Jean Quan to Oakland: please, give more of your money to non-profits!

I don’t know if people read the update, or second update on my post yesterday about the parcel tax. I was kind of surprised to get like no comments on it. This is outrageous!

First, some background. We passed Measure K (PDF!) (Kids First) in 1996, which created the Oakland Fund for Children and Youth. Measure K sets aside a certain amount of the City’s unrestricted General Fund revenues for youth services for 12 years. That amount is 2.5%, on top of a “base,” which is determined by the amount of money we spent on youth services in the year before Measure K passed, adjusted for inflation. Does that make sense?

The base amount that we’re required to spend on services for children and youth every year is 5.16% of the City’s unrestricted General Fund revenue, which is about $21 million. A recent audit (PDF!) completed by City Auditor Courtney Ruby (who, BTW, has really stepped up her game lately), found that the City has been exceeding the Measure K baseline funding requirements for youth services, and not by insignificant amounts – $1.2 million in FY 2006, $4.5 million in FY 2007, and $5.1 million in FY 2008.

So then, on top of that base amount, Measure K requires us to then set aside 2.5% (a little over $10 million) of our unrestricted General Fund revenue for the Oakland Fund for Children and Youth, administered through Oakland’s Department of Human Services. Every year, they award their money to local non-profits that provide after school programs, early childhood programs, youth leadership programs, stuff like that. You can read all about this year’s grantees here (big PDF!).

So Measure K lasted only twelve years, but included a provision that it could be extended by a simple majority vote of the City Council. They did just that in April (PDF!), voting to extend Kids First through 2021. Not everyone was satisfied with that. Specifically, a group calling themselves the Kids First! Coalition wasn’t satisfied, and went out and collected themselves 45,000 signatures to put a measure on the November ballot that would more than double the amount of money that goes to the Oakland Fund for Children and Youth. Right now, they get 2.5% of the unrestricted General Fund. If their measure passed, they would get 2.5% of the entire City budget. So instead of getting just over $10 million/year, they would get $25 million/year.

So then, Jean Quan, who had spoken against the increased allocation previously, shows up to Rules Committee yesterday saying she wants to negotiate with the non-profits and put a Council-supported compromise on the ballot. The Committee wisely refused to do so (a couple of stabs at motions to discuss the issue on a later agenda received no second), and Quan pitched a fit and stormed off. She ended up getting her way later in the day, and now there’s a special Council meeting (PDF!) at 10 AM on July 22nd to put her own measure on the November ballot that would increase funding for the Oakland Fund for Children and Youth, but not by as much as the Kids First! Coalition signature initiative would have.

Quan’s measure (PDF!) would raise the set aside from 2.5% of unrestricted general fund revenue to 3.0-3.5% for the period between July 2009 and July 2011, then beginning in July 2011, it would raise to 4%, then starting in July 2013, raise it to 4.5%, then starting in 2015, raise it to 5.0%. Quan’s explanation for her sudden change of heart is that she thinks the other increase will pass, and that she’d rather have this one pass instead because it would be less damaging.

This is bullshit! Seriously, I am livid. The Council cannot let themselves be held hostage by a bunch of non-profits demanding even more City money. If they’re worried the measure will pass, then every single Councilmember (and the Mayor) should be actively campaigning against it, not putting their own only slightly less damaging version on the ballot in the hopes that it will pass instead. On the November ballot, the City will ask voters to tax themselves yet again for more police, claiming that they simply do not have enough revenue in the current budget to provide basic public safety or even a minimal police presence. Now Quan wants to, ask us, at the same time, to agree to spend even more of our existing revenue on grants to non-profits? How anyone could possibly justify those dual requests in their head is completely beyond my comprehension.

You know, I was, or maybe am, undecided about this police parcel tax. On the one hand, I don’t think the City uses the money they’re already getting very well and therefore don’t deserve any more. One the other, I know we’re not going to just up and find enough money to pay for a significant increase in the force from our existing budget, so maybe this is important enough to justify voting for another tax. I really just don’t know. That’s a decision that’s going to require a lot of thought. But I can say right now that if the City wants to ask for more money to fund police at the same time as they agree to give even another penny to Kids First, that decision will become an immediate no-brainer, and I swear, I will personally go door to door throughout the city telling people to vote hell no on both. Maybe Charles Pine will come with me. Unbelievable!

