Measure D: Hold your nose and vote yes

So you’ve probably received your ballot by now in Oakland’s special vote by mail election. Make sure to send it in by the 21st!

Your ballot contains four Measures, three of which involve changes to various city taxes. And then there’s Measure D, a charter amendment.

Here’s the story with Measure D. In 1996, Oakland voters, by an overwhelming margin, passed Measure K, which established the Oakland Fund for Children and Youth (OFCY). Measure K required the City to set aside 2.5% of Oakland’s unrestricted General Fund revenues for youth programs. This money is awarded annually in the form of grants to local youth services organizations (PDF).

Measure K lasted for 12 years, and included an option that allowed the City Council, by a majority vote, to renew it for another 12 years. The Oakland City Council unanimously renewed Measure K (PDF) in April 2008.

Because Measure K set aside a percentage of revenues rather than a specific dollar amount, the funding available for these programs was, just like everything else in the General Fund, subject to significant fluctation depending on the economy. The recent downtown in City revenues meant less money for OFCY, and some people didn’t think that was fair. So they circulated a petition to put a measure on the November ballot that would provide OFCY more money. Like, a lot more. Like, $15 million a year more. That was Measure OO.

Measure OO changed the set-aside for OFCY so that it no longer applied only to unrestricted general funds. Instead, it would take 1.5% of all the City’s revenue for two years, then 2.5% of all revenue thereafter. So any money coming into the City – grants, taxes for special purposes like Measure Q (library) and Measure Y (police/fire/violence prevention) would be subject to the set-aside. Of course, since money from grants and special taxes cannot, by law, be given away to non-profits, the General Fund would be left on the hook for the entire cost.

Despite the fact that pretty much everyone on the planet opposed Measure OO, it managed to squeak through with 53.12% of the vote (a smaller percentage, BTW, than any of the taxes on the ballot received. Lucky for the Kids First Coalition, since they weren’t actually asking voters for any new money, just taking existing money, they only needed to cross the 50% threshold to pass, while taxes need two-thirds). The passage of Measure OO spelled doom for the City, and just days after the election, forces behind the campaign for OO were calling it a mistake. Nice work, folks.

With City revenues plummeting, Oakland was even more ill-equipped than normal to give away millions of extra dollars to outside organizations, and almost immediately, the Council started talking about placing a repeal of OO on the next ballot. After numerous meetings and lengthy debate (chronicled here, here, here, and here), the City Council settled on a compromise measure, supported by the Kids First Coalition, that would amend Measure OO so that 3% of the City’s unrestricted General Fund revenues would be set-aside for OFCY. This gives OFCY more funding than they would have recieved under Measure K, but less funding than they would get from OO. The compromise is Measure D on your July ballot.

The savings are significant. In the coming fiscal year, the City Auditor estimates that Measure OO would require a set-aside of $15.1 million. If Measure D passes, the required set-aside will only be $11.5 million, saving the City $3.6 million. That’s $3.6 million we simply don’t have to spare. In two years, when the OO escalation kicks in, the City would be on the hook for just under $14 million more under Measure OO than under Measure D.

I was not supportive of the Council’s choice to compromise, and would have much prefered a ballot measure than simply repealed Measure OO completely, reverting the set-aside back to Measure K levels. But a full repeal was unable to win the support of a majority of the Council, and well, that’s life. A number of people who were unhappy with the compromise are now urging residents to vote no on Measure D, saying that failure of Measure D will force the Council to call another special election, this time asking for a full repeal. Don’t do this.

Oakland simply cannot afford the costs of Measure OO. We can also not afford another special election. I would have prefered that Measure OO didn’t pass in the first place, but it did. I would have also prefered that the Council placed a full repeal on the ballot, but they didn’t. Sometimes you lose, and as much as it sucks, you have to learn to live with it. Measure D is the choice we have before us, it isn’t great, but it’s not insane and awful either, and really, sometimes you just have to suck it up and vote yes, even on things you don’t like that much because they’re better than the alternative. And that’s the case here. Please vote yes on Measure D.

87 thoughts on “Measure D: Hold your nose and vote yes

  1. Patrick

    Oh, fine. I still want to hear – from somone on the council – that a full repeal measure will appear sometime soon.

  2. len raphael

    V, you might call voting for D realpolitic or practical, i call it enabling the same crew and the same policies that have kept Oakland from thriving for the past 30 years.

    Short term pain of paying the OO money plus cost of another mail in election, in return for long term saving over 100Mill. That wb one of the better investments Oakland has ever made.

    Do you agree that if D passes, there is 0 chance of repealing it unless total fiscal meltdown occurs here?

    -len raphael

  3. Ralph

    Measure D is not a choice. It is a full screwing over of the Oakland electorate at least the one’s smart enough to know by City Council.

    If I were a laid-off city employee, I would be pissed. While everyone else is taking cuts, we are actually giving children a raise. Great so little Sheniqua has a poorly designed after school program to attend but when she gets home she has no ‘tricity and food ’cause mama ain’t got not job to earn the money to pay the bills to buy the food.

    If I were a taxpaying Oakland resident, I would be livid. This compromise demostrates just how small the Dellums balls are and council’s willingness to do what is easy rather than what is right.

    I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again, in my entire voting life Measure D is the one measure that has me thinking I may just leave it blank. I wish I could hold my nose, but I am going to cut it off. At some point we must demand more from our elected officials and this is that time.

  4. Naomi Schiff

    Thank you, V, for your comments. You are correct. I’ve been paying taxes here for decades and I always vote. I will vote FOR all FOUR, including Measure D. I agree we want more action on this, Ralph, but becoming livid is not a politically useful approach.

    I don’t see that voting against Measure D will have any effect on that. Voting against Measure D will cause people to assume that folks support OO, not that they support repeal.

    Vote for all four of them, please.

    Thank you.

  5. Ralph

    Naomi, here is my takeaway Dellums, NN and a majority of council don’t care to do what is fiscally responsible and RK is either selling out or aligning her interest with people she suspects will be on council a bit longer.

    Under normal circumstances I would say that a No on D would be a vote for OO, but these aren’t normal circumstances. Council laid in bed with the Poverty Pimps to reach a compromise and to call off the dogs. Thus a Yes vote can be interpreted as support for Measure OO (at least that is what the Poverty Pimps will interpret it as when they come back to bend us over again.) They will not see it at people agreeing to accept a bad deal.

