Still no decision on the budget

The Council didn’t pass a budget last night, but hopefully will do so at their meeting on Thursday. There isn’t really much to say beyond that. There was a suggested compromise budget, and of course tons of great tweets, though. Read on for the highlights.

LWV Statement requesting the Council to preserve transparency

For a couple minutes last night, I stepped out of my blogger role and put on my League of Women Voters of Oakland pin. I read to the Council a statement from the League objecting to the proposed cuts to open government and transparency functions. Many thanks to LWVO member Rebecca Saltzman for leaving a party that I’m sure was much more fun than the budget meeting in order to come cede me time!

A number of people asked me about it afterwards, so I thought it might be of interest to you guys too. Here it is:

The League understands very well the overwhelming financial difficulties facing the city. We also understand that in a time of budget crisis, transparency, sunshine, and the public’s ability to scrutinize the actions of city government become more essential than ever.

We strongly object to the proposed reduction of the Public Ethics Executive Director position and the proposed elimination of the Public Ethics executive assistant. Since its creation in 1997, the Public Ethics Commission has been severely understaffed, operating with only two employees, a fraction of the support staff afforded to similar commissions in neighboring cities.

Any further reduction of Public Ethics staff would render it impossible for the Commission to fulfill its charter mandated duties, which include administration and enforcement of the Sunshine Ordinance, the Campaign Reform Act, the Lobbyist Registration Act, and campaign public financing, among others.

Additionally, the League strongly objects to the proposed reduction of the number of public meetings broadcast by KTOP. These recordings play a critical role in ensuring transparent government, as they are often the only opportunity for citizens to witness the public decision-making process. Meeting minutes are not an adequate substitute, as they record votes only, and provide no information about the substance of discussions.

Again, we appreciate the difficulty of the choices before you. But reducing transparency and obliterating enforcement of open government laws is unacceptable. Limitations on the city budget do not eliminate the public’s right to know.

A budget compromise

Noting the many common elements between all budget proposals, District 4 Councilmember Libby Schaaf suggested a compromise that incorporated some elements of all the different plans.

Here’s what it looked like. Remember, all of this is changes to the Mayor’s Scenario A. This document (PDF) lists all the proposed cuts and additional revenue measures in the Mayor’s Scenarios A, B, and C. This document (PDF) compares the three different proposals from Councilmembers (thanks to Matthai Kuruvila from the Chronicle for sharing).

Additional Expenditures versus Mayor’s Scenario A

The total cost of these add backs is $12,439,756 in FY11-12 and $13,898,150 in FY12-13.

  • Transfer 2 FTEs from Council offices to redevelopment (would count towards already budgeted 15% reduction)
  • Do not delay opening of East Oakland Sports Center
  • Maintain library services
  • Keep Main Library open during Winter Break
  • Preserve 9 Neighborhood Service Coordinators, eliminate 1 vacant NSC position
  • Maintain 85% of cultural arts grants funding
  • Preserve 2 Information Technology FTEs by moving them to the Library and funding them with Measure Q surplus
  • Preserve 1 FTE Oakland Film Office
  • Maintain 85% subsidies to Oakland Zoo, Vietnamese Senior Centers, Symphony in schools program, AIDs initiative, Women’s Business Initiative, Chabot Space & Science Center, Oakland Asian Cultural Center & Peralta Hacienda
  • Maintain 100% of Eden I&R 211 Information & Referral funding and move to Library GPF budget
  • Keep all fire stations open
  • Preserve programming at Manzanita, San Antonio and Poplar Rec Centers
  • Civilianize police internal affairs
  • Hire back 44 laid off officers immediately (increasing sworn strength by 22 officers)
  • Preserve 3 gardener II positions
  • Retain one tree trimming crew, move that and three gardener positions and one gardener crew supervisor position to LLAD
  • Freeze 5 FTE Information Technology positions previously proposed to be restored for one year, all positions are currently vacant
  • Preserve 1 HR & 2 Accounting positions
  • Restore Principal Financial Analyst and Payroll Personnel Clerk III in treasury division
  • Downgrade one Principal Financial Analyst to Senior Human Resources Systems Analyst
  • Downgrade one Payroll Personnel Clerk III to Payroll Personnel Clerk II
  • Contribute whatever savings we have at the end of the day to reserve
  • Restore hazmat pay to firefighters

Additional Savings

The total amount in additional savings and new revenue (again, compared to the Mayor’s Scenario A) is $14,576,227 in FY11-12 and $21,897,000 in FY12-13.

