Down the drain

A couple of weeks ago, I got into this big fight with a friend over whether or not the City should be paying for food and bottled water at his Neighborhood Crime Prevention Council (NCPC) meetings. I said that provision of basic services is much more important that food and water at public meetings, and that if even, like, half a job could be spared by eliminating that expense, then it was a luxury that should be cut.

He countered that people would not come to the NCPC meeting if they were not going to be fed dinner, and that NCPCs are vital to community policing, which is a fundamental service of the City. Therefore, buying food for NCPC meetings is essential to public safety, and cutting that budget would jeopardize the entire concept of community policing in Oakland.

I don’t buy it. Sure, when I go to those zoning meetings and they have that little tray of supermarket cookies, I usually eat one. But I think I’d live just fine without it, too. The amount of money the City spends on things like food and bottled water seems small in the context of a $1 billion budget, and, well, it is small. But hey, proposed cuts that will be devastating to service delivery are also saving really small amounts of money, so we’re really in a situation where every penny matters.

Also, bottled water really bothers me in general – we have excellent water in Oakland, folks! Get a cup and drink from the damn tap! Also, it’s horribly wasteful – so much plastic everywhere. For a City that prides itself so much on its environmental sustainability, the number of plastic water bottles lying around City Hall is obscene.

So with this in mind, as I was paging through the budget detail by line item (PDF), I took note of the funding budgeted for food and bottled water in the next year: $440,560. That’s insane. I mean, I understand that there are some cases where it makes sense to provide food and water. Like, if you had some big park cleaning volunteer day or something, and people are going to be working and it’s all hot and yeah, they’re going to get thirsty and it is outside and not everyone will have had the foresight to bring their own water. Or people who did might drink it all and want more. But I can’t imagine that it would be that painful to cut that figure in half.

Other categories of expenses where it seems like you could probably save some money include:

  • Official Hospitality: $77,160
  • Minor furniture and office equipment: $363,480
  • Stationery and office supplies: $1,700,110
  • Books: $173,160 (excludes library)
  • Periodical subscriptions: $69,800 (excludes library)
  • Stipend to volunteers: $223,060
  • Printing and duplicating: $1,111,590

I’m certainly not suggesting that every penny spent on these activities is wasteful. The City is a large enterprise – obviously, we have to print things and make copies. Likewise, we need to spend something on office supplies – we can’t expect City employees to bring their own pens and paper and then sit on the floor while they work. And I know that industry periodicals are often important for professional development. But in most offices I’ve ever worked in, we received multiple copies of like, every professional publication, and most of them never got read. And people tend to print way more than they need to, and be profligate with pens and highlighters and post-its, and I have a very difficult time imagining the City of Oakland is any exception to this. So it really seems like reducing some of those costs shouldn’t present too much of a challenge.

72 thoughts on “Down the drain

  1. dto510

    According to today’s New York Times, Italians call tap water “the mayor’s water.” Considering how much City Hall spends on bottled water, it seems to be the opposite here.

    Also, where’s the budget for the fool who prints out and then rescans PDFs of every report for every public meeting?

  2. sal

    I may be off base here but I am almost certain that the food and drinks that are offered at the NCPC meetings are donated by Oaksterdam.

  3. Dave B.

    Wow, 440,560! That could be used for 10 decent paying, non-union jobs! That could be 10 people doing community policing. 10 people picking up trash etc. The city should declare bankruptcy and clean house.

  4. dto510

    The NCPCs receive a subsidy from the city for food at meetings, copies, and postage. For NCPCs to attract a substantial number of citizens, to alert neighborhoods about meetings, and to provide meeting materials, it is important for them to have a budget.

  5. Robert

    People who come to meetings only because there is food are not the people who are going to do anything once they leave the meeting. Food is a perk, and should not be the reason for the meeting.

  6. Robert

    The fact that some think we need to bribe people in order to get them interested in making the city safer is emblematic of the problems in Oakland. And that is on the citizens, not the city, if they really do need to be bribed.

  7. dto510

    NCPC meetings are for the entire community, not just people super-interested in civic issues. They also are held during dinnertime. Food is only one of the things NCPC budgets are used for.

  8. publicadministrator

    As someone who coordinated public involvement events for the Port of Oakland, where refreshments were a bit more abundant than for city functions, allow me to add my two cents.

    I took into account a wide range of factors in scheduling and promoting public meetings: a familiar building in a central location, ADA acessible, transit acessible, parking availability, avoiding conflicts with major sporting events etc. etc. Every decision was made to encourage greater public participation; we even drove some elderly members of the community who we knew didn’t venture out after dark in West Oakland.

