-to the views of all the candidates in a multi-candidate race, the ones I pay attention to the most are the ones I think have a chance of winning. That’s just my personal way of doing things. For your part, you’re free to go about it any way you like. I won’t get mad at you for doing it your way if you don’t get mad at me for doing it mine.
Four years ago, in the race to succeed Ron Dellums, I initially put former State Senator Don Perata and Councilmembers Jean Quan and Rebecca Kaplan in my “could win” category. After the race started, I added business owner Joe Tuman to that mix. I tell you that only so you’ll know that the “can’t win” and “can win” status is not set in stone, but can change as things develop.
This year, to date, it appears that as many as 16 candidates who have filed to run for mayor of Oakland. Of those, I put six in the “could win” category: Mayor Jean Quan, herself, of course, City Councilmember Libby Schaaf, Oakland City Auditor Courtney Ruby, Joe Tuman, former School Board member Dan Siegel, and business executive and Port of Oakland Commissioner Bryan Parker. If Oakland City Councilmember Rebecca Kaplan decides to run again I would, naturally, add her to that “could win” list, high up near the top.
Of the six current candidates on my “could win,” the one who is currently the most intriguing to me is Bryan Parker. To my knowledge, Mr. Parker has never held elective office nor run for any before, and so I don’t have a clear idea of who he is or what he might do if he were to become mayor of Oakland. At the same time, Mr. Parker has made the biggest early splash in the race, raising the most funds according the first round of candidate financial filings. He’s using that money to show up daily in ads on internet news sites, as well as posters beginning to sprout up in strategic spots around Oakland.
So, of course, I want to know more about Mr. Parker, just because.
That’s why I was a bit disappointed by the major feature article my good friends at the East Bay Express ran last week, jointly written by reporters Darwin BondGraham, Elly Schmidt-Hopper, and Ali Winston and designed to introduce us to this newly-emerging candidate (“Who Is Bryan Parker?” March 19, 2014, East Bay Express)
To explain the direction the article intended to go, the sub-hed explained that Mr. Parker has “enjoyed success as a top executive for a large corporation that has been accused of fraud and corruption.”
The Express article delivered literally on that promise. He has been a successful executive, and the company he worked for has been so accused. The article identified Mr. Parker as Vice President of Real Estate And Internal Growth at DaVita, a Denver-based health care services corporation. That company, according to the Express, has a “dark side” that was the subject of “numerous lawsuits that have alleged malpractice, wrongful death, Medicare fraud, corruption, harassment, and retaliation.” The article spent a good deal of time detailing allegations of serious concerns at a DaVita dialysis clinic in North Carolina.
The problem with the article and the allegations? While all of them may be true, the Express never, as far as I could see, showed any evidence that Mr. Parker participated in any of the alleged company irregularities or, for that matter, even had any responsibility over the divisions were those irregularities were supposed to have occurred.
Maybe further investigation will show that Mr. Parker was guilty of serious wrongdoing during his time at DaVita. But as far as the Express article showed, it hasn’t been proven yet, or even charged, expect by the Express article’s guilt-by-association inference.
In explaining why its article spent so much time on Mr. Parker’s DaVita record, the Express said-correctly-that there is little in the public record by which to evaluate the Oakland mayoral candidate. “In an effort to understand what Parker would be like as mayor,” the Express article went on, “we decided to look where he does have a record: the private sector.”
However, Mr. Parker actually does have a public record to evaluate, from his time as Commissioner for the Port of Oakland. Since Mr. Parker was nominated by Ms. Quan to serve on the Port Commission in the summer of 2012, there has been one interesting set of issues which-if we knew what positions Mr. Parker took on them-might give us an important insight as to how he would handle similar issues as mayor.
I’m speaking, of course, of Oakland developer Phil Tagami’s somewhat peculiar, certainly controversial, tenure as developer for both the Port of Oakland side and the City of Oakland sides of the Oakland Army Base.
Mr. Tagami had the original rights to negotiate to be the developer for the Port side of the Army Base development, but the Port began negotiating with an additional group of developers in late 2010 after a contract agreement with Mr. Tagami could not be reached. Last month, however, the Port Commission decided to approve a new Exclusive Negotiating Agreement (ENA) with Mr. Tagami to try again to work out a full contract.
Whether it’s relevant or not, that was only after two new members were appointed to the Commission from the time the first negotiations with Mr. Tagami were dropped, one of those new Commissioners being Mr. Parker.
Meanwhile, there was a series of somewhat shady developments by Mr. Tagami’s development of the City side of the Army Base Development that were impacted by decisions on the Port side.
The details are far too complicated to go into at the end of an already-long column, but in summary, the question raised was whether Mr. Tagami might have tried to force longstanding Oakland companies he did not approve of out of doing existing business with the Port and City of Oakland. At least one local company-PCC Logistics-lost its lucrative federal contract to inspect Port of Oakland cargo.
Whether it was Mr. Tagami’s intention for those companies to lose their tenant leases at the Army Base, actions and inactions by both the Port of Oakland staff and Port of Oakland Commissioners helped cause confusion and delay in those existing companies moving over to the Port side of the Army Base.
For myself, I’d like some local news outlet to look into whether the allegations against Mr. Tagami about the Army Base tenants are true and, if they are true, what role Port of Oakland officials played in those alleged actions and, especially, what position and role Mr. Parker might have played.
Development and the spending of public money are important parts of the job of Mayor of Oakland. This is particularly true when it comes to developments put together by Mr. Tagami, who has often been at the center of some of Oakland’s biggest-and most controversial-development projects.
It goes without saying, therefore, that if we knew what happened-and is still happening-between Mr. Tagami and Port of Oakland officials in his joint Port/City Army Base development, as well as Mr. Parker’s role in those actions, pro or con, it might go a long way in telling us what type of mayor Mr. Parker might be, if we give him the job.
It certainly seems to be something worth looking at.
Courtesy of J. Douglas Allen-Taylor, March 27, 2014.