  • Cost Savings from Labor agreements
  • Move some money from Kaiser Arena sales proceeds away from accelerated negative fund payment and put it in general fund reserve
  • Shift some Kaiser Center sales proceeds from 2nd to 1st year
  • Adjust OPD attrition assumption rate from 3.3 to 4 per month

New Revenue

  • Convert 580 Underpass Lot to 169 meters

The tweets!

I was delighted last night to see a number of new people tweeting the Council meeting! Below, I’ve collected some of the highlights of the Twitter coverage. If you want to see all of it, just search #oakmtg on Twitter.

matthai: hundreds have poured into Oakland CC budget meetings, but tonight is relatively tame. No pitchforks or chainsaws tonight. #oakmtg

dto510: Current speaker helped me file my taxes two years ago. I agree that revenue-generating positions should’t be cut. #oakmtg

Vsmoothe: Former Ethics Commissioner Barbara Newcombe speaking, objects to cuts to Public Ethics dept., KTOP programming. #oakmtg

dto510: West #Oakland er says new youth services agency isn’t doing a good job, CM Nadel no longer represents area, to applause. #oakmtg

matthai: can we take an #oakmtg poll? What % chance do you think the council will actually vote on the budget tonight rather than push it off?

dto510: @matthai 25%. It’s not yet the last minute. #oakmtg

dto510: Library worker tells a touching family story “through the library, the internet and Google.” #oakmtg

matthai: @vsmoothe, on behalf of LWV, criticizes council proposals to cut Ethics Commission & KTOP broadcasts. #oakmtg

matthai: … @vsmoothe: “limitations on the city budget do not eliminate the public’s right to know.” #oakmtg

anca: Thank you League of Women Voters for standing up for transparency. #oakmtg

dto510: Next speaker expounds on idea of “creative taxes,” says Council should focus on national issues like bank bailouts. #oakmtg

dto510: IFPTE 21 rep decries sorry state of City technology infrastructure, wants preservation of Oaklanders’ Assistance Center. #oakmtg

mcplanner: Fun Sanjay Facts: 20% of Oakland hotel rentals are prostitution. Ticket cyclists as revenue source #oakmtg

dto510: “Pat Kernighan loves bicyclists… & stops Oakland from holding (them) accountable.” – Sanjiv Handa. Not the advocates’ perspective. #oakmtg

dto510: Handa calls out Mayor Quan for sending fundraising plea to email addresses gleaned from non-political events. #oakmtg

Vsmoothe: Speaker now objecting to police use of mind control technology. Um… #oakmtg

dto510: While #Oakland City Council listens to the public b/c of that pesky Brown Act, State Legislature blows thru budget bills. #oakmtg

matthai: A 360 degree view of council chambers tonight. Wish I’d done this when we had pitchforks. #oakmtg

Vsmoothe: Speaker: Our librarian doesn’t deserve to lose her job, she deserves an Oscar. #oakmtg And that’s it for public comment!

oaklandscene: Between the call for an investigation of CIA mind control and speaker talking & also breast feeding at things are a bit surreal. #oakmtg

eastbaycitizen: Reading my Twitter timeline is quite riveting with tweets from #CAbudget, #oakmtg and #CARedistricting happening all at once.

Vsmoothe: CM Brooks now presenting her team’s budget. If you haven’t seen the budgets, they’re all available on #oakmtg

Vsmoothe: CM Brooks: Council offices + Neighborhood Service Coordinators can handle job of Oaklanders Assistance Center. Already take calls. #oakmtg

Vsmoothe: I have an idea! If they do the same thing, how about we keep the Oaklanders Assistance Center and cut Council staff to pay for it? #oakmtg

dto510: CM Brooks says despite new funds, still need for cuts and new revenues for the next budget process. #oakmtg

MarleenLee: Oh. So part of the police proposal is to give them a raise in 2014? Interesting. #oakmtg

dto510: CM De La Fuente says OPOA contract makes problem worse b/c trades 9% pension contribution for a 4% raise, 2x sick days. #oakmtg

dto510: CM DLF: We’re ignoring $138m debt on funds, half-billion-dollar PFRS liability, $43m payment next month. #oakmtg

