For the past five months, the City of Vallejo has been in a state of emergency. City Manager Greg Nyhoff — an individual who wields considerable power in normal times — requested and secured additional, largely unchecked, emergency powers.
The emergency was first approved by the Vallejo City Council on Oct. 6, citing a spike in crime and the need for police reform. Our current council, after taking their seats in January, voted to extend these powers under one major condition — that Nyhoff return with a detailed report of actions taken during the emergency.
Unsurprisingly, it appears that Nyhoff is unwilling to provide this information. Rather than bring the issue back to the council, as required, he chose to let the powers lapse quietly earlier this month.
The community began pushing the issue at last week’s council meeting, and Nyhoff went on the defensive, claiming that the emergency was no longer necessary due to the fact that the city hadn’t had a homicide yet in 2021, and that the COVID pandemic was under control. (He failed to explain why, then, he chose not to put the emergency declaration on the agenda so that the council could formally end it, as required in the declaration itself.)
His chosen justifications have already fallen apart. Earlier this week, we had a report of a homicide in Vallejo. COVID infections are beginning to spike once again. Just as the timing and circumstances of the initial emergency were questionable at best, the decision to let it lapse appears to be equally dubious.
Clearly, this is a vulnerability for Nyhoff, as he responded by posting links to the emergency declarations on the main page of the city’s website. Of course, this smokescreen doesn’t answer the questions of the community and the members of the council — who were asking not for the texts of the declarations, but a report on actions taken, which Nyhoff appears unable or unwilling to provide.
This is precisely why it is central to get information on what Nyhoff did with his emergency powers. We have seen that there has been no substantive progress on VPD reform, and that our city’s finances are in dire shape. We also know that Nyhoff has made several major personnel moves — to the tune of millions of dollars — creating new Deputy Police Chief and Deputy City Manager positions, hiring new staff and promoting existing staff with sizable pay increases. What has been the total cost of these actions, and why were these justifiable under the emergency declaration? What else has Nyhoff done, and what is he hiding?
There’s also the question of why the emergency was declared in the first place. The initial declaration came on
Oct. 6 — far from the start of the pandemic, after the deaths of George Floyd and Sean Monterrosa, revelations of bent badges and other milestones in the public’s call for police reform. The text of the declaration appears to throw in the kitchen sink — a laundry list of every issue facing the city in 2020. Why, then, did Nyhoff choose this timing? Perhaps because of the Nov. 3 election, where Nyhoff was desperate to pass Measure G in order to provide a cushion to cover up his past fiscal mismanagement and fund a new police headquarters at 400 Mare Island Way.
The real emergency in this city began in January 2018, when Greg Nyhoff took over as city manager. He has proceeded to drain our reserves (from $25 million to $13 million), drive away our best staff (four whistleblower lawsuits name Nyhoff directly), weaken the city’s position in key economic development deals, and exacerbate a crisis in our police department — causing innocent loss of life and skyrocketing legal liabilities.
Yes, our community faces many issues, but the more I learn and speak with others, the clearer it becomes that the most significant barrier to solving our problems is this one individual. Each day that passes allows him to do more irreparable damage to the city.