New Oakland taxes, OO repeal update

So the big Finance and Management Committee tax meeting is over, and here’s what happened. If you missed yesterday’s post about the new taxes being considered on today’s agenda, you can read it now to get some background on the items being discussed.

First up was District 4 Councilmember Jean Quan’s hotel tax (PDF), which she had introduced as an additional 2% tax on top of the 11% hotel tax we currently have. It was expected to generate roughly $2 million every year, which would be divided evenly between the Oakland Zoo, Oakland Museum, Chabot Space and Science Center, and cultural arts programs, including festivals.

At this afternoon’s meeting, Jean Quan introduced an altered version of the proposal. Instead of 2%, the tax would be 3%, so it would bring in about $3 million every year. Of that $3 million, half would go to fund the Convention and Visitor’s Bureau, which had its funding cut during the last fall’s budget deliberations. The other half of the money would be split between the four aforementioned programs.

District 5 Councilmember Igancio De La Fuente said that he would prefer to see the funding share for cultural arts to be dedicated exclusively to cultural arts programming, and not be available for festivals. District 3 Councilmember Nancy Nadel said she didn’t like the formula in the proposal, suggesting that large institutions like the Museum have access to other sources of funding besides the City or the new tax, and proposed her own formula for allocating the revenue which involved giving 10% of the portion for cultural institutions to Children’s Fairyland.

District 2 Coucilmember Pat Kernighan said that the hotel tax isn’t going to be the only source of funding for cultural institutions, and that it’s simply intended to take some of the burden off of the General Fund. That part confused me, because the proposal that had been on the agenda did not remove any burden from the General Fund. In fact, it prohibited collection of the tax unless the City continued to maintain the existing funding for the Zoo, Museum, and Chabot. I didn’t attend today’s meeting in person, so I didn’t get a copy of Jean Quan’s revised version. Maybe it took that part out, I don’t know.

Anyway, the public speakers mostly talked either about how important marketing is or how important the Zoo and Chabot Space and Science Center are, or in some cases both. Ignacio De La Fuente made an amendment that would require the Convention and Visitor’s Bureau to include the Zoo, Museum, and Chabot in their marketing campaigns, but did not submit his ban on funding festivals because Pat Kernighan and Nancy Nadel had said previously they opposed it. Nobody supported Nancy’s idea to give 10% of the money to Fairyland, and the proposed passed, although Nadel abstained.

So that will go to the voters for approval at the next election, whenever that is. I don’t really have an opinion on this. I don’t stay in hotels, so I don’t really care that much what the hotel tax is. I personally don’t see why the Convention and Visitor’s Bureau should get any money – they suck and Destination Oakland is like the most pathetic visitor’s guide ever. It makes Oakland look hella ghetto, even more than we already are. But as long as I’m not paying for it, it’s hard to get worked up.

Then it was onto the repeal of Measure OO. In case you don’t recall, here’s the deal with OO. In 1996 Oakland passed Measure K (PDF), whichset aside 2.5% of the City’s unrestricted General Fund revenues to be distributed as grants for youth programs. Measure K expired last year, but the ordinance had an option saying the Council could renew it without going back to the voters, which they did (PDF), unanimously, last April. So that meant that 2.5% of all unrestricted General Fund revenues would be set aside for the kids programs through 2021.

But a number of people didn’t feel like that was enough money, so they collected signatures and managed to place Measure OO on the ballot, which sets aside 2.5% not of unrestricted General Fund revenues, but of all revenue to be given to the kids programs. This creates a terrible problem for the City because they can’t take away 2.5% of the restricted funds for another purpose, so they have to use the General Fund to cover that mandate. Let me give you an example. If the City got a grant for $10 million that paid for like, a crime lab or something, then they would have to use the entire grant for the crime lab, right? The granting organization won’t let you give 2.5% of it to some after school program. But Measure OO requires that 2.5% of that grant go to the youth programs, so the City has to cough up $250,000 from somewhere else in its budget to give to the youth programs if they accept the grant. So maybe you get a new crime lab, but because of Measure OO, taking the money for it means you have to lay off a couple of librarians and give their salaries away as grants. Nice, right?

Anyway, the whole Council was against Measure OO last fall. I personally didn’t think it seemed like they did much to prevent it from passing, but when I told that to a backer of the Measure, he was like “Are you serious? I thought they worked really, really hard against us.” So who knows. Anyway, it passed and now the Council can’t afford it and want to repeal it.

