In Praise of Juanito Rusrecognizing professionalism in local public service
Juanito Rus has repeatedly and unfailingly demonstrated the highest levels of professionalism, steadfastness, patience, and simple human grit facilitating public meetings for the City of Oakland.
Since the murder of George Floyd, Oakland city government meetings have dragged on into the wee hours, overflowing with public commenters, long debates, and motions upon motions upon motions. Meetings of the Oakland Police Commission, which might typically expect a handful of regulars, if that many, have instead seen hundreds of commenters per day, many first-time participants. Many comments have been sad, angry, caustic, even profane. A vanishing few have been hateful and juvenile, abusing the public forum. Even with as little as forty-five seconds per speaker, they have stretched on for hours, deep into many nights. And all of this has happened online, hobbled on Zoom calls, in the shadow of COVID-19.
Through all of this, Juanito Rus, as facilitator, has unfailingly kept the business getting done. He has tirelessly shepherded hundreds of commenters. He has enforced the time limits, firmly and fairly. He has acted quickly to cut off profane and hateful speakers, meeting them time and again with his steady, unwavering, respectful voice. He has juggled queues of speakers, technical difficulties, Robert’s Rules, suspensions of the rules, motions, voting standards, quorum changes, PowerPoint, and the agenda, all without dropping a ball, all without missing a beat. He has been a constant source of truth and guidance to weary chairs, remembering items they have forgotten, pointing out procedural traps before they’ve stepped in them.
Those of us attending meetings run by Mr. Rus recently learned, during one of the meetings, that he has done all of this as a new father. Late nights, and no sleep to begin with, in circumstances of extraordinary stress for one and all.
We also learned that Mr. Rus’ position within the Oakland Community Police Review Agency is now uncertain. The Oakland Police Commission, which oversees the Community Police Review Agency, has proposed to restructure that agency. The plan specifically calls out Mr. Rus’ position.
Mr. Rus facilitated that meeting, too. In a rare—perhaps singular—glimpse of his personal concerns during public business, Mr. Rus queued up for comment himself, on the measure threatening his own livelihood. He was clear. He was forceful. He was understandably on edge. They passed the measure all the same, acknowledging themselves that no one should learn their job is at risk at a public meeting they are asked to run.
And then he was facilitator again. His voice unwavering. His track of the process undisturbed. His decorum undisturbed. His job well done, right up to midnight.
We sincerely hope that any new and restructured Community Police Review Agency will retain ample room for Juanito Rus. And that a new position awaiting him, within the CPRA or elsewhere, will not only assuage his fears of being repaid for good service with the boot, but amply and justly reflect the expanded responsibilities he has undertaken and the exemplary service he has rendered in the most trying of circumstances. Such service should be welcome, and valued, in any organization that gets difficult business done. Any organization that requires capable and steadfast professionals to do it.
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