62 thoughts on “
Open Thread

  1. V Smoothe Post author

    There’s a long discussion over at the last open thread about comparing employees and salaries across various US cities, and commenters raise some good questions about the reliability of the data as it was presented in the links provided.

    I’m in the process of putting together similar figures in a way that will hopefully make things clearer, and while it’s taking longer than I wanted, I think it’s going well. But there are certain aspects of how I’ll present it that I’d like input from readers on. Specifically, what cities would you like to see Oakland compared to? Similar sized cities across the US? Similar sized cities in California? All big cities in California? Bay Area cities? Would you like separate points of comparison for salaries versus number of employees (i.e. payroll compared to Bay Area cities, number of employees compared to cities throughout CA). How many points of comparison would you like to see? I want the information to be useful, but not overwhelming.

  2. Robert

    For me:
    Comparison to other BA cities, as they are likely to be more similar in terms of what services are included in the city vs. county and state. SF being an exception, unless you can tease apart the city and county functions.

    Payroll is useful, but payroll plus benefits (total personnel costs) might be more helpful. Also, total budget could be helpful if comparing to other states, as it would account for contracting out large amounts of work.

  3. MarleenLee

    Similar sized cities in California. Long Beach might be an interesting comparison – its somewhat bigger, but also has a port, and airport, and has had its share of problems over the years.

  4. Born in Oakland

    Just recd an Evite from V for an event that occurred in December 2008. Sorry I couldn’t make it.

  5. Izzy Ort

    Look again, it was fixed. It’s April 30, at 2022 Telegraph, at 6pm. In the last two days I’ve just received my first two e-vites ever, and they’re from two different people, for events on two successive days, within two blocks of each other.

    The other is for the opening of Farley’s East, 33 Grand Avenue, on May 1.

  6. Almer Mabalot

    Hmm I’ve been hearing a lot of business is opening up in Downtown Oakland, or near it. Most of them are cafes, and food places or so I’ve heard. What about retail? Wish there were stores opening up such as; Old Navy, Niketown (Nike Store), etc. *P.S. I would really love a New Era Flagship store in Oakland. I would buy a lot of hats, and I know a lot of people will too, haha.

    Also I’ve heard that the GAP store is being replaced by Walgreens… Isn’t there a Walgreens already in business across from it? or am I mistakenly thinking of the wrong location of the GAP store which I believe is near 13th, and Broadway.

  7. Ralph

    Almer, from what I can see, you are correct; there are a number of restaurants opening in the dn/uptown area. I am a little annoyed that no one has gotten me a Buffalo Wild Wings, Panera Bread, etc but I will live. It would be nice to see some retail but I am losing faith in that possibility. Potential businesses want bodies and huge lots and to be miles away from the drug trade, real or perceived (Oaksterdam U).

    Walgreens is moving across the street. I guess they got tired of competing with the dealers on the corner. Seriously, I think the spot across the street is substantially bigger. The current location is the size of a coat closet.

  8. Jim T

    What we really need is some essential businesses, like a grocery store and bakery. There are condos downtown now, and people who live there. These other businesses won’t come until there is foot traffic, and this is the simplest way to get some foot traffic. If there was a good grocery store (Ratto’s closes early, and on weekends, and don’t even get me started about Smart and Final), or a bakery, then these new condo-dwellers (with their disposable income), might provide that needed life-blood to DTO.

  9. Ken O

    that will be better for walgreens. seems more mod to be in gap’s old space.

    yes, downtown needs a grocery and bakery.

    i know bakesale betty’s said they were opening in fall’09 – don’t know if they are still going to but probably. however, that isn’t a full service bakery with basic grains. I am one of those new apartment-dwellers and dislike driving/biking to whole foods. Call me lazy!

  10. Ralph

    Ken, you are looking at this all wrong…you should be happy to be within walking distance. If you always drove to WF, you would fill up the car. As a walker, I am constrained by how much I am willing to carry – a bag keep the other hand free for holding the phone.

    Still, I would prefer if WF delivered, ala Safeway. I would also a appreciate a Wegmans where that Sears is taking up space. Hop off BART and pick up groceries on my way home.

