In a story broke at Zennie62 on Twitter, The City of Oakland fired Housing and Community Development Director Michele Byrd over an interview she gave to a news organization regarding the Oakland Rent Board and claims that she was not enforcing the city’s laws against illegal evictions.
The news came from an irate City of Oakland staff member who said that “no one in the City saw this coming. The news organization targeted her, even though it wasn’t her fault. They (the City Administration and the Mayor of Oakland) made her take the fall (for their jobs).”
Indeed, in the City of Oakland’s “Strong Mayor” system, the Mayor hires the City Administrator, who then is to make sure the Mayor’s initiatives are carried out. If anything, Oakland Mayor Libby Schaaf should have been out there front and center in this story. But, in this case, it looks like she allowed Byrd to “take the hit” for her.
It’s something, the Byrd firing, that has put the City of Oakland’s Housing and Community Development, and Economic Development, departments in a whirlwind of reformation that is to see a new leader come in who was with the Department of Housing and Urban Development.
Not The Oakland Housing Authority
Also, it was not the Oakland Housing Authority (OHA) that was the focus of this report, as others wrongly reported, but the City of Oakland Department of Housing and Community Development. The OHA is ran by its executive director, Eric Johnson.
Also, the City of Oakland Staffer said that the person tabbed to replace her is Maryann Leshin, who is white (and in full disclosure someone I know but have not seen in some time); Michelle Byrd is black.
Problem Goes Back To 2006, Before Byrd
The problem of the City of Oakland not enforcing illegal eviction laws goes back to 2006, and long before Michelle Byrd came to be Director, or for that matter Deputy Director. For the news organization to target Byrd was shameful – for the Mayor of Oakland or the City Administrator to not back her was even worse.
Oakland City Council President Kaplan Says City Administration Should Have Protected Byrd
Reached via text, Oakland City Council President Rebecca Kaplan said that the City Administrator (Sabrina Landreith) should have protected Byrd. Kaplan wrote “I told reporters they should explicitly ask the admininstration for evidence of what they had and had not directed Michele to do. It’s not cool to punish her actions that the admin had directed.”
Kaplan added “To be clear I wasn’t in the room and don’t know what specifically admin did or didn’t say to Michelle but at least We deserve to know. And we deserve to know whether the admin had specifically directed Michelle to take the actions of it then she didn’t do because if they didn’t tell her to take them that’s a problem.”
Other City of Oakland Staffers Have Contacted Zennie62Media
Also, as this was being updated, a number of other City of Oakland staffers have weighed in to express their displeasure. However, one staffer, a political appointee, said that I “didn’t know all of the story and should not scapegoat,” but then refused to tell me the other part of the story, as if its some CIA-level issue, or something that will not be revealed by others. It’s not.
What I was told by another source is that Byrd is exempt from the normal civil service protections that would prevent the Mayor of Oakland from terminating her out of whim. So, the optics are bad: Schaaf replaces black Byrd with white Maryann Leshin, and for the matter of the enforcement of laws against illegal evictions that are, really, the job of the Mayor of Oakland and the Oakland City Administrator to make sure were done when Schaaf became Oakland’s 50th Mayor in 2014.
Oakland News Now Note: this post demonstrates the full and live operation of the latest version of an experimental Zennie62Media mobile media video-blogging system network – part of a new approach to the production of media. The uploaded video is from a vlogger with the Zennie62 on YouTube Partner Channel, then uploaded to and formatted automatically at the Oakland News Now site and social media pages. The objective is smartphone-enabled, real-time, on the scene reporting of news, interviews, observations, and happenings anywhere in the World and within seconds and not hours. We are constantly working to improve the system network coding and also seek interested content and media technology partners.