OAKLAND CITY COUNCIL | What initially appeared to be one of the most mundane Oakland City Council meetings in recent months, turned into a public dress down delivered by Councilmember Desley Brooks.
The East Oakland representative questioned City Administrator Deanna Santana’s authorization to use general fund dollars for security services at the First Friday street fair without consulting the council.
Brooks faulted Santana for exceeding her authority by approving the use of over $400,000 in city dollars since last summer. Brooks contends the contracts were initially earmarked for private security at Frank Ogawa Plaza to deal with the Occupy Oakland movement. However, the contract was later applied to the sprawling monthly event quickly gaining popularity in the Bay Area. Issues with First Friday came to the forefront after a shooting death of 18-year-old Kiante Campbell at the event last February.
“There is money going out the door like there’s no tomorrow and we don’t have that kind of money,” said the irascible Brooks. “We need to get a handle on why our policies and procedures are not being followed.”
“This shouldn’t have happened,” Brooks added, saying the city has a contract ordinance and limits on the city administrator’s spending authority. “Why weren’t those limits followed? How is it that we had this cumulative expense that exceeded the city administrator’s spending authority and nobody ever said anything?”
On two separate occasions during Tuesday night’s hearing, Santana and City Attorney Barbara Parker scrambled to locate background pertaining to the approval and legality of the emergency services contract from last August, also amended last January. Under the city charter, said Parker, there are provisions for the city administrator to approve contracts when a public safety emergency exists. The charter only calls for the city council to be issued an informational report on the action, but gives no direction for a time frame for its delivery to council members, Parker said. Santana later added, her office had previously worked with the city attorney for legal authority on the authorization.
Brooks, though, said the threat of occupy no longer exists. “The basis for the authorization was that it was a public safety emergency and not to continue to spend $300,000 and used that as the same criteria,” she said, “and under the guise of an emergency money is being spent that the council never approved.”
Councilmember Larry Reid agreed with Brooks in questioning the use of general fund money by Santana along with his long-standing opposition to using the city’s police officers at First Friday. “It does not make sense to utilize police officers for a block party,” says Reid. “This is not the appropriate use of our police officers when we just finished with  homicides last year–115 the year before.”
Reid then called for a report on the events leading to the authorization. “I want the voters of this city to know who is to be held accountable for spending general fund money the way it was spent without this council authorizing it.”
Meanwhile, Brooks, who has tangled with the city administrator on numerous occasion following allegations by Santana’s office that Brooks misused redevelopment funds on a pet project in her district, also had vitriol left in reserve for other city officials Tuesday night. She called out Mayor Jean Quan for her leadership on the First Friday issue when she challenged her, saying, “Madame Mayor, you need to speak up about this because this has been your baby.” Quan did not respond.
Oakland Police Chief Howard Jordan was also on the receiving end of Brooks’ hostile questioning. In one particular exchange, Brooks began by praising Jordan’s predecessor, Anthony Batts, for his ability to allocate resources effectively to problem areas. “Where is he?” she interrupted herself while scanning the room for Jordan before he emerged at the lectern from his seat under the gallery. “If you had officers who were doing pedestrian patrols at First Friday,” said Brooks, “I bet you money there were constituents in East Oakland who would rather they be there.”
“I think the constituents in West Oakland would also rather they be there,” shot back Jordan. When Brooks mentioned other crime-addled areas of the city she believed deserved police attention, Jordan said under his breath, “I’m not even going to respond.” To which Brooks triumphantly chimed, “Yeah.”