    I just can’t support the measure and this so called oversight committee is bogus.

    Aside: I wasn’t here when Measure K passed, but I suspect that if Hillary were on the ticket last fall instead of Barack we wouldn’t be in this mess.

  6. len raphael

    v, accept my apols, re your wrong but principled position on D.

    Yes there are risks in defeating D, but limited. The payoff would be in a rare opportunity to revamp the priories of muni govt here.

    even if i’m wrong, we defeat D but Kids First has too much clout over our council to sponsor full repeal of OO, we should easily be able to get another version of D with strong performance oversight that could set a valuable precedent.


  7. Christopher

    Measure D is a no-win situation. If D passes, I am afraid the city will lose the political will to repeal OO. If D is defeated, the city will need to face the budget consequences sooner. Starve the beast and get our city on the right track now. Not later.

  8. Kevin Cook

    Hey Ralph

    Let me be the first to call you a racist and tell you to fuck off–and I’ll be happy to say it to you in person. The following two quotes I think support my claim without further comment:

    “Great so little Sheniqua has a poorly designed after school program to attend but when she gets home she has no ‘tricity and food ’cause mama ain’t got not job to earn the money to pay the bills to buy the food.”

    “Aside: I wasn’t here when Measure K passed, but I suspect that if Hillary were on the ticket last fall instead of Barack we wouldn’t be in this mess.”

    Measure D sucks, and I’m not going to vote for it. In fact, at this point I wouldn’t vote again for Rebecca Kaplan after her support for the measure. However, I think it’s possible to oppose D without being a mouth-breathing cretin as you seem to be. If I want to read these kinds of comments I’ll go to sfgate.

  9. Ralph

    Kevin, I don’t think those example support your claim. Sheniqua, Marcia, Josie is getting screwed on 2 counts. I suspect something north of 80% of the programs Kids First Funds are ineffective. Programs have been in place for over a decade yet Oakland youth seem to be falling further behind. Now you want to give the people who run these programs more money and cut real jobs in the process. Makes no sense. I am tempted to open a program just to get my share of the gravy.

    Re the aside: Barack spoke to every idealistic nimrod that ever walked the earth. Oakland, Berkeley, and San Francisco have more than their fair share of idealistic, socialist, low on business sense voters. These voters (white and black) see a measure for the kids and they get all excited – must vote the kids, we must support the kids w/o even reading the measure…Sticking with the voters that matter Oakland, the Oakland subset was out in force. I just don’t think Hillary spoke to the idealistic people the way Barack did.

    PS: the poverty pimps trotted out every black and brown face they could find to get council to support Measure OO and the compromise. So either there are no white children in these after school programs or the pimps are playing the race card. if it makes you feel better, I will call her Rachel – either way she is still getting screwed and black and brown families are getting doubly screwed.

  10. dbackman

    Thanks so much for the summary, V. I really didn’t know much about this measure, but was getting concerned about it based on the conversation going on in the open thread. I have plans to start an afterschool arts program that would provide creative jobs for Oakland high-school students. Eventually I am going to apply for an OFCY grant to help get this program, Artists for Humanity, started. While its seems like both OO and D are bad laws, I do want to see youth programs get healthy funding here in Oakland. I have experienced, both as a student and a mentor, how these sorts of programs can empower urban youth.
    What I still don’t understand is the focus on KidsFirst. What percentage of OFCY funds to the command? And what about them is so awful? Is it worth punishing the folks who are doing good work because others are screwing it up?

  11. len

    DB, I’m not working to defeat D because KF is inefficient or corrrupt.

    To the contrary, if they can run social programs as well as they handled the city council and the voters last November, they’re collectively much smarter and efficient than the average Oakland government department or politician.

    If you believe that the kids programming promised by OO and D should be among the highest priority functions of this city, then you should still oppose OO and D because there are no safeguards to assure efficient service providers without regard to favoritism. ( you might say that’s the case now with city council expenditures, but that at least has some transparency and fiscal oversight).

    if you think that the city council would never be as generous as the ballot measures, you’re probably right, but you might have a better shot at getting your art program from council in a public forum than you would from a board of teenagers operating in radio silence.

    -len raphael

  12. Ralph

    dback, outside of the poorly crafted law and ballot box budgeting aspects of Kids First, my biggest pet peeve is the lack of accountability and measurable results from funded programs. I don’t see that being changed under the current law.

    I know someone who works with an arts program in Oakland. I had come across the program before and it seemed like a fun program but I could not see how it made a difference. He was honest with me and said that numbers people don’t like it because we don’t have tangible results. If I am going to hand over $13MM, I need to see results. If I give you $$$ and young Kyle, your prototypical high school junior still doesn’t know the answer to 9×7, then we got problems.

    Look, I hate everything that Girls Inc management did too push Measure OO and the Compromise solution down the throats of the electorate, but they can also point to measurable results. How many girls are reading at grade level? How many are accepted to and graduate from college?

    An arts program can have tangible results and before I hand over money, I want to know what you expect to achieve. IDLF was on the right path but Council suggestion to ask a group of teens to do this was just stupid. The teens lacked the mental capacity to understand the flaws of Measure OO and now you are expecting them to assess the merits of an afterschool program.

  13. Patrick

    Wow. Just opened my ballot.

    The Measure D proposal states: “Shall the City Charter be amended to require that the City (1) set aside 3.0% of its annual unrestricted General Purpose Fund revenues for grants to children’s and youth services, (2) in addition to the set aside, continue to spend the amount that the City already spends on children and youth, and (3) every twelve years extend these requirements for twelve more years or seek voter approval of the extension?

    This blog, I would think, attracts the more-than-casual obsever of Oakland politics. Most everyone seems to agree that Measure OO is a disaster, and our differences seem to surround Measure D: do we approve and hope that we can overturn OO in the future, or do we attempt to vote down D with the hope that the Council gets the message?

