By Councilmember McElhaney

Growing up in California has many privileges – among these is the resilience and calm that comes from being in seismic territory. You learn at quite an early age not to panic just because the earth decides to move. According to, Oakland has had 3 earthquakes greater than 1.5 in the past 24 hours, 383 in the past year – most harmless rattles not even worth mentioning.

Several years ago, I flew to Southern California for a conference on the foreclosure crisis. Just as I arrived to check in, the floor rolled like the ocean and the lobby chandelier shook like a wind chime. A few tourists became concerned while the staff and we natives paused only long enough to assess that this shake-up posed no significant threat. After the initial jolt, a guest asked how we could remain so calm. The clerk and I (both native Californians) assured the new arrivals that seismic activity in California is frequent and usually benign. With laughter and confidence, we spoke casually of the predictable shakes and rattles we’ve come to expect, of aftershocks, safety precautions and offered assurances since we were in a seismically sound modern building. The unexpected quake felt like a 4.0 – enough to get our attention but no real threat to life or commerce.

Metaphorically speaking, life is filled with earthquakes: the anticipated but unpredictable shake-ups that range from harmless to catastrophic. Californians know that while some earthquakes pose a real threat, most are little more than a hiccup. The key is to know the difference, be prepared, and remain calm.

Oakland has experienced a few political shake-ups over the past few months: the anticipated departure last month of former City Administrator Deanna Santana and the recently-announced resignation of Interim City Administrator Fred Blackwell may have the media in an uproar, but most citizens and city workers recognize this as little more than a 2.0 movement in the political landscape. Earthquakes of this magnitude may catch your attention, but they pose no threat to life or commerce. In fact, the bureaucracy that often frustrates expediency makes municipal corporations remarkably resistant to disruptions.

The City of Oakland is fortunate to be staffed by a core of talented and dedicated civil servants, many of whom have served the city under many administrations and through numerous crises.  They are mature, experienced, and faithful. They will continue to serve during these current disruptions and make progress on the reform efforts and critical projects that are currently underway.

Next month, the nationally-distinguished former City Manager Henry Gardner returns to City Hall to serve through the end of the year. A fiscal mastermind, he brings four decades of expertise to this critical role as the Council undertakes the mid-year budget review, completes critical labor negotiations, and refines its plans for the next fiscal year. I am excited to have Gardner guide and inform our efforts and look forward to benefitting from his wisdom and experience.

2.0 magnitude quakes may rattle the newcomer but we seasoned survivors know better.  A little shake, a little rattle and, without missing a beat, time to get back to work.

Editor’s Note: This piece reflects an individual opinion and is not a reported story from Oakland Local. Oakland Local invites community residents to share their views about events and issues in Oakland.
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5 Responses

  1. r2d2ii

    In other words, retarded little Oakland constituents, not to worry. Your big mama government has everything under control. Just continue to vote for us and pay your taxes.

  2. Oakie

    Isn’t the author the member of our City Council who suggested that the person arrested in West Oakland for armed robbery wasn’t really an armed robber but actually someone trying to provide diapers for one of their babies?

  3. Len Raphael

    Council Member, how about some serious legislation to address the seismic risks that much of the Oakland housing stock, especially the 1960’s multi-family rental units face in a real shaker.

    Yes you will have to walk the walk between property owners and tennants, but if we wait for the big one, we’ll remember that our politicians buried their heads.

  4. Frank

    How much you want to bet he doesn’t last to the end of the year? You heard it here first everyone!!

  5. Matt in Uptown

    Okay, I won’t freak out. I have learned to have very low expectations for what the City of Oakland can or will do. However, our city leaders should be interested in the root cause of the high attrition rate among high level Oakland officials. Departments need leaders who’ve made long term goals that the entire department can focus on. When department leaders keep leaving I expect our elected officials to address the problem and act. I want my city leaders to be leaders.


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