Monthly Archives: June 2011

Still no decision on the budget

The Council didn’t pass a budget last night, but hopefully will do so at their meeting on Thursday. There isn’t really much to say beyond that. There was a suggested compromise budget, and of course tons of great tweets, though. Read on for the highlights.

LWV Statement requesting the Council to preserve transparency

For a couple minutes last night, I stepped out of my blogger role and put on my League of Women Voters of Oakland pin. I read to the Council a statement from the League objecting to the proposed cuts to open government and transparency functions. Many thanks to LWVO member Rebecca Saltzman for leaving a party that I’m sure was much more fun than the budget meeting in order to come cede me time!

A number of people asked me about it afterwards, so I thought it might be of interest to you guys too. Here it is:

The League understands very well the overwhelming financial difficulties facing the city. We also understand that in a time of budget crisis, transparency, sunshine, and the public’s ability to scrutinize the actions of city government become more essential than ever.

We strongly object to the proposed reduction of the Public Ethics Executive Director position and the proposed elimination of the Public Ethics executive assistant. Since its creation in 1997, the Public Ethics Commission has been severely understaffed, operating with only two employees, a fraction of the support staff afforded to similar commissions in neighboring cities.

Any further reduction of Public Ethics staff would render it impossible for the Commission to fulfill its charter mandated duties, which include administration and enforcement of the Sunshine Ordinance, the Campaign Reform Act, the Lobbyist Registration Act, and campaign public financing, among others.

Additionally, the League strongly objects to the proposed reduction of the number of public meetings broadcast by KTOP. These recordings play a critical role in ensuring transparent government, as they are often the only opportunity for citizens to witness the public decision-making process. Meeting minutes are not an adequate substitute, as they record votes only, and provide no information about the substance of discussions.

Again, we appreciate the difficulty of the choices before you. But reducing transparency and obliterating enforcement of open government laws is unacceptable. Limitations on the city budget do not eliminate the public’s right to know.

A budget compromise

Noting the many common elements between all budget proposals, District 4 Councilmember Libby Schaaf suggested a compromise that incorporated some elements of all the different plans.


Here’s what it looked like. Remember, all of this is changes to the Mayor’s Scenario A. This document (PDF) lists all the proposed cuts and additional revenue measures in the Mayor’s Scenarios A, B, and C. This document (PDF) compares the three different proposals from Councilmembers (thanks to Matthai Kuruvila from the Chronicle for sharing).

Additional Expenditures versus Mayor’s Scenario A

The total cost of these add backs is $12,439,756 in FY11-12 and $13,898,150 in FY12-13.

  • Transfer 2 FTEs from Council offices to redevelopment (would count towards already budgeted 15% reduction)
  • Do not delay opening of East Oakland Sports Center
  • Maintain library services
  • Keep Main Library open during Winter Break
  • Preserve 9 Neighborhood Service Coordinators, eliminate 1 vacant NSC position
  • Maintain 85% of cultural arts grants funding
  • Preserve 2 Information Technology FTEs by moving them to the Library and funding them with Measure Q surplus
  • Preserve 1 FTE Oakland Film Office
  • Maintain 85% subsidies to Oakland Zoo, Vietnamese Senior Centers, Symphony in schools program, AIDs initiative, Women’s Business Initiative, Chabot Space & Science Center, Oakland Asian Cultural Center & Peralta Hacienda
  • Maintain 100% of Eden I&R 211 Information & Referral funding and move to Library GPF budget
  • Keep all fire stations open
  • Preserve programming at Manzanita, San Antonio and Poplar Rec Centers
  • Civilianize police internal affairs
  • Hire back 44 laid off officers immediately (increasing sworn strength by 22 officers)
  • Preserve 3 gardener II positions
  • Retain one tree trimming crew, move that and three gardener positions and one gardener crew supervisor position to LLAD
  • Freeze 5 FTE Information Technology positions previously proposed to be restored for one year, all positions are currently vacant
  • Preserve 1 HR & 2 Accounting positions
  • Restore Principal Financial Analyst and Payroll Personnel Clerk III in treasury division
  • Downgrade one Principal Financial Analyst to Senior Human Resources Systems Analyst
  • Downgrade one Payroll Personnel Clerk III to Payroll Personnel Clerk II
  • Contribute whatever savings we have at the end of the day to reserve
  • Restore hazmat pay to firefighters

Additional Savings

The total amount in additional savings and new revenue (again, compared to the Mayor’s Scenario A) is $14,576,227 in FY11-12 and $21,897,000 in FY12-13.

  • Cost Savings from Labor agreements
  • Move some money from Kaiser Arena sales proceeds away from accelerated negative fund payment and put it in general fund reserve
  • Shift some Kaiser Center sales proceeds from 2nd to 1st year
  • Adjust OPD attrition assumption rate from 3.3 to 4 per month

New Revenue

  • Convert 580 Underpass Lot to 169 meters

The tweets!

I was delighted last night to see a number of new people tweeting the Council meeting! Below, I’ve collected some of the highlights of the Twitter coverage. If you want to see all of it, just search #oakmtg on Twitter.

matthai: hundreds have poured into Oakland CC budget meetings, but tonight is relatively tame. No pitchforks or chainsaws tonight. #oakmtg

dto510: Current speaker helped me file my taxes two years ago. I agree that revenue-generating positions should’t be cut. #oakmtg

Vsmoothe: Former Ethics Commissioner Barbara Newcombe speaking, objects to cuts to Public Ethics dept., KTOP programming. #oakmtg

dto510: West #Oakland er says new youth services agency isn’t doing a good job, CM Nadel no longer represents area, to applause. #oakmtg

matthai: can we take an #oakmtg poll? What % chance do you think the council will actually vote on the budget tonight rather than push it off?

dto510: @matthai 25%. It’s not yet the last minute. #oakmtg

dto510: Library worker tells a touching family story “through the library, the internet and Google.” #oakmtg

matthai: @vsmoothe, on behalf of LWV, criticizes council proposals to cut Ethics Commission & KTOP broadcasts. #oakmtg

matthai: … @vsmoothe: “limitations on the city budget do not eliminate the public’s right to know.” #oakmtg

anca: Thank you League of Women Voters for standing up for transparency. #oakmtg

dto510: Next speaker expounds on idea of “creative taxes,” says Council should focus on national issues like bank bailouts. #oakmtg

dto510: IFPTE 21 rep decries sorry state of City technology infrastructure, wants preservation of Oaklanders’ Assistance Center. #oakmtg

mcplanner: Fun Sanjay Facts: 20% of Oakland hotel rentals are prostitution. Ticket cyclists as revenue source #oakmtg

dto510: “Pat Kernighan loves bicyclists… & stops Oakland from holding (them) accountable.” – Sanjiv Handa. Not the advocates’ perspective. #oakmtg

dto510: Handa calls out Mayor Quan for sending fundraising plea to email addresses gleaned from non-political events. #oakmtg

Vsmoothe: Speaker now objecting to police use of mind control technology. Um… #oakmtg

dto510: While #Oakland City Council listens to the public b/c of that pesky Brown Act, State Legislature blows thru budget bills. #oakmtg

matthai: A 360 degree view of council chambers tonight. Wish I’d done this when we had pitchforks. http://bit.ly/iQkgqe #oakmtg

Vsmoothe: Speaker: Our librarian doesn’t deserve to lose her job, she deserves an Oscar. #oakmtg And that’s it for public comment!

oaklandscene: Between the call for an investigation of CIA mind control and speaker talking & also breast feeding at things are a bit surreal. #oakmtg

eastbaycitizen: Reading my Twitter timeline is quite riveting with tweets from #CAbudget, #oakmtg and #CARedistricting happening all at once.

Vsmoothe: CM Brooks now presenting her team’s budget. If you haven’t seen the budgets, they’re all available on http://t.co/hAIdtdA #oakmtg

Vsmoothe: CM Brooks: Council offices + Neighborhood Service Coordinators can handle job of Oaklanders Assistance Center. Already take calls. #oakmtg

Vsmoothe: I have an idea! If they do the same thing, how about we keep the Oaklanders Assistance Center and cut Council staff to pay for it? #oakmtg

dto510: CM Brooks says despite new funds, still need for cuts and new revenues for the next budget process. #oakmtg

MarleenLee: Oh. So part of the police proposal is to give them a raise in 2014? Interesting. #oakmtg

dto510: CM De La Fuente says OPOA contract makes problem worse b/c trades 9% pension contribution for a 4% raise, 2x sick days. #oakmtg

dto510: CM DLF: We’re ignoring $138m debt on funds, half-billion-dollar PFRS liability, $43m payment next month. #oakmtg

MarleenLee: Pat Kernighan admits that the budget proposals are nothing more than band-aids. #oakmtg

Vsmoothe: CM Kernighan: “In two years when this budget is up, we will again be in difficult straits.” #oakmtg

Vsmoothe: Is that a joke? I will be FLOORED if they make it through December without having to open up the budget and do this all over again. #oakmtg

oaklandscene: Fiinal budget vote looks remote especially when council members are still questioning city staff about proposed budget components. #oakmtg

dto510: Consultant defends changing revenue collection, says model data-mining program exceeded revenue targets by $3.2m. #oakmtg

