Lying about Measure Y

You all know by know that Oakland voters passed Measure Y, with 69.6% of the vote in 2004. You probably also know that between the $88/year parcel tax and the commercial parking surcharge it create, that it generates about $20 million every year for the City of Oakland. Roughly, four million of this goes to the Fire Department, eight million finds its way to the Police Department, and then the remaining six million funds violence prevention programs.

Let me take a moment to share with you some choice portions of the ballot argument for Measure Y, signed by District 3 Councilmember Nancy Nadel, District 5 Councilmember Ignacio De La Fuente, and Congresswoman Barbara Lee:

Measure Y includes strict financial oversight and performance reviews of police and violence prevention programs. An annual, independent audit will be performed to ensure fiscal accountability.

Programs will be evaluated based on the number of people served and the rate of crime reduction achieved. If it is determined that a program is not meeting specific requirements, funding for that program will be redirected to more effective programs.

And allow me to share this section of the rebuttal to the arguments against, signed by District 4 Councilmember Jean Quan and then-Mayor, now Attorney General Jerry Brown:

Measure Y ensures accountability. A yearly audit will be performed and independent oversight committee will review all Measure Y programs. Evaluation of programs will be based on the number of people served and the rate of crime of violence reduction achieved.

So, the first full independent evaluation of Measure Y services was completed recently by Berkeley Policy Associates. This is what the report (PDF) found:

  • For OUSD students who had been suspended in the 2005-06 school year, 9.3% of those participating in Measure Y programs were suspended again in the 2006-07 school year, while 13.7 % of those not participating in Measure Y programs were suspended again. This difference was deemed statistically significant.
  • 90% of OUSD students had fewer suspensions in 2006-07 than they did in 2005-06. 93.4% of students participating in Measure Y programs had fewer suspensions in 2006-07 than in 2005-06. This difference was not deemed statistically significant.
  • 3.5% of OUSD students in the comparison group were re-suspended for violent activities. 3.0% of participants in Measure Y programs were re-suspended for violent activities. This difference was not deemed statistically significant.
  • 16% of students receiving Measure Y services were absent during the 2006-07 school year. 22% of students not receiving Measure Y services were absent during the 2006-07 school year. This difference was deemed statistically significant.
  • Students receiving Measure Y services averaged 4 absences from school during the 2006-07 year. Students not receiving Measure Y services average 8 absences during the same year. This difference was deemed statistically significant.
  • For juvenile offenders, arrested in 2006 and participating in Measure Y programs, 90.1 recorded another offense in 2007. In the comparison group of juvenile offenders not participating in Measure Y programs (and matched by pattern of offenses, ethnicity, age, and a number of other factors) , 88.7% recorded another offense in 2007. This difference was not deemed statistically significant. There was no category of offense in which juvenile offenders in Measure Y programs were re-arrested at a statistically significant lower rate than offenders not in Measure Y programs.
  • With respect to re-entry services for young adult parolees, 57% of participants in Measure Y programs who had been arrested in 2006 were re-arrested in 2007. 27% of those arrested in 2006 were arrested for violent offenses. Only 10% of the arrests in 2007 were for violent offenses. There was no comparison data to available to evaluate these results against parolees not receiving Measure Y services.

The results are, in short, unimpressive.

So last Thursday, I attended a forum on Measure Y hosted by the MGO Democratic Club. This was very depressing. First, Measure Y Oversight Committee Chair Maya Dillard-Smith presented an overview of the how Measure Y funds are spent (during which she was repeatedly rudely interrupted by City staff), and went on to tell the group that she felt much of the money had been misused, and that the Committee was being stonewalled in their attempts to exercise the promised oversight. This was followed by Jeff Baker, of the City Administrator’s office, presenting his own overview of Measure Y. Sara Bedford of the City’s Department of Human Services jumped in a few times to add information. The City representatives basically said that Measure Y is great and is working really well and so on.

