Deep. Structural. Problems.

So everyone is still all caught up in the Edgerly scandal and nobody seems to want to talk about anything else. Meanwhile, I’m still sitting by myself in the corner all upset about structural flaws in Oakland’s government that make it difficult for elected officials to accomplish anything. And a perfect example of the sort of disfunction I’m complaining about just happened to fall into my lap at Tuesday’s CED committee meeting.

Okay, a little background. Oakland has this thing called the Workforce Investment Board (WIB). The WIB gets to allocate the millions and millions of dollars worth of federal job training money that flow into this city. The bulk of this money currently goes to the Oakland Private Industry Council (PIC), run by Gay Plair Cobb. PIC has previously come under fire for their high cost per trainee ($11,000/person, compared to say, $1,880/per person at the Unity Council).

So the WIB contracts are awarded in July, with some organizations getting two year or three year contracts and other getting only one. The WIB is currently working on next year’s budgets and will make decisions about what programs they fund next month. At the Community and Economic Development Committee (CED) on Tuesday, the Committee was supposed to hear and discuss an evaluation of the programs that are currently receiving said funding. But when they got to the item, there was, to the extreme consternation of the Committee members, no report.

This prompted an argument with the City Attorney’s representative about whether or not they could discuss the item without the report. The Attorney’s office said no, that without a report, the item had not been properly noticed to the public, and therefore the Councilmembers were not allowed to discuss it. Jane Brunner and Ignacio De La Fuente were insistent that they should at the very least be allowed to ask questions about why they didn’t get a report. Jane Brunner was on fire, righteously pissed about the whole situation:

I don’t care! I don’t care! You can take me to court! We are discussing this item, I don’t care! Staff had a conversation with me, they told me they weren’t ready, I said “Put something in so we know what your procedure is and what you’re gonna do”, and it’s blank!

After the discussion, the City Attorney’s office clarified their position, that the Council was indeed allowed to ask why there was no report, but that they couldn’t talk about anything beyond that.

Ignacio De La Fuente was right there with her:

That’s a discussion we should have. The reality is that seven million dollars a year comes into this program. And the reality that there’s no report, there has been no updated reports and no information provided to the public, that’s the point of discussion. Ms. Brunner’s correct, I’m sorry, Ms. Brunner’s correct. If all we’re going to do is that staff don’t write reports, and that way items don’t be discussed, I think that we have to absolutely, the system is not working. Obviously, there’s a reason that nobody wants to submit a report. Mr. Lindheim, I know that you are new to the CEDA agency, but the reality is that it is a problem where the WIB and the job training programs are not providing reports, and there’s a reason why they’re not providing reports. Because every report that was provided two years ago and three years ago showed that they had spent ten times more than any other organization provided per individual. So it is a discussion that we should have, and I think there’s a reason why Ms. Brunner is upset, and I think that I absolutely disagree with the ruling that if an item is on an agenda, and all you have to do is not submit a report and we’re not going to discuss it, excuse me, but that’s not acceptable.

When Brunner asked Community and Economic Development Agency director Dan Lindheim why there was no report, the response she got was smug, rude, and curt:

There’s no report because there’s no report written.

Then he told her he could probably get a report written for her by October. I really can’t imagine what Lindheim could have possibly done or said to make his contempt for the City Council more clear. It was just shocking. Brunner kept pressing him, saying that it was completely innappropriate that the WIB would be making decisions about funding in the next month with no evaluations of the programs they’re looking at, and Lindheim just sitting there, just totally uninterested in acknowledging there was any sort of problem, or doing a damn thing about it:

I can answer that in about three different ways, none of which are going to be satisfactory to you.

After it became clear that there wasn’t anything they could do to get some information for the board to make their decisions by July, Brunner suggested they just allocate funding month by month until they got an evaluation report, which she wanted to see at the first committee meeting after recess, in September. Dan Lindheim basically told her that she could schedule the report whenever she wanted, but that he wasn’t going to write it for then.

This is exactly what I’m talking about. This isn’t a new problem. I have complained before about the total lawlessness of the bureaucracy in City Hall. And it isn’t like that culture of disrespect for elected officials and their requests didn’t exist at the top levels of government before. But Lindheim has taken it to an entirely new level. It’s just jaw-dropping. The man just sits there in public meetings telling the Council and everyone else that he’s just not going to do what they direct him to. And there isn’t a damn thing anyone on the Council can do about it! Deep. Structural. Problems.