Vsmoothe: Staff spending ridiculous amnt of time explaining to the Council they’re using computers now instead of people with pens and paper. #oakmtg

anca: Hmm, some councilpeeps seem awfully ignorant about the Revenue Dept’s IT improvements, which replace antiquated manual processes #oakmtg

Vsmoothe: Or is it me? Am I missing something here? This whole discussion seems ridiculously stupid. #oakmtg

DIYGene: @Vsmoothe “so explain these computer things…” #oakmtg

Vsmoothe: I really wish they would stop talking about this. This discussion is boring and repetitive. #oakmtg

MarleenLee: I think this discussion on the revenue collection is an excellent way to cut down on public speakers-new way around Brown Act. #oakmtg

DIYGene: #oakmtg let’s talk about the budget proposals, shall we? #facepalm

Vsmoothe: I think Council is trying to drive everyone away w/this inane discussion so nobody sees what they say about the rest of the budget. #oakmtg

Vsmoothe: OMG Thank goodness! It’s over! Now CM Brunner asking about rehiring officers. “Where is this money coming from?” #oakmtg

OaklandBecks: CM Brunner – We need consensus. We can keep giving speeches, but that’s not going to bring us to consensus. Agreed. #oakmtg

anca: I can’t believe that we are counting on selling off city property (which does not have a buyer) as a way to solve budget problems. #oakmtg

matthai: Gang of 4 budget assumes cops cost $149k/yr. Avg cop in Oakland previously stated at $188k/yr. #oakmtg

OaklandBecks: Budgeting by magic! RT @matthai Gang of 4 budget assumes cops cost $149k/yr. Avg cop in Oakland previously started at $188k/yr. #oakmtg

chuklessmith@OaklandBecks I didn’t read the 7th Harry Potter book, but I expect it ended with him slaying Voldemort, not balancing the Oakland budget.

Vsmoothe: CM Nadel: We wanted to wait for negotiations before having a proposal so it wouldn’t get out that libraries might be closed. #oakmtg

Vsmoothe: WTF? Has she been living in the same city as I have for the last two months? #oakmtg

matthai: Nadel says budget proposals delayed so advocates wouldn’t be pit against each other. But that’s exactly what happened for 2 months. #oakmtg

Vsmoothe: CM Schaaf: We’ll have no new information on budget Thurs that we don’t have tonight. Delaying costs money! Must pass budget tonight! #oakmtg

Vsmoothe: I am curious where this sudden sense of urgency is coming from, when the Council went 2 months without saying a word! #oakmtg

dto510: They’re getting down to brass tacks. CM Schaaf says her team will accept parking meters under 580 but not in Eastlake. #oakmtg

Vsmoothe: CM Schaaf moves adoption of a combination of her team’s budget and the other budgets, CM Nadel seconds. #oakmtg

Vsmoothe: CM Reid asks @jeanquan to respect Council and let them discuss budget w/o interruption. She interrupts: “I’m not a typical Mayor.” #oakmtg

Vsmoothe: CM Brunner: This is not a real compromise, I would need to see something in writing. #oakmtg

Vsmoothe: CM Brunner: I am not comfortable with spending one time money on ongoing operations. CM Brooks also wants to see it in writing. #oakmtg

OaklandBecks: Looks like we might have a #cabudget vote tonight, but clearly there will be no Oakland budget passed tonight. #oakmtg

Vsmoothe: #oakmtg isn’t over, but I’ve had enough! Goodnight!

matthai: Council will vote on budget on Thursday — last day of fiscal year. Council proposals might be posted online tomorrow #oakmtg

Gcrime: I should have gone to #oakmtg instead of obsessing over gamer serial killers on British television

Vsmoothe: Now for the best part of #oakmtg. The glass of wine afterwards!

matthai: Oakland Council turns down their salary increases. #oakmtg

DIYGene: given pushing everything to Thursday #oakmtg i wonder if anyone will show up for the opening of the EO sports center

DIYGene #oakmtg votes 8-0 to accept contract for EO sports center as-is, rather than do 6 months and re-evaluate. made CM reid happy

amymartincomics: Reid is cranky, and he just said “my sugar is up.” #oakmtg

amymartincomics: CM Brooks thinks fees are “way too high” for E. Oakland Sports Ctr?.. erm, kind of late to bring that up, isn’t it? #oakmtg

Zac Unger: Details on the firefighter union concessions

Last night, zac left a very helpful comment in the Open Thread detailing the agreement reached between the firefighters union and the City. To make it easier for people to find, and also to avoid overburdening the Open Thread with conversation on one topic, I’m putting up the comment as its own post here, and moving the comments that were already left in response over here as well. Thanks again for filling us in, zac! – V

OK folks–here it is. It’s time to let you all in on the contract that Local 55 (fire) has negotiated with the city. Ready? Go!

As you know (hopefully) Local 55 is already paying 13% of our salary towards PERS. This is far over and above any other bargaining unit in the city. And we’ve been doing it for years, saving the city lots of money. We also reduced the amount the city paid for our medical coverage two years ago. Next, two years ago we agreed to work four hours per week for free. We’re still doing that. This was effectively a 7% cut in pay. I’ve heard a lot of people say that that isn’t a cut to work four hours per week for free. But imagine if you are a 40-hour per week employee and your boss told you that you had to come to work every other Saturday, all day long. For free. It would probably feel like a cut.

Anyhow, that’s what we did before. Here’s what we’re proposing now:

  • Three year contract
  • 8.85% pay cut
  • Give up 2 Vacation days per year
  • Freeze the city’s contribution to our dental plan
  • New hires go to 3% at 55 for pension

An 8.85% cut plus a loss of two vacation days is equivalent to 10% of our total compensation, or 9.57 million dollars. Two vacation days might not seem like a lot, but we work 24-hour days. Most folks in the dept get either 7 or 9 days, so a loss of two days is a significant chunk.

So there you have it (for the first part at least; there’s more). Ten percent. Boom. In the form of a 9-ish percent cut and two vacation days. This is on top of the 13% contribution to PERS and all that other stuff. It saves the city 30 million over the life of the contract, and the change in retirement calculation saves millions more down the road.

But wait, there’s more…In the second year of the contract we give the city the option of browning out two companies. The city is quite eager to close/brownout firehouses. We insisted that each neighborhood share the pain. So to that end the brownouts will roll through the entire city. We have 32 rigs and 2 will brown out each day, beginning July 2012. Essentially, each company will be closed one sixteenth of the time. This saves the city 4.4 million dollars per year.

So there you have it. A 10% cut directly out of the firefighter’s pocket. Ten million bucks a year. And two years of brownouts. It’s not anybody’s dream, but it’s a solid concession and we’re proud to do our part to help the city through this rough patch. I also feel compelled to point out that this concession far exceeds what any of the council members asked us for in their budgets. Going off of V Smoothe’s analysis, IDLF wanted 3.7 million from us; the Kaplan team wanted 12 million from ALL UNIONS COMBINED; and the Reid group didn’t really seem to be asking for any concessions at all. At any rate, we tripled the concessions that IDLF asked us for, and his seemed to be the most concessions-based budget.

Bottom line is that it’s a solid deal in a shaky time. We hope all of the other bargaining units will make similar concessions so that we can get this city moving again. It’s a pleasure working for/with all you fellow Oaklanders and I hope you feel OK about this deal.

And now: fire away! I’ll take your questions.

Grand Jury blasts Oakland building services

Arnie Fields must be feeling vindicated. The Alameda County Civil Grand Jury released its 2010-11 final report (PDF) today, and it is none too favorable towards the City of Oakland.

Oakland Building Services

The report includes a lengthy and extremely harsh indictment of Oakland’s Building Services division (PDF):

Building Services’ code enforcement inspectors have aggressively pursued blight and sub-standard properties throughout Oakland as determined by their individual interpretations of the applicable city code. This has led to an inconsistent enforcement program backed by inspectors’ threats of filing large liens on the offering properties. This creates an institutional reluctance to lend on these properties and reluctance by property owners to improve their properties.

The Grand Jury found that property owners complained that it is extremely difficult to understand the process for appealing a citation, or to resolve issues with Building Services inspectors. Testimony confirmed there are no standard operating manuals or guidelines for Building Services inspectors. Property owners were frustrated by their inability to speak with inspectors who are only available for short periods of time on an irregular schedule.

The Grand Jury found an atmosphere of hostility and intimidation toward property owners within the Building Services division. When property owners complained, they were sometimes threatened with more fines or, in one case, even loss of their home. Some inspectors inappropriately used their law enforcement authority and their city-issued badges to intimidate property owners. Therefore, the Grand Jury believes that the city of Oakland should reevaluate its policy of granting law enforcement authority and related badges to building inspectors.

The Grand Jury is appalled by the actions of the city of Oakland’s Building Services Division and its impact on property owners of Oakland. The significant contradictions between the testimony of Building Services employees and the testimony of property owners and contractors are disturbing. The division’s practices and its treatment of property owners appear to be a direct reflection of poor management, lack of leadership, and ambiguous policies and procedures.

Their examples make Oakland look pretty bad. Here’s one they give as an illustration of excessive fees. The property was cited for trash and debris:

“Trash and debris, blight” turned out to be children’s toys in the yard. This resulted in fees/fines of over $18k and having to demolish a garage converted to an indoor/outdoor recreation room that had been approved more than 20 years earlier.

