Category Archives: oakland

Greg McConnell: Is Oakland Worth It?

This guest post was written by Gregory McConnell, President and CEO of the Jobs and Housing Coalition, which represents major businesses in Oakland.

Many Oakland business people are asking whether Oakland is still a good place to invest. As I talk to small and big business people all around the city, I hear the constant question. Is it time to pack up and leave?

Phil Tagami told me that several tenants have talked to him about leaving the Rotunda and taking hundreds of jobs out of the city. The small shops in Frank Ogawa Plaza report that business is off 30 to 50%. The Tribune Tower managers say they can no longer tolerate the fact that their building is frequently forced to close because Broadway between 13th and 14th Streets is usually the epicenter of unrest.

On Wednesday, a client attending a conference at the Marriott called and asked if it was safe to eat at Jack London Square, I told her no, it had been shut down. Another business group that has invested in Oakland brought its national board of directors to the Bay Area. They too had plans to stay at the Marriott and visit potential sites in Oakland for new investment. Instead, they went to San Francisco fearful of riots and unruly mobs.

City officials are assessing the impact of the occupancy on our fragile economy. They will be looking at reduced sales at restaurants, lost revenues at retail outlets, lost leases, and lost jobs. We will have empirical evidence soon, but for people who lost a lot in broken windows and shattered confidence, and workers who have been told to go home, or have been laid off, the impacts are already known.

All of this begs the question. Is Oakland worth it?

No, if our leaders allow long-term unlawful occupancy of our public spaces. No, if the police are forced to hide away in the City Center parking lot under a “minimal presence” order, thereby forcing property owners to arm themselves and risk their lives. No, if graffiti and broken windows are acceptable. No, if the city does not protect the people that employ the 99% and serve the residents.

On the other hand, there are many reasons to say yes. Oakland is still one of the most beautiful places on the planet. It is rich with caring, intelligent people who work hard and engage in community affairs. We have young entrepreneurs who are opening small businesses. We have new innovative companies like Pandora, Sungevity and BrightSource Energy that are bring thousands of jobs to the city. Large corporations have established foundations that give back, Kaiser foundation and the Rogers Family Foundation are just a couple of examples.

Most Oaklanders share the outrage at the failure of our economic system. It rewards a small segment and seems to ignore the plight of every day working people who are losing jobs, homes, investments, and worse, the optimism that has always allowed us to think that our lives will get better. The Occupy Movement has brought this to our nation’s attention. For this, we are grateful.

Nevertheless, we have to distinguish between our shared anger at Wall Street and the occupancy of Frank Ogawa Plaza and lawlessness in our streets. Oakland’s business people are not Wall Street profiteers. They are people like you and me who wake up in the morning and work to feed their families.

The owner of Café Teatro hires four people to sell coffee and sandwiches. She is not rich and she is not exploiting anyone. The owner of Rising Loafer is in the same boat. Well before the occupancy, she frequently talked to me about her outrage at corporate America. Tully’s supported the occupancy with donations of food and cleaning supplies, before their windows were smashed. Each of these businesses will be forced to shut down, and the people they employ will be jobless, if the unlawful occupancy of Ogawa Plaza and violence in the streets continues.

I believe that this too shall pass. It needs to happen soon. If it does, YES, OAKLAND IS WORTH IT. But, if we don’t do something soon to change our downward spiral, we may lose the city.

On Thursday night, I took visiting business people to Pican Restaurant. My mission was to help a local business, which has seen a 40% decline in sales over the last few weeks, while trying to give potential Oakland businesses confidence that the city is still functioning. I hope others will do something similar to support Oakland businesses that create jobs and revenues for this struggling city.

We all honor Oakland’s long history of promoting peace and justice. Nevertheless, we need to acknowledge that there is a big difference between supporting efforts to change Wall Street and the unlawful encampment that is destroying the city, our local business people, and their employees.

I urge the residents of Oakland to tell our leaders that support for changing Wall Street and ending unconscionable corporate greed, does not equate to support for an on-going unlawful occupancy. Please write the Mayor, the Council, and the City Administrator. Tell them to end the occupancy and lawlessness in our streets. Let them know that this caring community also cares about working people and businessmen and women who bring jobs to the city.

When we make that clear, I trust that our leaders will find a way to end the unlawful occupancy. If they do not, perhaps we will need to end the occupancy outside and inside city hall.

MOBN: Oakland needs a comprehensive public safety strategy, not piecemeal public safety proposals

This guest post was written by Michael Ferro, Frank Castro, and Bruce Nye of Make Oakland Better Now!.

On Tuesday night, Oakland’s City Council will address the City’s growing crime problems the way it approaches most problems: reactively. Rather than confronting the issue with a well-thought-out overall strategy, Council will debate piecemeal proposals: gang injunctions, and curfew and anti-loitering ordinances. Make Oakland Better Now! believes that the real solution to the City’s growing crime problem must involve a comprehensive public safety strategy that dispenses with the current piecemeal approach and the “police vs. social programs” dichotomy that divides the City and keeps us from uniting to solve our most pressing issue.

When he arrived in Oakland two years ago, Chief Batts stated that the best way to reduce Oakland’s crime rate was to address three root causes: gangs, guns and drugs. The City responded by shutting down the police department helicopter, crippling the gang injunction program, and taking a series of budget actions that would ultimately cause a 25% reduction in authorized police officer positions.

Predictably, the homicide rate began to climb. Then came the unimaginable horror of little Carlos Nava’s killing in August. Two weeks later, Jose Esparza was robbed and gunned down in front of his 6-year-old son. The cry went out from City Council members to do something. Council members Reid and De la Fuente urged the Council to reverse its action limiting gang injunctions. Council member Brooks led a crowd into Council’s Public Safety Committee meeting to demand the City reinstate its “Shot Spotter” contract, increase lighting in public spaces, hire previously approved crime analysts, and take other immediate actions. Mayor Quan announced a half-day “public safety summit” featuring “strategy sessions, dialogues and/or workshops” on such subjects as “Gang Awareness, Loitering, Racial Profiling, Restorative Justice, Barriers to Youth Employment, Foreclosures, Volunteering and Youth Mentoring, Sexual Exploitation of Minors, Youth Perspectives on Crime, Truancy, Police-Community relationships, Parolees and Re-Entry.”

