Aah, I love the end of December. It feels good to reflect on all the things I didn’t accomplish and promise myself how I’m going to do so much better next year. There’s nothing quite like a clean slate, a whole untainted year ahead of you with all the potential in the world to be great, accomplish something noteworthy, or put some of your worst qualities behind you. I’ve resolved that 2009 will be the year I finally quit smoking and get a driver’s license. But what about our elected officials? I know that settling on a goal can be tough, and I’m nothing if not helpful, so I’ve listed a few suggestions below:
Want to talk about something I haven’t covered? Do it here. You can find the previous open thread here.
I’m out of town for the holiday, having a blast with my mundane tasks like taking dogs for a walk, spending all afternoon preparing dinner, reading things that have nothing in any way to do with Oakland or planning or cities or public policy or anything that could ever be relevant to something I might ever want to write here. It’s great. But while I’m totally content to lounge around contemplating art forgery and counterfeit wine, I hate to let my Oakland-obsessed readers stuck without any local reading material during the break. I was going to suggest you go pick up some Oakland related books at the library, but then I remembered that you can’t, because it’s closed! Instead, please enjoy this list of some of the Oakland writing I’ve found the most compelling recently:
My poor mother spent the better part of the month of November harassing me to send her a list of things I wanted for Christmas. “I’m really busy right now,” I kept telling her. “I promise I’ll send you a list tomorrow.” And so it went for weeks and weeks. I was really busy, but mostly I didn’t write the damn thing because every time I sat down to do it, I couldn’t think of anything to put on it. Sure, there’s things out there I’d like, but none of them lend themselves particularly well to gifts. The things I want and don’t have are mostly too personal for someone else to pick out – the perfect cranberry fabric in the perfect weight for new drapes, perfectly subtly patterned silk to line them with, or too abstract to stick in a box under a tree, like a new job that allows me the flexibility I need to blog while paying more than the pauper’s wage I scrape by on now.
In a refreshing turn of events, the City Council will begin this year’s budget discussions on January 12th (PDF), instead of in mid-May, like last time. The budget office has produced a five year financial forecast (PDF) for discussion at the meeting, and it’s…well, it’s grim. Grim, like, a forecasted $50.3 million deficit for FY09-10, $57.8 million for FY10-11, $112.5 million in FY11-12, $107.8 million in FY12-13, and $101.8 million in FY13-14.
So, part of the reason I like to watch Council meetings is cause I’m a big nerd who really wants to know what’s going on with the City. But I also like watching them because they’re hilarious. You can always count on Desley Brooks to squeeze in some totally awesome snide comment in at the expense of one of her peers. And Nancy Nadel says something comically out of touch at least once per meeting. And I can’t keep myself from laughing by the way Dan Lindheim gets so excited and all puffed up on the incredibly rare occasions where he knows anything at all about the subject being discussed, and just can’t help but jumping in to insert his totally uninteresting factoids. But by far the best part of any meeting is the public comment.
I suppose I should know by now not to be surprised when Oakland politicians behave in a manner contrary to all logic or reason, and completely inconsistent with anything they’ve ever said before. But it still makes my blood boil every single time. And after the seriously pathetic show of small mindedness in the news this weekend, I’m tempted to just give up on following Oakland City Hall forever, and devote my time to less frustrating hobbies, because clearly whatever progress this city ever makes is going to be in spite of local government, not because of it.
I was so frustrated last weekend, reading all the reports for this week’s Committee meetings. Between the Equal Access Report (PDF), and the awful, awful retail enhancement (PDF) and economic development (PDF) stuff that I complained about on Wednesday, it was just some particularly painful homework. The highlight of all my reading was a line in a report about some municipal code amendments (PDF) for the Public Safety Committee explaining why we should add a prohibition against urinating and defecating in public:
Yesterday, I complained about the City’s complete inability to make a decision about anything and just stick with it. I’m not feeling any more positive about the City today. In fact, I spent the better part of the day yesterday thinking about how all we ever do is just go around in circles, talking about the future but never preparing for it. I swear, the City of Oakland is like the world’s worst commitment-phobic boyfriend.
As of today, Oakland has gone 54 days with a permanent Fire Chief. We have gone 170 days without a permanent City Administrator. 227 days without a Planning Commissioner. The Public Safety Director position, which the Mayor fought desperately to retain during last summer’s budget discussions, has been without a permanent occupant for 199 days. Oh, and don’t forget the 353 days we have gone without a permanent CEDA Director.