  11. OnTheGoJo/Joanna

    Wow, I’m further from WF than Ken and I occasionally bike it! If Jackson were better paved with a proper bike lane I’d bike it even more often.

  12. Ken O

    V/R- I wouldn’t mind walking/biking to WF if the route were more ped/bike friendly. Oakland is a car oasis. People drive too fast/too much. Biking: too much broken pavement, streets too wide with too many cars whizzing by. Asia is so much easier/convenient. It’s not a terrible ride, but not very pleasant. I need a better bike, too. One that’s the right size and fits properly.

    Having one’s bike in a faraway underground locked bike garage inside a locked car garage with a non-working bike rack is also annoying. I may start tethering it up outside on the sidewalk–except there’s no bike racks right outside and i’m not leaving a bike on Telegraph all night!

  13. Almer Mabalot

    Also don’t forget to mention SEARS, and it’s current situation in terms of serving the community. The area around it is a huge mess, and it doesn’t look like a good place to hang around even just for a cool minute.. It’s some hard truth, but SEARS can do a lot of things to jazz up their surroundings that can help benefit the area around it, and in return boost up friendly pedestrian sidewalks, etc.

    Also when does the 2010 Oakland Mayoral Race take place? I’m turning 18 in July 2, 2010. I’m hoping I can finally vote. I’ve never realized that voting really is very important until I got interested in community politics, and whatnot.

  14. Ken O

    Sears could add benches to their surrounds. Their customers (rarely white) are always parking on William Street and walking back to their cars with sears bags of clothes. I’ve shopped there myself for the odd tool.

    They should rent out a bit of space to local garment makers and artists since their MIC clothes and shoes are mostly tacky, not cheap, and institutional. That would add more traffic. So would adding a cafe or some other activity inside the Sears. They have so many floors – what are they doing with them above the 2nd floor??? Lost opportunities here!

  15. Ken O

    Sears shares the sad distinction of “uncool” clothing at regular prices with a place called “j.malnick” which I never see people shopping in, or even open, on Broadway at 19th. Sears cannot compete with TJMaxx, Marshalls or the other supposedly cheap clothing stores. Maybe they should have a thrift section or offer clothes repair, but Sears/Kmart is probably not smart or nimble enough to do this.

  16. Kent

    This is good – a discussion about Sears. I do shop there on occasion – I’ve even bought clothes (call me unhip – I know that I am). The selection is not too bad, prices are good, but service lately has been terrible. I went to electronics recently and got ignored. The kid who came to help me did not know anything about the products on sale, and could not speak proper english. It was much different even just 2 years ago. I remember getting good service and being paid attention to. Maybe it was just an off day last time I went. Regardless, I will continue to shop there as long as I live near downtown. It is the only place you can get decent quality house / kitchen wares and tools without needing to get in a car and drive to the suburbs (or to Berkeley – almost as bad). My top suggestion for a store improvement is self serve bike parking on the ground floor! I have been told to take my bike outside before – but there is like one bike rack and you know the area – it is not a safe place to leave a bike – even a locked one.

  17. Ralph

    Ken, I still get a little chuckle out of the lazy comment. Might be because I would walk from JLS to Lakeshore every 3 wks to get my haircut and stop off at the FM on my way home to pick up some produce. I only relay this because Joanna’s post reminded me it has been almost 3 yrs since I first moved to Oakland and Pat K has yet to do anything about Oakland’s own version of Beirut. I’ve stopped reading the the SF Chron section about who you need to call to have action taken for these items but this used to pop up now and again. But I digress. I assume the did I live in NYC is in reference to the Wegman’s. I spent 6 yrs in CNY.

    As to Sears, I think the key problem and why I don’t expect much in terms of improvement. Most of Sears value is in its Real Estate holdings. I could be wrong but I don’t think Eddie has any incentive to plow money into the store. I am willing to bet that they are willing to sell for the right price.

    Almer, here is hoping that no one gets more than 50% of the vote in the primary. I get giddy like a schoolgirl when I hear young people want to vote and get involved. Gives this cynical soul hope for the future.

  18. len raphael

    I’m a loyal Sears appliance and Craftsman tool loyalist. Competent salespeople and the lowest prices. Even used to buy clothing there :) until the selection got too sparse even for my limited requirements. But yes, i get the impression that it’s the living dead where shop lifting losses probably exceed sales.