Many of these subjects are worthy of public discussion. But some are also code words for one side of a divisive debate that has dominated the public safety discussion in Oakland for years. Instead of looking at our public safety efforts comprehensively, Oaklanders have fought each other over the false dichotomy of “police officers vs. social programs.”

On Tuesday, Council will debate three relatively small public safety measures that involve police activity. Well-organized and vocal advocates for the “social programs” side of the debate will likely turn out to attack the proposals as part of a war on the community, and to accuse the police of racism. Residents who favor enhanced police activity will speak on the other side. No matter what action the Council takes, we will continue to have a divided community. We will continue to make no progress at all toward Oakland’s most critical public safety needs: finding ways to restore an adequate number of police officers to the Oakland Police Department, and even more importantly, designing and implementing a comprehensive public safety strategy for the City.

It is clear that we need more police officers (and far more than the 25 the Department of Justice has just agreed to finance). The ever-decreasing number of police officers is taxing the system to the limit; our citizens are experiencing a drastic reduction in police services. We also need focused, measured, and accountable programs to address the underlying social issues facing all Oaklanders today.How do we accomplish this? We need to make sure that all parts of the public safety effort are working together, and are held accountable for making Oakland safe.

We all agree our goal is to make Oakland safer. The organizations dedicated to this goal include not just the Police and Fire Departments, but a host of groups involved in Kids First programs, violence prevention programs, and the City Attorney’s office. So who coordinates the efforts of everyone involved in making Oakland a safer place? Who aligns all of their efforts to make sure they are pulling together? Who ensures that every contributor to the public safety effort shares a common vision? What mechanisms exist to ensure all players in our most mission-critical endeavor are aligned? And what procedures measure whether all participants are successfully making Oakland safer?

Sadly, there is no such person and there are no such mechanisms or procedures. Until there is a comprehensive public safety plan coordinating every person and every program involved in making Oakland safer, we will continue the pointless and destructive debate over cops vs. programs. Until we align, coordinate, and measure our public safety efforts, we will remain unable to effectively address the crime and violence problem in our city.

Marathon headaches for bus riders during the Oakland Running Festival

At tonight’s meeting, the AC Transit Board of Directors will continue their ongoing discussions about hiring a permanent General Manager (PDF), adopt a timeline and plan for their redistricting process (PDF), and consider adopting a fueling hedging program (PDF) to help mitigate uncertainty in their budget process.

As important as all of these subjects are, the agenda item I’m most interested in sounds, at first glance, considerably less exciting — a report on the bus transit service impacts associated with the Oakland Running Festival (PDF).

Bus service disruptions during the Marathon

This report came to the Board as an informational item at their meeting two weeks ago (PDF), and I was really glad it did.

Habitual bus riders surely remember all the notices at the stops and on buses in the weeks leading up to this year’s Oakland Running Festival about the MAJOR SERVICE DISRUPTIONS they should expect on March 27th. For those of you who didn’t have the pleasure of trying to plan out trips on transit that day from the closures list, hopefully this map will give you a little sense of what it was like:

AC Transit Service Disruptions Oakland Marathon

I ended up taking a cab.

If that image isn’t enough to make the point, here’s the numbers breakdown:

  • For 11 hours, there were service shutdowns on 28 routes
  • Those routes represent 74% of Sunday ridership
  • That’s about 52,000 people impacted by the service disruption

You get the idea. It’s bad.

AC Directors unhappy

Director Elsa Ortiz was concerned about the District getting compensated by the City for the expenses incurred during the service shutdowns (overtime for extra staff on the day of the event, cost of running shuttles in areas totally cut off). Director Greg Harper said he was happy they were addressing the issue, and then made a joke about Rosie Ruiz.

Director Joe Wallace found the whole thing pretty outrageous, offering:

To me, I’m a bus rider. I’ve been a bus rider all my life. And this list lets me know if I lived in Oakland when they ran this marathon not only could they not get to church, not only could they not buy food, but they couldn’t even get to work. This is just totally unacceptable. I don’t know, they have to run around the buses or something because our buses have got to run.

Director Chris Peeples, who had originally requested the report, bemoaned the “extreme” nature of the shutdowns and suggested the Board direct AC Transit staff to start negotiating “aggressively” with Oakland about getting some cooperation, and further suggested that the Board Members themselves get a little more aggressive with Oakland decision-makers:

It’s up to policy makers to go up there and stand in front of the City Council and say “You can’t treat our customers this way.” [Our staff can't] go and yell at City Councilmembers, but we certainly can.

Why was it so bad?

So. Obviously, any time you have an event that requires many miles of street closures, that’s going to create some issues for transit service. Understood.

But service shutdowns to the point where most people basically cannot get anywhere on a bus, that can’t be normal for marathons, right?

I did spend some time (a kind of ridiculous amount of time, actually) trying to figure out how major the bus service disruptions in other cities are during their marathons. I probably shouldn’t even have bothered, because even once you manage to find the list of route reroutings, and then take it and try to compare them to a standard route map, you’re still left with the problem that when you don’t know a city’s geography, you really have no way to evaluate what the changes mean for the person who has to accomplish kind of everyday tasks or reach major destinations.

In general, I couldn’t find any marathon-related service disruptions that looked at all comparable to what happened with AC Transit in Oakland this year, but like I said, it really just is so hard to tell when you don’t know what you’re looking at. The only other city where I’m familiar enough with the bus system and the routes to make any kind of reliable judgement is Portland. And comparing their rerouting and delays to what happened in Oakland last spring, it is like night and day. They had delays on tons of routes, but the City let buses run on some roads that were otherwise closed to traffic, and in general, it looked like, yeah, maybe you would have farther to walk and it would take longer than usual, but you could get to where you needed to go.

So what made this year in Oakland so terrible for bus riders? Well, it was the route. As AC Transit Service Development and Planning Director Corey LaVigne gently put it:

The routing was set up from kind of a particular perspective but not necessarily from a transit perspective.

The staff report elaborates (PDF):

The marathon route encircled the entire city from downtown Oakland, to West Oakland, the Montclair District, Fruitvale District, and Jack London Square around Lake Merritt to the finish line at Oakland’s City Hall. The half marathon course circulated within Downtown Oakland. Both routes resulted in the closure of several major arterials including International Blvd. Broadway, College Ave., Lincoln Blvd., Martin Luther King Way and 19th Ave.

