Council says no to Jean Quan’s Kids First Compromise

The vote was 6-2, with only Jean Quan and Nancy Nadel voting in favor.

Pat Kernighan and Ignacio De La Fuente patiently provided the large audience of extremely rude teenagers very clear explanations of why the City simply cannot afford the increase, although Pat said that she would be requesting the Council increase the Oakland Fund for Children and Youth funding to either 3% or 3.5% of the unrestricted General Fund (up from 2.5% currently). I’m not entirely sure how that’s going to fly in light of a budget deficit rumored to be around $90 million, but I guess that’s an issue to be worked out later.

Ignacio De La Fuente said that placing a compromise measure on the ballot would only lead to further ballot box budgeting, and that if they consented to this, they could expect similar set-asides for seniors, parks, and whatever else people desperately want and just doesn’t get enough funding.

Jane Brunner made me happy by including a brief comment in her remarks about how programs funded through OFCY should be scrutinized more heavily for their outcomes, so that we can give more money to the ones that work better. That’s all I’m saying!

More later.

22 thoughts on “Council says no to Jean Quan’s Kids First Compromise

  1. Greg McConnell

    V. I agree that a few of the speakers were rude. But for the most part I thought the young people who spoke at today’s meeting were pretty impressive. Some of them were downright articulate, and as good or better than many of the “adults” that I see at Council meetings.

    Unfortunately, I believe the kids were misled into thinking that they are not being supported if the ballot measure is not approved. That is not true. Given the looming deficit, Council has supported them with as much money as they can. Do I wish there was more? Absolutely! I remember benefitting from kids programs as a low income teen in Washington D.C. nearly a zillion years ago. Neverthless, as an adult I know that the only way to generate money for social programs is to increase revenues from new businsesses, and housing. I hope some day the people who want more for social programs will wise up to the reality that the money has to come from growth.

    I found the ploy to float a so called “compromise measure” very disturbing. The idea that Counicl Members would put a spenidng measure on the ballot that they oppose, just strikes me as the very kind of political antics that cause people to lose faith in government. I am glad it was voted down.

    I was also troubled that some people would say that there is more money in the budget for kids but none at all for public safety. If the streets are not safe, nothing works, including kids programs.

    Thanks for the good work you continue to do.

  2. Rebecca Kaplan

    Retail Attraction: Another piece of the puzzle.

    An important conversation is taking place, about identifying new ways to find revenue to cover basic services, especially in these tough economic times, and creating long-term sustainable budgets.

    One vital strategy to find money (without raising taxes), involves improving our City’s sales tax yield. Oakland has a very high rate of “leakage” — -people who live here going out of town to shop, so we lose the jobs and the revenues that would have come with those sales.

    I raise this because the CED Cttee of the City Council discussed this issue today, but it is getting less public attention than some of the more “hot button” issues. Nonetheless, “retail attraction” is essential to Oakland, both for our quality of life, and to ensure the City has the revenues to fund basic services, etc.

    There is a great report with thoughtful suggestions, online at:

  3. Ralph

    it annoys me that JB wanted 10K units of housing but had no place for us to shop for the basics. what did he think that furniture was going to fall from a tree

    and it kills me that the mayor has the audacity to ask for a tax increase when he has yet to implement a retail strategy that will net some tax dollars that we bleeding.

    i am not sure the mayor and city council get it yet. maybe we to send them a list of items we buy outside of Oakland and the associated tax dollars that flow through to other districts

  4. Rebecca Kaplan

    Yes, Ralph’s suggestion is an important list — and, amazingly, it has actually been compiled, in Phase I of the Conley Report on Retail Strategy, online at:

    There is a Chart on Page 21 of the PDF Document (page 14 of the Report), listing the amount of tax dollars spent by Oakland residents on items, outside of Oakland.

    The list includes annual expenditures (“leakage”) of:
    All Food Stores $232,500,000
    General Merchandise $536,150,000

    And more…

  5. Max Allstadt

    While we’re putting together pieces of the puzzle, let’s not forget the importance of allowing downtown to expand beyond the highways that border it. Zoning and retail attraction should focus more attention on walkability, and bikeability from downtown to and from adjacent neighborhoods. That also means creating desirability for these routes. At the moment, most walking and bike routes across the highways that surround downtown are either scary or barren, and they have no destination businesses at either end of the highway crossing. Zone in retail at passages beneath highways. Zone in mixed use on these corners. Watch the wealth creation in downtown begin to spread.

