Dear Editor – A Solution Looking for a Problem

Light-bulb-0003-300x198At the end of a very long ballot this November, we have to vote on 4 local measures, one of which should give us much reason for concern: Measure CA.

Measure CA asks that we amend our City Charter (our Constitution) to take the power to hire, suspend and fire the Police and Fire Chief away from the City Council and give this power to the City Manager, even though this system has been in place for 70 years.

The more I think about this measure, the more questions come up for me, so I’ve decided to share these questions with you, and ask that unless you find good answers for them, that you vote NO on Measure CA this November.

For starters, why are three sitting Council members (Clarke, Cooper and Eriksson) asking us to change it now? What problem does the measure solve for us, the residents of the City?

Here are their arguments:

It is not the Councilmembers’ job to run the City, they have full time jobs and are not trained in public administration.

They are not trained in public administration? Are they being asked to be in charge of the daily supervision of the Chiefs? As far as I can read, the Measure does not change the daily supervision of the Chiefs by the City Manager.

If City Councilmembers are not up to the task of evaluating our Police and Fire Chiefs, why are they up to the task of evaluating the City Manager and the City Attorney, the two other positions that would remain under their oversight?

Because the City Manager lacks the ability to suspend or fire the Chiefs, he or she lacks the authority to compel their collaboration should it become elusive.

How many times have our City Managers had to deal with the elusive collaboration of the Chiefs? How is it that the Departments have improved within the existing system?

The Chiefs must take direction from 5 independently elected bosses, which is not the most effective way to conduct business

Again, let’s remember that daily oversight (providing direction) is still the City Manager’s job. Are City Council members constantly giving direction to the Police and Fire Chief? Is there a problem that we have not been aware of?

I just read the message that the Police Chief put out to the community this past June. It appears to me that, even while operating under the system that Measure CA attempts to change, he appears responsive to the community, collaborative and effective. While the report shows that the proportion of arrests is overwhelmingly Black and Latino, this is an issue we can take up with our City Council, as a policy matter.

My questions have led to an even deeper question.

Our City Councilmembers were elected to handle the hiring, evaluation and firing of the Chiefs. Are they now looking to have less responsibility?
If that is the problem, I question why they ran for a position requiring more responsibility than they were prepared to handle.

Am I missing something?

Again, unless I get more clarity on these matters, I’m voting No on Measure CA.

Claudia Vizcarra

The Actors' Gang

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