    There wasn’t a formal policy on providing food and beverage, but it was certainly considered for events longer than 90 minutes or where a large gathering was expected. Humans are social creatures (bureaucrats, policy wonks and NIMBYS alike) and the bottom line is we wanted butts in seats. So if a tray of supermarket cookies or deli cold cuts encourages people to stay a bit longer in a meeting than so be it. Nevertheless, a $450K expenditure is worth examining given the enormous budget problems facing the city.

    Incidentially many municipalities (SF amongst them) have banned the purchase of bottled water for use at public meetings to encourage greater use of tap water and to avoid disposable plastic bottles.

  9. Eric

    I’m curious about the ‘Paid Leave Charge’. It seems to be about 25% to 30% of base compensation in every department. Does the average city employee get 3 – 4 months of paid leave per year?

  10. Robert

    Sorry, not buying it. When you provide food to get ‘butts in the seats’ the rationale for the meeting becomes to have a meeting, and not to communicate to/with interested or needed parties. The ones who come because there is food are not going to be contributors. It is a bad idea at any time, and with the budget crisis it is really awful and on top of that it is terrible publicity. If people really need to eat dinner, making arrangements to provide food for sale would seem a reasonable alternative. And bottled water? Get real. Tap water is safe in almost every community, and in Oakland it even tastes pretty good. Plus all the envvironmental concerns mentioned about drinking bottled water. These are exactly the reasons that financial conservatives and moderates like me are so reluctant to give Oakland more money.

    Now driving the elderly to a meeting is something totally different, and sounds like a great idea to get participation from those who might not be able to otherwise.

  11. dto510

    I don’t know of any NCPCs that buy bottled water. My NCPC buys food from a local restaurant at a very steep discount. The majority of our funds are spent on postage and copying agendas. We’d like to host a website, too.

    What’s going unsaid here is that the city is proposing to cut all financial support for NCPCs – not just bottled water. (I have not yet read this afternoon’s budget proposal.)

    I feel that having food at the monthly all-neighborhood dinnertime meeting is more about respecting people’s time than filling seats. But to some extent, having an NCPC meeting is a goal unto itself. Neighborhood crime prevention isn’t the zoning update, it’s not a public or private project, it’s not a change in policy, it’s a forum for neighbors to meet each other and hear updates from the police department. NCPCs maintain email lists that are valuable tools for the city and the community. Regular contact between PSOs and other police officers and the neighborhood is the basis of community policing. The city can’t mandate that each neighborhood have an NCPC, budget staff for them, and base policing policy around them, without providing some financial support to the Neighborhood Council itself.

  12. MarleenLee

    I say chop the food and water. When the City is rolling in dough, I can see the justification. But under the current circumstances, this is exactly the sort of belt tightening (literally and figuratively) that needs to go on.

    I’ve been to a couple of Measure Y meetings – they are scheduled around 6:30, and boxed dinners are provided for the committee members. But NOT members of the public. Guess they don’t want to encourage public participation. I don’t really have an issue with providing dinners to the committee members – they’re working for free; take away the dinner, and who’d want to volunteer? But members of the public is another story. If you want to participate, grab a bite to eat before you leave, or bring a sandwich. Or the City can provide food for sale. But we should not be giving food away at times like this to “encourage public participation.”

    If the City wants to encourage public participation, it should work on becoming a functional, responsible and accountable organization that people actually want to participate in. I think a lot of people don’t participate because they assume everything is dysfunctional and they’d just be wasting their time. And to a large extent, they’re right.

  13. Gene

    I’m not sure about the food (though I lean towards cutting it if the city is paying for any of it), but bottled water when we have some of the best tap water in the country is absurd. It costs more per gallon than gasoline, is a waste of plastic, and a waste of water ultimately since people leave half-drunk bottles everywhere.

  14. Ralph

    Food and water should be gone. This is the first and fastest cut in the private sector. It just seems wrong to keep extracurricular expenses when you are talking about cutting heads. You find any and all non-people discretionary expenses before you eliminate heads. Like stated earlier from a public perception standpoint that just demonstrates a lack judgment.

    And on bottled water, for a city that spends so much time and effort to ban plastic bags and to be environmentally friendly, I find it deeply disturbing that we are providing bottled water at any meeting. Really, unless these are some sort immaculately produced bottles, then please, for the love of all that is holy, make mine tap.

  15. len

    temescal ncpc didn’t have any refreshments at the meetings i’ve attended. this is not a buget buster. and i was glad to see that ncpc coordinators were not on the council members hit list. some of the council members show definite signs of intelligent life. better late than never…

  16. publicadministrator

    Robert, do you honestly think anyone is coming to a civic meeting for the supermarket cookies and paper cups of fruit juice? As another commentor mentioned, refreshments are offered to encourage attendees who might otherwise stray to remain, and to value the time of all those who show up.

    Ralph, food is the first cut in the private sector? no, that would be travel, training and conferences.