Both running events occurred simultaneously with an unyielding route that did not permit bus crossings over the 26 mile span for the planned 11 hour period. The overall effect was a nearly complete disruption of District lines operating within and between the City of Oakland and the rest of AC Transit service area that led to rider inconveniences.

Transit-last Oakland

I couldn’t even venture a guess about how many times I have pointed out over the years that Oakland is a “transit-first city” in name only.

I mean, when I learned that the City did not even involve AC Transit in the route-planning process, my first thought was basically “OMG that is so terrible! What could they have been thinking?” But pretty quickly that switched to “Oh, of course they didn’t. Why would they have? Oakland never thinks about transit. Why would the marathon be any different?”

I think part of it is also that the City of Oakland gets so excited anytime anything good happens here that there’s a tendency to kind of just focus on that one thing and just ignore everything else. So when it comes to something like the Running Festival, it’s all “Oh boy! Something cool is happening in Oakland! All sorts of people are going to be here. How can we best showcase the city?” And when that’s all you’re focused on, questions like “How are people who don’t care about the marathon supposed to go about their lives on this day” just don’t seem so important.

In the hopes of making things go a little more smoothly next year, staff is recommending (PDF):

  • AC Transit Board of Directors to advocate for continuity of the existing transit service during public events that result in service disruptions. This includes requiring event organizers to plan and coordinate with District staff, and provide compensation for additional staffing, marketing and impacts on service changes requiring additional buses.
  • Require the City of Oakland and the event organizers to include AC Transit as a key stakeholder in the process related to the planning of the marathon course.
  • A recommendation for the marathon course to allow bus routes to safely permeate the marathon route to continue to operate unimpeded to and from Downtown Oakland.
  • Require the event organizers to include AC Transit service changes in its marketing materials, website and social media.

Seems like a solid plan. Let’s hope the City is receptive!

Ralph Cooke: Oakland City Attorney should remain an elected position

“The City Attorney is to be elected by the people. This is a guarantee that the legal head of government will be able to fearlessly protect interests of all San Diego and not merely be an attorney appointed to carry out wishes of council or mayor.”

-  Excerpt from a 1931 election brochure, which asked voters to change the San Diego City Charter and elect an independent City Attorney.

On July 19th, Council Members Nadel and Kernighan plan to submit for Council approval, a resolution to present to the voters, a charter amendment entitled, “Returning the Elected City Attorney Position to an Appointed Position.” They acknowledge that the City Attorney serves as legal counsel to the City Council, the Mayor and each department of the City of Oakland (City). They cite that a City Attorney who gains the position through election by the public is subject to all political pressures experienced by any other politician. In addition, in the measure to be submitted to the public, they further cite as reasons for this change the following (PDF): the uniqueness of an elected City Attorney in California (2.5% elected) and the city attorney chooses his or her own boundaries ranging from legal to policy to politics.

For the reasons enumerated below, I respectfully ask that the residents of Oakland reject this blatant attempt to usurp power from other departments and people and eliminate this integral check and balance on the power of our elected officials.

Legal Counsel to City Council, Mayor and Each Department of the City

A City Attorney appointed by City Council and the Mayor cannot effectively serve each department of the City. When the City Council and Mayor appoint the City Attorney, the City Attorney works for and serves at the pleasure of the City Council and the Mayor. Thus, appointing a City Attorney does not eliminate the political pressures that our Council Members worry about with an elected City Attorney. If anything, these pressures are more pronounced and exacerbated when the Council and Mayor appoint a City Attorney, who serves at their will.

The City Attorney must feel free to offer independent advice, free of the pressure exerted by the City Council and Mayor, to the department heads he or she represents. When City Council and the Mayor have the ability to hire and fire the City Attorney, will the City Attorney provide counsel that is best for the department and the City or will it represent the interest of City Council and the Mayor, even if the position has no legal merit? An appointed City Attorney is subject to the political pressures of the individuals who appoint him. When the City Attorney is appointed there is a conflict of interest and invites the potential for abuse and retribution from the Council and Mayor.

The following is part of the discourse that occurred in the early 20th century when the City of San Diego debated these same issues.

“Ray Mathewson, the San Diego labor union representative on the Freeholder Board, described the role of the independent city attorney in a proposal he submitted to the Freeholder Board in which he recommended a “Strong Mayor –Council” form of government:

The duty of the city attorney is to give legal advice to every department and official of the city government on municipal matters. He also must act as the representative of the various departments before the courts. He should occupy an independent position so that his opinions would not be influenced by any appointive power. For this reason, he should be elected by the people. If elected, the city attorney is in a position of complete independance (sic) and may exercise such check upon the actions of the legislative and executive branches of the local government as the law and his conscience dictate.”

Only 2.5% of California cities elect their City Attorney

This is true but misleading. Five of the ten largest cities in California, including Oakland, elect their City Attorney. These five cities represent over 18% of California residents. In total, elected City Attorneys represent over 20% of California residents. To understand what can go wrong when the City Council and Mayor appoint the City Attorney, one need not look any further than the City of Bell. As the former administrator and other officials paid themselves high salaries, former City Attorney Edward Lee did little to restrain allegedly lawless behavior.  That 97.5% of the cities have an appointed City Attorney does not mean that it is a better structure.

Legal Advice versus Policy Making

According to the Ethical Principles for City Attorneys adopted by the League of California Cities, “The city attorney should be willing to give unpopular legal advice that meets the law’s purpose and intent even when the advice is not sought but the legal problem is evident to the attorney.

An elected City Attorney is the people’s last check to ensure that our elected executive and legislative branches do not embark on an action that is either legally incorrect or ill-advised. This will not happen when the City Attorney serves at the will of City Council and the Mayor. When the City Attorney is appointed, the electorate does not know if it is the best legal advice or the advice that will ensure that the appointed individual is retained by City Council and the Mayor. The public trust is critical to a functioning and thriving democracy; this trust is eroded when City Council and the mayor seek to wrest the power from the people.