  6. Joanna/OnTheGoJo

    I heard through the grapevine that all parking tickets had been raised to $70 – ouch. I also heard that Council is also going to try to raise the resi parking permits to $150/year just like the mixed use district (Jack London District) permits. Our parking meters are the highest cost per minute in the Bay Area.

    I was on the Parking Task Force long ago and this City doesn’t get it. The harder you make for people to shop here, the easier they will find it to go elsewhere. As a retail store owner, I can also say that my time to go is coming in the next two years, maybe sooner. I’m not going to keep up with running a retail store with crime the way it is (burglarized in 2007 & robbed at gunpoint in March 2008). Add to that I’m now getting grief (threatened with $1,000 fine next time it happens, whether it’s my fault or not) for leaving cardboard to be recycled next to the trash bin in front of my store while I clean up dog crap, fast food wrappers, and cigarette butts every freaken day. I am fed up.

    I’ve watched other businesses and customers leave the area over the past few years because of construction, but what scares me is that those businesses aren’t being replaced. And more of the rental units are being filled with corporate temporary housing.

    Although my own Oakland shopping has increased marginally with the new Whole Paycheck, I still find myself going to Berkeley Bowl or the Alameda Marketplace…

  7. Max Allstadt

    Max’s parking ticket solution:

    Charge cars registered in piedmont triple. This adjusts for their median family income in comparison to ours. Even with this adjustment, parking tickets are regressive taxation.

    Parking meters: Pay it forward people. If you’re at a space with the new buy-a-receipt meters, and you don’t use all your time, take your unfinished receipt and tuck it into the printout spot on the nearest machine before you leave. Somebody else can use it for a while.

  8. Ralph

    I am advocating doing the same but with actual receipts. It was obvious to me and probably anyone with an 1/8 of a functioning brain, which should include even OUSD graduates but for reasons unknown to me exclude our city council and mayor, that we need a retail strategy. And we, unlike the city council and the mayor, don’t actually need a study to tell us this. I am guessing the cc and mayor think that the categories in the report don’t mean squat in Oakland. Maybe what they need are real people, with real receipts. Hit them on the head with an anvil is my approach

  9. Donald

    I don’t find the retail strategy of the Conley report or even the need for a retail strategy at all compelling. The report notes that more consultants are needed. Does that tell you something?

    For those who think economies can be engineered, I recommend an excellent little book by Jane Jacobs, The Nature of Economies. She was no slouch. To me the retail strategy is a fantasy by bureaucrats and related parasites who think they can craft through land use and social policy economic success.

    I share the aim of success, but I think the means are misguided. Life grows up from below.

  10. Patrick McCullough

    I don’t need a consultant’s study to convince me that the fastest and most cost effective way to increase retail activity is to invest in more cops. Sure, it would be better to do it all — get more cops and the training, education, model city accoutrements that people have been talking about for forty years. But we’d be foolish to hold out for that when it’s obvious the political party in charge has done little but whine about it while generation after generation of the liberal’s target audience languishes, suffers and fails.

    When it’s safe, people will get out of the cars and trains traversing Oakland each day and spend some money here in our restaurants, clothing stores, and entertainment establishments. But they won’t visit when there’s a big chance of getting robbed before theycomplete their trip home. One year of safety — which can be achieved with the concerted effort of available law enforcement agencies and political will — and Oakland will attract the retail and hotel and entertainment that won’t take the risk of our current situation. It won’t happen any other way, regardless of the wishes and pep talk and whorish pandering and real estate dealing of politicians. Invest in making it safe and they will come. Of course, I don’t trust our present bunch with another dime to squander so we’ll have to wait for them to leave before I endorse paying more taxes. I can wait it out.

  11. len raphael

    looks like the consultant capitulated on the finding of her previous report where she called on the city to provide long term leadership to make the difficult decisions to develop Auto Row which was her first choice for retail development. long term leadership from oakland pols. is that what’s called an oxymoron or just a contradiction in terms?

    her basic premise is that we can recapture 1 billion in purchases from residents that go outside of oakland to generate 10 mill in sales tax revenue and thousands of retail jobs is the kind of wishful thinking that so appeals to our council members. that’s something like $2.5 thousand of purchases for every person in oakland. if nothing else, some large chunk of that are internet purchases that ain’t coming back.

    but even if it were achievable within say 10 years, the most effecient way to achieve it would be to improve policing to drastically reduce shoplifting, provide more parking lots, drop the living wage rules, and drop the restrictions on what stores can and cannot sell.