23 thoughts on “Deep. Structural. Problems.

  1. Max Allstadt

    The second post in a week that makes me feel justified in my fence sitting in the district 1 race. Brunner seems pretty sane and pretty aware.

  2. V Smoothe Post author

    When Brunner is on, she’s on. My problem with her is that she’s not on very often. Thankfully, we’ve been seeing a whole lot more of what I like to call the good Brunner lately, and I can only hope it continues. It appears that the election may have served as something of a wake-up call.

  3. Chris Kidd

    Why is Lindheim even defending these people? He’s new to CEDA, previously one of Dellums’ advisors when he was in DC. He’s not an ensconsed Oakland bureaucrat. What’s his motivation to run interference like this? Is it about greasing the wheels for his own projects? Is he just so overwhelmed that he hides it through refusal to get anything done? I just want to figure out why he’s so invested in maintaining status quo…

  4. V Smoothe Post author

    Honestly, I think it’s partly laziness and mostly total ineptitude. But it might be worth noting that Gay Plair Cobb, CEO of PIC, and her husband, Paul Cobb of the Oakland Post, were major supporters of the Mayor’s mayoral bid. At one point, Ms. Cobb was rumored to be Dellums’s next choice to run CEDA. But as far as I can tell, the problem here is just that Lindheim, as I heard someone describe him last week “The wrong man at the wrong time in the wrong job.”

  5. Colin

    So this brings up the question I keep asking myself: what is involved in charter reform? How do we go about making it happen?

    I assume we would need to get something on the ballot, but I don’t know how best to rewrite what’s there, and I wouldn’t know whom to refer to as a resource for that kind of information. But I do want to see it happen, and would put time and effort in.

    So. How? Being a policy issue, this is what you know well, V. Thoughts? Insights?

  6. V Smoothe Post author

    I’m working on a post about what I’d like to see in terms of charter changes, but honestly, that’s a huge issue that I’m going to have to spend a lot of time looking into before I’m ready to present my suggestions. So don’t expect it within the next week. I do love policy, but I have no training or experience in it – I just learn as I go, doing research when issues that interest me come up.

  7. policywank

    This kind of stuff baffles me as a still relatively new Californian. In most places I’ve lived, this behavior would result in a zero funding for the agency involved, including Mr. Lindheim’s salary. He’d be free to stay on as a volunteer. Some of the places I’ve lived have gone too far in eliminating civil service protections, but the head of agency should be an exempt employee who could be forced out or de-funded.

  8. Robert

    Pat Kernighan has just issues an open letter to Oakland with her thoughts on the matter. It does not appear yet on her web site, so I have copied in its entirity below.

    Fellow Oaklanders,

    I write to you on the matter of the alarming mishandling of the Edgerly matter at City Hall. The events of the past week have created a crisis of confidence in our City government that is unparalleled. I am appalled that no action has been taken over extremely serious allegations of wrongdoing.

    I and many others have been urging the Mayor to place Ms. Edgerly on administrative leave or ask for her resignation. That is what should have been done in the first place. I have read the Charter provisions quite a few times in the last week and have been counseled by our attorneys regarding the Council’s powers. It is clear that the Council cannot act directly to suspend, discipline, or terminate the City Administrator. We can, however, communicate our opinions and recommendations to the Mayor, which we have done. And now that it is absolutely clear that he is unwilling to resolve this in a responsible way, we must speak out to the public as well. There is much more to be done to restore confidence in the integrity of our City government. As one step in that direction, I have called for a Closed Session meeting of the City Council, which is now scheduled for next Monday, to discuss what measures we can take to ensure that prompt and thorough investigations are being done and that any and all wrongdoing is appropriately addressed.

    I do want to note, however, that as serious as the allegations are against Ms. Edgerly, I have not presumed that she is guilty of all the things she is being accused of in the newspapers. I have known Ms. Edgerly in her professional capacity for eight years, and my experience with her is very different from the person some in the media are describing. I have observed her to be dedicated, hard-working, and highly competent, and have seen her act in the City’s best interests on countless occasions. However, none of that would excuse misconduct on her part, and if the allegations against her are confirmed, she must be held accountable. Nor does Ms.Edgerly’s past good service to the City change my opinion that the Mayor should immediately place her on administrative leave while these very serious matters are investigated. I would also like to make clear that under no circumstances would I approve of severance pay. She is not under contract with the City and there is no justification for such a thing.

