Our Club moved its meeting to City Hall on April 27, 2017. More than 120 Rotarians and 45 guests gathered, first enjoying lunch in the beautiful lobby area and then moving into the Council Chambers. Of historic note: the current Oakland City Hall was completed in 1914 and was the first high-rise government building in the United States, and also the tallest building west of the Mississippi River.)
President introduced and thanked Rotarian and City Librarian Gerry Garzonfor organizing the event. Gerryproceeded to introduce the three speakers: Honorary Rotarian and Mayor LibbySchaaf, City Administrator Sabrina Landreth and Chief of Police Anne Kirkpatrick. Each spoke about her particular priorities before fielding questions.
Mayor Libby Schaafsaid the budget is on her mind and will be introduced very shortly. There will be numerous opportunities to learn about it at town hall workshops over the next two months. Information can also be obtained at the website: openbudgetoakland.org. Her goal is to maintain the current level of service. She spoke of the level of vitality now in Oakland as evidenced by the many construction cranes across the skyline and much building permit activity for 4,500 new housing units. At the same time, Oakland has challenges including:
- Crisis in housing affordability, the need for housing at all income levels and solving homelessness issues,
- Basic infrastructure, for example potholes everywhere caused by the drought, followed by heavy rains(she is starting to name some on her way to work).
- The need to increase the number of youth who go to college (Oakland Promise is one of her important projects),
- and the list goes on.
City Administrator Sabrina Landrethreferred to herself as the “chief bureaucrat”. She spoke briefly of the major crises city leaders have gone through recently, including two major fires resulting in loss of life and displaced tenants. In addition, the Police Department scandal resulted inleadership instability until the recent arrival of Chief Kirkpatrick. Ms. Landreth saidher challenge is maintaining employee morale and finding the best people for each job. In her focus on staffing, she indicated a new Chief Information Officer is now on board, recruitment is underway for a new Public Works Director and a Planning & Building Director. Soon recruitment will begin for a new Fire Chief. Sensing that Rotarians can get things done, she encouraged everyone in Oakland “to get involved”.
Police Chief Anne Kirkpatrick, with 35 years of policing experience, indicated it is difficult to be a police officer in America today. She made it clear she will not tolerate inappropriate behavior. She described the department’s new approach with the publicas: “We want to love you, we want to serve you, and we want you to love us back.” A recent study concluded that the ideal size for OPD is 925 sworn officers. Currently there are 794 officers, with no increase in the upcoming budget.