    All that aside, I am stunned by the wording on the ballot. We are not, by and large, casual voters on this blog ( I realize I am generalizing here, but seriously). Try to read the Measure D ballot proposal, as stated above, as if you were “the average voter”. I think that most people will pick out words/phrases like “require that the City set aside 3.0%”, “in addition to the set aside, continue to spend” and “every 12 years extend these requirements”. The part about “unrestricted General Purpose Fund” might as well be translated to “blah, blah, blah” for the general population

    No mention that this is an amendment to a formerly approved Measure. No mention that this Measure saves us MILLIONS. The ballot makes it appear as if we are proposing to spend even more money on top of Measure OO!

    I think this Measure may go down, for all the wrong reasons. Who wrote this piece of crap? There is clearly no transparency here…unless you routinely follow Oakland politics. And how many of the hundreds of thousands of registered voters in this City do that?

  14. len

    Patrick, in the current desperate and angry mood of many ordinary voters, I think there’s an excellent chance D will fail among likely voters. Smiling pictures of other people’s kids doesn’t motivate you real well after you’ve nearly disappeared into a pothole driving to the unemployment office or tripped on broken pavement walking down the street under a busted street light.

    i thought about it before widely posting and emailing against D and decided it’s more important that voters understand why D is bad law, even if it passes, to reduce the chance of repeating this. I think it will be very very close with a very low turnout.

    that puts the principled supporters of D into the position of deciding whether they’re actively work hard to help pass something that stinks, or quietly vote yes.

  15. len

    Patrick, the beauty of the D squeeze play arranged by the council members and the true believers in D, is how they have turned natural opponents of D into reluctant supporters.

    Similar strategy would work even better if we defeat D, and then put the council in the position where they have to defeat OO quickly.


  16. V Smoothe Post author

    Len and other who are advocating a full repeal of OO -

    When you say repeal, do you mean reverting to the Measure K 2.5%, or are you suggesting that there should be no set aside whatsoever? Because if it’s the second you want, I can promise you that hell will freeze over before Oakland voters go for that.

    Christopher –

    The beast is already starving!

    dbackman –

    Kids First and OFCY are basically different names for the same thing. Kids First was the initiative (Measure K) that established OFCY (Oakland Fund for Children and Youth). OFCY grants are decided by a Planning and Oversight Committee composed of youth and adults appointed by the City Council and the Mayor.

  17. len

    Tentatively thinking we should go back to the same percentage of same base as Measure, but put in performance controls.and change the composition of the Oversight Committee.

    -len raphael

  18. len

    Nav, the longing for Longs i hear from even the most fervent supporters of letting Safeway have its way. it is North Oakland’s Osh, Walmart, Costco, an Mcullums? all rolled up in one. Don’t think its within Safeway’s power to find a tennant who wants to continue that sort of modern general store. a bunch of little retailers can’t duplicate Longs prices and selection. End result: more driving out of Oakland to buy everyday stuff.

  19. len

    (corrected) Tentatively thinking we should go back to the same percentage of same base as Measure K, but put in performance controls.and change the composition of the Oversight Committee.

    -len raphael

  20. Ralph

    v, i hate ballot box budgeting so much that if there was a 5% set aside of the revenue for me, i would still vote against it. however, this being california, where voters like their ballot box budgeting w/o actually understanding the restrictions it places on legislative bodies to perform, i will begrudging settle for the original Measure K with performance controls and measurable results.

    In addition to the lack of controls in Measure D, the compromise crew raised the percentage. What happens next fiscal year if projected revenues fall below current year, will the pirates behind Measure D complain about losing funds and ask for 4%, 5% or more. As IDLF put it in one of the many council mtgs, the point of the pct is to get more when revenues go up and share the pain when revenues go down. Further, KF could only feel so much pain as I believe there is a floor in Kids First.

    There is essentially no difference between the compromise crew and the somali pirates. If we could just get back to the original measure with controls and an adult oversight committee I’d be happy.

  21. len

    Patrick, looks like you are correct about Oakland grossly overpaying for its special election. The trib today quotes a Contra Costa election official saying he’s gotten the cost for a special election held at voting places to $3/voter. Oakland has what, 125k +- registered voters? and paid 1.5Mill for a mail in.

    A one line comment in the same article suggests that if D loses, it’s supporters might have a basis for challenging the use of mail in vs in person.

    -len raphael

  22. Ralph

    Seems to me that the art of compromise would require at least 2 camps meet. This compromise was between two camps on the same side of the coin – camp one why don’t we just give the kids all Oakland’s revenues and another camp that only wanted to give them some revenues. What about the camp that thought they are already getting a good deal.

  23. Patrick

    Thanks for pointing out that article len. Not surprising . What was with the GIANT ledger sized piece of paper (with gratuitous color) just to show how to DRAW A LINE TO COMPLETE AN ARROW? And of course, the back side of that piece of paper was blank. All those envelopes have to be mailed (postage costs), they have to be opened and fed into a machine by a person – and the waste! Assuming that the neccesitated by the mail-in portions of the ballot (envelope, how to draw a line graphic, etc.) equal just 1 ounce per mailer x 125,000 / 16 ounces per pound = 7812.50 lbs. / 2240 = 3.49 TONS OF UNNECESSARY WASTE. And that figure doesn’t even include the original mailer, which could have easily been half the size and 1/3 of the cost.

    Which begets the question – why? If the saving money theory is a canard, there must be some political advantage to using mail-in voting only. Any ideas on the profile of voters in mail vs. in-person elections?

  24. len raphael

    i think council ran it as a mail in because in person the way oakland does it would have cost double.

    mail in profile, normally would hurt KF if most of their clients are low income so they move around alot and only get bad news in the mail. if kf organized their kids to intercept the mail and of course have their parents fill it out and mail it in, that wb different result.

    i think the turnout wb the people used to absentee ballots: tend to be higher income, more likely to be from hills, rockridge, and temescal etc.

  25. Pat Kernighan

    Kudos to V for making clear the key issues on the Kids First compromise–Measure D–and why it makes sense to vote for it. The history of the preceding ballot measures that got us to this place are confusing for most voters, but the bottom line is that it will prevent even more cuts to basic services this year and in future years. If it doesn’t pass, we’re stuck with the Measure OO formula, which would take a much larger chunk out of the General Fund. (Check out the figures in the City Auditor’s Analysis–very scary in FY 2011-2012.)

