I never knew the man except for one passing reference somebody made to him in a discussion about Alameda politics. He was most commonly referred to as a gadfly, but, from all appearances, he cared a lot more about good government in Oakland than his many detractors especially his nemesis, Ignacio De La Fuente.
What he did not realize is that few people in Oakland (and Alameda?) really put a priority on doing right. Sure, most want to do the right thing, but the priority is political allegiance, money, and sticking it to your detractors. The goal of benefiting people only gets factored in after it makes it through those filters. That’s why people like Perata and De La Fuente have enormous power and Sanjiv Handa had none. Because if you are not in it for yourself then like Eugene McCarthy said, “Being in politics is like being a football coach. You have to be smart enough to understand the game, and dumb enough to think it’s important.”