  12. Ralph

    len, truth is for all of my bigger purchases and clothing, i buy outside of oakland. oakland has some nice things here and there but no concentration of stores in any one location which makes shopping inefficient. oakland needs to add a macy’s, target, panera bread, etc.

    i would disagree on the internet purchases.

    and if someone with vision would just say yes, it will happen. feet on the street buys safety, tax dollars buys cops

    i am so sick of people who think it you must have one before you get the other, the two need to go hand in hand. and someone must demonstrate a willing commitment to make it so

  13. Deckin

    Patrick is absolutely right. All this talk about retail policy and zoning and parking is just chaff. As someone with a personal stake in a retail business, let me reiterate: it’s the CRIME, stupid (not directed to anyone here, of course). Why aren’t we renting space in Oakland? Simple–people don’t shop here. Why don’t they? Here’s why–they are SCARED to. Funny how people don’t feel like strolling with shopping bags when they’re not sure they won’t be mugged for so doing. Get enough cops, put them visibly on corners, walking around, make them appear ubiquitous, and soon the word will filter out and the stores will come. I hate to internationalize this, but how about trying a ‘surge’ in Oakland? Clear, hold, build–seems to be working in Iraq.

  14. Deckin

    Sorry, I meant to say ‘downtown Oakland’ NOT Oakland in general. I know full well there are nice places to shop and stroll in Oakland.

  15. Joanna/OnTheGoJo

    Well, besides crime, there’s another issue that has held back retail.

    Many of the spaces built in the past 5 years have retail on the ground level and then office or residential above. Unfortunately, the retail spaces weren’t built properly. My store was used as the poster child for just how wrong retail was done in the set of three buildings my store belongs to. Of the 15 spaces, there is:
    leasing office
    space used for office services (fax/computer) for tenants only
    catering company (not open to the public)
    mortgage/real estate broker
    dry cleaners
    pack & ship store (mine)
    7 empty spaces, of which 2 have never been rented – the others were rented as office space

    This building was completed in 2002. The study on ground floor was done by an intern, Peris with the help of Margot Lederer-Prado. If I can find the study, I’ll send it to V.

    Along with crime, this is a big problem for more retail.

    Macy’s, Nordstrom, Crate & Barrel and others have supposedly said that they would not come to Oakland. Whether that’s true or not, I don’t know. But I do know that Gap pulled out of their downtown store with very close timing to JB no longer being Mayor. It was a losing proposition.

    I just looked at my expenses for 2007 and see that I spent just over $4,000 at Berkeley Bowl, Albertsons (in Alameda), and the Alameda Marketplace. I spent another $2700 in online purchases (sad, most was at Amazon). That’s just on the card I track!

    Back to parking for a minute – Max, your idea is great, but ultimately it hurts the City in terms of revenue. Which only makes them look elsewhere for money. And as for charging cars registered in Piedmont triple, I have to ask if you have a thing against people in Piedmont? Not all are as rich as you imagine. I know several folks that are on fixed incomes that have lived there for 30-40 Years (one has family that has lived there since the early 1900′s) and the ones I know are struggling. Some moved heaven on earth to buy a place there for the schools, but can’t afford anything else. I’m just saying be careful with that stereotyping. ;)

  16. Max Allstadt

    I was just indexing the fines to the median income. Stereotypes of Piedmont are solidly backed by statistics. Piedmont, for example, is about 1% black. Oakland is 35%. The income numbers are equally disparate. In an ideal world, you could index the fine to the car owner’s last year tax return. That’s not happening anytime soon.

    Paying it forward is a courtesy. The new meters collect more than the old ones, and inconvenience people in a number of ways. You can’t pay for 10 minutes with a credit card. You can’t add time, you can only go back at exactly the moment of expiration and buy another ticket.

  17. oakie

    The fundamental flaw of our politicians is to believe the problem is not enough taxes collected. That is NOT the problem. The city is addicted to money and we have no faith that the money is spent wisely. The political system is driven by special interests manipulating to get some benefit for themselves, like grant money and offering political support. It sure looks like pigs at a trough to me. And boy do they squeal if they don’t get their “fair share ” of the slop. At this point, the city is spending $1 Billion each year, or $2,500 per resident or $10,000 for each family of 4. But this is not enough.