    Since the commenters here seem willing to dissect the details, I want to say why it is more of a compromise than Ralph and others are recognizing: In the beginning years of Measure K, the City under-calculated the amount of money that should have gone to the OFCY programs. When this was discovered, the General Fund paid the amount owed to OFCY in a lump sum. This extra amount was spread over the last three years of kids services, so that the actual amount spent on kids programs in the last year was $13.8M, several million higher than it would have been without the “extra.” If Measure D passes, the estimated OFCY allocation will be about $11.4 M. So, paradoxically, though the Measure D percentage of the General Fund is half a percent higher than the original Measure K, the ACTUAL DOLLARS allocated to OFCY programs will actually be LOWER than what they’ve had in the past couple of years. That’s why this is a compromise–the kids programs are experiencing this as a cut.

    Last reality check: every poll ever done in Oakland has shown overwhelming support for any kind of assistance to children. Measure OO passed despite the opposition of the League of Women Voters, the entire City Council, and whole lot of other people. Thus, the likelihood of passing a total repeal of Measure OO in the future is very slim, as it would be energetically opposed by every childrens advocate in town. That’s why it is so risky to say no to Measure D–you may never be able to pass a total repeal, and in the meantime, we’re millions of dollars underwater.

  26. whatever

    “The art of compromise is being willing to smell the fertilizer in order to grow roses.”

    And that’s coming from a fertilizer specialist.

  27. Colin

    I have to agree with V – this is horrible and sucky, but it’s the best available option. Time to take some lumps. Again.

    I am amazed that anybody who’s paid attention to politics in this city thinks that by voting no we would actually force the city council to get down to business and start reforming our government. Either you haven’t thought about this much, or Measure F is going to be costing you.

    If you sincerely want to start addressing the issues raised by OO, it’s going to take some serious work, not just voting no now. I appreciate idealism, but in politics being right doesn’t win the day by default.

  28. Ralph

    PK, thanks for clarifying why the meddling kids think this is a cut. Unfortunately, my limited pea brain fails to comprehend how the meddling kids can include an extraordinary event in the ongoing revenue calculation. I feel bad that that someone screwed the pooch in the early years but the meddling kids should never have assumed the extra payment as regular revenue for the purposes of year to year comparisons. I think IDLF said it best the point of the pct is to get more when the revenues go up and less when they go down. What happens next time revenue drops, do they go before the voters to demand an increase in the percentage?

    Probably the biggest reason Measure OO passed was the large number new voters. Council’s opposition to the measure, though known, was barely audible. I do not recall any council member or candidate speaking at the top of their lungs to oppose this measure. In fact, my council member though she signed off on council’s measure to continue K was already in bed with the devil. The at-large candidates never spoke up against it. The literature said no, but I don’t think it did a good job spelling out the consequences.

    Ballot box budgeting aside, a big flaw with Kids First is the lack of oversight and measurable results. I would almost be inclined to support ballot box budgeting for kids if you tell me what types of programs will be funded and if they met results that moved the needle. When kids are still dropping out of schools at alarming rates, performing well below grade level, and college placement is 10% of OUSD graduating class, then I have a hard time seeing the benefit of the expense. How are kids benefitting? How is Oakland benefitting?

    You may never be able to pass a total repeal but you may catch more flies with a pct lower than 3.

  29. Charles Pine

    Questionable for a councilmember to say, “Measure OO passed despite the opposition of the League of Women Voters, the entire City Council, and whole lot of other people.” Councilmembers, while officially listed in opposition to Measure OO last year, did not organize a real campaign against it. If someone wanted to drive over and pick up a lawn sign, that was about it.

    Compare Jean Quan’s campaign for Measure N in 2006, her huge bond proposal for a palace library. She raised $150,000, about half from businesses holding or angling for City contracts, like California Waste Solutions.

    We will never know whether a genuine effort to defeat OO, at even half the size of Quan’s Measure N blitz, would have changed three percent of the votes, enough to defeat OO.

    The situation now is ordinary. The old maxim repeated by councilmember Kernighan, “every poll ever done in Oakland has shown overwhelming support for any kind of assistance to children,” is subject to change in this crisis era. Also, Mr. Kakishiba and his colleagues have skeletons in their closets.

    If D is defeated – admittedly an upset – that upset will open a real path to getting Kids First back to the more or less sensible basis it had in 1996. No on D!

  30. Ralph

    PK and council, I think there was a way to appease the no camp but you completely shut us out. It was as if our concerns were totally ignored. I also think that in an off-cycle election you miscalculated who will actually vote. There will be some Kids First die hards, but I personally think it will come down to the sophisticated hold your nose “yes camp” vs the sophisticated hold them accountable “no camp.”

  31. Patrick

    The “Measure D provides less than last year” explanation is somewhere between hilarious and pathetic. Bernie Madoff would be proud.

    When cuts are happening all over the place, I’m sure the citizens of Oakland will be thrilled to hear that at least the doe-eyed innocents are getting more money for – well, were really not sure – and the results will be – well, we’re really not sure about that either.

    This duplicate comment problem is really irritating!

  32. Christopher

    I believe Measure D was written by people seeking a real compromise, not Kids First zealots. The measure’s language is sneaky because it reads as if it is adding new funding for kids programs, hoping to get yes votes from (confused) voters who probably supported OO. It does not clearly mention that “Measure D will reduce Kids First funding”, just that it “provides” funding with a different formula.

  33. len

    Carlos, darn i was hoping for more than a wax on wax off explanation of the political interplay of the govt central planning slant of the local new urbanists (whom seem to have some Sierra Club clout?) with the free market developers and builders. on reflection, sensei you did answer that.

    aka politics makes strange bedfellows

  34. Patrick

    If Measure D were TRULY a “real compromise”, we wouldn’t have gotten the half-hearted “this is why you should support Measure D” argument from a councilmember. Have you noticed that every “Vote Yes on D” argument is in itself compromising? The argument so tried to be forceful and believable (and was definitely a wee bit arrogant), but the smoke ‘n mirrors ruined any possibilty of that. So, City incompetence then makes current city incompetence a “real compromise”? Please.

    Regarding past polls overwhelmingly supporting throwing away money to “help the children”, were any of these conducted during the current economic depression? I’m fairly sure that my neighbor, who had a house worth $520,000 in 2006 which is now worth about $230,000 would switch her poll opinion fairly rapidly. The money that funded these touchy-feely guilt-assuaging measures has VANISHED. But the liability still remains.

