Another “special” budget meeting tomorrow night

Tomorrow, the Oakland City Council will hold yet another one of everyone’s favorite events — a special budget meeting.

You may recall the proposals for balancing the FY2010-11 budget introduced for discussion last special budget meeting, back at the beginning of the month. A number of people who went to the meeting complained to me afterwards that the Council didn’t do anything. I felt bad for them wasting their time, like I should have warned them nothing was going to happen.

How did I know nothing was going to happen? Well, for one, the meeting was scheduled right after a furlough day and right before a long weekend, so like half the City was on vacation. I mean, just looking at the timing, there wasn’t even a pretense of taking it seriously. But the other reason, of course, was that they didn’t have to do anything just yet, and if we’ve learned anything from the last two years of constant budget misery, the Council will never, ever do anything until they absolutely have to.

Anyway, for those who have blocked the proposal from earlier this month out of their minds, here’s a refresher. The Council needs to close a $42.6 million deficit for the next fiscal year. Here’s how staff has proposed they do it

  • Sell the Kaiser Convention Center and other City property. ($12.8 million)
  • Cut some staff and services, cut some grants to cultural institutions, get some new revenue through additional billboards ($9.3 million)
  • New taxes on the November ballot ($20.6 million)

The recommended taxes include an additional quarter-cent sales tax, an increase in the utility tax, and a hefty new parcel tax for police.

Tomorrow night, the Council is being asked by staff to do two things: agree to let staff start the process of selling the Kaiser Convention Center and begin the process of considering placing new taxes on November’s ballot.

What’s the story with the Kaiser Convention Center?

Ever since last fall, when the idea of selling the Kaiser Convention Center (KCC) first started floating around, I often get asked stuff like “Why do they think they can sell the Kaiser Center? Who would even buy it?”. Hell, if I had ten million dollars, I would! Seriously. The KCC is an amazing building, and the City is ready to give it away for like, nothing. I don’t see why they should have any trouble finding potential buyers.

The other common reaction, of course, is people being outraged that the City would consider selling off such a treasured public resource or whatever. I love the Kaiser Center as much as the next person, really. I desperately wanted the City to do something special with the space. There are some people in Oakland who wanted it to be Oakland’s Main Library more than me, and who worked harder than I did to make that happen four years ago, but you could probably count them on your fingers. But Measure N failed, and the Kaiser Center has been closed for five years and the City can’t do anything with it and it is this beautiful building just sitting there rotting and closed to the public and I don’t see the City ever getting it together to do something good with it. So I have no problem with us selling it to someone who can.

Who would buy the Kaiser Center?

Of course, then there’s the question of who would buy it. I’m guessing that very few people would be down with the City selling it to some developer who wants to demolish it and replace it with like a 100 story condo tower, which is the nightmare scenario you always hear from the people who are against the idea of selling. But pretending, as some do, that that’s the only option is just silly.

The only interested buyer I can recall being mentioned at any of the Council’s budget meetings is the Peralta Community College District. A couple of months ago, District 3 Councilmember Nancy Nadel said that they were interested in using the space for a library. I don’t follow Peralta stuff that closely, but my understanding is that, while they have a serious budget crisis in terms of funding operations, they also have a rather large pot of available funds restricted to capital projects.

I think a library would be a great use of the space if they wanted to do that, and in my dreams we could do some kind of partnership and the Kaiser Center would be a joint library for the City and Laney College. Sort of like what San Jose has going on with their Main library also being the library for San Jose State University. But joint projects are tricky and so who knows if that could ever get off the ground. It’s entirely conceivable that Peralta could buy the building and not go the library route (whether joint or solo) at all, and do something entirely different with the space.

It’s not hard to imagine other parties being interested as well. Indoor sports and concerts are two obvious possible uses of the building that come to mind, but I don’t think the options end there. There are some space-intensive non-profit uses that might be a good fit, it could work well as some sort of museum or exhibit hall. Who knows? Basically, I think it’s easy to see a lot of great ways someone other than the City of Oakland could put the building to use, so I don’t think there’s any reason to get all panicked about the idea of selling it. We’ll see what happens.

What about the police parcel tax?

Obviously, sitting around imagining paying more taxes for the same level of service is a lot less fun than daydreaming about all the cool things that could happen at the Kaiser Center. And Measure NN, the parcel tax for increased police services on the November 2008 ballot, didn’t come anywhere even close to passing. What does that mean for the prospects of another one?

Well, there are a few key differences. Measure NN was supposed to increase the size of the police force, adding both sworn officers and civilian staff. There’s a large constituency in Oakland for more police, but people in general tend to become accustomed to what they already have. They will often say in the abstract that they want more, but when faced with a couple hundred dollar a year price tag to get it, enthusiasm tends to dampen. Add to that the fact that there was essentially no campaign for Measure NN, and its failure really shouldn’t have been a surprise to anyone.

Could a police parcel tax pass now?

Well, maybe. I mean, I don’t think it’s anything approaching a given, and it might be a pretty big stretch. But I don’t see it as totally outside the realm of possibility either.

For one, the City’s budget situation is exponentially more dire than it was in 2008. Back in June of that year, everyone acted like it was a big deal having to close a $15 million budget hole. When an additional $42 million shortfall was announced shortly after the City Council elections in June, that was really kind of the first taste Oaklanders got of the painful choices ahead.

Shortly before that election, the Mayor coughed up a proposal that filled much of the deficit with one-time funds and cost transfers, but left $10 million in cuts on the table for the Council to figure out. After a lot of heated debate, they cobbled together the savings without making any really awful service cuts. So for a lot of people, things probably just didn’t seem all that bad.

Since then, we’ve gone through more rounds of new budget cuts than I care to count. In the process, we’ve slashed library services and street maintenance, given up on routine care of like half our parks and public spaces, cut City employee salaries, and made dramatic across-the-board staff cuts Citywide, many of which have had devastating impacts on service delivery. And of course, used a lot of tricks and one time solutions in the process. The one thing that’s been protected throughout the last two years of constant budget cuts has been sworn public safety staffing.

There really isn’t any other choice

There’s not a lot left to do, folks. More accurately, there’s nothing left to do. At this point, police and fire is such a huge part of the General Fund spending, that there is quite literally not enough money left to close the gap without touching them (which also means giving up Measure Y taxes too). Unless, of course, you bring in some more money. Hence the proposed parcel tax.

So when you hear the dilemma phrased as a choice between more taxes and laying off police officers, it’s not some random empty threat. Will people believe that? I really have no idea. Nobody likes the idea of laying off police. On the other hand, a lot of people really don’t trust the City with their money. And why should they? They agreed to pay more money for increased police staffing six years ago and look what happened.

Hell, I do believe they need the money, and I don’t even know if I’d vote for it. This is a totally fucked up situation both the City and the taxpayers are in, and both the impossible budget situation and the lack of trust voters have in their City government are the direct result of a series of terrible, terrible decisions on the part of the City Council going back a number of years.

Do the City deserve more money?

No! Of course not! But who gets hurt if we don’t give it to them? Not them. Us.

I’m sure that at least some of you have suffered through those just truly hellish situations where a friend or significant other or family member gets messed up in some kind of addiction or other similarly self-destructive behavior and just keeps doing the best they can over and over and over again to just completely fuck up their life and every time they get themselves into trouble, they come back to you to bail them out. And they promise if you do, it will be different in the future, or maybe sometimes they don’t even bother to promise to try to change, they just insist you have to help because if you don’t something even more terrible will happen to them, and you have to do it because you love them and know you could never live with yourself if it did. And even if you refused to help and did just cut them off entirely, even that wouldn’t make it better, because you know the consequences of their behavior are going come back on you and other people you care about anyway, and that’s going to be awful too. And this cycle of total misery just doesn’t stop and it like takes over your life and you are just so frustrated and so angry at them and the world and yourself all the time and powerless to do anything to stop it because there really just is no way to end it that isn’t just too horrible to imagine.

If you’ve never gone through that, well, you are very lucky and I really hope you never do. But that’s sort of the way I feel about the City more and more lately. I mean, it’s not the same, obviously. It’s a million times less personal and on a whole different scale. But part of the reason why I haven’t been writing as much lately is because every time I sit down and try, everything I have to say is just so, I don’t know, angry, and I don’t want this blog to become just like an endless stream of crazy ranting but sometimes I have a hard time doing anything else, because it is just so hard to find anything positive to say. I’m just a happier person if I focus on other things in my life and don’t think about the City. Because this whole budget thing? It doesn’t end well. It just doesn’t. I know people want to believe there is some easy answer and a bunch of low hanging fruit out there and all this money that can be saved without anything bad happening, but please listen to me when I tell you thatit is just not true.

I know it’s awful to think about and awful to hear, but there just really is no good answer or magic solution to this. The budget is not going to get solved without making a lot of people really miserable (likely both taxpayers and employees) at some point, and I get why people want to delay the inevitable, but at the same time it’s just like can we please get this over with already so it can just be done and we can stop worrying about it and just deal with the carnage and figure out how to pick up the pieces and move on? And watching the Council spend two freaking years just spinning their wheels and going in circles and putting off action endlessly and making temporary band aid solutions and refusing to so much as start talking about what steps we have to take to begin the slow, painful process of getting us out of this mess — well, as I suppose you can tell from my rambling above, I just don’t know what to say. It’s maddening.

Anyway, if you can stomach it, the Council’s next special budget meeting (PDF) will be held tomorrow at 5:30 PM at City Hall. If you go, or watch on KTOP, do me a favor and tweet it, cause I just can’t deal with sitting through another one and will be spending my evening at the Oakland Museum instead. But I do like to know what’s going on.

412 thoughts on “Another “special” budget meeting tomorrow night

  1. Jim T

    Wow. Thanks for expressing that, V. It really captures the way I feel sometimes, and why I think so many well-intentioned people get burnt out in politics (and following logically, why we get so many sociopathic behaviors from the political realm. It’s like a f’d up self-selecting process for the many of the worst kinds of people).

    I just wanted to say thank you for sticking with it as you have. I, for one, really appreciate this blog and the information and voice you share.

    Here’s hoping the future brings us better than we currently expect. One way I can see that turning out, potentially, is in the Mayor’s race… Go Kaplan for Mayor!

  2. Ralph

    I think the city can find some money if it repeals previous ballot box budgeting measures. as for taxes, well Mr. Snowball meet Mr. Heat Miser. And while the ostriches listen to the band play, I am going to enjoy some blue crabs and a Natty Boh.

  3. MarleenLee

    Well, needless to say anybody reading this probably already knows how I feel about a new parcel tax and I get tired of sounding like a broken record. But I don’t buy the bit about “no other options.” I also don’t buy that if we don’t cough up more dough, we’re going to be the ones that get hurt. That might be the case, but we don’t have to allow it to be that way.

    Other options including forcing the unions to accept significant cuts to their pensions and salaries. Nobody is claiming that this is easy to negotiate. But it is also not easy convincing taxpayers, who have been lied to over and over, and had their money stolen and misused, to hand over their hard earned tax dollars. It is even harder when they don’t have those dollars to begin with. Why on earth should we even consider another parcel tax when many of us know that most City employees have salaries and benefits that are totally out of whack? Why should we subsidize these employees’ lifestyle, so that they can retire at 50 or 55 with excellent pensions and benefits, while the rest of us toil away in the trenches until we’re 70? No frickin way! Why should we pull out our wallets when Dellums still has his limo driver, and the City has done virtually nothing to eliminate the waste and fraud and abuse? Seriously, V, when I hear you talk this way I start thinking they’re putting Kool-Aid in that library water cooler!

    As for the sob story about helping people who mess up their lives, I am a believer in tough love. Sometimes that means refusing to pay for rehab, particularly if you know they’re just going to fall of the wagon again.

    Believe it or not, I have told those bozos in City Hall that I could actually support a parcel tax, but only if it paid for more officers, and only if the City promised to make up for the previous Measure Y violations. The current proposal does none of those things. I can’t support it, and would sooner see the City declare bankruptcy than give another dime to the City under these conditions. They better come up with a Plan B.

  4. V Smoothe Post author

    It’s not Kool Aid, it’s actually looking at the budget and having a realistic grasp of the City’s financial situation. The money just isn’t there. I know people don’t want to believe that. But it’s true.

  5. Dax

    A parcel tax. Now let me think about that. Hmmm….

    Lets see, I am barely working. The closest city worker to me lives a few houses away. I look at the salary data base and see he made over $175,000 in EACH of the last two years. More in just “OT and Other pay” than I made in total income.
    His regular pension will be more per year than I’ve ever made while working.

    Oh sure, I’m gonna vote for a parcel tax so the gravy train can keep rolling.

  6. Max Allstadt

    I’m wondering what happens if Marleen gets her injunction. How much more gets slashed then?

    I’m not blaming you Marleen, clearly the city walked into this one. I just hope you and David have a reasonable settlement offer to float if and when you get your injunction, because in this economic situation, that injunction will feel like the hammer of God to the council. Maybe they’ll come around.

    And V, I’m not entirely sure that there’s absolutely nothing else to do about this. I mean, we still have multiple members of Deborah Edgerly’s family on payroll, we could at least eliminate their positions. And aren’t the upper echelons of the payroll still making really good money? Can’t we cut some more positions of 60 year-olds? Can’t we use the threat of even more massive layoffs to get city-wide salary concessions?

    And is there some reason Oakland can’t pull the same stunt Newsom pulled in SF, where he fired everybody and offered them their jobs back at lower rates?

    While we’re at it, how about a 40 hour work week?

  7. Dax

    “While we’re at it, how about a 40 hour work week?”


    City workers can only stand so much before they break, and go on disability.
    No one wants that.

    And remember, 40 hours work will just make for fewer jobs, thus resulting in higher unemployment, the last thing Oakland needs in these tough times.
    No, lets look at some kind of parcel tax with all the proceeds being used specifically to keep the work week at a sensible 37.5 hours.

    Voters will understand. We all need to pull together.

  8. Jenn

    I think we are in a Catch 22. There is no way that union compensation/pensions will be negotiated to a lower level, and there is no way voters will approve tax measures in November. I think I will learn how to fill potholes myself.

  9. V Smoothe Post author

    The way civil service works, you can’t just eliminate someone’s job if you want to get rid of them. There is a complicated bumping system that protects seniority.

    As for salary concessions and higher paid employees – unless you’re talking about drastically reducing public safety salaries, it just isn’t possible to save enough money through those measures, no matter how dramatic they are, to close the budget hole.

    That’s not to say we shouldn’t explore them. Of course we should! We must take steps not just to address the immediate mess, but also to get the city back on track in the long term. And that’s probably going to involve some changes in compensation and benefits, especially pensions, and probably a smaller workforce and if we want to do all that and also provide acceptable services, it will also require rethinking a lot of the way the City operates. But my point is that we are so deep in the hole right now, that none of it adds up to enough to balance the budget right now.

  10. Mike Hardy

    I’m simply not going to pay more taxes until they fix the union compensation / benefit mess, and I can’t see a single way that’s going to change unless the city fails, financially.

    Its clear just from these comments I’m not alone in not wanting to pay, the polls will answer the question whether they feel the same about being okay with letting the budget fail and I’m betting we’ll get to see just how deep they can dig the one-time-trick hole before it really happens.

    It is frustrating to me that that this is the only route that seems like it would work to fix the compensation / benefit mess but really, does it seem like there is any other way? I have never seen any hint that it will resolve in a reasonable way otherwise, but if city hall and public unions want to go the maximum collateral damage route it looks like they’re getting their choice

  11. oakie

    I am certainly glad to hear all the resistance to the claim that there’s no place left to cut. I don’t buy it either, and I’ll work to defeat ANY increase in fees or taxes to this city. This is an irresponsibly operated city and it does not deserve a single penny more (and I believe it actually deserves much much less). Cut cut cut. Mayor’s salary, mayor’s spendthrift expense account, city council salaries, any parking given for free, mayor’s staffing above what it was in 1990. All budgets should be returned to 1990 level, as we are getting exactly zero better services than we did then.

    And this claim of there’s no place left to cut comes one week after the scandalous auditor’s report on a $3 million federal stimulus grant and how it was spent so irresponsibly that almost one out of every three dollars was problematic. And the stated purpose of spending $3 million? To create jobs. And how many jobs were claimed to be created? 6. And how many actually were created according to the auditor? 3. I don’t know a single business person who could not create a dozen jobs with a 1 million capitol infusion. And the mayor’s response? “Get over it.” This city is a poster child for incompetence and misspending of public funds. Do not trust them with our money. I am not over it, and I hope many of you aren’t either.

  12. MarleenLee

    First, employee unions must make major concessions on salaries, benefits and pensions. All unnecessary, incompetent and useless employees must be shown the door. Then, entire City Council must prostrate themselves before the citizens of Oakland and apologize for their abysmal performance. They must apologize for allowing themselves to be bought by the unions year after year after year. They must apologize for failing to honor their commitments to the citizens, for the hundreds of murders, rapes, burglaries, robberies and other crimes that they have allowed to be committed because they refused to fund a decent sized police force. They must apologize for the millions and millions of dollars they have allowed to be wasted. They must put policies and procedures in place to ensure that none of this ever happens again, and to correct past abuses. They must convince us that bankruptcy is a worse option than all of the others. Then, and only then, can you say there is no other choice. Then, and only then, can we talk about another parcel tax.

  13. David

    Ok. I’m tired of the “It’s hard” whining about cutting civil service salaries, firing people or whatever other work rule you think puts us in a “raise taxes” box. We’ve just seen this administration rewrite contracts in the private sector, cramming down massive concessions by people who held General Motors bonds, etc etc. Just rammed it down their throats with no regard to contracts, debt seniority, precedent etc.

    Now you’re telling me after these jack***** screwed over every retiree who held GM bonds, that we can’t change these work rules, benefits etc? F that.

    Seriously. They can get crammed down, or they can lose their jobs. What’ll it be? A 20% cut in salary & benefits or a 100% cut? And again, cops in Oakland make 40%++ more than cops in Chicago, and 1) it’s just as expensive to live in Chicago and 2) it’s not like Chicago has no crime. Heck, again, cops in Oakland make more than NYC cops.

    The payscale of everyone in public service here is outlandish. Even IF they actually provided…”service.” But since they provide crap for services, they should be paid crap instead of being #1 in the entire fricking country.

  14. Born in Oakland

    Many neighbors, here in flatland, are focusing on potholes and get really excited about the proliferation of potholes and “when are they going to get fixed?”
    When I suggest the city is broke, the answer is usually “what did they do with my taxes.?”
    Good point and tough to beat when it comes to City Council passing the buck to the ballot box.

  15. V Smoothe Post author

    Look at the budget, folks. A 20% cut to all non-sworn salaries in the whole city doesn’t get you even close to closing the deficit. Public safety is like the entire General Fund at this point. That’s the problem.

  16. Livegreen

    Oh, u guys have only seen the half of it. Just wait until you see what they’re doing over at OFCY.

    Also the teachers recently came out with a document showing one of the reasons they came out against a Property Tax for their salary increase is because past Tax Measures promising the same never made it to the teachers.

    You know when the teachers are as sceptical about Property Taxes as taxpayers are that there’s real problems in river city…

  17. MarleenLee

    Who says public safety should be immune from the cuts? Hack their salaries and benefits down to where we can afford them. As for other potential revenue generators, how about a carnival dunk tank for elected officials? I bet lots of people would be willing to pay $100 a pop for the privilege of taking a shot!

  18. Livegreen

    V, I’m fine with a 10-20% cut to all salaries across the board, sworn AND non-sworn.

    I know it’s a small amount, but note the revised budget proposal reduces proposed cuts in grants to cultural organizations. I agree some of these should continue to get some funding, but think the cuts should b greater. Core services shouldn’t b cut before grants to groups that have other revenue sources (major national foundations).

  19. Ralph

    This isn’t really rocket science. City employees, from safety to the janitor, need to take a pay cut. Either all take xx% or some take 100%. And M2O needs to give back millions. It is bad enough that city employees waste my hard earned dollars but for the city to turn around and give my tax dollars to a bunch of unaccountable, do little, non-profits who have not made one iota of difference in outcomes is downright criminal.

    Marleen, I’d chip in $100 if I had some assurance I would get some service. :)

  20. Mary Hollis

    A parcel tax should only be used for new capital expenditure and investment. The tax should yield something we don’t already have.

    It shouldn’t be used to plug a hole in the operating budget.

    I don’t even pay property tax but would vote against this on principle. The CC should simply compute the percent across-the-board pay and benefit cut required to balance the budget and apply that. no need for any debate. Just do what the rest of us do – live within your means.

    This nonsense cannot continue.

    And Marleen, I know you will ignore the suggestion that you should “settle low” with the City, and rightly so. They need to feel some real pain on that too.

  21. Robert

    I might be OK with a parcel tax, but only if there was an enforceable plan to cut employee salaries and benefits down, for public safety as well as other employees. For example, as a condition to putting new parcel taxes on the ballot, there were agreements with all the unions to freeze pay, reduce retirement payouts, increase the employee contributions to both health and retirement to state norms, all effective on approval of the parcel tax. (Parcel tax would be temporary, until the economy turned around.)

    But I can’t see it happening, and I don’t see any candidate, including local fav RK, coming forward with a plan to bring our budget back into balance.

  22. len raphael

    I believe the cc members this time when they say they will spend a police parcel tax on preventing further cuts to the cop levels. But only as long as Oakland bloggers, and citizens like Charlie Pine, David, and Marleen Lee keep the spotlight shining.

    None of that matters. When the full fiscal force hits us from the retiring boomers retirement medical benefits, the Calpers premium increases, and the city 80 year old infrastructure, cc will need another very large parcel tax. Sure, in 15 to 20 years the retirement bulge will have been digested, a bunch of younger much lower paid employees will have fixed the infrastructure. Growth of sales and real estate taxes would have resumed and recovered the losses of last two years.

    In just the last month, several modest home owning neighbors have been laid off or are at high risk of same. Others are trying to figure out how to get their kid into a decent public elementary or high school. When they see parcel tax increase proposals they will first be incredulous, then they’ll get angry.

    Somewhere in the next 12 months OUSD will propose a parcel tax increase. If OUSD closes half of its schools, eliminates HQ managers, cuts wages of support staff (yeah, right) I’ll personally campaign for their parcel tax.

    I’m not holding my breath. When i can walk again after my foot operation I’ll resume picking up trash around Emerson School and Tech, and carrying a taser when I walk or bike two dogs in the evenings.

    -len raphael

  23. Dax

    Oakland City government operates their taxing system under the “ratchet” system.

    For parcel taxes and other fees they follow the “ratchet” principle.

    Dictionary = “Ratchet may refer to: Ratchet (device), a mechanical device that allows movement in only one direction”

    When times are good, the ramp up compensation, pensions, programs and spending.

    When times are bad, they ramp up taxes, parcel taxes, fines and citations.
    However when times turn good again, they never lower the taxes, fines, or citations. Instead they just spend the excess on new ideas, raises and perks.

    Then the next tough time comes and they “rinse and repeat” the above process.

    Just like the socket wrenches one buys from Sears, except they never flick the switch to go backwards.

  24. len raphael

    David, I doubt that the city could lay off everyone and then rehire the best people at low rates. Bankruptcy laws allowed GM to override union contracts, but i’d be surprised if muni bankruptcy rules would allow Oakland to overrule Civil Service hiring and rehiring rules. would be useful to know. Maybe, post the question at the Vallejo bankruptcy blogger site.

    Then again, must be something about muni bankruptcy that has worried the muni unions enough to motivate their CA legislative supporters to make it much harder for cities to declare bankruptcy.

    “Municipal Bankruptcy Bill Passes Out of Senate Local

    It was no surprise on Monday, April 19, when the three Democrats on the Senate Local Government Committee cast ‘aye’ votes in support of AB 155 (Mendoza). This bill would require municipalities seeking federal bankruptcy protection to obtain approval from a state committee (the California Debt and Investment Advisory Committee) with no experience in federal bankruptcy law.

    Monday was the second time AB 155 was heard in the Senate Local Government Committee. It had been held there since last year due to opposition from Sen. Lois Wolk (D-Davis) and the Republican committee members. Senate pro Tem Darrell Steinberg (D-Sacramento) subsequently removed Sen. Wolk and Sen. Pat Wiggins (D-Santa Rosa) and replaced them with Sen. Mark DeSauliner (D-Concord) and Curren Price (D-Los Angeles). ”


  25. LoveOakland

    V’s analysis of the city budget is sadly accurate. There is very little left to cut.

    Public safety is critical to everyone. Rather than layoffs of Police, the Police Union should join the rest of the city’s employees and take a similar 10% cut.

    Not only will that help the city avoid some police layoffs, it will mean that a ballot measure for revenue may be able to be smaller.

    No one can guarantee that the measure will pass, but the people of Oakland need their police officers to step up today and agree to these cuts. Let’s do what great people in a great city do. In times of crisis, the people of great cities pull together.

    Nearly 90% of the city’s so-called discretionary funds are used to pay for Police and Fire, mandates passed by the voters (i.e.: libraries, Police/Fire and programs for children and youth) plus debt service for bonds (i.e. improve Lake Merritt), buildings and things like Police and Fire equipment.
    What is left is about $40 million….and the city’s deficit is around the same amount. This 10% pays for things like parks and rec, senior programs, parks and street maintenance, and arts as well as admin staff to do things like manage the city’s computers, clean buildings, and write and grants, pay bills and other things that support programs..

    BTW, I work in SF and the reason the Mayor very quickly backed off of his 37.5 hr work week was that it was illegal.

    Thank you V for your tireless efforts to bring transparency to City Hall and bring us regular Oakland residents into the budget process.

  26. Naomi Schiff

    I think the conversation would seem more real and more productive if the vituperation could be left on the side somewhere.

  27. David

    Len, not only did the Feds (Obama) override existing contracts with bondholders, but they ALSO overrode existing bankruptcy law, but yes, bankruptcy needs to be an option.

    And as I pointed out, I understand that cops’ benefits (and salaries) need to get cut too. We should start with the benefits. Again, Medicare is good enough for the rest of us, there should be no retiree health benefits. Can’t collect pensions until 62, like Social Security, and if you collect early (62), you get a cut in your benefit, just like Soc. Security. It’s good enough for the rest of us.

    Where are they going to go? NYC, where they’ll take a 40% pay cut? Are other nearby cities here rushing to hire more cops? Are they going to quit to get another job, because there are soooo many private sector jobs willing to pay a 28-38 year old college (maybe) grad $70K base plus $30K overtime?

    Get real. They’re not going to quit. They need to get cut like everyone else.

    Naomi, I got mugged a few years ago. Vituperation? You’re getting mugged every day by the government.

  28. Andy K

    Put me down for no new parcel taxes.

    First, repeal measure OO.

    Second, repeal or follow measure Y.

    Third, fix the employment problems with city government. I’m sorry, but the disconnect between what some city employees make and the services they deliver is unsustainable. With unemployment so high, now is the time to renegotiate, fire, contract out, etc.

    Before the council puts a new parcel tax on the ballot, they need to call out the bad measure on the books and fight to repeal them.

  29. MarleenLee

    Naomi, I couldn’t disagree with you more. Apathy helped to create our budget problems. When people get angry, they get motivated to change and sometimes work to improve things. This is a forum for people to express their feelings. Even V used the F word. People are angry, and they should be angry. Pointing fingers at the people who deserve the blame does serve a useful purpose. People getting up at City Council meetings and expressing their anger also serves a useful purpose. Sometimes it may even persuade our elected officials. Ranting also helps us blow off steam. And reading rants can sometimes even be entertaining.

  30. Brad

    Is it just me, or does the city council have NO backup plan for what to do if the ballot measure fails? Because from what I’m seeing, it seems like they all just assume that it will pass and that will be that.

    But I’m pretty doubtful it will pass. Ok, so all I have to go on are discussions with my neighbors and other Oaklanders — but I’m hearing a lot of, “well, I voted for every tax increase in the past, but right now I just can’t afford it” and “I’ve always supported past parcel measures, but I didn’t seen any improvement in services, so I won’t be supporting this one.”

    So what happens when the parcel tax fails? I imagine the city council will be just flabbergasted — “HOW could this have POSSIBLY happened?” they will ask (the answer is that they’ve done a terrible job at running this city, but see, they think they’ve done a GREAT job at running the city). Then they will throw up their hands and . . . I don’ t know, I have no clue what they will do. Does anybody here have an idea of what will happen?

  31. Brad

    So why don’t the police officers and other public sector employee groups realize that it’s in their interest to take a small benefits (salary/pension) cut, spread out amongst their ranks, in order to avert mass layoffs?

    Also, mass layoffs of police officers will hurt Oakland too — because of reduced public safety.

    OK, I’m definitely not a right-winger, but I offer this as food for thought: it looks like even that champion of workers’ rights, Franklin Delano Roosevelt, would have thought that the police officers have an obligation to capitulate and take a pay cut so as to avert a mass layoff.

    Here is an excerpt of a 1937 letter from President Roosevelt to the head of National Federation of Federal Employees:

    “All Government employees should realize that the process of collective bargaining, as usually understood, cannot be transplanted into the public service. . . . Upon employees in the Federal service rests the obligation to serve the whole people, whose interests and welfare require orderliness and continuity in the conduct of Government activities. This obligation is paramount.”
    (Full letter here:

    Ok, so President Roosevelt is talking about strikes by public sector unions, but the same principle could be applied to the idea of public sector unions “playing chicken” with the city government and the taxpayers, i.e., either pony up a parcel tax or face sharply reduced public safety because you’ll be forced to lay off half the police department.

    I don’t know, maybe I’m wrong. I do know that I can’t afford a huge parcel tax increase. But maybe I shouldn’t be criticizing the unions. Your thoughts?

  32. Livegreen

    So the OPOA would rather sit on their buts & watch Officers get fired than allow a salary cut that will help keep those Officers employed? Dom, if u read this, please work with us because the Prop Taxes are NOT going to pass.

    Wouldn’t it be more acceptable for any of the unions if they’re all involved?

  33. V Smoothe Post author

    Yes, everyone agrees the police should take salary cuts. Because if they don’t, the only way to balance the budget is to get rid of lots and lots of them. The only people who don’t think the police should take salary cuts are the police union. See the problem?

  34. Brad

    So if everyone BUT the police union sees the necessity of benefits cuts, then why doesn’t the city just impose benefits cuts on the police?

  35. Livegreen

    The problem with a game of chicken or procrastination that waits to watch the Prop Tax fail, is it only increases the deficit and thus the # of Officers that will need to b laid off. Thus the OPOA’s inaction is irresponsible to the City, to the Citizens, and ESPECIALLY to the Officers.

  36. Mike Hardy

    Not just salary cuts but pension alterations, like eliminating spiking by having pension based on average of 3 of last 5 years, throwing out high and low, pushing retirement ages up, increasing contribution amounts, decreasing medical etc. Wouldn’t that feed into actuarial estimates of underfunding and require less catch-up contributions? Could free up “real” cash based on new input to the model.

    Unfortunately with a current contract cuts can’t be made unless they agree – you can’t just impose.

    Muni bankruptcy would make it possible if a judge agreed, but the city would have to ask for it, where “the city” is the legislators. Guess what happened in Vallejo though? Unless I misread it, they didn’t actually cram the public unions down much if it at all. Perhaps because they are still beholden – I wouldn’t bet that Oakland legislators would actually take advantage of a muni bankruptcy to all the sudden bone up on accrual accounting, get religion on fiscal discipline and the costs of current public union “total compensation” then make changes.

    So who knows where it ends up really, but I know agreeing to more of the same just seems wrong on principle as a taxpayer and voter and I can’t bring myself to do it.

  37. Brad

    So it’s illegal to impose cuts during a current contract? Huh. Well, I dunno, it seems like in other areas the city is willing to do illegal things to save a buck today and risk litigation later. Just look at Marleen’s Measure Y litigation. So why not here too?

  38. MarleenLee

    What’s also interesting about this debate is that while we and the City recognize that there are “contracts” between the City and the unions, and those “contracts” cannot be broken, the City seems to have no problem at all breaching the “contract” that is formed between it and the citizens through Measure Y. Courts have held that a parcel tax is analagous to a contract, and creates contractual obligations. The City promised to spend the parcel tax money on only those things specified in the ballot measure. Instead, they spent it on whatever they wanted. The City promised us 63 additional police officers, who never got hired until I sued them over it. The City promised us 803 police officers, which we still don’t have. The City promised not to collect Measure Y taxes unless they provided baseline funding to maintain at least 739 non-Measure Y officers. They aren’t providing that funding, but they’re still collecting the tax. So when it comes to the contract between the citizens and the City, the contractual obligations get tossed out the window.

  39. Ken

    I was told by OPD brass yesterday that they are supposed to take a $10 Million cut as of this June or July.

    You will all be happy to know however that an Oakland Police Foundation will gear up this summer as well.

    What do YOU ALL think an OPD officer should be earning per year? Remember that you get what you pay for. In India or other places for instance, regular residents have to PAY OFF police for all kinds of things… to see certain people, to be able to park somewhere, whatever. Corruption rules the world. Whether that’s outright stealing on the criminal side or government taxation/fees/official corruption on the other side, you are in the middle of it.

    Pay the police less, expect less “performance” and more corruption. Too bad we don’t have Singapore’s juice. Welcome to the Collapse folks. Enjoy your front row seats >:P Okay, that’s an exaggeration. We will have security if we can afford it or encourage it through community… whatever that means.

  40. Mary Hollis


    Yes it would be a breach of contract to unilaterally change a contract

    But, but, but, you can still fire scores of employees.

    And the threat of doing that should bring the special interest groups to the table in a genuine gesture of conciliation.

    With the idea that otherwise they are fired or BK is filed and they are thrown onto the mercy of some outsider Judge and take their chances.

    And this is exactly why any revenue propositions must fail – to force the CC to do what everyone but themalready see must be done.

  41. Ken

    Oh Marleen, it is SO important to HONOR our fraudulent contracts with Goldman Sachs and other Wall Street Gods so they can have their fraudulently-begotten cakes and eat them too! (ditto in the Oakland petri dish)

    Good thing we have various folks in Oakland Officialdom to slap BofA, Wachovia and JPMorgan Chase on the wrist! Bank on Oakland indeed.

  42. Ken

    Just so you all know, AMR just lost their 10-year contract w/ Alameda County earlire this week. I was there. I think AMR didn’t pay off Rep. Scott Haggerty (damn he is a real life fatcat) enough and the outside bidder did.

    AMR staff were crying there in the board room but I think most of them will transfer to the new company. Institutions change, people stay.

  43. MarleenLee

    Ken, police should be paid fairly. But they shouldn’t be overpaid. According to the salary survey provided by NN prior to the last meeting, as well as this one
    it would appear that OPD are dramatically overpaid. That doesn’t even address the pension issues. That doesn’t even address how much in OT they make. The idea that if the police agree to pay/pension concessions, we’re suddenly going to have to start bribing the police is lunacy.

  44. Ken

    I second Marleen’s kool-aid comment. no more brownies for these heckuva-job $70k per year parking meter techs, 90% salary for life office plankton and other drift wood. now/soon is the best time for cities to become lean and green.

    Len’s forward looking comment about “full force of baby boomer retirements kicking in” over next 10-20 years is also spot on. It’s a pyramid scheme that won’t be supportable — not without more immigration and cheap labor here, which doesn’t help the wages of anyone already here. (but walmart, the restaurant and hotel industries love the cheap labor, which is why we still have boatloads of “illegals”)
    i’m all for legal immigration to keep an orderly pace about things.

    the whole economy being a ponzi scheme, we all need to become self sufficient and not rely on government at any level — in case the government becomes incompetent, not there to help/serve you, overbearing, etc. oops! also need an orderly flow in our transition from 1st World USA to 3rd World Citystate instead of chaos. good luck there.

    so is the problem a lack of collective long-term thinking and cooperation over competition and short-term thinking? or is it a society that was drunk on cheap fossil fuels and other resources as its lifeblood for the past 100 years — which the DOD, DOE, British airlines, Chevron and everyone else says is a party over? or is it overpopulation due to the former? anyway, keeping governments / institutions going at the same scale of the last 100 years is craziness. I’m looking forward to smaller institutions. The towns of Brooklyn, Oak, Melrose, Temescal, Port Town, etc.

  45. LoveOakland

    San Carlos and Burlingame are doing some type of merger of their police depts to save money. Should Oakland look at merging with the Alameda County Sherriffs? Just an idea to chew on.

  46. livegreen

    The fundamental clause they should have put into the last contract negotiations, when they got minimal concessions, is that if overall tax revenues & budget continue to decline, contract negotiations will be reopened. (Or opened to further concessions). It should be fundamental that the City has an out clause so it can react to unpredictability.

  47. David

    Exactly my point. Oakland cops are paid way more than their peers in California cities, in other big(ger) cities across the country, so what are they gonna do if their salaries are cut? Move to a place where they’ll be paid even less? Call their bluff.

  48. Ken

    LoveOak: take it two steps further and merge operations with Oakland Housing Authority Police and Port of Oakland Police too. Why OHA needs its own police force is beyond me. Plenty of overlap and lack of communication with OPD I’m sure.