The proposed ballot measure seeking a return to an appointed City Attorney is designed for one purpose and one purpose only — to wrest power from the people and consolidate power in the hands of the few. We deserve a City government that works for all residents of Oakland. We do not have this when City Council and the mayor collude to appoint a City Attorney who primarily serves their needs.  I urge you to contact your council member to voice your displeasure with this ballot measure and join me at the July 19 city council meeting to speak against the proposed ballot measure to return to an appointed City Attorney.

This guest post was written by Ralph Cooke, an Oakland resident and advocate for transparent government.

Still no decision on the budget

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

LWV Statement requesting the Council to preserve transparency

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

A budget compromise

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

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

Additional Expenditures versus Mayor’s Scenario A

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

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

Additional Savings

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

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

New Revenue

  • Convert 580 Underpass Lot to 169 meters

The tweets!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Finally, Council silence on the budget ends

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

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

Proposal from Ignacio De La Fuente

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

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

So here’s what it looks like.

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

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

New revenue, totaling: $8,266,340

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

New savings, totaling $2,299,336

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

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

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

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

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

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

Additional Savings, totaling $20,140,000

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

Cost Neutral Proposals

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

Future Revenue Ideas

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

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

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

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

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

Alternative to Mayor’s proposal

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

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

    New savings, totaling $2,299,336

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

    And now, the tweets:

    Before the meeting

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

    New City Administrator

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

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

    dto510: @matthai Whaat? Was that noticed?

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

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

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

    Open Forum

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

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

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

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

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

    DIYGene: library supporter insurrection at #oakmtg !

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

    dto510: Watch public comment on libraries and other topics with video stream: #oakmtg

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

    Zoo expansion appeal

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

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

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

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

    Vsmoothe: tdlove5 GHAD. Geologic Hazard Abatement District.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

    New taxi medallions

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

    Public testimony on the budget

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

    Union perspectives on employee concessions

    There was a lot of talk in the comments section of my post about Oakland Mayor Jean Quan’s proposal to basically shut down the library system about employee compensation, and what kind of pay cut is reasonable to ask of City employees.

    I don’t recall anyone coming out and saying what they think would make for reasonable concessions. There were, however, a couple of comments suggesting that concessions should be whatever it takes to close the budget deficit.

    So I played around with the numbers a little bit yesterday. It’s difficult to get a firm number for total employee costs, since, as I’ve noted before, the Mayor’s budgets omit most of the information contained in normal budgets, such as the employees by position by department and fund, and personnel versus non-personnel costs by program. However, from what I was able to cobble together from various sources, it would take somewhere in the neighborhood of an 85% reduction in compensation (including benefits) to close the $58 million General Fund deficit only through concessions of non-sworn workers.

    How much do City workers cost?

    The chart below shows the average total personnel costs to the City for police, firefighters, and civilian employees, as explained in the budget facts (PDF).

    Police, on average, cost $191,390 a year: $104,026 for salary, $43,164 for health benefits, and $44,200 for pensions. Firefighters, on average, cost a little bit less than that, $185,703 annually: $109,196 for salary, $48,150 for medical, and $28,367 for pensions. Non-sworn workers costs an average of $99,870 per year: $63,634 for salary, $22,040 for health, and $14,196 for pensions.

    What do the unions say?

    Anyway. It seemed fair, if we’re going to be discussing compensation, to include the union perspective in the conversation. The videos below show testimony from representatives of the City’s civilian unions at recent City Council budget meetings.

    One thing that I think is important to note is that the testimony seems to suggest that negotiations are not going well at all. I have heard a lot of people, including Councilmembers, say that we basically don’t need to worry about Scenario A because it assumes no concessions from the unions and of course there will be plenty of concessions. I don’t feel nearly so comfortable making that assumption.

    The position being expressed by the civilian unions at this point is basically that they are willing to give more in terms of concessions than they have over the last few years, but only if sworn employees take equivalent cuts. It’s a reasonable position, but one that makes me very nervous for the City, considering how things worked out last year.

    Here’s one from last Thursday:

    There’s a lot of budget facts floating around here right now. I’m here to connect the dots for you, the City Council, our City staff, and the residents of Oakland, and put a face on what your decisions mean for those of us who live in and work for the City of Oakland.

    To repeat some facts: 54% of non-sworn staff live in the City of Oakland. 7% of Oakland Police Department officers live in the City of Oakland.

    Non-sworn staff earn, on average, $75,000 in salary and benefits. OPD officers earn, on average, $150,000 in salary and benefits.

    Approximately 66% of the City’s budget is paid to police and firefighters — where the budget deficit is.

    City of Oakland residents have generously approved numerous property tax increases over the last few years, including myself. And you are currently considering asking residents to approve yet another $80 parcel tax to provide continued support to the City’s General Fund.

    In 94605 area code, where I live, 40% of the homes in my district that are up for sale are either in foreclosure or short sale. That includes my home. 15% in salary cuts combined with 20% combined increases in mortgage, property tax, and insurance costs are forcing me out of my home.

    We who both live and work in this City are paying at all ends. Cuts in income, higher housing costs, and continuous asks for more property taxes. And OPD is still not willing to pay a penny. Fair share!

    Here’s one from the May 5th budget meeting:

    Local 21 has a long history of making contributions to the City in times of budget crisis. In 2003, before we had even signed our recently negotiated contract, the City came to us seeking concessions and threatening layoffs because of projected budget shortfalls.

    And although we had just agreed to increase employee retirement contributions by 3%, we then agreed to increase them by an addition 3% for another two years. That agreement included a pledge by the City to require all City employees to contribute the equivalent of either the 3% retirement contribution or 12 furlough days per year.

    However, the City did not honor this agreement, and while civilian unions were required to make contributions or take cuts, sworn employees were not required to make any contribution at all.

    Since the current economic crisis began, we have made substantial contributions to the City. In Fiscal Year 2008-09, the union agreed to the imposition of 12 shutdown days, of which all but one occurred after the last week of December, and, in effect, our members suffered a 10% loss of pay from January 09 through June 2009.

    And then in our most recent contract, we agreed again to concessions of 10% by increasing our retirement contribution to the full employee rate of 8%, 12 mandatory business shutdown days per year, and one-third reduction in management leave. As a result, our cost of living increases for 2005 through 2007, when we last got one, were largely eliminated, and today we are making less than we made six years ago. In 2010, the City unilaterally and without meet and confer eliminated free parking for a number of members, effectively resulting in a further loss of pay.

