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Oakland City Charter Violates Itself - "Gender Neutral" Provision Confusing

To provide another example of the non-systemic, biased, and arbitrary nature of the establishment and application of laws in Oakland, I present our own Oakland City Charter.

The Charter reads:

Section 1212. Gender References. All gender references in this Charter shall be considered neutral in form and context. (Amended by: Stats. November 1988.)


Well, look at this:

Section 504. Duties. The City Administrator shall have the power and it shall be his duty:
(a) To execute and enforce all laws and ordinances and policies of the Council and to administer the affairs of the City.
(b) To attend all meetings of the Council, and its committees, unless excused, and such meetings of boards and commissions as he chooses or which he is directed to attend by the Council, and to participate in discussions at such meetings.
(c) To recommend to the Council such measures and ordinances as he may deem necessary or expedient and to make such other recommendations to the Council concerning the affairs of the City as he finds desirable.
(d) To investigate affairs of the City under his supervision, or any franchise or contract for the proper performance of any obligation running to the City within his jurisdiction.
(e) To control and administer the financial affairs of the City. He may appoint a Director of Finance to act under his direction.
(f) To prepare an annual budget under the direction of the Mayor and Council for the Mayor’s submission to the Council.
(g) To prepare or cause to be prepared the plans, specifications, and contracts for work which the Council may order.
(h) To supervise the purchasing of materials and supplies and to make recommendations to the Council in connection with the awarding of public contracts and to see that all City contracts under his direction or that of the Council are faithfully performed.
(i) To prepare and submit to the Council such reports as it may require.
(j) To keep the Council at all times fully advised as to the financial condition and needs of the City.
(k) To prescribe such general rules and regulations as he may deem necessary or expedient to the general conduct of the administrative departments under his jurisdiction.
(l) When directed by the Council, to represent the City in its intergovernmental relations and to negotiate contracts for joint governmental actions, subject to Council approval.
(m) To devote his entire time to the duties and interest of the City.
(n) To perform such other duties as may be prescribed by this Charter or by ordinance or resolution. (Amended by: Stats. November 1988 and March 2004.)

The male gender is referred to ten times in that section shown above, alone. Yet the Charter calls for all gender references to be considered neutral in "form".

The defintion of form is...

a. The essence of something.
b. The mode in which a thing exists, acts, or manifests itself; kind: a form of animal life; a form of blackmail.

So I am supposed to consider a "he" a "she"? Oh, come on. You've got to be kidding me. The major problem is that the section of the Charter that impacts the CAO comes way before that crazy section on gender neutrality. No one's going to look for that disclaimer, and even then the section's confusing because of its reference to "form" -- last times I checked, form is written language is what was written. If you write that someone's a "jerk" then have a disclaimer that "jerk" means "nice person", most would not take it that way, outside of some CIA-type code reference.

What is disturbing, particularly in the wake of the Deborah Edgerly issue, is that this is the only set of sectios of the entire Charter that consistently presents this violation are those concerning the Chief Administrative Officer.


The Charter must be reformed. It's that simple. The simple way is to change the language, because people aren't going to understand...

Section 1212. Gender References. All gender references in this Charter shall be considered neutral in form and context. (Amended by: Stats. November 1988.)

Look. A "he" is a he, and a "she" is a she, even in the 21st Century, the City Charter should not be the focus of gender-bending activities. Keep it simple.
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