  49. len raphael

    David, counting on our cc and mayor to play a finely timed game of chicken with cops and firefighters is not such a good idea. might work with a differnt mayor. or a different cc .

    a small police dept that is grossly understaffed, which pays hundreds of thou fairly often to settle suits, fed judge hovering in the background expecting zillions of cya reports filed, and an extremely generous retirement plan.

    what is the distribution of oakland cops by retirement vesting? say the cc lays off 20% of the uniformed staff. that won’t be 20% of the $comp cost because it will be youngest cops first. so then the 80% remaining are going to clock in even higher OT than we now have, but at higher hourly rates, minus lower benefits.

    so we’ll have old higher paid cops expected to bust their chops responding to thousands of 911 calls etc. ot will go ballistic.

    or are you going to lay off 30% of the force, so we have money left to hire a bunch of transfers from Merced? That could work, after a very rocky couple or three years and enough settlements for Burris to self fund running for Governor.

    The impact on Oakland’s reputation as unsafe would linger for years.

    most likely the cc and staff already went thru the above, and decided they have to push for another parcel tax just to avoid the blame for what’s coming.

    -len raphael

  50. Livegreen

    I 2nd Brad’s question. Esp as both IDLF & NN seem to have the guts to be responsible. & which of the Candidates wants to b left with the increased deficit when it does fail?

    My guess is PK, JQ & RK join them for this reason.

  51. len raphael

    LG, i don’t see that it takes courage for any cc member to promise they’ll support layoffs of cops (and firefighters? if legal) if their parcel tax proposal fails.

    The only surprising thing is that NN isn’t pushing for cop pay cuts AND layoffs :)

    blaming those greedy overpaid cops and firefighters is good political strategy for the cc to distract voter attention from the role our elected officials primary had in creating an undersized overpaid police force over the last decade. i can’t see the cops in any position to blame the pols for being too generous with taxpayer funds.

    voters would see it as ancient history.

    police endorsement in next cc/mayor election wb radioactive, so nothing for cc or mayoral candidates to fear from cops supporting opponents.

    You become stay a union leader by getting your members raises and better working conditions, protecting and increasing the union leverage with employer. The younger members might not like it, but they understand that once leadership starts on the give back path, the union is busted. They’ll look at their spouses and say screw it, if i’m going to take a big pay cut, i might as well move to a cheaper part of the state or country, where I have a choice of working OT and the cops are appreciated.

    Brad, in my view if the cop parcel tax fails, the union won’t agree to more substantial pay cuts, and yes there will be major police layoffs that will last several years until gradually young cops are hired in a two tier system.

    In a non national election year, hard to see the tax getting the 2/3 needed. Turnout will be heavily home owners. Hard sell to convince them to pay yet another parcel tax (on top of a list of same that they are reminded of twice a year when they pay prop taxes) that only promises to keep the same bad service.

    Odd, but if ousd puts their parcel tax on the same ballot as cop tax, the chance for passage of both could go up if the cc and ousd members were capable of coordinating the unions for the support staff at ousd, and the blue collar staff at city hall to protect their “living wage” way above market comp by supporting both parcel taxes.

    Might as well pull in the non profits also to get out the vote of poor oaklanders who do not pay parcel taxes and don’t see cops favorably, but desperately need after school programs etc. escape cuts.

    -len raphael

  52. livegreen

    Len, There are plenty of Unions that compromise when there back is up against a wall. Maybe only then. If the OPOA does not recognize this then it is beyond why their leaders got elected. It is foolish. In good or even mediocre economic times the City would not be able to show the alternative is layoffs. In bad economic times it not only has that choice. It MUST do it. There is simply no other choice.

    Faced with this, the OPOA has two choices: Compromise now for less salary reductions -or- Risk the failure of the Parcel Tax and face more certain layoffs or much greater salary cuts. Which would you pick?

    Now of course this relies on the CC taking a stand. I’m still not holding my breath, but a combination of IDLF & NN points in that direction…

  53. len raphael

    if i were an older cop union official, i’d look at the distribution of vesting schedules for my members and see if i could work a deal where the city borrowed the money (?) for early retirement buyouts of enough higher paid cops to give the cc the overall saving they’re looking for. it would save the union leaders their jobs, and open the door for a two tier comp system for the eventual new hires. much better security for us residents and businesses than seniority based layoffs.

    if the city took some serious steps to cut costs elsewhere, calpers might even find a way to self finance the early buyout. (oakland is a lot less risky investment than some of the deals calpers jumped into. and if the unions get the state to have absolute control over muni bankruptcies, oakland looking like a very good investment. David?)

    -len raphael

  54. Naomi Schiff

    At City Council last night during the general fund discussion they were beginning to talk about tying any ballot measure to revisiting–repealing or rewriting or revising– Measure Y. They mentioned the library tax, but so far no mention of Kids First. Pat K also speculated that if they had to drastically cut police positions, they might not be taking the measure Y money even if the measure remains on the books. I seem to remember they also mentioned the litigation.

    What strikes me about the confusion which characterizes these public budget meetings is that because it’s easier to get one’s head around small items, they spend much time talking about relatively minor expenditures (in the 10s or low-hundreds of thousands) and not quite enough about the big problem, the overwhelming 40-million dollar kind. This is partly because of the difficulty in having an open discussion in this format. I would hope they could do some workshop-type of thing with better information and the public able to clearly see the numbers they are discussing. I suppose a lot of discussion with the city administrators and such must be going on in the background.

    But still, I am struck by the discrepancy between orders of magnitude and the discussion. Anyhow, yes, it is all about the police, apparently. Good luck to us all.

  55. len raphael

    LG, to finish that thought, if i were cop union official, and i couldn’t swing a deal with early retirement buyouts, I would tell the members that the city wants to break the union and we can’t let them. At the end of the day, this city can’t take the risk of running months until more cops are vetted and hired. But that depends if I thought the governor would send in the national guard.

    (about 20 years ago, met an old guy who was about 10 years old during the post WW1 Boston Police Strike. Vivid description of the state militia’s moving into Boston and stacking their rifles in the school yards. )

  56. livegreen

    Naomi, What was the substance of discussion about the past tax measures like the Library Tax (Q I assume)…

    Re. revising M-Y, if it’s to take out the minimum requirements (so they can backdoor use it to replace GPF) there’s no way I’m going to support it and I’ll do everything in my power to make sure my neighborhood doesn’t either (3000+ list serve, most of them voters).

    I notice IDLF, RK, & JB were the only ones to vote against the Parcel Tax. JB surprised me. I was hoping NN & PK would too. Voting to study it further is just postponing the inevitable. & exactly how does JQ propose we take a poll BEFORE an election? She keeps saying this but you can’t just talk about it, how does she actually want to do it?

  57. livegreen

    Correction to my previous post. The vote was whether to delay or not the discussion about a tax measure. IDLF opposes such a measure, JB wants to put the measure up for taxpayers to vote on, and I’m not sure about RK.

    Jean wants peoples opinions but I still don’t understand how she wants to collect them. At least IDLF, JB, & JQ will be going to speak to Dom/OPOA, but it doesn’t sound like they’re going to get far:

  58. Mike

    While retiring at age 55 at first sounds great for cops and firefighters, the reality is few cops even make it to full retirement. The stress level in police work and certainly Oakland is enormous. Officers, if they even MAKE it to full retirement at age 55, go through more stress, injury, exposure to disease, etc than you would in your longer albeit milder career CHOICE.

    And few firefightes make it to full retirement without suffereing some sort of painful back injury or other physical ailiment from years of lifting thousands of patients down flights of stairs on medical calls. Additionally, firefighters often die sooner than the average person after retiring due to increased risk of getting cancer from years of exposure to toxic chemicals breathed in from smoke. Firefighters also are at higher risk of heart disease.

    We miss many holidays with our families, miss Christmas, miss Thanksgiving, our children’s and spouse’s birthdays, work weekends, nights, long exhausting hours, develop irregular sleep patterns, etc. Let alone the constant threat of being killed in the line of duty. YOU don’t have to worry about those thing because WE do.

    So cops and firefighters EARN their money and pensions for jobs few of you are able or willing to even do.

  59. Ralph

    It really doesn’t matter wher you live in these United States; it is about public safety and taxes. I really like the following idea: Beverage Container Surcharge—the proposal exempts milk, juice, dairy substitutes and “economy size” containers 2 liters or larger in order to minimize burden on struggling families. It promotes the City’s environmental and sustainability goals by encouraging the use of refillable containers.

  60. livegreen

    Mike, With a 10% cut, OPD Officers will still be earning more than other city workers & their brethren at other PD’s. A LOT more. & Yes, your arguments are valid & you will still be appreciated & shown this appreciation with these higher compensations.

  61. Naomi Schiff

    In answer to the question above, and I probably don’t remember everything quite perfectly, but just trying to report here and not editorialize at all:

    Quan seemed to be saying that she does not think there’s support for a ballot measure, and that as things stand now one is unlikely to pass. Brunner really very much wanted to give it a try. Quan said she had seen some polling information from some recent poll, and that it didn’t look so good. They discussed the differences between measures requiring only 50% and those requiring 66 2/3%. You can apparently pass a general tax measure with only 50% but they speculated that the citizens would be less likely to support something that gave council full discretion over how to spend it. The parcel taxes for specific purpose require the higher number to pass, and that is difficult to obtain, they thought, but might be a better approach because more specific. They wandered off into the discussion I mentioned above, about bringing back parcel taxes of yore to be reworked as part of a parcel tax measure that would give them more flexibility.

    They said that Meas. Y has a built in structural deficit (that is, that it apparently requires more expenditure than it raises) and should perhaps be fixed so that that would not be the case. They were clear that if they drop police positions that they must forgo the tax income. Quan handed out an excellent, clear, very brief table that explained the increments of cuts in police positions: that you can’t cut a few. If you cut five you really cut 87. If you propose a parcel tax and it fails and you lose Measure Y and you have been paying for police up til November, the cut is in the neighborhood of 300+! (Sorry I don’t have this chart with me now so can’t check.)

    They wondered whether police union would rather keep positions than take some cuts. Union rep for other city workers (Jeff Levin) got up to say how other employees had all taken cuts and fire fighters too, but not police. Some discussion that police contributions to pension fund of about 10% would help the situation. Currently they are the only ones not contributing.

    Kaplan doesn’t want them to state potential sales values for city property in the budget discussion as they have been, because it screws up the potential for a higher price based on things like appraisals and competitive negotiations, and wants those things done in closed session. But administration is using those numbers to achieve balanced budget, which is public of course. They agreed to discuss this with city atty and real estate div. and figure something out.

    Many repeated explanations that they value employees and need police but that 40 million dollars can’t go away with tiny cuts to the 10 or 15% of general fund which they can control. Repeated references to the 70-80% of budget which is public safety, and largely salaries and benefits.

    They have not figured out yet what they want to do, and they do not agree among themselves, so far.

  62. Mary Hollis


    An interesting accout. Thank you.

    Particularly interesting was that the CC “speculated that the citizens would be less likely to support something that gave council full discretion over how to spend it. ”

    That effectively says that they know we don’t trust them, and so try and pick a type of revenue proposal that avoids that perception.

    Trouble is, of course, that those require a 2/3 pass rate as per Prop 13.

    In other words, they are scheming how to manipulate us by fine-tuning a tax proposal that might hoodwink us into voting for it, rather than actually trying to manage a budget.

    And also that they are looking for a proposal that has a specific appeal. After all, who doesn’t like public safety, kids and helping the vulnerable? They will craft something to yank on your heartstrings, and then spend it on something you’d NEVER approve of e.g. backfilling outrageouspublic pension subsidies.

    I find myself wondering what they wouldn’t do to avoid administering the pain that of course has to happen if the structural budget inbalances are ever to be resolved.

    Does anyone on the CC have a spine?

  63. livegreen

    Thanks Naomi for a good summary. At least they’re having a healthy discussion. (Except for Jane Brunner. Whatever happens, blowing this off until later, & blowing up the deficit, is not productive or leadership)…

  64. Dax

    Mike, how long are people going to keep foisting these myths upon the public.
    For all I know you really believe what you wrote but it is simply false.

    Here is what you wrote…

    “Additionally, firefighters often die sooner than the average person after retiring due to increased risk of getting cancer from years of exposure to toxic chemicals breathed in from smoke. Firefighters also are at higher risk of heart disease.”

    Now the truth as told to us by PERS official records and data…

    The true facts are as follows…

    Here is the CalPERS life expectancy data for public safety members (police and fire, which are grouped together by the pension fund):

    – If the current age is 55, the retiree is expected to live to be 81.4 if male, and 85 if female.
    – If the current age is 60, the retiree is expected to live to be age 82 if male, and 85.5 if female.
    – If the current age is 65, the retiree is expected to live to be age 82.9 if male, and 86.1 if female.

    Those figures are IDENTICAL to the figures for the rest of the PERS retirees.
    Straight from the public affairs office of PERS.

    This myth seems to live on forever. I think the police and fire unions tell their members these myths about how long their members live in retirement.

  65. Mike

    it’s not a myth. Those figures are based on life expectancy for average Americans. Since we public safey workers are average Americans, they use those stats for calculations. When we plan our retirement and how many funds we need, of course we are going to look at long term and not say, “oh well you probably won’t live as long as the average American so we’ll use a shorter time table for YOU GUYS ” LOL!

    Firefighters have shorter life expectancies than the average population and are three times more likely to die on the job, due to inherent risks, physical and mental stresses, and exposures to toxic and carcinogenic compounds released in smoke. (source: US Bureau of Labor Statistics, University of Cincinatti).



    Like the rest of the population, aging firefighters are at significantly higher risk of injury and illness – it is a young person’s profession. Due to the extremely strenuous nature of the job (with little or no “warm up time,”) firefighters suffer higher rates of disabling occupational injury . The older the firefighter, the more likely these injuries become, and recovery times (and cost) increase. These injuries are expensive to taxpayers and firefighters, decreasing quality of life and requiring expensive treatment, overtime pay to replace the injured worker which stresses already low staffing levels. Relatively low minimum retirement ages are a recognition of these factors above all else (much more so than the more widely reported life expectancy issue).

    When firefighters negotiate for enhanced retirement benefits (in recognition of the above factors) other potential benefits or salary enhancements are given up. This is the nature of collective bargaining. The cost to a city or municipality is no higher than if a comparable salary increase were negotiated in place of retirement benefits

    In a public defined benefit retirement system, when a firefighter dies, their retirement contributions go back into the”system” to pay for other living retiree’s benefits, unlike a private sector 401K where the retiree’s family keeps 100% of their retirement contributions upon their death.

    Firefighter retirement benefits are not paid by the cities, counties or state. Benefits are paid by the retirement system, which s not a government agency, from employee and employer contributions while the employee was working, and from market growth and interest from investment of those contributions,
    Firefighter jobs have become significantly more complex and technical over the past 30 years, with the additional responsibilities and training for Hazardous Materials Response, Emergency Medical Services, Homeland Security, Fire Prevention, Public Education and more. In return for providing more and better services to the community, firefighters negotiated for improved benefits and salaries, though their compensation has not risen as fast as other technical or dangerous jobs in the private sector.

    1.The current economic crisis was driven by Wall Street excesses and corporate abuses, not factory workers, teachers, firefighters or police officers. This crisis is the real threat to retirement security for ALL Californians.
    2.Cutting retirement for public employees does nothing to solve California’s current budget problems. Small budget decreases would be seen in 16-18 years for benefit cuts enacted today.
    3.Opportunistic politicians are using the national economic crisis to blame California’s teachers, police, nurses and firefighters for the state’s economic problems rather than putting responsibility where it belongs – on politicians, Wall Street, and the impact of corporate excesses on stock market performance.
    4.The average public employee retirement benefit in California is $24,000 a year. 75% of all retirees earn less than $30,000 a year.
    5.The VAST majority of high pensions ($100,000+) are received by top level management – not ordinary working folks like line firefighters, police officers, nurses or teachers.

    How many coworkers’ funerals have you gone to Dax? In 20 years of public safey I have personally known 6 people killed in the line of duty serving their community.

    But hey, think we have it easy? Then apply to be a cop or firefighter. Spend the holidays away from your family and work nights and weekends. Come chase some bad guys with guns in their pockets on the mean streets or respond to a cardiac arrest or a structure fire at 3AM from a dead sleep. Maybe YOU can ride that “Gravy Train” or, maybe end up like my buddy in this video during a fire in San Francisco. Who knows if he’ll ever walk normally again let alone return to the job he loves.

  66. Livegreen

    So Mike, Even if I were to accept your argument over DAX:

    Given that Firefighters are already higher paid, and still WILL b, & tax payers are hurting, how much is enough in your mind to adequately compensate for your sacrifice? $1 million, $10 million a year?

    And how does the decreased budget pay for even the current costs? What is your solution?

  67. Dax

    Mike I have never seen such a line of misleading information.

    You pulled out every page from the book of “so called facts” given out by the unions that represent your occupation.

    Don’t start giving me all your anecdotal stories about all the guys you know who have had difficult times.
    I come from a family filled with police and fire workers.
    From the time I was 2 years old, everyone at the various holiday dinners were police and fire.
    My grandfather was a career Oakland fireman. Injured on the job with a lifelong disability in the days before they could replace broken hips. Two of my uncles were Oakland firemen. A good share of my friends growing up had fathers who were Oakland firemen and several of my friends went on to the same career.
    Cousins are and were firemen. My brother was a career policeman as was another cousin and another uncle.
    I know the dangers and I also know the reality of how all those men lived and retired.

    Now to the facts, many of which you falsely give out. I imagine you really believe what you say, but you are incorrect.

    #1… The main one…., the classic one told over and over and over by police and fire organizations.

    “Firefighters have shorter life expectancies than the average population ”

    Why don’t we ask the people who would know the truth. The people who pay pensions to those very firefighters and policemen..
    Don’t you think the bean counters who run the pension are going to be the most accurate on EXACTLY how long the average police and fire worker is going to live in retirement. Of course they would.

    Talk to PERS, the largest retirement fund in the United States.
    The retirement fund that covers more police and fire workers than any other.

    They have been asked this very question over and over.
    The have stated over and over and over that their police and fire retirees live the same lifespan as all their other employees…

    I’ll give you the numbers they gave me again…

    – If the current age is 55, the retiree is expected to live to be 81.4 if male, and 85 if female.
    – If the current age is 60, the retiree is expected to live to be age 82 if male, and 85.5 if female.
    – If the current age is 65, the retiree is expected to live to be age 82.9 if male, and 86.1 if female.

    Those figures are IDENTICAL to the figures for the rest of the PERS retirees.

    Please STOP spreading false information about this subject. If you don’t believe what I have written, then call PERS yourself and ask them the same question.
    If you refuse to believe what they tell you, then you will be be lying the next time you pass on such false information. This time I’m going to just assume you are misinformed and not intentionally passing on the false information.

    Report back after you call PERS. Tell everyone here what PERS said.
    Is there anyone in the world who would have more accurate information on this subject than PERS, the people who actually pay out the police and fire pensions until the person dies?

    #2… You state, “The average public employee retirement benefit in California is $24,000 a year. 75% of all retirees earn less than $30,000 a year.”

    What you leave out completely also comes from PERS…
    Sure, the average public employee is getting just $24,000 from PERS.

    But you fail to tell the public how long that average employee worked in their “career” for that pension.
    A person gets out of school and say they work from age 22 until the current age required by Social Security which is about 66 for full benefits.
    44 years. Their career is 44 years.

    What is hidden in your misleading facts is that the average time a PERS retiree worked for their $24,000 pension is only 19.8 years.
    In other words, only 45.5% of the time between ages 22 and 66.
    Had they worked for their entire working life for a public agency, then that $24,000 average pension would instead be $52,750 a year.

    Puts a completely different picture on the story that so many public employee unions are trying to fool the public with.
    Again, I’ll assume you really didn’t know the actual truth, but were just passing on false and misleading stories you have been told or given.
    Go to the PERS site and you can corroborate the actual truth I have just given you.
    The real facts, not the “talking points” of the public employee unions.

    3. Here is another completely false bit of information you are passing on to the public. This is a deliberate attempt by public employee unions to fool the citizens..

    “Firefighter retirement benefits are not paid by the cities, counties or state. Benefits are paid by the retirement system, which s not a government agency, from employee and employer contributions while the employee was working, and from market growth and interest from investment of those contributions,”

    FALSE…. this myth is in the process of EXPLODING in the faces of Oakland and most other cities.

    The reality is that there are HUGE unfunded liabilities that are now just coming to destroy municipal budgets.
    What most of the public was never told is that Oakland’s general fund is on the hook for all the unfunded obligations that are coming in each year.

    This continuing lie that has been kicked down the road is suddenly scaring the pants off any intelligent city council.
    The police, fire and all city pensions are going to be taking a huge and increasing share of the general fund each year into the future. These obligations will destroy future budgets as far into the future as the eye can see.

    Mike, I don’t suppose you attended the City Council finance meeting about 5 weeks ago.
    In that meeting Councilman De La Fuente brought up this very point.
    About time he did so. He indicated that these so called “payed for” retirements were in fact, NOT paid for, and any shortfall would be coming straight out of the city’s annual general fund.
    He was nearly in panic as he said this obligation was going to turn into a monster in future years as the Oakland retirees, including fire and police, were going to swamp the Oakland budget.

    You are wrong and misleading when you state that these pensions are fully paid for out of the PERS system. PERS ONLY operates the system for Oakland.
    PERS is NOT on the hook if the system does not have sufficient income.
    And that is exactly the case that is happening already and headed into much worse territory.

    Only people with their head in the sand, continue to deny this reality.

    So Mike.. please stop posting your litany of union supplied propaganda.

    I have read and heard every single thing you posted because it is the same pack of cherry picked quotes and slogans they always foist on the public.

    If you believe what you’ve posted, then get a reality check and go to reliable sources that don’t have an agenda. PERS has more accurate information on this than anyone else.

    And please spare us your tear jerk stories. Sure fire and police put their lives on the line, just as my grandfather, brother, uncles, cousins, and friends have in their fire and police careers. I never knew my grandfather without a severe limp and always with a cane.
    But there comes a point when the growth and increases in fire and police pay and benefits reachs a breaking point.
    A point at which a normal city can simply no longer afford such overwhelming expenses.
    Cities all over California are reaching that breaking point and the future obligations for those salaries and pensions are killing the system.

    Please be honest enough with the public to deal with real facts rather than false and misleading information put out by the union.
    Obviously the union has a agenda.

    Please tell me what PERS agenda is when they give out their actuarial data?

    Please tell me what De La Fuentes agenda is when he is so scared about the coming tidal wave of unfunded pension obligations ahead.

    Start dealing with real facts if you are willing to do a little homework.
    Stop spreading false and/or misleading information.

  68. len raphael

    Mike, even if Dax and PERS vere completely wrong about injuries and death rates for public security employees; cops and firefighters in a heap of Bay Area cities are getting a comp package that is is vastly better than active combat military get for much higher rates of injury, probably of death, and worse working conditions.

    Oakland is at that top of that pyramid (I almost added the word scheme, but i don’t blame cops and firefighters for politicians’ decisions).

    -len raphael

  69. len raphael

    per chance, at the cc budget meeting, was there any sign that our fearless (ok, DLF has started to express worry) leaders are budgeting more than one year in advance? aren’t they required to release two year budgets?

    maybe they know something we don’t know :) eg. their retirements are secure.

  70. Ralph

    Naomi, thanks for the meeting recap.

    Dax, thanks for spreading the truth.

    LG, thanks for your links on OUSD.

  71. Robert

    It should also be pointed out, that according to CDC statistics, that on the job death rates for firefighters are not all that high any more. Trades such as fisherman, construction, roofing, and several others all have higher death rates than firefighting. This is yet another myth put out by the public safety unions. Police work, while having a higher death rate than firefighting, is also far from the deadliest trade.

    And this is not to minimize the dangers of firefighting, but justifying higher pay and earlier retirement based on higher death rates is not a fact based argument.

    Mike, do you have a link to that Univ. Cincinnati report? because I couldn’t find it, and I didn’t think that the BLS collected data on post retirement death rates.

  72. Naomi Schiff

    Len, to your query above, yes there was discussion about longer-term budget ramifications. Kernighan and Quan seem to be the ones who were clearest on this, and I think it was Pat K. who requested that the administrator give information on the second and third year out. I don’t know if that made it into the (very unclear, likely to be cleaned up by staff after the fact) motion. There was a moment when I looked over at Dan Lindheim and he had his face in his hands. It is not a pleasant moment to be trying to figure out a budget.

    Quan and Kernighan each made the point that even if a parcel tax of approx. 18 or 20 million per annum were passed, the following year and the year after that, due to the structural deficit, and unless the economy turned right around (and to their credit none of the councilmembers are counting on this) there would still be an additional 20 million shortfall. Because of the Measure Y and other structural deficit problems, there does seem some sense in looking at the parcel taxes to see that they at least balance, and at the police retirement and other retirement situations too. The thing is that even if you can pass a parcel tax, if it won’t even fix the shortfall what is the point? Might as well cut 300 police now and avoid a thousand small cuts that don’t add up to enough.

    I do think the councilmembers are beginning to absorb the whole larger dilemma. They do feel somewhat hamstrung by the situation. And presumably they understand though they didn’t say it explicitly that if they voted this week to try for a big parcel tax, it would weaken their position in negotiation with the police union, who would just encourage them to ask the citizens for the money. By the way, the other city employees’ union said they would help campaign for whatever measure gets proposed, if one does get onto the ballot. But of course police support, if most of the money goes to the police, may not help in passing such a measure, since it would seem pretty self-serving. So beyond doing what is going to meet the shortfall, the councilmembers are stuck with a complicated political issue of a) what citizens would pass and b) whether something they propose may affect any potential negotiation–for land sales, retirement contributions, layoffs, or salary givebacks.

  73. Naomi Schiff

    PS: It sure makes me wary of purchasing any more stadiums, giving any land to one, or subsidizing any sports teams. The Raiders deal was a terrible thing for Oakland, and is still having profound repercussions as we look at this awful budget mess.

  74. Mike

    Let me clarify:

    Back in the 1970s and 80s very few firefighters would wear their breathing apparartus. (It’s like a SCUBA mask except for smoke protection). We all know that reguar exposure to smoke causes cancer. At that time, guys would retire and often times die a few years later from cancer from years of breathing in heavy smoke. And in those days guys would sometimes go to 3 fires a day. (We’re talking about big city departments like San Francisco). The term “Leather Lung” or “Smokeater” is still used today to designate a firefighter who “ate a lot of smoke” during his career. Example, 1/3 of Seattle firefighters hired before 1977 have developed some form of cancer.

    Times have changed. More departments have required firefighters to wear their breathing apparatus and exposure to smoke has been reduced. However, there is still significant exposure to firefighters. As an example, about 11 years ago, a guy I worked with had his annual physical. The guy was a non-smoker. However, the doctor, during his exam asked him how long he had been smoking ciggarettes. He never touched a ciggarette but the years of exposure to smoke had damaged his lungs as if he was a smoker. In today’s world, a lot of the smoke that burns in fires is even more toxic (carcinogens) due to the chemicals released by the plastics and other materials that modern furniture is made of.

    Several recent studies have shown that firefighters are at an increased risk for developing cancer. There is an assumed correlation between the cancer and the years of exposure to carcinogens in smoke and other hazardous materials that are an occupational hazard. I’ve already sent a few links on a prior posting if you’d like to read them.

    The SFFD and UCSF participated in a study because members of their department developed a rare form of Cancer. ” Retired firefighters were especially at high-risk for the cancer. The study results were published in the Cancer Research Journal (2008). ”

    Now, perhaps with modern medicine and treatment, firefighters with cancer can survive longer and live to an age where their life expectancy doesn’t cause the CalPers deaths to go off the charts. But you cannot tell me that more people with cancer does not equate more people dying. I don’t care what CalPers bean counters say. You seem inteligent, and you know that ANY statistic can be skewed one way or another to give a desired appearance. I don’t think CalPers, when they promote their pension funds for members would make a chart for members and then a seperate one for firefighters with a much lower life expectancy – oh by the way guys you’ll probably die sooner so here’s your shorter planned retirement chart. You won’t need as much money.

    So firefighting is without a doubt a career that increases your risk of cancer and subsequently an early death. Believe what you will. Not to mention the presumtive illnesses and the frequent debilitating conditions that you’ve so attested that your own family member has suffered.

    Now, on to your other points:

    Regarding this….. “In other words, only 45.5% of the time between ages 22 and 66.
    Had they worked for their entire working life for a public agency, then that $24,000 average pension would instead be $52,750 a year.”

    You are correct. But the fact is, almost NO ONE gets hired at the tender age od 22 and then works all the way to age 66. So they are not collecting that much money. This isn’t a bunch of “what ifs”. This is reality and the reality is you have to look at the big picture when you figure out money and how much is being paid. I don’t know, and have never heard of ANYONE working 44 years in CalPers EVER so you’re stats are based on pure what ifs……..

    Yes (Robert) there other occupations that have a higher death rate per 100,000 (cab drivers, truck drivers and construction workers I believe). But their deaths aren’t acts of nobleness or bravery. They are victims of crime or accidents as are hundreds or thousands a year. They are not running TOWARDS gunfire or crawling on their bellies willingly into a building so filled with black smoke that can’t see their hands in front of their face like a blind man feeling in the dark in a maze of rooms. Or waking up in the dead of night instantly alert to do CPR on a 1 year old child. They are not taking on groups of parolees on street corners who would take your life if given the opportunity. Chasing men into the dark armed with handguns. They are not laying their lives on the line for the community. Their motivation is purely financial – unlike police and fire.

    I can assure you, having been in public safet for over 20 years, I’ve seen all kinds. The vast majority in this business are motivated professional people. We are not responsible for the cities in America’s financial woes. We are just as easy target because our income is stable during hard economic times.

    Firefighters and other public employees do NOT receive Social Security!

    Firefighters pay more into their retirement system than other public or private sector employees.

    When firefighters negotiate for enhanced retirement benefits other potential benefits or salary enhancements are given up. This is the nature of collective bargaining. The cost to a city or municipality is no higher than if a comparable salary increase were negotiated in place of retirement benefits.

    PERS (Public Employees retirement System) have billions of dollars of assets from emploee and employer contributions. PERS is the single largest investor in the stock market, and their investments have beaten the market even during recent economic downturns.

    And let me reiterate:
    1.The current economic crisis was driven by WALL STREET excesses and CORPORATE ABUSES, not factory workers, teachers, firefighters or police officers.
    2.Cutting retirement for public employees does nothing to solve California’s current budget problems. Small budget decreases would be seen in 16-18 years for benefit cuts enacted today.

    To quote another poster on another site, “As a long-time public servant, I recall being mocked (in a fun sort of way) by associates who recounted their high pay, fringe benefits, and rich bonuses in the private sector. Now that the economy has turned sour, the public servants (and their perceived exhorbitant retirement pensions) are suddenly being derided.

    Ain’t it funny how the coin flips.”

    PS; Robert here’s your link:

  75. Dax

    The Raiders deal, which the public is so aware of, is mere child’s play compared to how the pensions are going to crush future budgets.
    The 2004 decision to raise all regular employees pensions by 35% “retroactively” will create future deficits that will equal 10 to 20 Raiders deals.
    Yet not one person in 100 is aware of what a disastrous decision that was.

    Heck, only in the last few months has De La Fuente woken up to that reality.
    Too bad he got his “born again” math skills 6 years too late.
    Jean Quan seems to still be counting on her fingers regarding that matter.

    Hundreds of millions of dollars were given away and will be sucking down general fund money for decades.

    I’ll give my favorite example one more time.

    You have a 29.8 year employee who was ready to retire in early 2004 with 30 years of service. She was making $80,000 per year and was expecting a $48,000 pension over her expected 22 years of retirement (60 to 82).
    She had worked happily under the current agreement and was on track to get a substantial pension.
    Then the new pension agreement was passed by the council.
    So she stayed on the job for a extra couple months to pass the date it was enacted.
    Then, instead of $48,000 for 22 years she got $64,800 for 22 years.

    What she was given by just staying on the job for a couple more months was a Golden Parachute bonus of $369,600.
    That is what your city council did in their fit of financial madness.
    That huge retroactive bonus has also been given to each and every employee who has retired in the past 6 years.
    All their prior 15, 20, 25 and more years of service were bumped up retroactively to the new pension rate, even though they paid nothing more into the system for all those prior years.
    Plus all current employees are placed under this 35% pension boost.

    Now, De La Fuente is suddenly smelling the roses, as they rot, and talking about taking all “new hires” back to the sensible old pension rate. Back to 2003 before the insanity took place.

    How wonderful of him, after he has contractually obligated the city to decades of unfunded pension payments.

    The totals of this fiasco could reach a billion dollars.. yes, 1,000 million over time. Doh!

    But back to my example above. Did that employee deserve $369,000 extra?
    What do you think the public would say?
    How many of them got a $369,000 bonus?
    No, they get a new parcel tax for their retirement.

    Imagine the bonus Ms Edgerly got on a “highest years” salary of over $200,000.
    A million dollars?
    How can something like this happen and never even appear in the newspaper?

    Oh, and of course, all the council members will get their bonus also.
    No conflict of interest there.

  76. Mike

    regarding your comment about poor service from the police. Oakland crime statistics are down 16% and OPD salaries are comparable to other bay area police departments. OPD already made major concessions and took salary cuts. Some officers took as much as $1000 a month pay cut as a concession.

    So don’t expect any more concessions. Furthermore, laying off 153 officers would basicaly cause the entire investigation division to go back to patrol. The result – NO CRIMES WOULD BE INVESTIGATED.

  77. Dax

    Mike, you are in denial.
    You state the following…

    “I don’t care what CalPers bean counters say. You seem inteligent, and you know that ANY statistic can be skewed one way or another to give a desired appearance. I don’t think CalPers, when they promote their pension funds for members would make a chart for members and then a seperate one for firefighters with a much lower life expectancy ”

    You don’t care what CalPers says because they disagree with what you want to be true. Then you try to create motives for why CalPers would lie and distort the truth.

    Mike, your saying that clearly marks you as someone who doesn’t want any facts that contradict your prior thoughts.
    Gosh sakes alive man, who else but CalPers would have the most accurate figures on this subject. I might add that they include all those earlier fire fighters in their data.
    Mike, I asked you to call CalPers for yourself. Don’t believe what I write, call them. Despite what you suggest, they have NO reason to lie about this.

    The readers here can clearly see who has the most factual basis for presenting the truth on this matter. That you persist on suggesting the facts are otherwise clearly shows your desire to believe only what serves your purpose.
    I have no doubt you and your fellow workers have passed these stories around for so long, you have come to accept them as true. But the facts show otherwise and the readers here know that.

    As to the years of service for typical CalPers pensioners, you are correct that most people don’t work there for 44 years. But in those other years, you neglect to mention they work at other jobs where they get other pension benefits, private or otherwise.

    The point is that the $24,000 average is greatly misleading if you don’t tell the reader that is for 20 years or less service.
    Do you know anyone who only begins to work at age 40 and then retires at age 60, never having worked anywhere else in their life.
    So the $24,000 example is in its own way a very distorted view, which I have frequently seen put for by public employee unions.

    Did you know that a typical (non-fire, non-police) Oakland city employee can begin working at, say, age 25, and retire at age 55 and then receive 81% of their highest years pay for life? While, the poor guy on Social Security is now facing a retirement age of almost 67.
    How come the guy in the private sector has to work 12 years longer than the Oakland city employee? Only to then receive less than half the pension or social security, if even that.

    NO, the system has gotten completely skewed. 40 years ago you worked for the city, got wages thought to be lower than in private, but you got security and a pension. Now almost all studies show public employees get higher pay, far better benefits and vacations, and then retire early with hugely greater pensions.
    The entire prior premise has been turned on its head.

    65 and 70 year old citizens are getting tired of them still having to work longer and longer to just get by while city employees unions talk about parcel taxes so the city can pay its bills, having given away the vault to the public employees for wages, benefits, and pensions.

    NO WAY I am going to vote for a new parcel tax when I look to my nearest city employee neighbor and see he is making over $165,000 in each of the last two years. Do you really expect me to vote myself a $200 parcel tax so he can keep getting over $165,000 annually?
    Do you guys even get the reality the public is seeing, or have you been talking between yourselves so long, you have completely lost touch with reality?

    Lastly, stop with the repeated blaming of Wall Street for everything. No one here is in love with Wall Street. We know the mess, we are living the mess.
    But just because they screwed everything up is no reason for public employees to keep the distorted pensions and benefits in place.
    The unfunded liabilities of the public pensions was going to happen regardless of the 2008/2009 downturn. It just would have come a few years later instead of now.

    That you continue to deflect the issues only serves weaken your case rather than bolster it. The city is NOT going broke because the residents aren’t paying enough taxes. Any thought that a parcel tax is going to be voted in by the public this year is shear fantasy. The public not in the mood to sacrifice any more so that public employees can be kept at peak levels of compensation.

  78. Robert

    Mike, the data you link to is solely related to on the job dangers, and does nothing to dispute Dax’s information from CALPers that life expectancy post retirement is the same for firefighters as for other public sector workers. You need to quit using shorter life expectancy as an excuse to get a higher pension, because it isn’t true.

