Open thread?

I’m not quite ready to comment yet on this:

Oakland Mayor Ron Dellums dropped a bombshell on Monday, announcing a plan to sponsor a November ballot measure to boost the police force by an additional 150 officers over the next three years by raising property taxes.

or this:

Mayor Ron Dellums on Monday floated the possibility of a new property-tax increase to pay for additional police officers, as police staffing remains a hot-button issue in Oakland.

But I’m guessing my readers might have some thoughts they want to share. Feel free to do so in the comments.

35 thoughts on “Open thread?

  1. Max Allstadt

    I pay 3500 a year on vacant land right now. I’ll accept a little bump if it’ll help the cops. I’d rather see the tax hike be on homes that are worth more than $250k per bedroom, or something like that. Does prop 13 prevent progressive taxation by municipalities, reapprasials?

  2. Surfways

    We, property owners, have been paying high property taxes for services that are lacking or non-existent. I don’t see any rationale in paying more taxes for a service that is considered a basic need for all city residents (funding for safety should be part of the base or core).

    The city really needs to cut funding for political pork, the ineffective and non-audited programs, and other bloated positions / programs. They are either corrupt or just very bad at financial management (maybe both).

    I am concerned if this goes on the ballot because as of the 2000 census, 58% of Oakland residents are renters and they might see this property tax increase as a good thing. I hope they realize that we’ve been fleeced by the city before (bait and switched by past measures).

  3. Josh Abrams

    I’d support it if there was a section that required all city-council members and the mayor to leave office if they don’t hit the required staffing level within 2 years of the tax taking effect.

    oh yeah, and got rid of pay-go

    /wishful thinking

  4. hamachi

    I’m all for more cops on the street. but not with the current chief and council in place. how much will they increase my taxes? how will I know that they are using that money only for cops (see: measure Y funding)?

  5. Mike Hardy

    Same general mood as hamachi – more cops, ok, you’ve got me listening. More money for the idiots in office now? no thanks, sorry

  6. Andy

    Agree with the above comments – I don’t trust the City at all.

    Driving around Oakland, I see so many City projects that In my humble opinion are wasteful. They are currently repaving 11 St. in China Town – the pavement was in fine shape. I drive this everyday. Meanwhile, there are any number of other streets where the pavement is completely failing. This is just one very current example.

    Mandela Food Co-Op?

    Organizations need to prioritize their spending. The City of Oakland has not done that at all.

  7. James H. Robinson

    Why can’t this be paid for with a local sales tax instead of a real property tax? Why should the burden be on homeowners?

  8. TheBoss

    The only solution is to starve the city of funds. Since the Measure Y debacle, we know for certain we can’t trust anything our leaders promise as regards how a tax will be spent.

    In essence, they are the offense and we the defense. Their goal is to tax us as much as possible. We need to do our part to defend against these taxes. Don’t think for a minute that they’ll stop raising taxes if you give them “just this one more increase.”

    The only meaningful tax increase that’s failed in recent memory has been one to revamp the city’s main library. Need I say more?

  9. Chris Kidd

    ….riiiiight. Cuz ‘starve the beast’ did wonders for profligate spending during the reagan years. Refusal to spend tax money on the government just leads to more borrowing, which actually increases the willingness of voters to call for new projects because the government they used to pay for is now subsidized with debt.

    Might a better solution be to demnad fiscal restraint and occupational competence from those we elect and those appointed by those we elect?

  10. Robert

    Chris Kidd is 100% correct, the only way we get spending under control is to throw the bums out and elect a coucil that is actually willing to reign in spending. Unfortunately, I don’t see that actually happening anytime soon.

    So, reluctantly, I would have to back the tax increase in order to increase the size of the police department. It is all a question of priorities and long range planning. More cops should lead to lower crime. Lower crime leads to higher property values and more business in the city. More business leads to more tax revenue, and most likely leads to higher property values. Higher tax revenue leads to an ability to decrease the tax rate needed to maintain things. And that is when we will really need accountability to make sure it happens.

