Open Thread

Thanks to das88 for pointing out that you guys are probably overdue for a new open thread. Here you go!

148 thoughts on “Open Thread

  1. Daniel Schulman

    Thanks V for the new thread.

    I wanted to remind everyone about tomorrow’s Rockridge Out and About Street Festival –

    I’ll be tabling for Oakland Urban Paths in the afternoon. We will be with WOBO outside of Hanks and Franks Bikes at 6030 College Ave.

    Oakland Urban Paths is a fairly new organization that is dedicated to raising awareness of Oakland’s path and stairway heritage, promoting their usage, and helping with maintenance & restoration efforts. You can learn more by visiting our website at, or stopping by our table tomorrow.

    In addition, a couple of our members will lead a 2 hour walk through some of the nearby paths. The expedition will depart from the Rockridge BART station at the NE corner of Keith and College at 2:00pm. There are some steep hills and the folks leading the walk are in a lot better shape than I am, so this may be somewhat strenuous.

  2. len raphael

    Anyone know what the Calpers rules on hiring back early retirees? is it simply that they must be <50% part time as per Joe Tuman?

    Does Calpers recalc specific city's contribution premium based on retirement data for that specific city, or does it use groups of similar cities? How often does it adjust?

    eg. Rebecca Kaplan's variation where you encourage employees to retire early, but hire new cheaper employees has gotta piss off Calpers because we'd be gaming Caplers.

    -len raphael

  3. V Smoothe Post author

    If you do a golden handshake program, as the City has already done for civilian employees, you are permitted to hire employees back as non-benefitted annuitants at less than half time. However, you are also required to keep their positions vacant for a number of years.

    It is unclear to me whether Tuman is suggesting a golden handshake program which provides additional service credit in exchange for employees leaving the workforce early, or if he is just talking about offering some kind of cash bonus for officers who are already eligible for retirement to get them to leave now rather than later.

  4. CitizenX

    Tuman is correct — CalPERS annuitants can work for a CalPERS member agency up to 960 hours per year.

    CalPERS calculates separate employer contribution rates for each member agency (and separate rates for sworn and civilian employees, of course). Calculations are based on the previous year’s results and are effective the following fiscal year, so there is a two-year lag.

  5. livegreen

    I understand how Tuman’s proposal helps reduce current salaries. But how does it solve retirement costs?

    I guess a solution for just one problem is still better than none.

  6. Daniel Schulman

    The biggest thing I do not understand about Tuman’s proposal is why he thinks officers would take him up on it. I am sure there are some particular circumstances for a few officers where it might make sense. However, I think the majority would either want to really retire and perhaps move away or transfer to another agency and get a full salary and build new pension benefits.

    This plan like the one where OPOA gives concessions after a persuasive speech seems to rely on a hefty dose of a magic fairy dust.

  7. ralph

    This pension fiasco sounds like the OPOA was trying to use the voters. I am inclined to believe that they know concessions are coming. It really doesn’t matter who the eventual mayor is; a change is comin’. Still JQ loses leadership points for allowing it to get this far.
    In other news as much as I like Arnie Fields litter leads to murder story. It is seriously flawed. Yes, while litter does send a message to the community, it does not lead to murder. Murder tends to be a more personal act; it has little to do with litter. A man can murder and still recycle, pick up litter and contribute to the local school system.

    But a city that allows a neighborhood to be overrun with litter sends a direct message that the city does not care and creates an environment of distrust when other neighborhoods are litter free.

  8. Dax

    Has any candidate, at any of the mayoral forums, been asked specifically when they will institute a two tier pension system for all regular and safety employees?

    After all, this is the central long term financial question.

    -Will you support a two tier pension system?

    -Should you be elected, when will you put forth such a plan?

    -Any candidate taken a public stance in one of the candidate night forums?

  9. len raphael

    Kaplan and Tuman won’t have to get elected to test their early retirement plan for CEDA. As a result of Michelle’s lawsuit there is already one early retirement.

    -len raphael

  10. ralph

    restorative Justice in practice…say you throw a rock through your neighbor’s window.

    back when you were a kid, your parents would have grabbed you by the ear, dragged you to your neighbor, made you apologize and left you there to mow and rake the lawn, clean the garage and do whatever else your neighbor asks of you. You would then come home, do extra chores and whatever else was necessary to earn the money to pay for the replacement window.

    in the world of restorative justice, we need youth courts and juries and the defendant needs to take ownership for the harm he has caused the community. if parents acted more like parents we would not need this feel good stuff.

    is it me or is RK trying to be all things to all people?

  11. Dax

    More news about Bell Ca pensions

    From the LA Times,0,6328315.story

    “In 2003, Bell’s workers were covered by a pension benefit known as 2% at 55. That means that the pension for an employee retiring at 55 would be calculated by taking 2% of the worker’s highest 12-month salary and multiplying it by the number of years in the California Public Employees’ Retirement System.

    After two increases, the 41 employees now get what experts say is the unheard of rate of 3.7% at age 55. Of that figure, 2.7% is the CalPERS limit, the remainder comes from the city’s supplemental plan.

    So we see Oakland is at the limit with its 2.7%.

    However I know Piedmont has a 3.0% plan however you have to work until age 60.
    Thus there may be a different limit for a age 60 plan than a age 55 plan like Oakland’s.

  12. CitizenX

    The legislature created the 2.7%/55 and 3%/60 plans at the same time. Unions and City management negotiated the lower retirement age 2.7% plan. Seems certain individuals were ready to go and didn’t want to wait an additional 5 years for the slightly higher benefit.

  13. Dax

    Then foolish cities like Oakland went for the highest possible choice that CalPERS allowed.
    Less than 6 years later they now realize it was the worst fiscal decision that the city of Oakland has EVER EVER made.

    It will cost Oakland $500,000,000 to over a billion dollars over the next few decades.
    It gets worse with every new employee hired.

    Not to mention hundreds and in the future thousands of employees getting what amounts to a Golden Parachute, for prior years of service that were retroactively included.

    The single biggest blunder ever made in the history of Oakland.
    Makes the Oakland Raiders, coliseum deal look like a drop in the bucket by comparison.
    Yet, to this day, not one resident in 100 is aware of the gigantic financial blunder that was made.

  14. len raphael

    Dax et al,

    around 2003 did all the bigger cities in the Bay Area adopt the same plans w same vesting schedule as we did?

    ie. could there have been competitive job market pressures at work encouraging us to sweeten our retirement package?

    why does JQ say the state forced us to adopt the plan we did?

    -len raphael

  15. Dax

    Many cities adopted higher pensions in the years from 2002 to 2006.

    Others did not, such as Alameda right next to Oakland.
    Did we see a rush of Alameda workers to Oakland or all the best candidates rush to Oakland instead of Alameda? Hardly.

    Alameda stayed at 2.0%… Several other East Bay cities only went to 2.5%
    Oakland, Berkeley went to the max of 2.7%.

    It was a gold rush with everyone in on the gold. Staff proposing the change, city council also, everyone getting their pensions raised.
    Why would anyone object?

    Now, 6 years later, one of the culprits, IDLF is crying about how we are doomed due to pension costs.
    Meanwhile Quan acts like the issue doesn’t exist and her husband, walking districts, claims Jean wasn’t in office when pensions were raised. Wrong!

    Not sure what Quan is saying about the state forcing such, unless she means by opening up the floodgates by passing the new pension laws, they created these so-called “competitive” pressures between cities.

    Absurd… The city has always been able to easily get staff.


    Now got my ballot…
    Do they rotate the names or is Perata on the top of everyone’s ballot?

    If so, that alone is worth a few percent.

    Check your ballot.

    Also, why ranked choice for Kilian vs Ruby… Only two anyway.

  16. ralph

    DP is at the top of my ballot. And I had the same thought regarding pct points.