    Changing the retirement benefit calculation would help immediately with the budget issue because the CALPers contribution is calculated from the retirement plan in effect. It might not be huge the first year, but it would get larger over time. The make up charge for the unfunded past liabilities would not change, but the contribution for current retirement plan would decrease.

  79. Livegreen

    Mike, OPD officers did NOT take a pay cut, they gave up a raise. Also I agree with u that no employees caused the state budget crisis. Uh, neither did taxpayers. & the reason the City’s General Purpose Fund (GPF) has declined is because all taxes have declined which is because (hold on to your hat) the income of taxpayers has declined. Unemployment in Oakland is almost 20% resulting in an enormous amount of forclosures, & the said decline in the City’s budget.

    Yet you want taxpayers to pay you the same? It’s not going to happen.

    We DO appreciate the hard work you do. We are not asking for the stars and the moon. We are only asking for you to contribute a portion (a portion!) of the losses many of our families and neighbors have suffered. Which leads me to wonder: Who doesn’t appreciate who?

    PS. In your blame u should include our City Leaders. If they hadn’t already supported and mispent so many Parcel Tax Measures before it, this one might actually have stood a chance.

  80. Mike

    Dax and Robert.
    Let’s assume the life expectancy issue doesn’t exist. It still doesn’t negate the other issues I have mentioned such as the increased risk of cancer, and debilitating injuries suffered from many years in public service.

    Not to mention missing many holidays and children’s birthdays. working weekends, nights, odd hours, etc.

    You complain that public service workers work other jobs to supplement their income and pensions. Uh yeah, it’s called WORK. If they WORKED another job that means they EARNED that extra paycheck. Working TWO jobs equates to not much of a personal life but hey that’s the trade off. Not my personal choice but this is America and we all have the right to work ourselves to death and get rich doing it – even people in the private sector can do it if they want.

    You asked: How come the guy in the private sector has to work 12 years longer than the Oakland city employee? Only to then receive less than half the pension or social security, if even that.

    I’ll tell you why. Partly because life isn’t fair Dax. We all can’t have what we want just because someone else has it. But really it’s because he made a PERSONAL CHOICE to do whatever career he worked in. There are an abundant amount of careers in the private sector that pay much more than public safety workers. The managers at 24 Hour fitness make a whopping 6 figures for example.

    YOU CAN GET RICH WORKING IN THE PRIVATE SECTOR. It’s all up to you and how hard you want to work and what career path you choose. That’s one of the benefits of the private sector – your income potential can be higher than public safety. You can run your own business. Become an attorney, doctor, whatever. The last time I checked, all the highest paid jobs in this country are in the dreaded private sector.

    If someone goes to college and gets a degree and becomes an investment banker and makes 1 million a year do you bitch about how much money they make?? Do you complain about how much money athletes like baseball players make? Perhaps the oakland A’s and Raiders should donate some of their BILLIONS back to the city and fans of Oakland who support them!! How about THAT for an idea? Without US they would be nothing.

    As far as the parcel tax, I’m not advocating voting for it. I’m just telling you to stop blaming the cops and firefighters pensions for all the woes of the world.

    You’re using us as your scapegoat for the financial crisis. But you’re wasting your breath. Our pensions are here to stay. Get over it.

  81. Mike

    they lost their raises PLUS other things such as “night differntial” pay which was something like 8.25% so they also took a pay cut. And didn’t they start having to pay into their pensions out of their paycheck when prior to that the city did? That would equate to a cut in tangible income. And when the cost of living increases and you expect a pay raise and then don’t get it…….

    I believe the fire and police departments opened up their contracts last year and GAVE quite a bit back to the city of Oakland already. You’re not going to keep balancing the budget on the backs of public safety workers every time you have a problem.

  82. Mary Hollis

    Thanks to Naomi, Dax and Len for their prescient observations.

    Listening to Mike’s endless and self-serving defense of his windfall deal, to his stated obstinance on any concessions, and to his total lack of ideas on how these obligations can ever be funded, I realize that this problem is near intractable.

    In a City like San Francisco with its large population of affluent folks, and it’s thriving world-class financial and tourist businesses, they can maybe paper over such cracks.

    But in Oakland, there isn’t a large pool of rich folks or businesses to hit. And those that are, can easily move a couple of miles and be in another City. While there is a huge underclass who don’t really pay taxes anyway, and so can freely vote for higher and higher property taxes.

    Which just leaves the struggling middle-classes to fund an ever-widening deficit. It’s depressing but there really doesn’t seem to be a solution here other than tearing everything down and starting over, which is essentially what a bankruptcy is anyway.

    If people lose their faith in the city politicians, and that moment seems very close, then they will simply vote with their feet, sell their properties for whatever they can get for them, and leave. And Oakland will look more like Detroit with every passing day. Other than property taxes, how else can Oakland raise revenue that can’t be avoided? People can shop, dine and park elsewhere.

    Finally, has anyone been following events in Greece? External financial pressures are imposing austerity measures and the people are rioting in the streets as taxes go up, and services are slashed. Maybe we will need all those cops and fire guys after all. Or they will be the only ones left with a job.

  83. Livegreen

    Mike, Thank You for ignoring all my other points about how much taxpayers have suffered.

    That’s why the City’s budget has decreased. You obviously haven’t noticed, or you don’t care. Our backs are already breaking & all we’re asking is that u give back a portion of the highest salaries in your profession.

    Of course this has already been said repeatedly and yet u still ignore the suffering of others. Your lack of caring about the situation of taxpayers who are losing significantly more of their income & their homes, yet u want to tax them more to keep your six figure income, speaks volumes.

    &, along with the City’s mismanagement, is why another Parcel Tax will not pass.

    Luckily I know Officers who find more meaning in their job than just the big $$ they make (though I realize this does help deal with the stress and the hours). Or your representation would have seriously made me wonder about that dedication and motivation.

  84. Mike

    I don’t make 6 figures and BTW I took a massive pay cut to take my public safety job because it’s what I really wanted to do.

    Then with the concessions I lost my raise and another $700 a month in income.

    I couldn’t afford my mortgage thanks to that and had to get a modification which gave me a little relief (along with reducing my credit rating) however I’m still struggling.

    You want MORE from me?? Absolutely not!

  85. len raphael

    Dax, Robert et al, adjust my understanding that the completely unfunded obligations, ie. only counted in the city’s financials as paid out, were medical retirement benefits for all past and current retirees; and the retirement plan payouts for the pre CalPers Oakland plan for cops/maybe fire employees.

    (can’t put my fingers on those numbers, i want to say 200 to 300 mill payable over 10 to 20 years, you can find them in the financial statement footnotes and have to assume lowest interest rate to be safe.)

    The Calpers obligation, I assume includes the retroactive boost Dax describes, is “funded” and the expense is accrued on the city financials (?) but the investment assumptions are ridiculously optimistic. If the assumptions were realistically conservative, then Calpers obligation would be hugely underfunded.

    -len raphael

  86. len raphael

    Anyone know the distribution of cops by years worked? If i were an older cop, it’s a no brainer that i’d vote no on the 20% kinda cuts that oakland will need to balance it’s budget over the next 5 years without major parcel taxs or a big change in state level taxation and revenue sharing. i’d feel bad for the younger cops, but that’s how seniority works.

    actually, i would say there’s an excellent chance for very large increases in state sales and overall commercial real estate taxes in the next couple of years to pay for large state retirement obligations, programming, and of course education. so the cc just has to kludge their budget for another say three years. hmm, maybe sale and leaseback of Lake Merritt..

  87. len raphael

    Mary, i’ve lived here so long i’ve lost perspective, but most residents i’ve randomly chatted with over the past two years have extremely low expectations for muni services. property owners in commercial or residential rental biz, are probably more demanding of services than owner occupied units, but the business people won’t leave just because parcel taxes go up 20% or so.

    yes some percentage of owner occupants will get pushed past their breaking point when the cc succeeds in getting say a 180/unit tax this year, and an additional 180 next, at the same time that ousd gets a 250/parcel tax. But it’s very hard for most people to sell and move. Easier to let foreclosure happen if you’re close to that situation.

    Part of the dragon eating it’s tail situation here, is that as city and state job layoffs and wage cutbacks accellerate for the next two or three years, Oakland will get a disporportionate direct hit to its middle and upper middle class. Loss of those jobs and wage cuts is much more likely to cause middle class to leave Oakland for cheaper parts of the country and state.

    -len raphael

  88. livegreen

    Mike, Well, given that you already make more than most citizens of Oakland, including homeowners, it’s either you take a pay cut, or if the Parcel Tax fails, you lose your job. You seem to be saying you prefer the latter.

    BTW, you still haven’t answered re. most taxpayers.

    Sorry to hear about your mortgage problems. We’re going through the same thing, and went to the recent Wells Faro Modification trade show. Hundreds to thousands there. We know several middle class families that have lost their homes or are seriously under water. & about 15 forclosures in our neighborhood in the last 2 years. (Nothing compared to many downslope neighbors).

    I do appreciate the hard work of OPD & OFD. I just don’t know where your continued high salaries are going to come from. Either you take a cut or officers get laid off. Not much else of an option.

  89. JB

    Len- Here’s the math:

    If the City Council decides to lay off police officers, they will forego the $18M from Measure Y and the $19M from the federal Cops Hiring Recovery Program. To save an equivalent amount from salaries/benefits, they would have to lay off over 200 cops. (While they would no longer have to fork over $6M of Measure Y to non-profits, they would have to fund an extra $4M for OFD out of the General Fund.) So assume that they would have to lay off enough cops to save $35M (approximately 210 cops). This still does not even begin to address the GF deficit. So assume that they then decide to solve $18M of the deficit (the amount that would be raised by a new parcel tax) by firing more cops after the parcel tax fails in November. That would require a total reduction in force of 318 officers, trimming the department to approximately 452 officers for a population of 400K.

    That would amount to firing all of the police officers hired since 2002.

  90. livegreen

    Len, Many state & city workers live here, many do not.

    Is there any way to know what % live here vs. not? Specific addresses are private, as they should be, so I’m guessing there’s not. But it would be nice to know. I know JQ has asked a few times why so many Officers are hired from outside Oakland.

  91. livegreen

    JB, Or negotiate a salary cut. If not now, then after the measures fail (which would be a bigger amount at that point).

    Re. the COPS Funding, there is one exception, and that is if you apply for a special exemption. (As I recall from reading through it before posting the quote re. COPS Funding). Of course that might not be a very big chance…

  92. JB

    A salary/benefits cut would certainly be possible, but it doesn’t seem probable given that 770 or so cops would have to agree to cuts that would have them making the same as 452 cops. That would amount to a pretty drastic pay cut, especially when such a sacrifice would not be matched by all city employees.

  93. Livegreen

    JB, Well it should b matched. OPD shouldn’t have to go solo. + if everbody contributed then it would b less cuts for the individuals.

    BTW, neither should they b the only ones faced wih layoffs. All should share when the Parcel Taxes fail, even if OPD has to b a higher # because of their larger % of the budget…

  94. Naomi Schiff

    A few points, for accuracy:

    My understanding is that the firefighters did make adjustments to their contract, last year, especially with regard to contributing something (9%?) to their retirement payments, such that the councilmembers consider that they did step up to the plate to some degree, and were willing to help the city meet its budget, the 70-80% of the general fund expenditures that go to public safety. However, my understanding is that the police did not do this. They are not contributing to the retirement fund. Some or all of the public safety workers did agree to forgo a planned salary increase. However, that was not enough to help make things balance; it was more like avoiding making it much much worse.

    Second point: much of the city’s budget problem is related to the real estate meltdown. Not only are there reduced transfer fees, due to fewer and lower-priced transfers of property, but many owners have applied to the tax assessor to reduce their tax assessments, thus paying less property tax. At the same time, all kinds of other income is down. (well maybe not parking tickets)

    It would be interesting to find out whether the repossessed properties are getting their taxes paid in a timely fashion by all those banks.

    There are problems on both sides of the budgetary equation: there is much reduced income at the same time that employee health insurance and retirement costs are leaping upward. (Let’s not even get into the state’s having stolen our redevelopment funds.)

    I find this all pretty complex, and not easily soluble. I’m not at all anti-union, but I also want my city to be solvent, and it does seem clear that the city cannot support the level of retirement benefits that it committed to during the real estate boom, in the current economy. I also know as a small business owner that I can’t offer anything even remotely close to such munificent benefits to my employees, nor to myself.

    It is not a question of what one deserves (unfortunately). I deserve more pay and better retirement, and better health coverage, and so do my employees. If there were lots of jobs out there, perhaps some of them would quit and get better ones. But we are soldiering on and making the best of it, and we try to negotiate the benefits we can manage. We had to go to a higher co-pay health plan this year, for the first time ever, because the business just couldn’t sustain the increased premiums. Of course none of us deserved it and I regretted it. But I have to keep my enterprise going, and so does the City of Oakland.

  95. len raphael


    Amazing to watch the rare times that our City moves quickly.

    the city planning dept has been put on OT steroids to complete the rezoning to the general plan.

    Community meeting in North Oakland are spaced a week or two apart. Nicities of notifying residents are assigned to staff who are under the entertaining assumption that most residents read the Oakland Tribune or mass email from their city council members.

    At the last North Oakland community meeting, there were about 15 city planners and a few less community participants. if only the city had devoted similar level motivated well paid staffers to focus on crime and finances and education years ago.

    Someone at CEDA correctly figured out, that the best way to do rezoning is to tell residents what staff has decided is best for them, dilligently ask for comments, and tell people that if they don’t like any part of rezoning to appeal to the planning commssion or city council.

    Does someone upstairs at CEDA actually believe that rezoning will bring back the good old boom days of massive real estate transfer tax and RDA revenue increases.

    Or more likely, developers are worried that the city will lay off half the planning dept and the rezoning will take another 12 years.

    if city employees delivered services like pot hole fixing, crime investigation, blight abatement as quickly as they are ramming thru the rezoning, this city already would be a vibrating city in which tennants and owners would try there darndest to pay for great services.

    -len raphael

  96. Mary Hollis


    You make an excellent point that the city getting an extra $150 per year through a parcel tax won’t necessaril y boost revenues if tens of thousands of Oakland homeowenrs are currently appealing their valuations and getting their assessments dramatically reduced.

    In one development I know of, condo prices are down 200K from just three years ago. Anyone who bought the “Brown Condo’s” back then is surely appealing their assessments. while those who bought long ago aren’t paying much anyway, due to Prop 13.

    Then throw in all the forced sales that reset the assessments to fire sale levels, and the folly of relying on parcal taxes seems almost futile.

    And Len, yes, I wonder how many of those who benefit from these insanely generous pay and benefit packages even live in Oakland. I hear a lot of the safety guys commute in from Pleasanton and San Ramon. Nice for them, but it would explain why they care so little whether Oakland can afford their packages. They don’t even need to think about moving out.

  97. Dax

    OK Mike, lets examine what you just wrote about your economic plight.
    I don’t make 6 figures and BTW I took a massive pay cut to take my public safety job because it’s what I really wanted to do.

    Then with the concessions I lost my raise and another $700 a month in income.

    I couldn’t afford my mortgage thanks to that and had to get a modification which gave me a little relief (along with reducing my credit rating) however I’m still struggling.
    You want MORE from me?? Absolutely not!
    Now Mike, can we assume you work for Oakland?

    If so, lets examine the public data for the Michaels that work for Oakland in public safety, either police or fire. BTW, there is only one “Mike” but he does not work in a public safety position.

    OK, that leaves 50 Michaels in public safety who are not obviously part time or new hires (meaning earning less than $50,000 per year. In fact, other than two between 40k and 50k all the other obviously new or part time are really really low.

    So, that leaves us with 50 Michaels who appear to be full time.
    4 of the 50 are under 100K. their income was as follows, 83k for a FF, 93k for a FF, 93.5k for a PO, and 98K for a PO. Those are the only 4 below 100K.

    after that they head up rapidly.
    Of the 46 remaining Michaels in public safety, the first 24 range from a low of $143,993 for a engineer of the fire department, to a high of $243,295 for a police officer.
    Those Michaels from #25 to #46 range from $143,543 for a police officer to $105,452 for a police officer.

    So in conclusion, for Michaels working full time in public safety in the city of Oakland, the “median” income was over $142,000. That does not include any benefits or pension.

    Only 4 of the Michaels working full time in public safety were below $100,000
    3 of those 4 were over 93k. Only the one FF was lower at 83K… I cannot tell if he was full time or newly hired for a partial year.

    Pardon me if I’m not overly concerned that the Michaels in Oakland’s public safety positions are living on the edge of poverty.

  98. Dax

    Just one other interesting piece of data.

    Of the 50 highest paid Michaels working in ANY position for the city of Oakland, 47 of them are in fire or police positions.

    That is an amazing statistic considering how many job categories there are in the city government.

    Am I the only one who finds the magnitude of this data eye opening?

  99. len raphael

    JB, that was useful.

    I’m still hazy (but that could partly be my post-op percosets) on the general fund deficit in year 2 if cc plan A “succeeds” and a cop parcel tax passes that brings in 18 to 20 mill to cover the year 1 deficit. Even if we make the big assumption that tax revenues stablilize, and muni borrowing costs that can’t be passed thru hold steady, and further assume that the retirement chickens don’t come home to roost for say another 3 years, there must have been close to 10 mill of one time muni finance shell game moves that can’t be repeated in year 2. And when is the Federal COPS 19 Mill used up?

    If the cops won’t give back 10 mill of their compensation, what percentage of the non public security general fund expenditures would that be? of city employee and city supply costs, vs independent contractor expenditures?

    would think a fairly high percentage of those non public security outlays. so even though the other city unions might be saying they’ll work for this cop parcel tax, they’re gonna have to make sure there’s none of that measure Y type language included so that a hundred cops could be laid off in a year or two.

    How many years does current cop contrast last? would think the city couldn’t lay off a buch of cops and then hire a bunch of replacement cops without change inthe contract.

    -len raphael

  100. len raphael

    Mike, I always assumed that many OPD officers need the OT to afford to live in the Bay Area. They needed it for high housing costs, kids in college etc.

    Don’t want to get into the definition of need, other than to ask if OT were eliminated because by some muni finance miracle (eg we converted the library, the museum, and the kaiser center to casinos) we had the bucks to hire more cops, what percentage of existing cops would quit to move to a cheaper area, find a city that has more OT etc. ?

    -len raphael

  101. V Smoothe

    Len –

    Without an increase in revenue or a significant decrease in compensation for sworn employees, the amount of all other General Fund provided services you would have to cut to balance the budget is 100%.

  102. J-man's Dad

    I usually sit on the sidelines. Just like to add a little clarifying information.

    I am Oakland raised since 7 years old, Oakland resident my entire working life, and Oakland Firefighter for about 20 years.

    Firefighters pay 13% towards their retirement. They have since 2001. Prior to that they paid 9%. Significantly more than any other employee group. In their most recent contract they agreed to an increase in the hourly work week for the same pay, which works out to something like a 7% pay cut and 30 or so sworn staff layoffs. No Raises.

    Overtime in the fire department is a double edged sword. If the rig rolls out, people have to be on it. Much of our OT is mandatory. I’m at a place in my life where I sign up to work OT often. But I don’t like it. I’ve written off the public schools in my neighborhood. Hopefully by the time my 4 year old is in middle school he’ll be able to attend the local school. But the 15 year old’s education has me spending alot of time at work. In exchange for the private school education, I miss alot of family events, holidays, etc., & I tuck my kids in at night through the magic of Skype video. Just an observation, not a complaint. But if it were my choice, I wish every budgeted position was filled and we had no need for OT in the fire department. I’d be with the family more often, and less broken down both physically and mentally when I am home. But I am making the choice to work alot of OT now, the equivalent of 3 jobs, to provide a better life for my family.

    Would I quit and move if there was no OT? Not likely. Will I vote for another tax? don’t know yet. But I do know that if my family has a reason to call 911, the OFD will be there in 5-7 minutes to quickly and graciously make things better. I don’t get that same effective delivery of service from other portions of my local government.

  103. Max Allstadt

    What percentage of Fire Department time is spent doing the job of EMTs?

    When I see OFD on the street in my neighborhood, nine times out of ten there isn’t smoke anywhere. They show up with a fire engine, an ambulance and 7 guys to put a heroin overdose victim on a gurney. The savings in gasoline alone that we’d get by ending this practice might be substantial. What does a fire engine get? 4 miles a gallon?

    Regardless, the quality of service we’re getting is somewhat irrelevant here. The numbers are irrefutable. We cut public safety salaries, or we cut public safety jobs. I would hope that the large number of public safety employees making over 120k would be hit first, but that’s not the way unions and seniority work.

    We should cut salaries aggressively from the top. $250k salaries should go down to $200k, or we should lay off the brass, reduce the position salary and hire their immediate subordinates to fill the job.

    Laying off cops and firemen should be avoided at all costs, and we need to make an emotional appeal to both unions to stick it out in our city until times get better and we can afford to pay them again.

    I’m particularly worried that even if we get an agreement on salary cuts, we’ll still come back in a few months and have to do more, because Jean Quan’s idiotic Measure Y and the city’s idiotic administration of it has led to a lawsuit that will take another $50 million out of our budget.

    I’m told that there was a conversation at the Public Safety Committee in which somebody asked City Attorney Mark Morodomi if they could bend the rules on Measure Y. Morodomi’s response was something like “You can do that, but somebody will probably sue you, and they’ll win.” Any guesses as to who asked that question and who voted to bend the rules anyway?

  104. len raphael

    V, it is clear that we either need to lay off substantial number of police; or do combo of huge voluntary police and fire fighter wage cuts, non security wage and program pay cuts and parcel tax increase, or do something in between that’s a mix of all of the above.

    what’s also clear is that a parcel tax that only raises 20Mill won’t be sufficient to avoid a combo of all of the other steps two years later when COPS ends, accounting one offs expire, retirements accellerate, Oakland schools deteriorate further.

    ie. is the cc expecting to first tell voters that this parcel tax will fix the deficit without major layoffs or jawboning/threatening cops/firefighters into large paycuts, then cc will come back two years later and say we’re sorry but our revenues haven’t revived enough yet and need to go thru the entire process again?

    sounds like some of the cc’s are on the verge of telling the voters the grim reality, and others are for for kicking it down the road.


  105. Max Allstadt

    I think one of the best pitches we could make for a police parcel tax would be to amend measure Y so that 60% of revenue could be used for public safety salaries without restriction.

    Here are the benefits:

    It presents the parcel tax as a revision of a law which was created with good intentions but technical incompetence.

    It limits the damage that Marleen’s lawsuit can do when she wins. If we amend measure Y, the city only has to return tax payments from the past. Future collections won’t be jeopardized.

    It raises police salary funds and maintains violence prevention funds at the same time, which was the selling point of the first measure, even though the results didn’t work out that way.

    If we add restrictions on the contracts that the city is allowed to sign with OPD (disallowing contracts longer than two years, setting caps on benefits and indexing salaries to local income averages, all by charter), we can basically void future bad deals with the public safety unions before they happen.

  106. Max Allstadt


    Wouldn’t a salary cut offer the advantage of keeping the COPS and Measure Y money? So 318 layoffs worth of salary cuts isn’t the right comparison. It’s $37million less than 318 layoffs, no? Still nothing to sneeze at, and a downright scary number, I’m sure, but I’m guessing a significantly less downright scary number.

  107. Robert Wiles

    We will NOT see progress from the city council. Most of the councilmembers rely on union support in elections for canvassing, phone banks and other non-cash support. We put the purse strings of collective bargaining in the hands of people who are very dependent on the union membership. Why do you think the only growth in unions has been public sector?

    I really do not know how we might keep the public mind on the source of the mis-management in Oakland. We do get what we deserve on the level of having no apparent tie between what our council does and the periodic elections.

    When some here ‘rail’ against “Wall Street,” I would encourage them to remember a few things. The current fuss over getting a pound of flesh out of ‘the banks’ for example, is rather short sighted. Yes, most of them took little-understood risks, but our Congress’ ability to understand and update the laws to match the reality is similar to their inability to understand new *technology* and keep the laws current.

    While we want to blame the banks for liars’ loans and similar, remember our dear leader (with apologies to Mao) was one of those activists pushing to use CRA to get banks to make marginal loans in the first place. Consider, too, that his ‘advisor’ on housing was Franklin Raines of Fannie Mae. One of those “Government Corporations” that lobbied against supervision by the government of their activities. (Check out Dodd and Frank on their cozy relationships.)

    I don’t substantially begrudge cops and firefighters some sweetening of the pot. I do think the structure of the payscale and staffing levels need to be adjusted. This, however, really goes back to inattention/idiocy by our city’s ‘leadership’, no?

  108. Naomi Schiff

    Actually the loans made under community reinvestment act programs have a better rate of repayment than a lot of the others. The truth is that the mortgage crisis has been largely a middle-class phenomenon.

    I tried to paste a citation here from some studies by the Federal Reserve Bank of San Francisco, but V’s spam protection claims it is spammy. But you can find these statistics yourself. ” . . . significantly less likely to be in foreclosure than those made by independent mortgage companies that do not receive the same regulatory oversight.” (Ellen Seidman | August 7, 2009)

    The City Council may not always be brilliant, but they will have to deal with the budget problem somehow, as we are required to have passed a balanced budget by end of June, under the charter. It isn’t like the state, where they can fiddle around for months.

  109. Robert Wiles

    To quote Ms Seidman, “The election of President Barack Obama and subsequent revelations about the extent to which unregulated credit-default swaps and mortgage-backed securities backed by sub-prime loans played a pivotal role in the economic devastation, have tempered but not silenced the criticism.” Later in her commentary she hits a clearer point that it was poor policy to pressure FNMA/etc to purchase the low-doc/etc CDOs. In the future, I will refrain from making direct reference to CRA, but not to Raines, FNMA, and the political games around regulation. Simply put, I don’t trust our process to intelligently regulate it. Given the crony capitalism (more so to this administration than even Bush) we’ve seen, I do not see ‘sound bite’ policies as effective.

    Yes, they’re probably not brilliant. I don’t expect brilliance, just more sense. Maybe that’s foolish of me given that most politicians live in the ‘now and near future.’

  110. Naomi Schiff

    Robert, our city government is certainly culpable of wishful thinking, like the whole rest of the country and many many municipalities. They were seeing a robust budget and lots of income as units were being built at a furious pace, and I’d have to say this was very pronounced under Brown long before Dellums showed up. The transfer tax looked like a gold mine. Hey, it was a Wall Street bubble! We always seem to fall for those. I was here for the Savings & Loan crash, and it was pretty dismal, too.

    We are actually extremely lucky that the Forest City folks insisted on building rentals instead of condos, or we would have an even stickier situation on our redevelopment hands. There was a moment when some on the city council advocated for more ownership housing in Uptown. (As one of the people who questioned whether there were really enough 20-somethings to buy all those new condos, some folks are still calling me antidevelopment. I’m not. I’m just old enough to have seen several boom-and-bust housing cycles around here.)

    I am not always a big supporter of city council decisions. I don’t think our city council did a fabulous job of managing its budgetary fate; but they do share that with a lot of other people, including many many Republicans as well as Democrats, financial institutions, banks, and pundits. Hindsight being 20-20, now we have to figure out a way ahead. Do you have some concrete suggestions for how we should proceed? As mentioned above, public safety is the big issue for the general fund, as we can only balance the budget by restructuring it somehow. There is simply not enough money in the small discretionary remaining percentage of the budget, as V states above, to have any major impact on the shortfall.

  111. Robert Wiles

    Sure. First, as a city we need to figure out our priorities. The way our budget is ‘allocated,’ we have no real discretion. Something’s going to break. I tried to get some information out of the city on specific staffing allocations, positions and breakdowns for the entire city, but shy of getting a lawyer, they wouldn’t cooperate. Reducing city staffing, selectively, and – frankly – breaking municipal unions could only be done by the electorate, not the council. That basically takes it out of ‘practical,’ no?

    From my vantage point, resident of Oakland since the 60′s, is that the role of the municipality is a particular, narrow set of services. Since you’ve been here a while, too, Proposition 13 could be fairly termed a revolt against the county and city approach to the ‘trough’ in not so many words.

    When I criticize our council, this is not a short term problem by any means.

    The first *simple* suggestion would be an initiative to repeal the percentage commitments to programs. Would it pass? For some reason, Y and the “kids first” ideas seem to appeal to emotion, not reason.

    Our council has the option to repeal those, no?

  112. Robert Wiles

    Well, I can’t see them doing either one, frankly. From a budget perspective, the non-profits would probably be ‘easier’, absent a bankruptcy.

  113. Naomi Schiff

    Again, remember: huge percentage of general fund goes to public safety. There isn’t enough elsewhere to solve the problem.

    I was interested to hear councilmembers mention libraries but not kids first. To my mind, any fall measure should address measure y and kids first as part of a parcel tax measure combined with a set-aside revision. I don’t support any changes at all to parks and rec or libraries, because they are tiny portions of the budget and they have already been very drastically cut, even though they provide services to a very large number of people. Seniors services are even a smaller percentage; not worth going after it.

    As to the overall staffing, the city administrator has been cutting quite a few positions, but it is hard to get the full picture, as you say. Particularly because some positions are funded out of redevelopment money. The redevl. funds are a separate item from the general fund, and they do transfer people back and forth a lot.

    I disagree with you about prop 13, as I have stated elsewhere, Robert. I don’t see why my young neighbors should be paying 8 times the prop. tax that I am. And I support taxing corp. property on a more sensible basis too. Prop. 13 needs revision.

  114. Robert Wiles

    We do NOT disagree on what needs to be done ABOUT Proposition 13. My comment was more about the genesis.

    If you look at your property tax bill, things like the “City Landscp/Light”, School Measure E & Violence Prev are all items that really should be part of Ad Valorem but were shoved as parcel taxes since they’re easier to do.

    To me, it’s in the same vein as trying to put Congress on a leash over the Interstate Commerce Clause which got “broken” in the New Deal era, ending a measure of sanity (and – IMNSHO – torturing the Constitutional concept of enumerated powers).

  115. Naomi Schiff

    Yes, you are right about the property tax situation. There are a million parcel taxes because that is what they could pass, and of course the whole thing is echoed in the disastrous state budget problem as well, with all the competing set-asides and no ability for the legislature to set priorities in proportion to each other. We can’t blame this on the officeholders, exactly. The voters are part of the equation.

    It is hard to restructure such large institutions. California is so big, and its cities so big, that the whole thing is pretty unwieldy. I have ended up trying to chip away at this or that tiny corner of things in hopes of making some small progress.

  116. Livegreen

    Naomi, Of course we can blame the Officeholders for the Measures, at least re the City measures. They wrote some of them and actively supported others. They also supported the spending decisions made by the Oversight Committees or the Mayor when using these funds.

  117. MarleenLee

    On the whole firefighter compensation issue, you might find this interesting.

    I couldn’t find any actual comparisons of Oakland to other cities, and it is four years old, but there is some useful data in how complicated it is to figure out actual compensation packages, and how they compare to other departments in the state. Public employees’ total packages need to take into consideration the actual workweek, active employee benefits, retiree benefits, and a host of other benefits that get offered (e.g. educational incentive pay etc.). At any rate, a while back one of the firefighters claimed that Oakland’s’ package was comparable to neighboring cities. I’d need proof of that in table form before I accepted it.

    Regarding this whole argument of what people “deserve” in terms of compensation, recall my previous argument on that esoteric concept called “supply and demand.” The intersection is where most people get paid. And I’m sorry, but if people are lined up around the block for a day waiting to get the opportunity to apply for a position as an Oakland firefighter as if it were the winning ticket to the lottery, allow me to go out on a limb and say that maybe the payscale is way the hell out of whack from that intersection.

    Let us also keep in mind that I cannot find one other city in this county that has a “public safety” parcel tax. Not ONE! Public safety is a basic service that cities are expected to provide without taxing us into oblivion. Other cities are hurting from this economic crisis. But none like Oakland. So please don’t blame Wall Street! What a joke. Oakland is in a mess because our City leaders put us there. That’s who deserves the blame. The unions are to blame as well, but they’d have no power if our elected politicians had a backbone and told the unions to take a hike, instead of acting like you-know-whats and allowing themselves to be bought.

    Who deserves the blame for Measure Y? Our elected officials. They failed to learn three important things in elementary school: (1) basic arithmetic; (2) listening; and (3) accepting responsibility and saying “I’m sorry.” The City assured us that the funds generated under Measure Y would be sufficient to pay for the services. Read the ballot- it’s right in there. Unfortunately, those bozos couldn’t do basic multiplication. Apparently the City Auditor couldn’t either, because he signed off on it. When the whole Measure Y debacle first came to my attention, I wrote to the Council. They ignored me. Then, I tried to meet with them and reason with them. They continued to ignore me. When I threatened to sue them again, they ignored me yet again, choosing to bury their heads in the sand instead. There has been little or no acknowledgement whatseover regarding their failures. And you have allowed them to pay well over in $200,000 in legal fees to fight me. Express your outrage. Here is good, but a few emails and rants in front of the council might be nice too.

    Layoffs of cops? Folks, that’s already happened. The City has effectively laid off 33 cops, because the City is refusing to schedule any academies to replace the cops that leave through attrition. By November of next year, we’ll be down to 715 – the City will have effectively laid off nearly 100 officers. All perfectly legal, those lying, disingenous corrupt politicians we’ve put in office will tell you. We’ll see what the court has to say about that.

    In terms of repealing Measure Y, and replacing it without something else, I could go for that, but under limited conditions. There is nearly $9 million going to violence prevention programs. Maybe they help. Maybe they don’t. Maybe the “grants” are just getting funnelled to a bunch of well connected folks who pay themselves nice salaries, keep no records and come up with the feel good quote when the occasion calls for it. Call me cynical. I’ve seen the records, and they ain’t impressive. I say, give that money to police. I also say, don’t take away my PSO. Measure Y was about community policing, and giving every neighborhood a beat officer. That’s why I voted for it. I want to make sure I have that PSO. Lastly, the measure should be temporary. We are bailing the city out. At the end of 5 years, the City needs to have a plan in place to give us a decent size, guaranteeed police force without asking us for additional taxes. This will help ensure that the City has a backbone and doesn’t allow the unions to control them. It is high time that the citizens of this City take back control and demand the services we deserve, without having to pay extra.

  118. Mike

    Gentlemen, I wish to remain anonymous. I just chose “Mike” as the screen name. So researching “Mikes” in OPD won’t reveal pay.

    Let me say this. Like you, I am struggling to meet my bills, pay a mortgage, etc. I am also a tax payer. As good as our pay in public safety is, it’s barely enough to afford a home in the same city we protect in nearly every city in California, let alone raise a family. I have given up one thousand dollars a month in pay which is a large cut for anyone. I think that is probably more a month than any of you have contributed, taxes or otherwise to fund public safety in Oakland. So, don’t expect any more pay cuts. I gave up a grand a month. If you can’t give up a measely 15 bucks a month then oh well I guess it is what it is.

  119. Ralph

    Naomi, are you saying that all properties should be assessed at current market value? I am trying to understand your opposition to Prop 13. Are you saying that we should repeal the assessment cap? Should new homeowners have the same assessed value as the lowest assessed “equivalent” house? Should the carryover basis be scrapped?

    Can you provide details as to what chages you would like to see to Prop 13?

    Naomi, questioning whether there are enough 20 year olds to purchase in Uptown versus old enough to see several boom and bust cycle are two different things.

    First, who you think is living in Uptown versus who is actually living in Uptown are two different things. Uptown attracts more than 20 y.o. I would say that on the low end you have recent college graduates and on the highend 70 and 80. Turns out the older people like the vibrancy of Uptown.

    Second, the market going bust has nothing to do with your perception that there are not enough buyers. The in contract numbers at CityWalk before it went bust are enough to prove you wrong. It is hard to think about a mortgage pymt when you are wondering about keeping your job. Now with the market being what it is and your President implementing rules that make it hard to obtain a loan for a condo, buying a condo is hard relative to a SFH.

    Still, the anti development types have it wrong. Over the long run, we are going to need more housing in our downtown core. Those new businesses that keep popping up are somewhat dependent on density. Neighborhood restaurants do not survive when there are new people.

  120. Mike


    The reason the fire dept responds to medical calls is because there are more fire engines available than ambulances in nearly every system in the state of California and thus, can respond the the patient’s side quicker than an ambulance and begin providing emergency treatment sooner. Firefighters are trained to an EMT or Paramedic level.

    So the standard is to send one ambulance (staffed with 2 people) and one fire engine (staffed with four people). The first responders on the fire engine begin the initial phases of assessment and treatment/stabilization of the patient and the care is transferred to the ambulance upon their arrival. This makes for a more eficient system which delivers emergency care sooner to a victim. In some cases, this can make a critical difference in the survival or long term outcome of a patient with a significant medical or traumatic event.

    Heroin overdoses (as you mentioned) cause respiratory arrest, which leads to brain damage and death. Quickly arriving fire responders can provide rescue breathing which sustains the patient and prevents brain cell damage from anoxia until the ambulance arrives and begins drug therapy. if the fire engine happens to be staffed with paramedics, then they can initiate drug therapy even sooner and reverse the effects of the heroin so that the patient begins breathing on his own. THAT’S why we send “seven” people to a heroin overdose or other medical emergency.