    And ultimately, those higher property values allow me to recoup the extra taxes paid to increase the police force. I voted for Measure Y, and I will end up supporting another increase in taxes, assuming that it ALL goes to increase staffing this time.

  11. Deckin

    So let’s see if I have this straight. On the one hand City Attorney Russo is looking to see how, with City money, we can decrease the financial burden on those who took out mortgages for houses they couldn’t afford. Presumably, the way to do this is to work to lower monthly payments. On the other hand, Rip Van Dellums is asking the public’s support to increase monthly payments on, among others, those very same people. Nice.

    Given what happened with Measure Y, which, despite Quan’s legerdemain, was sold by her as something that absolutely would not be collected until 803 cops were hired, how in God’s name could anyone trust this city government to hire more cops with yet more funds? Anyone remember The Who? We Won’t Get Fooled Again.

  12. Colleen

    Although I think we need more cops, I won’t pay an extra dime because I feel that we’ve been getting ripped off for taxes already collected. You don’t have to go back very far in memory with Measure Y and Measure Q and the LLAD. We already do not have any accountability. I feel that the whole premise to be a shell game, increase taxes and the City Council will conveniently appropriate much of the money raised for things that are currently paid from the General Fund. (bait and switch).

    Deep down, I think this is just a ploy to put it on the ballot so that Dellums can say he ‘tried’.

  13. scottpark

    I don’t want to pay for more cops until we get staffed up for the cops we’re already paying for. As we know, money is not the issue at this point, it’s recruitment, hiring and retention. Asking us to pay more in taxes to fund police we’re not going to be able to get is disingenuous.

    Additionally, the fundamental unfairness of Prop 13 on homeowners makes property based taxes just plain irritating. I live in Rockridge, surrounded on all sides by families who have been in their houses for 30 years and pay a fraction of a fraction of what I pay. A parcel tax, which is what this would need to be, should be charged on each parcel equally (or proportionate to demand for police services; so apartment parcels would pay more), and not on assessed value. Just because I wasn’t smart enough to buy my house 30 years ago does not mean I need any more cops than my neighbor.

  14. TheBoss

    You’ve got it wrong. Refusing to increase taxes will in fact make a difference in a local election. The reason is that local governments cannot run persistent deficits the way the federal government can. Restraining tax revenues actually does create a day of reckoning for cities. Case in point: Vallejo. If they could have borrowed their way out of this, they would have.

    I agree completely that the 1980s show the federal government is not subject to this analysis, by the way.

  15. Max Allstadt

    scottpark,

    we can’t recruit hire and retain without more money. part of the reason we’re failing at that is because we’ve spent unwisely. Part is because we haven’t spent enough. As I’ve said before, whoever paid for the slogan “it’s more than you think” didn’t pay enough. That’s the kind of thing Larry Craig and Eliot Spitzer say to their wives, it’s not slogan for hiring cops. Pay more for a slogan, get a better one. Maybe. Throwing money at the problem in and of itself won’t fix everything, we have to spend smart. We also have to spend more.

    Are you saying though, that prop 13 prevents the city from levying taxes on property in the way you’re suggesting would be appropriate? That would be utterly lame.

  16. Hayden

    Thanks to Prop 13, California has very low property taxes–they are, of course, limited to 1% of assessed valuation, and reassessment to market value is permitted only upon sale of property. When people complain about high property taxes in California, they are really complaining about high land values (to wit: “My land is worth too much! Look at how much I have to pay at this low property tax rate!”).

    A comparison table of effective property tax rates in selected US cities may be found at: http://allcountries.org/uscensus/517_residential_property_tax_rates_in_selected.html

    I am one of those who believes that lots of high-quality municipal services make a place worth living in. For example, it is incredible to me that so many California cities lack public park districts offering all sorts of structured activities to the community, including very low-cost after-school activities for kids and day and night programs for adults. In general, our libraries are pathetic relative to the size of the municipal populations, except to the extent (in Oakland) that regressive parcel taxes have been instituted (e.g., Rockridge Branch Library). West Oakland has what could be a wonderful system of public parks, but it’s missing the organized activities that should be filling the parks every day.

