Oakland News: City Council And Police Radio: Will They Pick Alameda JPA Over Staff Ire?

Posted on Dec 14 2013 - 9:27am by Zennie Abraham
Oakland News: City Council And Police Radio: Will They Pick Alameda JPA Over Staff Ire?

This bit of Oakland News is, a more disturbing continuation of my Oakland Police Radio blog post of last week.

It’s disturbing because several Oakland City staffers who I will not name are just plain massively pissed off with the Oakland City Council, and that includes Oakland Mayor Jean Quan right at the top.

Faced with the need to spend $15 million to fix the City of Oakland’s long defective police radio system, the Oakland City Council is considering also joining the multi-city Alameda County Communications Joint Powers Authority called “East Bay Regional Communications System Authority” or “EBRCS” or my name “Fucking Waste Of Time” because staff reports show it will cost even more money to the tune of around $7 million on top of the $15 million base cost to repair the radios, even if Oakland slips joining the “EBRCS” or “Fucking Waste Of Time” or “FWOT”.

The mission of the EBRCS is to “To build, own and operate a state-of-the-art P25 compliant communications system for the public agencies within Alameda and Contra Costa counties.”

The staffers want current Oakland Mayor’s Race front-runner District Four Councilmember Libby Schaaf to go against Mayor Quan’s perceived desire to enter into the giant joint powers authority, but now they fear Libby’s going to side with Mayor Quan (I tried to reach Schaaf about this, but did not receive an answer in time for this blog post), and all to blunt Quan’s overture to the police union.

(UPDATE: Councilmember Schaaf called to explain that it was she who was critical of the idea of Oakland joining the EBRCS, or “FWOT” through the year. The Oakland City Staff fears of a “political fix” involving Councilmember Schaaf are just not there.)

The staffers think a political fix is in that will ultimately cost Oakland more money than it needs to spend, and just to help certain political relationships. The joint powers authority is refusing to allow its communications radios to communicate with Oakland’s unless Oakland joins an pays them. In other words, in an emergency situations, like a large fire in the Caldecott Tunnel, Oakland police radios could not reach a radio owned by a city that is a member of EBRCS – an action that is considered to be unethical, at best and unsafe at worst.

City staff ire has led to what has to be the most intense dump to me of opinions, data, and personal political evaluations I’ve ever seen from Oakland employees to media in my life.

What’s got them so, well, rip-snorting, fire-breathing, chair-throwing, and just plain near berserk is the not just the fear that their own Oakland City Council is going to have Oakland spend an extra $7 million more than it needs to just to join “Fucking Waste Of Time” but the perceived political games of one man over at the County of Alameda: Bill McCammon.

“Bill McCammon”, or William J. McCammon, is the legendary former Alameda County Fire Chief, and currently listed as Staff Person / Director to the “EBRCS” or my name “Fucking Waste Of Time”.

But if you think my name for the East Bay Regional Communications System Authority is bad, just hold on to your butts and read what one city honcho has to say to me about Mr. McCammon, and this was not for attribution, but very much on the record:

“They (the Oakland City Council) would rather listen to the EBRCS Director than staff. The guy (meaning Mr. McCammon) is a habitual liar.”

My source continued “McCammon lied to the committee the last time he appeared (in June before the City Council’s Finance Committee) and said EBRCS radio users can communicate in the BART Tunnels. We specifically said that’s not our understanding, but council took his word as gospel.”

“The consultants (RCC) approached BART and asked if EBRCS radio users could communicate in the BART Tunnels; BART said no they could not; only BART radio users and Oakland radio users have that capability.”

“That’s just one example,” my source roared, “this guy Bill McCammon will say or do anything to convince the City Council to join so they can shore up their broken budget.”

Whatever Bill McCammon is doing it’s caught the eye of the local media, in the face of the Oakland Tribune, and in turn the Tribune’s approach became part of the FWOT meeting agenda for March 13, 2013:

“Some concern by Supervisor Haggarty that a reporter from the Oakland Tribune is putting information out that is not accurate, and looks like EBRCSA is holding Oakland “hostage”.

