Public Comment

The Berkeley City Council's Vote on the City Manager Position

By Victoria Peirotes
Thursday May 31, 2012 - 02:58:00 PM


At the May 29, 2012 the Berkeley City Council voted to name Ms. Christine Daniel to the permanent position of Berkeley City Manager. In the eyes of many this action was premature and in many ways irresponsible. The position of City Manager is the most powerful one within the City hierarchy. Consequently when this position becomes "open", which is rare, great care should be taken in the selection process. In this case, no care at all was taken and there was no selection process. The following letter addressed to council prior to their vote makes abundantly clear why the nomination should have been postponed. 

Dear District Council Members: 

You are poised to vote on an issue pitting Mayor Bates and an obliging council against the wishes and best interests of your community. As in similar higher profile votes, namely The Downtown Plan and the West Berkeley Plan, it's likely the majority of you will cave to Mayor Bates and endorse the elevation of Ms Daniel from interim City Manager to the permanent position of City Manager. 

On behalf of the City of Berkeley I urge you to put off this appointment and instead to simply renew Ms. Daniel's present contract as interim City Manager for a further 6 months. The compelling reasons for doing so are as follow: 

(1) Ms. Daniel has not competed for the position. Mayor Bates nominated her as interim City Manager. This was understandable since she was in a position to provide continuity for running the city while the city advertised for a slate of other candidates. Yet it has become apparent that the Mayor never intended to advertise the position, and indeed has not. Consequently Ms. Daniel is a default choice foisted on the community by Mr. Bates. 

(2) Ms. Daniel's qualifications leave to be desired. There has been no public vetting of the merits and demerits of elevating Ms. Daniel. She is the protege and some say "clone" of the recently retired City Manager, Mr. Kamlarz. This makes her candidature suspect in the eyes of many. The legacy of Mr. Kamlarz will be that he was this city's most self-serving City Manager ever and the most detrimental to the long-term well being and sustainability of our community. Further note that, like Mr. Kamlarz who chose not to live in the city he milked for so long and so successfully, Ms. Daniel is also not a Berkeley resident. 

(3) The terms of the contract offered to Ms. Daniel are onerous in the extreme. The proposed debut base salary is $225,000. Mr. Kamlarz retired with a salary of $243,000, of which about $28,000 was because Mayor Bates, with approbation from council, "spiked" Mr. Kamlarz' salary 2 years ago so that his yearly pension would be increased proportionately. That pension is now in the order of $270,000/year, indexed, which the city of Berkeley is saddled with paying him for the rest of his life. Mr. Kamlarz' salary and the salary proposed for Ms. Daniel, as well as the gold-plated perks offered by Berkeley, are far more than salaries and perks for manager positions in cities many times our size, including San Jose, Oakland and San Francisco. Furthermore, the "new" contract provision guaranteeing Ms. Daniel a full year's severance pay if she is fired is unprecedented. 

(4) Can Berkeley afford to continue paying out the egregious employee salaries and benefits long promulgated by the Mayor and council without going bankrupt? The answer is "no". The fiscal servitude to city employees that this mayor and council has levied on our community is already unbearable. Our streets, parks, sewers, buildings, pools and social sustenance networks have all been decimated because resources for maintaining them have systemically been siphoned off to pay for gold-plated city employee salaries and perks. 

Please do not further in-debt this community by irresponsibly endorsing an onerous contract to a single, un-vetted applicant. Do not plunge us further into a fiscal abyss. Surely the City of Berkeley deserves better from you than this.