Another example, which they cite as “egregious abuse of authority”:

Building inspectors had a warrant for entry to premises for inspection only (not to remove items); they removed and disposed of EVERYTHING in the house and had animal control take the property owner’s dog. Subsequently the city recorded a lien for $30k.

Radio Interoperability

A study of regional emergency communications (PDF), focused mostly on the East Bay Regional Communications System Authority (EBRCSA), a joint powers authority whose goal it is to provide interoperability of radio systems throughout Alameda County and Contra Costa County, in order to allow for coordinated response during disasters, raised some serious concerns about Oakland’s ongoing radio issues:

Focusing on the question of why the city of Oakland has not joined EBRSCA, the current Grand Jury interviewed public safety officials from Oakland and EBRSCA.

Unfortunately, based on our research, the current Grand Jury concludes that the goals of cooperation and interoperability are far from being achieved, and progress towards regional interoperability between the city of Oakland and EBRSCA is at a standstill. The delay in finding a joint solution for this issue leaves the lives of officers and the public in continued jeopardy.

and

While investigating interoperability, the Grand Jury became aware of persistent radio communication problems within the city of Oakland (internal operability problems). The Grand Jury requested and received copies of reports of radio problems submitted by police personnel over the past year including reports of dead spots and radio failures. The sheer volume of reported problems from these reports, the CTA study, and from witness testimony can only be described as shocking.

Parking citation system

Not all the news about Oakland was bad. The Grand Jury appeared pleased with the results of an investigation of Oakland’s new parking citation system (PDF), although they had a few recommendations for improvements:

While the new system may not solve all parking citation problems, the Grand Jury is pleased that the city of Oakland’s Parking Bureau is keeping up with new technology. To make the system more effective, it would be valuable to have 100% of those issuing tickets use this electronic system. The Parking Bureau should track performance of the new system carefully to document strengths and weaknesses, continue to train staff on its use, and make adjustments as necessary.

Download the full report here (PDF). It makes for some pretty interesting reading.

Finally, Council silence on the budget ends

In the nearly two months since the Mayor released her three proposed budget scenarios, Oakland residents concerned about service cuts have waited and waited and waited to hear how the Council will react. Today, we finally got some information about alternatives the Council will be discussing at the special Council meetings being held on Tuesday and Thursday of next week.

In case you’ve forgotten, here’s a comparison of the budget changes in the Mayor’s three budget scenarios (PDF).

Proposal from Ignacio De La Fuente

And here’s the budget proposal from Councilmember Ignacio De La Fuente (PDF). It maintains library services, as well as cultural arts funding and Neighborhood Service Coordinators. In the accompanying memo (PDF), he notes:

Of particular significance is my proposal to impose 20 furlough days for police. I differ from my colleagues and the Mayor and City Administration in that my proposal does not use gimmicks or revenue projections that are not real. This proposal lives up to the expectation that every sector of the City provides their fair share to balance this budget.

So here’s what it looks like.

Added back to Mayor’s Scenario A, totaling $10,532,406

  • No fire station closures: $310,000
  • No reduction in library staffing: $5,447,340
  • Film office staffing, add back 1 FTE
  • No Rec Center reduction programming at Manzanita and San Antonio: $184,963
  • Council Offices: move 2 FTE from General Fund to Redevelopment: $252,182 (plus other “alternative reduction”, for total savings of $378,856)
  • Opening of East Oakland Sports Center: $500,000
  • Maintain minimal funding at Zoo: $150,000
  • Neighborhood Service Coordinators: $1,000,000
  • No Parking Division Reorganization: $617,237
  • No Reduction in Accounting, Treasury, and Admin Positions: $1,000,000
  • Cultural Arts Grants Funding: $730,000
  • Peralta Hacienda: $54,000
  • Asian Cultural Center: $60,000

New revenue, totaling: $8,266,340

  • Additional 5 days of Mandatory Leave without Pay for police, bringing total to 20: $2,300,000
  • Firefighter union concessions: $3,700,000
  • Convert 580 underpass lot to 169 meters: $483,340
  • Reinstall 200 meters at East Lake: $660,000
  • Transfer Tax from sale of The Landing at Jack London Square: $973,000
  • Sell former Champion Street Fire Station: $150,000

New savings, totaling $2,299,336

  • Eliminate City Attorney legal communications officer: $164,448
  • Eliminate Neighborhood Law Corps Director position: $161,451
  • Eliminate Misdemeanor Prosecution Program: $297,662
  • Eliminate Half-Time Executive Assistant to the Public Ethics Director: $51,240
  • Reduce Public Ethics Director Position to Half Time: $75,862
  • 12 Yearly Closure Dates and PWA Savings at the East Oakland Sports Center: $500,000
  • Administrative Assistant to Mayor: $82,184 (NSD)
  • Eliminate Program Analyst III (NSD): $134,134
  • Eliminate Police Service Technician II (NSD): $87,002
  • Eliminate Administrative Services Manager II (Parking Division): $178,494
  • Eliminate Administrative Assistant I (Parking Division): $76,261
  • Reduce Parking Enforcement Supervisor II to Parking Enforcement Supervisor 1: $33,136
  • Reduce Accountant III to Accountant II (Parking Division): $19,436
  • Parking: Reduce Accountant Clerk III to Accountant II (vacant): $37,470
  • Freeze Parking Meter Repair Worker (vacant): $76,806
  • Freeze Parking Meter Collector (vacant): $71,568
  • 1 FTE Film Office from General Fund to Redevelopment: $100,000
  • For Public Works: Add back 3 FTE Tree Trimmers ($333,199), 1 FTE Tree Supervisor ($132,844), 2 FTE Gardeners II ($177,794), Eliminate $350,000 newly proposed Emergency Tree Contract, Eliminate newly proposed Program Analyst II ($102,950), Eliminate Management Intern Facilities and Environment Division ($83,000), Eliminate Account III – Fiscal Services ($128,000), Utilize LLAD Operating Surplus ($44,439)

I’ll update this post with other two Council budget proposals when they appear.

Proposal from Councilmembers Nancy Nadel, Pat Kernighan, Rebecca Kaplan, and Libby Schaaf

And here’s the budget proposal from Councilmembers Nadel, Kernighan, Kaplan, and Schaaf (PDF). Strangely, although it continues to rely on the sale of the Kaiser Convention Center for an absurd price, it conditions the sale on “modified purchase sources” and the immediate issuance of an RFQ. It’s unclear what these purchase sources are — a different Redevelopment Area (as proposed by Brooks, Brunner, and Reid)? Or a private party, which is what the reference to an RFQ seems to imply? If that’s the case, it does not seem realistic to me at all. Selling it to ourselves for so much money was bad, but the idea that anyone else would buy it for the amount budgeted is just laughable.

Additional Expenditures versus Mayor’s Scenario A, totaling $20,131,037

  • Maintain library services: $5,450,000
  • Keep Main Library open during Winter Break: $50,000
  • Preserve all 9 Community Policing Neighborhood Service Coords: $829,929
  • Maintain 85% of cultural arts grants funding: $620,602
  • Preserve 2 Information Technology FTEs by moving them to the Library and funding them with Measure Q surplus: $240,000
  • Preserve 1 FTE Oakland Film Office: $98,543
  • Maintain 85% subsidies to Oakland Zoo, Vietnamese Senior Centers, Symphony in schools program, AIDs initiative, Women’s Business Initiative, Chabot Space & Science Center, Oakland Asian Cultural Center & Peralta Hacienda: $799,615
  • Maintain 100% of Eden I&R 211 Information & Referral funding and move to Library GPF budget: $100,000
  • Keep all fire stations open: $320,000
  • Preserve programming at Manzanita, San Antonio and Poplar Rec Centers: $299,393
  • Civilianize police internal affairs ($1,340,000 in savings in FY12/13, none in FY11-12)
  • Hire back 44 laid off officers immediately (increasing sworn strength by 22 officers): $3,271,478
  • Preserve 3 gardener II positions: $257,000
  • Preserve 5 Tree Trimmers + 2 Tree Supervisor 1s: $705,174
  • Preserve 5 Information technology FTEs: $705,174
  • Preserve 1 HR & 2 Accounting positions: $325,000
  • Contribution to Reserve: $6,050,000

Additional Savings, totaling $20,140,000

  • Cost Savings Goal from Labor Agreements: $12,200,000
  • Move $1.3 of Kaiser Arena sales proceeds from accelerated negative fund payment to general fund reserve: $1,300,000
  • Shift Henry Kaiser Center sales proceeds from 2nd to 1st year: $5,100,000
  • Adjust OPD attrition assumption rate from 3.3 to 4 per month: $1,200,000
  • Draw Measure Q surplus to preserve library services and dedicated Library Technology staff: $340,000
  • Total savings: $20,140,000

Cost Neutral Proposals

  • Reject current reorganization proposal of parking division. Direct staff to return with a new cost-neutral proposal that maintains Parking Director position.
  • Adopt City Attorney’s proposal to add 6 Attorney and 3 Support Staff positions funded by Self Liability Insurance fund 1100 in Non-Dept. and reduce liability costs by same amount. Require study 9 months after implementation to evaluate promised cost savings.
  • Support 5 day reduced hours at Senior Centers.
  • Condition sale of Henry J. Kaiser Center on modified purchase sources and issuance of RFQ asap.
  • Restore as many Gardener II’s as possible through savings in LLAD realized by labor agreements

Future Revenue Ideas

  • Lease Miller Library
  • Sell Chabot Golf Course
  • Seek WIB funding for Second Start Literacy Program
  • Seek Redevelopment funding for Tool Lending Library
  • Explore revenue generation through fees or membership program at AAMLO Museum

Proposal from Councilmembers Larry Reid, Desley Brooks, and Jane Brunner

Here is the budget proposal from Councilmember Reid, Brooks, and Brunner (PDF). It’s extremely similar to De La Fuente’s budget, except with fewer sources of new revenue and it does not restore the proposed cuts of gardeners and tree trimmers or the cultural arts grant funding. It also eliminates the Oaklanders Assistance Center. Both this budget and De La Fuente’s budget gut the Public Ethics Office, eliminating the part-time assistant entirely and reducing the Executive Director (the only other Public Ethics staff member) to half-time.