MarleenLee: Pat Kernighan admits that the budget proposals are nothing more than band-aids. #oakmtg

Vsmoothe: CM Kernighan: “In two years when this budget is up, we will again be in difficult straits.” #oakmtg

Vsmoothe: Is that a joke? I will be FLOORED if they make it through December without having to open up the budget and do this all over again. #oakmtg

oaklandscene: Fiinal budget vote looks remote especially when council members are still questioning city staff about proposed budget components. #oakmtg

dto510: Consultant defends changing revenue collection, says model data-mining program exceeded revenue targets by $3.2m. #oakmtg

Vsmoothe: Staff spending ridiculous amnt of time explaining to the Council they’re using computers now instead of people with pens and paper. #oakmtg

anca: Hmm, some councilpeeps seem awfully ignorant about the Revenue Dept’s IT improvements, which replace antiquated manual processes #oakmtg

Vsmoothe: Or is it me? Am I missing something here? This whole discussion seems ridiculously stupid. #oakmtg

DIYGene: @Vsmoothe “so explain these computer things…” #oakmtg

Vsmoothe: I really wish they would stop talking about this. This discussion is boring and repetitive. #oakmtg

MarleenLee: I think this discussion on the revenue collection is an excellent way to cut down on public speakers-new way around Brown Act. #oakmtg

DIYGene: #oakmtg let’s talk about the budget proposals, shall we? #facepalm

Vsmoothe: I think Council is trying to drive everyone away w/this inane discussion so nobody sees what they say about the rest of the budget. #oakmtg

Vsmoothe: OMG Thank goodness! It’s over! Now CM Brunner asking about rehiring officers. “Where is this money coming from?” #oakmtg

OaklandBecks: CM Brunner – We need consensus. We can keep giving speeches, but that’s not going to bring us to consensus. Agreed. #oakmtg

anca: I can’t believe that we are counting on selling off city property (which does not have a buyer) as a way to solve budget problems. #oakmtg

matthai: Gang of 4 budget assumes cops cost $149k/yr. Avg cop in Oakland previously stated at $188k/yr. #oakmtg

OaklandBecks: Budgeting by magic! RT @matthai Gang of 4 budget assumes cops cost $149k/yr. Avg cop in Oakland previously started at $188k/yr. #oakmtg

chuklessmith@OaklandBecks I didn’t read the 7th Harry Potter book, but I expect it ended with him slaying Voldemort, not balancing the Oakland budget.

Vsmoothe: CM Nadel: We wanted to wait for negotiations before having a proposal so it wouldn’t get out that libraries might be closed. #oakmtg

Vsmoothe: WTF? Has she been living in the same city as I have for the last two months? #oakmtg

matthai: Nadel says budget proposals delayed so advocates wouldn’t be pit against each other. But that’s exactly what happened for 2 months. #oakmtg

Vsmoothe: CM Schaaf: We’ll have no new information on budget Thurs that we don’t have tonight. Delaying costs money! Must pass budget tonight! #oakmtg

Vsmoothe: I am curious where this sudden sense of urgency is coming from, when the Council went 2 months without saying a word! #oakmtg

dto510: They’re getting down to brass tacks. CM Schaaf says her team will accept parking meters under 580 but not in Eastlake. #oakmtg

Vsmoothe: CM Schaaf moves adoption of a combination of her team’s budget and the other budgets, CM Nadel seconds. #oakmtg

Vsmoothe: CM Reid asks @jeanquan to respect Council and let them discuss budget w/o interruption. She interrupts: “I’m not a typical Mayor.” #oakmtg

Vsmoothe: CM Brunner: This is not a real compromise, I would need to see something in writing. #oakmtg

Vsmoothe: CM Brunner: I am not comfortable with spending one time money on ongoing operations. CM Brooks also wants to see it in writing. #oakmtg

OaklandBecks: Looks like we might have a #cabudget vote tonight, but clearly there will be no Oakland budget passed tonight. #oakmtg

Vsmoothe: #oakmtg isn’t over, but I’ve had enough! Goodnight!

matthai: Council will vote on budget on Thursday — last day of fiscal year. Council proposals might be posted online tomorrow #oakmtg

Gcrime: I should have gone to #oakmtg instead of obsessing over gamer serial killers on British television