  17. Robert

    publicadministrator, you are the one who said it. If they are not coming for the food, then dropping it in the time of budget problems should not be a problem for them. Whether they come for it, or stay for it, you are saying it is enough to make a diffenence in the level of their participation.

  18. Patrick

    I just received via mail the County of Alameda “Sample Ballot and Voter Information Pamphlet City of Oakland Special Vote by Mail Municpal Election” booklet.

    First, how the hell much did this booklet cost? A card stock cover, with COLOR (and on print jobs we run at work, the cost of a single page of b/w is $0.006 and the cost of a single page of color is $0.068). Ridiculous waste of money AND resources.

    Second, John Russo’s “summary” is half a page long? Hello! TV age – no one has that kind of attention span anymore – especially when the summary does such a poor job of explaining Measure D. Ever heard of bullet points? How about “Measure D would replace the recently passed Measure OO. Rather than commit 2.5% of ALL revenues to the City, Measure D commits 3.0% of the Unrestricted General Fund, which is only a portion of all revenues, saving the City millions of dollars.”

    If people don’t spend the time to read this – and really, who will? – they are going to vote this measure down. All people are going to see is 2.5% and 3%, thinking that funding for children will go UP with Measure D. Of course, for that reason alone it might pass.

  19. Patrick

    In addition, with the cut and paste skills of the average 16 year old, removing redundant “VISIT US ONLINE” information and utilization of the COMPLETELY BLANK inside back cover, 3 pieces of ledger paper could have been removed from each booklet. Now, I know that ledger newsprint goes for only about $0.011 per page, but add that to the color printing and that is a savings of $0.10 per copy. Losing the cardstock would have saved about 5-6 cents per booklet more. How many copies were printed?

    Look, I know were talking about a measly $8000 if there were 50,000 booklets printed. But government HAS to start thinking about these things.

  20. Ralph

    publicadmin – travel, training, conferences, and food are on that same first line. travel and training make a bigger dent and food tends to line up with a symbolic cut. now granted i’ve only gone thru this a few times in my career but food was right up there.

  21. livegreen

    Re. the “Sample Ballot…” I wouldn’t mind if it were actually a ballot. But it’s a SAMPLE ballot. So they’re doing one mailing now and than another mailing later later with a REAL ballot?

    Unless there’s a good explanation for this, are they looking to waste money?

  22. cj

    I’m appalled at the expenses listed as well as the argument made by some posters that food is the only way to lure people to various meetings. Hello true Oaklanders…. it’s called “feeling the need to help our city… community service.. volunteerism.. and just plain old DO THE RIGHT THING if you want to help your city!” I totally agree with Gene… Oakland DOES have the very best water ! Take advantage of that! don’t waste it.. but drink it! Also, as a 3rd year volunteer on a MAJOR Board/ Commission in Oakland, I can honestly tell you that food should NEVER be a lure for trying to help our city. Our board sometimes is at City Hall until past 1 am…(after beginning at 6pm) so in those cases? Yes, perhaps a bit of food might help but still? should NEVER be an expectation or requirement to serve. Shame on those who feel that way.. and furthermore.. shame on the budget writers in Oakland… THAT is where we need to look to trim waste.. along with excessive expenses from Mayor’s office and City Council.

  23. Naomi Schiff

    For many meetings, city could provide recyclable paper cups and sign pointing to nearest water fountain. Otherwise, If food needed–and for long meetings, it is true you might get better decisions out of people who are not suffering from low blood sugar–couldn’t meeting notices gently suggest that snacks will be potluck?That way, a few enlightened folks might even bring some vegetables. There are too many carbos at those meetings anyhow. Carrots are inexpensive.

    Last fall I found myself carrying bags of tangerines around to a series of particularly hairy meetings (not city meetings). It was healthy, folks appreciated the gesture, and it wasn’t very expensive at all.

  24. Art

    Our NCPC meetings don’t have food (or water, other than a water fountain!) either. I honestly don’t think it makes any difference whatsoever in the attendance (which is hit or miss unless something big has just happened in the neighborhood—but I highly doubt dinner would change that much). I’d be more than happy to trade off with other neighbors to bring snacks to such a meeting, but don’t especially want the fairly limited NCPC funds going towards that. Would much rather see more extensive outreach around the meetings themselves. (That said, our meetings rarely run more than an hour and a half; I could imagine a special-case scenario if you knew you had a particularly volatile topic where the meeting would last for hours, but I’d guess all-night meetings are the exception and not the norm.)

  25. Ken

    cj:
    While I completely agree that we ban all bottled water and cut the snacks… with all due respect, Oakland isn’t facing a multi-million budget deficit because of some bottled water and cookies.

