Grand Jury blasts Oakland building services

Arnie Fields must be feeling vindicated. The Alameda County Civil Grand Jury released its 2010-11 final report (PDF) today, and it is none too favorable towards the City of Oakland.

Oakland Building Services

The report includes a lengthy and extremely harsh indictment of Oakland’s Building Services division (PDF):

Building Services’ code enforcement inspectors have aggressively pursued blight and sub-standard properties throughout Oakland as determined by their individual interpretations of the applicable city code. This has led to an inconsistent enforcement program backed by inspectors’ threats of filing large liens on the offering properties. This creates an institutional reluctance to lend on these properties and reluctance by property owners to improve their properties.

The Grand Jury found that property owners complained that it is extremely difficult to understand the process for appealing a citation, or to resolve issues with Building Services inspectors. Testimony confirmed there are no standard operating manuals or guidelines for Building Services inspectors. Property owners were frustrated by their inability to speak with inspectors who are only available for short periods of time on an irregular schedule.

The Grand Jury found an atmosphere of hostility and intimidation toward property owners within the Building Services division. When property owners complained, they were sometimes threatened with more fines or, in one case, even loss of their home. Some inspectors inappropriately used their law enforcement authority and their city-issued badges to intimidate property owners. Therefore, the Grand Jury believes that the city of Oakland should reevaluate its policy of granting law enforcement authority and related badges to building inspectors.

The Grand Jury is appalled by the actions of the city of Oakland’s Building Services Division and its impact on property owners of Oakland. The significant contradictions between the testimony of Building Services employees and the testimony of property owners and contractors are disturbing. The division’s practices and its treatment of property owners appear to be a direct reflection of poor management, lack of leadership, and ambiguous policies and procedures.

Their examples make Oakland look pretty bad. Here’s one they give as an illustration of excessive fees. The property was cited for trash and debris:

“Trash and debris, blight” turned out to be children’s toys in the yard. This resulted in fees/fines of over $18k and having to demolish a garage converted to an indoor/outdoor recreation room that had been approved more than 20 years earlier.

Another example, which they cite as “egregious abuse of authority”:

Building inspectors had a warrant for entry to premises for inspection only (not to remove items); they removed and disposed of EVERYTHING in the house and had animal control take the property owner’s dog. Subsequently the city recorded a lien for $30k.

Radio Interoperability

A study of regional emergency communications (PDF), focused mostly on the East Bay Regional Communications System Authority (EBRCSA), a joint powers authority whose goal it is to provide interoperability of radio systems throughout Alameda County and Contra Costa County, in order to allow for coordinated response during disasters, raised some serious concerns about Oakland’s ongoing radio issues:

Focusing on the question of why the city of Oakland has not joined EBRSCA, the current Grand Jury interviewed public safety officials from Oakland and EBRSCA.

Unfortunately, based on our research, the current Grand Jury concludes that the goals of cooperation and interoperability are far from being achieved, and progress towards regional interoperability between the city of Oakland and EBRSCA is at a standstill. The delay in finding a joint solution for this issue leaves the lives of officers and the public in continued jeopardy.

and

While investigating interoperability, the Grand Jury became aware of persistent radio communication problems within the city of Oakland (internal operability problems). The Grand Jury requested and received copies of reports of radio problems submitted by police personnel over the past year including reports of dead spots and radio failures. The sheer volume of reported problems from these reports, the CTA study, and from witness testimony can only be described as shocking.

Parking citation system

Not all the news about Oakland was bad. The Grand Jury appeared pleased with the results of an investigation of Oakland’s new parking citation system (PDF), although they had a few recommendations for improvements:

While the new system may not solve all parking citation problems, the Grand Jury is pleased that the city of Oakland’s Parking Bureau is keeping up with new technology. To make the system more effective, it would be valuable to have 100% of those issuing tickets use this electronic system. The Parking Bureau should track performance of the new system carefully to document strengths and weaknesses, continue to train staff on its use, and make adjustments as necessary.

Download the full report here (PDF). It makes for some pretty interesting reading.

222 thoughts on “Grand Jury blasts Oakland building services

  1. FloodedByCEDA

    The Grand Jury went real easy on Building Services…….This is just the tip of the iceburg.

  2. MarleenLee

    I read the section of the report dealing with the blight enforcement and even though the report uses a measured, tempered tone, it made me sick. I had heard about the allegations before, but I could never believe that things were that bad. Even after everything I have witnessed with my own eyes, about the level of incompetence and corruption that exists in City government, I just couldn’t believe that this was going on. I mean, it really sounds like something you might find in Iran or Myanmar or something like that. And yet, it is going on right here in Oakland. And despite the fact that the people complaining about were making plenty of noise, there was never any press coverage. (I personally recommended to the complainants that they try to get media coverage at the time, but to be honest, I didn’t believe this stuff could be true. Maybe the reporters didn’t either).

    And obviously, these problems have been going on a long time, and the City Council, and our current Mayor, predictably, did nothing. They should all be ashamed of themselves. Really, really, really ashamed.

    Now, I have little sympathy for slobs who don’t mow their lawns and have garbage lying around and basically leave their homes is a state of decrepitude. But even I, with my limited sympathy, think that the system that has been operating is appalling. I mean, murder suspects get more due process than people with peeling paint! How can that possibly be justified?

    One of the things that struck me was that the Grand Jury identified one of the main problems being a lack of policies and procedures. That didn’t surprise me. Oakland has no policies or procedures for anything. Including compliance with the Public Records Act. And the proof is in the pudding. Chaos, disorganization, waste, arbitrariness, corruption etc. Hopefully Deanna Santana will start reading this blog and realize she has her work cut out for her. And hopefully a mainstream reporter will take this report and go to town with it.

  3. Naomi Schiff

    I sat in on a small part of a blight appeal hearing and was really mystified by the process. On the one hand, I have complained about blighted buildings, and they’ve gone on being blighted for quite long periods, but on the other hand, in the same nearby area, a perfectly reusable structure has been knocked down in response to blight issues, rather than restored or rehabbed or sold. Somehow the system does seem out of kilter.

  4. ZeroTech

    MarleenLee,

    It IS that bad. And reporters knew. MANY REPORTERS KNEW and ignored it or more likely, as you say, didn’t believe it. You can’t imagine how hard everyone tried to get the press involved. Zero, zip, and zilch. And I know for a fact that Quan was informed about this before the election, in the hopes that, were she elected, she would at least know about it. But instead you watch the CC meeting and Walter Cohen and Lindheim basically touting all the money CEDA is bringing in for the city and everyone just happy as clams. This is illegal. Even Lindheim is aware, according to a comment he made at one meeting, that their intake from fees and penalties can’t exceed their costs. Really, it’s no different, ethically speaking, from the council deciding not to cut street sweeping because it brings in a few more million in citations than it costs to run the program. It’s just that it’s in the state constitution that building depts exist to serve the citizens, not the other way around, and are forbidden by law from being profit centers. Street sweeping shouldn’t be a profit center, either. But Oakland is willing to pimp and embrace all sources of profit.

    You want to talk about blight, and people who don’t maintain their lawns? Bosh. People were getting cited for blight all over town who had, like, one slightly overgrown rosebush. And charged fees in the thousands and then penalties on top of that for being late even though they got the notice after the deadline etc. etc. etc.

    These thugs deserved to be handcuffed and thrown in jail.

  5. FloodedByCEDA

    If building services actually made progress with blight abatement, They would not have an excuse to continue with predatory code enforcement. We have way to big a building services staff. Big enough to repair earthquake damage, firestorm damage and support a building boom. lacking these sources of revenue, they have resorted to predatory code enforcement and even a strong arm robbery as documented in the Grand Jury report. A staff reduction of 50% or more is needed.

  6. ZeroTech

    FloodedByCEDA,

    As noted in the report (and as you clearly know), the actions of CEDA actually REDUCE blight abatement by making their victims poorer and thus less able to afford needed repairs, and also by placing official threats of liens on properties, making the properties seem encumbered and scaring banks away from loaning to the owners for any repairs. They do the opposite of their job.

  7. len raphael

    We the readers of ABO are not blameless here.

    Months ago, when floodedbyceda tried to get our collective attention we dismissed the postings as paranoid rants because her posts and website documents were disorganized, messy, and poorly written, but mostly because we were so sure the City and it’s employees couldn’t be so stupid or so greedy to do such grossly abusive and probably illegal stuff.

    And if they did, of course a simple complaint to the City Auditor would quickly put an end to abuses.

    We didn’t take the time to read the documents she posted. While they didn’t fully support her allegations, they certainly appeared to be indicative of shady stuff going on.

    We owe her an apology.

    -len raphael, temescal

  8. Naomi Schiff

    Alert readers of local news may recall that the FBI has visited the building dept. and removed records having to do with inspections. Has anyone heard anything more about that part of this story? Presumably the grand jury is working parallel to the federal effort, basing its work on similar evidence, but separately? If so, there could yet be another shoe to drop.

  9. len raphael

    No confirmation, but my understanding is that Sanjiv’s piece tying FBI investigation to the CEDA grand jury investigation was not accurate.

    Wouldn’t it have been local police, not FBI because it’s not a Federal grand jury?

    Flooded?

    -len raphael, temescal

  10. FloodedByCEDA

    The admitedly bogus $48,000 liens Building services has filed on my property has had no effect on the sewage and storm water being directed into my basement by a neighbor, Thus my handel “FloodedByCEDA”.
    (The neighboring property diverting the sewage and storm water is related to a Building services supervisor who’s conduct the Grand Jury describes as egregous and is therfore exempt from Oakland Municipal code 8.24.020 E 1 )

  11. FloodedByCEDA

    The rumor I heard was the State Atty. general was removing records and computers. I’m not sure. Hopefully plenty of shoes are about to drop. A prosecutor might call building services a target rich environment.

  12. LeavingOakland

    As MarleenLee said,

    “And obviously, these problems have been going on a long time, and the City Council, and our current Mayor, predictably, did nothing. They should all be ashamed of themselves. Really, really, really ashamed.”

    Reminds me of another article Chip Johnson wrote recently —> http://www.sfgate.com/cgi-bin/article.cgi?f=/c/a/2011/06/24/BA0C1K1U4O.DTL

    Now that the Grand Jury report is here, I hope voters in Oakland think twice about who they vote for in our next election…

  13. Max Allstadt

    I am Max’s utter lack of surprise.

    Who’s going to get fired over this? Nobody, right?

  14. ZeroTech

    @LeavingOakland, Chip was informed about the CEDA corruption and was given details and evidence, as were three other big-name reporters, including ones for BANG, the Xpres, and the Wall St. Journal.

    As for “thinking of who they vote for in the next election,” I doubt it. It seems that NOTHING will get these apathetic, pollyana-ish Oakland voters to get out of their state of denial. They’ll just bury their heads in the sand again.

    @Max, nobody will get fired, but hopefully people will go to jail. This investigation is now, thank god, not only in Oakland’s hands any more, as I hear it.

    @Len, We owe a big debt to FloodedByCeda, who basically did this entire investigation. If you read the grand jury report in detail, almost nothing in it is not already detailed in AuditOaklandCEDA.com. The grand jury just gives the info the stamp of approval.

  15. Patrick M. Mitchell

    I am currently reading a book entitled “The Warmth of Other Suns” by Isabel Wilkerson. It is about the “Great Migration” of blacks from the southern states moving north and west over the course of much of the last century. Amongst other things, the book vividly illustrates the unbelievable hardship that blacks endured in the south due, in part, to the enforcement of Jim Crow laws, which ranged from ridiculous to downright unfathomable. The uneasy feeling of shame and loss I get while reading this book is the exact same feeling I got while reading this post. Truly disgusting.

  16. livegreen

    I saw your post on that V, & it looked very interesting. I tried to make it but unfortunately could not…

  17. livegreen

    Zero and Flooded, Appreciate yr hard work on this. Did CEDA target some neighborhoods over others? Was it concentrated or across many parts of the city?

    Also, is this related to the Public Ethics complaint you mentioned a while back? If memory serves me correctly, Michael Killian filed it, a CEDA employee was related to a contractor doing the city contracted work, and she quit.

    If that summary is accurate, what were the results of the Public Ethics complaint?

    It certainly looks like there are other shoes to drop. Or should be…

  18. ZeroTech

    @Len, I forgot to mention your comment about a “simple complaint” to the city auditor putting an end to the mess. Ruby was informed on countless occasions and in excruciating detail by Flooded and colleagues and failed to act. These encounters, I think, are documented on AuditOaklandCEDA, whose moniker I think is a reference to the ACTUAL auditor not doing her job. But you’d have to ask Flooded about that.

  19. FloodedByCEDA

    both public ethics complaints have been pretty much ignored and droped as have several complaints to the city auditor.