    And RC for Auditor was puzzling. Must be the crazy write-in candidate.

  17. CitizenX

    One thing to keep in mind…when Oakland and other public agencies were considering the newly legislated, improved pension benefits, most of their plans were well funded, if not overfunded. CalPERS even referred to some plans as “superfunded”. Many agencies were making no employer contributions during that period.

    So, when Oakland et al consulted with actuaries as to the cost of these improved plans, they were told the benefits would cost them little or nothing. And, if all assumptions had held true (primarily the 7.75-8.00% annual investment return assumption and relatively low wage increase assumption) this wouldn’t be an exciting topic of discussion today. Nothing like a major market implosion and a recession to blow one’s assumptions.

  18. len raphael

    CitX, my understanding of the actuary-City relationship is that unlike the private sphere, in the muni arena the actuaries can’t be sued by residents or employees for unreasonable assumptions.

    The version i heard is that what often happens is that the actuaries tell the officials what they want to hear based on what they can afford to contribute.

    In the private arena, ERISA federal penalties against both the actuary and trustees of the pension fund are so high, that the assumptions in the last 20 years or so have been very conservative.

    I’m not an actuary and can’t easily find a list of what those assumptions were for fortune 100 company plans back in 2003. There is both an assumption about rate of return and an assumption about acceptable risk. That eventually leads to investment decisions by the plan administrator and advisors on how much to put in risky assets like hedge funds vs say long term bonds.

    Everything I’ve read says 4.5 is a reasonable rate of return now. Calpers is now 7.x %

  19. Dax

    How come ALL the other cities did not jump up to the maximum as did Oakland.

    Alameda, stayed at 2.0%
    Several other cities only went as high as 2.5%

    A reasonable jump based on those faulty facts would have been to put it up 10%..from 2.0 to 2.2%

    Not jump it up 35% based on the prior 10 exceptional years of return.

    Worst of all, these recommendations were coming from staff and others who all benefited from their decisions to go with the big jump.
    Lock it in, see if the system can survive.

    Anytime someone says you can take a decades old rate of return and suddenly after a few years assume a 35% jump, you’d better watch your wallet.

    BTW, 6 of our 8 council persons are the ones who passed it and are also benefiting from it..EVEN if it is put on two tiers from this point forward.

    Value to some of them…
    ?IDLF? if he fills out his current term he will benefit to this degree.

    20 years worked x .7%(2.7-2.0) x salary? ($68,392) x 20 years pension = $191,500 more in pension than would have been the case if he did not vote in the 35% raise.

    Thus, IDLF as one example benefited by over $191,500 for his vote.

    How easy is it to allow flimsy studies to tell you its OK to make a 35% jump, when you are handing yourself 200 grand?

  20. ralph

    Where is Dellums pull? San Jose just received a $7MM federal grant for police officers. Why is Oakland not getting the gravy?

  21. ralph

    Did Oakland apply for a COPS grant? San Jose clearly did and is now $7MM richer. Please tell me we did not leave money on the table.

  22. ralph

    On measure BB,

    It provides a funding source for officers. I can’t guarantee you that we will have 63 community officers tomorrow, but I bet my bottom dollar we will not have 63 community officer if we do not pass Measure BB. If people want community policing this is the one way for them to get the money for it. It is not available any other way.

    Yes, by law if Oakland City Council does not appropriate for 739 officers they are prevented from collecting MY tax. Oakland residents paid this tax last year, and if Measure BB passes, homeowners will pay this tax again this year. So technically, one’s tax burden has not changed.

    Look, Arnold said he wasn’t going to raise auto registration fees, he did to preserve some services. Some things in life suck, hold your nose and vote yes. Voting No on BB does not send a message to city council and destroys the one thing that people liked – community officers.

    Yes on BB

  23. Charles Pine

    BB “provides a funding source for officers,” say Ralph.


    We are no longer paying the Measure Y taxes. In addition, the council eliminated all police training academies for the next two years. Therefore, passing BB means paying a new tax just to ask that officers be shuffled from one job title to another! Furthermore, nothing in BB really guarantees that, as experience of the stricter Measure Y has aleady shown us.

  24. ralph

    Without approval of Measure BB, it is safe to say we are going to lose officers. Do you really want to lose officers?

    BB is not a new tax. It is the modification and continuation of an existing tax.

    If one does not like Measure BB because one views it as a failure of city council’s ability to budget, then one never should have voted for MY. Given that ones voted for MY, then ones need to vote YES on Measure BB.

  25. Marleenlee

    If you want to put a bandaid on a gaping wound, vote yes. If you want to give the city a blank check, vote yes. If you want to reward financial mismanagement and repeated lies to voters, vote yes. If you want to sabotage the police chief’s stated goal of 925 officers, vote yes. If you want to help fund bloated pensions for police,vote yes. If you want to give the city a real incentive to get the force back up to where it should be, vote NO.

  26. Charles Pine

    The council already adopted a budget, laid off 80 officers and closed down an academy in midstream (the 20 or so recruits join Oakland residents in the experience of City Hall broken promises).

    Attrition (because no more academies) is already in place. We lost five officers last month, bringing us down to 679.

    Whether or not the council lays off more police depends on many things, including who becomes mayor. The passage or failure of BB has no automatic consequence on police staffing.

  27. Ken O

    Great read for pub transpo opponents, proponents:


    Political debates and party platforms rarely talk about public transportation, but it’s one of the most basic and important things governments can do to make life better, both in the USA and in any country where officials are cutting back such services. This is a great reason for working people – the ones who need public transport most — to become politically active, to put aside the hot-button lifestyle issues of the moment and focus on things that will give us back the freedom and mobility enjoyed by pioneer-era Americans and many Third-Worlders today.

    Otherwise, what little we have will disappear, until the next economic dip or fuel crisis turns every neighbourhood into an island.

    Next week: tips for keeping the public transportation system alive in a bankrupt city.


  28. Dax

    Ken O,

    Of course if we want to keep basic public transportation alive, we have to insist that the employees be paid reasonable wages and reasonable benefits, and reasonable pensions.

    Nothing is killing service faster than the insistence of transport unions to stay glued to unrealistic compensation, instead willing to accept massive layoffs and service curtailment.

    From the Contra Costa Times, by Daniel Borenstein 7/25/10

    ” The district (AC Transit) has been paying its bus drivers an average base salary, before overtime that most receive, of about $53,400 a year, plus an additional $45,400 in benefits and pension contributions. That’s right, benefits were costing the district an additional 85 percent of salary, a ratio unheard of in the private sector and even on the high end for the public sector.”

    $45,400 in benefits and pension before even getting a generous salary as well as a fair amount on top of all that in the form of overtime.
    Many bus drivers receiving a total compensation package of $120,000 or more.

    To keep that gold lined package in place, for the few, we are forced to let others be let go, and their routes cut.

    A 85% benefit package is absurd.

    Or look at BART train operators and station agents, each averaging about $120,000 in total compensation.

    All of the above jobs only requiring a high school diploma or GED.

    Public transportation has priced itself out of existence at these levels of compensation. Thus the cut-backs.

    Imaging a AC Transit driver with a family getting health coverage costing $1,900 per month for Kaiser and another $250 for dental, while paying none of it, not even co-pays.
    Paying nothing into the pension system.

  29. Theresa in Oakland

    Hey, did anyone lose a goat? Somebody found a goat at 49th and Webster, according to the “temescalfamilies” Yahoo group. The poster said “The nice people at VCA Pet Hospital are keeping him tonight, but then he’s probably going to the Animal Shelter tomorrow (Saturday).”

  30. len raphael

    Anyone know what goes on behind the scenes at the Trib before it comes out with endorsements? Does Martin Reynolds take a straw vote of his buddies? Is it a nameless faceless editorial board? Maybe the journalists get to vote?

    The reasoning seems to come after the decison.