Vsmoothe: Now for the best part of #oakmtg. The glass of wine afterwards!

matthai: Oakland Council turns down their salary increases. #oakmtg

DIYGene: given pushing everything to Thursday #oakmtg i wonder if anyone will show up for the opening of the EO sports center

DIYGene #oakmtg votes 8-0 to accept contract for EO sports center as-is, rather than do 6 months and re-evaluate. made CM reid happy

amymartincomics: Reid is cranky, and he just said “my sugar is up.” #oakmtg

amymartincomics: CM Brooks thinks fees are “way too high” for E. Oakland Sports Ctr?.. erm, kind of late to bring that up, isn’t it? #oakmtg

34 thoughts on “Still no decision on the budget

  1. MarleenLee

    When I first learned we had a Public Ethics Commission, I thought it was great. That was until I started actually availing myself of the services. In principal, it is necessary, and could be a valuable tool. In practice, I don’t think it has been.

    The E.D. posiiton is directly overseen by the City Administrator. In practice, the E.D. would issue reports that would either recommend dismissing the complaint altogether (e.g. for lack of jursidiction) or would find some other excuse for not making an express finding of a violation in order to avoid scheduling a hearing. (That is not to say that these decisions were altogether wrong, IMHO).

    In person, I found the outgoing E.D. to be uncommitted to the ethics principles he was bound to uphold, and he set a very poor example for ethics city-wide. Giving him the benefit of the doubt, perhaps he just felt horribly conflicted about his loyalties. But regardless, the way the system is currently set up, it is not effective.

    I’ve been to plenty of the meetings. Practically nobody goes. There are basically three or four people who file tons of complaints, the vast majority of which seem to go nowhere. What actual positive impact on ethics has having a PEC had? If the two employees were completely independent of the City, and didn’t have to worry about budget cuts or job losses based on their decisions, I’d think it had value, but now, I don’t think it does. I really and truly got the feeling that the staff, like the City Attorney’s office, was beholden to defend the actions of City employees. (I can’t speak for the actual commissioners – they seem like genuine enough people, albeit somewhat passive and disinterested).

  2. FloodedByCEDA

    Is the sale of the convention center still an option? Now would be a good time for a BIG staff reduction at CEDA……..Starting at the top.

  3. ZeroTech

    I’m in complete agreement with Marleen. The ethics commission, for whatever reason, is worthless. I would get rid of the Public Ethics Commission entirely, or give it some much-needed teeth somehow. The latter seems complicated, but OTOH if you just get rid of it, there’s probably no bringing it back. So I’d keep it for now in a smaller incarnation, just so that later there’s the potential for giving it some real power, authority, and independence.

  4. livegreen

    Since I couldn’t go the CCouncil mtg I’ve been watching online, & have the flwg obsrvtns so far:
    –Desley Brooks can be pretty condescending with her colleagues;
    –Larry Reid was probably speaking truths when he said what won’t get cut this year will get cut next. But that didn’t seem to entice him to spkg up abt solutions that would make Oakland structurally more sound (while contracts and costs are still open for negotiation);
    –The CCouncil looks like it could have used about 5 or 6 more of these mtgs.

    Looks to me like they haven’t had enough time to work things out, or had enough discusn bet. representatives from the 2 “gang of four” before hand…

  5. Ravi

    “Looks to me like they haven’t had enough time to work things out, or had enough discusn bet.”

    Amen. This is ever the case in Oakland. The consequence is endless policy failures and lots of expensive litigation.

  6. len raphael

    Was the “appropriation” for the Police Academdy eliminated in this budget, at the same time that 1Mill was appropriated to fund civilianizing IA ?

    The really egregious part of the council binding the City to protecting the binding arbitration clause at the same time they guaranteed no layoffs for 3 years , is that it removed the best hope we had of substantially lowering opd compensation so that we could at some point increase staffing.

    But no, Mayor, counil, and OPOA true to form, were less interested in protecting the residents than in showing they “balanced the budget” will protecting each of their little pet projects best they could.

    I have no problem with the OPOA asking for no layoffs and binding arbitration. Unions are supposed to ask for the moon.

    But why in ____ did the Council feel they had to give it to OPOA unless they didn’t give a hoot about number of cops, just total bucks.

    -len raphael, temescal

  7. V Smoothe Post author

    So not worth watching. The Mayor was just being randomly snotty to Libby because she voted against calling the special election.