    Moving forward, the City Council must act to ensure that there are mechanisms in place that help prevent abuses of power by City officials, and that promptly expose any abuses that do occur. To that end, I am proposing several immediate measures:

    –That the Council pass a Whistleblower Ordinance so that employees do not fear retribution for reporting misconduct and fraud. ( I co-sponsored this with Auditor Ruby yesterday.)

    –That the Council fully fund the City Auditor’s Office so that the Auditor has adequate personnel to conduct prompt and thorough investigations.

    –That City government’s hiring and discipline practices be audited to uncover any family favoritism or other abuses that may be occurring.

    I will report back to you on progress toward the above. In the meantime, please be assured that I will do everything in my power to root out corruption wherever it may exist in the City and ensure that our City government serves you effectively and with integrity.

    Sincerely,

    Pat Kernighan
    City Councilmember,District 2
    1 Frank Ogawa Plaza, 2d Floor
    Oakland, CA 94612
    510-238-7002
    pkernighan@oaklandnet.com
    http://www.patkernighan.com

  9. Joanna/OnTheGoJo

    I’m catching up on my blog reading… wow, and now Mr. Lindheim is the interim city administrator? That’s crazy.

    I don’t know what’s going on with all this disrespect lately – and maybe I’m just seeing it so visably now – but what’s up with people being outright rude?

    That’s just wrong and what’s worse is that it sends a message to the younger impressionable folk out there that thinks this is okay. It’s not okay. It was Mr. Lindheim’s job to provide a report in a timely manner. If he can’t handle this job, how in the world can he handle the city administrator position?????

    Let’s find some etiquette in this town. Please!

  10. oakie

    This isn’t a city, it’s an asylum for the insane. I will never ever vote a single penny of more funding to this city, and if anyone puts a measure on the ballot to rescind any of the abusive taxes or fees we suffer, I will work to get them passed. The people in charge, and those potentially in charge do not deserve to control our public funds. Vote NO on “son of Y” in November, if they dare put it on after this fiasco. If we could go bankrupt, like OUSD, we should.

  11. JAMMI Journalist

    A city employee, a parking meter reader, is alleged to be a member of a vicious drug gang. The City Administrator, his aunt, is rumored to have tipped off gangsters about a police raid. The City Council instituted a freeze on hiring more police a few years back. The Mayor wants the City to hire more parolees and, as of May 31st, removed a requirement that applicants for certain City jobs reveal criminal convictions on the application form. Do I detect a theme here? At least Oakland city government is consistent.

  12. Ken O.

    Screw this Lindheim guy.

    Fire him next week! ALong with fellow criminal Edgerly.

    What the fuck?! Why is his ass getting paid for not doing SHIT?

    At least when we pay money to private organizations and they don’t do something, we can sue their asses. Looks like we Oaklanders need to sue the bureaucracy for being snide arrogant kids who do nothing productive.

    How about a petition to the state to take over the administrative side of Oakland until we can rewrite the constitution so they absolutely answer to our civilian elected leadership.

    The behavior we see would be like the military saying “no” to the President at the federal level.

  13. InsighedOak

    None of the respondents above have a clue about what really happened at the CED Cmte. meeting. And why should you? Unless you are a City employee, you would not realize that this exchange between the Council and Dan Lindheim is a DIRECT result of their own budget actions last year. After years of badgering City staff for doing an excellent job in running the WIB and providing the Council with accurate reports regarding the PIC’s financial inefficiencies, Gay Plair Cobb got her way — staff was disbanded, the unit defunded, and management of the WIB was transferred to the Mayor’s office. At this time, there is no staff assigned to the WIB. There is no one available or knowledgeable about the WIB’s or PIC’s activities to write this report. Dan Lindheim was merely reporting the facts to the Council. Is he responsible? He shares responsibility with the Mayor and the City Council for the fact that oversight of the PIC is currently non-existent. Jane Brunner and Ignacio De La Fuente’s shock at the lack of a report is disingenuous — they are completely part of the problem. Especially Jane — her abuse of staff — and direct involvement with the writing of staff reports — is legendary. It’s not just Edgerly — the problem is systemic.