  19. OnTheGoJo/Joanna

    A Positive Post on Oakland – progress is definitely in the air.

    Last night we walked to Uptown and again, I was in love with the vibrancy of the area. Simon asked again if I was ready to move yet. (I’m not – but mostly because I love our place and the thought of moving makes me ill.)

    We started with drinks and small plates at Ave, a/k/a 2022. I’m going to give it another try before I say anything more on that.

    From Ave we were off to the Fox to see Franz Ferdinand and saw that while Green Day had played there the day before, last night they were playing across the street at The Uptown bar. Private party? Fan appreciation? No idea, but it made for even more folks out on the street, along with the masses going to see Leonard Cohen for one of his three sold out shows. (those tickets were selling for some big bucks on Craigslist yesterday!)

    It was my first visit to the Fox. I LOVE LOVE LOVE IT! Phil Tagami and crew have done an amazing job on bringing the theater back to life. It’s amazing! Even the freaky Buddha eyes staring down on me was cool.

    I loved the service (but was worried about their employee costs being the anal accounting type that I am), the number of bars (no lines!), the quality of the drinks, and I loved that the women’s bathroom had more than 10 stalls – thank you! Had they had toilet paper in them, it would have been even better, but I let someone know and she said they’d take care of it pronto.

    The sound was great, which can be really hard in theaters like this. Certainly Morrisey at the Paramount was almost enough to make me cry it was so bad. I was a tiny bit worried about this going in to the Fox. But we went upstairs to the top of the balcony and the sound was even good there.

    It was a nice walk home, even if the guy from Van Cleef’s suggested we keep going because we’re “too old”. ;) I’m sure he was kidding. I mean, the guy at the Fox checked my ID. Hahahahaha. (I’m over 40, and we’ll leave it at that.)

  20. jarichmond

    On a related note to the previous comment, I went to the Green Day show at the Fox this week. That place is stunning! I mean, I love the Paramount too, but the Fox is just on another level. Maybe I’m too used to seeing shows in dingy, run down theaters, but I don’t think I’ve seen a show anywhere with an interior as well designed and well thought out as in the Fox. Hopefully word will spread quickly with bands that it’s an awesome place for a show and we can keep up the good acts flowing through.

    The other cool thing was that they apparently had sellout crowds at both theaters those nights. I think the only time I’ve seen more people downtown is for the art murmur nights. It also looked that the various bars and restaurants in the area were hopping both before and after the shows. If we can keep it up with these nights of both theaters having shows, Uptown will really blossom into a nice entertainment district (even more so than it already is!)

    Green Day has been doing a string of guerilla concerts through the bay area lately. They send out an announcement a few hours before and then play some small club, like the Independent and DNA Lounge in SF last week. They announced that last night’s show was not going to have any ticket presales, so I bet people were lining up to get in many many hours before the show.

  21. Rebecca Kaplan

    Yesterday evening in Uptown was amazing — fun to see multiple large crowds. Also, I noticed that many of the people waiting in line (a long time) for Green Day were looking for food, including looking for the kind of food they could buy, and then eat while in line — with others looking for sit-down restaurants. There is definitely the demand to support more food venues, and have them all be able to succeed.
    -R. Kaplan

  22. OnTheGoJo/Joanna

    There was a cart vendor that had all sorts of stuff that seemed to be doing Quite Well. ;)

  23. OnTheGoJo/Joanna

    I just got this email from JLS, and thought it was worth sharing. Hope I’m not offending anyone by posting this…


    Dancing Under the Stars Comes to Jack London Square

    Free Outdoor Classes from May to July Allow Visitors to Dance the Night Away on Oakland’s Waterfront

    Oakland, CA – On Friday nights this Spring and Summer, Jack London Square will see sizzling salsa, tight turns, and elegant waltzes. But on this dance floor, there will be no judges and no one will be voted out. Jack London Square today announced Dancing Under the Stars, a summer of free outdoor dance classes open to the public. Over ten Friday night sessions, visitors will be treated to professional instruction in a range of popular steps, all on Oakland’s waterfront and by the light of the stars. Dancing Under the Stars will begin at 8:30 PM each Friday at the foot of Broadway from May 1st to July 3rd.