  20. ZeroTech

    @livegreen, I played just a very, very small part in this. Flooded deserves the lion’s share of the credit. I was a fellow CEDA victim and got involved to a very small extent – just enough to see what was going on, and see all the hard evidence that Flooded had collected, and to make me boiling mad. So Flooded is the authority here and will correct me if I misstate anything. AFAIK, West Oakland suffered the brunt of the extortion. But recently North Oakland (including Rockridge) has taken a beating on the false blight complaints for “overgrown” plants. Fellow CEDA victim Bob Brokl has written about this on several blogs and in an editorial for the Rockridge News. But what we suffered was small potatoes compared to the West Oaklanders, some of whom had liens in the hundreds of thousands for minor or nonexistent problems, were threatened with having their houses torn down for nothing, were blackmailed by inspectors, etc.

  21. ZeroTech

    p.s. I’m using past tense, but of course this is still going on until someone, or some entity, does something to stop these thugs. They got away with it after the former grand jury report. Let’s not let them get away with it again.

  22. Patrick M. Mitchell

    Alas, V, I did not get to see her due to work constraints. Had I read the book prior to her speaking engagement, I would have called in sick or something. Her book is truly amazing.

  23. ZeroTech

    Correction: AuditOaklandCEDA, and the vast majority of the work on this, were done by RedWithCypress (if I remember the handle correctly) and family.

  24. Audit Oakland CEDA

    CREDITS: The Grand Jury should be commended for taking the complaints seriously. Thanks should go to my partners in the project (my husband, Gwillym Martin, of course) and Andrew Vincent, who invested his own time and money deposing the former inspections manager and her staff. We used those depositions and the thousands of pages of public records we acquired to validate our inferences and generate the allegations. Andy and I did the mass mailing together (good times!).

    In response to Naomi’s comments regarding her attendance at my appeal hearing, that was not for blight. The accusation is that my Victorian duplex is “illegal” because it has a 1st floor apartment that was created around 1906. An inspector created the allegation after he parked in front of my house and demanded I give him cash or he would create a problem for me. Of course, I said no and the rest is history. The former inspections manager backed him up by issuing a demolition order for our HOME that still stands. I will make all the transcripts available via my site, for all you Twilight Zone lovers.

    Incidentally, the hearing officer has still not issued a final determination in spite of his having our final brief since May 5th. Our controversy started in March 2008 and caused us to use every penny of our savings and retirement by January 2010, and that JUST on trying to get an appeal hearing. We had four hearings between January 2010 and March 2011 and submitted sufficient evidence to prove the unit has existed for more than 100 years. The hearing officer may have a conflict of interest he failed to report, a client who has had about 15 bogus complaints over the past 15 years, including “tour bus parked in front of house.”

    Our truck was arsoned on February 10, 2011, towed as evidence by OPD, and destroyed on the day of our final hearing in March, having never been inspected by the arson investigator (who is also the VP of the police officers’ union). We received a bill for $1555 the other day for towing and storage. There were four eye-witnesses and three angles of video showing the arson taking place. What’s so ironic is that the city attorney’s office had already engaged a PI (thank you, John Russo) in response to my whistleblower complaint alleging corruption in the city auditor’s office, building services, and the city attorney’s office, too. I had alleged retaliation against me. As the city attorney’s office put it to me in more or less these words, “We represent the corrupt people so there’s not much we can do for you.” But the PI said, “There is criminal activity and the CAO must reach out to the DA,” which is exactly what happened next. (More thanks, Russo!)

    Oakland, be appalled and demand change. And you all, here on Oakland Local, be aware that there are victims all around you who are broken inside because of this. Broken homes, broken families, broken dreams, broken lives and nothing less.

    Building Services victims have been treated like kooks and crazies just like they do to complaining citizens in China. The victims will NOT come forward to the public under current circumstances.

  25. Naomi Schiff

    In the meantime, if anyone has anything to do with a blight inspection, I’d suggest a) having a third-party witness attend any meetings or inspections, and b) audio- or video-taping any such inspection or meeting, in the open, where everyone can see that the proceedings will be documented.

  26. livegreen

    Further questions:
    -What IS the point of an ethics commission, if they don’t do anything?
    -Were any City Council members contacted about this, and what was their response to their constituents?

  27. Audit Oakland CEDA

    Better yet, don’t allow them on your property. No property owner has to allow anyone to inspect their property without a search warrant. And that would force the inspector to testify to a judge that there are health and safety concerns. NO TRESPASSING is the way to go. And everything else Naomi suggested, too.

  28. Audit Oakland CEDA

    Yes, council is aware. Nadel and Brunner have consistent track records of using building services like their pack of hounds. I published a list of their perpetrations on my site a while back, but didn’t do more to show how they are in cahoots. Cahoots cahoots cahoots. Nadel caused her neighbor to lose his house over a 1st floor apartment. They like the money too much.

  29. MarleenLee

    Audit Oakland – whatever happened with your lawsuit against Dan Lindheim?

    LG: your question illustrates why I support the proposed budget cuts to decimate the Public Ethics Executive Director’s office. The purpose of the PEC is to serve as a windmill for angry citizens to tilt at. That’s all. The ED (who is leaving at the end of this week, thank goodness) appeared to view his job to be to write reports in such a way as to avoid actually having to find ethics violations. I mean, he knew which side his bread was buttered on. His boss was the guy overseeing all of this corruption! You do the math.

  30. LeavingOakland

    Also, beware if your neighbors are having their property inspected. Years ago we had some work done with a permit, inspector came out and signed off on the permit, then ran around and cited our neighbors. One neighbor was cited for someone else’s garbage can left in front of their house by Waste Management, another neighbor had a “overgrown” bush at the end of their driveway about 40 ft away from the public sidewalk, another had some daffodils in their front yard. Back then I thought it was just one rogue inspector harassing almost every single person on the street because they had nothing better to do. Now I know better.

    Mind you, all of these complaints, the inspector never set foot on private property.

    Whenever I see our neighbors having inspections done now, I always stand out on the front lawn and give the inspector a glare that says, “Don’t you even LOOK at my property without a warrant!”

    Maybe I should invest in some “No Trespassing” signs…

  31. ZeroTech

    LeavingOakland, Don’t you know that daffodils are illegal in Oakland and constitute blight? It’s in the muni code. :)

  32. livegreen

    The shame is, we do need some reasonable, manageable enforcement system. There are businesses like motels housing drug dealers, empty bank forclosures, and illegal construction dumping that need to be addressed.

    So the overbearing nature and misguided target of Inspectors on innocent home owners ends up detracting from even the beneficial sides of blight and code enforcement.

    Then there are properties like the Parkway Theatre which sit empty, deteriorating, and attracting graffiti. Though not the worst in blight, it is getting there, and seems to be an example of an “in between” situation. Shouldn’t code/blight enforcement have a middle ground, which comes before thousands of $ in fines? (Or if it does, is it using it?)

    The double shame for the City and citizens is, besides the offenses against innocent homeowners, is the lack of productive use that, managed reasonably, could benefit us all…

  33. livegreen

    So what’s the interest in Elected Officials not addressing these issues? Is it only to help the budget, or are there some other tie-ins?

    Also, why would they appoint a CEDA Director who (just reading headlines on your site) appears to have conflicts of interest both through his wife and also his previous employers?

  34. ZeroTech

    livegreen, As they say about the economy, “It’s the budget, stupid.” Audit Oakland CEDA’s husband’s lawsuit accuses CEDA of transferring millions to Oakland’s general fund, in violation of state law. That law says that a city building dept must be essentially its own economy – in contrast to Lindheim’s statement at one CC meeting, wherein he said that the entire city of Oakland, including CEDA, can be treated as a “single enterprise.” Wrong. CEDA is not allowed to transfer funds to the city. CEDA must take in only as much as its actual costs and can’t be used as a profit center for Oakland, bolstering the budget on the backs of extorted citizens, as it has been doing.

    But the council evidently has no problem with this. After all, they had no problem with cutting street sweeping until they learned that street sweeping brings in double in fines what it costs to run. Although not illegal, I think this is the same thing morally as a building dept. that illegally becomes a profit center for the city.

    I’m not sure how many elected officials knew about the CEDA corruption overall, or about whether their transfers to the general fund were illegal. I know some did. Watching and hearing JB at a recent council meeting, she seemed absolutely clueless about which fund was which (CEDA vs. GPF and state law).

    But I do believe that this kind of thinking – that a dept. that should (and in this case, is required by law to) exist to serve the citizens can instead become a profit center using fines and penalties and fees – seems endemic to the council as a whole. It doesn’t seem to bother them.

  35. ZeroTech

    This statement in the City’s response is BS:

    “The City is also reviewing its fee structure, recognizing the challenge of funding code enforcement without subsidies from the General Fund.’

    THIS IS BACKWARDS! It’s CEDA that is providing the CITY with funds! “Funding code enforcement” takes just a small fraction of what CEDA generates in fees and fines. That extra money is going TO the General Fund, not FROM IT. That is precisely the issue. They’re obfuscating.

  36. Livegreen

    It is not the first time Ive heard somebody refer to Jane Bruner as clueless, or words to that effect.

  37. RdwithCypress

    Dear City Administrators office,

    Your response is not good enough. The Building Services Department has been acting like a predatory lender. Nepotism, cronyism and direct conflicts of interest are pervasive in CEDA from Walter Cohen and Ray Derania themselves all the way down to the lowly administrative assistant [name redacted - V]. Chip Johnson nailed it when he called for a criminal investigation. Nothing less will do.

    For years, City Council members were told by almost all victims individually and they all acted like it was the first time they have heard of this. When victims compared notes facilitated by AuditOaklandCeda we were astounded to find out how their representatives pretended not to be aware of the situation. So, the fact is that all the Council members have been aware of these issues for ages as well as the City Auditors office as well as the Public Ethics Commission (Dan Parnell and company) and all pathetically were complacent and actually enabling the problems. Lets not forget about the bad apples on the planning commission either.

    Oaklanders deserve a thorough house cleaning. Nothing less will do.

    Quan you should start remember about your campaign promise to eliminate “pay to play in Oakland”

    Walter and Ray, you should immediately resign! Shame on you this happened on your watch and is the only way for you to save what little reputation you still have. I am sure you Walter Cohen, could find a cozy spot on PPD (cronies) or maybe Agis Board of Directors after all your favors.

    Russo, Morally Corrupt is good but CEDA is morally bankrupt.

  38. V Smoothe Post author

    Hey, folks. Obviously this is a very upsetting issue to many people, and rightfully so.

    However, this blog is not a place where we go around calling city staff criminals by name without corroboration or evidence. I feel like department heads and directors to some degree sign up for scrutiny, criticism, and name-calling when they agree to the job. Sometimes it’s warranted, sometimes it couldn’t be further from the case. But it’s part of the deal you agree to when you’re in charge.

    Administrative assistants, on the other hand, are not fair game. Please, folks, try to focus your comments on the problem in general, which is clearly widespread, and leave individual staff members out of it.

  39. ZeroTech

    V, you wrote: “I feel like department heads and directors to some degree sign up for scrutiny, criticism, and name-calling when they agree to the job. Sometimes it’s warranted, sometimes it couldn’t be further from the case. But it’s part of the deal you agree to when you’re in charge. Administrative assistants, on the other hand, are not fair game.”

    I couldn’t agree more. Public officials put themselves in the public eye. We’re talking about the big game, not administrative assistants. Dept heads. The bigwigs in charge, many of whom are already defendants in a civil suit. The allegations (at least, the civil ones) against Lindheim et al are already public information.

    So I’m not sure what you’re talking about. Did I miss something? Did someone attack administrative assistants?

    Respectfully,
    ZT

  40. RdwithCypress

    Dear Vsmooth,

    The one I mentioned in the post is absolutely a bad apple and part of it

  41. len raphael

    This was the perfect storm resulting from a City living beyond it’s means, CEDA management and employees trying to maintain real estate boom staffing levels and their jobs, a few greedy manager(s) and employee(s) who want to dip their hands in the revenue stream, and a public that is po’d by blight in the real estate melt down.

    The use of the Redevelopment Agency funds by the City as a defacto part of the General Fund but without those pesky residents asking questions, is part of the institutional corruption.

    If it’s ok to sell mothballed real estate to the RDA, shift a big part of CEDA staff overhead to RDA, direct RDA to make loans to politically favored projects, you’re well on the slippery slope leading to using fines to replace declining tax revenue.

    A combo of institutional and personal corruption.

  42. len raphael

    Reminds me of a post of mine a while ago where I was protesting cuts in the City Auditor’s Office. I was predicting that in tough economic times there were be more city employee malfeasance, so we’d need more not less internal audit staffing.

    I failed to see how economic hard times encourages City organizational level abuse of power.

    More auditors wouldn’t have helped when the corruption is institutional.

    Had a biz school prof who would say that every organization’s first goal is collecting as many resources as possible to thrive and survive.

    Serving the residents comes several notches under that.

  43. LeavingOakland

    I’d like to echo livegreen’s question: “Were any City Council members contacted about this, and what was their response to their constituents?”