  14. V Smoothe Post author

    InsighedOak –

    A single administrative analyst position was defunded last year as a result of decreased funding from the Workforce Investment Act, leaving five FTE workforce development positions funded within CEDA. While this may make life more difficult, it does not excuse Lindheim’s snotty and uncooperative attitude, the complete lack of information provided to the Council, the failure to even provide so much as a timeline and explanation for the delay, as requested, or Lindheim’s suggestion that he will not provide the report in September, as directed. Very few people, in any workplace, anywhere, feel they have the number of staff they want or require. They make do and get the job done anyway, as frustrating as it can be. It was Lindheim’s job to get this done, and he just didn’t do it.

  15. Joanna/OnTheGoJo

    InsighedOak -

    I watched both the Finance Committee Meeting & the CED Meeting yesterday on KTOP – what a lovely way to spend a Sunday afternoon – and to me the problem is all around. Or as V says, “Deep. Structural. Problems.”

    I admit that I don’t think Jane Brunner is the easiest to deal with. I think she’s been there a long time and no longer remembers that charm can work better to attract bees to create honey. But in all fairness, she did tell him 3 months earlier that this report was important and it’s obvious that she’s been working on this program for MANY years. So I can see how it’s important to her. For him to so purposefully blow it off seems wrong. Where are his priorities? If they were elsewhere, he didn’t do a good job of explaining that.

    He has two staff members to help write or hire someone to write the report. He only lost one staff member. While I know from being in the work environment that one person can make more than the difference of one person (because they do the work of 3), I think he needs to hold people accountable. And while Claudia Cappio was not always my favorite report writer, she did at least write reports. He could easily have shown up with a draft report or SOMETHING. Instead it was his attitude in the meeting that was offensive.

    And to be fair, it’s not just Lindheim. It’s a LOT of people and even council members. Why do we have to be so rude to one another? I don’t care how mad you are or how much you disagree with someone. It’s just so unnecessary to yell.

    At the Finance Meeting I was angry that Council never asked why Ms. Arrona – who is a policy aide to Nancy Nadel – why she wrote the staff report instead of city staff such as Francine Lakryth Thompson. And why was the report so poorly written? There were no facts in the report to back up the statements made. And she seemed annoyed (petulant) that she even had to explain anything. It was rude.

    I see rude people in my business every day and it still shocks me. I call it the Wal-Mart Mentality. It has come about as a result of years of not immediately getting what you want, so you take it up the food chain. And the meaner you are, often the more proud you are. (I’m not saying “you” personally, just in general.) Anything you can do to get your way. It’s those that are assertive that move up in the world. We’ve somehow forgotten along the way to treat others with respect. Not all the time, but more and more often.

  16. Chris Kidd

    If it’s true that WIB oversight was rerouted to the mayor’s office, that looks like a move to secure the gravy train. If that’s the case, it’s not at all surprising that Lindhiem (Dellums crony that he is) would run interference with the city council so the dollars keep flowing.

    It reminds me of the small business retention council where they wouldn’t release the names of businesses they helped stay in Oakland to CED because it would stigmatize the business. But by all means, keep the funds flowing to our program though we don’t give you any hard numbers or tangible, verifiable results.

    I also miss Claudia. A lot. She didn’t make enemies, she got work done and she dealt with problems in a practical manner. At least that’s how I remember her…

  17. Joanna/OnTheGoJo

    Chris,

    I’m glad you have fond memories of Claudia… I look at the Amtrak parking lot and can’t quite force myself to think such nice thoughts. (the parking garage is in the wrong place, imho) On the other hand, I would never in a million years dispute that she worked very hard.

    I’ve been helped by Oakland Commerce Corp. I’m pretty sure that my friend Steve Sacks at Prime Smoked Meats is also happy to explain how he has also received help from OCC. Dave Johnson has been a great source of help when I have needed it. He knows who to talk to and he has the charm to make things happen.