  121. len raphael

    Ml, interesting that you couldn’t find a city with a parcel tax for public security, but there must be a bunch in CA with library parcel taxes, and school related parcel taxes. in my mind those are all core services.

    -len raphael

  122. len raphael

    Good point in a nyt article today about man made complexity. best way to deal with it is to ask a series of simple questions. that is exactly where our city and state elected officials failed us on wage and retirement plan raises over the last decade.

    would be interested to see if cities with multiple competing newspapers tend to have disproportionately lower or no deficits.

  123. Naomi Schiff

    “would be interested to see if cities with multiple competing newspapers tend to have disproportionately lower or no deficits.”

    wow, Len that’s an amazing question. Would love to know.

    Ralph, I have stated my thoughts on Prop13 elsewhere, and don’t want to hijack this local budget thread. But a) it seems to penalize first time home buyers unfairly, by now b) it seems to have made the state budgetary and perhaps the local budgetary processes unworkable and c) some corporations are paying ridiculously low property taxes. I am not opposed to reworking it in some way that would protect senior citizens or cap it or whatever. I am no expert. But I believe it has really distorted the economic situation in this state, and has made the budget process ridiculous rather than achieving the stated goal at the time, which was to keep prop taxes in check. Now we just get all these set-asides, too many ballot propositions, and an inflexible budget that the legislature has a hard time managing.

    Why I referred to 20-somethings is that that is what Jerry B. was talking about when he started with the whole 10K project. He was imagining young, well-employed, childless hi-tech workers at the time I completely agree with you that a wider group of people is in fact present and is a better mix anyway.

    I am not as anti-development as you seem to think! I welcome infill, especially upon our way-too-numerous vacant and surface parking lots, and the re-use or conversion of some of our underutilized historic buildings. Good well-planned downtown neighborhoods seem like something we should strive for.

    My impression of the condo market is that it is always the first to go when things get tight, in part because compared to single-family homes, there’s that monthly condo assoc. fee. With all the repos and short sales the condos have a hard time competing. Of course a rise in unemployment will hurt any real estate market too, you are correct.

  124. Debbie

    If Mike can go incognito, so can I.

    Mike you’re going to lose alot more when you’re laid off. You’re overpaid – and everyone but you knows it. Your 10% paycut means you still make $9000 a month. $9000!! If you can’t afford a home here on that kind of salary, you’re spending too much on caviar and champagne. I manage to do it on very slightly more than a third of that amount.

  125. Robert Wiles

    When Len says “core services,” that’s touching the practical side of my point. We must re-evaluate and base the budget on realistic present revenues and not expand it rapidly when times are better.

    The state is in a major mess because it grew wildly in a boom without any inclination to retrench when it was *obvious* revenues would not be maintained. I had hopes for Ahnold ( :D ), but alas.

    Meg’s propaganda makes all sorts of good suggestions, but I emailed her campaign asking how she planned to dismiss the legislature… no response yet.

    Our fondness for ‘initiatives’ makes clear that we do not feel our ‘representatives’ listen, no?

  126. Mary Hollis


    I think you are correct to not want a discussion of Prop 13 to hijack this thread. And in fact up to just now I was heartened by the way we can discuss different options (if indeed there really are any) for solving Oakland’s budgetary quagmire without resorting to whining about Prop 13. It makes a refreshing change to such discussions in more ideological places like Berkeley and San Francisco where people will endlessly rail against Prop 13 as if it is the sole cause of our budgetary misery.

    And whatever anyone’s view of Prop 13, the simple fact is that it is a State matter and stands very little chance of serious revision while 2/3 of the State’s voters are homeowners, many of which live outside the major cities and none of which have Oakland’s problems (Vallejo aside).

    Moreover, even if Prop 13 were relaxed, the public sector unions would simply see that as a huge new trough to gorge at, and would be less likely to make concessions. You can see from Mike’s comment above that he really doesn’t care how much extra property tax homeowners have to pay as long as his “deal” remains in place.

    On the other point, I tend to agree that the “Jerry Brown condo’s”, bland as many of them are, are still probably a net beneficiary to the tax rolls. People of all ages purchased them, including empty-nesters who probably would not have otherwise moved or stayed here. While nearly all owners are now sitting on capital losses, they are not all in foreclosure, and presumably most are making property tax payemtns. Whether the Banks holding defaulted properties are paying them, I don’t know.

    And since my theme here is who NOT to blame, I’d add my agreement to those who stated that it is a tad too convenient to blame Wall Street either. Most cities aren’t in the mess that Oakland is in. We made this mess ourselves.

  127. Robert Wiles

    Difficult choices is why we have representatives. Jerry Brown pushed for the ‘strong mayor’ then a Milquetoast Mayor was elected. No real changes at the city council….

    *tongue in cheek* …. Maybe we need to arrange a referendum to disincorporate Oakland? Then we’d have the County and State agencies responsible, no? *tongue out of cheek*

  128. Naomi Schiff

    Thanks, Mary! The business of blame is indeed not that helpful, as you say. But there are many cities in trouble right now: we are not alone, and maybe there are some good ideas out there. Of course each city is in a different situation, but perhaps there are some things to be learned.

  129. Dave C.

    “A city with one newspaper, or with a morning and an evening paper under one ownership, is like a man with one eye, and often the eye is glass.” — A.J. Liebling, 1960

  130. Naomi Schiff

    Hey Robert –the state didn’t do so well with the school district, you know!

  131. livegreen

    Forget the press, thank god Oakland has great blogs. ABO, The DTO, Living in the O, etc.
    Mike, We gave up $6000/mo when my wife went unemployed (she had the bigger income). You lost $1000/mo & you want us to pay more for you? You want to tax those who have lost more to the benefit of those who have lost less? Don’t pretend to be Robin Hood when you’re Prince John.

    $70k is the minimum an OPD Officer makes, & you’re complaining to those of us who earn less than $45K? I guess next you’ll start going after those who are close to forclosure, just to see if it will help push a few more over the edge? & that will HELP pay your salaries & benefits?

    OPD Officers are among the highest in the State. As Marleen says, it’s supply & demand. Even if the City cuts your pay, you simply won’t find a better paying job in any other PD (it’s simply not out there!) + nobody else is hiring. Your threat is empty. & on top of it -you do not care about taxpayers- who are earning less than you. You are not helping the OPOA’s case.

  132. Dax

    Mike says…

    “Gentlemen, I wish to remain anonymous. I just chose “Mike” as the screen name. So researching “Mikes” in OPD won’t reveal pay.”

    Hey, it doesn’t really matter if your name is not Mike. BTW I searched “Michael” in both police and fire. Sounds like you are more likely fire.
    Regardless, my research revealed some rather startling information.

    Of the full time Michaels, in police and fire, only 4 of 50 were under $100,000.
    And 3 of those 4 were $93,000 plus.
    The “median” Michael was over $142,000.

    So whether I used Michael or Frank or John, the ratio of the data and the salary spread is likely to remain the same.
    Call yourself whatever you like. With a “Michael” data base of 50, that is good enough for a representative sampling of police and fire combined.

    “Let me say this. Like you, I am struggling to meet my bills, pay a mortgage, etc.. So, don’t expect any more pay cuts.”

    Oh please Mike, spare us your struggles on a compensation package twice what the average guy is getting.

    “I gave up a grand a month. If you can’t give up a measely 15 bucks a month then oh well I guess it is what it is.”

    If you gave up a grand a month then you must have been making at least 7 or 8 per month. Try getting by on 2 or 3 without your health care being mostly paid for. Try paying $500+ to Kaiser when your income is $2,000 or $2,500 during these tough times. Discover what struggles really are all about.

    A “measly” $15 a month, on top of all the other parcel taxes and property taxes put in place just so city workers can be kept up a double the average guy’s salary.
    In the 90′s they tacked on a Library tax. Then less than 10 years later they came back for another library parcel tax….
    Why did they need the extra tax when the prior one was supposed to keep them steady for 15 to 20 years?
    Oh, well they decided they needed to match the salaries of the top 3 Bay Area cities and thus raised all Library personnel a full 18% in addition to regular COLA increases. Effectively giving them an extra 2 months pay.
    Then a few years after that the boosted their pensions by a full 35% in one giant step up. Unfunded pensions, I might add.

    So yeah, all these measly parcel taxes, put in place to keep city workers at extreme levels, are indeed just too much. Get use to the public being fed up with the distortions and continued milking of the public to allow public employees to live far better then the general public.

    Mike, you may be too young, but it wasn’t always this way. You seem to assume it is the norm and that police and fire are in some special class.

    The entire theme of police and fire as being special has just been taken too far.
    As I said, growing up with police and fire throughout my family, it wasn’t always that way.
    BTW, like PERS has explained, all of them have or are living very long in retirement. None of them dropping over 5 or even 10 years after retiring.
    Only one passed away before age 80 and he was 78, a life long smoker.
    The rest, 85 and older, and with some currently still going strong in their late 80′s. God bless them.

  133. Max Allstadt

    Argh. Everybody thinks they’re underpaid. Everybody thinks they’re middle class. Do a survey of what people think they’d need to make to be really well off, and across the board, from people who make $25k a year to people who make $250k, the average answer is the same: double what they currently make.

    The problem we face isn’t about what people deserve. It’s about what we have left to pay them.

    If we can’t come to a compromise on salaries, and there are mass layoffs, I want to know what the citizens should do to keep themselves safe. What do we do, start a militia? At the 452 level of sworn officers that JB mentioned, without citizens getting involved in peace keeping, all hell will break loose.

  134. Mike


    DAX you sound like a bitter and envious person. Perhaps you chose the wrong career.

    I’ve worked in public safety for multiple agencies for over 20 years and am a relatively new employee (just a few years) to Oakland. So no, I don’t make 7 or 8 grand a month.

    But yes, the police are paid well, indeed. And for protecting the members of society and intentionaly putting themselves in harm’s way and risking their health and lives for YOU, they SHOULD be. An Oakland is amongst the roughest placest to work. Try walking in a cop’s shoes in Oakland and you’ll see why they are paid well.


    You don’t get it. The tax isn’t to our (my) benefit. It’s to YOUR (the community’s) benefit! This city NEEDS police officers. It’s the 3rd most violent city in the US. OPD has recently reduced crime by 16% with the larger number of officers it has (and yet still understaffed currently and losing people every month to attrition).

    OPD runs with 50% less officers per capita than comparable cities. The workload is enormous and in one of the most dangerous violent cities in the US to be a cop. They should be paid amongst the top. You act like they are being paid millions.

    I’m sorry you are having financial issues, and even in the best of times, there will ALWAYS be people having financial issues. But I don’t think you during your better financial days you ever would have voluntarily lowered YOUR income by a thousand dollars for the good of society. You must have been making pretty good money with 2 incomes. “$6,000 a month” from your wife plus whatever YOU made. Between the 2 of you you were ROLLING in cash. How many thousands of dollars did YOU donate to charities? How many homeless people did YOU buy a cup of coffee for? Would you have EVER EVER given up a huge chunk of your income for the betterment of society for those who are struggling pushing shopping carts? I DON’T THINK SO. Give me a break with YOUR sob story.

    I’m not poor. I’m not rich. I make a decent living that’s all. You’re only complaining now because your little castle has crumbled. If it hadn’t, you wouldn’t care less about me and what I make. And you’d probably were and would be making a heck of a lot more than me.

    So don’t come after my castle because your’s was made of glass and has fallen apart.

  135. Mary Hollis


    Bingo. I really, really don’t care how much money anyone else thinks that they need.

    And yeah, maybe the citizens should form an “armed militia” as the Founding Fathers envisaged, precisely because they predicted that any form of government could not be trusted to act truly on behalf of the people, and therefore the people should be armed to protect themselevs against the governement.

    But more likely, people who can relocate themselves to locations where safety is not an issue, will do so. And the rest can stay in their fortified homes watching re-runs of Mad Max, and then go outside to re-enact it.

    What a freaking mess. What a freaking city.

  136. Max Allstadt


    Part of what’s making our castle crumble is public safety employees unions with too much power, and politicians who let their salaries and benefits get too high in the first place. Acting like the OPOA and the firefighters union aren’t partially responsible for this mess is ludicrous.

    If the unions understood the long term potential to create a situation where half of their members got laid off because the average salary was too high, would they have pushed for those high salaries in the first place?

  137. Mike

    MAX that’s a good one!

    Police and firefighter pay are the cause of the current financial crisis in the United States of America!!!

    Yes everyone. Cops and Firefighters are the real villians here!! WE are responsible for the collapse of society. What a joke!!

    Nevermind the sub-prime lending crisis, predatory lending, high corporate and consumer debt levels, a dependence on short-term funding markets, and international trade imbalances, corrupt politicians, and good old fashioned GREED.

    Taking on home loans you can’t afford because you all ASSUMED the market would continue to grow exponentionally and you’d flip that house in 2 years. Ah yes, it’s all OUR fault. Now that your singular hot stocks or narrow market mutual funds that you invested your retiremet in have dropped because you didn’t diversify because you all saw quick $$$$ and the market crashed you envy other’s who have financial stability and are oh so quick to blame and point fingers at that big red fire truck and all those greedy firefighters ripping off the community

    None of it rests on the average American consumer who didn’t use sound investment strategies filled with greed and shortsightedness or mortgage companies quick to sell loan to a consumer.

    When you DOT.COMer’s were raking in the big bucks with your selfishness none of you cared about what public safety employes made or complained that we were overpaid. Nor did you stand up for the little guy making 24K a year and throw some of your money at him. But now that the “script has flipped” you’re simply using the little man as a vehicle to attempt to justify attacking us for your own personal financial crisis. And when the economy turns around eventually, and you’re back to making suitable income, you’ll forget about us and go on with your lives and not think twice about the average person struggling with that 24K a year income.

    What hypocrites.

  138. VivekB

    Yo Mike, see the difference here is that with the private sector, our income changes DRASTICALLY. When the market thought that dot-coms would generate tons of profit, the employees made more. When the market realized it wouldn’t, employees made less (or nothing if they were fired). There is no such thing as a defined benefit (aka pension) plan in 95% of corp america, only defined contribution. The employee takes on all the financial exposure.

    With public sector and unions, there is no such concept.

    See the massive amount of whining about, god forbid, abolishing the defined benefit plan and moving to a defined contribution as proof of what changing this even a wee little does.

    You can call us hypocrites, but at least we understand basic math. More money coming in = more money to employees. Less money coming in = less money to employees. Drastically less money coming in = drastically fewer employees and drastically less money to the employees who remain (but still do the work of all the terminated employees).

    And lets not even get into the “What does it take to fire a bad private sector employee versus a bad public sector union employee”.

  139. Naomi Schiff

    Okay folks, this quarreling isn’t all that useful. It is quite possible that everyone is correct! Unions are correct, Grumpy citizens left and right are correct, elected officials are correct, city admin is correct. That is, yes, public safety people deserve pay, govt people have to balance budget and are way short, other city employees took big cuts already and are worried about more, and grumpy citizens have taken a large hit in the wallet via unemployment or reduced salaries, and have to pay the taxes. As Mary Hollis remarked above, assigning blame is not helpful. Self-righteousness also not helpful. Let’s stipulate that everyone here is a responsible well-intentioned person who wants A Better Oakland, what ever that means to her or him.

    The thing is we can all be correct but our opinions may not tend toward the same solution. So now is the time to do some creative cooperative problem-solving and look for ways out. Recriminations need not apply. End of sermon.

    Below I am attempting to post the small chart that was created by the outgoing (due to layoffs) budget committee analyst and distributed on paper at the council meeting. This was in response to the city administrator’s lists of possible actions in the staff report for item #4 on Thursday’s budget meeting agenda. I am posting this because I’m not sure it made into anything electronic. I am not expressing an opinion about it; just presenting it as passed out at council meeting. This takes into consideration the requirements under Measure Y.

    Scenario———–Measure Y Revenue–Total GPF Shortfall –Sworn* Cuts

    Ballot measures pass—Yes—————-0————————-0
    Ballot measures fail—-No—————-$30 million————-380
    No ballot measures—-No—————-$24 million————-190

    Assumes budget balanced via sworn FTE reductions only.

    NS comment: What it does not look at is the second, third, etc. years out, and what size parcel tax would cover expected escalation in public safety benefits costs.

  140. Mike


    There’s a trade off here. As you stated, when the market is good, YOU have the option of making “TONS” of money – we don’t (just good money).

    We risk being killed or crippled in the line of duty serving you. And for taking that risk, we are rewarded by a stable income.

    Life is about choices. You made your’s and we made ours. We chose our careers and you chose your’s. Most of you had the option of becoming police officers and firefighters too if you wanted to. You didn’t.

    Perhaps when you made those “TONS” of profit, you should have invested it WISELY instead of GREEDILY and you would be able to sustain yourself through the hard financial times instead of acting envious of those who chose more stable careers.

  141. Ralph

    For the first time in 3 days I am awake and well rested catching up with classmates is so much fun.

    Naomi, agreed discussion of Prop 13 will not resolve our budget situation. That said your logic is seriously flawed. The best value of a property is the price that a party is willing to pay and the other party is willing to accept. In normal times, a buyer normally does not propose to pay more than they can afford. It is the longtime owner who really isn’t contributing their fair share of taxes.

    “Mike,” I would love to live in your reality. Take a look around, cities across the country are cutting public safety and making changes to pension. If you have worked in multiple agencies, then I am sure one of your buddies must be telling you about the cute they are taking. Just a partial list of cities where safety is on the table Baltimore, San Jose, Chicago, and NYC and if I had the time, I would take the time to identify more.

    Have you ever considered that your thought process is FLAWED. Oakland may have a crime issue. Some argue that more cops on the street could reduce the crime issue. If crime is reduced then presumably the safety, health, and welfare of the cop on the street improves. At the current salary the city can’t afford more cops, but if we reduce the salary maybe we can add more cops and improve the safety, health, and welfare of an officer.

    Regardless, the simple reality is you live in a community. YOU may not be the cause of the problem but if we are going to get through this everyone needs to make a sacrifice. So either 200 of your members take a 100% pay cut or 700+ of you take a 15% pay cut. Your leadership is not working in your best interest.

  142. Mike

    The police already opened up their contract last year and took a pay cut.

    Do you honestly believe they’re going to lay off 200 cops in Oakland? The city would lose millions more in measure Y money. And even if they did, with attrition, they would end up returning to work in short order.

  143. MarleenLee

    Wow. Mike, you are not a very good advocate for your cause. Better quit while you’re only a mile behind.

    That chart provided by Naomi above is about as clear as mud. The problem with the numbers provided by the City is that I don’t trust them. Why should I? They told us that $20 million a year was what they needed to fully fund Measure Y programs. Now they’re saying that wasn’t nearly enough. Talk about a credibility problem. My math teachers always taught me it is important to “show your work.” So what I want to know is, where on earth are they getting these numbers? I don’t see how laying off cops is going to save us money. Lay off even one, and you have to lay off all MY officers, and you lose all MY funding. That’s $20 million a year gone. Then you lose COPS funding. That’s another several milliion. Then you’ve got a City that has no public safety, so all of our property values plummet. Businesses will no longer want to do business here, so they flee. There goes our tax base. The City should explain how this saves us money. Using real math and explaining where all the numbers come from.

  144. Andrew

    I just wanted to say that most of us, “Mike,” could not qualify to become firefighters or police officers even at our most physically fit. Your career is not an option, and the rest of us have to make do as dot-commers or whatever stereotype you care to apply to us, sight unseen.

    I’m glad you’re participating here, even though I can tell what you’re hearing upsets you. It upsets me, too.

  145. VivekB

    There’s a huge difference between stable and inappropriate. Defined benefit and unionized labor in the public sector where taxpayers bear the financial risk is inappopriate.

    BTW, i’m not just talking about public safety, I mean all government. No public employee should be allowed to unionize.

    Screw it, I reverse my opinion on prior threads; if i’m going to be arguing against someone who has no desire to actually solve the problem, then I vote to declare bankruptcy, void all current pension and employee contracts, and deal with the lawsuits. Sure, some companies made profits, a few folks may have been greedy, I sure never was, or else i’d be on wallstreet. As if the current level of funding and obscene pensions, and impossibility of firing bad performers isn’t greedy.

    That couldn’t possibly be more dysfunctional than what we have now, as evidenced by this thread.

  146. Mike


    You know that all economies are cyclical. No matter how bad things are, eventually things WILL turn around. I don’t have the answers for the world’s problems. I do know that we all have to weather the storm for a few years. There will be a time when this is all behind us so envision the long term big picture.

    There are some city services that are absolutely essential to the safety and survival of its residents. Some are private (like hospital and ambulance), and some are public (like police and fire).

    If the city is requesting $15 a month from it’s residents to help patch the bleeding, it may be the only current viable option to provide SOME level of temporary relief, buying time, hopefully until the economy begins to improve. They may not lay anyone off, but as an alternative, they may not replace people leaving through attrition.

    Now certainly, by voting against any new parcel tax, I’m sure there would be a sense of victory amongst many people. In essence telling politicians, “we’ve had enough no more”, however, in gaining that incremental victory, what is really accomplished? Who really ends up suffering? YOU do. When officers are not hired, it is YOU who ends up waiting hours for someone to show up to take a report. Whe the city is short officers, crime rises, and again it is YOU the residents who end up suffering. When there aren’t enough oficers to staff investigations many crimes will not be investigated at all. So in the long run, what true victory is gained?

    Before any of you let emotions rule your decision making, think carefully about what you do. Things WILL get better eventually and this will all be behind us.

    You know the saying about cutting of your nose to spite your face.

  147. LoveOakland

    On the budget:
    OPD did not take a pay cut last year. As I understand it, they agreed to pay 2% of the 8% employee share of retirement cost starting in a few years and gave up 6 vacation days. This is significantly less than other city employees. Also, all other employees pay 100% of their share of retirement costs.

    This is not an either / or issue. We all love Oakland and want the city to succeed. What that means is that everyone has to help – city employees, residents, businesses, Police and Fire.

    Of course we want to maintain Police levels. Since they and Fire are 75% of the general fund, and the deficit is about equal to what is left, it is reasonable for sworn to take a short term cut until the economy gets better. And a short term revenue increase will help us make it through.

    On retirement:
    The City has 3 retirement funds. Two are old – the Oakland Municipal Employees System, which is in good financial shape and the Police and Fire Employees System, which is in trouble.

    Virtually all current employees are in CalPERS which is also in decent financial shape, having gained 23% last year after a huge drop during the crash. Rather than jack up rates to employers, CalPERS will spread it over 30 years, thereby limititing the impact on local budgets. They have also decided to lower their employer rates less during good times so that they don’t have to raise them more during recessions.

    Retirement funds are considered ‘at risk’ when their assets go below 60% of furture costs. OMERS is at around 85% and CalPERS is at 78%. Ideally the city should put excess funds in a reserve when employer rates go down so that increases can be met more easily.

    The City must address PFERS in the next 3 years or it could crash and burn.

  148. Ralph

    Naomi, what exactly is driving the difference in the no ballot measure v. ballot measure fails.

    Mike, please provide the details for your magical balancing budget act. If you can do it while not cutting any core services, maintain the current police force, and spur growth, then you have my vote for mayor.

    Back in the day, I knew executives who took a pay cut before forcing it on the working man. We ended up taking a couple of pay cuts but we kept our jobs. I have no idea why you think public safety should be immune from another paycut. I was grateful to still have a job.

    If you want to be unhappy with someone, talk to the people who voted for budget set asides and floors. Without the set asides and floors, cc would have more discretionary income and room to maneuver. Next time one of these proposals comes before the voters, you may want to mobilize the troops to vote NO and maybe you can avoid these situations.

  149. Mike

    The physical fitness agility exams for police and fire are not very difficult tests. (Some cities are tougher than others). Most people in half way decent shape can pass the exams. If you fail, with a little exercise and practice, you should be able to successfuly pass the next time.

    Once you’re hired, you begin a rigorous training program in the academy which gets you in much better shape.

  150. len raphael

    Ancient history as i understand it, is that back around 2003 cc agreed to raise opd compensation in return for shutting down police acadamies. presumedly cc figured what’ they’d save in benefits and wages for additional employees would offset the cost of OT and higher comp for fewer cops.

    Fast forward to the misuse of Measure Y to recruit more cops. There supposedly was a “shortage” of qualified cop candidates at the price we were offering. Was there a bay area cop comp bubble? yes.

    What i’m trying to get a handle on, is how many cops comped at say 90% of current median bay area rates, could we afford to have, once we’ve stumbled thru current problems, and probably floated some 30 year massive bond issue plus another parcel tax to cover retirement obligations. I’m thinking substantially fewer than we even have now, even cutting all other services to the bone.

    -len raphael

  151. Mike

    Love Oakland
    When they take your night differntial pay away from you, make you pay into your retirement when you didn’t before, take away an approx $300 raise you were supposed to get when inflations went up, and lost holiday pay – which amounts to about a total loss of one grand (gross) income a month it is a cut lol.

  152. David

    Hilarious. You admit that Oakland has 50% fewer cops/capita…but it’s not due to the 50% higher pay for OPD?

    Wrap your mind around that. Please. And I’m sorry, but it emphatically does NOT cost more to live here vs. Chicago or NYC where cops make significantly less. Now, not one wants to see a cop living in poverty etc, but gee, I sure remember my awesome private sector salary of $24,000/year back in the day. And yes, I have a degree etc. it goes without saying that I paid my own medical insurance, had no pension no overtime and would debate with myself if I wanted to spend bus fare or ride my bike to the grocery store. Yeah, I make more money now, but come on. You and I and everyone on here knows that you can live in Oakland not too shabbily even at $70K/year total, with no OT, no pension and no health care.

    Pensions etc are absolutely making the city broke. What part of the 70-80% of the budget to police & fire don’t you understand?

  153. Naomi Schiff

    Okay, so to make a long story short I believe that Mike is saying that he thinks yes, we should put a parcel tax on the ballot.

    Ralph: I think that in the small chart the difference between no ballot measure and ballot measure failing is that if city waits until November to cut positions, as opposed to cutting now, city has to pay the full freight for the period between between now and then, and then give up on measure Y positions as well.

    On city set-asides and floors, those were included for the library measure because folks didn’t want to see the city council just replace general fund monies with special parcel tax monies, no net gain for the libraries, or even further cuts. (At the time Mayor Brown was threatening to shut a large number of branches altogether.) It too was an expression of dissatisfaction by some citizens at the way the city was budgeting.

    Thank you, LoveOakland, for the clear info about retirement funds.

  154. Dax

    More gems from Mike….

    “As you stated, when the market is good, YOU have the option of making “TONS” of money – we don’t (just good money).”

    Mike, TONS of money? do you have any idea what the median salary/wages and benefits are for the average resident of Oakland who is employed full time or more.

    Go ahead, give me your best guess of what that “median” working person brought in in total compensation , before taxes, last year or even 5 years ago.

    Now give me a estimate of what you think is the median compensation package for the police and fire personnel in Oakland.

    Come on, give it your best shot. Tell us your sense of reality.

    More from Mike….”I’ve worked in public safety for multiple agencies for over 20 years and am a relatively new employee (just a few years) to Oakland. ”

    You know, with the attitude you’ve displayed here, the already slim chances of a parcel tax passing are going down very quickly.
    So, the City has a large shortfall and cannot raise the parcel tax.
    The police and fire refuse to take any more cuts.
    The only choice remaining is to let dozens or hundreds of employees go or to drastically reduce hours or days. Given the cost of benefit packages, they’ll save more by reducing the number of employees.

    Who do they reduce first, according to union protocol. The relatively new employees who have only been here just a few years.

    My take on this is as follows. I go out my front door. The closest city employee to my house made over $165,000 in each of the last two years.

    Now suppose that person comes by to campaign for the passage of a $180 parcel tax so that salaries and benefits can be maintained.
    Right… you can count on my vote, but pardon me if I don’t come down off this ladder while I’m trying to paint my house.

  155. Mike


    OPD pay is comprable to other bay area police dpartments. If you want to attract quality people, you need to pay them well. If you have a department that pays poor wages then few people will want to work there and you will not get many quality applicants because educated quality applicants will go to other departments for employment.

    The net result is that departments who pay poorly have difficulty attracting and maintaining quality people and end up hiring people who perhaps aren’t the best candidates. Do you want top notch officers or people who are at the bottom rung serving you?

  156. David

    Yeah, I LOOOVE that attitude of public sector workers–you guys in the private sector are all getting rich or are rich or have the option of getting rich. Because we’re all rich, right?

    We all make more than $150K/year with another $100K/year coming to us in pension benefits (equal to $2M in the bank at age 50 or maybe 55). I’ll await Mike’s answers to Dax’s questions anxiously.

  157. David

    Mike. OPD salaries are significantly higher than all other California municipalities, higher than Chicago, higher than NYC.

    Therefore, we must have the best police department in the country, right? Right?

  158. Ralph

    Naomi, thanks. It is still earlier and that 3rd cup of coffee hasn’t kicked in yet. I sometimes forget about that timing difference.

    If working in the private sector were really a get rich quick scheme, I assume everyone would do it. I mean everyone likes money, right? Mike, for the record, it isn’t. millionaires have warped your sense of reality.

  159. Mike

    David and Dax (two angry guys)

    My comment regarding “tons” of money was in reply of a direct quote of another poster here. It was in regards to the “potential” in the private sector. (I’m not sure you guys are actually reading ALL the posts here).


    Regarding what the average Oakland resident makes.

    If you chose to do an “average” job as a career then expect “average” pay average benefits and average retirement. If you WORKED HARD for something ie: went to college, saved, didn’t party, made sacrifices, and chose a career above average (public or private) than you should rightfully reap the rewards. I’m not going to knock an attorney who makes $300,000 a year his first year out of law school because he worked hard to EARN it! He worked diligently to accomplish something ABOVE average and thus he is safe and secure in these economic times. And he DESERVES it – for his hard work.

    We all had the opportunity to choose our careers and paths in life. Some of you wanted the safety and security of an office job, or maybe a painter, or a delivery driver, or a shoe salesman, or a plumber, etc. If you wanted to, you could also apply for a job that requires going into a building on fire or dealing with armed felons – an above average job. Or…… could have become doctors, lawyers, smart stock brokers – all private jobs that require extra hard work (above average) to succeed. Then you wouldn’t be complaining because you would be making 3 times what I make.

    But even with “average” income, with some responsibility and planning a little bit if dollar cost averaging and compunded interest, little by little, people can successfully save.

    OPD may be the highest paid, but still comprable with BAY AREA departments. Forget Chicago and NYC and Mayberry and whatever extremely low paid dept you want to quote. I can find many more that pay much better than those departments as well so try and stay on topic and in the Bay Area or at least California if you are unable. And why shoudn’t they be well paid? It is afterall the 3rd most violent city in the US and OPD does more with less.

    Thanks for listening.

  160. Dax

    You know, if I might make one more point here. Mike seems to be so stuck on the lean pay he is getting and the selfless dedication that public safety employees do for the city, as though many of us out here are doing work only for selfish pay.

    Mike might not realize it, but many of us out here do countless hours of our OT for the city, for which we are paid nothing. NO compensation, no health benefits, no pensions, no uniform allowance. We do this in spare hours we have after doing our own work in the private sector.

    I have donated easily over 500 hours to public projects in the city of Oakland in just the past year. What is the pay scale for that Mike? If that were police or fire OT how much would that amount to? $30,000 or $40,000 or perhaps $50,000 if I was on the same pay scale as my neighbor ?
    Please get off your pedestal as though it takes being a city employee to be making sacrifices for our city.

    I know others on this board have done the same because I have seen them mentioned in newspaper articles highlighting their efforts. Years of their dedication and countless hours for no compensation at all.

  161. len raphael

    Mike, if we stick strictly to job market situation in the greater Bay Area megapolis as far north as Sac, and South to SJ., is the risk of death or injury measurably higher in Oakland than the rest of the area? eg. Richmond or East Palo Alto

    Are OPD’s hiring requirements higher than most other cities here? eg. education, or background checks

    What is the current job market for cops making lateral moves?

    eg. about a year ago, my understanding was that a starting detective sgt in Oakland grossed about 200k/year including substantial OT. The same position in Berkelely which also has very high standards paid about half of that. Very little OT.
    The big advantage of Berkeley was much less departmental political bs; and (hard to believe it of berkeley) a much more appreciative city council.

    On shakier ground here, but thought the benefits were about the same as Oaklands.

    A mom of another young cop was telling me about a year ago, that many young cops without seniority would willing transfer to other lower paying city’s because they’re sick of the high mandatory OT, but there were very few very hard to get openings.

    -len raphael

  162. Dax

    Mike, you live in a dream world of what incomes are in the private sector.

    “I’m not going to knock an attorney who makes $300,000 a year his first year out of law school because he worked hard to EARN it!”

    Show me the typical graduate of Bolt Hall, Hastings, GGUniversity, Santa Clara, USF or Stanford law schools who are going out making $300,000 the first year.

    Go to Kaiser or UCSF Med, or other organizations and show me the average doctor getting three times what the median “Michael” was shown getting for police and fire in the Oakland salary data base.
    If you don’t remember, it was $142,000 plus benefits and pension.

    Are you suggesting the median doctor or lawyer is making $426,000 per year? plus a pension based on that for life.

    Just as you were regarding fire and police pension lifespans, you are totally out of touch with income realities in the private sector.
    You should do a little research on the internet to realize how absurd your figures are.

  163. David

    You beat me to it Dax.

    The median 1st year associate pay at TOP law firms is around $150-$160K. there’s no overtime, you’re working 90 hrs/ week, minimum, more if your boss demands it (with no increase in pay, no pension, no job security, and no retiree health care).

    The median family doctor makes $157K. With 200K in med school debt, STARTING his career around age 30, with no pension, no retiree health care, and a ton of malpractice insurance to pay.

    You really have no clue what “normal” folks make in the private sector.

    And Mike, as posted above, OPD makes more than every other jurisdiction in California, never mind “Mayberry” or Chicago–ever hear of the South Side of Chicago? It makes 73rd & MacArthur look like Sea Cliff. etc etc.

    And again, since we’re paying the most for police in the country, shouldn’t we have the best department? Do you honestly believe the OPD is the best police dept. in the country?

  164. livegreen

    Hey All, Mike is a lost cause. We’ve all explained things to him logically. He doesn’t care how much less then he people in the private sector make, esp. after the down-turn. He doesn’t understand supply & demand. & He certainly doesn’t care about the rest of us, even if we pay his taxes and even if we are suffering.

    He believes he deserves more than the rest of us. We won’t change his mind.
    He’ll just have to learn at the ballot box who pays his salary & benefits.

    I’ll be advising my neighborhood list serve about this discussion at some time. They can make up their own mind.

    One important thing to remember is that not all OPD Officers are as selfish as Mike. Fortunately. I think.

  165. David

    According to the BLS:

    The median annual wage in Oakland/Fremont/Hayward is $42,950/year (as of 2008, likely lower now).

    The median wage for management occupations in the area is $106K
    The median wage for those super rich “wall street” types? $114K.
    Other median annual wages:

    Those super rich techies, aka, computer programmers? $78K.
    Those PHD biotechies? $99K
    Lawyers? $124K
    Family doctors: $141K
    Carpenters: $61K

    As a reminder, less than 20% of private sector workers (and single digits for younger workers) get pensions. Pretty much no one gets retiree health care benefits.

    Maybe this will help open your eyes, Mike, as to what the rest of us make, you know, the people who pay your salary and benefits. This is all from the BLS, for the Oakland/Fremont/Hayward metropolitan area. Mike, if you, or your buddies on the force make $140K, you’re making more than 50% of family doctors…and you have benefits (and no malpractice premiums or med school debts). Maybe you’re worth more than a doctor, but those are your kind of wages. Now tell me again how you’re terribly underpaid.

  166. Ralph

    David, thanks for introducing a little dose of reality into Mike’s world even if he as as LG says a lost cause.

    Just one note: I believe KP offers retiree health benefits but guess what you endup taking lower pay today.

  167. Mike

    Doctors more than make up for the medical loans in their later years, especially specialists. Example:

    In 2006 physician specialists earned $322,259, according to an annual report from the Medical Group Management Association.

    Cardiologists who perform invasive procedures earned $457,563

    General surgeons earned $306,115

    My buddy – patent lawyer. 300k plus within 3 years. (Lawyers can make huge amounts depending on good they are and how hard they work).

    Top step at OPD for a police officer is 7545 a month = $90,540 a year. Far below your grossly inflated 140K a year.

    Best wishes.

  168. Robert Wiles

    Ok, Mike. Lets say he’s a top step 90k guy. How much OT is typical and what is the gross, with OT? How much of that is “mandatory” ot?

    Some lawyers can make lots. Most, starting out, don’t.

    Next time you get shot, think about how much OT the responsible resident may be on when he’s making rapid decisions for your life, too. Mostly that’s *exempt* OT, too.

    I’m *less* frustrated by the rank and file pay than the cluster of stars in the upper echelons.