33 thoughts on “Jean Quan to Oakland: please, give more of your money to non-profits!

  1. oaklandhappenings

    Just about everything Quan says these days freaks the hell out of me–and bores me, considering that it takes her (figuratively) a century to finish talking sometimes. I usually doze at–what I originally think–the 1/2 way point of her talks (which end up being about 1/10th of the way).
    Is ANYONE running for D4 to give her the boost? Not that it means she can’t be on the Rules committee anymore, but likely a new person would actually care about more resident concerns– including public safety.

  2. Surfways

    I simply refuse to pay more in property taxes than I am already doing so. First, I want an audit (suggested by Ignacio) to determine programs that are not efficient and cut funding. I am positive we will find the money to pay for the basic services that has already been paid for.

    I am so angry about all of this that I need to be put in a cage and given sedatives.

  3. Charles Pine

    It would be a pleasure to campaign with you, V. After the LLAD vote rigging (http://www.orpn.org/LLAD_B07.htm), the scams perpetrated under the banner of Measure Y, and the revelations of the mayor and City executives living the high life, a broad coalition is forming against giving City Hall another dime.

    You hit a key point when you focus on the non-profits. The text of Measure K does not require the money to be dispensed as grants. City activities for youth count, too. Nonetheless, about half the money is handed out to agencies, mostly by their own representatives planted in the Oakland Fund for Children and Youth. They not provided evidence of results (except for a few touching anecdotes). To use a tag from the 60s, Kids First is really about poverty pimps first.

  4. len raphael

    the city has to be put on a massive restricted revenue cost cutting diet or its elected leaders hand in hand with the unions, nonprofits, and the quickbuck developers will succeed in creating a big version of Richmond (maybe i should say Marin City) with some gated communities scattered around. Maybe some bladerunner high rise edginess also.

    Basically we have to cut off the blood supply to the tumor that calls itself the City of Oakland. Massive layoffs are needed and rebuilding bloated city depts and programs to make them work for the residents instead of the city employees, officials, contractors, and NGO’s.

    The strongest winds blowing in favor of that occurring are external ones such as dropping wages for middle and upper middle class due to globabilization, sagging middle class wealth perceived wealth due to stock market and real estate value drops for all the now normal reasons, combined with the push of upper middle class to prefer living in cities over burbs.

    even though in the long run lower income residents who are renters will get screwed by higher parcel taxes inefficently spent by our leaders, you’ll never persuade enough of them in the short run to oppose those tax increases. in the short run they’re acting quite rationally to vote that way since there’s a lag time for parcel tax increases to pass thru to renters.

    many of those middle and upper middle types are facing real drops in net worth and spending power for the next decade or so.

    there are also significant numbers of less likely to vote lower income new home owners who also have to reached with the message that while they’re struggling to make house payments and property tax payments that exceed that of many older hills resident, paying thru the nose for gas, etc. our elected leaders need to raise our taxes to cover wage increases for 70k/year starting salaried parking meter repair gangbangers.

    We have about 3 months to plant enough doubt in the minds of those middle and upper middle likely to vote residents that giving more to the greedy incompetents in power, that they vote against all the new parcel taxes. If we can reach the harder to reach lower income home owners, we have to do that too.

    it was possible to defeat the childrens hospital bond measure, which was much slicker than anything Measure K or Dellums/Brunner will come up with for their parcel taxes.

    Should be possible to defeat these if residents who agree on basic good government principles put aside their differences on no growth, smart growth, green growth etc.

    -len raphael
    temescal

  5. Californio

    Len,

    Yes, but who is “we,” and how do we meet to accomplish this? The information on blogs like this one is excellent, but it doesn’t change anything without people in Oakland making use of what they learn here.

    Are there any City Council members who would dare stand up in opposition?

    Someone needs to organize, just as the Kids First group has organized.

    Who, though? And how to combat this crap without seeming reactionary?

  6. Jennifer

    I would be interested to see polling on these measures. In light of the past week’s scandal with Edgerly and her family on the City payroll, I’m sure confidence in Oakland’s leadership isn’t high. Why give them more money to steal? I want an audit and accountability from the nonprofits and city department already getting these fund for children and youth before I decide if they should get more. By the way, when do we start the recall Dellums effort? Or can we pressure him to resign and go back to Berkeley?