    From all the pdfs and talk here, it sounds like it’s the 90% pensions, large bureaucracy and the third rail of police/fire budgets which are eating this city budget alive. (plus the lack of a local police jail, which causes wasted time/gas carting inmates to dublin’s santa rita jail.) i doubt the city council+mayor and their staff account for more than 2% of the city budget — much less some food/water.

    how about this: the city can serve whatever food they want, AS LONG AS it’s grown within city limits on empty city property. seasonal, organic, boosts our city’s self-reliance and decreases vulnerability. (yes very nominally, but it’s a start! hello gas shortage or earthquake!…)

    naomi:
    why not offer tap water, and provide mugs or glasses, or let people bring their own canteens and cups?
    there is no need to continue offering paper cups. this is a waste of resources in more ways than one. instead of recycling, why not avoid the cup first. :)

    cheers,
    ken

  26. publicadministrator

    The distribution of sample ballots XX days before an election is mandated not only by state election law, but is probably a requirement of county election boards to receive federal funding assistance. The specific content undoubtedly needs to conform to the referendum language, rather than bullet points or some other plain english summary.

    Memo to self: Draft press release about the elimination of cookies and punch budget from public meetings. Be certain to reference the cost savings, solid waste diversion from unneeded serving utensils and promote the value of tap water. Instruct the finance dept. to direct the cost savings to the public employee pension fund.

  27. Ralph

    maybe it is just me but this whole idea of food at evening mtg to get butts in the seats has always seemed like some type of reverse head start program for adults. Can’t afford to feed themselves at home so we will offer them snacks and goodies at council/board mtgs. Tho far from nutritious and probably adds to this growing problem of obesity in society, at least they will go to bed with more than air in their belly.

  28. jack b dazzle

    For our business, we always provide snacks and water for meetings lasting more than 1 hour , even during this recession. We consider this good business and no we are not a public company.

    Unfortunately, people get cranky when they are hungry or thirsty, so the meetings become more productive when you have some snacks. It does not have to be much.

    During these economic times, every expense has to be challenged, and that is good. Just try not to cut the muscle when you are cutting the fat.

  29. hedera

    I can’t speak for other NCPCs, but ours (12Y/13X) uses the budget dollars for such useful items as our web site (RockridgeNCPC.com), a 510 area phone number where people can leave messages for the NCPC officers, and flyers with useful safety tips. Losing that money would have a serious impact – we may have to hustle donations to support the communications.

    We’re trying to hustle a used Windows computer to run web cameras to keep an eye on the bus stop by the library – anybody got one to spare? Believe me, the food we provide is minimal, we have coffee not bottled water (gotten very cheap somewhere I think), and the people who mainly eat the supermarket cookies are OPD!

  30. Andy Panda

    Our NCPC does not buy any food or water. We never spend any of our budget, most years, one year we bought a digital camera to photograph drug dealers, that was a good investment. As far as our NCPC is concerned, the city could keep that money. Some of the really long meetings, I understand some snacks & food, but for five or six peolle, & one hour or less, forget about it.

  31. dto510

    I’m sorry to be harsh Andy, but if your NCPC isn’t spending any of your budget, you’re not doing your job. At a minimum NCPCs should send postcards to everyone in the neighborhood alerting them to meetings. My NCPC gets fifteen to thirty attendees every month, and we’re a small police beat. Our meetings are two hours and we also have Board meetings of two hours every other month. The city should concentrate on shaping up the lagging NCPCs before cutting funds of the hard-working ones.

  32. V Smoothe Post author

    dto510 –

    You, of course, fail to mention that your NCPC meetings are actually joint meetings with an independent neighborhood organization, and that until recently, your group has been holding meetings at a time when your PSO isn’t even available to attend. I know that you think the taxpayers of Oakland should be subsidizing advertising and food for your discussions of neighborhood parks, community gardens, and halloween parties, but I think most people in Oakland would strongly disagree.

  33. dto510

    Listen V, you don’t go to NCPC meetings, you have no idea what is in involved in them, and you’ve never been to ours so I really don’t see where you get off criticizing our crime-reduction efforts.

  34. dto510

    You know, you don’t have to go to NCPC meetings, but you shouldn’t lie about attending them in order to take cheap shots at a different neighborhood. Also, while it’s true that our PSO’s schedule changed twice in one year, that is not our fault and we changed our meeting date, despite having very high attendance, so that the PSO could be there.

  35. V Smoothe Post author

    dto510, I don’t know what your problem is, but you really need to relax. You are well aware that I’ve been to your “NCPC” meetings before, because you insisted on my attendance. I even have a videorecording of one meeting from one year ago, which I made at your request, and during the entire meeting, there was no discussion whatsoever of crime, crime prevention, or policing. Furthermore, in the minutes of your meetings over the last year, there is little to no mention of crime or crime prevention (although several mentions of the group making $100 donations to this or that, so you don’t really seem to have a money shortage).