    On a converse note, the City has a small group led by Kiera Williams and while I really like Kiera based on the 10 or so times I spoke to her on the phone when I was looking to start my business, I don’t give her or the City an ounce of credit for my actually getting open. But my business name showed up on success stories for the City as recently as a year ago. Why? I decided to let it go since it wasn’t a big deal, but OCC has been a huge help with parking and helping me figure out whether I really wanted to keep my business in Oakland or not.

    In watching the CED meeting, I noticed that the West Oakland Alliance did not have to provide numbers to get a $100K grant from the City. I was shocked. I’m not saying that they’re not doing a good thing, but have some statistics to show for it. (admittedly I love numbers) When asked about the numbers, city staff (who was the most polite of all) said that they were right to ask for numbers, it was just an oversight. But they still approved the grant without the information.

    As for the WIB report that Brunner was asking for, maybe I got aspects all wrong… it seemed to me that Brunner was concerned about the funding situation since there was no report. Or maybe they were continuing funding on a month to month basis without any report? Admittedly, not a subject I’m all that interested in (you have to choose your battles) so I don’t know all the in’s and out’s of the story. Sometimes that why I appreciate Sanjiv so much. He tells the viewers a bigger picture.

  18. Chris Kidd

    Joana,

    I wasn’t really trying to knock OCC; I know they do provide an essential service. I was just flabbergasted that they came before CED and made no attempt to offer any proof that the funds they use made any actual impact in business retention. They essentially got up to the lectern and said “just trust us”. I mean, OCC doesn’t have to name names, but they could at least put together some stastical evidence or describe the type of businesses they were helping or their overall workload or something.

    Then again, that CED meeting was like back in late April or something, so they might have gotten some reports together since then like CED was asking for.

  19. Joanna/OnTheGoJo

    Of course I didn’t hear that side of the story.

    Sheesh! Why is providing statistics of some sort, any sort, such a problem? It seems that you’d want to brag that you’d helped X number of people. And next time, ask for more money and say you’re gonna help 2X people. Or quantify time spent on specific issues. For example, let’s just say you work for fewer clients, but work longer and harder on bigger issues. What are the numbers?

    But despite asking for numbers at the CED meeting for the West Oakland Alliance, they let it go and sais that they would need to see them next time.

  20. Kent

    Actually I’ve met Dan Lindheim on different occasions, including at a citizen’s forum in North Oakland sponsored by Jane Brunner (apparently they got along better then). I don’t have anything bad to say about him. He’s a self-professed soccer Dad, with Berkeley roots and he was a senior economist at the world bank (I googled him). So, from the little I’ve heard from him and read about him, he appears to be a reasonably competent guy. We shouldn’t jump to conclusions. Whatever went down between him and Jane probably arose out of something none of us knows much about. Anyways, the episode, if it’s as heated as you all say, shows at least that some City staff and the councilwoman have strong feelings about city government, which is not in itself a bad thing (if I may attempt to put a positive spin on this). That being said, I haven’t watched the episode on KTOP.

  21. Max Allstadt

    Yeah, I haven’t had all that much interaction with Lindheim either. The only direct conversation I had was maybe a sentence and a half. Sent him a big email once too. No response, but it wasn’t exactly the sort of thing that I’d think was at the top of his agenda.

    I don’t really see what all the spite is about. I know who said he was the “wrong guy in the wrong job at the wrong time”, and I have pretty good idea why that person was frustrated. Still, I’m perpetually told I should hate him or be wary of him or that he’s not going to be helpful with my work/live saga. I’d rather make up my own mind based on the results I get in my own endeavors. Frankly, I’ll deal with that when it happens. No need making enemies ahead of time.

    Do I agree with the CBD design review proposals? No. Do I agree with the part of the industrial zoning update that locks development out of Mandela Parkway? No. Is that gonna make me go out and get a picture of Dan Lindheim, paint a black cowboy hat on it, draw six-shooters in his hands and tape it to a target up at the Chabot gun club? Of course not. That would be silly.

  22. V Smoothe Post author

    I think there’s a big difference between questioning one’s suitability for a particular, and very important job, and questioning someone’s character. I have no reason to believe Lindheim is a bad person, nor have I ever suggested as much. But I do believe that he’s a bad CEDA director. In any case, this post wasn’t an indictment of Lindheim in particular (that’s for another time), but rather an attempt to provide a timely example of the limitations of Council power that I’ve been talking about for a couple weeks.