Former Planning Commissioner Suzie Lee’s term expired on May 5, 2008. May 5th. She has still not been replaced. We have now gone 199 days without a Planning Commissioner! It’s completely unacceptable.
When a seat on a City Board or Commission opens up (especially a really important body like the Planning Commission), a good Mayor would fill the seat immediately. According to our City Charter, the Mayor is supposed to nominate a candidate for the seat within 90 days of the vacancy. If he doesn’t, then the Council can fill the vacancy on their own.
So Dellums did actually submit someone, Ada Chan, and the Council rejected her 3-4-1. After the vote, Dellums, for reasons totally beyond my comprehension, indicated that he might resubmit her name to the Council instead of trying to find someone else. Why he thinks this is appropriate is a mystery to me. Regardless, it has now been 65 days since the Council rejected the nomination, and he has still failed to submit a new name.
Which brings me back to the fact that we have now gone 199 days without a Planning Commissioner! Now, if the Mayor submits a name for a vacancy and the Council rejects it, he gets another 90 days to find someone new before the Council can appoint someone on their own. Given the Mayor’s complete and total ineptitude when it comes to virtually every aspect of governing this City and complete lack of interest in fulfilling even the basic obligations of his job (remember, we still do not have a City Administrator!), I’m not holding my breath for him to submit a name within the next 25 days.
The Council, then, should start thinking about how they intend to correct this problem and fill the vacancy on their own. There must be someone out there who can garner support across a broad spectrum of interest groups. Rebecca Kaplan managed to do it in her Council campaign – she can’t possibly be the only person in the entire City of Oakland that business, labor, and environmental groups can all respect.
I don’t know who the best person out there to serve on the Planning Commission would be, but just for fun, I’ll get the brainstorming started. My third Mondays have been depressingly empty since Eli Naor’s (PDF) term on the Measure Y Oversight Committee expired. (No offense to the rest of the Committee members, who do a great job.) I’ve never met or spoken with Mr. Naor, and I have no idea whether or not he would even have any interested in serving on the Planning Commission, but as an architect with extensive experience in transit issues, he’s certainly well-qualified. Beyond that, he was just my hands-down favorite person serving on any City body. He always had something insightful to say on every single issue, no matter what is was. (Contrast this to certain sitting Planning Commissioners who apparently can’t come up with anything to contribute beyond “I have no comment” on major development projects.) His comments are always so incredibly thoughtful and well-considered, and beyond that, he’s just so wonderfully articulate and has the most beautiful, hynpotic cadences in his voice – just sitting and listening to him talk is a treat. Watch:
In any case, the Council needs to find someone, because the Mayor apparently just can’t do it (and to think! this guy keeps talking about how he wants more power!), and having a permanent vacancy on the Planning Commission is a disservice to all of Oakland.