Jean Quan and Pat Kernighan put forward several options for the repeal, one of which would get rid of OO and put the funding back to Measure K levels, and the rest of which would provide less money than OO but more than Measure K. I really don’t know why they would bother with a compromise with these people at all, watching them at the meetings, it’s pretty clear than no amount of money is going to satisfy their greed, but wev.

The Committee listened to a bunch of speakers whine at them about how they need to give more money to youth and youth don’t get enough money and blah blah blah, and youth are more important than parks, and that the Council is trying to ignore the will of the people, the people of Oakland spoke and said they wanted to give the entire City treasury away to non-profits and after school programs and it’s wrong to try to ignore their demands oh and also the school district is cutting all their funding for after school programs so the City has a responsibility to make up for that.

None of the Councilmembers cared. They were all pretty nice. Well, nicer than I would have been anyway. I would have been all “Go away you greedy, greedy entitled brats with your lying campaign and ballot box budgeting and leave us to do our work in peace. You’ll have another opportunity to lie to everyone when we put this back on the ballot.” Instead, they all bent over backwards to explain to the audience how devastating Measure OO would be and to try to describe the City’s dire financial situation in with an amazing amount of patience. I guess that’s why I’m not on the City Council. One of the reasons, anyway.

Anyway, Ignacio De La Fuente and Jane Brunner (who is not on the Finance Committee, but showed up for this meeting) both said they wanted to just repeal the whole thing and go back to Measure K funding levels. Nancy Nadel said she was open to considering the compromises and both Jean Quan and Pat Kernighan seemed to want to do one of the compromises for reasons that I will NEVER UNDERSTAND.

Nancy Nadel totally gave the best speech, all scolding the OO backers for how irresponsible and short-sighted and stupidly written their measure was and lecturing them for being deceptive, or at least unrealistic, in their arguments. She’s totally right and I think that coming from her, since she’s usually all for throwing money at whatever non-profit, maybe it actually got through to some of those people a little bit. Maybe? A little? Or maybe not, but at least she tried. Anyway, I really liked her speech, so I uploaded it for you guys to watch. Yay Nancy.

Anyway, since they couldn’t agree on what to do, they decided to move all the options on to the full Council, and fight it out there.

They were almost out of time once they got to Jean Quan’s $46 parcel tax (PDF) for trees came up. The discussion on this one was super duper short. Pat Kernighan said that she supports the tax, but thinks we might have to do a higher tax and probably not just for trees, but maybe other stuff too, and so that they should talk about it when there’s a more clear picture of all the budget problems we’ll be facing next year. The Committee agreed to let it come back for consideration later so they could talk about it in more detail. The best part of this was one of the public speakers, who complained about what disrepair our parks are in and was all “All those kids from the last item who complain about having nothing to do are welcome to come to our park and pick up a broom anytime.” I loved her.

Then they were out of time, most of the agenda items had to be delayed until next meeting, and Jean Quan forgot to call Open Forum before everyone left, which meant Paulette Hogan didn’t get to speak. Quan promised her 4 minutes at the next meeting to make up for it, and she retorted that she wanted a full 4 minutes at Council, not Committee, which I really, really hope she ends up getting because that would be awesome.

BTW, since it’s too late for the City to put anything on the ballot for the State special election on May 19th, it’s unclear at this point when the voters of Oakland will ever end up getting to vote on all this.

35 thoughts on “New Oakland taxes, OO repeal update

  1. Gene

    Thanks for the run down. I was wondering what was going to happen with the repeal OO thing. While I support the goals of the programs OO supports, it’s clear they’re not working, and we can’t afford OO at this point. Is there any hope of changing it before the next general election, or are we stuck until then?

  2. Charles Pine

    On Quan’s parks tax, both councilmembers and public speakers talked about the money as though it would go to maintain parks. Simply not true. When new parcel tax money comes in, the City routinely withdraws general fund money that currently helps with the same tasks. That happened with Measures Y (fewer police for several years!) and Q (fewer librarians), and it was admitted in advance when LLAD increases were proposed (and defeated). The language of Quan’s proposal would pave the way for the same ripoff.