    We complain about crime, but we’re paying peanuts for all of the basic municipal services (see above), not including police, that could help reduce crime. Here we are arguing over the money spent by Nancy Nadel for a non-functioning teen center. This argument avoids the more significant issue that the amount of money actually isn’t very large relative to what we should be spending to have an effective city parks system in the full sense of that concept, better schools, acceptable libraries, etc.

    So Mayor Dellums is proposing a property tax increase for police–to me, that’s fine, but it misses the point. As a state, we’ve chosen to pay property taxes at a rate that makes it difficult to do much about a significant crime problem. We can put a few more cops on the street, and we can wish that Oakland City Government could be more efficient and effective in how it spends money (perhaps everyone in the city could emulate the city’s incredibly successful creek restoration program). Unfortunately, we don’t have the money to get the results we want even if those bars were met.

  17. Chris Kidd

    ugh, prop 13 has been and continues to be the destruction of the state of california. Before it went into effect our state had one of the best education systems in the nation and had the funding to treat all the mentally ill in the state until ‘bedtime for bonzo’ kicked them all out onto the street. As many problems as there were in the state property tax code before prop 13, that damn piece of legislation has since cut our legs out from under us and made solving state problems about 300x harder.

  18. oaklandhappenings

    Although I am a resident who pays rent, I can still feel for those who are skeptical about where their money will go. I think it is best to first find out who will be the (new) city council members–if such the case by June 3rd. For example, if Nadel and Brunner are still there, forget it. I DO NOT mean that as a sexist comment, as opposed to Pat M or Sean S on board, so please don’t get me wrong. What I mean is that those two incumbents have let us down too many times, and need to be replaced. Regarding the new at-large…I think we are fine public-safety wise with either Hamill or Pine, but I don’t feel that the other candidates are showing enough seriousness towards public safety.
    Bottom line– if we have intelligent folks on the CC, the chances of us either finding another source of money to fund the police, or having Dellums’ idea work, are more likely.

  19. oaklandhappenings

    Just curious, V– are those basketball courts still under the 580/980/24 interchange, along with the grassy areas (i.e. your picture)? That is so cool–although strange–to have park area under a bunch of freeway ramps!

  20. Max Allstadt

    it is indeed strange to have a park there. There’s rarely anybody in it. The courts are NEVER in use. I also wouldn’t be surprised if the two people in the distance are conducting a drug transaction. Not a nice spot. Pretty in its own way though, from a distance.

  21. V Smoothe Post author

    Yup, there are still basketball courts there, although, like Max said, I rarely see anyone using them. Personally, I love Grove-Shafter park. I kind of adore freeways, and I really enjoy hanging out underneath them while reading or working. I do wish it didn’t smell so bad there, though.

    I think I’m going to continue with the theme of Oakland’s unexpected open spaces for a while with my photos. On deck – Middle Harbor Park, my second favorite place in Oakland. Anyone have any other suggestions?

  22. avis

    Oh Boy, here we go again. We saw the LLAD tax come back and and now Dellums is suggesting Measure Y-edition 2. Pretty amazing since they haven’t even delivered on the original Measure Y yet. Downtown they must truly believe that Oakland taxpayers have extremely short memories.

    I remember the night before the election for the last Measure Y tax, my city councilman called me and begged me to vote for Measure Y, he promised me that our neighborhodd would get more cops if Y passed. I told him “I will not vote for Measure Y because I do not trust the city council to use the money for OPD, instead I believe the money will be spent on ineffective and poorly managed social programs. ” BINGO!

    Well, you can say one thing about Oakland politicians, they certainly are predictable. While I will of course read Dellums proposal, I would not vote for this unless Charlie Pine, Pat McCullough and Sean Sullivan are elected. I KNOW what Nadel, Quan and others will do with this new tax money if given half a chance.