    All of these concessions came on top of substantial reductions in force without a corresponding elimination of programs or reduction in work. Today, our members are working harder for less pay.

    Let me remind you that 56% of civilian workers live in Oakland, while only 22% of firefighters and only 7% of police. Put another way, when you look at those Oakland City employees who live in Oakland, 94% of them are civilians. We live here, we pay taxes, we vote. We are committed to this City. And we share the pain when vital community services are cut.

    Time and time again, our experience has been this. Civilian employees are the first to make concessions to help the City’s budget. And we end up being the last to do so. This cannot continue.

    We are all aware that nearly 75% of the City’s General Fund goes to police and fire, and much of what’s left goes to debt service and and mandated programs. There is no mathematical way to balance the City’s budget on the backs of civilian workers.

    We understand that the City will be seeking further sacrifices from our members, and we understand that the wage concessions you will be seeking will be in addition to staff reductions and departmental reorganization and consolidation.

    In other words, more layoffs, more cuts to essential quality of life services in Oakland, and a rollback of our compensation to an effective rate equal to where we were at in 2001, 10 years ago.

    There is a limit to what our members can afford to give. Many are barely making ends meet as is. Many have partners or spouses who have lost work or income, compounding the pain. And some of our members, including some of the people who are currently at the bargaining table, are at risk of losing their homes. Basic fairness dictates that the cuts you make must be proportional to the cost of different bargaining units within the General Fund.

    And given our past experience, we need to see contributions from other employee groups before we can agree to make our contribution because past promises to secure equivalent contributions have not been honored.

    Let’s be clear. We are not saying that we can’t make a contribution. In fact, we could have been done with the bargaining process already, since you know we have offered for the last six months to roll over our existing contract and continue the concessions we have been giving for the past two years. That offer was not accepted.

    What we are saying is that we are not willing to simply offer up concessions without seeing real contributions from those who constitute the bulk of the costs in the General Fund.

    And another from last Thursday:

    We have proven our willingness to sacrifice for this City, not just in the quality of our work life, but in our paychecks also. It hasn’t been easy. Many 1021 workers are the sole breadwinners in their family, some have lost their homes.

    But now, during these difficult contract negotiations, our members are being asked to give too much. The proposals from the City equal over 25% of our incomes, and growing. Even so, our side is ready to roll up our sleeves, move forward, and negotiate, to mitigate our losses and to try to negotiate a contract that will save our services.

    Unfortunately, as a member of the negotiations team, I have to report that your City negotiators seem intent on giving very little in terms of cooperating to improve our working conditions and to maintain the workforce in a humane way. It’s disgraceful in with as much humanity and compassion as Oakland that management has to treat its dedicated and most devoted workers with so little respect and care.

    If the public saw what is going on in negotiations, they would understand. We’re being put in an impossible place. It’s like a mugging in slow motion. There is no give and take, the City is all take and take.

    We aren’t asking for raises here. We’re seeking solutions to problems that negatively affect our work and services. The City workers are your partners and allies in a crisis that is not our fault. We’re not your scapegoats or your low-lying fruit. We are your workers and we work hard. Have some respect.

    Library supporters pack Council budget meeting

    The two hours of public comment at last night’s budget meeting was dominated by library supporters, testifying about the importance of libraries in Oakland and protesting the possibility of cuts.

    What would the Mayor’s budget mean for the library?

    Most people I run into around town lately seem to be aware that the Mayor’s proposed budget closes libraries, but very few appear to be aware of the severity of the proposed cuts. Even those who have followed the budget in some detail are often fuzzy about just what these proposed cuts would mean.

    This is probably because the Mayor’s budget summaries say simply that under Scenario A, four libraries would remain open (Main, Dimond, Rockridge, and 81st Avenue) while fourteen locations would be closed. That’s horrible on its own, of course. But a lot of people, after seeing the summary, seem to be left with the impression that at least those locations would continue to operate in the same way that they do now.

    This is not the case.

    Under this scenario, the Library’s allotted staff would decrease from the current 215.04 FTE to a mere 22.8 FTE (PDF). That is a nearly 90% staffing cut, which clearly does not leave enough staff to operate the Library’s four largest facilities at the same level of service currently being provided.

    In the video below from last night’s budget meeting, Oakland Public Library Director Carmen Martinez outlines the severe impacts to services at the library under the Mayor’s proposed budget Scenario A:

    To maintain minimum library services at the four remaining libraries, we would need to really work with the City Administrator to reduce the services that we currently offer or to just eliminate many of them. We’d have to eliminate days and hours open to the public. 22.8 FTEs don’t allow us to run four buildings in the manner we run them now.

    We would lose public access to community meeting rooms, we would not be able to purchase books and materials. The City would not have access to the entire system’s collection, it would only have access to those four branch collections. There would be limited access to public computers and technology, and community programming, including everything we do now from Lawyers in the Libraries to all of our wonderful children’s and teen programs would be severely reduced.

    We would close the Oakland History Room, the Teen Zone, and the Children’s Room at the Main Library, and public access at the Main Library would be limited to the first floor, requiring the move of the Magazine & Newspapers, Children’s and Teen’s collection all to the first floor so we could manage one floor at a time.

    The last slide is just to remind Council that library services as we have provided and enjoyed them all these years would cease to exist under Option A, but be maintained under Options B and C.

    A FAQ prepared by the library (PDF) notes additional service impacts, such as the discontinuation of electronic services like databases and downloadable e-books.

    Scenario A and Measure Q

    The reason our libraries are facing such drastic cuts under Scenario A is because that the majority of the Library’s funding is currently provided by a parcel tax, Measure Q. This tax, which passed with a 77.2% yes vote, goes only to fund the library, and requires the City to give the library a minimum contribution of $9,059,989 from the General Fund (the same amount it got from the General Fund in 2000) in order to collect the tax.

    Mayor Jean Quan’s Budget Scenario A would reduce the library’s General Fund funding (PDF) to less than four million dollars, forcing the City to give up Measure Q. That means sacrificing nearly $14 million of dedicated funding to the library, and cutting the library’s budget by almost $20 million in order to get a savings to the City of roughly $6 million.

    The Mayor’s proposed Budget Scenario B, which assumes employee concessions and no parcel tax, proposes to keep library funding at the Measure Q mandated minimum, allowing us to retain library services without new taxes.

