This Oakland News finds Oakland as the picture of instability: the legendary Henry Gardner replaces Fred Blackwell as Oakland City Administrator (there’s other news about the election campaigns below). Fred elected to leave Oakland for the prestigious position of Chief Executive Officer of The San Francisco Foundation. In fact, The San Francisco Foundation posted the news of his hiring on April 1st – April Fools Day!
But the hand-writing on the wall for Oakland, and with respect to Fred Blackwell was in place long ago. It’s not so much that Fred was seeking new and better employment last fall, but that he actually took the position he applied for and was hired to do April 1st with the San Francisco Foundation. Many will point to Oakland Mayor Jean Quan as the culprit. They will say it was her poor leadership skills that caused this chaos, and they may be right.
But the fact remains that Oakland Mayor Jean Quan is on her 4th Chief Administrative Officer as much because the system that now former Oakland Mayor and now California Governor Jerry Brown put in place – a strong mayor system that the 1998 Oakland voters installed after the passage of Measure X – invites the kind of managerial instability we see today.
Consider that it was just three years into the new system, and in 2002, that then-Mayor Brown fired Robert Bobb, and for Mr. Bobb’s efforts to build a downtown baseball stadium that Oakland (still) sorely needs, but Brown did not want. Brown then hired Deborah Edgerly to take Bobb’s place. But she didn’t last beyond the tenure of Ron Dellums when he was elected Mayor in 2006.
Congressman / Mayor Dellums became Oakland’s first one-term Mayor since the 1960s, and with his decision not to run for a second term, Rank Choice Voting gave us Jean Quan, who’s victory was so improbable, that then-City Attorney John Russo, in the video below, at the 18 minute mark, said she would not get the 2/3rds second place votes she needed to win.
But Jean did get those votes, and became Oakland’s first Asian and female Mayor.
Quan started out by allowing Dan Lindheim, who was Dellums CAO to remain until she found a replacement. That person was Deanna Santana, who was a popular employee in Oakland during the 90s, and then went on to become a deputy City Manager in San Jose.
But Santana’s tenure as CAO in Oakland has been a rocky one at best, and has culminated with her resignation / firing just over a month ago. So, Quan quickly turned to Fred Blackwell, who was everyone’s first choice. The trouble is, and unknown to many, Fred had already tried to follow in the footsteps of Santana and of Annie Campbell Washington, as both of them were openly seeking employment elsewhere. So, Fred was the new CAO, but then his dream job came calling; he took it.
Fred Blackwell’s decision was understandable. He makes twice the money as before, and with a lot less political stress – Fred doesn’t have to worry about losing his job to either the Mayor’s whim or her possible election loss in November. And that possible outcome points to the large problem of the built-in instability I referred to.
The instability comes, first, from the Mayor’s ability to hire and fire the CAO at will, coupled with, second, the total election uncertainty caused by Rank Choice Voting (RCV). And it’s not just that RCV brings about unpredictable election outcomes (which I like, frankly), but it also can bring in a candidate who has zero idea of how to manage a city. So, we’re stuck with watching a candidate who becomes Mayor grow into that position over time. And it’s that growth period, and it’s results, we’re stuck with.
It’s not enough to say that we can vote the person out via recall, because (as we’ve seen) that doesn’t always work. So, what we have is a candidate who could pick a CAO, then for reasons having to do with that candidate’s own personal growth and change and other factors, fire that CAO, even within a month’s time.
Do you realize we have a system where the Mayor of Oakland could hire and fire the selected CAO as many time as she wanted to? If the Mayor were a real ass-hole, she could say, “well, the constant is me, not my CAO.” The trouble is, the residents would come to view things differently, and may very well find themselves unable to do anything about it.
That is the situation Oakland could potentially find itself in.
But the real question is, is that what we want?
Jean Quan brought in the genius who’s Henry Gardner – an Oakland city management legend who was first appointed by Lionel Wilson, the first black Mayor of Oakland. But the question is, why didn’t she just call up Gregory Hunter, the city’s other redevelopment czar, and long-time Oakland employee going back to 1998, when he was hired by Robert Bobb, and brought in by Bobb, from his staff in Richmond, Virginia?
Is it that Jean doesn’t like Gregory? I put this question to her in a private lunch, and I can say she told me “no. In fact, I don’t dislike anyone.” If that’s the case, then Gregory should be her next CAO.
But if that happened, Gregory would immediately find himself to be in the same position Fred was in: with a Sword of Damocles hanging over his employment head.
The system needs to change. And In my next installment on this, I will share an idea I have.
Oakland Mayor’s Race Candidate Dan Siegel Drops A Bomb
Dan Siegel gave this video interview on the Daryelle Preston lawsuit he filed two weeks ago, and it’s a doozy. In the video, Siegel, who’s one of 16 candidates running for Mayor, said that the unlawful termination lawsuit pointed to Mayor Quan and to Oakland City Council President Pat Kernighan, and others, and said he may have to depose them to testify in what is called the discovery phase of the trial.
Annie Campbell Washington Interview, Endorsements; Andrew Park, Sokhom Mao, Dana King Abel Guillen News On District Two Race
Annie Campbell Washington sat down with me for this interview not long ago, and at Lakeshore Cafe at 3257 Lakeshore:
In a press release, she then offered that she’s nailed down the support of Richard Spees, the long-time representative of District Four:
Oakland School Board Member Annie Campbell Washington announced the support of three more key leaders in the race to represent Oakland City Council District 4 (Allendale, Brookdale, Crestmont, Dimond, Estates Drive, High Street, Laurel, Montclair, Oakmore, Piedmont Pines, Redwood Heights, Shepherd Canyon, and Thornhill).
Former Oakland City Councilmember Dick Spees endorsed Annie, saying he is “proud to support Annie Campbell Washington for City Council. Annie’s depth of experience, integrity and smarts will serve District Four well.” Spees served with distinction on the Oakland City Council from 1979 to 2003.
The Oakland Firefighters also announced an early endorsement for Annie. Dan Robertson, President of the Oakland Firefighters, Local 55, said “Oakland firefighters support Annie because she understands how important public safety is in Oakland.” Robertson went on to observe that, “Annie will prioritize safety and work tirelessly to make our neighborhoods safe.”
It must be added that Spees also endorsed her challenger, Jill Broadhurst.
Now, there are four people running for the District Four Oakland City Council seat that Oakland Councilmember and Mayor’s Race Candidate Libby Schaaf holds: Jill Broadhurst, Annie Campbell Washington, Craig Sinclair, and Nicholas Heidorn.
That brings us to District Two:
Andrew Park is arguably the front runner in the District Two Race, but word on the street is that Sokhom Mao, the 27 year old and very impressive San Antonio dweller, is turning heads. Able can’t rest on the fact that he’s a Peralta Community College Board member, because, let’s face it, not even most the Peralta students know who the trustees are. And into the race come two more who are backed by Oakland Developer Phil Tagami: Dana King and Kevin Blackburn. I already ran the King interview, and have the Mao one coming, but here’s Kevin Blackburn:
There’s more news coming, so stay tuned.