  8. Max Allstadt

    I concur. The council has become very grumpy in general, but it isn’t particularly amusing to watch. Cringeworthy, maybe, if you’re into that sort of thing.

    Honestly, I think that what’s happening is that they all know that their budget is a joke, they all know that the City government is going broke, they’re all scared senseless, and it’s putting them in a very bad mood, collectively.

  9. ZeroTech

    “Randomly snotty” is the mayor’s stock in trade. Love it. And Libby is different from the rest of the pack. I sincerely hope she becomes the next mayor. It may be the only chance Oakland’s got.

  10. Livegreen

    It was refreshing to see both Libby and Pat Kernighan stand up to the old guard: Jane Brunner who thought only the other side needed to go and caucus, and Desley Brooks for being a snot (whether or not she was right that one of the tax revenue systems was put in 5 years ago).

  11. ZeroTech

    Yes, it seems that Kernigan senses a kindred spirit in Schaaf and has gained the guts to go against the rest of them. It is certainly a breath of fresh air to hear council members say that their constituents are begging for better public safety.

    That’s in contrast to Ignacio, who seemed to be concerned only with contracts, and how the cops fared vs. other city employees, completely ignoring the needs of the people who actually live here and need the services.

  12. V Smoothe

    ZeroTech, Ignacio’s problem with the police contract was that it puts us in a worse position and will force us to cut more services two years from now, which is a legitimate complaint. It’s important to think ahead. During the budget process as a whole, I didn’t see anything to admire in the behavior of any of the Councilmembers, including Kernighan and Schaaf, who had some nice talking points in favor of their own proposal, but who ultimately failed to produce a balanced budget or propose a single new revenue generating or cost-saving measure.

  13. livegreen

    Ignacio stated two problems with the Police contract, one were the cost problems that you mention, the other being that since Public Safety is the biggest part of the budget, it should be cut more.

    I agree with the cost argument of the former. The pieces of the OPOA contract that have been leaked are too costly or outright undemocratic (not advocating for charter reform).

    The problem with the latter is it’s an argument to cut only Public Safety, until it gets to be 49% of the budget.

    On the contract side, Ignacio is absolutely right that the financial give-aways are unsustainable. The challenge is the OPOA has a 3 year contract in a 2-year budget cycle (that wasn’t up for renewal this year), + knows the City Council and the Mayor would prefer not to do it through layoffs.

    Govt. costs were not trimmed enough to structurally come in line with revenues, esp. after the last “gimmick” with the sale of the HJK center to Redevelopment.

    Get ready for another Parcel Tax. & if it doesn’t pass, as Larry Reid said, for everything that wasn’t cut this year to be cut next (or at least in two years).
    Continuous unending discussions on the budget.

  14. ZeroTech

    Well, it sounded to me like Schaaf and Kernigan were the only people sticking up for the citizens of this town who are running scared because of the rampant crime. Nobody can realistically argue that crime is not rampant here (what did Batts say murders were up by – 35%?) or that we have enough cops on the street, no matter how much it’s costing us. De la Fuente may have had a point regarding the union or whatever, but my point was that he didn’t even seem to consider or mention the needs and concerns of constituents. It’s not all just the union this, the union that. Kernigan and Schaaf, among all the council members, are the only ones who seem to get that.

  15. PaulF


    Can any of the CC really be regarded as being on the side of the people when they all voted for this shell game of selling a near worthless, seismically-suspect, boarded-up building to themselves for probably three times it’s value?

    Seems to me that not one of them has a spine, in that they all again shirked the structural problem and instead went for games, gimmicks and stalling.

  16. Naomi Schiff

    The HJKCC is certainly NOT near-worthless! In operation until a few years ago, we taxpayers spent considerable money upgrading it in the mid-1980s. It was in frequent use until Deborah Edgerley pulled the plug on it about 2005. I’m not saying that the sale to CEDA necessarily makes sense, and I worry about overvaluing it too. But don’t exaggerate. As the 12th St. project gets completed, the HJKCC will take on new viability and interest. It is very much reusable, could generate historic tax credits (20% of value of improvement project), possible new markets tax credits as well. It was in demand up to the time of its closing, and groups still enquire about using it. Depending upon the type of reuse, rehab costs vary. (But it is not anywhere near as huge an expense as, say, restoring the Fox.)