    It’s clear that you feel otherwise, but I very strongly believe that taxpayer money should absolutely not be used to fund mailers for your neighborhood group, an independent non-profit that has nothing to do with the City of Oakland.

    This is not a criticism of your group in any way. I think what you guys do is great. I’m glad you have 15-30 people a month come out to talk about what’s going on in your neighborhood. All neighborhoods should have that. But I think it is very wrong to expect that taxpayers to pay for food at such meetings or advertising for those meetings. That is not an appropriate use of public funds.

  36. dto510

    Oh, that’s right, I forgot you came to two special-topic meetings two years ago. Crime prevention is always a meeting topic, and we have a standing committee dealing with one of our chronic quality-of-life crime issues. I totally fail to understand your logic – because we take on additional responsibilities, including the creation of a 501c3 so that we can raise money for beautification, we are no longer an NCPC and shouldn’t alert the neighborhood to our meetings? For example, the city is building us a dog park. But we have to sign an MOU promising to maintain it (why Oakland is so dog-unfriendly is another topic), so we have to have a legally-responsible neighborhood entity in order to receive this redevelopment project. Perhaps taking on city duties, at the request of the city, may not be a core function of NCPCs, but it’s certainly not a reason to strip our group of city support for our meetings.

  37. V Smoothe Post author

    I just really don’t think that’s the way public funds should be used. The examples that hedera gave above of the way her NCPC uses their budget make sense to me. They are directly related to crime prevention, and I think NCPCs should have some support for such activities.

    But to me, the idea of using public money to send out mailers and buy food for an random neighborhood group really bothers me. I think it’s wonderful you guys want to beautify your neighborhood and maintain your local park and host neighborhood socials and all that. But I also think that the coordination those efforts should be funded by your neighborhood, not the City treasury.

  38. Patrick

    I have to agree. NCPCs are for Crime Prevention and allocated funds should be limited to that task. Park beautification does not prevent crime.

    I’m as big a park lover as anyone, but the funds provided to NCPCs are not Pay-Go funds that offer the recipients wide latitude.

  39. livegreen

    If NCPC’s become Neighborhood Associations (or Neighborhood Council’s) then I would think there’s still a distinction between what activities are crime prevention and which are not.

    –Are NCPC funds earmarked for Crime Prevention, or for general neighborhood spending?
    –If for Crime Prevention then does Beautification fall into this, and is it different between a neighborhood that has lost of blight vs. one that doesn’t?

    I think promoting both Crime Prevention and Neighborhood Activities (& development) are important. However spending the NCPC funds as they’re intended is especially important in a city like Oakland which has both high crime and limited funds. Otherwise money might be spent in other ways and end up not fighting crime at all.

  40. livegreen

    V, BTW your original post goes from NCPC funds being spent on food & water for their meetings to the City Budget for food and water. So we’re talking about how food & water applies to two separate budget items?

  41. V Smoothe Post author

    No, it’s the same. The question is one of whether or not Oakland taxpayer’s money spent on things like food and water could be better used elsewhere.

  42. dto510

    The NCPC support funds are spent on different things for each NCPC, so I doubt they’re included in the city’s food and water budget.

    Nobody’s spending NCPC funds on park maintenance. We’re spending NCPC funds publicizing and supporting our meetings, whose topics include both crime prevention and park maintenance. V is singling out Old Oakland because we do more than most NCPCs, and because she knows many of us so has details of what we do, but we don’t use city funds on anything but meeting support as far as I know (I am not the treasurer, and most of our money is from private fundraising anyway). The only real difference between Old Oakland Neighbors and other NCPCs, budget-wise, is that we actually spend all of our allocated money. If that money were taken away, we would probably choose to divert our outside funds from beautification or socials to covering postage and agenda copying, so that we don’t become a closed club. Other NCPCs who don’t fundraise would probably just disappear, or limp along with three or four hard-core members and no way for anyone to know how to join or where meetings are. Then Oakland will lack the “community” part of “community policing.”

  43. V Smoothe Post author

    I don’t know where you got the idea that I’m “singling out Old Oakland.” I wrote a post about the City’s non-personnel expenses, and you started leaving a bunch of comments about how the City should fund food for your neighborhood group meetings. I disagree with that, as you well know.

    If NCPCs are using their money for food at meetings, then I don’t think they should be getting City money. I don’t think that a neighborhood group that is nominally an NCPC, but does not focus on crime prevention issues, should get City money to advertise their meetings. If NCPCs are using their money for legitimate crime prevention purposes, such as those listed by hedera above, then I have no objection to them receiving City money to do so.

    But dto510, you were the one who raised this issue in the first place, and who continues to stridently insist that your neighborhood group should be provided taxpayer money for mailings, food, and other costs. So anything I say specifically about your that organization is simply a response to your use of it as an example. I don’t think any other general neighborhood booster organization anywhere in Oakland should use City funds to buy themselves food or send out postcards either.