Added back to Mayor’s Scenario A, totaling $10,448,405

  • No fire station closures: $310,000
  • No reduction in library staffing: $5,797,340
  • Film office staffing, add back 1 FTE: $100,000
  • No Rec Center reduction programming at Manzanita: $400,000
  • Council Offices: move 2 FTE from General Fund to Redevelopment: $378,856
  • Opening of East Oakland Sports Center: $500,000
  • Maintain minimal funding at Zoo: $400,000
  • Neighborhood Service Coordinators: $1,000,000
  • No Parking Division Reorganization: $562,199
  • No Reduction in Accounting, Treasury, and Admin Positions: $1,000,010
  • No elimination of 0.50 FTE Revenue Assistant or 4.80 FTEs Tax Enforcement Officer II positions: $562,199

Alternative to Mayor’s proposal

  • “Alternative funding of Kaiser from other Redevelopment Sources”: $15,000,000.
  • New revenue, totaling: $2,140,000

    • Convert 580 underpass lot to 169 meters: $483,340
    • Reinstall 200 meters at East Lake: $660,000
    • Transfer Tax from sale of The Landing at Jack London Square: $973,000

    New savings, totaling $2,299,336

    • Eliminate City Attorney legal communications officer: $164,448
    • Eliminate Misdemeanor Prosecution Program: $297,662
    • Elimination Oakland Assistance Center: $251,151
    • Eliminate Half-Time Executive Assistant to the Public Ethics Director: $51,240
    • Reduce Public Ethics Director Position to Half Time: $75,862
    • 12 Yearly Closure Dates and PWA Savings at the East Oakland Sports Center: $500,000
    • Eliminate Neighborhood Service Director (Administrative Assistant to Mayor: $82,184 (NSD)
    • Eliminate Program Analyst III (NSD): $134,134
    • Eliminate Police Service Technician II (NSD): $87,002
    • Eliminate Administrative Services Manager II (Parking Division): $178,494
    • Eliminate Administrative Assistant I (Parking Division): $76,261
    • Downgrade Parking Enforcement Supervisor II to Parking Enforcement Supervisor 1: $24,514
    • Downgrade Accountant III to Accountant II (Parking Division): $27,597
    • Freeze Assistant Controller: $105,386
    • Eliminate Administrator Analyst (new proposed budget position): $95,627
    • Transfer 1 FTE from Film Office from General Fund to Redevelopment: $100,000

    Mark your calendar for the Oakland Service Festival on August 13th

    If you had four hours and a whole bunch of helping hands, what would you do in your neighborhood?

    The Ella Baker Center for Human Rights wants to know. They might just be able to provide those helping hands for you.

    Throw Down for the Town

    Through their Soul of the City initiative, the Ella Baker Center is organizing a city-wide day of service on Saturday, August 13th. From 10-2, they’ll have volunteer service projects (neighborhood clean-ups, tree plantings, stuff like that) throughout the City. Some projects are already confirmed, but they’re also still soliciting suggestions:

    We are leading Oakland in a City-Wide Day of Service and we hope that you will join us! We’ve confirmed 15+ service projects throughout Oakland. However, it’s not too late to submit your proposal to host a project and help Oakland thrive.

    You lead a service project and we’ll help turn out volunteers.

    Your project can be anything from working on a community garden to cleaning up a neighborhood, to painting a school. Please click Host a Project and we’ll contact you to get all the details.

    And after the work is over? Time to party!

    After four hours of people-powered community service, we’re hosting a celebration at Mosswood Park. There will be food, dance, and a solar paneled hip-hop concert. This will be a family friendly event and an opportunity to build community after a hard days work.

    So if you have an idea for a project you’d like to host, fill out the form. And if you don’t feel up to organizing something and just want to help out, mark your calendar for August 13th, so you can volunteer for whichever project speaks to you.

    The zoo, taxis, and libraries: Last night’s #oakmtg on Twitter

    The other day, I was reading this article about Twitter, and how although most people know about it, a relatively small number actually use it.

    I understand that Twitter isn’t really for everyone. There’s a lot of things on Twitter that don’t really interest me very much. I don’t follow celebrities, I don’t care about Foursquare checkins, and I never look at the trending topics. But the great thing about Twitter is that if you’re not interested in any of that, you don’t have to make it a part of your experience, because Twitter is largely organized around interests, rather than existing relationships.

    Which brings me to my favorite thing about Twitter: #oakmtg.

    A while back, I went through a period of about a year where I had either totally unreliable internet service at home, or no internet service at home. I don’t have cable either, which meant that if I wanted to watch a Council meeting, I had to go down to City Hall and sit there through the whole thing.

    Mostly, I prefer watching Council meetings from home, because — well, Council meetings tend to last a really long time, and I’m a busy person. If I’m at home, I can have the meeting playing while I get other things done. At City Hall, it’s way too distracting to accomplish any real work. So I often found myself rather bored.

    So mostly as a way to pass the time and entertain myself, I started tweeting what was going on. Turned out, a lot of people seemed to enjoy hearing what was happening at Council meetings in real time. And then, other people who were watching the meetings started tweeting also. Soon, we had a small, but fairly active group of people tweeting Council meetings pretty regularly.

    And then, something even more exciting happened. Some people found the #oakmtg tweets interesting enough that they decided to turn on the meeting and watch for themselves. And then they started tweeting what was happening!

    How many people are tweeting any particular meeting varies depending on how exciting the agenda is. But I’m always so thrilled when I see new people tweeting meetings, and I think there’s a lot of potential for growth here. I’d love to see every meeting get tweeted — when I can’t make a Council meeting, I’m constantly checking Twitter to see what’s going on, and I always feel so disappointed if nobody’s tweeting it.

    Below, I’ve shared the #oakmtg tweets from last night, which should give you a sense of what all this looks like. (I’ve mixed in some video of public comment as well, just to spice things up.) So give it a read, and next time you find yourself at City Hall, or even at home watching a Council or Committee or Commission meeting, consider making yourself a Twitter account and tweet what’s going on. Just write “#oakmtg” at the end, and people will find it.

    And now, the tweets:

    Before the meeting

    oaklandscene: Alright, council members are in the chambers! #oakmtg

    DIYGene: what’s the chanting at #oakmtg? can’t make it out in the video feed

    DIYGene: now it’s “fair share, fair deal, city council make it real”. oo! and an airhorn at #oakmtg

    oaklandscene: I have to admit that I love the energy around council budget meetings. Councilman Reid is trying to call the meeting, but too noisy #oakmtg

    dto510: The Council is apparently also the Geological Hazard Abatement Board. I haven’t heard that one before. #oakmtg

    oaklandscene: No Mayor Jean Quan here at Oakland city council meeting. I’m a bit surprised. #oakmtg

    MaxAllstadt: @oaklandscene I’m not. She skips scary controversial meetings. She didn’t show up for gang injunctions either. #oakmtg

    matthai: @MaxAllstadt @oaklandscene Quan was definitely at injunction #oakmtg – just behind the scenes. She met with named gang members in her office

    MaxAllstadt: @matthai I know. I was at that #oakmtg with you. I was the one who tweeted the information that led to the Bay Citizen writing about it.

    New City Administrator

    oaklandscene: Larry Reid tried to get folks to move to the overflow rooms b/c of crowd size, but with defiant chants few people left. #oakmtg

    matthai: In separate news, Oakland city council unanimously approved San Jose Deputy City Manager Deanna Santana as the new city administrator.

    dto510: @matthai Whaat? Was that noticed?

    matthai: @dto510 Santana’s hiring as city administrator was approved in a closed session meeting today. #oakmtg

    matthai: Santana’s oakland experience: fire dept intern under chief Lamont Ewell, worked in Joe Samuels’ OPD & city mgr’s office under Craig Kocian

    dto510: .@matthai I’m sure new City Admin Deanna Santana is very well qualified, but boy was that a secretive selection process.

