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.