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!