  169. livegreen

    Mike talks about the upper echelons of the Private Sector as if everyone earns that much. Note how he conveniently ignores the median annual wage. Like many City Workers, he is focussed on the battle of the Rich vs. Poor.

    A true Bay Area Liberal, he has forgotten about the Middle Class. This manner of thinking will have some resonance with most of our City Counsel.

  170. Mike

    No Livegereen

    I’m not saying everyone makes that in the private sector. I’m saying that you have the POTENTIAL in the private sector to make more than public safety and I gave those as some examples.

    I also stated that If you chose to do an “average” job as a career then expect “average” pay average benefits and an average retirement. If you choose a career where you put yourself in harm’s way for others, then one of the benefits is above average pay and benefits. It’s as simple as that.

    I’m Republican. Far from liberal. I AM the middle class. And, I’m finished coversing with you. Suffice it to say that both the fire and police departments already gave back to the city significantly. It’s time to look elsewhere to solve the budget problem and for laying blame.

    Have a great evening.

  171. livegreen

    OPD Officers I know WANT the community to know how much they care, and how much they appreciate the community’s feedback. Mike, on the other hand, could care less. On a blog that overall is supportive of law enforcement, Mike seems to enjoy upsetting Oakland constituents, stake holders & taxpayers.

    I’m beginning to wonder if Mike doesn’t work for one of the other City unions that WANTS OPD Officers to take a cut. He is making the argument for them.

  172. Ralph

    Mike, this just in from San Jose…

    …McMilton — who was hired in July of last year — is one of close to 90 San Jose officers who have been notified by police command staff during the last 10 days that they may be in imminent danger of being let go from the force for budgetary reasons.

    San Jose City Manager Debra Figone is looking at a total of more than $26 million in cuts to the police department, which includes eliminating 160 sworn positions. But officer attrition is expected to reduce the final number of layoffs….

    I have no idea why you think public safety should be immune from salary cuts and lay-offs. But good luck finding a job in SJ when the Oakland layoffs are announced because you refused a salary concession.

  173. len raphael

    Assuming our punching bag Mike does work for opd or ofd (and everything he’s said is consistent with that), the question is how prevalent are his sentiments among the force.

    The best reason for the cc delaying cuts until they lose the November parcel tax is that many more cities will started making cuts to police and fire before November. So our employees will have more data to make their decision as to quiting, early retirement, or accepting give backs.

    sure hope our guy Batts unlike our cc, is already making contingency plans for the transition from current compensation levels to lower ones without a huge drop in security for a couple of years and the mother of all OT bills for the cops who stay etc.

    We’ll need more than mutual aid pacts with neighboring cities. More like bringing in scabs (oops, i mean travelers) retired and out of work cops from other parts of the country. Unfortunately, that probably costs almost as much as OT for the cops who stay, and carries huge risks of lawsuits from Burris et al because they don’t know our protocols.

    I’m not offended or even annoyed by Mike’s sense that cops and firefighters are receiving fair wages for what they do in this dangerous town. (yeah, it is interesting how he has an inflated idea of what people in private industry make, but that’s not the main underpinning of why a lot of cops and fireman will walk if they possibly can afford to when we cut compensation etc.

    And I don’t think he’s any more selfish than the rest of us would be in his situation.

    I don’t see a big difference between his justification for high cop/fire pay here, and that of ousd teachers who say they must have a raise to reach median Bay Area pay.

    Teachers here are now close to the bottom of Bay Area teach pay scale, but ousd might not be able to afford even token pay raises after they close schools, add to teacher duties, add to teacher work week, and increase class sizes. Not unless they lay off support staff (yeah, sure in Oakland?), and some of the touchy feely outside contractor for and non profit vendors.

    What’s the law in CA re strikes by cops? absolutely never, or only after non binding arbitration and cooling off periods? binding arbitration?

    -len raphael

  174. Max Allstadt

    Mike, you’re pulling out a lot of straw men. I very clearly said that PART of the combination of factors that led to our crumbling city infrastructure was the out of balance power of public safety unions.

    You took that, turned it into an absolutist statement, and then argued against an absolutist point of view that I never took.

    If you think I don’t appreciate OPD or have some understanding of the burden you bear, I suggest you read this:

    As for the reason salaries got as high as they did, I think it has a lot to do with over-optimistic forecasting by our legislators. In short, the council agreed to pay salaries that worked while the construction economy bubble was inflating, but they didn’t consider the consequences of these contracts over the course of a longer economic cycle.

    In short, the reason cops and firemen are getting paid too much is because they signed contracts in boom times. Times have gone bust, and everybody’s taking big hits. Things are also getting cheaper. Banks are also more willing to renegotiate mortgages. Part of the reason everybody should accept pay cuts is because we actually can afford to survive on them, even if we can’t thrive.

    But seriously, if it comes down to paycuts or layoffs, are 300 cops with family and friends in the area all going to choose to get up and leave? If we’re looking at cutting about 40% of the force, and the alternative is big pay cuts, are the union members with seniority just going to vote to say sayonara to their subordinates?

    I expect this will find a way to resolve itself. It won’t be pretty, but I have hope it won’t end in catastrophe.

  175. Dax

    Love Mikes example of the $90,000 officer.

    Lets remember when I searched the Oakland data bank for Michaels in police or safety, I came up with 50.

    Only one of the 50 was below 90K for the year and that person at 88k was a fireman.
    Only 3 others were below 100k

    The median for the 50 as a group was over $142,000 plus benefits and pension.

    Mike should have gone into public relations, he’s a natural.

  176. Naomi Schiff

    There’s a lot of downward price pressure around. For instance, the 12th St. project came in several million under the expected budget. I notice it in my business transactions. All around, people are trying to hold prices down, even though shipping costs are up, which affects many commodities. Wages too are part of this trend. It is part of a “bubble” mentality to assume that wages and benefits can continually increase, even if the economy is tanking.

  177. Livegreen

    The hiring through the raid on M-Y funds happened right at the end of the boom times. Oakland had problems during the economic boom when many Bay Area cities were hiring. So besides having trouble attracting new Officers, we were losing them not just to retirement but also through lateral transfers to other safer cities. Then with the raid on M-Y the City came up with the cash at the exact right time.

    After the debate at City Counsel, when Larry Reid in Subcommittee specifically recommended the City Attorney’s Office ask for an independent opinion about whether the raid on funds was legal, otherwise the City might get sued, (but then voted for it wih everyone else) I asked Dom what he thought the chances were for hiring the Officers the City was hoping for.

    He was optimistic because, he said, most if not all previously competing cities had stopped their hiring. And that the City would b able to recruit “the best candidates from over in the Valley”.

  178. len raphael

    Max and Naomi, nice to see you agree on something even though i haven’t noticed anything getting cheaper around here except for EBMUD rates.

    As for mortgages getting easier to renegotiate, well maybe for a miniscule number of low and moderate income people who play chicken with their lenders; and some too big to fail developer borrowers, but a lot of the existing owners who bought or took equity out in the last 7 years probably have a house worth less than its mtgage, and are deciding day by day whether to walk.

    As the federal subsidies for residential mortgages get yanked over the next few months, it is Newton’s Law that real estate values drop further. Something like 98% of all residential mortgages are now run thru Federal programs that are running up staggering amounts of risk.

    Which is to say, no way either affordability leading to growth of middle class or real estate tax revenue to improve soon enough to get us out of an extremely painful muni finance situation here.

    If the Planning Commission keeps doing stuff like supporting liquor stores in gentrifying areas, we could even go backwards.

    -len raphael

  179. Mary Hollis


    Another interesting thing about the real estate crunch is how it affects different locations in markedly different ways.

    for instance, according to Case-Shiller, prices in San Francisco are now rising at about 1% per month. While prices in Oakland are clearly still dropping and seemingly nowhere near bottom.

    There are various reasons for this, of course, and not least the over-building of the Brown years on a scale which isn’t possible in SF relative to demand.

    But surely at least one additional factor right now in Oakland is fear. Fear on the one hand that parcel taxes will go up and up, especially since 40% of voters don’t have to worry about them. And on the other hand fear that public safety will take a dive if sworn officers are laid off in the numbers that would be necessary to make a difference.

    On top of that, if city services are again slashed, could we see riots like currently happening in Greece? It’s not like people seem to need much of a reason to take to the streets in Oakland.

    The question I’d like to ask homeowners in Oakland is this – if you didn’t own your home, and had the cash instead, would you buy your home now?

    The danger is that we end up with a housing market like Detroit’s, which went down even in the boom. You can buy some homes there now for a dollar.

  180. len raphael

    Max, your comment that everyone believes they need twice their current income is darn accurate. the only exception to Max’s Law that I’ve noticed is for people from moderate income/net worth family backgrounds, who reach the over 10Mill/year income range for at least 10 years running.

    The corollary to Max’s Law is my late friend Don’s Theory of Compensatory Spending: when people work tons of OT at stressful jobs, they spend a big chunk of their earnings to make themselves feel it was all worth it. Modest vacation homes, boats, new cars, summer camps etc. Plus spouses can’t work if the OT is high.

    Len’s Law is that people’s saving rates don’t increase dramatically when their earnings go up from 100k until their annual income gets above 400k/year.I don’t care what the stats show as Mike might say, OK, maybe it’s 200k for cops and firemen. But then a hecka lot of firefighters bought a hecka lot of Oakland rental property over the years, so I’m probably wrong.

    Bottom line:

    Most cops and firefighters cannot afford any compensation cuts.

    Cops and firefighters are tough. Much tougher than our politicians and probably brighter than most. Their leaders and many of them understand the city’s financial situation perfectly.

    So the cops/firefighters will put up a terrific public relations campaign, bring in celebrities, statewide politicians, community figures, they’ll hire much better PR firm than our city’s inhouse staff. They’ll paint a very graphic and realistic picture of Oakland with half of an already understaffed force. That will be easy to do because it’s true.

    if they get a contract provision with rock solid guarrantees against layoffs and pay cuts they’ll run that PR blitz in support of the CC parcel tax. Risk is reminding a lot of Oakland residents how much they dislike cops or just think the money is spent on them which should be spent on other ways of fixing the causes of crime.

    Yup, they’ll fight a really good fight to keep their jobs and their compensation. But if they can’t have both, they’ll reluctantly vote with their pocketbooks knowing that it’s better for some of them to survive with lifestyles intact, then all of them to go down. The guys and gals who get laid off will understand that even if their families might not.

    -len raphael

  181. len raphael

    Mary, everyone who bought in the flats between what 2002 and 2007 would not have bought at that time if they could turn back the clock.

    But that’s not saying they don’t enjoy the many pleasures of Oakland life and are about to become concerned by the muni services fiasco. They would select Oakland again to buy in now if they had the wherewithal and qualified for loans.

    Most people who bought during the bubble around here would not walk away now from underwater homes if they felt sure they could make the loan payment and pay the taxes when their adjustable mortgage fully resets. they know they could rent for less but like where they live and have a lot of what Jerry would have called psychic investment in their abodes. ie. most of them are not financial realists like David when it comes to home. after previous, albeit very mild bubbles

    cf to our recent perfect bubble, thousands of people lived in underwater homes for a decade between 1990 and 2000 or so. Not many walked away unless they lost jobs.


  182. len raphael

    Mary, as a newcomer to Oakland, you have to understand that up until around 2000, muni services in the flats were god awful and services in the hills was decent to great.

    Unfortunately, our cc chose to distribute services more evenly through out the city about the same time as they also decided to raise the pay and the retirement benefits of the people performing those services. Somewhere in there the cc decided that lower paid janitors and clerks deserved to be paid a living wage floor.

    When all of those factors hit, services in the hills plummeted and personnel costs zoomed up. Services in the flats definitely improved, at least in North Oakland :)

    But that’s why expectations of their govt services around here are low for everyone. People in the hills are probably more concerned about cuts in fire service than cops because they see so few cops now compared to 15 years ago.

    Now people considering buying or renting here vs renting in Berkeley or buying in El Cerrito that’s different. If under 30 and renting, it won’t make much diff. Might even help fill up DTO rentals at the expense of selling condos in East and West O.

    A couple of years so back, the concensus here, that gave abo the deserved rep as being pro getrification, was that we had to grow our way out of our high cost low revenue situation with an influx of at least middle class residents and higher paying jobs etc. We disagreed on the details, (or at least i did), about how and where the growth should be encouraged thru zoning and other govt intervention, but consensus on the end goal.

    Can’t go back to the good old bad days, which really was a dead end. But we really are a distant second rate to the economic strength of SF’s and SJ’s residents and businesses. So that means we can’t afford to pay janitors and clerks 60k/year plus full benefits We can’t be competitive with pay that San Jose, Walnut Creek, SF pays their employees. We also have to accept a city that will become even more dangerous because we can’t afford adequate numbers of security personnel for many years to come.

    So we have to go partially back to the bad old days, and concentrate police services on DTO, and vibrating neighborhood shopping areas through out the entire city. Away from those shopping areas, teach neighbor hood self-defense. eg. blowing whistles and massing around muggers, safe taser use etc.

    Sort of the protected hamlet program of Vietnam era.

    Rezone to prepare for the next bubble, population growth, and the big quake. Don’t kill the neighborhood golden gooses by assuming that if a neighborhood is doing well, making it 6 times as dense means it will be 6 x even better. neighborhoods don’t scale so neatly as that.

    But none of the above solves the basic problem that Oakland has a very high percentage of poor people who are getting poorer with no place to go.

    -len raphael

  183. J-man's Dad

    I’ll drop a few more points for the discussion

    OFD represents about 22% of general fund

    Over the last 5 or so years, OFD has been from $3 to 8 million UNDER budget each year.

    We’ve lost 12 FTE’s in the Training Division, Support and Services, and the Fire Prevention Dept., including the Assistant Fire Marshal position. These are in addition to the 32 Suppression positions I mentioned earlier in this thread.

    We also pay a higher amount for our Health Insurance


    The vast majority of OFD sworn personnell are aware of our responsability to help be part of the solution, as evident from our most recent contract. We also have a high volunteer rate for charitable causes and events in Oakland, even among the portion of the firefighters who don’t live in town.

    Many of the sentiments expressed earlier are not prevelent in the fire houses.

  184. livegreen

    I want to thank the Firemen for having contributed their share, even in the good times. I also want to thank OPD who, like Firemen, are mostly hard working, caring individuals. Dealing with fiscal realities is not meant to be a slam against anyone. I only hope that Officers understand how hard-hit the general public is, who is earning on average half as much, & probably less since the the recession.

    Unfortunately since those of us in the private sector have had their incomes hit in hard economic times, there is less of a tax base. It is incumbent on Public Servants to recognize this & partake. Then when times have improved, and so does the GPF, salaries can do the same.

    Bad times are bad, & we must all tighten our belts. It is not the right time to pass an additional tax on the already hurting private sector, to feed an unaffected public sector. At least not until the public sector has equally tightened their belts.

  185. Naomi Schiff

    Len this made me laugh, amongst your very prolific string of posts up there:

    “. . . vibrating neighborhood shopping areas . . .”

    I’ve always thought that dogwalkers hold potential as neighborhood guardians, having circumambulated my own block so many thousands of times.

  186. len raphael

    Naomi, I’m with you on turning dog walkers into junior g people. i’m a bit haunted by that story a few years ago of the guy in east o who was attacked and his dog(s) killed or wounded in a mugging.

    but yes muggers are much more leery of four legged beasts than bipeds eye’s on the street..

    My recent deluge of postings is a combo of

    a) post april 15th

    b) just had to scrape up bucks for property taxes

    c) in pure nimby mode, have attended several rezoning Temescal meetings and been left with the conclusion that city staff is so frustrated by neighborhood interest groups at every turn, given their opportunity to plan my little crime-free one block stretch of temescal without stiff opposition from any of the organized groups, someone observed that staff would happily see my area get absorbed by the highest density mixed use development maximums proposed for any part of North or West Oakland immediately adjacent to a CN-1 lower residential section.

    Doesn’t matter that staff overruled consensus of both slow and smart growth factions. Doesn’t matter that residents politely asked for that consensus to be honored by staff. A consensus that was a whopping one story lower than staff recommendation..

    So after a clutsy initial community meeting, city staff rolled in like a well oiled machine. Tragic flaw: they were genuinely ignorant that no one reads every page of the Oakland Tribune or Jane B’s newsletter so there were more staff than attendees.

    Sttill it was fascinating to see how efficient the city can be when it puts it’s collective will to it.

    d)from my selfish point of view, staff would screw up my hood with densities and heights grossly mismatched, city council would raise my taxes while delivering grossly inadequate services. We were then told we can appeal to planning commish and council. You bet.

    e) final straw after being told was hearing that planning commission went out of their way in another part of North Oakland to order their planning staff to justify granting a use permit to sell liquor because that was the first African American owned liquor store in North O to sell liquor to African Americans.

    Remind me to get approval to open a pawnshop in DTO because my tribe historically owned pawn shops in DTO.
    (i’m half making that up)

    If I Iived next to that liquor store, and the city council upholds the planning commission, I would leave Oakland in disgust. None of the planning commisioners live in the flats. But I’ll do my darndest to drag my foot cast down there tomorrow night at 630pm.

    -len raphael

  187. David

    Mike, you have the POTENTIAL every time you buy a lottery ticket to be rich.

    The point is, again, that the median guy working a median doctor’s salary makes about as much as a median cop. Or to put it another way, a median cop makes about as much as a median family doctor. Sure, if you’re a cardiologist you make more. A top management cop also makes more. Indeed, as we’ve seen, a decent group of top cops make about as much as cardiologists.

    The fact is that the median worker does NOT get rich. The median worker makes $43K/year here. The median lawyer makes $125K or so. etc. The median cop makes $130, 140, 150K. Cops aren’t alone. We’ve seen the median BART station agent make over $100K. The median fireman in SF make $135K etc etc. The FACT is that you guys whine about the lack of opportunity to be rich, when you make more than 90% of private sector workers AND can retire in your 50′s with a pension equal to around $2M give or take. AND have better job security AND retiree health.

    Seriously, what the h***? You honestly think every private sector worker out there is getting rich just if he works hard? You’re dreaming. How old are you?

    As I’ve stated, sure, a cop should probably make more than a carpenter. As much as a doctor? With early retirement and pension etc? Not so sure. Twice as much as a NYC cop? No.

  188. Robert

    Too much here to comment on, but I think it is unfortunate that this appeared to be a bash the firefighters fest at times. From what I can gather from the renegotiated contracts last summer, the firefighters gave up more than any of the other unions. But a couple of thoughts about the general budget issue.

    I think that it is irresponsible, bordering on dereliction of duty, for the cc to pass a ‘balanced’ budget that is predicated on a parcel tax passing. It would be one thing to pass that type of budget if there was a high probability of the parcel tax passing, but that isn’t the case. The cc should pass a budget without relying on the parcel tax, and if somehow the parcel tax passes they could use the money to restore service cuts. And yes, send out the layoff notices to general staff along with police and fire effective July 1 in order to maximize the savings and minimize the cuts.

    There are several benefits to this. For one, it would make it real to the voters what would actually be cut. And just maybe the voters would be more likely to approve a parcel tax if they felt the pain of the cuts.

    Second, once the layoff notices went out the unions, particularly the police and fire unions, would get the point that this time the city means business. They might just be more amenable to renegotiating their contract when faced with actual layoffs of their members.

    Third, if you don’t like which services the cc decided to cut, you will have the option of voting out your cc member come fall, and you will have the ability to see how the mayoral candidates stand on the issue before voting in the fall.

    Finally, I think it would make some fascinating entertainment value in the contract negotiations, with the possibility of contract provisions contingent on the outcome of the parcel tax.

  189. Mary Hollis


    While I like your idea, the CC would never do that for 2 reasons:

    1) By announcing a parcel tax initative, they can claim the budget is balanced at the time they have to have it in place. They buy themselves another 4 months of further can-kicking time which is always their primary ambition.

    2) If the measure fails, they can then blame the voters rather than themselves.

    Actually make that 3 reasons as they totally lack the integrity and courage to do anything that honest and sensible.

    And meanwhile, of course, they can advocate a YES vote on the measure by scaring everyone that otherwise, 300 cops will be fired, the streets will no longer be safe and again transfer the accountibility for that onto the hapless electorate.

  190. Robert

    Mary, I think you are right.

    However, a question for the lawyers out there. One of the few obligations of a charter city under the CA constitution is to provide police protection. If the city reduces police services to the point that it endangers the population, would that be a violation of the constitution, and could the city be sued?

  191. David

    Just an idle thought. What is the “carrying capacity” of Oakland? “Carrying capacity” is an ecological term that refers to how many of X species a given area or ecosystem can support.

    The per capita income in Oakland is $30,000 (every man, woman and child). That means that the total income of Oakland residents is $30,000*400,000, or $12B.

    Oakland’s total expenditures from the budget office is $1B. One of every 12 dollars earned by an Oakland resident is taken by the government. Yes, some come from businesses (which are really tax collectors, since you eventually pay for it in higher prices), some come from tourists, but 1/12 of every dollar earned on average goes to the government. Pre-tax. Of course, after housing and transportation (50% of income) and at least payroll taxes (15% of income), it’s more like 1/4 of every resident’s disposable income goes to Oakland’s city gov’t. So, Mike, what is it, you want every second dollar I have left over? What’s enough for you?

  192. Mike


    your median income figures for police officers are simply incorrect. No dept pays an officer 150K a year – that’s absurd.

    Current TOP step for OPD is $47.16 an hour = $7545.79 monthly = $90,549.48 a year.

    There are other additional pay increases such as night differential and educational pay, longevity pay etc. Some of those can be stacked, however, to claim a median income of up to 150K for a police officer is outrageous and blatantly false.

    We’re not talking about supervisors/commanders. Were talking about patrol officers who make up the vast majority of any police dept.

    Also, you have to remember, when you research actual income of officers, you need to leave supervisor’s pay out of the figures, and you are forgetting that those patrol officers with above the norm incomes are making those higher than normal incomes because they are working a lot of overtime. If you work enough overtime, it’s just like working the equivalent of a second job. Of course their income levels will be high. Your’s would be much higher too if you worked a lot of overtime or got a second job. That’s WORK their putting in man not free money.

    Have a nice day.

  193. Mary Hollis


    For someone who claims to be out there 24/7 protecting us, you sure seem to have a lot of time on your hands to endlessly blog about how it doesn’t matter how much more taxes we all have to pay as long as you don’t lose a dime.

    You’re either the East Bay’s biggest troll or East Bay’s laziest fireman. I’ll let others decide which.

  194. David

    Mike, so everyone on here is lying. ok. of course the cops work overtime, an option that is not available to the vast majority of private workers who make 70-90K/year. They’re on “salary.” And most work 50-60 hours a week at that pay scale. If a cop works 50 hours/week, he’ll make $100+K.

  195. Dax

    Again Mike, distorting the real picture by suggesting the tops for the average cop is $90,000.

    I’ll repeat it again..

    I went to the Oakland salary data bank.
    I plugged in “Michael”

    Of the full time police and fire personnel with the name “Michael” the “median” income listed was just over $142,000.

    That means of all the full time “Michael’s” in the positions of police and fire, the guy in the very middle was making over $142,000 and that does not include the generous benefits and the large pension.

    In other words, half the “Michaels” were making over $142,000.

    Again, only 1 was at $90,000 or below, 3 were between $93,000 to $99,000 and all the rest of the 50 were above $100,000.

  196. Robert Wiles

    Looking at the conditions the IMF and EUCB have set for Greece, I am reminded of what Oakland needs to do. Will it? Shy of a bankruptcy and replacements in local elections, probably not.

  197. len raphael

    My buddy who used to be on Hercules city council said that in 2005 when the building boom was still booming along there, it was obvious to their city council members that the end of the bubble was coming. They implemented a two tier retirement system for all city employees at that time.

    Hercules never entered the cop/fireman compensation race unlike so many other Bay Area cities because they had such a low ad valorem prop tax rate (each city was stuck with whatever was in place pre prop 13, and Hercules had a low one because they used to have a single high tax paying industry there), they always had to be frugal.

    Their police starting salary is about 50k/year. Yes they lost some higher ranking police to Brentwood etc. who offered more money, but cops and firefighters like working conditions and understood the money situation.

    OT has always been low. They have a freeze on it now and it tightly managed.

    Re unfunded retirement medical benefits that are north of several hundred Million for Oakland, Hercules funds those benefits on a conservative actuarial basis so there is no financial comet on a collision course with Hercules the way it is for Oakland.

    -len raphael

  198. Robert Wiles


    When you say “top step” you mean FTE. FTE goes out the window when staffing levels are off and you end up doing OT to cover. As an employee, OT is “extra” not a supposed promise. So if the database shows a patrol officer was paid 150,000 or so, then he has 60,000 in overtime at 1.5x/2x his usual rate? That means something over 900 hours of OT, no?

  199. Ralph

    No Mike, my income would not be high if I worked a lot of overtime. It is the same. For an additional 17 hrs a week, you pick up $60K. For my 17 hrs, I get nothing but the satisfaction of knowing I did a good job.

    Furthermore, most of us in the private sector are prohibited from work that competes with our employer or can be viewed as a conflict of interest. So if a private sector employee does have a second job, it is certainly not at a rate of pay that compensates the ‘ee for the value of his/her time.

  200. Mike

    If you all don’t believe what I state is OPD pay scale you are free to research it yourself. It is public information. Dax is obesessed with researching “Michaels” without knowing if they are working overtime or are commanders, etc.

    Overtime is basicaly frozen at OPD currently. There is extremely little available because the dept is over fiscal budget.

    Ralph you can always find some sort of side job not competing with your current employer if you really wanted to supplement your income. A lot of people work 2 or even 3 jobs to make extra money. Working overtime is hard exhausting work, and again it is money well earned – not some free ride, no matter what industry you work in. Now you are really whining. I’m sorry but that’s enough. Gee whiz for Pete sake just accept the fact that some people make more money than you.

  201. Dax

    Dax is obesessed with researching “Michaels” without knowing if they are working overtime or are commanders, etc. ”

    “Michaels” numbering 50 full time in Oakland police and fire positions are a very representative sample of what the real world pay is.

    What makes you think I don’t know their position or overtime.

    And what makes you think everyone working out in the private sector is going home at exactly 8.0 hours of work. Huge numbers are working 9, 10, and more hours, plus half days on Saturday. Normally without any additional or compensation. Very few people in pay ranges beyond what amounts to $25 per hour, are actually being paid by the hour and thus piling up $80 to $90 per hour in overtime.

    Once again you twist the real world on its head to make yourself think that a “median” income of $142,000 is just about normal and not something that would be fair if reduced at all.
    Instead, you think the average Joe out there, making half that much, ought to cough up $180 more so we can keep everyone at $142,000.

    It is very clear your opinion of the average person’s struggles during near depression. Squeez a little bit more out of them, but don’t curtail our pay.

  202. Ralph

    Mike, you are whining and have been about how hard you have it since the start of this thread. I do not know how you define hard and exhausting work, but if you need that to justify why you think you should be paid as well as you are then so be it.

    I don’t give a crap about some people making more money than I do. I don’t have a problem with a WS analyst taking home a $1MM bonus. I don’t have a problem with CEOs earning what they do. I do have a problem with unions complaining about their pay because they can’t afford to live in the area and then hold the city hostage. When you consider that the Edge’s nephew was hauling in $80K to look at meters then maybe a $90K for a police officer seems reasonable, but the reality is all of Oakland’s salaries are out of touch with reality. Most of them exceed a 9 city Bay area average by 15%. There is an annual 4% COLA even though the actual CPI increased less than 2%.

    And try reading for comprehension a little bit will you. I never complained about my situation. Gee whiz just accept the fact that the pie can not pay for all the trimmings. Either take a partial salary reduction or a 100% reduction.

  203. Mike

    Final word:

    Folks we can disagree on a lot of things. But there is a reality here. Both unions already took a pay cut for the city. A significant one. They are not going to do it again.
    Now you can get mad at me and think I’m different from everyone else out there working in public safety etc etc. But I’m not. I was just dumb enough to allow myself to get sucked into this conversation. Politics are always a minefield tippy toeing in during discussion when we have some opposing opinions. And tone and inflections can get misintrepeted.

    Will there be layoffs? Who knows. But atter donating a grand of my paycheck a month I’m willing to pay a fifteen dollar a month parcel tax too. If you’re not then you’re not. That’s ok with me too. Let the chips fall as they may.

    Have a good evening.

  204. Vivek B

    I don’t think I know a single private sector worker who puts in 8.0 hours/day in this economy. In my entire industry, folks make average $$, but put in a floor of 50 hours/week. You *Must* check emails both at night and on each weekend day, and if someone is waiting on you to do something you must clear it quickly.

    Normally i work through lunch, just taking the 10 mins to go outside and get it. That’s what nearly everyone does. In any given quarter, I probably take more than 15 mins for lunch 1-2x.

    I’m not complaining, I voluntarily took this position. So did everyone else. But most job classifications in the private sector are ‘exempt’ (aka, unpaid overtime). That is the reality of the private sector. The median income is less relevant, the median hourly rate is MUCH lower than what most folks realize, and that’s at all levels.

    We all donate a hell of a lot more than $1K/month in that regard, but we have jobs and are happy to do them well. If that work ethic was more widely engrained in the general populace, our economy would be a lot better.

  205. David

    Mike. you and your colleagues get one out of every 12 dollars earned in this city. How much more do you think you need? You took a 10%? paycut. I took a 40% paycut over the past 2 years, and even with awesome raises (like 10%+ annually) over the next 5 years, I still won’t be making what I did in 2006 in inflation-adjusted dollars. I know I’m not alone.

    You can take another 10% pay cut or a 100% pay cut. That’s it. Sorry you don’t get it, but that’s reality. Sometimes it bites, as it were. And sorry that it’s still not dawning on you that I and many people in Oakland and elsewhere feel a lot sorrier for people like my neighbor across the street who never made near your salary and now has no job through no fault of his own, and you, who makes a top 10 percentile salary, with far more stability/job security won’t take a cut. Guess you’ll get fired instead.

  206. David

    Fresno…Oakland’s future:

    The city of Fresno is facing a $30.6 million budget shortfall and the mayor announced she wants to cut hundreds of city jobs.

    Mayor Ashley Swearengin says 225 jobs will be eliminated and 81 vacancies will go unfilled. It means roughly one out of every 12 city workers will be let go.

    At a news conference Monday, Swearengin says the city is in a state of “fiscal emergency.”

    In addition to the cuts, outsourcing city services to the private sector and charging a franchise fee is a big part of her plan. In return the city would receive millions of dollars in revenue.

  207. Mike

    Hey David If I made 150K like you falsely claim, I wouldn’t have a problem taking another 10% pay cut. But I don’t. I’ve already posted a weblink of what OPD pay scale is directly from their union website.
    Layoffs are temporary. Meaning – you get called back. They are talking about 150 officers and OPD loses about 5 a month due to arttition and 15% of the dept is expected to retire in 2013. So if I get layed off I can find something else for a year or so. It’s not gonna kill me. I’ve survived more difficult times.
    If you wanna risk getting assaulted and shot at you can make my salary too. There’s a high turnover in law enforcement and they’re always accepting applications!
    And don’t act so bitter. It’s not good for your health!

  208. Mry

    Those of you that have such a problem with what OPD is making, I urge you to put on a vest and go experience it. You have no idea. I have no problem with it. I do think that we need some sort of pension reform, whatever that may look like.
    I hold our corrupt leaders in this city responsible for the financial mess we are in. Our own mayor does not take the 10% that everyone else has because it’s not financially a good time for it????? Please people, that’s what you should be enraged about.

  209. livegreen

    Earlier in this conversation our caring OPD Officer Mike said this about me:
    “How many thousands of dollars did YOU donate to charities? How many homeless people did YOU buy a cup of coffee for? Would you have EVER EVER given up a huge chunk of your income for the betterment of society for those who are struggling pushing shopping carts? I DON’T THINK SO. Give me a break with YOUR sob story.”

    Well, first this shows that Mike could care less about the situation I or other tax payers are in & that make it so difficult for us to be able to pay higher taxes when many of our incomes have decreased by very significant % (not all of us, but many).

    Secondly, Mike says I’m not giving up a huge part of my income for the betterment of society. Mike you don’t know me from a hill of beans. & specifically your assumptions (made not based on fact, but to support your argument) are wrong. Specifically:
    –I helped our neighborhood work with OPD to get rid of a drug dealer.
    –I run a small business that has given part of it’s income to non-profits that work with at-risk youth. In fact that $ amount IS in the thousands, even when our family income had dramatically decreased
    –I’ve worked at our local school to help kids keep up in their basic cognitive skills. Most of these kids are either working class or poor.

  210. Ralph

    Mike, you say you word is final yet you keep coming back. I rarely hold employees responsible for escalating wages that is generally the mistake of management. So, CC is more than a little responsible for escalating wages and putting us into this predicament. I believe I stated earlier that I worked for a company where the C-level types took a cut before asking the common worker to participate and even then I think it was two-tiered. I’ve never worked at a firm where the employer had a stated goal of paying the highest wages. Oakland has a leadership problem.

    First and foremost, if Cottontop opts to run again, in addition to his general level of incompetence, it should be noted that when everyone else did, he did not take a pay cut when the ship was sinking.

    OPD with CC’s approval forced the OPD wages beyond normal levels. SFPD followed suit. If one takes the time to examine the pay rates for other city positions, one will notice that they are 15% over the mean for 13 county/city area. Heck in many cases they are well over the private sector rate. And these annual 4% raises even during a recession are crazy. Over the past 10 years, the private sector has had pay frozen, taken pay cuts, and haven’t seen raises in excess of 2%, and oh some lost their primary source of income. So forgive us if we are not totally sympathetic.

    And these threats of either pay OPD or see an increase of violence assumes that the only thing keeping people honest is the presence of a police force. Absent the force, everyone will commit a crime. I don’t buy it.

    We need across the board wage cuts. COLAs need to be determined annually and should be capped. Pension needs to be reformed. Leadership needs to grow a pair and find a spine.

  211. David

    Mike I’m not claiming that you in particular make $150K/year. Let’s review my claims:
    1) OPD/OFD/Oakland muni workers in general are paid more than any other place in California, or indeed, the entire USA.
    2) OPD/OFD/muni workers not only are paid more than their peers in public sectors, they also have greater job security and benefits than private sector workers. Since we’re paying the highest rate, why doesn’t Oakland have the best public services in the country?
    3) These salaries and benefits are the major source of Oakland’s budget troubles.
    4) Taxes are already high enough/too high to raise them further. Just as an example, a private sector worker makes $100K/yr. His after-tax (federal, Social Security, State) income is around $70K. If he has a (for Oakland) modest $350K house, he’s paying upwards of $5,000/year on property taxes, or around 7% of his after federal/state tax income, never mind all the miscellaneous “user fees” and sales taxes. Considering a mortgage on that house probably runs around $1800/month (assuming a down payment etc), property taxes are roughly 10% of his after tax, after housing income.
    5) Finally, OPD/OFD/muni workers make enough salary to: 5a) put them in the top 10% or so of private sector workers and 5b) because of that, they could fund their own retirements, like our hypothetical 100K worker above no doubt does in the private sector. Indeed, I’d be fine with keeping your salary steady but significantly changing retiree benefits.

    I’m not bitter, by the way. As with most in the private sector though, we have to ask why we’re paying top rate and not getting top quality? Unfortunately, different from the private sector, we taxpayers can’t as easily change vendors, and apparently incompetence is amply protected by unions, and our money is taken from us at the point of a gun (or threat of taking our houses). So what do I do? vote accordingly and work to minimize my tax burden (to the point of buying a cheap fixer of a house to minimize property taxes etc), as I emphatically (and the evidence is ample) do not think my taxes are used efficiently. But no, I’m not bitter about it, it just requires a strategy to deal with it.

  212. Mike

    I know haha I do keep coming back. Let’s keep it friendly.

    “These salaries and benefits are the major source of Oakland’s budget troubles”.

    No they’re not. Mismanagement and corruption are.

    When the market was doing well and everyone was riding high on the stock market and housing was exploding nobody gave a damn when police and fire were making 75K a year. As a matter of fact, it was kind of thought to be “blue collar” wages and somewhat lower class on the scale. CalPers was (and is) the biggest invester in the stock market. At that time, CalPers told the cities to keep their money because things were going so well. What did the cities do with that surplus of money? Did they act responsibly and save/invest it? No, they SPENT IT irresponsibly assuming that the market would continue to explode (like a lot of Americans). THAT’S why we are where we are – mismanagement.

    Now they are trying to fix their screwup by balacing THEIR mistakes off of the backs of the civil servant blaming us. And you guys are taking the bait. It’s not right.

    Furthermore, these guys (and gals) who do work overtime and make that extra 40k or 60k or whatever it is, do it at the cost of practically never leaving their jobs. they spend so many hours here working, hardly seeing their families. So they really are busting their butts for that extra dough. And what costs more? Paying overtime or hiring a whole new employee?

    OPD is in the top 10% yes but look what kind of environment they work in. It’s not Burlingame or Saratoga – it’s Oakland folks. In order to attract people to work in a city as tough as Oakland, you need to pay them well. Why would most people want to work in Oakland when they could get the same pay and work in the suburbs?

