As of today, Oakland has gone 54 days with a permanent Fire Chief. We have gone 170 days without a permanent City Administrator. 227 days without a Planning Commissioner. The Public Safety Director position, which the Mayor fought desperately to retain during last summer’s budget discussions, has been without a permanent occupant for 199 days. Oh, and don’t forget the 353 days we have gone without a permanent CEDA Director.
I know there are plenty of very hard working, intelligent, and competent people working at City Hall. But all that means squat when there is a complete void of leadership. There is no accountability, and nobody is empowered or willing to make any real decisions. And without that, Oakland is never going to go anywhere.
At yesterday’s meeting, the Community and Economic Development Committee received two insanely frustrating reports. The first was on the City’s retail enhancement strategy (PDF). The 17 page report did not outline a coherent plan, provide timelines, goals, responsibilities, or in any other way present a clear strategy for growing the retail sector in Oakland. Instead, it recommended 96 vague possible future actions aimed at attracting retailers, many of which appear to be thought out…well, not at all. My favorite:
Provide free security, customer service, web and marketing consultations with designated consultants for retailers that make certain milestones (sign leases, buy property, open for business, expand, etc.)
The Committee also received an equally meaningless report on the City’s Economic Development Framework (PDF). As one friend put it, the report reads like a term paper prepared by a college freshman. Again, no goals, no strategy, no actual plan for anything…nothing. The oral presentation was so painful to watch that I had to try four different times before I made it all the way through without my attention wandering. Endless talk of how we need meetings and workshops and working groups and how we’re going to develop strategies for this or for that and coordination and information, and when you put it all together, it just comes off like total jibberish.
At some point, somebody has to make a decision! We cannot sit around forever talking about the future and planning on developing working plans for ten thousand different things over some indefinite time period, at the end of which we will simply receive yet another unclear report with dozens of next steps that will probably involve yet more working groups and workshopping and strategy development.
This nonsense is hardly limited to yesterday’s CED meeting. Dellums has been talking since the summer about some “revolutionary” and “innovative” and “unprecedented” deal with the broke-ass State that is perpetually just about to be signed and will somehow magically revitalize 470 blocks of Oakland without providing any new money whatsoever, but instead encourage us to work with existing state programs that are all about to be cut anyway. And the media keeps writing about it as if its news, and as if its real! As dto510 pointed out yesterday, the downtown rezoning has been dragging on in front of the Zoning Update Committee since March.
I don’t fault City staff for the endless stream of nonsensical and pointless bureaucratese I have to read. The blame lies squarely on the shoulders of the Mayor and the City Council, who are apparently completely incapable of providing consistent or clear direction. We obviously do not have the capacity to do every last thing anyone can dream up on some wish list of economic development and retail attraction. We need leaders who are willing to take responsibility and make difficult decisions about what are the few, specific things we can reasonably accomplish and want to focus our energies on and direct staff to just do them.
Ron Dellums, who can’t seem to let a single opportunity to speak in public pass without whining about how he desperately needs more power, needs to step up and start filling the one obligation of his job and just hire people already. The Council needs to stop giving our delusional and power drunk Mayor everything he wants. How long are they going to let themselves be the last people in all of Oakland to publicly question the Mayor’s direction or lack of? His total lack of leadership in virtually every area has left them hanging, unsupported and ill equipped to guide the city through this disastrous period of total financial meltdown and public safety freefall. In the arenas where they do have authority, they need to stop talking and make some damn decisions and stick with them.
Or else…well, a very angry Larry Reid probably said it better than I would. I don’t know anything about this school he’s so upset about, but he’s certainly right on when it comes to the consequences of the failure of Oakland’s leaders to adopt concrete goals and stick with them: