I will be a guest and part of a panel on the matter of Deborah Edgerly, Mayor Dellums, and the "state" of The City of Oakland, Thursday Morning June 25th on KQED's "Forum," 88.5 FM in the San Francisco Bay Area. It's a call-in show. I don't -- yet -- know who the other panelists will be.
According to various friends and news sources, Oakland City Administrator Deborah Edgerly will retire July 31st 2008. But from what I here, the embattled CAO's (Chief Administrative Officer) situation is such that it's Civil War (in capital letters) and foks have chosen sides. I personally stand by this view: that Miss E's phone call to help out her nephew set in motion a perfect storm of events and a clash between the following "agenda groups"
1) Professional / executive class African American female City of Oakland Employees
This group is paced by the CAO, and is a loosely formed set of tight relationships, that one friend once described as "The Black Female Mafia.)
2) City of Oakland Employees who are not part of group one and specifically don't like the CAO.
This includes people in the Oakland Police Department, but also other City of Oakland departments and personnel who I can't mention. This includes African Americans, male and female. It's not a personal issue between them and the CAO, they just don't like the way she operates or manages the City.
3) City of Oakland Employees who are just trying to stay out of the way.
These are long time employees who don't get involved in office politics, except to mind their own turf. They tend not to be high-level management executives, but low to mid range workers. Just make sure their check is ready; they'll do the job because their kids future depends on them.
4) Oakland "Insiders" with political connections who don't like Edgerly and want to see the City "work".
Many of these people don't work for the City of Oakland, and some have in the past, and may be part of the media. In any case, they're active bloggers, people who oppose large development projects, and are in many cases "Oakland political junkies" who have as a whole a "caracatured" image of the City of Oakland.
5) The Oakland African American Professional Class (and sympathizers), which consists mostly of those who feel Edgerly was railroaded.
They tend to be heads of the many small and medium-sized Black owned firms in Oakland, from accounting firms to law firms and other business services. Some with City of Oakland contracts.
Now, like any group, there are people who are more in one than the other.
Also, just because I may write that one group is Black does not mean it's 100 percent African American. In perfect Oakland fashion, each group is mixed, but it's safe to say that Group 4 is mostly not Black and largely White. It's a group that wanted Sean Sullivan to beat Councilmember Nancy Nadel, and didn't get their wish. They want the CAO's head.
Edgerly's Large Family In Oakland
When I first got involved in Oakland Politics, Jim Edgerly, a good man, an energetic man, and a friend whom I've not talked to in some time, once told me the Edgerly's were probably the largest family in Oakland. "There are over 200 of us in Oakland", Jim said to me in 1994. Indeed, even then, it was hard to argue with him. Jim himself knew everyone in Oakland and all of the politicians. Jenette Edgerly, his daughter, worked as the secretary to Oakland City Manager Robert Bobb, and Interim City Manager Kofi Bonner before Bobb, then City Manager Craig Kocian, and then the legendary City Manager Henry Gardner before Kocian. There were Edgerlys and relatives of them working in the City of Oakland, even in the 80s.
So the idea that Deborah Edgerly used her position to help her folks get jobs is not exactly true. It's more complicated than that because there were relatives in the City before Deborah became CAO. They've always taken care of each other. In this case, Miss E was looking out for one of her own. But in pissing off the police officer who was towing her nephew's car, she set off a Oakland City Hall Civil War that could take on massive -- and by that I mean lawsuit -- proportions.
What's unfortunate is that the truth will be overtaken by prejudice and character assassination. Already we have bloggers calling Oakland "corrupt" because of this, when in point of fact, this is nothing. Corrupt is a police officer or department taking drugs and reselling them for their own revenue while jailing the drug dealers. Corrupt is knowingly using voting machines that don't accurately count votes.
Those are real problems. The legacy of the Edgerly Family is not one of them. What many people just either forget or don't get is that the ability of African Americans to gain employment on merit alone is still new in American Society. In the 60s, and up to the early 90s, government was seen as one of the few areas of work where Blacks could get a fair shot at a job. It's only logical and natural to expect a family -- a large African American family -- in Oakland to help their own.
Deborah Edgerly may have had her faults, but she was not corrupt.