  7. Surfways

    V, forgive me for hijacking your comment space for an inquiry that might only suit me,

    Jennifer – I dont understand the “go back to Berkeley” portion of your statement. What does Dellums have to do with Berkeley? I thought he lives in the Oakland hills(?)

  8. Robert

    Maybe we should have that “Safety First” initiative to raise the sworn police staffing up to 1200 without funding. Since this if this and Kids First 2 both pass they likely to force the city into bankruptcy, we could then begin a serious job of restructuring city government, which would hopefully include getting rid of all the earmarks that have accumalated over the years, and maybe cutting the non public safety portions of the city staffing by 20 or 30%.

    Although I always though of Dellums as representing Berkeley, he was actually born and raised in Oakland, and I beleieve that the district he represented always included some or all of Oakland in addition to Berkeley. And since he actually lived in Washington when he was in Congress, I ‘m not sure it really matters what his official address in CA was during those years.

  9. len raphael

    Californio,

    we iz an amorphous group of i’d guestimate at 100 to 400 residents who agree on no more taxes, 1,000 cops, and very little else :) . Many were active in working for challengers to the council incumbents. I’ve since come across some disallusioned Dellums activists. Then there are probably another 50 to 200 active participants in various blogs, who complain but won’t get off their duffs to knock on doors or work phone banks.

    From working in this last council campaign, it w as clear that many business groups shared the same basic goals as the residents but were hesitant to piss off the odd’s on favored incumbents.

    The easiest way to organize would be for the core 20 or so of this loose network of such people wb to organize the larger group of reform minded residents to volunteer time and money for Kaplan if she were willing do another of her saavy political jumps (eg. green to demo).

    But this time she’d have to tell her Alameda Labor Council backers that the Oakland gravy train is slowing down and tell them to support a combo of wage cutbacks and layoffs or face much worse. Union leaders can’t do that and stay in office. They have to wait for disaster and then blame it on the politicians or the economy.

    So she has to come out publicly and say wage cutbacks and layoffs are needed in order to avoid massive parcel tax increases over the next few years. RK can’t take that risk even she agreed it was right thing to do.

    Kind of a political escrow company is needed. RK can’t take the risk of alienating the Labor Council for an unproven ragtag coalition of reformers that seem to prefer the comforts of talking to themeselves in cyberspace instead of going out and knocking on doors and persuading ordinary tired, ignorant residents to vote against tax increases and against a candidate like Hamill whose platform cynically plays off the crime issue without fixing any of its causes. Conversely, reformers won’t work for RK unless she publicly opposes tax increases and publicly supports wage freezes and layoffs.

    RK probably won’t do that, figuring her promise of nirvana via greening, sexual politics, and financial/staffing support from the Alameda Labor Council will overcome the huge financial advantage of Hamil. Heaven knows Dellums won election on more cloud nine fantasy than that.

    That’s ok, the ragtag bunch of clean govt, back to basic services reformers, will have to focus on defeating the parcel tax increases. I don’t think that will be that hard given the current economic climate and what looks to be the continuing headlines about Edgerly. We’ll reach out to business groups and developers that realize their bottom lines require a transparent, fiscally responsible, secure Oakland.

    if we succeed in killing the tax increases, we can sit back and watch the council members and mayor blame each other, and then draw up the lists of which programs and departments to cut. That will be another battle we’ll have to fight.

    -len raphael
    temescal

  10. Chris Kidd

    I’m very dubious as to whether forcing the city into bankruptcy will be the “magic bullet” people are claiming it will be. At the very least, it will cause an enormous amount of upheaval and make Oakland a much harder city to live in while everything gets sorted out. True, forcing bankruptcy may be able to do the trick, but I have yet to be convinced that forcing bankruptcy wouldn’t have an equal chance of dragging the city down into a quagmire that it wouldn’t be able to climb back out of. Look at OUSD. Are they any closer to getting back on track than the day they exchanged their freedom for a $100 million line of credit from the state?