    There has to be an additional benefit, otherwise people simply get hired, put a year of experience in, and then leave to easier places to work. And believe me, after 1 year experience working in Oakland, a cop can pretty much get hired anywhere. Then you end up spending more money hiring new people instead of having long term employees. The other benefit to long term employees is that they get to know the city and community better. Do you want a bunch of new people every year on your streets or do you want veteran experienced people who are familiar with the in and outs of the city, streets, neighborhoods, people, problems, etc?

    Public safey is the lifeline of every city in this country. That’s why their budget takes a high percentage. Without public safety the country would collapse. CA is its own unique entity. Comparing wages to Chicago and NYPD isn’t reasonable. At least keep it within the state of CA. Remember, everything is negotiated. When we GET something (a benefit), we also lose something. In other words, there are always tradeoffs in union/city contracts. Give and take give and take. Some cities pay their retired members medical benefits. Others like Oakland don’t, so retirees have to pay their own medical premiums. So if you’re married what does it cost to pay for you and your wife’s medical insurance every month? $800-$1000? What would it cost if you were 55? More probably? Now I’m not complaining, just pointing out that somewhere down the line, in order to get that top 10%, not having medical coverage when you retired was probably a tradeoff. Maybe other depts that pay lower, also cover their retired members medical benefits giving you the impression that they make less, but in reality it all balances out in the end (relatively so). Things aren’t always what they seem on the surface.

    You can still disagree on whether police and fire wages in general (in CA) are too high. . You sound intelligent and articulate so I assume you are a grown adult. When was the last time you got into a fight? The last time someone got in your face and you HAD to fight with him? You couldn’t back away. You couldn’t trun and run home…..When was the last time you had to approach several people who you knew absolutely hated you and wished you dead and you knew at least one of them had a gun on them? When was the last time you chased someone at night and saw them throw a gun on the ground while you were running after them? If you want to deal with what cops deal with you can do it too. If you want to strap a gun on your hip, put that vest on, and go patrol the streets of east Oakland by yourself in a squad car the opportunity is there for most of you. You might then realize that there is a reason that the police are paid what they paid.

    I’m not trying to argue with you. Just explaining. Whoever is telling you that we are the cause of the crisis has got you fooled. It’s called POLITICS. Look at your politicians – THEY are the REAL cause of this. Now they they’re up to their old sneaky tricks again and you guys are falling for it. Don’t believe everything you hear.

  213. Mry

    Mike, yes, yes, yes!!!!! You have managed to say EXACTLY what I think! I do not understand why people keep voting the same crooks into office. I have only lived in Oakland for 5 years and I love my neighborhood and the people in it. I don’t understand how my neighbors put up their Jean Quan signs, I want to knock in their doors and say hellooooo, she turned her head while all that crookedness was going on with Deborah Edgerdsley. I would never vote any of our CC in as mayor, I’m becoming so dishartened living here, I just don’t understand why people can’t see it.

  214. Dax

    Mike, your relentless justifications are really wearing thin.

    ‘”Some cities pay their retired members medical benefits. Others like Oakland don’t, so retirees have to pay their own medical premiums. So if you’re married what does it cost to pay for you and your wife’s medical insurance every month? $800-$1000? What would it cost if you were 55? More probably?”

    Uh, Mike, so do you ever ask yourself what others have to pay at age 55?
    Other people employed or retired. People who are not making as much while working as the retiree is making on his public safety pension.
    Many people, working and retired are paying the kind of premiums you are talking about. BTW, you only have to pay them until you reach 65 and they are deductible.
    I pay the full 500 to 600 for Kaiser regardless of income. Join the real world.

    And Mike, I might add, there is nothing keeping a healthy 55 to 64 year old police or fire retiree from getting a job, or are you suggesting you suddenly become “old” once you hit 55 unable to ever work again?
    You do realize that these days most folks are working until age 66+ to collect Social Security.

    You continue to live in your own dream world of justifications, wanting everyone to dig deeper so you can keep everything you “deserve”…
    Sounding like the SF MUNI drivers I saw on the new tonight.
    Their contract and rules give them salary “equal to #2 in the nation” regardless of the city’s financial situation.
    When interviewed by reporters as to if, during the $500 million deficit, they couldn’t take a bit less, they all had the same response.


    They the suggested parking meter rates and fines be boosted to raise the revenue needed to keep them from being cut.
    Shades of Mike’s simple solution, a $180 parcel tax.
    Heck, its only $15 a month, you can just tack it onto your $500-$600 Kaiser payment and you’ll hardly notice it.

    Oh and yes, we hear for the 20th time from Mike about how all the blame for this was the unwise investments… A alternate version of blaming the banks, etc.
    Don’t blame you, don’t blame me, blame that guy behind the tree.

    People realize that police and fire compensation and pensions weren’t always at the current levels relative to other workers in society.
    And yes, back then, police and fire still had all the job risks and dangers they have today. In fact, much of the pension boosting is relatively recent in California history. Go back to 1999 during the Davis administration when many of the pension boosting laws were initially passed, only to later be enacted from city to city.

  215. Livegreen

    Mike, I agree with you, our CC is to blame for mismanagement. For example, giving pay and benefits increases to City workers that are higher than anywhere else in CA if not the country. Now it’s time to correct that, especially during a recession when taxpayers have lost a lot of income and can least afford to pay for it.

    I find it interesting that you would rather get layed off than take a pay cut. Do u represent the Union in this matter? You have made yet another good argument for voting down a parcel tax.

    Year-after-year we are asked to pay more to the point where it costs many of us $6000-$9000 annually Yet the CC rarely asks staff or unions to share equally. On top of it (to your point) they’ve slipped double speak in the bills or they’ve mismanaged the money. So why should we pass yet another one, when we can least afford it?

    Well, the CC has cried wolf too many times. I agree with u in not trusting them, and so will vote against yet another Parcel Tax that will be mispent.

  216. len raphael

    what if, compensation expectations of existing younger OPD are extremely sticky, and even under Batts, medium experienced highly qualified cops aren’t willing to work for OPD unless we pay 15% higher than other Bay Area cities. So even if the other cities introduce two tier compensation systems, we would still have to cut ever more cops and close libraries etc. Only a short time ago we were devoting so much energy and misappropriating prop Y money to attract cops?

    Seen cop salary surveys for different cities. Can someone point me to comparisons of public security compensation as a percentage of general fund total expenditures ?

    What would it take for you to go door to door to support a large parcel tax to put Oakland on a sound finacial footing, with say 800 cops?

    -len raphael

  217. Mike

    My understanding is that the union is not giving any more concessions as they already gave back significant concessions last year with the promise of no layoffs. Now, if the dept drops below measure Y funded officers (735?) the city loses another 20 million dollars…. For me it’s a matter of principle. I refuse to take another concession. If I did then what? A year later they come back again and demand yet another one?? No way. They’re going to keep trying to balance their mistakes on our nacks. It’s not happeneing.

  218. David

    Mike, again, have you been to, say, 66th and Garfield in Chicago? That will make 82nd and MacArthur look like Nob Hill. Yet, Oakland cops make 40% more than Chicago cops? again, your argument doesn’t fly. Why do Oakland cops make more than NYC cops? Again, busting your butt for overtime? So you make $140K with working around 60 hours/week. I welcome you to go on rounds with a family doc, and learn about his non-overtime 60 hours/week + weekends on call etc, and he’s making about the same amount with less benefits and more overhead. You’re again under the strange impression that folks who make $100K + work 40 hours/week.

    as to the last time I got into a fight, well, I remember it quite well. It was my birthday, 2003, right about noon. three of Oakland’s finest future (if not current) felons tried to mug me right at 34th and MLK. I was only bleeding a little bit after chasing them off and I flagged down a BART cop on his way to MacArthur.

    The pension managers screwed up? So you have to tax us more? Again, do you realize that other people making 70, 80, 100K+ DON’T HAVE PENSIONS, and certainly don’t have pensions where the taxpayer makes up a shortfall. Your 401(k) is down 50%? Tough. Guess you’ll have to work a few more years. That’s how the rest of us deal with it. That’s how you’re going to have to deal with it soon (see my above link).

  219. livegreen

    But Mike, the whole reason they’d have to come back to you (or to us) & ask you (or us) to give back another one, is because they gave you more than the City could afford to begin. AND we’ve already given back 2x by losing much more in income, and paying multiple x in Property Taxes.

    We’re in the same boat as you, only worse. & they gave you our money which is how we got here.

  220. Mike

    CA public safety employees make more than other states so it’s not a fair comparison. Oakland is the most violent city on the west coast and 3rd most violent in the US. So ok it’s “Nob Hill” according to you lol. But YOU ain’t out there working in Chicago OR here in Oakland. I wouldn’t call chasing 3 teenagers off a “fight” but I suppose you’re entitled to your opinion.

    You choose your path in life. You could have chosen a career with a pension if you wanted to. You didn’t so deal with it. Life isn’t supposed to be equal. Didn’t you learn that in school when you were a kid? Not everyone makes tryouts. We’ll see about all your what if’s and assumtions about the future.

  221. len raphael

    David, the San Diego lawsuit is worth following. Don’t see how it give us any leverage over the unfunded opd pre Calpers liability or the medical benefits since there was the slightest hint of cost sharing on those. Maybe would give some umph to the jawboning on other employee pensions and Calpers contribs. A long shot, but its grabbing at straw time in Oaktown.

  222. Ralph

    You might want to Google for the % information. I don’t know of any place where that type of data is aggregated. That being said, I have heard that public safety is well over 50% of discretionary dollars for most municipalities. I do not recall if that was just PD or PD and FD. I seem to recall Oakland being higher probably due to those numbnuts who support ballot box budgeting. Despite a significantly smaller share of discretionary dollars supporting public safety, these municipalities are REDUCING their public safety workforce.

    Absent a huge restructuring of salaries, pension reform, repeal of prior ballot box measures, and the elimination of the 4% COLA and implementation of flexible capped 2.5% COLA, it is highly unlikely that I will be walking the street in support of a tax.

    Back in the day, municipality ‘ee (M’ee) accepted lower wages in exchange for secure work conditions and a decent retirement. Somewhere along the way, that model, at least in CA, got turned on its head. M’ee are earning private sector plus wages and are getting a generous retirement as a result. You can not have it both ways.

    As to the nature of the cut, it needs to be big enough to balance the budget over at least the next two years. The City is not going to be able to pass a one year tax for the same reason you think a one year concession will not work – the city will just be back next year. Any tax will need to address the deficit for a couple of years but the taxpayers are equally distrustful.

  223. Vivek B

    We should all bookmark this thread as proof-positive as to why unions are 100% evil for the public sector. Sure, CxO’s make tens of millions per year, but there’s only a few of them per company. There’s thousands of union workers, each of whom “refuse to make any more concessions”, even if they’re killing the parent company.

    You refuse to make concessions? Sweet. Get your resume ready, more than one of you is going to need it because the taxpayers “refuse to pay any more graft”.

  224. Mike

    (the last reply was for Dave who doesn’t work the beat in Oakland aka: Nob Hill lol or Chicago)

    Well Livegreen that’s the big lie they are selling you. It’s not that they can’t afford US be cause they have been paying us too much. They can’t afford ANYTHING because they mismanged the city’s money in ALL manner. We’re just the target now because they sucked the money dry from everything else and HAVE something to take!

  225. David

    Mike, again, I’m comparing the South Side of Chicago to Oakland. Check it out sometime. If you’re white, I suggest wearing your vest. This is where a bunch of teenagers beat a white kid to death with a railroad tie. Just for kicks. Broad daylight.

    You’re also quite humorous with your denigration of a “fight” but whatever. I answered your question, unlike your avoidance of any pertinent questions on here. I’m quite comfortable that I’m a man; I wonder if you can say the same yourself.

    You seem to think that being an Oakland cop for some reason entitles you to make significantly more than cops in other California cities and other large cities across America. Sorry, that doesn’t fly. Stockton is also quite violent, how does your pay compare? St. Louis is more violent than Oakland…Detroit is comparable…as is Memphis. Care to guess what a St. Louis cop makes (around 50-55K)? Additionally if RESULTS determined cops’ pay, OPD wouldn’t be tops in the country either.

    Mike, I guess you’ll enjoy your 100% pay cut instead of a 10% cut. Cheers.

  226. Mry

    The nasty tones are so uneccesary folks, we all have different opinions. So what. We all have had different experiences, just be open and try and look at somebody elses point of view. We can all learn that way, get over needing to be right. It won’t get us anywhere.

  227. J-man's Dad


    You represent the voice of reason. Thank you. Just when I say to myself I’m not reading anymore, you give me encouragement that there can be a constructive exchange of ideas and information.

    Vivek B.:

    Unions are not 100% evil in the public sector. Like most things in life, there are gray areas. Things are seldom Black or White, but typically somewhere in the middle. Before I became an Oakland Firefighter, I was part of a trade union. Once I started to talk to the FF union officials, I was simply AMAZED at how much time and effort the union spends trying to encourage the city to make a better and more responsive fire department for it’s citizens. These were not wages and benefit issues. There are numerous examples of Union initiated programs & contract language that simply give us tools to provide a better “product” and a higher level of service to all of our citizens on the street. This is in addition to the hundreds of volunteer hours, and tens of thousands of dollars donated to Oakland charities & institutions by Local 55′s membership. Not 100% evil.

  228. Dax

    J-man, “This is in addition to the hundreds of volunteer hours, and tens of thousands of dollars donated to Oakland charities & institutions by Local 55’s membership”

    While I appreciate those efforts, they are not special to fire fighters.
    Hundreds, even thousands of Oakland residents donate large amounts of time, often replacing city services that have been drastically cut.
    A article appears in today’s Trib about a group who cleans up the Fruitvale Dist, and have been doing so for many years.

    Lots of people are making contributions and as you can read in that article, some of them are not making any money during these times because they have not just have their pay reduced, but totally eliminated.

    Do you really expect those who have lost their jobs or half their income to vote for yet another boost to their property tax to maintain the incomes of city workers who make far more they themselves?

    That is where some of the insensitivity is being seen, especially when we read comments from personnel such as Mike.

    No one can look at California, from San Diego to Eureka, and not see that public employee spending has gotten out of control both in salaries and pensions..
    ( While writing this, the Dow has just dropped 9%…..while that is temporary, if loses stick, it just means more money coming out of municipal general funds as they are forced to make up the differences in defined benefit plans.
    Cities across the state are on the hook for large unfunded pensions. What has been the norm for the past 9 years must be brought under control.
    Cities are not there just to service public employees and maintain their lifestyles.
    When cities suffer, public employees must share part of the pain, despite prior agreements. )

  229. Dax

    You know, there are shades of the Greek public employee attitudes in some of Mike’s post. A total unreality built up after years of unrealistic compensation that is simply unsustainable.
    I was listening to Charley Rose last night and the similarities voiced by the guest about the Greek situation struck a chord.
    Greek public employees have just been led down a path, thinking they were worth everything they were being paid, especially in their pensions.
    Now reality is hitting home very hard and they are in total denial.

    Sounds a little bit like MUNI drivers in San Francisco, and the Mikes of Oakland.

    Their battle cry, “We deserve it”….. If you don’t have the money, raise taxes, because “We deserve it”
    BTW, just like Mike, they’re blaming the bankers and wealthy Greeks.

  230. Robert

    Mike, I would agree that the city has mismanaged its money, but the biggest mismanagement has been the unrealistic and unsustainable salaries and benefits packages that the city has agreed to with the various public unions, including the police. So if you really believe that mismanagement is the problem, you should be first in line for arguing that public employees should be taking a major pay cut.

  231. Mry

    @David , comparing St Louis salaries to Oakland, apples and Oranges. Look at their cost of living. I have friends that live there, my monthly mortage is probably what they pay in property taxes for a year. @Dax, consider that you are not 100% right, and neither is Mike but somewhere in between. I can understand your frustration as well as his. As I said before, we do need some sort of pension reform, but how would you feel when they come around twice to ask you to take a pay cut and some of the cc members or mayor have not at all?

  232. David

    Mry, then why are NYC cops also paid around $50K starting?

    You’re going to tell me that NYC costs less to live in than Oakland?
    Why do OPD cops make more than SF, LA?

    Does not compute. None of the rationales that Mike or you put forward make sense. The only answer is that the OPD union and the CC made a too-good-to-be-paid-for deal several years ago, and now we’re wondering how to (not) pay for it.

    PS. you’re almost certainly wrong on the property tax question. A house, say, in Milwaukee or Madison WI valued at $150K-$200K is assessed $3000-$4000/yr in prop taxes, typically. Unless your mortgage is 3-4K/month.

  233. J-man's Dad


    I’m not saying or implying volunteerism and donations are special to FF’s. I was only giving one example of how public employee unions are not “100% evil”.

    You also posted:

    “Do you really expect those who have lost their jobs or half their income to vote for yet another boost to their property tax to maintain the incomes of city workers who make far more they themselves?”

    I never said that. Please see my earlier post. I’m not sure I’ll vote for yet another boost to my taxes. I voted no on Y, even though my union endorsed it & recommended a yes vote. I am an Oakland Resident, who happens to be an Oakland firefighter. Not the other way around. I speak for myself, not Local 55, and not all Oakland Firefighters.

  234. Robert Wiles

    We need two things to cut the mayor’s salary. First, a charter amendment and some spine from the CC.

    The current mayor has staff like he thinks he’s a king. Why, I wonder?

    We’re NOT going to see sense or prudence from the CC since, in most cases, theyr’e dependent on the unions for ‘volunteer labor’ and campaign $. A replacement of CC and mayor (NOT any of the current, major candidates) then a bankruptcy and we may be able to force some pragmatism to the discussion.

  235. len raphael

    no chance of any big “voluntary” police and fire comp cuts without city council, mayor, and heads of depts first taking 20% indefinite cuts themeselves. can’t lead the troops by telling them to jump first.

    -len raphael

  236. Ralph

    Len, you need to remember that Cottontop has always thought he was above the law. if he needs to do wrong to do right, then so be it. He has always been a means justifies the end kind of chump.

    One thing I do know, if I were a union member, I would probably not vote to take a pay cut unless His Royal Arrogance took an appropriate cut. And as a tax payer, I have no plans to shell out an additional tax dollar if there are no cuts in the mayor salary.

    (Oddly enough, I would be okay if councilmembers were paid more. I think the current low wages stops good people from running.)

  237. Dax

    Mike, you are comparing Oakland and San Francisco.

    Perhaps you should be comparing those with Athens where continued excesses have led to dire slashing of salaries and pensions for all public employees.
    There is a lesson there. No doubt they went much too far, but the general theme is similar. At some point reality begins to creep into the process.

    But as you can see, the public employees in Greece are still in denial.
    Worse cuts are to come for them. Their whole nation is in danger.
    Vallejo has gone down some of that road, and Oakland could do the same.

    You know, the most striking thing about the public employees in Greece, is that they all truly believe they deserve all they have been getting, no matter whether it destroys the national economy.
    You look around and see all the “other” Bay Area paying the same, so you think it is reasonable.
    Keep looking at those. San Carlos Fire Department, San Jose police and fire, Vallejo. I’m sure they all feel that compensation should continue at the current levels. Now San Jose is going to cut 10% or fire many many employees. They must create a budget in the next 30 days.

    BTW, my brother is a retired police sergeant who just turned 65 at the end of last year. He was responsible for his medical until January of this year.
    I never heard him complain about it.
    He was not Oakland or San Francisco.

  238. Ralph

    Ah Mike, that is cold. You and I know that SFPD got a 25% pay bump following the bump in OPD pay. OPD should not be leading the way. This continued escalation of pay beyond level that can not be sustained is MAD.

  239. Vivek B

    Unions aren’t necessary to donate tens of thousands of dollars and hundreds of manhours. Pretty much every company i’ve ever worked for has arranged that, my current one came up with something like $50K just for Haiti (out of 2000 employees), and easily thousands of volunteer hours. All without a union.

  240. Mike

    Yeah Dax you take eveything out of context and twist it around. Try taking your brother’s pension away and see what what he has to say to you. What a bitter old man you are.
    Stop your crying. You don’t all deserve what someone else has just because they have more than you. The word isn’t equal. Didn’t you learn that in school or did you all go to one of those schools where everyone who tried out made the team no matter how poorly they did because they didn’t want any of the kids to have their little feelings hurt? Gee whiz what a big bunch of miserable cry babies. You’re all feeding off of one another.

    You want a fat pension? Then pick a job where you put you butt on ther line every day. Then you might deserve it. That’s the way the world works. Otherwise, you’re crying is making me sick.

  241. J-man's Dad

    Vivek B:

    You’re right. Labor unions are not necessary to donate and volunteer.

    I applaud the community service efforts of your current company. Perhaps they could come up with $50K for Oakland Libraries?

    There are positives and negatives to being a member of a union. There are also pro’s & con’s to the existence of unions in the first place. I don’t want to hi-jack the thread, but I still don’t understand why you feel public employee unions are “100% evil”.

    Obviously we both care about our city. What real-world solutions can we come up with to make it better?

  242. mry

    @David, no I am not wrong. I can do the math and yes that is exactly what it is before taxes.

  243. David

    mry, well, then you have a nice fat mortgage.

    I happen to own a house in Madison, assessed at $158,000, that is charged $3100/year in property taxes. You have a $3100/month mortgage payment? congrats–you must be doing well.

    Mike, Love your attitude. Makes me feel even better voting down any tax increases.
    You’re right, the world isn’t equal. And I don’t have to fork over even more of my money to support your (early) retirement. As for getting the facts straight, see above, and you still haven’t decided how to figure out why you’re paid way more than a NYC cop, if these salaries are tied to cost of living. Again, they’re clearly not, and they are not tied to “danger” as then SF would have a lower salary.

    So what is it? Why ARE you paid more than, ok, 99% of police departments. (maybe it’s 95%, whatever, it’s clearly at or near the top), if it’s not COL or crime rate, or how about crime clearance/arrest rate? In the private sector, you have to justify your pay–i.e. if I’m a sales guy, I sold $X worth of whatever, or if I’m an engineer, I improved X process and saved the company money etc etc. What’s your justification? Is OPD the top 5% of police forces in the country in clearance? Crime reduction? or is it just because your union is in the top 5% of unions in ability to extract/blackmail/extort money from the city council?

  244. Dax


    “You don’t all deserve what someone else has just because they have more than you. The word isn’t equal. Didn’t you learn that in school or did you all go to one of those schools where everyone who tried out made the team no matter how poorly they did because they didn’t want any of the kids to have their little feelings hurt? Gee whiz what a big bunch of miserable cry babies. You’re all feeding off of one another”

    This from a man who continues to claim the right to a certain salary and pension JUST because the other city is getting that much.
    It is YOU, not us who is claiming the “right” to a certain rate of pay and pensions at age 50.

    Not only that but you claim the “right” to keep your fantastic pay and pensions and that others in the city will just need to dig deep, hike their taxes, so that Mike can keep his lifestyle.

    You are so bleeping out of line with reality that you are in denial about what is facing nearly every city in the state.
    Should San Jose raise taxes on the citizens so that NO fire or police are let go?
    How about Vallejo, more taxes would do the trick?
    And San Carlos, that lovely little city, needing to completely close their fire department in order to balance their budget, or outsource it to the county.
    I suppose more taxes are the only answer.
    More taxes on people and homeowners most of whom are making only a fraction of what so many on the city payroll bring in.

    So, your talk is very ugly, and you think the same about what I say, but look at the difference.
    The difference is that I am not coming to you, asking for extra dollars in taxes so that I can live as I do.
    It is you who is suggesting we all pay more so you can be kept at levels that are not possible with the real world budget during this deep recession.

    You, not we, are the ones who need the extra taxes and with your superior attitude, calling the taxpayers “a big bunch of miserable cry babies”

    I tell you, this thread and that quote, should be on every bit of campaign material when this comes to a vote.
    Your attitude of entitlement to your standard of living will win tons of votes.
    I’m sure the voters will vote overwhelmingly to increase their parcel tax so MIke can make what he “deserves”.

    And the taxpayers, the homeowners, “let them clip coupons”, those “miserable cry babies”

  245. Dax

    Just a update from the Chronicle’s Chip Johnson article today.

    “We know full well that a parcel tax isn’t going to pass, but I don’t know if us giving them more concessions is going to solve their problem,” the union president (Dom Arotzarena)said.

    Thats the future in a nutshell.

    Perhaps Mike and I are debating over nothing since it seems all agree the parcel tax isn’t going to pass.
    The solution is going to be made from cuts, either in personnel numbers, salary and benefits, or in entire programs.
    The math will be arrived at.

    I certainly don’t gloat over that prospect.

    I hear the Oakland City rangers program has been totally eliminated.
    That ranger with the $74,000 base who made over $250,000 in each of the last two years, is no doubt finding work elsewhere, albeit it at somewhat less than a quarter million a year.

  246. Livegreen

    Or just switched to another position at OPD, since they have openings & are recruiting.

  247. J

    Hey Mike, do you even live in Oakland or are you one of those Castro Valley commuter cops. If so you have no right to tell Oakland taxpayers to pay for your house out in the burbs that gives nothing back to the city of Oakland.

  248. Naomi Schiff

    Just because Chip spoke to Artozarena does not make it a fully reported article. That was no article; that was an opinion column. Chip is not doing in-depth reporting. This morning, I was struck by the column’s complete one-sidedness and its lack of serious analysis.

    Chip is not going to cover this issue in a useful way, I fear. Too bad he didn’t come for a walk at the lake and join us at the groundbreaking. Would have been a better use of time.

  249. Ralph

    Naomi, Hello!!! I’ve only been in Oakland a minute but I know that Chip is not at the Chron to offer serious analysis. Not his job. Never has been. And you know this. I’m struck that you were struck. :)

  250. Navigator

    This from Mike, an Oakland cop. “Oakland is the most violent city on the west coast and 3rd most violent in the US. So ok it’s “Nob Hill”

    Does this look like anybody who gives a damn about Oakland? These guys are failures at their job based on the rankings posted by Mike and then use “Oakland” and its crappy image as some sort of sick badge of honor. It’s time to get home grown Oakland officers and stop sending our money to Stoneridge Mall in Pleasanton. These guys are mercenaries making great money while constantly embarrassing this city with deer shootings, crappy crowd control tactics, cowboy SWAT tactics etc. etc. And we want more of them so that we can have less than half the police force actually on patrol? Are we out of our minds?

  251. len raphael

    Ralph, I’m w Naomi for eternally springing hope that Chip or anyone becomes the Chron’s full time Oakland government reporter.

    sheesh, the Trib doesn’t seem to have a full time muni govt reporter. is Kelley R. part – time employee, or assigned to cover multiple cities?

    KR is showing signs of reporting the news rather than repeating news releases. How can we encourage Trib management to expand that? Otherwise normal residents will have to chose a mayor based on hair do and dental work.

    At this point I’d settle for a stringer in Nepal who was paid to watch ktvu and email/phone oakland people. Wouldn’t you think even the Trib’s owner could afford to do that?

    -len raphael

  252. Dax

    “embarrassing this city with deer shootings”…

    I think the outrage about this deer killing was way over the top.

    I don’t even fault the officer for shooting the animal.
    Only a few days later, a woman, her children, and her dog were attacked by a deer.
    Had the officer done nothing and then the deer injured a local child, everyone would be blaming the Oakland officer. A trapped deer can be dangerous.

    BTW, when you do kill a deer, you don’t just wing him. You shoot him until dead or else they can lurch away, possibly into the many small children that had gathered near this incident.

    When I was about 8 years old, a officer did exactly the same thing and NO ONE complained at all. It was sad, but in those days, everyone hadn’t turned every deer and field mouse into a endangered species.

    But now the reaction has gone completely bonkers.
    I heard on KGO news this afternoon that ALL 700 Oakland police officers are going to be given a special “course” on how to treat animals in the city.
    A course given by a special company.
    God only knows how much they are going to charge Oakland for some afternoon course.
    And of course, it will all be done on OT with officers getting from 50 to 100 dollars per hour.
    Just how many animals have been maltreated by the OPD? What a silly decision to make everyone take a course.

    That deer shooting, a total non-event, except that someone took some video, which in turn, was tailor made for the local news.
    Deer are killed every day in the Oakland hills. Deer are coming out of our ears.
    As I hike, I find deer bones every day.

    Hey, how about raccoons? Can a officer shoot a raccoon? I’m telling you, a cornered raccoon can be downright nasty.

  253. Naomi Schiff

    Deer are not coming out of MY ears, thank you. What an image.

    Yes, Ralph, I know Chip is a columnist but someone above had referred to the article and seemed to feel it had some usable content. But it didn’t.

    Len, at this point even the Trib reports Oakland better than the Chronicle. Cecily Burt also covers Oakland, as well as Kelly Rayburn. But the newshole in the Trib is so small that there isn’t room to do much, now that it is really the CC Times-Mercury-Trib-A-Million-Other-Editions. They seem to have some system of allocating local story space. Also the occasional weirdness of a very local story from San Mateo County or somewhere appearing in the Oakland Trib because of how it gets assembled.

    It is sad about newspapers. I feel that we still need them. If they could be any good, that is. Don’t you think the Chronicle should have an Oakland reporter, for real? I don’t really care if they run an Oakland column. It’s news that I want. Not just murders, either.

  254. len raphael

    Seems that the owners of the trib devote much more attention to Contra Costa County edition than to the Oakland Trib. Anyone know what the circulation numbers, and ad dollars are ?

    -len raphael

  255. Max Allstadt

    Gotta agree with Dax on this one.

    Urban folks who don’t understand hunting and don’t understand wild animals are very prone to thinking of deer as cute cuddly pretty things.

    Deer are beautiful animals, but they are also prone to overpopulating.

    And yes, when you shoot an animal, or a person, you’re supposed to aim for the center of mass (effectively the heart), in order to cause rapid loss of blood pressure, and bring the target down. Then, if needed, you do a head shot. Plus, a police service pistol isn’t designed for hunting. It’s completely understandable that a 9mm or .40 caliber handgun would not kill a deer without several shots.

  256. livegreen

    Right, but animal control was there with tranquilizer and supposedly didn’t know how to use it. While I have no idea if that was true or not (& would not be surprised if it was sensationalized), I sympathize with both Bambi, the kids, & the Oak-Town Officer. It is not expected, nor should it be, that they are prepared for each & every situation that might possibly occur in the known & unknown events of this galaxy.

    This is, indeed, a non event. We are not all prepared for everything that happens in life, or in death. In the meantime let’s get the Animal Control officers familiar with how to use tranquilizers (if that part of the story was even true). My sympathies to everyone, deer, cop & kids.

  257. len raphael

    B word used by the ex LA Mayor op-ed in the WSJ the other day.Would think that’s taboo for an ex mayor of a major city to say regardless of his political motivations because it could create a run on the city’s bond issues, greatly increasing the same financing costs which the city might need to use to borrow it’s way out of it unfunded retirement obligations.


    Did learn something from it about unfunded lifetime medical benefits. Always thought the big piece was for the supplemental medicare piece post age 65. In LA, the employees apparently do get Medicare and do stop getting city medical benefits at age 65. It’s the period between the normal 55 retirement age in LA and age 65 when LA shells out the big bucks.

    Can someone explain to me how post retirement medical benefits work for Oakland city employees in coordination with any medicare?

    -len raphael

  258. Ralph

    The deer story is overblown. At the same time, many other cities with an urban deer problem have procedures in place to deal with deer. The question no one seems to be asking is, “Where is Bambi’s meat?”

    It would be nice if newspapers could go back to their pre-early 80s life where they had columnist, journalist, investigative reporters, a city hall beat. There is so little news in today’s local papers that I wonder what purpose they serve. I suppose you could use them to wrap fish. More importantly why do people buy these papers when little is local and most is sourced from the AP?

  259. Navigator

    All they had to do is clear the immediate area and let the Deer leave on its own. They had to play Rambo and discharge their service weapon in a dense urban neighborhood, thereby terrifying children and residents in the area.

    What’s more dangerous, flying bullets or a small scared Deer which would have run away on its own if left alone or prodded a bit with loud noise? This is just another example of the buffoonery on constant display by this inept police department.

    Remember the beatings and projectile shootings of the demonstrators at the Port of Oakland? Remember the baton beatings of people complying on the 880 freeway? Remember the crappy crowd control tactics when the Raiders lost the AFC Championship game and Oakland was embarrassed Nationally by a “riot.” Remember the failure of securing City Center or 17th Street during the Oscar Grant demonstrations? Remember the cowboy SWAT tactics when they raided that apartment where Lovel Mixon was holed in, thereby needlessly costing two more lives.

    And the worst thing is, that this Department wasn’t even trying to fight crime in Oakland until just recently when Chief Batts took control. It’s been a sad joke on the good citizens of Oakland as the city budget is decimated year after year with these outlandish salaries while criminals are allowed to run amok.

    At last we seem to have a Police Chief who knows what he’s doing and understands that the Oakland Police Department is here to serve the citizens of Oakland and not their own self-interests.

  260. Max Allstadt

    To clarify: not a good decision by the officers on scene. Reckless, actually. But the horror everybody is expressing at the death of a deer is pretty silly.

    50 miles outside this city, deer get shot frequently, and they bleed and die in front of children. Sometimes the children shoot the deer themselves. Sometimes they watch their parents skin them later. And sometimes they eat Bambi.

  261. annalee allen

    With regard to the Tribune and local stories, and at the risk of sounding self promoting, I have been contributing a weekly column in the Trib for the past decade, plus a few.
    While spending time at the news room (and it was a bummer when we were forced to move from the Tribune Tower) I have gotten to know the local reporters (Cecily, Kelly, as Naomi mentioned, also Angela Hill, and that intrepid crime beat reporter Harry Harris (among others). They are all dedicated and very professional, and also committed to covering Oakland. The photo folks, Laura, Ray, Ross, have captured one of a kind images over the years; they deserve credit too.
    No one ever thinks about the editors who take the copy and make it all fit. I’ve worked with several over the years, and they have taught me a lot.
    I make use of the Trib “morgue” on a regular basis, and it is an absolute treasure trove. I have watched as the movers have painstakenly moved those file cabinets to the various locations, during my time there, and am amazed that those clippings survive intact.
    It is easy to take the Trib for granted, and to complain about various things, but I know the late Trib columnist Peggy Stinnett would agree with me, 136 years of continuous publication is nothing to sneeze at.

  262. Dax

    “Remember the baton beatings of people complying on the 880 freeway? ”

    Why yes, I do.

    One can only admire how restrained they were in the face of such idiots.
    They should have been tasering them, arresting them, and even beating them on the on-ramp BEFORE they disrupted traffic and endangered freeway drivers as well as themselves.
    Those antics were life threatening. Thankfully no one was seriously injured, due in great part to the restraint of the police department.

    Actions in the face of such threats to public safety are on quite a different scale then what would have been called for in some safe park or plaza.

  263. Max Allstadt

    Advocating police brutality Dax? Really?

    You don’t strike a compliant adversary. You just don’t. Soldiers, cops and civilians are all legally barred from physically attacking a non-resisting, compliant adversary. Because it’s wrong.

  264. Dax

    You have a crowd that is surging onto a busy freeway. Lives are at risk.
    A crowd, a mob…. The fact that a few, at the very last second, decide to play micro-second “compliance” is not a card they have the right to, in the midst of a surging crowd.

    So I suppose you suddenly, treat this micro-second compliant individual in front of you, while a dozen of his buddies surge past you, unafraid, because they know they can play the “non-resistance” card .5 seconds before being struck.
    This was a dangerous crowd, causing danger to not only themselves, but to the general public.
    Those ongoing situations call for the most effective means of halting and turning the crowd around before life threatening situations develop.

    I tell you what. This is all on film. IF there is a case of “police brutality” I’m sure a suit will be filed. At this time I know of no pending action against the OPD for those actions. If there ever was, and it went to a jury, not a cent would be awarded.

    As I said, if all had gone well, those protesters would never have gotten up the on-ramp and the OPD would have been well within their rights to beat, yes beat, them with batons to prevent their advance.
    A bit of latitude is allowed when a surging crowd threatens the general public.

    Everyone knows that. Playing the “compliant adversary” card at the very last second on a busy freeway is a right you have given up due to exigent circumstances in a fluid surging situation.

    Emergency conditions. ‘Those circumstances that would cause a reasonable person to believe that relevant prompt action was necessary to prevent physical harm to the officers or other persons (drivers).

  265. Livegreen

    Annalee, I hope for more positive stories about Oakland, it’s schools, those making a difference (both citizens and groups). And also analysis about how our government is run and voter initiatives implemented. Otherwise, positive or negative, how do we know how well our local government is serving us?

    Honestly the blogs are giving us as much or more coverage of City Hall than our papers or our “local” tv news (the latter being by far the worst part of journalism today…1/2 ads, 1 or 2 alarmist stories, preview of the weather, recap of the national news that was already on the previous 1/2 hr, the full weather, then sports).

  266. Max Allstadt


    There’s video of a protester who is on the ground in the fetal position being struck with baton at least five times in a row by a standing police officer. My friend Dennis was there as a photojournalist, and he’s on the tape too, about ten feet from the guy who was getting beaten for no reason.

