Former City Manager Robert Bobb withdrew his name as a candidate to fill the long-vacant Oakland city administrator's position. Instead, he accepted the newly created state post of emergency financial director for the Detroit public schools.
Under Michigan law, he will assume full financial authority for the school district when he takes the $260,000-a-year job in mid-February.
In the broadest sense, the news is a blow both for Oakland government reform efforts and for residents: It means the forced march on the road to nowhere continues without direction, purpose or hope for improvement. In other words, nothing changes.
Bobb represented Oakland's best hope for positive change, and until leaving the city manager's job in 2003 after a tiff with his boss, former Mayor Jerry Brown, he was the best day-to-day operations manager Oakland had seen since Henry Gardner had the job from 1981 until 1993. Clearly, Bobb's decision was not about money, because Oakland offered him nearly $300,000 a year.
Despite losing Bobb to Detroit, Mayor Ron Dellums made his annual State of the City address Monday. He was to emphasize his fight on crime, highlight the Police Department reaching its staffing goal of 803 and how the community policing program has shown incremental improvements in public safety.
But selling that idea in the midst of another scandal that rocked the Oakland Police Department is a nearly impossible task. The FBI confirmed last week an investigation into the April 2000 beating of a suspect by Capt. Ed Poulson, who heads the department's internal affairs division. Jerry Amaro III, the suspect who suffered broken ribs in the alleged assault, died a month later.
Poulson was suspended last week when the news broke and rumors of Police Chief Wayne Tucker's resignation swirled through city offices Monday.
While the mayor's office has denied the rumors, City Council President Jane Brunner has called a press conference to discuss a no-confidence vote for Tucker today, and I would count on a change in leadership in Police Department in the very near future.
Later this week, Dellums is scheduled to announce his choices for a half-dozen vacant top positions. It's unclear whether he will discuss the police chief's status then or the city administrator's job which is filled temporarily by Dan Lindheim.
Meanwhile, federal investigators are looking into corruption in Oakland City Hall, mismanagement and possible criminal conduct within the Police Department, from the department's actions in the days before the assassination of journalist Chauncey Bailey in 2007 to a whistle-blower complaint filed last month alleging a deal engineered by Tucker to quash a union vote of no-confidence in exchange for promotion.
Without the political willpower from residents to launch a recall, the internal professional knowledge to recast the broke-down-to-the-ground government infrastructure, Oakland has come to a grinding halt.
Nothing gets done, but that's only a by-product. The main focus must be to point out that no one person is responsible and collectively, it's no one's fault.
And instead of protecting citizens from the continued damage caused from a mayor's neglect, the Oakland City Council has followed political decorum and deferred to his leadership.
For some council members, it's deference to the mayor's past while others are bound by the very practical hope that if goodwill exists, they can find a way to work together.
I believe that after two years in office with ample opportunity to explore and nurture those policy partnerships and shared goals, there is little cohesion, comprehension or collaboration between Oakland's executive and legislative branches of government.
It's government in name - and paycheck - only. Little else resembles anything that comes close to an organized - or functional - government.
And without Bobb to provide guidance as a consultant, Dellums is lacking when it comes to advice from veteran city officials. At this point, it's unclear whether the mayor will adopt any of the recommendations in Bobb's 168-page report released two weeks ago. Some of the cuts include removing members of the mayor's political apparatus to save money, and while that remains unaddressed, Dellums did let more than half of his 22-person staff to attend the inauguration festivities in Washington, last week.
If you haven't figured it out already, please allow me to inform you of the lay of the land.
Oakland is Ron Dellums' world, and residents are just along for the ride - and that's that.
I didn't have a chance to hear the mayor's speech before the deadline for this column, but I can't imagine what he would point to in terms of past achievements or detailed future plans to help improve the lives of the citizens of Oakland.
Brunner has done what she thinks is appropriate to nudge the mayor toward deciding on a city administrator by scheduling a Feb. 3 closed session confirmation hearing, but for the next two years Oakland will continue to operate on Dellums' schedule at Dellums speed.
If you are fortunate enough to have hatches on your home, now would be the time to batten them down because when there's red skies at morning, sailors take warning.