    However, some Councilmembers seem to have either failed to notice this or don’t believe it. Indeed, even the Mayor herself appears to have forgotten this detail. I have seen at least two Councilmembers respond to constituent messages protesting library cuts by saying that if they want to keep the libraries open, they need to support the parcel tax. At the Library’s author talk with Isabel Wilkerson the other night at AAMLO (made possible by the wonderful Friends of the Oakland Public Library), Oakland Mayor Jean Quan told the crowd that the “only way” to protect Measure Q was to pass her parcel tax.

    Public testimony in support of the Oakland Public Library

    Below, I’ve highlighted some of the public comment from last night’s meeting, most of it from library staff, about the importance of libraries to Oakland, and especially to Oakland’s youth.

    Here’s one from an employee at the new 81st Avenue Community Library in East Oakland, talking about how library staff serve as mentors and positive role models to the next generation of Oakland youth:

    Although it’s not part of our job description, as library staff, we are mentors, we are building relationships and modeling positive social skills with our community and most importantly, young people. As a man working in East Oakland, and as a man without a gun working in East Oakland, I’m overwhelmed by the impact that myself and my colleagues have on the lives of young men who use our libraries.

    I know that I speak for all my colleagues when I say that we have a passion and a commitment to bettering the lives that we serve. The fifth grade boys I work with today, the two schools next door to the 81st Avenue Branch, are the next generation of 17 to 24 year old men of color in East Oakland. We have an opportunity to shift the need of policing this next generation and giving them skills to thrive and reflect and make good decisions that make our community healthier for all of us, including them.

    In this one, a Children’s Librarian from the 81st Avenue Community Library talks about how children in the neighborhood seek out the library as a place of solace and escape from tragedies in their lives:

    In this video, an Oakland Children’s Librarian presents the Council with 5,511 signatures from Oakland residents on a petition expressing outrage at the proposed closure of libraries, and speaks about the economic returns of money invested in library services:

    But one thing that hasn’t been discussed so far is the fact that libraries bring economic value to communities, and I’d like to take a moment to talk about that. This is something else that I’d like to show Council, this is just one of a number of studies that have been conducted throughout the United States. This latest one is from Wisconsin, there’s the bibliography that lists about forty other locations that have done studies.

    What these studies have found is that for every dollar that is spent on library services between four and five dollars of returns come into the city economically. How do these benefits come? They come through salaries that are paid, and there are over four hundred part time and full time staff that are at Oakland Public Library right now.

    They come with taxes that are paid, and sixty five percent of Oakland Public Library employees are City of Oakland residents. They come from vendors and contractors, many of them local, that sell items to Oakland Public Library. They come from neighboring businesses who generate income from patrons who are using the library. This is particularly critical in Oakland where we need retail businesses. Library locations such as those at Cesar Chavez, Piedmont Avenue, Rockridge, Dimond are located on Main avenues and people who use the library bring in business.

    They also bring in economic business for the cost of services if the public had to buy them. We’re talking about buying books, DVDs, computer time, and programs. This is the May calendar of events for the Oakland Public Library, and I counted the number of programs we’re offering this month — two hundred twenty five. Additionally, OPL offers computer skills and resources for people searching for jobs. We offer free legal help, we offer free tax help, and free financial help.

    Cutting any sort of libraries, as my mother would have said, may be penny wise, but it is pound foolish.

    In this video, an East Oakland librarian discusses the importance of public libraries for Oakland’s youth in light of the lack of school libraries at Oakland public schools.

    Our school’s libraries are already decimated. There are currently 7,500 OUSD students without library services this year. That number will not be smaller next year. As of last week, when almost all OUSD funded librarians were laid off, there are only two professional librarians paid for currently by OUSD. Now we are threatening to take away these students’ public libraries too. What does our city’s future look like when our children lose access to books and research help, when our job seekers lose access to computers and resources, and the number of community funded safe spaces lessens to nearly none?

    Here’s a teen library patron discussing the importance of libraries for Oakland youth who wish to attend college.

    We all lose if libraries are cut, but the city’s teens and children will lose the most.

    This one isn’t from last night, it’s actually from the May 12th meeting. An Oakland Children’s Librarian discusses the importance of libraries for children in Oakland.

    The major social problems our city faces are all predicated on kids success in school. The National Center for Education statistics shows that reading success is positively by access to public libraries, not only through materials, but through programs. Recent research shows that literacy behaviors learned in the first three years of life are the crucial building blocks to later reading success.

    All of these behaviors are modeled in our libraries storytimes, which we offer twenty-six times weekly throughout the city, in addition to any scheduled on request by teachers. My office also coordinates a corps of volunteers who provide weekly storytimes in dozens of Head Starts and CDCs. If we can get to them at age zero, we can keep them for life.

    This doesn’t happen by magic. It happens because the city’s voters made overwhelmingly clear in passing Measure Q that they wanted a full-time children’s librarian at every library.

    You can view more videos of speakers in support of the Oakland Public Library below. This album isn’t at all exhaustive — there were many speakers who came to talk in support of the Second Start Adult Literacy program, the African American Museum and Library, the Tool Lending Library, and the library system in general. I didn’t have time record them all. Even doing these ones took a couple hours.

    How you can help

    If you want to get involved with the campaign to protect Oakland’s libraries, visit the Save Oakland Library website to find a toolkit for action and a list of volunteer opportunities. You can also get updates from Save Oakland Library on Facebook and SaveOPL on Twitter.

    And stay updated about all the cool events going on at OPL with the Oakland Public Library on Facebook and @oaklibrary on Twitter.

    How should the Bay Area plan for growth?

    So. How many of you have been following the MTC/ABAG/BAAQMD/BCDC SB 375 implementation strategy planning process?

    Not many? That’s okay. Here’s a short summary:

    Plan Bay Area is the next step in a natural progression of decades of regional planning. As our population is expected to grow from about 7 million in 2011 to approximately 9 million in 2040, we need to start making transportation, housing and land use decisions now to sustain the Bay Area’s high quality of life for current and future generations.

    Plan Bay Area grew out of California’s 2008 Senate Bill 375 (Steinberg), which requires each of the state’s 18 metropolitan areas to reduce greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions from cars and light trucks. This is important because the transportation sector represents about 40 percent of the GHG pollution that scientists say is causing climate change.

