Measure Q, Measure Y, Measure NN, and the public trust

So, the Mayor sent an almost comically whiny letter (PDF) to the Council last week explaining why he decided to cancel December’s police academy. First, he seems shocked to learn that Measure Y isn’t just a bottomless pit of money he can use for whatever he wants forever:

Measure Y funding will soon became unable to sustain the full cost of the problem solving officers. This fact – coupled with the City Attorney’s most recent advice that our police overstaffing costs can no longer be charged to this funding source – leaves us with no other alternative but to pay for the additional officers that just graduated from the 165th academy with our General Purpose Fund money.

Wow. What a burden, having to use the funds actually available to you to pay for ongoing expenses! Too bad nobody realized that Measure Y funds weren’t endless before you threw them all away.

Wev. He then goes on to boo-hoo about NN and how hard it is to get a two-thirds vote, and how it’s totally unfair that you can elect the President with a smaller percentage than it takes to pass a tax in California. Then, he promises to bring back the police tax:

A two-thirds majority vote was necessary to pass Measure NN, and I am confident that this will be accomplished through subsequent ballot measures.

He just doesn’t get it. I don’t think the Council gets it either. Tomorrow will be the first day of the monthly City closures that were part of last month’s budget cuts, so I hope you weren’t planning on visiting the library. Because it’s going to be closed. Nevermind that we all pay a special tax that was promised to keep our libraries open. The City Attorney says this is all perfectly legal (PDF) because avoiding library closures is only an “objective” and not a “requirement” of the tax, and hey – he’s probably right. But just like with the Measure Y lawsuits, this haggling over what’s legal and what isn’t legal misses the point, which is that when people vote to tax themselves in exchange for something, they expect to receive that thing, regardless of what the technical legal requirements of your ordinance are. Closing the libraries in the city shutdowns or collecting Measure Y funds without providing the officers they were supposed to hire might be legal, but it’s also an abuse of the public trust. And the Mayor and the City Council need, at some point, to get that through their heads if they ever want anyone to vote for another tax in this town again. Because as long as nobody trusts you to spend things like you promise – and why would they, you give them zero reason to – you are never going to get a two-thirds vote for more police or anything else.

10 thoughts on “Measure Q, Measure Y, Measure NN, and the public trust

  1. Jennifer

    I can’t believe that Dellums thought NN would get the 2/3 necessary. I think he doesn’t read clips, probably didn’t see any polling, and just continues living in la-la land. I hope he reads Chip’s column today about needing to hire competent managers, but I have a feeling he takes no advice or counsel from anyone, nor does he care about Oakland.

  2. MarleenLee

    Not only does Ron Dellums not get it, but the citizens of Oakland still don’t seem to get it. The fact that Measure NN managed to get 55% of the vote is indicataive of their lack of understanding. The City promised that Measure Y would get us 63 additional police officers. It didn’t. The City promised Measure Q would expand and enhance library services. Now those services are being cut. Don’t the citizens understand that the City just wants their money, and doesn’t want to actually be obligated to provide anything in return? The City Attorney’s opinion on Measure Q is an example of just how deceptive the City’s tactics can be. The language of Measure Q says the objective was to keep the libraries open a “minimum of six days per week.” According to the City Attorney, because the word “objective” was used, the City is not actually “required” to satisfy this “objective.” Talk about mealy-mouthed! Oakland – wake up! Stop handing over your money to these deceptive thieves!

  3. Max Allstadt

    So what I want to know is this:

    We keep having these idiotic ballot measures pushed through without confirmation of their reach, mandate, or effect. Why don’t we create a process where all ballot measures have to be thoroughly evaluated PRE-vote?

    Right now the pro and con sides get to put pretty much whatever they want in the voter guide, right? And the council can introduce ballot measures without any getting, right? Why not reform the charter so the City Auditor and City Attorney must publish evaluations of all effects and technicalities claimed by a ballot measure? That way, instead of saying “this is legal” about the current use of measure y funds, Russo could have had to evaluate and rule on Maureen’s worries before the vote. All he’d need to say about it after the fact would be “told ya so.”. Likewise with Ruby and measure OO. If ballot box budget measures required Auditor review, she would have been mandated and empowered to say before the election “this is will screw us in a number of ways, which I will now detail”.

    I’d even support reform that budgets for ad buys for these sorts of non-political reports during the election.

  4. Max Allstadt

    Damn iphone. Paragraph 2 above, second sentence should say vetting, not getting. And “maureen” should say marleen. iPhone won’t let me edit. Fooey.

  5. V Smoothe Post author

    Ballot measures are presented with analysis from both the city attorney and the city auditor already. The problem is, what they say in the voter guide and what they say afterwards are often not the same thing. For example, this is from Russo’s summary of Measure Y:

    The permitted uses of the revenue are community and neighborhood policing (hiring and maintaining an additional 63 police officers above the currently budgeted 739 officers), violence prevention services with an emphasis on youth, and fire services.

    After Measure Y passed, Russo then said that it’s fine to use Measure Y funds even if we don’t have the baseline 739 officers and that the only requirement was that we budget for them, not that we fill the positions.

  6. Max Allstadt

    So then we need to make these evaluations more comprehensive and more binding. I’d argue that the full text of the measure should be publicly posted on one side of a two column document, with the second column containing evaluation, line by line, in layman’s terms. Summaries may be necessary, but in all likelihood, a complete evaluation should be longer than the law itself.

    Perhaps an online annotated overlay would work. In a 21st century democracy, tacking paper to a bulletin board adjacent to city hall should not constitute adequate notice or transparency.

  7. MarleenLee

    Check out this link to read the news story that appeared when a portion of my lawsuit was thrown out. It has to do with voters being under an obligation to read all the fine print themselves, and reyling on propaganda at their own peril. (Note, however, that the remainder of my allegations about abuses of Measure Y are still being litigated and a hearing date is set for February 13, 2009).

  8. CitizenE

    California and Oakland voters obviously don’t trust themselves to elect officials to represent their interests and to vote those who don’t out of office. As a result, we have term limits and a requirement to take all new/increased taxes to the voters. A two thirds margin is required to pass special taxes and a simple majority for general taxes.

    This places a burden on the voter to read, analyze and understand proposed legislation, so that the voter may make an informed decision. Measure Q did lay out the appropriate uses of the tax and the objectives and required a continued level of General Fund expenditures, but did not mandate service levels. Measure Y required continuing appropriations for 739 officers in order to collect the tax, but did not mandate that the City actually hire the officers. In both cases, the City Council realized that, due to factors beyond their control, they may not be able to deliver the desired service levels and the resulting legislation reflects this.

    I am not implying that I am in any way happy with the way things turned out, but the voters of Oakland passed these measures and because we (the voters) have decided that we know better than our legislators and must have the final say on taxes, we have only our(collective)selves to blame.

    In the case of Measure OO, we, the voters of Oakland, have shown a stunning collective ignorance and passed this disaster. The City Auditor’s analysis dramatically understates the impact. Perhaps had she not ignored the Municipal Code and had consulted, as required, with the Rules Committee and Finance Director, she wouldn’t have completely ignored the impacts of the baseline spending requirement. Let’s hope the City Council brings forward legislation to kill this turkey.

  9. Ralph

    Problem with CA and more specifically Oakland voters, there are at least 57K whose collective brain power would not cover a micro-pinhead.