Ratio of power at Oakland City Hall?

I took the old photo of our city “leadership” and pasted in faces of current staff and soon-to-be sworn in councilmembers-elect. I don’t know who the two ladies are with “?” marks but assume one of them is the City Clerk.

What is the ratio of power at Oakland City Hall? Between city departments, city council, mayor and city administrator. (Ignoring for a moment our city attorney and auditor, and all the politically well connected non-profits, unions and developers, lobbying business interests – they are in power by proxy anyway.)

The power ratio is certainly not 1:1:1:1.

It’s probably more like 9:8:1:1.

City Departments: 9 (City employee unions fund political candidates in a vicious/virtuous circle of financial self-dealing; bureaucracy here like anywhere else in the world pushes back against most forms of top-down or bottom-up change, especially when we don’t have a Jerry Brown charismatic Mayor in charge.)

City Council/Supervisors: 8 (D1: Dan Kalb; D2: Pat Kernighan; D3: Lynette McElhany-Sweet; D4: Libby Schaff; D5: Noel Gallo; D6: Desley Brooks; D7: Larry Reid; At-Large: Rebecca Kaplan)

Mayor: 1 (Jean Quan)

City Administrator/Manager: 1 (Deanna Santana)

It’s not clear to me how the Mayor and City Administrator are supposed to work together. Who is responsible for what? It seems like a two-snake pit. Normally, one would think the City Administrator reports to the Mayor AND Councilmembers. But the Mayor is supposed to be more of a “boss” over the Admin than the Council. Is this the case here?

Certainly, the mayor, admin and council are a “clubby” group of insiders because they see each other all the time, despite some internal and external facing differences of style – and actual differences of intelligence.

In one well-known example of cozy insider dealings, City Administrator (Manager) Santana tried to cover-up OPD’s mishandling of Occupy protests to make OPD leaders and the Mayor/Council look better.

If the above Power Ratio I’ve specified is true, then Oakland’s mayor is not nearly as strong a position as we’ve let ourselves believe. In which case, there is a strong case to make Oakland’s mayoral position a stronger position in order to really “get things done” and “push the needle” in corporate-speak.

Hard to hold Oakland Mayor Jean Quan accountable for Oakland’s failures when she doesn’t have quite enough power to do anything besides go on junkets to China while we suffer an all-time high crime rate, a police department (OPD) about to be taken over by a Federal judge for inability to reform its badboy ways, and so forth.

What are Oakland’s ongoing failures?

  • High violent and property crime rates, scaring away more businesses from moving here and providing J-O-B-S
  • Unpaved, crumbly streets, dangerous for car drivers and bicyclists alike
  • High business tax rates compared to nearby cities, scaring away further business opportunities
  • Over-abundance of below-market-rate housing (public housing, “affordable housing”, section 8) which creates socially engineered pockets of poor people living close to market-rate folks, creating jealousies and artificial gated compounds of self-imposed poverty — instead of letting people sort things out themselves by getting roommates, living in cheaper areas, etc.


In unrelated government news…

  • SFMTA taking bids for $1.5 Billion (assuming 100% cost overrun) MUNI tunneling project to Chinatown I assume that Parsons-Brinkerhoff will be a strong contender for winning the contract, but that assumes I know what I’m talking about.
  • Per GSA dictate, Washington, DC to create an “eco-district”similar to Masdar, Abu Dhabi or Songdo, South Korea both of which are not finished yet.
  • Danville residents object loudly to imposition of Section 8 low-income housing on their city – I object to public housing everywhere and anywhere too. This “gimme” just creates welfare dependency. Either EVERYONE should have public housing, or NOBODY should have it.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s