    Under SB 375 each region must develop a Sustainable Communities Strategy (SCS) that promotes compact, mixed-use commercial and residential development that is walkable and bikable and close to mass transit, jobs, schools, shopping, parks, recreation and other amenities. If successful, Plan Bay Area will give people more transportation choices, create more livable communities and reduce the pollution that causes climate change.

    And a short video:

    As part of this planning effort, MTC is holding a series of public workshops, one in every County in the Bay Area. The Alameda County workshop that had been originally scheduled is already fully booked, so they have scheduled a second Alameda County workshop on Tuesday, May 24th from 5:30 to 8:30 PM:

    Participants in these forums will work together with a fun, interactive web-based simulation, YouChoose Bay Area, to outline priorities, choose different growth options and see future consequences. See the links between growth and the things you care deeply about, such as open space conservation, clean air, water consumption, public health, energy use, greenhouse gas emissions and access to mass transit.

    I’ve been wanting to write in more detail about this process for a while, and just haven’t been able to find the time. At some point, I will get around to it, but I only learned yesterday about the first Alameda County workshop filling up so quickly so I wanted to make sure my readers were aware of the opportunity before the second workshop fills up too!

    So if you want to learn more about regional planning (and really, who doesn’t?) and have a voice in how the Bay Area will grow over the next few decades, you should seriously consider registering for this.

    According to MTC’s promotional video featuring cheerful testimonials from participants at the Santa Clara County workshop, they’re going to have interactive clickers you can use to say what you think. That’s even better than the dots on boards that I love so much!

    Once again, that’s going to be on Tuesday, May 24th from 5:30 to 8:30 PM at the Metrocenter Auditorium (101 Eighth Street) in downtown Oakland.

    Register here for the workshop, and get up to speed on the process by reading this little pamphlet (PDF) and exploring the One Bay Area website, and read this post on Transbay Blog about the Initial Vision Scenario and Sustainable Communities Strategy. For bonus points, take a look at the Initial Vision Scenario Overview (PDF). If you’re really hardcore, read the full Initial Vision Scenario report (PDF).

    The One Bay Area website also has a bunch of interesting videos that are worth watching if you’re interested in the subject and have some extra time.

    No budget for Oakland

    So, like I said on Friday, I wanted to take a little time to review the Mayor’s three proposed budgets before commenting much on them.

    When I first downloaded the Mayor’s proposed budgets, I had two immediate questions. One, despite all the doom and gloom and talk about how this is the worst budget in history, why do the cuts in all scenarios except for the one that includes no employee give-backs not seem all that bad? Two, why are the budget documents so short? I mean, normally the budget is like 800 pages, but every budget the Mayor presented is less than 300 pages. That seems weird, right?

    Three incomplete budgets

    So I have figured out the answers to both questions. The reason the cuts don’t seem all that bad are threefold:

    1. None of the scenarios anticipate any payments to PFRS: The Mayor seems to think that we’ll just bond again to cover this debt, but as many people have pointed out before, that could expose the City to much greater damage down the road (PDF). Should the Council not elect to just bond it out, that’s another $46 million liability we could be looking at this year.

    2. None of the scenarios factor in any potential Federal and State cuts: The Mayor says that we can’t budget for them since we don’t know what they will be yet. I understand that it’s difficult to budget for losses that are yet to be determined, but it seems reasonable to expect that there will be at least some reduction in revenue from those sources and plan for something.

    3. All three scenarios rely on property sales to balance the budget: No real details are provided with respect to these property sales. The transmittal letter (PDF) notes that the primary revenue source for these sales is the Kaiser Convention Center. However, the estimates in each scenario for the revenue to be generated by the sale vary wildly: $29 million in Scenario A, $12 million in Scenario B, and $20 million in Scenario C. There is no explanation provided anywhere for why these estimates are so different.

    In short, these budgets are not complete. In her transmittal letter (PDF), Oakland Mayor Jean Quan acknowledges as much, saying “The worst case scenario of additional federal and state cuts and a decision not to bond the PFRS pension could lead to an additional $78 million deficit.” O.M.G.

    I kind of dismissed Scenario A yesterday, since it is totally unrealistic to expect no employee givebacks (budget Scenarios B and C each rely on roughly $29 million in concessions). But after reading the budgets in more detail and realizing that none of them really account for the actual deficit we can expect, I’m kind of flipping out about it. Is that going to be the Mayor’s response to the inevitable need for further cuts? Shutting down fire stations and the Library System? Geez, I hope not!

    All budgets lack specifics

    The reason the budget is so short is that it includes far less information than previous budgets.

    In the past, the budget’s Financial Summaries section (PDF) has included a lengthy history of fund balances for each fund going back 10 years, detailed breakdowns of expenditures for all the tax funds (LLAD, Wildfire Prevention Assessment District, Emergency Medical Services Retention Act, Paramedic Services Act, Measure Q, and Measure Y), detailed explanation of negative funds along with 10-year negative fund repayment schedules, and a detail listing of projects included in the Capital Improvement Program.

    This budget includes none of that (PDF). The negative funds summary lists the funds and their projected balance, but does not include any information about status or repayment schedules.

    The proposed budgets by department also contain far less information than was available in previous budgets. To give you an idea of just how much less, the CEDA section in the FY09-11 budget (PDF) was 53 pages long. The CEDA section in the proposed FY11-13 budgets (PDF) are 6 pages long. Some of that reduction may have been achieved through a switch to a more space efficient budget template, but previous budgets provided detailed listing of every funded position by position title in each department and revenues, expenditures, performance measures, and FTEs by fund for every program in the department side by side. Not only are the lists of funded jobs not included in this budget, the information about FTEs, revenues, and expenditures are all displayed separately. Revenues and expenditures are displayed in only one list, with no breakdown of which different funds that money comes from for each program.

    As another example, take a look at the Non-Department budget from the previous cycle compared to this one. In the past, budgets contained a detailed list of grants provided by the city, showing where each grant is going and what the amount was. In the new budget, this is reduced to “Citywide Grants, Programs and Subsidies”. That’s it. Then:

    FY 09-11 Grants List


    FY11-13 Grants in Prpposed Budget

    In past budgets, the Non-Departmental section (PDF) included detailed lists of all debt payments by fund, as well as a lengthy explanation of all the City’s outstanding debt. In this budget, none of that information is provided.