    I’ve heard some interesting stories on this topic, but I’d rather hear them directly from the horse’s mouth, rather than repeating hearsay. So has anyone reading here asked their Council member about this issue?

  44. Dax

    Len, And individual employees, apparently without a full-time work load, using city paid time, and city vehicles (truck parked/hidden around the corner) to be out in the public, drumming up clients for their own side family business.

    Then weeks later doing the actual work, on a non-furlough week day.
    ( I suppose that person might have been on a “sick” day, or chosen vacation day, or some such allowable day to be off their regular 5 day work week)
    BTW, they did use their own private equipment in doing the actual work.

    But given that the marketing of their services was done on a day they were working and using a city vehicle, city fuel, and full city pay, it makes me wonder what their status was on the day they did the side work.

    I suspect their are many, perhaps the majority of Community Economic Development Agency (CEDA) workers, who are only doing tasks that would normally utilize half a day or less of paid city employment.
    Hundreds of employees at 50% productivity.

    My example, from direct observation, is only anecdotal, but clearly indicative of lack of oversight and lack of a full time work load.

  45. FloodedByCEDA

    My city councilors staff pointed out “it is VERY inconvienent for us when you keep asking for our help” (Carletta Starks)…….So I complained to the Grand Jury. I also encouraged A LOT of others to complain to the Grand Jury.

  46. J

    I am all for blight and code enforcement, but one that is legal, transparent, and is applied across the board in a reasonable fashion that encourages voluntary compliance. Clearly, the City of Oakland’s is not and has been seriously abused and misused by its staff.

    The findings of the Grand Jury are but one of the reasons I am strongly opposed to any additional increases in Jean Quan’s parcel tax or other revenue generating measures as a way to address the budget deficit. Why should residents of Oakland give more money to the City of Oakland when it is so poorly managed, lacking controls, policies, guidance and regulations.

    Time and time again I have needed a City service, have asked for clarification from staff and managers on written City processes, protocols, policies, and guidance and almost without doubt the City has not been able to produce it–even when handed a Public Records Act Request.. Consequently, I have gotten multiple people telling me very different things. This goes well beyond CEDA. The new City Manager should take heed and do some serious house cleaning. Mayor Quan should take heed and do some serious house cleaning and it should not stop with CEDA.

    Remember–Oakland City employees, even with the recent labor concessions, are among the highest paid public employees by classification in the state if not the country. And this is what we get—a Banana Repbublic.

  47. FloodedByCEDA

    Quoted from the Grand Jury Report
    “Information/Communication/Data Management
    Building Services’ data base is inadequate and fails to track various records
    associated with notifying homeowners for violations, inspections, upgrades,
    permits, appeals, etc., unless information is manually input by individual
    inspectors. The city imposes a 14.75% records management and technology
    enhancement fee to all property owners who receive violations, but it does not
    appear that this fee has resulted in an effective Building Services computer
    system.
    The Grand Jury learned that the computer system currently being used by
    Building Services to input notes on cases is nearly 30 years old; there are
    different systems that are not coordinated and do not function together; and
    there is no central access to a file for either inspectors or the property owners. In
    addition, the city stated it does not have a tracking system for appeals and cannot
    provide any information on them.”

    The city already spent millions on contracts to upgrade their computer system.

    See my posts 14 thru 17 in the How can Oakland improve access to public records thread

    FloodedByCEDA Says:
    January 28th, 2011 at 2:40 pm
    We already paid $2,800,000 for public internet access to the Permit Tracking System. http://clerkwebsvr1.oaklandnet.com/attachments/11199.pdf

    A small part of that database was accessable to the public for a while. Then it became password protected.
    http://cedaonline.oaklandnet.com/onlineservices/CEDADocuments/index.htm
    It is now avaliable without password again.

    15.15FloodedByCEDA Says:
    January 30th, 2011 at 4:57 pm
    Oakland Agency Selects Municipal Software’s CityView for Permitting, Code Enforcement
    Victoria, British Columbia, September 23rd, 2005-Municipal Software (TSX-V:MSZ) is pleased to announce that the City of Oakland’s (Calif.) Community and Economic Development Agency (CEDA) has selected the company to provide an integrated permitting and code enforcement tracking system (PCETS) for the City. Oakland will use CityView’s Application Builder to develop new applications to streamline numerous services.

    According to Claudia Cappio, the City’s Development Director, “CityView sets the foundation for us to offer a wider variety of services to staff and citizens. Once implemented, we will be able to share information online with citizens and contractors and allow our field staff to work more efficiently via remote access.”

    http://www.municipalsoftware.com/news_and_events/news/businessnewsarchive/news-05Sep22Oakland.php

    16.16FloodedByCEDA Says:
    January 30th, 2011 at 5:19 pm
    The new system will replace the current manual system, provide 24-hour on-line access
    to information and forms, and interface with the County Assessor/Recorder databases
    for accurate ownership data. Using the system’s self-service feature, constituents will be
    able to track the status of inspections, apply for land development and building permits,
    look up contracts and buildings plans as well as request and print official documents.

    http://www.imagesourceinc.com/wcms/groups/public/@is/@news/documents/press_release/wcmsp_000395.pdf

    17.17FloodedByCEDA Says:
    January 30th, 2011 at 5:41 pm
    And here is a 3.6 Million contract for public access we never got.

    http://clerkwebsvr1.oaklandnet.com/attachments/10892.pdf

  48. len raphael

    Appears that CEDA abuses targeted home owners instead of more banks and multiple property owners. Wanted to avoid owners who could afford lawyers.

    MC and FBC, could you post copies of any emails/letters/memos of communication with the City Auditor’s dept?

    -len raphael, temescal

  49. ZeroTech

    @Flooded, When I asked the CEDA inspector if he would send me a confirmation that my alleged “blight” (which I contested ever existed) case had been closed, he said, “We don’t do that. It would be too much trouble if we had to do that for everyone.” This despite the fact that is was not “too much trouble” for them to send me a certified letter announcing that I had “blight” (and not, by the way, in any way describing the problem – simply referring to the muni code section). Later he said I could come and “look in the computer” if I wanted to see if my “blight” was “abated.” (They never close or dismiss a case; just “abate” it and it stays open forever, for inspectors to reopen or add onto it or modify it as they please. Plenty of cases of that.) But when I came down to “look in the computer,” the clerk said I couldnt’ do that, it wasn’t open to the public, and “Who said you could look in the computer?” When I went into the office with the actual CEDA cashier and clerk and asked if they had a record of my case, including my elaborately and painstakingly put-together appeal (of a plant that stuck out a couple of inches being blight), she couldn’t find any record of it. She told me that since my case was marked “abated” my appeal had “probably been thrown into the trash” and laughed. The bad culture does extend all the way down to the admins at CEDA.

    @Len, I agree they target homeowners less likely to be able to defend themselves. Although IANAL I jumped so quickly to defend myself, documenting everything, sending everything to them certified mail, etc., that I think they got scared and backed off.

  50. ZeroTech

    @Flooded, Just to clarify your posts about the new, wonderful computer system, these are articles from 2005, right? Not current statements by CEDA about their (again) promised new system, in response to the Grand Jury report.

    I’d say that NOTHING they say from hereon in response to the report should be taken at face value. Obviously, since they’ve promised stuff like this before and didn’t deliver, they cannot be trusted as far as their fat asses can be thrown. Someone needs to be appointed to keep watch over them. Perhaps a judge?

    I’ve got it. What they need is a compliance plan. And at every step, they need to be made to pay.

  51. FloodedByCEDA

    This note acknowledges that your email dated May 5, 2011 has been received by the Office of the City Auditor. The issues you have raised will be reviewed, and if warranted, the appropriate action will be taken. Please understand that due to the number of reports we receive, our review may take some time.

    In order to ensure the integrity and confidentiality of the investigative process, the Office of the City Auditor does not provide updates regarding the status of reports or of any resulting enforcement action.

    In the future, please submit reports through our third party hotline provider, EthicsPoint. EthicsPoint operates the City Auditor’s confidential Fraud, Waste and Abuse Prevention Hotline which is available 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.

    The purpose of the Fraud, Waste and Abuse Prevention Hotline is to report claims of fraud, waste and abuse in our city government. You can provide your report directly to a trained independent intake specialist by calling 888-329-6390 or by completing the report on-line at http://www.oaklandauditor.com. All reports received through the Fraud, Waste and Abuse Prevention Hotline are reviewed by my office and appropriate action taken. Files can be easily uploaded to your report.

    As your elected City Auditor, I am committed to ensuring accountability and integrity in our government. Our efforts toward that end are assisted through citizen and employee alerts such as yours.

    Sincerely,

    Courtney A. Ruby, CPA, CFE

    City Auditor

  52. FloodedByCEDA

    ZeroTech, My point is, We already paid MILLIONS in 2005 for this wonderfull new computer system and never got it.

    Thanks, Flooded

  53. FloodedByCEDA

    “Someone needs to be appointed to keep watch over them. Perhaps a judge? ”

    How about an injunction for the gang at 250 frank ogawa plaza.

  54. ZeroTech

    Flooded, Re gang injunction, that’s funny. But the more I think about it, the more I love the idea of a “compliance plan” that CEDA must follow. Let them see how it feels.

  55. RdwithCypress

    Line one of Ceda complaince plan,

    1) Immediately Post a compliance bond of 24 million
    2)Immediately Pay back all so called “Prospective Liens”
    3)Within 2 days, Pay back all punitive fines
    4)Within 2 days, Pay back all Fees
    5)Within 2 days Pay back all assessments
    6)Immediately – Fire Walter Cohen
    7)Immediately – Fire Ray
    8)Within 7 days, Put PTS online
    9)Immediately – Fire all Inspection managers and supervisors (even the acting supervisors)
    10)Immediately – Fire all Code enforcement inspectors
    11)Immediately – Turn over all CEDA operations to Alameda County
    12)City Auditor’s office must do a review of every whistleblower report involving CEDA and provide details and workpapers to Alameda County Criminal Grand Jury

  56. Audit Oakland CEDA

    @leaving oakland

    Nancy Nadel’s response is on my web site. She wrote to me in 2009 that it was an implementation problem, her hands were tied, etc. But in fact, she is a major perpetrator of complaints.

    I spoke with Larry Reid in person yesterday. He indicated he would be discussing the recommendations with council, but didn’t offer any opinions on the report.

    Courtney Ruby continues to refuse to communicate with me. I also reached out to the new administrator and the mayor’s office. No phone calls yet.

    I must say, many of you are commenting on something you have never touched with your own hands, luckily.

    As for my records requests, I was told that I am inconveniencing every other constituent so they have stopped processing my requests.

  57. Audit Oakland CEDA

    10/16/2010

    Dear Michelle,

    After careful evaluation, it has been determined that the information you provided in your previous emails do not warrant a meeting as they relate to an existing Fraud, Waste + Abuse claim, as well as involves pending litigation with the City.

    1). If a matter involves pending litigation, you should direct your questions to the City Attorney’s Office.

    2). If you have new information to share with the City Auditor that has not been previously reported, all such information must be reported through the City Auditor’s Fraud, Waste and Abuse Prevention Program (FW+A) Hotline. Please provide this information by calling 888-329-6390 or by completing the report on-line at http://www.oaklandcityauditor.com.

    3). If you feel you have additional information or documentation relevant to a previous FW+A report, please provide this additional information by calling 888-329-6390 or by completing the report on-line at http://www.oaklandcityauditor.com.

    All reports received through the FW+A Hotline are reviewed, and if warranted, the appropriate action is taken. In order to ensure the integrity and confidentiality of the investigative process, the Office of the City Auditor does not provide updates regarding the status of complaints or of any resulting enforcement action.

    The City Auditor’s confidential FW+A Hotline is available 24 hours a day, seven days a week. When using the hotline please make a note of your Report Key and the password you create so you can check back on your EthicsPoint report for questions or comments from our Office.

    Best,

    Joe

    Joseph D. Macaluso, M.P.A.

    Executive Assistant to the City Auditor

    Office of the City Auditor

    1 Frank H. Ogawa Plaza
    Oakland, CA 94612

    (510) 238-3379 OFFICE

    (510) 238-7640 FAX

  58. Audit Oakland CEDA

    [Redacted again. Audit Oakland CEDA, if you want to comment here, you need to abide me my rules. I said no, and I really do not like having to repeat myself. I give my commenters extremely wide latitude to speak their minds, and it is an exceptionally rare occasion when I feel compelled to step in and moderate a comment. But I draw the line at slander. Drop it. - V]

  59. Audit Oakland CEDA

    Also, one last note @ V, it is utterly disrespectful of you to delete my comments. Two years of my life dedicated to nothing but uncovering the truth so that victims of building services, who are so much more harmed than any post here could possibly convey, and your site now has the opportunity to discuss these issues thanks to *my* work and Flooded’s work. I don’t love all the opinions I’m reading, but this is the necessary outcome of beating the bushes.