Then it was time for questions. People kept asking about the conflicting accounts about Measure Y from Dillard-Smith and Baker, and the Q&A basically devolved into an angry bickering match between Dillard-Smith, Baker, and Bedford. Dillard-Smith would assert something, Baker or Bedford would say it wasn’t true, Dillard-Smith would try to point the audience to specific City information supporting her claim, they would interrupt her, and so on. I regretfully didn’t think of timing this portion of the meeting, but it felt like it went on forever. At times it felt like everyone in the room was just screaming at each other, and it was hard to make sense of any of it.

This sort of spectacle benefits no one. Watching representatives of both the City of Oakland and the Measure Y Oversight Committee fight like children in front of a body of engaged citizens leaves nobody with a clear picture of the situation, and does not inspire confidence in the City’s ability to function or deliver results to the taxpayers. I don’t think anyone left with a clear picture of the facts about Measure Y, and I imagine that whether people believe it’s working as it should really just depended on who you found more sympathetic at the meeting, Dillard-Smith or Baker. While I personally believe Dillard-Smith is correct, I felt like atmosphere in the room was hostile towards her, and that the audience was inclined to believe Baker. Another attendee I spoke with after the meeting felt otherwise, saying that he thought people were siding with Dillard-Smith. So who knows.

Either way, it’s unfortunate. Perceptions of the efficacy of Measure Y should be based on facts, not personality. And one of the most disturbing things about the meeting for me was that City staff repeatedly gave erroneous information about the Measure. Here are some of the incorrect statements that were made.

  • Jeff Baker said that the Oakland Police Department is currently above full staffing, with 837 officers, and that every police beat now has a problem solving officer.

    • It is unclear to me how many officers the Oakland Police Department currently has. After the announcement of 837 officers in November, and with a frequently reported attrition rate of five officers per month, plus the widely reported firing of a number of officers, it seems improbable that we would still have the same number in late January as we did in mid-November.

      But what it definitely not true is that every police beat is currently being served by a problem solving officer. In a police department document dated January 30, 2008, four beats were listed as not having an active problem solving officer and one beat was listed as having a part-time problem solving officer. It is unconscionable for the City (because Baker is not the only person who claims this) to repeatedly assert that every beat in Oakland has its own problem solving officer when they don’t.

  • At one point during the meeting, Sara Bedford told the audience “We serve 10,000 individuals per year in individual contacts and average 60 hours of service for each of those individuals. Plus we reach 2,000 more in group services.”

    • Okay, the claim is preposterous on its face. Obviously we are not providing 600,000 hours of individual services per year with $6 million (actually it was $8 million last year, but still). What’s particularly galling about this claim is that Bedford should know perfectly well it isn’t true. Logical conclusions aside, she just, last Tuesday, presented a report about Measure Y (PDF) to the Public Safety Committee. And what does the report say? Regarding individual services, in FY 2007-2008, Measure Y served 5,148 unduplicated individual clents, with a total of 43,697 client hours of service. See the difference there? 600,000 hours versus less than 44,000 hours. That’s over 556,000 hours of service a City representative told a community group that we provided when we didn’t. Not okay.

  • Speaking of last week’s Public Safety Committee – At the meeting, one public speaker brought up the evaluation report, noting that the evaluators concluded “It does not appear that Measure Y violence prevention programs were making a substantial difference in the outcomes of the youth they served.” District 4 Councilmember Jean Quan responded to him by saying “That was relationship to that one program, not that the Measure Y programs weren’t showing progress at all, cause they obviously showed a lot of data, where we think that the pool was too small for us to know yet. So I just wanted to make that clear for the public.” (At this same meeting, Beford referenced the BPA evaluation report described above and concluded of it “The indications are quite positive.”)

    • Again, this is not true. The section of the report discussing re-arrest rates for juvenile offenders included seven programs in their data set, all the programs funded by Measure Y that provide such services. Whether Quan knew this was the case and chose to lie about it, or whether she was unaware of the details of evaluation and simply wanted to rebut criticism, it is highly irresponsible for a City Councilmember to “correct” a public speaker with inaccurate information, and especially to saying she was doing so to make things “clear for the public.