    But then the recommendations on ballot measures also seem to be non-sequitors.

  31. ralph

    this new layout is the cat’s meow.

    wait, can’t find recent comments in long comment threads (i.e. next page is gone)

  32. Dax

    New resource for researching many city and county government salaries.

    A little difficult to use since they list every single position, even when there are 100 employees in the same position.

    From the State Controller’s office.
    A way to possibly compare jobs in one city with another city.
    Includes pension plan contributions by the employees and the rate of pension.
    Also includes a “variation” of their health, dental benefit.

    I believe there are other compensation items not included.

    However it does not include the employer pension contribution. Thus you cannot calculate total compensation.

    Gives the salary range for positions but does not indicate how many years it takes to get to the top salary for that position.
    5 years?, 10 years?

    Doesn’t include things like holidays, vacations or hours worked per week.

  33. Andrew Alden

    Hate the new site. How can I find a simple list of blog posts in the order they’re posted? Wait, I guess that’s what the “Featured Posts” list is.

    Could you tell us how the new setup is an improvement, V? I’m not ragging on you, I just would like a little help. Also, the Comments list is useless without saying what posts they belong to.

  34. Navigator

    It seems that Don Perata will gladly hand over the Oakland A’s to San Jose for a 25,000 contribution from Lew Wolff and John Fisher.

    After Perata announced that he had no interest in keeping the A’s in Oakland, the carpetbaggers with San Jose intentions decided that Perata was their man. How sleazy. How low can we go? At one point, I thought that Perata would be good for Oakland and that many of the charges and accusations were bogus. Now, I can smell the stinch all the way from San Jose.

    Say no way to Perata, Oaklanders. Lew Wolff and John Fisher understand that Perata will smooth their way to San Jose where they’ll be able to invest their 500 million dollars in private capital while Jack London Square continues to struggle. This is wrong folks. Peralta will sell a terrific economic growth opportunitty for Oakland’s waterfront for $25,000.

  35. J

    With the Giants likely to win the world series i dont think MLB is going to force them to give up their rights to SJ. Why would they? there is no benefit to them or the rest of the owners in MLB would have no leverage in telling the world champs what to do. Like if the clippers asked for head billing on the staples center over the lakers, that would be a no go.with the Giants run and the lack of funds from SJ the chances the A’s will move is slim.

  36. len raphael

    With a tea party prodded Republican senate, cross off the possiblity of a Federal bailout of cities and states retirement obligations.

    That leaves bankruptcy court and maybe but probably not Federal legislation extending the PGBC (pension benefit guaranty corp) to states and cities for a hefty premium spread out over years.

    Would think Republicans and democrats would refuse to compromise on that sort of thing.

    Good time to be a muni bankruptcy lawyer.

  37. 94610BizMan

    Len: “With a tea party prodded Republican senate…”

    With the specific election results across CA as contrasting to the results across the rest of the country, a right wing wag said that after this morning “California voters can see Greece from their bedroom windows”.

    We are in for some tough times.

  38. len raphael

    A buddy of mine from the burbs went from praising the Giant’s celebration in SF to volunteering how that same event in Oakland would have led to riots.

    Annoyed me, but he’s right.

  39. len raphael

    Layoff announcement today from the solar panel company which was to expand in Fremont (at the Numi site?), that Obama visited, reminds me of the risks of any city trying to predict market winners and losers.

    purportedly that same solar panel company had considered Oakland but didn’t get the welcome Fremont officials rolled out.

    in hindsight, that was for the best.

    provide decent infrastructure, security, and entertainment districts and let the businesses decide whether to come, without going crazy giving subsidies.

  40. len raphael

    Mehserle verdict. I’m with that Judge very concerned about the lack of understanding of the law in this situation.

    Scary, listening to residents who want an eye for an eye kinda justice. if they don’t understand the basic legal rules at work in the BART shooting, there is no way they’ll ever understand pension obligation bonds.

  41. ralph

    So very true. People really should bone up on the law. One of my favorite quotes from the peanut gallery, “People know the facts.” No they don’t. They have their interpretation of events, but the only people who know the facts are a handful of people who were on the BART platform on 1/1 and even among them the stories will probably differ.

    I think there are helicopters circling the downtown skies. Haven’t heard any sirens – until now.

  42. Dax

    Solyndra in Fremont…
    “the Obama administration announced $535 million in taxpayer loans to finance construction of a new solar-equipment factory.”

    Where did the 535 million go?
    Imagine if you creatively used 535 million over 2.5 years doing lower tech things like paving the terrible streets.

    You could have paid a “total comp” of $35,000 per year to 6,000 workers.

    Not the projected 1,000 that were promoted in the Fremont location, but which have now been lost.

    Pay people some very moderate wages of about 2,400 per month plus taxes, some small benefits etc….total cost about 2,900 per month, or about $35K a year.

    6,000 jobs…..

    Instead, little of the stimulus money has gone to those that most need it.
    Too much to only keep high paid public employees on the job. Police, fire, teachers, why should they get special preference?
    Then money poured down that hole in Fremont on a hope and a prayer to hire 1,000… almost none.

    That is NOT how they handled the WPA in the Great Depression. Those were basic jobs for the bare basics… Not some “union level, $40 per hour construction jobs.

    Now the money is gone and most people in need got nothing.
    Still with streets full of holes.

    The only thing worse is the INSANE “high speed rail” fiasco we now see will result in NO jobs in the Bay Area…

    Instead they are doing the nearly insane project of building the Merced to Fresno, Fresno to Bakersfield section.

    When completed, who would ever ride that section. The voting suckers were told their would be jobs…
    Zero jobs in the next 5 years for the Bay Area…
    As they say, “Thanks for the vote, suckers”

    Expect 20 years before you can ride from SF to LA….
    Expect the costs to ride to be double what is expected.

    Think Big Dig (Boston)….

    Again, the need for simple jobs now, not pie in the sky stuff 200 miles away.

    How could the people have ever voted for such a mess….
    A massive version of the BART airport connection.

    The waste continues. Just say, “Green” and “Jobs” and you can get funding to build a new plant to make clothing for the Jolly Green Giant.

  43. Born in Oakland

    Lots of police and helicopters out here East of the Lake. I understand there is action a few blocks from here on 6th and E. 18th. The cops whizzing down E. 21st turned down 8th because I am certain our potholes were ruining their cars.

  44. len raphael

    Chris, why are you so confident that a ballpark is the best use of the RDA money?

    Or as my neighbor put it: “if we’re going to go without cops, street repairs, parks or libraries, and schools we should at least have a convenient really nice ball park”

  45. Chris Kidd

    Not saying it’s the “best” use of RDA funds. If I’ve said so, please point that out to me. And RDA money can’t be spent on general fund obligations. You know this, Len.

    I’m saying that, if a realistic forecast shows the TIF return on RDA fund investment would be significant, it would be a net gain for the city.

    People decry the redevelopment that took place on Bunker Hill in downtown LA, but (setting aside any reservations I have regarding the antiquated planning used in its pedestrian-unfriendly design) the TIF from that redevelopment district returns $35 million+ every year to CRA/LA which they can then redistribute out to redevelopment projects in underserved/struggling neighborhoods.

    If there’s an opportunity to create a huge return on investment through TIF, I don’t see why the City shouldn’t at least study it.

  46. len raphael

    chris, I shouldn’t have put words in your mouth.

    oakland projections for sports stadiums work backwards from the desired result, pro or con.

    as long as the cc sees the RDA funds as mad money because they can’t directly use it for general fund purposes and the RDA constituency seems to be a very small group, we’re gloomily doomed to the cc making poor economic decisions among alternative investments.

  47. Chris Kidd

    We’re agreed then:

    More people should be involved and any projection needs to realistic and ruthlessly scrutinized.