    “Years ago, a night on the town meant dinner and dancing,” said Jim Ellis, managing principal of Ellis Partners LLC, the developers of Jack London Square. “We’re delighted to continue that grand tradition by offering free dance lessons to the local community, all within steps of the first-class restaurants that Jack London Square has to offer. The Oakland waterfront and the warm nights will provide the perfect setting for a romantic evening out.”

    Instruction for Dancing Under the Stars will be provided by Linden Street Dance Studio. Located just blocks from Jack London Square, Linden Street Dance Studio has been offering classes in social and ballroom dance to beginning and advanced students since 2006. Their staff of professional instructors will guide students through each step with personalized attention. Experienced “dance hosts” will be on hand at each session to partner with participants. For those who wish to continue their exploration of dance beyond Dancing Under the Stars, Linden Street offers free group classes every Monday, Wednesday and Friday nights.

    Dancing Under the Stars classes will be divided into three themes. The first three Friday nights will focus on Latin dances: Salsa, the Cha Cha, and Rumba. Jack London Square will serve as an elegant ballroom for the following three weeks when students practice the Waltz, American Tango, and Foxtrot. Dancing Under the Stars will close with four weeks of club dances: the Swing, Hustle, Argentine Tango, and a second class of Salsa. Guests need not bring a partner; couples and singles alike are welcome.

    For those who work up an appetite on the dance floor, area restaurants will provide prix fixe menus on Friday nights during the Dancing Under the Stars. Cocina Poblana, Miss Pearl’s Jam House, Scott’s Seafood, Il Pescatore, Kincaids, and Hahn’s Hibachi will offer new menus each week with fresh seasonal ingredients.

    Dancing Under the Stars Schedule 2009:

    Rhythm of the Night: Latin Dances
    May 1: Salsa
    May 8: ChaCha
    May 15: Rumba

    Ballroom Bliss: Smooth Dances
    May 22: Waltz
    May 29 : American Tango
    June 5: Foxtrot

    Stepping Out: Club Dances
    June 12: Swing
    June 19: Hustle
    June 26: Argentine Tango
    July 3: Salsa

  24. Hella_Bike_Oak

    I also saw Green Day at the Fox. The show was amazing with the hi-tech light effects and the retro charm of the venue. The place accommodated the crowd really well. I was able to get a great view of the stage even though I was at the back next to the bars.

    It was hilarious when Billie Joe voiced his love for Oakland and the Fox, I’m sure most of the crowd was from out of town.

    Bike parking shouldn’t be a problem at Sears. Get a bikelink card for the electronic lockers across the street.

  25. Izzy Ort

    “freaky Buddha eyes”

    I haven’t been to the Fox but I have seen photos of the statues holding some sort of bowl. Unless there are some other statues I don’t know about they have been widely reported as “Buddha” or “Buddhist” in the press.

    I’m not going to get on a “cultural sensitivity” high horse , but they aren’t “Buddha” and aren’t Buddhist, and I’m kind of surprised they’ve become labeled as such.

    A review I found of the Fox opening in 1928 said that the theater was “one part Arab and three parts Hollywood hokum.” I think these statues fall into the Hollywood hokum category.

    That’s not to knock them for what they are — an authentic depiction of Hollywood’s version of the mysterious east circa 1928. Like the Maltese Falcon – the stuff dreams are made of.

  26. Ralph

    I guess you can’t believe everything in an email. I swear Rick’s email said they will be doing Friday tastings. Looks like the next one is scheduled for the 23rd. I would think it makes more sense to have a consistent day of the week but what do I know. So were you the 1st person to inquire?

  27. Patrick

    So, with the two homicides (and possibly three) yesterday 1 block from Highland Hospital (and uncomfortably close to my house, I might add), what is the homicide count so far this year? 33? And how does that compare to last year at this time?

    I hated the “Oakland Homicide Map” in the Chronicle, but now that it’s gone, I’m having a hard time coming up with the numbers.