  44. dto510

    NCPCs use their budgets for a variety of purposes. The city must approve those expenditures. I think food is a legitimate expense. But postage and copying is in the same budget, and also on the chopping block, and there is no way for NCPCs to represent the community without communicating with the community. Strictly defining what NCPCs can and cannot talk about is a different issue, but you began this blog by writing about our argument over whether NCPCs deserve city support for meetings.

  45. Ralph

    The argument that food and water are vital to public safety sound eerily similar to NN’s plea to spare adult literacy programs.

  46. dto510

    I said that providing staff and a budget to NCPCs is vital to the community part of community policing, I didn’t say that that NCPCs that spend more money are more successful in reducing crime.

    Of course improving literacy would help public safety, especially traffic safety. But then maybe more people would be distracted by billboards!

  47. Andy Panda

    dto510 — I would say our NCPC is doing it’s job just fine. Crime is down in our neighborhood every year for the last three, We alert the neighbors by hand dlivering flyers & email & telephone. Most of these efforts yield nothing, most of the time, we quit doing mailers about four years ago, as they cost money & the yield was zero. Our usual attendance is 15 to 20. You can be all “harsh”, if you like the numbers speak for themselves.

  48. Kevin Cook

    Wow, dto510 making an argument for spending other people’s money in questionable ways? I’m shocked.

  49. VivekB

    What disturbs me about the comments here is that everyone is speaking in absolutes. i.e., something is or is not right.

    What I would posit is that this is a question of priorities. I would absolutely love it if all NCPCs, nay, all meetings, could come accompanied with a full meal, drinks.etc. I’d love to host free all-city BBQ’s. I’d love to do lots of things. But we can’t. We can’t afford it.

    So in the end, the question is, what’s a more useful way to spend our limited $$? Shutting down libraries or feeding folks @NCPC/etc meetings?

    I realize that’s a false strawman, and that it’s not as clean as that, but you get the point. We need to list everything we spend $$ on, assign each a value, and then work our way down the list until we have no more $$. Unfortunately in this time of collapsing revenue, the line is much higher than it has ever been.

  50. len

    as long as we’re down to the smaller, symbolic discretionary items, where does the cost of our Sister City program show up? or does the Chamber of Commerce pay all of those costs or was it suspended already?

    My other favorites to cut would be any street renamings. wasn’t there one named after one of the IRA leaders, Gerry Adams? Assume that printing cost included throwing out all the old stuff with the old logo or is that complete?

  51. annoyed

    I railed about how no one here seems to give a rats ass about crime and now I understand why. You don’t have the first clue about crime, about NCPCs, or any of it. You don’t know that NYC cleaned up its city by using the broken window apprach which means hitting hard on crime, blight, and quality of life crimes. That’s exactly what NCPCs have traditionally done. They do neighborhood clean ups, they organize block parties, they string up absentee landlords, they go after drug houses, and so forth. In mine, we are talking about how to deal with traffic control. The refreshments probably cost $15. Let’s say it’s $20 per month. For 11 months, that’s $220. For 57 beats that’s $12,540 per year for people who are VOLUNTEERING their time to make the city a better place to live.

    When I can attend my NCPC meeting, I am literally running straight from work to the meeting and usually get there late. If I have time to grab food at the Panda Express on my way to the car, I do. Otherwise, I appreciate the cookies. Refreshments are a standard offering at most neighborhood meetings. I’d rather spend taxpayer money on cookies for people who are actually working to make the city safer than on some of the other crap I hear about. You act like there is no benefit from these meetings.

    And seriously, if the issue of paper cups is so offensive to you, you have altogher to much free time. Or maybe you need more crime in your ‘hood.

    If anyone were to change how the NCPCs work, I would be leading the charge against a bunch of smug, uninformed indiots who have a big fat opinion based on no facts.

    Here it is. I am a taxpayer who has been involved in community policing before it was even called that. I don’t care if the city pays for the two or three packs of cookies and two or three jugs of soda plus cups and napkins at my monthly NCPC meeting.

    Sweet Jesus, I wish you all had stayed in SF or wherever the hell you came from. This sounds like the sort of anal rentitive, tight fisted crap you hear from upper middle class people who want to do away with something that has nothing to do with their lives, ergo, who needs it.

  52. Ralph

    annoyed, i agree we need to crack down on quality of life crimes. some people seem to think that some graffiti is art. i suppose art is subjective but most of the grafitti is ugly and adds to the blight. but oakland also has councilmember that authorize legislation that makes mary jane a low priority crime. it would be one thing if people were smoking their dope at home, but they aren’t. They are walking up and down B-way, around the lake and anywhere else people can be found walking. as a result, we got doped up residents disrespecting private property.

