Last week was about as close to a nadir as the administration of Oakland Mayor Ron Dellums has come, as voters around the city expressed dismay over his handling of the Deborah Edgerly scandal. Early in June, readers may recall, City Administrator Edgerly learned that the Oakland police were towing a car that belonged to her nephew William Lovan. Apparently, Lovan had locked his keys in his car with the engine running, and police began to tow it when they saw a gun in the vehicle. When Edgerly got word of this, she reportedly drove down to the scene in West Oakland, demanded to know what was wrong, and told the police she was calling their superiors and starting an investigation into their conduct. It turned out that Lovan was targeted as part of a massive police investigation into a West Oakland street gang.
When Dellums learned that Edgerly may have tipped her nephew off to the investigation, and that her nephew may have subsequently alerted the gang, he asked for her immediate resignation or retirement. Edgerly apparently refused, demanding to know whether he had the authority to fire her. And Dellums, displaying the dithering leadership style Oaklanders have grown to expect from him, backed down and allowed her to keep her job until July 31, when she was planning to retire anyway. The mayor and Edgerly announced this deal at a press conference and walked out without taking any questions, infuriating members of both the City Council and the public. Finally, Edgerly refused to cede any authority over the Police Department, even though she may now be investigated for possibly interfering with a major police anti-gang project. This, and the blitz of angry messages his office received over the affair, apparently drove Dellums to finally strip Edgerly of all authority.
But the damage to his administration has been severe. Dellums was already known for his, shall we say, discreet leadership style; now, many members of the public have began openly asking just what he does all day. During a KQED radio debate last week, San Francisco Chronicle columnist Chip Johnson noted that Dellums had known Edgerly was planning to retire on July 31 for six months, and asked his chief of staff David Chai when the mayor had started searching for her replacement. Chai refused to answer, saying only that a transition plan was in place and giving the impression that Dellums had done nothing to staff the city’s most important bureaucratic position for months. Whether Dellums has any credibility with the public is now an open question.
Lawmakers to Seize UC Pension Plan
Meanwhile, the UC Regents were struggling to contain a scandal of their own, as state lawmakers plan to strip control of the employee pension plan out of their hands. Ever since the Regents forced longtime UC Treasurer Patricia Small out of her job in 2000, the pension fund, upon which 200,000 employees depend for their secure retirement, has earned smaller and smaller profits, until UC managers asked employees to start contributing a slice of their paycheck to the fund for the first time in years. This dismal performance, as well as allegations of conflict-of-interest among fund advisors and fund managers, has led state legislators to ask the Regents to share control of the fund with employee unions and faculty representatives. But the Regents refused to play ball, so last week state Assemblyman Anthony Portantino introduced a bill to place a measure on the state ballot, stripping control of the fund from the Regents. If the voters approve, the Regents would now just be one voice on a committee that would include faculty, staff, and unions.
Hazy Days of Summer
If you’re too busy coughing up a lung to pay attention to those scandals, that’s because a series of fires in Northern California have left the Bay Area’s air smoky and choked with particulate matter. The air around the Contra Costa suburbs of Pittsburg, Concord, and Walnut Creek got so bad that authorities warned that heavy outdoor breathing may actually damage your health. The fires were started by a freak thunderstorm that rolled through the region, but the disaster was compounded by the drought California recently entered. Unless the state gets some rain soon, which is highly improbable, we could be in for more unpleasant moments like this for some time to come.
DeLauer’s Down But Not Out
As if all that weren’t bad enough, the venerable downtown Oakland magazine and pulp fiction store DeLauer’s almost closed last week. After 101 years of business, DeLauer’s managers announced that the Internet and chain stores have cut too deeply into their revenue, and they have no choice but to close up shop. The news immediately prompted an outcry, and public officials and local private individuals have now come together to brainstorm a new business model to keep the store open.
Three Dot Roundup
Fremont lawyer, human rights activist, and Singapore native Gopalan Nair was arrested in the city-state after blogging about a defamation trial, in which he declared the judge had prostituted herself. Authorities apparently failed to appreciate the figure of speech, and Nair now finds himself facing defamation charges of his own. … A man died in Santa Rita County Jail after wrestling with sheriff’s deputies. Albert Jenkins was later found to have a bag of white powder in his stomach, as well as an enlarged heart. … Erik Nunn, who was a candidate for the Contra Costa Board of Supervisors, crashed his plane while flying back from Las Vegas on Saturday. The crash killed everyone on board, including his wife, a BART police officer, and the officer’s wife.