  28. Max Allstadt

    I just tried the “oakland budget challenge” website. I discovered that if I wanted to balance the budget without raising sales tax or reducing the number of sworn police, the “oakland budget challenge” allowed me only one option: pick the most drastic budget cut for every other question asked on the site. That lead to a $100,000 surplus. Get ready for some flying fur at City Hall over the next few months.

  29. V Smoothe Post author

    I certainly don’t want to belittle to enormity of the City’s challenge when it comes to balancing the budget this Spring, but the Oakland Budget Challenge is, I’m sorry, complete bullshit. Not only is it dishonest about what the “status quo” looks like, it’s also extremely selective about what kind of choices the City actually has. Basically, this little game is designed to guilt you into supporting increased taxes and fees while also resigning yourself to unacceptable service cuts.

  30. Max Allstadt

    I get it V. It is clearly a simplistic set up. But at the same time, if it’s estimation of the costs of emergency services is in any way accurate, we’re totally up shit creek. If we want expanded fire and police services, it kind of seems like we need to set up volunteer auxillary fire departments, and maybe even a militia.

  31. Patrick

    I just took the “Challenge”. Too bad “Demand pay and benefit decreases equal to the amount of (COLA received – actual inflation rate over the past 5 years)” wasn’t one of the options.

    It was interesting to note that when having to decide about the Police staffing levels, choosing the fourth option “Decrease Number of Officers back to pre-Measure Y level (739 officers), the savings shown is $3 million. $3 million divided by 64 officers is just $46875 per officer (roughly the same figure quoted to hire armed security guards). Am I missing something here or is the “Challenge” totally rigged? Based on what I’ve seen about starting pay and benefits, the savings should probably be more like $10 million.

  32. V Smoothe Post author

    The City is anticipating a substantial COPS grant from the Federal government that could be used to fund more police officers. Or it could be used to fund the same number of police officers we have now, and free up that money for other purposes.

  33. Patrick

    While I’d rather the former, I’d probably vote for the latter. Unless the grant is guaranteed for decades, increasing overall costs without a stable funding source is not fiscally prudent. I hate to use it to temporarily cover up the mistakes of the past, but without any real leadership, that’s about the best we can hope for.

  34. len raphael

    restricting the choices put to the voters is classic politics and how it will be handled in real time.. curious how many unique responders there have been. considering that a responder would be much more informed of muni govt affairs than typical oakland resident, i was dismayed by the pro tax, anti police/fire respnonse distributions. big support for raising penalties and fines? i’d like to say that the votes were swamped by kid’s first people, but it doesn’t look that way.

    -len raphael

  35. Max Allstadt

    Yeah, I was aware from the start that it was entirely possible that the “budget challenge” might be a form of push-poll. But I’m not totally sure. It may just be underinformed. There are enough contradictory elements that I think any bias within that little experiment was unintentional or just the product of the author’s world view. It doesn’t seem wantonly manipulative to me.. Who created it?

  36. Patrick

    It’s an oversimplification of an extremely complex issue. Look, Ma! I balanced the budget in 7 easy clicks!

  37. MontclairOak

    On the budget model…

    According to Jean Quan’s blog (http://oaklandbudget.blogspot.com), the League of Women Voters and Finance Committee staffer Sabrina Landreth worked on the model.

    The options are worth looking at because they were developed with funding from the financial committee chair, whether you like ‘em or not. The phrase “Hobson’s choice” keeps ringing in my brain when it comes to closing this huge gap.

    As a poll, I would hope these results are ignored. It’s very easy to go back in and “spam” because your entries aren’t even cookied or controlled.

    Probably obvious to some, but gap analysis does not a budget make. The actual budgeting model would show revenues, expenses and cash flows, as well as some efficiency metrics – at least in the private sector.

  38. V Smoothe Post author

    That’s one way to look at it. Another way would be that it was developed with funding from someone who is trying to significantly raise Oakland’s already astronomical tax rate. Considering that, it isn’t particularly surprising that the only way to “balance the budget” without increasing taxes is to cut the maximum option from each department.

    Jean Quan, of course, is notable for her frequent assertions that the City cannot save much money through improved efficiency. She appears to think the City is operating as efficiently as possible. Lucky us to have such a person chairing the Finance Committee.