    Still, a project like this would have enormous spillover potential in both CEDA TIF returns and economic multipliers in the surrounding community. One of the poison pills to try to avoid during negotiations would be tax breaks on stadium property. Cutting out the biggest source of TIF revenue would be a non-starter for me.

  48. len raphael

    Dax, instead of just ranting to the choir here, you and I should show up at city council meetings and rant. we could tag team. maybe even get some others to join in the fun a la sanjiv or david mix and max out your speaking time. i’m only half kidding.

  49. livegreen

    In a budget crisis, is it REALLY necessary for the OFCY POC to have a “End of Year Celebration” Gala? WITH City Staff from the Dept. of Human Services?

    Couldn’t money go instead to the programs that have been cut? I mean, if not the City budget, then at least the Schools & Children OFCY is supposed to benefit?

  50. len raphael

    LG, maybe Quan is correct that ignoring our looming retirement obligations is the best policy to avoid rocking the boat with bond rating companies.

    Looks like the bond rating companies engage in don’t ask dont tell re muni ratings. Moodys downgraded SF credit after the SF pension reform proposal failure made headlines, instead of before.

    Pity those lawsuits against the bond rating agencies from the mortgage backed debt collapse stalled in court. Something about “freedom of press” protecting Moody’s et al.

    -len raphael, temescal

  51. ralph

    Ruby released another report, which like hte others indicate that there are serious problems with Oakland’s system of internal control. Lindheim, like the Edge before him, was equally dismissive of the findings.

    Jean Quan can go a long way to improving transparency if she hires an Administrator who acts on the recommendations of the auditor. When systems do not speak to each other, the chances on making decisions on bad information increases. We need a City Administrator and Controller with a strong financial background who will implement sound financial control and policy.

  52. ralph

    V, you will need to point to point to specific failures in Ruby’s audits. I’ve read through the most recent audit, and while there are some edits I would make, they do not substantially change the report.

    My observation of both Edge and Lindheim is they do not understand the purpose of an audit. The auditor is not looking for fraud. Not finding fraud does not mean either fraud has not occurred or that the systems are working. There need to be system controls that reduce to a low level the risk of fraud. The controls are not there.

    Despite Lindheim’s assertions, prior to the external auditor’s performing their audit, there generally are discussions about the scope of the audit. Additionally, an unqualified opinion does not mean all is good in the hood. It just means that the statements are free of material misstatements. It is theoretically possible to have a poor system of internal control and still have clean statements if your people operate under the highest of ethical standards. And while this is possible, it does not make for a good internal control structure.

  53. ralph

    I probably have an opinion, but I am not sure which article you are referencing as I do not receive the paper and rely on the onlince news. Do you have either a link or the story header?

  54. len raphael

    Naomi, first i thought you were referring to another uninformed Trib editorial. Yousshoulda said it was a borenstein piece.

    Who’d have thought that back in 1997 Nancy Nadel before her years on the council affected her judgement, voted against the obligation bonds as proposed, as did John Russo who was a very competent council member for a bit.

    Don’t understand how the obligation dropped to 250mill from 400mill a few months ago. Where’s Marcie Hodge when i need a clear explanation of mtge obligation bonds?

    Pity, Kaplan only now after the election talks about the city’s eagerness to beggar it’s younger residents to cover old farts’ retirement. Would have been nice if Kaplan had asked Quan or Perata what they were going to do. That would only have made them all look bad.

    Kaplan and Brooks will rant and rave, but they’ll vote with the rest of the crew to kick this down the road and let the ad volorem rates zoom up further, and say “not our fault”.

    At this point, there probably is no choice but to bury the nuclear waste in a container that will disintegrate after the current cc have entered their comfortable retirement. Well deserved for a job well done.

  55. len raphael

    Ruby “performance” audit of city and rda developer and home owner funded and or administered loans and receivables is worth skimming. Newspaper article is above average but understates the intensity of the animosity between ruby and the administration.

    they both make valid points and counterpoints. To me Ruby easily beat Lindheim but Lindheim did a great job baffling with bs. He effectively neutralized her.

    Ruby is absolutely correct that “materiality” ie. size of the screwup relative to total size of the entity, is irrelevant when evaluating the health of the city’s accounting system.

    Still, i can’t see why Lindheim counterpunched so hard, instead of just agreeing.

    He’s a lame duck for a lame duck mayor.

    And why was Ruby all most but not quite implying that the city’s attitude and performance indicated the whole accounting system couldn’t be trusted to give accurate numbers?

    Lindheim’s point was that she was extrapolating too much from her small sample of data, and exaggerating the lack of documentation.

    Maybe “sometimes a cigar is just a cigar”

    Or maybe both sides are covering their butts for future accounting disclosures.

  56. len raphael

    accounting question: Lindheim stated that the 14mill of worthless loans were recorded as 14mill of assets, and an equal but opposite 14mill “deferred revenue” liability.

    What’s the deferred revenue? Was 14 mill of cash lent and lost or was it “anticipated” profit when the Marriott and the Renaisance Centre were to be sold?

    Anyone know who were the members of the two developer groups who got off the hook for 14Million? Must have had some powerful juice with our officials. Elihu era?

  57. ralph

    This idea is sick and disgusting. I am not sure how this idea makes our more progressive CMs any different than predatory lenders.

    It is certainly not going to help property values. Additional taxes will require people to earn more to afford the same $300K house. I strongly suggest that the City look at alternative methods. For example, I recommend the City suspend the floors in voter mandated programs. Next, evaluate the costs for each program delivered. For those programs that are cost recovery but not recovering increase the fees. Eliminate subsidies for state pass through fees on tickets. Determine the costs of all program, evaluate the cost against desired outcomes. Eliminate high cost low desired outcome programs.

  58. ralph

    The deferred revenue “offset” language was baffling. As you know, the deferred revenue indicates that the city has an obligation to perform. I didn’t try to map out the transactions but something seems amiss in DL’s understanding of accounting.

  59. len raphael

    Dax et al. Read that report on the PFRS obligation and certain to be borrowed additional pension obligation bonds POB’s (this will become part of our Oakland civic vocabulary).

    Skimming ain’t gonna be enough.

    I’m still trying to understand if the 250Mill is only the incremental cost of borrowing our contributions by issuing new bonds vs funding the obligations; or is the total cost of borrowing more POBS. Pretty sure it’s the former.

    So does that mean we owe 250, 450, or 1Bill after subtraction for the expected Tax Override revenue (ad valorem extra)?

  60. len raphael

    Am gaining new respect for Quan’s financial acumen. I kept thinking she was innumerate.

    Now I’m thinking she’s very good at delaying fiscal collapses until after she’s left the scene.

    After the council borrows more money to delay funding the PFRS, we’ll have about 5 years before the general fund will have to come up +40 Million/year plus much more in 2024-26.

    Dumb Question: can the city council increase the ad valorem rate “tax ovrride” unilaterally because it’s for a bond issue, or is that a 2/3 popular vote item?

  61. len raphael

    Naomi mused on the good ol days of having a city manager but I’m looking at the birth dates some of our problems:

    unsustainable retirement medical benefits: mid 80′s ?

    PEFRS underfunding mid 70′s

    14Mill dollar bad loans to Marriot and Renaissance late 90′s early 2000?

    Weren’t at least some of this fiasco’s created on the watch of Msrs. Bobb or Gardner, our former city managers?

    The retirement benefit retro rocket was probably post city manager period, but would having a city manager made any difference?

  62. len raphael

    Nav, most of us have adapted to the crime here, primarily by using cars or bikes instead of sidewalks at night. going in groups. applying various techniques.

    i don’t consider my part of temescal particularly unsafe, but i’d never walk around at night past my block without my pit and a taser. but at least i walk around. if i see one other pedestrian after 9pm, above Telegraph, it’s unusual, regardless of the weather.

    when i go back to ungentrified parts of brooklyn where 30 years ago were unsafe but are ok now, i see people walking around at all hours.

    if Quan could actually take back the sidewalks for all the residents to use without fear, she can earmark the entire general fund to youth uprising for all i care.