    Open Forum

    dto510: I heard there was quite the ‘Net battle over getting the first 15 sign-ups for Open Forum. Looks like artists beat libarians. #oakmtg

    dto510: A lot of people, on both biz and labor sides, think #Oakland loses a lot of biz tax to undercollection. #oakmtg

    dto510: I agree biz tax collectors shouldn’t be cut. But I don’t really like the idea of the tax man being Oakland’s “ambassador.” #oakmtg

    oaklandscene: Uh oh, I see the interim fire chief floating around. #oakmtg

    dto510: City workers chant, “chop from the top.” Here’s a comparison of CA City Council salaries: thedto.org/g8 #oakmtg

    DIYGene: library supporter insurrection at #oakmtg !

    oaklandscene: Councilmember Reid is trying to scold the crowd to be respectful, but it’s not really working. #oakmtg

    DIYGene: feeling the @oaklibrary love especially for the tool library at #oakmtg

    dudleypj: .@DIYGene #oakmtg did you get it on film? I might pay to see a #library insurrection.

    DIYGene: i know the reasons why, but it’s quite jarring to go from the chaos and energy of the open forum speakers to the ceremonial items at #oakmtg

    DIYGene: @dudleypj #oakmtg is shown on KTOP, so you can watch the video online or order a DVD :-)

    Vsmoothe: RT @DIYGene: feeling the @oaklibrary love especially for the tool library at #oakmtg

    tdlove5: Tried to go the the City Council Mtg tonight, but it was soo crowded I retreated home to watch on TV. #oakmtg

    tdlove5: As much as these ceremonial items might be necessary. I probably would have been mad if I had to sit through them. #oakmtg

    tdlove5: The Clerk just announced that the Council will not be addressing budget items this evening. #oakmtg. Yep, I would have been MAD after that!

    tdlove5: Go ahead Sanjiv Honda!! Tell ‘em., he is reading everyone the riot act: the Council and the citizens for voting for them. LOL #oakmtg

    dto510: Sanjiv Handa excoriates Council for scheduling too many items for public input, Mayor Quan for lying re: private mtg with gangsters. #oakmtg

    dto510: Michael Morgan, conductor of Oakland-EB Symphony, urges support for arts grants, & wears Save Oakland Libraries sticker. #oakmtg

    dto510: Green Party rep speaks for decriminalizing drugs b/c “the rest of the planet does it.” Umm… #oakmtg

    MarleenLee: Thank goodness the special election is not on tonight’s agenda. Such a lovely evening for a walk! #oakmtg

    dto510: Rental Housing Association rep Jill Broadhurst asks for more time to meet “neutral” Rent Board candidates. #oakmtg

    DIYGene: yay recent #oakland grad speaking at #oakmtg . and yay 10 yr old (!) speaking in favor of @oaklibrary !

    dto510: Watch public comment on libraries and other topics with video stream: thedto.org/ktop #oakmtg

    tdlove5: A 10 year old and a 6 year old read an eloquent and thoughtful speech asking the Council to #saveOaklandlibraries. #oakmtg. In awe.

    dto510: City Attorney rep (no longer Barbara Parker, now Interim CA) announces appointment of Deanna Santana as City Administrator. #oakmtg

    dto510: First time I’ve heard Mayor Quan say she wanted a City Administrator who had worked in California. #oakmtg

    oaklandscene: Quan is introducing new city administrator Deanna Santana. #oakmtg

    oaklandscene: Santana said she wants to work together with city employees and that she values their contributions. #oakmtg

    oaklandscene: Nearly two and a half hours in and we still haven’t gotten to the budget. #oakmtg

    matthai: @oaklandscene no discussion of the budget tonight. it’s been pulled. #oakmtg

    tdlove5: @oaklandscene I thought they announced that they aren’t going to discuss the budget tonight? #oakmtg

    DIYGene: too many connection probs with video … please keep tweeting progress of #oakmtg

    Zoo expansion appeal

    tdlove5: They had a GAD meeting, to discuss who will be President of the committee, and now back to Council business. Now expansion of zoo. #oakmtg

    matthai: @oaklandscene my understanding is that council will not discuss the budget tonight. #oakmtg

    matthai: @oaklandscene plus, the council has put forth no budget proposals. So there’s not much to discuss. #oakmtg

    tdlove5: GAD= geological abatement (d? no idea) #oakmtg

    Vsmoothe: tdlove5 GHAD. Geologic Hazard Abatement District.

    Vsmoothe: @matthai @oaklandscene City Clerk sent a message today saying there would be no discussion on Items 9.7 10 11 12 13 15 or 17 #oakmtg

    Vsmoothe: @matthai @tdlove5 The City has a legal obligation to hear Zoo apellants. That doesn’t excuse the Council ignoring the budget.

    matthai: @tdlove5 zoo is not more impt. Council is just not ready given unknowns in union negotiations (my story) http://bit.ly/k5p434 #oakmtg

    Vsmoothe: @matthai @tdlove5 Many times in the past, the Council has discussed the budget before finishing agreements w/unions. It is a nonsense excuse

    matthai: @Vsmoothe @tdlove5 … just to be clear, i wasn’t defending the council. Just reporting their explanation. #oakmtg

    dto510: “Why is the zoo some sacred cow? I don’t know.” Me & the zoo haters don’t agree. I’m tuning out. Tune in: thedto.org/ktop #oakmtg

    OneSeanMaher: Oakland just hired San Jose’s deputy city manager, Deanna Santana, for city administrator. Door open for cleverness re: Batts? #oakmtg

    tdlove5: @Vsmoothe @matthai Unfortunately I will be out of town June 28th when they submit their proposal. Will Try to follow in twitter! #oakmtg

    insidebayarea: MT @OneSeanMaher Oakland just hired deputy city manager, Deanna Santana, for city administrator. Door open for cleverness re: Batts? #oakmtg

    Vsmoothe: Zoo public comment over, Council now talking. CM Reid: When I first got elected, it took 18 months to resolve zoo issue. #oakmtg

    Vsmoothe: CM Reis, cont.: This time it has taken even longer. Describes long process of meetings, attempts to resolve objections. #oakmtg

    Vsmoothe: CM Reid: @oakzoo is a jewel. Supports zoo expansion. #oakmtg

    Vsmoothe: CM Schaaf: I see no legal reason not to deny the appeal and move forward with zoo expansion. #oakmtg

    Vsmoothe: Council denies zoo appeal, expansion can move forward. Much applause in chambers. #oakmtg

    Haha! RT @transbay: @Vsmoothe There are significant impacts triggering CEQA anytime any molecule anywhere moves even slightly.

    New taxi medallions

    Vsmoothe: Council onto taxi permits. Normally I would be all over this, have spent many hours on taxi regs, but tonight am too tired to care. #oakmtg

    OaklandBecks: @vsmoothe Too tired to care about taxis?! I have a feeling this item has a much more direct impact on your life than the zoo expansion.

    dto510: Taxi regulation in #Oakland is really screwed up. Everything the City does just makes things worse or is otherwise asinine. #oakmtg

    dto510: Like this proposal for new permits. I agree we need more permits, drivers are selfish to oppose, but what is a “temporary” taxi?? #oakmtg

    Vsmoothe: @OaklandBecks Yeah, but zoo is at least interesting. Trying to get Oakland to do something sensible w/taxis is a route to misery. #oakmtg

    Vsmoothe: MT @dto510: Taxi regulation in #Oakland is really screwed up. Everything City does just makes things worse or is otherwise asinine. #oakmtg

    OaklandBecks: These taxi drivers are getting (understandably) upset and frustrated about the confusion over taxi medallions. #oakmtg

    dto510: Almost all taxi permits in #Oakland are held by people who won a lottery in the 1980s. No relationship to drivers or companies. #oakmtg

    dto510: Most of those permits are in turn leased to Friendly Cab or Veteran’s Cab, creating near-duopoly as well as irrational ownership. #oakmtg

    OaklandBecks: Oh no, #oakmtg has reached the 10pm mark. It always goes downhill from here.

    Vsmoothe: I’ll say! CM Kernighan: The City has handled this “so badly.” Not inclined to issue new permits at all. #oakmtg

    Vsmoothe: CM Nadel: Independent taxi drivers are bad off economically, not tenable to do anything to make it worse. #oakmtg

    dto510: CM Nadel says she doesn’t want more taxis because it makes things worse for drivers – implying she doesn’t care about riders. #oakmtg

    Vsmoothe: I am for being fair to drivers too. And I agree the city has bungled this issue terribly. #oakmtg

    dto510: There’s a lawsuit, a disputed will, a NLRB hearing – Council could end it all by revoking the 1980s permits and issuing new ones. #oakmtg

    Vsmoothe: But it always drives me crazy when taxis come up, the Council seems concerned only w/drivers, never a thought about consumers. #oakmtg

    OaklandBecks: @vsmoothe That’s because most of them never ride in taxis, don’t understand that many of us depend on them.