    And though I’ve stated it ad nauseum: police, fire, streets, parks, libraries, blight removal etc. ALL also “help the children”. The only difference is that all of these things allow for proven, tangible benefit and they benefit ALL Oaklanders, not just a small percentage. FGS, people WAKE UP! These days, we’re “children” for about 1/5 of our lives, if not less. Then what? We no longer care? Hey, kid, glad you got to weave baskets or whatever (we really don’t know) to improve your self-image when you were 10, but now you get to dodge gunfire sans police protection while you risk losing the front axle on your car in a pothole on your drive to a park/library that’s likely closed, dirty and falling apart due to deferred maintenance. You can complain tomorrow; today’s a furlough day. FYI, your call will not be returned.

    @Pat Kernighan: although you are not “my” councilmember, I am most frequently in agreement with you. I appreciate your thoughtful and measured remarks during council meetings and I certainly applaud your efforts on the budget counterproposal (which I support). However, attempting to explain away the Measure D “compromise” in any other context besides “the Council abdicated their responsibilities prior to Measure OO’s passage” is indefensible. The bubble-related gravy train is gone. And it is not coming back.

  35. Patrick

    BTW, my 3 calls and 3 e-mails to city employees re: the dying street trees on International/12th earlier this week are all, as of today, unreturned. Maybe I can get some children’s group to fulfill their empty lives with the joy of routine street tree maintenance? Should that fail, we can always resort to cookies – I hear they’re a panacea.

  36. Ralph

    And my love grows deeper.

    I would also like to add, Ms. Kernighan, despite my general disgust with how OO and D were handled, I think you do a good job. Whenever I crossed into your district duing my walk from JL Residential to LM Bart, I often thought I wish I lived in Pat’s district. But like Patrick said, “attempting to explain away the Measure D “compromise” in any other context besides “the Council abdicated their responsibilities prior to Measure OO’s passage” is indefensible.”

    Council, after reading the list of people who support the compromise, I just feel that just about every group was invited to the table except regular residents.

  37. Christopher

    Frustratingly, I think I have convinced myself to support D.

    Q: Do I like D on its face?
    A: No.

    Q: If D passes, do I think the city will bother to push for a full-repeal of OO?
    A: No.

    Q: If D fails, do I think the city will push for a full-repeal of OO?
    A: That is an expensive gamble. Unfortunately, I think the answer is no.

    So I pessimistically conclude that Oakland will live with either OO or D. Between the two, I choose D.

  38. Naomi Schiff

    Yep, Christopher I believe your analysis is correct. And succinct too, which I appreciate.

  39. avis

    IMHO, Charlie PIne is right and Naomi Schiff, whom I have a lot of respect for regarding historic preservation is wrong. The city council have never lifted a finger to stop OO so it is impossible to know if it can be overturned. I, for one, am willing to shake the dice and give it a try. Oakland taxpayers deserve to pay less and get more. My attitude in a nutshell.

  40. avis

    One other point I forgot to mention. If we are EVER going to get rid of OO I believe now is the time to try because the recession has a lot of people thinking twice about spending and taxes. Recently the state asked us to vote on tax increases and even the county of San Francisco voted No on this issue. It is true that the margin was small, only about 6% if I remember correctly, but that was enough. This may be our best chance to get rid of OO, I say we go for it. VOTE NO ON D!

  41. das88

    I’d also like to thank V for a clear synopsis of the situation. Naomi and Christopher’s summations are also vary helpful.

    Remarkably, I think both the pro and con Measure D folks have the same understanding of the situation. Even more remarkably, I think the most part both pro and con measure D folks commenting here want the same thing — to stop or at least severely limit the amount of city money going to nonprofits.

    What we have is a dispute over tactics. On the one side, the pro D folks want to get the best deal on the table and move on from there. On the other, the con D want to hold the line on compromise, let the situation deteriorate, and then push more fundamental change.

    Well let me tell you regardless of the outcome on D, the situation is going to get worse and the city budget will have to go through more fundamental changes. The kids set-asides is small potatoes compared to the havoc wrought by measure Y.

    Let’s pass D and put our energies toward more fundamental changes. Passing D gives us a little breathing room to push for a repeal of OO (or at least major modifications), modifications to Y, dealing with looming problems in our transportation and water infrastructure, etc.

  42. len

    das88, yes it is largely a tactical difference on this blog. oakland good government supporters lost big time in last year’s election other than for RK’s win (which was a combo of good govt and lgbt support and union support. which in turn gives rk some independence from good govt voters).

    its not as if there’s some big cost in goodwill, volunteer energy, money oppose D, other than the damage we could do thru infighting (no, i don’t see that happening). The way i see the tactics, it’s going to be a long slog, law by law, meeitng by meeting,election by election to fix oakand.

    Take the openings that come up, even if not perfect, to at least educate the voters why they’re getting mediocre expensive government services. most oakland residents fatalistically act like it’s something in the water supply.

    -len raphael

  43. len

    the city council and mayor have a mixed record on predicting voter behavior.

    they correctly predicted the outcome in the LLAD parcel tax mail, and wisely gamed the count by giving big chunk of votes to friendly branches of govt.

    on Measure NN, a parcel tax purportedly for more police, they were wrong.

    complex reasons on NN, but for PK to state that “every poll ever done in Oakland has shown overwhelming support for any kind of assistance to children’ I’d ask her to post the same info for those polls that news media do ie. dates of the surveys, sample size, selection methods, questions, wording of question etc. it’s easy to commission a poll that can support any position. Would also like to know who paid for the polls and how much did they cost.

    -len raphael

  44. len

    How about a group photo shoot, maybe at a press hearing of a cross section of the D supporters? Besides all the council members except DLF and DB, be sure to invite Sanjiv Handa who has come out in support of D also.

    -len raphael

  45. das88

    @len, but one of the big differences that you and the other anti-D folks fail to acknowledge is the timing. Only D allows for some improvement in the short-term. This is important because there is lots of other stuff to turn our collective attention towards.