  11. len raphael

    re. ousd, i’d say they are closer. part of the lack of financial progress has nothing to do w the bankruptcy: the precipitous drop in enrollment that many cities have experienced combined with a huge fixed overhead of administrators and underutilized buildings. at least now the budget is balanced and the admin actually has a financial reporting system that supposedly gives valid useful info.

    yes, it seems like under Ward they were making rapid progress, but something went awry with a subsequent rapid turnover of financial staff. some say it was the triumph of the ousd beauracry, others blame it on gates/broad.

    (footnote: a couple of months ago I met a former ousd teacher who had been on the contract negotiating committe during the Chiconas era. He remembers one of the board members telling him after the board approved the huge wage demands, that he the board member thought the union should have asked for even more money.)

    as far as education progress, it was always clear that spending lots of bucks you didn’t have on smaller class sizes the way the old elected board did, was bound to improve test scores.

    —–

    re bankruptcy: my layperson’s understanding was that only bankruptcy or union agreement, would allow the city to break labor contracts to reduce or freeze wages. absent bankruptcy, all we could do is cut the hours of hourly rank and file as Dellums did, and then lay off employees based on seniority not productivity. Have no idea if the layoff seniority rules cut across city depts, or are applied on a dept by dept basis.

    bankruptcy is not desirable, i assume it would greatly increase borrowing costs for the city. planned layoffs would be less disruptive to employees and residents.

    -len

  12. Robert

    I too am afraid that bankruptcy will not be a magic bullet, but I really don’t think that it will be any worse than our present situation.

    But more important to me is that the only other solution that is ever proposed is to keep raising taxes. So in the absence of anything else that would, to me, be an acceptable solution, bankruptcy doesn’t look so bad.

    len raphael is correct about at least one thing. That is that if we want to make real changes in Oakland, somebody is going to have to step up. And a bankruptcy is the kind of disruptive event that allows that to happen. I would agree that it did not happen with the OUSD, but as far as I can tell, the board and residents of Oakland spent most of their enery complaining about the takeover, and not actually working to get the spending situation under control.

    I just had another (random) thought. Can Oakland disincorporate? and what would happen if we did?

  13. len raphael

    by disincorporate, do you mean break up into say Rockridge/Temescal, Montclair, East Oakland, mini cities or unicorporated areas? about a year or so ago there was a thread on a rockridge site to the effect that technically possible, but required a majority of all voters in entire Oakland to approve.

    wb much easier to just disincorporate defacto: affluent areas hiring their own armed security patrols, possibly gating off streets and self maintaining them. of course voting down all tax increases.

  14. len raphael

    Charlie P: do you agree that Dellums/Brunner/Protopappas won’t try another Port of Oakland rigged vote on this November cop parcel tax?

  15. tagami

    I see we are all out having fun on this hot weekend night…

    1. Protopapas in no longer serving on the Port Commission.
    2. I agree there should be a more open and transfarent process for votes such as the LLAD that not only need to derived on a more equitable basis but need third party monitoring.
    3. I think an orginization called LAFCO has a procedure that must be followed for succession to be legally binding. If I recall its a big hurdel (on purpose) and not as simle as a a 2/3rds majority ending our current form of government.
    4. Common Sense by Thomas Payne speaks to our situation today far more than it did to people in 1775.
    5. Like many folks I do not mind paying my share of taxes or for that matter increases (IF WE REALLY GET WHAT IS ADVERTISED) but would like more done with the funds we already payout – to every level of government.

  16. len raphael

    t, re. John P: didn’t mean to imply that he was still on the Port Board. i did check that he wasn’t still on the board before my initial posting. But JP was widely reported to be main private sector backer of the ballot proposition.Was that incorrect?

    It looks like he and the other private sector backers neatly coopted their community activitist supporters like Marcus into providing political cover for the initial signature gathering, and then discarded them to cut a deal to drop the amendment with dellums and brunner. to community activists in poor parts of time $100 to $200 more a year in taxes is a big deal, particularly when it only gets the entire city a 120 cops more cops and some techs over several years. try coming up with your property taxes when you can’t even make your mortgage payments or pay your pg&e bill. a problem that John hasn’t faced in many years.