I’m not against Measure Y, or against funding violence prevention programming. But it is imperative that the City be honest with the public about how these programs are working and how money is being spent. They need to take the outcome evaluation results into account when discussing funding. And they need to work with and listen to the Oversight Committee that was established by the Measure. Otherwise, they simply further erode the public trust in government. And every time we do that, they make it less and less likely that anyone will be willing to vote to give them more money ever again. Why should we, when they can’t be trusted to use it as promised?

25 thoughts on “Lying about Measure Y

  1. MarleenLee

    Thank you for highlighting some of the many abuses of Measure Y. For more detailed information about the numerous abuses on the police services side of the Measure, you can check out the documents related to my lawsuit against the City on the Alameda County Superior Court website. The case number is RG08380286. For those of you that are interested, the final hearing on the case is scheduled for next Wednesday, February 11 at 9:00 a.m. in Department 31. A tentative ruling should be out on February 9.

    I think there’s plenty of blame to go around on all of Measure Y’s failures, including Jeff Baker and the so-called “Oversight Committee.”

    To her credit, Maya Dillard Smith seems committed to asking some hard questions and trying to hold some city officials accountable. Many of the others on the committee really don’t seem interested, and many meetings have been cancelled due to lack of a quorum. On the other hand, it is the Oversight Committee’s responsibility to ensure accountability, and I don’t think they’ve been doing this. They have not ONCE (at least to my knowledge) discussed the existence of my lawsuit in any of their meetings.

    Measure Y requires an annual audit, that must contain certain things (e.g. a status of each project funded by the Measure) as well as how the money has been spent. The audit is to be presented to the City Council by the chief fiscal officer. Guess what? There has NEVER been an audit that meets the legal requirements. Jeff Baker has pointed to a hodgepodge of incomplete and often self-serving documentation, but the reality is, they don’t comply with the audit requirement.

    The Oversight Committee (Maya) did raise the issue of each beat not really having a PSO dedicated “solely” to their beat (as the measure requires) a few weeks ago. The point was that the officers were forced to double up because there weren’t enough police cars. But then the issue was just dropped. What kind of oversight is that?

    V – which police document are you referring to that says not every beat has a PSO? I’d be interested in taking a look at that.

    Citizens of Oakland – you should be aware that the City just wants your money. It doesn’t want to provide you with the additional police services it promised, and it doesn’t want to provide the accountability it promised either. I encourage you to vote down any future tax increase that promises more or better police services/violence prevention services until and unless the City cleans up its act with respect to Measure Y.

  2. V Smoothe Post author

    Marleen –

    Here’s the list (PDF). The PSOs splitting time between beats due to lack of cars is another issue.

    With respect to the Oversight Committee and lack of quorum – the Committee currently has three vacancies. This means that that it is particularly difficult to reach a quorum. The failure of City officials to make the necessary appointments to the Committee is just one more aspect of the City not taking oversight seriously. I have been very impressed with the Oversight Committee’s continuous efforts to get answers about Measure Y funding, but when the City is unwilling to provide them answers to their questions, I’m not sure what more they can be expected to do about it.

    Boss –

    The site aggregates news about Oakland from a wide variety of sources. I link to it because I think it provides a good service.

  3. MarleenLee

    I think to be truly effective the Oversight Committee needs to be more committed to the task. To their credit, they did vote to not approve the $7.7 million Accelerated Recruitment program in March of last year, and the City Council just ignored them. But there are lots of issues that they could press on.

    For example, at the end of each meeting, they could compile a list of tasks City Officials should perform for the next meeting (e.g. requests for information) and then go over that list at the next meeting to make sure the City officials have given them what they needed. If I were on that committee, after learning about the vehicle shortage, I would have specifically asked for a breakdown of each PSO, who they are teamed up with, and how much time they actually spend outside of their beats, and what they are actually doing when they are outside their beats. I would then transmit this information to the City Councilmember who appointed me, and ask them what they are doing about it. I would also try to involve the press to inform the public about the deficiencies.

