Let’s start the search for a DOT Director

This Tuesday, the Oakland City Council will decide whether now is finally the time to recruit a Director of Transportation to lead the new Oakland Department of Transportation. We say: absolutely. It’s been time to start this process for some time now, and we fully support the approval of this item as amended by the Public Works Committee.

To ensure this action passes on Monday, we need five minutes of your time.

1. Email your council member and their staff today. Use this email:

Dear Council Member [          ],

I’m a District [  ] resident and I’m writing to encourage your support of Item #13, to create the position of Director of Transportation at this Tuesday’s council meeting, as amended by the Public Works Committee last week.

I understand there are still questions about what roles the Department will take on. I support the roles originally identified in the 2015-2017 budget:

  • Policy, Planning, and Programming
  • Complete Streets Capital Delivery
  • Parking and Mobility Management
  • Infrastructure and Maintenance, specifically tasked with “[monitoring] the condition of city streets and [managing] pavement maintenance, sidewalk repair, and bicycle infrastructure.”
  • Transportation Operations and Safety

At the same time, the City Administrator has the authority to advertise the position as encompassing multiple scenarios of departmental oversight. Therefore, I see no reason to delay approving this position and opening recruitment now.

Oakland deserves a Director now to guide the DOT Strategic Plan and ensure that the expertise we currently lack is reflected in the implementation of this new department.

Please approve the DOT Director on Tuesday.

2. Call your council member and their staff today. Here’s what you can say:

I’m a District [  ] resident and I’m calling to encourage Council Member [         ] to approve the creation of the DOT Director position. I believe Oakland deserves a Director now to guide the DOT Strategic Plan. This will ensure that the expertise we currently lack is reflected in the implementation of the new DOT. Thank you for your support of great transportation in Oakland.

Don’t know what district you live in? Query this map. Don’t know your council member’s email address and phone number? Click here for a cheat sheet of Council contact info by district. If you want more information on why this action matters, read on:

Since 2014, Transport Oakland has advocated for the creation of a Department of Transportation and we made endorsements in the 2014 Oakland election in part based on candidates’ openness to see through this much-needed institutional reform. The reasons why this reform is needed have been well-covered. Mayor Schaaf’s two-year budget set aside funding and a policy directive to create this department. After approval last June, the City Administrator’s office was charged with implementing a transition plan to create the new department.

Fast forward six months: last week the City Administrator put forward a recommendation to Public Works Committee that had changed pretty dramatically from the DOT vision set during the budget process. The new department was now called the Department of Transportation and Infrastructure. And instead of recommending moving only the transportation-related functions from Public Works and other agencies, it recommended including all aspects of engineering design, construction, and maintenance of other types of infrastructure like sewers, stormwater, buildings, and park renovations. The City Administrator’s report also recommended excluding parking enforcement from the DOT (parking enforcement currently “lives” in the Oakland Police Department), despite the fact that parking enforcement officers want to move to the new department.

The outcome of the meeting was that this new proposal raised questions that do not yet have good answers. Acknowledging this, the Public Works Committee took action to only forward approval of the new DOT Director out of committee, and made a list of other issues they’re expecting further analysis of when the other items come back to the committee. These actions were result of leadership from Public Works Committee Chair Rebecca Kaplan and Council Member Dan Kalb, who shepherded the amended DOT Director position onward to the full Council. (Our friends at WOBO also have a good recap of the details of this meeting).

This all means that on Tuesday, the full City Council will consider an action to approve the new Director of Transportation position. The DOT director item is last on the agenda, and it appears as an amendment to Ordinance 12817, the “Salary Ordinance” that authorizes salary schedules for each position hired within the City of Oakland. After this position is approved, former New York City transportation commissioner Janette Sadik-Kahn will lead the search process for the Director. In the meantime, she and her team will work collaboratively with Oakland staff to develop a Strategic Plan to guide the new department with the intention that the new director will be on board to finalize the plan and be accountable to delivering the goals it sets.

More discussion is needed on the new department’s role and organizational make-up, but in the meantime, we urge you to email and call your council member to support approval of the new Director position before this Tuesday night’s meeting.