  23. Chris Kidd

    I think continuing an ‘open spaces of oakland’ theme would be awesome. Since I’m a little bit of a waterfront-accesibility nut, I’d recommend any and all of the parks along the estuary. Estuary Park, Union Point Park, Arrowhead Park, the MLK shoreline, the “public” but well hidden bay trail sections in Jingletown and JLS.

    For a super-epic photo, try from the back of the Woodminster Theater looking down the hill from the waterfall to the reflection pools then out and down across the flatlands to the bay. Gotta love the sense of scale and grandeur in WPA architecture.

  24. Max Allstadt

    Chris, don’t forget Middle Harbor Shoreline Park. For my money the most beautiful place in all of Oakland.

  25. Deckin

    This is in response to Hayden: “We complain about crime, but we’re paying peanuts for all of the basic municipal services (see above), not including police, that could help reduce crime.”

    Hayden: Do you have a price tag on those services that ‘could’ help reduce crime? Because as I read the numbers, there’s never been a good study that shows any correlation at all between spending on basic municipal services and crime rates, when one controls for other factors. (By the way, the exact same point goes for school spending. I know it constitutes spirit murder to point this out to progressives, but the schools that spend the least per student are often the highest scoring ones.) Again, I know this is a faith based mantra of the progressive community, but do have any data to show that more spending on whatever you consider to be basic municipal services actually is correlated with a reduction in crime? I’d be the first to trumpet your position if you could show me some data.

  26. James H. Robinson

    It seems very unfair to ask homeowners to foot the bill for more police instead of having a tax that everyone pays directly.

  27. oaklandhappenings

    well V, I don’t consider how “open” it is, but I really dig Embarcadero Cove: there are several berths there, Quinn’s Lighthouse, many old houses which–as the lighthouse was–moved there. There are some other interesting things to see there. It is too bad that it is so close to 880, ruining the charm a bit, but still a nice place–also extremely low-crime, if any.

  28. oaklandhappenings

    Max, I don’t imagine that many people (or hardly anyone) would want to be in a park with the noise of cars right above them. Not only because of the extra exhaust pollution, but the noise. Also, what if there is a big quake on the Hayward or San Andreas? I SURE as hell wouldn’t want to be (almost) directly under a 1000 ton freeway ramp!

  29. Joanna/OnTheGoJo

    Embarcadero Cove (we go to Quinn’s about once a week), Estuary Park, Middle Harbor Shoreline Park, and all the trails at the Martin Luther King Jr regional park are all great.

    Simon and I love to bike to and around MLK Jr Park and then on around the water to Alameda and back. Middle Harbor would be my favorite park of all time except for one little problem. Well, two problems. Wind and temperature. It’s always cold and windy!!! It is beautiful and seems like it’s almost always empty. Except for Kaboom, 4th of July, and maybe one other day per year.

    I can’t believe no one mentioned the Webster Street Green! Oh wait, it still doesn’t exist. And even when it does, will it be anything more than a median?

  30. Hayden

    Deckin,

    Sorry for the delay in my response. I tend to like some of the Trust for Public Lands studies, such as:

    1. “The Link between recreation and crime prevention” (1994)
    2. “Crime prevention” (1996)
    3. A study by TPL on the value of community gardens in creating community (can’t find the title), referencing the Rodney King riots in LA an noting that the community gardens were untouched, unlike the businesses around them.
    4. Kuo, F.; Sullivan,W. 2001. Environment and Crime in the Inner City: Does Vegetation Reduce Crime? Environment and Behavior 33(3)

    These studies generally point out that it’s hard to find a clear and direct link between more park space and strong parks programming and reduced crime rates, but that such a link seems likely and that the relative investment (relative to cops and jails) is quite small, but the bang for the buck quite large. Chicago also worked on this theory through its recent West Side landscaping programs.