    At a bare minimum, the Committee should have ensured that the annual audit occurred. They also should have added an agenda item to address the numerous issues raised by my lawsuit. However, somehow I think that because they were all appointed by city councilmembers, they were probably advised not to do that.

    The one time I went to a Measure Y Oversight Committee meeting and spoke, I was one of only two interested members of the public, and when I hit my two minute limit I was rudely shouted down by Ms. Dillard Smith. That caused me to wonder how interested they really were in public participation.

  4. 94610BizMan

    Isn’t the clear implication of the above is that we should help/contribute to Marleen’s lawsuit? There is no “good government” faction to support.

    What is left is lawsuits, increase our private security expenditures and finally leaving Oakland.

  5. MarleenLee

    Thanks BizMan, but the only support I need is moral support from a community of people who really want to see honest, accountable government. One of the biggest problems I see is just apathy and acceptance, and it is the comments on websites like this that makes me believe that some people do care. Unfortunately, comments alone don’t instigate change. Lawsuits help (I hope) but more people need to demand accountability. Jumping up and down on cars and smashing windows is certainly not the answer (God forbid!) but the answer shouldn’t be to abandon ship.

  6. Joanna/ShopGirl

    I was not aware that Beat 1X (Jack London) had a PSO since the retirement of TK Lewis. Even he was only part-time.

    But then again, I skipped the last 3-4 NCPC meetings because I have no faith in that process, much less the NSC assigned to our beat. She might be good for another beat, but I didn’t see the light. Just not knowing or having the capability to open PDF’s was two strikes alone.

    In regards to the 837 number, how many of those are on disability, on paid leave, etc? How many are actively on the streets in a given week? Does the 837 list come with specific names and duties? I’d love for a news organization to research it and tell us if all 837 are really on duty at the moment.

    And why is no one on Council calling for the immediate departure of Chief Tucker? Okay, so he got to avoid the no confidence vote, but as he’s not helping (or at least that’s my perception) OPD, why not walk him to the door now as you would in any other company?

    Joanna

    p.s. – V, how can we help you make money with this site?

  7. Charles Pine

    Even the improvements labeled statistically significant affect only 3 to 6 percent more Measure Y clients than non-clients. Yet the City routinely publicizes the total number of clients served, wildly exaggerating the success of programs. The miniscule changes prove that throwing millions of dollars at these programs accomplishes virtually nothing for public safety in Oakland.

    For an example, Pathways to Change, see http://www.orpn.org/PathwaysToChange1.htm

  8. Navigator

    The best violence prevention program is a job. Why not invest that money into aggressively recruiting businesses to Oakland so that more young Oaklanders will have employment opportunities?

    Throwing money at the cops is also a waste of resources. We don’t even know how many of the supposed 837 officers are actually patrol officers, or other officers interacting with the public in order to make the communities safer.

    Economic development is the key. Unfortunately, I don’t get the sense that the City of Oakland is being proactive in this regard. I get the sense that this city is a rudderless ship heading for the rocks without any sense of urgency to try something new. It’s a stagnating “business as usual” approach which does nothing to improve to economic outlook of this city, thereby, improving public safety and reducing violence.

  9. Tony

    Right on Nav.

    I’m still a relative newcomer to Oakland and all it’s political and social issues. But just riding through town it seems to me jobs and new businesses would take care of the problems stemming from youth with nothing to do or turning to unlawful activities. If those new businesses were retail, even better.

  10. Joanna/ShopGirl

    Nav,

    So what do we do about the fact that many of these Oaklander’s don’t seem to want jobs? Or rather, they want a job, but then don’t want to actually work. And I’m not saying this applies to everyone in Oakland looking for job by any stretch of the imagination. I’m saying that for those that tend to get in trouble…

    For example, I had an opening and placed an ad on Craigslist. While more than 50% of those that came to my store in response to the ad were NOT from Oakland (Vallejo? Fremont? Many from far away!). Then, of those from Oakland, there were quite a few who couldn’t speak legible English, which in my store is a requirement because of all the legal nuances of shipping and being a notary. Others couldn’t be bothered to wear something other than baggy pants around their ankles, despite the ad asking people to dress business casual, work appropriate. It was a test to see if they could follow direction. So many came in with poor grammar, even worse social skills (unable to look me in the eye, much less state their own name).