  3. Max Allstadt

    Here’s a preview of what I expect to happen at next Tuesday’s Council Session:

    And army of mathematically challenged teenagers is going show up at the full council meeting. Some will make eloquent appeals. None will accept the financial truth. Many will scream and holler whenever someone who disagrees with them says anything. It will take all night. All it will ultimately prove is that David Kakishiba should not be in charge of an institution that teaches kids math or manners.

    As for what the council will do, who knows? It’s possible that they’ll be intimidated into a compromise. I hope not. It’s also possible that because the state screwed us over on dates, that they won’t be able to get a repeal on the ballot. That would be awful too.

    What hope is that the Council will realize that they screwed up by not aggressively campaigning against OO in the first place. There are some pretty easy talking points: Only TWO school board members thought it was a good idea. I can’t find a single article in any East Bay daily or weekly that is against repealing OO. Everybody over 21, and who doesn’t run a youth organization seems pretty convinced that Kakishiba’s money grab was unbelievably stupid.

    The only arguments for it exclude the numbers, or lie about them. I think a couple pie charts and animations could go a long way to expose the lies. Plus, it might well be possible to get 11 out of 11 Oakland officials to endorse the repeal. If you put them all on a mailer, along with the sane members of the school board, I’m pretty sure the public would get it.

    I think the council needs to play total hardball on this. A total repeal, but more. They also need to do a cost comparison of what it would mean to fund this insanity versus what it would cost to not fund it, get sued, and stall the suit until we can repeal OO. They also need to make it clear that they will never give any OO funds to vocal advocates of OO. Hardball guys. Please.

  4. Valerio

    I believe inthe 1930′s FDR started the CCC, if the non-profit would like to help youth and encourage them to participate in civic duties, why not organize a community clean up crew that would serve the community and offer them community hours for ehir high school graduation. Heck. Let’s coisder community service a graduation requirement through OUSD for both high school and junior high to embed civic responsibility and responsibility that Oakland is only good as its kept by their youth- that’s worth investing. I remember cleaning Lake Merritt when I was a senior.Just a thought.

  5. Valerio

    I believe inthe 1930′s FDR started the CCC, if the non-profit would like to help youth and encourage them to participate in civic duties, why not organize a community clean up crew that would serve the community and offer them community hours for their high school graduation. Heck. Let’s consider community service a graduation requirement through OUSD for both high school and junior high to embed civic responsibility that Oakland is only good as its kept by their youth- that’s worth investing. I remember cleaning Lake Merritt when I was a senior…Just a thought.

  6. Critical Chris

    “It makes Oakland look hella ghetto, even more than we already are.” …Please, speak freely V Smoothe, and throwing in “hella” is oh so cute. Seriously though, what exactly are you implying by this comment anyways? I dare you to publish this.

  7. Max Allstadt

    Um. I think she means that the visitor’s guide is poorly written, skips some great attractions, and has graphic design and images that are embarrassingly out of date.

    I dare you to take off your sunglasses, put down your bong and go get a copy so you can see for yourself.

  8. Critical Chris

    Max, I dare you to cease your argumentum ad hominem and acknowledge that no one needs to read that guide to consider all the classism and racism the word “ghetto” implies, whether real or perceived; whether used in a pejorative sense, or as a term of endearment; no matter if it was an observation on the production values of the guide, or on Oakland more generally.

  9. Ralph

    i despise both hella and ghetto but we gotta call a spade a spade. That said, I just took a tour of the SF, B-more, N.O. and Oakland convention bureau’s websites and one of these sites is not like the other. Want to guess which one?

  10. Max Allstadt

    Slang is part of language. I suppose if v wanted to be boring she could have chosen words that were less colorful and more acceptable to the politically correct and the shoeless.

  11. Ralph

    Max, slang may be part of the language but hecka and hella are at the bottom of the slang pecking order. That said, I agree V’s usage was most appropriate to stress the importance of how low rent the the CVB is.

    But on the topic of slang, I find troubling that OUSD students only speak and write slang. The teachers are turning a blind eye to it. If we are ever going to improve the quality of OUSD students we need to be Joe Clark tough. If we aren’t, you can bet your bottom dollar that barring good old fashion gentrification, Oakland will fall into the abyss.

  12. fakchek

    I don’t even know what you guys are fussing about on the topic of slang. Honestly, I don’t. But if you really want to have fun, just ask Jean Quan about “Ebonics” & see where that conversation leads.