    I do tend to take it as given that for things like libraries, less money means worse libraries, because there are shorter hours, fewer librarians, fewer books, etc.

    Similarly, I believe if one takes the same population of students, parents, and teachers, performance will vary with respect to funding. This seems obvious to me–all else being equal, more money means buildings that are in better shape, longer school days, smaller class sizes, more after-school activities, and more classes. It’s tough to learn Chinese or German or how to play in an orchestra or to be a gymnast or badminton player or whatever when those classes and activities don’t exist. While anecdotally, one can find schools where lower funding doesn’t necessarily mean lower grades, I think that often enough, there are other explanations for that: the particular population of students and parents; location of schools in a community that forms a supportive environment; school’s selection/exclusion of certain types of students; etc.

    Of course, I also think that prisoners should have to go to school all day, and punishment should be more school, but the trend seems to be in the opposite direction.

  31. Chris Kidd

    So back mid-month Sanjiv Handa claimed he was going to release a huge report online about the crooked depredations of Ignacio De La Fuente. He even broodingly announced Ignacio’s impending demise in the middle of a city council meeting. But where is it? De La Fuente watch hasn’t been updated since May 18th…

    If I’m supposed to not vote for this guy, shouldn’t I get some promised information first?

  32. V Smoothe Post author

    I’m not really in any position to criticize anyone for saying they’re going to write something and not doing it, but it’s true that Sanjiv seems to be even worse in that regard than I am.

  33. Joanna/OnTheGoJo

    I love Sanjiv, but he’s never been good about deadlines… which is really too bad because I always enjoy what he has to say. Even in those two minute slams at Council and PC Meetings. I’m always amazed at how much info he has inside that head of his and the level of detail. Okay, sometimes I wish he’d move along because cocktails at Flora sound so much more inviting than sitting through those meetings, but other times I want to know why the City never publicly responds to any of his questions. Or maybe they do and I just haven’t seen the responses.

  34. PaulineZ

    Hope it i s not too late to comment on Dellums proposal. On June 21, a phone surveyor called to see if I would vote for something like 100 more police and 100 civilian technicians by upping my property taxes $264 in November with poor people excluded from this tax.
    In answering the questions, I said no. The reason is that the city is misspending the money it has. Until we say no and take action to mean no, the city will continue to spend wastefully. And, where are the other sources of revenue in this city.

    So what do we do about crime?

    - Kamela Harris was on the news about research San Francisco has done and is starting to use. They had a 4 year research project and found that homicide victims under the age of 25 were school dropouts and/or truants. Also, there is a California Dropout Research Project that claims if the graduation rate can be increased by 10%, this will cause a 20% decrease in crime. The Research Project says that 74% of the incarcerated are school dropouts and truants. San Francisco is now going after the parents of truants. What is Oakland doing? Oakland has pretty high dropout rates.

    - Some rambling thoughts: in reading the Tribune reports of those who have been killed or have been involved in drug and criminal activity, it seems that there are no fathers in the house, the youths are raised by single mothers and, the youths drop out of school. There was a story of a 15 year old girl in a homeless shelter with her mother and the girl had a 2 month old baby — what kind of values will this baby be raised with? Bill Cosby has been campaigning for 2 parent homes, not creating children out of wedlock and making education important. Barak Obama in a speech talked about an unplanned pregnancy, if it occurred for one of his daughters, as being a mistake. Barak also recently gave a blunt talk about there need to be fathers in the homes raising the children.

    There was a sad Tribune story about a mother who had 3 children by 3 different men that she was not married to. Her oldest son did not get along with her current man friend so the mother threw him out of the house. He was dead in less than a year.

    A recent Tribune article was on a school that aimed to take on the problem children and educate them. The school’s first year of existence turned out to be total chaos. The children who caused the trouble prevented classes from being held, ruined other children’s learning, ruined their own learning. Those in charge of this school are going to try it for one more year. Their aim is to educate the problem children.

    (smile) How about a bumper sticker campaign: End Crime. Use a Condom.