    I do not use ad hominem or abusive language so I would appreciate it if you have a criticism of my comments that you criticize the comment and not censor me.

  60. Audit Oakland CEDA

    [Redacted again. I am quickly losing my patience with this. If this happens one more time, Audit Oakland CEDA, you will lose the privilege of being permitted to leave comments on this blog. - V]

  61. livegreen

    Audit, This is V’s blog, and she’s been ltg you post on it, undoubtedly because of the value of your hard work. For both these reasons, please defer to what she requests you do to continue posting.

    Further to this, please don’t overwhelm us with too many posts. We’re all busy and we need time to digest and then take action.

    The question now is, how DO we take action, with what % of the synthesized info? The three suggestions I would have is Posting on community list serves, writing to City Councilpeople, speaking up at the appropriate City Council meetings (including in Committee).

    Any steps have to be measured and consistent, and allow time for elected officials to react and take action.

    If Larry Reid says he’s doing something, give him some time before following up. Accept his word, until you know differently. If you act from the beginning like he’s not, you’ll overwhelm him and lose him from the beginning and he simply won’t be able to keep track of the matter.

    I realize this is difficult when you’re making progress after years of getting turned down. But please please pace yourself, for all these reasons and others…

  62. V Smoothe Post author

    Ugh, again? That’s the fourth time at least in the last week. It seems to fix itself eventually every time, but it looks like I’m going to have to find a new solution for the news feed.

    Thanks, livegreen.

  63. ZeroTech

    Audit Oakland CEDA has had the gag put on her, here and elsewhere, for so long that she is bursting at the seams. I would plead to V to give her more than a little slack here to make up for that past treatment. Give her free reign, maybe just for day? She deserves that IMO. The Grand Jury’s information came almost 100% from her, either directly, or indirectly in the form of steering other CEDA victims to them. She has worked tirelessly on this for a long, long time. For a long, long time, people refused to believe her or listen to her, and people made fun of her and the other CEDA victims who posted here. Now let her have her moment in the sun. She is a true hero. My two cents.

    Respectfully,
    ZT

  64. annoyed

    I live in a neighborhood that is subject to serious blighted conditions. If it weren’t for Code Compliance, we’d be living in a toilet.

    I look forward to a complete investigation of the charges made by the Grand Jury. However, I will continue to contact Code Compliance about properties that are neglected. Blight is a magnet for crime and we have enough crime around here as it is.

    The one criticism I have had of Code Compliance is not being aggressive enough in this area. A few years ago, I was told by the former Building Services manager, a supervisor, and an inspector on three separate and unrelated occasions. that strict compliance in my district was strongly discouraged by our council rep. I don’t know if what they said is true but that is what they told me. Based on these comments, my feeling is that code compliance can be potentially used for all kinds of political and nefarious reasons.

    The last bad experience I had with Code Compliance was an inspector who claimed there was were no actionable conditions on a house despite a boarded up window, a pile of junk behind the house visible from the driveway (and partiallly visible from the street), and car parts littering the driveway. I sent pictures to the supervisor requesting an explanation for how what was in the picture was not actionable. See previous paragraph.

    If Code Compliance inspectors are breaking the law, then nail them. If there are no guidelines for compliance, then nail the City. However, I am not one bit sympathetic to slum property owners, absent or not, who don’t take care of their property then whine about getting nailed by the City. I have no intention of living with junk/furniture/appliances stored on people’s property in open view, garabage cans stored perpetually at the curb and are overturned and/or become tagged by bangers, inoperable cars in driveways and on front lawns, overgrown grass that becomes a fire hazard (especially around July 4), and broken windows.

  65. LeavingOakland

    Annoyed, I think we really are on the same page here. Code enforcement is too busy harassing people who have daffodils or kids toys in their front yards, or going after the owners who are trying to fix their properties and hitting them with fines and liens so they can’t afford to do so. And the areas that really need the help, where the owners really don’t care and aren’t trying to fix their property? Too many political connections and/or no money in it for code enforcement, so nothing gets done.

    Oakland code enforcement is clearly incapable of getting the job done, and the City Council and Mayor are clearly incapable of cleaning up code enforcement (Don’t tell me they don’t know, the grand jury had a report similar to this one about 10 years ago, which the then-president of the City Council, De La Fuente, responded to. And as Chip Johnson’s column pointed out last Thursday, we haven’t had much turn over in the City Council lately).

    I say we let the county take over our building department. Then maybe I’ll give a second thought to buying a foreclosed and trashed property in Oakland and fixing it up. But right now, I know that if I were to buy a blighted foreclosure, I’d be paying more in fines to the city for simply owning it than it would cost to fix it.

    We don’t have a blight problem here, we have a code enforcement problem, and one of the symptoms is blight.

  66. RdwithCypress

    Leaving Oakland,

    I bought a foreclosure in West. It has always been my dream restore a Victorian. What you described in your last post is exactly what happened to me. Now the property just sits in the same dam condition it was in and my 100k nest egg to clean it up was spent on attorney fees. This is why Oakland looks like crap.

  67. ZeroTech

    @annoyed, You are right that CEDA errs on both sides of the fence (no pun intended). They severely penalize people for things that are not blight (daffodils, a large rose bush), but they also sometimes fail to act on things are are clearly blight (a neighbor near here whose yard was covered in dog feces for three years). But mainly, they fail at their jobs by being overzealous. They’re like an immune system gone awry, with unbridled white cells causing great harm to the body while actual infections go unchecked. CEDA in its current state is like a cancer upon Oakland, or like a terrible autoimmune disease. They’re supposed to be cleaning up messes. Instead they’re causing harm to functioning organs.

  68. LeavingOakland

    So I’m tired of biting my tongue to keep from complaining, why not focus on what we can do about this? We’ve got some pretty good momentum going, thanks to the work that everyone put into getting the Grand Jury interested, the Grand Jury itself and their report, the post and comments here, and now Chip Johnson’s article: http://www.sfgate.com/cgi-bin/article.cgi?f=/c/a/2011/06/27/BAQ91K3C69.DTL

    So what to do from here? I have a few ideas:

    1. I’ve noticed that Chip Johnson’s article from 6/28 has been shared on facebook more than most of his other articles in the past month or so. Yes, I’ve been busy encouraging my friends to share it, as I’m sure other people have been as well. So anyone with facebook and/or twitter, share this. And comment on it too. The more attention that article gets, the more likely Chip is to continue writing about this, and maybe get the Chronicle to take more interest in this story, not to mention other newspapers and media outlets.

    2. Writing letters to our local newspapers. Mention Chip’s article, along with the grand jury report. For the Oakland Tribune especially, I’m planning on writing to them and asking why I’m getting my important Oakland news from a San Francisco paper, why aren’t they covering this?

    3. I’ll second livegreen’s suggestion to post to community listserves, but I’m not holding my breath for my own neighborhood. I posted about this on Monday night on my own neighborhood listserve with a link to the report and the SF Gate article and haven’t heard a peep. Then again, my neighbors tend to think Jean Quan is Oakland’s very own Obama and they can just stick their heads in the sand and she’ll fix everything. I hope other people have better luck with their own neighborhoods…

    4. Another one of livegreen’s suggestions, writing to City Councilmembers. And maybe publishing their responses online? Let our local newspapers know how the City Council is responding to its constituents?

    5. Once again, I’ll echo livegreen, attending City Council meetings and committee meetings. Bring copies of the SF Gate article and the grand jury report, just in case any of the attendees wants more info.

    Anyone else want to add ideas to the list?

  69. ZeroTech

    I informed BANG’s investigative reporter (cctimes) last year. As usual, zero response. The media may be more interested now, after the Grand Jury lent this issue its imprimateur.

    However, media shmedia. what I’m afraid of is that this whole thing will die down eventually. People don’t stay focused long on things. We need to get law enforcement involved before these CEDA thugs go even further off the deep end. Don’t let them get away with the city’s “response,” much of which actually consists of indirection (e.g., the implication that CEDA can’t get by without “funding” from the general fund when actually it’s the opposite – the general fund is illegally benefitting by the transfer of funds from CEDA).

    City councilmembers have known for a long time. Zip and zilch. The mayoral candidates all knew because Audit Oakland CEDA spent hours briefing every one of them before the election – Quan knows, and knew. Ruby knew. Parnell (ethics commission) knows and knew. The problem is not informing people. The problem is getting people to act. The only entity that is acting on the information is the non-Oakland entity: the Alameda County Grand Jury.

    I’m convinced that the only real action will come from outside the city. Don’t let them keep this within the (corrupt) Oakland family. Nothing will change. The only hope is if the DA’s office gets involved now, or possibly some federal entity.

  70. ZeroTech

    Good question. Ask Audit Oakland CEDA about some mysterious payments. Probably have to ask her offline.

  71. annoyed

    All I know is that Code Compliance is a god-send in this neighborhood. I want more, not less enforcement.

    Whatever.

  72. RdwithCypress

    Meddling can be such fun, raves CEDA Director Cohen
    December 30, 2010
    In an e-mail exchange between Director of Building Services Raymond Derania and Walter Cohen, Derania boasts that Building Services heavy-handed treatment is routine.
    Neighbor A complains to Public Works that the sidewalk median strip vegetation (flowers) maintained by Neighbor B is encroaching onto the public right-of-way, forcing him to navigate his stroller around the offending area. Neighbor B complies with Building Services’ request and cuts back vegetation several inches from the sidewalk. Nonetheless, Building Services staff fine Neighbor B $1300 because of a second complaint filed by Neighbor A a year later. Neighbor B filed an appeal with Building Services. The appeal was denied (ILLEGAL DETERMINATION) by Rich Fielding on the basis that the alleged overgrowth had existed in the past. Complaint abated; owner fined nonetheless. ?????

    Derania: “For the new administration, would you consider turning-over a new leaf and just letting us handle stuff? This is routine. If transgressors are turned-back to us, it’s surprising how quickly they see-the-light and get with the program (even though it costs them some money sometimes).”

    Cohen: “Well!…. If you insist… meddling can be such fun! But OK.”

    Walter, do you mean meddling in peoples’ lives or meddling with the heavy-handed practices of Building Services?

    See actual email click here:
    http://www.auditoaklandceda.com/web_docume…

  73. RdwithCypress

    Shame on you Nadel for not listening to those with whom you are supposed to represent!

    According to City of Oakland Council Member Nancy Nadel “These complaints are on implementation rather than policy…”
    Implement
    1 : carry out, accomplish; especially: to give practical effect to and ensure actual fulfillment through concrete measures

    In response to a well-substantiated, direct complaint about abuse of authority by CEDA staff from a West Oakland constituent, Nancy Nadel responded blithely by forwarding the complaint to Dan Lindheim and Walter Cohen via e-mail with these sixteen words and not a word more, “These complaints are on implementation rather than on policy so I am referring them to you.”

    Fact:
    CEDA Building Services and Code Enforcement operate under a set of rules that does not conform with local, State, or Federal rules.
    Fact:
    Every day, illegal liens are placed against property owners’ properties as Special Assessments, forcing property owners to the brink of foreclosure and often over the edge.
    Fact:
    If you are a West Oaklander who has a complaint against the City of Oakland CEDA Building Services or Code Enforcement your complaint will not be addressed by Council Member Nancy Nadel; contact Audit Oakland CEDA.

    see the actual email link below
    http://auditoaklandceda.com/web_images/scan0001.jpg

  74. Audit Oakland CEDA

    [Redacted again. I am quickly losing my patience with this. If this happens one more time, Audit Oakland CEDA, you will lose the privilege of being permitted to leave comments on this blog. - V]

    Don’t you all want to know what she redacted and judge for yourselves whether I broke the precious rules.

    The precious rules you are promulgating are not appropriate to free and open discourse and certainly not to the democratic process of self-auditing that constituencies perform routinely when they discuss the performance of various staff at all levels who directly influence their lives.

    Badgering is a typical behavior of city employees at all levels.

  75. Audit Oakland CEDA

    Payments to the trib are in the general ledger for fund 2415 (as are payments for tamales).

    i imagine they do a lot of postings for public notice. i didn’t research the journal entries for supporting documentation. i assumed that no matter what the city is paying for the trib doesn’t want to risk losing that period.

    my effort is to submit a non-fiction book proposal to as many literary agents as possible. my deadline for completion of the proposal is tomorrow, the day I thought the report would be released.

    The Pitch:
    When an idealistic couple moves to a historic duplex in a run-down part of Oakland, they are shaken down by a city building inspector. Little do they suspect the building department is being controlled by a family-operated waste removal company that uses building department thugs to generate business, even forcing people from their homes. The city cover-up and retaliation that follow compel the wife to uncover the truth and bring down the matron-boss.

    This is the true story.

