The email from the City of Oakland’s media contact had a title that was clear as a bell: “Oakland City Administrator Appoints Howard A. Jordan as Interim Chief of Police.” So, this blogger immediately thought it was a misprint. After all, the Oakland City Charter that now-California Governor, and then Mayor Jerry Brown worked hard to get Oakland voters to change to give the Mayor of Oakland the power to make one key appointment and to be responsible for showing “community leadership.”
To that end, every Mayor of Oakland has presented their choice for Chief of Police, even as it’s really the task of the City Administrator. With Jerry Brown and Robert Bobb, the selection was Richard Word. Under Mayor Ron Dellums, Anthony Batts was the choice, and Dellums led the press conference to introduce him:
Even though the Oakland City Charter gives the Mayor the power to appoint only the City Administrator, that hasn’t stopped Mayors Brown and Dellums from at least looking like the ones who appointed Oakland’s top cop. There was every reason to think that habit of protocol would remain with Oakland’s new Mayor Jean Quan.
The resignation of Chief Batts on Tuesday, coupled with the announcement that Howard Jordan would be the interim police chief, gave Mayor Quan her first real chance to show out-in-front leadership, and set all at ease that, even with the loss of a popular official in Chief Batts, Oakland would be just fine.
Instead, what we’ve got is a by-the-book application of the City Charter, such that Oakland City Administrator Deanna J. Santana, and not Mayor Quan, looks like the leader of Oakland. In stark contrast to the video with Dellums above, the video from the October 11th press conference below, announcing that Batts was stepping down, was opened not by Mayor Quan, but Ms. Santana:
And in the media advisory sent by Oakland’s Media Contact Karen Boyd, Santana’s name is mentioned six times versus just twice for Mayor Quan. And the entire letter starts with this paragraph:
Oakland, CA — This afternoon, City Administrator Deanna J. Santana announced that she has appointed Howard A. Jordan as Interim Chief of Police of the Oakland Police Department, effective immediately. This appointment comes with all authority, responsibility, and accountability of the Chief of Police.
Then, the next paragraph reads like this:
“After a thoughtful evaluation, I have determined that it is in the best interest of the Department and the City to stabilize the Department, provide leadership for the workforce, provide clarity to the community, and ensure that transition time is minimized to focus on the City’s obligations of the Negotiated Settlement Agreement (NSA) under the Federal Court,” Ms. Santana stated. “I am specifically mindful that this organization needs to achieve significant progress towards full compliance with the NSA by January 2012. For these reasons, I have immediately vested Chief Jordan with the full authority he needs to effectively lead the Police Department.”
The first time Mayor Quan’s name is used at all is in the fourth paragraph of the advisory, when Jean says she’s known Interim Chief Jordan for 20 years, and adds kind words about his relationship with the community.
Other than that, the letter is Santana’s show.
Deanna explains that she selected Jordan because of his demonstrated “ability to navigate large organizations with multiple stakeholders where input is sought after, valued, and considered in the decision-making process,” which, considering recent events, can be interpreted as a slam against Chief Batts. Again, for the second in three days, not a good show overall.
None of this is intended to shoot the messenger, Ms. Boyd, who does a great job under the circumstances, but it’s clear Mayor Quan and Ms. Santana need to review their public relations playbook, and make a lot of changes to it. The current version’s making Mayor Quan look weak and not showing the “community leadership” the Oakland City Charter calls for.
While Ms. Santana is, without a doubt, a good administrator, she didn’t run for Mayor. The matter of the resignation and the selection of Oakland’s Chief of Police must at least appear to be driven by the Mayor of Oakland, regardless of City Charter details. That’s what Oaklanders expect, and that’s what Oaklanders should get.