  17. PaulF


    Yes, HJKCC might yet turn out to be a viable entity. And had this actually been a sale at that price to a willing private party, then I’d probably be willing to overlook the fact that we really shouldn’t be selling off assets to pay the bills.

    But the City is selling HJKCC to itself. It’s a shell game. What will we do next year – buy it back for a dollar and then immediately sell it back for another 30 million? When will this nonsense ever stop? I despair of any city politician ever having the courage to address the real, underlying problem i.e. our spending ambitions greatly exceed our ability to pay for them.

  18. Livegreen

    When Larry Reid was scolding Jim Dexter he didn’t mention the needs or contributions of constituents. Only those of employees. I agree employees have contributed and lost income. But why no mention of the contributions and losses of constituents?

    Larry also said whatever wasn’t cut this year would get cut next. This while approving new contracts that don’t bring costs in line with revenues, and an election to ask for more of constituents’ incomes.

    Some of our elected officials appear to b voting for their campaign contributions, not their constituents…

  19. ZeroTech

    Live, That was exactly my point. De La Fuente talked the same way. It’s as if he and Reid don’t even realize the constituents exist. It’s all about the employees of the City.

    I’m not saying Kernigan and Schaaf are necessarily models of sensitivity to constituents (they may or may not be). I’m saying that they are the only two who even MENTION the concerns of constituents in their decisions and in what they say when addressing the council. And I feel that Schaaf is the strongest in this, and that Kernigan took courage from Schaaf.

    I don’t know enough about Oakland politics to answer V and others about whatever cynical motive may be behind their sound bites. I just know that it makes me feel that I as a citizen of this town exist when I hear either of them talk. And I know that it’s a very, very different feeling from the anger and frustration I feel when I hear the likes of Reid or De La Fuente or Brooks or any of the rest of them babble on.

  20. annalee allen

    I agree with Naomi that the Henry J. has a lot to offer. I wish things had worked out so Laney College could have taken it on (maybe that could still happen some how). There could be many ways the college could mount programs and activities there. When we have our new 12th Street thoroughfare, with easy access back and forth from the auditorium and the museum to the lake, it is going to change everything (thanks, Naomi). Deborah Edgerly should never have been allowed to shut it down. If we can fix the Fox, we can fix the Henry J. that is my firm belief.

  21. len raphael

    The CEDA scandal makes me question what other sh_ goes on here under the protection, intentional or otherwise, of officialdom.

    eg. is it possible that Longmire really was chosen to be the fall guy by opd brass for the dept’s failure to prevent Bailey’s murder? that he had been told to buddy up with the Beys but then got blamed for it? I have no idea, but ..

  22. ZeroTech

    Len, Re Longmire, I assumed that was an accepted fact by now. It made total sense to me. I read some proof of it somewhere, can’t remember where now, and it all hung together. And even at the time, when he was blamed, I remember thinking, what are they blaming him for? Of COURSE he was supposed to cozy up to Bey. So why are they making him the fall guy? Then later, this supposedly surprising idea surfaced. The only surprising to me about it was that nobody said it from the beginning.

  23. Patrick M. Mitchell

    Wow. Now we’re “outsiders” because we don’t know every nuance of City processes? How elitist is that? And where do I send my box tops for my decoder ring?

  24. BarryK

    Ken- Dopeland makes more sense than Cokeland.
    Naomi- You should see if Ms. Manners is still on SFGate; you could pick up a few tips. Your insults and attacks on people that you don’t agree with reflect your defensive nature.

    Ken- If the Council had their way the other night with four Pot/Cannabis/MaryJane/Dope resolutions, they would haved doubled the number of potclubs and allow up to 25,000 sq ft of cannabis cultivation per license holder (8 of them would yield 150k sq ft in Oakland), then maybe Potland would make more sense. Let’s see when they revisit the resolutions.

  25. Navigator

    For you uninformed Oakland bashers, SF has 28 pot clubs. Should we call Frisco “dopeland.”

  26. Daniel Schulman

    I’ve been told that when I refer to marijuana as “dope,” I sound like an old geezer. Apparently, the kids today only refer to heroin as dope.

  27. Naomi Schiff

    When I was young, my late, ancient, and innocent grandmother once admitted to inspecting my arms for needlemarks to see if I was using “mareejawanna.” (She didn’t find any.)