  39. CitizenE

    Remember, Measure Y was to pay for the increase in police officers — 739 to 802. Unfortunately, the legislation was never intended to cover the full cost of the increase, so the General Fund is on the hook to cover the shortfall. Rolling back to pre-Measure Y levels would only save this subsidy amount in the General Fund.

    Most grant sources available to the Police do not allow supplanting — paying for officers who are already funded by the General Fund/Measure Y. In fact, most of the grants are structured to pay for services on…..you guessed it…..overtime. There is some logic to this, as limited term grants shouldn’t really be used to increase staffing one year, only to have the money go away the next.

  40. Becks

    Random question: anyone know where to buy an orchid in downtown Oakland? I need to get one today and I can’t leave downtown to do so. Any suggestions would be very appreciated.

  41. Ralph

    Young change agenets – okay, since i am too lazy to create an acct to post a comment over at montaskewed, i will say here he has an interesting post on the young people and encourage people to have a peek at it.

  42. OnTheGoJo/Joanna

    Becks – Whole Paycheck, er, um, I mean Whole Foods.

    The florist in Old Oakland moved to San Leandro. :(

    Don’t know of any other places off hand.

  43. V Smoothe Post author

    Don’t go to Whole Foods! You can buy beautiful orchids in Chinatown. Unfortunately, I’m not so good with addresses or store names when it comes to Chinatown – I can usually find the store I want to return to after wandering around for a while, but couldn’t tell you exactly where it is. Hopefully someone else will chime in with a more helpful comment. But there are definitely at least a couple places in Chinatown you can get a nice orchid, and way cheaper than at Whole Foods.

  44. livegreen

    In light of the upcoming budget meetings and Town Hall’s, here’s what L.A. is doing (from today’s L.A. Times):

    Villaraigosa unveils $7.05-billion budget, cuts own $223,000 salary by 12%
    1:37 PM | April 20, 2009
    Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa today released a proposed $7.05-billion city budget that relies heavily on gaining concessions from unions, including police officers and firefighters, and leasing out city-owned parking garages to close an estimated $530-million shortfall.

    Villaraigosa also proposed a 10% reduction in personnel costs for all city departments to save about $200 million, cuts that could be achieved through options that include potential layoffs, early retirements, work furloughs or city workers agreeing for forgo cost-of-living raises. The mayor said he would start by cutting his $223,000-a-year salary by 12% and freezing all salaries in the mayor’s office.

    “If we don’t exercise the judgment, the responsibility to make the tough choices here, what we’ll end up with is 2,800 people losing their jobs and, importantly, the services that come with it,” Villaraigosa said in a morning news conference.

  45. Robert

    Nice move by Villaraigosa.

    But lets get this. LA with a population of about 4M has a budget of about $7B, or $1750 per resident, while Oakland with a pop of 400,000 has a budget of $1B, or about $2500 per resident? Whats wrong with this picture?

  46. Ken O

    Rob – devil’s advocate here.

    Altogether, you can get a bigger “bulk discount” on goods/services with $7 billion than with $1 billion. Maybe not tons, but it’s something. More “centralized efficiency” – their mechanics service parts for 1000 vehicles instead of 300 vehicles. (just made up numbers for comparison)

    You can get a better deal on 1000 oil filters than on 300 filters. It’s like WalMart vs Target or Sears/Kmart. Bigger customer = more bargaining muscle.

    Now, here are some facts in agreement with your point of view except unemployment:


    Unemployment*: 4.8%, 6.5%
    Median HH income: 46,292, 47,179
    Families below poverty line last 12 mos: 15.8%, 15.7%

    *I bet these numbers are low. The federal figures only count U-3, not U-6 plus underemployed part-timers.

    But looking at median income, Oakland’s is higher than LA, and families in poverty is the same. There are no excuses for Oakland to be run so badly.

    Where is the list of candidates Dellums sought for city administrator??? I emailed my past/current city councilmembers in mid February and still haven’t received a reply.

    It’s easy to criticize from outside, but that’s where V’s fact finding comes in handy.

  47. das88

    I too found the Budget Challenge a bit silly. In fairness, though, it was superior to the State Budget Challenge on which it was modeled.

    Sure the Hobbesian Choices were bad. It was also simplistic to assume changing taxes wouldn’t affect the behavior being taxed. What really got me, though, was the lack of an open-comment item. How about soliciting money-saving or revenue generating ideas from the public?