    It’s not the lack of openess and transparency that angered me about the LLAD vote, we’re all used to getting the mushroom treatment by our elected officials here. I’m not even sure (yet) that there was anything illegal about the way the council and dellums rigged the vote weighting. It’s the hubris of our elected officials to use a loophole in prop 13 to do an end run around the 2/3 vote requirement.

    what we need is a rich nyc bloomberg or a denver hickenlooper preferably with a strong mangement background to run for mayor. any candidates come to mind?

    -len raphael
    temescal

  17. Robert

    len – I meant truly disincorporate, and the entire city become part of unincorporated Alameda county. The various parts could then reorganize however they wanted, either by incorporating as a smaller entity, or being annexed to some other city. Nothing but food for thought, but if only requires a simple majority…? What I see as a posibilitiy is to throw all the bums out, along with much of the budget earmarking that has occurred over the years.

  18. V Smoothe Post author

    Surfways –

    Before Ron Dellums was elected to Congress, he was serving on the Berkeley City Council (1967-1970).

    Len –

    There’s some things we need to clear up about the LLAD. There are two things people are getting upset about here. The first claim is that the vote was rigged because the votes of all property owners were not given equal weight. This is neither vote rigging, nor illegal, nor an end run around Prop 13, or whatever else people are calling it. It is simply conformance with state law governing assessment districts, and is not a legitimate reason to be upset with the City. If people don’t like state law, they should go complain to their state representatives.

    The second issue with the LLAD is that the votes appear to have been counted improperly, with the Port’s vote being counted not just by their increased assessment, but by their total assessment. Francisco & Associates, who conducted the election, have an explanation for the reasoning here that I personally find extremely unpersuasive. The Council is going to discuss the issue in closed session.

    In any case, since this is a normal parcel tax and not an assessment district, the vote counting will be done by the registrar of voters. There is no reason to be concerned about a “rigged vote.”

  19. Max Allstadt

    Robert -

    Disincorporating sounds like a great way of letting all the rich neighborhoods run their own school districts and such, leaving the poorer parts of Oakland even more screwed than they are now. I support the opposite: annexation of Piedmont by force if necessary (OK, not violent force, but coercion.)

    Frankly, when you look at the Bay Area in a satellite photo, you see a giant V shaped city 25 miles wide and 60 odd miles long. If I were king I’d redraw the county boundaries based on population density and the megalopolis we live in would be governed accordingly.

    I know there are elements of Rockridge that want to secede, I’m sure there are folks in Montclair that would like that too. Hell I bet half of district 4 wants their district to be its own entity. Very very not OK. If anything we should be coming together more and expanding rather than breaking apart.

  20. Max Allstadt

    Actually Robert, I’m so bothered by your suggestion that I’m throwing another hunk of rebuttal at it.

    Look at this page:

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Maps_of_Oakland%2C_California

    Then tell me, based on these maps, how you think a disincorporated Oakland would reorganize itself. My prediction is that the result would be enclaves with borders drawn based on racial and economic bigotry.

    Look at those maps again. We should be working to improve the divisions they depict. Your idea would do exactly the opposite. It is quite possibly the worst idea I’ve heard all week.

  21. Californio

    Talk of disincorporation indicates more than anything the level of frustration and helplessness some are feeling in this city. Disincorporation won’t happen, and if it did, it would create more problems than it solved.

    A few years ago San Fernando Valley tried to succeed from the rest of LA. The initiative, which was probably more logical, geographically speaking, than carving up Oakland, was soundly defeated. It wouldn’t pass here, either.

    Anyone familiar with East Palo Alto in the 1980s knows how difficult it can be to fight crime in an unincorporated city with no tax base. The San Mateo County sheriff’s department didn’t have anything close the the resources to deal with the rampant drug sales going on, and eventually Palo Alto and Menlo Park began sending their cops across the freeway. Now imagine East Oakland as EPA. Whatever the shortcomings of the OPD, anything is better than that. Trust me. Maybe you had to have been there. One year it was the murder capital of the country…

    As I’ve said over and over, someone needs to form a coalition against the status quo in Oakland
    –not just a group of people blogging, but a group that sits down around a table and figures out what action to take.

    In any case, disincorporation is not the answer.

