OP-ED: Under Quan, No One Is in Charge


It appears that no one wants to work for Mayor Jean Quan.

One month after city administrator Deanna Santana abruptly resigned, Fred Blackwell, Jr., her replacement, also resigned to head the San Francisco Foundation, a nonprofit organization.

With these hasty resignations, added to four police chiefs and a revolving door of city employees in the last year, it appears that no one is in charge of the city of Oakland.

Mr. Blackwell has not revealed why he resigned so abruptly. But he will stay on until June 1. My city source that he wanted more help from the mayor to untangle the city’s finances.

Now it appears that former city manager Henry Gardner, known for his financial wizardry, will come aboard June 1.

Mr. Gardner is the one bright spot in this chaotic upheaval. He served as Oakland city manager from 1981–93 and steered the city through the Proposition 13 budget cuts, the 1989 earthquake and 1991 firestorm. He is well respected as an expert in public administration.

Mayor Quan proclaimed that the city had a huge surplus. It appears that rosy projection at the state of the city address is grossly incorrect. In fact, it appears that the city is headed towards a massive deficit.

Add the generous pay raises given to city employees by the Quan administration, and it appears that Oakland’s finances are as psychotic as ever.

If Quan wants to prevent Gardner from also resigning hastily, she must curtail her claims of a huge surplus while the city is headed towards a massive deficit.

Quan’s generous pay raises to city employees are the makings of a psychotic financial picture.

One has to wonder why our watchdog city auditor has been asleep and not blown the whistle on city finances. Once again, Courtney Ruby, our city auditor, is too busy picking up pebbles while the avalanche of boulders is about to crush Oakland.

And, it is up to the Oakland city Council to make sense of this financial chaos. City Council Budget Chairperson Libby Schaaf anxiously awaits Quan’s now budget delivery.

Hopefully the council can properly manage the city’s finances.

With so many of her staff leaving, and with no one left to blame, Quan is repeating the same pattern of the multimillion dollar deficits that led to the state takeover of the schools while she chaired Oakland Unified’s finance committee.

Then she blamed the staff. Now her staff is gone and in flux. Is Oakland headed down that path again?


Clinton Killian
Clinton Killian

Clinton Killian is an attorney at downtown Oakland law firm Fried & Williams LLP and is former public official. He can be reached at [email protected].


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