    I agree on the solution, but how do we get there? I’d love to see these kids and young adults get some real world job skills and behavioural skills. Because I’ve been robbed blind by several emps, despite being incredibly generous with them. I’ve had one end up in jail (drugs). Several could never be bothered to show up on time, if at all some days. I feel like emps are the hardest thing about owning a business here. I know $9-$10 per hour is a low wage, and maybe that’s the problem. But the people I’m seeing aren’t going to get some $20/hr job with the lack of skills, education, and social abilities that I’m seeing.

    It’s frustrating. I’d like to figure out how to make it bettter.

    Maybe it doesn’t matter… I’m hoping to close in 332 days. Not that I’m counting. I’ve had enough of trying to do something locally.

  11. Michael H

    I have to agree with NAV to a certain extent, because I think it’s even before jobs. I realize that this is not an immediate solution, but investment into education and educational programs which engage the youth of tomorrow, will reduce the level of delinquency. That is the cornerstone of every society.

    When focusing on economic development by aggressively recruiting large businesses you also risk what happened to detroit. A major contributor to the economy just one day getting up and leave. My thought is that Economic Development should help shore up small businesses, and maintain diverse culture of neighborhood shops.

    I’m sorry to hear you are closing Joanna.

  12. Erin Battlefield

    Interesting perspective, expecting people to show up who have wonderful educations and skills, for a $9-$10 job.

    Also you can’t “speak legible English”, “legible” means “readable”. Since you’re so concerned about others’ grammar and communication skills.

  13. Patrick

    I think that is a little harsh. I don’t believe Joanna was suggesting that applicants have Master’s degrees. But, even at $9 or $10 an hour, an applicant must at least be employable – and that generally includes the ability to speak English intelligibly and to possess a basic set of social skills.

  14. Navigator

    Joanna,

    I agree with you that perspective employees need to be responsible, honest, presentable, and have basic educational and social skills. People need to want a $9 to $10 an hour job because it’s good honest work. If someone is selling dope for $200 a day, they probably wouldn’t be interested in low paying honest work. There’s the dilemma.

    Having said that, the City of Oakland has a responsibility to aggressively recruit every possible business which is thinking about relocating or expanding in the Bay Area. Let’s give those who want to work and be honest productive citizens, a chance. The anti-social, the thugs, the gang bangers, the robbers, and the killers, need to be put away so that decent citizens have a chance to work hard, improve their community, and create a good life for themselves and for their children. We need a carrot and stick approach along with a weed and seed approach to improving the quality of life for many inner city Oakland neighborhoods. However, the basis of Oakland’s foundation is a strong and healthy economy with enough jobs for all who are willing to give an honest days work for an honest days pay.

  15. Navigator

    Speaking of recruiting and Oakland’s economy, has anyone at City Hall heard back from Tesla Motors and American Apparel?

  16. Joanna/ShopGirl

    Thanks, Erin, for the correction. *I* don’t have a master’s degree, so I’m sure that’s the problem. I can, however, carry on a decent conversation, treat people with respect, and dress well enough not to completely embarass myself or offend customers. (or so I perceive)

    To clarify, I’m not looking for someone with a master’s degree. Or even any degree.

    I’m looking for someone that can dress appropriately for a business open to the public. I’m looking for someone that is eligible to become a notary (has to pass a background check per the state requirements). I’m looking for someone that can understand (vs legible) English. When I ask “are there any firearms in this package?” and get a blank look that’s a problem. When someone tells me they’re shipping wine, I need to be able to use some logic skills to see if I can, indeed, ship that. There are a gazillion rules and sometimes you have to be able to understand nuances.

    Like when someone says they’re shipping blankets to Hawaii and they need them to be there the next morning. A logical person might see that they need to check the contents to see that what the customer said is true – or if there are drugs in that shipment. (It happens all the time.)

