Monthly Archives: June 2010

Ignacio De La Fuente: Balancing the City Budget and My Position on Police Layoffs

Last night, at the first of Oakland’s two scheduled budget readings, the City Council voted to approve a range of recommendations with the goal of balancing the FY 2010-2011 budget. Going into Thursday night’s meeting, the City faced an unresolved shortfall of $31.5million in FY 2010-11. The deficit is projected to increase to $48.3 million in FY 2011-12 and then to 60.1 million in 2012-13. Already this year, the City has balanced $11 million out of the $42 million shortfall anticipated for Fiscal Year 2010-11, which begins on July 1, 2010. The balancing measures, much of which were prepared by me, Council President Brunner and Council Members Quan and Kernighan passed by a vote of 5-3.

Included in last night’s budget balancing proposal were cuts to every city department, including the sale of city owned property, eliminating all free employee parking, 5% salary reductions for employees making over $100,000, a 15% cut to the offices of all elected officials, and more. The full detailed proposal can be found here.

How we got here:

  • Less than four years ago, in FY 2006-07, the City collected over $471 million in General Purpose Fund (GPF) revenues, and by year-end had nearly $56 million in reserves. That year alone, the Real Estate Transfer Tax revenue was at $61.5 million.
  • In FY 2010-11, the City is anticipated to have only $10.4 million in GPF reserves by year-end, and is projected to collect just over $400 million in revenues by year-end. The Real Estate Transfer tax collection is now at a low $28 million. Collectively, this means that the City has nearly $120 million less in resources today than just four years ago.
  • Over the past four years, while the GPF-funded workforce shrunk by 12.5%, personnel expenses in this fund have dropped by less than three percent due to salary increases primarily for Police and Fire, as well as medical and retirement costs that have continued to rise.
  • As those who have been following the budget process are aware, I have been extremely vocal about the fact that we are dealing with a structural deficit, meaning that that it will only grow in future years unless ongoing balancing measures are implemented.

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    Car-Free Challenged, Part 2

    Yesterday, I wrote about my experience during the first two days of the car-free challenge, and promised to finish up the story of my week today. So that’s what I’m doing now.

    But first, I want to thank those who supported the Blogoaksphere Car-Free Challenge team. I admit, I probably wouldn’t have even bothered signing up for the challenge if Becks from Living in the O hadn’t started the team. For a while, I was kind of worried it would just be the two of us. But then we were awesomely joined by Gene from Our Oakland, Eric from Transbay Blog, and David from Fragmentary Evidence. So thank you so much to the other bloggers who participated!

    And a very special thanks to the readers who contributed to TransForm to support my efforts! You guys rock!

    Okay. Now on to the rest of my car-free week.

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    Car Free Challenged, Part 1

    So, the Car Free Challenge has come and gone. I know you’re supposed to blog about your experiences during the challenge, but I just was not able to find the time (plus, I was having terrible blog problems). But I figured that since I did it, I might as well write about it, even if it is a little late. Plus, it seemed like a good way to ease back in to blogging.

    Before the challenge

    So. I don’t own a car. I don’t even have a driver’s license. Obviously, driving is not some huge part of my life, which makes car free challenge somewhat less of a challenge for me than I’m sure it would be for many people.

    But I don’t live a completely car free lifestyle, either. I do take taxis pretty regularly. If it’s really late, and especially if I happen for some strange reason to be intoxicated, I will totally take a taxi even a very short distance rather than walk home by myself. If I am running late for something, I’ll often just head straight to the cab stand at 13th and Broadway. Or if I need to carry a lot of heavy things that I just can’t get on the bus, like after a trip to BevMo.

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    ABO is having some problems

    My deepest apologies, readers. ABO has been having some big problems lately. The site became infected with malware, and trying to restore things to normal has been…um, a trying process. I think my latest attempt at a solution should have solved the problem (if it hasn’t and you get some kind of anti-virus notice when you visit, please e-mail me: v at vsmoothe dot com). But it will probably be a couple of days before the site is restored totally back to normal. Right now, there are missing images and broken links to documents, and I hope to have all those restored this weekend. Getting the appearance back to normal might take a little longer. I appreciate your patience while I try to get things back up.

    If you’ve visited the site in the last week or two, I recommend running some kind of anti-virus scan on your computer. I use a Mac, so I really don’t know anything about how that works for PC people. Perhaps a reader who is familiar with that sort of thing can leave a comment with some suggestions?