  63. ralph

    The problem with older people is they always remember the “old days” with rose colored glasses. I’ve selected a pair for myself, but I am still years away from ordering them.

  64. CitizenX

    In simple terms…when a government agency makes a loan, the loan amount is charged against expenditures and cash is reduced. At year end, expenditures are closed against (reduce) fund balance. Fund balance represents available resources — since the funds were loaned, fund balance is reduced and those resources are no longer available.

    In order to record the loan receivable on the government agency’s books, the agency increases loans receivable to reflect the loan amount. The offsetting entry (we live in a world of double-entry accounting) is to deferred revenue. This entry affects only the balance sheet — increases assets (loans receivable) and increases liabilities (deferred revenue), but does not effect fund balance (as it neither increases or decreases available resources).

    As a loan is repaid, the agency records cash received and revenue (which increases available resources and fund balance). An entry is then made to reduce the receivable and deferred revenue by a like amount.

    So deferred revenue…well…defers the recognition of revenue, until it is actually received.

  65. Naomi Schiff

    “The problem with older people is they always remember the “old days” with rose colored glasses. I’ve selected a pair for myself, but I am still years away from ordering them.”
    Not true for me. I wouldn’t go back, except maybe to change some environmental decisions that have proven cataclysmic. There are problems with any municipal governance system. My point was that strong mayor did not turn out to be an improvement, not that city mgr system was ideal.

  66. ralph

    Strong mayor did not turn out to be an improvement because it was poorly implemented not with the system itself. It works in a number of municipalities. It has been pointed out by many that Oakland’s system is a bastard hybrid with multiple flaws.

  67. ralph

    Citizen X,
    Are you making a funny? Your explanation of deferred revenue makes no sense. I am assuming this is the Lindheim interpretation.

  68. CitizenX

    Ralph, exactly what is it that makes no sense? Deferred revenue MAY indicate that the City has an obligation to perform. For example, were an entity to prepay the City to perform some service, the revenue would be deferred, until such time as the City were to perform the function and earn the revenue. This concept is known as matching of revenues and expenditures.

    Deferred revenue is also used to record loans made by the City. In this case, there is NOT an obligation on the part of the City. A $100 loan would be recorded thusly:

    Loan expenditures 100 (Debit)
    Loans receivable 100 (Debit)
    Cash 100 (Credit)
    Deferred revenue 100 (Credit)

    I have no idea what point Lindheim was trying to make. Perhaps he was trying to say that the writeoff of the loan receivable and deferred revenue would have no impact on current fund balance, as the loan was already recorded as an expenditure, when it was made?? That would be true.

  69. ralph

    Citizen X,
    That entry makes no sense.

    The city lends money to developer X
    Debit: Loan receivable
    Credit: Cash

    The city earns interest on the loan
    Debit: Interest receivable
    Credit: Interest revenue

    City collect cash on interest
    Debit: Cash
    Credit: Interest receivable

    Loan repaid:
    Debit: Cash
    Credit: Loan receivable

    Your entry recorded $200 for a $100 loan. It is completely illogical. If this is the way the city does accounting I can see the problem. So again, I ask, you are joking, right?

  70. ralph

    For the record, deferred revenue does and always represents an obligation for a party to perform. It is never the balancing half of a loan receivable entry.

  71. ralph

    And just what is a loan expenditure?

    You do realize you have no process for closing out the deferred revenue?

    Typically, the city would need to perform to recognize the revenue

    Debit Deferred Revenue
    Credit Revenue

    but your scenario ignores this, it makes no sense.

  72. CitizenX

    “For the record, deferred revenue does and always represents an obligation for a party to perform. It is never the balancing half of a loan receivable entry.”

    Governmental Accounting 101, ralph.

  73. ralph

    Citizen X
    I only point that out because it is clear in your earlier post you do not understand that point. “Deferred revenue MAY indicate that the City has an obligation to perform.”

    Ironically, I just re-read you next stmt, “For example, were an entity to prepay the City to perform some service, the revenue would be deferred, until such time as the City were to perform the function and earn the revenue.” This would seem to indicate you have some knowledge of accounting.

    But your entry indicates that your knowledge is fuzzy at best.

  74. len raphael

    CX, non accountants think GAAP is a fantasy world; and private entity GAAP accountants are convinced GASB is Wonderland.

    Used to think that GAAP was unduly influenced by big corporations until I read how GASB lets state and local govts account for stuff that would send private entity execs to jail.

    So the entry that the city should have recorded when the developer loans evaporated was just to reverse the asset against the liability?

    Would it have been required to hit the cash flow statement memo area or the footnotes?

  75. CitizenX

    Ralph, I take it that your audit experience is in the private sector. Your entry is correct for the private sector or for proprietary funds of government agencies. It might be helpful, if you were to read the City’s and Redevelopment Agency’s financial statement notes. The RA’s Summary of Significant Accounting Policies says it best:

    Deferred Revenue
    Deferred revenue is that for which asset recognition criteria have been met, but for which revenue recognition criteria have not been met in fund statements. The Agency typically records deferred revenue in the governmental fund financial statements related to notes receivable arising from developers financing arrangement and long-term receivables.

    You may also wish to consult some basic governmental accounting texts. ralph, before you tell me, again, that I make no sense, or that my knowledge is fuzzy, you might consider this — those who can do, those who can’t audit.

  76. livegreen

    I guess this is how muni Govt.’s can meet required rules & laws, and still go belly-up?
    Now that really makes me feel more confident in how PFRS is being managed!

    Ralph, Clearly if you make sense you have no knowledge of Municipal accounting or auditing!

    (BTW, that’s not from me, I’m just paraphrasing the exchange between u & C-X :)

  77. len raphael

    Cx, true or false, that for the foreseeable future, GASB will allow Oakland to disclose in footnotes the costs of the post retirement medical benefits instead of running them thru the body of the financial statements similar to how private sector companies would have to.

  78. ralph

    My experience is nearly 97.5% private companies and proprietary type funds. I can see fees, taxes, water services bills for miles. I can think of of deferred revenue for property tax when the triggering event is a Jan 1 assessment but bills aren’t issued until sometime much later (i.e. govt doesn’t really do much in terms of performance).

    I can’t seem to recall a straight up loan receivable with a deferred revenue, unless there is something else that entitles the issuing entity to receive other compensation. So in that case, I can see deferred revenue but it would seem that there should be a revenue receivable.

  79. ralph

    And please tell me that the deferred revenue is not the interest. I have been working on an assumption that the interest would be a D/I/R entry.

  80. CitizenX

    If interest was accruing on a loan, it would be appropriate to increase the receivable and deferred revenue to recognize that the interest is due the City.

  81. CitizenX

    len, governmental fund financial statements are reported using the current financial
    resources measurement focus. This means the focus is on the flow of funds in and out of the fund and the availability of funds to meet future needs. So, when the City makes a loan, it is recorded as an expenditure (an outflow of funds). So, there is nothing to “write off”, if the loan is deemed uncollectable, as the funds have already been recorded as an expenditure.

  82. CitizenX

    len, post retirement medical benefits are already disclosed in the City’s CAFR — note 17 in the June 30, 2009 CAFR.

    It is apparent, from the footnote, that the City is not funding beyond its current year obligation. To the extent that governments do not fund the actuarilly determined contribution, a liability is reflected on the government-wide (full accrual basis) financial statements. That liability ($85.8 million, in the City’s case) does not reflect the entire OPEB liability. It only reflects the extent to which the agency fails to meet the required contribution since this GASB pronouncement was implemented (year ended 6/30/08, in the City’s case).