  76. Naomi Schiff

    Dear people, If V were sued for remarks made on her blog (whether they end up proven slanderous or not) she could be liable for all kinds of trouble and enormous expense. I don’t always agree with V or with others who post here, but I value the space she has created for discussion. If we want such an outlet to persist, we must play by the rules. If anyone wants to make direct accusations by name, just do it on your own blog or site–it is unethical to put a third party, in this case a generous host, at risk.

  77. RdwithCypress

    January 4, 2011 CEDA Building Services Principal Inspection Supervisor Richard Fielding states public hearings are NOT an option for property owners who submit Code Violation Appeals to Building Services.

    “You can have an office meeting.”
    Richard Fielding renders his interpretation of OMC here, describing the owners’ right to appeal alleged building services violations.

    Click here to see Exhibit 3.

    Click the quoted text to read the entire deposition.

    9 Q. Are you saying there’s no mechanism for an
    10 appeal hearing once an owner files a notice of appeal of
    11 the type that’s marked here as Exhibit 3?

    12 MR. VOSE: Objection, vague.

    13 THE WITNESS: The key phrase that I’m asking
    14 for you to clarify is “hearing.” Did you want to know
    15 if there’s a mechanism to review the appeal?

    16 MR. CLAASSEN: Yeah.

    17 THE WITNESS: Yes, there’s a mechanism. Are
    18 you asking is there a hearing?

    19 MR. CLAASSEN: Q. I am asking whether there’s
    20 a hearing.

    21 A. No, there is not.

    22 Q. And you can’t have a hearing from this type of
    23 appeal, can you?

    24 A. You can have an office meeting.

    Dear Naomi,

    V is not responsible legally for things others post on her blog. As for the rest of you bloggers, defamation of character insurance costs about 30 dollars a year and is and endorsement to your homeowners policy. I am an expert in this area and can tell you that for defamation and liable, you must prove that the blogger knew the information was false and posted anyway. So as long as you have support for your comments and believe them to be true you are safe.

  78. Naomi Schiff

    What I said, and will repeat, is that even if a claim has no merit, it can still be expensive to defend against it. Let’s not put V in that position. She is not a big company with money for insurance etc. She is one hardworking person doing this on her own, trying to do a good thing. Please do not put her at risk.

  79. ZeroTech

    Naomi,
    Not really. V has a safe harbor per the Digital Millenium Copyright Act. “No provider or user of an interactive computer service shall be treated as the publisher or speaker of any information provided by another information content provider.” 47 U.S.C. § 230. We are all responsible for our own postings. Not V.
    http://www.eff.org/issues/bloggers/legal/liability/230

  80. ZeroTech

    Posts crossed. To Naomi’s second post: Anyone running a blog is surely aware of this law, and any suit against V for an item someone else posted would be thrown out of court amongst much guffaws.

  81. Mkilian

    The other day I received an email with a question that I would like to share: “Isn’t it weird that the CEDA scandal is getting so little media coverage?” For media coverage I would substitute public outrage.

    Oakland is suppose to be a liberal, an enlightened city, and here we have thousands of victims who in some cases have lost their homes because of the abuse of governmental authority by Oakland’s Inspection Services Department and and no one wants to step forward but the usual suspects to protest.

    Any comments!!!

  82. ZeroTech

    MKillian, I’m surprised that you’re surprised, given the absolute lack of interest by all the major media upon being given this information, in detail, at several points in time ranging from 6 months to a year ago. You yourself filed two complaints with the ethics commission. Zilch. Ruby was handed complaints several times. Zilch. Quan (as you very well know) was briefed by Audit Oakland CEDA months before the election, in excruciating detail, and not a peep out of her. We are living in a mad, mad world, where you and I are outraged and the majority seems to be able to just slough it off. And this is exactly what I worried about as soon as the news finally came out. There’s be some outrage at the beginning, the city would issue some bullshit statement (which it did) to get them off the hook, and that would be the end of it. No. This has to be taken on outside of Oakland. I hope that is happening.

  83. MarleenLee

    MKillian – in order for people to protest, they need to be aware. And without media coverage, they will likely not be aware. But regardless, I agree that the apathy out there is pretty deafening. But it is deafening on so many other issues as well. Unless the problem affects people’s own individual little slice of the pie, they really couldn’t care less. Apparently. Parking meter increases? Elimination of libraries? They come out in droves. Bribery and extortion of unempowered people living in marginal areas? Barely a peep.

  84. ZeroTech

    MarleenLee, I live in a distinctly non-marginal area and people on my block were cited falsely for blight. I organized people and got it taken care of and saved some of their asses in the process, but for the most part, all I got (like Audit Oakland CEDA got for her efforts to inform) was flak from people tellig me I was detracting from their quality of life by informing them about what was going on. It’s a shoot-the-messenger mentality. Or stick-your-head-in-the-sand. Choose your metaphor.

  85. ZeroTech

    What I really don’t get is the silence from the media all along the way, until now with the toothless (although better-late-than-never) column by Chip. That’s a tempest in a teapot, too. (My cliche engine is working overtime this morning.)

  86. livegreen

    “It’s the media stupid”. On the one hand mindless commercial programing that allow our brains to zone out, on the other hand reading the paper/watching TV news that is repetitive and overwhelmingly about politics and crime. On top of that, mostly national and state, almost no local.

    People appear to equate viewing and reading with participation. It is not. It takes a village to raise a child, to raise a neighborhood, to raise a village, to raise a city. And for that matter a democracy.

    What some have discovered is that participation can make a difference. Not always, but it can. We MUST participate to try.

    Thanks for everyone out there who is doing their own little part in making a difference in any way they can. It can be lonely, but it IS necessary.

  87. len raphael

    Media will run something on say consumer fraud that effects one person, eg. “7 on Your Side” but doesn’t consider it newsworthy to cover government abuse that hurts many more people.

    Do media decision makers know something we don’t know?

    Fear of getting sued? Fear of boring residents who had such low expectations of their City government that this wouldn’t anger them?

    Maybe it’s why library supporters are so energized. It’s the most customer oriented City department?

    The City was worried for about an hour and rushed out a spinning damage control press release in record time thinking this could really make them look bad.

    Then they realized the residents just turned the page looking for the sports section.

    Who was the historian that said revolutions usually occur when condiditons are getting slightly better and expectations are rising.

    LO, are expectations rising in Quanville?

    -len raphael, temescal

  88. ZeroTech

    Michael Finney is responsible for making the SF Building Dept’s window replacement permit fees more fair, and for helping enact legislation requiring fair advertising by car dealers, among other things. He doesn’t always take on just single-person issues. However, I tried – and failed – to interest his organization in this. Perhaps he didn’t get the message. Perhaps he, like everyone else who heard about this before the Grand Jury made its pronouncements, just thought it was too crazy to believe.

  89. Naomi Schiff

    The commercial media (especially tv, but others too) want some visible action or a photogenic human interest lead-in. The format is: Human interest story two-three paragraphs, then two or three paragraphs about the general issue under discussion, then another paragraph at the end, back at Mr. or Ms. H. Interest. People who want coverage organize events, press conferences, ribbon-cuttings, and worry about when and where exactly to hold high-profile protests or demonstrations. It wouldn’t be too hard to organize something around blight, because you could do great visuals with blighted things unnoticed by dept. and unblighted things that got cited for mysterious or nefarious purposes. For many causes or stories, a lot of unseen legwork is done to attract attention from the media and present them with a partially packaged, intriguing enough story. (Good investigative journalists might come up with the subject and do all the investigation, and writing themselves; but it can be difficult to get paid to do it unless an editor or producer is convinced that it is worthwhile.)

  90. LeavingOakland

    Why the lack of public outrage? Look at the number of properties that get liens, and look at the population of Oakland. Consider also that of those properties that have liens, quite a few are now bank owned, or have owners who live outside of Oakland and thus can’t vote in elections here.

    And the renters won’t care. Rent control doesn’t let landlords pass on the true cost of living in Oakland, which includes what I like to call CEDA’s tax on being unlucky.

    Speaking of unlucky, how many property owners DON’T have problems with CEDA? Very easy for them to be in denial and just stick their heads in the sand (Either that, or they’re paying to play or have other connections. I’m not saying anything, I’m just sayin…). My own neighbors, not a peep since I posted the grand jury report and Chip’s article on our listserve. And my next door neighbor, a few months ago when I was getting her caught up to speed, asks me, “Won’t our new mayor take care of this?”

    People around here really enjoy their blind belief that our government will take care of us… Just my two cents at almost 2 am, probably not making much sense but throwing it out there anyway.

  91. len raphael

    if this CEDA scandal never even makes a blip on the minds of the voters here, Oakland officials will rightfully see it as convincing proof that that the voters hear are sleepwalkers unless an issue affects them personally. Even then, other than employees of non profits, and library patrons, most residents don’t expect anything from their City.

  92. J

    The CEDA scandal is already old news. To be forgotten by the public and the elected officials like the last murder. Not likely to see any significant structural or cultural change within the Oakland bureaucracy.

  93. ZeroTech

    LeavingOakland, That was exactly the response on my neighborhood’s listserv. Absolute silence (with the sole exception of one neighbor who emailed me bug-eyed). However, their silence this time – as opposed to coming down on me for posting at all about the issue, which is their usual reaction (“we love Oakland, you’re taking away from our quality of life here with these posts, if you don’t like it here why don’t you move,” etc.) shows that maybe it sunk in. A Grand Jury said it! Not just our neighbor (the girl who cried wolf) who is always ranting about Oakland government!

    And now a confession: I understand their reactions. When I first got hit by CEDA, and was mentioning it to a friend who participates in ABO, who directed me to Audit Oakland CEDA’s site, I didn’t believe the extent of it, either. I thought AOC had to be exaggerating. I thought, she’s got to be nuts. This can’t be. Etc. And I was an actual victim. So I have to wonder how I’d react if I hadn’t been hit.

  94. Dax

    Just took some time to read the Grand Jury report.
    Very sad at seeing the shameful practices done by the inspectors under the cover of law.
    Apparently with at least one contractor working hand in hand with someone inside to work the system like a personal ATM machine. Possibly hundreds of thousands of dollars over the years.

    Then I read Chip Johnson’s article and the 56+ comments.

    Amazing that the ONE person posting comments with his support and explanation of why Oakland’s system isn’t so terrible, signs his name as “asmiller” using a particular dog as his photo/avatar. (includes several supportive posts for the CEDA building dept)

    http://contribute.sfgate.com/ver1.0/Content/images/store/0/2/705840a1-7771-4e9c-820c-1ba114e3d1f2.Small.jpg

    Then when (as directed by another poster) you go to the FaceBook page for the
    head of Oakland’s dept, you see a dog that looks nearly identical.
    Same facial markings, same breed, etc., but a different photo angle.

    Coincidence? What are the odds of two people with such knowledge and interest having identical or almost identical dogs of a very particular breed?

    Of course, I suppose it could be a set-up.

    And of course, no one could be that stupid, right? Not even a congressman.

    After reading the Grand Jury report, and knowing real Oakland residents were caught up in this nightmare, I have only one comment…

    Looks like heavy handed abuse under the cover of law, sometimes to enrich those involved in the inspector-department-contractor relationship.

    Remember the fruit vendor in that small Tunisian town?

    Mohamed Bouazizi

    Oakland’s public agencies should never make it citizens feel like Mohamed Bouazizi, helpless, insulted, and abused.

    PS.. Is there a link to the article the Oakland Tribune must have done? I don’t recall reading it.

    ———————————————
    You know, over the months, I’ve not read or understood much of what has been here about CEDA.
    Now I am beginning to understand more and appreciate the outrage often voiced on ABO.

    Also intrigued by the “identical dog theory”
    Can’t be true, right? Too funny if it is.

  95. ZeroTech

    I love your identical dog theory. Sounds right to me. As for the Trib, as Audit Oakland CEDA posted here, CEDA’s fund shows payments going out to the newsgroup. She says she hasn’t yet investigated the details and that it’s possible the payments were legitimate fees for printing notices to homeowners. But even so, if the fact that CEDA is buying adspace in the Trib is the reason they didn’t do a story, it violates the Chinese wall of journalism for sure. Express wouldn’t touch it, either, for some odd reason. (They did an expose of Alameda’s bldg. dept. last year. Maybe there were repercussions and they fear taking on another thuggish bldg. dept? Who knows. It’s well-known that hings like that have happened to the Express writers before.)

  96. len raphael

    Didn’t notice anything in the Trib and online search at its site for grand jury oakland building turned up nada. nothing for grand jury oakland ceda.

    i should have emailed the online oakland library service and asked them to search around.

  97. ZeroTech

    They didn’t do a story. There’s a connection between CEDA and the newsgroup. As she posted before, AOC has documented payoffs of some sort from CEDA to BANG. May be legitimate for posting notices, may not be. Either way, as she said, if the Trib ignored the story because they’re benefitting financially from CEDA, something is very wrong.