  53. annoyed

    Seriously, the time I put into community policing is a lot and it simply enrages me that some noseprint would begrudge a couple of cookies and a cup of soda to a neighborhood group is doing what none of you all can be bothered to do.

    I’ll be passing out fireworks flyers next week and drafting a letter about a problem neighbor this week. And on the phone to figure out how to sue another neighbor. I think I earned my measly monthy cookie, damn it. Since I don’t get any thank yous, I’ll take the cookie, thank you very much.

    How dare you suggest that people should gladly be doing the work you not only won’t do but don’t even understand. It’s our duty, our responsibility, the few, the brave, what BS. This is so incredibly stoooopid I can hardly stand it. I really have to stop coming to this website. I am obviously not nearly enough of snob to be here.

  54. V Smoothe Post author

    annoyed , why do you presume to know what contributions a bunch of people you have never met make to their neighborhoods? Many people are more than happy to contribute ample time and energy to improving Oakland without expecting the taxpayers to fund cookies in exchange for their efforts.

  55. annoyed

    I presume because there is no evidence on this website that you do anything about crime except to do some ivory tower opining over crime stats. That’s why I presume. I believe it was you who invited me to go elsewhere if I was so worried about crime. Sorry to bust up your private club.

  56. OnTheGoJo/Joanna

    Sheesh, what kind of cookies are you getting from your NCPC??? What’s wrong with passing the hat or asking local businesses for a donation?

    Our NCPC never picked up the tab for our meetings, I (via my business) did. Not because people expected food, but more because it seemed like a neighborly thing to do. The one time we asked the City to pay for part of our mailer it was a total disaster. The City agreed to spend up to $600, but getting paid back took over a year because we spent more so that we could send it to more.

    Ironically, we saved the City money because they wanted to send the notices at 42cents per POSTCARD (something that drives me insane), where as we used pre-sort standard mail – POSTCARD rate – which allowed us to print and send the piece to ALL of the addresses in our district, not just a select few. This City wastes so much money on postage, but that’s another bitch for another day.

    I have to admit I’m not a huge from of our current NSC’s, and the NCPC meetings tend to only have turn-out when something in particular happens a week before the meeting. Otherwise, it’s the same people there bitching about the same things (graffiti, truck parking, etc) and no one from the City does anything about it. Hence, I stopped going. Our NSC has a problem reading PDF’s (much less creating them); send inappropriate emails claiming racial issues exist where they do not; and overall has no clue about our neighborhood.

    Maybe you’ve got a better NSC… and if so, congrats.

    But this BS about spending money on food and bev for these meetings is sillyness. It’s a waste of money, even if the amount is probably insignificant.

  57. VivekB

    annoyed, you’re annoyingly presumptuous and self-centered. Here’s a little of what I do:
    - Monthly analysis of OPD stats, for a variety of beats (not just mine), and Present them at NCPC on a monthly basis. (takes about 5 hours/month)
    - maintain (and personally pay the $400/year) to run a website for neighbors to discuss a variety of things
    - organize biweekly Fri evening family-friendly happy hours for our street, where neighbors BYOB and just hang out together
    - Neighborhood Watch Block Captain, organizing various beatification efforts for the street.

    Not only do I buy my own damn cookies, I always bring a half-dozen to share. Oh my – that’s nearly $5, I may not be able to eat right that day.

    And this Thursday, i’m showing up with a pizza, hoping to keep 2-3 slices for myself. Oy, Lanesplitters will cost me, what, $18 for the large?

    So you see, perhaps there is somebody else out there that does as much as you, but isn’t as much of a complainer as to feel entitled to a cookie while everybody else look is trying to scrimpt & save so we don’t have to scale back so many city services.

    This concept of entitlement is exactly what’s wrong with the west coast liberals (daresay, progressive movement hijacking :-) ). Haven’t folks heard of a balanced budget, or not raising taxes through the roof?

  58. annoyed

    Entitlement? I have been workkng my ass off on crime and blight issues for 18 farking years. Where do you get off talking about entitlement? I don’t care about your cheesy resume.

    The issue isn’t the cookies. If you were just a little sharper you’d get that. It’s the plantation way that some people just decide what others get to have and what they don’t. That, my little princess, is entitlement. You come here from some other city and decide you are going to have to just show all the ignorant natives the way and the light.

    Let’s get this straight. We have real crime in our area. We experience real retalitation for getting involved with the police. And you want to cry over some farking cookies? I got yourr cookies right here.

    You have some GD nerve.

  59. Chris Kidd

    Yeah, progressives are the devil. I hear that they put itching powder in Grover Cleveland’s trousers.

  60. len

    can we talk about something even more important than the expenditures on cookies at ncpc meetings.

    lets discuss where to get a good thin crust pizza.