  83. Dax

    Oakland’s new ID cards.

    So, now that Oakland could have new official city ID Cards, does this mean that they will be sufficient to enable that individual to apply for city jobs?

    If not, why?

    Or will the city continue to apply a double standard in hiring. Encouraging lots of extra competition for low wage, lower skilled jobs in the private sector, regardless of legal status, while protecting city workers and applicants from that same “open” policy.

    Will the city continue to live in the myth that their policies have not exacerbated a already dismal job market for many life long Oakland residents by encouraging a ever greater supply of new low wage workers to come to Oakland and compete for the few jobs available.

    Of course this is a topic that no one is suppose to talk about, lest they run afoul of what is politically acceptable.
    Forget the real world, we have lofty ideals to uphold.

    Those displaced, replaced, and undercut…”Let them eat cake”

  84. len raphael

    today I came across a retired OUSD budget analyst who was working
    during Quan’s years on the board of OUSD and for several years afterwards.

    She was laughingly recounting how staff repeatedly told the board they were
    headed over a cliff but the board pooh poohed it by saying how they were sure
    something would turn up to make things better.

    Despite JQ’s protestations that as Board Pres of OUSD she cannot be held
    responsible for the OUSD meltdown a few months after her departure, this retired
    OUSD employee was telling me that well before the meltdown the State of CA had
    made the board members of bigger school boards accept responsibility for the
    financial info prepared by staff. Sort of a weak Sarbanes Oxley rule.

    Dax, btw, this same retired employee was enjoying her retirement at age 55. She was recounting how she had worked with several employees at OUSD who had 7 to 9 kids, with OUSD paying for health insurance for everyone of them and no co-pay at the time.

    -len raphael, temescal

  85. ralph

    I’ve tried to read that article multiple times. I still haven’t completed it because I am not convinced that from the little I did read the author did significant research. But this time I did manage to make to skim at least a few of the comments.

    Like at least one of the readers, I am troubled by the bay area’s obsession with race. People move and without doing a thorough analysis, I am not going to say gentrification is a problem.

    As to gentrification, exactly who was displaced downtown. I was not living in Oakland when all of the building started but I was always under the impression that significant parts of OO, JLS, and Uptown were ghost towns. I can assure the author that the residents of these new developments include a significant number of black people.

  86. len raphael

    Ralph, the interviewees (authors of the study) didn’t seem to add much to our info either. It was the posters’ responses that heartened: post Oakland race politics attitude.

  87. ralph

    Oaklan is in good hands. No Allstate didn’t insure us. For those not fortunate enough to attend the SFBT Building Oakland event this morning, take note investors, builders, developers and businesses love us.

    From Pandora President, our mass transit infrastructure make us ideally suited for business. Younger employees do not want to be in cars. The accessibility of mass transit is key for recruiting and retention.

    From SigProp Pres, pure joy to be part of Oakland Redevelopment. The other developers and people inspire him to bring his A game. No longer recognized as Pres of SP but as the man who built the building that is home to Ozumo and Pican.

    From MEJQ, she is going national with a search for a City Adm. She will have an Ombudsman. She is acknowledges that we hybrid strong form and is viewing models in other cities (i think she saw me come in :) ). She plans on writing the story for the press and not letting the press write the story about us.

  88. James


    It is good to see you in such a hopeful mood! There are many potential opportunities in and around Oakland for people who are willing or able to ride out this storm.

    Regarding “gentrification” and the racial aspect, it isn’t just an Oakland thing. For years, black Washingtonians whispered about “The Plan” — the mythical scheme to remove black people from Washington. In both Oakland and Washington, the myth is based partially on reality. In west Oakland, construction of BART, i880, i980, and the large post office facility did have a detrimental affect of the predominately black communties there. At the same time, southwest DC was undergoing “urban renewal” projects that some came to view as “negro removal.” Construction of i395 had similar effects.

    That being said, it is time to look at the true “Plan” — capitalism. Oakland needs capital, it needs investment. Most importantly, Oakland needs people with 21st-century skills, especially in Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics (STEM). The folks with those skills will eventually push out those who don’t have those skills, especially those young people who dropped out of school or stayed in and received negligible eduation. And in Oakland, those folks tend to be black.

  89. len raphael

    Pat Kernighan Explains the City budget Live December 6th at Lakeshore Baptist 7PM, Monday
    3534 Lakeshore Avenue, near Mandana Boulevard (on AC Transit’s Line #26)

  90. mel

    I’ve read that report before. Though it’s not as hyperbolic as other similar reports it is somewhat alarmist. Yet while it takes a more reasoned approach it still lacks broader context. Like I mentioned in the other thread, these types of reports often lack study or analysis of parallel shifts.

    For instance, there’s no mention that the white population loss in Bay Area cities (overall) and counties was greater both in number and percentage than that of black population loss. This study and many others do point out that white population rose in San Francisco and Berkeley, but ignore or gloss over the fact that white population dropped practically everywhere else. If one wishes to do an analysis of movements, why wouldn’t he investigate similar movements? Why are whites leaving every Bay Area county (except San Francisco) in significant numbers? Could it be that the reasons are the same as that of blacks? If there are differences, then why?

    For broader view, let’s look statewide. Here are population number and percentage changes for whites in California since 1970:

    Year Total Pop. Pop. % Change
    1970 15,222,000 76.3%
    1980 15,763,000 66.6% + 541,000
    1990 17,029,000 57.2% + 1,266,000
    2000 15,816,000 46.7% – 1,213,000
    2008 15,497,000 42.6% – 319,000

    Here are the changes for blacks:

    Year Total Pop. Pop. % Change
    1970 1,400,000 7.0%
    1980 1,819,000 7.7% + 419,000
    1990 2,208,000 7.4% + 389,000
    2000 2,513,000 7.4% + 305,000
    2008 2,549,000 7.0% + 36,000

    So while there’s much attention and brouhaha about blacks leaving Bayview, East Oakland, Richmond, South Central L.A., and the like, a broader look shows more “dispersal” than “decline”. Similarly, much is made about the increase in whites in San Francisco, downtown Oakland, downtown San Diego, downtown L.A., and the like, but a more interesting analysis could be done on why CA lost 1.2 million whites in the 1990s and how it has fewer whites now than it did in 1980. CA black population – the subject of much “declinism” speculation and reporting – has been remarkably consistent since 1970 considering the dramatic concurrent changes in white, Latino and Asian population. Broader analysis or view = placing things in context.

  91. len raphael

    Mel, i expected the statewide white decline since the 80′s but was surprised there wasn’t a comparable black decline.

    part of the impetus behind the reaction to what looks like is really a dispersal of blacks is the resulting decline of hard won black political power gains of the 60′s and 70′s.

  92. mel

    Re: political gains, I agree. That and the simple psychological spector of “decline” similar to what’s felt by whites/ethnic Europeans about their old ‘hoods.

    I think after white flight in cities across the U.S. like Oakland, there was a hope that urban ills could be addressed or eradicated now that blacks were in power. Concurrently the rise in black influence allowed for an expanded black middle class. Yet the resolution of urban ills was not fast enough to prevent some blacks from seeking greener pastures. Now with increased gentrification and immigration, some blacks might see those opportunities (both upward-mobility and urban problem-solving) as slipping away. Problem is, it was never the sole responsibilty of a “black political structure” to reverse urban problems. SF is a case in point as it has never had a significant black political body. Each city must address its problems regardless of the ethnic makeup of the citizenry or of City Hall. Unfortunately I think many people, black and non-black, believe that black people must reverse “black problems.” That’s partly why many urban problems persist today.

    As a result of dispersal, some of the old school thinking has to change, and has been changing. The former comfort and guarantees that majority black districts gave to black elected officials have given way to coalition-building in diverse districts. Black political gains are happening in places like Sacramento, northern Bay Area, Inland Empire, etc. that had little to no black politicians before. Similarly, blacks are making strides in the private sector and the black middle class is evident in places outside of the innercity periphery.