  98. ZeroTech

    So, this is just a link to the City’s response from before. Again, the following sentence is pure indirection:

    “The City is also reviewing its fee structure, recognizing the challenge of
    funding code enforcement without subsidies from the General Fund.”

    Code enforcement needs no “subsidies from the General Fund.” On the contrary. In violation of state law, the General Fund is taking subsidies from the CEDA fund.

    Whoever wrote this is either clueless or is purposely trying to mislead.

  99. len raphael

    I like a good conspiracy explanation as much as anyone, but i doubt the entire bay area media is in cohoots by not covering the CEDA abuse investigation.

    As financially weak a paper the Trib might be, the revenue from City notices wouldn’t be enough to make them squelch coverage of this.

    Simply they’re a mediocre absentee managed paper. Management probably has a very low opinion of typical Oakland reader and what interests them. But it might be a very accurate assesment also.

  100. ZeroTech

    Len, I probably should have used the word “payments” instead of “payoffs.” That was a mental typo. I happened to remember these payments in the ledger from when Audit Oakland CEDA told me about them awhile back. It seemed weird back then, so it stuck out in my mind. True, it’s probably not anything improper. It could be, though, with the amount and level of bribery and extortion that we now know is going on in general.

    As for why the Express is absolutely silent on this, I don’t know. They did the Alameda bldg. dept story last year, but that was under the old management. Could be their new management nixed this one. Oakland’s situation seems worse and even has (now) been given credibility by the Grand Jury. Could it have to do with the fact that the Express is extremely pro-Quan (strongly endorsed and pushed her during the election and continues to defend her every move ever since), and that this is Quan’s watch and she’s doing nothing about it?

  101. ZeroTech

    And by the way, you refer to the “entire Bay Area media.” That, in case you didn’t know, consists of no more than three entities: the Chron, the Express, and BANG – Dean Singleton’s empire, which includes (just in the Bay Area – not counting the rest of the country) the Trib, the Merc, the CCTimes, and just about every local community rag from the peninsula to the north (Montclarion, Berkeley Voice, Alameda Journal, etc. etc. etc.). So anything fishy (and I’m not saying there is) on the part of any BANG paper would take care of all of those papers. They’re all one and the same, sharing each other’s stories (my editorial comment here has been self-deleted to avoid accusations of libel), etc. This conglomeration happened years ago.

  102. len raphael

    i wasn,t restricting the term “media” to printed media.

    Would guess that more people get their news from tv than from printed newspapers.

  103. ZeroTech

    Oh, TV. Well, I consider the Chron, BANG and Express more as online than print outlets these days. I’d guess more people read them online than in print, and that more people get news online than from TV OR print. But who knows. Those are the big three (online/print) around here and only one of them (Chron) took it on. Did you check all the TV stations?

  104. RdwithCypress

    Ralph Len,

    I want to thank you from the bottom of my heart for your post about my dear friend FloodedbyCEDA. All of us victims of this fraud have paid dearly. But the worst part for the victims has been complete emasculation, by having all of our friends and family not believe us and treating us as kooks. I know Arnie Fields thanks you as well. We know the truth about this because we have all lived the nightmare, emotionally and financially. We have given up everything in this fight. Thank you for you post.

  105. len raphael

    Cause of media disinterest is probably best explained by Naomi’s theory. After all, we’re not talking about the NYT’s or the Washington Post here.

    But there also could be a factor where the editors/reporters have one of those mental maps of Oakland that Nav would recognize: DTO, Montclair, Rockridge, one block of Temescal, Crocker Highlands, and the rest consists of two sprawling areas marked BADLANDS: EAST AND WEST OAKLAND.

    It’s a mental map that i’ve come across in not a few residents of the more affluent parts of town.

    Maybe it’s that mental map or maybe the Contra Costa Times was a much stronger paper than the Trib before it was acquired and so continues to have robust local coverage cf to the Trib.

  106. RdwithCypress

    CASE Management Conference is a public event. Those Interested please come out and watch. I think they are going to set trial dates. This is a big deal.
    http://www.auditoaklandceda.com/web_documents/image2010-10-22-151416.pdf
    http://apps.alameda.courts.ca.gov/domainweb/html/index.html Case#: RG10519533
    Oakland homeowner sues City and CEDA officials for violation of state and local law
    An Oakland homeowner has sued several high-ranking CEDA and City officials, including City Administrator Dan Lindheim, claiming that CEDA charges property owners with excessive fees and liens and uses the money towards balancing the City budget, in violation of the California Constitution, the State Housing Law, and City ordinances.
    When: 7/6/2011 9:00 AM
    Where: Superior Court Alameda

  107. Naomi Schiff

    Three cheers for Oakland Local carrying the grand jury report. I’m hoping it will spur a few other media outlets to pick up the story. I don’t think they’d have difficulty finding a good interview of one of the aggrieved, and if a reporter did feel pushy, he or she could attempt to interview somebody at ceda. Don’t give up. I don’t think this strange story is going to sink without a trace.

  108. livegreen

    Right. First ABO, then Oakland Local, hopefully others to follow. I’m posting on my neighborhood list serve and asking what our elected officials intend to do about it. If we all do, it should help built momentum and accountability. At least clear standards, if not reasonable process…

  109. Max Allstadt

    I think it’s entirely possible that the Grand Jury Report hasn’t gotten picked up in the media yet because of the Holiday Weekend. It could easily end up being diced up into multiple scandalous stories, and a feature or two. But it’s better for the press to release it when people aren’t distracted by BBQ and explosions in the backyard.

  110. livegreen

    Some CEDA victims might also write a “My Word” in the Tribune. Several authors signing helps, + will raise attn. at the paper…

  111. ZeroTech

    @livegreen, Easier said than done. It takes tremendous guts to come out publicly against a governmental entity with enormous power over individuals, especially one with a reputation for using that power unfairly and thuggishly – threatening people with the loss of their homes, putting liens on their houses, and worse, all under the color of law. There’s a reason grand jury investigations are required by law to keep testimony confidential. Anyone who comes out against CEDA in the likes of editorial is taking a big risk. All of which makes AOC even more of a hero.

  112. len raphael

    Hope OL people won’t be needing any building permits for a while :)

    For Hollywood’s view of building inspectors, Love Nest (1951) has some good lines for the inspector.

    When the inspector tells the homeowners that if they can’t afford to rewire the whole house he’ll have to condem it. “We’re not doing this to save you money, but to keep you safe”

  113. BarryK

    RdwithCypress: regarding the org charts, I recognize two names in the DEC (Dept of Eng and Construction, Oct 2009) that did some work in our area. Howevertheir biz cards and emails said they were in PWA. Two years ago, they were in Transportation Services; of PWA. Huh?

  114. Max Allstadt

    @FloodedByCEDA

    Wow. Clicking on the “Experience” tab on that website raises some major ethical questions.

    Here’s a building inspector who has the authority to impose liens, potentially causing foreclosures, and he’s moonlighting as a licensed realtor who specializes in foreclosures?

    On top of that, he’s listing commendations from the City Council, likely earned in the line of duty, as part of his resume for his moonlighting work as a realtor? And he’s also listing his CURRENT job as a building inspector as part of his relevant experience on his resume as a realtor specializing in distressed properties?

    Impressive. Impressively brazen.

    How the hell is it legal or allowed in his employment contract for him to have these two jobs at once?

  115. ZeroTech

    Not only that, Max. Ask AOC about a high mucky-muck in CEDA who declared properties as blighted, then bought them up using a former name. It’s too risky for me to post here but AOC has more guts and the evidence to back it up.

  116. ZeroTech

    p.s. I wonder where he puts the parentheses in this line from his resume:

    “Extensive substandard property inspection”

  117. Max Allstadt

    Also, I’m currently co-chair of the West Oakland Project Area Committee (WOPAC), which is an advisory board that makes decisions on how redevelopment money is spent in the neighborhood.

    Tonight, on our agenda, is a request from CEDA Building Services for $75,000 in funding for blight enforcement.

    I’m wondering if the readers of this blog have any suggestions on what I should say to the applicant and how I should vote on that allocation…

  118. ZeroTech

    The Fund 2415 Lament

    Some
    Times in our lives
    We all have pain,
    We all have sorrow.
    But
    If we are wise
    We know that there’s
    Always tomorrow.

    Lien on me
    When you’re not strong
    I’ll be your friend,
    I’ll help you carry on.
    For it won’t be long
    Til I’m gonna need
    Somebody to lien on.

    Please swallow your pride
    If I have things you need to borrow
    For no one can fill
    All of those needs that you won’t let show.

    You just call on me brother,
    When you need a hand.
    We all need somebody
    To lien on.

    I just might have a problem
    That you’d understand.
    We all need somebody
    To lien on.

  119. len raphael

    Max, that’s a tough position the City has intentionally put your board in.

    It wrapped it’s revenue boosting activity in the mantle of blight law enforcement.

    You’re damned no matter what you decide.

    (ZT, i like it I like it. How about a musical comedy about Oakland government? Plenty of material to work with.)

  120. Max Allstadt

    We basically just told them to go to hell until Building Services proves it isn’t corrupt.

    The other alternative we gave them was to create a highly specific scope, describing what types of blight they will cite, and legally enjoining them from doing anything else in terms of enforcement. One option: only allow them to do enforcement on vacant properties.

  121. Naomi Schiff

    There’s a precedent for a musical comedy, the amazing “Casino!” written, directed, produced by Judith Offer with music by Joyce Whitelaw, performed by excellent local professionals, during the Jerry Brown years. (Don’t know if anyone here remembers the hubbub about the plot to put a casino at the oakland airport, but it was big news at the time.) A Jacques Barzaghi character was one of the many villains. It might just be time for another turn on the stage for our content-rich city.

  122. len raphael

    Max, several years ago i struck a conversation with an artist community activist from i assumed west oakland. he was telling me the board he was on tried to tell the city how they wanted their funds spent but nadel et al simply appointed new board members who would rubber stamp what the CC members wanted.

    Not sure if that was RDA money or somekind of Fed money.

    Can that be done to your board is yours immune because it was elected?

    -len raphael, temescal

  123. RdwithCypress

    I have seen City Council simply override WOPAC. Case in point was the eminent domain rule they changed that allowed for bigger parcels. Greg Hunter did this in order to threaten a commercial property owner in West Oakland to sell his warehouse to Foods Co. WOPAC said no twice, but Council voted for it anyway. What a sham Not WOPAC who usually gets it right, but our elected officials who ignore WOPAC entirely and almost always go with what the re-developement EMPLOYEES and lobbiests want

  124. RdwithCypress

    Max, if you want my 2 cents, you should deny the request until all of the grand jury findings have been cleaned up, no pun intended. Most of the abuse has occurred in WEST and EAST Oakland to citizens who don’t have the means to fight back. These thugs have caused the blight by making it impossible to work on their homes. What an insult to ask for WOPAC redevelopment money! As Walter Cohen has said time and time again on the record at budget meetings. Code enforcement cannot be cut because they are self funding and actually revenue generating! Why don’t you reminded them of that! Check out any of the CEDA budget meeting videos you will see what I mean.

  125. RdwithCypress

    Max, – Much of the blight in West Oakland comes from people outside Oakland, dumping trash and construction debris on the streets. I call public works 3 times a week to come and clean it up. I am sure this costs PW millions each year. These outsiders, do it in broad daylight. Send the money to OPD to catch these suckers.

  126. Max Allstadt

    @ Len

    The WOPAC bylaws are clear and don’t allow the councilmember to remove or appoint anybody.

    You’re also assuming that Councilmember Nadel would side with Building Services in their attempt to get WOPAC to pay their overtime, which I doubt is the case.

  127. RdwithCypress

    [Redacted. I have been over this repeatedly. Specific attacks on individual employees are not permitted here. I do not want to have to repeat myself again. -V]

  128. len raphael

    Max, i wasn’t assuming anything about Nadel on this issue. Actually it does surprise and disappoint me that she apparently didn’t listen to her constituent’s reports of CEDA abuses. Whatever my differences on her policy positions, including her anti gentrification, I’ll give her the benefit of the doubt on the CEDA scandal. But then I’m her abused constituent either.

  129. Max Allstadt

    Len,

    In all fairness to Councilmember Nadel, almost nobody in the city government listened to constituents complaints about these abuses.

    Russo did something, but the office he held, by it’s very nature, is not empowered to direct sanction staff or decree a change of policy.

    And the press didn’t listen either.

    Frankly, until there were depositions and until the extent of the problem was made clear by the grand jury, I didn’t listen very well either.

    The problem is that any time someone is sanctioned by a government agency, there will be resentment. It’s hard to tell the difference between someone who got caught and resents it and someone who got screwed and resents it.

    Thankfully, now that the extent of the problem is known, I expect we’ll see some action. If it takes too long, it might be necessary to bring an angry posse to council and demand action.

