The Merry-Go-Round wasn’t really surprised that Councilwoman Malia Vella and her faithful sidekick, Councilman Jim Oddie, didn’t take our advice and push for the selection of a woman or person of color as Alameda’s next fire chief. After all, we didn’t promise them that such a move would produce votes or money for their next campaigns.
But it did strike us as a little, well, graceless that, after City Manager Jill Keimach announced that she had tapped Salinas fire chief Edmond Rodriguez for the top job in the Alameda fire department, neither Ms. Vella nor Mr. Oddie publicly congratulated Chief Rodriguez on his appointment or Ms. Keimach on her choice. Both Council members sat mute on the dais as Ms. Keimach disclosed her decision at the October 3 Council meeting, and their Twitter accounts were silent as well. (Earlier, Ms. Vella, the more frequent tweeter of the two, had posted a laudatory missive – even including a picture of his farewell cake – about retiring Fire Chief Doug Long.)
Instead, it was left to Mayor Trish Spencer to remark on the historic significance of Chief Rodriguez’s selection. “I am pleased that our City Manager was able to find such a highly qualified candidate for the position,” the Mayor was quoted as saying in the City’s press release. “I also think it’s notable that he will be our first person of color to serve in this leadership capacity.”
Now, thanks to Dan Borenstein of the East Bay Times, we have an explanation for Ms. Vella’s and Mr. Oddie’s apparent disinterest in diversity: The two Council members were attempting to strong-arm Ms. Keimach into appointing the candidate designated by the Alameda firefighters’ union – former IAFF Local 689 president Domenick Weaver – as fire chief. What’s more, Mr. Oddie threatened to get Ms. Keimach fired unless she gave the job to the union’s guy.