An independent website not affiliated with any political officeholder or candidate or political campaign

Perata's Friends Left Holding The Bag

[Note From The Anybody But Perata Website: This article, written by the late Tribune columnist and reporter and former Oakland School Board member Peggy Stinett, shows a good example why we believe Don Perata should not be elected mayor of the City of Oakland.

[The article was written in the chaotic period in early 2003 when the Oakland Unified School District was waging an unsuccessful battle to keep from being taken over by the State of California. Don Perata had earlier called for both the state takeover of OUSD and the firing of OUSD Superintendent Dennis Chaconas. But at a March, 2003 meeting at Allen Temple Baptist Church in East Oakland, according to a Paul Rosynsky article in the Oakland Tribune, Don Perata reversed himself and "apologized for saying schools Superintendent Dennis Chaconas should be fired and promised ... to do everything in his power to prevent a state takeover of city schools."

[It was a typical Don Perata move. The damage had already been done, and four months later, the Oakland schools had been taken care over by the State of California, and California State Schools Superintendent had accepted Chaconas' resignation. At the March, 2003 Allen Temple meeting, Don Perata tried to have it both ways, forcing the OUSD state takeover and the Chaconas firing on the one hand, but then pretending to be the good guy to the folks at the Allen Temple meeting by promising to try to stop those actions.

[In her article, Peggy Stinett pointed out another typical Perata action: ducking and dodging to save himself and his political career while leaving his political allies and associates to take the blame for the actions that he initiated.]

By Peggy Stinett
Originally published in the Oakland Tribune
March 5, 2003

WE GO to church to hear the good news. And this weekend at Allen Temple Baptist Church there was a special meeting to get all factions together in the Oakland schools budget deficit quarrel. They got good news.

State Sen. Don Perata confessed he had made a mistake in calling for school Superintendent Dennis Chaconas to be fired as part of a state loan that would have a state administrator run the Oakland schools.

He did it because he lost his temper, Perata said.

It must have been a humbling moment for the senator, and for that he gets high marks. It takes a big person to admit to a big mistake.

"Every once in a while you do something you wish you could take back," he said.

Unfortunately, Perata has left a few people behind him holding the bag. And these bags are not from Macy's where you can take things back when you change your mind.

Because Perata is one of the most influential voices in the continuing school deficit mess, several key officials have now been left behind. Their leader has stepped up and admitted he was wrong.

We could start with Assemblymember Wilma Chan, D-Oakland, who has loyally stood by Perata, although the Oakland community with few exceptions has formed a cheering section for the popular superintendent.

Oakland's other Assemblymember, Loni Hancock, D-Berkeley, is a strong supporter of Chaconas and alwayshas been.

Parents and most teachers want to keep Chaconas because children in elementary schools have made gains in achievement, a move forward that has evaded the district for more than 25 years and five previous superintendents.

They seem to realize the gains are modest but starting over with a new superintendent would be devastating, especially if it were someone assigned to Oakland by the state superintendent. The administration could be cold and calculating, with a goal of financial stability first and achievement afterward.

Chan now needs to put herself on the record as well. Will she continue to support Perata? Or will she strike out on her own? That's yet to be seen. Meanwhile, she's left holding a bag stamped: "Perata's Big Mistake."

Then there's county school Superintendent Sheila Jordan, who has blocked the district from receiving a $33 million state reimbursement to replace general-fund money the district advanced for school construction projects. Jordan wants more documentation that Oakland used the money appropriately before she releases it.

Jordan seems to be holding two bags: One has "Oakland Unified School District's Future" stamped in big letters, and a second reads, "Perata Got Me Into This."

What can Jordan do now? Mark Twain had a pretty good solution to such a predicament. He said, "When you come to a low place, stoop."

There's another Sheila who might benefit from the same advice. That would be Sheila Quintana, president of the Oakland Education Association who is supposed to be leading the teachers. But it seems she hasn't looked over her shoulder lately to see who is still following.

Many teachers don't believe her pitch that a huge loan will protect their jobs. The truth is with or without a huge state loan there will be teaching jobs lost. Now that March 15 warning letters are expected to go to hundreds of teachers, that seems obvious.

Maybe Quintana doesn't understand the state money would be a loan that has to be paid back. A big-time loan to protect jobs would cost the district big-time money. So the smaller the loan the better for Oakland, not the other way around.

Quintana is another key figure who was following the Perata mantra for months. Her bag could read, "Promises, promises."

And now we come to the person who could be first but seems to be last, Mayor Jerry Brown. From the beginning of this debacle, he has kept a low profile, apparently preferring not to get into the fray.

Privately, many of his supporters have encouraged him to support Chaconas, but he hasn't warmed to the idea. In fact, the two men still have strong disagreements. Brown is not a Chaconas supporter, and never has been.

That leaves him holding a Brown Bag of his own design. For all we know, it has his lunch inside. It is stamped with a familiar Brown answer: "I'm staying out of this."

As for me, I don't want to be known as a bag lady. All I want to know is will they be paper or plastic?

Return to top