  13. Dave C.

    Max isn’t the first person to realize that a man’s shoes are the windows to his soul. (Forget anything you may have heard in the past about eyes.)

  14. oaklandhappenings

    Overall, I like Destination Oakland, and always eager every year, to see what is added to it. A problem I have, however, with DO has little to do with being “ghetto”; actually, just the opposite, in a way. The large areas of Oakland that people consider–perhaps by rumor–”ghetto” are hardly featured in DO at all! The east and west Oakland flats do have places that people can visit, besides the Air Museum, Crucible, Mandela Parkway, and a few others. I would like to see DO include all of Oakland, not just an emphasis on downtown/uptown, Rockridge, Grand Lake, Montclair, and a few select others. Although by far not an outstanding guide, I suppose it can still be helpful for the casual visitor via business. For someone vacationing and visiting Oakland (as well as other East Bay areas, SF, Napa or all of the above), it needs improvement.

  15. Tom W.

    You are right Dave C! Nigh on to three score years ago, I had a girlfriend who warned me the her mother judged all young men who came to their house soley by their shoes.

  16. Max Allstadt

    Man, a guy makes one in-joke about someone who shows up to council meetings barefoot, and we never hear the end of it.

  17. Coolhand Luke

    “Hella” is a Bay Area staple. If you see that as low brow or “bottom of the barrel,” then you are hella bootsy. In all seriousness though, while it is important for kids to learn how to write standard English, slang should be embraced to a degree. It isn’t going anywhere, and to divorce it from academia is to alienate the students that much more.

    Plus some of the most interesting literature I’ve ever read uses slang, including last years Pulitzer Prize winner, The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao by Junot Diaz.

  18. Patrick

    Is “bootsy” some sort of shoe reference? The whole thing is sort of creepin’ me out.

  19. Ralph

    Patrick, bootsy is yet another example of annoying Oakland slang. It is synonymous with tired and played out. Apparently, Oaklanders thought tired and played out were too dated for their taste so they coined a new term. If the OUSD could graduate anyone with a drop of intelligence, we might actually get some clever Oakland slang.

  20. Ralph

    Yo CL, peep this,

    Slang is not the real problem. Before one can break the rules, one must know the rules, and far too many of OUSD students can not distinguish an adverb from an adjective. I have 11th graders who can not write a simple sentence let alone a compound or complex sentence. If OUSD students could demonstrate a grade level appropriate understanding of English, then I would cut them a little slack. If we either fail to correct them or to introduce them to recognized standard English synonyms, we are doing them a disservice. I provide my students a list of adjectives and adverbs and encourage them to use them liberally. Each week the students go without using hecka and hella, they earn points towards dinner at a real reastaurant.

    As to slang being used in PP books, I have no issues with it; the author knows the rules.


  21. Coolhand Luke


    I feel you but its hard to blame the kids. I was in OUSD my whole life and NEVER was taught grammar. Every year I would approach my teachers about this and they would all say that I should have already learned it and that they couldn’t waste the time. So I understand the frustration in a very real way, but it’s hard to use proper English when we are not taught it.

  22. Ralph

    Coolhand, I read your blog, and I have a friend who graduated from O-High. Both of you learned English. Sometime after you graduated either the school system went downhill or the intellectual curiosity of the students vanished.

    I am reading the book No Excuses Closing the Racial Gap in Learning. I will spare you the detail of the content, but will relay one sentence. No one has invented a method to teach algebra to students who don’t know their times tables. I suspect that English teachers face a similar problem. There are some basic skills that one should learn at an early age; they lack the time to go back and teach those skills because they have body of work they must teach to prepare you for the next level. (That being said, I do recall that my school used part of the 9th grade year to ground the students in the fundamentals.) And unlike private schools, public schools probably lack the resources to have a basic writing class after the 9th grade.

    The key in all cases is to enforce the proper skills at an early age. Show me a student who gets past 4th grade unable either to write a sentence or to multiply fraction, I will show a student who is in for a bumpy ride.

