On January 22, I filed a complaint against the mayor’s (PDF) office for Cronyism, based on his having placed his long-time friend and ally Dan Lindheim as both Interim City Administrator (In June 08) and Interim Director of the Community and Economic Development Agency (CEDA) (in late 2007) even though Mr. Lindheim had no prior experience in managing a city, or even a department of a city.
Mr. Lindheim served as Mr. Dellums’ legislative aide in Congress for over 20 years, as a policy person at the World Bank, and has also run a small business. But he does not have anywhere close to “12 to 15 years of senior level executive management experience preferably in a large sophisticated diverse urban governmental organization” (a primary qualification excerpted from the Mayor’s own job description (PDF) for the City Administrator position).
While serving as a council aide for almost seven years, I observed that the most important job a mayor can do is hire great administrators and department heads. One of the reasons that Jerry Brown was so successful at achieving his goals of attracting downtown housing, building two pioneering charter schools (School for the Arts and the Oakland Military Institute), reducing crime, and growing Oakland’s budget was because he was surrounded by national leaders in municipal management; people like Robert Bobb, known as a top leader in his field of government administration and management; Claudia Cappio, a top administrator in economic development; and Raul Godinez, Oakland’s current Public Works Director who is winning awards for his innovative management efforts.
In turn, Robert Bobb surrounded himself with highly competent staff assistants, with advanced degrees in public administration, who were highly motivated and ambitious; people like Edward Reiskin (then his deputy administrator) who is now Director of Public Works in San Francisco, and Rosie Rios (then Director of Economic Development) who now works for the MacFarlane Partners, an investment group that manages over 11 billion dollars in assets.
People often forget that Oakland had relatively low crime rates in 2003, 2004, 2005, even though our police department was severely understaffed at the time. In 2004, for example Oakland had 82 homicides and less than 730 officers. This success was based on the fact that we had excellent management that demanded results from Oakland’s workforce.
Much of this success began to deteriorate after Robert Bobb left, and then Mrs. Rios, and then Mr. Reiskin, and finally Mrs. Cappio. As a result, the management of our city is in shambles, and no restructuring plan will save us. The only thing that will save us is decisive leadership, which Mayor Dellums is incapable of; and effective management, which Mr. Lindheim has no experience in.
Oakland has an opportunity to neutralize the ineffective leadership of the Mayor by filling the key positions of the city–City Administrator, Director of CEDA, Fire Chief, Police Chief–with proven leaders in their respective fields.
The appointment of Dan Lindheim as Interim City Administrator and interim Director of CEDA was a slap-in-the-face to Oaklanders in that it exemplifies the worst kind of crony-based governing, where it is more important to reward your friends, then it is to deliver excellent services to residents. Making Mr. Lindheim the permanent City Administrator, particularly at a time when Oakland is in crisis, would be unconscionable.
Oakland residents must demand excellent management of its city, or else we get what we deserve.
Carlos Plazola, former aide to Council President De La Fuente, now runs a small company in Oakland, and resides in the Fruitvale.