  22. Charles Pine

    Yes, the City stole the LLAD election and our money per the second issue mentioned by V: counting the Port’s votes with extra weight, just making up votes for the Port out of thin air. http://www.orpn.org/LLAD_B07.htm

    Regarding the first issue V mentions, it is also unfortunately the case that the City did NOT follow state law. State law obliges the City and its engineer to assign an assessment equaling the “proportionate special benefit derived by each identified parcel” from, in this case, parks, sidewalk trees, and street lights. Based on the $1.4 million assessment, the Port supposedly gets as much benefit from LLAD activities as about 10,000 homes. Big as the Port is, that’s ludicrous. http://www.orpn.org/LLAD_B05.htm

    Although De La Fuente said on July 2 that the council would discuss the LLAD in closed session on July 15, the agenda items for that session that a staffer read off at the July 10 rules committee did not include the LLAD.

  23. Robert

    I so love it when I step on somebody’s toes.

    Californio – Saying that disincorporation won’t happen is not an argument that it is not a good idea. Even if it is true, it is only an argument that it is not worth the effort to try, not that it is not a good idea.

    The EPA situation is a valid comparison, although if you look at the murder rate per 100,000 in east and west Oakland only, it is not all that far below what the EPA rate was at its worst. And just as a reminder, Oakland is already getting assistance from the CHP, and I don’t see that as being different from Palo Alto and Menlo Park coming into East Palo Alto. I would agree that Alameda County could not handle the addition of Oakland into the unincorporated area, but that only says that there would need to be a transition plan in place. Its not as if the OPD would necessarily disappear, they might just need to be funded from a new source.

    Max – First, why should we make the ‘rich’ areas of Oakland subsidize the ‘poor’ areas? The fact that those areas are currently in Oakland and not some other community is only a reflection of the historical artifact that 100 years ago the city government made a land grab to get as much land area as possible, even if the annexed areas had no ties to the Oakland at the time. I fail to see why you assume that the burden of poverty in Oakland should be borne only by Oakland, and is not something that should be spread out over a broader population, perhaps the metro area you defined, or maybe the whole state.

    Second, and to me more importantly, I don’t actually know that the poor areas of Oakland would be worse off. Poverty is concentrated in East/West Oakland, which is exactly where there are huge tracts of undeveloped/underutilized ‘industrial’ land. Give folks in those areas the ability to make decisions about development and corresponding higher tax revenues and you might actually see change start to happen in those areas. If you could toss in the revenues from the Port of Oakland into that mix, and they could easily end up much better off than the current situation. Obviously, this doesn’t happen overnight, so a transition plan would need to exist.

    I actually don’t think disincorporation can happen either, but I do believe that Oakland is in need of a disruptive (or transformative if you prefer) event to get out of the mess. I am normally a believer in incremental change, but there are no politicians in Oakland who actually appear to have vision of where we need to go, or any way to make meaningful changes. Thus I think it may be time to get serious about thinking outside the box (of current Oakland city limits) and force some major change. When only 6% of the city budget is considered discretionary, then city has no capability to make changes. And concepts like Kids First 2 only serve to make the situation worse. It is difficult for me to see why we would increase the funding of these programs by 50%, when the proportion of residents under 18 has not gone up anywhere near that amount.

    So Max, Californio, what are your ideas? There are a lot of organizational studies that suggest the good solutions come from putting all ideas into the pot, talking about them, and then taking the bits and pieces to come up with a new and better overall concept. Which is why I like stirring the pot and stepping on toes, it generates discussion.

    P.S. Any argument I might make in favor of a particular issue is not an indication that I would actually support such a direction. I just so love a debate! The exchange of ideas is one of the things that sets us apart from all other species.

  24. VivekB

    Max – I live in Rockridge. Why is it not okay for me to be sick of subsidizing others? Why is it not okay for me to be pissed off when I go to the City-wide Neighborhood Watch Steering Committee meetings and hear people from East Oakland saying “I’m sorry you’re all getting held up at gunpoint, but it’s only once per week and we’re getting shot at daily”. Well hell, the 1.5% in property taxes I pay on my house is guaranteed to be at least 2X-3X what they’re paying given the dichotomy in property values, why should I asked be to pay MUCH more and get MUCH less?

    For the record, i actually think that seceding is a very bad idea as it would drive taxes up as we don’t have enough people to support a diversified set of services. It’s a sucker punch, we’d have to join with other cities or villages in order to get economies of scale, but that’s irrelevant. My question is simply, why is it that folks feel I need to subsidize their lives.