    But look how that money is being spent. Just of the half that is the General Fund (I suspect there is a ton of waste in the other half, but it is hidden), are the following share of the pie:

    12% “Non-departmental”
    1% Mayor
    2% City Administrator
    6% Finance & Management

    How hard would it be to find plenty of things to cut that will not affect real services to the public? How about cutting Mayor Sleepy’s salary to what JB got ($50,000 saved)? Another $50,000 by cutting out his expense account used to pay for limousines, expensive hotels and retaurants? Cut the Mayor’s staff from 25 to 5 like JB had ($1 Million saved), recover the $340,000 given for the nonexistent grocery store in W.Oakland (Mandela Food Coop), $50,000 for a silly Food Policy Council, and I am sure 10 to 50 times as much for things we are not aware of yet.

    And how can we trust the city with out money if they continue to employ a Finance Director who personally offered a cash bribe to the whistle blower Controller who was fired by Little Miss Debbie for her 2 kids’ falsified time sheets… who are also still employed! And, of course a nephew who was hired as a felon (for ASSAULT weapons no less) who was subsequently found in possession of yet another weapon–which makes it another felony.

    The abusive level of taxation and fees (like the highest business tax rates in the state, ridiculous parking rates) plus city policies that are antagonistic to businesses are responsible for the loss of business and customers to Oakland. There is a lot of common sense in these comments about how demoralizing it is to operate a business in this town, and how unfriendly it is to visitors willing to shop here. The purpose of parking regulations is to ensure turnover so that new visitors can find a place to park, not to be a revenue source. But does anyone believe that? Add on top of that the city’s crime rate is the highest west of the Mississippi.

    Our city government is an addict with an insatiable need for money. And it is killing the city.

  18. Max Allstadt

    Suddenly I feel like all my stereotyping is rather minor. Do they call it that in Piedmont?

  19. Andy

    As a father of 2, I find that Oakland Parks and Rec offers many programs at relatively affordable prices. I fail to see much of a need. OPR summer camps are very reasonably priced. My son is involved in a baseball league – through OPR and Jr. Giants – that is FREE. We get about 10 games, hats, t-shirts.

    Crime is the issue in Oakland, and not just downtown. People from out of Oakland don’t want to come here. Whenever you tell people that you live in Oakland, the first thing they ask about is the crime. This is preaching to the Choir here, I know, but it is true. Parking is an issue too, but in my opinion, not that close to the crime issue. When deciding where and when to shop, my family thinks about safety, never parking.

  20. Joanna/OnTheGoJo

    Andy – you’re right. For some people it’s not about the parking, but about safety. For others it’s a combo. For most it’s a matter of convenience – where can I resolve four tasks without trekking to four different places. For me, I’ll often shop at Lucky because it’s right down the way from my chiropractor and I can also make a deposit for the store. Three birds with one stone. I realized the other day why I’ve always bought my eyeglasses in Berkeley or Walnut Creek – because they have more convenient hours (extended from the normal biz day/week).

    I read several reports from other cities that similar issues with a decreasing tax base and they realized that there was a correlation between the rising price of parking – and of making it more difficult – to the decreasing tax base. When some cities like Denver, Long Beach, and San Diego reduced parking fees (as well as changing to credit card machines) they saw an increase in the tax base. What they did do was increase the days of the week to include Saturdays, and in some areas even Sunday. They also increased the hours monitored to 9pm instead of the normal 6pm. They had staggered work shifts so that there was better coverage throughout the day.

    The pay & go machines that are now found across Oakland had been in storage for almost TWO years before being implemented. And honestly, there are ways to short circuit them, which I won’t name here and which apparently happens A Lot. They also give a hefty cut to the credit card processor. I’m not against that, I’m just saying.

    We had a parking enforcement officer on the Parking Task Force and it was enlightening! And after reading about all these other cities with parking issues across the country, let me just say that we’re not alone. We are, however, one of the highest in the country in terms of per minute cost and our parking tickets have gone up since that research was done.

    Another thing we discussed at the task force in regards to parking tickets and revenue for the City was the amount of uncollected revenue and how we send things to collection agencies – who typically get half – way too soon, again in my humble opinion. I was in credit and collections for years and I think the City makes zero effort and throws a lot of revenue out the door. Add to that the fact that people have to resolve parking tickets before selling or renewing their car registration and hmmm, wouldn’t it be easy to collect at that point? Or repo the car? Okay, and then there’s the issue that many of those that get tickets plead hardship to get their tickets reduced or waived. What about offering up community service instead for the lower income folks? Turnover of parking spaces is key, so I’m not against hefty fines. But I do think reducing the meter rates and finding better ways to collect those meter fees and parking ticket monies would be an easy gain for the City. To what dollar figure, I don’t know.

  21. len raphael

    how much does parking meter, permits and fine revenue exceed the cost of staffing the parking programs? is that info separate from any city owned parking lot revenue?