    I was in the Orient Market the other day asking a question about their meat and the woman couldn’t answer me. That’s fine, because I expect that there. But when someone comes in here and asks for help shipping some bizarre item(s) – and it happens all the time – they need to be able to communicate with the person behind the counter.

    I know that my rate per hour isn’t so great. I get that. I pay myself minimum wage when I pay myself, and that’s gone on for six plus years.

    If customers want local convenience and quality, there’s a cost. And with that cost comes expectations from my business. I’m trying to do the best I can to try to find some happy balance. I’m probably going to hire from outside of Oakland this time around, because of who came in with their resumes. I find that sad. I’d love to hire someone from Covenant House or someone that is ready to get their life on track.

    But, hey, thanks for the negativity. I don’t get it enough here in the store.

    Cheers,
    Joanna

  17. Joanna/ShopGirl

    Sorry, Erin. I posted while angry. I should have never posted that diatribe.

    Too many hours working, not enough money coming in, and watching others with less brains and common sense do way better. It’s beyond frustrating. And that’s why I’m going to close Jan 31, 2010. I can’t afford to close before then because I’m still on the line for my lease. And I’m wierd that way, in that I don’t walk away from my responsibilities.

  18. len raphael

    J’s hiring reality is the real deal for many small white collar biz’s here. for the same 10 to 20 hr you get much better workers from san leandro, hercules, alameda then you are likely to get from oakland. there are. yes, this is usually because the main pool for that wage ran ge here are younger, lower middle or poor background african americans.

    the better educated, or just people dress appropriately for the job and have language skills (yes, that means able and willing to talk a different dialect on the job than you would with your friends outside of work) don’t seem to have a problem getting hired at decent jobs or staying in school because over the years, i’ve seen very few locals answering job ads who fit those criteria. my hunch is that locals with those skills are hired by larger employers who can pay higher wages, benefits, opportunities etc.

    wb another fiscal boondoggle to spend public money attracting business to oakland. potential biz’s know the pro’s and con’s of oakland.

    wb better to spend the money on language and dress skills for retail job candidates.

    -len raphael
    temescal

  19. Max Allstadt

    What we’ve got is a world that demands more and and educations system that delivers less.

    The baseline abilities required for one to be considered an functional adult just keep going up. Where fifty years ago literacy meant reading and writing, we now have multiple tiers of literacy, computer, web, etc. It’s not the same as knowing how to use a typewriter was back in the day. It’s understanding and building on knowledge of a whole extra layer of the world.

    The folks I know doing temp work and admin stuff and holding down jobs… lazy Cal grads. That’s how much it takes sometimes. A freaking Cal degree to be an admin. How we get our next generation back on track is utterly beyond me.

  20. VivekB

    Joanna/ShopGirl, I don’t think you were too harsh by half.

    Erin – What’s the going hourly rate if the expectations are that a worker shows up on time, doesn’t steal, can speak english and communicate with customers, and doesn’t display their undergarments in a retail store? It’s obviously >>$9/hour in your opinion, so i’d like to hear what you think someone with that highly qualified background is worth in today’s booming economy.

  21. SF2OAK

    Right on Joanna. You should be given lots of credit for trying to do something locally, and that if politicians don’t see your plight then they just don’t get it and we will continue our slide. So here’s my little side note for fewer politicians bureaucrats because why are we paying them (and a whole lot more than our risk taker shopkeeper- and it’s guaranteed and with vacation & sick days etc.) I also admire you for keeping to your commitments in what does not seem all that pleasurable or lucrative. You go girl!

  22. MarleenLee

    I just finished reading Robert Gammon’s article in the East Bay Express regarding my Measure Y lawsuit, and I am livid. The guy never bothered to talk to me, and he has no idea who I am or why I filed the lawsuit in the first place. My lawsuit raised numerous issues and was factually and legally complicated. I realize this makes it difficult to get people interested, and for the media to cover, but I am feeling very misunderstood. To try to remedy the situation I spent some time over the weekend creating my own blog, which you can find at http://defendingmeasurey.blogspot.com.