  25. David

    Why is it not okay for me to be pissed off when I go to the City-wide Neighborhood Watch Steering Committee meetings and hear people from East Oakland saying “I’m sorry you’re all getting held up at gunpoint, but it’s only once per week and we’re getting shot at daily”. Well hell, the 1.5% in property taxes I pay on my house is guaranteed to be at least 2X-3X what they’re paying given the dichotomy in property values, why should I asked be to pay MUCH more and get MUCH less?

    Yes, life is so unfair for people with expensive homes in nice neighborhoods. Why won’t those people in East Oakland just accept that they deserve to be shot at daily, since they’re poor?

    By the way, I’m sure property owners in East Oakland would be happy to swap houses if you feel you’re getting a raw deal.

  26. VivekB

    David – sure, let’s swap. Let’s also swap taxes.

    I pay more for city services than they do, why should I not expect more? Is the rockridge currency somehow worth less than the East Oakland currency?

    I’m not asking for more than my fair share, but the same as anyone else on a per-dollar basis. Why is that wrong?

  27. Max Allstadt

    VivekB and Robert

    Why do I object to letting the wealthy balkanize themselves off and form their own communities?

    Do you think rich towns have a right to have better funded public schools than poor ones? Does equality of opportunity matter to you in the least?

    Do you realize the racial implications of dissolving this city? Oakland is 35% black. What percent of the people walking down College Ave. on a Saturday are black? What your suggesting would lead to a kinder gentler apartheid.

    Look, independence in the broadest sense is a myth. There is only interdependence. Rich people depend on poor people to support their lifestyle. Safety and crime are directly linked to how low we let the bottom echelons of our society get. One of the best reasons for subsidizing the poor is so they don’t get desperate enough to mug you. Unless you want to build an Iron Curtain, redrawing municipal boundaries won’t keep thugs out of Rockridge.

    I’m going to quote Tyler Durden here: “We cook your meals. We haul your trash. We connect your calls. We drive your ambulances. We guard you while you sleep. Do not fuck with us.” You understand? The less your waiter gets paid at Chevy’s, the more willing he is to put unmentionable bodily fluids in your clam chowder if he perceives even the slightest rudeness from you.

    VivekB if you want to pay your fair share on a per-dollar basis, how about we index parking fines to income. Petty fines are the most regressive tax there is. I say if you make an average Oakland salary of about 35k, you pay the same as you pay now. If you make 100k, you pay almost triple. If you make 350k, a $40 ticket just went up to $400. That would be fair, dollar per dollar.

  28. VivekB

    Look, i’m just as much about equality as most East Coasters. Hell, when i lived there, I was the most liberal guy I knew. But this tendency in CA to repeatedly go after the same pool of folks to subsidize other people is getting to be too much.

    I didn’t grow up rich, I paid my own way through a very expensive private college. I was overburdened with debt when I graduated to the point of not eating right so I could pay the bills. I worked my damn ass off, went to school to learn programming when I was 8 (in the 70′s), worked from the time I was 13, after college I travelled 5000 miles per week for 7 years going all over the damn country because it was the best way to get ahead. I’m still busting my butt at work, and a slipup on any given day has the whole house of cards come crashing down. So I keep pushing and pushing and pushing.

    I’m not rich now, we still struggle to pay for school/mortgage/taxes, and have all of a 1 month nest egg in case either wife or I get laid off. I currently pay over a thousand dollars per month in property taxes.

    And now people have the guts to tell me not to fuck with them, because i’m getting paid for my efforts? Excuse me?

    If we’re indexing things to be fair, let’s index them to hours worked per week. That sounds the fairest. I do about 60 hours per week, and need to get on email to respond to folks 7 days per week. I was getting called every 6 hours on my vacation, despite my repeated statements that I was not to be interrupted unless there was a huge issue. Now let’s have everyone else show their hand, and go from there.

    I’m sorry about the regressive nature of petty fines, but that’s an avoidable path that isn’t that frequent. On the other hand, i’m repeatedly cheated when I write that property tax check. Violence via gunshots or violence via legalized robbery. Just as you forgive the “poor people who would love to trade places with me” so they can escape the violence, forgive me my desire to stop everyone from robbing me with impunity and asking me to be happy about it.