And encapsulated in that same meeting agenda document is language that backs my source’s angry claim that EBRCSA or “EBRCS” or “FWOT” is barely breaking even and just wants Oakland’s money: “Update of the EBRCSA Financial Status was provided. This review was done at mid-year. Very good position even thought there were some short falls for subscriber revenues. Bottom line, revenues have fallen short, but given the expenses and construction costs also coming in lower – the budget is in good shape.”

And if we look closer, we see the difference between revenues and expenses is $4 million, versus $4.2 million in revenue, and that, folks, is based on wishful thinking. A thin $200,000 margin based on a dream scenario of subcriber (city) payments to EBRCSA.

So, my Oakland City Staff sources are right: all of this dealing and sneaking to get Oakland to join FWOT is really more about selling another membership in a club of sorts – one where Oakland has no control over its radio communications system. Thus, Oakland City Staff openly looks at Bill McCammon as someone selling snake oil to the Oakland City Council, and staff thinks they’re going to go for it. The result will have Oakland paying $7 million more than it needs to to repair a police radio system it should have fixed long ago.

Bottom line: Oakland has to spend $15 million, plus an additional $3 million for the police radio upgrades without joining the FWOT, so why join it and spend more money in the process? It just makes no sense at all. Last time I checked, Oakland was the city with the chronic budget deficit problems, so shouldn’t we be trying to say money at every turn?

The Oakland Tribune reported that EBRCSA has acted against the wishes of its director Bill McCammon and shut Oakland out of being a part of the regional system for joint aid and coordinated operations because Oakland will not pay the expensive fee to join the joint powers authority.

That call comes from Alameda County Supervisor Scott Haggery, who said, according to the Oakland Tribune “We’re not the bad guy. Everyone else has paid to be a member and, quite frankly, Oakland needs to do the same.”

So then Scott Haggery is concerned that the FWOT is perceived as holding Oakland hostage, and takes up meeting time to say that’s not the case, when in point of fact, it is.

Nice going, Scott.

My Oakland City Staff sources think that some Oakland City Council members want to push Oakland into this crap deal for reasons that have zero to do with saving money, but everything to do with politics.

Mayor Quan gets to make the Oakland Police Officers Association happy, and then get their endorsement as she runs for re-election as Mayor of Oakland. Libby Schaaf’s caught in the position of going against the police union and giving Quan the upper hand (theoretically) if she rejects joining the FWOT. And, there’s a good relationship between OPOA’s lawyer Rocky Lucia and Alameda County undersheriff Richard Lucia, who’s on the EBRCSA that some Oakland staffers think hold’s sway in this whole deal.

Look, Richard Lucia is another legendary figure in Alameda County law enforcement and politics. He’s done a lot of good deeds for Alameda County. He’s a man I very much admire. But none of that should be worth a cool $7 million to Oakland that it really doesn’t have to spend.

In trying to twist Oakland’s arm to join the EBRCSA, it’s board is acting against the wishes of the Alameda County Grand Jury, and if Oakland had a really aggressive leadership, not fearful of drawing blood, we would be suing the FWOT, and not cowering to them.

City staff is right to be so angry they’re throwing cars.

The Oakland City Council can do the right thing at the December 17th Finance Committee, and side with its own staff – that would be a nice Christmas present. It would be good for Mayor Jean Quan to take the advice of her own Chief Administrative Officer, and not join the FWOT. It would be good for the OPOA to back off this battle and save Oakland some money.

After all, we just need to fix our radios, right?

Stay tuned.

About the Author
Zennie Abraham

Zennie Abraham is the founder of Zennie62Media which consists of http://www.zennie62blog.com and a multimedia blog news aggregator and video network, and 78-blog network, with social media and content development services and consulting. Zennie is a pioneer video blogger, YouTube Partner, social media practitioner, game developer, and pundit. Note: news aggregator content does not reflect the personal views of Mr. Abraham. Visit http://www.youtube.com/user/zennie62 and http://www.tout.com/u/zennie62 - follow on Twitter @zennie62