    VB, how can you tolerate lanesplitters or la valles pies. former tastes like cardboard and the other chuckie cheese on a bad day.

    -len

  61. VivekB

    Len, i’m from NY. There is no such thing as good pizza in california. Zachary’s is good, but I wouldn’t consider it ‘pizza’ and it’s $$. Extreme is mediocre, but works great for kids. Rustica is also nice, but seriously doughy. Hence, Lanesplitters is what’s left. There is a place called ‘Zas on Russian Hill (I used to live around the corner), that’s the closest I’ve had to decent pizza.

    annoyed, sure sounds like you feel entitled to cookies to me. Why don’t you suggest who needs to be laid off so you & yours can continue to get your double-chocolate-chip fix? Budgets are a zero-sum game, the $$ paid for your cookies needs to come from somewhere, and i’m dying to hear your constructive suggestions.

  62. gem s

    annoyed: “I believe it was you who invited me to go elsewhere if I was so worried about crime”

    Actually, that was me, and I wasn’t inviting you to go somewhere else, I was inviting you to start your own blog because you don’t seem to like this one or anyone here because whatever you want is not being said or done to your satisfaction. However you chose to take it in the worst light possible, and instead twist it to mean go that you should go away. *shrug* It doesn’t seem like you have any interest in anything other than complaining and insulting people you don’t know. So I’m not going to feed the troll any more.

  63. das88

    @annoyed, you seem like a very angry person. I’m glad you can at least get a little solace out of life from some tasty bake-goods. I’m sorry if I have participated in some discussions that have further upset you. I would like to make amends by baking and bringing some homemade cookies to your next NCPC meeting. I am not a very good baker, but I think I can surpass most store-bought. Maybe I can get Ralph to share his world famous Oatmeal cookie recipe.

    Hey that gives me an idea. Maybe we can start a nonprofit parolee re-entry program that entails them baking cookies and bringing them to all the NCPC’s of the city. Not only will offenders learn a valuable skill that can keep them from a life of crime, but they can experience first-hand the looks of joy on their neighbors’ faces as they bring them sweet treats instead of the looks of anguish caused by their prior malfeasance.

    @vivek, $400 bucks a year to run a dinky neighborhood website?!?!? You should find a new host. With the money you save you could bring delicious Pizzaola pizza’s to your NCPC.

  64. Ralph

    das88, thank you for the mention. I actually have the butter out and I am preparing to bake. i am glad annoyed likes his tasty treats but store bought preserved cookies can not compare to the magic that is O – Love. I can’t wait to have one with a glass of red. maybe I can sell to the NCPCs….

  65. len

    at the risk of drawing the nav’s ire, i will say i can live without the burb’s pot hole free roads, safe streets, high performing schools, clean parks, good shopping. It is Melo’s Pizza of Pleasant Hill that I wish we had in Oakland.

    -len raphael
    temescal

  66. VivekB

    das88, it’s not the hosting costs, that’s $6/month. There’s a ton of additional items that the site has that costs $$, and they’re not available for free (ie, vBulletin forums engine, various Joomla modules).

    Regardless, thanks for the Pizzaiolo thought – believe it or not, i’ve never actually been there. I always forget it exists, as i’m blinded by overwhelming attraction towards Bakesale Betty’s or Dona Tomas any time i get close.

    God damn it, now i’m hungry for a fried chicken sandwich & a pear-ginger scone, with a frozen lemonade to drink. Maybe that’s what I should bring to the NCPC meeting on Thursday.

  67. OnTheGoJo/Joanna

    It’s not just about the cookies.

    At one point Buttercup decided to charge for the use of their space, so we found another free space. (Gary Knecht’s Egghouse!)

    He provides water, wine, and the occasional snacks based on whatever is left over from other neighborhood events.

    The only other money that we’re supposedly “entitled” to is postage to send out meeting notices. The City wastes more than enough on those notices, many of which have arrived after the meeting. Haven’t gotten one in a while though.

    So basically our NCPC has no money and spends no money. We have the supposed support of a NSC, but I find that to be a joke. She’s very nice, but completely ineffectual. I’ve had way more success going around her to resolve problems and answer questions. Personally – and I realize that other NCPC’s have different experiences – I think that if OPD has to have layoffs, then get rid of the NSC’s. Especially since Claudia isn’t running the show.

    I’m fine with just having our beat officer present – and we have a new one that seems very friendly, so that’s a good thing. The beat officers have a better pulse on what’s going on. Our NSC is CLUELESS. But that’s just my opinion. ;)

    Mmm, had Pizzaiolo last week and it was yummy. Also like Gioia in Berkeley and have wanted to try Lanesplitters. Zachary’s isn’t really pizza imho. It’s good, but the last few times haven’t been as good as in the past.

    JLS could really use a pizza place.