    Vsmoothe: Full disclosure: I take taxis regularly. I just want to be able to call one and have it show up reasonably soon. #oakmtg

    Vsmoothe: CM Schaaf: It is our obligation to make sure members of the public have adequate taxi service. #oakmtg

    dto510: When we are saying drivers we mean TAXI drivers.

    dto510: CM Schaaf – it’s not appropriate for us to determine who gets these permits. | hear hear! #oakmtg

    dto510: Essentially there’s a dispute between Friendly and Yellow Cab’s owner’s heirs over permits, leading to fewer cabs. #oakmtg

    dto510: But permits aren’t real property, they only exist as part of #Oakland’s regulatory scheme and are “owned” b/c of a lottery. #oakmtg

    OaklandBecks: CMs and staff keep describing the taxi medallion situation as a horrible mess. Yes, yes it is. #oakmtg

    Vsmoothe: CM Schaaf: There are people who really rely on cab service in Oakland. Don’t want them left out in this. #oakmtg

    OaklandBecks: CM Schaaf moves to approve temporary permits. But so far no other CMs have agreed. #oakmtg

    dto510: LOVE how CM Schaaf is pointing out that this discussion is b/c #Oakland needs taxi service for people to get around. #oakmtg

    OaklandBecks: Either the Council approves the temporary permits or 41 cabs will be taken off the streets. That would be awful for service. #oakmtg

    dto510: Councilmembers generally wants taxi permits to be controlled by cab drivers. But without a big company, there’s no dispatch. #oakmtg

    OaklandBecks: If it weren’t for taxis, it would be very difficult for me to not own a car. Taxis fill transit gaps for me nearly every week. #oakmtg

    Vsmoothe: CM Kernighan: Some people talk about needing cabs for the public, but it doesn’t sound like drivers make much $. Must be no demand. #oakmtg

    dto510: CM Kernighan: drivers make it seem that there’s not much demand. Staff: we think there would be problem if 41 permits were lost. #oakmtg

    OaklandBecks: CM Kaplan – statistically we don’t have enough cabs per capita, compared to other cities. Also we need more cab stands. Yes! #oakmtg

    dto510: CM Kaplan: We absolutely don’t have enough taxi permits per capita as other cities. Don’t have enough stands either. #oakmtg

    Vsmoothe: Council approves issuing temporary permits, CMs Kernighan and Nadel abstain. #oakmtg

    dto510: Council authorizes RFP for 41 “temporary” taxi permits 6-0-2 (Kernighan, Nadel). #oakmtg

    dto510: I still don’t know what a temporary taxi permit is. How are the permits awarded by RFP less permanent than by lottery? #oakmtg

    Public testimony on the budget

    OaklandBecks: Wow. 107 speaker cards submitted for budget item, which Council won’t be discussing tonight. #oakmtg

    Vsmoothe: @dto510 I think they will be valid until the court issue is finally resolved, or two years. Whichever is first. #oakmtg

    dto510: @vsmoothe Nobody is going to invest in a dispatch system if they can’t operate for more than 2 years. Consumers won’t see much benefit.

    Vsmoothe: Speaker: I am planning to buy a house soon. I will not buy a house in a City without a good library system. #oakmtg

    OaklandBecks: I’m really impressed by @SaveOPL. It’s so inspiring to see such a well organized, fun campaign for such a good cause. #oakmtg

    dto510: Library supporters have collected 14,563 signatures to support keeping libraries open. #oakmtg

    dto510: I’m just now realizing how ironic it is that downtown’s 2 councilmembers didn’t support increasing taxi permits. #oakmtg

    OaklandBecks: RT @dto510 I’m just now realizing how ironic it is that downtown’s 2 councilmembers didn’t support increasing taxi permits. #oakmtg

    dto510: @OaklandBecks Because, you know, taxis are most used downtown. The downtown BID doesn’t like them though.

    jameane: LAME! RT @dto510: I’m just now realizing how ironic it is that downtown’s 2 councilmembers didn’t support increasing taxi permits. #oakmtg

    dto510: CM De La Fuente & CM Schaaf say the City Council has not proposed closing libraries (the Mayor did). Tho we’ll see…#oakmtg

    dto510: CM Reid criticizes Mayor Quan for not presenting complete budget and handing so much to Council. #oakmtg

    mcplanner: Thanks @dto510 @OaklandBecks @Vsmoothe for the #oakmtg coverage. I don’t have to miss council coverage even if I’m in Vermont!

    Council considers Zoo expansion

    At tonight’s Oakland City Council meeting, the big issue will be, of course, the budget. The public will have another opportunity to make the case to save their preferred services, and Councilmembers may ask questions of staff, but it looks like a vote on the budget will have to wait for next week.

    But before they get to the budget, meeting attendees will be treated to fireworks on a different item — the Oakland Zoo’s California exhibit.

    You may recall a post I wrote about the zoo expansion controversy back in 2010, or the posts I wrote this spring about the proposed California project and the objections to the proposal from neighbors and some environmental advocacy groups. For all the details, go back and read those posts. Here, I’m just going to do a quick summary.

    The California exhibit

    In 1998, the Oakland Zoo received permission from the City to expand into Knowland Park, where they would build an exhibit showcasing native California animals. The approval was for the Zoo’s Master Plan, which included a number of projects to improve the zoo, including renovations of existing exhibits.

    Oakland Zoo California Exhibit Map

    Since 1998, the Zoo been busy implementing other parts of the Master Plan, and refining the plans for the California exhibit. They’re now ready to move forward on the expansion portion of the plan, but want to make some changes to the California project — it’s smaller, the orientation on the site has changed somewhat, they want to have an aerial gondola take people up to the exhibit instead of having people ride a shuttle bus around, stuff like that. So they have to come back to the City and get approval for an amendment to their Master Plan.

    Oakland Zoo expansion plans, 1998 and 2010

    The approval of the Master Plan amendment gives opponents of the Zoo expansion another opportunity to object to the project, and they have embraced it with gusto. They don’t want open space in Knowland Park fenced off, the project endangers native grasses and wildlife, the new visitors to the zoo will bring too much traffic, and so on.

    Planning Commission says yes

    The Planning Commission had their final hearing on the proposal on April 27th of this year, where they approved the expansion 3-1. I know I got the DVD of that meeting, but for whatever reason, I can’t seem to locate it at the moment. So I can’t give you video right now. But here are my tweets from that night, which should give you a decent sense of how it went.

    V Smoothe: Big Planning Commission meeting starting. Zoo expansion on agenda. Read abt it at http://vsmth.me/9 & watch live at thedto.org/ktop #oakmtg

    V Smoothe: I’d be at #oakmtg, but got a little tipsy celebrating my LWV award. I wore leopard print today to show my support for the zoo.

    dto510: @Vsmoothe It’s important to advocate in every medium possible – including personal style! Loved your trash-print dress at the TCUP hearing.

    V Smoothe: Dude speaking now is 90!! “I have gone past old age.” I hope I am still speaking at meetings in 60 years. #oakmtg

    V Smoothe: Zoo now starting at #oakmtg. Staff is now introducing an 11 point outline of the presentation they are about to give.

    V Smoothe: Staff now explaining their responses to all CEQA related anti-zoo comments in excruciating detail. thedto.org/ktop #oakmtg

    V Smoothe: Staff: Question tonight is not whether the zoo can expand. The question has been answered. The answer is YES. #oakmtg

    V Smoothe: Staff recommends Zoo’s proposed amendments to already approved expansion should be approved. “We believe this project is better.” #oakmtg

    V Smoothe: Friend in room exclaims: “The Zoo is SO right!”Staff & zoo presentations completely obliterate case made by zoo opponents. #oakmtg

    V Smoothe: Anti-zoo woman says “everyone” knows there are huge piles of animal waste from the zoo on site of proposed interpretive center. #oakmtg

    V Smoothe: I was standing right on that exact spot like two weeks ago. I didn’t see any manure. #oakmtg

    V Smoothe: Friends of Knowland Park woman complains about terrible huge PDFs Planning Commission uses. Something we can agree on! #oakmtg

    V Smoothe: Commissioner Gálvez to people waiting to speak on zoo: “Please have mercy on us. We have received so many emails!” #oakmtg

    V Smoothe: Maybe I missed something, but I think this woman just said that instead of a condor exhibit, kids shld dress up in condor costumes. #oakmtg

    V Smoothe: Zoo woman now reading letter of support for zoo from OUSD Superintendent Tony Smith. #oakmtg

    V Smoothe: Comm. Huntsman: I wonder if they had these same issues in San Diego when they built their zoo. #oakmtg

    V Smoothe: Comm. Colbruno goes on and on about how he has the highest standards of anyone for the zoo. Then says how great it is. #oakmtg

    V Smoothe: Commissioner Zayas-Mart: I can’t respect 1998 approval because we know so much more about climate change since then. #oakmtg

    V Smoothe: Commissioner Zayas-Mart: I would have liked the zoo turn their parking lot back into restored open space as one of the mitigations. #oakmtg

    V Smoothe: Commissioner Galvez: I am not a zoo person. But supporting this is the best thing for Oakland. #oakmtg

    V Smoothe: Planning Commission supports zoo expansion proposal 3-1. Commissioner Zayas-Mart says no. #oakmtg

    So of course, to the surprise of exactly no one, the zoo opponents appealed.

    Zoo opponents appeal

    The appeal (PDF) was filed by the Friends of Knowland Park, the California Native Plant Society, and the California Native Grasslands Association.

    The rationale for the appeal is, well, pretty much all the same complaints that zoo opponents made at the Planning Commission. The argument rests on the idea that an Environmental Impact Report is required for the project. Staff says that CEQA does not require an Environmental Impact Report, and that the Subsequent Mitigated Negative Declaration/Addendum is sufficient.