    @patrick, thanks for the follow-up on the palm tree fizzle-top response. I was planning on asking you about that. I went out the other day and think it is pretty clear that the palm trees along E. 12th have poor new growth. I circled back down that section of E. 14th and thought those palms if anything look worse (though it might be a different malady). There are a few other contact numbers on the Public Works Tree page —

    Other than the report a problem forms/phone numbers and the bicycle and pedestrian advisory committee, I am not really sure how citizens are supposed to provide input into the Public Works Dept. Maybe we need to go through our city council members.

  46. Patrick

    @das88: here is a link to a picture of a Queen Palm with frizzle-top This picture is of an Arecastrum romanzoffianum (Queen Plam), but I think you will instantly recognize the effects on the plant as being identical. Our palms are Phoenix dactylifera, or date palms. Palms of the size we have, with over 25′ of clear trunk, can go for upwards of $10,000 apiece in California, and that doesn’t include installation! (My previous price was based on knowledge from the early 90′s, when I was involved in landscaping). Manganese spikes cost about $1 each – and each palm would need about 5 spikes. Full recovery takes about 1 year. And, if nothing is done, the palms will all be dead within 5 years.

    I will call everyone on the list provided tomorrow. And I will call repeatedly until I get a satisfactory response.

  47. len

    patrick, will the nutrient spikes need additional watering this summer to start working; or are you trying to get them in place for the rainy season?

  48. Ralph

    @das88, as to the timing, speaking for me and probably others, I recognize that D gives us immediate relief. What is less clear “what are the other big ticket items that we can actually make an impact?” It seems to me that council has their pets and doesn’t listen to actual voters, people who pay taxes in Oakland.

    Then there is PK’s explanation. It is completely dishonest. If non-profit directors feel that they are receiving a cut because they are receiving less revenue than the prior year’s revenue, which was inflated by an extraordinary item then they should not be in business. Generally accepted accounting principles would dictate that this revenue not be considered as normal revenue.

    About the only thing that would make me reconsider at this time would be a full page ad in all the local papers, NYT, and WSJ from City Council admitting that they screwed the pooch and laying out a plan for the future.

  49. Christopher

    Oakland voters apparently want some KidsFirst-like programs, so I do not expect they would support a full-repeal of OO. Would a (politically viable) compromise measure look much different than D or K? Unfortunately, I doubt it.

    A bird in the hand is worth two in the bush. Voting against D with the hopes of a full-repeal of OO is brinksmanship.

  50. Patrick

    @len – ideally, yes. Moisture in this context would help to spread the nutrient through a larger area of soil. However, mycorrhizae in the soil, which facilitate nutrient and water transport, will help with the process immediately even in the absence of applied water. Mycorrhizae, a type of fungus, have a mutually beneficial relationship with the host plant Mycorrhizae attach themselves to the roots of a host plant and the host provides carbohydrates, in solution, to the mycorrhizae in return for the mycorrhizae’s intricate and voluminous network in the soil. Thus, the plant gets access to more nutrients than it would normally, and the mycorrhizae get a steady source of nutrient-rich moisture from the host plant’s internal stores.

  51. Carlos Plazola

    “Whatever”, I’ve studied tree physiology, ecosystem degradation, organic farming, genetics, hydrology, and silviculture, among other such fun things. But I’ve never studied fertilizers. I just know they can stink pretty bad, but they also help things grow.

    Len, ’tis far better to Wax-off, then to Wax-on, as I’m sure you know. There’s your grasshopper-moment.

    Your sensai

  52. das88

    @Patrick, dang you seem to know your palm tree stuff. If you can’t get the city to move, I’d see we go out and do it ourselves. I’m willing to throw in a few bucks to save some palm trees. Maybe we can checkout a soil driller from the tool library if they haven’t shut it down by then.

    I have got to say, though, I am not too happy that you got me checking out every palm tree I pass now for fizzle-top. I uploaded some photos of trees I saw over the weekend

    The fizzle-top seems spread throughout Oakland affecting both public and private trees.

  53. V Smoothe Post author

    Nobody has proposed closing the Tool Lending Library. Beginning July 1st, however, you will have to pay a $35 annual fee to use it.

  54. das88

    V. I was being a bit tongue ‘n cheek which I should really avoid since it doesn’t come through in these types of forums.

    In all seriousness, though, I don’t think we should take much for granted. Until, NN made some out of left field proposals nobody was suggesting suspending professional development, etc. What happens if the tool lending library proves to be elastic and some people stop using it instead of paying the fee. For example, I’m guessing some people will be a lot more prone to borrowing tools from friends than the library.

    This type of uncertainty is one reason I have been suggesting people vote for measure D. We’ve got to nail down some issues, so we can move on with dealing with others.

  55. Patrick

    I own a garden auger attachment for my cordless Makita – no need for Tool Lending Library.

  56. gem s

    I wouldn’t spend my own money (or anybody’s money, for that matter) on fertilizers without a pH test. You can pound all the manganese spikes you want in the ground, but if the pH is too high (as it often is in Bay Area clay soils) it won’t become available to the plant. If it is truly a manganese deficiency (and it is likely, though boron and potassium deficiency symptoms can present in somewhat the same way), you’re much better off correcting the pH for the long term health of the palm. It’s also true that overwatering can induce manganese deficiency, and the symptoms are often seasonally present in late winter and early spring, but correct themselves under proper watering regimes once the soil temperatures rise. However, the fact that those palms are among other totally unsuitable plants makes me think that they are being watered improperly, in which case a manganese issue could easily continue in spite of fertilization. If the City has also done any nitrogen fertilization, that can also impede uptake of manganese, so that would be an important thing to ascertain; in fact, you’d probably want to know if any treatment has already begun before you take it upon yourself because palms are notoriously slow to respond to treatment. It’s also worth noting that many micronutrient deficiencies are usually a result of environmental problems (pH, poor aeration, improper watering, temperature, poor drainage), and it is important to correct those issues before throwing other resources at the problem.