  130. ZeroTech

    Max, That’s right. And even now there’s doubt in my mind that much will happen. The City issues this bogus little apology – “oh, we’re horrified by this, we won’t do it any more” – and unless some law enforcement agency takes action, that could very well be the end of it. I hope the DA gets (or is) involved. You don’t let a murderer go for past crimes on the promise that he’s sorry and it won’t happen again. Don’t let the City go, either.

  131. J

    Highly unlikely anything will happen to individual employees unless there is a criminal complaint. Adverse action against civil service employees, particularly rank and file, cannot and will not be taken because they are protected by union contracts and they cannot be held to a standard of behavior unless that standard was clearly articulated in writing, in policy documents, or other protocols. What is clear in all of this is that the City sorely lacks such written policies/protocols. Even when a rank and file employee does not follow written policy/protocols you have to take progressive disciplinary action. All such actions are private and cannot be disclosed to the public. Thus it is impossible to hold such employees accountable in these circumstances and if they are punished you will never know. It is all too easy for these things to get swept under the rug. Executive Managers higher in the food chain should have been aware and should have taken actions to address the lack of policies/protocols that resulted in significant differential treatment of the public. They are the ones that should be taken to task or fired. It is unlikely that Quan would push for such “drastic” actionn or have here new City Administrator “clean house”, even though that is exactly what should happen. This is a golden opportunity for Quan and the new City Adminstrator to send a message to a staff that a culture of corruption, incompentence, and abuse will not be tolerated. This is a chance to show Oakland is for good government.

  132. ZeroTech

    I did hear a rumor that the DA was getting involved. And I’ve heard from AOC about some actually criminal (violent in one case, personally fraudulent and benefitting financially in another, and the list goes on) actions by CEDA brass. This needs to be prosecuted criminally IMO. (And hopefully people won’t dismiss these accusations any more as the fantasies of a raving lunatic. I’ve seen AOC’s hard evidence, or much of it.)

  133. livegreen

    CEDA Code Enforcement’s decline seems to follow this trajectory: from Service dept. to Service/Revenue dept. to Revenue dept. to Corrupt dept.

    It has probably been a gradual descent, making it harder to see, monitor or control. It probably also overlaps with various Councilmembers coming and going, making it harder to observe (as is often the case with lost institutional knowledge).

  134. livegreen

    This situation also mirrors the gradual cut in services we’re experiencing, caused by Oakland not bringing costs/revenue into alignment.

    And not maintaining or bringing back services even when they are…

  135. ZeroTech

    Livegreen, The CC discusses cutting services to save costs only when they don’t define that service as a profit center. A case in point is street sweeping, which they were considering cutting to save costs until Public Works pointed out that street sweeping brings in millions more in citations each year than it actually costs to run the program. This kind of thinking seems to have become the CC’s motus operandi. Who can blame them? They’re desperate. Oakland is on the verge of bankruptcy. As Quan is fond of pointing out, poverty causes crime. And the City’s extreme poverty has caused it to become a criminal itself.Mama Oakland tells kid juvenile-delinquint CEDA, “You go bring in some cash, honey, don’t care how you do it.”

  136. len raphael

    ZT, can i steal your last line for the forthcoming musical comedy about Oakland govt?

    come on, someone on this blog must be able to sketch a cartoon to go with such a great line?

  137. LeavingOakland

    “This is a golden opportunity for Quan and the new City Adminstrator to send a message to a staff that a culture of corruption, incompentence, and abuse will not be tolerated. This is a chance to show Oakland is for good government.”

    J, would you be able to come to the City Council meeting July 26th by any chance and speak @ the open forum? I’d want you to get credit for that quote.

    Rumor has it that the City Council has the Grand Jury report on their agenda to discuss on July 26th. I’ll believe it when I see it, but my source is reliable enough that I’d suggest clearing your calendars so you can be at that City Council meeting.

    In the meantime, I’m gonna figure out how to use twitter so I can post updates while I’m at the meeting.

  138. ZeroTech

    Len, Sure, it’s all yours! Are you going to play Mama Quan in the musical? And who’s going to play Uncle Floyd?

  139. FloodedByCEDA

    LG, this must be the 2nd job you mention

    Objective: R.E. Broker to assist with residential foreclosure re-marketing in the Oakland, Alameda County area

    I guess names will be redacted. The principal Inspection Supervisor is known as a cowboy around city hall. The Grand Jury describes his conduct as “Egregious” on Page 72

  140. ZeroTech

    Flooded,

    And not just around city hall.

    Also, AOC has documents showing that someone even higher than him was buying up blighted properties and applying for permits to fix them up under a different name. I don’t remember seeing that in the report. Perhaps that’s one of the aspects the DA is (supposedly?) taking on.

  141. FloodedByCEDA

    July 6`rules committee action RE: Grand Jury report.
    http://oakland.legistar.com/LegislationDetail.aspx?ID=923829&GUID=BD271B21-A69A-4558-BCC4-74504CD0BA2B
    Subject: Building Services Division – Grand Jury Recommendations From: Councilmember Brunner Recommendation: Discussion And Action On How City Staff Are Implementing Recommendations Of The Alameda County Grand Jury Final Report On The City Of Oakland’s Building Services Division; On The July 26, 2011 Community And Economic Development Committee

    Does anyone have info on how committee members voted?

  142. ZeroTech

    Flooded, It looks like this is just an agenda item. But why does it state that it’s on the agenda for 9/13/11, and then in another place say it’s for July 26?

  143. livegreen

    That is confusing. I recommend calling the City Clerk to clarify this buraucratese.

    It also says “Recommendation: Discussion And Action On How City Staff Are Implementing Recommendations Of The Alameda County Grand Jury Final Report On The City Of Oakland’s Building Services Division; On The July 26, 2011 Community And Economic Development Committee”

    So will also be discussed 7/26? Anyway, City Clerk should be able to translate…

  144. V Smoothe

    I’m not sure what it is that you folks are finding confusing. Rules Committee scheduled a discussion of the Grand Jury report to the first CED meeting after recess. So it will be discussed then.

  145. ZeroTech

    What’s confusing to me is that it says “On agenda: 9/13/11.” But in another place, it says (or implies?) it will be discussed on 7/26. Which is it?

  146. V Smoothe

    The item was submitted for scheduling to the July 26th CED meeting, but all committee meetings that day were canceled, so now it is scheduled for the September 13th meeting. That’s why it says that it’s on the agenda for 9/13. I totally fail to see what is confusing about that.

  147. ZeroTech

    The document the link points to doesn’t contain the extraneous information that the July 26th meeting was cancelled, so in and of itself it’s confusing – you had to know the meeting was cancelled for the seeming conflicting dates to make sense. (Plus, even if you knew that it was cancelled, there’s some hocus pocus somewhere else about a request to schedule a “special meeting” for the 26th, which one might – if one were not as up on things as V – surmise is itself the meeting to discuss the Grand Jury report…) But it’s late. :)

  148. V Smoothe

    ZeroTech, both Becks and I have written about how to read and understand agendas. I suggest you look back and read some of those posts if you really do find this so baffling. Honestly, it seems to me like you’re trying to manufacture confusion where there is no reason for any to exist.

  149. ZeroTech

    A thousand apologies for not having read every single post and thread on this site. I was not aware that was a prerequisite for posting here. I am not trying to manufacture any confusion and I resent that accusation. On the contrary. I was trying to clear it up. Good night.

  150. Naomi Schiff

    If worse comes to worse–though it is a little oldfashioned, I’ll admit–one can call the city clerk and ask for clarification of the schedule. It is also possible to call any city councilperson and their offices will generally tell one what’s up. It does seem to me that these summer breaks have become so long as to constitute a major and damaging interruption of the city’s governance. On the other hand, perhaps it will be nice and quiet while the new city administrator comes in and orients herself.

  151. Patrick M. Mitchell

    I have to agree with ZeroTech: if one must read blog posts on how “to read and understand agendas”, there is something wrong with the way agendas are written, not with the hapless citizen.

  152. RdwithCypress

    Nicely put Patrick. Sometimes I think these “agenda” documents either say too much and are thus confusing or they are way too brief on subjects that leave the reader with the impression the subject may not be important enough to show up. Usually I am able to get the subjects but the when and where is often confusing. On this subject I want to go whenever they are having a discussion. So it sounds like they are going to discuss it on the 27?? and have a report during Sept???

  153. ZeroTech

    V, If even RdwithCypress, Patrick, Naomi(?), and livegreen are a bit confused as well, I rest my case. Even if one has taken “Agenda Reading 1A” as offered on this site somewhere, the problem is that this particular agenda item is not self-contained. You had to somehow have information about the cancellation (which is not contained in the agenda item itself, but only outside of it) in order to understand the date discrepancies. And even with that information, it’s a bit baffling. Unless I’m again missing something. For which I (again) profoundly apologize, just in case.

  154. ZeroTech

    And thanks, Patrick. I agree. Any public document should be clear to the point of idiot-proof. These agenda items are (evidently, at least in my case – lol) far from it.

  155. V Smoothe Post author

    Honestly, ZeroTech, if Patrick and livegreen are confused, it’s only because you have intentionally set out to create confusion, and you’re doing a pretty good job of it. Naomi was being polite.

    If you view the item in question, it clearly states that it is on the agenda on September 13th. I fail to see how anyone would find that confusing.

    Folks, I’m sorry if it seems to outsiders like I’m being particularly harsh with ZeroTech. But the fact is that I have absolutely no tolerance for sockpuppetry, and ZeroTech has a history of posting inaccurate and/or misleading information here (under this handle and others) which confuses people who are trying to engage in honest discussion. I have no patience such behavior.

    ZeroTech, you have my contact information. If you really are still confused about the agenda, feel free to contact me offline and I will be happy to answer any questions you have.

  156. ZeroTech

    WHAT??????? V, what are you talking about? I have no “history” of sock-puppetry. I posted under my real name originally, about a year ago, as you know. After I realized that SEO algorithms made my name easily associated with my posts in google, I changed to an alias. I even EMAILED YOU telling you that I was doing this. I don’t have your contact information any more. I am trying to participate in this discussion, in absolutely good faith, and for some unknown reason you are on my case. If you’d like to email me about this, feel free. I would love to defend myself against these bogus accusations. FYI there are some very credible people who post here and whom with I’m friends and would vouch for me, except that (since I am a journalist) I have asked them to protect my identity. I have NEVER posted anything here in bad faith. I want to stop posting because I’m so angry now. If that’s what you want, you got it. Otherwise contact me offlist.

  157. ZeroTech

    I’m wondering whether someone else stole the ZeroTech handle and posted things of which I’m not aware. Is there a way to locate all the posts under this handle?

    I have never posted “inaccurate” or “misleading” information. On the contrary. I’m a nerd for accuracy and clarity. I’m even a professional editor.

    I truly don’t understand this.

  158. ZeroTech

    V, I need to say one final thing: You can’t accuse me of being responsible for someone else’s confusion. And you also can’t accuse me of “intentionally” doing anything. You have no idea what my intent was and what was in my head. What was in my head, FYI, was to get this confusing situation clarified. And I’m tired of your accusations. (So much for inaccurate and misleading information…) It was a small deal – a matter of which date – until you made it into something else. Bye.

  159. Naomi Schiff

    I think it is perhaps not irrelevant that they’ve set it for a date after new city admin. is officially at work. Might be useful for people to write mayor cc new city admin. on this topic, if there are ideas people support about how best for city to carry out grand jury recommendations.

  160. FloodedByCEDA

    “V, If even RdwithCypress, Patrick, Naomi(?), and livegreen are a bit confused as well”

    Add me to the list of confused, which is why I posted the link in the first place. I heard a rumor that Grand Jury report was to go before council before summer recess but Reid and Brooks voted against the motion. This Delay is a serious problem because MANY Oakland property owners will be adversly affected during the summer recess for the reasons noted in the Grand Jury report and for reasons the Grand Jury did not uncover or disclose.
    Council needs to take emergency action at the next meeting to put Building Services on hold.

    My Original question “Does anyone have info on how committee members voted?”

  161. V Smoothe Post author

    The Rules Committee unanimously agreed to schedule the item to the next CED Committee meeting, which will be held on September 13th.

  162. ZeroTech

    Flooded, Everyone – or lots of people – were confused and V had the gall to blame me for intentionally causing the confusion. She owes me an apology.

  163. Naomi Schiff

    Dear Zero and V,
    Alright already, as my dad used to say. We hear you both. You each have a point. Tempest in a teapot and I won’t remark on it again. It is gorgeous outside. Enjoy the beautiful day!

  164. ZeroTech

    Dear Naomi, It’s one thing to say V and I both have a point. But V accused me of (evilly? not sure what she thought my motive was) intentionally causing confusion (which is false) and of sockpuppetry (no more true than anyone else who posts here under an alias). I can’t sit here and act as if nothing ever happened. I need an apology from her. Maybe she screwed up and confused me with someone else – maybe, for some unknown reason, she has it in for me. I don’t know (unlike her, I’m not going to try to guess what was in her head). But either way, I can’t not ask for an apology and a retraction. For the first time in my life, I feel what it’s like to be unjustly accused of things. It is really infuriating and makes you feel helpless.