    Join me this week in taking Transform’s Car Free Challenge!

    Good morning, folks! Happy Car Free Challenge week!

    What’s that? You don’t know what I’m talking about? You’re wondering what the Car Free Challenge is? Oh, okay. Let me tell you. Better yet, I’ll let TransForm tell you:

    It’s a weeklong event from June 1-7 where a community of people from around California set and reach a personal low car mileage goal. It raises awareness of the need for better walking, biking, and public transportation options. It also yields data, stories, and critical funds for TransForm, an award-winning nonprofit, to use in advocating for world-class public transportation and walkable communities at the regional, state, and federal levels.

    The Car Free Challenge is simple. You register with TransForm (the $45 registration fee gets you a Car Free Challenge T-Shirt and a one-year membership to TransForm, which means free access to all their super interesting events).

    Then you set a goal of how few miles you want to go in a car, and for the rest of the week, keep track of how your miles. Also keep track of how many miles you go using other means — walking, bicycling, public transit. Your personal Car Free Challenge page gives you a space to log your miles, and also to blog about your experiences. And, of course, to solicit donations for TransForm! Speaking of which, who wants to support my car-free challenge goal of zero miles? I have set a goal of raising $100 for TransForm. Can you kick in $5 or $10?

    As much as I’d loved for you to help me reach my fundraising goal, what I would love even more is for you to register for the challenge yourself. You can register for the challenge through tomorrow.

    Once you’ve registered, it would be totally awesome if you joined the blogoaksphere team that Becks took the time to set up. Right now, the only members of our team are me and her.

    Now, I haven’t exactly been in heavy recruitment mode or anything, but over the last week, I did make a couple of half-hearted attempts to encourage other people to sign up for the Car Free Challenge and to join our team. I was amazed by how resistant people were! I mean, I get that $45 is a lot of money, and so I totally understand if people don’t want to do it because they can’t pay. All I have to say about that is that TransForm is a really wonderful organization and they do great work, and there are a whole lot of worse places your money could go.

    But surprisingly, none of the people who rolled their eyes or laughed when I suggested they do the Car Free Challenge cited money as the barrier. Instead, they all gave me condescending lectures of varying lengths about how they need to drive for their life. “I’m not like you,” they all say. I have places I have to take a car.

    And of course, I respond to all of them by saying that doing the Car Free Challenge doesn’t mean you can’t drive at all. It’s an opportunity to become more conscious of how much you drive, and to remember that there are other options for getting around.

    I set my goal for the week as zero miles. But you can pick a much higher number. Here is what TransForm has to say about selecting your mileage goal:

    We know that depending on where you live and what your options are for public transportation, walking, and bicycling, even a small reduction in driving can be a real challenge! For others, this may be the thing that inspires them to go entirely car-free.

    Pick a goal that inspires you, but is realistic. Do some quick math on what you drive in a week or month and think about what it would take to reduce your mileage by 5%, 10%, 50% or more. Your average American driver drives about 30 miles per day (or 250 miles per week); your average Bay Area driver drives about 18 miles/day.

    And yes, you do get credit for carpooling.

    The more resistant you are to the idea of taking the Car Free Challenge, the more you probably need to do it. Once you start being conscious of how much you drive, you will likely find that you do take a lot of car trips that really are not necessary. Maybe your work is nowhere near public transit. Okay, so you have to drive. But that doesn’t mean you can’t carpool one or two days a week. And it doesn’t mean you can’t walk to your errands when you get home. Or maybe you have tons of groceries to buy and really need to take your car to the store. But if you’re like most people, you probably drive to one errand, come back, and then later in the day, or the next day, you drive to another errand that really could have been combined with the previous trip if you had just planned it a little better.

    Maybe you do work and live close enough to transit, but sometimes you need your car for off-site appointments. In that case, maybe you should consider just leaving your car at work for the week, so you’ll have it when you need it, but you can walk or take the bus for your main trip of the day. Or maybe, you look at your schedule for the week, and on the days when you’re not going to be needing to drive to a meeting off-site, you ride your bike there. Just think before you get in the car — do I really need to drive for this trip? The answer won’t always be no. But it will be no more often than you think it’s going to be.

    So please, join me and Becks this week in taking the Car Free Challenge. You have until tomorrow to register!