    I only recall this one incident with one cop from the video, but it is very clearly abusive. I don’t care what the kid said. I don’t care what he did before he got hid. You do not strike another person with a weapon when they’re cowering in the fetal position and covering their head.

    Also, I’m guessing the reason OPD didn’t block their entry in the first place was twofold: lack of time to make a decision to mobilize at the point of entry, and lack of time to actually effect that mobilization.

    What OPD did was probably actually safer. Once all the protesters were on the highway, and traffic had slowed if not stopped, the cops could approach from a distance, demanding surrender on bullhorns. If they’d rushed them at the entrance, we could have had teenagers sprinting away into full speed traffic.

    If any of our OPD insider readers want to correct me about the baton incident, or confirm or refute my hypothesis about the crowd control tactics used on the freeway, I’m all ears. I know there are at least two of you out there…

  267. Naomi Schiff

    Dax shows us the reason that extensive training is so important for police and other law enforcement workers. One of the more important skills to learn is restraining one’s own tendency to anger.

  268. Mike

    Suspects need to place their hands behind their backs to be cuffed, and often times refuse to. Even 3 strong men will have difficulty getting 1 average size individual to place both hands behind the back if he resists due to leverage and postion advantadges of someone face down.

    Officers are taught and allowed to strike suspects on the ground on areas of the body that don’t cause serious damage (such as arms or legs), if they are non compliant in order to gain that compliance and effect an arrest. Suspects often refuse to place their hands behind their back and thus need to have them forcefully placed behind their back, including striking the suspect. In the above mentioned scenario, time is of the esscene and the situation needed to be controlled as quickly as possible before it escalated, increasing the risk of injury or death to protesters or drivers due to protester’s reckless actions.

    Deer, although cute looking, can inflict serious injury with their hooves. There were many small children in the area and there was concern that the deer may injure a child if they left it roaming the neighborhood. Officers were not “reckless.” They took safety precautions by evacuating the building to make sure no civilians were in danger. The decision made however, was obviously not good for public relations.

  269. livegreen

    Right, the Police should maintain control of their anger, and definitely shouldn’t beat anybody. But members of the public can go on a rage and smash windows, burn cars, close down freeways at the risk of hurting themselves & others, jump off freeways, and create general may-ham and, as long as it’s for a cause, and as long as they’re not sponsored by a name branded group (& sometimes even if they are), will suffer no consequences or negative press other than to get broadcast through the press the reasons that justify their behavior & may-ham.

    In other words, the Press loves a good story & that does not include the view of the Police.

  270. Max Allstadt

    About the deer, Mike,

    I am not suggesting nor would I suggest that the officers fired without concern for the physical safety of those around them. What was reckless was firing on Bambi with an audience, and not waiting for competent animal control personnel.

    And as for the baton strikes, watch the video. It wasn’t necessary. it wasn’t sustained malicious behavior, but there’s a moment there where I’m pretty sure the line was crossed.

  271. Ralph

    LG, unnatural death is a tricky subject. I don’t study the stats on it but I suspect a fair number of deaths result from turf disputes and personal beefs. On a smaller scale are deaths from stray bullets and hold-ups.

    If the murder, is as Omar Little says, “all in the game,” then it is not likely to encounter much outrage. If it is the result of a personal beef, people tend to see it as an isolated incident. While one could reasonably argue that all murder is senseless, it is the murder of the innocents that people find disturbing. It is in those cases, one realizes that they can be a victim. (see Chris Rodriguez)

    Overall, OPD does an excellent job, at least I am still a fan. Unfortunately, they will probably get bad rap over the shooting of Bambi. After reading the various press accounts, I’ve yet to figure out what exactly led to the shooting, but it seems to me that the officer should have known that it would take more than one shot from his revolver to bring the buck down.

  272. Mike

    Animal Control was there. They are considered THE experts on animals. They however, did not have training in tranquilizer guns so that wasn’t an option. Apparently the zoo stated on the news that they would have responded with 1/2 hour I think. But, I have never heard of the zoo being able to respond and if I was in their shoes I wouldn’t have even thought to think of calling the zoo. It’s something we never came across before. If the experts on animals (Animal Control) are on the scene and don’t have any other ideas, how what I know what to do? I don’t work in the forest and I have never shot a deer.

    As far your claim of unecessary force, you can’t hear what’s being said, you don’t have police training, you weren’t there, and you don’t have the whole picture – only a short clip. If for example, I order someone who I just took down in the middle of a melee into a handcuffing postion and they don’t follow my orders, the law allows me to use pain as a method to obtain their compliance including striking them. Passive resistance is still resistance. Although it APPEARS brutal to see an officer standing over some “helpless” person lying on the ground and striking him, video can be very deceieving to the public who have absolutely no training whatsoever and formulate their opinions from a position of ignorance about what is actually happening. That situation needed to be controlled immediately before it spiraled completely out of control. There wasn’t time for a lot of conversation and “sir would you please” as there was an active melee in progress.

    You may still disagree with me following my explanation, however, which is ok because in my field I’m very used to people with absolutely zero training telling me what my job is and isn’t.

  273. Navigator

    Come on Mike, stop being an apologist for police brutality.

    We saw the video. As a matter of fact, the brutality of these cops on the freeway almost cost the life of one protester as he was scurrying and trying to get away from an obvious beating. The guy fell off the freeway as many people saw what was happening and realized that they were about to be clubbed. Yeah, it was stupid to go on the freeway in the first place. But, it’s not the job of the cops to punish. Once someone is on the ground defenseless, they shouldn’t be hit with a baton multiple times. The cop’s job isn’t to punish or exact revenge. The people on the ground were covering up in a fetal position as they were being struck by some amped up thugs in blue.

    As far as the deer situation goes, they didn’t need to corner that deer. Open the gate, send the kids inside, turn on a horn or siren and watch Bambi run.

    Let’s face it, this is a Department which is slowly emerging from a pervasive, incompetent, and self-serving culture which has infected the Oakland Police Department for years. Chief Batts is slowly changing this mercenary culture of incompetence, brutality, overtime abuse, and lack of respect for the city of Oakland. I’m confident that in time we will have a modern, state-of -the-art Oakland Police Department which will have a service oriented culture whose primary focus will be on reducing crime in Oakland instead of overtime accumulation, anti-Oakland residency attitudes, and a general disrespect for Oakland as a city as they attempt to use controversial crime rankings to denigrate the city as a way to defend their ridiculous salaries. Instead of using these controversial crime rankings as away to hold themselves responsible and accountable for their failings, they use them as a reason why they should be the highest paid cops in the Nation. It’s like hiring the most expensive contractor to build your house even as he acknowledges that his homes come with a bad foundation, dry rot, and leaky pipes. Why are cops not held responsible for the crime rates in the city which they work? Any other occupation is held responsible for their performance.

  274. Ralph

    Teachers are not held responsible for their performance. Teachers can not take each child to a dentist, read to him at night, provide her with 3 squares, give him a bed. There are factors beyond a teacher’s control that impact the students performance.

    Cops are not social workers. Cops are not parents. Cops are not teachers. These and other non-police related factors are why cops are not held responsible for crime rates in the city which they work. That is not the same as saying that cops can not do something to bring it down.

    OT is a management tool. OT is high and needs to be reduced but I’d rather pay for the right OT than the wrong fixed cost officer.

    The problem with criminals or those doing criminal acts is they tend to think that they are in the right. If the officer tells you to stop, then you stop. If the officer says show me your hands, you show your hands. Officer just wants to maintain the peace and to go home to a bowl of gator soup and your dumb a** is screwing with everyone’s safety. If a little force is needed to subdue, then so be it.

    If OPD officers did not care about the community, then why would they accept the job or spend the time that they do in the community. I don’t care how much money is involved, but I would expect to accept a job where your death is a possible outcome means that a person is fully committed to the mission.

  275. Robert Wiles

    I get tired of “protestors.” They have a right to free speech, but NOT to disrupt societal order. Was “Rodney King’s” beating excessive? Yes. Was half a dozen sharp blows to non-critical places excessive for someone curled-up and but *not* cooperative excessive? If it’s 5 cops and one person, perhaps. In a fluid, large crowd in a potentially dangerous place? I don’t think so.

    If someone is beaten senseless after they roll down, arms behind and don’t resist? Then maybe it’s criminal prosection against the officer(s) time.

    Other than the juicy, audience-grabbing value of protests “smashed” by “fascist” police, really… is there any effective point to them? Violent, destructive protests like the riot “about” Oscar Grant should be shut down, cold. As clumsy as OPD can be it’s still their job.

  276. Vivek B

    Navigator/anyone else who didn’t grow up near dear and thinks the shooting was a bad idea: Stop talking now, you’re revealing your ignorance and have no credibility.

    I grew up in NY, we frequently had deer wander into our yard. The one thing everyone was taught is that if there’s deer around, children must go inside the house immediately. Deer are unpredictable and potentially very dangerous.

    Sounding a loud horn in a semi-urban/urban setting to scare away a deer could possibly be the dumbest idea i’ve heard. Sure, that deer would freak & run, but if it came across a child in it’s escape it would think NOTHING of pounding it with it’s hooves if it felt that the child was impeding said escape.

    And then you’d be up in arms about OPD doing exactly what you just said.

  277. Navigator

    I did say clear the area before shooing the deer away.

    Ralph, I don’t see why the Police Department shouldn’t be held accountable for the crime rate. Then why hire more cops? You’re saying it’s a social problem. I tend to agree that the number of cops don’t necessarily correlate to the crime rate. We had a thirty year low in the crime rate a few years ago under Jerry Brown with a force of about 680 officers.

    Robert, It’s not the officer’s job to give out punishment regardless of what the protesters or criminals did. Their job is to prevent crime and apprehend law breakers. Once the individual is on the ground in a fetal position, the game is over. Mike tries to make excuses that they weren’t putting their hands behind their backs once on the ground and in the fetal position. Well, that’s because they were trying to cover their heads from being hit with the batons. It seems that when we see with our own eyes cops acting improperly we ten to make excuses for them because they represent authority figures in nice blue pressed uniforms. That’s not right. They have no right to club a complying citizen.

  278. Naomi Schiff

    The whole point of a high-paid police force is to ensure educated, well-trained staff, fully trained in control techniques and safety for themselves and for the public, but also in the self-restraint, the community relationship-building, the understanding of human motivation and interaction, the negotiation and conflict resolution skills that create effectiveness. These skills can be taught and learned. They do require the appropriate candidate–that is, smart competent recruits who are not quick to anger or panic. It is a high requirement, but for the fairly high level of compensation, not unreasonable.

    The above discussion about using force or not, how, and when, reminds us: the important principles come into play exactly in the most unclear, equivocal circumstances.

    Using discretion and clear thought for quick decisions makes a large demand on personal strength, wisdom, training, and on the ambient culture of the police department. Strong community relationships, respect on both sides, and ongoing communication are so critical. The police really need to avoid the defensive group-think that exacerbates the us vs. them aspects of interactions. The community needs to work too on avoiding blanket condemnations of the police, in these iffy situations. But there is a lot of mistrust to overcome.

  279. Ralph

    Nav, in previous threads, I state that I do not believe that hiring more cops is the solution to the crime problem. Crime is a social disease. Unfortunately, there are many in Oakland who think that more cops will help. (These same people also think that non-academic after-school programs are going to improve OUSD test scores.) More police is certainly not going to change anything about the murder rate, but people will draw incorrect conclusions if murder rate drops and number of officers go up.

    If perps would just do as they are told, then maybe they would not get subdued. Non-complying citizens deserve whatever comes their way.

  280. Max Allstadt

    What happened on the freeway was complicated, and I refuse to cast either side as totally right or wrong. Protesters should know better than to follow a bunch of people wearing bandanas over there faces anywhere. They should also know that for the most part, uncivil disobedience hurts their own cause. And cops shouldn’t hit people with truncheons when they’re cowering and covering their heads.

    Cops are entirely entitled to tackle, cuff, and arrest people who are disrupting highway traffic, and who won’t submit to being detained. The one cop who’s on camera who I keep mentioning went way beyond that. For the most part, every other arrest captured on that video seems like it was totally above board and beyond reproach.

    And Navigator, I don’t think we can blame the cops for the fact that a 15 year old tried to pull a Ninja move and got badly hurt. There are judgement calls to be made in high stress situations like that, and 15 year old boys are about the worst demographic in the world at making those calls.

    I reject calling cops fascists. I reject demonizing protesters. Mass disturbances are highly chaotic situations. Some folks on both sides of the lines will make mistakes, and act inappropriately.

    Also, is there a technical term for an animal control tech who doesn’t know how to use a tranq gun? If I was Mayor, I’d create a term: unemployed.

    Mike, I may not have police training, and the law may allow you to use a truncheon against a cowering suspect. But I know what I saw on that tape, legal or not, it was over the line.

    Lastly, Mike, I’m assuming that since you’ve had extensive police training and experience, that you must have seen situations in your career when a cop did clearly step over the line and use unnecessary force. Would you care to tell us about such an incident? Perhaps even describe it in detail? Have you yourself ever felt the need to tell a colleague to stop hurting a suspect because he was going too far?

    I have a very good friend on the force back east. I went to college with him, we were good enough friends that when we both really wanted the same girl, we flipped a coin, I lost, he pursued her and dated her for years, and we were totally cool about it.

    In private, he’s told me of more than one occasion where a bad egg on the force went way way too far. If you want me to take your expertise seriously, I would like to hear you break the blue code of silence, and tell us about something that a cop actually has done wrong, in your presence.

    I want to reiterate that I’m a strong supporter of OPD. I simply believe that no organzation of people is 100% perfect. The overwhelming majority of interactions I have with OPD are positive and professional. I was even detained briefly last year following an altercation, and because I was respectful, honest and not in the wrong, I was treated very very well.

    All I’m saying is that sometimes cops screw up. Sometimes I screw up. Sometimes everybody screws up. But if we want to be taken seriously in debates about organizations and government, taking a polarizing, “my side is always right” point in every argument just doesn’t work. The era of absolutist propaganda needs to end on all sides. Cops, protesters, civil rights leaders, developers, neighborhood advocates… let’s find some nuance, some grey areas, some subtlety. Lets find truth, messy, complicated truth. A simple truth is often neither.

  281. Livegreen

    Look, the Officer shouldnt have shot the deer, but per the news he was urged to by the animal control officer. It was stupid but that doesn’t make allOPD a culture of brutality. Re. the protesters closing the freeway and 1 jumping off the tracks, OPD is hardly responsible for what the protestors decided of their own free will. & Stupid free will is still free will. & still stupid.

    OPD should be blamed and held accountable when they’re to blame. But not for everything.

    The one area they could have done better is maintaining a dialog with the protesters. That was Chief Batts suggestion about how OPD could have better handled the situation. But even that is still dependent on the blame-the-police-for-everything anarchist protestors wanting to have a dialog. Not at all a given.

  282. Ralph

    So LG, what would you suggest OPD have done with the deer. We all know what kind of damage a deer can do and if not just see what happened in Berkeley to the woman and her dogs.

    The dude in animal control was an idiot. If he were not trained, then he would have been better off staying in the office and providing phone assistance. If one can offer over the phone instructions on how to deliver a baby, I am sure this flunkie could have figured out who to call to get the right advice on dealing with an urban deer.

  283. Livegreen

    I think the deer was fucked from the get-go. Nothing much could b done. The only one that benefits is the next deer.

  284. len raphael

    Ralph, i’m not following your logic or facts: “Unfortunately, there are many in Oakland who think that more cops will help. (These same people also think that non-academic after-school programs are going to improve OUSD test scores.)

    1. more cops might lower the murder rate if it meant more investigators who got the worst bad guys off the streets; if we tried community policing and it did increase proactive intell from residents.

    2. “these same people”. usually don’t find both opinions in the same group of residents, giving equal priority to both goals.

    3. No sympathy for the relatively few professional protestors who intentionally play on public reaction to cops overreacting, or manipulate cops and amatuer protestors into violent situations. The protests several years ago at the Port of Oakland seemed to be an example of that.

    Re excessive force in violent fast situations.
    Not necessarily anything wrong with opd policy or training when occassionally a cop screws up. If the cop’s personality is not up to the high demands of crowd control, move him/her to a different position or out of the dept.

    My understanding is that opd has very high selection standards for initial selection, then washes out a high percentage in the now rare academies.

    Be surprised if there’s much correlation between how a cop reacts in a violent high risk situation and his/her college transcript. Psych background yes. Intensive training yes. Education?

    -len raphael

  285. Ralph

    1. This statement seems to assume that one person is committing multiple homicides. Just not true. Further one of the problems with moving one set of corner boys is there is always another set of corner boys. You need to offer that second and third set of corner boys an option outside of the gang/drug life. Absent that alternative, you will still have a running crime problem. What you hope for with investigators and involved community is an increase in the arrest rate.

    1b. In the high murder cities in which I have lived the overwhelming consensus is there is not much police can do about some murders.

    2. i didn’t take a survey but I suspect there are some people who think more cops stop crime and non-academic after school programs will improve their childs test score. not true for all just some.

  286. len raphael

    Re selection of cops and effect of lowering compensation. If as we head toward a rock and a hard place, if we have a choice between more lower paid cops and fewer higher paid cops, would be useful to know the selection and training stats and standards history for opd.

    Also useful to know how well transfers from other police depts work vs homegrown opd academy grads.

    one of my sons recently completed the us special forces selection process. the psych evaluations are done after background checks, intelligence tests, foreign language aptitude tests, and then a 3 week 24/7 stress test. Next is the one year “academy” phase. After the initial cuts, many of the remaining cuts were for psych reasons. they don’t want rambo or paranoid soldiers reacting out of raw emotions harming civilans or colleagues, or unable to work as a team under intense stress.

    A few years ago there was some study of the adrenaline levels in different groups of people. Highly rated special ops soldiers had extremely fast recovery rates where their adrenalin zoome up and then quickly dropped after stimulous.
    No conclusion if that’s nature or nurture.

    Much as most of us think Mike is absolutely wrong about a bunch of stuff, and we sometimes cross the line of civility, he remains calm. That’s a trait we want in our cops.

    -len raphael

  287. Robert Wiles

    Navigator, you’re right in that the cop is not judge, jury and “executioner.” You missed my point. Curled up in fetal position is NOT compliant, it’s defensive (in a somewht dumb way for the situation). There IS a difference.

  288. Robert Wiles

    Ralph, I think you are mistaken. More police CAN affect the crime/murder rate. Mere presence, no, but in the time-to-investigate, cultivate and participate in communities a sufficiently numerous force allows them to get out of a totally reactive, over-stressed situation. Jumping from 911 call to 911 call is not productive for the community or the cops themselves.

    They’re not the tooth fairy who visits in your sleep. Not enough Oakland to respond on a timely basis when needed.

  289. Robert Wiles

    Dead deer. Sad, but we’ve made it an Oh-My-God-Crisis. Really? I’d rather a dead deer than a dead child who got in the way. You could NOT clear a path to safety for the deer, most likely, since you couldn’t be sure which way it would go. I mean, how many deer decide to run in front of moving vehicles?

    I *am* concerned that it took 7 shots from ANY handgun a cop carries. Double-tap or even triple-tap by training. Guess I have to try to see if the shot grouping on the video seems reasonable for the range.

  290. Navigator

    I think what really matters here is the question of whether or not Oakland is getting what it pays for out of the Oakland Police Department. In my opinion, the answer based on our crime rate, our misconduct lawsuit pay outs, the damage to our reputation Nationally based on bad decisions and bad tactics, and the amount of overtime payed out, is a resounding no.

    That’s the bottom line. Oakland does not get what it pays for out of this Department and no one is held accountable. Instead, all responsibility is shirked, and we get controversial crime rankings as a justification for out of control compensation to a mercenary police force which has 94% of its membership living outside the city of Oakland.

    Oakland uses up a huge part of its general fund to compensate these officers even as crime is not reduced, the cities image continues to suffer, the city loses millions in police abuse lawsuits, and overtime continues to skyrocket. What the hell does the City get from this? We could hire qualified Oakland residents for 60,000 per year in a heartbeat and have many more cops on the force who would have a vested interest in reducing crime in the city. I don’t buy the excuse that cops in general just don’t live in the city where they work. I work in Livermore and I see Livermore Officers parked in front of their homes all the time. Oakland has the lowest residency rate by far of any police department in the Bay Area. Many of these guys make well over 100,000 with overtime. Please don’t tell me that they couldn’t afford to live in Oakland and recirculate that money in the city.

  291. Robert Wiles

    Navigator… I agree, we’re not getting a good ‘value.’ That’s been the case too long. Where does that start? With our Council’s lack of direction, supervision and support for the PD.

    Jerry Brown continued it by not recognizing his error in Chief Tucker. Several chiefs have tolerated or supported incompetent subordinates. The 2 sets of 2 dead officers killed by Mixon are further examples. The first two officers were too relaxed and paid the price. The next two, however, I place more responsibility on command than the officers themselves.

    Sadly, as I’ve said before, WE are responsible for what we get by tolerance an inaction in elective terms.

  292. Livegreen

    Len, Mike hasn’t always remained calm. He not only got defensive repeatedly at the beginning, he also went personal in one of his attacks. Finally he’s made it clear that he values pay above all else and is not willing to compromise or understand the situation some taxpayers and the entire city are in. Though he has settled down and been more moderate in the latter part of the discourse (thank u at least for that Mike).

    I think we need Officers who have a vested interest in Oakland & are not going to jump ship whenever SF decides to add a $5000 signing bonus &start a salary competition. + they’ll win every time.

  293. len raphael

    Nav, we won’t know for at least a couple of years if your view of opd is the more correct one or trutht was closer to RW and mine unless the council and mayor and community and the rank and file works closely with Chief Batts.

    kinda hard to run an controlled experiment as we head into a perfect muni storm. so even in two years, we’ll could still be disagreeing as to what’s causing what with opd performance. i still have the expectation that Batts will be able to do certain things much better even with much less money.

    keep in mind, that up to about 10 years ago maybe a bit more, OPD was considered to be one of the best high intensity urban police departments in the country. new recruits from UC crime school selected OPD over other cities. not saying they were perfect, but something went wrong over the last decade and i don’t think it was the selection of cop hires or their training.

    my bet is that it was a combo of politics, and poor management. Burris’ successful lawsuits shouldn’t be a guide to improving the dept. When we fix opd, it will still take years for the reputation of opd with juror’s to improve to where oakland cops will get a fair trial around here.

    -len raphael

  294. len raphael

    MOBN linked to a wsj article on Tulsa OK police layoffs after union refused further comp cuts. Looks scary to me, but you might say it’s a glass half full/half empty situation. Quote from guru Bratton doesn’t give any comfort to the “do more with less” strategy.

  295. Livegreen

    Some of the unions are probably thinking the firing and budget slashing will only last until the economy picks up again. Then they’ll get rehired. Mike mentioned as much earlier. They might b right. On the other hand the U.S. is exporting so much capital, and the current generation is the first to earn less than their parents, that even when the economy has recovered the dilemna will not disapear soon.

    In the meantime I have no idea why SF is starting a Police Officer bidding war in the middle of a recession. SF and Oakland have the only two PDs looking to hire. Between Officers getting let go from other departments and the lack of hiring in safer, more fiscally prudent cities, there’s simply no need for SF to start an unnecessary competition with Oakland.

    Oakland has the fortune and the misfortune of being located next to SF, which is as or more fiscally irresponsible and has a lot more money to burn.

  296. len raphael

    More than a general economic recovery, we need a tsunami of real estate sales to generate the transfer taxes we got addicted to. Oddly, that might happen sooner than an economic recovery if another big wave of foreclosures and then sales occur. That could gain a couple of years until economy picks up.

  297. Ralph

    What is the source of an SFPD bidding war and $5K signing bonus? As far as I know, SFPD is not hiring and until recently SFPD pay lagged OPD.

  298. Mike

    Taking a strong stance on a position you believe in a refusing to back down does not mean I am not in control and calm. But really, it’s only typing on a keyboard so it means nothing in the real world what ANY one “says here. It’s too easy for anonymous people here to be someone they are not. I could be banging my head against the wall between keystrokes for all you know lol.

    From the bottom of my heart in all honesty: I have never met a group of more motivated and dedicated people than I have in the Oakland police Dept. I’m talking about the people in the field patrolling the streets every day. And what a diverse group of socieo economic people we have from all walks of life and backgrounds who contribute to the dept with their own life’s experiences that they bring.

    These officers are busting the behinds for you and very aggressively trying to aprehend and proactively enforce the law – and that’s between handling an enormous volume of daily dispatches. There is no large organization in the world without its problems and scandals, and even the best of the best make mistakes. But I can tell you that you have one of the best police departments in the country serving you. The academy is one of the strictest in the state and other departments come to OPD to learn tactics. The amount of experience an officer gets here is world’s apart from your average department. I do what I do because I don’t like to see people victimized. Having family members victimized by criminals, it’s somewhat personal for me. I enjoy the teamwork and camraderie. I feel responsible for protecting those who cannot protect themselves. I can’t stand hearing about someone needing help, and a crowd of supposed MEN is nearby and no one helps a victim. They walk by as if nothing is happening, too timid or uncaring to even call 911. And these predators. Someone has to face them – I’m not afraid to. And yes, I don’t want to take a pay cut lol. That doesn’t mean that money is my primary motivation. You’d have to be a down right FOOL to do this job purely for the money.

    Oh yeah, and we constantly have to listen to people like “Navigator” shoot of their ignorant mouths all the time about how awful we are. I could explain to her till I’m blue in the face about proper procedure, law, and justification for force, and it would be a complete waste of time. Her mind is made up. She is unwilling to open her mind to the possibility of learning something new. Kind of sad for her actually because she appears angry and she will never resolve that issue because she expects change that will not occur because her postion is flawed. So she will forever remain angry at the police, thinking they are some evil empire, who doesn’t give a damn about the people they serve, doling out brutality just for the sake of it. Nothing could be further from the truth. Who in their right mind is going to run after people who have guns on them and risk their life for a job and community they don’t care about?? I’m not talking about once in a while. This happens every day several times a day in Oakland. It doesn’t make sense. If we didn’t care, why would we bother? We’d REALLY be at the donut shop.

    A cop can never please the public. If you go soft of the crowds they get out of control and you are blamed for not being able to handle the crowd and letting them vandalize. If you are tough on the crowds then you are accused of brutality and over reacting. You get warned a million times to disperse and you don’t and then what do you do instead? You throw rocks or bottles at the police and then when the police take action people cry “brutality” and want to sue.

    Speaking of lawsuits and settlements, a city will simply pay off someone who sues the police, knowing the lawsuit is bogus, because its more expensive to fight the suit and win then it is to pay them to go away. So people constantly file false claims and complaints against the police expecting a payday and often times a city will just pay them off because it’s cheaper.

    You’re damned if you do and damned if you don’t.

  299. Livegreen

    Ralph, Mike posted a link above showing SFPD pay was higher than OPDs. That appears to b higher than the departmental comparison also linked somewhere above (I think by Marleen). So it looks like there’s been a recent increase in pay from SFPD.

    More specifically scrolling through Mike’s link u find this for Lateral Transfers:

    & BTW, OPDs highest step also looks higher than before, at least for laterals:

    So either there’s an additional factor not yet discussed about the pay steps, or SFPD & OPD have decided to intelligently have a bidding war in the middle of a recession, when there should b enough Officers looking for jobs for both departments to hire.

  300. Ralph

    Navigator is a woman?

    Mike, nice post. I’m with you 100%.

    LG, if you follow the history on SFPD it followed Oakland’s increase. Before someone posted that link, I was curious to see if Oakland was trying to keep up with SF. In my research, I discovered that Oakland was forcing not chasing SFPD pay. If I recall correctly SFPD had to do a 25%+ bump in pay.

    I will look at that other stuff you posted.

  301. Livegreen

    Mike, Without getting into Nav’s perspective, I agree with u. All the Officers I’ve met are caring and care that Oakland citizens care. & I agree with u about the diversity of OPD and the dedication of the Officers across their diverse economic and ethnic backgrounds.

    If Ive had any disagreement with u over pay, it’s only because our family has been hit so hard by this recession, we’ve been fighting to keep our home, I know others who’ve been hit worse, & I know several middle class families who’ve lost their homes. I’m sure it’s been even worse for lower middle class and working class families and neighborhoods. I sincerely hope we can all work something out that reflects the economic challenges Oakland citizens & hence the City budget are facing, but is also reasonable and manageable for Officers.

    I mean that sincerely.

    PS. A couple years ago I enjoyed meeting Sgt. Dunakin on patrol in our neighbor-hood (helping to make it safe for our kids to cross the street) and his big, caring smile. & I hope Capt. T’s condition is improving.

  302. len raphael

    LG, lots of us formerly secure middle to upper types in oakland are just a layoff, loss of major customer or an uninsured illness away from losing our homes. (except for that ice cold calculating David :)

    amazing that some of the council members and ousd people act as if it’s another several hundred bucks a year in property taxes is chump change. then there’s the worry that if oakland’s crime and schools get any worse, will be even harder to refi or exit…


  303. David

    Heh, Len…I’m all about them numbers…

    but seriously, after taking a 40% pay cut, you take a hard look at the household expenses and/or recall the bad old days when you were making around that amount. Thankfully, the income’s come back a bit, but I’m taking all the surplus and saving/investing it.

    One of the many, many annoying things about this fiasco is that as you state, it’s as if (wait, it’s true), the CC/Mayor/typical bureaucrat has never had a “real job” or a private sector job or got fired or taken a real pay cut (not 5%, not 10%, again, talking 20%, 30%, 40% or more)…they can’t think their way out of a wet paper bag as to how to save money etc. That’s just one of the many reasons people are sick and tired of this crap. $200? You know what, that’s 2 weeks of groceries you’re taking out of my family’s mouth. Think about that, Mike etc. Ain’t chump change.

  304. Ralph

    Len, did you see the East Bay Express article regarding OUSD pay? OUSD teachers are the lowest paid in the area, but OUSD schools also have the smallest classes, about 36 more schools than necessary, spend more on consulting because of it, and the worst admin to student ratio. Apparently, the union knows this but want to try for a parcel tax rather than admit they have too many teachers and schools.

  305. David

    Ralph, I pointed out how OUSD has about 30% more non-teaching staff to students than San Leandro, an average-to-below average district. At least SLUSD doesn’t pay as much as OUSD for its poor results.

  306. Patrick M. Mitchell

    Of the three we potentially face, the only parcel tax I would have considered voting yes on would be OUSD’s. But after reading the article that Ralph references, I wouldn’t even consider it. OUSD: Close schools. Teachers: get your raise via larger class sizes. Parents: If you want your small, declining-enrollment school to stay open, pay for it yourself.

  307. Naomi Schiff

    I think you might find that a majority of the Oakland teachers agree that there is too much admin cost, and that this business of dividing the larger schools up into ever tinier “small schools” has cost way too much in administrative overhead, confusion, and failed programs.

    Thanks to Bill Gates, OUSD received big money–with strings attached. The strings included all these exotically named small schools, which was the fad for a few minutes. Unfortunately, Mr. Gates et al changed their minds, abruptly, and there is no more money from them, but OUSD has to pick up the pieces somehow, and reorganize yet again.

    Included in the Gates initiative were a lot of consultants, many non-teachers trained in the controversial Eli Broad school of businessmen-know-more-than-educators administrator mode. These consultants cost a lot, but did they accomplish anything? Anyway, that’s all over now, as the fad passed over and OUSD is left with the bills and a messed-up structure not well-suited to enrollment fluctuations.

    To me, it is not so much class size, as that the schools may need to be re-consolidated to save administrative and physical overhead. I bet we have more principals and related office staff than would be necessary under the old system.

    Interesting to see how Diane Ravitch has changed her views in the last year.

  308. Livegreen

    Naomi is spot on about the negative impacts of the Gates Foundation. But they weren’t alone in pushing the Small Schools movement onto OUSD & the costs that go wih it.. Locally there’s the Full Circle Fund which still lists their screwing of OUSD as one of their successes:

    Like the Gates Foundation they stayed for 2-3 years and then abandoned the school district with no long-term funding mechanism. Talk about short term thinking. Oh and their partners in crime is the biggest non-profit charity in Oakland, the East Bay Community Foundation (EBCF).

    The EBCF does a lot of good in Oakland but they do it from on high without going to the schools and studying on-the-ground and learning what really works & doesn’t.

    Like many Foundations they’re really good at getting non-profits to write grants and at taking money from rich donors who have their own ideas. So the groups that get funded are either good at writing grants or happen to match what a donor is looking for, but their actual program becomes of secondary importance.

    For once I’d like to see these groups go to the schools and ask them what’s already working? But getting involved on the ground and listening to what’s really needed is not something they like or have time to do.

    BTW, it’s important to not mix up small school size and small class size. You can have small classes in big schools, give the kids more attention, and still save a ton of money.

  309. Ralph

    Find me a teacher who doesn’t think that their school district doesn’t have too many administrators. This has been true for as long as there have been school districts. By definition, if you have more schools than necessary you are going to have more principals etc than necessary. It also mean the inefficient delivery of programs. But at least each principal gets decide what is right for their school, even if it is the exact same thing as delivered to the school next door.

    I have no idea what the Gates Foundation did or did not do. I do know that it takes two parties to agree. I have also seen statistics that average principal tenure is 3 years, and teacher turnover is 15%. These do not seem like conditions conducive to obtaining results. And if I am handing you a check for a $1MM, I want results.

    The school system is obligated to demonstrate how they plan to sustain a program. If the school system can not do this do not blame the grantor when the money is gone. That is failure on the district not the grantor.

    OUSD would be better off if they actually operated like a business and actually considered long-term sustainability.

    LG, not following on EBCF, explain

  310. livegreen

    Ralph, OUSD should operate like a business and consider long-term sustainability, but their funders (like Gates & Full Circle) can act short-term & pull the funding rug out from under them? Sorry that’s not how any business operates.

    If the Gates Foundation shows up & promises to shrink your schools and give you the money for it, then you do it, and then they unexpectedly pull the money after TWO YEARS, you think that’s the fault of OUSD?

    Now OUSD shares a degree of responsibility in that they should have asked for assurances. Maybe they did, maybe they didn’t & maybe they were given, maybe they weren’t. But the Gates Foundation is guilty of having too much money, of unpredictably pulling it out after 2 years (which is short term thinking for anything), and leaving OUSD with a bunch of overhead that they didn’t have before.

    They and the Full Circle Fund are the ones to blame for the failure of setting up the small school movement in Oakland, then under-financing it, & then pulling the financing.

    Now they aren’t to blame for the declining enrollment & empty regular sized schools that OUSD still has to shut down. So there are 2 types of schools OUSD’s saddled with that are over-costing it in administration and facilities. The fault of the under-utilized traditional schools (not the small schools format above) belongs to OUSD & the State.

    & when OUSD tries to shut down some of these, for sure they are going to hear it from parents. But one of the questions regarding this is, will they shut down successful schools or failing schools?

    Now the answer to that sounds obvious to me, but once you throw in social justice, OFCY, and all the rest of the rich vs. poor oversimplifications (forgetting the working & middle classes) of Oakland politics, it’s going to be much more difficult to do than it should be…

  311. Ralph

    LG, It is not the responsibility of Gates or any other funder to determine how the funded program plans to achieve long-term funding. If I give you $1MM and expect you to show results and find a way to sustain the program, and you do neither do not fault me.

    So to your question, if Gates Foundation gives OUSD money to shrink schools, OUSD shrinks schools, shows no improvement and has no method to fund the program long-term, then YES, it is OUSD fault. You do not fund long-term programs on short-term annual competitive grants. It is plain stupid. OUSD and the parents should have known that a grant is not a long-term solution.

    You must compete for grant money. You must demonstrate results. If you accept grant money, you had better have a plan to exist when the money is gone. (Aside: I do give council credit for not falling into that trap regarding grants. In more than a few mtgs I have heard council refer to these issues when it comes to grants.)

    Unless the Gates Foundation said we are going to fund these program for the next five years and pulled out after two, then the Foundation is guilty of nothing. And even then, if OUSD had no plans for year six and beyond, then they were at fault for implementing a program that was in no way sustainable.

    OUSD is in a mess for many reasons, but Foundations withdrawing grants is not one of them.

  312. livegreen

    Ralph, I beg to disagree. My understanding is the Gates Foundation pulled their money early because they made an about face in their prioritization of small schools as part of it’s process (anywhere, not just in Oakland).

    If OUSD knew that Gates would pull it so soon, then yes it was a fool to enter into that agreement. But if Gates expected OUSD or any school district to change in two years then they are equally fools. It could of course be that it was both. & finally -to repeat- my understanding is that it was Gates that unilaterally changed their program priority (and removed their funding) across the board regardless of school district.

    As to blaming either the parents or the teachers, neither had a thing to say about this. It was organized by the Gates, the Full Circle Fund, OUSD Administration, run by the State of CA.

  313. Ralph

    LG, I believe that I was clear when I said, if a foundation pulss funding before the agreed upon end date then they share some of the blame.

    At the same time, if one is entering into a pilot program, then they should know that the program could be cancelled. Further, even if Gates had not made an about face and funded the program for the full nut what would OUSD have done if funding ceased then. When you accept grant money, you need to be prepared for the what ifs. OUSD leadership is not asking the right questions and according to you OUSD parents and teachers are not doing a good enough job of forcing the leadership to ask the right questions.