Edgerly The Target Of Disrespect From Day One
Since 2003, when she was appointed by Oakland Mayor Jerry Brown as Interim City Manager after City Manager Robert Bobb was fired by him, Deborah Edgerly has been the target of much disrespect. When Edgerly was selected as permanent in 2004, the word was that Jerry Brown picked someone he "could control" -- who would not try to build a downtown baseball stadium or generally "show up" Mayor Brown's desire to be the most powerful person in Oakland. By contrast, there were many that saw Robert Bobb as much the mayor as Jerry Brown, a fact that in practice rankled Jerry.
Enter Deborah Edgerly. Someone who's been around long enough to know where the bodies are buried, but not so ambitious that she would promote her own initiatives over Mayor Brown's own objectives. But in this, or because of it, and her style and physical appearance, and sex, Edgerly has -- very sadly -- not gotten the respect she deserves. I remind you that this is a job she really didn't want for herself, saying "I like comfort. But I'll do the job if I'm asked."
She did. What's sad is that her legacy of service is being tarnished in this way. In the past, when Oakland City Manager Henry Gardner ran the City --- we had a Council-manager form of government -- and there wasn't The Internet and the flow of ad dollars away from newspapers, the City Manager was profiled, followed, and respected, ..and male.
Now, the City Administrator is not profiled, seldom followed, mostly disrepected, ..and female.
Some other SF Bay Area columnists who are friends of mine and just enjoyed an evening out with -- without talking about Oakland politics -- are still way wrong regarding Deborah Edgerly and the Edgerly Family.
Specifically, my friend Chip Johnson, who presents a picture of an Oakland that was transformed by Deborah Edgerly into a sea of people who are related to her. If you believe that, you're a totally big fool. You're also all the more foolish if you think favoritism started with her.
Hell, one major reason I accused former Mayor Jerry Brown of racism in 2000 was that I believed he picked those he was most comfortable with -- young white professionals -- over equals like myself who are Black.
In my view, what Jerry Brown would do is relegate all of the young Black employees who should be in his office to then-City Manager Robert Bobb's office and, pointing at a young African American woman in his office, say -- as he did to me during our dispute over my treatment -- see. I have Black people working for me.
That woman worked for Robert Bobb.
And then, of course, we have Jerry's friend Jacques Barzaghi, who famously embarassed Mayor Brown with his exploits of alledged attempts at "play" with female employees. Jerry went out of his way to protect Jacques. In my view, too much so from the start. So much that Barzaghi went on a huge power-trip.
Jacques Thought He Was The Mayor
Yep. Jacques thought he was the Mayor of Oakland. I remember in 1999, when I tried to get then-Mayor Jerry Brown to sign a birthday card for Oakland Raiders Owner Al Davis. I waited to see Jerry in the outer lounge area, calmly and comfortably, when out walked Jacques, who asked "What dew you want with De Mayor?" (That's how he talks.)
When I explained, Barzaghi said, "NO. You can't do that."
My response was that if he wasn't going to do that, then I would get it done around him. That set off Barzaghi, who went into a mini-tirade. NO! I AM DE MAYOR! JERRY WILL DO WHAT I ASK HIM!
Then he started flailing his arms wildly, saying "YOU CAN'T GO AROUND ME. YOU CAN'T GO OVER ME. YOU CAN'T GO UNDER ME."
I have to admit to being very pleased that I got under his skin. My response was designed to go futher, commenting that "I will then proceed anyway."
ARRGGHHH! Was what Barzaghi said, and walked off and back into the office area. I was all to happy to go to the store and buy a birthday card myself. It was worth the price of admission.
Ignored the Super Bowl Campaigner -- Me
What Jerry tried to do was totally ignore the one person who eventually came to within a few NFL owners' votes of bring the 2005 Super Bowl to Oakland. He never met with me once until we were in Atlanta, and that was a kind of "forced" encounter because I bought the "Presidential Suite" for Jerry to use while we were in Atlanta to make our pitch.
Before then, Jerry never once met with me alone, let alone at all, and I was only working on one of the most important economic development programs in Oakland's history. It was so bad, Jerry's treatment of me, that I wrote an email to a lot of people about it, and one of those persons sent that email to Jerry. He saw it and of course, our relations were not friendly as I accused him of being racist.
I know Jerry's learned something of value from that. At least, I hope so. But the point is that favoritism in Oakland is as common as drinking the water. I don't think a special investigation will do squat. We have had the FBI snooping around and asking questions if they're looking for criminal wrongdoing.