    Here’s mine … reduce the size of the city council. I am not sure what the combined total of a council member’s salary, their staff’s, their paygo, and all the overhead would save, but I am pretty sure it would be more than some of the items on the challenge.

    I am also pretty sure a smaller council would be able to accomplish more since there would be less people chiming in on every issue no matter how befuddled they are on facts. There would also be less people to fight over the limited primo parking spaces.

    And just think, no more of those embarrassing 4-4 ties!

  48. Robert

    Ken, A good point about the bulk discount, but as I recall, 85% to 90% of Oakland discretionary budget is for personnel costs. So that would really just suggest that LA may be able to negotiate better deals with the unions.

  49. V Smoothe Post author

    The 2008-09 adopted budget for the entire City Council was $5.29 million. $3.64 million of that comes from the General Fund.

  50. Mike

    The budget game really is a joke. The bottom line is that Oakland is almost completely lacking in leadership, problem-solving and management skills at the City Council and Mayor levels.

    Leadership, problem-solving and skilled management are all about identifying and setting priorities, getting people to understand them and stand behind them and implementing the priorities. Being capable of making hard choices but good choices. Triage.

    Oakland has lots of creative citizens and a group of leaders which needs a thorough clearing out and putting in the political trash bin.

    We can do something about this. We can find better people and encourage them to run for office and support them in their campaigns.

    We can reject the notion that the choice of people who run for mayor needs to be limited to whatever political hack is just looking for another desk and another salary. We can start talking here about the kinds of people who have a real love for Oakland, a real interest in its future, and who have some real creative energy to offer to this city. This city which has been so thoroughly let down by its elected officials for so long.

    Time for change folks.

  51. AnnW

    I just saw the article on here about Oakland hiring a private security firm to bolster the sworn OPD and patrol certain areas of Oakland. What the article failed to mention is that the CEO, Sam Karawia, and the VP of the firm being considered, International Protective Services, Inc., have both been arrested recently for insurance fraud. From Fraud Digest:

    “Insurance Premium Fraud
    Larry Finley
    Internat’l Armored Solutions
    Internat’l Protective Services, Inc.
    Ousama “Sam” Karawia

    Action Date: April 17, 2009
    Location: Torrance, CA

    On April 15, 2009, two officers of a security company based in Torrance, California, were arrested and charged with trying to evade over $9.5 million in workers’ compensation premium. Ousama Karawia and Larry Finley were taken into custody when more than 60 state agents raided four of the locations of the company International Protective Services, Inc. that has over 1,500 employees. Prosecutors alleged that the defendants set up a shell corporation, International Armored Solutions, Inc., to disguise the number of workers employed. The defendants obtained insurance through the State Compensation Insurance Fund. Each defendant was charged with one count of conspiracy and grand theft, six counts of making false statements and insurance fraud. On January 23, 2003, Bunce Pierce, senior vice president of the same firm, pled guilty in Manhattan Supreme Court to a single count of hiring an unregistered security guard. The criminal plea allowed for civil settlement in New York v. International Protective Services, 02-402799. Under the settlement, the company forfeited the right to do business in New York state for five years, and agreed to pay $1.1 million in reimbursed fees and penalties. ”

    I don’t know if the folks down at City Hall are aware of this or not, but for me, this is entirely unacceptable not only because of the above, but also in that if private security is hire to do police work in our city, there will be no civilian oversight on their conduct. The sworn officers of OPD have oversight by way of the Citizen’s Police Review Board, but what will civilian recourse be for private security that doesn’t comply with the rule of law?

  52. V Smoothe Post author

    I can’t check the video to confirm just now, but I believe the article was incorrect. I thought Council’s resolution (PDF) was to contract with DTM, not International Protective Services. In any case, the Council deadlocked on this issue last night, and has currently approved nothing – the Mayor will have the opportunity to break the tie at the next meeting. If he chooses not to do so, the Council will then vote on whether to use the funds for police overtime instead of private security.

  53. Born in Oakland

    Robert Bobb running for Mayor of Oakland? Now that is a story! I wonder how long we have to wait for confirmation.