  57. Patrick

    The soils in the area where these palms are located is severely eroded clay. Clay soils are generally moderately high on the pH scale, as you’ve stated – but manganese uptake is restricted by low pH, not high. Also, clay soils are usually deficient in manganese – especially in the Bay Area. Which is why all palms frequently display the effects of manganese deficiency. Boron deficiency in palms generally presents itself as small, twisted frond tips. That’s not what is happening here. Potassium deficiency in palms is completely different, showing a yellow mottling of fronds- and the oldest fronds first. The date palms are displaying symptoms on their newest fronds. Furthermore, boron and potassium are ample in clay soils. It’s doubtful that these palms are being watered at all, but that really doesn’t matter – they’re date palms, suitable for growing in the near desert with minimal water during the summer months, the exact weather pattern we have in Oakland. Besides, watering regime in the context of frizzle-top in a non-starter: it can take years for the plant to exhaust it’s stores of manganese, and is not the least bit seasonal. I find it highly unlikely that the City would use the macro-nutrient Nitrogen, which accelerates growth, on trees that better serve our community if their growth rate is minimized. I agree we should find out what maintenance has been performed before attempting to do it ourselves, which is why I’m trying to find someone in the City who will return my phone calls/e-mails. However, if you simply look at the palms, with tattered and dead fronds hanging askew, it’s not difficult to ascertain that these palms receive no maintenance whatsoever.

  58. Patrick

    Incidentally, of all the plants humans use in agriculture, date palms are the most tolerant to high pH soils, which is why they can grow in highly alkaline former seabeds (like the Mojave).

  59. Robert

    I am troubled by the concept that we need to preserve the Tool Lending Library. While a nice convenience, this really doesn’t seem like a core purpose for the city. If kept, it really needs to be converted into a cost neutral institution, with user fees covering ALL of the expenses in running it. While a step in the right direction, it is not at all clear that the proposed fee does that.

    Also, I think that the fee structure does not serve the interests of most of the citizens of Oakland. I need to borrow (or rent) tools once or twice a year. Am I going to pay $35 to do so? I don’t think so, not without knowing for sure that I am going to be using a bunch of things over the year. So this really becomes a service that serves only those few peopel that borrow a lot of tolls over the course of a year. Hardly seems like a service to the whole city any more. Perhaps if they had a yearly fee for heavy users, and had a small fee on a per tool basis for the occasional user.

  60. V Smoothe Post author

    I am troubled by the idea that services Oakland voters are already paying $75/year for in the form of a parcel tax approved by the overwhelming majority of residents would be expected to be “cost neutral.” The point of public libraries is that they’re free, people.

  61. gem s

    “but manganese uptake is restricted by low pH, not high.”

    Sorry, that’s not entirely correct:

    plant deficiency chart correlated with pH

    Symptoms of manganese deficiency is also correlated with seasonality as it relates to soil temperature and water uptake; it is well known that palms and other plants display deficiency symptoms as nutrient availability cycles throughout the year. You don’t have to take my word for it though: In soils where Mn is marginally sufficient, cold soil temperatures may cause temporary Mn deficiency by reducing root activity levels. .

    If you read my comment carefully, I did say that it was likely manganese deficiency, but if you’re familiar with late stage potassium deficiency in palms you know it also produces stunted top growth. The issue is that people should understand that many deficiency symptoms can mimic one another, and proper soil testing (and sometimes tissue testing) is called for to make a sure diagnosis. No soil scientist would ever recommend fertilization without a pH test at bare minimum, unless they work for a fertilizer company. Though I think it likely that these palms are suffering from a manganese issue, my main point is that treating the symptoms without determining the cause is a waste of time and resources. As far as watering goes, the reason I think it is likely they are overwatered is because they’ve been planted with roses, nandina, and other ridiculous stuff that needs more water than Phoenix dactylifera does. Since those plants are currently alive, I’m guessing they are getting water. I haven’t stuck my finger into check, but it makes no sense to decide on a course of action without investigation since fertilization is not a magic bullet.

    I’m quite familiar with date palms, BTW. I worked for the Palm Broker (now Flora Grubb Gardens) as head maintenance gardener and one of the garden designers for several years. If you haven’t been to their nursery I highly recommend a visit. It is an El Dorado of beautiful and rare plants, including palms.

  62. Patrick

    I’m quite familiar with palms as well – I have a degree in Urban Ornamental Horticulture from the University of Florida. I interned at Fairchild Tropical Botanic Garden (considered a world leader in palm research) in Miami for 2 years. My job, post-internship, was managing a nursery that specialized in large caliper trees, and palms over 25′ CT, both field and pot-grown, for urban installation. I also performed maintenance scheduling of large scale tree (and palm) plantings which I did contractually for about 25 different government entities in the State of Florida. My specialty was the management, treatment and avoidance of lethal yellowing, in Cocos nucifera, Adonidia merrillii, and Phoenix canariensis, the three most widely planted susceptible species in Florida. But I digress.

    If you’re basing your argument on the link provided, I think you’ve made a poor choice. The article is from – the University of Florida. Florida’s soil types, nutrient profiles and requirements, climate, temperature extremes, rainfall pattern and disease pressure is absolutely nothing like anything in the Bay Area. Actually, the growing conditions in Florida are like nothing west of southeast Texas. How cold do you think these palm’s clay soils, nearly covered with heat absorbent concrete, sandwiched between a 35″+ wide asphalt heat retaining surface and heat reflective buildings get? There is no watering system in place, either, so unless they are getting spit on repeatedly by the area Vietnamese, they’re getting rainwater only. I’ve yet to see a local clay soil with low pH, unless heavily amended. Besides, date palms can tolerate pH up to 11. In any event, high pH does not eliminate availability of Mn in palms – it just supresses uptake. But low pH in palms makes Mn unavailable because they are not suited to acidic soils (but they would most likely die from other factors related to low pH long before succumbing to Mn deficiency). And since Mn is necessary in such small amounts, I believe the absence of Mn in our area soils is the most likely cause. I also don’t see how we could be seeing late-stage potassium deficiency when the palms aren’t displaying the inital stages of potassium deficiency. All said, yes. In a perfect world, a balanced fertilizer regimen, tailored to our area soils is best. That’s not going to happen in Oakland circa 2009. It is manganese that is required, post haste, for the survival of these palms. Manganese toxicity in palms is extremely rare and, in any event, not fatal. Manganese deficiency is common and is what is killing our palms.

    We have to be talking about a different set of palms, here. I’m talking about street palms set into small, sidewalk cutouts. There’s not a rose or nandina to be seen.

