Have you ever watched an Oakland City Council meeting, on cable, computer or in person? Have you managed to watch an entire meeting, often lasting until midnight?
With Sanjiv Handa always present, you expected the meeting to include detailed harangues from this Oakland activist-journalist. Most citizen speakers would sign up for a single card, address City Council for a minute (or two if a friend donated one), and stick to the topic at hand. By maximizing allowable speaking opportunities, Mr. Handa managed to corral significantly more microphone time.
Handa, who identified himself as head of the East Bay News Service, would comment on parking, agenda notifications, sunshine laws and all types of procedural break-downs in City Hall. He was an expert and relished his detailed understanding of protocols. If you actually listened to the words rather than the style of this messenger, there were always a couple nuggets of learning from each Council meeting.
Over the years, Handa maximized his comments and played by the rules. Oakland City Council reps found him so irritating that they changed these rules to limit individual speaker times at each meeting. Handa complied and still seemed to have the pulpit even with limitations. At the December 20th meeting, he reported about the Port of Oakland’s traffic on December 12th. He was focused until the end, both uncovering and sharing facts.
Today the messenger died, after decades of voluntary devotion to city happenings and governance. There was timely coverage from the Oakland Tribune and the Associated Press. What tickled us the most was Mayor Jean Quan’s reaction, when she declared “there will never be another Sanjiv Handa.”
For those of us who never knew him personally, we knew him anyway. Handa seemed like the unelected council rep who was reliable, always had something to say — and made you laugh, cry or grit your teeth. Go ahead and watch an archived KTOP video, and you can’t miss him. I think Council meetings will be very different indeed. Mr. Handa, please R.I.P.