    As I’ve said before, I’m with staff on this one. I have spent a ridiculous number of hours watching testimony on the subject and reading the hundreds of letters submitted on the item. Over and over again, I’ve read and heard project opponents say that an Environmental Impact Report should be required, but never once have I seen any of them make even a remotely credible case for how any of the proposed changes to the previously approved project or any impact identified in the SMND/A rises to a CEQA threshold of significance.

    They talk frequently about how the changes to the project are “substantial,” but that’s the thing about CEQA. It doesn’t matter what seems like a substantial or significant impact to you. It only matters if the changes meet these predetermined thresholds. And the changes to the Zoo’s California exhibit between the original 1998 approval and what they want do to now just don’t.

    So the Council will hear the appeal at their meeting tonight. It’s Item 9.2 on the agenda, and if you want to read more, feel free to click on that link and view the voluminous attachments.

    Scenes from 14 Hours, 14 Branches: A Read-In to Save Oakland Libraries

    On the way to work this morning, I stopped by City Hall to catch a little bit of the read-in I wrote about last week. It was wonderful!

    The event, 14 Hours, 14 Branches: A Read-In to Save Oakland Libraries started at 6 AM this morning, and will continue until 8 PM tonight. Oakland residents who value libraries and do not want to see the system eliminated are reading out loud continuously all day in the amphitheater in front of City Hall to demonstrate their support for the Oakland Public Library. It felt great to be there this morning, and I’m sure the energy will only get better as the day goes on.

    14 Hours, 14 Branches: A Read-In to Save Oakland Libraries

    If you have a chance, try to stop by today and show your support. The full schedule of readers is listed below.

    • 6:00-6:15: Ted McCoy
    • 6:15-6:30: Wendy Woolpert
    • 6:30-6:45: Molly Tafoya
    • 6:45-7:00: Michael Hunt
    • 7:00-7:15: Laurie Willhalm
    • 7:15-7:30: Amy Martin
    • 7:30-7:45: Alice McCain
    • 7:45-8:00: Karen Long
    • 8:00-8:15: Ray Klauber
    • 8:15-8:30: Helen Bloch
    • 8:30-8:45: Pat Toney
    • 8:45-9:00: Louise Anderson
    • 9:00-9:15: Courtney Crum
    • 9:15-9:30: Beth Gousman
    • 9:30-9:45: Helen Laroche
    • 9:45-10:00: Sharon McKellar
    • 10:00-10:15: Marni Weinstock
    • 10:15-10:30: Lily Fletcher
    • 10:30-10:45: Dilwara Fletcher
    • 10:45-11:00: Annie Barrows
    • 11:00-11:15: Louise Chegwidden
    • 11:15-11:30: Robin Goodfellow
    • 11:30-11:45: Beth Twomey
    • 11:45-12:00: Kevin Cook
    • 12:00-12:15: Jennifer Vetter
    • 12:15-12:30: Nina LaCour
    • 12:30-12:45: Jeff Chang
    • 12:45-1:00: Charlie Haas

    14 Hours, 14 Branches: A Read-in to save Oakland Libraries

    I’ll probably stop over there a couple more times during the course of the day — I’m reading at 1:15, and then I’ll probably go hang out after work too, so I’ll post more photos as I get them.

    Update: Here’s some more photos from this afternoon.

    14 Hours, 14 Branches: A Read-In to Save Oakland Libraries

    14 Hours, 14 Branches: A Read-In to Save Oakland Libraries

    14 Hours, 14 Branches: A Read-In to Save Oakland Libraries

    14 Hours, 14 Branches: A Read-In to Save Oakland Libraries

    14 Hours, 14 Branches: A Read-In to Save Oakland Libraries

    14 Hours, 14 Branches: A Read-In to Save Oakland Libraries

    14 Hours, 14 Branches: A Read-In to Save Oakland Libraries

    14 Hours, 14 Branches: A Read-In to Save Oakland Libraries

    14 Hours, 14 Branches: A Read-In to Save Oakland Libraries

    14 Hours, 14 Branches: A Read-In to Save Oakland Libraries

    14 Hours, 14 Branches: A Read-In to Save Oakland Libraries

    UPDATE AGAIN: More pics!

    14 Hours, 14 Branches: A Read-In to Save Oakland Libraries

    This great overhead pic comes to us courtesy of Annalee Allen. Thanks, Annalee!

    14 Hours, 14 Branches: A Read-In to Save Oakland Libraries

    14 Hours, 14 Branches: A Read-In to Save Oakland Libraries

    14 Hours, 14 Branches: A Read-In to Save Oakland Libraries

    14 Hours, 14 Branches: A Read-In to Save Oakland Libraries

    14 Hours, 14 Branches: A Read-In to Save Oakland Libraries

    Oakland Public Library supporters host bike ride, read-in to protest cuts

    I’m assuming that everyone who reads this blog is already aware of the proposed destruction of the Oakland Public Library system in Oakland Mayor Jean Quan’s budget. Right? (You’d think I wouldn’t need to ask, but I continue to encounter people on a daily basis who don’t know anything about it.)

    If you’re just tuning in, the proposal is basically to close 14 of OPL’s 18 locations entirely. The remaining four locations (the Main Library, Rockridge Branch, Dimond Branch, and the new 81st Avenue Branch) would be open for only limited hours, and only 2 or 3 days a week. There would be no more e-books, no more databases or other electronic resources, no more programming, no more storytime, no new materials purchases — you get the idea. Library Director Carmen Martinez summed it up at a Council budget hearing earlier this month like so:

    Library services as we have provided and enjoyed them all these years would cease to exist.

    I don’t want to live in a city that doesn’t have a library. I can’t imagine who would. And if you feel the same way, I strongly encourage you to check out Save Oakland Libraries, an organization that has formed to protest these cuts and remind the Council that libraries are a core service, and an essential part of quality of life in Oakland.

    On their website, they have a toolkit offering flyers, petitions, fact sheets, and sample letters to help you raise awareness and support among your friends. With the Council’s budget vote fast approaching, it is really important to demonstrate as much support for the library as possible in the next few days. For regular updates, you can follow Save Oakland Library on Facebook and SaveOPL on Twitter.

    One of the reasons I’ve been so delighted with the efforts of Save Oakland Libraries is that they’ve been doing a lot of really creative and fun events to raise awareness of the proposed cuts. Yes, they’ve turned out lots of people at Council meetings, like every other group that’s ever protested cuts to their favorite city service, but they’ve also done a lot of fun, non-Council meeting stuff, like a storytime in front of City Hall before the last Council meeting, a zombie crawl up Telegraph, and a funeral procession for the Oakland Public Library system (complete with coffin) during the Art Murmur a couple of weeks ago.

    So today I wanted to highlight a couple more upcoming events in support of the library, both of which I think sound really fun.

    Save Oakland Libraries Bike Ride

    This coming Saturday, June 18th, there’s going to be a Save Oakland Libraries Bike Ride. They’re going to start downtown and ride through Oakland stopping at several of the branches slated for closure:

    Meet at Frank Ogawa Plaza (steps of Oakland City Hall) at 10am. From there, we’ll head to (in order) AAMLO, Asian Branch, Cesar Chavez, Melrose, MLK, 81st Ave and end at the Elmhurst Branch grand re-opening party.

    The route is approximately 10 miles: http://www.mapmyride.com/routes/view/36150834.

    The ride is designed to be a fun, family friendly event. We will stop near or at several BART stations for those who do not wish to ride the entire route. Folks can also choose to meet up at any of the above branches and join up with the larger ride as we pass by (think pied piper). For timing reasons, we won’t stop at each branch for very long – save the Cesar Chavez Branch and Elmhurst.

    We encourage you to:

    • Bring music! (Speaker bikes, boom boxes, etc.)
    • Decorate yourselves and your bike!
    • Please tell your friends, your family, and your co-workers to join us. The more people we have riding with us, the more powerful our statement will be: WE WILL NOT ACCEPT THE CLOSURE OF OUR LIBRARIES!

    Here’s the map of the route:

    Save Oakland Library bike map

    Get more info and updates on the Facebook event page. Then, on Monday…

    14 Hours, 14 Branches: A Read-In to Save Oakland Libraries

    I think this is such a cool idea. Next Monday, June 20th, library supporters will be demonstrating their opposition to the proposed evisceration of the Oakland Public Library system by reading out loud continuously (in 15 minute shifts) in front of Oakland City Hall from 6am to 8pm — one hour for every branch the Mayor has proposed shutting down. More info, from the Facebook event page:

    14 Hours, 14 Branches is a 14 hour read-in being held on Monday, June 20, to raise awareness that 14 of 18 Oakland’s branch libraries (including AAMLO and the Tool Lending Library) will be eliminated under the current budget Scenario A. City Council presents their budget recommendations on Tuesday, June 21, and we want to have our voices reading for an uninterrupted 14 hours the day before to send our message loud and clear: save ALL of Oakland’s public libraries.

    People will read in 15 minute slots continuously from 6:00 am to 8:00 pm on Monday, June 20 in front of City Hall. We’re having children’s storytime (and possibly some other themes) but ultimately want people to be able to read anything that is meaningful to them. The spectrum of books read will reflect the depth and richness of resources available at all branches of the Oakland Public Library.