  63. Robert

    The Tool Library is not a library in anything approaching a traditional sense of that word. And while there may be educational aspects (“I really should not have tried this myself.”) or entertainment for the neighbors while they watch you, those are not the reason people borrow tools. I agree that the more traditional libraries should remain free, never said otherwise. But lets not try and lump the Tool library into the same category. This is an example of service creep that has been one of the causes behind the rise in the cost of city governemnt over the years.

  64. Ralph

    As nice of an idea the Tool Library is, it is not a core service and should be abandoned. If maintained, the users, and only the users, should pay the full freight.

  65. V Smoothe Post author

    Robert, can you explain the rationale behind your statement “The Tool Library is not a library in anything approaching a traditional sense of that word”? Because it makes absolutely no sense to me – the Tool Library very clearly conforms to the mission statement of the Oakland Public Library and any other public library I’ve ever seen. I am so baffled by your characterization of it as “service creep,” I don’t even know how to respond.

  66. Robert

    Libraries are traditionally repositories for information. Sometimes used for learning and sometimes used for entertainment, but in both cases information. Tools are not information. The OPL mission statement indicates that the library is a “resource for information, knowledge, and artistic and literary expression”. How do you see that tools fit into any of those 4 categories?

  67. Naomi Schiff

    Tools, a pretty large category and part of the definition of what makes a human a human (although apparently some other species have figured out tool-using too): Books are tools. Computers are tools. The libraries’ stock of manuals on how to fix things are tools. Maps are tools. The internet is a tool. Chainsaws are tools. Reference libraries are tools.

    The tool lending library is a terrific resource that assists people in doing projects correctly with tools they might not own. Modern libraries also may lend out DVDs and CDs. Berkeley, among other cities, lends out tools too. Why attack this modest but very helpful service? By the way, the tool librarian dispenses quite a bit of information about how to do things. Worry about something else.

  68. Robert

    Books can be tools, but not all tools are books. And that did not come anywhere near answering the question of how tools (in the Tool Library sense) fit into information, knowledge or expression.

  69. Patrick

    Taken to its base form, a library is a place where citizens can borrow items that are not quickly consumable and have a limited duration of usefulness/ high cost relative to benefit. Books aren’t out of reach for the average person anymore, especially with so much written information available via the internet. I think tool lending in this town is pretty important – we need all the upkeep we can get! Service creep is taking a lending service, like a library, and tacking on an adult literacy school.

  70. Patrick

    OK, back to the flora. I actually got through to a person! Initially, the Public Works call center desk. Before I could launch into my prepared remarks, I was succinctly, but tactfully, told that, due to impending layoffs, unless I was calling about a tree that was threatening immediate danger to life and limb, I was going to be dissapointed. So, I said “yes. This is about immediate death – to trees valued at thousands of dollas each”. Anyway, the woman who answered was really very nice (and sympathetic), listened and suggested I speak to Ms. Gay Luster, who was terrific. She promised me she would speak to the responsible party personally and would return my call by tomorrow. Fingers crossed.

  71. Rebecca Kaplan

    About the tool lending library (as someone who does use it, and also supports the fee proposal, because I’d rather pay the fee than have it close due to budget problems)….

    The fee proposal allows people to choose either to pay a $10 fee for one-time use, or a $35 fee for annual use. So, if you only use it once per year, you could pay just the $10.

  72. Robert

    RK, thanks for that info. That makes a sense for a fee schedule. Do you know if the fees are supposed to cover the full costs of the tool library?

  73. Robert

    Patrick, I will say that as individuals, I have found that city employees have always been very helpful and courteous to me.

  74. Becks

    Robert – As discussed at the Council meeting two weeks ago, nobody knows how much money the fees are going to bring in because this is the first time they’ll be assessed. So it’s difficult to know if the fees will cover the cost of the tool libraries. We’ll know much more after a year or two of assessing the fee, if that’s what the Council votes tonight to do.

  75. Robert

    Becks, that sounds like laziness. It is possible to do sales projections for new products, marketing departments do it all the time. And yea, they need to be revised as data comes in, but you have a starting point. What good is charging the fee if you really don’t have a clue about how much revenue is involved. The other missing part, of course, is how much it costs to run the tool library, which apparently is not broken out as a separate program in the budget.

  76. Gene

    Thanks for the info on the proposed fees, RK. As someone who recently started taking advantage of the tool library, I think it’s a great resource for Oakland residents. While there are commercial places to rent power tools, the tool library also has things as basic as clamps and squares that some people may only need once and therefore can’t justify buying. I think a $10 one-time or $35 annual fee would be reasonable.

  77. Patrick

    It’s more than reasonable. I borrowed a $200 hammer-drill for one afternoon. I’ve never needed a hammer-drill before or since. Would I be willing to spend $10 to avoid spending $190 (+ tax) for the privilege? Hell, I’d be willing to spend the $35 yearly fee for that privilege.

  78. len

    if D goes down, and the state funding for local -12 gets any worse, eliminate all of the OO funding for private youth programs and give that same amount to OUSD with some overall cc appointed oversight with a mandate that all public schools including charter schools etc. get assistance.

    would David K would recuse himself from the deal makingif that compromise was on the table?


  79. len

    In our town, cynicism about government and the governed starts at the top.
    Council members know that maybe at most 100 oakland voters would ever read the full text of Measure D, let alone compare it to OO.

    The other day I found this complete draft proposal for D which would have slightly increased funding but implemented strong mechanisms for performance reviews, shortened the sunset period to 4 years from 12 years, and reduced the mandatory number of teenagers on the oversight board. It was drafted by a former city of oakland auditor. (

    The draft sank without a trace in the backrooms of council.

    Council is correct to rely on the apathy of Oakland voters if D passes to lose interest in a substantial reform of city funding of non governmental programs.

    Measure D will continue to be another form of Pay-Go patronage for the Mayor and Council via their appointments to the oversight board and the unfund review mechanism.

    -len raphael

  80. Milt

    Thanks for deciphering measure D. I am a pretty smart guy, but I can’t always pay enough attention to know what on earth these convoluted measures are really going to do…

  81. Naomi Schiff

    I’m voting YES on all four, but however you are voting, send your ballot in asap, because the deadline is Tuesday. I believe if you haven’t voed by then you can drop off your ballot at the County offices on Oak St.