    So, these types of reports about “black decline” might have good intentions, but I think a lack of broader – and more candid -analysis hinders their effectiveness.

  93. len raphael

    Attend a small public meeting on the budget tonight sponsored by Pat K.

    She ambled thru the details of the budget for about an hour and then took questions, even my pointy ones.

    Good news is that she gets it. She has a very decent grasp of the depth of our problem and is at least willing to consider the whole range of solutions.

    However she needs residents to provide the political support for unpleasant decisions. None of us had a solution for that.

    btw, interesting that of the dozen or so residents who showed up, all with enough interest in the city’s financial condition to ask questions, at most maybe one or two had heard of this blog. (Pat K giave you a good plug V).

    -len raphael, temescal

  94. J

    The Encinal Tower project has been in planning for a while, but there is absolutely no funding for it so the chances of it getting build are basically non. Though i really love the project and think it is exactly what the city needs, a true signature REAL high rise.

  95. Livegreen

    I hope Pat will have a future Budget meeting to continue & build this dialog and leadership.

    Pat, if u c this, my apologies for not attending as I had intended but have had some recent OUSD challenges that have taken priority.

    I look forward to further Budget meetings and hope u can communicate these & follow-up on your mailing list or PSA-neighborhood list serves.

    Finally we need to have the budget cuts spread across depts and not just OPD or services. All unions r going to need to chip in. OPD is being stretched to the max even if individual officers r overpaid…A real challenge, no doubt.

  96. Ken O

    i know this isn’t but some of you might be interested in the GIS data here–

    GIS Shapefiles
    Layer Name File Size Download
    Affordable Housing Stock 274.05 KB
    Agricultural Farms 247.31 KB
    Alcohol Outlets 70.87 KB
    Arts Funding 646.66 KB
    Banks Credit Unions 370.04 KB
    Bicycle Network 576.97 KB
    Bike Racks Indoor 17.96 KB
    Bike Racks Outdoors 102.48 KB
    Block Parties 295.64 KB
    Community Centers 379.13 KB
    Community Gardens 331.95 KB
    Commute by Auto 308.43 KB
    Commute by Bike/Walk 349.39 KB
    Contaminated Sites 367.57 KB
    CSA Drop Off 307.14 KB
    Dwelling Unit Code Violations 719.81 KB
    Electricity Natural Gas 615.78 KB
    Farmers Markets 15.61 KB
    Fire Stations 323.03 KB
    Green Business 298.09 KB
    Housing Purchasing Capacity 333.4 KB
    LEED certified 314.18 KB
    Libraries 335.58 KB
    Muni Lifeline Pass 270.05 KB
    Muni Stops 682.44 KB
    Neighborhood Watch 276.68 KB
    No Fault Evictions 2.25 MB
    Open Space 1.04 MB
    Overcrowding 514.72 KB
    Park Neighborhood Service Areas 830.34 KB
    Park Scores 292.92 KB
    Public Art 330.21 KB
    Public Health Facilities 191.85 KB
    Regional Transit Stations 7.9 MB
    Schools 500.39 KB
    Schools with Free and Reduced Lunch 198.01 KB
    Solar Panels 458.15 KB
    Speed Limit Signs 428.85 KB
    Summer Lunch Program 183.47 KB
    Trees 3.84 MB
    Truck Routes 568.12 KB
    Voting Rates 866.38 KB
    Worker Density 602.94 KB
    Zoning 9.22 MB

    Clearly for SF via SFDPH but does similar exist for Oak?

  97. Ken O

    LG, isn’t Oak just like State of Calif.?

    ie, you could cut every single employee and still be bankrupt due to pension payouts to retirees?

  98. len raphael

    Ken, you wouldn’t have to cut every single employee to pay the uber retirement benefits promised to my fellow baby boomers, but i could see that we’d have to cut personel costs in the general fund 30 to 40% in order to pay off the PFRS shortfall, fund the medical retirement benefits, and come up with the addtional 20% premium increase or so that Calpers unofficially announced recently.

    Now if Calpers board wakes up one day and decides that the voters won’t keep bailing them out of high risk high reward investments, and lowers their target to say 6% from 7.75 (or is it now 7.5?), that’s another huge increase in pension premiums.

    But that wouldn’t cover the deferred building and infrastructure maintenance.

    I’m told about 72% of the pension contributions are paid out of general fund. Seems high considering the general fund is 40 something percent of the total budget, but must be those those cop and firefighter pension costs.

    Still, even if there were sufficient restricted funds earmarked for the employees paid outside of the general fund, there compensation costs have to be cut also to improve efficiency of service delivery. eg. get more person hours working on those sewers for the same buck.

    or just because RDA is flush, doesn’t mean that it’s employees should be exempt from cuts that would free up money to be used for say subsidizing those luxury seat licenses for Lou Wolf.

    -len raphael,temescal

  99. len raphael

    Someone here suggested we outsource the labor negotiations that are now done by a combo of city admin and city council members.

    When Pat K mentioned that in the last round of contract negotiations, the city had somehow overlooked the 2% “merit” raises, outsourcing labor negotiations away makes sense. The unions are pros and the council members are amateurs at that.

    Pat K deserves especially honorable mention for stating she “was elected to serve the voters, not the city employees”.

    -len raphael, temescal

  100. V Smoothe Post author

    I appreciate many of the statements Pat Kernighan has made about the budget over the past year. She has repeatedly stressed that the City needs to make better decisions and will need to make serious cuts. I will be pleased if we see her carry this attitude through to her votes. However, admit to being skeptical that this will happen, as she has been the Councilmember the least willing to make unpopular cuts over the past two years, and the most insistent on preserving funding for the types of things that most people do not view as core city services, such as grants to outside organizations.

  101. Quercki

    In the new lay-out the “newest comments” do not link to the actual post comments. Could this be fixed, please? Thanks.

  102. Mry

    I was wondering if anybody has more information on this, or thoughts. If you are caught driving without a license or insurance, your car can be impounded for 30 days.
    Well, this is no longer the case in Oakland. My understanding is that this was brought by IDLF, because it targeted Hispanics. Then by Jean Quan because it targeted “poor” people.
    So if you are pulled over, you are made to sign a waiver that you will park your car and not drive it. ?????? People in this situation are already breaking the law, am I expected to believe that they will follow this? Am I the only one that thinks this is ridiculous?

  103. ralph

    I think driving without a license and or insurance are state laws, and if impoundment is the penalty, I am not overly sympathetic. As far as I know, an officer doesn’t know the driver’s earnings or whether the person does not have a license or insurance before stopping them. And they still don’t know the economic status post stop.

  104. Dax

    The city is taking every step it can to make life comfortable and safe for those not fully documented.
    New ID cards, no need for DL etc.

    BTW, all done under the guise of helping the “poor” also.
    I’ll tell you what would help the poor to afford car insurance and licenses…. a JOB…

    And what is the unemployment rate of Oakland? 17%? 20%?

    Funny how ALL the city jobs are greatly valued, filled and protected…. OF course the city’s own hiring policies exclude people without adequate documentation.
    Even if they have a new Oakland ID card.

    The new ID cards are for the private sector, not to be used for city hiring.

    No hypocrisy here… none at all.

  105. livegreen

    So if a driver doesn’t have a license and is latino, they can keep their car? But if I’m black or white then their car will be impounded?

    Or, if it’s based on income, what documentation must you carry?

  106. Dax

    If I didn’t have a license I’d order several large bumper stickers that said…

    Support The O.P.O.A.

    Cheaper than insurance or registration.

    Just don’t have a nice paint job in case you park it near a International A.N.S.W.E.R. crowd.

  107. Dax

    Not noted in the article about Oakland’s dropout rate.

