So it isn’t news to anyone right now that the City of Oakland is in, like, complete crisis. You’re probably all aware by now that our projected deficit has risen from $50 million to over $80 million, and there’s no easy way a hole of that magnitude is getting closed. I confess, the depressing weight of the forthcoming budget decisions is part of the reason I haven’t been writing so much lately. It’s just all too sad for words.
Anyway, the Mayor is supposed to deliver his proposed budget for the next two years on Monday, May 4. Hopefully, he will actually manage to do that on time, unlike last year. After that, the City Council will hold three special meetings to discuss revisions and adjustments to the Mayor’s budget proposal. These meetings will be held on: Wednesday, May 13; Thursday, May 28; and Monday, June 1st. I encourage people to go to at least one of them, both so you can speak up for the services that matter to you and so you can get a sense of what these deliberations are actually like. If you go willing to listen, you’ll probably come away with a much more sympathetic attitude towards the Council. The Council will adopt the budget for the next two years at a regular Council meeting on June 16th.
I’ll be presenting a series of posts with budget-related background information over the next couple weeks, and if you’re at all concerned about the budget and what’s going to get cut (and really, you should be!), I strongly encourage you to attend one of the three upcoming town hall meetings on the budget:
April 14, 6:30 to 8:00 PM
East Oakland Multipurpose Senior Center
9255 Edes Avenue, Oakland
April 20, 6:30 to 8:00 PM
Edna Brewer Middle School
3745 13th Avenue, Oakland
location subject to change, call 510-238-2984 to confirm [ seriously? - V ]
April 27, 6:30 to 8:00 PM
Lakeside Garden Center
666 Bellevue Avenue
And just for fun, here’s a little graph I made last year, but never got around to using, of Oakland’s historical budgeted staffing levels since 1993. That 08-09 figure is before all the midcycle budget cuts last year, BTW.
As far as next year’s budget goes, there’s no way to make this level of cuts without suffering in every department. But that doesn’t mean the City has no choices. My paranoid instincts tell me that we can expect a budget that hits basic service delivery especially and unnecessarily hard. There will be a number of taxes on the July 21st special election ballot (new hotel tax, changes to the real estate transfer tax, marijuana tax, maybe a parcel tax for parks, maybe a sales tax hike), and the City wants that money. They also know that they’ve gone to well a few too many times, and people are kind of tired of it. The solution? Guilt them into raising taxes by adopting a budget that decimates city services so much that people will feel they have no choice but to say yes. Don’t let them! Go to the town halls and go to the budget meetings and tell them what your priorities are. If you don’t, I guarantee, somebody else will, and you can take a wild guess who’s more likely to get what they want.