  29. Max Allstadt

    Thanks to prop 13, I pay 2400 bucks a year on an empty lot.

    Hours per week for fines is hardly fair. Lemme put it to you this way a $50 ticket takes me over an hour to work off. Henry Kaiser can stand around scratching his nose for 10 seconds and cover that. If a fine is supposed to work as disincentive for bad behavior, it has to be indexed to wealth.

    I wasn’t quoting Durden directly at you, I was just quoting him.

    I’m going to go back to my thoughts about the aerial view of the Bay Area. Get on Google Earth, get the whole bay area in your viewport. Turn off all the labels and borders. Tell me which city you live in. Easy. The HUGE V-shaped grey thing surrounding the bay. In an ideal world this would be the unit of government, because this is the natural distribution of humans. We’re so wholly interdependent that I think we oughta share all tax revenue throughout the whole megalopolis, as well as services. We might have to break it down for managerial reasons, but never to use borders as a means of concentrating wealth. (and that’s my unrealistic solution to counter the dissolve-the-city argument).

    My ideas for getting the city on track are many, and probably pretty controversial in some circles. I’d cut all sorts of stuff. If a company’s doing poorly, raises and bonuses are smaller. I’d cap city employee raises at a cost of living adjustment until further notice. Frankly, we oughta be budgeting like we’re eating rice and beans, and auditing accordingly too. Attack the pork.

    We should also look at Piedmont. We surround it and it’s full of money. There must be a way to squeeze it and get more of that money to ooze out.

  30. avis

    VivekB, I couldn’t agree with you more. I had much the same experience as you, a virtual orphan in foster care at 14, I managed to get as much education as possible, get into a training program with a good company where I worked my butt off and eventually I opened my own business where I worked even more hours, but made a little money.

    Oakland will never give hard working people like us a chance, but I love your idea about indexing to the hours worked. That seems completely fair to me, those who work the hardest, who contribute the most get to live the best. Seems great to me, but it will never happen in Oakland because people here will always feel that if you have two dimes to rub together it must be because you stole it from some low income person. Funny, since it seems the really big thieves all work downtown at City Hall.

    Also, I think poor working-class kids like me who have had to work since childhood see the world very differently than the middle class kids of today who have had middle class parent’s around to support them . Being on your own as a teenager, knowing you have to work to eat makes you different than your middle class counterparts. My experience has made me learn to squeeze a buck much more than the Oakland City Council ever could.

    VivekB, thank you for your comments, I really enjoy reading them.

  31. VivekB

    Max – you need to knock out the top 10% and the bottom 10%, as any given solution can have a specific case which renders it inappropriate. The vast preponderance of folks will fit into that bell curve. There’s 168 hours per week; I put in 60, and have 2 kids. Give parents 28 hours/week to attend to kids, so i’m down to 80 nonworking hours and hence should be my max fine for any situation. If anyone works less, their index should be higher. Perhaps an annual lifetime working hours calculation for those of us who’ve worked since a young age would also be good, anything to drive the work ethic.

    I’m generally onboard with your “cities are meaningless”, but re: Raiding Piedmont, i’m not aligned there. I know many folks from Piedmont, and they make it a point to avoid all things Oakland. They don’t consume any city services, why would they have to subsidize us?

    Avis, give me a few more posts, i’m sure your opinion will change. The night I first met my wife, she and her friend both looked at each other and said “That is the biggest a****** we’ve ever met, and I could never see myself with a guy like that”. She changed her mind slowly, but 10 years later she’s realized her initial instinct was right.

  32. Oh Pleeze

    Let’s examine the City’s glut of feel good expenditures, just in the past 3-4 weeks:

    $5,100,000 for Kids First overruns 2008
    $ 330,000 for a whistleblower protection plan
    $ 150,000 for Robert Bobb’s consulting team
    __________
    $5,580,000 expenditures from the City’s general fund.
    divide by
    $90,000 (est. annl. salary for a police officer)
    __________
    62 cops.

    Assumptions:
    -a similar amount of expenditure is okayed each month
    -council works only 10 months of the year
    Result
    620 police officers could be funded from the $1 Billion budget.

    Who says we need another tax to hire police?