    The entire presentation is extremely opaque. I find the lack of completeness as well as the lack of transparency in the Mayor’s budgets alarming.

    Major Changes common to all scenarios

    All the budget scenarios include a number of changes to City operations and the City’s organizational structure. I don’t have too much to say about them, since virtually no information is provided in any of the documents to explain how these changes might improve or disrupt service or the anticipated cost savings of any of them.

    I’m assuming more detailed explanations of these changes will be provided at next Thursday’s Council meeting, but for now, this is all I have.

    • Contracting and Purchasing Department merged with other departments: Under all three scenarios, parts of the city’s Contracting and Purchasing Department would be absorbed by other departments — purchasing would be moved to Finance, contract administration would be moved to public works, and contract compliance would be moved to the City Administrator.

      The Contracting and Purchasing department was created in 2007 in former Mayor Ron Dellums’s first budget (PDF). In his transmittal letter (PDF), he offered:

      My goal is to make Oakland’s contracting and purchasing process more effective and more transparent…In this proposal, we have consolidated the various purchasing and contracting divisions previously in various departments and have centralized this function in a single department.

      I guess it didn’t work out? And that’s fine, I suppose. Maybe the change should have been scrutinized a little more in 2007? In any case, I think there is often a strong temptation to solve problems through reorganization. Sometimes it’s the right move, sometimes it isn’t, but I think these kinds of changes need to be considered a little more carefully than we’ve done in the past, or you just end up going back and forth every couple of years.

    • Parking would be split up: Parking Payments would be moved to the first floor instead of the 6th floor of 250 Frank H. Ogawa Plaza, and practical administration of parking would move to the Finance and Management Agency, while parking policy would remain under Public Works.

    • The creation of a Life Enrichment Agency: Human Services, the Library, and Parks & Recreation would be combined into a Life Enrichment Agency in FY 12-13. The budget does not specify how this would work, only that details will be figured out by a task force at some point in the next year and the anticipated savings are one million dollars. It was less than 10 years ago when these departments last existed under the umbrella of a Life Enrichment Agency. I wasn’t really paying attention then, so I don’t know why they were separated, but it seems reasonable to presume that it was done, like most reorganizations, to save money. (Can someone older than me fill in the details there?)

      This goes back to what I was saying about Contracting and Purchasing. Maybe the shift would save Oakland money, maybe it wouldn’t. But these things shouldn’t be done at random or without thought. What kind of service disruption would such a change involve? Any? How many positions would be reduced? Where does that million dollars in savings come from? I don’t know how the Council can be expected to make decisions like this based on so little analysis.

    • 15% cut to all elected offices: No specifics are given for how these cuts might be achieved or the staffing or service impacts that would arise from them.

    • Severe reductions to KTOP: Under all three scenarios, KTOP programming would be reduced to televising only meetings of the City Council, Port Commission, and Planning Commission. It is unclear to me whether this change would include stopping recording Council committees or not, which I would view as completely unacceptable. It would definitely eliminate the broadcast of the Public Ethics Commission, Measure Y Oversight Committee, Landmarks Preservation Advisory Board, and the Cultural Affairs Commission.

      Adding to my confusion over this item is the fact that nowhere in the budget does it explain what kind of cost savings the City would realize from such a move. Eliminating the broadcast of public meetings is a severe step backwards in the realm of open and transparent government, and one that should be approached with serious caution. I could see some scenario where maybe some reduction of televised meetings might be acceptable in order to preserve vital services, but of course it isn’t possible to make that judgement without actual information about the trade-offs we’re looking at.

      In the FY09-11 budget, KTOP receives almost no funding from the General Fund (PDF) — it is paid entirely out of Telecommunications (Fund 1760) and Redevelopment (Fund 7780). In the Significant Changes sections of the Mayor’s proposed budget, there is a transfer of one IT position to 1760, with a General Fund savings listed of $120,000. Total KTOP revenue in the Mayor’s proposed budget goes from $1,143,720 in FY10-11 to $1,298,114 in FY11-12, whereas funding for the program goes from $1,454,000 in FY10-11 to $1,193,628 in FY11-12. Why? It doesn’t say anywhere. Could these cost savings be realized instead through reducing production of original programming instead of broadcasting public meetings? Who knows.

    • Civilianization of Police Department: all budget scenarios include a civilian Inspector General managing the Police Department’s Office of the Inspector General and reporting directly to the City Administrator. No details are provided about the impacts for or reasoning behind this change.

    I’ll hold off on judgment as to whether any of these changes are a good idea until more details are provided. In general, I have to say that the lack of rationale or explanation provided for any of them causes me concern. It adds to the overall sense I have that these budgets are kind of slapdash — in one of the three budget documents offered by the Mayor, three departments are missing entirely!

    Bite-sized budget documents

    I don’t know about you guys, but I have a hard time working from huge PDFs, especially when I am trying to compare between documents. When you’ve got hundreds pages to scroll through, it’s easy to kind of miss certain parts. So something I usually do to help digest these big files is to break them up into pieces, which allows me to really focus on one part at a time, and ensures that I don’t miss anything.

    I don’t know if anyone else has that problem, but just in case, I thought I might as well post the files here to make it easier for you guys to examine different parts of the budget. So below, I have listed links to the Mayor’s budget proposal broken down by department (plus the full budgets, transmittal letters, financial summaries, and such) in each of the three budget scenarios that were offered. For comparison, I have also included each department’s section from the Adopted FY09-11 budget (keep in mind, though, when reading those, that cuts have been made since that budget was adopted). All files are in PDF format.

    Have fun!

    Complete Budget Documents

    Transmittal Letters

    Proposed Budget Financial Summaries and Budget Detail by Department

    Financial Summaries

    Significant Changes


    City Council

    City Auditor

    City Attorney

    City Administrator

    City Clerk

    Contracting and Purchasing

    Information Technology

    Finance & Management Agency

    Human Resources

    Police Services

    Fire Services

    Oakland Museum

    Oakland Public Library

    Parks and Recreation

    Human Services

    Public Works Agency

    Community and Economic Development


    Capital Improvement Program