Robert Bobb Was Worried About Cynthia Dellums 

Sources say Bobb turned down top city job partly over concerns about the mayor's wife's influence inside city hall.

Robert Bobb should have been Oakland's new city administrator. He was easily the most qualified candidate, and was Mayor Ron Dellums' first choice. Last month, the two men were talking salary and benefits, as they closed in on a deal to bring Bobb back to the East Bay. But then Oakland's respected former city manager changed his mind, and decided to take over the financially troubled Detroit public school system. What happened? According to knowledgeable sources, there were several reasons for why Bobb decided to turn down Dellums, and one of them had to do with Oakland's other "mayor" — Cynthia Dellums.

Bobb had become increasingly worried about Cynthia Dellums' growing influence over her husband Ron Dellums, and the unofficial power she wields inside Oakland City Hall, the sources said. As the Express reported last summer, Cynthia Dellums has become the city's de facto second mayor, acting as Ron Dellums' political partner and gatekeeper (see "Meet the Mayor," September 17). Cynthia Dellums also is extremely protective of her husband, and won't tolerate criticism of him. Sources say her influence over his decision making has grown even since last year.

It should come as no surprise, then, that Ron Dellums ultimately chose his longtime close friend and confidante, Dan Lindheim, to be city administrator when Bobb backed out. Lindheim is a smart, competent man, but sources said he also is staunch supporter — and defender — of the mayor. The Oakland City Council is expected to confirm Lindheim this week. He's been the city's acting city administrator since Dellums fired Deborah Edgerly in July.

Bobb's decision to turn down Dellums represents at least the second time that a highly qualified person has backed out of a top Oakland job because of concerns about the mayor's wife. In late 2006, just before Ron Dellums took office, respected Oakland attorney Tony West decided not to become the mayor's chief of staff because of concerns about the lines of communication in city hall between the mayor, his staff, his wife, and the rest of city government. Sources told Full Disclosure that Bobb had some of the same concerns. West, a former federal prosecutor, recently accepted a top post in the Obama administration's Department of Justice.

The sources also said that Bobb, who has a strong personality and is known for speaking plainly, also was worried about Cynthia Dellums' distaste for criticism, and about whether he would have the power to remake the city's dysfunctional bureaucracy. The sources also said he was concerned about the couple's repeated absences from city hall and their preference for working from home (see "Oakland's Part-Time Mayor," December 24).

When reached by phone last week, Bobb didn't want to talk about his decision, other than to say that Detroit represented a challenge for him. Sources said that Michigan Governor Jennifer Granholm strongly pursued Bobb for the Detroit schools post. Ultimately, she and Bobb worked out a deal just after Barack Obama's inauguration. Granholm was in Washington, DC, where Bobb lives, for the festivities.

But Bobb's side trip to Detroit does not mean he has given up on Oakland. The Detroit post is expected to last about a year, and according to sources, Bobb plans to move back to Oakland in the coming months and commute to Michigan from the East Bay. There also is strong speculation that Bobb will then run for mayor himself next year — especially if former State Senate President Pro Tem Don Perata is indicted.

Berkeley Isn't Liberal Enough?

The City of Berkeley has been accused of a lot of things over the years, from being the most liberal city in America to being a hotbed for left-wing radicalism. But not liberal enough? That's the novel allegation being leveled in a pair of recent lawsuits, including one filed by a large corporation that doesn't exactly have a reputation for being progressive itself.

The lawsuits stem from a long running and messy legal battle between Berkeley and U-Haul International, the move-it-yourself, truck-rental company. The city has been attempting for years to shut down the U-Haul center on San Pablo Avenue because of numerous complaints from neighbors and because it clashes with the city's vision for the area. U-Haul has responded by trying to bury the city in litigation. In fact, Berkeley and U-Haul are now involved in at least five lawsuits over the matter, both in state and federal court, plus a slew of appellate court cases.

In one of the most recent lawsuits, U-Haul has taken the unusual position of accusing the city of discrimination and of violating its constitutional rights. Last year, after a judge approved the city's revocation of U-Haul's truck-rental permit on San Pablo, the company suddenly claimed that it was no longer in the truck-rental business, but had become a "truck-sharing" center. U-Haul, which is controlled by an Arizona real estate conglomerate, likened itself to car-sharing operations, such as City CarShare and ZipCar, which have become popular throughout the Bay Area over the past decade because they help combat global warming and curtail smog.

U-Haul claims in its lawsuit that Berkeley is guilty of discrimination because it helps car-sharing operations flourish, while trying to kill "truck sharing." U-Haul says that truck sharing, much like car sharing, will result in fewer people buying gas-guzzling pickups and SUVs, thereby limiting greenhouse-gas emissions. U-Haul's "environmentally friendly truck-sharing business model limit(s) harmful carbon dioxide emissions and remove(s) polluting vehicles from the streets," the company stated in its suit.


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