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September 17, 2013 11:23 AM Janet Napolitano’s Housing Problem

By Daniel Luzer

BlakeHouse

The erstwhile Secretary of Homeland Security, Janet Napolitano, will soon begin her new job as president of the University of California system. When UC announced her appointment many were optimistic. As Seth Zweifler put it in the Chronicle of Higher Education “her leadership may be exactly what the struggling institution needs to propel itself forward during a time of painful budget cuts.”

But there’s one ongoing problem: her house. According to an article in the Los Angeles Times:

The University of California has leased an Oakland residence for incoming system president Janet Napolitano for $9,950 a month, officials said Monday. Napolitano, the former U.S. secretary of Homeland Security and former governor of Arizona, will be provided the housing plus an annual $570,000 salary, $8,916 a year for car expenses and $142,500 for one-time relocation costs.
Napolitano is scheduled to begin her UC presidency Sept. 30, with her office at UC system headquarters in downtown Oakland.

While almost $10,000 a month sure looks expensive, especially for Oakland, that’s actually considerably less money than the UC system paid to house Napolitano’s predecessor, Mark G. Yudof, who was in considerable trouble for his wasteful residential spending.

While Yudof was in office the University of California paid $13,365 a month for the president to rent another house in Oakland. He also charged nearly $700,000 in personal housing expenses to the university over two years.

The strange thing about all this is that the UC system already owns a 13,200-square-foot mansion in Kensington, Blake House (above), specifically allocated for the president to use.

Blake House apparently needs between $3 and $6 million in repairs, which is why Yudof didn’t live there. Ultimately the University of California would save money by just doing the repairs and not paying out addition money to house the president elsewhere. The fact that the UC system hasn’t been able to do so is indicative of one of the greater problems with public higher education, which is that an institution can end up spending a great deal more money through failure to plan and budget appropriately.

Why the president can’t just pay for her own housing (like the rest of us) out of her $570,000 salary is another one of those academic mysteries that will probably remain unsolved.

According to the article, the regents of the University of California will discuss today whether or not to allocate money to begin repairs on Blake House.

Daniel Luzer is the news editor at Governing Magazine and former web editor of the Washington Monthly. Find him on Twitter: @Daniel_Luzer

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