Disasters Breed Innovation

Government and Your Average Brick Wall.

“Quite often, driving change in government is like driving your head into a brick wall,” commented Frank Kliewer as he recounted the times competing managers either tried to block his innovations or was flat-out ignored by some unwilling to do their jobs.

Frank had originally wanted to spend only about 2 years working in government when he started as an inspector to get a feel for the other side of the counter he was experiencing as a contractor and developer. But, life happens, and the opportunity to make a change became clear as major disasters befell his first jurisdiction of choice, the City of Oakland.

The first disaster he experienced was the Loma Preita Earthquake of 1989. Frank was selected by the Building Official as the sole inspector to make the call of whether or not the Coliseum was fit to continue the World Series. Meanwhile 24 inspectors and engineers were crawling over Candlestick Park.

Ah, the stories Frank tells about the aftermath, and the insensitivity of top brass making marketing decisions while bodies were buried in the Cypress Freeway collapse. Frank narrowly escaped that collapse himself when he left work a bit early to tape the game, traveling the same stretch of freeway that would kill scores just minuets later. A few days after the dust settled, Frank was asked to build an innovative computer network to track the rebuilding work.

Then there was the second disaster, two years later, also in October, the Oakland Hills Firestorm which destroyed 3,000 urban properties in 4 days of terror. Once again Frank was summoned to help in the rebuilding. This led to the creation of online permitting by Frank to facilitate the recovery process for the burned out property owners. For the first time Internet protocols were used to speed an official government permitting process from a remote facility set up near the disaster site. Frank also began using digital maps to plot the rebuilding process. This would lead to Frank’s highly successful innovation of bringing mapping to the Internet a few years later.

Frank was called on again, for another significant event for Oakland…the return of the Raiders football team. Some taxpayers didn’t think much of the deal made with Al Davis, and thought it a disaster for Oakland.  Nonetheless, Frank played a major role in innovating new, Internet based, inspection processes in the $200 million remodel of the A’s stadium into a multipurpose facility, ready for football. This was all accomplished, thanks to the new Internet processes, in an incredibly fast around the clock nine month demolition and building process.

Toward the end of Frank’s work at Oakland, the millennium rollover was a disaster waiting to happen for the new $50 million bond funded Office of Emergency Services high tech center. It was not only that the FBI had warned that the OES center could be a terrorist target, but also, Frank had been tipped-off that the high-profile large server installation was going to fail, unable to handle multiple mapping requests. When Frank alerted City Manager Robert Bobb, and offered a quick Internet based solution, Mr. Bobb, agreed to let Frank develop his solution as a backup, but threatened Frank’s position if he failed: “Are you willing to put your job on the line?”

“Absolutely,” replied Frank.

Frank chucked to himself later, realizing he hadn’t even considered his reply.

Two weeks later, on the big night, under the watchful eyes of Mayor Jerry Brown and Robert Bobb, it was confirmed that the big servers in the basement were not up to the job. Frank then began running the Office of Emergency Services (OES) tactical maps on the three big screens above the gallery of gathered officials and press. Frank ran the tactical maps from his laptop in the audience, sitting next to Mr. Bobb. At one point, Frank stood up and showed the audience the laptop and assured the gathering that if the OES was hit by terrorists like the FBI had previously warned, the show could go on the road with this new mobile Internet based mapping app he was running. As the night progressed, electrical transformers were shot out of service near fire stations, and emergency evacuation plans were calculated for the major events around the city. Frank’s new mobile mapping app performed perfectly through the night, handling a variety of information and strategy requests. The OES had a successful debut.

Moving On…

After having enough drama for a lifetime or two, Frank took an early retirement from his fifteen year tour of duty with the City of Oakland to teach at the University of San Francisco. At the same time, as president and CEO of a private start-up, he built an innovative financial transaction portal for the City and County of San Francisco…delivered ahead of schedule, under budget and with more features than originally contracted.

While teaching at the University of San Francisco, Frank developed a special respect for the work of nonprofits, and private businesses with an ethical mission. All this led Frank to his present role as a consultant, which allows him to produce his personal art expression in a variety of formats.

After his disaster training, Frank is prepared to take on just about anything. You don’t need to have a disaster on your hands to send him an email if you’d like to connect.

[email protected]




The official authorized Internet site for Franklin D. Kliewer. Frank is a consultant, Internet innovator, developer, manager, and teacher.