    I have no idea why GF pulled money in this case. It could be that the long-term economics did not work-out. It would have been financially irresponsible to continue funding the program. I am not sure OUSD and the parents understand that concept.

    We can agree to disagree.

  314. livegreen

    Ralph, We can & I’m not saying OUSD, under State management, was not a participant. But you’re guessing as much as I am about the Gates motives. IF indeed it was a pilot project, Gates should know that 2 years is too short a period to evaluate, and that they would be leaving OUSD in chaos when they pulled.

    Either way, they are in large part to blame. & It does not sound like they are working in a much more coherent or logical method than any other dumb, large, short-term thinking bureaucracy ruled by Politicians.

    Two wrongs don’t make a right. On either side. You’ve made a good point that OUSD shares the blame.

  315. Ralph

    LG, I may do a little backtracking here. While it is impossible to turn around the Titantic at the drop of a hat, if the initial results did not meet expectations and further investment was not expected to show substantial improvement, then withdrawing funding is financially prudent.

    It seems just as likely that after analyzing the economics of a small school, this program was neither sustainable over the long-term in the initial schools nor could it be replicated in other schools. Again, leaving OUSD, or any other school system, in chaos is not the responsibility of the funder. At the end of the day, OUSD is mostly at fault.

    Overall did the program meet its decision point goals? Was it sustainable? What was the return? These are the question that Gates is asking? These are the question anyone who is providing OUSD and those meddling kids money should be asking? People in the public sector are so used to asking mr. taxpayer for another dollar, I think they sometimes forget to ask these questions.

  316. livegreen

    How long does it take to get new schools up & running? Make sure management & programs are in place and working? Then, after that, have a meaningful impact on students many of whom have already been failed by their families?

    I would argue that two years is too short to do even a part of this.

    A couple years ago my father met a philanthropist who criticized the Gates Foundation for not looking for long-term solutions for school problems. This philanthropist argued that schools need long-term assistance to find solutions & changes that work for both the schools & the foundations.

    This criticism of the Gates Foundation is not only from OUSD, and neither is the observation of their short-term ways of thinking.

  317. Ralph

    If you really want to do something good for the schools, provide money for school modernization. Students notice these things. The money, or lack of money, put into school maintenance is a clear indication to these students that people do not care.

    My school is about to undergo a capital campaign to raise several million dollars for a student center, STEM building, and massive maintenance for the Upper School. It has been several decades since the first stone was laid at O-High. There have been many changes in the way we teach our children; we need a school that meet those need. Modernize today. Modernize tomorrow. Modernize forever.

  318. livegreen

    You’re referring to the construction at O-High? Is the capital campaign to pay for all the work that’s already happening there, or additional work to come?

  319. Ralph

    I should clarify. When I say my school, I mean my alma mater. My alma mater is about to undergo a several million dollar capital campaign. Or at least I assume it is given the fancy plans to add 2 state of the art building and a new quad and undergo some much needed capital improvements. Boilerroom is working with 1937 machinery.

    I have no idea if anything is happening at O-High. Last time I was there it was depressing. Students practicing wrestling in the lunchroom. Dust elephants. Computer room behind bars. Just not what a school should be.

  320. Robert Wiles

    The OUSD has been a mess and top-heavy since the later 1970′s. As to individual schools, I do know Rockridge and Hillcrest Elementary schools shared a single principal for years (Mrs. Gebhardt).

  321. Navigator


    Mr. Navigator here. Let’s face it, the Oakland Police Department needs to change. Chief Batts understands this. When we have officers milling around in clusters long after an incident has occurred and then are told that Oakland Officers run from one service call to another, something isn’t right. The Oakland Police Department has made many tactical mistakes in the past which have embarrassed Oakland nationally.

    Also, 94% of Oakland cops live outside of the city. Those high salaries go to home purchases in Pleasanton, San Ramon, Castro Valley, Alameda, Danville etc. These generous salaries are spent outside of Oakland. You obviously don’t care for the city THAT much if 94% of you choose to live outside Oakland city limits.. Oakland cops don’t have a vested interest in making the city better since they don’t live in Oakland. Also, the Police Department needs to take some responsibility for the level of crime. You point to a controversial study which stated that Oakland was the third most dangerous city in the country. You used this study to denigrate Oakland and make the case for your compensation. One could also make the case that Oakland residents aren’t getting their money’s worth.

  322. livegreen

    Hey Nav, Where does the 94% of Officers living outside Oakland come from? Thanks.

  323. livegreen

    Ralph, O-High has some brand new building almost finished. Don’t know what it is but at least they have something new. Also don’t know if it’s being paid for by the debt the State is leaving OUSD, or by Measure B.

    Either way, I hope the kids get something better. BTW, last time I checked O-High’s API scores were only a little bit off O-Tech and Skyline. Considering it’s reputation is much worse, maybe it isn’t deserved.

  324. Born in Oakland

    The new Oakland High Building will house new science labs. It has WINDOWS!! I think there is another building planned for construction after the completion of the current one. There is a new principal at Oakland High who is a dynamo!

  325. Naomi Schiff

    The construction money is separate, I believe.

    The thing about the Gates debacle: OUSD was being run BY THE STATE supposedly, at the time. So not sure whom to blame. One of the fly-by-night state administrators that came blowing through here, courtesy of Mr. O’Connell?

    It’s all very well to blame the school board if you like, but I think the state takeover was even worse than the locals, and did us very longterm, costly, un-pay-backable harm.

  326. len raphael

    Ralph, I’ll read the EBE article.

    Naomi, I never had much sympathy for local control advocates until I read your post. I can see that state control could have encouraged a very short term view of accepting all grants without too much concern about what to do when the grants end. But that probably would have happened under local control too.

    i was never paranoid that Broad and Gates were planning to make zillions in the education market. Assumed they were doing a ‘let a thousand flowers bloom” thing, throwing money at the problems and seeing what worked. Oakland was a simi grateful guinea pig. Ok, so most of it didn’t work, and they didn’t bother building in safeguards to prevent Oakland from building an even higher permanent admin, higher consultant cost structure.

    not clear how much of the consultant cost is due to state mandated care for special needs kids and how much is “curriculum development” . Anyone know who to analyse the consultant costs?

    They should have treated Oakland the way Gates Foundation treats third world countries’ health problems. Sustainable solutions more important than optimal.

    Between parents who understandably don’t want their kids bussed or forced to take AC transit long distances, custodians with strong union and political clout, etc. it’s gonna be a another oakland wrenching experience. at least it seems Tony Smith and the school board are facing it head on.

    if ousd closes a bunch of schools, lays off custodians, lops off a bunch of HQ high end and clerical, and they get agreement from union on teacher evaluation/firing, i’d go door to door to support a parcel tax that raised comp for all ousd teachers including charter.

    -len raphael

  327. Mike

    there’s always room for improvement and change but the chief has never made any allegations that officers are constantly “milling around” in clusters. He only mentiond one incident and that was an officer involved shooting – an unusual occurrence. You have no idea what you’re talking about, why the officers are on scene and what they they are doing. Officers still have to discuss investigations, follow up on witnesses, discuss how the scene was handled, any potential suspects, things to add in the report, etc etc. Who are YOU to determine when an incident is over?

    We deal with very violent and dangerous people. I would not feel comfortable with my wife and children living in the same city I work and some criminal recognizing me when I am with them and making a mental note of what my family looks like. And at a later date seeing my wife alone when I’m not with her and attempting to harm her. Living in the city you patrol is safety concern for an officer. But living in the city also has absoluetly nothing to do with how effective your police force is. Morale, public support, administrative support, pay, peer support, and good working conditions do.

    I never denigrated Oakland. I merely stated the facts about its crime levels, which happen to have been reduced recently 16% thanks to OPD. The police are not “responsible” for crime levels. That’s ludricous. CRIMINALS are responsible for crime. The police can’t do it all themselves. Parents needd to be role models for their children. And people in the community need to take some responsibility and help the police. We can’t do it all. We can’t be everywhere at once. It doesn’t help us when there are a dozen witnesses to a crime and not one will come forward to help us as a witness because they don’t want to be a “snitch”. It’s called community policing. The community needs to work WITH the police instead of complaining we aren’t doing anything and yet they refuse to help. We are not magicians. You are out of touch with reality.

  328. Mike

    And let me add regarding how hard OPD works. Here’s a quote directly from the chief:

    Batts, who joined the department Oct. 19, said he has developed strong respect for the officers and employees under his command. But he added that he believes the workload is “almost double” what a department the size of Oakland’s should be expected to handle.

    “What I have found in the police organization, honestly, from my perspective, is that the police organization is broken,” he said. “The demand on this Police Department is greater than the resources and capabilities to keep up with it.”

    So if you’re going to take a quote out of context, try telling the WHOLE truth instead of talking about a single incident and making it appear to be the norm…

  329. Max Allstadt

    For the record, at a standoff on Athens Ave. last year, I saw exactly the same “hanging around” after the incident was resolved. A dude was holed up in his house with a rifle. OPD came, they dealt with it without anybody getting hurt. They then stood around on San Pablo, blocking the street for over an hour after the suspect had been apprehended.

    And they weren’t just discussing the job. They were clearly hanging out and sort of celebrating, while blocking traffic, and also preventing people from going back into their homes which were behind the police line. I also saw one threaten to arrest a reporter for getting too close with a camera. This was all AFTER the gunman was in custody.

    And it was also after any sense of urgency had disappeared from the faces of the officers. They were smiling, strolling around, patting eachother on the back, and looking pretty jubilant. Can’t blame them for being happy that a West Oakland incident ended peacefully. But I think I can blame them for being happy about it for an hour in the middle of a major street, and preventing people from going into their houses because of it.

  330. Mike

    Oh Max give it a rest. You’re not a cop.

    After a suspect is taken into custody, a crime scene needs to be “processed”. Technicians need to process evidence etc. Sometimes statements need to be taken from witnesses and/or a canvass for witnesses needs to be done. Sometimes investigators need to come to the scene from home. Officers need to keep people from entering the crime scene until it is closed. Only an hour?? That’s nothing! You should just be happy and jubilant that OPD resolved the incident without anyone getting hurt you fool.

  331. Max Allstadt


    There were at least 30 cops there. Half of them weren’t doing shit. They weren’t working, they weren’t doing security around the perimeter. They were chatting with each other, laughing, and hanging around. The incident was in the middle of Athens Ave, which is 1000 feet long, and they were blocking San Pablo. And I said “over an hour” not only an hour.

    I’m getting really sick of your unwillingness to acknowledge anything has ever gone wrong at OPD. It’s just utter bullshit. Your department is still under a DOJ consent decree, because a Judge is convinced it hasn’t shaped up yet.

    I challenged you to relate a story where OPD officers had done something wrong in your presence recently. No response. I’m beginning to think you might be one of the department’s PR staffers, a high ranking union rep, or something. If you are, let me give you some advice:

    This forum is not the same as the news. It’s not the same as a press conference. People on this forum discuss issues from a holistic, multi-sided perspective. Nobody is going to be persuaded for a second that you’re a credible source of inside information if you never ever admit that anything improper has been done by a member of your force.

    There are other members of the force who chime in here from time to time, and are respected. They don’t talk about OPD mistakes either, but they also don’t get in to long winded debates against every allegation of wrongdoing against OPD. Instead, they post accurate statistics, or short explanations of procedures. If you want to maintain the blue wall and still be engaged here, that’s about all you can do that will still get you respect.

    Your department may have a reputation that is overly negative. But that reputation didn’t snowball out of nowhere. There are flaws. How is it that an officer brave enough to patrol a violent city isn’t brave enough to admit that sometimes his peers make mistakes?

    What’s the logic here? Is the principle that you follow that cops can learn from their mistakes amongst themselves, but admitting them in public makes you weak?

    The very reason that Chief Batts is so popular is that unlike that Elmer Fudd lookalike he replaced, he’s telling the public that there are problems within the force!

  332. Mike

    Of course mistakes are made. I already said there in no oraganization in the world that doesn’t make mistakes – even the best of the best. But you people are simply attempting to paint it as the norm which is inaccurate.

    One of the flaws in the way some people argue a point is to take a handful of examples and use that as a way to justify your point of view while disregading the thousands of examples that are on the opposing side. I can find an example of ANYTHING in the world and then say “see I told you so” to try and prove a point but that wouldn’t make my point correct because I would be ignoring everything else that contradicts my viewpoint But that is exactly what you are doing. A totaly flawed way of arguing a point. You’re not being fair. You’re just making a big bitch session about the police and you don’t even know what you’re talking about.

    Like I said, the crime scene isn’t over when the suspect is taken into custody. You don’t know what’s going on INSIDE the house. There’s evidence to be processed and collected. The security neeeds to be maintained. You complained because the street is blocked. Well it HAS to stay blocked until the scene is closed – period. That’s way it’s done nationwide. A guy with a rifle is a big deal! It was handled great. And SO WHAT if there were a bunch of cops hanging around BSing for a little while after he was taken into custody?? Jesus Christ we’re busting asses for and overworked and and handled an incident supurbly. I think we’re entitled to a little breather for a few minutes while we process what just happened and unwind a bit before we hit the streets again and deal with the next gun toting criminal on our 10 and 12 hour shifts. It’s human nature and HEALTHY for emergency responders to actually take a few to talk with one another after a critical incident. We need to do that for our emotional survival. We’re not friggin machines you idiot – we’re human beings.

    There’s my answer you jerk.

  333. David

    You know Mike, we could solve the understaffing problem by cutting pay by 30% and increasing the numbers of officers…I agree that cops can’t be everywhere, but with 30% more officers we’d have 30% more “somewheres.”

    As for recognizing your wife etc. that’s an utter BS excuse. You’re telling me that on $100+K salary plus overtime, you can’t afford a “safe neighborhood” in Oakland? You need some financial advice then on how to budget, my rate is only $100/hr, plus 1% of assets under management. You mentioned “Mayberry” before…guess what? My great-uncle was a judge, now retired. Lives out in the suburbs outside of Minneapolis, probably one of the safest places in America. His house was torched by a guy he put in prison years before and finally got out (he wasn’t in the house at the time). A guy really wants to stalk you, he’ll find you in Pleasonton or Alameda.

  334. Mike

    assuming you live in a “safe” neighborhood, you still have to leave it to go shopping, go to the movies, drive in and out of the city, etc. So you have to travel around the city and leave your neighborhood to a degree – that’s where the issue is.

    But, there really is no “safe” neighborhhod anyway. A lot of the so called “safe” neighborhoods have burglaries and street robberies. You may not be aware of it because all the muggings don’t make the news and you haven’t been victimized yourself but it happens often.

    You are correct, that if a guy really wants to stalk me personally he can find me yes. But that’s not what I’m talking about. I’m talking about a crime of opportunity (which most crimes are) when someone happens to incidentally recognize me with my family.
    But even if I didn’t work there, I personally would not feel safe with my family living there. The crime is simply too high in Oakland for my comfort.

  335. len raphael

    did the chron misquote Chief Batts ” As part of that change, Batts has given dispatchers the authority to redeploy officers after an incident is resolved”

    everyone in oakland has seen the post incident donut shop effect over the years.

    part of it surely is decompression time.

    part of it looks very similar to what you see when people work way too much OT in any kind of work.

    -len raphael

  336. David

    Mike, I’ll remind you I was mugged. Somehow I doubt you have ever in “civilian” mode visited the spot where I was mugged (34th and MLK).

    You really think that you’ll be incidentally recognized at, say, the Rockridge Safeway and mugged or whatever? At the Emeryville movie theater? at a restaurant in Berkeley? Piedmont Ave? Really? That’s your excuse? I’d give a lot more credence to being worried about someone tracking you to your house than that excuse, especially coming from a guy who insinuated I was barely a man for defending myself against 3 muggers. Heck, I’d even believe you if you mentioned getting out of Oakland because of the schools. But you really think some guy is going to, say, Montclair village to try to beat you up and that’s why you don’t live in Oakland? wow.

    Anyway, since I don’t have a huge amount of disposable income, I actually don’t leave my pleasant, Deep East Oakland hood all that much to go to the movies or whatever (but I do loves me some FoodMaxx shopping and Ben’s Burgers), so maybe I missed the part where roving gangs were hunting down off-duty cops, but it still seems like it doesn’t happen much.

  337. Mike

    No David,
    You have reading comprehension issues.

    I’m worried about my wife and kids getting mugged, car jacked, assaulted, etc, especially if some dirtbag recognizes that they are associated with me. And there are plenty of street robberies (muggings) in the good neighborhoods – get it?

  338. Mike

    yes and it also stated that the chief wants to hire an additional 100 officers, (878 total I believe) to accomplish his goals. If OPD wasn’t so short of officers, there wouldn’t be a need for overtime……..

    One of the reasons the chief is so popular is that he supports and believes in the the people in the field.

  339. livegreen

    Len & Max, I saw the report in the paper Len is referring to, for exactly the same reason Max mentions. Apparently the Chief agrees with Max.

    Mike, There are plenty of safe areas in Oakland you & your family would be safe in. I know a couple Officers who live in Oakland and they seem fine with it. I also know a couple who don’t and I agree with you, they seem genuinely concerned about Oakland. Of course they’re in Community Policing so I don’t know if that applies to all.

    However it would be nice to have more Officers who live in Oakland for 2 reasons: –They wouldn’t be automatically afraid of the City or it’s residents (like you seem to be); –It would ensure that they have a vested interest in the fiscal success of the City & the second a pay raise happens in SF or somewhere else they won’t flee for the next higher pay check. Or argue repeatedly that no matter how much hurt the City is in there shouldn’t be any salary/benefit give-backs.

  340. Naomi Schiff

    I don’t think it is helpful in a discussion to call anyone a jerk. Pardon me for being old-fashioned, but in general name-calling does not elevate the discourse.

  341. Ralph

    Hasn’t Mike stated multiple times that the OPD is not perfect. No organization is.

    Is it not reasonable to expect there to be some after the incident processing? Isn’t also fair that officer take a minute to decompress after an incident.

    This idea that a non-resident officer is not vested is bull. You don’t take the job if you don’t want to improve the community you serve. Heck, you probably don’t get out of the academy. In certain high stressful positions, you need to be able to get away from your work. I feel the exact same way when people demand that teachers live in the community. Times aren’t as they were 80 years ago.

    When my mom started teaching, students routinely called our house. It was as if she could never get away. Got so bad, the ‘rents had to go to an unlisted number. If the students could have walked to the house they probably would. Heck for all I know some may have, I was knee high to a grasshopper at the time. You want your police and teachers to be fresh for the battles they face, let them live where they need to live to recharge and decompress. Some are going to choose to live in the environment, but it should be their choice not some mandated community requirement.

  342. livegreen

    On the other hand it should be pointed out Officers have both an incredibly stressful job, and being on patrol mostly in the more dangerous areas of town, are regularly insulted by the portion of citizens who hate the Police. They are entitled to a little down time occasionally.

    That said, I agree with Max & the Chief, it should not be while on the job or more than is necessary.

  343. Mike


    I guess either you guys didn’t pass high school reading or just like to twist around and manipulate what I say to try and get a rise out of me. I’m concerned for my family: wife and kids. It’s not like there’s a wall built sealing off the bad areas from the good areas. I don’t want my family driving around in this town. Criminals also have mobility and drive around in more affluent areas looking for victims, often times following them until they park their car.

    Yes I’m so afraid. That’s why I work here instead of in Saratoga while you push pencils for a living.

  344. David

    Again, I must have missed where roving gangs of thugs were beating up officers’ wives and families, following them while driving etc. Seriously. But way to hide behind your wife’s skirts. You really think you’re protected in Pleasonton or Castro Valley or Alameda?

    LG, you forgot the most important reason. Not sure Mike would be so gung-ho about jacking up his property taxes ad infinitum if he actually owned a house here. But hey, as long as the money’s only coming out of my food budget, by all means, here’s my wallet. Hypocritical much?

  345. livegreen

    As far as not having walls, true, but how can you infer some areas aren’t safe enough to live in? Saying that shows you really don’t know Oakland very well.
    OPD has an incident list that shows some neighborhood beats are safer than others. It assigns beat patrols accordingly. Are you saying OPD is wrong?

    & Mike, just because I’m in another line of work than you, doesn’t mean I don’t have a right to disagree with you, including a well reasoned disagreement.

    Between your unjustifiable fear of all of Oakland (which I grant you have a right to) & your insulting people, I think you’re making the argument that we should have more (not only) Officers who live in (and care for) Oakland.

  346. livegreen

    BTW Mike, I was never trying to get a rise out of you, and I don’t even see where it would. So maybe the rise came from within.

  347. Ralph

    Safe is a relative term. Areas have less crime. Less crime does not equate to safer. An area can have less crime than the neighboring district and still not meet a person’s definition of safe.

    If an officer opts not live in Oakland I am cool with it. A person does not need to live in a city to care for a city. And a person living in a city does not necessarily care for a city – witness the number of people who never vote.

    I disagree with Mike on officer pay, but overall I think he cares.

  348. len raphael

    I’m with Ralph on the relative safety issue. Oaklander’s capacity to accept high crime risks even in lower crime areas is a tribute to human’s ability to adapt. eg. residents of temescal don’t express much concern about crime, but i don’t any of them walking around after 8pm on the side streets either.

  349. livegreen

    There’s a difference between high crime & some degree of crime. It’s simply not true that there are no safe areas of Oakland. & I agree some Officers chose not to live here do care about Oakland. Again, I know several who do & several who don’t.

    It is one thing to say they’re an Officer in Oakland that choses not to live here.
    It’s another to say they “don’t want my family driving around in this town”. That is not somebody who understands or even knows Oakland.

  350. Ralph

    LG, again high crime and some degree of crime is relative. It may take one rape for someone to decide this is a high crime area. Some people think 100 murders is high. Considering I have lived in cities, similar to size as Oakland, that have had 3x as many murders, 100 barely registers. It is relative. You can really own define how much is too much for you.

  351. len raphael

    LG, you must have friends/family who live other places who are reluctant to drive let alone walk around here. mostly seems to be people from the bay area whom i know, not out of towners.

  352. Mike

    I doubt Livegreen “knows” ANY officers personaly let alone “several” officers and what their personal choices or residences are.

    What a crock of lies and unsubstantiated nonsense.

  353. livegreen

    Len, none who’ve told me so directly but I wouldn’t be surprised if they are. Doesn’t mean they’re right though if, say, they were scared about driving on Piedmont Ave., Grand Lake, Park Blvd., Mandana, Skyline, College Ave., etc., etc., etc.

  354. Naomi Schiff

    I walk all over town, and on side streets after 8 pm too, including in the Temescal, West Oakland, Downtown, east of the lake, my own Harrison/Oakland Ave area. Lately several times walked from the 16th St. and Wood St. to my house, in the evening. This place felt far less safe years ago, when people absolutely did not walk around the lake at night unless accompanied by large dogs, and when there was shotgun fire on my street. Bad as it is, West Oakland is much less threatening now than it was then. Parts of East Oakland have improved too, over the long haul. It is extremely hard to judge the safety or the impacts of crime on the basis of particular incidents. The wider-view statistical approach makes more sense. Of course I was upset when my house was robbed. But generalizing from it, not so useful. With greater information being exchanged, there’s more awareness of people’s victim stories, but that doesn’t necessarily mean that the actual number of crimes is going up. It seems it is not increasing.

  355. livegreen

    Mike, With no answer to my exact points, you’ve chosen to insult me 3x in this thread. & I still don’t know what it is that got a rise out of you about my statement above. Not knowing me, you have no basis to doubt whether I know OPD Officers. You’re choosing to because it makes you feel more comfortable in your opinion without having to address either people who disagree with you, or question your own opinions. I even extended an olive branch to you earlier in the thread and you’ve chosen to reject that too.

    I know several PSO Officers on a first name basis from working with my NC (NCPC). The ones that live in Oakland I know because they’ve told me, and the same with the one who doesn’t. One of those who did, I know where he grew up and where he went to school in Oakland. And he’s one of two officers who’s been to my house.

    Our PSO officers & CRT have made a direct, positive impact in the lives of our family & neighbors. As a result of both this and knowing how much flack you guys take on the Streets, I make it a point every time I have a chance to thank OPD Officers for the hard work they do and for making a difference.

  356. Robert Wiles

    Max, Mike’s narrow and sometimes polyanna view grates for me, too. Unfortunately he has several good reasons for NOT airing dirty laundry here. First, while this is a ‘sort of’ anonymous forum, in practice it’s a “confidential” forum. His identity may be determined and some attempts to compel him to discuss/disclose to supposedly injured parties.

    Given the expecations of perfection some citizens have for OPD, any hint of a mea culpa gets beaten to political death. Maybe if Burris and his ilk are … gone… we may see some hint of voluntary discussion of error.

  357. Robert Wiles

    David, you’re right, if someone is REALLY determined, he can probably find you. Given some of the crimes committed these days, would you put YOUR family at greater risk than necessary?

    I’d prefer more police lived locally, too, along with school teachers, firemen and just about any city employee from a “stake in the game” angle. Perhaps a ‘stipend’ for it? :)

  358. Robert Wiles

    If we’re going to talk about police and budgets, about 2 years ago I spoke with the Deputy Chief about disaster preparation. In short, he was not at all interested in seeing Oakland residents prepared for civil disorder as might be after a major disaster (particularly the natural kind).

    I suggested to Ms Brunner’s office that the City Council direct the OPD to prepare itself for and encourage citizens to prepare with training specifically for dealing with breakdown of civil order.

    You can guess the response. At least the Deputy Chief called me back and was direct….

  359. Ralph

    LG, to be honest with you, the use of the word several calls into question just how many people you are identifying. Several is more than two and fewer than many. Is it 100s or 3? I doubt in this usage you are talking 100s and you might just be referring to 3.

    The world several appears multiple (30) times on this page – Worked with several editors, several boom and bust cycles, deer was shot several times, a several million dollar capital campaign, know several people losing homes….was that 5 editors, 4 cycles, 7 shots, $6MM of $65MM, 8 people. For me, several can be too vague, especially, when with a little reasoning you, or anyone, can probably estimate the true number.

  360. Mike

    Thanks Ralph

    Livegreen is a big embellisher and BSer. He thinks because he attends a community meeting and the PSOs introduce themselves to the whole group and that he may have had a few friendly words with a few of them, he now “knows” them as if he were their buddies and all their personal intimate reasons for living in or out of Oakland. And he knows “several” of them too. If I were to ask them who HE was, with all the people they contact, they likely would have no idea who I was talking about.

    I wonder if he also tells the PSO officers that he “knows” so well on a first name basis and always thanks for all the hard work they do, that he thinks they are overpaid and their pensions are overinflated? Give me a break.

    I’m going to Hawaii. Ya’ll can have this place and it’s petty cheap shots – later!

  361. Livegreen

    Ralph, I just mentioned two examples even though I know several officers. Mike doubted I know “any”. A debate about the word several seems a little off topic.

  362. Livegreen

    Oh, geez. I never said they were my buddies, I do know three of them on a first time basis, & they would know who I am if u mentioned my name. Cheap shots? That is the pot calling the kettle black. Name the cheap shot I’ve made, and answer the points I’ve made (that you have ignored) while you’re at it.

    I don’t expect you will, or that you can without going into some personal assault at the same time.

  363. len raphael

    calling other people bull shittters sounds like bs to me. not ok.

    Rbt W, cc has much more important matters to discuss like boycotting AZ, than preparing for public security when the big one hits. And yes, that would be the only time it could make a big difference not having many opd and ofd people living here.
    New Orleans is an extreme example but depends on how bad the disaster hits outlying areas.

    Maybe Redevelop Agency will have a few pennies left after we’ve sold them city hall and the state legislature has sucked them drier, to buy some of the soon to be vacant OUSD sites for opd, ofd, and ousd housing sites. limited equity deals. I’d much prefer parks or even supermarkets there, but not empty and not firesale prices to private developers.

    -len raphael

  364. Ralph

    LG, I point out the use of several because in the context in which you used it, one can easily dismiss it. Heck, I dismissed your usage, the number of editors, the times the deer was shot, and the boom and bust cycles becuase each of these can be easily quantified.

    My teachers taught me that it is better to be precise. Several is an imprecise word and should not be used. (Using several to prove a point is certainly not going to win over someone like Mike who disagrees with you.) I am going to hop on my N.S. highhorse and say I can digest, “I know between 15 and 20″ (or whatever the number is) easier than “I know several.” Just my $0.11.

    Wow, you know 3 officers…out of what 700 plus

  365. Livegreen

    Ralph, The definition of several is more than 3 but not many. I used that definition correctly. & where above did I claim that knowing several officers (3 on a first name basis) was a big deal?

    The only reason I even said I know any is because Mike’ without knowing me, said “I doubt Livegreen “knows” ANY officers personaly let alone “several” officers and what their personal choices or residences are. What a crock of lies and unsubstantiated nonsense.”. When I tell him he’s wrong you blame me for saying I made some “wow” factor out of it? I did no such thing.

    Now not only has Mike been repeatedly wrong about me, and not only has he chosen to insult people here he disagrees with, but both he & u are choosing to argue symantics which (right or wrong) fail to support your own arguments. Namely claiming that Oakland is not a safe place for Officers to live in or that all parts of the City are so unsafe that some “don’t want my family driving around in this town”.

    I state again, that is not somebody who understands or even knows Oakland, it certainly does not reflect the opinions of the several Officers I know, and “it would be nice to have more Officers who live in Oakland for 2 reasons: –They wouldn’t be automatically afraid of the City or it’s residents (like you seem to be); –It would ensure that they have a vested interest in the fiscal success of the City & the second a pay raise happens in SF or somewhere else they won’t flee for the next higher pay check. Or argue repeatedly that no matter how much hurt the City is in there shouldn’t be any salary/benefit give-backs.”

    Now are u going to debate this point or argue about the definition of “several” or doubt that I know any officers & on the basis of either productively call me a “BSer”?
    I have a feeling I know the answer but I’ll let you surprise me.

  366. Mry

    hmm, I don’t know. I’m not a police officer, but I am a resident. I’m not sure I would swallow taking another pay cut when my own mayor or some of my cc members have not at all.

  367. Robert Wiles

    My interest in seeing Oakland officers live in Oakland is not limited to one factor. A large measure is having them handier in a crisis. I feel there might be greater investment if living here, too. Not to mention it creates potential for other interaction with Oakland’s citizens.

  368. Ralph

    LG, do you even have a basic comprehension of English. Where did you ever obtain the impression in anything I wrote that I am either afraid of the city or its residents?

    Further, how many times do I need to tell you that you can not define another person’s safety. I never stated one way or the other if Oakland is safe or unsafe. I said that you can not define another person’s safety. Is that a difficult concept. Safety is relative.

    I have never thought that a public employee should be required to live where they work. Thankfully, the city can not require this so no real point in discussing.

    Again, SF raised PD pay after Oakland. Do you honestly think that officers just flee one jurisdiction for another for the money? If so, seek help.

    Did you miss the multiple times I stated that OPD should give back. Did you miss the statement, “I disagree with Mike on pay…”

    I should stop writing now because clearly your comprehension skills are lacking. But since you want a discussion on “several” here…

    The problem with several is the way people use and interpret it. One can very well use the word correctly but some people use it as a show of overwhelming evidence to make some something appear bigger than it actually is.

    Several shots were fired or four shot were fired. Both technically correct, but you can see several leaves open a wide possibility.

    If I told my manager that I can not perform an assignment because I devote several hours a month to completing the 10×8 reports, he will want to know how many hours. Precision is better, especially when you can give it. And you could have given it. Heck, I was ready to call BS on you.

    By the way your order is wrong, you first made a point of knowing several officers…

  369. livegreen

    Ralph, I was quoting Mike, not you. I wasn’t even referring to your words.

    I chose the word “several”, I used it accurately (as defined “Being of a number more than two or three but not many”), I chose to use it & have a right to, even if you don’t want me to. For some weird reason you have a problem with it.

    & you don’t have to throw insults like “do you even have a basic comprehension of English” & “clearly your comprehension skills are lacking”.

    Man, who would think saying “I know several” would work two people who disagree with you on something into such a tizzy? God forbid we could stick to substance.

  370. Ralph

    LG, you brought that insult upon yourself, when you addressed me with this, “They wouldn’t be automatically afraid of the City or it’s residents (like you seem to be).” I was neutral in my prior comments, but after that little remark gloves came off.

    “Ralph, I was quoting Mike, not you.” I have no idea to what you are referring.

    My only point with “several” was interpretation. It wasn’t about correct usage; it was about being able to see a different side. You were hellbent on defending your correct usage without understanding why Mike took exception to it.

    Ask yourself this, have you changed the meaning any if you write “of the Officers I know” instead of “of the several officers I know”

  371. Mike

    Keep going Ralphie! A jab, a jab, a jab, a straight right – POW right on the kisser! You’ve got Livegreen on the ropes! He’s running, tryin to slip your punches but you’re landing hard. He’s a master at manipulating conversation but you’ve got him outright. Go for thr KO!!

  372. livegreen

    Ralph, I didn’t address that at you, I used it twice addressing Mike. The first time I said that was directly at him, and the 2nd time I was writing to you but referring to him and re-quoted myself. It was never directed at you.

  373. Ralph

    LG, your 2:36 post is addressed to me. My eyesight might be bad, but I know my name when I see it.

    Thread Locks. I hear the Jamaicans have them.

  374. livegreen

    Ralph, I was addressing the post to you but referring to Mike in the 3rd Paragraph. In the 4th I said “I state again, that is not somebody who understands or even knows Oakland [Mike], it certainly does not reflect the opinions of the several Officers I know” and then went on to repeat my comments directed towards him (Mike). I referred to other Officers, etc. & thought that was clear.

    Again, those comments were not directed towards you. Sorry if that wasn’t clear.

    V, I agree.

  375. Born in Oakland

    Yikes….time out guys, you are beginning to sound like 10 year olds. (my opinion only)

  376. Navigator

    I’m pretty sure “Mike” isn’t an Oakland cop. He only quotes news articles and never mentions specific locations. Mike is likely a firefighter or union representative from outside of Oakland who is yanking our chain. And with all of the heated insults thrown around, I’m sure glad Mike isn’t an armed Oakland cop. The insults directed at Max , Livegreen, and others, were uncalled for.

  377. David

    I would tend to agree, Nav, as cops work more than Mike does. Firemen or union parasites on the other hand…

  378. Livegreen

    Nav, U mtd in a post recently the % of cops who live in Oakland. Was that a firm stat & if so, where did it come from, ol& is there a link?

  379. Navigator


    I remember the figure from years ago when the city was fighting for a residency requirement or at the very least that cops would have to live within a certain radius of Oakland because of emergency or natural disasters issues.. Of course the Oakland Police Union was up in arms.
    I’ll try to find a link on it but I do remember a figure of around 6% and this was years ago.

  380. livegreen

    If you can find a link that would be great. Jean Quan has mentioned she’d like to know why we don’t have more Oakland residing Officers. Part of the OPD Recruiting Unit appears to consider residents of the Valley the highest qualified.

  381. len raphael

    Nav, i appreciate that in a more perfect world, more cops should live here. i’m much more concerned about the much larger number of young people with kids who aren’t cops who leave town when they face the incredible stress of getting into a decent oakland public school.

    -len raphael

  382. Ralph

    If one is looking for percent of OPD living in Oakland, I recommend checking the the video from last winter’s* public safety mtg. This may not answer the question, but I recall JQ asking similar and possibly the same question at one of those meetings.

    * Feb 09 – Mar 09

  383. Erich Weiss

    I don’t have the capacity to follow this thread for the 1st mention of residency requirements or how that mention was related to the current budget situation. What I can state is my opinion that where an officer chooses to live has nothing to do with his/her work ethic – or ethics in general. While I see the obvious point that having “some skin in the game” may result in a furthered vested interest in working toward public safety, I don’t think one can say that a lack of local residency decreases an officer’s commitment by affect. The truth is that it is more difficult for a sworn member to feel at ease in a community where they are constantly reminded of and barraged by negative experiences and contacts, no matter the reality of that perception.

    I’d also like to echo David’s 29 April posting. I didn’t see pointless anger; I saw common sense application of a free market theory. The correct amount to pay for public safety salary and benefits is an amount that attracts and retains qualified officers.

    And let me gently nudge us all back to a central point – it is not the fault of officers for accepting their current benefits and pay. The elected officials spent money hand over fist after losing their sense of guardianship for our future. The right thing to do may be to give up a percentage now, but the solution to the problem as a whole remains more elusive.

  384. len raphael

    The pensive discussion toward the end of last night’s cc meeting about the upcoming pre calpers pension bonds refi date suggests that there will a huge demand for the investment bankers to create instruments to refi the vast muni and state retirement obligations into spread the payback over the next 50 years on to the backs of gen x and y’ers. Maybe some nudging from the Fed, some exemption from anti trust rules to spread the default risks etc.

    RK requesting long term projections. Do older cc have a different time horizon, as in if we can just get thru the next ten years, maybe we can squeeze by with a combo 2 tier compensation and population growth.