    African American male rate is 65.1% dropping out over 4 years of high school.

    African American combined 61.9%

    What are the job prospects of the two out of three young African American males who don’t graduate?

    Who is gonna hire that young man for a lower skilled position?
    Assuming he is not hired, what do you think he will be doing over the next 5 years?

    BTW, he will not be hired for the BART to Airport connection construction, nor for the possible stadium construction.
    Nor for any of the residential construction that may take place in Oakland.
    I doubt he’ll even be considered for employment at McDonalds given what I see at those restaurants.

    So whats up…

  108. Dax

    Len, the method and definitions and collectors of data have all been changing from year to year, so no one can tell what the true rate was in prior years.

    They can only make educated guesses.
    That is part of this story, they are finally agreeing on what the methods and definitions are so that realistic reporting can be made.

    Every 5 years Oakland has a new program to address the problem.
    This time is no different.

    The have the new Oakland Unified African-American Male Achievement Office
    Expect conferences and meetings.
    Lofty plans and slogans.

    Now, having written the above, I don’t know the answer to the problem.
    What ever it may be, I don’t expect it is easy or fast.

  109. Mry

    My point is that it’s ridiculous. If they are already breaking the law, does anybody really believe they are not going to get right back in their car when the officer leaves?
    Im just floored, and I think the city is exposing itself to a lot of liability.

  110. Dax

    Interesting story in the Tribune today.
    –Audit: Oakland fails to collect on citations–
    “It cost the city $300,000 to recover $30,000 for the program in the years scrutinized by the report, according to the city administrator’s written response.”

    “The number of litter enforcement officers who sift through piles of trash to find addresses has been cut from eight in 2002 to three positions today, one of which is vacant, the response said.”

    Not sure if they included the cost of those 3 to 8 positions in the $300,000 of costs.

    Must be some “creative” way to use the $5,000,000 per year to stop and clean up dumping.
    That is $100,000 a week, or about $20,000 per work day.

    I’d like to see that $20,000 per day charted out. Number of employees, trucks, dumping fees.
    I think we’d find a very ineffective program on both the prevention and cleanup.

    Can you imagine hiring 40 independent contractors, with small to medium trucks, each getting $300 each day, plus $100 for their trucks, and $100 for dumping fees daily. Would there be any bulk dumping left anywhere on the streets?
    Or perhaps a bounty for each pickup at some arranged fee. Contractors fighting over piles, then rushing to find the next one.

    I don’t know, but I suspect the city would be a whole lot closer to clean than it is now.

    Something, something creative.

  111. livegreen

    Re the Audit of OPW dumping costs & fines, the City should consider a Joint Task Force for dumping, permits & business licensing. This would centralize resources, costs and fines. Since one Agency would already be looking at a contractor for 1 type of violation they could investigate the others simultaneously.

    This would increase the chance at getting any fine to stick. If not one then another or, if all are applicable it will increase the chance a judge will believe the City.

    Finally, the City needs to make it easier for citizens to report violators & send in pictures from cell phones.

    Laws mean little without meaningful enforcement.

  112. wefightblight

    LG re: the recent audit of the of Public Works Department and significant problems with Public Works internal controls and expending excessive resources to collect relatively few fines, “We” can only laugh at the recent banter in another section of this blog by serial posters regarding street trees…Poor, poor Public Works. Really we shouldn’t be so hard on them. As someone else noted earlier, perhaps the Audits just aren’t very good and poor Dan Lindheim is spot on and Public Works is run in a highly professional fashion? In any event aren’t our tax dollars just really intended to serve as a job’s program for highly paid bureaucrats, rather than to be used to provide a tangible service at a reasonable cost?

  113. ralph

    Curious, does anyone have an opinion on the supply of parking versus the demand on double and triple threat nights (simultaneous activities at Paramount, Fox, Uptown or 1st Friday)?

    I could be wrong but I thought there was adequate parking but we lack adequate signage. Anyone?

  114. Dax

    Shop Alameda, not Oakland?

    “On Tuesday, the Oakland City Council formally approved a measure to increase parking fines by $3, bringing the average meter fine to $58. The vote was unanimous.”

    Last Monday, I stopped in to a store in Alameda and put 25 cents into the meter.
    I got 30 minutes and didn’t need to run up the street to one of those machines, then return to my car to place it on the dash.

    How nice that was.

    In Oakland, I only shop at non-metered business’. Thank you city council for the latest “dis-incentive” to shopping in Oakland.
    Oh I know, the state made you do it…
    Like that makes a difference to me.

    Oakland City Council….anti non-shopping center retail…and determined to keep it that way.

    $58 for a parking ticket….sheesh, thats about a FULL days take home pay for a person earning $9.50 per hour.
    City council is just nuts.

    Over park by 8 minutes…give up 8 hours of pay. Sick, I tell you, just plain sick.

  115. ralph

    Glad to see you are present a fair and honest account of the $3 increase.

    For those not aware, the $3 increase is the result of a state pass through for the courts. Had the City of Oakland not increased the fine by $3 then this money would come from the general fund. That is my tax dollars would be subsidizing your ticket. I have had just a handful of tickets in the last 17 years, and I see no reason for why I should pay another’s inability to pay a meter, stay within the speed limit etc.

  116. Patrick M. Mitchell

    I went to pick up my Honeybaked Ham on Piedmont yesterday after work. On the way to the shop, it ran through my mind how unpleasant the experience was because of the bone-jarringly bad pavement. After I collected my ham, I thought I would stop elsewhere on Piedmont to do a little last minute holiday shopping. I parked my car after a 15 minute search and walked up the street to a Parking kiosk which, of course, was broken. Headachy from the rough ride and frustrated with the parking, I remembered why I almost never shop/dine in Oakland. I got in my car and went home.

  117. Daniel Schulman

    It’s interesting that you folks like to complain about the expense of parking in Oakland and how hard it is to find find a free spot, yet you never connect the two.

    In Alameda, you got your 50 cent an hour meters and it is easy to find a spot. In Oakland, the meters are 2 dollars an hour and it is hard to find a spot. Maybe that’s because there are a lot better things to do in Oakland. By supply and demand, it seems the parking in Oakland is relatively undervalued.

    If you want free and easy parking, you should move to a small town in the middle of nowhere. You can park your car, get out, and watch the grass grow.

  118. Andrew Alden

    Piedmont Avenue has lots of parking just a block on either side. If you’re driving around for 15 minutes to find a spot on the avenue, you could spend 3 minutes on Howe or Montgomery Street instead and the other 12, at most, taking a nice stroll through one of Oakland’s best neighborhoods.

  119. Max Allstadt

    Yeah, I think people in Oakland just complain because a lot of the car owners have come here from more suburban environments where everybody gets to park without waiting, exactly where they need to be, every single time.

    I dated had a girlfriend in Temescal for 2 years, and I never had trouble finding a spot, days, nights, weekends, you name it. Never had to walk more than two or three blocks, and never had to use a paid spot.

    Worked for a contractor who liked to have breakfast and sometimes lunch at Piedmont Bakery & Cafe for two years. Never had trouble finding an unpaid spot, mornings and mid-day. Yeah, I walked from Moss or Howe, etc. But guess what? That’s what you do when you drive in a city.

  120. Naomi Schiff

    I have half a car and live a drivewayless life on a fully-parked-at-all-times street. We’ve learned to appreciate that it doesn’t snow here. Very occasionally, in the last 30 years, we have parked as far as three blocks away. But that’s rare. Generally it is within a block or two. Our kind neighbors tolerate us stopping in front of their driveways for a moment if we have to unload. Walking is good exercise, allows one to meet neighbors and really see the city. You can get used to it.

  121. Mry

    IDLF arrested for DUI, does not spend the night in jail, nor does his car get towed. Would that be the same for me and you? I think not.