  23. glory

    It’s really sad that no one is considering all the single parents that are working (not on welfare) to support their families and the only help they get is having children in after school programs run by non profits or programs at the library. No one is talking about how this affects us and our families and the limited amount of space available for our kids in these programs. I think the city would prefer that these families just let their kids run wild on the streets, yes, commit crimes, rapes, etc. I mean why bother in investing in their future it’s not like they won’t eventually be voters. It’s a shame that I actually belong to a city that cares so little about the youth of their society, oh and about the money why don’t the higharchy take a paycut I know I would.

  24. dto510

    glory, Kids First does not support the library – quite the opposite, it starves the library of funds by channeling them to non-profits! No amount of paycuts for the “higharchy” would compensate for the millions Measure OO would take from essential services including parks and rec, the library, and policing. Feel ashamed all you want, but funding non-profit programs is not an essential city service, and is not the best way the city can help young people.

  25. Patrick

    Glory – A third of the day the kid is in school, a third of the day the kid is asleep – and you think society should be responsible for the other third of the day as well? That’s an argument for forced sterilization.

  26. glory

    Measure OO has gone to parks and recs in my neighborhood and to the libraries. In my neighborhood the parks and rec center doesn’t have very good programs or staff that run them. I always here parents complaining to the director that the staff don’t take good care of the kids.

    Also, my argument is not give us money or we’ll rape you. My argument is that when money is taken from programs that keep kids safe and I mean ALL kids, you risk the chance of kids turning to something else like the streets WHERE they can easily be influenced to join gangs and commmit crimes, there needs to be some medium where everyone can agree.

  27. glory

    I believe in the saying “It takes a village to raise a child” and ultimitely society does play a role, after all we raise children to want to change the world right? Obviously we aren’t to happy with it either.

  28. V Smoothe Post author

    glory, I don’t know who you’ve been talking to, but you’re terribly misinformed. First, Measure OO hasn’t “gone to” anything, because it hasn’t started yet. Second, the money does not go to parks and rec or to libraries, it takes funding away from those things. I suggest your try to get the facts straight in the future before advocating for the diversion of taxpayer money to outside organizations.

  29. Coolhand Luke


    First of all, thank you very much for reading my blog! I hella appreciate it. I just graduated from Oakland Tech in 2004 and suspect that not too much has changed since then. I can write, thanks to reading, Youth Speaks writing workshops and UCLA, but I can’t count OUSD as one of those positive writing influences. Furthermore, despite my ability, I still struggle with grammar. It has been a self-taught crash course and is one of the things that will really hamper my foray into the journalistic world. I was taught to put a comma when I have to take a breath, just so you get an idea of my grammatical training.

    I agree with everything you are saying. I am not advocating that you throw writing standards out the window in favor of ebonics education. I’m just saying that 1. We can’t blame the students for not knowing how to write and 2. That I have found it valuable to utilize alternative literature to boost student interest in reading and writing. It’s not that you throw out the classics, but that sometimes you supplement those with literature that meets them half way.

    From working with Youth Speaks, a youth poetry org in the Bay Area, and running after school programs in South Central LA, I have found this tactic to be invaluable. Promoting under-appreciated authors from a variety of backgrounds can show students sides to reading and writing that they were not aware of. That’s why I bring up Junot Diaz. Yes Diaz knows the basics, but he utilizes a multi-lingual vernacular voice that can draw readers in in a different way. I have found it more successful to harness these types of books to promote the basics, than it is to keep pushing the same stuff over and over again.

    I even would have students analyze song lyrics and draw parallels between them and poetry. Yes the basics are important, but in such a multi-cultural and multi-lingual country and city, I feel that we are setting ourselves up for failure if we ignore the mediums and stories most relevant to our students.

    I believe that content is king, and that if material is interesting students will embrace it. In that vein, there was one program at Tech that proved this beyond a shadow of a doubt. TryUMF (Trying to Uplift My Folks) focused on character development, social theory, gender studies and a bunch of other great topics. It wasn’t too big on writing, but we were challenged to read and understand college level texts by Paulo Friere, Franz Fanon, bell hooks, Ché Guevara, etc from 9th grade on.

    The key though was interpreting these works through a present day subjective lens that incorporated music, film, etc. For example, one assignment was a comparative essay between Friere’s Pedagogy of the Oppressed and the film The Matrix. The writing needed work, but that first bridge of relevance was crossed.

    Just a few thoughts. Yes the foundation is key, but I think we can get there from different angles, and promote our student’s creativity in the process.