    And they have a seriously impressive lineup! Plenty of library staff and devoted library patrons will be reading, as well as all these great local authors — Mac Barnett (Billy Twitters and His Blue Whale Problem, The Clock without a Face), Annie Barrows (Ivy + Bean, The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society), Shirin Yim Bridges (Ruby’s Wish, The Umbrella Queen), Jennifer Holm (Turtle in Paradise, Penny from Heaven), Kathryn Otoshi (Simon & the Sock Monster, What Emily Saw, One), Gennifer Choldenko (Al Capone Does My Shirts, Louder, Lili), Harriet Rohmer (Heroes of the Environment), Lissa Rovetch (Hot Dog and Bob), Dashka Slater (The Wishing Box, The Sea Serpent and Me).

    Plus Charlie Haas (The Enthusiast), Jeff Chang (Can’t Stop, Won’t Stop: A History of the Hip-Hop Generation), Shailja Patel (Migritude). AND, most exciting for me, Frank Portman (of The Mr. T Experience fame, and author of King Dork, Andromeda Klein)!

    And of course the blogoaksphere will be represented. dto510 is reading from 2:45 to 3:00 pm, and I’m scheduled for 6PM, immediately following Dr. Frank! 1:15 to 1:30pm. [Updated: I ceded my primetime spot to someone more famous. -V] I haven’t decided what I’m reading yet, so I’m open to suggestions in the comments. I was thinking maybe something from Thucydides? Following me Starting at 4 will be several hours of local writers and celebrities. [Updated: Including Ishmael Reed!]

    Anyway, it’s totally worth checking out if you work downtown or live downtown or even pass through downtown on your way to or from work. If you have kids, consider bringing them down after work. There’s a lot of children’s authors on the list. Plus, it’s never too early to teach the virtues of civic engagement! I think the whole event is going to be super fun.

    Here’s the Facebook event page for more information and updates.

    Tom Thurston: Mayor proposes using Kaiser Center to Grab ORA’s Cash

    This guest post is written by Tom Thurston, an East Oakland resident and member of the Central City East Redevelopment Area PAC.

    On Monday night, June 6 (PDF), Oakland Redevelopment Agency (ORA) staff presented to the Central City East Redevelopment District Project Area Committee (CCE PAC) a proposal for ORA to buy the Henry J. Kaiser Convention Center from the City for $29 million [6/14/11: Added the word "million" for clarity, thanks livegreen -V]. The reason for the deal is obvious: Redevelopment has money; the City needs money. CEDA Deputy Director Gregory Hunter made an eloquent case for ORA taking charge of this landmark building and turning it into a productive cultural resource for the City, like the Fox Theater. The proposed deal was for the Central District to pay $13 million and CCE to pay $16 million. The Kaiser Center lies in the Central District. Laney College, just south of the Center, is in CCE.

    CCE PAC members were unreceptive to the idea. Some PAC members have been working for decades to improve their neighborhoods, and were distressed that, now that we had money to accomplish some of their goals, that money was being snatched by the City. They did not see how the proposed purchase would benefit CCE. The claim that any development that draws positive attention to Oakland helps all of Oakland did not comfort. The PAC rejected the proposal 13-1.

    But the PAC is only advisory to the City Council. The Council was reviewing the proposal as part of the ORA budget the next night. PAC Chairperson Gloria Jeffrey, heading up a delegation from the PAC, spoke passionately against the proposal. Others spoke individually, including myself. I questioned the price.

    The $29 million tab is based on the replacement value of the Center (PDF). When the City buys or sells a property it is required by law to pay or receive fair value for the property. Fair value is the value that a willing buyer would pay a willing seller in an arms-length transaction. This is not an arms-length transaction, since the City Council decides both for the buyer and the seller. Therefore the valuation price demands special scrutiny.

    When an oil tanker explodes and destroys a section of an overpass, the fair value of the overpass is the replacement value. The overpass must be replaced. There is no choice. In the current economy, would the City feel absolutely compelled to replace the Kaiser Center with a similar building if the building were lost? Clearly not. The building has sat vacant and locked for years, and the City has not sought money to bring it up to code. Replacement value is arguably not fair value.

    There are two other ways of valuing a commercial building: comparable sales and cash flow. This is a unique building; there are no comparable sales. The alternative cash flow method asks what the building is worth in terms of the stream of income it could generate. Gregory Hunter told the PAC that the appraised cash flow value of the Kaiser Center was $14 million. It could be used by the East Bay Symphony, Oakland Ballet, Laney College and others. I told the Council that I might be persuaded to support a deal, but not at $29 million.

    Mayor Quan was present at the meeting, and caught up with a group of the PAC members on our way out. She explained that if the Council did not come up $29 million here, they would have to find it in additional cuts to libraries, senior and youth programs, arts programs and such. She foresaw that the Council would avoid such cuts by pushing through this deal.

    I asked the Mayor why $29 million, when the next day the Center would only be worth $14 million to ORA. The issue, she explained, is in the hands of the City’s bond underwriters. She told us that the Kaiser Center is collateral for some of the City’s outstanding bonds. If the City treated the fair value of the Center as $14 million, they would violate the bond covenants. The Mayor hinted that an alternative would be to transfer the collateral to City Hall, but she didn’t want to put City Hall in hock.

    So there it is. In order to avoid a lien on City Hall, ORA is compelled to go along with the legal fiction that the Kaiser Convention Center is worth $29 million. While the Center might generate a stream of income worth $14 million, the remaining $15 million is simply an overpayment and is irrecoverable to the two redevelopment districts. It is an unwilling gift from the people of the Central and East Oakland flatlands so that the City can balance its budget this year.

    Bluegrass for the Greenbelt: a reason to trek up to the hills

    When was the last time you visited the Dunsmuir-Hellman Historic Estate? I don’t make it out there often — it’s way up in the hills out by the Oakland Zoo, which just is not a section of town I frequent.

    They used to show movies there during the summer, which I thought was really cool. But I don’t recall hearing about summer movies last year, and there are none listed on their website calendar, so I’m assuming they’ve given up on that program. Sad.

    But this weekend, there’s another great reason to make the trek up there — the 6th annual Bluegrass for the Greenbelt festival.

    Bluegrass for the Greenbelt flier

    The event is a fundraiser for the Greenbelt Alliance, a local non-profit devoted to protecting open space and creating vibrant communities in the Bay Area. You may be familiar with with their involvement with the MTC’s Sustainable Communities Strategy or perhaps their advocacy on Oakland’s Broadway-Valdez Specific Plan. They’re a wonderful organization, and if you want to learn more about their work, just poke around their website for a while.

    Anyway. The concert. Aside from benefitting a great organization, it’s also just a lot of fun. The grounds at Dunmsuir-Hellman are really pretty, the whole thing is nice and relaxed, you can bring a picnic, plus it’s family friendly! From the Greenbelt Alliance:

    Bluegrass for the Greenbelt returns on June 3 & 4!

    The 6th annual Bluegrass for the Greenbelt festival is back and better than ever. This year the festival will take place June 3 & 4, with camping on June 3 and most of the music on June 4.

    Performers include: The Brother Comatose, Marley’s Ghost, Laurie Lewis & The Right Hands, The Kathy Kallick Band, The Tuttles with AJ Lee, and Arann Harris and The Farm Band.

    Buy tickets for the Friday intimate pre-show and open mic, the camping package or just the festival online at Slim’s.

    So there are two parts to the event. The first is on Friday night:

    Kick off the weekend with a special performance by Nell Robinson & Jim Nunally plus an open mic hosted by Chuck & Jeannie Poling.

    Nell Robinson has a brand-new harmony-driven duo with award winning guitarist Jim Nunally, reminiscent of classic country duets like George Jones and Tammy Wynette as well as singing siblings like the Louvin and Stanley Brothers. Think Del McCoury meets Iris Dement.

    Tickets for Friday’s show (starting at 7pm, doors open at 6) can be purchased online for $13 (including processing fees).

    For $34 (including fees), you can get tickets for Saturday’s day-long event (doors open at 10am, show starts at 11):

    Join Greenbelt Alliance for foot-stomping, hot finger-pickin’ licks, and angelic harmonics at the 6th annual Bluegrass for the Greenbelt festival. This fun-filled day of bluegrass music features two stages and kid-friendly activities at the historic Dunsmuir-Hellman Estate in the Oakland Hills.

    Featured bands for this year’s line-up on the main stage include: one of the best-kept secrets in the music world, Marley’s Ghost, a wonderful combination of youth and experience, the Kathy Kallick Band, award-winning Laurie Lewis & the Right Hands, and local favorites The Brothers Comatose.

    The small stage will feature the Tuttles with AJ Lee, and Arann Harris and the Farm Band.

    Bring a picnic or enjoy food and drink for sale. The Dunsmuir Mansion will be open for tours, and children can enjoy pony rides, face painting, a petting zoo, and more. New this year is the option to camp overnight on June 3 with a performance by Nell Robinson and Jim Nunally!

    Proceeds benefit Greenbelt Alliance. For more than 50 years, Greenbelt Alliance has been working to protect the region’s natural areas and working farms to create sustainable cities.

    Buy tickets for Saturday’s show here.

    Want to go to both? You can do that, and don’t even have to go home in between with the overnight camping package, available for $55 (including fees).