  165. Max Allstadt

    I’m confused too, now. I understand when the council will be discussing this issue: September 13th.

    What’s confusing to me is this:

    Why in the hell are they waiting until September 13th before making any statement whatsoever about multiple incidents in which City employees appear to have abused their power, causing citizens direct and often irreparable financial harm?

    Does anybody else find this confusing?

  166. ZeroTech

    Also Max, I don’t want to give the CC any ideas, but what about the fact that the City is being sued on issues relating to this? Won’t they try to hold a closed session?

  167. V Smoothe Post author

    Max, the City issued a statement responding to the Grand Jury report on June 28th, the day after the report was released. I agree that it is frustrating that the City Council will not have the opportunity to discuss the issue before September, but between noticing requirements and the Council’s long summer recess, this was the first committee meeting at which the item could be heard. If you want to question the wisdom of the Council’s infrequent meeting schedule, you won’t hear any objection from me. But that’s a different issue entirely…

  168. Max Allstadt

    V, I’m aware of the statement you linked to.

    The statement is not directly attributable to any person. It is not signed by the Mayor, by the City Administrator, nor by the CEDA Director, nor by any other department head who’s responsible for what’s gone wrong. It lists Karen Boyd as a media contact, but that doesn’t count: she’s responsible for clarifying the statement, not for ensuring action.

    The statement completely evades the accusations made by the grand jury regarding “egregious abuse of authority”.

    It entirely avoids the issue of wrongdoing by city staff.

    It makes no promises of internal or independent investigations, it makes no promises of sanctions against employees who are found to have crossed the line.

    Essentially, it appears to pretend that if anything went wrong was the fault of poor training, and can be corrected by good training.

    This does not look like substantive action. It looks like anyone who could face any blowback is now scrambling about on tiptoes trying to quietly cover their own asses.

    So, basically, what I’m saying is that I know about that statement, I think it’s worthless. It doesn’t count. It comes close to implicitly stating that nothing particularly bad has happened and that nobody’s getting fired.

    If there are City employees who may have forced citizens out of their houses, and who may have coerced citizens into hiring relatives of City employees to remediate non-existent blight, a full investigation needs to happen, and if wrongdoing is shown, somebody needs to get fired, indicted, and probably imprisoned.

    In short, the statement is a evasive, dismissive, cowardly, and insulting to the public. If the Mayor approved it, why isn’t her name on it? If the City Administrator approved it, why isn’t his name on it?

    The fact that no elected official or senior manager has been willing to directly engage the public or the press on this issue is unacceptable, if not appalling.

    Where is the leadership? I see none.

  169. Audit Oakland CEDA

    Libby Schaaf voted for 7/26/11. It’s in three corroborating e-mails.

    The 6/28/11 City response is full of falsehoods. It is not a response. It is a press release.

    This IS an emergency.

    Every August, Ray Derania issues special assessments to the property owners who have not paid their invoices, totaling a lot of money. (This is a special assessment without a 2/3 vote.) Ray will send out that letter and data to the county at the beginning of August and that “cash” will transfer to the City coffers (Fund 2415) via the County of Alameda. It is a LOT of money. I can think of no other explanation for the delay.

    I have all the data and cover letters for every year prior to this year. It is coming but it CAN be stopped.

    I encourage you all to look for a better forum for open discussion. This is a City holdout with City employee opinions being shoved down our throats like raw oysters with hot sauce. A better Oakland exists elsewhere.

  170. FloodedByCEDA

    The Grand Jury is requesting a comment From the INTERIM city administrator and Mayor within 60 days
    (page 16 Grand Jury report) “The governing body of the public agency
    shall comment to the presiding judge of the superior court on the
    findings and recommendations pertaining to matters under the
    control of the governing body and every elective county officer or
    agency head for which the grand jury has responsibility (Penal Code
    section 914.1) and shall comment within 60 days to the Presiding
    Judge of the Superior Court,”

    Boyd claims that the city has 90 days to respond but offers a response in 30 days.

    “Although the City has 90
    days to submit an official response, we will provide a detailed, point-by-point
    response to all of the recommendations within the next 30 days.”

    The rumor is that Reid and Brooks voted down a Committee members motion to get the Grand Jury report before city council before summer recess,
    “The compromise was that the report will come to CEDA Cmt in September. Ridiculous.”

    So if you are a property owner adversly affected by the conduct of building services as noted in the Grand Jury report, Don’t expect any relief before next fall.

  171. ZeroTech

    I trust that even if V doesn’t, the rest of you will forgive me for agreeing with Max and AOC that the City’s response is bullshit. If that’s “inaccurate” or “misleading,” my apologies. (And yes, of course we’ve all seen it before now. Gotta keep up around here or you’re in big trouble…lol)

  172. V Smoothe

    Sorry, Audit Oakland CEDA, but you were misinformed. Schaaf did suggest ignoring the Council’s own rules and skipping the committee process to rush the item onto a Council agenda, but that was never voted on. Watch the video. Other Councilmembers correctly pointed out that rushing the report and sticking it on an already overfull council agenda would not allow for the serious and meaningful discussion this topic deserves.

    Max, have you called the Mayor and Council and asked for their statements? Why don’t you do so, and report back to us about what they said.

  173. len raphael

    The city press release referred to enforcement running at a loss “the city is also reviewing its fee structure, recognizing the challenge of funding code enforcement without subsidies from the General Fund”.

    I assume by “code enforcement” they want to exclude building permit fee revenue vs cost from the discussion. But again, this is just a press release crisis management piece.

    We have to look at the city financials to see if we can tell how much overhead is charged back to CEDA from the general fund cost centers to see if it’s a ridiculous amount per CEDA employee or reasonable.

    Hard to believe that construction building permit fees are not way in excess of direct and overhead costs.

    Would think that blight enforcement is even more profitable for the city, but gotta see those overhead chargebacks.

    If Marleen is out there, what’s the deal on how state law controls how local govts can calculate their building dept fees?

    -len raphael, temescal

  174. FloodedByCEDA

    ” I was out-voted by Reid and Brooks” is the rumor I heard. Until I see the video or other accurate record of the committee meeting I won’t know ……..Who is full of BS….LS or VS

    Suspense

  175. ZeroTech

    Len, I’m not Marleen, but see this:

    http://www.straighttalknews.org/uploads/FEES_IN_EXCESS_OF_COST_wpd.pdf

    I’ve posted several times here trying to explain, as you say here, that the line in the City response about funding CEDA without help from the GPF is baloney. It’s indirection meant to steer the reader away from the fact that it’s the opposite – CEDA fund 2415 is, on the contrary, bolstering the GPF.

    Also see section (c) here:
    http://law.onecle.com/california/health/17951.html

  176. ZeroTech

    p.s. Credit: AOC found the relevant section of the state Housing Law (H&S code) (second link in my post above) long ago. I later found the Attorney General opinion (first link in my post above) stating that fees and penalties over and above actual costs constitute a tax without a 2/3 vote, in violation of the State Constitution.

  177. ZeroTech

    I watched the video. Please take into account that I have not had “how to watch a city council video 1A,” either here on this site or anywhere else, so grant me some slack. Schaaf moved that the matter be heard on the 26th. De La Fuente agreed with her. But Reid and Brooks wanted to wait until Sept. 13, Reid to give the matter more time and Brooks because of the rule that things be heard in committee first. De La Fuente said, a couple of times, that he saw no reason to wait. So they all realized that a vote, had it been taken, would have tied 2-2 and the thing would have died and no action taken, as I (the crowned idiot of the forum) understand it. Given that scenario, Schaaf relented and said it was better the matter be delayed than not heard at all, and that under those circumstances, it was OK with her to wait unil the 13th.

    V’s statement that other councilmembers wanted to wait to give the matter the time it was due is really only a half-truth, because she tried to imply (she tried to confuse everyone into believing – lol) that *all* the other councilmembers were against Schaaf’s desire to hear the matter on the 26th. Whereas in fact, it was tied 2-2.

    (Also, Brunner’s representative was there and said Brunner wanted it to be heard on the 26th because, like Schaaf, she’d realized it was of great concern to her constituents. But since Brunner wasn’t there, she couldn’t vote. Had she been there, the vote would have gone 3-2 and it would have been discussed on the 26h. So really, more councilmembers agreed with Libby than not.)

  178. Naomi Schiff

    I often disagree with V, but she is not a shill for anyone that I’m aware of. No need for namecalling. Unfashionable though it may be, I renew my request for civility.

  179. ZeroTech

    Agreed, she’s not a shill. But the request for civility should be directed to V as well. The owner of a reputable blog should not be making false and inflammatory accusations (“history” of “misleading and inaccurate” posts using “sock puppets,” INTENTIONALLY “set out to create confusion,” etc.). This is about as uncivil as you get towards someone who is posting in good faith, and is guilty, perhaps, only of not having read enough posts on the site to understand council meetings or whatever.

    For shame. I could understand a poster throwing sand in a fellow poster’s face. But not the owner of the sandbox, whom one might expect to foster peaceful and fair communication.

    And still no apology. I am waiting, and willing to give V the benefit of the doubt. She made a BIG mistake here.

  180. Max Allstadt

    V,

    If anybody was showing leadership on this issue, there would be no need for me to ask for a statement, because leadership means taking initiative when a scandal breaks.

    It’s not my job to seek public comment. That’s the press’ job. And in a circumstance like this one, the press shouldn’t have to ask. Leadership means being proactive.

  181. ZeroTech

    Max,

    I thought when V wrote

    “Max, have you called the Mayor and Council and asked for their statements? Why don’t you do so, and report back to us about what they said”

    she was being sarcastic. That was my take on it. (But what do I know? I’m the village idiot, always intentionally creating confusion…lol)

  182. Born in Oakland

    This blog is where we dig for the facts and try to understand what is happening in our city. I count on this blog and the people who contribute and footnote the appropriate links in order for me to understand what exactly is going on. The exchanges from the posters in the last couple of days are very distressing and are not adding to the discussion nor to a better understanding. I totally “get” that ZeroTech thought he had been “dissed” but let us get on with the discussion at hand. I don’t know who ZeroTech is so whether V apologizes to him or not is totally irrelevant to me and to my understanding of what is going on in the city. I also don’t care whether V was being “sarcastic” but I thought her direction to Max made a lot of sense. Can we just get on with it please? Thanks to V for providing this forum.

  183. FloodedByCEDA

    Audit Oakland CEDA Thankyou for providing the link for the Committee meeting video. It is now quite clear how the voting went. I am no longer confused. Libby Schaaf appeared to be a lot less confused than Reid and Brooks…..probably because she had been briefed by 4 well informed constituents about an hour earler.

    We need to listen to what this guy had to say during the public comment period. He starts at 53:05
    “For the record, im sanjiv handa, east bay news service. Let me begin with the item on blight. Regardless of what the issues are, and when it comes to you, by the time you hear it, if you wait until after summer break several dozen more Oakland residences will have lost their homes because of the neglect and shameful contact of city staff. Let me remind you there is a statewide blight ordinance that has been on the books since 1957. And the city of oakland has circumvented it for one purpose. To enrich staff and creating revenue for them. You have not followed the state law. In fact, youve contradicted state law and the charter authority does not give you the……… “

  184. V Smoothe Post author

    Audit Oakland CEDA, it is absolutely not permissable to copy and paste the content or comments from this site onto your own. Please remove them immediately.

    Now that I see what you three wanted to hear, I understand why you were all trying to generate confusion about the Rules Committee discussion. I answered the question in good faith – you asked what the vote was, and I told you exactly what the vote was. My advice, in general, is that if people want to talk about something going on with the city, then you should just talk about it. Asking leading questions in hopes of a specific answer (which, BTW, was not the correct answer to the question) rather than stating one’s point directly is not something people interested engaging in honest discussion do.

    FloodedByCEDA, ZeroTech, Audit Oakland CEDA, and RdwithCypress – the four of you have left a ridiculous number of comments on this thread over the past few weeks, many of which are misleading or dishonest, and almost none of which give any indication that you are interested in actually engaging this community in serious discussion. I agree that the Grand Jury’s findings are important, which is why I wrote about them in the first place.

    However, the four of you have rudely hijacked the thread, left comment after comment that skirts the line of spam, and made it impossible for others who care about the subject to discuss it in a meaningful way. I have put up with it as long as I could, but I have received numerous complaints from readers about your behavior, and I need to do something. Your disrespect for this community and your rudeness to your host are not acceptable. I am going to close the comments on this post, and put the four of you on warning. If I see another comment from any of you that is unrelated to the subject of the post you leave it on or that does not serve to further the conversation (i.e., spammy comments that are just links to other sites or copied and pasted documents), then I will delete it and you will lose your privileges of commenting here permanently.

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